I listened to an episode of the Unbelievable! podcast from 2011 that was rebroadcast recently. Stephen C. Meyer was on with Keith R. Fox MA, MPhil, PhD, professor of Biochemistry, Principal Investigator (Nucleic Acids) at University of Southampton in the UK and Associate Director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, Cambridge. The topic was Meyer’s groundbreaking book, Signature in the Cell, and the origin of life.
Keith Fox and Stephen Meyer are both professing Christians. Fox holds dogmatically to the evolutionary paradigm and does not believe intelligent design is an appropriate framework for scientific inquiry. Meyer maintains that intelligent design is a better explanation and is warranted by the science.
I will not attempt to explain everything they discussed, as I would require much more space than a blog article and more time than my schedule might allow at the moment. I encourage you to listen to the whole discussion if this article piques your interest. (You could also read the book.)
I want to focus on one point Steven Fox made about the intelligent design argument. Fox objected that intelligent design is a “science stopper”.
He explained that he believes the promotion of intelligent design as an explanation for the origin of life would stop further scientific inquiry and frustrate science. It will effectively inhibit further inquiry as to how the origin life occurred, says Fox, if we conclude that “intelligence did it”. (A kind of God of the gaps argument)
Meyer didn’t address the point immediately or directly. The discussion went off in a different direction, but I found myself unwilling to let it go.
“Why would intelligent design be a science stopper?” The statement begs for a response.
Fox claims that invoking the intelligent design explanation stops the process of asking questions, but he didn’t explain why. I have heard the statement before, but the statement is conclusory. Does it really follow?
I understand the anecdotal evidence of certain people who have advocated a kind of blind faith approach to Bible and science issues, but that’s only a segment of the population of people who call themselves Christians. It’s not the majority, and they don’t have any influence over people who do science (Christian or non-Christian).
Implicit in that response is, perhaps, the thinking that we have done biological science very well on the evolutionary paradigm for about 150 years. It works. Let’s not mess it up. I can appreciate that.
A person might also observe, correctly, that the focus of science narrowed many years ago purely on natural processes, eliminating divine agency from consideration in science. Let theologians think about God, but the scientists should focus on the science (the “non-overlapping magisterium” approach).
I understand that science is limited to the study of nature and natural processes. Science has nothing to do with theology (though theology was once considered the Queen of the sciences). Science has nothing to do with philosophy (though many scientists don’t appear to know the difference).
I am only speculating that these kinds of thoughts are behind the resistance against considering intelligent design as a competing paradigm to evolution. I understand them, but I would like to push back.
The objection to intelligent design seems to be an extension of the “God of the gaps” argument.
It incorporates the same assumption – that belief in God stifles and stymies science, but I don’t believe it’s a good assumption, and I don’t believe that the evidence warrants that conclusion.
Continue reading “Is Intelligent Design a Science Stopper?”