Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Dr David Tyler of Manchester Metropolitan University defends the scientific legitimacy of intelligent design theory

In his paper 'Is Design Part of Science', from the Christians in Science Northern Conference, Durham, 18 March 2006, Dr David Tyler of Manchester Metropolitan University argues that intelligent design is a legitimate part of science. Here's the most salient edited highlights:

'The 19th Century saw the flowering of the Enlightenment, with a powerful movement to secularise science. The intellectual leaders sought to redefine science in terms of law and chance exclusively. Inevitably, design inferences involving the agency of a Creator were regarded as antithetical to science, and the benefits that design thinking had brought in earlier times were overlooked and forgotten. These demarcation attempts were only partially successful. Inevitably, some areas of science were excluded. Design inferences are very much part of science in the fields of archaeology, forensic science, and the search for extraterrestrial life. In the last of these examples, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) uses design principles to analyse radio signals from space and has the long-term goal of inferring the existence of an alien civilisation. Instead of arguing for the superiority of explanations based on law and/or chance, those involved in the secularising trend have opted to exclude design from science as a matter of principle... In recent years, attempts have been made to counter the secularising trend in science. Evidence-based reasoning to design has reappeared... Some scientists have openly acknowledged that the Cosmos has the appearance of being designed. This, for example, comes from the journal Nature, 14 November 1996, p107: "It turns out that the physical constants have just the values required to ensure that the Universe contains stars with planets capable of supporting intelligent life...The simplest interpretation is that the Universe was designed by a creator who intended that intelligent life should evolve." (Smith J. M. & Szathmary E., "On the likelihood of habitable worlds”). These authors go on to say: “This interpretation lies outside science.” The current culture in science is such the design option is a “no-go” area. Consequently, the majority have searched for ways of explaining fine tuning as a result of chance... We are left with a paradox about the fine tuning of the cosmos in which we live. On the one hand, intelligent design works with evidence and infers design in a rational way, but most scientists want to exclude this as a matter of principle. On the other hand, the Multiverse hypothesis provides a chance based explanation, but it lacks any evidential base and it rests on extremely tentative theoretical foundations. Yet research into the Multiverse concept is deemed to be science. However, in this case, intelligent design is far more compatible with the knowledge that we have gained, and it ought to be evaluated as part of scientific discourse, not excluded as a matter of principle. We can perhaps start by considering this question “Is the Cosmos designed?” Why is the answer considered science if the verdict is negative but religion if the conclusion is positive? Putting this a slightly different way: “Why is inferring the existence of a Multiverse based on theory and observations science, while inferring intelligent design based on theory and observations is opposed as an invalid God of the gaps argument?” This case study reveals one of the key marks of secularisation in science: the rejection of the design inference as a matter of principle. To do justice to the observed pattern of data, researchers have created a scenario that was once dismissed as absurd. They have done this with no evidence of any other universe than the one we observe, and by using theoretical tools that are far from robust. Will history show that their rejection of the design inference led them into antiscience? Has escapism from design done something similar within the biological sciences? This is where the controversy rages most fiercely and where emotions run high. My aim in this presentation is not to answer that particular question, but just to suggest that the question is worth addressing... Those who present “design” as yet another assault on science need to develop a more holistic view. It may well be that we need a “back to our roots” movement in science, in which case, ID is part of the solution.'

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