According to the recently published tract from the NAS, entitled Science, Evolution, and Creationism, the “materialism of the gaps” approach is apparently the new scientific method:
Even if their negative arguments against evolution were correct, that would not establish the creationists’ claims. There may be alternative explanations. For example, it would be incorrect to conclude that because there is no evidence that it is raining outside, it must be sunny. Other explanations also might be possible.
The NAS apparently sees an evil monster out there that must be killed at all costs. It doesn’t seem to matter that the major proponents of Intelligent Design (who, once again, don’t all consider themselves “Creationists”) and other Darwin-doubters are not proposing that ID is a scientific theory or that it be taught in schools as science. They are merely suggesting that science be taught as science, and let people draw whatever philosophical conclusions are appropriate. However, apparently the skepticism which is so important to science has its limits:
In science, a “fact” typically refers to an observation, measurement, or other form of evidence that can be expected to occur the same way under similar circumstances. However, scientists also use the term “fact” to refer to a scientific explanation that has been tested and confirmed so many times that there is no longer a compelling reason to keep testing it or looking for additional examples. In that respect, the past and continuing occurrence of evolution is a scientific fact. Because the evidence supporting it is so strong, scientists no longer question whether biological evolution has occurred and is continuing to occur.
“Scientists no longer question …;” therefore, this implies, those who question the assumptions made by Darwinists are not scientists. And, presumably, neither was Copernicus, who dared question the consensus belief of his day in the “fact” of Ptolemy’s cosmology.
So, why is the NAS so nervous? As I’m sure I’ve said before, if the science behind Darwinism is as solid as they insist, why do they have to work so hard to deflect any criticism (skepticism)? As my friend Mike commented yesterday,
It takes so much effort to believe that we will grasp at any straw we can. Nobody in science claims that there are any absolutes, that all is a matter of probability.
Mike was referring to religious belief, but it seems that the NAS finds itself in a similar position. Perhaps the probabilities are not quite as strong as the NAS would like to think? Perhaps they should consider that in literature and movies, it is the preservationist “old guard” who always comes off looking foolish.
Anthony Bloom sees the issue of belief to be similar for both theology and science. He writes in God & Man in the chapter entitled Doubt and the Christian Life (p. 36):
At the root of the scientist’s activity there is the certainty that what he is doubting is the model he has invented … But what he is also absolutely certain of is that the reality which is beyond his model is in no danger if his model collapses. The reality is stable, it is there; the model is an inadequate expression if it, but the reality doesn’t alter because the model shakes.
If, then, we are truly seeking truth, we should have no strangle hold on the model; we know, after all, that it is imperfect and it is our job to doubt the model. The alternative – in the theological realm, anyway – is nothing less than idolatry. In the field of science, it simply becomes something other than science, which brings me back to the NAS’ pre-Copernican mentality. Note that I’m not dealing with the specifics of any scientific or non-scientific argument; to drop into a Darwin v Creation argument here is missing the larger point.
Actually, this is all really an introduction to the nature of belief and faith, which is something I’ll write about in the days to come. The NAS’ little tract seemed a good non-theological introduction to the topic.