Monday, October 10, 2005

Life is like a cup of tea

A charming line of reasoning from expert witnesses in the Pennsylvania 'Intelligent Design' case, as reported in The Economist:

The plaintiffs have carefully called expert witnesses who believe not only in the separation of church and state but also in God. Mr [Kenneth] Miller [author of a biology textbook] is a practising Roman Catholic. So is John Haught, a theology professor who testified on September 30th that life is like a cup of tea.

To illustrate the difference between scientific and religious “levels of understanding”, Mr Haught asked a simple question. What causes a kettle to boil? One could answer, he said, that it is the rapid vibration of water molecules. Or that it is because one has asked one's spouse to switch on the stove. Or that it is “because I want a cup of tea.” None of these explanations conflicts with the others. In the same way, belief in evolution is compatible with religious faith: an omnipotent God could have created a universe in which life subsequently evolved.

It makes no sense, argued the professor, to confuse the study of molecular movements by bringing in the “I want tea” explanation. That, he argued, is what the proponents of intelligent design are trying to do when they seek to air their theory—which he called “appalling theology”—in science classes.

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