Does Intelligent Design Stifle Science? It's a Scientific Question 

I wrote on this topic this a few days ago, but it was buried in a long critique of Bert Humburg's article on ID. I want to highlight it here now for discussion. Humburg is just the latest of many ID critics who have complained that ID stifles scientific progress:

"Clearly, the scientist who suffers from IDC thinking reached an inappropriate conclusion. Easily, one danger of IDC thinking is that it can support bad explanations for phenomena with untestable 'evidence.' However, incorrect hypotheses are advanced and corrected often in science, so this is not a prominent danger. The real threat is that the question of the arch’s construction has now been answered (God did it) in a way that sabotages further inquiry. Why investigate further if the question has been answered? Why investigate further if to do so might be considered to detract from God?" 

Clearly this is a mistake that a person could make, and examples could probably be found. But Humburg's view is also a theoretical assumption that ought to be treated scientifically itself. It is, after all, a sociological hypothesis. It predicts that scientists who find the "God" explanation satisfying will give up (or at least reduce) further research. This needs to be evaluated sociologically. Does it pass the test of real world observation? Do scientists who believe there may be a Designer just lay down and take a nap?

Without actually having done the research, my guess would be that the answer is no. Certainly in previous eras, this was not the case. Just a cursory reading of the history of science will reveal many who saw their science as serving their belief in God. Faraday and Maxwell were devout believers. Gregor Mendel was a monk. Galileo, for all the controversy he had with the church, never disavowed his belief in God. The list could be multiplied at length.

Today's ID scientists are hardly giving up on empirical work; they're trying to establish a new paradigm in the face of opposition, after all, and this is motivation for greater diligence, not less.

So when a critic says that ID is damaging to science, I say, why don't you treat that opinion scientifically? Show us the data. Show us that belief in Design correlates negatively with interest in understanding nature. They never do that.

And while we're at it, here's another research question someone could pursue: Does the dogmatic intransigence of the naturalistic evolution community stifle anybody's interest in science? I don't know. It seems at least as likely as the theory that belief in Design hinders scientific curiosity.  

Posted: Thu - March 29, 2007 at 11:30 AM           |

© 2004-2007 by Tom Gilson. Permission is granted to quote up to two paragraphs of any blog entry, provided that a link back to the original is included or (in print) the website address is provided. Please email me regarding longer quotes. All other rights reserved.

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