One Scientist's Perspective on "Intelligent Design"

I am going to begin my comments on Intelligent Design with some assumptions held by scientists (at least the vast majority of them) and a definition of "theory". Scientists share a view with many of the ancient Greeks, including Aristotle, that philosophers call "realism" or more specifically, "rational realism". As part of that view, scientists assume that there are fundamental rules that nature follows. There is only one real way that nature is and that nature operates. Scientists assume that it is possible for human reason to figure out that one real way so they endeavor to find a correct understanding of that one real way. "In other words, most scientists assume that beliefs about what is real do not affect what is real. Truth results only when our beliefs about what is real correspond to what is real" (Pine, ch 2).

However, historians and philosophers of science have shown us that science is a very human endeavor and that many aspects of our humanity also play a role in scientific discovery: our culture, artistic creation and imagination, political manipulation and personal exploitation, wishful thinking, bias, egocentricity, etc. It is possible to arrive at various interpretations of the same data or facts and to develop various explanations of the underlying causes at work. Our culture, egos, and personal beliefs provide a filter through which we interpret the data and develop explanations. Because scientists have a "realism" perspective and because culture and egos can affect the interpretations of the data, scientists are willing to have their ideas and explanations closely examined and tested by others, particularly by their peers, in a process called "peer review". "[Science] values testability and critical evaluation, because thus far it appears that the more we think critically about our beliefs, the more likely we are to know the truth" (Pine, ch 2). Peer review works best if the ones who critically analyze an explanation have an alternate explanation and try to poke holes in the other person's explanation. (Sometimes that "poking" is pretty brutal!) This peer review happens at science conferences and in the pages of science journals. A scientist will not try to have his/her opinion advanced by political means or legislated by politicians.

Scientists believe that the best way to know about nature is through objective observational experience. In fact, these objective observational experiences are necessary—the key method for attaining truth. This is a position the philosophers call "empiricism". Beliefs must be validated by experiences that are public. Anyone looking through a telescope at an object should see the same thing. Scientific truths must be communicable or describable in a public language. Any scientific claim must be testable by public observational experience.

The rationalists will say that the result of public observational experiences can be wrong but there are some things we know to be true with self-evident certainty. 2+2=4, there are no spherical cubes, etc. Certainty is only possible through the use of logic and reason. During the Renaissance period in the 17th century, empiricism and rationalism were combined to make the modern scientific method of figuring out how the world, the universe, works. The deductive logic of rationalism was combined with inductive logic based on the observational experience of the empiricist. Although no scientific belief or claim can ever said to be absolutely certain, we can consider some to be reliable because they are so well supported by the evidence. We have observed that, so far, all heavy objects dropped from tall places fall to the ground and scientists have concluded that gravity applies everywhere on Earth. From the observations of hundreds of objects (moons around planets, planets around the Sun, stars around each other in binary and multiple systems) we have concluded that gravity applies everywhere in the universe. Since we're talking about evolution today, I should include in here that Darwin's theory of natural selection is a reliable belief because it is one of the most factually supported and independently corroborated theories of all science.



Assumptions of Science Theory + attributes Methodological Materialism
Evolution via natural selection Imago Dei ID beliefs: God-action detection
Irreducible Complexity Specified Complexity