Skip to comments.Scientific support for 'intelligent design' disputed (MSM Gay Agenda alert)
Posted on 09/27/2005 7:22:58 PM PDT by gobucks
At the heart of the argument over teaching evolution in the classroom is the claim that some scientists, not just religious believers, support the concept of "intelligent design."
Advocates of intelligent design argue that living things are too complex to be explained by natural forces alone. Therefore, they say, only a higher power - God or an unnamed "designer" - could create life and empower it to evolve into the myriad species of organisms on Earth today.
The vast majority of working scientists contend that biological evolution is an established fact supported by overwhelming evidence. They say that evolution's mechanism is well explained by the process of random mutation and natural selection that Charles Darwin described 147 years ago. Darwin's theory - updated and confirmed by recent genetic discoveries - eventually will answer all or most questions about the origin and history of life, they say.
Nevertheless, polls repeatedly have found that a majority of Americans accept the concept of intelligent design and want it to be taught in schools along with evolution. President Bush waded into the debate in August, saying that schools should teach both.
Several school districts across the country want design to be taught along with evolution in science classes. A federal judge in Harrisburg, Pa., this week began hearing a lawsuit against the Dover, Pa., school board, which voted last fall to require students to learn about intelligent design.
The passionate public disputes over teaching design have focused attention on vigorous debates among scientists over specific pieces of evolutionary theory, which until now were largely confined to learned books and journals.
For example, scientists know how atoms and molecules combine to form larger structures and how primitive microbes evolved into fish, flowers, birds and people. But they admit that they don't understand the origin of life itself, the crucial step when a lifeless molecule became a living cell. There are many hypotheses, but no proven natural process.
"The big problem is making life," Edward Peltzer, an oceanographer at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California, told the Kansas Board of Education during a dispute over intelligent design in May.
One argument for intelligent design comes from Robert Kaita, a physicist at the Department of Energy's Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory in Princeton, N.J. He noted that the world depends on a delicate balance among the precise properties of the universe, such as gravity, electromagnetic radiation and the forces inside the atom. The slightest change in the fine-tuning of these quantities would make life as we know it impossible.
"For me, they provide compelling evidence for a designer," Kaita said.
Mainstream scientists contend that there's no positive scientific evidence for intelligent design. They say the case for a supernatural designer is purely negative - an unjustified leap into theology to explain holes and uncertainties in evolutionary theory.
"The only evidence that intelligent design is able to muster is the observation that science has not yet explained everything, and therefore design must be kept around as a default explanation for what is left," said Kenneth Miller, a biologist at Brown University in Providence, R.I.
"There is exactly zero evidence for intelligent design," agreed Douglas Futuyma, a biologist at the State University of New York in Stony Brook. "Design advocates argue by claiming flaws or gaps in evolutionary knowledge or theory, not by any positive evidence whatever for their theory."
Nevertheless, supporters of intelligent design argue that their position is based on science, not just religious faith.
"We are challenging the philosophy of scientific materialism, not science itself," says a policy statement from the Discovery Institute in Seattle, the headquarters of the design movement.
Carl Koval, a chemist at the University of Colorado in Boulder, called intelligent design "a scientific objection" to the Darwinian theory of evolution. "There is nothing unscientific about saying that a theory doesn't fit with the observations," Koval said.
The design movement asserts that Darwinism is unable to explain not only the origin of life, but also gaps in the fossil record, the vast variety of modern body shapes, the complexity of a cell or the genetic information contained in DNA.
Intelligent design leaders take pains to distinguish their position from "creationism" - the belief, based on the biblical book of Genesis, that God created the Earth and its inhabitants in six days 6,000 years ago. Instead, design backers accept that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old, and that life is at least 3 billion years old.
They admit that evolution works on a small scale, "micro-evolution" within a single species, but assert that it cannot form entirely new species, known as "macro-evolution."
To buttress its case, the Discovery Institute has collected about 400 signatures on a statement labeled "Scientific Dissent from Darwinism." About 80 of the signers are biologists; the rest are mostly philosophers, mathematicians, chemists, computer scientists, historians and lawyers.
The statement of dissent, however, doesn't even mention intelligent design. Instead, it simply raises doubts about the present state of evolutionary theory. In its entirety, the statement reads:
"We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged."
"That statement is one that most scientists can or should be able to sign," said Martin Poenie, a cell biologist at the University of Texas in Austin, one of the signers.
Some who signed the statement of dissent said that doesn't mean they support intelligent design.
One signer, Stanley Salthe, a zoologist at the State University of New York in Binghamton, replied "absolutely not" when he was asked if he agrees that there must have been a supernatural designer.
David Berlinski, a mathematician and senior fellow of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture and a sharp critic of neo-Darwinism, also signed the statement of dissent. But in an e-mail message, Berlinski declared, "I have never endorsed intelligent design."
Asked to cite scientific evidence for supernatural design, John Marburger, President Bush's science adviser, replied: "There isn't any. ... Intelligent design is not a scientific concept."
Following are three of the reasons some scientists offer for intelligent design:
A basic text of the intelligent design movement is "Darwin's Black Box," published in 1996 by Michael Behe, a biochemist at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. Behe argues that living cells are far too complex to be explained by Darwinian evolution.
He calls this the problem of "irreducible complexity" and says it led him to conclude that cells must have been designed by an intelligent agent. He leaves it to his readers to decide whether the designer is God.
"Many systems in the cell show signs of purposeful intelligent design," Behe told the Kansas Board of Education in May. "What science has discovered in the cell in the past 50 years is poorly explained by a gradual theory such as Darwin's."
Besides cells, Behe says many other biological systems are too complex to evolve naturally - for example, the little propellers (flagella) that enable bacteria to swim, the blood-clotting mechanism and the immune system.
"Not all things can occur by tiny, tiny changes ... leading to more complex systems," as neo-Darwinism proposes, he says.
"The notion of irreducible complexity is nonsense," Miller, the Brown University biologist, responded in his 1999 book, "Finding Darwin's God."
"The mechanism of evolution is real, is observable and is more than adequate to the task," Miller said. "Evolution tinkers, improvises and cobbles together new organs out of old parts."
For example, he said, bacterial flagella evolved from simple tubes used by microbes to inject poisons into other cells. Jawless fish had a primitive blood-clotting system that grew more complicated in fish with jaws and still more complicated in advanced land animals.
"An irreducibly complex system can be built gradually by adding parts, which, while initially just advantageous, become essential," said Allen Orr, a biologist at Rochester University in Rochester, N.Y.
THE CAMBRIAN EXPLOSION
A key argument from the intelligent design camp is that Darwinian evolution can't explain the so-called Cambrian Explosion, an astounding blossoming of animal life around 530 million years ago.
The event is sometimes known as "Evolution's Big Bang," when major new groups of animals - including shellfish, insects and creatures with spinal cords, the ancestors of fish, reptiles and mammals - spread rapidly over the Earth.
"The Cambrian explosion occurred within an exceedingly narrow window of geologic time, lasting no more than 5 million years," said Stephen Meyer, a philosopher of science and a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute.
Intelligent design advocates say the sudden appearance of so many new major body types (called phyla), couldn't have arisen by slow, gradual steps, as Darwin's theory assumes. They say the fossil record lacks transitional stages connecting complex Cambrian creatures with older, simpler living forms.
"The Cambrian fossil record contradicts" the Darwinists' expectations, Meyer said.
"To suddenly appear in the Cambrian must remain inexplicable," said Jonathan Wells, another senior fellow at the Discovery Institute who holds doctorates in religion and biology. "Clearly, Darwin's theory of life does not fit the fossil evidence for the origin of the major groups of animals."
Mainstream biologists, however, insist that Darwinian evolution can explain the rise of new phyla and species. They say the Cambrian explosion wasn't as abrupt or as inexplicable as the design movement contends.
New evidence shows that relatively complex animals existed as many as 125 million years before the Cambrian period. Fossil embryos 40 million to 55 million years before the Cambrian have recently been discovered in southern China.
Recent studies of DNA sequences in well-dated fossils "set the divergences of these major groups to a time well before the Cambrian," Andrew Cameron, a biologist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, reported in the journal Science last year.
"As the fossil record becomes more complete, it sometimes provides the very intermediate forms the nonexistence of which the creationists were willing to predict," Miller said. "Even their favorite gaps are filling up, and the historical record of evolution becomes more compelling with each passing season."
THE ORIGIN OF LIFE
Scientists associated with the design movement claim support for their theory from the fact that mainstream Darwinists cannot tell how life began. There are many hypotheses, but no consensus, on how lifeless molecules became living cells.
Every laboratory experiment to "produce some of the simplest chemicals of life has completely failed," said William Harris, a biochemist at the University of Missouri in Kansas City. "The information carried in DNA cannot be explained by the laws of physics and chemistry."
In response, Robert Hazen, a geologist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, said, "We don't have all the answers right now, but there is no evidence that the origin of life is other than a natural process."
In his new book, "Genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life's Origin," Hazen recounted a host of experiments that attempt to show how chemical evolution might have produced a primitive "proto-cell" from complex organic molecules that were readily available on the early Earth. After that beginning, he said, the cells could have gradually evolved into the enormous range of organisms inhabiting the planet.
Although no one has created life in the laboratory yet, Hazen predicted that someone is likely to succeed in the next 10 to 20 years. That may not be the way it actually happened, but such an experiment would show that life could be created without divine intervention.
Thus, Orthodox Darwinism is important to "mainstream" biologist Douglas Futuyma. Maybe this scientist has a motive:
"The biggest problem gay and lesbian people face is a consequence of their invisibility," says Douglas Futuyma, a professor in the department of ecology and evolution at the State University of New York, Stony Brook. "People in heterosexual society may not be aware that they ever met a gay or lesbian." To help counteract this problem within his own institution, Futuyma says, "I try to present myself as a visible model of a respectable scientist and teacher, to stand as an example of gays and lesbians who are otherwise invisible." from Gay And Lesbian Scientists Seek Workplace Equality.
Phillip Johnson reported that Dr. Futuyma's college Evolutionary Biology (3rd Edition!) textbook is the number one used in the nation's colleges.
ping ... interesting, and unsurprising, intersection.
All we have to do is look at, and listen to, the LIBERAL DEMS...and we know INTELLIGENT design is a flawed concept.
The MSM gay agenda is overt .... and covert. Funny how different an attack on I.D. efforts sounds when one finds out the attacker, and his MSM helpers, have a unmentioned side agenda...
Not necessarily a slum dunk for the MSM against I.D. I would say....
So the author's managed to fish out a few fringe scientists who are ID proponents - just how he could probably find a couple of "scientists" who believe in a flat Earth.
There is still virtually no debate within the mainstream scientific community over whether evolution exists or not.
No evidence? What do you call this?
Way back in time all men emerged from a single hole in the earth. There was a mockingbird there at the entrance to the hole. He gave each a name and a language. To one he would say, "You shall be a Hopi and speak that tongue." To another, "You shall be an Apache and speak that language." And so it went for all who came from the hole, including the White People. The earth was still covered in darkness in those days so the peoples came together and decided to change things. They made the sun and the moon and placed them in the sky. With light and warmth things got easier for the people so the chiefs of all the races and tribes got together and decided to break up and go to different places. They decided to go eastward to where the sun rises and that whoever got there first was to cause a shower of stars to fall from the sky, and then everyone would see this and stop where they were. The Whites, always impatient, soon grew tired. Their women rubbed flakes of skin from their bodies and molded them into horses. Thus, mounted on these speedy animals, the Whites were first to arrive in the east. Thereupon a shower of stars fell to the ground and all remained where they were at the time.
As one who believes in the superiority of the theory of evolution, I dont have much problem in teaching ID. Why? Because it would take me all of 5 minutes. I'd discuss it once in class, and that would be it.
Just do it ~ and no cheating by misrepresenting bacterial immunological defense techniques.
Well, that certainly is scientific. And the rest of his rebuttal is nothing but a statement of faith. Got to do better than that to convince them down in Peoria.
I think this is an interesting article and I have 3 immediate thoughts on it.
1. The structure of argument and rebuttal is well laid out and illustrates the way that presenting both views could be conducted in science classrooms. The case is made and rebutted in scientific terms with no reference to religious material. Make the case. Rebut the case. You'll have informed students.
2. The case for ID is well represented, but as fully and robustly as has been done in ID literature. This article illustrates a good, simple example of the pro/con discussion.
3. The rebuttals are not robust as well, and are in fact lame. For example, the rebuttal on the question of the Cambrian Explosian appears to be: hey it's really not an explosian and not really a big deal. Lame.
My favorite lame response is in the rebuttal section on the question of the Origin of Life, which is:
"In response, Robert Hazen, a geologist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, said, 'We don't have all the answers right now, but there is no evidence that the origin of life is other than a natural process.'"
I would paraphrase that as - we don't have any evidence but neither do they, so I'm sticking to my a priori assumption of naturalism. Lame.
By the way, I'm currently reading published literature about ID written by the proponents (Johnson, Dembski, Behe), as well as Richard Dawkin's "The Blind Watchmaker" on evolution. There's no reason that students in school couldn't do the same.
Thanks - I'll read it and ping it out tomorrow.
Is it kind of like what happens when the "gay" agenda meets the evo-fundies? Just add Wiccans and it's perfect! With a little dollop of Islamic jihad on the top for variety.
And none either within 99% of people involved with the serious study of Intelligent Design. But stretching Darwinian evolution to cover abiogenesis is far from settled science, and in fact is probably flat out wrong. The early, and critical phases of abiogenesis are really about chemistry and the probability of certain reactions occurring - namely those that make complex, replicating biologically interesting molecules. There's no evolution at that stage, just chemistry.
Unfortunately a lot of the public discussion of studies related to intelligent design has been pretty shallow, or as you noted "lame".
Actually there is quite a bit to be learned by thinking about the questions raised by an effort to determine if something you observe was created by an "intelligent" process. Just defining what that means is a challenge, and it is central to efforts like the SETI project.
We have lots of intelligently designed organisms around us today - cows, corn, fruit trees, etc. I doubt even the most stringent Darwinians would claim that Monsanto bio-engineered corn was a result of natural selection. So an interesting question is how do you determine if an organism was designed? How can you tell if the apple tree in the woods was created by breeding 100 years ago?
I actually trust high school and college students to do the reading and come to conclusions on what does and does not represent "errors in logic". You seem to have already determined that for them.
You are being disingenious to lump ID in with the other items that you cited. That in itself is an error in logic.
Just curious, how much reading have you personally done regarding theory?
Good point. I'm currently reading the works by William Dembski, which focus on desing inference.
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