F O R U M O N P H Y S I C S & S O C I E T Y
of The American Physical Society 
January 2006 
Vol. 35, No. 1



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Intelligent Design: Not Necessarily Religion

This is a quick response to Alan D. Franklin's letter in the October 2005 newsletter. One of the things that sets Intelligent Design apart from the other flavors of Creationism is that it doesn't require the supernatural. The Designer can simply be an advanced alien intelligence using scientific methods to tinker with life on our planet (as is believed by the Raelians), with life on the Designer's planet having evolved through a "clearer" naturalistic process. In other words, there would be no unjumpable gaps in the Designer's evolution, but due to the Designer's intervention on Earth, we do have unjumpable gaps.

Granted, most ID proponents are simply hiding some variety of the Judeo-Christian God behind their curtain, and invoking supernatural causes without calling them supernatural. But ID does not require the supernatural, however often it acts as a beard for the supernatural. (Disclaimer: I don't believe in any flavor of ID, I just felt that the point needed to be addressed lest anyone get into an argument with a true believer and end up blindsided.)

Dave Van Domelen

Director of Undergraduate Labs

Physics Department

Kansas State University


Worrying About Science vs Religion a Waste of Time?

Science consists of a set of consistent models that attempt, with a varying degree of success to explain the natural world. These models make no pretense to being true, and are only useful so long as they work. When they don't they are discarded unless the breakdown occurs in a sufficiently isolated region for them to be modified in that region.

Religious approaches on the other hand start from the premise that they are true, and that distinguishes faith from science. But science is based on experimental observations that often provide contradictory results, and faith is often involved in which set of results are accepted. In some cases acceptance of some results becomes controversial, and are described as "non-science" by the sceptics.

The distinction between science and non-science has intrigued philosophers of science, and some years ago Larry Laudan published a short paper entitled "The Demise of the Demarcation Problem" in which he showed that the distinction could not be made. He ended the paper with the remark that worrying about the distinction was a waste of time which would be better spent on subjects which were "heuristically profitable". It seems to me that the same comment applies here.

Derek Walton

Dept. of Physics and Astronomy

McMaster Univ.

Hamilton, Canada


Physicists should be Defending Evolution

Evolution is under continuous attack, its defenders are losing, badly. The blasphemous (un)intelligent design views are winning. Why are we failing? In part we do not understand what the fight is about so offer irrelevant, thus ineffective, arguments. We are treating the wrong disease (and that badly).This is about neither science nor religion, but self-image and group identity. Unless we deal with these our position is hopeless. "Those who believe in God are good people, those who do not are bad". "Those who believe in evolution do not believe in God thus are bad people. Being opposed to evolution shows that I believe in God and am good." Actually evil people who believe in the blasphemous creation and ID theories are angry at God because It did not create the universe the way they want. They think they are better than God, showing contempt for God, regarding words of humans as superior to those of God as shown in Its work, the natural world. They push these blasphemous theories in order to flaunt their anger at ,contempt for, God. Evolution leads to morality, thus they oppose it. This must be stressed again and again.

Here is a brief outline for action, discussed in depth in my next book "Our Almost Impossible Universe: Why the laws of nature make the existence of humans extraordinarily unlikely".

We must not ask students to believe in evolution. Belief is a religious word. They should know: what evolution is, how it works, why it is valuable, how that is determined, and why no other theory is. They can believe anything they want. They can believe the earth is flat, but know the evidence that it is (roughly) spherical. They can believe in ghosts. Schools should not have courses in ghosts.

Force them into ridiculous positions where they have to admit they do not know what they are saying. How did the creator create? Did it draw pictures, blueprints, write a computer program, ...? Which part of its brain developed the design? Its prefrontal cortex? Does the designer's brain have neurons? With myelin sheaths? And on and on. How did it interact with matter to make that conform to its designs? Does it have hands? Did it blow on matter? Else how?

If they cannot answer they have to admit that their words are meaningless--- hot air. To give sense to what they claim they must regard the designer as a human being, perhaps a superior one but a human nevertheless, clearly blasphemous.

Challenge them. Present many examples of how evolution is valuable, helps us understand nature, guides us to learn more, to cure diseases, ... . Then ask how their beliefs do so. What explanatory powers, values, do they have? Prove it. Examples are given in my book. A web site with more would be invaluable.

It is our responsibility to teach, not only biology, but the meaning of science, how it works, why. The fight about evolution emphasizes our incompetence, cowardliness, failure, irresponsibility.

Ronald Mirman




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