The sad state of science

At least it’s sad among the public. There’s a new survey in Britain that confirms this.

In the survey, 51 per cent of those questioned agreed with the statement that “evolution alone is not enough to explain the complex structures of some living things, so the intervention of a designer is needed at key stages”

A further 40 per cent disagreed, while the rest said they did not know.

The suggestion that a designer’s input is needed reflects the “intelligent design” theory, promoted by American creationists as an alternative to Darwinian evolution.

Asked whether it was true that “God created the world sometime in the last 10,000 years”, 32 per cent agreed, 60 per cent disagreed and eight per cent did not know.

A third of people in Britain believe the world began sometime around the agricultural revolution. That’s inanity. These people do not believe with any reason, but with stupid, stubborn, ill-formed faith. The worst part is that some of the same numbers are reflected in the teacher population.

Interestingly, this article takes on the subject a little more directly. Rather than simply remain topical and report on the survey plus a few recent events, it ventures into some of the points in the creationism-evolution debate.

Paul Woolley, the director of Theos said: “Darwin is being used by certain atheists today to promote their cause.

“The result is that, given the false choice of evolution or God, people are rejecting evolution.”

There is a tad bit of truth in what Woolley is saying, but not in his primary message. The choice is clear: either the world needs a designer or it does not. The answer is that it does not. Of course, that does not mean God does not exist. He very well may. That, unfortunately for theists, does mean God is a superfluous idea, whether he be a personal god or simply a deity.

Where Woolley gets it right is that people do perceive this choice and thus reject evolution. These people are known as “dumb”.

Prof Dawkins expressed dismay at the findings of the ComRes survey, of 2,060 adults, which he claimed were confirmation that much of the population is “pig-ignorant” about science.

“Obviously life, which was Darwin’s own subject, is not the result of chance,” he said.

“Any fool can see that. Natural selection is the very antithesis of chance.

“The error is to think that God is the only alternative to chance, and Darwin surely didn’t think that because he himself discovered the most important non-theistic alternative to chance, namely natural selection.”

Methinks the journalist is rather familiar with the issue and knew what questions to ask Dawkins. I almost want to say he simply quoted Dawkins from some writings not directly related to this article, but that would be irresponsible of me. At any rate, it sounds like we have some attempt at a tad bit of science education going on here. Natural selection is not chance. We don’t need to know that for the purposes of the article, but it is good to know, none-the-less.

Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, accused Dawkins of evolving into a “very simple kind of thinker”.

He said: “His argument for atheism goes like this: either God is the explanation for the wide diversity of biological life, or evolution is. We know that evolution is true. Therefore, God doesn’t exist.

“I’m an evangelical Christian, but I have no difficulties in believing that evolution is the best scientific account we have for the diversity of life on our planet.”

That’s a honker of a strawman. Dawkins argument is closer to this: God is necessarily complex. Complex things do not come about by chance. Either God came about by chance or he is the product of natural principles. If the answer is chance, then we’re just proposing the question we sought to answer. That is, we want to know how all this complexity (the Universe and all it entails) came to be. It cannot be random chance. By postulating God, we’re postulating something more complex. If the Universe cannot be chance, God cannot be chance. If the answer is natural principles, then he isn’t much of a God, is he?

Of course, there is another option: God is beyond Nature and thus neither chance nor the product of anything. At this point we’ve ventured into la-la land. This is blind guessing with no basis, no evidence. It may be true, but we have no reason to be postulating it, much less any reason to think it remotely reasonable. If God is beyond Nature, not only can we not study him, we cannot experience anything related to him. If we can experience him, then he is within Nature and thus we are able to study him. Of course, there is nothing in Nature which shows a link to some exo-Universe being, so let’s move on and discuss things that make sense.