Over the weekend, after writing about him, I enjoyed exchanging a couple of tweets with the very amusing and quite unclassifiable Scott Adams. I was interested to find out that he’s a proponent of intelligent design — of a sort. As he recounted in a podcast on Saturday, starting at about 20 minutes in, this is a position he staked out 10 to 15 years ago. At that time he predicted “evolution would be debunked by science in my lifetime.” He was startled by the harsh reaction he received. “I was accused of being a creationist, an apologist for intelligent design,” he recounts. “Now, I’m not a believer, so I’m certainly not a creationist. I don’t have any religious belief.”
What he means by intelligent design is the idea that we are living in a computer simulation. We are overwhelmingly likely to be “copies” of some other humans who intelligently designed us, in a virtual reality. As Adams puts it, “The odds of us having an intelligent design, meaning we’re created by another species of humans, are pretty close to 100 percent.” On that, see Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom, “Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?” And see neuroscientist Michael Egnor’s post here, “Of Course You Aren’t Living in a Computer Simulation. Here’s Why.”
You Only Have to Be Open-Minded
I’m not going to try to argue with Adams on this. But take a moment to savor his imitation of an Internet troll responding to his (Adams’s) prediction about evolution. And notice once again that you don’t have to be a religious believer, just open-minded, to see through the charade that evolutionary theory has got everything about life and its origins all figured out. You need not have any position on God to doubt Darwin or to seriously entertain the thesis of intelligent design. Ask atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel, novelist Stephen King, or the late, great Tom Wolfe. Achieving a level of celebrity in your field can be just the thing to embolden you to say what you think without worrying how the censors (or the Internet trolls) will react.
Adams calls his prediction “bold” and there’s no denying that. It’s even bolder than the stance of physicist Brian Josephson, likewise not known as a religious believer, who says he’s only “80 percent” confident about ID having played a role in evolution. Of course Josephson is a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, and Scott Adams is a cartoonist and YouTube commentator. Still, fearless predictions and dashing stereotypes to the ground add pleasure to one’s day. Don’t you agree?
When Do You Get to Defy the “Consensus”?
While we’re on the subject of defying the oppressive “consensus” on intelligent design or evolution, when are you allowed to do that? I mean when can you, whether you’re a scientist or a layman, assume you are entitled to have your own thoughts in defiance of what the majority of scientists think?
On a new ID the Future podcast, historian of science Michael Keas talks with philosopher J.P. Moreland about that question. Download the podcast or listen to it here. As Moreland notes, in his new book Scientism and Secularism he offers a checklist for determining when you are, in fact, justified in doubting expert opinion. He mentions that as a past cancer patient, he did not defy his doctor’s recommendation as to which therapies would best suit his case.
But Moreland is a Darwin skeptic and he regards that as rational. Why? Because, for one thing, it’s clear that more than disinterested thinking lies behind the majority opinion on evolution. There are sociological, philosophical, and theological factors at work, often unacknowledged, in maintaining the majority view. In addition, Moreland says, there is a strong minority stance held among highly qualified scientists and scholars, offering rigorous arguments in favor of genuine (not simulated) design in biology and cosmology. These observations and others are sufficient to grant warrant to our skepticism.
It’s another enlightening conversation between Professor Moreland and Professor Keas, who has a new book coming out himself, Unbelievable: 7 Myths About the History and Future of Science and Religion. The publisher is offering a pre-publication discount of 50 percent. Highly recommended! For past ID the Future episodes with Keas and Moreland, see here and here.
Photo: Scott Adams, via YouTube/Real Coffee with Scott Adams (screen shot).