Scientists in glass houses, throwing stones

New Scientist magazine interviews Leonard Susskind, professor of theoretical physics at Stanford:

“If we do not accept the landscape idea are we stuck with intelligent design?”

“I doubt that physicists will see it that way. If, for some unforeseen reason, the landscape turns out to be inconsistent – maybe for mathematical reasons, or because it disagrees with observation – I am pretty sure that physicists will go on searching for natural explanations of the world. But I have to say that if that happens, as things stand now, we will be in a very awkward position. Without any explanation of nature’s fine-tunings we will be hard pressed to answer the ID critics. One might argue that the hope that a mathematically unique solution will emerge is as faith-based as ID.”

One of the reasons that I think so little of Darwin’s more outspoken defenders is that most of them are not genuine scientists, they are at best third-rate academics. I do not subscribe to either ID or evolutionary theory, (being firmly agnostic on the question of both origins and methods*), but I have to say that the behavior of the evolutionists over the past few years has me leaning towards the ID camp, mostly because they don’t behave as if they have something to hide.

It is interesting that the genuine scientists are much more open to the concept of design and sometimes even God, probably because they actually understand the issues involved and are more aware of the many failures of past scientific dogma. On a tangential note, I should mention that quoting Richard Dawkins has negatively impressed me ever since I read his incoherent response to the 9/11 attacks; anyone who can misconstrue basic history and make such incredible leaps of logic is definitely not someone I want on my side. I know next to nothing about biology or chemistry and I’d still feel pretty comfortable walking into a debate with the guy on something in his field without even bothering to prepare.

Someone who is a sloppy thinker in one area is usually a sloppy thinker across the board. Experience and education help, but they are no substitute for precision and logic.

The true scientist is open-minded and requires proof that things are so or are not so. It is tremendously ironic that so many devotees of science now rely on the same sort of ontological arguments that their philosophically inclined predecessors criticized in the medieval theologians. The fact that you can imagine a landscape of 10(500) universes does not mean that it therefore exists. Leonard Susskind understands this; it is a pity that so many who hold his work in such high regard do not.

*Saying “God did it” is not at all the same as explaining precisely how God did it. If I tell you that I ate breakfast this morning, you may correctly infer that I made my own breakfast this morning, but you would not be able to explain how I made it or even tell what I ate. I don’t know how things came about, ergo my agnosticism on the subject. I strongly suspect that you don’t know either, regardless of how strongly you believe in God or Darwin’s theory.

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