Monday, 14 July 2008

Why Intelligent Design is Not Science

Intelligent Design is the theory that life as we know it is too complex to have come about by random chance, and therefore implies the presence of a Designer.

Not surprisingly, it's a theory heavily promoted by groups with a religious agenda, who will then go on to say that the Designer is the God they happen to worship.

Attempts were made a few years ago to introduce Intelligent Design theory into science classes in the USA, to be taught alongside Evolution and Natural Selection as an explanation for the origins of life.

In late 2005 the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial found, quite rightly, that Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory, and therefore should not be taught in science classes.

But why, you may ask, is it not a scientific theory? It's a statement about our origins. Surely it's just as valid to say that it was God as to say that it was Evolution?

No, it isn't. And here's the difference:

A fundamental principal of the scientific investigation of nature is that nature is assumed to be a closed system.

That is, the only influences on the system that are to be considered are those that come from within the system itself.

Any supernatural influences, such as Intelligent Design's hypothesised Designer, are outside the system and hence outside the realms of science.

Supernatural = Not Science. QED.

There are two important points about this:

1. This is not the same as saying that there is no Designer. It merely means that the hypothesis that there is a Designer is not a scientific one. Christians are welcome to postulate a Designer all they like on their own time and in their own churches.

2. This definition of scientific investigation was not made up by atheistic scientists in an attempt to prove the non-existence of God.

This basis for scientific research actually dates back to the late 17th century and the very earliest days of the Enlightenment. It was put in place by people like Sir Isaac Newton, a man known as much for his piety as his science.

Separating the investigation of the natural from the supernatural was seen simply as the most efficient way to advance knowledge.

And history has clearly shown this to be the right approach. From that very point we have seen an explosion in our understanding of the world.

Passing Intelligent Design off as science is just a throwback to pre-Enlightenment thinking.

It's a throwback to a time when religious leaders controlled the state, when the masses of the world lived in fear and poverty and repression, and knowledge was restricted to that which would not offend the reigning dogma.

I don't think we want to go back there.
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