Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Catholic position on Intelligent Design

Here, the Vatican's chief astronomer (! - the implication being that they have a whole department of astronomy!) says that ID isn't science:
According to the Italian news agency, ANSA, Father Coyne was speaking informally at a conference in Florence when he said that intelligent design "isn't science, even though it pretends to be."

This has been cited with glee in several places. What has not attracted so much attention in such places has been the opinion of the Pope, and a close associate of his, Cardinal Schonborn, who both argue that the universe requires intelligent agency (see here for Denyse O'Leary's analysis of this in English). Well, one would hope so!

Doubtless people will say something along the lines of, "Well, are they scientists?" But this isn't relevant, firstly because one's belief or otherwise in the supernatural is a matter of presuppositions, not evidence. Any and all observations are accommodated by people who believe in evolutionary explanations for all life - even when the evolutionary explanations are contradictory. This may partly be a symptom of a psychological phenomenon - called "confirmation bias" - evidence is fitted into one's existing mental framework rather than jettisoning the framework and adopting a new one. The same happened with the Aristotelian view of the universe with its epicycles; the same happened with phlogiston; the same happens with creationists for that matter - and the same happens to all of us when we are faced with odd circumstances that we need to find an explanation for.

Secondly, whilst Benedict and Schonborn may not be scientists, they aren't stupid - any more than Scott Adams is (despite his disingenuous blog to the contrary), or Denyse O'Leary was when she started researching "By Design or By Chance?", or Michael Behe was when he realised that there were weaknesses in evolutionary theory before he started writing "Darwin's Black Box". And unlike many scientists, Benedict and Schonborn also know the dangers of "unprofessional" intervention in science because they have a sense of history. Just because people aren't scientists doesn't mean that they are incapable of comprehending scientific arguments, and coming to their own conclusions about it.