Thursday, July 07, 2005

Jesus Christ, string theorist

My thesis advisor once told me that, given the success that the creationists were experiencing in their fight against mainstream biology, it was only a matter of time before they started attacking mainstream physics as well. Today's New York Times op-ed "Finding Design in Nature", among other things, is a reminder that the seeds of creationist conflict with modern physics have already been planted. For instance:
But this is not true. The Catholic Church, while leaving to science many details about the history of life on earth, proclaims that by the light of reason the human intellect can readily and clearly discern purpose and design in the natural world, including the world of living things.
This statement of a clearly discernable "purpose and design in the natural world" would seem to be a clear statement that creationism is an oppositional principle to all physical sciences, although the author may have intended the "natural world" to refer only to planet Earth, thus declaring his antagonism merely to sciences such as geology or meteorology. Unfortunately, another statement clarifies that this position does indeed attack physical science in general:
In comments at another general audience a year later, John Paul concludes, "It is clear that the truth of faith about creation is radically opposed to the theories of materialistic philosophy. These view the cosmos as the result of an evolution of matter reducible to pure chance and necessity."
There you go: everything you know about the cosmos is wrong unless you're basing it on the "truth of faith about creation". Finally, the article ends with a rather cartoonish public service announcement that philosophical morphine is bad for you:
Now at the beginning of the 21st century, faced with scientific claims like neo-Darwinism and the multiverse hypothesis in cosmology invented to avoid the overwhelming evidence for purpose and design found in modern science, the Catholic Church will again defend human reason by proclaiming that the immanent design evident in nature is real. Scientific theories that try to explain away the appearance of design as the result of "chance and necessity" are not scientific at all, but, as John Paul put it, an abdication of human intelligence.
Well, at least give the author credit for having the discernment and restraint merely to condemn Neo-Darwinists and multiverse cosmologists instead of issuing a blanket condemnation of all heretics, witches, and the Devil. Although it's a little puzzling why someone who condemns all material science as being radically opposed to the "truth of faith about creation" wants to single out multiverse cosmology as particularly bad. The statement at the end about explaining away the appearance of design being anti-scientific and an abdication of human intelligence is especially ridiculous; wasn't explaining away the appearance of design the reason why science was invented in the first place?

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