With the news today that President Bush supports teaching Intelligent Design along side Evolution, the origin of life wars will be stoked even hotter.
One of the more recent things I have heard was that scientists were “close” to creating a living organism from basic chemicals in a laboratory. This, we are told, would be proof that God (or any super-intelligence) is not needed for life to begin. One question – did they tell the scientist working on experiment that “intelligence” was not needed?
I tend to doubt that actual life will ever be created in a lab, but it strikes me as extremely ironic that an experiment where an intelligent being establishes conditions that are favorable for life, introduces chemicals that are neccessary for life and prods them in the direction of life is somehow proof of evolution. Would that not be proof of, dare I say it, intelligent design?
If it takes scores of highly intelligent scientists years of experimentation, working to figure out the “just-right” combination of conditions and chemicals to get even the first building blocks of life, does it not make sense that it took intelligence to create an environment here on Earth that is capable of sustaining life?
The anthropic principle (more here and here) shows how finely tuned our world is to sustain life. If anyone of those countless constants were shifted only slightly, then life would be impossible. It just seems like Someone worked it out just so.
But you won’t hear those ideas being investigated or discussed today. You will hear liberal after liberal bemoan the ignorance of our President because he dare challenge the Darwinism.
The worst part of this debate is the lack of knowledge that exists on both sides, but is more prevelant on the evolutionary side. Anyone who goes through high school science must learn the basic idea, thought process and evidence for evolution. Therefore most scientists that support Intelligent Design do so with an understanding of evolution, many (if not all) started their scientific careers as evolutionists. (I will grant that many arguing for Intelligent Design are ignorant and misrepresent evolution, but most of those are not scientist but rather preachers who talk beyond their knowledge of a subject.)
This New Jersey editorial displays the outrageous ignorance of many evolution advocates about the science behind Intelligent Design.
There are so many mistakes and misunderstanding (maybe even downright lies) that this whole thing deserves to be fisked, but I will challenge the most egerious points.
The writer’s main disagreement with the science of Intelligent Design, seems to be “bad things are in this world, so there cannot be a God.” That is a deep philosophical question that deserves to be answered, but it has nothing to do with science at all.
ID’ers are often dismissed as “trying to bring religion” into the lab or classroom. Their ideas are ignored because they have “religious motivations.” Does that matter scientifically? Even if every ID’er was a Southern Baptist preacher (which they are not, many are Muslim, Jewish or even agnostic) would that still disprove the ideas they present?
Let me change the subject for a moment. Does the fact that the most vocal supporters of gay marriage happen to be gay make their cause automatically wrong? No, the personal practices, be they religious or sexual, of one presenting an idea are inconsequential to the truthfulness or rightness of the claim.
The writer, Jonathan Gerald, seems to be arguing against his own strawman stereotyped version of Intelligent Design. He, along with the reporter in the Bush story, frame the debate as one between science and religion. This ignores the scientific credentials of those on the side of ID. Here is a list of hundreds of scientists, with a doctorate in a hard science field, who believe in Biblical Creation. This does not even include the countless number who do not believe in a young earth, but believe in a Creator.
Gerald goes on to say: “Scientists claim the problem with intelligent design is that it is not subject to testing; it cannot be proved or disproved and thus is must remain in the realm of religion.” That is not merely a problem with Intelligent Design it is a problem with every Origin of Life theory or suggestion. By this standard, Darwinian evolution must also be unscientific because it has never been repeated in a lab or been subjected to the scientific method.
He goes on to confuse Intelligent Design with optimal design and beneficial design.
Here is the real reason why [evolution must be true]: If the mechanisms of Darwinian evolution are, in fact, an accurate model for the development of life on Earth, then it is reasonable to expect that some life forms and structures would come out looking like they were intelligently designed while others would not.
But if Darwin was wrong and the development of life is, in fact, directed by a, well, Director of Life, then everything would have to be designed intelligently. And very clearly it is not.
When a car company comes out with a new model and it will only go 100 MPH, do we say that the car is not intelligently designed? No, the car was not designed optimally as far as speed is concerned, but it may be a safer car or a more fuel efficent car. Trade-offs are required. If you add more safety features to a car, it may cause the car to go slower, have a longer accleration time or be more expensive. Simply because something is not designed optimally for one category does not mean that it is not designed intelligently.
Merely saying something is not beneficial to you or others you know does not make something less likely to be intelligently designed either. My brother-in-law has a terrible reaction to shrimp and other shell-fish. If someone cooked a delicious and beautiful plate of shrimp scampi, does the fact that it will cause him to swell remove the possiblility of design behind the meal? Of course not, neither does the existence of unbeneficial things in our world remove the possibility of an Intelligent Designer.
Gerald list mildew, mosquitoes, lower back problems, cancer and childhood leukemia as evidence that there is no Intelligent Designer. Did I miss it when Intelligent Design scientist claimed that a Creator caused world would be perfect today? Actually, it is the evolutionist that is claiming that the world should be getting better and better as we evolve. The current shape of the world fits with the Biblical model of creation and the fall.
The philosophical “problem of pain” is one that can and should be investigated and discussed, but a philosophical question does not prove or disprove the truthfulness of anything.
UPDATE: Can I say great minds think alike? In today’s Evangelical Outpost, Joe wrote about teleological arguments, specifically the anthropic principle. He goes on to list 26 of the parameters that must be present in the universe for life to exist.