Joined: May 2006
Scientists (especially acclaimed) are often only heard when they have to refute a claim (in regards to Creationism and Intelligent Design). The Dover Case is a great (and recent) example of this. Intelligent Designers and Creationists have no problem mapping out their hypothesis, wrapped in philosophy, conjecture and science (often pseudo-science). In a previous posting, I posted an essay by Eric Cornell (Winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics) and his opinion of science in regards to religion. This time I will post my favourite scientist, Steven Weinberg, who is active in debating Intelligent Design and Creationism at Counter Balance (a formal forum of debate - where scientists battle out the science and religion puzzle).
|I have been asked to comment on whether the universe shows signs of having been designed. I don't see how it's possible to talk about this without having at least some vague idea of what a designer would be like. Any possible universe could be explained as the work of some sort of designer. Even a universe that is completely chaotic, without any laws or regularities at all, could be supposed to have been designed by an idiot, as Macbeth suggested.|
The Question to be Answered
The question that seems to me to be worth answering, and perhaps not impossible to answer, is whether the universe shows signs of having been designed by a deity more or less like those of traditional monotheistic religions --- not necessarily a figure from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, but at least some sort of personality, some intelligence, who created the universe and has some special concern with life, in particular with human life. I expect that this is not the idea of a designer held by many here. You may tell me that you are thinking of something much more abstract, some cosmic spirit of order and harmony, as Einstein did. You are certainly free to think that way, but then I don't know why you use words like “designer” or “God,” except perhaps as a form of protective coloration. It would not surprise me to find that John Polkinghorne and I agree about what are the interesting questions; where we do disagree is in the answers.
It used to be obvious that the world was designed by some sort of intelligence. What else could account for fire and rain and lightning and earthquakes? Above all, the wonderful capabilities of living things seemed to point to a creator who had a special interest in life. Today we understand most of these things in terms of physical forces acting under impersonal laws. We don't yet know the most fundamental laws, and we can't work out all the consequences of the laws we do know. The human mind remains extraordinarily difficult to understand, but so is the weather. We can't predict whether it will rain one month from today, but we do know the rules that govern the rain, even though we can't always calculate their consequences. I see nothing about the human mind any more than about the weather that stands out as beyond the hope of understanding as a consequence of impersonal laws acting over billions of years.
Counterbalance - Steven Weinberg
Named 2002 Humanist of the Year
When the AHA board of directors voted unanimously to confer the Humanist of the Year Award upon Steven Weinberg, they took special note of his views on the latest version of creationism: intelligent design. In an address to the April 1999 conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, he ended his address, saying: "I learned that the aim of this conference is to have a constructive dialogue between science and [traditional] religion. I am all in favor of a dialogue between science and religion but not a constructive dialogue. One of the great achievements of science has been if not to make it impossible for intelligent people to be religious then at least to make it possible for them not to be religious. We should not retreat from this accomplishment."
Responding to those making the point that today's "higher moral tone" found in some mainstream religious bodies is proof that religion, at least in the past century or so, has had a positive influence on society, Weinberg cites slavery: "Where religion did make a difference, it was more in support of slavery than in opposition to it. Arguments from scripture were used in Parliament to defend the slave trade."
In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the media have been afloat in statements that to be good, patriotic, and loyal citizens we all must affirm belief in God. Citizen George W. Bush often remarks: "This is not a war about religion." In contrast, Weinberg's most memorable observation might well be: "With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil-that takes religion."
Weinberg founded the "theory group" upon arriving to teach at the University of Texas at Austin in 1982. There he holds the Josey Regental Chair of Science and is a member of both the physics and astronomy departments. In addition to receiving the 1979 Nobel Prize in physics, he is the recipient of the National Medal of Science, the Heinemann Prize in mathematical physics, the Madison Medal of Princeton University, and the Oppenheimer Prize, to name but a few. He is a member of the National Academy of Science, the Royal Society of London, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the International Astronomical Union, and the American Philosophical Society.
In addition to textbooks and technical writings, Weinberg has authored several books for general readers, among them the prize-winning The First Three Minutes and, more recently, Dreams of a Final Theory. He is a popular speaker to Humanist and free-thought groups.
American Humanist Association - Steven Weinberg