It looks like the fight over Intelligent Design is only getting started.

« Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was He who created all that we see and all that we feel. We feel strongly that the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes is nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him.»

Remember: if you insist on telling me your nonsense, I’ll be force to tell you mine. Let’s avoid this arms race of piffle.

Follow-up: It has been pointed out to me that readers of this blog may not have the inestimable advantage of knowing what’s going on inside my head as well as I do. Why am I so hostile to religion? What’s my problem with letting people believe whatever they what to? Why am I such a hypocritical, fascist pig? Might I consider taking a long walk off a short pier?

It may surprise my critics to learn that I think that there is a place for religion and mystical beliefs in modern life. Religion is but one way to provide an ethical matrix that allows individuals to curb their more selfish interests in favor of the greater social good. It is no easy task to teach animals altruism, since self interest gets rewarded in the short term, but altruism often defers its reward into some unspecified future (n.b. this a gross extrapolation of Dawkins point about how genes survive through the ages, but his point has applicability to human behavior too, I think).

Religion’s answer to the question “how did the Universe get here” is as well supported as any scientific answer. Let me be more clear on this point. What happened just before the Big Bang expansion that lead to the four fundamental forces of matter and elements and stars and planets is really anybody’s guess. There’s very little direct evidence for the time before time. So the God hypothesis is, to me, as is as believable as any other.

Of an equally unprovable nature is the question of life after death (and we can include reincarnation here). I have not seen any unassailable evidence that shows what happens after we die. Similiarly, there isn’t an answer to mechanism that is human consciousness. The theist and athesist prop up their solutions on the same table here.

Religion’s mythology is a wonderful nutrient to our imagination. Unlike more rationalist thinkers, I value imagination, fantasy and whimsy quite highly. Life would be all work and no play without them. The book of Genesis is filled with not just simple morality tales, but real human drama. What readers of the story of Adam and Eve’s forced migration from Eden can’t help thinking of the difficulties any immigrant couple faces in general? The stress on a marriage brought on “bad decisions” made by the spouces rings clearly though the parable. The God and Eden bits don’t need to be literally true to make the human side of the story compelling and applicable to modern readers.

So much for what religion does well.

Where followers of religion go off the deep end is in the rejecting knowledge of the natural world that has been gained through the scientific method. How is the scientific method a more reliable source of knowledge than the Divine Word of God? The answer is simply that the evidence and argument for any scientific hypothesis can be and must be subjected to criticism, scrutiny and rigous debate before being accepted as true. Accepted by whom? Ultimately, the scientific method invites all of us to individually test and debunk any and all assertions made. If you can show by contradictory evidence or logically rigous arguments why an assertion cannot be true, the scientific method all but demands that you do so.

The natural world as revealed by Religion cannot be supported by the scientific method. It is testably wrong to suggest Earth is around 6,000-10,000 years old. That’s not an opinion. That’s a fact. We know the age through carbon-dating rocks, through the fossil evidence, through light traveling to us from distant stars, through the decay of radioactive rocks and through the basic formology of the planet. All of these points of evidence have been independently examined and all mutually support each other. However, any one of us is allowed to review the evidence and arguments for this claim and present scientifically rigous evidence to the contrary. If that argument explains the evidence better, your theory will displace the old one.

This is not what Intelligent Design does with the theory of Evolution through Natural Selection. Rather than debate this point, which I admit I’m poorly equipped to do, let me simply refer the open minded to Richard Dawkins on fundamentalist science teachers, Young Earthers and Intelligent Design. Intelligent Design (ID) attempts to explain the complixity we observe in the Life and the Universe. Unfortunately, ID uses its conclusion as its primary supporting argument (which, if you think about it, saves a lot of time collecting evidence from the field). From the Intelligent Design Network:

«In a broader sense, Intelligent Design is simply the science of design detection — how to recognize patterns arranged by an intelligent cause for a purpose. Design detection is used in a number of scientific fields, including anthropology, forensic sciences that seek to explain the cause of events such as a death or fire, cryptanalysis and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). An inference that certain biological information may be the product of an intelligent cause can be tested or evaluated in the same manner as scientists daily test for design in other sciences.»

The ID argument can be correctly reduced to “I can’t imagine how complexity can happen out of randomness, therefore it didn’t.”. Dragging in the real and legitimate uses of pattern detection for sentient activities is a ploy wothy of P. T. Barnum. Of course there’s conscious pattern behind patterns created by consciousness. And, in other news, 4 remains equal to 4 numerically. This is a tautology.

ID will bring us as much new technology as ghost hunting.

Rejecting the scientific method as the only standard for objective, verifiable truth opens the flood gates to irrational thinking. Irrational thinking is governed by fear, uncertainty and doubt and should be avoided where possible.

I vigorously oppose teaching ID in science classes. It is not science at all. Please do bring ID into the rhetoric and debate classes, where it belongs. If you, gentle reader, want to believe in ID, that’s your constitutionally protected right to do so. However, I cannot abide those who insist on making public schools worse because of the Bad Craziness in their own heads. That’s what private schools are for.

It is not scientists who are infallible, but the process. Until God gets a blog to explain His reality to us, we must put our trust in the scientic method to understand this amazing Universe.