Intelligent design is religion, not science

By Contributor Bruce Meyer

Bruce Meyer

The NASA case involving David Coppedge has brought to light the issue of intelligent design again. Coppedge was a computer analyst and team leader working on NASA’s Cassini Saturn Project until he was fired for inappropriate conduct in the workplace. He claims religious discrimination, but NASA says he was harassing his co-workers.

Whether he wins or not, Coppedge’s case involving religious discrimination would tend to support the argument that intelligent design is religion and not science. I agree.

That’s not to say I don’t like the idea of intelligent design. I do. I’m a big fan of Anselm of Canterbury’s Proslogion, where Anselm regards God as, “that of which nothing greater can be thought.” That’s intelligent design on steroids. It’s very different thinking than life from the primordial murk, a hurtling comet, or a mathematical construct. My personal belief is that the creator must be greater and more intelligent than that which is created.

But it’s not science by any stretch of the imagination: yours, mine, or Anselm’s. Science requires a testable hypothesis, and there’s no way to test whether a design is intelligent or not. I might think there are hidden dimensions filled with dark energy, but until I can form a hypothesis, conduct an experiment, publish the results in a scientific journal, and until there are peer reviews, it’s not science.  What test are you going to run to determine if something is intelligently designed?  Your idea of intelligence will differ from mine and Anselm’s. Immanuel Kant’sCritique of Pure Reason concludes that there are limits to what reasoning (think science) can achieve.

There is no way to either prove or disprove God or intelligent design. Sorry, but you’re just going to have to accept it all on faith.

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19 responses to “Intelligent design is religion, not science

  1. Bruce, thanks for your thoughts. For clarification, when you are talking “science” you are talking what is currently distinguished as “hard science” such as biology, chemistry and such, rather than sociology, psychology, etc.?

  2. Thanks for the comment. I’m referring to the scientific method (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method). The method requires a hypothesis which can be verified by an experiment with hard data, published in a journal, and corroborated by a peer group.

    • Thanks for the clarification, Bruce. Here’s what I am wondering… (and this is not to prove a point, rather to possibly further the discussion)

      Hypotheses are meant to advance a thought or belief by supporting it with evidence, yes? By belief I mean perception/understanding/meaning of reality. The scientific method is a manner used to further an argument. Confirmed hypotheses are not by themselves a declaration of truth. It is very difficult to get such a stamp; requiring an incredibly amount of validity (testing what is supposed to test) and reliability (yielding consistent results). It merely shows that there is evidence to support the statement.

      I am wondering: If an argument can be made that shows evidence of an intelligent civilization that we only have “artificatual” evidence of, could the argument for intelligent design not be engaged in a similar manner that is both valid and reliable? It would certainly have limitations, as would any area of research. I conduct a fair amount of research in the social sciences, but I’m no expert in intelligent design. It does seem as though there is a construct within the scientific method as we have agreed to define it that could have merit: Based on the hypotheses and manner of research, it seems tangible evidence could be used. Hypotheses can certainly be used to establish evidence of intelligence in a culture by studying its design, artifacts, etc. Sociology, History, Psychology and other soft sciences develop, propose and test hypotheses all the time, and the findings are published in peer-reviewed journals.

      Both the scientific method and religion are methodologies that intend to make sense of one’s perceptions. I am not sure that they are mutually exclusive in this endeavor. What do you think? Am I just spouting off or is there some pertinent thought in here?

  3. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” -Romans 1:20

    Obviously a bit of circular reasoning using the bible to prove the bible but hey, I am still going to do it.

    God has put enough self-revelation in the creation to reveal Himself and to understand something substantial enough to place people in the category of ‘without excuse’. I find that very hopeful for all humanity and very enlightening in the discussions you are pointing out. Not sure if ‘without excuse’ falls into the ‘it’s all faith’ category though.

    When I look at the complexities within the world, either mirco or macro…I am confronted with a level of order that astounds the human mind. I do not see chaos…but design. It amazes me the amount of ‘faith’ that is required to look at the same data and see chaos instead of order, chance instead of design…pointlessness instead of purpose.

    Not sure if ideas, chats and charts will invalidate all that but in the end…it makes more logical sense to me than what is offered in star dust and primordial emanations.

  4. Great insights Eric, and I certainly agree with you. It seems obvious to me also that there is intelligence way beyond me in the universe. But would you have a problem if it turns out that God used star dust or pimordial emanations, or even evolution as His chosen mechanism for creating life?

    • I’m a God breathed life into man from the dirt and Jesus from the grave dude. Dust and Goo just don’t evoke the Divine Image in my reading of it all. Works fine for the microscope and telescope folks but not the mystics and divines.

      • Don’t you want to ensure your idea of the world conforms as closely as possible to how the world really is?

      • Im good with:

        Hebrews 11:3:
        By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

  5. I’m good with:

    Philip K. Dick:
    “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”

    • Paul/Apolos or Dick…I’m sticking with Apostles.

      • When I became a Christian, I decided that one thing in the universe could supersede God… and that was Truth. Whatever actually is, whatever is the way things happened, or the way things are, was what I would believe in. It’s liberating because I don’t ever feel like I’m turning my brain off, or shutting my eyes, as a Christian. I feel really good about that decision I made those years ago.

    • Thomas is alive and well in all of us.

  6. hananeneffloutf

    Thanks Bruce for sharing this with us,

    “There is no way to either prove or disprove God or intelligent design. Sorry, but you’re just going to have to accept it all on faith”

    The scientific method deals only with that which is observable… By definition God can’t be observable (at lest in Islam) therfore we can’t prove God. Science can’t prove that God doesn’t exist either simply because if you don’t see something where you are looking it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.. so I agree with you.
    But the scientific method is more for the existance of God than anything else (atheism) and this is through proving the “intelligent” design of the universe meaning the itelligent work of God.
    Yes the scientific method does prove the intelligence of the design… this intelligence is the fact that the universe is fine-tuned. If any fendamental constant is slightly changed then life wouldn’t be sustained! this is intelligence, what do you think?

  7. I agree that the universe is certainly fine-tuned to support life as we know it. But that doesn’t prove that if the fine-tuning were altered slightly that life wouldn’t have been possible. For example, if the earth were closer to the sun, we can’t prove that life wouldn’t have evolved to support hotter temperatures.

    There’s a principle called “God of the Gaps.” It says that a gap in our scientific understanding does not constitute a proof of the existence of God. In the middle ages, it was discovered that all the planets turned in the same direction, and some said, “See, that’s proof of the creation.” But it was later discovered that all the planets revolved the same way because they had all come from the same gas cloud. The problem is that if you say the fine tuning of the universe is proof of God, what do you then say if a scientific reason is discovered for that fine tuning? Do you then say, “Oh well, I guess God doesn’t exist after all?”

    Rather, it’s better to agree that God and Intelligent Design cannot be proven and cannot be disproven, as Immanuel Kant has already shown us.

    • hananeneffloutf

      The fine tuning is the strongest prove of God… and if there is a scientific reason for it, it still is prove for the PURPOSEFUL design of our universe, meaning that it is not by chance. If you can understand how things work or the reason they are working as such, it doesn’t exclude God, in your example of planets revolving the same way because they’re from the same gas cloud DOES NOT mean that God isn’t the creator of these planets, same goes for everything either it is explained or not, we know now how babies are formed inside their mothers and the purpose of each step… it still doesn’t mean that God isn’t the creator.
      If the sun were slightly farther or closer to the earth, life as we know it wouldn’t be sustained, this to me shows that we are meant to be here, there is a reason for our existence, the laws of the universe are not a result of an accidental work, they are a result of an intention.
      Of course you can’t prove that life wouldn’t have evolved to support hotter temperatures simply because this case doesn’t exist! The fact is our life will not possible under such hot temperature. We can talk about many possibilities and we can’t prove them because they are suppositions they’re not facts:) just like the argument of multiple universes and we just happen to be in the perfect one!
      So, yes you can’t prove God but He is the best option we have to explain the overwhelming perfection of our universe.

  8. To those who believe God breathed life into the first man/woman, I ask what is the scientific mechanism by which that breath became life? Keep in mind that Ancient Egyptian magic can also breathe life into a human being. Do you think God used magic to breathe life? Is magic the mechanism that God used? If not magic, then what is the scientific mechanism by which breath became life? And what kind of breath was it? What is the chemical composition of the air that was breathed from God’s mouth?

    These are the questions that scientists must ask. If not, then it is not science, it is religion. I’m not at all against religion or mysticism. I agree that they are both sources of knowledge. There are answers that only science can provide, and there is Truth that only religion can provide. It is good for science and religion to learn to respect each other and the contributions each makes to our society and our humanity.

    • hananeneffloutf

      You just said it, it is magic, illusion. This reminds me of the miracle granted by God to prophet Moses (pbuh) when he went to see the pharaoh. He had a stick which tuned to be a real giant snake that swallowed all the other ropes and sticks that magicians used to cause an illusion of snakes. So the real snake ate the false ones which made the magicians fall in prostration saying “We believe in the Lord of all that exists. The lord of Moses and Aaron” Quran (26:47). That’s how God differentiates between truth and falsehood.
      Not being able to explain how does God breath life doesn’t take anything of his power nor does it mean that our life is not real. It is definitely not magic because magic produces falsehood. These kind of questions are legitimate and science can never answer only faith can!
      Sometimes I understand scientists having problems with religion and faith matters… but what I will never understand is when religious people have issues with science, why is that?

  9. Daryl- I’m not sure I responded to your comment earlier. I agree that confirming a hypothesis is not a declaration of truth. I also agree to your point of science and religion not being mutually exclusive. In fact, the first scientists such as Newton (physics), Boyle (chemistry) and Pascal (math) were theologians. That’s how they saw themselves and their work. They were called scientists by later generations. Science was originally a branch of the church called natural theology.

    Science requires faith in order to operate, and religion requires logic and reason. Both are important to each other, and neither operates in a vacuum.

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