In a recent Missourian column, David Rosman took exception to Missouri House Bill 291, which he characterized as an attempt to “force science classes to teach Christian creationist beliefs as science.” If that is what HB291 does, then I have no quarrel with Mr. Rosman’s opposition to the bill. Mr. Rosman did, however, mischaracterize both intelligent design and science in general.
With respect to intelligent design, he wrote that ID is “biblically based” — another “manifestation of the biblical creation stories.” While one will often see ID described in this way by people who have never read any of the design literature, Mr. Rosman’s claim is quite simply false (I write as someone who has read some two dozen books and numerous essays by ID theorists.)
The science of intelligent design — like all sciences — begins with empirical observations, not Scripture, and it seeks to answer this question: Are some features of the natural world best explained by an intelligent cause rather than by any undirected natural processes? ID has no stake in the Genesis account of creation, which it makes no attempt to defend. ID also has no stake in the existence of God, although people who believe in God will likely think that God is the best candidate for the designer implicated by design in nature. Because ID has no stake in either Scripture or the supernatural, many creationists are either lukewarm towards ID or actually oppose it. It would also no doubt surprise Mr. Rosman to learn that Discovery Institute, the institutional home of the ID movement, opposes legislation like HB291. (Discovery Institute’s education policy can be reviewed here.)
With respect to science, Mr. Rosman insinuated that science delivers proofs, not inferences. Yet precisely the opposite is the case. Because science is so heavily reliant on inductive and abductive reasoning, it never actually provides any ironclad proofs of its theories. Rather than delivering deductively certain explanations (or proofs), science instead makes inferences to the best explanations. Its explanations (or theories) are always subject to potential falsification, otherwise they are dogma, not science. The science of intelligent design is in the business of making design inferences in nature by using standard scientific methods and reasoning. By any reasonable understanding of science, intelligent design is fully scientific. But to say — as Mr. Rosman implicitly said — that science has proven “the naturalistic origin of the first independent living organism,” is to substitute bluster for science.
Jim Goff is a Columbia resident.