The Shame of Intelligent Design

I’ll make this very simple. I’m done mincing words, tip-toeing around feelings and devotions, and using any tact whatsoever. If you don’t believe in evolution you are a misinformed idiot.

Recently, while sitting behind a car emblazoned with a “truth” fish eating the “Darwin” legged fish, I realized an irony. In decrying evolution the emblem was supporting evolution’s central tenet; that fit things will outlast unfit things.

The American Museum of Natural History in New York City opened a wonderful new exhibit last week. Entitled [“Darwin,”](http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/darwin/?src=e_h) the exhibit represents the largest, most personal, and most complete collection of items related to Darwin’s life and work on the theory of evolution. Hopefully, I will be able to see it before it leaves the States.

However, in another demonstration of a movement that has become a national shame and made us the target of jibes and jests from around the world, corporations refused to sponsor the exhibit due to pressure from intelligent design advocates. [This article](http://news.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/11/20/wdarwin20.xml) from London’s Telegraph Journal perfectly conveys the tone of disdain with which the rest of the civilized world views America’s continual kowtowing to creationists.

>The failure of American companies to back what until recently would have been considered a mainstream educational exhibition reflects the growing influence of fundamentalist Christians, who are among President George W Bush’s most vocal supporters, over all walks of life in the United States.

The article goes on to discuss the alarmingly high rates of creationists in the US – numbers I’ve seen vary from between 45%-60% and, according to the article, currently sits at 51%.

If I had the resources and the time I could demonstrate evolution right now, right in front of your eyes. With a syringe of antibiotics, a Petri dish of bacteria and a microscope we could watch the evolution of resistant strains of bacteria. This evidence is as irrefutable as can be. Creationists, who have no recourse but to accept this fact, cite such demonstrations as proof of “micro-evolution” and counter with the assertion that such demonstrations do not prove the existence of “macro-evolution” or “inter-species” evolution between more complex animals.

The non-existence of “inter-species” evolution is an often used creationist rebuttal. What is perplexing about this argument is its insistence that human taxonomical categories of animals are, in some way, real categories that represent actual divisions amongst animals rather than a conveniently created way of dividing up a continuum. A horse and a zebra are different species because we say they are and for no other reason. Likewise, a Chihuahua and a Great Dane are the same species because we say they are. In the future, if a type of zebra develops that has significantly varied traits we may decide to call it another species, we may not. Either way, the ultimate arbiter of whether or not “inter-species” evolution has occurred is our taxonomy.

All of this evidence, however (and there is an astronomical amount of it), fails to do one thing: It fails to prove, that is empirically prove, that evolution happened – that is, happened in the past. This is simply due to the fact that we cannot empirically prove, in a conventional scientific manner, that anything happened in the past. Proving that the Earth currently revolves around the sun does not prove that it revolved around the sun on August 23, 1554, or even yesterday. Historical sciences all suffer from this problem. In the end, this “loophole” is all that the creationists have to rely on.

But, this is not meant to be a run-down of the arguments for evolution – just a small, pseudo-rant. So many [books](http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0060958502/102-9046951-1984965) have argued for evolution far better than I could ever could.

The intelligent design movement will continue to fester for many years until, just like heliocentrism, Christianity will be forced to adapt. Another trait of evolution; those things that can adapt will also outlast those that are unadaptable. But, by no means will this destroy Christianity. The quicker Christians realize this, the better for our laughing-stock nation and the children of Kansas.

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15 Responses to The Shame of Intelligent Design

  1. Aaron Powell says:

    Your extremely open ended definition of species is, well, too open ended. From a scientific standpoint, a species is defined as any group of animals capable of interbreeding. From the Dictionary:

    “A fundamental category of taxonomic classification, ranking below a genus or subgenus *and consisting of related organisms capable of interbreeding.*”

    Not that this provides problems for evolution or helps out creationism, but it should be clear that the idea of species isn’t entirely arbitrary.

  2. Trevor Burrus says:

    However, animals that can interbreed are considered two species (Donkey and Horse) and animals that cannot interbreed are considered one (Great Dane and Chihuahua).

    I understand the definition of species. And I also understand why these aberrations are tolerated.

    But, the definition itself is, in some sense, contingent and need not be the defining criterion through which the animal kingdom is delineated. That is our decision as the method with which we divide the animal continuum. My point still stands.

  3. Pingback: Symbolic Order : An Addendum to “Intelligent Design”

  4. Mike Wunder says:

    You have got to be kidding? Have you studied the evidence of creationism, or its claims? Lets have a look a evolution shal we? “Neaterthal Man”, found that the hundreds of discoveries are of jeriatrich human’s with severe spinal arthritis, also should be noted that the brow portion of the skull does not stop growing. Arizona Man, a single tooth was named as this ‘link’ in the chain, was then found to be an extict pig. Piltdown man was a human skul with a modern apes jawbone, a hoax, peking man no evidence, New Guiney man was dated way back to 1970, cro-magnon man has equal brain capacity and physique, so why is not human?
    How about geology, have you checked out “Polonium Halos”?
    Not to mention a mountain of other evidence.

    My point as a creationist is not trying to get rid of science and replace it with fantasy. Science and Creationism has the same evidence, it is interperted differently. Yet i have asked and asked with no response, Can anyone show imperical evidence that evolution is a fact and not a theory? The answere is no there is none, and yet those like you call Creationism religion? With the evidence Ive seen it takes more faith to believe in evolution than creationism.

    Lets stop looking at the theories and debate the evidence, this is the call of cretionists. And yet evolutionists willing to debate are becoming harder to find?

    Here is the difference between you and I, I have no problem calling my belief in creationism theory, just that, a ‘theory’. But you call the evolution theory fact when there is no evidence to support that claim. Who’s the religious fanatic?

  5. Trevor Burrus says:

    Mr. Wunder has argued for my point. He has reiterated that the empirical evidence for evolution having occured is sparse. I agree. Please note the following passage from Bill Bryson’s “A Short History of Nearly Everything”:

    Only one bone in a billion, it is thought, ever becomes fossilized. If that is so, it means that the complete fossil legacy of all the Americans alive today – that’s 270 million people with 206 bones each – will be about fifty bones, one quarter of a complete skeleton. That’s not to say that any of these bones will ever be found. Bearing in mind that they can be buried anywhere within an area of slightly over 3.6 million square mile, litle of which will ever be turned over, much less examined, it would be something of a miracle if they were. Fossils are in every sense vanishingly rare. Most of what has lived on Earth has left behind no record at all. It has been estimated that less than one species in ten thousand has made it into the fossil record. That in itself is a stunningly infinitesimal proportion. However, if you accept the common estimate that the Earth has produced 30 billion species of creature in its time and Richard Leakey and Robert Lewin’s statement (in The Sixth Extinction) that there are 250,000 species in the fossil record, that reduces the proportion to just one in 120,000. Either way, what we possess is the merest sampling of all life that Earth has spawned.

    First, we wouldn’t expect a large amount of evidence that evolution has occured. However, as stated in the original piece, we have the ability to PROVE that evolution occurs right now. Furthermore, we have the justification that evolution can greatly alter the course of a species. It is well documented that nearly every species of domesticated animal and plant have changed substantially due to similar forces as evolution. After we collect the evidence it is anything but unreasonable to exptrapolate that the past was like the present.

    Furthermore, Mr. Wunder has brought up another common creationist point that I failed to mention in my original piece; the meaning of “theory.” I point you to the Wikipedia article on theory:

    In scientific usage, theory is not the opposite of fact. Theories are typically ways of explaining why things happen, usually after the fact that they happen is no longer in scientific dispute. In referring to the “theory of global warming”, for example, there is no implication that global warming is not occurring; world temperatures have been measured and are increasing. The “theory of global warming” refers instead to scientific work that explains how and why this has been happening.

    In various sciences, a theory is a logically self-consistent model or framework for describing the behavior of a certain natural or social phenomenon, thus either originating from observable facts or supported by them (see scientific method). In this sense, a theory is a systematic and formalized expression of all previous observations made that is predictive, logical, testable, and has never been falsified.

    In physics, the term theory is generally used for a mathematical framework derived from a small set of basic principles, capable of producing experimental predictions for a given category of physical systems. A good example is electromagnetic theory, which encompasses the results that can be derived from Maxwell’s equations. This theory is usually taken to be synonymous with classical electromagnetism.

    Mr. Wunder also insinuates that my belief is based on faith; another often tried tactic by numerous creationists. For my rebuttal on this subject I point you to my essay on faith: [Just the Facts Ma’am, Just the Facts: An Essay on Faith](http://www.symbolicorder.com/2005/01/12/just-the-facts-maam-just-the-facts-an-essay-on-faith/) Everything that I say in that essay about the phrase “atheism is based on faith” is equally true about the phrase “evolution is based on faith” or any permutations thereof.

    Thank you for your responses, they are greatly appreciated.

    Trevor Burrus

  6. Pingback: Symbolic Order : Debunking Creationism

  7. Greg Holden says:

    Well, interesting debate from both sides but I find both sides rather weak in their actual evidence offered.
    While the evolutionists offer “wikipedia” definitions and other “expert” evidence, the creationists are purely arguing why evolution is not acceptable to them.
    I think I fall within the creationist viewpoint. That is, I believe there was a superior power/influence that I personally call God who in one way or another and here is the key point – “according to natural laws” – created mankind and life on earth as we find it. But to say that theory is fact is false. The “world is flat” was “fact” and all the evidence gathered pointed towards it but it didn’t make that “fact” TRUTH.

    That is my own personal opinion. Now of course the scientists out there are dedicating most of thier time searching specifically for evolutionist evidence and calling out for others to produce evidence of a creationist theory. It amazes me that the few scientists that do search for creationist evidence find it in abundance. Well, if our own bodies and the very planet we live on is not evidence enough of a supreme power that created us it should at least be enough to be accepted as a credible theory (certainly as credible as evolutionism which claims we evolved first from microorganisms to sea-living organisms and eventually into monkeys and then finally humans without showing any proof of a link between – and they accuse creationists of relying on faith?!).

    So in my mind, if we are going to educate our children and cultivate progress we need to teach them all sides of the debate. That means teaching them what theories are out there – “evolutionism” and “creationism” among others. But for a specific group to call for the extinction of teaching other theories shows a distinct lack of confidence in their own ability to prove their own theory.
    The truth of the matter is that evolutionists and creationists both could “prove” their theories if people are willing to be proved to. So lets just get on with life. If your concern is finding proof, go find it. If your concern is finding faith go find it. Just don’t ostricize a group or a theory because you don’t personally like or agree with another persons theories.

  8. Aaron Powell says:

    Greg-

    The problem is, this isn’t a debate. At least not within the scientific community. And that’s why people like Trevor and me are against even the mention of intelligent design in science classrooms. Science classes are for science and nothing else. ID doesn’t meet the criteria of science (which are pretty rigorous, specific, and have a huge body of philosophical work behind them) so it isn’t science and, therefore, shouldn’t be in a science classroom. Outside of that classroom, sure. Of course, I’ll think it’s hogwash no matter where it’s brought up, but then I feel the same way about the existence of god (any god) in the first place.

    But, in the field of science, it is important to remember that there *is no debate*.

  9. Jacob Ezzell says:

    I think there is some clarification still to be made about a species. Two members of the same species can create viable offspring, that is an offspring that can also breed. A donkey can mate with a female horse and create a mule, which to the best of my knowledge is sterile. (Doesn’t work the other way around, because a female donkey cant support the mass of a mule in gestation.) If one were so inclined to artifically inseminate a great dane with a chihuahua’s sperm, you’d get a weird lookin dog, but since they are both Canis Familiaris or some such the offspring should still be able to make more odd canine spawn.

  10. Greg Holden says:

    Aaron – your point is well made based on the assumption that evolution is fact and based on the assumption that God and ID is not a fact.
    However, there are enough people, scientists and public to hold in balance the vox populis. However much Darwinists and evolutionists would like to say it is proven fact – it really is not in the minds of people and scientists. Certainly the predominance of scientists but not the predominance of people. Until scientists can actually prove that evolutionism not only is exactly how the world and the human species developed and prove that this so called God or supreme power had no hand in it then I do not think it is fair to say there is no debate.
    There is debate. There is still a great deal of debate and until there is definitive proof that the majority of scientists and majority of the population can accept as fact I think we must always keep our minds open to all possibilities and all theories.
    As I have said I am not part of the Scopes Monkey Trial brigade that say these evolutionist theories should not be taught as theory in school. But I am not part of the Atheist evolutionist brigade who seemed determined to totally eliminate the possibility of a God.
    I find it hard to fathom what makes evolutionists so upset about God being taught as a possibility for the existence of man and earth.
    The comment “science classrooms are for science” is already presupposing that God was not the greatest scientist of them all. I have seen no valid proof telling me there is no God. All I see is bones and rock layers and microorganisms which when following a certain pattern that is based on our present day knowledge could be interpreted (or misinterpreted) as suggesting a theory such as evolution. I have still seen no hard evidence that supports abandoning my preferred theory that there is a superior being who did in fact create all things. Not necessarily in 6 24hour periods but in an orderly and scientific manner he organised matter to create life.

    Certainly the specific intricacies of organisms and life and the intricate ecosystem on which we are all balanced and yet survive suggests to me there is more design and development involved than there is indiscriminate evolution.
    Science itself says that for chaos not to exist there must be order. Order cannot exist without guidance. Something influences matter to create order within it otherwise it remains by nature random and thus chaotic. Thus in that very basic scientific law there is need for a scientist! Someone to organise the matter from chaos into order. For chaos to order itself, disqualifies itself from ever existing as chaos. Chaos exists only if it remains chaotic.

    Those are my thoughts anyway. I know you will not agree. But I am one of many millions of people who see life through those lenses and disagree with the view you have through the lenses you wear. Does that or should that make us think any less of each other? NO But we must be allowed to have equal voice in the schools. Banning such theories from a science class would be like banning the teachings of Christ from a philosophy class, or banning the life of Christ from history books just because it is a religious ideology too? That is in my mind blinkered and out of kilt from how we learn and “evolve” as a human race.

  11. Aaron Powell says:

    **Banning such theories from a science class would be like banning the teachings of Christ from a philosophy class, or banning the life of Christ from history books just because it is a religious ideology too? That is in my mind blinkered and out of kilt from how we learn and “evolve” as a human race.**

    Wrong. Christ most likely existed. The words attributed to him were likely things he said. And even if they weren’t, they would be worth studying in school for the historical sweep they’ve had. To ban Christ from the study of history and philosophy would be silly because Christ is a historical figure and did have an influence on philosophy — though I would argue he isn’t a philosopher in the modern sense.

    Science is very different. Just as we don’t teach astrology in our science classrooms, just as we don’t teach geocentrism, so we shouldn’t teach intelligent design. [Even the Vatican says it isn’t science.](http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051119/ap_on_re_eu/vatican_evolution;_ylt=AlL2l7ZlZ4cpSdtu85aiEZpvieAA;_ylu=X3oDMTBiMW04NW9mBHNlYwMlJVRPUCUl)

    History should be taught in a history class — and the history of Christianity is central to the story of the West. Philosophy should be taught in a philosophy class — and Christ had a strong influence on that field (at least until the Enlightenment). Science should be taught in a science class — and intelligent design clearly isn’t science.

    I fail to see how any of this is contradictory.

  12. Greg Holden says:

    Aaron – maybe I failed to make my standpoint clear. I am not a believer in a God who intelligently designs something through some magical *PUFF*. That would create a paradox because Intelligent design and magical *PUFFS* are opposites.
    God, as I tried to explain earlier, has to still obey the laws of nature and science. Laws are laws. If not applied, then there are no ensuing results. Therefore, in my mind excluding the theory of God (as creating mankind through intelligent design) from schools is very much contradictory. Why? Because God or whoever else “created” this world and all that is in it most definitely has to have done so by following the laws of science.
    Does that make more sense?
    Not that we will ever agree probably but at least I have found someone that can debate without being rude and personal. Thanks.

  13. Aaron Powell says:

    Greg-

    So as not to fill this whole post page up with an extended discussion, I’ve started a topic for it in our discussion forms. I’ve posted my response there. Here’s the link:

    [Intelligent Design Forum Thread](http://www.symbolicorder.com/discussions/viewtopic.php?pid=1619)

  14. Pingback: Symbolic Order : Intelligent Design’s Logical Fallacies

  15. vYzion says:

    The thing with theories is that they have to be falsifiable…Creationism isn’t… There is no way to prove creationsim false because all it says is God did it…All other scientific theories can be proven false…If it so happens that we find a plce in the universe where F=ma is false, then the thoery is debunked….You can’t possibly do that for ‘God did it’…God did it doesn’t tell us anything…we already know it was done…we’re here…Theories are concerned with the how and why, adding the words…’God causes…’ inforn of everything doesn’t shed any light on the subject…

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