Friday, 4 October 2013

The new approach to origins science-make challenging the consensus illegal

The following message comes from Alastair Noble of the Centre for Intelligent Design
my bold
The Scottish Secular Society has just announced that it has written to the Cabinet Secretary for Education in the Scottish Government to ask that 'creationism and intelligent design are expressly prohibited from schools outside of RME (Religious and Moral Education) classes'[1] .  This chimes in with various other calls for science to be protected from 'anti-scientific' views like Intelligent Design (ID).  So is legal protection of scientific enquiry from uncomfortable views the way to advance our understanding? 
Is this how we achieved the stunning success of modern science?  Is this how scientific matters and their implications are to be discussed?  Clearly nothing arouses the passions of the ideologues quite like the mention of 'creation' or 'intelligent design'.  Better to ban them, apparently, than to have to confront, in the case of intelligent design, the obvious design implications of the scientific data. 
What we are witnessing is not really a commitment to science, but rather a dogmatic adherence to the philosophy of naturalism.  As Richard Lewontin, the Harvard biologist, has said, 'we can't allow a divine foot in the door'![2]  Is that how we establish objective truth? 
This all seems part of a not-so-subtle campaign to impose materialistic thinking on scientific debate in schools and elsewhere, to the exclusion of other considerations.  For example, only a few miles from where I live two head teachers have recently been removed from post because of the distribution to pupils of literature which makes reference to evolution and creation.[3]  More recently, a physics teacher in an East of Scotland School is under press scrutiny for suggesting to senior pupils that scientific theories about origins are subject to a degree of uncertainty.[4]  The Scottish Secular Society is also currently seeking, under the Freedom of Information Act, to elicit information, among other things, about whether creationists are infiltrating our schools.[5]  In 2007, the Department for Children, Schools and Families in England issued guidance to the effect that creationism and Intelligent Design (ID) should not be considered scientific, though they did concede teachers should discuss these topics sensitively if they arose in science classes.[6] 
Of course, I am not in a position to defend all the actions of others.  I am also clear that 'creationism' as popularly understood is not the same as 'intelligent design', and I have written about that elsewhere.[7]  But the determined and sometimes mindless opposition to any suggestion of the possibility that we are here as the result of an intelligent cause, as opposed to blind materialistic forces, borders on the irrational and certainly does not sit easily with proper scientific enquiry and freedom of expression. 
The scientific study of origins falls into the category of historical science where the everyday methods of experimental laboratory science don't so readily apply.  It is not possible to repeat the events of long ago and so scientists often have to make 'an inference to the best explanation' of the evidence available to them - an approach which significantly distinguishes historical science from experimental science. 
Charles Darwin
This is precisely the approach Darwin took when theorising about the origin and development of life.  It is also the approach taken by the proponents of Intelligent Design who argue that there is clear evidence in nature and life of pre-existing mind.[8] 
Now that's a highly controversial proposition.  But ID proponents are clear that this is not primarily a religious position, but one which is clearly inferred from the evidence.  That evidence includes the fine-tuning of universal constants, the specified complexity of living systems and the information content of the genome.  The latter is the most persuasive, in that all our experience teaches us that functional information, such as that digitally-coded in DNA, always arises from intelligent mind.  As Henry Quastler, the pioneering information theorist observed, 'information habitually arises from conscious activity'.[9] 
But the scientific consensus is aggressively opposed to this obvious conclusion.  And in its concerted opposition to what many would feel is blindingly obvious, it consistently makes two critical errors. 
Firstly, contemporary science defines itself in a way which excludes any non-material explanation of origins.  This is not a scientific finding but an assumed position.  It is in fact the philosophy of naturalism.  It places a massive constraint on origins science and rules out the rather obvious conclusion that our universe shows evidence of intelligent mind.  Interestingly, the perception of intelligent causation of the universe was held, to varying degrees, by a significant number of eminent scientists including, for example, Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein.[10] 
While Prof Richard Dawkins will freely admit that he has no idea about the origin of life[11], or the universe for that matter, Prof Laurence Krauss argues that a 'universe from nothing' is a feasible scientific position.[12]  This is where the materialist agenda gets you, in the face of the whole cause and effect structure of the universe and the rational analysis of data which is the foundation of scientific thought.  The naturalistic philosophy which now dominates science leads to breath-taking absurdity as well as the suppression of legitimate debate.
Schematic DNA
The second error in origins science is equally irrational.  It is the confusion of process with agency.  It goes like this: if we can explain how certain processes might have operated, we can dispense with any designing agency.  So, if we propose, say, an 'RNA-world' as a precursor to the DNA world and find some chemical evidence of the possibility (actually, such a scenario is by no means certain), then we have proved that no intelligence is at work behind the process. 
A striking example of this approach was when Craig Venter's team managed to synthesise active DNA in the laboratory by copying the known sequences of base pairs in natural DNA.[13]  A leading scientist, when interviewed on Radio 4's Today programme, hailed this as conclusive proof that DNA could arise naturally without any intelligent agent at work, somehow missing the point that the highly intelligent scientists who worked with Venter took some 15 years to assemble their synthetic DNA. 
Model T Ford
Prof John Lennox exemplifies this fallacy by pointing out that there are two ways to understand a Ford motor car.[14]  You can describe it in terms of the laws of engineering, combustion and motion, or you can explain it through the original agency of Henry Ford and the hundreds of design engineers who have subsequently worked for the company.  These are clearly not mutually exclusive positions. 
A designing intelligence behind the universe is entirely consistent with the laws and processes which have got us to this point in our existence.  That is the position of Intelligent Design which does not suffer from the two critical errors which beset contemporary origins science. 
It's just a pity, and, more seriously, also an affront to academic and public debate that these matters cannot be discussed dispassionately in schools, universities and the public arena.  It makes you wonder if there really is an ulterior motive.  Is it that materialist science is in fact applied atheism?  Why not just debate where the evidence points and drop the need for Government interference?           
Thank you for your continuing interest in our work.
Yours sincerely,
Dr Alastair Noble
Director of the Centre for Intelligent Design UK
Centre for Intelligent Design
The Wheatsheaf
Speirs Wharf
G4 9TJ     
PS You may be interested in the following publications:
1. 'Explore Evolution' - for more information please visit the dedicated web site at  Copies of the book may be ordered through that web site.
2. My 32-page booklet 'An Introduction to Intelligent Design' is available from for £2 plus pp.  Discounts of 50% are available on orders of 10 or more. 

[2]  From his review of Carl Sagan's book 'The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark', New York Review of Books, Jan 9, 1997
[5]  See and their Facebook page for details
[6]  DCSF (2007) Guidance on creationism and intelligent design. Available at 
[7]  See my article on on ID and Creationism under An Introduction to ID, section 14, and also in my booklet described above.  
[8]  See eg Signature in the Cell, Stephen Meyer, HarperOne, 2009
[9]  Quastler, The Emergence of Biological Information, p16
[10]  See eg 'Einstein's God' in Einstein, His Life and Universe, Walter Issacson, Simon and Schuster, 2007, chap 17
[11]  See interview in the DVD Expelled- No Intelligence Allowed, NPN Videos, Swindon
[12]  A Universe from Nothing, Laurence Krauss, Atria Books, 2012
[14] See God's Undertaker - has Science buried God?, John C Lennox, Lion, 2009, p45

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About The Centre for Intelligent Design

The primary aim of the Centre for Intelligent Design (CID) is to promote the public understanding of Intelligent Design (ID) and its implications.
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