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Writing in the margins: There's room for religion

Mary Adde
guest columnist
By Mary Adde
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, October 6, 2005
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I've been saddened by reading article after article in this newspaper and many others concerning the difficulty most people have realizing that creationism, intelligent design and evolution are not necessarily in conflict with one another. Even if they did conflict, science is ill-equipped to mediate.

There are many scientists with religious convictions who have no problem resolving accepted science with their belief systems. In his seminal "Origin of Species," Charles Darwin himself wrote of his theory. Indeed, Darwin was not opposed to a religious interpretation.

Perhaps this purported designer set a plan into the works through evolution - lined up dominoes to fall, if you will. This is the belief of many who have religious conviction. Indeed, Pope Pius XII declared in 1950 that the Catholic Church's doctrine is not in opposition to evolution. The Dalai Lama has also asserted that Buddhism and evolutionary theory do not conflict.

The word "theory" and its popular connotations are partially to blame for our present conundrum because we think that "theories" are not synonymous with "fact."

In science, we put together observations and measurements so that they fit a precise explanation of the diverse phenomena we see. A theory is our map of knowledge, not an untested hypothesis. Science is concerned with refining and testing and retesting this map.

Intelligent design is not science because we can't measure it. Science depends on measurements. If we can't measure it, we cannot map it with our theories. We can't model it with mathematics; we can't design experiments to prove or disprove our hypothesis.

The theory of evolution is testable. And it has been tested - over and over again. Ask your biology professor or do some research in the library. You could spend months to years reading through all the literature amassed that overwhelmingly supports Darwin's concept of descent with modification through natural selection. Evolution has overwhelmingly met with the approval of the scientific community and mine, only because it is sound science.

Disagree? Fine. Design some experiments. Execute them. Write an article about it and persuade the rest of the scientific community. You certainly won't be the first to come up with a controversial hypothesis that most of the scientific community thinks is a bunch of garbage.

But guess what? If your thinking and methodology are sound, other scientists will listen. Some of them will test your theory. Your movement will build, and the scientific community will again refine its map of knowledge.

Right now it stands that intelligent design is not a scientific theory. It says so very little that we can't test it and will therefore remain outside of science, and if we scientists have anything to say about it, it will remain out of science classes until it has gone through rigorous peer review, as evolution has. Even then, science wouldn't stop with giving that designer credit for creation. We'd still ask, "How'd they do it?" and "Who the heck are these guys anyway?"

Let's get some perspective on the situation, though. Science is not literature or fine art or philosophy or even theology. Science ain't everything! Science won't give you morality or meaning - just stark reproducibility. Science's authority lies in its offering of bare fact.

We have learned that preconceptions pollute the process and try to avoid them. Just ask Copernicus, Galileo, Descartes, Newton and Halley. If you want meaning, morality or religion, you should not seek it from science. We never claimed to offer it and, furthermore, we refuse to give it. Scientists are in it for the truth, and scientific truths come only from physical proof.

To use our accomplishments and expertise to lend authority to an unproven hypothesis adulterates the scientific method and hurts the institution that is science. So I ask you, the broad community, to realize what science is and what it is not. Creationism and intelligent design are not scientific theories. Their verity is not for science to decide. Frankly, they're outside of the scope of science.

My own unscientific beliefs surrounding intelligent design: maybe. My ego is not above the idea that we could be on a great Petri dish. Of course, if that designer is actually intelligent, it's got a nasty sense of humor. Who else would encircle the human urethra with the prostate and make that same prostate grow over time? Low humor, indeed.

Mary Adde is a physiological sciences graduate student. If you would like to be featured in "Writing in the margins," please contact us at

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