Friday, April 17, 2015

Mixing Science and Faith in National Geographic

In a one page question and answer piece in the April 2015 issue of National Geographic Dr. Francis S. Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, seems to be making a case for what is widely known as intelligent design, but it's unclear to me whether he's proposing this as a scientific or a philosophical idea. He sees order, fine tuning and laws in the universe and says that " open-minded observer is almost forced to conclude that there must be a "mind" behind all this." That would suggest science to me except that the next and final sentence is "To me, that qualifies as a miracle, a profound truth that lies outside of scientific explanation."

It just occurred to me that, taken in conjunction with his statement about understanding and respecting the proper domains of science and faith, perhaps Dr. Collins doesn't want scientists venturing into what he considers the domain of faith. Is he suggesting that scientists shouldn't use science to try to understand why there is a universe or that they shouldn't question religious claims? If he forms a hypothesis based on his observations and reaches a conclusion then asking how he reached that conclusion seems like a legitimate question. But apparently he just declares it a miracle and not subject to scientific explanation.

And what do you have once you've concluded there is a "mind" behind the universe? Not much really. You believe that something created the universe but you don't know why or how, nor can you see it or interact with it. Essentially it's Carl Sagan's invisible dragon. And if you were asking questions before, you're still going to be asking questions like why are we here and why is there a  "mind" that created a universe instead of nothing? And maybe you would speculate that unless you assume the "mind" has no order then there could be an infinity of "minds". But how many people believe in such a nebulous creator? There's certainly no shortage of religious people defining what the "mind" is and how it wants us to live. How are you going to decide which, if any, version of the "mind" is the truth?