On today’s ID the Future, philosopher of science Paul Nelson explores an intriguing tension in the thinking of famous scientist and science popularizer Carl Sagan concerning his agnosticism shading into atheism on the one hand, and on the other hand his embrace of certain ideas consistent with the theory of intelligent design. As Nelson is quick to clarify, if Sagan had lived to see the rise of the contemporary intelligent design movement, he probably would have rejected it, particularly its theistic implications. And yet, Nelson says, Sagan’s thinking and arguments laid out in his Gifford lectures and in his science fiction novel Contact strongly support the idea that intelligent design can be detected. Nelson goes further, saying that if we take the methods Sagan laid out for detecting intelligently designed radio signals from extra-terrestrial intelligence, and apply them to patterns in nature that ID theorists have pointed to (such as DNA), it’s hard not to see his methodology triggering a design inference. Tune in to hear Nelson’s reflections on this important tension in Sagan’s thinking, and what, according to Nelson, prevented Sagan from fully resolving it.
On this episode of ID the Future, host Robert Marks continues his conversation with Oxford University mathematician John Lennox about Lennox’s new book 2084: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity. Lennox reviews mythology and science fiction writing stretching from the ancient poet Hesiod to the novelist Dan Brown and MIT physicist Max Tegmark. He says that artificial intelligence (AI) predictions down through the ages are all heavily dependent on theological and philosophical presuppositions. He and Marks also discuss AI’s cousin, transhumanism, its surprising history, and its potentially very dark future, including the risk of what C.S. Lewis called “the abolition of man.”
On this episode of ID the Future, Kirk Durston, a biophysicist focused on identifying high-information-density parts of proteins, completes a three-part series on three categories of science: experimental, inferential, and fantasy science. Fantasy science makes inferential leaps so huge that virtually none of it is testable, either by the standards of experimental science or by those of the historical sciences, which reason to the best explanation by process of elimination. One example of fantasy science, according to Durston, is the multiverse. As he insists, an imaginative story largely untethered from evidence and testing but told using math instead of literary devices is still an imaginative story untethered from evidence and testing. Scientism, “atheism dressed up in a lab coat,” can lead to fantasy science of this kind because it commits itself to materialistic conclusions for philosophical reasons, not scientific ones.
On this episode of ID the Future, host Andrew McDiarmid and historian of science Michael Keas turn from the past to the future. With Keas’ new ISI book Unbelievable: 7 Myths About the History and Future of Science and Religion as a launching point, Keas describes the surprisingly religious role played by much modern-day atheistic science fiction. Despite some notable exceptions, especially C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy, “modern day atheism is becoming more and more indistinguishable from the occult, and science fiction is a part of that,” Keas tells us. And who are the gods of the new occult? Listen in and learn.