January 13, 2006
It has taken me a few days to digest Dr. Tenke's viewpoint condemning Intelligent Design as non-science. There are certainly many points on which I would agree with Dr. Tenke; however, there are some significant points I would make to further the intellectual debate. I will skip my own story of childhood, youth, and development of curiosity – although mine occurred in the Midwest, it is remarkably parallel to Dr. Tenke's – and move straight to those points.
First, after supporting and defending scientific method as the only way to truly determine scientific accuracy, Dr. Tenke states: "However, science is not merely a series of facts or theories, but rather a comprehensive process of testing and reevaluation. This process requires a RULE called PARSIMONY: whenever two or more alternative interpretations exist, you must choose the least complicated one." I may be a poor scientist, but I spent seven years studying nuclear physics in a prestigious university and have never come across this "rule." Further, application of such rule is NOT science – it is a flip of the coin; certainly as arbitrary as the vehicle on the right having the right-of-way at an unmarked intersection. As much as I agree that faith, religion. God, etc., should not be injected into the science; it is not because of "parsimony," it is simply that presuppositions of any kind are anathema to real science. I would declare that presupposing no God is as foolish. In general presuppositions about God in any way are not relevant to science – I expect Dr. Tenke would not disagree greatly on this point.
Second, Dr. Tenke states: "Until recently, America's stewardship of science has been faithful. The engine of science has been quite productive for us." While one would have to be a fool to suggest that humanity has not benefitted greatly from technological advances; it would take great naiveté to believe that politics and political correctness are not significant influences in science. Scientists, like all humans, like to eat; so the research that gets done follows the money and the interpretations of the data reflect the expectations of the money.
Third, the uniqueness of Darwin was his atheistic assertion. Essentially the same theories and conclusions had been published years before Darwin's Origin . . ., it was Darwin's conclusion that the science disproves God which made him unique and which propelled his theories to fame – so much for good science. Unfortunately, evolutionists have never quite succeeded in insulating their science from religion – they have been forced to have religious zeal for their study which thwarts the science, always putting them in a defensive mode. For example, there are significant scientific conflicts with evolution as it is taught in our high schools and universities (a physicist like myself sees the continual violation of the 2nd law of Thermodynamics* as a significant problem); however, evolution biologists, by and large, are reticent to admit the existence of any such conflicts because it would be an admission that they don't know everything. This is bad science.
Finally, Dr. Tenke raises the rhetorical questions: "Shouldn't alternatives to evolution also be taught in public schools, particularly if they are easier to reconcile with traditional religious beliefs? Can't some unanswered scientific questions be more easily answered using a science of Intelligent Design?" and he answers: "The answers are a resounding ‘No!'" The problem is that Dr. Tenke has asked the wrong questions. A better question about "evolution" would be: Are we teaching a scientifically proven evolution in our schools? Are we pointing out where the science stops and the speculation or extrapolation has continued? Having looked at numerous secondary and college biology texts, I can tell you: NO! We are teaching evolution the way those with an agenda (presupposition) against God and little understanding of the actual science have decided it should be taught.
The second question Dr. Tenke asks is more calculated in demanding a negative response. Intelligent Design is not being postulated to answer "unanswered scientific questions," it is a simple admission that the facts as they are known violate the science we have developed. Going back to my example of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics*, many scientists see that a setting aside of the physical law is necessary for evolution to produce higher order creatures. In Thermodynamic language, something from outside the closed system has to interact within the system, to exert a direction against the nature of the unaffected system toward higher order. Since the effect is toward higher order which is unnatural, then the something outside the system is seen to have an intelligent plan for exerting this influence from outside the system. This acknowledgment that science requires an influence from outside our system has been called Intelligent Design, and I would suggest it is at least as scientific as teaching evolution without teaching the conflicts which are seen to exist with the Second law of Thermodynamics.
Please note that I have not postulated the Judao-Christian God, nor Allah, nor even a theistic being. I have not referred to Genesis (I find that theologians doing bad theology quite outnumber scientists doing bad science, and are certainly as dangerous) as a reasonable scientific explanation of creation, which it is not, nor was it intended to be. Intelligent Design, as it relates to the debate, is not a religious argument.
As a nuclear physicist, an ordained minister in the PC(USA), a parent, and one who truly wants to know the truthful answers about creation and the origin of species, I also "call for America to reclaim its birthright as a land of faith and reason. We must neither degrade our science to salve the uneducated, nor discount our valuable religious diversity." Nor should we ever allow science to be sold to the highest bidder nor the politics of the time. If, as Americans, we would hold on to our competitive edge in science, we must be truthful with our presuppositions for or against God.______________________
* The Second Law of Thermodynamics asserts that entropy (the degree of disorder) in a closed system must always be increasing. Simply put, things always go from higher order to lower order unless affected from outside the system. There are NO observed violations of this Law.Jack C. Volkers, Ph.D., M.Div.
Member, Presbytery of Wabash Valley.
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