Speaking Intelligently about Intelligent Design
On August 29, 2005, an interesting interview took place on PBS. A typically aggressive liberal talk show host, Tavis Smiley, seemed to exhibit sincere admiration for his guest, Dr. Stephen Meyer, director and Senior Fellow at the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute (see the PBS Tavis Smiley transcript). Meyer and his colleagues have been at the center of the growing debate about the teaching of evolution in American schools.
Meyer, who is the co-author of two books, including Darwinism, Design, and Public Education, was more than up to the task of explaining intelligent design to his skeptical host.
Features of Design
When Intelligent Design is mentioned today, the Book of Genesis suddenly bursts on the scene. The line is then immediately drawn -- Darwin or Creation. Otherwise reasonable people, who can look at any manufactured object and readily credit the thoughtful design work preceding the object's existence, will immediately deny the existence of some of the most amazing design work ever devised.
Meyer explained that Intelligent Design is the theory "that there are certain features of biological systems that are best explained by an intelligent cause, rather than an undirected process like Darwin's idea of natural selection. What features are we talking about? We're talking about things like the little miniature motors, the rotary engines, the turbines, the sliding clamps, this exquisite nanotechnology that scientists have been discovering in cells over the last 30 years."
Equally impressive is the fabulous programming that directs it all. Consider that a majestic mountain scene in the Swiss Alps can be transmitted to your desktop computer through a certain code of zeros and ones. Pretty spectacular. Yet the founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, stated that "DNA is like a software program, only much more complex than anything we've ever devised."
Anyone who understands something about how computers work will identify with Meyer's enthusiasm when he goes on to explain that we are talking about "the digital code that is inscribed along the spine of the DNA molecule. The instructions that the cell has for building all of these little miniature machines is inside the cell. So we've got code, and we've got machines in cells, and this looks to many scientists to be evidence of an actual intelligent design, not an undirected process."
Does this sound like he is promoting the biblical account of creation? Intelligent Design advocates say that if you want to be an atheist, like so many secular liberals are inclined towards today, you can attribute the design work to a source of your liking; you can invent spacemen from a distant galaxy as providing the intelligence. But the Intelligent Design theory should not be accused of attempting to bring a particular brand of Christianity into the school classroom, as reports claimed recently in the Dover, PA, case.
When asked if it is God that we are talking about, Dr. Meyer responded: "The key to this is the difference between the evidence and the implications. We're scientists, and we're looking at the evidence. And what we can tell from the evidence is that some kind of intelligence must have played a role ... if you see software, you know that there was a programmer or an intelligence behind it."
For Intelligent Design proponents, presenting evidence of "design" is the first order of business. The question of the identity of that designer is a second order question and a moot point if the fact of Intelligent Design is never established. They tell us to look to the evidence; don't assume where the evidence will lead.
Is the goal to prove the existence of God through science? Meyer says no, that is not the intent. "We just, as scientists, can't prove that from the science. We can see that some intelligence played a role, and for the people who are religious believers, it's a natural thing to associate their belief in God with the evidence they see of design in life. But we're just trying to be accurate and careful about the science and say what we can tell from the science, and what we can't."
A Science of Design Detection
Critics constantly tie "faith" to this discussion of design. But proponents say it is not a faith-based matter. It is objectively possible to identify the presence of intelligence in any design, simply through a scientific investigation of the object being studied. Meyer says: "There are developments in some technical fields, complexity and information sciences, that actually enable us to distinguish the results from an intelligent cause, distinguish the results of intelligence as a cause from natural processes. And when we run those kinds of modes of analysis on the information in DNA, they kick out the answer, yeah, this was intelligently designed."
"So, there is actually now a science of design detection and when you analyze life through the filters of that science, it implies, it shows that life was intelligently designed. So one of the things we want to say to our critics is, look, we've got to be open to whatever the answer is. We can't decide in advance that we're not going to allow certain kind of answers to be considered by scientists. The fundamental commitment that every scientist has is to follow the evidence where it leads, even if that leads to an uncomfortable conclusion."
Unfortunately, as The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life points out, most scientists refuse to critically examine the evidence. "Many scientists don't even want to debate intelligent design proponents, arguing that doing so would give the movement a legitimacy it does not deserve."
Hard to Abandon
Malcolm Muggeridge observed: "I am convinced that the theory of evolution, especially the extent to which it's been applied, will be one of the great jokes in the history books of the future." There are many scientists who believe that the theory of Darwinism is absurd and untenable. And many have spoken out, while many more have prudently remained silent because speaking out would result in them "paying a price for that in their scientific careers" according to Dr. Meyer.
Darwinism is a belief system with religious fervor, more like a cult than a science. Many adherents are passionately aggressive in support of their system. It goes way beyond anything that scientific justification alone would allow. The motivation behind this tenacious hold of Darwinism might be understood from words by Julian Huxley some years ago. Huxley, the most prestigious evolution scientist in the world was interviewed on PBS. In response to the question, "why did so many scientists jump on the bandwagon of evolution" Huxley replied "I suppose the reason we leapt on the Origin of Species was that the idea of GOD interfered with our sexual mores." The result -- a new, more lenient god, made in their own image.
Nancy Pearcey, in her wonderful work, Total Truth confirms that Darwinism is actually a religion more than a science. She relates an exchange between philosopher and evolutionist Michael Ruse, and creationist Duane Gish. "The trouble with you evolutionists is that you don't play fair ... you evolutionists are just as religious in your way." Gish said.
Pearcey goes on:
"The comment rankled Ruse, and he couldn't get it out of his mind. Eventually he decided that Gish was right -- that evolution really is 'more than mere science,' as he put it in a recent article. 'Evolution came into being as a kind of secular ideology, an explicit substitute for Christianity.' Even today, it 'is promulgated as an ideology, a secular religion -- a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality.'"
Courts, employing their own creative views of the constitution, have been consistently hostile to classroom attempts at challenges to Darwin, claiming that the attempts have been religious. When Intelligent Design is offered as an alternate theory, Christians are excoriated for violating the "wall of separation". Darwinism, on the other hand, is still given a free pass as the crumbling religion preached in today's classroom.
But it seems that bright young scientific minds are emerging on the side of fact-based challenges aimed at discovering truth. And truth can be discerned by Atheists, Muslims, Agnostics, Christians or people of any persuasion. New discoveries are challenging old evolution myths. What splendor of design could not be imagined just a few decades ago is now literally unfolding before our eyes.
We may yet live to see Malcom Muggeridge's prediction come true -- Darwinism "will be one of the great jokes in the history books".
An Intelligent Challenge to Darwin
Evolution: Science or Atheism in Disguise?
The Scientific Status of Intelligent Design by Dr. Stephen C. Meyer
More on Dr. Stephen C. Meyer
Learn more about the Discovery Institute
See the PBS Tavis Smiley interview transcript
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life
Order The Privileged Planet video narrated by John Rhys-Davies
Perspectives on the Spiritual Life Channel
John Decker graduated with a BME degree from Gannon University, Erie, PA. A former engineering manager, and national sales manager for local companies, he has an avid interest in worldview issues, current events, and matters of spiritual significance. Send your e-mail responses to [email protected]
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