There is a petition on the Whitehouse petition site asking that “Creation Science” and “Intelligent Design” be banned from public school science classes. Since they are thinly disguised religion, this ought to be a “no brainer” in the good ol’ USA where – despite the “in god we trust” on our currency religion and government are supposed to be separate.
It isn’t. There are plenty of people (and some of my extended family) who are worried about science promoting atheism. This misses the point of science completely.
Science is non-theistic. If a devious “sky monkey” plays tricks with our experiments, then we cannot possibly learn anything from experience – since the ideas we deduce will have changed by the time we try them again. To paraphrase Einstein – “God doesn’t play dice with reality” – well if she does, then she doesn’t load the dice. Laplace – quoted in the title – was asked by king Louis the somethingth – why God didn’t show up in his ground-breaking work on Celestial Mechanics. His response captures the relationship – “I didn’t need that hypothesis”.
Creation Science and Intelligent Design are so bad that they’re “not even wrong” – There is no part of modern biology that they can predict, which is completely different from natural selection (a major part of the mechanism of evolution), genetics, and evolution. (I already did write about this in depth).
Even the most difficult question for an evolutionary theory of life, “how did it start?” is not suited to a theistic answer. If we believe that divine intervention was absolutely necessary for life to start, then we cannot ask questions about minimal conditions for life or “what is living?” or “how did it start?” because, not being God, we can’t answer them. Of course, if we don’t have a prior hypothesis of “the sky monkey did it”, then we can try. Science is about trying to understand the world, based on the general hypothesis that “if we know what is going on, then maybe we can make life better for people”.
If theists thought hard about it, they would thank Thor that we’re not mixing science and religion. Imagine a science experiment on the efficacy of different religions. We take 16 or so religions, and to be correct have to include a control like “the church of the flying spaghetti monster” as well as some of the less salubrious forms of voodoo, paganism or Wicca as well as more mainstream ones like Christianity or Islam. Remember, though, that if you’re doing “scientific religion” you have to take the results as what you will practice – even if it does involve nailing chicken entrails to your wall.
We then design a set of binary outcome things to pray for so that on average half of the religions are praying against the other half all the time. If we use Hadamard matrix to schedule the prayer objectives then we can balance out the trials and make sure that we get an unbiased estimate.
Well, almost. We can’t do infinitely many trials, so given the null hypothesis of “no effect”, we can estimate a probability of observing a given outcome. It isn’t pretty.
- Somebody has to do best (Mean value theorem – either they are all the same or else someone has to be better than everyone else). It might not be the religion you like. In fact with 16 random choices of religion, the odds that you’re the best are 1/16 with the null hypothesis.
- With a small n of trials (say 16) where each has a prior probability of 0.5, the cumulative probability of someone getting 75% response is non-trivial. ( the odds of having exactly 0,1,2,3,or 4 negative outcomes is 1*(1/2)^16+ (1,16)*(1/2)^16 + … + (4,16)*(1/2)^16 ) where (n,m) is the binomial coefficient for n things taken from m things.) When you do the math – that’s 4% or so, and 75% response would qualify you as a saint. If you’re willing to accept only being blessed, with say a 66% out come – that’s about 23% of the time.