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Intelligent Design and Answer All Questions

Through this week’s Christian Carnival I found two posts on science and religion that interested me. One I agree with completely, and I just want to underline a couple of points. The other, not so much, though it is still a good article.

The first is An intelligently designed universe from Sun and Shield. Now since I scan Sun and Shield fairly often, I should have caught this one, but I didn’t.

Here’s the key quote:

I don’t believe that it is possible to prove that Intelligent Design occurred. (see here for discussion) I am also not persuaded that it is appropriate to teach about God’s design in the science classes of the public schools. However, it is certainly also not appropriate to teach that science proves that there is no God, or that there is no purpose in the universe, or that humans are only animals. Science has proved no such things, and can’t, as they are outside the scope of science.

I agree entirely. I also think Martin has specified the question correctly. The issue is not whether the universe is designed. Theists generally and Christians in particular are bound to believe that God designed the universe. The question is the detection of design, and I would add, the detection of more design one place than another. My problem with Paley’s watch is not that the watch is not designed, but rather that the rocks, the grains of sand, and even the water are all where they are ultimately as products of design–ultimately. Distinguishing that sort of design is not a function of science.

In addition, conclusions about what is beyond the scope of science are also not scientific. “I know X about the physical world,” is within the bounds of science. “I know the physical world is all there is,” steps outside those bounds. This doesn’t mean the person who says that is wrong. It merely means that their assertion is not scientific, any more than my assertion that God designed everything is scientific. Neither implies a measurable change in the nature of the physical universe.

The other article is Science’s Overlooked Problem. Here’s a quote:

Yet I have been a firm believer that science cannot, and does not, provide ample explanation for things such as life, purpose, or even God (despite rather poor attempts).

Now Justin goes on to quote Huston Smith on the failure of science to answer the why questions. I don’t think this is a failure of science, however, but rather a failure of people who expect science to answer such questions. Science is well designed to study physical stuff. That it fails to comment successfully on other matters is simply a matter of its design. The problem occurs not because of the limitation, but because of the failure of some people to recognize that limitation. Thus they try to answer non-scientific questions using science with predictable results.

In any case, I think it’s worthwhile reading Justin’s post and the Huston Smith quotes, because one way or another you’re going to need to think about that, either by recognizing the limits of science or by finding a way in which science can address those questions successfully. My observation thus far is that science is ill-equipped for the task.

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