Bulletin Board
Rants, Raves, Interesting Science & Awful Puns
January 14, 2001

Intelligent Design?

Maybe, For All I Know

How do you get the logic across to some people that showing the butler didn't do it doesn't prove that the chauffeur must have? In earlier postings (see below and in the BB Archives), and also the essay "Evolution Revisited," contained in the fiction/nonfiction collection Rockets, Redheads, & Revolution, I've expressed reservations that the confidence I've displayed in accepting and promoting Neo-Darwinism in years gone by may have been misplaced. Today, it comes across as being as much the result of dogma rather than hard evidence as the biblical fundamentalism that many of its advocates militantly oppose. Some people conclude that therefore I must be a Creationist. (One reader to the point of saying he couldn't recommend my books anymore. Figure the logic of that one out. My happening to believe in Creationism, Voodoo, or that God was an astronaut wouldn't change anything in the books.) It's an example of false dichotomy - and one that the media and much of the world in general perceives in connection with this topic.

Some authorities define "science" as the seeking and study of materialistic, naturalistic explanations of everything. But suppose the fact is that some things don't have materialistic, naturalistic explanations. It seems to me that if that were the case, such narrowness could end up excluding from "science" some of the most important questions confronting us. A better measure of "scientific" in my view would be objectivity, i.e. forgetting preconceptions and emotional investment in what one would like the answers to be, and being willing to follow wherever the evidence seems to point. And if, as a lot of hard-nosed, working scientists, not just those with religious persuasions, are coming out in the open and saying, the sheer complexity and other irresolvables of the things being uncovered in biological cell machinery and elsewhere lead to the suspicion that "This was designed by somebody/something, for a purpose; it didn't just happen by itself," then so be it as far as I'm concerned. Whatever the truth of the matter is, it isn't going to be affected by anything I choose to believe, or how many people agree with me. And (going back to the butler and the chauffeur again) conceding that much says absolutely nothing about the alternatives put forward by the Christian (or any other) religion.

In this context, it was interesting to come across an organization called the Access Research Network, in which people from scientific, philosophical, and other backgrounds can exchange ideas and information on books, journals, meetings, and so on regarding this and other issues openly. Critics have dismissed it as just "Creationism in a new disguise." I don't think it is. Some of the contributors promote theological interpretations, to be sure - and what of it? Others deal purely with facts and what appear to be the implications, and don't pretend to know what's going on behind it all.

The introductory paragraph to "About ARN,"' from the home page at www.arn.org is reproduced below.

Access Research Network is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to providing accessible information on science, technology and society. We focus on such controversial topics as genetic engineering, euthanasia, computer technology, environmental issues, creation/evolution, fetal tissue research, AIDS, and so on. Through our publications and product offers, we give you the information you need to orient yourself in today's scientific and technological world and make informed decisions. But science and technology are only half the picture. We put science topics in perspective by looking at related political, ethical and philosophical issues -- so you can get a well-rounded understanding of the hot issues. In our articles and publications we cover a host of issues -- most of them controversial. Although we never shy away from controversy, we don't let it consume us either. We've mixed a little ancient proverbial wisdom with some common sense to develop the ARN approach to controversial topics.

Be warned, though, the volume of papers, correspondence, references, and other material to be found there could keep you intrigued for weeks.

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