Evolution and Intelligent Design: September 2005 Archives

There is an anti-intelligent design petition going wild in academic science circles -- I got e-mailed two copies of links to it within a couple of minutes. The text of the statement is actually fairly interesting:

We, as scientists trained in fields that utilize evolutionary theory, do not consider Intelligent Design to be a fact-based science appropriate for teaching in public schools because it is theistic in nature, not empirical, and therefore does not pass the rigors of scientific hypothesis testing and theory development. As such, we petition that Intelligent Design not be presented in public schools as a viable science within the scientific curriculum.

There are three things I think are interesting about this. First, it refers to intelligent design as being "theistic in nature, not empirical," as if the two must necessarily be mutually exclusive. Now, granted, many people believe that empirical science can have nothing to say about God, but it seems rather difficult to empirically prove that statement, so such a statement is going beyond "empirical" science.

Second, it makes an interesting thought experiment to ask, "What if there were a great deal of empirical evidence that intelligent design might be right?" According to this statement, it looks as if it should necessarily still be excluded from being taught in schools, since, according to the statement, it is theistic in nature, not empirical. I guess this also means any empirical evidence that might ever exist in favor of intelligent design actually isn't empirical. Let me put that another way: Whoever wrote the statement has defined "theistic" and "empirical" as two mutually exclusive categories. Anything that concerns God isn't empirical, and anything empirical must not have anything to do with God. Note that this statement is unproven.

Finally, I find it interesting that the statement is designed (see the site above) as a response to the Discovery Institute's collection of signatures on a statement reading the following:

Hector Avalos, a professor of religious studies at Iowa State, has a "review" of the book The Privileged Planet, by Iowa State astronomy professor Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards, a philosopher, up at Talk Reason. Talk Reason is a site that argues against creationism, intelligent design, and religious apologetics, and The Privileged Planet is a book presenting an astronomical argument that the universe may be designed.

I put the word "review" in quotes deliberately, because it's more of an attack on intelligent design generally than a review of the book; in fact, it says very little about the book itself. It begins by summarizing the book this way:

TPP discusses an array of data to buttress its argument that Earth was intentionally positioned where it is. For example, if our planet were much farther from, or much closer to, the Sun, then life might not exist. Also, "the mere presence of other planets in the inner Solar System reduces the number of asteroids and comets hitting Earth" (p. 115), and so helped ensure that such perils to life would be minimized. Earth is much better than Mercury for "measurability" of the universe because the latter planet "completes three rotations every two orbits" and so "would offer more confusing vistas" (p. 106).

From these and other data, TPP infers that our planet must have been intelligently placed in just this location in order for intelligent life to emerge that could then produce astronomers to observe the universe and discover the Designer's intentions.

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