Not So Intelligent Design

All right … I can’t help myself. I just have to weigh in on “Intelligent Design”. It’s like looking at someone with a hump on their back. As much as I don’t want to comment, I just have to say something–it’s the Larry David in me. When the president recently proclaimed that “intelligent design” (a.k.a., ID) should be taught in schools along side of evolution, I decided I had better learn more about what the president was suggesting. Although usually skeptical of President Bush, I really wanted to give this one a fair chance–you never know when humps might become fashionable.

First I needed to understand what the heck ID is, after all, it clearly can’t be “Creationism” repackaged. There must be something more to it. What is the differentiator and why all the sudden hubbub? Also, if I’m about to throw centuries of evolutionary science out the window with the sea water, I better have a more definitive idea of what this new science is all about. So like any modern day investigator, I did a search on “Intelligent Design” in Google and went to the site at the top of the list, “Intelligent Design Net – Seeking objectivity in origins science”. It sounded promising.

It had an interesting home page. My attention was immediately drawn to a clever little moving image. A balance scale with “Design” on one plate and “Evolution” on the other plate is see-sawing on a table top tagged “Science”, with “religion” and “naturalism” crossed out. Oh yeah, under the word “Evolution”, ‘no design’ is written. That initially struck me as a bit unfair and unbalanced; anti-FOX you might say. So to even it out, I imagined that ‘no evolution’ was written under “Design” and decided to give the website the benefit of the doubt. It most likely was an oversight by the website owner, “Intelligent Design Network, Inc.”, a nonprofit organization that seeks objectivity in origins science.

I continued on.

“Objectivity results from the use of the scientific method without philosophic or religious assumptions in seeking answers to the question: Where do we come from?”

All right, now we are getting somewhere. This is about science, scientific method. Intelligent Design is science. Good. Nothing better than old fashion science discovery; something that rewrites all the prior science, turns it on its ears. It happens in Physics all the time. Sometimes scientists even prove themselves wrong. Just ask Steven Hawking. It’s about time the science of evolution was jolted in the same way.

I read on with my ape DNA all in a bunch–never liked the thought that we are related to primitive primates anyway.

“We believe objectivity will lead not only to good origins science, but also to constitutional neutrality in this subjective, historical science that unavoidably impacts religion. We promote the scientific evidence of intelligent design because proper consideration of that evidence is necessary to achieve not only scientific objectivity but also constitutional neutrality.”

Whoa … now stop right there partner!

What the hell does that mean, “…this subjective, historical science…”. I thought by its nature, scientific method was the gold standard of objectivity, not subjectivity. “Subjective science” is an oxymoron, no different from being “fairly biased”, which I was beginning to believe this website to be. Evolutionary theory has stood up to the rigors of scientific method. In other words, it is science and therefore, not subjective. So what are they getting at? Could it be that Darwin cooked the books on sparrow beak size and fly wing observations in order to sustain his philosophy of naturalism? Yikes. What a big jerk he was if he did!

And what about this idea that “objectivity will lead … to constitutional neutrality” What is meant by “constitutional neutrality”? I quickly found a copy of the Constitution and did a search on ‘evolution’ thinking that maybe old Ben Franklin snuck a little non-neutrality in there–not one reference, not a one. Whew … it’s neutral on it. And finally, is it true that it (I guess evolution) “unavoidably impacts religion”?

It took some digging but I think I know what is going on here. I think that you do too.

The trick being played here is casually stating that evolution as a science is subjective, moving it out of the realm of objectivity and into the world of subjectivity. A very wise consultant with whom I worked once told me never to wrestle a pig in the mud, they will always win; after all, it is a huge home field advantage. Essentially, by falsely setting up evolution as subjective theory, it moves it into the mud.

Evolution is a theory that has been proven over and over again in the theater of scientific method, where results are tediously measured, documented and analyzed by other, many times competing and doubting, scientists. It is not the space in which religious beliefs or philosophies fare well.

The deal is that Intelligent Design is subjective. It is a belief without scientific measurement. Its axiom is that there must be intelligent design (and therefore a superior creator; i.e., God) because a human being, for instance, is extremely complex and complexity can not rise or evolve haphazardly from less complex systems (e.g., apes). For example, you can place the parts of a watch in a jar and shake it until the cows come home and never create a working watch. It takes a watchmaker to make those parts work as a watch. Significant complexities must be intelligently created–there is scientific evidence to believe so anyway. But where is the evidence of which they speak? Actually, all the scientific evidence seems to prove that complex systems can evolve from less complex systems; that if you keep shaking those parts way past the cows coming home, you just might get the watch.

Look, man thought forever that the Sun revolved around the Earth. We grudgingly acquiesced when science proved that belief to be wrong. All right, so we might not have been the center of the universe but we were at least the center of intelligent life, after all God planted Adam and Eve on Earth in his (never her) image.

Well, science, specifically the science of evolution and natural selection, has pretty much taken care of that matter. Needless to say, it is difficult for humans to give up this notion of being special, of being the center of God’s universe. I guess we are special all right but not in a way that makes us particularly intelligent; quite the opposite frankly. We are the only species I’m aware of that is the most capable and the most willing to knowingly eliminate itself. Well, maybe I’m being a little too dramatic when I suggest we are not superior to other species; after all, we have harnessed fire, designed the wheel and invented breast implants. But it is this fascination with being self important that stirs “Creationism” and its more highbrow cousin “Intelligent Design”. We just can’t get over this collective human ego thing.

Let’s face it; if there is a God who is responsible for the “goin’ ons” of this planet, he or she can’t be the brightest star in the galaxy so to speak. A truly superior intelligent designer would never have whipped up humans on the fly. I mean, right from the get-go with the apple and snake, and then the clothing issue, and then the need to send down some commandments because we were carrying on like idiots. And then he had to turn on the spigots for forty days and forty nights to get our attention. And, when none of that seemed to work, he eventually sent his kid to get us back on message with the whole heaven idea already, hoping beyond hope to get us to behave. And we still didn’t get it! That’s a lot of trouble and hard work for someone who had some sort of intelligent design in mind. At least I think so. It seems more like the work of someone who got a little carried away, a little too careless, couldn’t let it go after the apes, had to tinker with that whole self image thing.

That is exactly why evolution must be the real deal. I think we descended from less “intelligent” primates–an unforeseen accident. And only God knows where those early primates came from. Actually, I’m starting to think not only does God not know the answers to a lot of things but he doesn’t care any more. He’s moved on to bigger and better things, a little wiser I hope too! And nothin’ for nothin’ but I wouldn’t be shocked if God looked like a dolphin anyway.

I guess I can best sum this up by saying, if you want to have a discussion about “why” we exist, “intelligent design” is as good a set of beliefs as any. But the “whys” of something is not science, it is philosophical. If you want to know the how of something, you are talking science, where observations of the physical world are broken down and figured out in mathematical models. And when you allow the whys to drive how the hows are derived, you are in for trouble when science catches up. Such is the case of “creationism” being the why that drives this false how called “intelligent design”. It just ain’t so. So offer “intelligent design” in religion and philosophy classes, not in science.

I guess then I really have no quarrel with President Bush, as long as he has no quarrel with separating the discussions of “whys” from the experiments of “hows”. That is keep “whys” in religion and philosophy classes and “hows” in the science labs.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure he sees it that way.