Friday, September 17, 2010

TGD: Chapter Four - In Which I Agree With Richard Dawkins Wholeheartedly

The next two sections of Dawkins' book, Irreducible Complexity and The Worship of Gaps, are mostly devoted to explaining the theory of evolution and pointing out the flaws in the so-called theory of intelligent design. As you may have gathered from what I've written so far, I don't have any problems with evolution and I'm not a big fan of intelligent design. As such, I don't have much to write about these sections.

His basic argument is that the success of evolution and the failure of intelligent design should make us suspicious of any attempt to explain the universe in terms of design. I've already discussed the problems with that argument last week and the week before, so I'm not going to do that again. Instead, I'll take the opportunity to point out some of the things Dawkins and I can agree on.

First and foremost, we can agree that the Intelligent Design theory isn't science. It doesn't provide any useful explanations or make any testable predictions. It doesn't give scientists a framework to help them organize their findings or suggest new areas of research.

This is because intelligent design isn't trying to be science. The theory wasn't created by scientists interested in discovering how the natural world works. It was created by religious people interested in controlling what textbooks said about how the natural world works.

It is unfortunate, for many reasons, that so many Christians are so heavily invested in controlling science education in the United States. The most obvious reason is that a large number of people are actively trying to sabotage science education. Every success the movement wins makes our children more ignorant about the biological sciences.

The second problem is that this kind of polarization has a chilling effect on scientific research. Researchers normally seek out problems and potential challenges to a theory. They do this so that they can conduct further research and see if the problem or challenge can be resolved. When you have a group like the ID movement latching on to such problem areas as "proof" that evolution doesn't work it makes it difficult for researchers to do their job.

The last problem I'm going to talk about is one that Dawkins isn't concerned with. The biggest problem I have with the intelligent design movement is that it directly harms Christianity's reputation. It creates the false impression that Christianity and evolution are mutually incompatible, an impression that Dawkins seems to think is correct.

Moreover, it creates the impression, among educated people, that Christians are either backwards, uneducated, or simply unconcerned with the truth. This creates an obvious credibility problem for Christians everywhere.

There, I've now written an entire post about something Dawkins and I agree on. I apologize if your pet pig sprouts wings and flies away, but I'm afraid it couldn't be helped.

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