Friday, October 14, 2005

Putting my foot in it again ...

A couple of weeks ago, my colleague Carlin Romano wrote an excellent review of Michael Ruse's The Evolution-Creation Struggle.
In the meantime, in the hinterlands of Pennsylvania, a court case is proceeding having to do with whether or not it is permissible to teach intelligent-design theory in public schools. There has been much in The Inquirer about this case, though I confess to having read very little of it. But a thought occurred to me yesterday that may be pertinent (then again, it may be impertinent): The subtitle of Richard Dawkins's The Blind Watchmaker is "Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design." Dawkins's book, presumably, is meant as a work of science. It is therefore advancing as a scientific notion the thesis that evolution (at least in its neo-Darwinian version) is proof that the universe has not been designed. How widely is this thesis accepted among scientists, I wonder. And whether widely accepted or not, could such a book be taught in a public school? It is, after all, advancing a thesis regarding nature and design.


  1. What are the Chances of Life?

    The creationist/IDers (Intelligent Design advocates) love to say “Life is too complex to have been created by chance”. The problem is that they are looking at the end results and then computing the probability that it got there - rather than computing the probability for any life.

    To demonstrate what I mean I would like you to do a little experiment. You will need two things - a jar of pennies (the more pennies the better), and a 5×4 foot (or larger) unobstructed clean flat spot on the floor - preferably with out any carpet - the larger the area the better.

    Now stand in the square and hold the jar of pennies at shoulder height. Turn the jar over and watch carefully what happens.

    Watch what happens ->

  2. Hi Chronofish:
    I will try the experiment as soon as I get a jar of pennies (which should be soon). But my point had nothing to do with taking sides in this debate. My point is that Dawkins would seem to be making a statement objecting to the notion of design in the universe, a statement that purports to be scientific. To permit him to do that is to concede that the question of design in the universe is a scientific one -- precisely what opponents of the intelligent-design theory deny. You can't have it both ways, however. My point, in other words, has strictly to do with formal logic.