Thursday, January 19, 2006
ROME, Jan. 18 - The official Vatican newspaper published an article this week labeling as "correct" the recent decision by a judge in Pennsylvania that intelligent design should not be taught as a scientific alternative to evolution.
"If the model proposed by Darwin is not considered sufficient, one should search for another," Fiorenzo Facchini, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Bologna, wrote in the Jan. 16-17 edition of the paper, L'Osservatore Romano.
"But it is not correct from a methodological point of view to stray from the field of science while pretending to do science," he wrote, calling intelligent design unscientific. "It only creates confusion between the scientific plane and those that are philosophical or religious."
Note: This is not an official Vatican stance, just one persons opinion that the Vatican newspaper decided to publish.
I was glad to see this article, I was having trouble figuring out the Vatican stance in all this. I know that Vatican officials have supported the notion of intelligent design, but I shudder at the idea of it being taught as a viable science theory in the classroom. I've reviewed the "evidence," a single article that made it into a peer-reviewed scientific journal, and did not find it very scientific. Basically the argument goes like this: "the whole is always greater than the sum of the parts, how would this occur," "the odds of life being so successful and such complicated machinery occuring by chance mutations is absurd." As evidence the author played a little numbers game and tried to calculate such odds, and they were so infinitesmally small that he proved it wasn't possible. So then the author proposed a guiding force mechanism, suggests that some end plan was in mind. Frankly, as for a sound scientific theory, that to me is rather absurd.
First of all, none of this is really science. It is philosophy, not science. It is fine to be taught (yes in public schools) in religion or philosophy, or history of ideas, but not science. Science requires a testable hypothesis. Maybe it's old-fashioned of me, but without a testable hypothesis, it's not science. The advocates of intelligent design have proposed nothing that could be tested. They look at the complexities of life and are amazed that any coherent order could arise. I agree it's really amazing. In fact I think few people appreciate how remarkable it is that one should exist just as a physical fact.
If you want to pick holes in Darwin's theory of evolution, that's fine, but propose other mechanisms and let's find the evidence. The idea of intelligent design will never be killed, because it is untestable! It cannot be proved or disproved. As for the number crunching in terms of chances that we should happen to evolve, it shows a total lack of understanding for how evolution takes place. I think one of the major problems with this debate is a lot of people don't have a good grasping of evolution theories. Pseudo-scientists can spout numbers and bio-lingo and run circles around everyday folk, and it becomes difficult to discern between a scientific notion that sounds plausible and a genuine scientific theory.