Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Design in the universe: All you people need is help with ignoring the elephant

A friend sends me these quotations from Leonard Susskind's book, The Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design:

"Let me be up front and state my own prejudices right here. I thoroughly believe that real science requires explanations that do not involve supernatural agents. I believe that the eye evolved by Darwinian mechanisms. Furthermore, I believe that physicists and cosmologists must also find a natural explanation of our world, including the amazing lucky accidents that conspired to make our own existence possible." (Page xi)

"In the past most physicists (including me) have chosen to ignore the elephant--even to deny its existence. ... Evidence has been accumulating for an explanation of the 'illusion of intelligent design' that depends only on the principles of physics, mathematics, and the laws of large numbers. " (Page xi)

"On one side are the people who are convinced that the world must have been created or designed by an intelligent agent with a benevolent purpose. On the other side are the hard-nosed, scientific types who feel certain that the universe is the product of impersonal, disinterested laws of physics, mathematics, and probability--a world without a purpose, so to speak. By the first group, I don't mean the biblical literalists who believe the world was created six thousand years ago and are ready to fight about it. I am talking about thoughtful, intelligent people who look around at the world and have a hard time believing that it was just dumb luck that made the world so accommodating to human beings. I don't think these people are being stupid; they have a real point." (Page 6)

"Unlike the debate between 'Darwin's Bulldog' Thomas Huxley and [Samuel] Wilberforce, the present argument is not between science and religion but between two warring factions of science--those who believe, on one hand, that the laws of nature are determined by mathematical relations, which by mere chance happen to allow life, and those who believe that the Laws of Physics have, in some way, been determined by the requirement that intelligent life be possible." (Page 6-7)
Of course, one possible explanation - assuming we are allowed to consider it - is that the elephant really is there.