The blind faith of the atheist
There's a long-running dispute over Intelligent Design in the letters column of New Scientist magazine. The latest issue has an especially well-written letter from Peter Brooks on the atheist side, nicely illustrating the pure blind faith of the atheist.
= = = = = I believe 'good science' will come from the Biologic Institute's efforts to find experimental proof of intelligent design, but not in the way that it intends.
Starting with a premise or hypothesis, one ... attempts to negate the hypothesis, demonstrating that it does not hold true for all cases, or not for any cases.
Starting with a bad premise simply means that it will take longer to come to the realisation that it is a false start; the premise must be refined and the process reiterated. ... Imagine replacing all instances of "I don't know the answer yet" with "God did it", and continuing to labour to uncover the facts. Over time, we will inevitably chip away at the mountain of "God did it" assertions - we have been quietly doing so for centuries - but now we will be able to publicly state that what was once thought to be an act of God is not. Thus we will gather tangible and mounting evidence of the continued erosion of God's claimed ability.
I wonder how many believers will be able to face daily despondency as yet another cherished "God did it" claim perishes before the unstoppable juggernaut of the search for truth.
= = = = =
Part of Brooks's assertion is certainly true. We have been chipping away at the primitive "God did it" claims for a long time.
Beyond that, he goes wrong in several ways.
For 3000 years, very few serious religious thinkers have bought the primitive and concrete idea that God grabs hold of cars, brains, lightning bolts, or planets, and shoves them around with his hands. If Brooks thinks that these claims are still alive in the Christian world, he's simply wrong.
There is an exception to this progress, though. The most modern
of all religions does in fact believe in a purely concrete deity, and believes that our physical actions directly offend this deity, and believes that the deity punishes us physically and concretely for our transgressions. I'm talking, of course, about the Earth Goddess Gaia.
[Sidebar, Polistra's Second Law of Human Nature: The total sum of taboos and beliefs remains constant. If one generation drops certain taboos and beliefs, it will invent other taboos and beliefs to fill the gap. The Greatest Generation considered marijuana evil and tobacco normal; Baby Boomers consider tobacco evil and marijuana norml. Each generation feels liberated in its enjoyment of the 'normal' herb, and feels righteously enlightened in its punishment of anyone who dares to use the 'evil' herb. In the big picture, both of these taboos and freedom-feelings look silly. We're only talking about burning herbs, after all.]
Most importantly, Brooks shows that he is thinking like a True Believer, not like a scientist, and also shows that he doesn't even realize it. His discussion of "starting with a bad premise" shows that he is absolutely certain beforehand, a priori, of the total absence of anything that could be described or manifested as a supernatural power. So he is not really proposing a series of experiments; he's just chortling over the believer's stupidity.
The ID people are not starting with the idea that "God did it"; in fact their underlying hypothesis is the other way around. They start from the usual scientific assumption that everything in biology can be explained by purely random mutation and adaptation, and they look for counterexamples. They look for DNA sequences or patterns in nature that cannot be explained without some form of intelligence.
If the ID folks don't
find such exceptions, it won't prove the non-existence of a god; it could mean that a god is not especially interested in showing his existence through hard-to-find discrepancies. It could mean that the researchers are looking through the wrong end of the microscope. If the Judeo-Christian god exists as described, he's responsible for the big stuff: the laws of physics and mathematics that make all of biology, including the brains of the ID researchers, function. If he exists as described, he didn't want us to wait for obscure exceptions; he wanted us to know his presence in everything.
And if the ID folks do
find such exceptions, it won't convince the science-ists anyway, because the science-ists have blind faith in their own primitive and concrete god.