Inteligent design, what's the deal?

As you may know, there’s a school district in Dover, Pennsylvania that is causing a fuss with a 150-or-so word long statement in 9th grade biology about possibilities besides evolution, one of which being intelligent design (ID). Now, while I like that there are a number of people working to remove this statement, I think the ACLU claiming that its constitutionality is questionable misses the point. ID isn’t explicitly religious, although it seems to receive a decent amount of support from vocally religious people, but it just looks like bad science.

I don’t want to make any ignorant judgements about ID, or its supporters. They aren’t trying to convince us that the Bible is a factual record of history. Unfortunately, so far all I’ve been able to find about ID is that it claims evolution isn’t a thorough enough explanation. I’ve seen nowhere a scientific explanation as to how ID could substitute for Darwinian methods.

I recently received a link to a New Yorker article that talks a little more in-depth about ID than I’ve seen elsewhere, but it still doesn’t have any proposed explanations for biological origins. I’m thinking about trying to find a copy of that Of Pandas and People book to see what kind of take they have.

Intelligent Design, see the idea about biological origins is that God (or the intelligent creator/s) decided that what this universe needed was some complex carbon based lifeforms (Why not silicon based? Who knows!) and so wiggled their celestial fingers and WHAM. There was this stuff. Called life. And it wriggled. Its supposed to be all scientific since evolution can still happen in it, but all the scary bits were just made by God. You know, since evolution is hard to get to grips with. or something.

Step A) Make Universe
Step B) Make Life
Step C) Watch Life evolve
Step D) Make Burritos
Step E) Make Nachos
Step F) Success!

There are varying versions of the intelligent design theory, and not all of them are mutually exclusive to evolution. In fact I’m pretty sure that most if not all accept the idea of microevolution. You’ve got things like:

  1. God created all life in its modern form several thousand years ago, and it has not changed since then.

  2. God created the first life and has since been taking an active hand in guiding the evolution of life on this planet.

  3. God set up the natural laws including evolution, made the ole’ divine spark to create life and then stood back and let it happen.

Evolution has NOTHING to say about the origin of life on this planet. Don’t let all the Jesus fish and darwin fish bumper magnets eating each other polarize you on this issue. It’s not some fucking two party political system. Evolution is a fact of life, but it doesn’t somehow disprove the existence of a divine being. Science doesn’t really deal with that shit, the whole point of science is to explain how the natural world works. The supernatural world is the domain of religion. Science stays out of the theology classes, and religion stays out of the biology classes.

Well, in short, “intelligent design” is seen (rightfully so) as an attempt to get God and creationism into schools and science classrooms, as well as discredit that “satan’s evolution”.

Sure, whatever.

Basically, it’s seen as such because it really doesn’t put an answer for “who created us?”… unless, of course, you ask the proponents- thier answer is along the lines of “well, there is God…”

The two best-known schools of thought with creationism are “Young-Earth Creationists”, who believe that the earth and man are six thousand years old (give or take)- no questions asked, and “Old-Earth Creationists”, who don’t believe the bible should be taken literally, and push the idea that God had a hand in it, but didn’t “bamf” us into existence in seven days.

That sums up much of it, I think.


Ok I’m done.

Actually, evolution DOES try to explain the origins of life. You see, somewhere in the history of Earth, you got all the components needed to build RNA scattered around the globe. That’s not a big deal, these compounds are easily found in the universe for their stability. They’ve been seen in nebulae in our galaxy. They may even have been brought to Earth by asteroids, remains of the nebula that generated our sun. What matters here is that only in Earth those compounds had the conditions to assemble into RNA. Some researchers believe that lightnings had a major role in this.

This isn’t a thought that comes out of someone’s mind without proof like intelligent design, they actually simulated a primitive atmosphere in tubes, with all those compounds (mainly CH4, NH3, H2 and H2O, but no O2, I think). With some sparks here and there, these got to assemble into more complex molecules, very complex organical ones. It doesn’t take a degree in chemistry to know why: the forming of such molecules once you got the most simple ones depends only on the amount of energy they can gather from the environment in order to form, and once they assemble, they are pretty stable.

RNA is not functional just for gene keeping & replicating. It can also take other jobs, including some related to digestion and others (I forgot most of them, it’s been so long sice I studied it…). Well, what matters is, after RNA appeared here, it only needed something to wrap it and get it safe form the environment. Enter coacervates. Spheres of matter that can be formed in nature and have some capability of self-replication. It’s a disordered one, but once RNA’s got to associate themselves with coacervates, self-replication of both could get into an ordered cycle. From then on, it was just a matter of (there’s a lot of arguments among researchers regarding the right amount of time) something from one to three billion years for the first cells to appear.

And that’s how I believe life came to be. No supernatural being needed to explain the story above.

That sums up why ID isn’t as good.

And I like Terry Pratchett’s definition of science:

SCIENCE: A way of finding things out and then making them work. Science explains what is happening around us the whole time. So does RELIGION, but science is better because it comes up with more understandable excuses when it is wrong.

Go Terry Pratchett!


I think Cloth Hat said it right. ID and evolution are terms for very broad views. Evolution itself can be macroscopic or microscopic in relation to time or species. Anyone who doesn’t believe in ANY part of evolution really needs their heads examined. There are plenty of modern examples that occur daily to prove it.

Where smart people (not the dumb ones that whine just to whine) come in with ID are the borders of what evolution is. Like a bunch of molecules came together and eventually acted like something living, which then created more living and eventually you have Britney Spears. Now even if you believe this was started by a random physical occurence and proceeded through natural selection to get where we are now you STILL can believe in some aspects of ID without contradicting yourself. Because heck, a rigged slot machine can appear random to us, even though someone set it to have determined results. Apparant randomness inside a computer is actually preparing a set of numbers that “appear” random. In the case of ID this is God preparing the apparant randomness and not a programmer.

That is pretty much what I believe. I am mainly a scientific person, but until someone can explain what existed before and triggered the big bang then I believe God had some hand in the creation of the universe. And since life rose based on laws determined from the universe’s creation then God had some hand in that as well.

Intelligent design is repackaged creation science. If you want to read more about my thoughts on the topic and how shit works, read some of the threads I’ve participated on the topic. If you have questions, I’ll be more than happy to answer them.

Here’s a thread I concisely explained a few things and presented a speech I like.

Anyone who wonders about the religious overtones of why this is being presented needs to read this article, it provides some interesting information:

"HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 27 - Science teachers at the high school in Dover repeatedly resisted the school board’s efforts to force them to teach creationism on equal footing with evolution in biology class, according to a former teacher who is among those challenging the board in a landmark trial.

The conflict in Dover grew so heated that in public meetings board members called opponents “atheists,” threatened to fire the science teachers and invoked Jesus’ crucifixion as a reason to change the curriculum, two witnesses testified on Tuesday.

"We would repeatedly tell them, ‘We’re not going to balance evolution with creationism. It’s an inappropriate request,’ " said Bryan Rehm, who once taught physics in Dover and is one of 11 plaintiffs in the suit.

The trial here is the first in the nation to test whether public schools can teach intelligent design - the notion that living organisms are so complex they must have been designed by a higher intelligence - or whether the theory is simply a fig leaf for creationism.

Outside the courtroom on Tuesday afternoon, Alan Bonsell, a board member who the plaintiffs said was leading the charge against evolution in the science curriculum, said the board wanted students to learn about competing theories only because it was “good education.”

The board ultimately abandoned the equal time idea, stopped using the term “creationism,” and instead required that ninth graders listen to a brief statement encouraging them to learn about intelligent design as an alternative to evolution.

“We are not teaching intelligent design,” Mr. Bonsell said. “I’ve said that a million times and the news media just doesn’t get it. I challenge everybody to read the statement and show me what was religious in the statement.”

But Aralene Callahan, a former board member, testified that Mr. Bonsell, the chairman of the curriculum committee, said at a school board retreat in 2003 that he did not believe in evolution and wanted “50-50” treatment in biology class for creationism and evolution.

The board wanted the science teachers to use a textbook that promotes intelligent design, “Of Pandas and People,” but the teachers balked at that too, Mr. Rehm said.

For about a year, Mrs. Callahan said, the school board refused to order new biology textbooks. Mrs. Callahan said that when she protested the delay at a meeting, another board member, Bill Buckingham, responded that the biology textbook was “laced with Darwinism.”

The textbook he was referring to was “Biology.” One of the book’s authors, Kenneth Miller, a cell biologist at Brown University, was in court here on Monday and Tuesday as the first witness against intelligent design.

At a board meeting in June 2004, the plaintiffs say that Mr. Buckingham declared from the podium: “Two thousand years ago, someone died on a cross. Can’t someone take a stand for him?”

Two newspapers in York reported the remark. But the defendants say Mr. Buckingham was misquoted.

The head of the school board, Sheila Harkins, said on Tuesday that Mr. Buckingham did say it, but at a meeting nine months earlier while the board considered a resolution to support the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.

The plaintiffs believe the reference to the crucifixion is so crucial to establishing the board’s religious motivation that they have subpoenaed the two York newspaper reporters, who have refused to testify." - NYT

It’s rubbish, that’s what it is. It’s nothing but an attempt by men who quite obviously must’ve escaped from a mental asylum to turn what is a fairy tale into what is its complete opposite, that is, a scientific fact.

Biology, last I knew, was a science. Everything in every scientific field of study is only a theory, but we believe them because most of the real evidence we have in our possession seems to imply that the theories are truthful.

Intelligent design is based from books of stories, and nothing more. There is absolutely ZERO evidence that it has occured, besides the books. Superman comics exist as well, but many do not consider that to be evidence enough to believe in his existence. There is no way whatsoever we can know for certain what has occured in our past, and even with history, we’re simply taking the words of whichever scociety happened to keep the most plentiful records’ word for the truth, but through our current observations in physics and biology, the scientific theories of evolution and the beginning of the universe has been constructed, and we can somewhat verify that something like that was pretty likely to occur through research. A book of stories, however, provides none of this, so the idea of teaching pure speculation in a science class is shameful.

On the note of teaching intelligent design, if one was to teach the idea that god said “i liek poo” and thus the universe and man was created, why not teach that the earth rests atop a turtle’s back, and that it’s just turtles all the way down? We have exactly the same amount of evidence FOR each of those theories.

The scientific and colloquial definitions of the word theory are vastly different. A theory is essentially a law that can’t be mathematically tested.

A theory is a set of undisproven hypotheses, usually that have been tested repeatedly over time to reinforce them.

Surely we could’ve been designed more intelligently than this?

I mean, the appendix? HELLO, McFLY. A useless organ that does nothing besides possibly get inflamed thus causing you great pain and even death unless you get it cut out of you. Sorry, but that doesn’t exactly scream intelligence to me.

And don’t get me started on how just being bipedal puts such a strain on our spine that most of us will back problems at some point in our life no matter what we do…

Man, don’t y’all ever just get tired of repeating the exact same things every week or two when somebody starts bitching about Intelligent Design? Anyway, I basically agree with most of what CH said (“blah, blah, ID isn’t synonymous with Judeo-Christian Creationism, etc. etc.”). And let me add a few points:

-Intelligent Design is NOT a science (As Cless said). People (both atheists and religious people) shouldn’t examine it as a science (so since most people here are, you’re just running around in circles). Also, since it’s not a science, it shouldn’t be taught in science class.
-Just because something isn’t a science, that doesn’t mean that it is therefore worthless (I’m referring more toward religion/spirituality in general, not just ID). For a more tangible example, art isn’t science, but there’s still great worth in that (art fulfills an important part of people’s lives, just like religion does for many people).
-Just because somebody believes in a Creator or God, that doesn’t mean they don’t believe in science or evolution.
-Just because people use ID in stupid ways (as an excuse to teach the Bible as fact in schools for example), doesn’t mean that the idea of God is instantly worthless.
-Just because there are some idiots out there (on both sides of this spectrum), that doesn’t mean that there is or isn’t a God.


One sentence is all it takes.

No, you are not a “scientific person”. You believe that the universe had a creator just because the current scientific models can only speculate about what existed before the universe.

The point is, thinking by exactly that same kind of logic, many people from the past millenia said things like:

“Until someone can explain what exists beyond the horizon then I believe Earth is flat and if you go beyond the border you fall into the infinite void. And since there is an infinite void and Earth is not falling into it, a giant tortoise must be holding Earth in place on his back.”

(To Yar and all the Discworld fans: in the original greek mythos, it was a tortoise that stood on the back of four elephants, one under each leg).

There was never any reason to believe that Earth is flat. It could be a polyhedron with us in one face, or it could be a very long arc. But people believed it just because you use less calories to believe in something heard than to think and come to your own conclusions.

Now, to talk about the random pattern-related part of your post, let me introduce you to the scientifical model. You should study it someday in school or in college. If you were a “mainly scientifical person”, you would know that science is done by experiment, and arguments do not remove doubt. There’s this thing called Scientific Rigor, which basically says that, “personal opinions, without repeatable experiments to back them up, are not valid to Science.” It’s actaully deeper than that, but you get the idea.

To make it short: claiming that God is secretly “playing loaded dice with the universe” is not scientifical, it’s philosophical. Unless you can make experiments which prove that there is actually an entity directing evolution in a pseudo random pattern (thus turning ID in an actual theory), your ideas have the same scientific value of the Flying Spaghetti Monster hypothesis.

So, unless you change your attitude towards reality, you should call yourself a philosopher, not a “mainly scientifical person”.

I was trying to point out that just because people are USING Intelligent Design (a term far too broad to be any given theory) as a way to shove “creation science” down people’s throats, that doesn’t totally invalidate (or validate) the idea of an Intelligent God (and in my mind, if there is a God, then there’s probably some form of Intelligent Design, unless God literally never did anything, and in that case, would that even be God?). Sort of like how just because the Crusades were “fought in the name of God”, that doesn’t invalidate the basic ideas of Christianity (love thy neighbor and all that good stuff), since the people were perverting the Word for their own purposes. Just because somebody USES an idea for a bad deed, doesn’t make the idea itself bad necessarily (not that it makes the idea good, either).

If any one sentence is all it takes, it would be the sentence Cless said. =P

But just because people using it in a perverted way doesn’t invalidate it, that doesn’t mean real science doesn’t invalidate it.