Sunday, May 11, 2008

Science and Magic

Evolution and Intelligent Design are typically characterized as "Science" and "Magic," respectively.

But it occurred to me the other day: intelligent design of life is being performed every day, by scientists. They are genetically engineering and modifying life; they are even working diligently on creating it from scratch (and have succeeded, it seems, in creating a virus, although people debate whether viruses are actually life or not). At the very least, self-replicating RNA has been assembled from scratch by humans.

So intelligent design and modification of life is clearly science. If it isn't, then why is it being performed by scientists all over the world, every single day?

On the other hand, you have the two dominant "unintelligent origin of life" theories -- RNA world and metabolism world. But nobody's demonstrated how they work. RNA world says "Some RNA came together by sheer luck, and that RNA happened to have the capacity to reproduce." Metabolism world says "A primitive metabolism showed up first, and self-replicating RNA came later." Both are, of course, undemonstrated.

So given the choice between the observed, replicated, coherent explanation of a scientist or scientists intelligently designing life as is seen on a daily basis, and the unsupported, explained, "magical" explanations about how life came together by sheer luck ... which one is "science" again?

The only reason "ID" is considered magic is because of a particularly narrow and rigid theology: the idea that "God" (the creator) works only through 'magic,' not 'natural' means. Get rid of that assumption, and ID becomes significantly more "scientific" than any of the alternatives.

Which brings us to a second important point: what are we to do with this theology of "magic?" What is this "supernatural" of which we speak with reference to the Creator?

I don't think the word "Supernatural" means anything. If you define nature as "everything that is," (a reasonable definition, I think), then there cannot be anything "beyond nature," by definition. God may be somewhere well out of our experience -- he may not be visible from our point of view -- he may not be a part of His "Creation." But if He exists, he must be within the scope of "all that is," and must, therefore, be either part of nature of the substance of nature itself.

So if this God (or gods) created us, he must have done it by "natural" means. No other understanding of creation holds any real meaning.

How? No clue. As Arthur C. Clarke said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

I brought this up in a discussion the other day, and the gentleman objected, saying that he would define "supernatural" as things that cannot be observed and studied, and "natural" as things that can be.

I responded that this definition leads to a whole host of problems.

According to his definition, quarks were "supernatural" until we were able to observe and study them; at which time they become natural.

According to his definition, the boats used during the Trojan war were "natural" at the time they were used, but subsequently became supernatural when they were destroyed and were thus no longer available for observation or study.

Clearly, there are only two categories of things: things that exist/occur, and things that do not exist/occur. If something does not exist/occur, it is not supernatural -- it is fictional. And if something occurs, but we cannot observe it, it is not supernatural, but rather, not yet observed

All this comes down to bad epistemology -- a sin of which both evolutionists and creationists are often guilty.

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