Blogs - The President's Desk
April 28, 2008
Intelligent Design and Science
Ben Stein's film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed has broken through the steel ceiling around Colorado Springs, Colorado. The Colorado Springs Gazette (April 18, 2008) devoted nearly a page to the discussion of Intelligent Design (ID). One article by an agnostic actually supported ID being discussed in science classrooms; another article by an atheist disagreed, saying ID has no place in science classrooms, but could be discussed as a mental disorder in psychology classes. Insisting that ID is pseudoscience, not science, the atheist says, "Science produces testable guesses. If something isn't testable, it's not scientific."
I'd like to address the question of whether or not Intelligent Design is science by first quoting a theoretical physicist claimed by all sides of the argument (theists, atheists, agnostics, pantheists) — namely, Albert Einstein. Richard Dawkins, for one, claims Einstein as a fellow atheist, so he and his followers should pay special attention to what Einstein actually says: "I'm not an atheist, and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human beings toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations" (Max Jammer, Einstein and Religion, 48).
Doesn't Einstein's quote mirror ID? Aren't arrangement and order in the universe the topics that ID addresses? ID is a quest to discover why the universe "appears to be designed" (which Dawkins admits) and what language speaks to that appearance. The language of the universe appears more and more likely to be the language of mathematics.
Martin Rees, a Cambridge University astronomer, wrote a book entitled Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape the Universe. Rees argues persuasively that six numbers define and explain the whole universe, and if these six numbers vary to any significant degree, there would be no physical universe.
For example, the number 10 to the 36th power is the number that describes the strength of the electrical forces that holds atoms together divided by the force of gravity between them. If that number were to vary ever so slightly, there would be no physical universe. The number 0.4 describes the actual density of matter in the universe to a critical density. Rees says if the number were 0.3 or 0.5, there would be no universe.
Rees also insists that these numbers are scientific! In fact, he says, "Astronomy is the oldest numerical science. . . . [It] is still the science of numbers, and this book is the story of six that are crucial for our universe, and our place in it" (from the preface).
If mathematics is indeed the underlying basis of the laws of the universe, why shouldn't a discussion ensue in a science class that perhaps a brilliant mathematical Mind stands behind these numbers? Yes, a Mind that even thought up these very numbers as a portion of the logic of God (John 1:1–3). Certainly the notions of number, logic, law and causality are well within the scientific vocabulary!
In fact, 40 percent of the membership of the National Academy of Sciences sees no problem with this very discussion in science departments. For example, Harvard University's Owen Gingerich says that the universe was created "with intention and purpose, and that this belief does not interfere with the scientific enterprise."
If it were scientifically determined that a Supreme Mind is behind the whole universe, atheism would suffer a crushing setback. Yet this is exactly what the psalmist insists: "The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows his handiwork" (Psalm 19:1).
The British mathematician Alfred North Whitehead makes a point about science that Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and all atheists might want to consider. Whitehead says, "In the first place, there can be no living science unless there is a widespread instinctive conviction in the existence of an Order of Things, and, in particular, of an Order of Nature." All the early scientists believed in this order of nature. Its modern name is Intelligent Design!
Paul Amos Moody, a superb scientist, wrote Introduction To Evolution published by Harper and Row. In it he admits to his students that the more he studies science, the more impressed he is with the thought that "this world and universe have a definite design — and a design suggests a designer." He goes on to say, "It may be possible to have design without a designer, a picture without an artist, but my mind is unable to conceive of such a situation."
Michael Ruse, editor of the Cambridge Series in the Philosophy of Biology and founding editor of the professional journal "Biology and Philosophy" is a hardcore Darwinist. Yet he considers both Dawkins and Dennett "dangerous." Ruse is worried that if Dawkins and Dennett make evolution and atheism one (they do!) then Intelligent Design advocates will have a legal basis for its discussion in science classrooms. Why? Because teaching Darwinian evolution in the classroom as equal to atheism would violate the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Ruse has a valid point. Sooner or later Secular Humanism as a religion will be in the courts, and atheism will be a key element in the discussion. Already the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has declared atheism a religion.
But Ruse, who teaches at Florida State University, is even more direct than Dawkins and Dennett, who equate atheism and evolution. In a telling article published in the Canadian National Post (May 13, 2000) he writes, "Evolution is promoted by its practitioners as more than mere science. Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, a secular religion — a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality . . . Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today."
Secular Humanists generally deny their worldview is a religion. Their opponents, however, argue that Secular Humanism is as much a religion as Christianity, Islam, et al, and, therefore, should not be the religion of American public schools. Ruse gives the whole Secular Humanist case away when he says, "Evolution therefore came into being as a kind of secular ideology, an explicit substitution for Christianity. It stressed laws against miracles and, by analogy, it promoted progress against providence. . . . One of the most popular books of the era was Religion without Revelation, by the evolutionist Julian Huxley, grandson of Thomas Huxley."
Intelligent Design is not only a scientific concept along with number, causality and laws of nature, but also explains the appearance of design in nature (the starry heavens that intrigued Immanuel Kant along with the metamorphous of the monarch butterfly that intrigues me) better than any explanation involving chaos theory, multiverse theory or plain-old chance. There are intricate designs in nature from the smallest particle in the atom through every cell in our bodies to the vast expanses of the starry heavens because a Designer was involved. Isn't that why the Psalmist proclaimed, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14).
All in all, the Ben Steins, David Aikmans, Vox Days, Alvin Plantingas, Alister McGraths, John Lennoxs, Jonathan Wells, William Dembskis, Michael Behes, Phillip Johnsons, Duane Gishs, Andrew Snellings, Hugh Ross, and David Berlinskis of the world are more than an equal match to any and all bricks and barbs thrown at a Creator and His created order dripping in orderly arrangement. But then this is indeed the precise meaning of Cosmos (Gk, orderly arrangement)!