The Theory of Evolution is viewed by certain religious groups as a threat to their beliefs. Failing over the past two decades to have evolution removed completely from public school science programs, they have now taken up the strategy of demanding equal time for “scientific alternatives” to evolutionary theory. The clearly religious (and totally unsupported) beliefs of "young-earth creationism" have been repudiated by the courts as valid science. Intelligent Design (ID) is a new tactic, claiming that it can offer a truly scientific alternative to the theory of evolution.
What is it?
Simply stated, the ID proposition holds that certain biological structures (cellular features, organic molecules) are inherently too complex to have come into existence through the hit or miss process of evolution. ID is a descendent of theologian William Paley's 1803 argument that, since biological organisms resemble finely crafted machines, they must have been created by an extraordinary craftsman — identified as God by Paley and now referred to euphemistically as the "Intelligent Designer."
Why hasn’t the idea caught on with the natural science community?
There is no theory of intelligent design. Even the major proponents cannot agree on how to determine precisely when design has taken place, or how to distinguish between what has been designed and what has evolved. There is no ID research. There are no published scientific studies using ID-based experiments that test any specific aspect of ID, nor produce any new, usable knowledge. ID proposes no testable hypotheses to explain how the alleged design happens. ID writers have proposed vague philosophical concepts for use in detecting design ("irreducible complexity" and "complex specified information"), but they offer no empirical means for applying these concepts to actual reality.
Proponents of Intelligent Design have used the popular press to promote their idea, side-stepping the usual scientific forums for discussion - professional journals and scientific meetings. Thus the concept has never received the peer review and critical examination to which all scientific theories have been subjected.
Intelligent Design is the antithesis of science. Because the ID concept requires the one-time action of a supernatural being, it cannot be used in the predictive capacity which is at the heart of the scientific method. ID proponents intentionally stop short of asking “how” design happens. Once a supernatural cause for a biological structure or function is proposed, all inquiry necessarily stops (why keep looking when you have the answer). Where would we be today if medical practitioners of an earlier age had simply accepted that disease was caused by evil spirits - simply another form of intelligent designer.
If ID was equivalent to, or had any advantages over evolutionary theory, scientists, especially
microbiologists and medical researchers, would take to it in a heartbeat. But it doesn't - and they
don’t. ID may sound scientific, but at a very practical level, it's useless to scientists in their
everyday work, so they don't use it.
Intelligent Design is an inherently religious viewpoint - and bad religion at that.
Throughout the living world there are organisms and biological structures having less than optimal function, a situation which argues strongly against an intelligent designer, but is fully consistent with the “hit or miss”, just-good-enough processes of Evolution. Design is only in the eye of the beholder. It boils down to an individual saying, “If I can’t explain it, it must be due to an intelligent ‘agent’ (i.e., God).” This posits a “God of the gaps” who has designed only some parts of the world, implying that there are many parts that God did not design. Most theologians find such an argument offensive. Such a theory of ID, they maintain, guarantees a diminishing sphere for religion as new scientific explanations are found
Many ID proponents claim that science, by limiting itself to"natural" explanations, inherently embraces Philosophical Naturalism, the atheistic belief that all phenomena result only from natural causes. Therefore, they see a theory of evolution that does not specifically include the "intelligent design" of God as not only incomplete, but in fact the source of a philosophy of godless materialism. ID is wrong about this; science neither embraces nor endorses philosophical Naturalism. Science is purposely limited to seeking natural explanations for observable phenomena because those are the only phenomena that can be tested repeatedly and objectively. It does not attempt to offer theological or supernatural explanations for such phenomena. Neither does science attempt to explain our moral, aesthetic, or spiritual experience; these fall outside the
realm of science.
Acceptance of ID in the science classroom means we would be applying scientific methodology and investigation into the nature and identify of God. This is the realm of religion where the scientific method with its reliance on reproducible evidence and objective tests is no longer useful. Science has no business and no interest in answering such questions of faith.
Intelligent Design Creationism: n 1. the theological or philosophical concept that the complexity of life and the universe suggests planning and periodic special acts of intervention by God. 2. a form of creationism; anti-evolution arguments using the term "Intelligent Designer" instead of God. 3. distinguish from "Theistic evolution" which postulates god acting through Evolutionary and other natural mechanisms to create new Species. syn: creationism, Paleyism.
Ohio Citizens for Science
18 Mar 05