I have not yet seen Stein’s movie, Expelled, but hope to by the end of this weekend. I’ve used this week as an opportunity to highlight various issues and I have linked to corroboration of at least some of the allegations that are made in the movie. I would like to spend a moment addressing what I believe is the real crux of the matter. This post is mainly for Christians but I can’t stop skeptics from reading.
The central argument in Intelligent Design, in the eyes of certain scientists and budding atheists, is whether or not ID should be considered ‘science.’ If ID proponents did not present their work as appropriately understood as science, the whole issue would likely disappear. Similarly, the main offense that ‘scientists’ have to young earth creationism is if it is presented as science… they think of ‘Creation Science’ as a contradiction in terms.
A Christian might say to himself, “Well, sure, you can’t perform experiments to recreate the creating of the universe nor can you observe the designer designing the particular feature you are examining (though perhaps you can observe him designing something else). In that sense, sure, it isn’t scientific like, say, measuring how long it takes water to boil. What’s the problem? Maybe just ditch the term and we can proceed to discuss what is actually true…”
The understanding of science in the above paragraph is in fact what most people think of when they think of science… a method constrained to direct empirical observation utilizing experiment, controls, and repeating phenomena. This is what we learn in high school science classes. When you get to college, however, the discipline of science is expanded to allow a broad range of explorations, including looking into the ‘Multiverse’ or constructing complex scenarios to explain how life might have evolved.
Today just about anything you do, any measure of conjecture or philosophizing, can be described as science so long as one thing is true: only naturalistic explanations are permitted.
The Intelligent Design movement wishes to take advantage of the expanded definition, minus the insistence of naturalistic explanations. So, if something like the Multiverse, a mindless, completely undetectable collection of nearly infinite amount of alternative universes can be described as science, or if it is ok to constantly tweak expectations of past atmospheres which have virtually no hope of actual verification, then exploring the hypothesis that something is design certainly can be scientific, too.
One wonders how well the multiverse remains consistent with a purely naturalistic method.
If it were just a matter of pointing out such things and being content to recognize that ID (like the multiverse) is not strictly testable in the sense we learned in high school science was, the controversy would fade away. Here is the lurking issue underneath it all:
It is the common belief and attitude that the only. reliable. way. to know. anything. is via science. Every word of that sentence is important.
If you have any other mechanism for knowing something you’re lucky if it plays second fiddle to the processes of science. In a recent comment on one of my other blogs, contemplating Intelligent Design was akin to making oneself out as a 16th century ‘flat earth’ Bible thumper. For you see, anything you think you know is mere shadow compared to what is known via science.
And only naturalistic explanations are permitted in science.
So, you can say that you believe in God, but you must chalk it up to ‘faith’ or just personal desires (read: wishful thinking). The only thing you must not do is assert that you think you have any objective evidence for something.
That’s really it in a nutshell. Science is the only way to know anything important with any measure of reliability and Science absolutely must limit itself to naturalistic explanations.
Given such a perspective, it is obviously no surprise that they don’t generate ‘scientific’ evidence for the existence of God. Those interpretations of the evidence are off the table from the start. There is no sense in pointing this out to them because they are not ashamed of it. They think that this is the way to go and the technological progress we’ve experienced is all the evidence one needs to see that the method ‘works.’ When is the last time theology put a man on the moon?
The reasons why we cannot lay down on this are plentiful, not the least of which is that the method ‘works’ in terms of producing technology but is useless in helping us decide if we even should use the technology we produce. Ie, just because we can clone humans, should we?
Moreover, it is obvious that if your very question is “Does a supernatural, non-empirical, transcendent entity (which we call ‘God’) exist?” then beginning with a process, no matter how successful in creating microwave ovens and airplanes, that excludes from the start any interpretations that might even possibly, even scantily, suggest the possibility of God existing is pure circular reasoning, begging the question.
But that is logic: another one of those things which science depends on but is limited in what it can say.