Religion and Science Do Not Mix

Editor:

There is a god. If Sir Isaac Newton said so, then it must be true.

In an article published in the Guardian (Monday, June 4, 2001), Theodore Dokko claimed that the universe was indeed created by God in six literal days, and that physicists and biologists indoctrinate us to believe otherwise from early childhood.

If only we opened our eyes, he claims, we would see evidence all around us for an intelligent designer — for God. The Big Bang Theory for the creation of the universe and Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by means of natural selection — so Dokko claims — are full of gaping holes that can only be filled by the insertion of a supreme being. This reasoning represents a gross misunderstanding of what science is and what the scientific method can and cannot explain.

Science is based on the premise that the natural world can be explained materialistically in terms of testable physical processes. Gaps in understanding are not demonstrations of theistic processes. Rather they are the questions upon which science thrives.

On the other hand, religion is based on the premise that we can only understand the world and our place within it if we acknowledge the existence of a divinity (or divinities). In this world view, not everything is open to materialistic explanation.

The scientific method cannot be used to disprove or prove the existence of God (or gods) because the physical cannot be used to test something that is not physical. Although individual researchers may have their own personal spiritual beliefs, science itself has nothing to say on the matter of God.

Intelligent design theory, on the other hand, purports to use scientific reasoning to prove that God must exist. The theory claims that the world is so immensely complex that “”mere randomness and chance”” cannot explain it.

The beauty and intricacy the natural world, and of the universe in which it resides, invokes wonder in all of us, but this does not prove or disprove the existence of a deity or deities.

Yes, only a minority of stars give the right conditions for life as we know it. But the universe is big — very big. There is a mind-bogglingly large number of stars out there, and if only a fraction of a fraction of them are similar to our sun, it still leaves a vast number of contenders for life on planets similar to Earth.

Perhaps the better question is not why is our sun so perfect, but why isn’t life evolving all over the place? Who knows? Maybe it is.

And the human eye is indeed an awesome piece of engineering — something that is well beyond our current technology to replicate — but does this automatically prove the existence of God?

Dokko would claim that the chance of creating an eye by the random accumulation of its constituent parts is so incredibly small that the only possible explanation is the existence of an intelligent designer. But the theory of evolution by means of natural selection is far more sophisticated than the chance coincidence of particles.

The key behind the evolutionary process is descent with modification. In its simplest terms, it is beneficial modifications, which originally arise through a random process that goes on to be represented in future generations. Future modifications build upon aeons of previous beneficial modifications.

A few photosensitive cells are modified and modified and modified through the process of natural selection until a structure as impressive as the human eye is formed. Its intricacy does not deny a materialistic explanation.

With further aeons of evolution who knows what feats of engineering will be accomplished.

As far as theories go, Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by the means of natural selection has stood the test of time remarkably well.

It is a theory that is questioned every day in numerous laboratories and out in the field every single day, and it is yet to be refuted. We see evolution happening all around us.

In a matter of a few years, we have witnessed the evolution of bacteria that are immune to antibiotics, and it is the evolvability of HIV that makes it such a formidable health care crisis.

Evolutionary theory is the only viable testable theory out there explaining the complexity of life. Intelligent design theory cannot be tested empirically and therefore cannot be considered a viable scientific theory. The physical cannot explain the supernatural.

Humans, by nature, have a desire to understand the world in which we reside. When physical explanations are not forthcoming, we each have a choice. We can either look to the spiritual or continue to seek a materialistic understanding.

Scientists can only evaluate the evidence available to them. Evolutionary biology is not in the business of denying the existence of God.

It is a science, like other sciences, that aims to understand the majesty of the natural world. Intelligent design theory cannot prove the existence of God. It is based on faith, not on science.

— Katrina Lythgoe

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