Intelligent Design: Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing

Intelligent Design editorial cartoonFrom the news out of Kansas and the heated rhetoric of Pat Robertson, our favorite televangelist scumbag (since Jimmy Swaggart’s retirement, that is), you would think that the Intelligent Design movement is rolling across the heartland, ready to storm the ramparts of higher education and destroy American science. Or, for those who have a different view, bravely standing up for revealed truth against the militant atheists who claim we’re descended from apes, reforming America as a Christian nation. In either event, you’d be wrong. The New York Times reports that all the Intelligent Design hubbub is a collapsing under its own goofy, unscientific weight.

Behind the headlines, however, intelligent design as a field of inquiry is failing to gain the traction its supporters had hoped for. It has gained little support among the academics who should have been its natural allies. And if the intelligent design proponents lose the case in Dover, there could be serious consequences for the movement’s credibility.

On college campuses, the movement’s theorists are academic pariahs, publicly denounced by their own colleagues. Design proponents have published few papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

Well, duh. The scientific evidence against Intelligent Design is overwhelming. The majority of scientists have always been against creationism Intelligent Design. So what? The real news is that Intelligent Design is so inherently unscientific that even the true believers are backing away slowly while speaking softly and watching for any sudden movements from this Crazy Uncle Eddie of “science.”

While intelligent design has hit obstacles among scientists, it has also failed to find a warm embrace at many evangelical Christian colleges. Even at conservative schools, scholars and theologians who were initially excited about intelligent design say they have come to find its arguments unconvincing. They, too, have been greatly swayed by the scientists at their own institutions and elsewhere who have examined intelligent design and found it insufficiently substantiated in comparison to evolution.

When evangelicals won’t even teach it, there may be a problem with the theory. I think Derek Davis, director of the J. M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at that bastion of secularism that expelled students suspended one fraternity, one student, and disciplined the others for posing in Playboy, Baylor University, said it best.

“I teach at the largest Baptist university in the world. I’m a religious person. And my basic perspective is intelligent design doesn’t belong in science class.”

Mr. Davis noted that the advocates of intelligent design claim they are not talking about God or religion. “But they are, and everybody knows they are,” Mr. Davis said. “I just think we ought to quit playing games. It’s a religious worldview that’s being advanced.”

Not only is the only higher educational institution that teaches Intelligent Design a seminary, there’s a trial going on in Dover, Pa. to determine whether teaching Intelligent Design is teaching religion. (World’s Shortest Amicus Brief: Your honor, Intelligent design is warmed-over creationism; the pig’s got nice shiny lipstick on him, but he’s still a pig. Respectfully, Nick Sarwark)

Since the Intelligent Design folks are likely to lose in Dover (we’ve already been through this with the Scopes Monkey Trial), they’re already working the spin machine about how the outcome of the court case is unimportant to the science; probably the only point where I agree with them.

Now, with a decision due in four or five weeks, design proponents like Mr. West of Discovery said the Dover trial was a “sideshow” – one that will have little bearing on the controversy.

“The future of intelligent design, as far as I’m concerned, has very little to do with the outcome of the Dover case,” Mr. West said. “The future of intelligent design is tied up with academic endeavors. It rises or falls on the science.

Thank God.

Previously on Hammer of Truth:
Rethinking My Views on Intelligent Design

Nicholas Sarwark

Mr. Sarwark lives in Colorado and keeps poor people out of cages for a living. His views are his own, not his employer's, his wife's, or his dog's. They are also awesome and always right.

46 Comments
  1. Way to go. Lets call Christians, Jews, Muslims stupid. They only make up about half the earth’s population combined.

    I am not going to argue with you on the specifics of evolution because that is outside of spreading libertarianism (the purpose of this blog).

    Julian,

    I am begining to ask the same question.

  2. On the issue why don’t we let the teacher teach and get the government out of it. Don’t the parents have say in what there children are learning? How about the libertarian approach separation of school and state?

    I only wish you would be discussing more of the need for someone to teach the Constitution in school than bringing up such a dividing issue such as religion.

  3. Actually Jake, the point I was making is that the majority of religious people can maintain their faith without trying to teach a religious theory that is controverted by an overwhelming mass of evidence as science. Most Christians, Jews, and Muslims have accepted the scientific evidence for evolution and retained their religious faith.

    To put the question simply, if the Bible said that 1 + 1 = 3, would you believe it? If the answer is yes, then this post was aimed at you. Otherwise, it was just commentary on the news.

    Yours truly,
    Nick

  4. Julian,

    Most libertarians I know (this is a big list) are actually Christian/Catholic. I know a few Jewish Libertarians, and a few Islamic ones.

    Most atheists I know are libertarian or liberal.

  5. Nicholas,

    Glad to see your posting. Nothing like Intelligent Design to create comment fodder on this site lately.

  6. Jake,

    To begin, I prefer tax elimination, but work hard on tax decreases as well. Likewise, while I’d prefer to eliminate government education, it is still important to hold public schools to some semblance of reasonable standards.

    Also, you’ll note that I was supportive of some instances of teaching the Bible in public school. I simply disagree with this specific issue (ID).

  7. “if the Bible said that 1 + 1 = 3, would you believe it?”

    No. That is not to say that if someone came up to me and said you evolved from apes I would believe him or her. I have looked at the Bible and believe it and also believe intelligent design as many others do.

  8. Stephen,

    “It is still important to hold public schools to some semblance of reasonable standards.”

    I agree, I just think that the teacher should be allowed to teach. I would prefer teaching or at least talking about both and then teaching them evolution. Remember you can tell people they have to have a permit to carry a gun or they have to register with selective service, some people will believe anything you tell them so I think it is important to let students understand there is more than one belief.

    It is not so much I disagreed with what was said it was more of how it was said.

  9. I wish someone would do a survey as follows:

    Do you consider yourself a political libertarian? If the answer is yes, then and only then, select one of the following…

    I am (check one)

    1. Athiest _____

    1. Christian _____

    2. Jew _____

    3. Muslim _____

    4. Other _____

    5. Don’t Know _____

    I really am curious to know how many people are political libertarians and athiests. My suspicion is the number is very high but this is only a suspicion. My reason is it appears to be a very vocal group opposing any teaching of anything that references God or that may suggest that a Higher Power had anything to do with life or the existance of matter here and throughout the galaxies.

  10. I’m kind of torn on this, mostly because I don’t really care if ID folks want to stick to their beliefs as a religious plank.

    However, when they advocate religious theory as science, they better bring some hard facts along with it if they want to use taxpayer money to pay for it to be taught in public schools.

    The whole libertarian angle on this is clear: do as you like, but don’t tread on me. This gets murky because both sides feel slighted if they don’t win 100%. Which leads us to the obvious issue of school privatization to allow communities of parents to set their own standards of education (right or wrong).

  11. This is beginning to be a tired issue. Everyone talks and nobody listens. If ID is taught, which version? I am going to type straight from a religious text that I pulled from a bookcase in my home. The passage is quite verbose and you may skim it if you wish. It comes from “The Bhagavadgita” introduction.

    “The Scriptual Trinity-Enshrined in the Mahabharata-God’s grace versus earthly power-Life beset with problems-Allegory-Life and Message Inseperable-Sages Nara and Narayana-Intended for People of Arjuna’s type-Why preached on the battlefield?Who recorded?-Gospel of slaughter-book of dissension and disruption- Change-over from the Pleasant to the Good-The Bhagavad Gita Upanishad- Brahma Vidya-Yoga Sastra- Method of Teaching- Sruti and Smriti- Exposition of the Sentence Sublime- Commentaries-The best among the Commentaries- Classification of the commentaries- Vendata- The way of Sri Krishna- Definition of God- The Scripture Universal.”

    If and when the ID proponents in the US accept this Hindu teaching to be taught in the classroom, alongside Judeo-Christian, Muslim, and Buddhist teachings and ALSO offer the counter argument of aethisism,(for debate only, as it is an ID class) we may all be able to agree that there is no conflift between State and religion.

    As I mentioned in a previous post, perhaps what is needed is Comparative Religion. When serious talks about content come into the picture, we may all have more intelligent comments. Right now, it is just shit force fed down our cable modems to divide us.

  12. Michelle,

    This is an important question. What version of evolution will be taught?

    Actually in my school we have learned about all of these religions and no Christians that I am aware of were offended.

  13. Just ban religion and you eradicate the brainwashing that allows things like ID to flourish. People shouldn’t belive these silly things anyway. The only reason that they do is because they were indoctrinated at an early age. Freedom of religion is a constitutional loophole that allows people to ride roughshod over every other article as long as they can produce some unsubstanciated holy books, and everyone else is constitutionally prohibited from saving their children from a life of doublethink.

  14. I’m a libertarian atheist. I wouldn’t say that “most” libertarians are atheists, but I would guess that atheism is more common in our camp than among other political philosophies (religion is just another form of authoritarianism, after all).

    As for ID, I’m not hostile to the concept, only to the idea of it being taught as science. If they want to teach ID, fine; put it in a 10th or 11th grade comparative religions course.

    Oh, and Baylor didn’t expel those students. Re-read the linked article.

    S

  15. “Let us ignore the non-Christians among us and assume the Christian religion — and Bible, is totally accepted in this part of the world. The point is simply this: is truth geographical? Should not the same things that are true in Iran be also true in India, Japan, Africa, Canada, and in the rest of the world? It would seem so, doesn’t it? Scientific truths are universal, why are religious truths not universal? Is it reasonable to assume that we alone are right and all the rest of the world wrong?”

  16. “I would have no trouble, if I were in a Moslem part of the world, convincing the people there that the Christian Bible is not “the word of God.” If I were addressing Buddhist, Hindus, or people of any other religion I would have no trouble proving, to their satisfaction, that the Christian Bible is not the inspired word of God.”

  17. “The story I have told about the discovery of God is not unique. Anthropologists agree it has happened many times, and in many different places. Whenever primitive people needed a God they have always found a God, tailor made. It was their own God, and always resembled them a great deal. The God always had the same enemies and the same morals, as the people who found him, and many of those Gods were authors; They wrote books.”

  18. “If you know any history at all you know America was a refuge for those who were persecuted by the Bible, and the established church in Europe. You know Bible-believing Christians have never had any concept of freedom. They have always thought freedom was their right to force their belief upon others. And you know the first concern of the Founding Fathers was to separate religion from government, and to establish a free nation, and a free people. And you know also that most of the Founding Fathers were Deis

  19. I just read Michelle’s earlier comment, and I agree; a comparative religions course (one semester, covering major faiths from a historical perspective) would be good for our schools. And it’d also probably be the best place to discuss ID, which, no matter how you dress it up, will never be science.

    ID (like all religion) is philosophy, and there is nothing wrong with discussing philosophy … we shouldn’t be afraid of it. The school isn’t “endorsing” a religion as long as all are discussed openly.

    S

  20. Why are the athiests using capital letters such as God instead of god? If you are so bent on your belief system, then it seems to me you would not use capitals for religious beliefs, dieties, etc. I don’t capitalize athiest and it is a belief in a non-belief.

    You legitimatize those of us that believe in a Higher Power.

    Sandor

    “Religion is just another form of authoritarianism..”.
    Give me some examples, not of individuals, but where religion in itself is. Christianity is all volunteer.

  21. Sandor,
    Thanks for catching my error about Baylor, the post has been updated.

    Many of the commenters have hit on the main issue here: There is nothing wrong with believing in the hypothesis of a creator, or with calling that creator God (or Shiva, Allah, etc.).

    There is, however, a problem with teaching that unfalsifiable proposition as science, especially to children who don’t understand enough of the basic science to discern the flaws.

    Yours truly,
    Nick

  22. Julian’s post-
    Why are the athiests using capital letters such as God instead of god? If you are so bent on your belief system, then it seems to me you would not use capitals for religious beliefs, dieties, etc. I don’t capitalize athiest and it is a belief in a non-belief.

    I sometimes capitalize the g to avoid offending believers. It is commonly called courtesy. It really is a small contribution and it costs me nothing. Why pick on something so insignificant?

  23. To answer an earlier comment, I think I can explain why a lot of libertarians are not overly religious. It boils down to faith: faith in a higher power looking over you, or faith in your own self.

    Libertarians seem more likely to reject the notion that they need anyone to look after them at all, either benevolently and with caring (religious deities) or with force (the state). On the other hand, I think a lot of libertarians who are religious may do so to assure themselves that they are not alone.

  24. Nicholas said: There is nothing wrong with believing in the hypothesis of a creator…
    Agreed. They keyword is Hypothesis. ID is not a Scientific Theory. There is a huge difference. ID tries to disprove evolution, not prove ID. Its not a New Theory (creation has been around probably as long as man). The thousands of years have not bolstered its case. Quite the opposite. In the 150 years Evolution has been around, it has only been strenghened by proof.

  25. If all major religions include creation, it is not against the Constitution. The Constitution only prohibits the establishment of a single religion.

    The Constitution guarantees the freedom of speech and not allowing discusion of ID prohibits it…right?

    Why doesn’t anyone want to discuss the shortcomings of Evolution? How is it supposed ot prove its worth in the public arena? I think a lack of evolution-discussion is why so many are sceptical of it today.

  26. Mike—I think that thousands of years has proved that intelligent design or creationism can stand up to any arguement. Evolution has only had to survive for less than 150 years.

  27. Julian:

    Authoritarians do not necessarily force anyone to do anything (though many would probably like to). They simply favor a system in which authority – be it state, church, or something else entirely – is followed blindly:

    http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?va=authoritarian

    All western religions fit the definition; certainly you’re not going to tell me that Pope Benedict, Billy Graham, and Ayatollah ali-Sistani do not all exert tremendous control over their followers, are you? Voluntary submission only shows how willing many people are to give up responsibility in exchange for a little security (spiritually speaking).

    I also have to wonder just how voluntary such submission is when it’s done under the threat of eternal damnation. I’d call “Worship me or suffer forever!” a fairly authoritarian stance; there *might* be something to discuss about a particular sect being authoritarian or not, but about the Judeo-Christian god there is no doubt whatsoever.

    S

  28. Oh, and I capitalize “God” and “Christianity” because they are proper nouns. It’s not an attempt to legitimize anyone, it’s simply correct English.

    S

  29. Caleb:

    Creationism hasn’t survived “thousands of years”, nor has ID. Creationism – and by this I mean the literal interpretation of *any* creation mythology – has failed utterly in the face of scientific scrutiny. However, the tools to inspect creationsim closely have only existed for the past two centuries; creationism endured for so long only because, before the 1800s, no one was able to actually test it. As for ID – which is simply creationism dressed up to *look something like* science – it’s only been around for a couple decades.

    And the reason there is “doubt” about evolution is because most people don’t understand evolution … but they *do* understand the bible. Science is hard – it takes years of study to grasp even the basics – but religion is both easy and comforting. For the vast majority of creationists it’s not about genuinely understanding the debate, it’s just about believing what makes them feel good.

    S

  30. Caleb – my point was that over many thousand years not a single shred of evidence has solidified to support ID. None. Not one. Zero.

    By contrast, the evidence supporting evolution that has come to light since its introduction is voluminous. Or would the lack of proof supporting ID just mean that the Designer designed it to be un-provable??? ;-) (no — dont start on that now!!)

    Lets introduce it to the schools, in a Comparitive Religeon or Philosophy class. We can examine all possibilities… a month devoted to UFOs and Aliens, one devoted to Atlantis, Stonehenge and the Pyramids, maybe a month about various Religeons. Its best that we consider all possibilities when preaching the notion that something created us. But dont try to pass it off as science. By definition, its not.

    Caution: Be sure you are ready to accept the reality before you kneel down and pray for truth — it might not be what you so desperately seek.

  31. The problem with intelligent design, as I see it, is due to the logical fallacy upon which the theory is based. According to ID, due to a level of complexity inherit in existence, there must be a God. So the question arises, if things were simpler, would that negate the requirement?

    The fallacies in the theory also creates theoretical experiments that quickly turn on the propoents of ID. For example, Could a system start off simple enough to not require a creator and grow in complexity to such a degree that a God was necessary?. Or another example, would a simpler understanding yield more disbelief?

    Personally, I am in favor of letting the champions of this theory have their way as I think the poor logic behind such theories will undermine their credibility. I suspect that followers with these poor critical thinking skills will be prone to suggestion and manipulation. This should give a rather large advantage to those who think more clearly.

  32. As the human race grows mentally, we discard theories that prove to be impossible. Nobody believes today that Athena was born-ready for war at that- from the head of Zeus. Humans nature is to cling to mysticism to explain happenings not yet understood. Perhaps that is easier. I am sure that no words citing, “It was God’s plan” would help me if I lost one of my girls in a bus accident. On second thought, perhaps it is not our nature at all, but in reality, a long history of control based on fear of the unknown. In my nightmares, the Lake of Fire can still occasionally incite fear. And maybe, it is fear of the unknown that propels us to advance.

  33. God’s schematics for life aren’t going to help the creationists stop antibiotic resistant bacteria in hospitals or understand the Bird Flu, especially if he fails to give them to us. ID fails utterly at making predictions that are useful or even testable.

    If the zealots want it taught, its only their children that will suffer. There are too many copies of Darwin, Dawkins and Gould, not to mention Genes and Molecular Biology of the Cell floating around to burn all of them.

  34. Seriously, I wish that everything in the article were true, but unfortunately it isn’t. While the city of Dover may be a good sign that Intelligent Design is being kept out of some systems, Kansas shows us that the cancer of superstition is not in remission. Not only that, I know many people in the sun belt who consider Darwin’s theory blasphemous. And, they are so adamant about it that discussion is out of the question.
    It would be nice if the issue would just go away if we ignore it, but it won’t. The United States has a long way to go to maturity, and we won’t get there if we don’t, as a nation, treat the issue of Intelligent Design as a cancerous growth that needs to be cut out. However, as long as we treat Pat Robetson, Jerry Falwell and the rest of the “true believers” as children who must be tolerated it will not happen.
    Silence in the face of foolishness is idiocy.

  35. Guy

    …”treat the issue of Intelligent Design as a cancerous growth that needs to be cut out.”

    WOW! What a statement against the First Amendment. This is what I see as the agenda of the leftist, socialist Democrats, to have selective freedoms only for what they believe.

    Do you also believe that if you think I do not have a right to demonstrate in favor of our presence in Iraq because you may oppose it?

    How about the right to bear arms? Is there a limit on which arms I can own because you may believe that I can only be allowed to own a BB gun as it may be “less harmful” than an AK47 or an SKS?

    I have a problem with many of you (so called) Libertarians, Republicans, and Democrats when it comes to freedom. You want “designer” freedom. I fight and argue on this site quite often but I will go down defending your right to disagree with me. That is how much of a true libertarian I am. Why not join me in this purist belief system in freedom?

  36. Following up sandor’s comment #21 that ID is philosophy, here’s an opinion piece in today’s (Saturday) Rocky Mountain News on “‘Design’ critics often employ straw men” by a Denver Seminary Professor of Philosophy: link

    “When Darwinists refuse to admit intelligent cause as a possible explanation for specified complexity, this only reveals that they define science such that intelligent causes are disallowed in principle. But this approach is not a discovery of science itself. It is rather a philosophical commitment to materialism (the belief that reality is reducible to impersonal physical laws).”

    What IS science? Is it simply an attempt to describe the natural world using only natural means? Or is it part of a larger search for truth about the universe? The Naturalistic Darwinism vs. ID debate comes down to the philosophical foundations of science.

    Now I’ll step aside as the vitriol flies…

  37. Contrary to your belief, there is a Theory of Intelligent Design which is supported by evidence which can be found at Intelligent Design Theory . It is interesting that such a theory has been ignored in the recent debate and court case. Then again the proponents of intelligent design may be unaware of it and think that it is just creationism!