In the Huff Post Religion section dated 1/2/12, science and religion writer and teacher Paul Wallace makes a very telling set of points about Intelligent Design (ID). He begins by reviewing a blog by Jason Rosenhouse, who, in a Science Blogs post in November 2011, argued that ID is merely recycling its scientifically weak arguments and is hence dead, while evolutionary science continues to advance. But Wallace then goes further, and offers “another perspective from which the folly of ID is evident.” It is his commentary on the Christian astronomer Johannes Kepler that struck me as highly original and worthy of repeating in this post.
Kepler lived in Prague, and in 1604 was working out the elliptical orbit of Mars. But there suddenly appeared a new star a few degrees north of Scorpius. He and the world knew nothing of supernovas in those days. Kepler considered some possibilities, among them an act of God, “a direct and special tinkering by the divine hand.” But Kepler eventually discarded that option, writing that “before we come to (special) creation, which puts an end to all discussion, I think we should try everything else.” In other words, Kepler perceived that to fill the gap in his knowledge with a supernatural explanation would put an end to scientific inquiry.
Kepler was patient in the face of a huge explanatory gap, an event for which he had no rational explanation. Apparently, Wallace feels, Kepler’s serenity derived from a faith that God had created a universe that was comprehensible and whose laws were discoverable. Wallace contrasts Kepler’s attitude with that of Michael Behe’s opinion about the bacterial flagellum. Behe could not imagine (another explanatory gap) how Life could have piecemeal constructed the flagellum, because, in Behe’s model, the flagellum would not work unless all component parts were present at the same time. Hence, it must have been specially created.
For Kepler, then: “The universe has been designed; therefore it must be comprehensible.”
For Behe: “The universe is incomprehensible; therefore it must have been designed.”
Wallace writes that Kepler exemplifies a spirit of humility and great faith, while ID “reduces God to a kind of holy tinkerer. It locates the divine in places of ignorance and obscurity. And this gives it a defensive and fearful spirit that is out of place in Christian faith and theology.” For these reasons, Wallace concludes that ID cannot last.
I have written that tinkering is a major force in Life’s transformations to meet changing circumstances. How it does so is a major explanatory gap. Is God the tinkerer? Is there random shuffling, with natural selection the sieve? Or does living tissue have some capacity to modify itself? It will be interesting to see what develops.
You can access Paul Wallace’s article at huffingtonpost.com/paul-wallace/intelligent-design-is-dea_b_1175049.html