Intelligent Design is a theory developed by Christian Creationist to get around the 1st Amendment’s separation of church and state. They devised a rather creative workaround the Constitution by saying that all creation was designed by an intelligent creator. Intelligent Design takes the word Christianity out of the argument, cleaver but a bit deceptive. However the theories they put forth are purely that, ideas without any proof of substance, a leap of faith unlike science. So they still encounter an issue of credibility.
The problem that the average layperson has with science is how did all these wonders around us come into exist if they weren’t created by a being who appreciated beauty and was ability to create complex things such as flowers, trees, animals, and especially amazingly intelligent human beings.
But the world is full of other far more sinister things and forces that destroy all that is so wonderful such as dangerous people, animals, diseases, fires, deadly storms, and powerful earthquakes. There is little value in mosquitoes, cancer or deadly viruses so why were they also created?
Science is largely based upon the randomness of events. The nuclear interactions of atoms and subatomic particles has its foundations in Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle that it is impossible to determine the exact state of matter at any instant in time because of its randomness as well as our methods of measurements influencing these states. Everything in the universe is influenced by other random things and events.
But not everything is purely random. Some forms of matter as well as life are more fit to survive in a given environment than another. There are atoms that are much more stable in earth’s environment than on the sun because it is simply too hot for them to remain stable so they are torn apart. The same is true for living organisms. Certain diseases thrive inside one host but not another. That is why certain diseases affect dogs but not humans. So out of randomness come the survival of that which is most fit to survive in a given environment while all other random existences cease existing.
Random mutations are a common event. We accept the fact that cancer cells randomly mutate into different variants of that cell. Most variants do not survive but the few which are most fit, being more resistant to treatment, will spread unabated. So many treatments are used for fighting such allusive cancers such as radiation and various chemo therapies but often there is no cure.
Most mutations in man and other organisms are not beneficial. These far more frequent mutations such as downs syndrome and spina bifida would not survive for long without help. However there are those very rare mutations which are extremely beneficial. That is why there are so few Einsteins and Beethoven. On extremely rare occasions two like individuals mate producing offspring with the same dominant gene so it is a matter of whether this genetic trait can survive in the long term to become an improvement of our species. The vast majority of beneficial genetic traits do not survive for long but a few do. So evolution’s natural selection process is very slow with a lot of fatal mistakes and very few lasting successes. It is this very laborious natural selection processes that is at the heart of the survival of the fittest.
Natural selection isn’t a thing one witnesses in life just as quantum mechanics cannot be experienced. They are simply not part of our human experience and the reason why people find it so hard to believe. The reason why evolution is viable is because of the vastness of time. Changes in the characteristics of organisms occur over tens of thousands of years. It is like a flower that grows and blossoms. We see snapshots of the plant’s growth over time but we can only imagine how the process proceeds since it is so gradual. Evolution is infinitely slower than that. Scientists observe evolution in the laboratory with insects and microorganisms with very short lifespans and high reproductive rates. Palaeontologist observe it by digging up fossil remains from different periods of time to get snapshots in time and piece them together to see how animals evolved over thousands and millions of years. Earth is over 3 billion years old and life has existed for roughly half that time. One and a half billion years is 1,500 times one million years. So a million years isn’t all that long.
I preface this article with science because I wanted to illustrate that the preponderance of evidence indicates that there is far more randomness in creation than can be accounted for in an Intelligent Design. The mere fact that there were so many extinctions in the past is strong evidence of a more random creation.
The evidence is overwhelming that creation is far from being well planned. Yet Creationists persist in claiming that an omnipotent and omniscient creator deliberately designed creation. Why then did the intelligent designer plant so much extinct fossil evidence to prove himself wrong? Why did an intelligent and omnipotent creator make so many random extinction mistakes? Why is there such a total lack of intelligence in this universe so Intelligently Designed?
Much of life is about dealing with random events, the unknown. It’s less about life and death and more about simply trying to beating the odds and coming out a little ahead. Life is simply an extension of how the universe continues to evolve. Creation is an evolving process, not simply “In the beginning…”
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Thank you for linking to my blog entry, “Ten Small Arguments Intelligent Design is Silly; One Big Argument that it’s not.” I’d like to mention that my post was actually an argument in favor of Intelligent Design, appealing to the important role of what was once considered “junk DNA” to Developmental Biology.
I linked both pro and con Intelligent Design websites to be fair. There are many approaches that one can take to illustrate the legitimacy of science. Science is not exact and not all scientist believe alike in many areas. Its acceptance is through numerous peer review papers and experiments often over decades to prove or disprove a hypothesis. Almost all hypothesis are initially views skeptically by the body of science such as global warming which was considered by the vast majority of scientists in the 1970 to be ridiculous. However over the decades more evidence was collected which validated this hypothesis until today over 97% of peer review scientists back it up. There are thousands of international peer reviewed papers on Global Warming. The same was true for plate tectonics and all other scientific theories. Albert Einstein for a long time did not accept Niels Bohr’s Quantum Mechanics theory, the basis of all computer chips and solar cells as well as nuclear physics. Now the entire semiconductor industry totally depends upon it. Transistors would not exist without quantum mechanics. So new scientific theories must go through extraordinary peer reviews by hundreds of extremely smart people before gaining Broad acceptance by the international scientific community. Intelligent Design does not have even close to that stringent a requirement for acceptance by Creationists. It is faith based, not proof based. That is why I believe science has infinitely more credibility than Intelligent Design.
For the other side, look into this: http://josiejolly.wordpress.com/
You must first get around the First Amendment of the Constitution, the separation of Church and State. Then it must be internationally accepted by the mainstream world community in order to be considered mainstream science. Mainstream science and evolution are accepted by all developed and developing nations throughout the world (billions of people). Intelligent Design is likely believed by less than a million people in the U.S. Your strongest international supporters of Creationism are likely the fundamentalist Muslim world believe it or not. They believe in much of the Old Testament.
The First Amendment argument is one that is often used against this idea. The real problem is that the idea of intelligent design is often discredited solely because it has some religious congruence. I am not suggesting that evolution shouldn’t be taught, just that in the education system, multiple theories must be presented. How are children possibly to think for themselves if they are only presented with one idea. Intelligent design is just in its beginning stages of acceptance. It has significant scientific evidence behind it and is only gaining momentum. However, I do agree that it does need to be accepted by the scientific and educational communities, but, just like when evolution was first established as a theory it took time to gain that acceptance. We shouldn’t eliminate this from the school system for the sole reason that it has religious congruence. If there is a Supreme Court case where this idea is presented it would, in fact, be unconstitutional for it to be rejected for religious purposes.
Perhaps if it gained broad international acceptance by the scientific community then Intelligent Design could be taught along with evolution. As you pointed out evolution at one time was not accepted by the scientific community so was not taught in schools and universities until years later. The problem is that it deviates so much from the true and tried scientific method as an alternative to science and evolution that I rather doubt this will happen. It will always be faith based and lack critical academic peer review scrutiny, experimentation, and verification as do all scientific theories. Of course I didn’t believe in Plate Tectonics at one time long ago but eventually after years of research and studies it was proven true, so anything is possible. Would teaching two types of science be confusing to the children it is being taught to?
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Frank – Great Blog! I don’t recall your being quite so expressive back in “the good old days” at MSD.
On the subject of ID, I think you have it basically right but your response is overly sensitive/generous to the Jolly poster when you say “Would teaching two types of science be confusing to the children it is being taught to?”. That statement misrepresents Science in a big way. First, it suggests that there are “flavors” of Science. There is, in fact, only one “Science” and it is defined as a process. It is in fact a process that uses criticism and experiment to expose ever more detailed explanations of the single reality that we all share. Today Science is a deeply interwoven fabric of explanations that interconnects many previously disparate fields of knowledge. From what you wrote I’m left assuming that your tongue was firmly pressed to your cheek when you used the terminology “two types of science”. ID is not Science nor is it remotely connected to it. Rather it is simply dressed up dogma, conceived as a PR campaign to impose a particular religious belief on unsuspecting children who can’t defend themselves from such deceptions. It is essentially child abuse.
ID proponents like Jolly say things like, “…why should creationism and intelligent design be taught in the classroom? One reason for this is that evolution is not a one hundred percent proven fact.“ Such bizarre notions demonstrate a complete ignorance of what science is. People who think there are “100% proven facts” or “absolute truths” are deluded by dogma. Such thoughts can easily infect human minds because humans are desperate (as a result of evolution) for explanations. . What is most disturbing is that this is a recursive problem, Often the source of their delusion is a religion that has infected their minds at a young age or under mental or emotional stress. They caught the infection from their parents who caught it from their parents, etc. Richard Dawkins could not have put it more correctly when he said (paraphrased) – “There is no such thing as a Christian child; there are only children of Christians parents.” Religions are memetic infections and we must all take responsibility for eradicating these horrible diseases. Knowledge of Science is the cure. Science connects us with reality, Religions create (a false) reality and then insist that we accept it or suffer some equally fictional consequences.
Hi Paul. Good to hear from you. It has been a long time.
To address your concerns, you must consider the audience I was directing my comment to. I was speaking in part to the Creationist of Intelligent Design who were obviously trying to get around the 1st Amendment. So in part I was using their language. Their definition of Science is very different than ours. For us science is a process of collecting data, doing experiments, postulating theories, and peer reviews as you so well put is. But to them science is Evolution. The fundamental argument they have with science is that it is not absolute. Their claim is that truth must be absolute and God is that absolute and ultimate truth. In fact Christian’s are as divided among themselves about the truth of God as science is uncertain about the absolute truth of any of its theories which constantly change over the decades and centuries. The question is is there an ultimate truth. Einstein felt there was in some Unified Theory. I think we are all in one way or another searching for that ultimate truth. Does it exists? I think it must because it is that ultimate truth that is the glue that holds this universe together and makes it real to our consciousness. Is that ultimate truth embodied in a creator or in some scientific law? That question still remains to be answered. Most certainly you and I are not knowledgeable or wise enough to know. I think no one knows.
Like yourself I have always loved and been captivated with science. Even though it hasn’t been always right it is logical, based upon documented observations and experiments and thoroughly scrutinized. It’s weakness is that sometimes those doing the scrutiny are themselves part of the status quo. And scientists like religious people often have tremendous egos and are suborn about their beliefs which are much like religions to them. Darwin didn’t have an easy time convincing the scientific community of Evolution.
If you read more of my blog you will find that I likely have autistic spectrum disorder. I am very introverted and do not often speak my mine. At work I strictly stuck to work related issues. Later in my career I achieve a certain level of success by developing a technology in wafer level packaging which in part allowed my company Avago Technologies to become quite successful. Their stock in the last couple of years has doubled in value. I have 17 pattens.
Avago, that’s great! Always wonderful to learn of the success of folks who moved on from those old days in San Jose to success like that.
I certainly agree with what you are saying here and I do understand the audience. Not sure how familiar you are with some of the modern writings on the Philosophy of Science. You are probably aware of Daniel Dennett. Roger Penrose has a good book (The Emperors New Mind), although I don’t buy into his speculations on the source of human intelligence). One of the best books I’ve ever read on Science is “The Fabric of Reality” by David Deutsch and I strongly recommend it if you have not yet read it. But on the topic of what is science David’s most recent book “The Beginning of Infinity” is a must read. I’m still getting through it but the first two chapters really do a great job of summarizing the relationship between knowledge, explanation and science. I’m certain you (and other Rationalist readers) would enjoy both books immensely.
I can hardly read believe it or not. I have among other things dislexia and have about a 7th grade level of reading and comprehension ability. I write far better than I read thought I can barely write as well. My writing skills are hampered by my inability to read but the more I write the slightly better I get, I think. I have not read a book since college. To compound thing I have a very poor memory (see Lacking Memory) further hampering my comprehension. Names and unfamiliar terms and concepts torment my limited mind. After about 10 pages I simply get lost and give up. I’m not all that smart as you are. I’m sure my views are not original but many of the ideas I write are mine. I have a superficial understanding of science for sure which serves me well as long as we don’t get too deep into philosophical details and discussion and start quoting other authorities. I have few authorities to quote from. I wish I could read and expand my mind further. I simply have a crude CPU with only 16k of RAM mind. But I do exercise my mind with rational thoughts and arguments, crude as they may be. I do this blog more to exercise my aging mind than to express my thoughts to others. But knowing I have readers does keep me going. This blog is an attempt to maintain my sanity as I progress beyond 7 decades of living. But I do the best I can. I haven’t done that bad. I’ve exceeded all my earlier expectations for myself so I am satisfied. It’s been a good life, far better than I deserve. Good job, great family, good retirement, what more can one ask for.
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