U. California-Berkeley: Former UC Berkeley prof attempts to reconcile debates in religion, science

Published in Daily Californian (U California-Berkeley)

Berkeley, Calif. — A University of California-Berkeley professor is offering his explanation for the clash between science and religion. The intelligent design theory — a conception of UC Berkeley Boalt Law School professor emeritus Phillip Johnson — critiques science on scientific rather than biblical grounds and has created a debate in the world of science.

In 1991, Johnson unveiled his critique in, “Darwin on Trial,” which outlines what he sees as inconsistencies in the scientific world, split between an “empirical” and a “materialistic” approach toward the world. The empirical approach, he says, is the sense of investigation and inquiry that the science world applies toward new discoveries. In this sense, science is a tool of exploration.

The materialist approach, on the other hand, represents the claim that all scientific properties have a material cause and that nothing outside the realm of science could initiate the developments of these properties. According to Johnson, an inconsistency emerges when the science community attempts to adhere all results of the empirical approach to the materialist philosophy.

“What happens is that the Darwinists define the question through the use of scientific materialist philosophy,” Johnson says. “The best available materialist explanation of how life begins may not necessarily be true.” Instead of allowing Darwinism to serve as the division between religious and scientific lines, Johnson has formulated this theory to question the internal design of science.

Intelligent design theory argues that empirical evidence of science points to the need for a designer, but the materialist philosophy forbids scientists to draw that conclusion.

“The goals of intelligent design are to bring honesty, and to remove prejudice from science,” says Johnson. “We bring an ‘open philosophy,’ which allows people to reason about evidence, and draw conclusions without philosophical restrictions.”

Past debates about evolution and creation always resulted in conflict between religious and scientific authorities, Johnson says. “Creationism and evolution are vague, shifting terms,” he said. “The supporters of Darwinism define creationism to mean those people who read Genesis and are Bible-thumpers. But, it actually refers to anyone who believes that there is a creator. Evolution is defined as mere change, but something more than mere change is required to create living organisms. We must use more accurate, precise terms to clarify the issues instead of confusing people.”

Intelligent design causes a shift to an analysis of Darwinist science, and allows for people to infer from the evidence for whether a superior being could exist, Johnson says.

“Darwinian evolution does not prove the non-existence of God, but it is ‘God-hostile’ in the sense that it makes God unnecessary,” said Johnson. “No evidence from biology can prove if it is God of the Bible, since that is not the job of biology.”

Intelligent design is not an attempt to sneak God back into science, but instead allows the probability for existence of a superior being in science. This is done by analyzing scientific examples that reveal flaws in Darwinism and that lead to a conclusion that there is a high probability for the existence of a God.

The first main point of contention over Darwinism is whether an organism displays a degree of change, and if this mechanism of change is a life-creating force. The two examples concern finches in the Galapagos Islands and peppered moths in England.

More finches were found with longer beaks than their regular counterparts on the Galapagos Islands following a flood year, supporting the idea that finches with longer beaks were more “fit” for survival.

Intelligent design supporters, however, point out that other flood years occurred after this point, but the length of the finches’ beaks returned to their normal length. Thus, the plausibility of a mechanism of natural selection is diminished in this case.

The two examples show that some kinds of change occur in populations of organisms and do not illustrate a process which creates anything new, such as new complex organs or new genetic information, he says.

“Darwinian biologists want to believe that nature can do all the creating, they do not want to believe that outside forces could be at work,” says Johnson.

The final component of the intelligent design argument centers on illustrating an inference toward the existence of God. The example behind this is of the flagella of some bacteria. The flagella cannot be slowly formed over time and exists at the point of the bacteria’s inception.

The future of intelligent design lies in its ability to continue to press the scientific community over the inconsistency of its empirical and materialist approach, and to solidify the religious community behind it, Johnson says.