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THE CASE AGAINST INTELLIGENT DESIGN.

 

To explain the origin of the DNA/protein machine by invoking a supernatural Designer is to explain precisely nothing, for it leaves unexplained the origin of the Designer. You have to say something like 'God was always there', and if you allow yourself that kind of lazy way out, you might as well just say 'DNA was always there', or "Life was always there', and be done with it.  --Richard Dawkins,

 

In the 21st Century, there are still many people willing to believe that the Universe, and human life, require a divine creator. This is in spite of the plethora of evidence in support of the Big Bang theory and Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection, and sheer common sense.

 

Many religionists recognise that such theories make the Biblical creation myth difficult to take too literally. The Universe was not created in six days flat. Adam was not rolled out of the dust as a fully formed man in an instant. Eve is not her husband’s rib. Believing such concepts is like taking the rhyming notion that Girls are made of sugar & spice and all things nice while boys are composed of Snakes and snails and puppy dog’s tails as literal textbook biology.

 

Intelligent Design, (ID) argument is thinly disguised Creationism. The aim of its supporters is to get ID teachings into the school syllabuses in the US, alongside mainstream scientific teaching. The wish is largely rejected as the ID theory is regarded as at best pseudo-science, or at worse, nonsense, by most scientists and education experts.

 

                                    OF PANDAS AND PEOPLE

 

The controversy originated in the States with publication of a school text book, Of Pandas And People, by Perceval Davis and Dean H. Kenyon. The book presented a number of Creationist ideas in the jargon of science, while dumbing down the religious agenda behind the book’s promotion. 

 

There were a number of deceptions in how the book was presented. Its publishers, The Haughton Publishing Company, were primarily an agricultural literature firm,  - the authors used them because they wanted to avoid peddling the book as coming from a religious organization. It was actually a book commissioned by a Bible-belt Christian think tank group called The Foundation For Thought And Ethics (FTE). Quotations from early drafts of the book make its intentions and premise all too clear.

 

Creation means that the various forms of life began abruptly through the agency of an intelligent creator with their distinctive features already intact. Fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, and wings, etc.”

 

and

 

"creation means that various forms of life began abruptly.”

 

Such anti-evolution claims have no realistic or honest foundation.

 

Attempts to get schools to put the book on their reccomended science reading lists largely backfired amidst protests from the scientific and teaching communities. The authors now began to present revised editions of the book in which more and more of its overt creationist language was couched in more scientific terms, ‘Intelligent Designer’ was seen as an alternative description of creator, or God. Few were fooled.

 

The FTE continued to try to get their book accepted in schools, often by trying to get generate grass roots support from teachers and parents and falsely claiming that ID researh is a mainstream science.

 

Scientists are scathing about the book. Paleontology professor, Kevin Padian of the University of California calls the book a "wholesale distortion of modern biology."

 

In some States, the book has wormed its way onto the curriculum. In others, it has been kept off educational reading lists. The book promotes itself as theory and states that Darwinism is itself only a theory too, though the latter has a considerable degree of support and its roots firmly in biology and testable scientific hypothesis. The various Panda Trials have come to echo the notorious Scopes ‘Monkey Trial’ of 1925, when a teacher was arrested for daring to teach evolution theory in school (the incident was filmed twice as Inherit The Wind).

 

The 2004-2005 court case in Dover, Pennsylvania became particularly controversial. The FTE wanted to support the case that Of  Pandas And People was a science text book, and not religious propaganda, because they felt that having ID theory recognised as religious rather than scientific, would damage their potential to market the book. That their presense in the trial was going to highlight the religious point of view in itself became increasingly obvious to them, and they withdrew support for the other defendents in the case in order to protect themselves.

 

The FTE now began to promote the book as the banned book of the year, though it was never banned by anyone – it was merely denied the right to migrate from religious classification to to being placed on the science book shelves. The book remains in print in the US. It is rarely accepted as a science text book though.

 

                        HOW INTELLIGENT DESIGN THEORY WORKS

 

ID theory basically hijacks scientific discoveries about life and the complexity of the Universe to state repeatedly that such a universe must have been designed and created by a supreme architect and craftsman. They are mistified that people will assume that a car or an aircraft had to be designed and assembled by manufacturers but that people are willing to accept that a mountain range like the Alps could rise up without having been designed and created by some intelligent entity. ID theory is a recycling of the Prime Mover theories cited by philosophers as far back as Plato and Aristotle. It is known as the Teleological Argument, as presented in its most complete form by St. Anselm.

 

The argument resurfaced in the writings of theologian, William Paley, who famously compared the universe to a pocket-watch. A watch requires a watchmaker, therefore, so does the universe.

 

The Watch-maker theory was largely crushed by the presentation of Darwin’s theory of Evolution by the mechanism of natural selection. Richard Dawkins presented a book called The Blind-watch-maker showing how life can evolve by minute steps taken blindly by chance without any need whatsoever for an intelligent creator or designer steering the way. In the wake of a vast body of evidence in support of evolutionary models, maintaining the ID argument is emotive, irrational, delusional, and uses what scientists call an Argument From Ignorance. This is where an argument is seen to be true by its champions for no other reason than there is no way to prove it wrong. You cannot for example prove to me that I do not have an invisible elephant in my pocket. You could present all sorts of reasons why I must be mistaken, mad, lying, deluded, etc, but proof would evade you at every step if I clung to my claims despite everything you said to convince me otherwise..

 

The same shaky reasoning exists in emotive arguments about God, UFO’s and other unverifiable phenomena. Ultimate proof that God exists or does not exist is actually impossible. To religionists, this is itself grounds to take it as read that he exists. Atheists simply accept that life goes on without need for such a God. As existence can be explained without him, he is a redundant concept.

 

                                    ARGUMENTS AGAINST INTELLIGENT DESIGN

 

There are so many opposing views that only a few need be given here. Complexity is not evidence of design.

                                                BAD DESIGN

 

There are a great number of bad designs in nature. Flightless birds often have useless wings. Why would a creator give them these?  For evolutionists, the wings are seen as having slowly retracted, or they are still developing over generations by genetic mutation. In creationism, such useless appendages are a pointless burden to the animals concerned.

 

Humans are one of the few creatures unable to naturally synthesise vitamin C in their own bodies. Many plants can do it too. There are countless similar examples of design flaws.

 

The sheer tooth and claw nastiness of the World is also evidence against the design of the World by any kind of benevolent creator. Cats slowly torment and rip mice to pieces. Babies are born crippled, or often not born at all. People die in quicksand traps. Volcanoes and earthquakes, lightning and avalanches, kill thousands. There are dwarfs, Siamese Twins, and occassional two headed cats out there too.

 

                                                WHO IS THE DESIGNER?

 

The Designer(s) himself, herself itself, or themselves are generally taken for granted by ID supporters and Creationists. That the designers also need creators and designers to exist seems to be an argument that they avoid. They see their God as justt existing and being, and leave it at that. Worse, they take a leap of faith and assume that the existence of the God they promote is all too conveniently the very same God responsible for their own religion, when the creator could just as easily be the representative of another faith. Christians will see the Designer as their God, and not Zeus, Rama, Odin, Allah, or Quetzcotl. That there could be a whole bunch of gods at work is lost on those who want the designer to be a solo-operator, and the inspirational source of their particular scripture, be it the Old Testament, New Testament, or the Quoran. It is a far cry from seeing an intelligent designer at work (despite evidence to the contrary) to identifying that designer as a specific deity and believing in everything written about him in a certain set of books.

 

Why, as Dawkins observes, does the designer not have to be designed and created too? It is just as easy to accept a Universe generated from absolutely nothing as to believe in a creator who just always conveniently existed.

 

                                    ARGUMENTS FROM THE ODDS

 

The mathematical chances of life evolving just as it has evolved or even of life existing at all in any circumstances are extremely small.  As it is incontrovertably noted, The Sun being a little further from or closer to Earth would wipe out all life here. Conditions here for life only became just right comparatibvely recently in cosmic time, and one day conditions will change and render contuing life impossible. DNA is extremely delicate. It would not take much to stop it being able to replicate itself. Gravity is just at the right balance for us. A slight shift of the Moon would destroy us.

 

We should not jump to the condlusion that our existence is a divinely orchestrated miracle. That there are so many stars and planets out there  increases the odds that the right cicumstances for life would come together somewhere. It’s like a lottery. The chances of you getting the winning numbers in a lottery are extremely low, and yet, with the sheer number of lottery tickets bought and games played, there are winners from time to time. A Royal Flush is rarely seen in a game of poker, but if you play poker often enough, you may actually see one. There is no reason here to draw on the existence of a God. 

 

The Universe is far from perfect. Asteroids and meteors are the rubble of planets which did not bond together well enough, and which now career around the cosmos, captured and propelled by the gravitational forces around them until they eventally crash  into another World or each other. A godly designer would have made a better job of them than some cowboy builder would make of building a kitchen extention.

 

                                    EVOLUTION DOES NOT RULE OUT GOD

 

There is a Creationist assumption that only atheists believe in Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection and evolution theories in general. Some scholars are willing in fact to believe that God used the laws of physics and actually created life that is able to evolve. To creationists, such thinking is heresy, as they take the religious creation myths rather too literally. They think God created each creature we know and love today fully formed as we know it, and breathed life into them while they were just sculpted clods of dirt. That is no better than maintaining a belief about having elephants in your pockets.

 

                                                DECEPTION

 

The dumbing down of the Designer being God by ID education promoters is an outright deception. Few would accept that the designer was merely an already developed and advanced extra-terrestial alien life form – they see the designer as God, and a particular God for a particular religion at that – Once that deception is exposed, the ID theory experts find it impossible to deny what they are – old fashioned creationists.  The ID argument is merely a nuiscance, but a dangerous one when peddled as education when our children need to understand real biology, zoology and astronomy.

 

LINKS

 

http://skepdic.com/intelligentdesign.html

 

http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/sci_relig.htm

 

 

Arthur Chappell

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