The Chicago Tribune (dead-tree version; don’t know about Web site) had three grouped articles about Intelligent Design (ID) in its Perspective section today (Sunday, Nov. 27, 2005).
A summary of each article is the following:
- Christians can’t afford to oppose evolution – it’s too well accepted and documented. The fight should be for ID, not against evolution.
- ID makes inspiring students that much harder, especially at a time (now) when the country’s science skills/interests are going in the crapper.
- There’s room to teach both – at least mention creationism etc. as an aside, possibly.
All three articles were fairly short, well-written and without any of the hyperbole and divisive/dismissive language that has often been part of this argument.
And it has caused me to weigh in on this subject.
Before I begin, I want to explain what I believe ID is – in case I get it wrong:
ID basically says that the world is way too complex to have evolved from molecules and so on to humans and reptiles and other living organisms. And – if you look closely at evolution, there are gaps that are not yet explained. The way to explain the gaps and the complexity is to say there was some sort of Intelligent Design behind all of life. ID tries hard to not invoke the “God” word, but – tacitly – that seems to be the premise.
Now, I disagree with ID, for reasons outlined below, but I will say that the ID thinking has merit. Life is incredibly complex, and to say that my cat and me both – at the end of the day – evolved out of the same pool of organic molecules is pretty stunning. Ditto for trees and those scary-looking carpet bugs that look like elephants. We’re distant cousins? No way, Jose…
But most of the arguments ID offers are ineffectual, and – to a certain degree – can be explained away by invoking the God word:
- Life is too complex to be the result of evolution: If there is an omnipotent God that created the universe, all we know and see, why could this God not design a complex system that is the result of a god-driven evolution (as God’s choice)? Why not? I think such a God could knock this out faster than I could whip up a Perl script for a log file.
- There are gaps in evolution: Agreed, yet the gaps keep getting filled in. Only a couple of thousand years ago – a mere blink in the history of the earth – the world was make of hard, indivisible atoms. Then atoms were made of particles (proton, neutron, electron). Then these particles were made of other particles (quarks, leptons, mesons) and so on. Let’s say this ID theory was around a century or so ago, when anti-particles(!) were postulated and detected (positron, for example). This was way too complex for the time, so it must be ID! Right?
- What happens when the gaps are closed? When gaps – which were explained away as ID – are pretty conclusively proved, what happens then? Uh, well, ID still explains this other gap, that hasn’t been proved….
- There are gaps in our knowledge overall: Maybe we didn’t all come from one pool of organic molecules, maybe there were hundreds. Or a meteorite with molecules hit us and gave us another batch? Who knows? We’ve gone for Helios riding across the sky pulling the sun through a heliocentric system (Galileo) to our current, more Einstein view of circling the sun (depends on where you’re standing). Simply because we don’t understand everything – or anything – about an area of science today doesn’t mean it’ll never be understood.
- Room to Teach Both: The author mentioned that he had a Mennonite biology teacher who would mention creationism – as an aside – rolling his eyes a bit – but mentioning it. OK. I don’t have a problem with that. That’s the teacher’s – and, to a degree, the community’s – choice. The issues in Kansas and the Keystone State [where the issues split] called for teachers to be required to teach ID. That’s way different from being allowed to mention it. Vastly different. And if you don’t get the difference, read the Constitution of the US, Amendment 1.
- Francis Bacon: You know, the whole scientific method. Controls, cause vs. effect and so on. Empirical evidence. ID is the explanation for LACK of empirical evidence. That’s not science – it’s religion or philosophy (which is fine, but don’t require it in science classes). Lack of expected empirical evidence can be a good thing – see the Michelson and Morley Experiment, that failed…brilliantly! It did not give the empirical evidence expected, but the data – empirical evidence – led to acceptance of Einstein’s convention of a universal speed of light.
- Why Limit ID to Evolution Knocking? Genesis says the earth and all its stuff were made in six days (on the seventh, God kicked back – whew!). Evolution says it’s a long, slow process (though punctuated equilibrium/evolution has gained ground lately; I personally feel it’s valid). So they’re at odds. But – unless it truly is a Biblical vs. Empirical issue (which ID keeps saying it isn’t), aren’t there better/additional areas to apply ID? Big Bang vs. Steady State? If the former, what “there” was there before the bang? The Big Bang – overall – goes against Genesis; why no ID outcry here?. Quantum physics – hell, quantum mechanics gave rise to Einstein’s famous “I cannot believe that God plays dice with the world” utterance. The more one looks as quantum mechanics, the more obtuse it seems. A century after Heisenberg, we still don’t fully get it. Must be the hand of
- Science/scientists != atheism/atheists: Einstein believed in god; it’s almost hard to really delve into astrophysics – with wormholes, curved space, edge of the universe (what’s on the other side?) and so on without thinking about some larger power. No, we can’t prove it – does that mean we’ll stop trying to get empirical evidence?
- We ARE a Lazy Science Nation: Ever see the Jaywalking episodes on the Tonight Show? Where Jay Leno just cruises the streets and asks ordinary folks basic questions? Be very afraid; we don’t look so good. And science is a discipline where not knowing the answer is OK; where our understanding of issues changes over time (see the atoms issue, above); where we’re often wrong (see the Michelson and Morley Experiment), but pursuit of truth continues. Can you prove that this or that is ID? Yes? Then let’s stick it in the canon of science and then – as always – try to repeat the proof, debunk the proof, offer alternatives and so on. Let’s not just say the hard stuff is ID. Even if true (if so, prove such), this isn’t the scientific method (see Bacon, above). This is like a parent explaining to a child why the kid has to go to bed: “Because I said so.” Fine in this context; but it’s not science.
And that’s all I have to say about this at this time…