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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Reaction to Dover

Posted by: Hammer / 11:54 AM

The facts presented by the district court judge in the Dover Intelligent Design case make it very clear that ID is not science. Perhaps signaling a change in strategy, some fundamentalists are now claiming that neither ID nor evolution is science. Rather, both are religion:

But Christian radio commentator and author Brannon Howse, president and founder of Worldview Weekend, feels the ruling adds more proof to the already mounting evidence that the "Secular Left" is not secular at all. "I'm tired of the Secular Left saying evolution is scientific, and creation or intelligent design is not," he says. "No, they are, by the very definition of science, both religious issues. But today we're discriminating against the religion of one for the other."

Secular humanism is a religion, Howse contends, and those who practice it hold to evolution as their worldview for biology. However, he maintains, "The reality is, science is observation and repeatable experiment. That's the definition of science. None of us observed the creation of the world; we can't repeat it. Therefore, guess what? Evolution is not scientific; creationism is not a scientific discussion. Both of them are religious discussions.

Wow. What a misunderstanding of basic scientific principles. The point of science is to develop theories to describe how things work, and then to find ways to test those theories through controlled experimentation. The experiments are written about, reviewed, and repeated. The theory of gravity predicts that a feather would fall to the ground as rapidly as a bowling ball, absent the resistance of the air. You put a feather in a vacuum bell to test the theory. You observe and describe the results. Others repeat the test and share their results. Turns out, the theory of gravity is awfully sound, even though no one can actually see gravity -- just its effects.

Just so cosmology. No one can observe the beginning of the universe, but we have many interesting ways to test theories about the Big Bang. The universe is expanding, according to present day observations, and slowing down. The stars we can see far, far away allow us to look back in time to observe the state of the universe as it existed between the big bang and present day.

I am not a scientist, though in many ways I wish I were. Lack the discipline, though. Oh, and then there was the surplus of nerdage in the UW engineering program. At any rate, I have an enormous respect for scientific endeavor. Fundamentalists who ignorantly or intentionally misstate the purpose and practice of science are a blight on society.

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