2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 1
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM


DRUMMOND, Carl N., Department of Geosciences, Indiana Univ Purdue Univ Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne, IN 46805, drummond@ipfw.edu

The central purpose of science is easily stated – cataloging, describing, and explaining the majestic complexity of nature. As such, the scientific process was established as a way to bring organization and reliability to those very human activities of observation and interpretation. Without question, science has proven to be the most successful philosophical and intellectual system for understanding nature ever created. The origins of this success reside in the way in which the scientific process occurs – errors, mistakes, and logical gaps are essential to the growth of knowledge. The boundaries of our understanding are defined by the magnitude of our ignorance. As scientists we do not like to be wrong, yet, neither do we retreat from the complexity of nature. By using the scientific process we explore our world and expand our understanding. There is no phenomenon of nature that is too complex for our consideration. There is no structure or process that defies our ability to address through the formal structure of science. Nature is complex. New knowledge is gained only with great effort. Yet, nature does not defy us.

The concept of intelligent design holds that the complexity of nature cannot be explained by the incremental evolutionary changes of Darwinian evolution. Pointing to so-called units of irreducible complexity, the champions of intelligent design suggest that there are elements of nature that are too perfect, too complex, to be anything other than the product of special creation by a divine intelligence. The greatest philosophical problem associated with intelligent design resides in how it treats uncertainty – how it addresses science's incomplete understanding of nature. The illogical sequence that demands that because modern science does not fully understand the origins of complex systems the only possible process of formation for such systems is divine design turns the essential and necessary driving force of ignorance against science. Holding such a view of a complex structure is an intellectual “give-up.” Such have always been the arguments of those who would slow science's progress “we can't know, therefore we shouldn't ask.” One of the most significant contributions we can make as science educators is to proclaim anti-intellectual notions such as intelligent design to be the nonsense they so clearly are.