Prominent Atheist Professor of Law and Philosophy Thomas Nagel Calls Intelligent Design Scientific and Constitutional to “Mention” in Science Classes

Prof. Thomas Nagel has published an important essay entitled, “Public Education and Intelligent Design”, in the Wiley InterScience Journal Philosophy & Public Affairs, Vol. 36, issue 2, on-line at http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/118493933/home. His paper is a significant because it encourages all intelligent, educated, informed individuals to consider that intelligent design may be a valid scientific approach to understanding how DNA and the complex chemical systems of life came to attain their present form. Prof. Nagel’s article is well worth the price (fee for access US $29.95).  He is a self-declared atheist who earned his PhD. in philosophy at Harvard, has been a professor at U.C. Berkeley, Princeton, and for the last 28 years at New York University, and has published ten books and more than 60 articles.

As anyone who has watched TV’s Crime Scene Investigation knows, scientific investigation of a set of data (the data at the scene of a man’s death) may lead to the conclusion that the event that produced the data (the death) was not the product of natural causes — not an accident, in other words — but was the product of an intelligence — a perpetrator.

But of course, the data at the crime scene usually can’t tell us very much about that intelligence. If the data includes fingerprints or DNA that produces a match when cross-checked against other data — fingerprint or DNA banks — it might lead to the identification of an individual. But even so, the tools of natural science are useless to determine the “I.Q.” of the intelligence, the efficiency vs. the emotionalism of the intelligence, or the motive of the intelligence. That data, analyzed by only the tools of natural science, often cannot permit the investigator to construct a theory of why the perpetrator acted. The mental and conscious processes going on in the criminal’s mind are outside the scope of the sciences of chemistry and physics.

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Thus it is obvious that scientific methods can lead to the conclusion that an intelligence did something, even if those same methods cannot tell you who specifically did it, or why they did it. Everyone who has read or watched a Sherlock Holmes story knows this.

Prof. Nagel applies this principle to the evolution/intelligent design debate. Assuming, for purposes of argument, even though he himself is an atheist, to label the intelligence “God,” he says “the purposes and intentions of God, if there is a god, and the nature of his will, are not possible subjects of a scientific theory or scientific explanation. But that does not imply that there cannot be scientific evidence for or against the intervention of such a non-law-governed cause in the natural order” (p. 190). In other words, Sherlock Holmes can use chemistry to figure out that an intelligence — a person — did the act that killed the victim, even if he can’t use chemistry to figure out that the person who did it was Professor Moriarty, or to figure out why Moriarty did the crime.

Therefore, Prof. Nagel says, it potentially can be scientific to argue that the data of DNA and life points to an intelligent designer, even if science cannot tell you the identity of the designer or what is going on in the designer’s mind…

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Prominent Atheist Professor of Law and Philosophy Thomas Nagel Calls Intelligent Design Scientific and Constitutional to “Mention” in Science Classes | Apologetics – C.S. Lewis Society