Sunday, July 02, 2006

Oliver Sacks on Evolution and Intelligent Design

Oliver Sacks, the world-famous neurologist and author, spoke at the national convention of the Freedom from Religion Foundation on November 12 2005, where he accepted the "Emperor Has No Clothes" award. In the excerpt below, taken from the June/July 2006 issue of Freethought Today, he briefly discusses intelligent design:

"How could a passionate and intelligent and curious person think about the world 5,000 years ago, or even 400 years ago, when there was so little scientific knowledge? Systematic investigation, science as we know it, really only started in the 17th century. We humans have a craving to understand, to get the big picture, to see some sort of all-embracing pattern, and religion has obviously filled that need for millennia. Before Darwin, it was very difficult to understand the richness of the biological world, how innumerable forms of animals and plants came to be. But to believe in a creator and so-called intelligent design now, a century and a half later, is bizarre, an intellectual retrogression, only intelligible in terms of the mind being dominated by emotional drives and needs.

Science increasingly obviates the need for a creator god, and increasingly "intelligent design" is a theory of the gaps: "You can't explain the bacterial flagellum? He made it." But the gaps in our knowledge of nature are steadily being filled -- this has always been the history of science.

It is frightening and grotesque that something like "intelligent design" should be presented as science, or used to replace science, particularly in our schools. Religion classes are fine; I enjoyed religion classes when I was in school [in the U.K.]. There were religion classes, art classes, and science classes, and they didn't contaminate each other. They were all different. But the situation we have today, where such lines are blurred, is very dangerous."


Robthenurse said...


How do I go about getting a full copy of the Olicar Sachs article/speech?

Many thanks,

Anonymous said...

It was a fantastic speach and it was published in Freethought today:

I don't know if it's been reprinted on the web yet--Oliver Sacks received the Emperor Has No Clothes award from the freedom from religion foundation--a great organization that has podcasts you can download as well. His speech can be read in its entirety in their June/July 2006 issue