A Nobel Prize Winning Physicist Endorses What?

We have always been able to dismiss arguments in favor of the Discovery Institute’s “theory” of intelligent design, and their supporters have always impressed us as marginal characters at best. That’s why the title of the latest post at the Discoveroids’ creationist blog really surprised us. It’s Physicist and Nobel Laureate Brian Josephson — Intelligent Design Is “Valid Science”, and it was written by Klinghoffer. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

Brian Josephson, Nobel Prize-winning physicist, has joined the ranks of prominent scientists endorsing Stephen Meyer’s upcoming book, Return of the God Hypothesis.

What? A Nobel Prize-winning physicist is supporting Meyer’s book? What’s going on here? Has the flat Earth suddenly flipped upside-down or something? This can’t be happening! Oh, in case you haven’t heard about that book, we’ve posted about it several times, most recently The Biggest News in the History of the Universe.

Let’s get back to Klinghoffer’s post. He says:

Josephson, an emeritus professor at Cambridge University and Fellow of the Royal Society, is persuaded by Meyer that intelligent design is “valid science.” Obviously, it’s gratifying to win praise from an eminent scientist, but all the more so given that his own field is the linchpin of Meyer’s case for God.

Before concluding that we’ve lost our mind, we decided to learn something about Josephson. Wikipedia has a write-up on him: Brian Josephson. They say:

Brian David Josephson FRS (born 4 January 1940) is a Welsh theoretical physicist and professor emeritus of physics at the University of Cambridge. Best known for his pioneering work on superconductivity and quantum tunnelling, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1973 for his prediction of the Josephson effect, made in 1962 when he was a 22-year-old PhD student at Cambridge University.

Wow — he was only 22 when he did the work that won the Nobel Prize. Impressive! And this guy endorses the Discoveroids’ “science” of intelligent design? Let’s read a bit more from the Wikipedia article:

In the early 1970s, Josephson took up Transcendental Meditation and turned his attention to issues outside the boundaries of mainstream science.

Ah, things are starting to make sense. After that, Wikipedia tells us:

He has expressed support for topics such as parapsychology, water memory and cold fusion, which has made him a focus of criticism from fellow scientists.

Wikipedia goes on and on discussing Josephson’s, ah, unconventional views, but there’s no need to quote any more. We’ve seen enough to understand the situation. If he now supports the Discoveroids, it probably won’t be any surprise to those who know him.

The rest of Klinghoffer’s post is just a link to where Meyer’s book can be pre-ordered, so this is where we leave him. But hey — Meyer’s work is praised by a Nobel Prize winner, and that’s a fact. Make of it what you will.

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12 responses to “A Nobel Prize Winning Physicist Endorses What?

  1. A sad case. His endorsement will be a total turn-off for anyone who knows anything about him

  2. Theodore J Lawry

    He is still (I hope) way ahead of Frank Tipler who co-wrote a good book with Wheeler, and then The Physics of Immortality: Modern Cosmology, God and the Resurrection of the Dead whose title says it all.

  3. “he was only 22 when he did the work that won the Nobel Prize”
    Actually most physicists do their most important work before they’re 30. Einstein wrote his Annus Mirabilis papers when he was 26.
    Neither being a physicist nor winning a Nobel Price guarantees you from lunacy. Michiu Kaku (involved with the development of string theory) has drawn some attention in the past; William Shockley was a proponent of racism and eugenics.
    They are exceptions though. The Law of Large Numbers applies – collect enough prominent physicists and you’ll find a few loonies. Heck, Sir Isaac Newton himself thought his occult studies more important than the work he’s remembered for.
    Humans are peculiar beings.

  4. Dave Luckett

    It happens. Sometimes brilliance runs close to madness, and from his other interests, that may be true of Josephson. More often, people go off the rails when they age. If he was born in 1940, he’s 80 or 81 years of age now.

    I have noticed that as I approach that dark gulf that lies across everyone’s path, I seek more earnestly for bridges. I see none, but that doesn’t mean I won’t ever. Maybe Josephson is seeking more anxiously than I.

    But there is one other explanation, not having to do with Josephson himself. Klankdropper puts quote marks around one sentence, which he attributes to Josephson: “This book (Meyer’s “Return of the God Hypothesis”) makes it clear that far from being an unscientific claim, intelligent design is valid science”. Yes, but this is Klonghopper talking. I would trust him to give an accurate and in-context quotation about as far as I could throw him, one-handed, against the wind. No, less than that. I would trust him, and the DI, to do exactly the opposite, as the default.

    If Josephson actually wrote that sentence, and meant it exactly as it appears, in context, it’s manna from Heaven for the DI. But wait a moment. Googling the entire sentence with Josephson’s name gives no returns except the DI itself. Where did he write this? Where did it appear? What is the context?

    I’ll reserve judgement until the rest is known.

  5. @DaveL: your distrust is completely justified. However the Wikipedia lemma on Brian Josephson largely confirms what Kclunckerduncker writes. Still he may not be a full blown creationist, because he doesn’t flat out reject evolution theory (especially common descent).

    I’ve only listened to the first answer, because it already contained enough blablabla. He does say “Intelligent design is valid science” indeed.

  6. Dave Luckett

    Thank you, FrankB. I couldn’t find it.

    But I listened with care, and I did not hear Josephson say, “Intelligent design is valid science”. Nor did I hear the words Klunkhurler put in quotes. The closest I heard Josephson come was “They (theistic evolution accepters) therefore said, we may have these beliefs, but let’s see what science can tell us. And that’s what intelligent design is. It isn’t creationism in disguise at all”.

    Now, that’s also false. Intelligent design as insinuated by the DI is precisely creationism in disguise, as Judge Jones found. But still, Josephson did not say, “Intelligent design is valid science”, here at least. He said it wasn’t creationism, that’s all.

    Mind you, the interview demonstrates that Josephson is a theist who believes (80%, he says) in theistic evolution as a process in which God intervenes from time to time, sometimes even breaking His own laws to do so. He handwaved away the question of whether that limits God’s providence – that He can’t foresee all things from the start, at least up to the point where humans gain the knowledge of good and evil, and hence, free will. Josephson talks vaguely about God operating on another level. What he means by that, I’m unable to say.

    But after all that, I still have no evidence that Josephson said what Klanghopper said he said. I wouldn’t believe Klunkdropper if he told me the sky was blue, unless I checked, because it might have changed colour. So I don’t think Josephson actually said that.

  7. Between 1:45 and 2:10 Josephson says something like

    “… but did believe that God played a role in creation them and thought can we do anything about this scientifically …. would let’s see what science can tell us and that is what intelligent design actually is.”
    The question was “what is your take?”

    I take the liberty of understanding this as support for ID, ie “ID is valid science”. We should remember though that there is no sharp demarcation line. So I’ll be happy to stand corrected, especially when Josephson reacts in public.
    At the moment I don’t feel delving any deeper; anyone with more stamina than me might want to take a look at

    http://www.tcm.phy.cam.ac.uk/~bdj10/

    and closertotruth dot com (do a search on Brian Josephson).

  8. Having taught genetics and molecular biology for 42 years I care not what a Nobel laureate or any other physicist says about evolution or any other topic in biology, just as they probably don’t care about what I have to say about quantum physics. Now let the IDiots get the endorsement of a few Nobel laureates in biology and maybe they will have something–NOT. I know that the DI collectively gets a hard-on every time they can get a quote (real or fake) from a real scientist, but it really isn’t going to convince anyone except other IDiots. They will still have to swim in the back waters of “science” without any future of making it into the ocean of real science.

  9. BK – precisely. Many folks have the notion if one is highly accomplished in a singular area, they must be accomplished in all areas.. Celebrities come to mind…..

  10. It’s true that Intelligent Design can be put to the scientific test, so it’s science, but then it utterly fails. Even a cursorial look at a living specimen reveals sloppy “designs” that no intelligent designer would make.
    While DI might get all excited about the rantings of a Nobel laureate seemingly endorsing their futile endeavor, besides his flapping gums where’s the evidence? It’s nice to name drop, but an argument from authority (making a comment outside his field) isn’t good for anything except maybe a little fundraising.

  11. I would expect that the many clever people who are supporting ID would help to explain what ID is. Why is it that there is no progress in describing how ID provides an alternative explanation for the variety of life?

  12. Wholeheartedly agree with Biokid, Douglas E, and Troy — genius in one field of science doesn’t guarantee expertise in another. And no matter how you slice it, DI is not science. It’s theology.