This is the first post in a 3-part series looking at Intelligent Design (ID). In this post I discuss the essence of ID.
The current debate surrounding ID is overly influenced by emotions. We often see emotions rise to surface in people’s comments on ID. There are believers who claim that anyone who attempts to silence ID is a godless scientific materialist. And there are scientists who claim that anyone favoring ID is a delusional and irrational IDiot. As it turns out, they are both wrong. There are theistic scientists who firmly oppose ID, and there are rigorous scientists who favor ID.
It is always a good idea to up front about your personal biases when discussing divisive issues, so here are a few of my biases. First, I am a theist. Second, I regret the rise of secularism in science that began with the Enlightenment. Third, I strongly believe that religion belongs in our Sunday schools and not in our secular schools.
Here is a question: If people want to learn about the Mormon Church, who should they talk to? You will probably agree that they should talk to Mormons. More specifically, they should talk to Mormon missionaries. Likewise, if people want to learn about what ID is all about, they should talk to ID proponents, especially those who are tasked with educating others on ID. For this reason I went to the Discovery Institute to learn about ID. The Discovery Institute is the leading “think tank” on intelligent design.
Here are seven points characterizing the ID movement, followed by some comments from me.
1. The basic tenet of ID is that there is undeniable evidence pointing to intelligence in the design of nature.
--- I agree that creation points to God. I don’t see a problem with this claim.
2. ID is a scientific enterprise.
--- This claim depends on whether ID fits the traditional definition of science, and whether it satisfies the traditionally accepted criteria for being called a science. I am not sure if ID satisfies these criteria - honestly, I am skeptical. The next post will focus on this issue.
3. ID is not creationism.
--- From what I’ve read so far, I tend to agree - I have found no biblical narratives in ID. Even if ID is an outgrowth of the creationist movement, it is unfair to classify it as such if it has truly separated itself from creationism. IDers say they are not pushing creationism, so let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. As long as they are not planning a bait-and-switch on us, I have no problem here.
4. Evolution should be taught in schools.
--- Yes, IDers are pro-evolution in the sense that they claim that it belongs in science curriculum.
5. Science education needs to consider the weaknesses behind evolutionary theory.
--- I wholeheartedly agree. Far too many evolutionists have gone around claiming that evolution is irrefutable. These sorts of claims are disingenuous. Microevolution has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, macroevolution has not. Sure there is evidence supporting macroevolutionary processes, but don’t insult my intelligence by telling me that it is a certainty. If have posted comments on this issue in this blog (listed in the "evolution" category).
6. Teaching ID in schools does not violate the separation of church and state.
--- I am not a constitutional lawyer, but it all depends on whether you define church as referring to a belief in God or organized religion. I don’t think that believing in God is a religion in the way that Mormonism, Catholicism, and Protestantism are religions.
7. Teachers should not be forced to teach ID.
--- The Discovery Institute does not want ID politicized. They say that if ID is to gain credibility, it should be done through the scientific process, not political fiat. I wholeheartedly agree.
Lastly, the Discovery Institute is advocating a reserved approach to getting ID in school education. They do not like the approach taken by the Pennsylvania Dover School District in 2004. That school district required teachers to read a statement favoring ID. In the Kitzmiller vs. Dover trial that followed, a conservative and supposedly religious judge named John Jones ruled against the school board. I think these events have made the Discovery Institute more cautious – in fact they now urge teachers to avoid mentioning ID and to focus instead on the weaknesses of evolutionary theory.
I hate to see ID politicized. Politicization and federal mandates are not what science is about. If ID has legitimate scientific claims, then let’s see what it’s got. If it is a rigorous and promising line of research, then it will slowly work its way into the scientific community and gain credibility. If it is not promising and rigorous then it will die and go the way of alchemy. Unfortunately it may never get a fair shake because so many in the scientific community are anti-anything-resembling-god (a point brought out in Stein’s movie Expelled). What are you atheists so afraid of?
In the next post I will discuss whether ID is scientific by looking at whether ID satisfies the traditional definition of science.