Wednesday, August 24, 2005

String theory, intelligent design

"Intelligent design" vs. theory of evolution is the (allegedly) scientific controversy everyone has heard about, but there are many other issues that are more controversial in genuine science, for instance string theory in physics.

Not Even Wrong, authored by Peter Woit, is a blog that is well-known to folks who follow the string theory issue. Woit has just announced he's been working for several years on a book that will be published sometime next year to present his views on the subject.

Sean Carroll is an astrophysicist who takes the pro-string theory viewpoint, in opposition to Woit. He's a principal contributor at Cosmic Variance and posted some comments on Woit's forthcoming book. The main point of Carroll's post isn't to talk about Woit's book (which isn't out yet, after all), but rather to say a few things about how the genuine scientific debate over string theory differs from the politico-religious assault on the theory of evolution by "intelligent design theory". Some of the comments on the post are enlightening as well (while others are just venting).

I've discussed the "intelligent design" scam enough before, and have only one more thing to add at this point. And that is, you can see the duplicity of right-wing politicians who've begun to try to make political hay out of this issue -- which is what the objective of the controversy has really been all along -- in their calls to "teach the controversy". Though this might seem like a reasonable request, it is only if the controversy is taught in (say) a social studies or a philosophy class, because this is entirely a political/religious/philosophical controversy, rather than a scientific one. It would be as ridiculous to deal seriously with "intelligent design" in biology classes as it would be to deal with other politically-motivated biological theories like Lysenkoism in Stalin's Russia or the racial superiority theories of Hitler's Germany. (Hey, those are "scientific" theories too. Shouldn't they also be taught in biology classes?)

As for the legitimate debates surrounding string theory, that's a much larger and more important topic I expect to comment a lot more on from time to time...

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