This was an essay for my college English class.
The origins of life have been debated and discussed for millennia. Ancient cultures, such as the Greeks, had their creation myths. Modern religion still supports using mythology based on a literal interpretation of scripture as a valid explanation for how life came to be. For the last one hundred and fifty years, the scientific community has supported evolution as the best explanation of how life came to be. However, there has been another explanation of how life as we know it originated that is being called science, which is Intelligent Design. Proponents of Intelligent Design have tried, but have been unsuccessful in putting Intelligent Design into public school curriculums. Is Intelligent Design really science or is it really something else? Should it be taught in schools?
Intelligent Design is the idea that living things in nature are irreducibly complex and require an intelligent designer of some sort and do not share a common ancestry, as opposed to evolution by natural selection (Intelligent Design On Trial). Proponents of Intelligent Design claim that it is a valid scientific theory, while those who oppose it claim that it is merely pseudoscience. Intelligent Design was originally created and promoted in the 1980’s by Philip Johnson, who is a law professor, (Intelligent Design On Trial). The Discovery Institute is an organization that is well known for being a proponent of Intelligent Design. In 2004, the Kitzmiller vs. Dover case challenged Intelligent Design proponents to demonstrate how Intelligent Design is a legitimate scientific theory, which ended with Intelligent Design being ruled as being religion instead of science (Intelligent Design On Trial). Nova’s documentary of the case, “Intelligent Design On Trial”, goes into great detail about the evidence for and against Intelligent Design, as well as evolution.
Scientists who support the idea of Intelligent Design, such as Michael Behe, look for examples in nature that appear to be irreducibly complex (Intelligent Design On Trial). The bacteria flagellum, which appears to be similar to a motor, is a popular example used by Intelligent Design proponents (Intelligent Design On Trial). When Michael Behe testified in defense of Intelligent Design in the Kitzmiller vs. Dover case, he described the bacteria flagellum to be forty different complex proteins working together to create a motor and that if one of them was removed, the whole thing would not have any usable function (Intelligent Design On Trial). Behe quoted a biologist, David DeRosier, as saying that the bacteria flagellum appeared to be designed, but in an interview with DeRosier, it was clear that Behe took DeRosier’s comment out of context (Intelligent Design On Trial). David DeRosier even presented evidence that completely dismantles Behe’s flagellum argument by showing that even when parts from the flagellum motor are missing, the same parts in the motor can be used as a microscopic syringe used to inject a poison (Intelligent Design On Trial). The syringe that DeRosier described is naturally occurring and disproves the flagellum as being irreducibly complex (Intelligent Design On Trial). The bacteria flagellum is not a valid example of irreducible complexity.
The bacteria flagellum isn’t the only example that Intelligent Design proponents try to use as evidence. During the Kitzmiller vs. Dover case, Behe also tried to use the immune systems of humans to show irreducibly complexity (Intelligent Design On Trial). Behe claimed that there was no detailed description of how human immune systems came to be naturally, and he used his claimed lack of evidence to suggest that human immune systems were the creation of an intelligent designer (Intelligent Design On Trial). Shortly after Behe made that comment under oath, the prosecution attorney of the case presented him with some printed essays and a lot of published books, utterly destroying Behe’s claim that there was no scientific explanation of how immune systems naturally occurred (Intelligent Design On Trial). Also, Behe’s assertion that a somehow lack of evidence of a natural explanation for immune systems is evidence of design is completely fallacious. Even if there actually were no detailed descriptions of how immune systems came to be, it would not at all prove an intelligent designer. All it would show is that scientists haven’t figured out how immune systems came to be. Both of Behe’s arguments from the Kitzmiller vs. Dover case were invalidated and disproved.
Aside from the failed examples of irreducible complexity, Intelligent Design still has many problems that it has left unanswered. Intelligent Design says nothing about what the intelligent designer was, how it worked, or even whether or not the designer was irreducibly complex and needed a designer of it’s own, which could also be irreducibly complex, and so on and so forth. Intelligent Design proponents, such as Scott Minnich, even admit that they never tested their idea to see if it was actually true (Intelligent Design On Trial). The main premise of Intelligent Design, as well as Michael Behe’s immune system example, shows that it is based on negative proof. Intelligent Design argues that since naturalistic evolution does not explain how life could have came to be naturally, an intelligent designer created life and life did not arise from a common ancestor. This is fallacious because a lack of evidence for one idea does not determine another idea to be true. It is also a false dilemma because it presents a scenario where there are only two possible explanations of how life came to be, when there could be another, such as theistic evolution or an undiscovered explanation. This is also problematic because it sends out a terrible message to those studying science. It tells people that if they can’t figure out something naturally, just give up and say it was designed. Such a philosophy is completely antithetical to what science is about. It is common knowledge that science is about looking for empirical evidence to use as positive support for a hypothesis, which may or may not become a theory, depending on what the evidence shows. It is unscientific to label an idea as a valid workable theory when the support for the idea is that another idea is insufficient. It is very unscientific to attribute how things work to some sort of intelligence when a natural explanation is currently unavailable. Using Intelligent Design to describe how life came to be because people haven’t figured out a natural explanation is very much the same as people in ancient Greece saying that lightning was the product of a pissed off Zeus, since there was no explanation of how lighting worked when people in Ancient Greece worshipped Zeus. Intelligent Design is not valid science and has absolutely no place in a science classroom.
The verdict of the Kitzmiller vs. Dover case was that Intelligent Design is religion. Support for this claim is derived from a pamphlet created by the Discovery Institute, which is called The Wedge. Quotes from The Wedge indicate religious motives for promoting Intelligent Design. For starters, the very cover of The Wedge is a picture of Michelangelo’s painting of Jesus that he painted on the Sistine Chapel, which is a famous church in the Vatican. The first page of text in The Wedge starts out by beginning with a couple of opening paragraphs talking about how Darwin’s theory of evolution was a replacement to God and a set of objective morals (The Wedge). The Wedge has a set of goals for Intelligent Design, many of which are blatantly religious (The Wedge). It even describes the intelligent designer that is part of the Intelligent Design idea as being the Judeo-Christian God (The Wedge). The Discovery Institute takes credit for The Wedge and it was used in the Kitzmiller vs. Dover case to prove that Intelligent Design is a tool for religion (Intelligent Design On Trial). The fact that Intelligent Design is a tool for the promotion of religion shows that it is unconstitutional to teach in public schools as fact.
Proponents of Intelligent Design claim that evolution does not accurately explain how life came to be. This statement could not be more wrong. Evolution has a large mass of information to back it up. Charles Darwin discovered evolution on a voyage to the Galapagos, where he figured out how natural selection works based on his observations of various finches, which he later used as a unifying theory to describe how all life diversified, including humans and apes (Intelligent Design On Trial). Genetics confirm that humans have evolved from other ancestors and share a common ancestor with modern apes. Biology professor Ken Miller demonstrated this during the Kitzmiller vs. Dover case by presenting that various monkeys have 24 chromosome pairs while humans have 23, but one of the chromosome pairs in humans is a fusion of two chromosome pairs, which indicates common descent (Intelligent Design On Trial). Evolution also has a very extensive fossil record, which includes loads of transitional fossils, which confirm Darwin’s predictions about what would be found on earth that would support evolution (Intelligent Design On Trial). Evolution is by far the most accurate explanation of how life came to be.
Intelligent Design had a chance to show the US, in court, that it was a legitimate scientific theory and that it should be taught in schools. It failed miserably and was proven not to be remotely scientific. It was even proven to be a deceptive and unconstitutional tactic method to bring religion into the classroom. Intelligent Design is based on an antiscientific premise and discourages rational scientific thought. It should not be taught in schools at all as a valid fact. The idea of Intelligent Design ironically lacks intelligent thought. Intelligent Design is an unintelligent mess.
“Intelligent Design On Trial.” Dir. Gary Johnstone, Joseph McMaster. Nova. www.pbs.org
. WGBH Boston. 13 Nov. 2007. Web. 15 Feb. 2010.
The Wedge. Seattle: Discovery Institute, 1998. Print.