Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The same old questions return

Teaching intelligent design in the public school system has faded from the news. Let us not completely lose sight of the controversy for it will eventually bubble to the surface somewhere again. During the Dover, Pa. legal case, many used sophisticated concepts from the philosophy of science for their arguments against teaching intelligent design. Things are not really that complicated when it comes to this issue. Let us look at what religion is and what science is.

One of the defining features of religion is a belief in supernatural agents. Those who believe in an intelligent designer, yet deny it is religious belief, are either confused about the definition of religion or being disingenuous. Science does not use supernatural agents in its explanatory hypotheses or in its theories. Yes, scientists such as Newton believed a god was the creator of the universe, but he did not use god as a hypothesis in his Principia.

Let us assume one uses an intelligent designer as an explanation for natural phenomena. The question immediately arises as to what the intelligent designer did to make things work the way they do. What laws and principles explain the phenomena under dispute and investigation? All one has done is return to the same questions it is the role of science to answer. Somebody still has to figure out F=ma or why certain viruses cause certain diseases. The intelligent designer gets you nowhere in science.

Intelligent designers are supernatural agents. They belong to religion. You can read all the holy books and you will never discover F=ma.

We also live in a country where the public use of reason is separate from religious doctrine. Despite disparagement from some quarters about the benefits of enlightenment, secularism and science untainted by religious belief have made society better. The long struggle against superstition and intolerance is hardly over, but it is worth fighting for reason, science, and secularism, for they alleviate the deleterious effects of intolerance and superstition.

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