radio antenna dishes
radio antenna dishes

Carl Sagan’s Love/Hate Relationship with Intelligent Design

ID the Future
Robert Crowther, II
Paul Nelson
Audio File (16.5 mb)

On today’s ID the Future, philosopher of science Paul Nelson explores an intriguing tension in the thinking of famous scientist and science popularizer Carl Sagan concerning his agnosticism shading into atheism on the one hand, and on the other hand his embrace of certain ideas consistent with the theory of intelligent design. As Nelson is quick to clarify, if Sagan had lived to see the rise of the contemporary intelligent design movement, he probably would have rejected it, particularly its theistic implications. And yet, Nelson says, Sagan’s thinking and arguments laid out in his Gifford lectures and in his science fiction novel Contact strongly support the idea that intelligent design can be detected. Nelson goes further, saying that if we take the methods Sagan laid out for detecting intelligently designed radio signals from extra-terrestrial intelligence, and apply them to patterns in nature that ID theorists have pointed to (such as DNA), it’s hard not to see his methodology triggering a design inference. Tune in to hear Nelson’s reflections on this important tension in Sagan’s thinking, and what, according to Nelson, prevented Sagan from fully resolving it.

Paul Nelson

Senior Fellow, Center for Science and Culture
Paul A. Nelson is currently a Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute and Adjunct Professor in the Master of Arts Program in Science & Religion at Biola University. He is a philosopher of biology who has been involved in the intelligent design debate internationally for three decades. His grandfather, Byron C. Nelson (1893-1972), a theologian and author, was an influential mid-20th century dissenter from Darwinian evolution. After Paul received his B.A. in philosophy with a minor in evolutionary biology from the University of Pittsburgh, he entered the University of Chicago, where he received his Ph.D. (1998) in the philosophy of biology and evolutionary theory.
Carl Sagan
intelligent design