Thursday, June 10, 2010

Creation/ID Jury Bias

In a legal system, juries are impanelled to hear evidence and pass judgment on a case according to the facts presented. When a jury is being selected, prosecutors are entitled to a certain number of challenges enabling them to exclude certain people from the jury panel. The legal term is challenge for cause. For instance, potential jurors in a capital trial who oppose the death sentence, or who have pre-judged the guilt or innocence of the defendant may be excluded. The defendant is thereby more likely to receive a fair trial.

The recognized truth of creation or intelligent design proposals is subject to “decisions” of scientists. In the courtroom of modern science, questions involving origins are decided by scientists. The public is conditioned to accept the verdict of the scientists based on their confidence that science verdicts are reliable. Science, however, is a human enterprise. Its methods and the truth of its conclusions depend on the bias of the scientists. This blog has often praised the benefits of scientists’ discoveries. We continue to affirm them. But we must always be mindful of the pervading human element in science.

By their own admission, scientists, especially evolutionary scientists who control the public microphone and educational media, are slanted toward metaphysical naturalism, also known as philosophical or ontological naturalism. These scientists do not believe in the existence of a creator. By extension, they do not acknowledge the possibility of intelligent design in either the cosmos or in our planet’s living systems. They would always, therefore, deliver a verdict in favor of naturalism, no matter how compelling the evidence pointing to design.

Even theistic scientists tacitly operate under the governance of methodological naturalism, offering their research results as if no supernatural explanation could even be proposed as a scientifically viable account for any observed phenomenon. Naturalistic scientists justify methodological naturalism, loudly complaining that the suggestion of supernatural intervention anywhere along the timeline of history should be excluded as an unscientific “God-of-the-gaps” solution.

Scientists committed to philosophical naturalism make up the origins jury. Their pronouncements on the credibility of creation and design have been heavily reported to the non-scientist population since the days of Charles Darwin: Fiat creation and intelligent design did not occur because no creator exists; neither design nor function can be attributed to a supernatural entity. In a 1996 survey by the journal Nature, only 5.5% of biological scientists reported belief in God. In other fields of science, belief was somewhat higher, but substantial majorities expressed disbelief in God. We must acknowledge the bias of scientists serving on the origins jury. In a civil court such a jury would not be impanelled.

Another complicating factor was the “judicial” ruling of scientists that consideration of possible actions of a deity in the physical realm is a religious question and, therefore, not even within the jurisdiction of their courtroom. The question of the appropriate scope of scientific investigation is exceedingly complex.

This state of affairs may be responsible for the frequent use of an oxymoronic phrase: atheistic science. Creationists use this term to express their displeasure over the conclusions of scientists on origins questions. Science is a method for discovering knowledge. But those practicing science could be atheistic, agnostic, or theistic. In each case their scientific conclusions could be colored by their worldview.

Science as a means of acquiring knowledge has made momentous strides in the past 500 years. As a former science educator, I enthusiastically acknowledge the exciting discoveries of science. But the human element in science, neither completely negative nor completely positive, must not be overlooked.