There exists in America today a debate between science and religion. This debate has continued for over a century since Charles Darwin’s watershed publication of “The Origin of Species” in 1859. This collection of natural observations made by Darwin delivered a fatal blow to the prevalence of the argument from design, as it was then referred to as. The theory of argument from design was championed by English theologian William Paley in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century and it was in 1802 that he was attributed the now widely known watch analogy (Le Mahieu).
Thus, with Darwin’s secularist approach serving as the antithesis to Paley’s Christian-influenced ideology, it is safe to generalize these two opposing camps as secularly scientific and religious. This is not to deny that there are a considerable number of scientifically credible proponents of intelligent design, but since the underlying conclusion is that “God” is the basis of organic and inorganic existence, and that the Darwinian concept of evolution simply acts upon these pre-existing life forms means that these ideologies are fundamentally religious.
The modern arguments for intelligent design are becoming increasingly technical, with the concept of God being introduced toward the end in many instances. Many feel that intelligent design attempts to fill voids that science itself cannot explain, but still others feel that by accepting this explanation we are discouraging further investigation and not attempting to understand our own existence. A great number of people foster opinions on this issue, yet there is still ignorance on the substance of these ideas.
Contemporary intelligent design theory is an evolution of the teleological argument posited by renowned philosophers such as Aristotle, Plato and Thomas Aquinas. The teleological argument is used specifically to indicate the existence of a force capable of acting with intelligence and purpose (Holt). Essentially, these two elements, intelligence and purpose, along with reason, are principally identified as recurrent throughout the natural world. These characteristics, say intelligent design advocates, could not have come together so uniformly through the chaos of genetic mutation and natural selection alone.
While many modern proponents have accepted that natural selection is a valid force acting upon nature, they refuse to acknowledge that the theory of selection could have produced the vast amounts of species present on the earth. The modern arguments for intelligent design are both great in number and complexity, drawing upon a vast range of supporting evidence to produce a coherent theory. The watchmaker theory suggests that if one finds a watch, a machine of complex design which would obviously require intelligence to assemble and make work, then its own existence necessitates the existence of a creator (Mahieu).
Thus, if the world is considered as a large, complicated machine comprised of many intricate parts that work toward a common goal, there is obviously a creator. This argument is presented as an example of a theory called “irreducible complexity”. This theory simply states that a complex structure such as a person cannot exist without a substructure of equal or greater complexity. Evidence of this is presented in the notion that since each substructure of a human is of no benefit individually, it is thus not representing natural selection and must be a result of a supreme intelligence.
Another modern example of intelligent design is the fine-tuned universe theory. Despite the fact that the fine-tuned universe theory preceded the label of intelligent design, these two are virtually gears of the same machine and work hand in hand. Proponents of this theory contend that by contemplating the endless set of conditions this planet could have resulted in, it happened to take the form of a wet, mostly warm atmosphere that fostered life. This condition, according to proponents, could only have occurred through the intervention of intelligence and purpose.
Again, similar to the watch analogy, the final deduction to prove the existence of God is the fact that we exist (Matsun). The fundamentals of modern intelligent design theory had been in existence long before Darwin’s monumental publication of 1859. The law of natural selection has withstood the barrage of tests and competing hypotheses concerning the progression of biological existence, and remains to be the dominantly held belief among scientists and the general population.
Yet despite the virtually impermeable case for random mutation and natural, competitive selection, there remain certain circles dedicated to the resurrection and proliferation of the intelligent design theory. Again, these circles tend to be religiously oriented and their cases have been presented. With the publication of “The Origin of Species” the world saw a shift toward a secular approach in scientific pursuits, relying on empirical, a priori evidence to support or dispute a hypothesis.
The theory of natural selection contended that, through random mutations in a given gene pool, the conditions that dominate life naturally select those traits which are most advantageous to the survival and passing of one’s genes to the next generation. It is a theory that, simply put, allows no room for the intervention of God. As Darwin himself admitted in his personal journal, Although I did not think much about the existence of a personal God until a considerably later period of my life, I will here give the vague conclusions to which I have been driven.
The old argument of design in nature, as given by Paley, which formerly seemed to me so conclusive, fails, now that the law of natural selection has been discovered. We can no longer argue that, for instance, the beautiful hinge of a bivalve shell must have been made by an intelligent being, like the hinge of a door by man. There seems to be no more design in the variability of organic beings and in the action of natural selection, than in the course the wind blows. (Darwin) Here, Darwin has presented us some telling insight as to where the concept of God fit into his ideas of nature.
Yet the debate continues, particularly in the mid-west and southern states of America. In 2005 the Kansas Board of Education approved language that allowed the teaching of intelligent design in public schools as well as curriculum that would be designed to challenge certain theories, mainly Darwin’s evolution. The board also voted to change the definition of “science”, “so that it is no longer limited to the search for natural (emphasis mine) explanations of phenomena” (CNN). Additionally, comments made in August of 2005 by President George W.
Bush further fueled the debate between intelligent design and evolution when he remarked, “Both sides ought to be properly taught…so people can understand what the debate it about. Part of education is exposing people to different schools of thought…you’re asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes” (Baker). Supporters of intelligent design maintain that religious neutrality mandates teaching both Darwin’s evolution as well as intelligent design, as solely teaching evolution is unfairly discriminatory toward those who hold creationist beliefs.
To date, there have been no peer-reviewed studies that could be used to prove the ideas put forth by intelligent design theorists. Evolutionary scientists pejoratively refer to the science behind intelligent design as “methodological supernaturalism”. Ultimately, there is no “real”, empirical science behind the intelligent design theory, and even its subscribers admit that it requires faith in answers that may never be verified. There is a sound argument on the side of evolution and the separation of church and state must be realized; as such, the teaching of intelligent design in public school is constitutionally unsupported.
Belief in intelligent design is highly dependant upon pre-existing faith in religion and is less reliant on evidence or anything much more than emotional appeal. As the Discovery Institute, the premier think tank supplying the propulsion behind the resurgent popularity of intelligent design theory admits, “… intelligent design is more plausible to those that believe in God” (Padian). This is, according to Kevin Padian and Nick Matzke of TalkReason. org is, “…a rather peculiar feature of an allegedly scientific theory.
They insisted that the “Designer” does not have to be supernatural, but were unable to come up with any credible account or hypothesis of what such a “natural Designer” would be, or how to test for its existence” (Padian).
Baker, Peter. “Bush Remarks On ‘Intelligent Design’ Theory Fuel Debate. ” Washington Post. 02 Aug 2005. Washington Post. 10 Apr 2007. <http://www. washingtonpost. com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/02/AR2005080201686. html>.