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32644 AN INTELECTUAL DESIGNER











The name "Intelligent Design" does not suggest the supernatural. An intelligent designer need not be supernatural, and the supernatural need not be an intelligent designer. Genies are not "teleological" - they fulfil your wishes without concern for the consequences, and a magic ring can be used for good or evil. And, of course, humans, other intelligent animals and (presumably) space aliens are not supernatural. In order to solve a complaint about the "random" in evolution, one is looking for a goal-directed (a possible sense of "intelligent") agency, and whether or not it is supernatural is irrelevant. While in resolving a complaint that sciences are improperly ignoring supernatural causes, intelligence is not required.



In order to reconcile the ID (Intelligent Design) hypothesis with the fact that billions of years ago only unicellular organisms existed.  The ID advocates have invented the idea of "front loading" which is that ALL the features of every single organism that exists today were loaded into the original single-celled organism by the Intelligent Designer billions of years ago, somehow, so that they would eventually emerge at some point in the future, thus allowing what appears to be evolution to happen.


The old argument against front loading is genetic decay. If the genes were loaded into the DNA but were not used until billions of years later, mutations would rapidly destroy them. This happened for example to the Y chromosome. The ID rebuttal to this argument is that the genes which were originally loaded into the unicellular organism were useful for a different purpose, and that the intelligent designer somehow foresaw that the genes loaded were going to be adapted to perform a different function. The only way to verify this hypothesis of course is to find an organism that contains every single gene of every single organism on the planet. Nobody has ever found such an organism.












Intelligent design has been strongly pushed by the Discovery Institute as part of the wedge strategy as outlined in the Wedge Document in their attempt to create a science-sounding version of creationism. It has been roundly rejected by most scientists on the grounds that it has no peer-reviewed publications of any standards, and has produced no positive evidence for its claims. The wedge strategy itself is to create a public furore over the concept of "teaching the controversy." In the real scientific world, of course, there is no such controversy over the facts and theories underlying modern concepts of evolution.


To date, intelligent design has been officially introduced into exactly one school district - and there, it tore apart the community, cost the school board millions of dollars, and was eventually thrown out after the Kitzmiller trial. Although intelligent design is always a "Trojan horse" for creationism - that is to say, creationism with a new name and a few obfuscating principles - there is a sliding scale of how egregious and visible the disguise is. Some people actually believe it to be real science (albeit erroneously), while others use it as a clear pretext for preaching, er, teaching creationism.


In the Kitzmiller case, the disguise was patently obvious. "Intelligent design proponents" there sought to have the book Of Pandas and People, a creationist screed, taught as part of a new "intelligent design" curriculum at the local Dover public high school. ID supporters hoped to prove at trial that the book was legitimate science, and not creationism. However, there was one slight problem - the book was a book about creationism, with the words "creator," "creationism," etc., merely replaced with "designer," "intelligent design," etc. by a basic word-processor "find/replace" function. The ruse was made glaringly obvious by spelling errors like "cdesign proponentsists."


No appellate precedent exists by which to judge the legality of teaching intelligent design in public schools. However, in the landmark district federal court case, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, Judge John E. Jones III ruled that given that the policy of teaching intelligent design was supported by religious rhetoric, it amounted to a teaching of religion by the state, in violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.


Intelligent design was "religion" because, in the legal language applied, a reasonable person (based on the events surrounding the policy's adoption) could have concluded that it had the purpose or effect of establishing a particular religion. In short, when a school board tries to teach intelligent design, the level of religious rhetoric is directly related to the likelihood of its unconstitutionality under the Lemon v. Kurtzmann test.


This precedent, and the correlation it establishes between religious rhetoric and the likelihood of any intelligent design policy being found unconstitutional, will be vitally important in heading off future school boards which attempt to teach intelligent design as "science." Intelligent design's "wedge" appeal rests on its attempt to characterize itself as non-religious, after all. Fortunately, the idea that intelligent design is non-religious is being rebutted on a practically daily basis... by its own proponents.


Consider a Kentucky schoolteacher who sought to teach intelligent design to her seventh grade biology class. The teacher curiously taught the "scientific theory" as something practically indistinguishable from creationism, complete with flood geology and young earth chronology. The school board, after being made aware of the same by the ACLU, and the likely legal troubles it would face, terminated its tacit approval of intelligent design.


The theory of evolution by natural selection deals only with the question of how organisms develop and form new species. Logically it can have nothing to say about the origin of the universe or the origin of life. It appears that some of the more, shall we say, scientifically-minded believers in ID attempt to constrain themselves similarly and claim no more than God somebody is controlling evolution. Others however go further and claim that ID explains not only the origin of life but even the origin of the universe. This expansion in the claimed scope of the theory is probably caused by two things:


If you see ID as a code word for "God" then the temptation to ascribe all of existence to "ID" is very strong.


There is a common misconception among fundamentalists about what evolution actually is. For many, any scientific theory is an example of evolution and, to compete, ID must be capable of including anything which they erroneously believe evolution includes.


There is also a difference of opinion about what is actually involved biologically in ID. Again, for the more scientifically-minded it is simply evolution which is guided by God and common descent is fully accepted. For the more fundamentalist believers it is equivalent to progressive creationism in which complete new species are periodically created by God someone. It is patently absurd for something which is presented as a scientific theory to be so lacking in any clear definition of scope and definition. (A reader who takes a close look the pro-ID description of Expelled will notice a number of these contradictions.) The contradictions exist as a consequence of the fact that ID attempts to include so many creationist ideas under the guise of science.


We can defined intelligent design as the "hypothesis" that "an all-powerful designer" created the universe, including living things in their present forms. It is concluded that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection." They refer to their conclusion as "the scientific theory of intelligent design."


Does their conclusion transform the intelligent design hypothesis into a "scientific theory"? No. A scientific theory, by its own merit, cannot be based on "all-powerful designers" or other supernatural causes (unless their existence can be shown by evidence, in which case, they cease to be supernatural and are merely unexplained). Their conclusion that intelligent design is the "best" explanation is an example of a propaganda technique named "assertion."


An outstanding issue of intelligent design is what mechanism the hypothesized "designer" uses to initiate design diversity. According to the theory of evolution, this mechanism is genetic mutation resulting from environmental stresses and point mutations caused by the cellular chemical environment. As of this time intelligent design supporters have yet to offer a plausible mechanism to which diversity can be attributed that differentiates from the mechanisms listed by the theory of evolution. As such the intelligent design proponents have yet to offer any empirical evidence to support the claim of a designer.


ID proponents such as Michael Behe promote theories such as "irreducible complexity" as evidence for their ideas. Irreducible complexity posits that there are certain organs and structures found in nature that have no convincing gradual evolutionary pathway, and are too complex to have come about in whole by chance. These ideas are hotly disputed (or dismissed as non-science) by scientists, but regardless of their truth value they do not constitute evidence for an intelligent designer. Proponents of intelligent design make an assumption unwarranted by the evidence in that their logic goes along the lines of "The origins and diversity of the species cannot be accounted for by evolution and natural selection alone, therefore there must have been a designer involved."


The very lack of positive scientific evidence suggesting that there is a designer involved in creating life raises the question of how the design hypothesis came about. Opponents of the design hypothesis would suggest that proponents are religiously motivated, and that their ideas are not about understanding how life came to exist but rather about promoting a particular religious world view as espoused in the Wedge Document. One problem with finding evidence for intelligent design is the inability to distinguish "naturally" evolved mechanisms from "designed" mechanisms. Nobody knows what the "design" of a supernatural creator looks like; how can we tell what was and was not designed.


There has also been no attempt to specify the periodicity of the miraculous interventions by the hypothesized "intelligent designer". In other words, the hypothesis does not state if the miraculous interventions take place annually, monthly, daily, or only when the designer feels that miraculous intervention is necessary. In fact, we await with interest any submission from supporters of this concept which would elevate it to the realms of science. Our article on what could disprove intelligent design remains embarrassingly void of valid arguments. Slightly better educated supporters of ID sometimes complain that the theory of evolution lacks any mention of, or generally accepted hypothesis about, abiogenesis. It is of interest, however, that versions of ID which pretend to be science also lack any such mechanism - though the unstated assumption is that it was the work of god.


The objection also betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the theory of evolution, which does not propose an explanation of how life started. It merely describes what happens after some form of life is extant.


 


 


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