Yesterday, news spread that the Kansas school board passed legislation to include intelligent design into the school curriculum.
As expected, there was some colorful discussion on Fark.
In an opinion piece in Time this week (11/14/2005), Eric Cornell, the Nobel Prize winner for Physics in 2001, brings up
some good points with regards to an unrelated case in Dover, PA. He states that:
"The central idea of intelligent design is that nature is the way it
is because God wants it to be that way. This is not an assertion
that can be tested in a scientific way, but studied in the right
context, it is an interesting notion. As a theological idea,
intelligent design is exciting."
That's the key right there. At the core of all sciences is a
process of exhaustive, systematic testing to draw a conclusion based on
what can be observed. No such systematic testing can be applied
to the notion of intelligent design. How can you test the
idea that, because some beings are so complex, they must be born of
some higher order being? At best, the discussion should be
relegated to some philosophy or theological course and have nothing to
do with the sciences.
Notice how Cornell uses the term "God". While ID activists
will attempt to convince us that this isn't about Christianity and
creationism, it is quite clear, based on the main leaders of this
movement, that this is simply a cloak for injecting the creationist
agenda into out public school systems. Otherwise, we may as well
teach Flying Spaghetti Monster
as well, right? It's frightening to think that certain parts of
the coutnry are really not that far off from the fundamentalists and
extremists that we so detest.
I think that the most important point that Cornell makes is that to
use "The Will of God" to answer questions that science has no solution
for yet, is dangerous to the progress of mankind. It's dangerous
in the sense that all science is driven by the knowledge to understand
that which still remains a mystery.
"The thrill is that our ignorance exceeds our knowledge; the exciting part is what we don't understand yet."
To use "The Will of God" as a blanket statement to answer questions
that which we do not know the scientific answers to, is to say:
"Everything outside this box we can only explain only by invoking God's Will."
It creates an artificial constraint on the growth of our collective
knowledge. It hinders a generation of scientists and discovery by
drawing a bounds. In a sense, it's no different than those that
claimed (and believed) that the world was flat. If no man had the
audacity to challenge this thought, if we had accepted such "facts",
then it would surely be a very, very different world today.