A Plea in favor of “Purpose” John S. Hardy, Jr. M.D., A.C.P., F.A.C.A. 2/20/2012
We “the people” badly need a clarification to understand the conflicts between adherents of faith and science. The deepest philosophic division between the precepts of science and that of “Intelligent Design” are fundamentally based in the concepts of purpose and/or goals. To complicate the division, it’s clear that the public is badly misinformed about I.D. and the concept’s own internal philosophical departures. To emotionally load their case, atheists routinely blend I.D. with Creationism. The concept of Creationism is visualized by most people as “rather simplistic”, always dogmatic, substantially denying (or ignoring) the secular findings of scientific research emanating from the Geologic and biologic sciences down to Quantum Mechanics and extending to those of Cosmology. It appears quite important to those who mock the concept of Intelligent Design to believe its adherents dismiss the latter and emphasize the former in refuting I.D. Those of us who believe in “purpose” in the existence of the Universe and the evolution of life in the Universe,--- particularly sentient and especially sapient life forms, do not believe “chance” is an independent function of chaos nor do most of us believe that the findings of science should be dismissed as “untrue” or “entirely irrelevant”. So, what are the defined general goals and purposes of followers of each of the two general disciplines? Understanding this division clearly is imperative to allowing both conceptualizations to coexist peacefully and with reason and communication.
The goals (and purpose) of followers of Science
Fundamentally, Science views the Universe and all within as the result of a sequential process which most likely developed out of precursor states, in a more or less orderly manner. Science, therefore, is concerned with process, and each component must be stated clearly (in part or in whole) in the form of a hypothesis or theory. Each such component is then must be subjected to rigorous testing, and either verification or rejection is achieved. It is an analytical process which has served us well and itself has proven its value. In science, “Purpose” per se is never the reason something ends up the way it does. It just “does” because, -- given the “needed” sequence of events, determined by a plethora of factors, it was the ONLY logical (or possible) conclusion and result. Except with applied science (i.e., outcomes using scientific discoveries implemented by man’s will), the studies characteristic of science discount any immediacy of “purpose” at all. In fact, to imply there is “purpose” in the processes of the universe is, to many (if not most) scientists a strong indication of “deranged and simplistic thinking”. In science, “purpose” is considered a peripheral phenomenon. Just a result with NO purpose unless guided by man, and his guidance is jealously guarded as his privilege alone. It is the ONE area in which he has power and control; over processes to which he is subject and otherwise has no control. I.e., he is otherwise powerless and many find that an intolerable position to accept. Man will always seek certitude. To many scientists, there is NO purpose in processes analyzed by the scientific method, other than the advancement of knowledge and the only voiced goal of advancing the knowledge and welfare of society. Therefore, -- benefit or harm; gains or losses; release or hindrance; promotion or impairment; injury or healing; progress or obstruction (to a defined or observed improvement) are all peripheral phenomena, guided by probabilities (chance) within a matrix of fundamental chaos. Therefore man spends a lot of time and effort to direct the processes derived through his analysis, and any suggestion that “some other intelligence could have or is playing a role” induces anger and even revulsion some. Man prefers to define himself as his own self-determinator and guards that definition jealously.
The goals (and purpose) of followers of Intelligent Design
In contrast, the concerns of the adherents to Intelligent Design (ID) are all about “purpose”. They are “purpose driven”, believing that existence has had a goal from the beginning; an “end game” or “bottom line” which each adherent has a degree of freedom to define in their own way. In addition, ID adherents clearly separate themselves from fundamentalist creationists. They don’t “demonize” Creationists. They just don’t “cleave” to fundamentalist doctrine because they consider denial of scientific discovery as “unnecessary” to validate their faith. ID adherents premise begins with the assumption that there is purpose both to the universe and, ultimately to its contents; i.e., to the way things arrived to this point, and how processes under way play into that sequence. They spend their energies using science to define the sequence leading to what they perceive as the reason things occurred in the way they did. They implement both inductive and deductive reasoning and study scientific information carefully that might lead to clarification and open additional areas of ambiguity in the certitude sought by scientific inquiry. Most adherents to Intelligent Design (ID) do not deny scientific “facts” nor “observations”, but leave the door wide open to inclusion of new and meaningful information providing the hope of clarity. Thus, to adherents of ID: Benefit or harm; gains or losses; release or hindrance; promotion or impairment; injury or healing; progress or obstruction (to a defined or observed improvement) are all phenomena of purpose, --- not chance. They began with a faith (an optimism, if you will), that everything has a purpose or reason for being, and that nothing really was simply a “throw of the dice” in an ultimate vacuum of non-purpose. In I.D., at the very least, they believe that God (or the “Designer”) Loaded the dice, probably from the very beginning. They concede their fundamental lack of control of the process but take comfort in the wonder of it. ID adherents do not have a need to feel in control of anything. They only seek to understand the "how’s and why’s" insofar as they and science are capable of providing clarity.
If all “scientists” and “educated faithful” can come to an understanding that each deserve to believe what they individually want to believe, rejecting nothing, -- including either’s concepts of possibility or probability; and in that process reject dogma,-- the vitriol will cease and a conversation can commence. So long as each side adheres to its dogma, we will continue to see ID blended with fundamentalism and no dialog will be possible.
John S. Hardy, Jr. M.D., A.C.P., F.A.C.A. Seabeck, WA 98380 firstname.lastname@example.org