The Gustavian Weekly

The de-evolution of science | The Gustavian Weekly

By Kavan Rogness Staff Columnist | April 25, 2008 | Opinion

My delightful roommate recently called me over to his computer to show me a movie trailer. Expecting to see a trailer for an upcoming action or comedy flick that might interest me, I was intrigued to find a long trailer for the controversial documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. Written and narrated by Ben Stein (yes, the droning teacher from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), this documentary discusses a controversial debate that lies at the heart of academia—evolution vs. intelligent design.

Intelligent design is essentially the belief that some higher being was instrumental in the beginnings of the universe, the earth and humanity itself. In Expelled, Stein argues that many scientists who advocate intelligent design are being driven out of the mainstream scientific community for trying to present an alternative to the theory of evolution. In attempting to challenge the prevailing scientific theory, many of these legitimate scientists are having their work ignored, ridiculed or dismissed—and their careers endangered.

Why is this happening? The theory of evolution has become so ingrained that the majority of the scientific community has come to regard it as fact, despite its canonical scientific status as a theory. Evolution has not been proven as the means by which humanity (or anything within the realm of nature) came into existence. However, when other scientists propose an alternate theory that attempts to explain the wonders of existence, a theory that alludes to the possible existence of a higher being, they are often criticized and essentially silenced within the scientific community.

This seems very disconcerting to me. For centuries, science has been used in an attempt to expand human knowledge and understanding. Galileo’s ideas and theories were groundbreaking at the time, and his very life was in danger because of it. At the time, these ideas were deemed heretical and completely went against accepted scientific knowledge. His bravery in going against the accepted norms helped to bring humans a greater understanding of this world and helped show what science is supposed to be. Science has long been an arena in which to consider opposing contemporary ideas. However, some ideas possess a kernel of truth that help us enrich what we know about ourselves and the world around us.

If we ignore the theories of intelligent design, what knowledge are we closing ourselves off from?

I realize that this brings up a very testy issue—religion. Some see intelligent design as an attempt to prove that some sort of God exists. Others see it as an attempt to reconcile faith with science. Many people believe that God and science do not mix—you must believe in one or the other, never both. But why can’t we treat God as a scientific theory? Why can’t we explore the idea that there may be evidence of God? What do we lose by exploring this issue in a scientific manner?

Even if you don’t believe in God, there is no harm in investigating the possibility. Scientists should be welcoming the opportunity to explore this concept. Science ought to explore both intelligent design and evolution as reasonable explanations for existance. There is no reason not to explore the possibility of evidence for a higher being.

Here’s how dictionary.com defines science: “systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation.” Here’s my observation: let’s suppose that evolution did occur, that the big bang happened. One thing still remains: what did the big bang come from? The most basic, intrinsic laws of science claim that neither energy nor matter can come from nothing. Holding this to be true, then how could the big bang happen? In my view, that’s concrete scientific evidence that helps point toward some sort of higher being.

Ben Stein’s documentary brings an important debate to the fore, and perhaps we should bring it to campus for discussion. Although it’s a very contentious issue, I believe that it is an important discussion to have. Science should not shy away from explanations that diverge from the norm. Let’s try to restore science to what it is supposed to be—a forum for new ideas to explain the world.

Kavan Rogness

4 Comments

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  1. Lloyd Bannister says:

    Have you heard about this case?

    In Florida, an atheist became incensed over the preparation of Easter and Passover holidays. He decided to contact his lawyer about the discrimination inflicted on atheists by the constant celebrations afforded to Christians and Jews with all their holidays while atheists had no holiday to celebrate.

    The case was brought before a judge. After listening to the long passionate presentation by the lawyer, the Judge banged his gavel and declared, ‘Case dismissed!’

    The lawyer immediately stood and objected to the ruling and said, ‘Your honor, how can you possibly dismiss this case? The Christians have Christmas, Easter and many other o bserva nces. Jews have Passover, Yom Kippur and Hanukkah…yet my client and all other atheists have no such holiday!’

    The judge leaned forward in his chair and simply said, ‘Obviously your client is too confused to even know about, much less celebrate his own atheists’ holiday!’

    The lawyer pompously said, ‘Your Honor, we are unaware of any such holiday for atheists. Just when might that holiday be, your Honor?’

    The judge said, ‘Well it comes every year on exactly the same date—April 1st! Since our calendar sets April 1st as ‘April Fools Day,’ consider that Psalm 14:1 states, ‘The fool says in his heart, there is no God.’ Thus, in my opinion, if your client says there is no God, then by scripture, he is a fool, and April 1st is his holiday! Now have a good day and get out of my courtroom!!

  2. Loni says:

    Why do religious people always want ‘science’ to find out if there is a God? Isn’t your faith strong enough? Anyway, the intellectual inquiry technique known as science is not able to prove or disprove God because it only deals with the material and the natural, not the supernatural. If you want ‘proof’ of God go to the metaphysics department and leave science alone. Oh, and don’t they teach youthe difference between the two at your school?

  3. Andrew says:

    I’ll never understand why some people can be so hostile to opposing views. Evolution is obviously an extremely flawed theory, but if you want to believe it, that’s fine. Others of us think that an intelligent God created the world, but we also know that many people think that’s not logical. Gustavus is a place were all views and opinions are welcome. If you can’t handle opposing views, start a commune! Thanks for the great column, Kavan!

  4. Galen says:

    Andrew, to say that you have a fundamental misunderstanding of science is to understate the facts. I can’t expect an accounting major to understand what scientific inquiry entails, so I’ll spell it out to you in the best way I know how: It’s not about beliefs. Belief implies that there is some sort of lack of evidence involved and that there is some sort of “leap of faith” required to come to a state in which you feel you “know” whatever it is you’re considering at the time.

    Poking “holes” in a theory, many of which are not even holes at all, is not the same as defeating it. Defeating it is very simple, prove that your “theory” is better. This would be very simple if you did so with evidence and your own testable model that allows for genuine inquiry into the physical world such that it shows more accuracy and benefit than the current theory. Stating that God made everything is all well and good, but it’s not science. Be honest with yourself here and admit that you have a belief you wish to push, not a scientific theory.

    I invite you to actually talk about this subject more with people in the scientific community, they’d be able to explain it better than I. The sooner you stop hanging onto platitudes and rigid thinking dealing in little actual consideration, the sooner you’ll realize that no one is attacking you and there is no need to attack. People are always afraid of what they don’t understand and coming from you, that just seems silly.