Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Intelligent Spaghetti

Hard to believe that I could have started a post about a year ago with the words, "You may or may not be aware of the Intelligent Design debate." The "may not" doesn't quite seem to fit anymore.

Without taking a side on the matter, Mark Helprin recently said quite beautifully that
"...the ability to describe a molecular or astrophysical process does not even touch the skirts of the deepest and most abiding questions. Nonetheless, science is directed at verifiable truth, and despite retrograde ideologies that cling to the scientific establishment, the more that science illumines the darkness, the more whatever is seen appears wonderfully coherent, even if not entirely predictable or comprehensible. Given that the driving force of science since its beginnings has been to discover coherence, though science in its first blush and infancy gave rise to the present nihilistic orthodoxy, science as it progresses may turn out to be one of the engines that overturn it."
Regardless of what you think of Intelligent Design (I.D.), Helprin's snapshot of where science is headed I hope strikes a chord.

Attractive as I.D. may be to the kind of Christians that terrify this nation's preeminent journal of opinion, the movement, I've learned, makes no claims about who or even what this "designer" may be. Its claim is simply that design is the most plausible explanation for facts lately discovered about cell structure that Darwin, in writing, admitted had the potential to impale his theory. The designer, which could very well be the Flying Spaghetti Monster (hat tip: Pat), is another conversation entirely. Those of us of Christian persuasion have our own non-pasta related ideas, but that's belief, not science. And granted science is not hijacked by secular ideology (as it consistently has been), there is nothing from it a Christian has to fear.

It is certainly possible, or not possible, that what we are experiencing is the beginning of the process described in Thomas Kuhn's classic book. He explains that
"scientific revolutions [of both large and small variety] are inaugurated by a growing sense... often restricted to a narrow subdivision of the scientific community, that an existing paradigm has ceased to function adequately in the exploration of an aspect of nature to which that paradigm itself had previously led the way" (92).
But it's still too early to say. Perhaps it's my softspot for Teilhard's intriguing blend of Catholic doctrine and evolution (which I may need to get over), but personally I am as yet not completely convinced of I.D... though I am keeping an open mind.

I know I'm not supposed to. Please, don't tell.