Intelligent Design Critics
The most common argument against the intelligent design theory is that it is not a true science. According to scientist Linus Pauling, science is defined as the “search for truth” (Harris and Calvert 2003, p 557). Sciences that study the origin of life (origin sciences), such as intelligent design, seek the truth regarding how life began. In order to separate truth from fiction, scientists follow a procedure called the scientific method. Can scientists apply this method to the intelligent design theory?
The Scientific Method
The scientific method generally consists of five steps:
1. Observe an object or phenomenon and gather information
2. Form a hypothesis (a description of what is observed)
3. Make predictions based on the hypothesis
4. Perform experiments to test the predictions and update the hypothesis if the test results require it
5. Continue testing and modifying the hypothesis until the hypothesis and test results match one another (Wudka 1998).
Critics claim that intelligent design is not scientific because it cannot be tested or make predictions – two elements of the scientific method (Harris and Calvert 2003).
Can Intelligent Design be Tested? Make Predictions?
Harris and Calvert (2003) explain how intelligent design is tested by the same techniques used in other sciences such as forensics, cryptanalysis, and archeology. Scientists in these three fields must determine if intelligent action is at work:
Ø Forensics: Scientists perform tests to determine whether a death is a result of an accident or natural death (chance/necessity) or murder (intelligent action proven by the intent to kill).
Ø Cryptanalysis: Specialists called code breakers look closely at characters to determine if they communicate a message (intelligence).
Ø Archeology: Archeologists test objects to determine if they are man-made (intelligent action) or produced by natural causes. For example, a clay pot exhibits intelligent design while a rock formation may exist because of natural causes (wind, erosion, etc.).
Likewise, intelligent design is a science that uses various methods (discussed in chapter three) to “test” whether or not objects are caused by intelligent action or chance.
Intelligent design also makes predictions. For example, theorists predicted that a purpose for “junk DNA” would be found (Harris and Calvert 2003). As you recall, the instructions in DNA are made up of sequences or patterns of letters. DNA that does not contain instructions is called non-coding or “junk” DNA. Recently, scientists discovered that so-called “junk” DNA has a special job within the nucleus – to help the proteins created by DNA to function (The Designing Times 2002; The Free Dictionary.com by Farlex 2005).
Is the Intelligent Design Theory Peer Reviewed?
When scientists want to share their findings with others, they follow a process called peer review. Scientists submit their manuscripts to at least two experts who work in the same field addressed in the manuscript. For example, if a scientist writes about molecular biology, then experts in the biology field read and comment on the contents contained in the manuscript (Henneberg 1997).
Critics argue that the intelligent design theory is unscientific because it is not peer reviewed. However, this claim is deceptive. Because the majority of scientists today do not support intelligent design, many refuse to review any work on the subject (Harris and Calvert 2003).
However, others have reviewed the works of leading scientists in the intelligent design movement - Michael Behe and William Dembski, and “an enormous amount of work is being done to find naturalistic explanations of their arguments” (Harris and Calvert 2003, p 538).
While early design arguments relied on the metaphysical realm as well as scientific data, today’s intelligent design theory relies exclusively on scientific evidence. Scientists have discovered, through advances in technology, that objects in nature – such as the cell – exhibit the same complexity as designed objects made by human hands and minds. Therefore, many scientists have concluded that nature exhibits signs of intelligent design. Why, in spite of the evidence, do many scientists reject intelligent design? Perhaps the following quotes help explain the motivation behind the rejection of intelligent design:
Evolutionist Sir Arthur Keith wrote, “Evolution is unproven and unprovable. We believe it because the only alternative is special creation, which is unthinkable” (Dvorak 2004, p 4).
Dr. Michael Walker, Senior Lecturer – Anthropology, Sydney University said, “One is forced to conclude that many scientists and technologists pay lip-service to Darwinian theory only because it supposedly excludes a Creator” (Dvorak 2004, p 5).
Dr. Scott Todd, an immunologist at Kansas State University wrote, “Even if all the data point to an intelligent designer, such hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic” (Dvorak 2004, p 5).
“Naturalistic” refers to the philosophy of naturalism. This philosophy is the foundation of evolution and states that natural laws explain all phenomena. Naturalism eliminates design, purpose, and the supernatural.
Naturalism is a philosophy and not a belief based on scientific data. All other possible causes of life are rejected, not based on scientific data, but because they fail to meet the definition of naturalism (Harris and Calvert 2003).
The Future of Intelligent Design
The belief that living organisms show design and, therefore, are a product of intelligent action has existed for thousands of years. While Darwin offered an alternative to the design theory, and many scientists have followed his lead, advances in technology will continue to strengthen evidence for intelligent design.
Perhaps Behe says it best:
The idea of Intelligent Design is widely discussed now and, although there’s resistance to it, I think it will fade as science progresses. As we learn more about biology, we’ll see that it’s becoming more complicated and fits less into the Darwinian evolutionary model (Peters 1999, p 6).
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