Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Illusion of Intelligent Design

"Your Highness, I have no need of that hypothesis."
--Pierre Simon de Laplace (1749-1827),
reply made to Napoleon when asked why his
celestial mechanics had no mention of God.
String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design by Leonard Susskind, the father of string theory, aims to show why the so called anthropic principle, the fact that the physical laws of the universe seem remarkably fine tuned to make life possible, is no evidence for intelligent design of the cosmos. The Village Voice has a nice article on the book.

"I started writing about it as a controversy strictly between physicists," says Susskind. "I started writing it as a physics book, and quite honestly, I didn't know that much about biology and chemistry, but as I started to write, I realized I was writing something broader."

While doing some online research, Susskind inadvertently came across dozens of religious blogs and websites invoking the anthropic principle. "I discovered this very large culture of people [who believe] that the anthropic principle means intelligent design," he says. "That was a bit of an education for me. This book is about the lack of need for supernatural explanations."... "As you know, there's something of a war against science going on," Susskind says.
There is also a more technical review available on Physics Web. And more reviews here and here.

The appearance of this book is another good sign that more top scientists are beginning to recognize the importance of raising the general level of understanding of science and engaging the public. Unless the reality based view of the world is vigorously defended, the social context in which doing science is possible may be terminally eroded.


At 1/14/2006 1:18 PM, Blogger island said...

I think that Lenny needs to get a clue that evidence for goal oriented design or structuring in nature does not constitute evidence for intelligent design if there is no landscape:

Amanda Gefter:
If we do not accept the landscape idea are we stuck with intelligent design?

Leonard Susskind:
I doubt that physicists will see it that way. If, for some unforeseen reason, the landscape turns out to be inconsistent - maybe for mathematical reasons, or because it disagrees with observation - I am pretty sure that physicists will go on searching for natural explanations of the world. But I have to say that if that happens, as things stand now we will be in a very awkward position. Without any explanation of nature's fine-tunings we will be hard pressed to answer the ID critics.

No, that's false, there is no inferrence of "intelligent" design from evidence for purpose in nature, without direct proof.

Lenny thinks that creationists will be justified to say that god made us if we're not here by accident.

He's wrong and should stay in his multiverse where he belongs, because he hasn't got the first clue how erroneous statements like that affect the mentality of the average joe on either side of the debate.

He also doesn't appear to have any real clue what theories are valid and which are not when it comes to origins science, because "multiverse rationale" isn't a valid argument against fine-tuning unless and until a multiverse is proven to exist, or if multiverse "reasoning" proves to be necessary to the one true theory of everything.

Then, and only then... Lenny.

At 1/15/2006 4:02 PM, Blogger velid said...

Good point. In the interview he sets up a totally false dilemma. It is certainly not either the landscape or intelligent design.

At 1/16/2006 9:27 AM, Blogger island said...

I have never been so shocked, appalled, and disappointed by the *not-so-honest- and impartial* mentality of scientists, as I have been since I discovered the anthropic principle and how it gets abused by both sides in the CrEvo debate.


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