Issue Date: March 5, 2007
Religion Has No Place In Science
I find it sad and disheartening that, as scientists, we give any consideration to addressing science through the medium of religious faith, as advocated by Howard Merken, Akbar Brinsmade, and Roger Bokeny in their letters (C&EN, Jan. 8, page 4). Science deals in gathering observable, empirical, measurable evidence, then applying the principles of reasoning to propose testable hypotheses, theories, and natural laws as explanations of natural phenomena. Science isnot based in wishful thinking and appeals to a higher authority. To state that there are "religious and philosophical differences" between scientific theories highlights this false, unscientific approach. Would we even countenance an argument about, say, the differences between molecular orbital theory and valence shell electron pair repulsion theory being made on such a basis? I hardly think there is room for arguments from beliefs or faith in the scientific arena.
As the National Academy of Sciences stated in its 1999 report on intelligent design and creationism, these and "other claims of supernatural intervention in the origin of life" are not science because they cannot be tested by experiment, do not generate any predictions, and propose no new hypotheses of their own. In other words, "theories" such as intelligent design, creationism, and irreducible complexity are utterly devoid of scientific merit. At best, intelligent design is a misrepresentation of the theory of evolution as a "helter-skelter randomness" and an argument from ignorance. At worst, it is a blatant attempt to subvert science to religious doctrine.
Those who argue that the theory of evolution lacks "natural or experimental evidence" are either willfully ignorant of the field or are prevaricating. Speciation has been observed in the geological record, in the biological record of RNA and DNA, and in developmental biology and ontogeny, as well as directly in the laboratory. The core concepts of the theory of evolution are used on a daily basis in a wide range of disciplines, from paleontology to virology and from bioinformatics to agriculture.
In short, the theory of evolution is the unifying theory of biology, tying together the framework of the modern biological sciences. Arguments against evolution are universally grounded in religious and philosophical considerations, not science. This fact is further emphasized in that this debate is occurring in our classrooms and courtrooms rather than in our laboratories and scientific publications.
San Diego, Calif.
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