Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What really bothers me about the intelligent design vs. materialism debate

Yesterday I wrote about a presentation on intelligent design that Isaac and I went to on Sunday. It was REALLY interesting.

Here is what bothers me. Both sides whine. I haven't seen the movie Expelled because the way it was marketed bothered me. It was whiny, "Nobody likes us, no one will listen to us." Know what I mean? It made the academic and intelligentsia's resistance to ID seem like a conspiracy, and that fed into the Religious Right's conspiracy tendencies.

I equally hate the way the scientific establishment reacts when anyone mentions ID. They dismiss it out of hand and automatically associate whoever suggested it with some conservative religious plot to overthrow scientific truth.

Both sides react with fear rather than reason (which is why I really liked this talk - it used evidence and reason rather than insults and fearful condemnation). It reminded me of my experience with being taught science in school. When I was in a conservative missionary school, the mere mention of evolution brought immediate defensiveness and was dismissed automatically. The effort was to disprove evolution rather than to investigate what is possible and true.

Then I would return to the US and go to public school, where the mere mention of creationism or intelligent design brought the same reaction. It was scorned and dismissed, never discussed.

Neither approach is helpful, and neither is real education, it is indoctrination. A good education will teach children HOW to think and then allow them to investigate the evidence on either side and follow it to conclusions. It is sad when schools don't do this, but it's worse when scientists make the same mistake.

Someone named Bob left a comment on my last post about this presentation that said this: "Competent scientists don't invoke intelligent design, also known as supernatural magic, to solve scientific problems. Invoking magic is giving up and real scientists don't do that."

My response was this: "Bob - you are right, but only IF science disproves intelligent design. If, however, science points to intelligent design, it would be unscientific to be unwilling to investigate it simply because the scientific community or your philosophical presuppositions don't like it."

That is where I am left. I rarely see people willing to truly look at all sides, and that's frustrating.

The other frustrating thing is that all of these discussions - materialism vs. intelligent design and creationism vs. evolution - they all are made out to be scientific arguments, but most of the argument is actually philosophical. We have some scientific evidence that can back up certain points, but when you're talking about questions of origins, we really don't know because we can't see it and test it, which is what is required for theories to be determined to be true. So science invades the realm of philosophy, which is inevitable, but most of the time people act as though it's all science.

Isaac always says - leave the philosophy to the philosophers and the science to the scientists. When scientists are unable to address evidence because of their philosophical presuppositions, the whole thing is messed up.


Kaycee said...

Kacie - I couldn't agree with you more. There is a lot of cynicism and judgment from both sides and it is such a turn off for me. I hate it when an intelligent, thoughtful debate turns into whining and flinging of insults.

Bob obviously didn't read your post because you explained it very well. These scientists are using scientific methods to investigate the matter, not magic.

Anyone who thinks that they have all of the answers or thinks that one side of the argument is absolutely wrong or absolutely right is on dangerous ground.

Mason said...

I’ve really enjoyed this series of posts. I find the study of origins interesting, but usually throw up my hands in disgust when I actually see people debate it since as you said both sides just run to their presuppositions and ignore the opposition, it’s all very petty and reactionary most of the time.

Thankfully it sounds like the lectures you heard were nothing like that.
Things like the logical implications of the expanding universe appear like a better place to start, clearly the universe is finite and intelligent scientists on both sides see the evidence there.

One problem for me at least is when people use creationism/intelligent design as an apologetic tactic for the faith. Say I could prove beyond a doubt that there was a ‘creator’ of some sort, ok so what?
That leaves me with some sort of Enlightenment Deism, not Christianity. I just don’t think you can get all the way to Christian faith from the proposition that something created all this. Not that I don’t think there are solid historical/theological reasons to take the faith seriously, I just am not sure that intelligent design is one of them.

Kacie said...

Yeah, Mason, i totally agree with you. I think that ID is of course important within science and philosophy because those are scientific and philosophical discussions. As someone that is more of your average Joe on the street, how does it affect me? Like it said, defending ID does nothing to lead to faith. I find it funny that it's such a scandal when scientists come to the conclusion that ID is possible, because most of them remain in that Enlightenment Deism and never take up theological questions or personal faith.

I think the reason this debate has trickled down to your average Joe is that most people see science as disproving faith. So - as long as that is given as a challenge, we have the need to go to science and show that it doesn't. Science will never prove faith, but I guess there is a felt need within the Christian church to show that it doesn't disprove faith.

The_LoneTomato said...

Great posts here (and thanks for reading).

I completely agree that there is a real lack of civil, rational debate - both those on the side of evolution and those on the side if ID do little more than hurl insults over the wall. For those trying to decide between the two, it's very hard to find rational, reasoned discussions between sides.

The speakers you mentioned made a case for the ID side and I'd like to suggest a book from the evolution side: The Language of God by Dr. Francis S. Collins - a christian who headed up the Human Genome Project. He counters some of the claims of ID in a gentle, rational way.

Keep asking the big questions!

The Flood Zone said...

"Both sides whine"
YOU so nailed it.

Vincent said...

I find this absolutely fascinating. I never really thought about it but the education taught in schools really don't let you discuss both sides, they usually just tell you what is and isn't to be beleived and that's just wrong. The point you make, in my mind, is valid.