Playing Dice with the Universe

You might well think that any association between Dubya and the word ‘intelligent’ is, at best, tenuous and most likely an oxymoron.

Yet here we have America’s leading ‘monkeyman’ wading into a debate about science teaching in US state schools on the side of teaching the theory of ‘intelligent design’ alongside the theory of evolution.

If you’re new to this particular debate then there’s a pretty good explanation of this issue to be found here, which covers the basics, but the general gist of things is that this all amounts to an attempt to sneak the teaching of creationism into schools by the back door – ‘intelligent design’ is not science, its theology dressed up to look like science.

As you might expect, the main line of attack is against Darwinian evolution although supporters of ID make all sorts of claims as regards is relevance to other branches of the sciences including physics.

Now I could go into a detailed rebuttal of ID here, but I won’t – because the best rebuttal of all has already been provided by the 20th Century’s most iconic scientist; Albert Einstein, without him even realising it.

Einstein, one should note, was a Jew and a beleiver in God – it’s a matter of record that in considering the orderly nature of the universe he saw the ‘hand of God’ at work. That’s not to suggest he believed necessarily in an interventionist God, one who involves himself in the day-to-day running of the universe, rather he took the view that God, as the creator, had ordered things just-so at the very beginning of the universe – the ‘Big Bang’ – such that it would go on to develop in an orderly fashion and such a way as to ensure that it would give rise, eventually, to life.

To some small extent, therefore, Einstein held beliefs that were compatible with the modern theory of intelligent design, although he never suggested, as the proponents of ID do, that God intervened in matters and did a bit of tweaking after setting up the initial conditions for the universe.

It was this belief which led Einstein, on being shown the early work in the field of quantum mechanics, to comment:

“Quantum mechanics is very impressive. But an inner voice tells me that it is not yet the real thing. The theory yields a lot, but it hardly brings us any closer to the secret of the Old One. In any case I am convinced that He doesn’t play dice.”

Well, more than half a century on from that statement, quantum mechanics has held its own as a scientific theory without anyone every getting close to offering a scientific refutation of it: it still plays dice with the universe regardless of Einstein’s reaction to it, a reaction which was to isolate him from the scientific mainstream during the latter part of his life.

And on that basis my rebuttal of intelligent design is simply this – forget Darwin and evolutionary biology, if proponents of intelligent design wish it to be regarded as a science then the must offer a coherent and scientifically grounded refutation of quantum mechanics; nothing less will do. And untill they do that, intelligent design has no place being taught as a scientific theory.

5 thoughts on “Playing Dice with the Universe

  1. There’s more to these ID Cards than I originally thought .No wonder Mr Clark has so much trouble with them .

  2. I think they should “teach the controversy”. To avoid mentioning ID in biology class in the US would be like trying to ignore the elephant in the corner of the room – especially now that the monkey boy has endorsed it.

    It wouldn’t take up much class time:
    1) Explain what ID “theory” is (an argument from ignorance)
    2) Explain why it isn’t science (when science doesn’t have answers, it looks for them. Saying “God did it”, and leaving it at that, is not an option)
    3) Carry on with teaching the curriculum.

    Should take about 5 minutes, tops.

  3. Talk Politics – Playing Dice with the Universe
    Talk Politics – Playing Dice with the Universe
    A quick look at the evolutionary challenged Bush and his introduction of God back into creation, coming to a school near you (that is if you are unfortunate to be subject to an American ‘education&…

  4. I believe you may be misrepresenting Einstein somewhat. His beliefs were not compatible with ID so far as I can tell (having read every biography of the man as well as all of his published writings).

    He did not believe in a “creator” god and was scathing about the idea of an “interventionist” one.

    That’s not to suggest he believed necessarily in an interventionist God

    There’s no “necessarily” about it.

    “I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the harmony of all that exists” – Einstein (in a letter to a newspaper, 1929).

    Spinoza, as I’m sure you’re aware, argued that God and the Universe were one and the same, or at least indistinguishable to we humans. The idea that God “created” the universe was seen by both men as a logical fallacy. God does not design. God is the design (obviously using the word “design” rather more loosely in the second sentence than in the first).

    “My position concerning God is that of an agnostic. I am convinced that a vivid consciousness of the primary importance of moral principles for the betterment and enoblement of life does not need the idea of a law-giver, especially a law-giver who works on the basis of reward and punishment” – Einstein (personal letter, 1950).

    “The idea of a personal God is quite alien to me and seems even naive” (personal letter, 1952)

    “I am a deeply religious nonbeliever… This is a somewhat new kind of religion” (personal letter, 1952)

    I feel that Einstein’s line about God not playing dice is often misunderstood. People involuntarily picture a Being of some sort ‘playing dice’. And that image drifts into our interpretation of what he meant. He was well aware of the limitations of our understanding of determinism (“gravitation cannot be held responsible for people falling in love”) but nonetheless believed that the universe was deterministic, even if we couldn’t fully grasp the details.

    I’m an Einsteinean determinist myself.

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