IRA FLATOW, host: This is TALK OF THE NATION/SCIENCE FRIDAY. Im Ira Flatow. Efforts to influence how evolution is taught in the classroom has been picking up steam lately. This month, the nations largest scientific organization, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, passed a resolution urging policy-makers to oppose teaching what is called the intelligent design theory within Read More ›
Original We tend to consider speculation about extraterrestrials to be a recent phenomenon, a task forced on us by the scientific knowledge weve gained during the last century. Its rather surprising, perhaps, to find out that the debate about whether there is extraterrestrial life stretches back just shy of two and a half millennia. Given the antiquity of the question, Read More ›
Keynote address delivered at RAPID Conference (Research and Progress in Intelligent Design), Biola University, La Mirada, California, 25 October 2002. The aim of this conference was to examine the current state of intelligent design research.
Recently I asked a well-known ID sympathizer what shape he thought the ID movement was in. I raised the question because, after some initial enthusiasm on his part three years ago, his interest seemed to have flagged. Here is what he wrote:
An enormous amount of energy has been expended on “proving” that ID is bogus, “stealth creationism,” “not science,” and so on. Much of this, ironically, violates the spirit of science. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. But on the other side, too much stuff from the ID camp is repetitive, imprecise and immodest in its claims, and otherwise very unsatisfactory. The “debate” is mostly going around in circles. The real work needs to go forward. There is a tremendous ferment right now in the “evo/devo” field, for instance. Some bright postdocs sympathetic to ID (and yes, I know how hard a time they would have institutionally at many places) should plunge right into the thick of that. Maybe they are at this very moment: I hope so!
Every now and again we need to take a good, hard look in the mirror. The aim of this talk is to help us do just that. Intelligent design has made tremendous inroads into the culture at large. Front page stories featuring our work have appeared in the New York Times, L.A. Times, Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, and so on. Television, radio, and weeklies like Time Magazine are focusing the spotlight on us as well. This publicity is at once useful and seductive. It useful because it helps get the word out and attract talent to the movement. It is seductive because it can deceive us into thinking that we have accomplished more than we actually have.
Two animating principles drive intelligent design. The more popular by far takes intelligent design as a tool for liberation from ideologies that suffocate the human spirit, such as reductionism and materialism. The other animating principle, less popular but intellectually more compelling, takes intelligent design as the key to opening up fresh insights into nature. The first of these animating principles is purely instrumental — it treats intelligent design as a tool for attaining some other end (like defeating materialism). Presumably if other tools could more effectively accomplish that end, intelligent design would be abandoned. The second of these animating principles, by contrast, is intrinsic — it treats intelligent design as an essential good, an end in itself worthy to be pursued because of the insights it provides into nature.
These animating principles can work side by side, and there is no inherent conflict between them. Nonetheless, there is a clear order of priority. Unless intelligent design is an intrinsic good — unless it can be developed as a scientific research program and provide sound insights into the natural world — then its use as an instrumental good for defeating ideologies that suffocate the human spirit becomes insupportable. Intelligent design must not become a “noble lie” for vanquishing views we find unacceptable (history is full of noble lies that ended in disgrace). Rather, intelligent design needs to convince us of its truth on its scientific merits. Then, because it is true and known to be true, it can become an instrument for liberation from suffocating ideologies — ideologies that suffocate not because they tell us the grim truth about ourselves but because they are at once grim and false (Freud’s psychic determinism is a case in point)….Read More ›
More than 40 years ago, the film “Inherit the Wind” presented the controversy over the teaching of evolution as a battle between stick-figure fundamentalists who defend a literal reading of Genesis and saintly scientists who simply want to teach the facts of biology. Ever since, journalists have tended to depict almost any battle over evolution in the schools as if Read More ›
As a theorist who uses quantum mechanics to solve problems ranging from biochemistry to astrophysics, the subject of this essay is of great interest to me. It is a question that is discussed in depth in my University of Georgia freshman seminar entitled Science and Christianity: Conflict or Coherence? This autumn 18 gifted UGA students and I are spending six Read More ›
ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) — A suburban Atlanta school board Thursday night voted unanimously to allow teachers to introduce students to different views about the origins of life. The Cobb County Board of Education, the state’s second-largest school board, approved the policy change after limited discussion, calling it a “necessary element of providing a balanced education.” The board’s vote drew cheers Read More ›
Praising the adoption Thursday night of a policy encouraging the “discussion of disputed views” about evolution in Cobb County, Georgia schools, Discovery Institute President Bruce Chapman called the decision “a victory for academic freedom and good science education” and faulted critics of the policy for “trying to mischaracterize the controversy as a battle over religion.” “The policy adopted by the Read More ›
Nature via Nurture: Genes, Experience, & What Makes Us Human, by Matt Ridley (HarperCollins, 336 pp., $25.95) This is a very strange book, and I am not quite sure what the author is attempting to achieve. At the very least it appears that he wants to shore up genetic determinism as the key factor in understanding human nature and individual Read More ›
The discovery of a nearly 7-million-year-old skull has been hailed as “a small nuclear bomb” for evolution, “the most important fossil discovery in living memory,” and a “challenge to human origins.” Time said that the fossil might be “your very first relative.” An international team of scientists uncovered the mostly intact craniumnicknamed Toumai (meaning “hope of life”)along with two jawbone Read More ›