Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Conclusion to the Series on Intelligent Design

Recent support for the Intelligent Design movement has caused a major wave in scientific communities. Historically Darwinists could write off those that support Intelligent Design as ignorant religious fundamentalists. However a new understanding of the differences between Intelligent Design and Creationism has driven a wedge into their argument. Although Intelligent Design does claim to find substantial evidence in the world for a designer, Intelligent Design does not claim to have knowledge about that designer nor does it seek it.

Intelligent Design has forced many in the scientific community to realize that there is a difference between philosophical assertions and scientific ones. For example, a true Darwinist cannot look at something in the world and say it is “bad.” For that would either be contrary to the “natural selection” viewpoint or it would pre-suppose a designer who made a mistake. Either way it would be a philosophical observation and not a scientific one. It is important for academic integrity for philosophy to remain philosophy and science to remain science.

Intelligent Design has also shown many that its foundational concepts are used in everyday life and accepted without challenge. Crime Scene Investigators, Archeologists, Military Cryptographers and many more use Intelligent Design to help them with their tasks all the time. Yet when these same proven and trusted precepts are moved over to the biological realm, a huge uproar occurs. Intelligent Design has shown that many people are ignorantly living in an inconsistent worldview.

Intelligent Design has brought to the surface several hypocrisies in the scientific community. Scientists are trying to have the best of both worlds when they exclude Intelligent Design when trying to explain origin of life but embrace it when they need to figure out whether something is a worthless rock or priceless artifact. Intelligent Design has also forced the scientific community to reveal its ugly side. As more and more overwhelming evidence for Intelligent Design becomes apparent, more and more of the arguments against it turn to smear campaigns against the person’s character rather than against the theory itself.

In the past few years the Intelligent Design movement has gained massive momentum. More and more top scientists are beginning to study the concepts Intelligent Design utilizes and are beginning to realize the truth behind it. History has shown that there is a pendulum of public opinion that sways back and forth. Since 1859 the pendulum has been swinging towards the theory that evolution contains the answers to the origin of life. However, with the recent developments in Intelligent Design, I believe that pendulum has clearly reached its apex and is rapidly swinging the other direction.

Thank you for taking the time to bear with me through this series. I realized Intelligent Design is not an easy topic to understand and you may be even more confused than when you started. But I hope you have learned a few things and realize that when held to the same standard of other sciences, biology must at least look at Intelligent Design theory as a possibility until evolution moves from a theory to a scientific law.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Is Intelligent Design Used Today?

In our last post I briefly mentioned the concept of consistency. Today I want to look at examples of Intelligent Design being not only used, but widely accepted in a wide variety of disciplines in today’s world. As we take this quick journey I hope you can quickly see that opponents of Intelligent Design are …….

The concepts behind Intelligent Design are used today in many different disciplines of science. In fact, many different fields of science would not be able to function or even exist without some form of acceptance of Intelligent Design.

For example, a Crime Scene Investigator uses Intelligent Design when he approaches a crime scene and has to determine whether a person died as an accident or the result of foul play.

If an Archeologist finds a weird shaped rock he must determine if it is the result of abnormal weathering or if it was chipped that way by a pre-historic hunter.

A Military Cryptographer must decide if a piece of paper handed to him with jumbled letters is just a random sequence or the enemy’s secret code. All three of these disciplines use precepts, such as specified complexity, found in Intelligent Design.

Naturalists claim that we must have solid natural explanations to work with. Eugenie Scott in her essay entitled The Nature of Change (Click Here to read the article), wrote “…but even if we didn’t [have solid explanations to work with], science only has tools for explaining things in terms of natural causation.”

Again we are faced with an incompatible situation. Scott is claiming that science can only explain things in terms of natural causation. This is true if, and only if, the person establishing scientific guidelines decides to incorporate it. In and of itself there is no reason natural causation has to be a criterion. In fact, it seems quite suspicious that it would be there in the first place. The only logical reason would be to ensure that it could exclude any theory that relies on something that mere human reasoning cannot explain. Again we are faced with the scientific community not actually being interested in the truth, but what fits with their agenda.

Another point to consider is that if Intelligent Design is well received in certain scientific fields but not others, serious problems begin to arise. As seekers of truth and academic integrity we must begin to ask questions about this. For example, how can we trust the Archeologist or Crime Scene Investigator if the objective methods used are only true for his field and not others? Wouldn’t truth be truth regardless as otherwise it would be relative?

Phillip Johnson raises a great question when he asks “If design is a legitimate subject for scientific investigation in the case of computers, communications from space aliens, and peculiar markings on cave walls, why should it be arbitrarily excluded from consideration when dealing with the biological cell or the conscious mind?” We must hold those in the scientific community accountable for hypocritical practices.

I hope you can see that those opposed to Intelligent Design theory really aren’t opposed to the theory in any field whatsoever, except biology. When one becomes opposed to a theory based on personal preferences instead of pursuit of truth regardless of where it leads, we no longer have science, we have chaos.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Arguments against Intelligent Design

Okay, so now we (hopefully) have a basic understanding of what Intelligent Design is. However not everyone believes in this theory. I want to take a moment and look at some of the more common objections that are out there.

One of the biggest problems opponents of Intelligent Design face is that of not mixing scientific assertions with philosophical or religious ones. True science requires a neutral mind open to all possibilities in the pursuit of truth. Yet most naturalists assert that Intelligent Design has no place in science academia and should be kept to religious circles.

Phillip Johnson wrote in Signs of Intelligence:

“Scientific materialists think that advocates of Intelligent Design are either irrational or dishonest because they are advocating as science a proposition that ought to be confined to religion, namely the claim that scientific evidence points to the reality of a designing intelligence in the origin and development of life.”

But how can science honestly say it is pursuing truth if it already has preconceived stipulations set in place?

For example, Robert T. Pennock states in his essay Mystery Science Theater that:

“The origin of species once seemed equally mysterious, but Darwin followed the clues given in nature to solve that mystery. One may, of course, retain religious faith in a designer who transcends natural processes, but there is no way to dust for his fingerprints.”

Here we can already clearly see that Pennock has closed his mind to a creator God simply because he can’t see evidence of it that is up to his standard. In other words, “dusting for fingerprints” would have to fit his own subjective criteria of evidence as opposed to another person’s criterion where the intricacies of ecosystems or complexities of plate tectonics could suffice.

Dembski has a great retort to this problem. In The Design Revolution he says:

“So long as intelligent design has a demonstrable secular purpose – advancing science, enriching the science curriculum, preventing viewpoint discrimination, promoting academic freedom – its motivation even if religious is legally irrelevant.”

Another problem facing opponents of Intelligent Design is that they are acting inconsistently with their worldview. They claim that they will not accept Intelligent Design as a legitimate theory because it has religious suppositions behind it. Yet those in science and academia conceptually accept and even use Intelligent Design in their everyday lives. Although the next post will specifically focus on these areas, I want to bring up one example here.

This is an example Phillip Johnson gives in his chapter of Signs of Intelligence; “If they [science academia that currently reject Intelligent Design] were to receive a signal containing a sequence of prime numbers as portrayed in the movie Contact, they would conclude it came from intelligent beings – without the need for independent evidence of the existence and nature of aliens.”

Here you can see an example of where the scientific community would be stuck between a rock and a hard place. The evidence would clearly show signs of intelligent life, yet the method used to assert this is the very method they deny as religiously based.

Robert Pennock addresses this issue in his essay Mystery Science Theater. (Click Here to read the article). Here he brings up the very issue of the movie Contact and claims:

"…a design inference like that in the movie Contact, for instance, would rely on background knowledge about the nature of radio signals and other natural processes, together with the assumption that a sequence of prime numbers is the kind of pattern another scientist might choose to send as a signal. But the odd sequences found within DNA are quite unlike a series of prime numbers."

But Pennock is mistaken. He is so focused on the specifics involved with the radio signals, that he completely misses the concept being represented; namely that it is possible to make an inference of something you don’t know about from something that you do know about.

Okay, my guess is by now your head is spinning, I know mine is, let’s call it a day and come back later for an analysis of Intelligent Design in use today.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Intelligent Design is not Creationism

One of the ACLU’s biggest arguments is that Intelligent Design is just hidden Creationism. However, Intelligent Design and Creationism are not the same thing!

According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, Creationism is “the doctrine that ascribes the origin of matter, species, etc. to acts of creation by God.” This differs from Intelligent Design in that Intelligent Design only looks for a designing intelligence, and not for information about the designing intelligence. In fact we could be living in a world designed by Martians and as long as it was designed by the Martians this would be totally consistent with the theory of Intelligent Design.

Perhaps William Dembski said it best when he wrote “Creation is always about the source of being of the world. Intelligent Design is about arrangements of preexisting materials that point to a designing intelligence. Creation and Intelligent Design are therefore quite different. One can have creation without Intelligent Design and intelligent design without creation.” (The Design Revolution, 38)

Some people will argue that Intelligent Design is just disguised theology but if they really understand the theory they will realize that it is not. Although it is similar to Creationism in that it has theological implications, it differs in that it does not require specifically theological, biblical presuppositions (i.e. earth created in a day). In fact, even if the Intelligent Design of some structure has been established, it is still a separate question whether a wise, powerful and beneficent God ought to have designed a complex information structure one way or another. (Signs of Intelligence, 10)

Intelligent Design is not concerned with why the designer decided to do something one way and not the other, it is not concerned with what the designer was thinking at the time, and it is not concerned with who the designer is/was. Intelligent Design is only concerned with the fact that there is a designer.

This difference between Intelligent Design and Creationism seems to be a difficult concept to grasp for many Darwinists. For reasons unknown, many seem to attack the individual supporting Intelligent Design instead of attacking the theory of Intelligent Design itself. If you are like me, you may have experienced this yourself.

It seems that because many who support Intelligent Design also happen to be Christians (even though Christianity and Intelligent Design do not have to correlate) makes for an easy target on religious grounds.

For example, Barbara Forrest, a philosophy professor at Southern Louisiana University, wrote a paper titled The Newest Evolution of Creationism. In this paper she states her views on the Intelligent Design movement. The following are some quotes from that paper: (It should be noted that Wells and Johnson are well known supporters of the Intelligent Design movement).

[Jonathan] Wells, influenced in part by Unification Church leader Sun Myung Moon, earned Ph.D.'s in religious studies and biology specifically "to devote my life to destroying Darwinism.”

[Phillip] Johnson, a law professor, whose religious conversion catalyzed his antievolution efforts…

At heart, ID proponents are not motivated to improve science but to transform it into a theistic enterprise.

Note that none of these statements have anything to do with the suppositions set forth by Intelligent Design, but have everything to do with the person that supports it. The quotes listed above are not selected at random but rather give a complete picture as to the nature of the essay. (Click Here to read the article) It is sad to see that those who are considered professionals in their field struggling so badly to find faults with the theory that they are reduced to avoiding it altogether and simply attacking the person.

I hope you’ve been able to see that Intelligent Design theory, although compatible with Creationism, is NOT a requirement for, nor is it a component of creationism.

Friday, July 01, 2005

What is Intelligent Design?

Seems like we should probably start out by defining exactly what Intelligent Design is. According to William Dembski (perhaps the world’s leading scholar in the field of Intelligent Design), Intelligent Design is the name given to a theory of science that states “there are natural systems that cannot be adequately explained in terms of undirected natural forces and that exhibit features which in any other circumstance we would attribute to intelligence.” (William Dembski’s The Design Revolution, page 27).

Now Intelligent Design uses several factors including specified complexity (independent improbable patterns [more on this later]) and irreducible complexity (organisms that cannot be broken down into smaller functioning organisms like some kinds of bacteria) as proof of its existence.

But it is important to define what we mean by the word “intelligent.” According to the book Signs of Intelligence (by Dembski and Kushiner), the intelligent design community understands “intelligent” to refer to “an intelligent agency, irrespective of skill or mastery.”

Confused yet? I hope not, but I had to get that out of the way to set up our foundation.

Intelligent Design is the antithesis of Darwinism. Darwinism, also known as Naturalism, states that the natural world is all there is. It believes the world is exclusively explained in natural terms. Darwinism states that factors such as natural selection and random variation account for life on the planet. When a naturalist (it should be noted that naturalist and Darwinist are interchangeable for this series of posts) talks about science, he will speak from the perspective that the natural world is all there is.

This perspective is contrary to one who subscribes to Intelligent Design. A supporter of Intelligent Design would feel that the results of an intelligent agency can be detected empirically and that the natural world bears evidence of intelligent agency. They would also likely say that naturalism is not only bad philosophy but bad science (we’ll look at this more in depth later).

When dealing with Intelligent Design there are two important facts to keep in mind. First, Intelligent Design is not creationism. I will go into more details later but let me state that Intelligent Design does not account for who designed the world, only that it was designed. In other words, Intelligent Design does not require a belief in God.

Secondly, from a Christian perspective, it is important to remember that Intelligent Design is not an apologetic. Although it does have implications for use in apologetics, it is more pre-evangelistic in nature. (Kind of hard to use it to defend God’s existence if it doesn’t require God’s existence eh?)

Okay, I think that’s good enough for a brief introduction to our topic. I think that this post will be the most complicated of all of them because it sets the foundation. I would recommend re-reading it a few times if you are still confused.