The Intelligent Design debate

Several months ago the issue of teaching intelligent design along with evolution (neo-Darwinism, the dominant theory of evolution taught today) came to the forefront when the Dover Board of Education decided to implement that change in their curriculum.  Probably all of us in Southern York County have read articles and editorials about it or have heard it on the news.

What strikes me is the lack of accurate information about what intelligent design is all about.  If you listen to some sources you might think it involves teaching Biblical creation alongside of evolution, but that’s far from the truth.  A more common approach is to not even address what intelligent design is, but imply or state that everyone knows that evolution is all but a proven fact and any other view must involve religious dogma or fanaticism that has no place in the classroom.  This latter argument is useful to the anti-intelligent design position because it tends to delegitimize and stifle any serious look at intelligent design on its own merits.

What is intelligent design?
Intelligent design is a scientific theory holding “that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not by an undirected process such as natural selection.” [1] Unlike creationism which attempts to prove the accuracy of the Biblical account of creation, intelligent design theory attempts to follow accepted scientific empirical methods to determine whether what we see in nature is the result of design (intelligent cause) or of an undirected cause such as natural selection.  The teaching of intelligent design in the classroom need not (and in the public classroom probably should not) involve religion or the Bible at all since it attempts no determination of what the intelligence might be.

The strong reaction by proponents of evolution in opposition to teaching about the theory of intelligent design is puzzling if this is a question of science.  On the surface it would appear that if intelligent design theory is so inaccurate then teaching it alongside of evolution would be a great way to illustrate the superiority of evolutionary theory.  You would also expect to see frequent references to its scientific weaknesses.

Science versus religion?
One argument is that intelligent design theory is based on a philisophical or religious ideology and is thus invalid.  The problem with that argument is that the same can be said of Darwinian evolution.  Few people realize that Darwin didn’t come to the theory of evolution based on scientific evidence.  He was seeking a naturalistic explanation for what exists in nature and developed evolutionary theory as a plausable answer.  He then set out to support that theory.

These two theories then represent two ideologies.  Neo-Darwinism begins with the philosophy that everything has a materialistic, natural cause and that there can be no other possibility.  We just need to discover what that naturalistic cause is.  What this does is eliminate non-natural causes without even considering their possibility, a rather unscientific approach.  Intelligent design removes that restriction, thus opening the door to non-natural causes such as a purposeful intelligence.  Proponents of both ideologies use scientific methods to support their theories.  Neither can claim they are driven purely by scientific evidence free of philosophical or religious (or anti-religious) notions.  They spring from different worldviews, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Dampening effect on scientific research?
Another reason some Darwinists object so strongly to teaching an alternative to evolution is the fear it will stifle science.  This is a more understandable and reasonable argument.  After all, if God (or some form of intelligence) simply created what we see in nature then doesn’t it follow that it is beyond our understanding?  If so then why study it?  Scientific research could come to a standstill, a totally unacceptable outcome.  It is important to address this fear.

Let’s suppose everyone agrees that chance can not explain what we see.  Does it follow that scientific research into how it got to be as we see it then end?  Certainly not!  Even if one believes that God created everything in nature, it does not follow that research into causes ends.  “Charles Darwin said ‘I look at every thing as having resulted from designed laws.’ If there are designed laws, then there is a designer who has engineered and placed those laws in order so that the cosmos can function.” [2] I believe that God sometimes acts directly to bring things into existence, and that was a major causal factor for what exists in nature.  He nonetheless also works through natural processes and laws He made possible to achieve a result by a series of events.  Furthermore, there is much we can learn by researching how nature works and has evolved since it was first originated.  That means that even with intelligent design theory there is a strong place for research since we can learn and benefit from these natural laws and processes.  In this there is no conflict between science and religion.

What should be taught?
An increasing number of scientists are coming to the conclusion that neo-Darwinian evolution is not tenable based purely on science.  Such challenges to Darwinian evolution focus not on alternatives such as intelligent design, but rather on the problems of evolution itself.  There are many such problems that are unfortunately seldom taught.  The theory of evolution is almost always presented uncritically as though everything supports it when that is just not the case.

A proper treatment of any theory includes presenting some of the theory’s shortcomings from credible sources such as peer-reviewed scientific journals.  This should be the practice in all public schools regardless of whether intelligent design is taught.  The option for school districts and teachers to include the scientific theory of intelligent design in their curriculum should also be allowed though not mandated by the government.  It is every bit as valid as neo-Darwinian evolution.

1. Discovery Institute
2. John Clayton, “Looking for Peace in the Science and Religion Relationship” 2004

Posted by Dan Baldwin on 03/05/2005 at 11:17 AM in Science
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Comments

After reviewing this article a few observations came to mind. This battle is not being fought in the realm of science as some would believe. This battle is being fought squarely in the realm of philosophy. Evolution has never been and will never be “provable”. It resides in the realm of a philosophical theory. A belief that since there is no “god” things had to evolve naturally. Instead of allowing an open scientific study of intelligent design along side of evolution the proponents of the evolutionary theory would rather slam the door in the face of open scientific study in the name of a closed philosophical belief. It is a shame that our children are being denied a truly open scientific study of a subject as important as the origins of life due to the close mindedness of a few individuals.
Why are the proponents of evolution so antagonistic against intelligent design? The article attempts to separate creationism from intelligent design. In the eyes of an atheist whether the God of the Bible or another “god” designed everything doesn’t make a difference. The introduction of a designer into creation necessitates a being far superior to us. I believe that most of those who espouse the belief of evolution are inwardly running away from the possibility of a creator or designer as it were. If it were proven that there is a designer, the neo –Darwinist would be removed from his throne and forced to admit that he is not the master of his fate. The premise however inconclusive that the “faithful” hold so dearly is in reality a straw man built not on facts but instead on a misguided need to destroy God in the thoughts and minds of his fellow man. This need is prevalent among some atheists and many of those who blindly follow the mantra of the neo- Darwinist.
Every since the beginning of human history the majority of human kind has realized that there is a designer. Then came the age of “enlightenment” when man began questioning openly the reality of a designer God. In the atheists mind over the past one hundred years or so man has superseded the God of the universe and has usurped His throne for himself. With scientific evidence as strong as irreducible complexity,the big bang theory and the Cambrian explosion backing intelligent design the neo-Darwinist is forced to close his eyes and turn his head because of his philosophical underpinnings. He realizes that the theory of evolution is on a shaky foundation. 
Understanding that he needed intermediate fossils to bolster his theory, Darwin admitted that without these fossils his theory wouldn’t stand. He felt that some time in the future these fossils would be found. Science has advanced by leaps and bounds since Darwin was promoting his theory. It has been said that science can go back at least 1 billion years if not longer. Even with these great advancements there has been no intermediate fossils found. With no solid scientific evidence to back their theory and the fear of intelligent design promoting a creator the neo-Darwinist is forced into using the often misused separation of church and state to try to keep intelligent design out of our schools. Fortunately for the neo-Darwinists the lie of evolution has been so ingrained in the minds of those who were educated in our public schools that they react to intelligent design without the least bit of investigation to see if there is any merit to the theory. They swallow the lie of intelligent design being a promotion of religion instead of an alterative cause of life and throw the baby out with the bath water. They are no doubt for the most part honest and well meaning individuals who have been indoctrinated into the idea that if we let any vestige of what could turn out to be religion into our schools that somehow overnight we will become a country ruled by a certain religious faction not unlike some countries in the middle east. It is interesting to note that the banner of the politically correct is tolerance. But that’s another story.
In conclusion we as free thinking individuals need to remain free to be able to research all aspects of our lives. Not only where we are going, and why we are here but how we got here. Evolution is on shaky ground as noted in the article. Some of its greatest opponents interestingly enough, are not necessarily coming from the “religious right” but instead from inside the scientific community! Those who for quite some time blindly followed the lead of the neo-Darwinist are beginning to step out of the fold and admit the short comings of evolution. If we want to continue to study evolution as a theory of life so be it. Just don’t postulate it as the only proved possibility of life. It isn’t even close.

Posted by Aragorn  on  12/31/2005  at  06:30 PM

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