The Universe is a Crime Scene
Why Intelligent Design Won't Die
(1) Detecting fraud. There can be great incentive to researchers to give fake results on their research. Maybe they are testing a drug for a billion dollar drug company. Or maybe their research could lead to a cushy university job. Or maybe they just want to impress some hot member of the opposite sex. It turns out, though, that the scientific community is fairly good at detecting fraudulent research. Fraud detection asks the question: Are these results natural? Or, are these results intended to convince us they are real even though they are not? Detecting fraudulent research IS detecting design.
(2) Forensic science. You walk into a room and find your maid, Gretchen, laying face down on the kitchen table with a spear in her back and blood everywhere. Police are called. Investigators arrive. Pictures are taken. Notes are written. Professionals work the room trying to determine if Gretchen somehow accidentally impaled herself with the spear or if she was murdered. They try to determine, to put it another way, if her death was the result of someone else’s plan (design).
(3) SETI. The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence is a scientific organization searching the universe for intelligent life (aliens). Primarily, they search space for intelligent sound wave patterns. By definition they are trying to detect design in the universe.
The dilemma for naturalists is this: If design detection is such a fundamental part of science, how can we meaningfully say that it shouldn’t be a part of science? And a further question: If we can confidently detect design when we investigate research results, bloody kitchens, and sound waves in space, why are we not allowed to apply those same scientific principles to the universe itself? There is no good reason other than philosophical presupposition.
Dawkins argues that it is pointless to try to detect design in the universe because this simply pushes the question back a level. That is, even if we were able to determine that there was a mind behind the universe we would still be left with the question of: What intelligence is responsible for this intelligent mind? Or, in other words: Where did God come from?
As much as I enjoy his writing I think this argument by Dawkins is weak. Saying that it is unhelpful to detect God in the universe because we can’t know anything about where God came from is like saying that it doesn’t matter if we determine that our servant Gretchen was murdered because we do not know anything about the murderer. But we know there is incredible value in confirming that someone was murdered and that we need to seek who is responsible for it. Determining that Gretchen was murdered justifies the search for the murderer. Determining a designer in the universe justifies learning more about the designer.
The question remains: Can we detect design in the universe? I believe we can, but that is not the topic of this post. Nor is this post intended to argue that we should teach intelligent design in our schools (I actually do NOT think we should). This post was merely intended to show that it is not so easy to exclude design detection from science, and, as embarrassing as they sometimes are, the intelligent design proponents are right about at least one thing:
Design detection is a totally appropriate function of science.
- CATEGORY: theology for your God-shaped hole