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Physics, Earth & Space Icon Physics, Earth & Space

In Astronomy, the Inference to Design Is Flourishing


Astronomers of late have been studying with great interest KIC 8462852, a star observed by the space observatory Kepler.

The star, nicknamed “Tabby’s star” after the astronomer who first noted its unusual behavior, has intervals of extreme occultation. Its brightness dims periodically by 20 percent, which implies that a very large object or structure orbits it. Astronomers have proposed natural explanations for the extreme periodic variation of the star’s light, but the possibility that the variation may be caused by an alien megastructure orbiting the star — a Dyson sphere of sorts — has been raised quite seriously (and appropriately) in scientific circles.

This is an implicit acknowledgement by scientists that the inference to intelligent design in nature is entirely appropriate when the evidence supports it. Intelligent design is science. The refusal to consider intelligent design as an explanation for a natural phenomenon, without regard for the evidence, is the substitution of ideology for science. This substitution of ideology for unbiased science is just what intelligent design deniers are doing in biology.

It is perfectly good science to consider that occultation of Tabby’s star may be due to intelligent design. And it is perfectly good science to consider that the genetic code or the intricate nanotechnology in living cells may be due to intelligent design. Good scientists should consider design as an explanation for natural phenomena whenever and wherever the evidence supports it.

Photos: Tabby’s star. Infrared: IPAC/NASA, Ultraviolet: STScI (NASA) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Michael Egnor

Senior Fellow, Center for Natural & Artificial Intelligence
Michael R. Egnor, MD, is a Professor of Neurosurgery and Pediatrics at State University of New York, Stony Brook, has served as the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery, and award-winning brain surgeon. He was named one of New York’s best doctors by the New York Magazine in 2005. He received his medical education at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and completed his residency at Jackson Memorial Hospital. His research on hydrocephalus has been published in journals including Journal of Neurosurgery, Pediatrics, and Cerebrospinal Fluid Research. He is on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Hydrocephalus Association in the United States and has lectured extensively throughout the United States and Europe.