November 19, 2007

Evolution vs. Intelligent Design: Knowledge Fight

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Nathan Otto

Knowledge Fight

Where did we come from? Few questions in history have provoked such tremendous and heated debate. Though most scientists have agreed that evolution, via mutation and natural selection, is the best explanation for illustrating our origins, many others have disagreed fervently, and the decision of what and how to teach children about the entire issue remains a fiercely contested social and political topic.
The scientists have more evidence to support their claims. But the religious establishment makes an important point that the absence of evidence should not be grounds for intellectual dismissal. (X) By examining the assigned readings from class I will attempt to show that (Y) I side empirically with the scientists, yet still sympathize with the lobbying proponents of intelligent design, (Z) in order to protect new avenues of thought and questioning.

The Church and Empiricism
I do not believe in intelligent design. On my best days I would probably describe it as a backpedaling hail-mary by a desperate religio-political complex in an attempt to secure its dwindling prestige and status.
The problem with the religious establishment, in the minds of many rational people with good memories, is that it is constantly redefining its dogma – sacrificing its philosophical principles – in order to pander to populist sentiment. What was heresy even a hundred years ago, e.g. heaven is not an actual place with harps and angels, is now redefined in religious leaders’ writings as a form of relationship with God. Even on the topic of evolution, the Christian church – the primary institutional support behind the intelligent design movement – has changed its official position many times, in the last century from ‘we didn’t come from no monkeys’ to Pope John Paul II “[conceding] that Darwin’s theory of evolution might be correct.? (Bloom p. 275)
The problem with this is that it is very difficult to have faith in what the church is currently saying – especially when it conflicts with science - when they will seemingly arbitrarily redefine their dogma to reflect people’s growing awareness of basic scientific principles. The church would have lost credibility had they refused to acknowledge for too long that the earth revolved around the sun despite the growing belief in such a phenomenon. Yet they did stubbornly refuse it as much as they could - until they saw they were fighting a losing battle. The church realized that despite their persecutions, too many people were believing Galilean and Copernican ideas, and that if the church were to stay relevant and powerful they could not lose these people. And so now the earth revolves around the sun. John Paul II would have been torn limb from limb had he had the unfortunate luck of being born 350 years earlier.
Of course, what is the alternative? To just keep shaking your head and refusing to acknowledge any sort of validity to new information or values? This is the problem with fundamentalism. From a philosophically epistemological position, some would claim that it is slightly more respectable than issuing dogma after dogma, then changing your claims depending on how loud you hear people murmuring. At least the fundamentalists don’t give a damn. They appear to know what they’re talking about; just look at how confident they are. Science can be confusing, and as Daniel Dennett stated, the very technicality of the issues can be exploited to your own advantage, “counting on most of us to miss the point in all the difficult details,? (Dennett p.43). How aware are people of the almost perfectly similar metabolic pathways between a snail and an ape, and a snail an ape and a human, for that matter? But I don’t look like a snail, I know that. Snails and I have very little in common. I like sun and beer, snails seem to like mud and slime. So the fundamentalists have this type of awe-inspiring, I-don’t-care-what-those-ivory-tower-eggheads-say…you’re-nothing-like-a-snail angle that is appealing. Of course, fundamentalists reveal their insanity through other means and avenues, leaving no room for subjectivity or other people’s feelings, or by being philosophically forced to cling to notions like the sun revolving around the earth; for if they changed their mind and redefined their dogma, they would lose their identity as fundamentalists.

Scientific Change in Comparison
But what about the scientists? Surely, many times throughout history, science has changed its mind. The earth going from being accepted as flat to its current model of roughly spherical dimensions is one example. Michael Ruse refers to Thomas Kuhn and the importance of such drastic paradigm shifts in terms of how people see the world: “[t]he paradigm sets the rules, it marks out the limits...? (Ruse p. 20). But then a new study comes along telling you that chocolate is actually good for you, and has been all this time! So what is different about science and religion, when they both flip-flop?
I would say the answer lies mainly in motivation. Religion changes its mind to attract followers. Science, ideally anyway, changes its mind based on honesty. Indeed, Edward Wilson would have us believe scientists clap their hands red whenever a new model usurps the current one, even if it is their own. Religion hasn’t settled on a uniform stance on evolution, because various proponents have different opinions on whether acknowledging it or refuting it will attract more followers. Science, on the other hand, in its aloof attitude regarding if people like the facts or not, has ironically drawn significantly more interest in the last century. Science is the bad boy motorcyclist who smokes and spits and gets all the girls anyway.
The danger with science, however, is that it is not always practiced in an ideal sense. It is subject to the Kuhnian nonepistemic influences outlined by Ruse (Ruse p. 22). And at times, the scientific paradigm on a particular subject can become so entrenched that the establishment is hostile to new ideas or objections to the supposedly forgone conclusions. Stephen Gould, for example, encountered such resistance when he laid out his reservations about the practicality of traditional Darwinian ubiquitous adaptationism (Ruse p. 137), and offered the theory of punctuated equilibrium to expand, and even replace, certain components of Darwinism.

The Modern Classroom
In the 1920’s, the state of Tennessee had as an educational statute: “it shall be unlawful for any teacher to teach any law that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals? (Mooney p. 175).
I can understand scientific hostility to such a statement. The statute is unpalatable in so many ways it doesn’t merit any additional discussion here. But in the 2005 Dover trial over intelligent design the resolution stated: “[s]tudents will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin’s theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design,? (Orr p.174).
This is a far different statute. The evolutionists’ recoil and outrage is understandable, but not entirely warranted, nor entirely scientific in the truest sense of the word.
Understandable, because nobody likes to feel like they are losing ground. Not entirely warranted though, because – if enforced – the ruling is an asset for those who truly are interested in pursuing knowledge. Darwinism does have gaps and phenomenon that it does not entirely explain. This is widely acknowledged, but many evolutionists point out that this is a small pittance compared to intelligent design’s lack of positive claims (Orr p. 196). Yet the Dover statute’s main claim is elementary: it states that students will be made aware of problems in Darwin’s theory and be exposed to alternative theories of life. Theories of life definitely belong in a biology classroom. Darwinism does have problems, which, anecdotally speaking for a minute, were - and still are - hidden from students like me by the academic biological establishment, through all my years of schooling, and I am a biology major. No biology major should hear about William Dembski’s and Michael Behe’s claims, for example, for the first time in their senior year because of a fluke English assignment (Orr “Devolution?).
Evolutionists, or more specifically, anti-intelligent design lobbyists, lament that this ruling is just a creationist Trojan horse, with which the religious establishment will enter into the school system and create an army of brain-washed children to do their political bidding. Though this may be an exaggerated statement – no anti-ID-ist may say it – this is what they fear.
Fear is not a part of science. The paradox is, by objecting to such a benign statute, the evolutionists sacrifice their principles for political protectionism, acquiring all the worst characteristics of the church establishment in the process. In addition, the statute could even gain the evolutionists political and epistemological ground. Comparing intelligent design and evolution side-by-side is not a necessarily damning blow to evolution. In many cases, such a comparison illustrates the scientific brilliance of Darwinism that much more clearly. Yes, intelligent design still gets a platform, but it is up to students to decide if it is “as scientific? as Darwinism, and that, after all, is the their choice, no matter which establishment is trying to cram its views down students’ throats.

Works Cited

Bloom, Paul. “Is God an Accident?? Best of American Science Writing. Ed.
Atul Gawande. New York, London: Harper Perennial, 2006. 272-290

Dennett, Daniel. “Show Me the Science? Best of American Science and Nature Writing.
Ed. Tim Folger. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006. P.39 -45

Mooney, Chris. “The Dover Monkey Trial? Best of American Science and Nature
Writing. Ed. Tim Folger. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006. 172 – 179

Orr, H. Allen. “Devolution? Best of American Science Writing. Ed.
Atul Gawande. New York, London: Harper Perennial, 2006. 194 -207

Ruse, Michael. Mystery of Mysteries. Cambridge, London: Harvard University
Press, 1999

November 15, 2007


Having read numerous articles highlighting the many angles, claims, and pieces of evidence regarding the theories of evolution and intelligent design, I will show (X) the theory of evolution, rather than intelligent design, is superior in explaining how a species learns to adapt and change (Y) (premise 1) by comparing the key theorists and their science behind both claims, (premise 2) the underlying religious implications, and (premise 3) providing evidence supporting the theory, (Z) in order to prove evolution as the more logical theory.
While many scientists have undoubtedly invested their lives to the study of evolution and natural selection, the theory cannot be discussed without mentioning three specific evolutionists: Erasmus Darwin, Charles Darwin, and Geoffrey Parker.
Historically, the theory of evolution can trace its roots back to Erasmus Darwin. The grandfather of well known scientist Charles Darwin, studied the natural world stating “that all organisms descend through natural causes (that is, no miracles) from life forms very different from themselves…? (Ruse, 39). Erasmus also pointed to the docking of dogs’ tails, which he believed would evolve into dogs born with little or no existence of a tail (Ruse, 40). He studied nature from a perspective of how things developed into what they currently are. His thoughts led him to arrive that all organisms are in pursuit of arriving at the best form for survival in a given environment, to ensure their success as a species leaving prenotions of religious creationism aside, relying on pure scientific evidence to support his claim.
Following the work of Erasmus, his grandson Charles Darwin picked up on the thought of evolution, bringing this potential theory to the limelight as he linked scientific evidence to the newly born theory. Charles claimed “many more organisms are born than can possibly survive and reproduce; organisms come with heritable differences; those organisms that succeed in the struggle for existence and reproduction will be different from those that do not, and their success will (on average) be a function of the differences…and given enough time this will lead to full-blown evolution? (Ruse, 57). As Charles was raised during the Industrial Revolution, he was allowed to first hand witness the selection of a breeding stock in agriculture to maximize survival. Then, on his voyage to South America, Charles found a series of islands (the Galapagos), which had remarkably different wildlife and fauna from that of the rest of the continent. This led him to apply this same “struggle for existence? to the natural world arriving at his mechanism of natural selection (Ruse, 56).
Geoffrey Parker, another evolutionist, is an unabashed Darwinian adaptionist. Whenever possible, he searched for function as allowed by natural selection from a pragmatic, step-by-step approach (Ruse, 205). Parker continued off of Charles’ work, taking his theory to assist him in explaining survival tactics in the natural world. One such explanation arrived on his observation of the golden eagle where he noticed siblicide, when one dominate chick frequently kills nest mates to ensure its survival in competition for food (Ruse, 201). Michael Ruse outlines Parkers arguments noting, “Parker spells out his position: balancing what he sees as the right, the positive, moral obligation to recognize the limitations of what science can achieve? (Ruse, 213).
In reflection of all three pro-evolution theorists, many commonalities can be found. For start, all theorists placed their outside biases of religion and their assumptions of how the natural world work aside. This allowed them to create a hypothesis, to use that hypothesis to test and observe what they saw to be true, and using their scientific evidence from these observations to finally arrive at a plausible theory. All of these men, among many others, used actual scientific methods to arrive at their appropriate theories supporting evolution.
As an alternative argument to the theory of evolution, leading theorists William Dembski and Michael Behe, work to support the concept of “Intelligent Design?.
Dembski, a mathematician, philosopher, and divine theologist, claims a complex object must be the result of intelligent design if it were a product of neither chance nor necessity (Orr, 201). He argues if organisms show specified complexity that it is plausible to conclude they are the handiwork of an intelligent agent (Orr, 202). However, Dembski’s argument fails to recognize that organisms are not trying to fit any pattern. H. Allen Orr, from The New Yorker, comments, “Evolution has no goal, and the history of life isn’t trying to get anywhere…………but if destroying a sophisticated structure like the eye increases the number of children produced (as found in many cave species), evolution will just as happily destroy the eye? (Orr, 204). Another flaw with Dembski’s argument is that his theory do not hold true in cases of co-evolution, or when two or more species evolve as a response to the other (Orr, 204). All of this leads me to point out the final flaw in Dembski’s science, which is none of his work contains actual evidence, data, or the testing of data. Dembski simply brings his bias of the belief in a creator/designer into the scientific community without any hypothesis, factual evidence, or testable methods. His theory should not be considered scientific, as it does not follow any scientific method protocol, and thus a theory with no content, should be viewed as an opinion at best.
Complementing Dembski’s analysis, Behe concluded that irreducibly complex cells only arise from someone designing them. He states that by employing evolution as a theory, we are starting with a cell advancing us 90 percent of the way to the finish line (Orr, 198). However, as Orr points out, Behe fails to recognize a more indirect path to complex cells, as “elaborate structures may evolve for one reason and then get co-opted for some entirely different, irreducibly complex function? (Orr, 199). This Darwinian evolutionary approach to cells as we know them today justly explains their irreducible state. Behe replies to this confessing, “I quite agree that my argument against Darwinism does not add up to a logical proof? (Orr, 200).
After commenting on the superiority of the theorists and science behind both Darwinsim and evolution in comparison with those supporting intelligent design, it is important to understand why people still chose to accept the lesser theory due to the religious implications of evolution and Darwinism.
Jack Hitt, of Harper’s Magazine, best addresses this angle as he states, “Roots are crucial to us-us being all Americans-because they are the source of so much of our national anxiety about not quite belonging? (Hitt, 238). With relying on a “creator? as the sole responsible entity for why and who we are, it eases a religious component as the Bible, Koran, and various other religious instruments taught all of us from an early age that God responsible for the creation of mankind, not that we evolved over millions of years from our primate ancestors. Education committee chair and intelligent design proponent William Buckingham stated, “This country wasn’t founded on Muslim beliefs or evolution; this country was founded on Christianity, and our students should be taught as such? (Mooney, 174). As we reflect on our education as Americans, specifically our background in science, we need to ask whether it is both accurate and legal to study science as a function of religion, considering the American notion of separation of church and state, specifically in our public schools. Daniel C. Dennett, of The New York Times, states, “No intelligent designer would put such a clumsy arrangement in a camcorder (in response to the blind spot in all eyes), and this is just one of hundreds of accidents frozen in evolutionary history that confirm the mindlessness of the historical process (evolution)? (Dennett, 41). This brings to question if we are using actual science as evidence of intelligent design, or if we are using religious tools to define what we cannot immediately see about the gradual change of earth because of religious heritage.
Now, after invalidating the claims of intelligent designs’ key theorists, linking the theory to religious teachings rather than actual science, we can highlight evolution as the prime theory of explaining the natural world focusing on the data and findings of today.
Evolution should not be seen as a historical concept from the times of Darwin and other great scientists, for it is a constant constraint placed on all living things with no bearing on time or place. The most recent evidence of this, as mentioned by our articles, is actually the evolution of man. Paul Bloom, in his article Is God an Accident?, gives insight as to how religion may have be an evolutionary tool acquired to ease the pain of existence (Bloom, 276). He goes on to explain that men cannot deal with chaos, religion helps us not only to deal with the fear of death, but also works as a societal glue, bringing people together on common grounds based on a simple belief (Bloom, 277). The article continues to explain how even as newborns we look at faces, feel as though we have a purpose, and that our body and soul are not a single entity (Bloom, 283). The evidence that children believe in a soul, and more importantly a purpose, leads us to conclude the notion of life after death is not learned, rather it is a by-product of how we naturally evolved to think about the world (Bloom, 284). This reflects a social understanding, different from our physical understanding, which is a relatively recent adaptation shared only by other humans (Bloom, 280).
In conclusion, the theory of evolution, and its many components, accurately describes the progression of life as proven by superior backing of scientists, in the absence of any religious bias, and by evidence as seen in humans. As rookie geologist Luann Becker stated, regarding her revolutionary theory of the PT extinction, “We’ve got everybody hounding us because it’s a spectacular claim; they feel threatened; why else would they make such absurd statements?(Wright, 233). This same statement applies to evolution, for centuries religious institutions have taught people that earth, nature, and mankind are all a creation of God. For a group of scientists to one day propose an idea refuting this claim, with a much more secular theory with a more logical explanation, caused an uproar of ridiculous statements and threatened institutions.

Works Cited
Bloom, Paul. “Is God an Accident?? The Best American Science Writing. Ed. Atul Gawande. New York, London: Harper Perennial, 2006. 272-290.
Dennett, Daniel C. “Show Me the Science? The Best American Science and Nature Writing. Ed. Brian Greene. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006. 39-45.
Hitt, Jack. “Might White of You? The Best American Science Writing. Ed. Atul Gawande. New York, London: Harper Perennial, 2006. 237-271.
Mooney, Chris. “The Dover Monkey Trial? The Best American Science and Nature Writing. Ed. Brian Greene. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006. 172-179.
Orr, H. Allen. “Devolution? The Best American Science Writing. Ed. Atul Gawande. New York, London: Harper Perennial, 2006. 194-207.
Ruse, Michael. Mystery of Mysteries. Cambridge, London: Harvard University Press, 2001.
Wright, Karen. “The Day Everything Died? The Best American Science Writing. Ed. Atul Gawande. New York, London: Harper Perennial, 2006. 223-236.

November 14, 2007

Evolution in Education

Matt Abens
Evolution/Intelligent Design Analysis

Evolution in Education

In this paper (X) I will encourage the reader to support the education of evolution in public schools (Y) by exploring the concepts of both evolution and intelligent design (Z) in order to show you that evolution, not intelligent design belongs in the science curriculum of public institutions. I will do this by showing that the majority of the science field supports the theory of evolution. I will also explore the evidence that shows the theory of intelligent design is not supported by science. I will then discuss why public education and religious beliefs should be kept separate. Finally, I will show that the theory of evolution is the correct educational path that should be applied to public school’s science curriculums.
The concept of evolution was born out of Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection, which he formulated in 1838. The theory states that within species, the organism that was best suited to survive would live longer and produce more offspring. The certain traits that enabled a competitive advantage were passed on to the offspring, thus creating a higher population of organisms with the trait as multiple generations passed. The organisms that did not posses the necessary traits have shorter lifetimes, therefore less opportunity for reproduction, and as a consequence there were fewer offspring that bear the inadequate traits. The necessary traits for survival were frequently changing as habitats and environments altered. As a result, the population would, over time, alter the traits that it carried that were the most beneficial to its survival, which came to be known as evolving. All species adapt to their environment through the process of evolution. The studies Charles Darwin completed in the Galapagos Islands regarding finches were replicated by other scientists and accordingly helped to prove his theory.
Darwin’s evolutionism became orthodoxy almost overnight. By wrapping his ideas in such a socially acceptable form, most people happily accepted descent with modification (Ruse 73). Descent with modification is the process of genetic differences that are inherited from previous generations. In the first hundred years of its history, evolution rose up from its origins in the lowest depths of pseudo science to become the science of the public domain (Ruse 80). By the 1960’s, evolution was rising up the scale of respectability, socially and epistemologically both in Britain and America (Ruse 100). Darwin’s book The Origin of Species, proved to be very important work as more people read it. The readers understood why science should move forward with evolutionary studies, which created a greater awareness for the subject.
Theodosius Dobzhansky and his colleagues, Mayr, Simpson, and the botanist G. L. Stebbins shared their enthusiasm for the nonepistemic culture of evolution (Ruse 111). Evolution is non-epistemic because it is popular science and heavily supported by the public. This is important because it shows that the majority of common people agree with the concept of evolution. Society as a whole, not just the scientific fields began to fully grasp and accept evolution in the 1950’s. The journal “Evolution? was formed and began circulating and the National Science Foundation started to provide grants for research purposes (Ruse 114). Evolution was considered not only popular science but also a professionalized science.
Alternatively, intelligent design is not a legitimate school of scientific thought. According to Daniel Dennett it is one of the most ingenious hoaxes in the history of science (Dennett 39). The idea of intelligent design originated from the Catholic Church in order to explain to its members where everything came from. The problem with this theory is that it does not have any scientific evidence to support it. According to intelligent design (or creationism), God developed the Earth and all of the organisms on it in a six-day period only a few thousand years ago.
There are still some unanswered questions regarding evolution that perplex biologists, but intelligent design has not yet tried to answer them (Dennett 43). Contradictory to this thought, evidence of carbon dating places the age of Earth at about 4 billion years old. According to Karen Wright, fossil records show that approximately 250 million years ago, 90 percent of the species on Earth disappeared in an abrupt event that spanned the globe (Wright 224). If this is true, how can the intelligent design theory of the earth and all species being created only thousands of years ago be accurate? Some might wonder how long the process of evolution takes compared to the proven age of the earth. According to Darwin, the 4-5 million years since the formation of the earth has been quite enough time for evolution to occur (Ruse 66).
Some people believe that multiple controversial theories should be taught in the public school system in order for students to have exposure to more than one idea. Intelligent design does not pertain to science, so there should not be any controversy about whether or not to teach the subject in biology class (Dennett 45). Children educated of intelligent design in public science classrooms should not be allowed because of the lack of scientific evidence. Furthermore, intelligent design does not have any scientific basis so it should be taught outside of science, for example in the home or religious environment.
The role of the public school system is to educate its students in the main subject matters including science, math, english, and social studies. Intelligent design should not be considered a main concept of the science curriculum because it does not have any scientific evidence and it also violates a student’s right to the separation of government and religion. Religion does not belong in a public school atmosphere because of the multiple conflicting beliefs between students and staff. Religious beliefs and theories such as intelligent design can be taught outside of school, where only those who want to be subjected to it are present.
Intelligent design fails every criterion of legitimate science. Scientists point to errors in the claims of the literalists who believe in intelligent design (Ruse 135). An example of this is the age of earth and their theories of how organisms change over time. This shows there is no educational benefit to the theory. There is nothing wrong with being religious and believing in intelligent design, but the problem is with trying to convince people of conflicting religions to accept it as right in a public environment. Sometimes there really are signs of nonrandom and functional design. We can observe that the eye seems to be crafted for seeing, or that the leaf insect seems colored with the goal of looking very much like a leaf. However biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose (Bloom 286). This suggests that some things seem to be created by intelligent design, but they instead evolved over time to be the complex objects that they are today.
Although many people including the President of the United States support teaching intelligent design in our schools, it is not the correct path for us as a country as some parents want to provide that information themselves rather than it being taught to their child from a teacher who might not be fully educated in the student’s personal beliefs. Steve Stough, a plaintiff in the Dover Monkey Trial claims that he wants his daughter to have a religious education, but he would like to be responsible for it, or the church they attend (Mooney 175). Another reason to keep intelligent design out of the curriculum is because most likely legal action will be taken against the school board from a parent with conflicting points of view. That will be an ugly, expensive battle that would affect the whole school and district such as the Dover Monkey and the Scopes Monkey trial have done to their respective towns, such as pulling the citizens into groups with different opinions. Although proposals hostile to evolution are being considered in more than twenty states throughout the country (Orr 198), it is not the right decision to support these plans for either your child or their school district. If the proposals passed, it would violate the rights designated to each person in this Country granted by the founding fathers who fought to give us freedom and the right to separation of government and religion as stated in the Constitution.
Intelligent design is not supported by any science; instead the majority of scientists accept the theory of evolution. Why should an idea that does not have any significant scientific support be allowed to be taught to students in public schools? The answer is that intelligent design should be outlawed within public science curriculums. Intelligent design is welcomed to be discussed in private homes or in religious groups but in public situations it should not be a forced subject because it would be violating people’s personal rights. The theory of evolution has substantial evidence and scientific consistency; therefore, it should be the right of public institutions to teach the theory of evolution and in no way implicate such false theories as intelligent design.

Works Cited

Bloom, Paul. “Is God and Accident?? The Best American Science Writing. Ed. Atul
Gawande. New York: Harper Perennial, 2006. 272-290
Dennet, Daniel. “Show Me The Science? The Best American Science and Nature
Writing. Ed. Brian Greene. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006. 39-45
Mooney, Chris. “The Dover Monkey Trial? The Best American Science and Nature
Writing. Ed. Brian Greene. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006. 172-179
Orr, H. Allen. “Devolution? The Best American Science Writing. Ed. Atul
Gawande. New York: Harper Perennial, 2006. 194-207
Ruse, Michael. Mystery of Mysteries. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999.
Wright, Karen. “The Day Everything Died? The Best American Science Writing. Ed.
Atul Gawande. New York: Harper Perennial, 2006. 223-236

Argument Analysis Essay 1

David Stolper
Argument Analysis Essay 1


X) In this paper I will show how intelligent design (ID) fails in its attempts to portray itself as a legitimate scientific concept rather than a faith-based concept of creation Y) by providing evidence of the weak legal and scientific basis of ID as well as evidence of how our psychological understanding of the world predisposes us to the notion of ID Z) in order to show that ID is not a scientific concept, but rather is a faith-based idea that has emerged as a by-product of our mental system. I will first show that ID is a religious belief and a synonym for creationism developed to advance the legal position of anti-evolutionists. Second, I will demonstrate that claims supporting ID lack epistemic value. I will also demonstrate that claims refuting natural selection lack epistemic value. This will show that ID has no scientific merit. Finally, I will look at how our psychological understanding of the world automatically inclines us to embrace the concepts put forth by ID.
Premise One:
Advocates of ID claim not to be supporting creationism. According to Paul Bloom, ID it not biblical literalism, unlike the approach of earlier generations of creationists, the Young Earths, or the scientific creationists. Proponents of ID do not flatly reject that evolutionary change occurred during the history of the earth. They do, however, maintain that life was created by a creator whose identity is unknown (Bloom, 195).
The weak legal footing on which ID is based is illustrated by legal proceedings that have accompanied attempts to teach ID in schools. The separation of church and state is well established in the United States. In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Louisiana’s “balanced treatment? law was unconstitutional. The Court concluded that creation science was, in essence, a fraud--that is, religion camouflaged as a valid scientific explanation to bypass legal barriers (Mooney, 176).
With legal precedent having banned the teaching of creationism in American schools, it is obvious why advocates of ID shun the creationist label. If they want ID to be taught in schools, it needs to qualify as a matter of science and not religion.
This debate was recently carried out in a small Pennsylvania town called Dover. In 2004, the Dover school board adopted a resolution to alter their schools’ biology curriculum to state, “Students will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin’s theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to Intelligent Design? (Mooney, 174). As we take a look at the school board’s process in drafting this resolution, as well as the lawsuit later filed by parents of Dover students, it becomes apparent ID is on weak legal grounds.
It is clear from Chris Mooney’s discussions regarding specific school board members that the board intended to introduce the high school children of Dover to the idea of creationism. William Buckingham, the board’s most adamant ID advocate, denounced current biology textbooks on the grounds that they were laced with Darwinism. He persuaded the board to look for texts that supported creationism. Mooney quotes him as saying, “This country was not founded on Muslim beliefs or evolution. This country was founded on Christianity, and our students should be taught as such.? (Mooney, 174) The book Buckingham supported as a new biology text was called Of Pandas and People, published by a Christian organization which argues that natural processes alone cannot sufficiently explain complex life.
After the school board, comprised mostly of Christian members, passed its resolution supporting ID, several members of the board resigned, stating they felt it had become apparent that board members were expected to hold certain religious beliefs. Shortly after, eleven parents of Dover students hired the American Civil Liberties Union to file suit over the board’s decision, claiming that the purpose of the ID policy was to advance and endorse specific religious view points and beliefs (Mooney, 177).
The case was heard in Pennsylvania district court in the fall of 2005 by Judge John Jones. After dueling expert witnesses testified for each side, Judge Jones ruled against the school board’s resolution, citing several pieces of evidence that drew a direct link between creationism and ID. The most damning, as far as ID was concerned, came about in regards to the book Of Pandas and People. Witnesses testified that the book had gone through several drafts. By comparing earlier and later drafts of the book, three things became apparent. First, the definition of creation science in early drafts was identical to the definition of ID in later drafts. Second, the word creation was replaced with the phrase ID in later drafts. Third, these changes were made after the courts had ruled that creation science is religion and cannot be taught in schools (Jones, 32). Judge Jones’s decision reaffirmed what scientists have been claiming since ID first emerged: ID is a religious belief and a synonym for creationism developed to advance the legal position of anti-evolutionists.
Premise Two:
Despite losing legal battles, ID advocates maintain science backs their claims. I will next demonstrate that claims supporting ID lack epistemic value. I will also demonstrate that claims refuting natural selection lack epistemic value. This will show ID has no scientific merit.
The scientific leaders of the ID movement are two scholars, Michael Behe, a biochemist, and William Dembski, a mathematician. If we want to understand the science behind ID, we need to take a closer look at their arguments.
Michael Behe is a biological scientist who studies DNA. Behe doubts evolution because he claims that cells are too complex, not in degree, but in kind. Cells are irreducibly complex, meaning that if you remove any single part of the cell, it will cease to work at all. He claims that a gradual process of incremental improvement could not build something that needs all of its parts to work. Behe suggests that a designer must have built the first cell, after which evolution may have proceeded in a conventional manner (Orr, 198).
This brings me to the point of introducing the first epistemic value present in good science--the value of predictive accuracy. Karl Popper suggests that science is a process in which a problem inspires a tentative theory, which is then subjected to test and to error elimination, giving rise to another problem, for which the same process is repeated (Rues, 17). Darwin’s theory of natural selection provides predictions of current phenomena that were unknown to him at the time the theory was formulated. An example of this is the predator/prey interaction of wolves and deer, in which different wolves have different strategies, some fast, other strong, and yet others crafty. Darwin proposed that if the number of fast deer increased, the fastest wolves would have the best chance of surviving and reproducing. After Darwin made this prediction, it was brought to his attention that two different kinds of wolves existed in the Catskill Mountains--one type leaner and with longer legs and that hunted deer and another type that was stockier and shorter and that hunted sheep (Rues, 63).
Darwin made predictions similar to this one throughout his argument for natural selection. Behe, however, has no hypothesis that offers any rival explanation of any biological phenomenon that might compete with natural selection (Dennett, 43). In fact, his claims cannot even fully support ID. Other biologists have explained that there are several ways Darwinian evolution could build elaborate structures. A structure may evolve for one reason and then get co-opted for some entirely different, irreducibly complex function. They also suggest that parts initially get added to a system because they may improve the overall performance of the system, but as evolution builds on that system, it may become essential for function (Orr, 199). In short, Behe’s theory is not supported by science.
William Dembski, ID’s other leading scientific proponent, argues that intelligent agents programmed design into early life. He is adamant that natural selection is not capable of creating anything complex (Orr, 202). Dembski argues that complex objects must be the result of intelligence if they were not the product of either chance or necessity. He reasons, for example, that Moby Dick did not arise by chance. Rather, it was the result of Melville’s intelligence. According to Dembski, specific complexities, when expressed mathematically, provide a signature of intelligence.
The problem with this is that evolution has not a goal and organisms are not trying to match any independently given pattern. They are not striving to meet some blueprint. They strive only to have more children than rival individuals.
This brings the most important epistemic value to light--the value of consistency and coherency with regard to both internal and external factors of science (Ruse, 65.) Consistency and coherence are not at all present in the arguments made by Behe and Dembski. Allen Orr states, “Dembski’s views in the history of life contradict Behe’s. Dembski believes Darwin is incapable of building anything interesting; Behe thinks given a cell natural selection may well have built you and me.? (Orr, 2005)
ID’s scientific ground is extremely weak, as evidenced by the fact that its two major scientific advocates do not come to the same conclusion regarding what ID is and what it is not. They have not provided any real hypothesis that competes with what we already know about natural selection. ID proponents instead point to the fact that evolutionary biology has not explained everything, failing to see that ID has not explained anything (Dennett, 43).
Premise Three:
With ID failing to prove its legitimacy legally and scientifically, why do people so willingly accept ID and reject the notion of natural selection? Maybe it is because, as Paul Bloom has maintained, our psychological understanding of the world automatically inclines us to grasp the concepts put forth by ID.
Paul Bloom asserts that religion arose not to serve a specific purpose. Religion was not devised to soothe the pain of existence, or provide a social system for people to come together, giving them an advantage over those with faith. Instead, religion arose by accident. Bloom points to the fundamental difference between physical and psychological thoughts. Physical thoughts are those bound by the laws of Newton. They are things such as trees and rocks. Psychological thoughts encompass intentions, beliefs, goals and desires. They move unexpectedly and can choose to chase or run away (Bloom, 278).
Bloom states that these separate understandings give rise to a duelist consciousness. We experience the world of material things differently from the world of goals and desires. We do not feel that we are our bodies, but rather that we occupy or own them. The notion of life after death is not learned. It is a by-product of our duelist consciousness. In our minds our physical bodies are separate from our souls (Bloom, 279).
To most people the problem with natural selection is that is does not make intuitive sense. We are able to understand the concept of natural selection but we see a complex structure as a by-product of beliefs, goals and desires. Our gut feeling is that design requires a designer, a fact that is exploited by those who argue against natural selection. It is easy to understand why children hold such burgeoning creationist views. Children want to believe everything has a purpose. If you ask them why rocks are pointy they do not think to provide a physical explanation. They prefer a functional explanation, such as “so animals can scratch on them when they get itchy.? (Bloom, 287) This illustrates the difference between our physical and our psychological thoughts and helps us understand why people are so prone to believe in ID. “Although religion teaches and shapes the religious beliefs we hold, religion is not learned. It is a by-product of our mental system? (Bloom, 284).
ID is not legally or scientifically a science and should not be portrayed as one. This has been made apparent by examining the Dover case, in which the court held that legally, ID is nothing other than creationism rephrased in an attempt to gain a legal foothold. Scientifically, proponents of ID have failed to generate a hypothesis that explains any biological phenomenon and that competes with a hypothesis in support of natural selection. ID’s claims are not consistent with one another and they fail to produce any predictive accuracy. ID is not a scientific concept but rather a faith-based idea of creation that has emerged as a by-product of our mental system. There is no controversy, no competing scientific theories. As Stephan Jay Gould has said, “The best way to accord dignity and respect to both religion and science is to recognize that they apply to non-overlapping magisteria; science gets the realm of facts, religion the realm of values? (Bloom, 273).


Bloom, Paul. The Best American Science Writing 2006. “Is God an Accident.? Ed.
Atul Gawande. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2006. p.273-290.

Dennett, Daniel. The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2006. “Show Me The
Science.? Ed. Brian Greene. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company 2006. p.39-45.

Jones, John E. III. Memorandum Opinion. Dover, Pennsylvania. Dec. 2006. p.30-35

Mooney, Chris. The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2006. “The Dover
Monkey Trial.? Ed. Brian Greene. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company 2006.

Orr, Allen H. The Best American Science Writing 2006. “Devolution.? Ed.
Atul Gawande. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2006. p.194-207.

Ruse, Michael. Mystery of Mysteries: Is Evolution a Social Construct? United States:
First Harvard University Press, 2001.