The argument from intelligent design (ID) is one of the supposed proofs for god’s existence. You’d think if an incredibly powerful and intelligent being did create the earth, it would have left better evidence of its handiwork than a ruthless unsympathetic world that seems to be purposed towards nothing in particular.
You might also expect that the people he selected to laud his creation to the world would be those of deep humility, respect, and scientific knowledge. But they’re not are they? Proponents of ID have a history of spreading misinformation or blatantly lying about science and evolution.
You would also rightly expect that realisation of ID would transcend any worldview or religious leaning. But it doesn’t. Anyone who thinks the world was designed attributes it to their god, their religion. Belief in design is inseparable from belief in religion.
Also, you’d think the experts at studying this world and universe of ours, namely scientists, would be the strongest proponents of design theory. But they’re not. Why? Why are scientists so dismissive of Intelligent Design?
Quite simply, because it’s not scientific.
The argument from design is based on the premise that the universe manifests such high complexity that only purposeful design can explain it. In other words, ‘the universe looks designed, therefore it is’. But this is an opinion, not a fact. Apparent “good” design in nature might indicate design, but apparent “poor” design would indicate the opposite. So at the very least, the way nature appears prima facie hardly proves ID.
Another problem with the argument from design is that it begs the question. It is an exemplar of circular reasoning. It goes like this: ‘all the design in nature proves that there was a designer’. Now, we know that designers design things, and we know that designed things have a designer. Fact. No one is disputing that. To call a car or a watch designed is taken as fact, since we know that cars and watches are designed. But we don’t know that the universe was designed. That is what we’re trying to find out! Therefore, the argument assumes that design exists, and then postulates a designer. It assumes the very conclusion it should be trying to prove; circular reasoning.
Scientific theories must be testable, at least in principle. And since testing anything carries with it the possibility of failure, scientific theories must be disprovable (or falsifiable). For instance, to use Dawkins’ and Haldane’s example, if rabbit fossils were found in the Precambrian era, that would completely disprove evolution. What evidence would creationists accept that ID is erroneous? None. There is no evidence that would convince them that they are wrong. All the evidence in favour of evolution will not prove that fact to them. Also, any evidence against design can be interpreted by the Intelligent Design theory as part of god’s plan. In other words, give god the credit for good design, but pretend the bad design doesn’t exist but is part of an ambiguous higher purpose. Accept fossil evidence and dating when it supports ID, but when it doesn’t, claim that fossils are there to test our faith. By this logic, nothing could ever defeat ID! Creationists cannot accept that their interpretation of scripture might be wrong; that their scripture itself is wrong, or that god cannot exist. This is because ID is a religious metaphysical theory, and not science.
Scientific theories must be natural and empirical. They must be proved by empirical evidence and explained naturally. ID is a supernatural explanation and cannot be proved empirically; there is no test possible to prove that god did or didn’t design the world.
Science doesn’t start out with a dogma that cannot be altered and then seek to prove it. Science has been wrong in the past, and the acceptance of error allows better theories to be made and knowledge to increase. What are creationists doing to better scientific theory? What studies are they doing to enhance the theory of evolution or replace it with an even better theory? None. This is because they start out pretending to already know the fact: “god created everything”. Everything that contradicts that is assumed to be wrong. So yet again, ID cannot be scientific.
We all have metaphysical beliefs. Our foundational worldviews are ultimately metaphysical. This doesn’t make them wrong. What is wrong is trying to pass off a metaphysical belief as a scientific theory in order to give it a place in educational curriculum. This is dishonest and subversive. It is dishonest because Design theory is simply not science, and no more belongs in a science classroom than Shakespeare does. It is subversive because ID is inextricably religious, and is a way to push a religious agenda onto others, particularly children.
This article was not about evolution Vs creation, it was about why creationism is not and cannot be scientific. Even the most ardent creationist, if they are honest with themselves, should have the intellectual honesty to admit this. After all, evolution doesn’t disprove god. And creationism being unscientific doesn’t in itself make it false. But let’s be honest about where the lines are drawn. There are many fundamentalists who seek to obscure those lines and spread falsehoods. Why is that I wonder?