"Intelligent Design" Belongs in Church not in Biology Class

A critique of an article by Mort Kondracke

Mort,

Hello, my name is Will Hoyt and I am the President of the East Tennessee Creation Science Association. I read your article and offer for your consideration the following critique. 

[Mort] ID isn't science. Its concepts can't be independently verified.

[Chris] Naturalistic origins are science and can be verified? To the contrary, they are philosophical presumptions and we “know” they cannot be verified. All we can do is look for evidence. You contend that intelligent design cannot be researched and have evidence presented in support of that position? I would point you to the SETI project (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) that has been ongoing for decades now. This is a science project….yes? It has a research methodology designed to distinguish intelligent signals from random background noise. Of course the humorous thing here is that if they detected some repeating primes from space they would conclude it to be of intelligent origin. Yet we have uncovered over the last 50 years that the fundamental unit of all life on this planet, the cell, contains unfathomably large quantities of specific information on a molecular storage media millions of times more advanced than our latest computer technology, and scientists conclude it arose naturally. ID most certainly is testable, and scientists currently test for it, but their blind bias has kept them from focusing their efforts in the most glaringly obvious place, the cell. That is the crux of ID and that is also why you are woefully myopic in your view of this science.

[Mort] In essence, ID holds that living organisms are so complex that they couldn't be the product of blind natural forces, but had to be the work of a Designer - or, at least, a designer.

[Chris] And naturalism holds that they are not, which of course is the whole issue. There must be balanced perspectives in science for it to operate effectively. I might also add that the scientific investigation of naturalism as a cause is quite aptly demonstrating it is not sufficient. Of course ID should greatly accelerate things here since secular scientists are seemingly less excited about the falsification of naturalistic origins. Doesn’t a true scientist follow the facts where they lead, and actively try to falsify hypotheses and theories? It seems a little more rigor in this area could be exercised with regard to naturalism if there was a more balanced perspective in the scientific community. So the scientific method is working, but only half-heartedly so, since those employing it are lackluster about the falsification of naturalism. As the dissemination of information and honest exposition of its ramifications becomes more widespread, this phenomenon should reverse. We as a society are currently at the threshold of this revolution in science.

[Mort] The scientific problem is this: There is no way to locate actual evidence of a designer, be it small-d or big-D.

[Chris] There is also no way to locate actual evidence that excludes a designer. This is completely transparent to the discussion. No designer needs be identified to do the science. That is why it is not a religious or philosophical topic as you have posited. The question is can we provide evidence scientifically that origins cannot be accomplished naturally by the processes and forces we are aware of? The answer to this question is yes. This is good science. Even if you are a naturalist you should be excited by the challenging of scientific theories…..assuming…..you are truly unbiased. The void only creates energy among scientists to fill it, which spurs on the scientific process. This naturalistic bias in science retards its progress, no matter how you look at it. The energy is just not there for aggressive falsification.

[Mort] Proponents of ID, including some sophisticated scientists, point to holes in Darwinian explanations for the development of life and say that only "intelligent design" can fill the gap. But that's not proof of design.

[Chris] And here you belie you scientific ignorance. “Proof” is not the issue, for neither can be proven, but when there is evidence that supports the viewpoint of ID it is shelved in lieu of evidence to the contrary because only naturalism is science. Is this what the scientific method is all about? No. It is precisely this mechanism that retards the progress of science. Present only evidence in favor of naturalism, and wish away evidence to the contrary. This is not intellectually honest.

[Mort] ‘Kansas' conservative-dominated Board of Education seems to be on the verge of changing its state standards for science education by removing evolution as the preferred concept for students to learn in biology and creating a toss-up with ID.

[Chris] Yes, there is a furor in this country over evolution, but not because we teach too much of it, but because we teach too little. It is only presented to students in a one-sided dogmatic fashion when the problems and challenges to evolution are sweeping. It is not evolution that is the issue; it is the teaching of it uncritically as “fact” to students that is the issue. ID is countering that, and it will continue to grow, not because it is a religious movement, but because it corrects an injustice in academia where only one viewpoint is allowed. This extraordinary bias is based on a philosophical view, and not scientific evidence. But of course, as your statistics show, many already sense this.

[Mort] In 2001, when Congress considered President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act, Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) tried to mandate that challenges to Darwinism be included in school curricula. He got a favorable vote in the Senate, but the provision didn't make it into the final law.

[Chris] The paradigm shift from the ignorance of naturalism will take time. Just like belief that cells were simple chemistry prevailed for over 100 years after Darwin, but are now known to be nanotechnological machine systems complex beyond our wildest imaginations. Of course scientists have their explanation….panspermia. This is the idea that a comet seeded our planet with “sperm” organisms of some type, a sound example of how devoid of natural explanation life truly is. Outrageous explanatory theoretical appendages like this are clear examples of how naturalism is failing as an explanation for origins. The geocentric view of the solar system, before it gave way to heliocentric view, required lavish and outrageous work arounds to explain the multiple lines of observational data pouring in from various sources. So it is today with naturalism and origins. These work arounds are symptomatic of a dying paradigm in science.

[Mort] Charles Darwin transformed science in 1859 and set off a political and philosophical storm that hasn't stopped by arguing in "The Origin of Species" that life forms have evolved by a process of random genetic mutations and the added (and cruel) process of "natural selection" whereby only the fittest mutants survived and reproduced.

[Chris] Again, you illustrate your lack of knowledge of this subject. Darwin’s original theory was proven wrong in the 1950s with the discovery of genetics. Darwin’s original theory had natural selection acting upon adaptive variation, which we have known now for over half a century to be incorrect. Neo-Darwinism arose with the discovery of genetics and his theory was modified to be natural selection acting upon chance genetic mutation. By the 1980s leading evolutionists like Stephen J. Gould at Harvard were realizing that chance mutation is virtually always harmful, and in the few instances it conferred some benefit it would never be able to produce the thousands of simultaneous genetic and molecular system changes required to bring about new morphology. That is why Gould, along with Niles Eldridge proposed punctuated equilibria (PE), which is evolution in jumps and spurts, or “evolution by jerks” as we creationists fondly refer to it. Of course this fits with the fossil record which is devoid of transitions and intermediaries, and presents multiple explosions of phyla suddenly, such as in the Cambrian period, which is part of the impetus for PE. Just as the geocentric model required many workarounds to function as a scientific apparatus, so it is now with evolution. The very formulation of PE is evidence that the fossil record does not support gradual evolution, as Darwin admitted in chapters 10 and 11 of his book. Darwin also said that if it could ever be shown that small successive changes could not produce evolutionary change that his theory utterly breaks down. So, by even his admission our current state of science has demonstrated that the theory of evolution is devoid of merit. But after all, what could you expect from a theologian trying to play scientist. You did know that Darwin’s degree was in theology didn’t you?

[Mort] It's essentially a God-less theory, and religious conservatives have been at war with it ever since, most famously in the 1925 Scopes "monkey" trial in Tennessee that pitted lawyers Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan against each other.

[Chris] “God-less” you say? So it does work off a philosophical premise that can be construed as religious in nature. Thank you for proving my point.

[Mort] Technically, the conservative side won the court battle - biology teacher John Scopes was fined $100 for teaching evolution - but Darwin triumphed almost everywhere else.

[Chris] Yes, the liberals and humanists did a good job with this one, but the battle is not over.

[Mort] The U.S. Supreme Court has twice struck down laws requiring the teaching of biblical creationism as breaching the barrier between church and state.

[Chris] Yes, but ID does not advocate breaking out the Bible and using Genesis to teach creation, which has been the problem in the past. ID is concerned with a fair and balanced presentation of the facts, including those that are problematic for those that are biased toward pure naturalism. There is extraordinary evidence pointing toward the necessity of creator, so much so as to convert a world famous atheist author recently (See Atheist Converted Article). This is the same “scientific” information that we shelter our public school students from. Why? Is it because this new evidence has profound philosophical ramifications that fly in the face of the prevailing view (paradigm) in science? I think so.

[Mort] It's remarkable that, despite the preference for evolution in school curricula and overwhelming scientific evidence, polls consistently show that at least a plurality of adults - sometimes a majority - still hold the creationist belief that God created humans within the past 10,000 years.

[Chris] Overwhelming evidence for evolution? If it is so overwhelming why does it not overwhelm more people?

[Mort] In a 2004 CBS poll, only 27 percent supported the belief - one that has been endorsed by the Roman Catholic Church - that humans evolved from lesser species, but that God guided the process. And only 13 percent believe in pure Darwinism - that humans evolved without divine intervention.

[Chris] The RCC also endorsed (and enforced) geocentrism which originated formally in Greek thought circa 300 BC. This is yet another thing in common that evolution has with geocentrism.

[Mort] Sixty-five percent of those polled said that both creationism and evolution should be taught in schools. Fully 37 percent favored teaching creationism instead of evolution.

[Chris] Yes, because they realize what you do not, that we currently are engaged in viewpoint discrimination in the public schools. There are only two primary viewpoints; either origins are natural or intelligently designed. There are many variations on these two concepts, but that is totally inclusive at a high level. Therefore, by excluding an “ID” view and teaching a solely “naturalistic” view, we are engaging in viewpoint discrimination and violating the free exercise of these two viewpoints. In light of all the evidence that has poured in the last 50 years this is incomprehensible, and a growing body of the public recognizes that. The fact that these people have to learn the criticisms of naturalistic theory through religious sources is a clear indicator of the bias at work in academia. It is also quite helpful to people like me who have a ministry in this subject. Presenting criticisms of naturalism withheld in the classroom gives the subject of creation more impact, and it also makes people of faith aware of the bias. After all, if the evidence against naturalism, which by default favors creation, is being withheld, it must be significant. If it’s not, then what’s all the stink about anyway?

[Mort] Scientific critics of ID gibe that it's "creationism in a cheap tuxedo" or "creationism with God remaining anonymous," but that's not true.

[Chris] Not true indeed, that is certainly a very shallow understanding of the ID movement.

[Mort] Leading ID theorists - they are organized through the Seattle-based Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute - have long since abandoned "young earth" biblical literalism, accepting scientific evidence that the earth is billions of years old.

[Chris] And this is only partially true. Many in that camp still hold to that belief, but are picking their battles based on solely scientific grounds. The big news today is that the chemical origin of life and biological evolution theories are dead. For example, did you know that there are millions of molecular machines in each and every living cell performing thousands of functions every second? Did you know these molecular machine systems are using billions of pieces of information from the most advanced data storage media in the known universe (DNA)? Did you know that 4 billion of these molecular machine system driven; information packed cells will fit in a thimble? Did you know that each one is thousands of times more complex than our most advanced spacecraft? Did you know that science cannot even account for even the rudimentary assemblage of the mere building blocks (proteins) of these systems? The proteins are actually coded for in DNA and constructed by advanced molecular machine factories that translate and transcribe RNA fragments they harvest from DNA. After that they use these fragments to construct and fold proteins into useful molecular components that are then shuttled to the appropriate place in the cell where they are needed at exactly the time they are needed? That is just a sampling of the complexities of life. The bottom line is that it is scientifically impossible for this to just have happened. It did not originate naturally, nor did it grow to mind-boggling levels of layered complexity and systematized integration in living creatures naturally. The ID movement is the beginning of a paradigm shift in scientific thought that is currently filtering out to the population. The science is already there, but it will take time for the uninitiated like yourself to get your head around its significance.

[Mort] In fact, even though it receives much of its funding from religious conservatives, ID doesn't totally dismiss evolution or claim that the "intelligence" behind the universe is divine.

[Chris] Yes, it must be subtle at first. Cultural change will require time and tact.

[Mort] This constitutes such a retreat from old-line creationism and some commentators have said that the American scientific community should pocket the victory and, instead of turning their backs on ID as beneath debate, engage its advocates and prove them wrong.

[Chris] It is not a retreat, just the scouts of a new paradigm in science. You must remember, it was only 200 short years ago that practically all science was performed by theists. In fact, the fundamental basis for the scientific method is theistic in the sense that the universe is orderly and consistent with that of a well designed mechanism, a universe you can set your watch by, so-to-speak. The scientific community will have no choice but to engage ID proponents, simply because ID proponents are part of this community. But I believe you will find their arguments will not be easily dismissed by naturalism.

[Mort] In fact, that's happened to some extent -among other places, in a printed 2002 debate in "Natural History" magazine in which establishment scientists pretty well refuted the contentions of leading ID scientists Michael Behe, a Lehigh University biochemist, and William Dembski, a mathematician and theologian at Baylor University, that the complexity of cells and organisms implied "design" and a "designer."

[Chris] Refuted? In your expert opinion no less. So I take it you think naturalists have a solid explanation for the origin of biological complexity? You miss the point that the naturalists do not have a clue how this complexity arose, hence the scientific nature of ID. They are in the process of developing testable hypotheses for demonstrating the inadequacy already known to exist in chemical origins and biological evolution, something our “so-called” sound scientists in the naturalism camp have been reluctant to do. I wonder why? Could it be…….bias?

[Mort] As Brown University biology professor Kenneth Miller wrote, "if Behe wishes to suggest that the intricacies of nature, life and the universe reveal a world of meaning and purpose consistent with a divine intelligence, his point is philosophical, not scientific. It is a philosophical view, incidentally, that I share. However, to support that view, one should not find it necessary to pretend that we know less than we really do about the evolution of living systems."

[Chris] No, scientific models defining what it takes to originate information rich submicroscopic machine systems in cells is valid science, and a testable scientific theory, not a philosophical model. Miller’s viewpoint is logically fallacious since it can also be said that “if Miller wishes to suggest that the intricacies of nature, life and the universe reveal a world of meaning and purpose consistent with a NATURALISTIC ORDER, his point is philosophical, not scientific. It is a philosophical view, incidentally, that I DO NOT share. However, to support that view, one should not find it necessary to pretend that we know MORE than we really do about the evolution of living systems." A DNA molecule is the most advanced information storage media in the known universe, and billions of times more efficient than anything we have designed to date in our computers. It can be scientifically demonstrated that random chance and chemistry alone will not give you this, and that is where our science is heading in the future. We are merely witnessing its birth at present in the ID camp.

[Mort] A valuable primer on the proofs of Darwinism was published by National Geographic magazine in November 2004 ("Was Darwin Wrong? No."), arguing that evolutionary theory is sustained by numerous lines of inquiry from fossil studies through the microbiology of infectious diseases.

[Chris] And of course this is another example of the extreme philosophical bias in science. They present a picture so one-sided, so devoid of critical thought, that the rocks themselves cry out for an honest discussion of these issues. There are multiple rebuttals to be found from reputable scientists on the web. There is not one evidence given in this slanted article that is not either completely refuted by the facts, or called into serious question by evidence to the contrary. But of course, if this is all you read you would never know this, thus illustrating my point about bias. Here are two thorough counter articles, but many more can be found by a simple internet search:

http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs2004/1106ng.asp

http://www.apologeticspress.org/modules.php?name=Read&itemid=2644&cat=5

[Mort] The ability of various microbes - bacteria like staphylococcus and viruses like HIV - to quickly develop immunity to the medicines invented to combat them is evolution in real-time, according to writer David Quammen.

[Chris] And of course David is overstating the case based on his biased viewpoint. Salvador Luria and Max Delbrück demonstrated in 1943 that the resistant bacteria descended from preexisting strains; the genes for the resistance were already available in the gene pool. Although some have disputed this interpretation of their experiments, it is now well established. Yes, there are a few documented examples in which a simple mutation in a bacterium brings about antibiotic resistance, but in these cases it does so by reducing or eliminating the affected gene's function, not by creating a new function. This imposes a serious fitness cost to the organism that makes it virtually unable to compete with the parent specimens when reintroduced into the original environment. Furthermore, after exposing bacteria to accelerated mutation with chemicals and radiation, and developing thousands of subsequent generational strains in the laboratory, we have never gotten non-bacteria, or even produced noticeable morphologic change. Even among viruses, mutations can alter a coating protein and thereby temporarily disguise the virus. But again, no new function is created, such as the ability to form a protein coating. Mutations can not drive the evolutionary progress we observe. But of course many honest scientists already admit this. If you think mutations are so beneficial, move your family to Love Canal or Chernobyl. You’ll find out what mutations are all about then.

[Mort] Personally, I think that high school students ought to be taught about disputes between religion and science, but in a history class that covers the suppression of Galileo and the battles over Darwin.

[Chris] And as I have shown evolution has much more in common with geocentrism than creation. I have also demonstrated that ID is not any more religious than naturalism.

[Mort]They also ought to be taught that no one knows for sure what caused life to originate on earth or what caused the creation of the universe.

[Chris] This is one of the primary thrusts of ID. So are you for it or not?

[Mort] I favor the religious view of this, but there's a secular view that students should know about, too.

[Chris] Yes, they should know about secular views, but that of course is not the issue at hand. The issue at hand is that we are withholding evidence critical of naturalism from public school students, evidence so profoundly powerful as to convert a world famous atheist recently. So you completely miss the point again. The point is that we currently teach this secular view uncritically. That is the issue. I am in favor of teaching evolution, as long as it is taught critically. The era of religious naturalistic dogmatism in the sciences is over.

[Mort] But as to the "how" of biology - the science - schools should teach the best evidence available, which is evolutionary theory.

[Chris] If evolution is taught critically many if not most will reject it because it is unsound scientifically. Of course this is exactly what the entrenched atheistic establishment fears. Since most in this country are ready to reject it in spite of it being taught dogmatically and uncritically, just imagine what might happen if it is criticized in the classroom……it would be pandemonium. Wouldn’t it be awful if those kids came to reject that they came from monkeys based on the science? Wouldn’t it be terrible if they could not justify their sin based on animalistic origins? I guess that Darwin shirt one of the shooters at Columbine wore could end up being a thing of the past, an societal evolutionary dead end, scientifically speaking.

[Mort] That's especially true when a majority of Americans still think the world is only 10,000 years old.

[Chris] As if it has been proven it is not of course. But then, given all the opportunity afforded evolution in “deep time” it is not viable anyway, so again, you bring up another argument that is transparent to the issue.

In summary, the primary thrust of your article states that since ID comes from a creation perspective that is Religious, thus not scientific, and that it is not testable. I would submit that you are presenting a very biased slant that is not open to the full range of perspective on this issue. Naturalism is also from a religious perspective….one of atheism. It is an obvious fact that this is the presumption that must be in place. So in fact, both perspectives must assume something philosophical and religious in nature. Furthermore, your test that makes ID unscientific can also be applied to the naturalistic viewpoint. Just as no one can prove a creator does exist, no one can prove a creator does not exist. So following your logic, this point you make is completely irrelevant to the issue, since neither presumption can be proven. Off course the word proof is a big no-no in scientific speak; we only present “evidence.” And that, off course, is the problem with naturalistic science in public schools. There is extraordinary evidence pointing toward the necessity of a creator, evidence that can be assessed in scientific hypothesis testing, so much so as to convert a world famous atheist author recently. Sure there are profound philosophical implications……but so be it. Why exercise viewpoint discrimination in this issue? Who is it that is afraid of the cultural ramifications of an open, honest and frank discussion in the classroom of the deficiencies of the naturalistic theories on origins?

Mort, I am very passionate about this issue, so please do not take this critique as a personal attack against you or your character. If I have been sharp and aggressive in my wording I apologize. I did so out of the necessity to accurately convey the weight and depth of my viewpoint. I would greatly enjoy a discussion of these matters with you if you are willing. Please contact me personally if you would like to dialogue on this issue. Thank you for you time and attention.

Will Hoyt

Daily Proverb

Proverbs 21:15

It is joy to the just to do judgment: but destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity.