Nobel Laureate: "Intelligent Design" is An Attack on All of Science

Herbert Kroemer, the winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics for 2000, was quite moved when he read physicist Marshall Berman’s essay “Intelligent Design: The New Creationism Threatens All of Science and Society” on the Back Page of the American Physical Society’s October 2005 issue of APS News.

He was so moved, he decided to “get engaged” with the issue, and sent a Letter to the Editor of the local Santa Barbara newspaper. This letter was printed, not as a simple Letter to the Editor, but rather as a Sunday guest commentary, in January 2006.

Dr. Kroemer has given his permission to have his complete article, not just the edited version printed in the Santa Barbara News-Press, reproduced here on the Thumb for posterity.

“Intelligent Design”: An Attack on All of Science by Professor Herbert Kroemer (UCSB)

The Theory of Intelligent Design, and other attacks on the science of biological evolution, are not merely attacks on the concept of evolution, but attacks on science itself — all of science. They are not the healthy clarifying debates within the scientific community by which science arrives at its understanding, where different scientists may initially interpret the evolving evidence differently, until new evidence settles the issue. They are religiously motivated attacks by outside groups who are simply in denial of the evidence, because it conflicts with their literal acceptance of biblical traditions that reflect the attempts of a great ancient civilization trying to understand the world in pre-scientific terms in the language of several thousand years ago.

Biological evolution is not the only concept in conflict with such a literal interpretation of the bible; other areas of science, like geophysics and astrophysics, come right behind. Indeed, many of the attackers of biological evolution attack those scientific disciplines as well. But these disciplines do not exist in isolation; they are areas where the recognized laws of physics are rigorously applied to the specific problems of the field. To attack them is an attack on physics itself, and with it an attack on the Galilean idea that the laws of science must be based on actual observation of the facts rather than on scriptural traditions: We are literally back to the spirit of the early-17th century attacks on Galileo.

Attacks on science are of concern not just to scientists; they threaten the continued prosperity and security of our entire nation in a world where we increasingly have to compete with other nations that have developed strong science-based technologies in areas that were once unchallenged domains of the United States. If we wish to continue to prosper in this environment we need, first and foremost, a work force that is highly educated in science, and capable of mastering advancing technologies based on continuing advances in science. The United States public education system below the university level has never put a sufficiently high value on science to permit filling this need with US-born individuals alone, but we were always able to fill the shortfall with immigrants. Attacks on science, if not rejected by the American public, will further reduce the already-too-low percentage of US citizens who opt for a science-oriented education, and at the same time they will reduce the attractiveness to foreign citizens of coming to the United States for an education or a career in science and in technologies based on continuing advances in science.

Comments are invited, provided they are relevant. My advice to ID proponents: don’t mess with Kroemer. He’s got his very own asteroid.