Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Intelligent Design: Spontaneous Generation for the Twenty-First Century

From the scientific powerhouse that brought us spontaneous generation (abiogenesis) and geocentric astronomy, religion has brought us the novel and revolutionary doctrine of intelligent design. After years of scientists ruling scientific research with an iron fist, God’s faithful have revolted and taken back what they believe was rightfully theirs: science.

I’m not going to go too deep into this, (1) for fear of getting caught repeating some of the clichéd criticisms of Intelligent Design—which is not to imply that Intelligent Design merits profound analysis (or even capital letters)—and (2) because I think evolution if trivial—I don’t care if we came from monkeys; we’re here now and we’ve got enough problems in the present to be worried about prehistory.

I must preface this by saying that I don’t oppose IntelDessin for any atheistic or agnostic reasons.

I believe in a God for exactly the same reason that IntelDessinists (Dessin being French for a sketch or drawing) believe that their concept should be taught in schools: that is the “first cause.” I personally can’t understand how something can come from nothing, so I believe that there is a higher creator.

I don’t, however, buy the other argument by IntelDessinists that the universe is too complex to just happen. I feel like that’s what one fruit fly said to the other in the laboratory, which is to say, (1) our time is so short on earth compared to the universe and (2) we are minuscule compared to the universe, so of course it seems huge and complex. Many people tend to look at the universe as follows:

1) The universe is remarkably complex

2) The possibilities that this system could happen by chance are like

a) a monkey with a type-writer accidentally writing Othello

b) a tornado building the Eiffel Tower

c) any other highly improbable (that’s to say “impossible”) scenario

However, I feel that it should be looked at as follows:

1) In the beginning there was a mass

2) Before that mass exploded, the possibilities were almost infinite

3) Each possibility as to what the result may be was infinitely improbable

4) The one that resulted was improbable, but not unlike the unlikelihood that every leaf has when it falls from a tree to settle in the spot that it does.

That said, I would like to present some simple, clear-cut reasons why IntelDessin should not be taught in science classes:

- There is no scientific debate around the world about IntelDessin, which is to say, if it was significant scientifically, then there would be talk in the international scientific community about it. Well, okay, so there’s talk, but it’s mostly, “Hey, have you heard what the Americans are thinking about teaching in their science classes?” More still, there are, I admit, some groups in the UK and Australia, trying to get intelligent design taught in schools, but they are unabashed creationists (unlike in the states, they try to mask it as science).

- I can meet the watchmaker. The idea I’ve already mentioned of the “first cause” is often explained using the analogy of the watchmaker. This analogy says:

§ A watch is complex

§ I don’t know who made the watch

§ But I believe there is a watchmaker

The flaw with this analogy is that, well, if you really wanted to you could meet the watchmaker, though you may not be able to talk to him or her (my guess is that he or she is in a factory in Korea or China). Contrarily, you cannot meet God (in a strict, empirical fashion).

- Where’s the Intelligent Falling argument? If we start teaching IntelDessin, we’re going to have to teach (1) that a higher being guides electrons as they circle neutrons and protons (2) that a greater power sucks material into black holes (3) that gravity is no more than the Intelligent Designer’s finger on our heads (4) etc. (5) etc. Because, while gravity and atomic structure are theories just like evolution, they are considered fact.

Here’s a scenario for how intelligent design should be taught in school:

A teacher finishes a lesson on evolution (which normally takes, what? One or two days?), and a student raises his hand.

The teacher calls on the student.

“I believe that there is a higher force that created the world and the universe. I think that he created humans and guides evolution,” says the student.
The teacher nods, “and?”

The student is quiet.

“That’s not the concern of evolution,” adds the teacher. “Evolution mentions nothing of how the world began. It only tries to decipher what happened afterwards.”


Creationism—that’s what IntelDessin is—and atheism—that’s not what science is—are debates for everyone to have outside of science class.


Go to onegoodmove to hear several interviews with Richard Dawkins, especially here (scroll to Sept. 18).

Pro-IntelDessin website

The National Academy of Sciences (United States) resources on evolution


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