Thursday, May 29, 2008

Why My Dad Likes Intellegent Design

Several months ago I posted a little piece I titled "Ben Stein and Intelligent Design" in which I expressed my feelings for a movie called "Expelled" about intelligent design. My father saw "Expelled" last week and called to discuss the movie with me. Basically, he thought it was great and wanted to know from me if I thought the scientific establishment was really repressing intelligent design because they are a bunch of liberal atheists or if there was some other reason that such a beautiful idea was being resisted so much by most scientists. In that discussion, I had a minor epiphany about the way most people - even a well educated engineer like my father - view science and why he likes intelligent design.

The reason many people like intelligent design is that it is a technical explanation of the origin of human life that meshes well with most people's religious explanation of the origin of human life. This, however, is where the fundamental problem lies. Science is not a method for technically explaining past events. Science is predictive, not explanatory.

However, to a non-scientist and even many scientists, science is a way of explaining how things happen. Evolution, for example, is not seen a way to predict future changes but rather a way of understanding past changes. This is where intelligent design fails - it makes no predictions - but intelligent design does attempt to explain past events.

This misconception of science is extremely common and, to be honest, is perpetuated by many of the things that go in science classes. When I do science demos, I generally do something and then ask "why did that happen". This gives people the idea that science is about explaining. What I really should be doing is beforehand asking "what will happen". True science only tries to explain past events in order to find physical laws - patterns in nature that will help predict future events.

So when my dad compares intelligent design with evolution, he asks why shouldn't intelligent design be taught in schools. To him and millions of others, intelligent design is science because it explains past events in a technical way. To most people, science is about technical explanations, not technical predictions.


  1. I need to see this movie, however, from what I have read from various sources the New York Times sums it up best: Ben Stein's Expelled is "One of the sleaziest documentaries to arrive in a very long time."

    Of course, the people who like Ben Stein's movie will just brand the New York Times as "liberal" and "atheist" too.

    But, what else do they have to stand on? The only way "Ben Steinians" can back their claims is by being dishonest or as said above by being "sleazy."

    I'll take peer reviewed academics no matter how liberal and atheist of dishonesty any day.

  2. By the way, I know your post was about other things. I just wanted to get that off my chest.

    I really enjoyed reading your post.


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