Intelligent Design and Scientific Theory - What About The Designer?

First Draft - December 2004

The Sixth Article and First Amendment make separation between government and religion an integral component of Constitutional law.  With the right wing currently in power in Washington, the solvency of that component is under attack as never before. As part of the biblical obsession against it, the biblical fundamentalist's aggressively seek to dismantle the equally as essential boundaries between science and religion in the public schools. 

Creation science and its more cleverly labeled offspring, "intelligent design theory”, were both conceived to "wedge" religion  into the public school science classes (article).  Their goal is to topple evolutionary theory from its status as the benchmark paradigm of the biological sciences.  They claim the cause of "educational choice", which is now a common theme among right wing factions seeking to fulfill their designs against the educational public trust.  The intelligent design (ID) movement is one more example of the extreme and underhanded lengths that fundamentalist religion will go to advance its predatory agenda. (reference)

If ID really had anything of scientific legitimacy to offer, which it does not, its proponents would be able to substantiate their case with ample results from credible well replicated scientific investigation.  To the contrary, they have nothing to offer but cleaver fabrication and conjecture (article).  Common wisdom would dictate an ethical obligation to get endorsement from the scientific community before presuming to inject ID into the public schools. The ID movement’s failure to do so aught to be a strong warning that something very wrong is going on.  The ID people have little concern about endorsement.  Otherwise, they wouldn't be ignoring the scientific community's overwhelming judgment against ID (AAAS Position) (Public Policy).  

"In the final analysis, the biochemical hypothesis of intelligent design fails not because the scientific community is closed to it but rather for the most basic of reasons -- because it is overwhelmingly contradicted by the scientific evidence." (Kenneth Miller source)

The ID movement clearly intends to circumvent the scientific community by exploiting grass roots ignorance and religious sentimentalism, thereby seeking to win the issue politically (article). Their strategic goal has always been the public schools where vulnerable young minds abound.   Unfortunately, an evil mix of scientific incompetence and evangelical buggery has managed to infect some of the Nation’s school boards just enough to have knuckled under to the ID agenda (article).  A current case involving a Philadelphia school district provides an revealing overview of the agenda and coercive tactics used by the ID people (Litigation

Does religion have the right to shove a supernatural theory of biological origins down the inherently naturalistic throat of science?  To believe that ID belongs in the public school science curriculum one could just as well also conclude that all Sunday school classes should be required to teach Darwin along side the biblical creation myth.  After all, "teaching the controversy” right from the beginning would foster “critical thinking”. Right?  In all fairness to educational choice in religion, why not further mandate that all Sunday schools teach alternative creation myths like the Enuma Elish and the Australian Aboriginal Dream Time for example. This would ensure that the children receive fair exposure to alternative "theories" of creation.  Right?  Just imagine the outrage if  government policy transgressed against the sanctity of the churches in either manner.  It would then be the biblical community's turn to cry fowl about First Amendment violations and church-state separation. 

Make no mistake.  It is nearly impossible for ID's leading proponents to be ignorant of how badly ID fails the test of scientific legitimacy. The scientific community has gone to considerable lengths to inform them of ID's inadequacies.  The ID people seek to circumvent that small problem by corrupting public understanding of the meaning of scientific theory and of scientific proof.  They are so intent on discrediting evolutionary theory that they are willing to undermine the inherently objective standards of science itself to accomplish their goal.   

Their mainline propaganda asserts that evolutionary theory and its core underlying principles, common descent and natural selection, is "only theory, not fact".  The conclusion they intend to force is that ID is also a theory and therefore should have status equal to evolution in science education.  Therefore, as their reasoning goes, ID should have equal standing in the public school science curricula.  Quite obviously, the overarching legal issue is about where the legal line is drawn between science and religion.  Thus yet again it is about where the line is drawn between religion and government.  The underlying technical issue boils down to how scientific theory is properly defined and whether ID viably measures up to that definition.  The following provides a very basic review of the ingredients of scientific theory and method.  This is followed by a non-technical critique of why ID does not measure up.  The paper concludes with a summary analysis of the cultural implications behind the controversy as it currently exists.

Scientific Theory and Methods

What is the critical distinction between theory and fact and how is scientific theory distinguished from "theory" of some other kind?  Is electronic theory for example only just a theory, or is it something well supported by established fact?  If it were only theory in a loose colloquial sense (hunch, notion, speculation, belief), the present writing would not be on line to read, the Internet would not exist, and the reading you otherwise did would likely only be by candlelight.  To possess scientific value, a theory must first be testable as to its truth or falsehood and then second, show itself to be true to a high degree of reliability.  For example, "the sun rises and sets each day" is a descriptive statement about the workings of the natural world that is both testable and known  true, at least for all the days that humans have been on earth to witness the event.  In spite of its simplicity, the statement is definitive about the behavior of the Sun as seen from our earthbound point of view.  Intuitively also, its the elementary observation that the study of astronomy and the passage time long ago were spawned from.   Of course, we now know that the Earth orbits the Sun. The Sun only appears to rise and set because the Earth rotates about its axis every 24 hours, the period of time we conventionally refer to as a day.  Even so, the transition from light to darkness and back to light is real enough for the concept of a raising and setting sun to possess a high degree of situational validity. It's truth value is so well accepted that issues of whether it classifies as fact or theory ordinarily do not arise in conversation.  Nevertheless, it technically amounts to a statement of theory rather than just fact because it encompasses events that have yet to be proven, the days ahead to come.   The upshot, however, is that the rising and setting of the sun is both theory and fact.  

The statement, "the sun will rise and set again tomorrow", is a prediction that stems directly from the theory and is clearly testable with the events of the next 24 hour period.  The objective evidence (facts) of the past allow us to be very confident that the prediction will turn out to be true, but we cannot be 100 percent certain.  This is because the events of tomorrow are yet to occur.  Facts (the sun rose and set yesterday) differ from theory because facts are unconditionally true while theory depends on facts to confirm or disconfirm its truth-value.  Theories proven false by the evidence are invalid by definition and thus have no scientific utility. Un-testable theories cannot be confirmed or disconfirmed and are therefore not of scientific value either.  Before a theory gets elevated to benchmark status in science, the accumulation of facts must substantiate it so well that the theory achieves a status akin to fact, or leastwise accounts for the facts far better than any known alternative.  In either case, the critical difference between theory and fact is the theory is forever conditional to some degree.  For example, we cannot know for sure that the Sun will rise and set again in the next 24 hour period, although there is little chance anytime in the near future that it will not.   Scientific theories are also conditional because they are just descriptions of the workings of nature as apposed to being the actual workings themselves.  At best therefore, a theory can only be a very accurate description of the natural phenomena that it intends to describe.  

Scientific theories are also conditional because they are subject to correction, refinement, enhancement, or even disconfirmation as evidence mounts and new hypothesis are tested, thus producing still more data to evaluate its predictive reliability against.  Of course, it's possible that an entirely new theory will come along to compete with an existing benchmark.  Several centuries ago, to the dismay and resistance of the biblical establishment, Copernican theory eclipsed the long-standing geocentric theory of the solar system (reference).  This revolution in understanding was not arbitrary. It was the result of an accumulation of evidence sufficient to confirm the superiority of Copernican theory.  Notably, however, the Vatican did not officially concede that Copernican theory might actually be correct until 1983 (Galileo).  In any case, to be scientifically legitimate, the new theory must lead to testable and thus confirmable predictions.  A theory has no practical scientific value unless it possesses that quality.  (reference)  (Why ID Theory is Invalid)

The statement, "The sun did not set in the last 24 hour period" is expressed as if it were a fact, although it is not.  How do we know that it is not?  We know because of all the easily accessible evidence that clearly confirms the statement to be false.  If nothing else, the newspapers record the time of sunrise and sunset each day.  If there were any deviation from that schedule, it would have been reported on the front page of every newspaper on the planet.  Also, however, if one did not live underground or had not gone to sleep before the hour of sunset and slept through the hour of sunrise, there would be the evidence of one's own senses that the Sun did indeed rise and set as always.  As life inevitably teaches, it is not always so easy to distinguish between fact and fiction.   How does science sort out the difference between the two?  As an extended community of people, scientists tend to be very natty about matters of both fact and reason.  They expect the information published in the scientific journals to be accurate and the conclusions or inferences drawn to abide by the laws of logic.  That is why accredited scientific journals demand rigorous peer review before publishing anything.  It is part of the methodological routine of science to check the facts and conclusions to ensure their validity. Significant findings motivate other scientists to repeat the same studies and experiments.  This is both to verify the soundness of the methods, the reliability of the results, and to extend the scope of the investigations into new avenues of research.  

Honest mistakes do occur and there are occasional breaches of professional ethic (see Piltdown Man Hoax).  That, however, is why experimental investigations are repeated and the methods and results critically analyzed by other scientists.  The enterprise of science is self-corrective in that way.  The overwhelming majority of scientists would always rather abandon a pet theory then have it propped up with bad information or faulty reasoning.  Science's essential goals demand a fundamental dedication to truth among its professionals.   As a matter of truth, if there were currently any legitimate competitor to the theory of evolution, if ID were a legitimate competitor, then the scientific community would stand up and say so.  (ID pro and con)   Like Electronic and Copernican theory the evidence in support of natural selection is so overwhelming that it rightfully also holds the status of benchmark. It has no scientifically serious competitors in the present age. 

Does stating this as if it were fact make the case for evolution?  No, it does not, but neither do the ID people's bald-faced claims against evolution make the case for ID. The truth of evolution is abundantly proven in the detail of the natural history record Talk Origins Archive

It's because of evolutionary theory's unparalleled accuracy of description and predictive utility that it's the benchmark in the biological sciences.  Evolutionary theory did not emerge all of a sudden, nor does it stand or fall on just a few bits and pieces of evidence.  It was the crystallization of centuries of research leading up to Darwin's classic writings.  In the 140 years or so since, it has been  tested, confirmed, refined, and augmented through the efforts of many researchers.  Not all of Darwin's ideas have been carried over into the modern evolutionary synthesis.   Still, even if sometime in the future a new biological theory proves to be scientifically meritorious, it is nearly certain to incorporate natural selection and common descent as integral to it.  This is because of the enormous empirical validity the two possess. By way of parallel example, near the beginning of the last century Einstein's theory of relativity  dramatically changed our understanding of the physical laws of the universe.  As we have learned, the older Newtonian physics with its proven reliability for small velocities and small gravitational fields turned out to be a logical extension of the Einstein's more advanced formulation (source).

The Fallacy of ID Theory   

Consider some of the basic reasons why ID is not of scientific caliber.  To start, the ID people declare that it cannot be possible for living organisms to have achieved their present forms without the intervention of some external agent, the "intelligent designer".  They avoid   directly saying so, but the unspoken implication is that the intelligent designer is the deity of biblical lore. "We do not fully understand all the history and complexity of organic life, therefore God brought it about", is not a valid argument.  It is a classical example of an "argument from ignorance" (definition).  The complexity of living organisms is not proof for the intervention of some god-being.  One could just as well use the same argument to claim the influence of fairies or pixie dust.  

"To explain the origin of the DNA/protein machine by invoking a supernatural Designer is to explain precisely nothing, for it leaves unexplained the origin of the Designer. You have to say something like 'God was always there', and if you allow yourself that kind of lazy way out, you might as well just say 'DNA was always there', or "Life was always there', and be done with it." Richard Dawkins 1986  

Amid its more enduring regularities, the world is demonstrably filled with unpredictable if not purely random but still all natural phenomena that variously affect all living things.  For this reason, the existence of such phenomena carries the substance of empirical certainty that the supernatural does not.  Although there are many religious beliefs about ultimate origins, one fact stands out.  There is not a grain of tangible physical evidence for the intervention of the supernatural on the earthly beginnings of life.  Nor is their evidence for such intervention thereafter. The ID people nevertheless point to the intricacy and purposefulness of function that organic life demonstrates even on the micro-cellular level. They declare that it could not possibly be the result of just happenstance and a process of numerous small adjustments built up from an initially rudimentary biochemical base.  Roughly stated, this is the essence of the ID claim for some hitherto undiscovered intelligent designer lurking behind it all.  

Evolutionary theory emerged in the latter half of the 19th century from the simple but profound realization that the evidence for a common descent among all species was compelling (source). In spite of the many traits that we undeniably share in common with other species, Darwin's 1859 assertions about ancientness of origin and common descent were immediately at odds with the biblical worldview. For the Earth to be much older than just six or eight thousand years and for humans to share ancient ancestral roots in common with apes, chimpanzees, and the greater host of other species, were ideas too revolutionary for the nineteenth century biblical establishment to readily accept.  In America in fact, only 80 years have passed since the famous Scope's Monkey trial and just 35 years (1968) since the Supreme Court struck down all laws prohibiting the teaching of evolution in the public schools (reference).  It was not until the following year that the Supreme Court went further and struck down all laws sanctioning the teaching of creationism as science.  

In spite of these landmark rulings, the conflict between the evolution grounded biological sciences and biblicalism rages on.  New knowledge is sometimes difficult for culture to rapidly absorb.  This is particularly so for evolutionary theory, which impeaches long-standing popular beliefs about the when, where, and how of humanity's ancient origins.  Judging by recent opinion poles, the few decades that have passed since the afore mentioned rulings have not been adequate to educate the nation's living generations about the factual basis underlying evolutionary theory.   This collective uncertainty is what the proponents of ID exploit.   They claim scientific legitimacy while appealing to fundamentalist religious sentiments to leverage financial and political support.  They vigorously deny any connection between ID and creationism, but any theory that postulates a master designer also postulates a creator by default.  That is the issue that resides at the bottom of the legal dispute.  Even though the ID does not indulge in the debunked "young earth" and "biblical flood" claims of its predecessor, ID is still creationism and thus in essence a religious belief. (Darwin Threat)      

The notion of "irreducibly complexity" is the most sophisticated part of the ID movement's "theorizations".  In the ID scheme of things an irreducibly complex system is one where the interdependent biochemical parts are so unique that no corollary can be identified in any pre-existent system.  Therefore, as the reasoning goes, the system had to have been originated on the spot rather than adapted from previous usage in another system.  If that were the case, the system itself could not have come into being through the processes of evolution (reference). The proponents of ID speculate that if such systems could be proven to exist, then there would be evidence for some external designing agent and evolutionary theory would be impeached.  Notice the argument from ignorance factor creeping around in the logic? The problem is that the ID people have the task of first proving the existence of such systems and then substantiating a connection between them and some verifiable external designing agent (reference) (design writings).  Judging by their total lack of published findings, the ID movement is clearly more interested in creating the illusion of proof to sway an unwary public then actually proving its case to the scientific community (court transcript).   

The span of time encompassing life's history on Earth is huge.  By best measures, the biological puzzle runs 3.5 to 4 billion years into the Earth's past (article) and only a fraction of the pieces remain intact to be found.  The accumulated evidence contains gaps where only limited numbers of transitional fossils have been unearthed.  Some species of organism seem not to have "evolved" very much at all.  The time layering in the fossil record also shows long periods with very little evolutionary activity.  These are interspaced with periods of dramatic change with entire species disappearing and new branch species emerging relatively suddenly.  Consequently, the process of biological change is not as straightforward or regularly paced as evolutionary theory is often mistakenly believed to require.      

The ID people endeavor to exploit the gaps, both real and claimed, as a speculative wedge against the credibility of evolutionary theory.  Their argument appears to be that if complete transitional evidence does not exist, then perhaps the species in question came into being through a process other than evolution.  The desired implication being that the gaps provide "evidence" for the intervention of an external intelligent agent.  The so called "god of the gaps".  This in essence is ID's notion of "special creation" as a non-evolutionary explanation for the appearance of new species.  Such reasoning also fits comfortably with ID's notions about irreducible complexity.   But in so arguing they foster a confusion of issues.  Although there are gaps in the existing data, it does not follow that common descent as a central element of evolutionary theory suffers from any terminal unsoundness as a consequence.  The fieldwork is ongoing and new fossil evidence is regularly unearthed.  Notably, however, fossilization requires the right conditions to occur and some of the desired specimens may simply not have been captured by the process.  Nevertheless, the existing fossil evidence is much more abundant then the ID people would have us believe (article) (article).  This is demonstrated by the fact that enough high quality transitional fossils have been unearthed to make a rather decisive case for evolution.  Included among the many notable examples is the transition from reptile to mammal (article) and from ape to humans (article). 

"Mainstreaming intelligent design into our public schools is like informing students that there is a possibility that Earth is not round but indeed flat due to inconsistencies in satellite photos. Implanting an unproven ideology into impressionable minds too immature to challenge it is not only reckless but also dangerous." Venuri Siriwardane (source)

In historical perspective, the ID theorists did not originate the irreducible complexity idea.  Its antecedents can be traced back to an English clergyman in the late eighteenth century who authored the “Watchmaker” analogy.  Darwin himself repudiated the analogy when it was used in an attempt to counter his 1859 publication of The Origin of Species (reference).  More than a hundred years latter, the ID creationists still peddle it and similar analogies as grass roots arguments against evolution, forcing the scientific community to repeatedly debunk them.   The basic idea behind the watchmaker analogy is that if someone who had never seen a watch before were to stumble across one, they would immediately recognize that it was "intelligently designed" and thus be able to validly infer an external designer.  Even greater complexity and sophistication of function is found in nature's creatures.  Therefore, as the argument goes, nature's creatures must also be the result of an external intelligent designer. The special twist on the ID argument is the leap from the notion of great complexity to one of irreducible complexity.  Presented even this way, the argument fails on several counts. (Watch Maker Argument)

For starters, we commonly do know (as apposed to just believe) who designed and crafted the watch.  Humans did, members of our own tool-making species.  Even though an external designer was required, watches are not the product of a single  historical moment of creative activity.  The tool-making abilities of our species have improved over the many successive generations of our ancestors.  Who could possibly doubt that? The small and intricate mechanism that a classical timepiece amounts to is the result of many thousands of years of experimentation with time keeping, metalwork, levers, wheels, gears, screws, dials, springs, counterbalances, and other key components, which were used in many ways, including more primitive timepieces, prior to their inclusion in a pocket watch.  Two things are notable about all this.  First, in its own right,  the watch is the result of a process of evolution going back to our most primitive awareness of  the passage of time and thus not the product of a brief flurry of creative activity.  Second, even though the watch required a designer, the above stated evidence confirms that it is by no means an irreducibly complex system.  Versions of all of its component parts were used in earlier more primitive devices.  The same is true of other mechanical devices (like mouse traps) which the ID people are given to use for alternative examples (mousetrap analogy).  

The above stated glitches notwithstanding, the ID people still assert that the intricacy and complexity of many biological organisms is so great that they could not possibly have come into being via random chance and small incremental adjustments over time alone. Therefore, just like the watch, the intervention of an intelligent designer had to be required. The underlying problem with their argument is that it does not follow with logical necessity that biological organisms require an external designer because an insentient mechanical devise like a watch does.  To expand on the reasons why, it should first be observed that evolutionary theory does not describe biological change as a pure function of random chance.  If anything, the strong evidence suggests that the numbers of potential variations at the biochemical level, although quite large, are still bound by the underlying physical laws that govern the composition and organization (morphology) of organic systems (resource) and thus are finite.  In turn, the more or less enduring characteristics of the organism's habitat (environment) would tend to favor the retention of some random variations over others.  Finally, due to the dominating influence of an organism's defining core of inherited successful traits, the processes of natural selection across generations cannot be construed to be completely without coherent direction or purpose.  Amidst all of this, if one were to look anywhere for an agent of intelligent design (such as the terms apply), then based on their own accomplishment and the cumulative legacy of accomplishment passed on to them by their ancestors, it would be most reasonable to suspect the organisms themselves.  That of course, is not the sort of suspicion that the proponents of ID wish to induce.

Unlike biological organisms, the watch has no sentient or living self-regulated existence.  It cannot start or rewind itself or otherwise alter its own behavior.  It cannot in any way adjust to changing environmental circumstances, although living organisms can.  Nor, can the watch produce offspring as biological organisms do.  Thus, unlike biological organisms, watches have no analogous potential to autonomously refine their detailed nature and function across successive generations. The case for ID’s external intelligent designer therefore boils down to the issue of whether any complex structure can be shown to exist that a biological species could not possibly have autonomously evolved on its own.  The difficulty, however, is that ID’s premier examples of irreducibly complex biological structures have all been shown to be bogus. The human eye (article), the bacteria Flagellum (article), and the blood clotting cascade (reference) are notable cases in point (resource).      

Hypothetically, even if there were instances where the claim of "irreducible complexity" could not be shown to be inherently false, it would still not be sufficient justification to conclude for the intervention of an external designer.  It would take us full circle back to the afore mentioned argument from ignorance.  Not having established the means by which the still unidentified designer accomplished the intervention, the only reasonable conclusion would be that insufficient information exists to conclude anything.  Moreover, the cumulative evidence for evolution would make rare, undiscovered, or poorly understood, but all purely natural causes, the more plausible explanation (article).  What is more, the classification scheme recommended by ID to identify "irreducibly complex" biological systems is arbitrary, subjective, and propped up with faulty statistical reasoning (random chance) (Borel's Law).  Without apology, it is reminiscent of what gambling system con artists pedal as surefire ways to "beat" unbeatable casino games.  

Even with all these problems, the notion of a mysterious external designer still begs additional critical questions.  How exactly does ID theory define intelligence?  And beyond this underlying  problem, what are the designer's origins, residence, and defining characteristics?  Are the ID proponents claiming the handiwork of just one designer, two designers, several, or many?  If so, then what is the justification for the claim versus any other number?  The proponents of ID are characteristically very vague about these issues. They have strategic reasons for their vagueness. First among them is the problem of dissection before the Federal courts.  Creation science, with its overt connections to biblicalism made a similar bid to justify its existence in the science classroom.  It ultimately failed to pass muster before the test of reason and constitutional law.  Even setting aside the issue of identity disguise, the vagueness of ID alone is a fatal flaw in its claim to scientific legitimacy.  If nothing tangible can be specified and proven about the origins, identifying characteristics, residence, and devices of the designer as separate from that of the subject organism itself, then there is absolutely no way to substantiate the designer’s existence or influence.  These fundamental problems make ID indisputably meaningless from the standpoint of what a viable scientific theory requires (Fifteenth Century Science) (ID Critique).

The Cultural Anatomy of the Controversy

Many people who subscribe to the theory of evolution do believe in some higher power or powers (article).  The majority nevertheless make the necessary distinction between matters of science and formal scientific proof versus things more strictly in the realm of personal belief (article, article).  Although the biblical radicals will declare otherwise, science and more specifically biology are not atheistic pursuits.  Similarly, they are not the product of a theistic view of the world either. Science is more purely non-theistic.  It deals in tangible physical evidence, as in objective data.  Science is typically not in the business of considering one way or the other the existence of supernatural entities, divine intercession, or other things for which there are no tangible objective proofs.  In of itself, the sheer lack of tangible evidence for the existence of god or gods does not unequivocally disconfirm their existence. That, however, does not give god or gods the status of either existence or omnipotence in fact by default.  Nor does it make them suitable components of theory in the biological sciences. "Theories" predicated on the biblical god or some other intangible supernatural agent, belong to the sphere of religion and religious faith, not to the sphere of science. (religion and evolution

Just because the ID people have managed to instigate a controversy does not make ID scientifically viable, nor does it give its proponents justification to infect the public schools with it. Terminology like "intelligent design" and "irreducible complexity" is nothing more than clever buzz language. Simply dreaming up some buzz phrases and attaching the term "theory" to them does not make for scientific legitimacy.  The ID agenda is not to improve science education, but rather to damage its naturalistic integrity with misinformation, defective reasoning, conjecture, and theistic supposition.

The ID stuff clearly does not belong in the high school science classroom.  It doesn't possess the quality of objectivity that sound science requires.   It might have a place in the comparative study of theology, although it is unlikely to contribute anything beneficial in that domain either. It treats matters of fact and reason altogether a little too cheaply.  Language, mathematics, science, history, and civics are among the core academics required for a sound contemporary education.  Those who think their children's schooling should include religious pseudo science are free to indulge, but at their own expense outside the public school system.  It shouldn't be the role or the privilege of the nation's school boards to shirk off the objective standards of science to accommodate a hair brain "theory" created by religiously motivated factional interests.   The self-evident reason is that it would be at the expense of every student, parent, and teacher who does not want the classroom's attendance on the validated tenants, devices, and evidence of science corrupted by such stuff.  It would also be at the expense of the nation as a whole, which has a compelling interest in achieving and maintaining the highest possible standards in public school science education.  Where this matter is concerned, supernatural theories do not make the cut.  Ultimately, the license of locally elected school boards to tamper with the science curricula needs be curbed.

Take a close look at the leading proponents of ID and their financial backers.  Issues of academic credential aside, it is impossible to identify any among them who is not solidly entrenched in the fundamentalist biblical camp (article).  Thinly veiled behind the external trappings of the ID movement lurks the perennial issue of the popular religion's status and authority in modern culture. Issues regarding  its doctrinally mandated claim of ultimate authority of their archaic scriptural artifacts .  What would be the ultimate fear for any autocratic religious movement like biblical fundamentalism?  Would it be that human kind will transcend attachment to the bible's ideological and doctrinal defects, thereby forcing biblicalism to either redress or accept relegation to history along side civilization's other scriptural fossils?  Either alternative would be a far worthier goal for biblicalism to undertake then indulging in a causally maligned crusade to poison the integrity of science education with a culturally degenerative intellectual virus. 

Unfortunately, when it comes to necessary redress within itself, particularly in the details of purpose and mission, religion can be the most indolent institution in culture.  In the present case, it is evidently far easier for the biblical radicals to use propaganda and hardball politics to rob the children of the gift of knowledge about the true history of life on this planet.  Far easier to conspire to begrudge them the legacy of empirical truth so painstakingly unearthed by the sciences.  They do it in foolish defense of the status and pseudo authority of their biblical myths, theisms, and right wing pulpits. Their motives are the product of indiscriminate allegiance to and veneration of biblical religion's mythological and theological artifacts. Allowed to succeed, they will systematically damage the collective intelligence of the whole Nation.  Evidently, they would be content to drive culture back to the dark ages where ignorance, superstition, and inquisition ruled the land (article).    

The practical institutional concern is not that evolutionary theory falls short of explaining the ultimate mysteries of life's origins or leaves the supernatural out of the explanations it does provide.   Rather, the practical concern is how well the theory accounts for the preponderance of objective evidence about the nature and history of life on this planet.  The subject matter of both biological science and science in general is the natural world, not the supernatural.  In spite of the ID’s denial, one thing is verifiable.  Evolutionary theory does account for (explains and predicts) the evidence at a level of reliability and comprehensiveness that pseudo science competitors like ID cannot hold a legitimate candle to in comparison.  Contrary to the illusion that the ID people seek to create with their "theory not fact" rhetoric, the phenomena of biological evolution operating over an immense number of generations spanning back an immense number of years to very ancient origins, is fact not just theory. Those religions or sectarian persuasions who fail to redress accordingly do not deserve to stand.    

In summary, what is the nature of the "controversy" that the ID movement conspires to impose on the biology classroom?  As I have shown, it is not a controversy between two competing scientific theories, nor is it about an established scientific theory that does not fit well the facts.  It is a cultural power struggle between what is empirically known versus an ancient belief system about supernatural influences whose truth value defies substantiation, as if the latter should trump the former with regard to science education.  As many believe, the appearance and course of life on this planet might be or might have been influenced by some intelligent supernatural entity or entities.  The profound difficulty is that there is no physical evidence that confirms either their existence or the influences they might have had.   The existence of God or any other supernatural entity is simply beyond the reach of science to substantiate.  Even in the realm of religion, their existence is a matter of faith, not fact.  These truths need to be appreciated.  

"But he [Dr Collins] acknowledged that as head of the American government's efforts to decipher the human genetic code, he had a leading role in work that many say definitively demonstrates the strength of evolutionary theory to explain the complexity and abundance of life ... as scientists compare human genes with those of other mammals, tiny worms, even bacteria, the similarities "are absolutely compelling," Dr. Collins said. "If Darwin had tried to imagine a way to prove his theory, he could not have come up with something better, except maybe a time machine. Asking somebody to reject all of that in order to prove that they really do love God - what a horrible choice." (Scientists Speak Up  

Albert Einstein professed to be a man of faith.  Although matters of religious belief did not appear in his formal scientific writings, he was known to have informally remarked that he could never catch God at work.  Given such a notion, one might consider it a bit presumptuous to think that one ever could.  With that, one might consider it even more presumptuousness to think that archaic scripture or personal religious belief should dictate either to human or god what gods' devices are or cannot be (note).  If some supernatural intelligence or intelligences are in any way responsible for life on this planet, then the cumulative evidence of the ages most strongly indicates that biological evolution is the underlying phenomenon by which it was accomplished and sustained.  If scripture-driven religious beliefs about events in the past do not square well with the cumulative weight of the evidence, then where does the error reside, in the evidence or the scripture?  To impose religious beliefs (and there are many to choose from) on the science class as if they possess a status in objective fact that competes with biological evolution is to do  travesty to the essential tenants of science. And consequently also to the essential requirements of truth and reason itself.   

Undoubtedly "the controversy" is politically real, but no matter how it's dressed up, it still boils down to a cultural war between archaic religious mythology versus the cumulative objective knowledge of the ages, of which science, higher education, and civilization are necessarily heavily invested.   Although the controversy may deserve a place somewhere in the educational curriculum (philosophy or social studies perhaps), it does not belong in the public school science classes.  To suggest otherwise is to advocate that the fundamental integrity of science should be made victim to factional religious interests.  Not only is that unconstitutional, it is also very wrong. (The Case Against Intelligent Design)

Sociological  Notes

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