Friday, April 08, 2005

MICHAEL SHERMER, the founder of the magazine, Skeptic, wrote a commentary in the Los Angeles Times on the controversy surrounding the teaching of "intelligent design" in public schools. The piece is from March 30, but I missed it at the time.

There is a fundamental dishonesty about the movement among social conservatives to teach "intelligent design," or "creation science," as it is also called, alongside the Darwinian theory of evolution. The terminology says it all. It's not science, it's religion.

In fact, I believe strongly that using the word "science" when referring to the religious, spiritual belief that a divine being created the universe and everything in it cheapens and trivializes religion. People who insist that religious accounts of creation should be taught as science miss the entire point of religious belief. There is a difference between scientific theories, or hypotheses, and faith, or belief. Evolution as a theory has been tested. The results of those tests have been observed.

Intelligent-design theory lacks ... a hypothesis of the mechanics of the design, something akin to natural selection in evolution. Natural selection can and has been observed and tested, and Charles Darwin's theory has been refined.
Which is the essential point, for me. Why would anyone want to treat religious faith as if it were a scientific hypothesis that can be tested? If we could prove, or even demonstrate using the scientific method, that God exists and "intelligently designed" the universe and everything in it, then faith would lose all of its meaning. I don't want to think of God as the most eminent scientist of his time, teaching at the best universities, publishing in the most prestigious journals. Science is pragmatic, factual, evidence-based. Divinity is ineffable, unknowable, spirit-based.

The essence of science is, if not certainty, then informed credibility. The essence of faith is doubt. The heart of all religious and spiritual belief is mystery. Why would you want to mess with that?

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