The day before Robert Hazen was scheduled to give his talk at ISU titled, “Why Intelligent Design is not Science,” I was interviewed by a reporter from the Iowa State Daily about the event.
Among my responses, I answered that given the title of the talk, I thought the audience was going to be subjected to more propaganda about intelligent design. Based on William Dillon’s report on the event, “Lecture adds to intelligent design debate,” my expectations were realized.
Dillon writes, “Hazen didn’t dismiss the concept of intelligent design as a viable argument in the philosophical or theological sense, but said it doesn’t have anything to do with science. Science, by its very nature, he said, has no way to prove or disprove the evidence of God.” That’s irrelevant, since intelligent design doesn’t prove, or try to prove, the existence of God. Intelligent design theorists simply argue that there are empirical indicators of intelligent agency within the natural world.
Perhaps an example from the history of science can help to clarify the relationship between intelligent design and religion. Early in the 20th century, astronomers discovered evidence that the universe is finite in age, contradicting the then common belief that it was eternal. Noting the obvious positive theological implications of this finding, many scientists refused to accept the Big Bang theory, as it came to be called by one of its detractors.
Today, we are in a similar situation with intelligent design, which is not based on religion but can have positive theological implications. Either from ignorance or from willful misrepresentation (I don’t claim to know which), critics such as Hazen continue to confuse the implications of a theory with the theory itself.
The article then says, “Hazen continuously admitted that science has many holes and unknowns. He said that while proponents of intelligent design explain those gaps through God or an intelligent designer, he sees the gaps ‘as an opportunity, compared to a wall that cannot be breached.'” Again, this is irrelevant to intelligent design.
Intelligent design researchers argue for design based on patterns within nature that they think suggests design. Those patterns are the same whether there is a causal gap within natural history or not. And nothing in intelligent design arguments requires or prohibits such gaps.
Critics of intelligent design should be expected to expose themselves to the views they claim to criticize, otherwise fruitful dialog is not possible.
Department of Physics and Astronomy
Iowa State University