The people are Harvard are weighing in on yet another socially contentious issue with its pledge to provide $1 million dollars annually to a research project on the origins of life. Now, if only someone could get them to weigh in on that other thing about women and science. Oh wait, they started that! That reminds me, we haven't heard much from Lawrence Summers lately. For a guy who even as far as Harvard presidents go has a big ego, this is probably important. My guess is we won't be hearing any more "intellectually provocative questions" for a while.

The national issue being tapped into here is the debate between Evolution and Intelligent Design. As it stands, the debate is between two, basically idiotic, extremes. Intelligent design is the most flagrant and anti-rational version of a series of religiously-motivated "creationist theories." Nevertheless, some of the more in-between positions can be scientifically respectable in varying degrees. For instance, instead of challenging a far superior theory, why doesn't religiously-motivated science hone in on the actual points of weakness within the theory of evolution? Like the complete absence of an acceptable scientific explanation for the fundamental jump from inanimate to animate, inorganic to organic, the must occur in the origin of life. Actually, attempts at these questions have been made, and pretty compellingly in my opinion, fascinatingly enough, using the concept of entropy (statistical law that all things tend toward disorder). However, doing this concept justice is way beyond the bounds of these few paragraphs.

There are other in-between positions that are still religious. You have the more philosophical contention that, granted that the process of evolution is mechanistic and self-perpetuating, the philosophical CONTEXT a priori (logically) has no default reason to support this paradigm over another. To take one example, why should biological objects possess the property of reproduction in the first place? Is there anything about the original step from biologically inactive to biologically active that dictates biological entities should also reproduce? This might sound like a facile question, but I think on deeper thought it's actually somewhat profound. Another point is more physical, but equally valid; why is the world "set up" to be mechanistic in the first place? This position of course doesn't get at the origins of life per se, but it is equally applicable to it on physical grounds. For the practical observer, these questions seem petty, but from a philosophical perspective, and certainly a religious perspective, these questions truly are open books. Moreover, God may be infered into any of these unknowns to the same effect, and much less objectionably, as into the sweeping role of "creator of everything."

We know evolution takes place empirically. Manmade experiments on isolated islands prove it. However, it does not necessarily logically follow that evolution therefore must have caused all life. Smart questioning would focus on the weak spots of the theory, rather than presenting a complete alternative to evolution. Hopefully, this is what the Harvard project will seek to accomplish, rather than lining up two mutually exclusive theories in a contest of apples and oranges. Certainly, this would "do justice" to the public debate, but scientifically it is a disservice.

The fact that proponents of creationist theories choose to insert God into the first frame, as it were, instead of into the things that are legitimately unknown, tells me that this is not a war on evolution. This is a war on science: Any scientific progress constitutes an effacement of God's glory, or something to that effect. This thinking shows up ALL THE TIME. Let there be no doubt about it: the inverse exists as well. Lots of scientific people think that, "well, since we have a few basic laws, and know that they could hypothetically apply to and explain everything, therefore God has no role, no reason to exist, and therefore must not exist." This is materialist atheism, and it is equally ludicrous as creationism. Unfortunately, we live in a country where whenever debates ensue, they take place between extreme poles. And hopefully our educational institutions won't repeat this mistake.

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