This article covers much of what Intelligent Design is and isn’t. I also discusses some aspects of evolution.
A long time ago I wrote an article called Cut the Evolution Crap in which I criticized the so-called “scientific community” for its treatment of intelligent design and its failure both to make known the weaknesses of Neodarwinian Macroevolution and to educate our next generation in a fair and balanced way. I also began to touch on the hypocrisy and flaws of the operation of that self-proclaimed “skeptic” community, but trust me, I didn’t get past the tip of the iceberg.
They’re at it again in more ways than one. This article also covers how they are treating Intelligent Design and in two very soon to come articles I will cover how they are abusing our political system as well. Keep in mind here that I love real science, but the self proclaimed “scientific community” is majorly comprised of pseudoscientific political cronies. They are the ones that get under my skin and who I will often simply reference as “they.” They are not all scientists by any means.
Intelligent Design (ID) is not creationism. It is science.
I’ll admit that there are people who claim to support ID without really understanding it. Some of these supporters of ID themselves may even confuse ID with creationism. While it may not be easy, the critical thinker needs to learn to look for the best support for an idea and attempt to argue against that instead of cherry-picking. Don’t talk to Joe, ask Joe who the leading authority in the field is and go talk to that guy instead. You could really set the bar high actually read an authoritative book on the subject.
However most articles I have read which equate ID with creationism are not from ignorant supporters of the idea, but from critics of the idea who are either ignorant, willingly ignorant or outright informed slanderers who view themselves as beating their potential competitors more than squashing the truth.
They are supporters of neodarwinism and misinformed critics of ID. For example, many of the low ratings on the amazon page of the book Darwin’s Doubt, which is a very current and quality book on ID by the way, include comments supporting such a low rating which clearly reveal that the rater has never actually read the book and they are simple haters not raters. Many of the high ratings are from people who actually read the book. Many of these people are secular professors and such. It is interesting to observe the high correlation between people who have actually read these books and the number of people who are beginning to question the very outdated, despite the word’s prefix, story of neodarwinism.
Let me give you a layman’s lesson in ID and neodarwinism. To begin with, neodarwinism is not the same as evolution. Evolution refers at least to both macro and microevolution, and can also refer to a variety of other things. The word evolution should be avoided due to its lack of specificity. It is employed as a trick because scientists can give evidence for microevolution and then claim macroevolution is true by using the less specific word.
Neodarwinism is a kind of macroevolution, probably the most popular kind, and it seeks to explain that all genetic variety came from common descent through natural selection and random variation. Macroevolution is in fact merely a hypothesis which has never been observed, making it an unproven theory rather than a foundational principle of science.
Microevolution, the adaptation of organisms to their environment, has been observed, however it has never been observed to lead to the development of new kinds of organisms. For example, bacteria and finches adapt but they are still bacteria and finches. Never to be burdened by data, the majority of our “very skeptical” scientific community assumes that microevolution eventually leads to macroevolution.
“Eventually” is the key word here. The inappropriate extrapolation of conclusions drawn from the science of microevolution into the unproven religious belief system of neodarwinian macroevolution would imply that the time it takes for a new animal to develop is billions of years. In fact there is a whole branch of biology dedicated to the calculation of these estimated requirements of time which is called Population Genetics. While the fact that the presumed time frame is billions of years is already kind of a big deal because it proves that we could never actually test the hypothesis, it is even more of a big deal for an entirely different reason.
There is a thing called the Cambrian Explosion which is widely documented by scientists of all stripes. Darwin himself knew about it and it lead to the one doubt Darwin wrote about in his own book on the theory of evolution, thus the name of Stephen C. Meyer‘s book “Darwin’s Doubt” which explores the issue. You really should read it.
Before the Cambrian Explosion most life on earth was composed of single-celled organisms. During the Cambrian Explosion, virtually all of the phyla of different animals suddenly emerged and have remained relatively unchanged except for relatively minor adaptations since. Here’s the issue: The Cambrian Explosion occurred in a period of about 40-80 million years. In other words, even if we overlook the fact that the neodarwinistic explanation is a religious belief system, completely unable to be proven or tested, we find the further problem that the explanation isn’t even able to accomplish its narrow purpose which is to explain the speed and variety of life we observe. More information on the Cambrian Explosion is available at this Wikipedia link.
Neither does neodarwinism account for the origin of life. It says “this is how animals and plants and such came from a common ancestor, a common cell,” but makes no attempt to explain how that cell got there in the first place. There are a sea of biased scientists trying their best to explain how chemicals could spontaneously produce a cell given a long period of time, but they have failed for various reasons.
Those reasons include the fact that the earth is relatively young compared to the amount of time they would need, the fact that every time they think they have developed a good model it turns out that the cell is even more complicated than they realized, the problem of irreducible complexity and the obvious problem that even if a cell was created the odds are infinitesimal that it would survive to reproduce into a stable system of biological life.
Interestingly, when confronted with only a small portion of these problems by Ben Stein in a documentary called Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, the atheist priest-king and expert evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins brought up the idea of “seeding.” Seeding, as you will see, is the idea that perhaps aliens came and spread around the original cells which would eventually descend into modern plants and animals. On the one hand this is laughable because it only kicks the can down the road. Now we have to explore evolution on a planet we aren’t even sure exists! How’s that for observable and scientific? On the other hand this suggestion of seeding is even more laughable because this amounts to ID. Watch for yourself:
ID says that some things are the product of intelligence like computer software, watches and the carvings of the faces on Mt Rushmore. In other words it is consistent with common sense. I think this would be a great motto to distinguish the two schools of thought; “Neodarwinism, common descent, Intelligent Design, common sense.”
ID is not creationism, although it could be argued that it owes some of its heritage to creationism. To see both why it could owe its heritage there and also to emphasize the differences, let’s cover what exactly creationism is.
The creationist movement really came in two waves. The first wave was before Darwin’s time and lasted roughly from the dawn of the human intelligence until Darwin’s time. Prior to Darwin, this was how most people thought that speciation, the development of various species, occurred.
People thought that if you wanted a hairier sheep, in order to get more wool for example, you had to breed it. They thought that there was a little random variation, but that to get that random variation to work in a specified direction you had to have intelligence.
As the scientific method spread through society, skeptical pressure began to mount towards this idea, which at the time was more of a presumption than a thesis. Upon this mounting pressure the idea of intelligent design developed some academic support, but it was of a minimally rigorous quality. The support for design was largely logical and philosophical support, rather than scientific support, and included arguments such as the famous original arguments from design like Paley’s Watchmaker Analogy. Paley’s argument, which was and still is highly intuitive but lacked scientific rigor, was published in 1802.
Darwin was born in 1809. He publish The Origin of Species in 1859. The work was very good for its time, outperforming Lamarkism and other competing scientific theories on the origin of species. Interestingly it was this process of elimination which became considered as proof of Darwinism. Even at the time there was data, such as the Cambrian Explosion, which Darwin could not explain. Much more data, such as the surprising complexity of the cell, would come soon after. The reason Darwanism was adopted was not because it perfectly explained much of anything. Rather, it simply explained the data better than the alternative theories at the time.
Interestingly, the line of thinking using the process of elimination is a logical and philosophical form of reasoning rather than a purely scientific one. Of course the entire idea that philosophy and science can exist without each other is a completely garbage line of thinking which I address in this article, but it is worth mentioning because so many proponents of science seek to create that false dichotomy as a tactic in crafting the debate around how science should work.
The second wave of creationism is the kind associated with the Scopes Trial. It was a product of the tension of religious and scientific thought at the time. It was the wave of creationism which occurred after the publication of Darwin’s work in 1859. I think it is inaccurate to say that at any point in time, even in the present time, the idea of creationism was ever really crushed out of the population. While I think the majority certainly moved away from a creationist position, I do think a minority always and still does exist.
I think that the year 1925 when Scopes lost that trial really serves as a good historical market for about the time when Darwinistic thought took hold of the majority of society. After that we begin to see a really distinct change in the battle between creationists and darwinists with the creationists on the loosing side. I think that as a result of being on the loosing side creationists really began to diversify their arguments. Before, creationist arguments were largely religious or philosophical. There were some scientific objections raised to Darwinism, but these objections were more arguments against Darwinism or for how to improve Darwinism rather than arguments for some alternative theory.
The modern use of the term intelligent design in order to refer to a field of scientific inquiry began in 1987 in the book Of Pandas and People. I agree that this use was originally used to essentially describe what was at the time still second wave creationism, but it was a strong sign that a subgroup of these creationists were really trying to create a legitimate and rigorous science of study. Their goal was to be able to create scientific tests to indicate whether or not a particular thing was created by intelligence. Was their work motivated by trying to prove that God exists? To a large degree I think so. Were they biased and poor scientists at that point in time? I think so, but it was a step in the right direction. It was no longer a group of preachers arguing, “It says so in the Bible therefore it’s true!” It was a group of unorthodox scientists trying to turn an idea into something consistent with the scientific method. That was at least a respectable start.
Fast forward 10-20 years and the field had done the trick. The late 80s were when Intelligent Design began to look like a science. Things progressed greatly through the 90s. By the 2000s the field was solid as a science. Today the field is not only solid science, but it is in fact changing the way even the most stubborn critics have been thinking for many years. In my view, three principal works finally conclusively turned the design hypothesis into a scientifically rigorous area of study:
- The Design Inference by William A. Dembski, 1998.
- Signature in the Cell by Stephen C. Meyer, 2009.
- Darwin’s Doubt by Stephen C. Meyer, 2013.
In my view people should have begun to take things very seriously with Dembski. Dembski’s data can be debated, but his formulation of the issue is above and beyond scientific. Dembski’s postdoctoral background in theoretical mathematics and computer science not only brought scientific rigor to the arena, he brought mathematical rigor to the arena. After his book was published in 1998 we could have had a reasonable debate about whether or not there was good data supporting the hypothesis of the existence of intelligence in certain systems, but we should not have had any more debate about whether or not the field of Intelligent Design was to be considered a field of science.
Meyer’s book in 2009 really took ID to the next level by providing good evidence that ID actually exists in biological systems. To put it another way, I think that ID has been a properly asked scientific hypothesis since 1998, but I think it has been a reasonably evidenced scientific answer since 2009.
Meyer’s new work in Darwin’s Doubt is strengthening the field once again in landmark fashion. Darwin’s Doubt takes Intelligent Design from an interesting alternative to the mainstream field of interest to the definitively central field.
- Fazale Rana responds to new paper claiming that rapid evolution explains Cambrian explosion (winteryknight.wordpress.com)
- Stephen C. Meyer debates Michael Ruse about intelligent design and evolution on NPR (winteryknight.wordpress.com)