Creating a New Creation

It seems while we have all been living our lives someone has come up with a new way of explaining how everything came into being. It is all the rage in certain groups and even the President wants all of America's children to know about it. How and when did this happen?

Intelligent design as a theory (and movement) was born in the early '90s. Its proponents reject science's assumption that life evolved out of randomness or through undirected change. Their contention is that certain aspects of life under any other lens (other than that of evolution) would logically be interpreted to be a product of design. That means, and I realize I am jumping a lot of steps, life on Earth has to be a product of a designer. And who might that be? Intelligent design theorists deliberately stop short of giving that away.

Described as an "intellectual movement," the Intelligent Design Network studies "the science of design detection -- how to recognize patterns arranged by an intelligent cause for a purpose." And rightly they point out that other fields use a similar methodology like anthropology and forensic sciences. But where the argument loses focus is that these "design detection" fields are born from interpreting the acts of human hands.

Deliberately politicized, the intelligent design movement has touched each of our lives through legislation. Included in the No Child Left Behind Act is language that promotes teaching why evolution generates so much controversy. Although this provision is nationally unenforceable, many states (Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kansas, et al.) have introduced changes to curriculum that require teaching many different theories of creation including intelligent design.

Of course this theory has created a good deal of controversy and dismissal from intellectual circles. Besides its manipulation of scientific orthodoxy, my favorite brain teaser criticism is what designed the designer? Objects of irreducible complexity, in theory, have to have been designed. Also of concern are its roots and promotion by fundamentalist Christian think tanks.

Where does this leave us? As a method of investigation, intelligent design does contain certain merits. But where it becomes troublesome is how the debate changes when a specific Designer is suggested.

Thanks to Wikipedia and the Intelligent Design Network for information used in this article.

dawg, Aug 10 2005 8:54AM
mark, Aug 10 2005 5:36PM

slate has a very acidic read on the whole business of teaching intelligent design:

matthew, Aug 16 2005 1:17PM

Slate ran a bit of a counterpoint story as well, describing the unscientific logical extension of evolution theory into the world of psychology as an equivalent of "intelligent design".

I don't fully agree with slate's intelligent design article in that I think there is some middle ground for the thinking person of faith. There is a link in the original slate article ("Darwinists who claim to be Christians") that describes where the intelligent design community has gone wrong, by trying to show how science is a fundamentally wrong and incomplete description of the world around us. Science describes the world around us. The role of religion in modern society is not to contradict science, but to assign meaning and purpose to the world around us. Unfortunately, the religious leaders getting the most press these days don't seem to agree.

mark, Aug 17 2005 9:43AM

not to belittle the weight of this discussion but the onion has a hillarious parody of the intelligent design controversy. their faux story speaks of the "intelligent falling" theory as a counterpoint to gravity.

i sort of feel like i am thinking about the right things if the onion finds time to parody them. i guess the same holds true with the daily show.

Matthew, Aug 17 2005 1:35PM

Excellent Onion article! This whole discussion reminds me of why I am an engineer, because I really don't care very much about the origin of species, or intelligent designers. My scientist colleagues remind me often that scientists are very interested in WHY and HOW things are the way they are. Engineers tend more towards action at the early stages of comprehension.