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.