God as a thought-ending cliché

22 02 2010

I recently watched an excellent Neil deGrasse Tyson lecture several times. In it, he made an excellent argument for the origins of the “Intelligent Design” theory and how to confront it in the public discourse.

He brought up the instance of Sir Isaac Newton, one of the greatest minds in human history. Tyson listed his major achievements, most notable of which were his understanding of gravity and the motion of the planets, as well as Newton’s somewhat flippant creation of calculus. However, when it came time for Newton to explain the perturbations of the planets’ orbits by one another’s gravity, he was stumped. With what he knew, Newton could not account for this perturbation and could not understand how the planets remained in stable orbits around the sun. Rather than delving into the problem with a rational mind and keen intellect, he simply surmised that a great, divine power was at work. Possibly the greatest mind in Western culture was confused for a moment and explained something away by claiming that a god did it.

The problem with simply chalking a natural phenomenon up to the supernatural is that it instantly ends all analysis and intellectual work. Thought and investigation on the matter simply stop. Not only does the former investigator not have a good explanation for the phenomenon, the entire human race is poorer for it. It took nearly a century after Newton’s death for the perturbation of the planets to be adequately explained with science.

The same thing is happening in the case of intelligent design and evolution. The reason that evolution should be taught in the science classroom and intelligent design is not is that the possibility of evolution has scientific evidence behind it. ID does not have any scientific evidence behind it, just a bunch of idle speculation and lack of curiosity about the world. Science requires a curiosity about the world and its workings. ID discourages investigation and curiosity. Therefore, it cannot be considered science or a part of a proper science curriculum.




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