Intelligent Design

I have been growing more and more convicted lately about the need in our society for people to speak out against naturalistic neo-Darwinism and not be bullied into silence by the contempt with which intelligent design is often regarded. I am going to frame my thoughts here in a series of questions:

1) Should intelligent design (hereafter ID) be taught in schools?

Whether ID is right or wrong, students should be given all the facts, hear all the arguments, be free to ask any question, and be free to follow the evidence wherever it leads. This is the essence of free academic inquiry.

2) But is there really a debate?

A large chunk of the general population and many in the scientific community with strong academic credentials (Michael Behe, Stephen Meyer, William Dembski, Jonathan Wells, to name a few) question whether neo-Darwinism can explain all the facts. There is only no debate about this if you dismiss the other side as non-existent. It may be a lop-sided debate, but to claim that there is NO debate is simply factually incorrect.

3) But isn’t ID just pseudo-science that only ignorant people take seriously?

The biggest problem in this debate is that anti-ID voices in the scientific community and more generally in culture rely more upon bullying, name calling, caricaturing, labeling, dismissing, and intimidating than they do on arguing. Appeals to authority are frequent and thundering; appeals to evidence are rare. If ID is really so stupid, shouldn’t it be easy to prove that? Why, then, the need for ideological bullying?

4) But isn’t ID not really science?

This whole controversy gets to the very heart and definition of science. ID is only not science if you define science in such a way that it can only study that which has naturalistic causes. But this is a rather restrictive definition of science which is not based on any empirical observations of the world, but on a philosophical presupposition, namely naturalism. This is not the definition of science that Newton or Kepler or Einstein worked under, nor has it been shown why intelligent causes must be out of bounds in order for something to be studied scientifically.

5) But why do so many scientists espouse evolution?

In our cultural and intellectual setting philosophical naturalism has a very strong grip on the sciences. Fighting against this pressure is very difficult, as Ben Stein’s movie shows. In any case, the issue should be settled not by an appeal to numbers, but to evidence.

6) What evidence is there for ID?

The irreducible complexity of the first cell and sudden explosions in the fossil record (e.g., the cambrian explosion) would be two examples of events or data that are best explained by an intelligent cause. Darwin himself validated both of these points. He thought the cell was relatively simple: we know today that its unimaginably vast, intricate, and complex, needing all of its various parts to be functioning to have any survival value at all. He also admitted the lack of transitional life forms in the fossil record stood against his theory. He thought later discoveries would vindicate him; they have not.

7) Why is it important for Christians and others who question neo-Darwinism to speak out on this issue?

Its important because truth is important, its important because academic freedom is important, and its important because the worldview that normally corresponds to neo-Darwinism is a brutal one which dehumanizes people.

8) But what if ID is wrong?

If it is wrong, it should be proven so by science, not bullied into silence by the powers that be. People should be allowed to challenge the consensus – just like Darwin did.

5 Comments

  1. ErinOrtlund

    I think the anthropic principle is one of the most powerful arguments I’ve heard for intelligent design–that our universe is finely tuned for life. I understand people like Dawkins hate this argument, and instead posit that we live in a multiverse, so it’s not unlikely that one universe out of many would be able to host life.

    What do you think of the fact that Michael Behe accepts common descent? I wonder how many ID folks do.

    That’s terrible if people are being bullied about what they research.

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  2. Gavin Ortlund

    Hey Erin – yeah, I am not sure how many ID people accept common descent. I had heard that Behe does, but don’t know much about his specific position. I agree about the anthropic principle, and I personally would see the Big Bang as a very powerful testimony to a Designer as well, since something cannot come from nothing. Its just amazing to think that time itself had a beginning.

    Thanks, I always appreciate your comments.

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  3. ErinOrtlund

    I know–an atheist has to believe that mountains and opera and love just randomly emerged from nothing. Seems to me like that takes faith (if that’s the word) just as much as believing in a Creator.

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  4. ErinOrtlund

    P.S. Do you still read the Jesus Creed blog? I just checked it and the post today is about the fine-tuned universe. A scientist who goes by RJS is reviewing an Alister McGrath book about natural theology. She frequently posts about science and faith issues–I bet these posts would be interesting to you, especially as the commenters hold a wide variety of views which make the discussions interesting. http://blog.beliefnet.com/jesuscreed/2009/06/a-fine-tuned-universe-1-rjs.html#more

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  5. Michael Hausam

    So did you see Expelled? Great analysis of the social/political pressures within academia and the culture in general on this issue.

    Like

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