Posts Tagged 'Intelligent design'

Hawking’s Grand Delusion (Part I)

Stephen Hawking 'speaks' once again 'ex cathedra'

We consider the 2010 book The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow (screenwriter for Star Trek: the Next Generation), but first we must lay some groundwork. For ease of digestion this post is split into three parts, the first two parts being introductory.

Intelligent Design and the limits of science

To start with, here’s an old chestnut: is ‘Intelligent Design’ a scientific hypothesis? Well, it is a hypothesis, and a most intelligent hypothesis, held by the brightest of minds for thousands of years, that something with the appearance of design (which even atheists admit) is actually designed. Whether or not it is true, it cannot be denied except by the most churlish that the inference is a reasonable one. However, if we deliberately limit the term ‘scientific’ to natural science, wherein scientific hypotheses have natural explanations exclusively in terms of natural phenomena from within the natural world itself – a closed system where there is no external causation, or where at the very least external causation is beyond the scope of scientific explanation – then according to this definition intelligent design cannot be a scientific hypothesis.

But so what? All this means is that science is deliberately limited in explanation, and deliberately so limited by definition. Primary causation is not only outside but also incomprehensible to scientific enquiry, so primary causation, even if true, cannot offer a ‘scientific’ explanation. Without access to the designer’s original plan, as it were, where could the hypothesis of intelligent design take us from a ‘scientific’ perspective? It has no explanatory power, no predictive capability, no falsifiability within the self-defined and self-limiting ‘scientific’ realm. As an example, if I tell you in all truth that the jet engine was designed by Frank Whittle, what does that fact tell you about the jet engine other than that it was designed by Frank Whittle?

Continue reading ‘Hawking’s Grand Delusion (Part I)’

The Atheist Delusion

There has been a torrent of books by the so-called New Atheists in recent years, diatribes from the pens of biologist Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion, 2006), journalist Christopher Hitchens (God Is Not Great, 2007), writer Sam Harris (The End of Faith, 2004) and their ilk. Whatever their expertise in their specialisms, they have arrogantly marched forth into the fields of their own incompetence, and thereby done us all a great favour in showing that the New Atheism spawns intellectual pygmies of the philosophy of religion. As philosopher David B. Hart has remarked,

A truly profound atheist is someone who has taken the trouble to understand, in its most sophisticated forms, the belief he or she rejects, and to understand the consequences of that rejection. Among the New Atheists, there is no one of whom this can be said, and the movement as a whole has yet to produce a single book or essay that is anything more than an insipidly doctrinaire and appallingly ignorant diatribe.

Their writings have drawn back the curtain to reveal the clanking machinery, the hollowness and the intellectual bankruptcy of the New Atheism. For this we are forever grateful, and when their other ideas have been discarded and relegated to footnotes, historians will surely point to their feet of clay displayed by their poor judgment, their bias, nastiness, ignorance and inability to structure logical argument in their writings on religion. As Hart confirms:

The best that we can now hope for [from New Atheists] are arguments pursued at only the most vulgar of intellectual levels, couched in an infantile and carpingly pompous tone, and lacking all but the meagerest traces of historical erudition or syllogistic rigour: Richard Dawkins triumphantly adducing “philosophical” arguments that a college freshman midway through his first logic course could dismantle in a trice…

The author of The Selfish Gene and The Blind Watchmaker can never again be taken seriously as a clear thinker: he has well and truly shot his bolt and missed his target.

Continue reading ‘The Atheist Delusion’