Friday, February 23, 2007

Letter to the Editor

Yesterday I wrote and submitted a letter to the editor of the student paper here at ESRU in response to another letter written by an undergraduate discussing intelligent design. My thoughts on the matter are best summer up in this post, but I thought I'd post the original version of my letter nonetheless. I had to shorten the final submission to 250 words, yes, 250 words out of a 12 page paper. I will have less room than a Dominoes ad, but that's the rule! Doesn't matter how many letters are submitted. Anyways, here is the original version, with names omitted to protect the innocent.

In his recent letter to the editor entitled “Consider Creationism without bias,” Mr. Snuffleupagus confuses intelligent design, creationism, evolution, and a belief in God. Believing in God and evolution are not mutually exclusive, just as supporting the teaching of intelligent design is not a pre-requisite for people of faith. The reason intelligent design should not be taught in a scientific setting is because of how drastically it changes the definition of science. For hundreds of years, the scientific method has been applied in roughly the same way, creating testable hypothesis, conducting experiments, and refining those hypotheses. Inherent in this is the assumption that there are natural laws that govern the world. What intelligent design does is enter supernatural forces into the mix, something that by definition does not follow natural laws and is therefore untestable. It is one thing to push for supernatural explanations in branches of science most people consider esoteric, but the true test for intelligent design is whether or not you would accept supernatural explanations in all branches of science. Would you accept them from your doctor? Would you accept them from the building engineers or FDA food inspectors? How about physicists who handle nuclear waste, or forensic scientists providing evidence in a murder trial? Of course not, if you went to a doctor deathly ill and they came back with a supernatural diagnosis, you’d find another doctor, one who would run tests and perform experiments until they determined what was wrong using the scientific method. If the engineer’s assessment of the structural stability of your new office building was based on supernatural forces, you’d find another engineer. If you will not accept supernatural explanations in branches of science that directly affect your life, then you cannot accept supernatural explanations in any branch of science.

Please do not confuse evolution with atheism, or intelligent design with science. Evolution, like gravity or plate tectonics or electromagnetism, is a scientific theory; one that has been tested and refined thousands of times and is still the topic of very intense study. Intelligent design is not science, because it profoundly changes the meaning of science and of the scientific method in a way that is potentially very harmful. Belief in science does not preclude belief in a higher power.

Postdoctoral Research Associate
Department of Earth Sciences


Thermochronic said...

For anyone who cares, looks like the good folks at the student paper decided not to run my letter. Good thing, they had to make way for all of the other stunning news the cover. Perhaps it was because I mentioned that 250 words is ridiculous in a paper that size for a limit. Or, maybe my letter just blows more than I thought. Either way.

Thermochronic said...

snarky comment taken back, it appeared today in it's abbreviated form.