Webdiary - Independent, Ethical, Accountable and Transparent
header_02 home about login header_06
sidebar-top content-top

Exposing intelligent design

Phil Uebergang is a Webdiary columnist. His last piece for Webdiary was Dream On.

by Phil Uebergang

Intelligent design is about politics and religion, not science. Barbara Forrest, ActionBioscience.Org.

The ID debate has raged in the US for more than a decade. One critic has derided ID as "creationism in a cheap tuxedo. Tim Lambert's Weblog

Considering the attention it's been getting world wide, it's about time the local commentariat turned it's attention to intelligent design, and the government's lax approach to the insidious doctrine. Crikey members' mailout - 24/08/05

Recently Australia's Minister for Education, Brendan Nelson, gave his qualified support for Intelligent Design (ID) to be taught in school science classes alongside neo-Darwinian evolutionary origins theory. The debate that has been occurring in the U.S. looks set to come to Australia.

The fundamental question seems to be - is Christian doctrine forcing its way into the science classroom at the expense of scientific teaching?

But is this the appropriate question? Ignoring those who contribute nothing more than mindless disparagement of religion, there are interesting ethical issues underlying this controversy.

Intelligent Design is a back to the future situation, in which scientists are taking a rare look to the past to find an answer to a problem. The problem itself is timeless - the question of how life came to be what it is.

The most well known historical proponent of ID was William Paley who, in his treatise Natural Theology (1802), explained that if we were to chance upon a watch lying on the ground we would immediately assume it was designed due to its specific complexity, and therefore the same must be assumed for life. Although nearly all of Paley's peripheral arguments have since been debunked, this core concept is still a powerful statement of philosophical logic.

Modern Intelligent Design theory is concerned primarily with bio-chemistry. The recently discovered, immense complexity of life at a molecular level is troubling for neo-Darwinian explanations based upon chance and randomness, requiring the theory to jump through ever-higher hoops to make it work.

Intelligent Design advocates are saying that those hoops can no longer be reasonably negotiated.

There is much modern literature available to explain this position. The two main neo-Darwinian problems, according to ID, are the irreducibly complex nature of cellular machinery, and the level of improbability of random mutation achieving the growth in information in DNA coding required for the development of more complex species. In view of this they propose that the most logical conclusion to be drawn is that such living systems were specifically designed for their tasks.

The scientific arguments are probably less complicated than the ethical trauma ID has created, now that it is within the public sphere.

A common misconception, and an oft used misleading argument in the neo-Darwinian camp, is that ID is about creationism. In fact, ID makes no attempt to unveil the designer - this is an important contention of its advocates, as we shall see.

ID still allows for a natural history of billions of years. It leaves open the possibility of evolution, albeit a considerably constrained version. Non-random evolutionary theory, which states that the environment directly influences evolutionary change via pre-existing cellular mechanisms, sits comfortably with ID.

What naturalistic or materialist (matter is all there is) scientists - and humanists - don't like are the connotations associated with ID, and it is here that the real trouble begins.

The issue is not whether ID is a valid argument from an evidential perspective. Few would sincerely argue that the theory holds no water. The question is not even one of whether or not the arguments for ID are scientific per se, since the position is argued on the same playing field, with the same evidence as neo-Darwinian evolution.

It is the differing conclusions that attract the controversy. The argument is between those who have a materialist worldview for science and wish to defend this view, against those who consider it of less importance. It is an issue of whether or not materialism is the only worldview that can be acceptable to the scientific community.

The layman may well ask, 'why does it matter?' What affect does it have on the operational fields of science and engineering, in medicine, mathematics, computing and chemistry? Does it make any difference to discovering a cure for cancer?

The simple answer is, nobody knows. Nobody has ever tested the significance of understanding biochemistry from the point of view of materialism or ID. Both sides have the same training and the same knowledge, and both sides understand the mechanics of biology on equal terms, regardless of their differing interpretations of cause.

Perhaps it is only when empirical interpretive testing is carried out that this question can be partially answered.

At its heart the Intelligent Design issue really concerns the limits of science, and whether or not the scientific community is prepared to accept any limits.

The ID community is saying, 'science might end here', whereas the materialists proclaim, 'science must explain everything'.

Theologians and Christians have perceived their opening to prise back from science the territory of origins, an opportunity presented to them by scientists themselves.

It is only to be expected that materialists and humanists will oppose them, and it's already getting down and dirty. The trouble with teaching ID in science class is that it will inevitably spill over into philosophical and religious discussions, as the issue of the 'designer' becomes a point of focus. This is not the sort of territory humanists want our society to be treading.

The question of ethics parents need to ask is, should my worldview stand in the way of my children being exposed to these concepts? Obviously for purported Christians such as George Dubya, Brendan Nelson and myself, the choice is simple. But for humanists and scientific materialists the choice becomes poignant, and Christians need to be aware of and sympathetic towards their arguments if reasonable discussion is to be held in the public forum.

It will be interesting to observe the reaction of humanist proponents of sectarian freedom, to the freedom of allowing the non materialist teaching of ID to the next generation.


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

re: Exposing intelligent design

Heh Phil, how long ago did I ask you for a piece on this? Thanks for saving it for the independent Webdiary, and look, your piece is on the same day as Michael Duffy at Empty lesson in flawed thinking.


re: Exposing intelligent design

I actually think the kids of today will laugh this theory out of the classroom if any teacher is foolish enough to try and present it.

re: Exposing intelligent design

Oh dear, faith is dressing up as science again.

So who designed the designer?

As long as ID is taught as non-science, that's OK. It might be instructive for students to be reminded of the importance of scientific theories being falsifiable.

"Few would sincerely argue that the theory holds no water."- You must be kidding, many would argue exactly that. Quite sincerely.

re: Exposing intelligent design

Well it was kind of a fair while ago, Margo. Yes, that's exactly what I was saving it for - the independent Webdiary. Of course. Had it planned that way all along...

Margo: as well as your great debate ambush, Phil? I was mightily impressed with the audacity of that interpretation of your brief, that's for sure. And look what happened! Terrence Philgren put his finger in the dyke, so to speak, and became our instant moderator extraordinaire. Good one, Phil.

re: Exposing intelligent design

I can't believe this drivel was posted...

"Few would sincerely argue that the theory holds no water. The question is not even one of whether or not the arguments for ID are scientific per se, since the position is argued on the same playing field, with the same evidence as neo-Darwinian evolution."

No, thats completely what it is about. You can not make any scientific claims about ID because it is impossible to prove or disprove the "theory". As such it lies in the same realm of fantasy as the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Start teaching one in school and you will need to start teaching the other.

Please don't post drivel like this anymore.

re: Exposing intelligent design

Intelligent design fails as science because it says that life is too complex to have arisen from natural causes, and instead requires the intervention of an intelligent designer who is beyond natural explanation. Invoking the supernatural can explain anything, and hence explains nothing.

The point of scientific knowledge is to seek to prove a theory with evidence and be willing to change if evidence to the contrary is found.

It shows man’s ignorance if we see complex structures that we cannot explain. It does not prove the existence of a designer.

Who would want to live in a world designed by a designer who allows tsunamis, hurricanes, and other natural disasters?

How could a designer who loved his creations allow pain and suffering on the scale that we are witnessing.

I feel much more comfortable living in a world, with the chaos and excitement of evolution, trying to understand our place through science; than a world created by a designer who would allow pain and suffering.

re: Exposing intelligent design

Just read that link, Margo. Never realised Duffy was such an immense dickhead.

Margo: No he isn't, Phil, he's Australian's most insightful so-called 'right wing' columnist by miles AND he published Mungo McCallum's book! How about penning a reply to his piece in the same number of words he got? Deadline SOON!

re: Exposing intelligent design

A debate about Evolution/Intelligent Design would make for a good essay question. I don't really think that it belongs as part of a science curriculum since it hardly seems like mainstream science. Until it establishes itself in the real world, it has no business in a High School science curriculum.

It would be better off being dealt with in HSC English. The idea that ID is as valid a world-view as science, is the kind of post-modernist idea that students explore in HSC English. They could be asked to examine an extract from Darwin with an Intelligent Design article and examine it with reference to the use of persuasive language, bias, et al. While they are at it they can be given the quote from Marx that religion is the "opiate" of the masses and discuss the use of the term "opiate" with reference to the work of Aldous Huxley.

None of this overly concerns me anymore. Students are not empty vessels, waiting to be filled up with ideology. The students that would most want to be taught about this will be exposed to it in church or at home. Nobody gains anything from having this taught in school. The push from Nelson is political, to give self-expression to a special interest group. At worst, this would be a minor annoyance to secular high school students.

My only concern is that issues like this, which are at their heart, self-indulgent, distract from real issues that teenagers come up against. Just like with anyone else, it's important that High School students are listened to, more than it is that they are talked at.

re: Exposing intelligent design

Phil the supporters of ID have failed to realize that if you open the door for ID there is no reason to think the Christian God gets to be the designer by default.

We have this study-BTW this is exactly what atheists would expect-
Study Into Belief In God in The Sciences

Even for those who believe in a ‘God’ exactly which one are they talking about? When Paul Davies talks about ‘God’ it certainly isn’t the Judeo/Christian God. Also those who believe in a likely Judeo/Christian God will do so very likely because of ethnocentrism.

A Christian will have the Christian God, Muslim Allah, or a Hindu their conception of divinity.

There has yet not been a questioning of religious ‘truth’ from a pluralistic viewpoint; the line of worshipping the same ‘God’ by different means is intellectually dead but has yet to be replaced with anything but a politically correct silence.

re: Exposing intelligent design

Phil, I don't get it. What is the ID theory of how modern animals came to be? Merely "intelligence might be required for the creation of complex organisms because evolutionary theory doesn't seem entirely plausible"? It's fair enough to claim that in a science class. Evolution is a good and useful theory, but I'm not 100% convinced that it's the only factor. Nor should scientists be convinced. There is no such thing as perfect knowledge.

But the ID argument seems to be only one sentence - indeed it's a testing of a theory which is what scientists should be doing. Theories should be useful. Is ID useful? If evolution is useful we should state that as the best theory so far and use ID as a questioning of the theory.

re: Exposing intelligent design

Tony Powers, prove your god exists. Then make pronouncements. OK?

BTW. I left a question for you on Russell's thread. You might find that one easier.

re: Exposing intelligent design

Oscar Werring: Oh dear, faith is dressing up as science again.

You mean like humanists blind faith in Evolution, even though after centuries there is still no proof?

Oscar: So who designed the designer?

The Designer/God had no need of a designer. He is the initiator of all things. If there is no original Initiator, Oscar, then can you explain how anything managed to evolve? Clearly there must have been something that just existed originally; otherwise there COULD be nothing now.

re: Exposing intelligent design

Phil with the greatest of respect since you are a nice bloke - but the whole argument is really about you Christians getting and keeping bums on fast-emptying seats, is it not? Nothing to do with science at all but everything to do with the fear that as science and other disciplines push knowledge forward every year that your deity is so far not evident. And if your deity has so far remained silent in the evidential record of both history and science, and in palaeontology and archaeology, where the two disciplines meet, then who is to say that the whole edifice of belief is simply an edifice?

That there was a Jewish millennialist sect who called themselves Christians in Palestine at the time of the Roman occupation is historically indisputable. There were a whole variety of Jewish sects at the time, as you would expect in such an era of uncertainty and oppression. Part of what drove these sects was the literal belief that a Messiah would come and release their land from the bondage of foreign occupation.

That Christians had any more primacy and legitimacy than the followers of Isis, the devotees of Dionysus, the war-gods of the German tribes, the Baiami of our indigenous people or the Rainbow Serpent of the pre-Columbian Indians is disputable. Had Constantine adopted any of the myriad of other belief systems around to drive his imperialistic ambitions then we probably would be all debating from a Muslim perspective, since Islam submerged the beliefs which remained after Christianity had finished enforcing theirs.

The Jews are eminently sensible it seems about the division between science and religion, probably because they long ago sensibly abandoned any notion of being a missionary faith. Only their tiny and most conservative Orthodox sects would attempt to formally marry science to religion. I do not see either any push in universities in Muslim countries towards trying to advocate a particular religious line in scientific study, and it was actually scholars of the Muslim faith who kept scientific knowledge alive through the dark centuries of Christianity-fuelled backwardness and feudalism.

No reputable university will teach a creationist-framework science curriculum (including world-class universities like Notre Dame and Georgetown in the US with a church affiliation, albeit a Catholic one therefore regarded with suspicion by the godly). No student with creationist science in their degree would realistically be employed in any teaching or research role in mainstream institutions. No creationist can teach creationism in our public schools, though they may well be employed as teachers if they have the required conventional qualifications from a conventional university.

So faced with creationism's backwoods hick fairytale image, which brought up unwanted images of racist Southern preachers spewing fire and brimstone, not without good reason, creator proponents rebadged the whole thesis as Intelligent Design. The intent had not changed but the dark shadow of the Scopes trial and eugenics was seemingly lifted. The kids who qualified academically and had at the same time the right (godly) stuff can and could make the correct academic noises about the fossil record and the age of the earth and be admitted into the hallowed halls of mainstream prestigious universities.

Now that pesky fossil record, those traitorous geological layers and the looming danger caused by the new research into genetics and DNA which inconveniently showed how closely we were related to our ancient forbears could be neatly fitted by the godly into a new and seemingly more sophisticated model, and lay people who were exposed for the first time to the beauty, common sense and complexity of evolutionary science via National Geographic and Discovery Channel TV programmes in a digestible format could be seduced by a repackaged creationism, the stage was set, and political lightweights like Nelson could be persuaded that our schools wanted to teach both.

Australia is a free country. Australians can believe what they like in the privacy of their own homes. Hell, they are even allowed to indoctrinate their kids with nonsense if that is how they really believe responsible parents should act. However we who are not of the godly, including those who are mainstream Christians, Jews, Muslims or followers of other faiths, reserve the right to study, debate and consider science as science and to keep religion and science separate. After all we do not have an ID IT, an ID engineering or an ID business studies. And who designed the designer who designed the designer?

A quote from Kenneth Miller:

Their (the crypto-creationists) views demand not a universe in which the beauty and harmony of natural law has brought a world of vibrant and fruitful life into existence, but rather a universe in which the emergence and evolution of life is made expressly impossible by the very same rules. Their view requires that the source of each and every novelty of life was the direct and active involvement of an outside designer whose work violated the very laws of nature he had fashioned. The world of intelligent design is not the bright and innovative world of life that we have come to know through science. Rather, it is a brittle and unchanging landscape, frozen in form and unable to adapt except at the whims of its designer.

re: Exposing intelligent design

Intelligent design, didn’t they make a film about it in 1969. Something to do with a large black slab teaching monkeys how to fight.

2001 a space odyssey I think.

It makes as much sense as the drivel being pushed by these fundamentalists who are so insecure they still long for an older parent. I may have f**ked up but it was gods will, not my fault.

All religion is an attempt to evade personal responsibility. There is nothing scary or demeaning about the theory of evolution. It simply shows that it’s our personal responsibility if we don’t want to live in a damaged environment.

re: Exposing intelligent design

Just a caution about referring to ID as " Christian doctrine forcing it's way in to the science classroom." It is only one version of one form of Christian doctrine. See this CathNews article

There is a danger of branding all Christians alike (like all Muslims, Arabs & other groups of people).

But interesting to note that one commenter prayed to god at the beginning of her comment. And that God (& therefore I presume the Intelligent Designer), is perceived by commenters to be a bloke.

re: Exposing intelligent design

Margo, I can't let this one go: “No he isn't, Phil, he's Australian's most insightful so-called 'right wing' columnist by miles.”

I would love to know what criteria you apply to conclude that Duffy is “right wing.” And who are those right-wingers whose “insights” falls so far behind Duffy’s? I have nothing against Duffy, but I doubt if I could ever remember anything he’s ever written!

re: Exposing intelligent design

Others have said it, but all I can do it is say it again and in different ways in the hope that the point might get through:

Intelligent Design does not meet the prerequisites to be called science. Any hypothesis which cannot be wrong is not science but faith. Can there really be any misunderstanding about this point?

This does not mean it cannot be taught... anymore than saying english (which is also not science) cannot be taught.

But it cannot be taught in science classes.

Science is taught science classes.
Maths in maths classes.
Languages in language classes.
Intelligent design in intelligent design classes - or perhaps more appropriately religious classes.

Where is the confusion?

re: Exposing intelligent design

When I was in year 5 scripture class, the scripture teacher put forward her opinion (couched as an opinion) that the six days God took to create the world were in fact metaphorical days that were millennia in reality.

Since that time it has made sense to me that although I believe in God evolution is a very good explanation as to how it was done, since the whole earth created in a week bit had never really made much sense. (And I liked dinosaurs).

I would in no way advocate trying to substitute ID for actual science. Science is about discovering the how, and if I choose to explain the why as because God intended it that way that it all it is - my choice.

I feel rather the same about global warming - science can explain how it is happening and extrapolate the consequences - yet to me it is Mother Nature expressing the dissatisfaction she has with the current occupants of the planet and their treatment of her.

re: Exposing intelligent design

What happened to the rest of my comment? I had a few links in there which must have not worked. :( Oh well.

to continue from the truncated paragraph:

Margo - This argument that it could go on forever because views on either side are so rigid. The Minnesota Twin Study of identical twins separated at birth show that the degree to which people are religious is largely hereditary, with the genes becoming more important with age. So the ID debate is really between those with the religious gene against those without, and never the twain will meet.

By the way, I like Michael Duffy. He's my favourite fascist - at least he thinks, unlike the Murdoch chorus.

Caroline: Sorry Cathy, my fault. Last post should be ok now.

re: Exposing intelligent design

What happens when a problem of "irreducible complexity" that requires ID is explained in evolutionary terms? ID retreats one step.

ID explains nothing that science can't explain as well. Sure, there are problems that science hasn't got an answer for yet. But it's looking at them hard. And many of the examples that ID come up with where ID is required to jump a chasm are straw men that science has got some ideas about how to cross. Science hasn't yet crossed the ‘T’s and dotted the ‘I’s, but it's getting there.

re: Exposing intelligent design

Oh God, here we go again.

By all means, teach the kids _about_ the theory of intelligent design, but only if you also teach them the basics of logic so that they can work out the fatal flaw themselves.

Margo - This argument that it could go on forever, because views on either side are so rigid. The Minnesota Twin Study of identical twins separated at birth show that the degree to which people are religious is largely hereditary, becoming more so in the older years. See here

If ID is something which requires religiosity to believe, then there is no point arguing, because it will be one group's 'hard-wired' genetics arguing against another’s.

I don't have the gene for religiousness; therefore I'm not going to believe ID. End of story.

By the way, I've got a soft spot for Duffy, even if he is a fascist :). At least he doesn't just spout the same old Murdoch inspired rubbish as Bolt, Ackerman, McGuinness et al. I happen to be with him on this one.

re: Exposing intelligent design

If these bozos are so flummoxed by the design of the designer, they are going to be pushing s*** up hill trying to get their fundy pea-brains around this "Creator the Designer" dude. What are they going fill their curricula with? Drawings of what He might look like?

re: Exposing intelligent design

Bob, the proof is all around us. It’s just that some people refuse to see/admit it.

BTW are you claiming that before evolution nothing existed? If so, where/what did everything evolve from? If you say that something did exist prior to evolution, then how is that any different to saying that a supreme being that created everything simply existed?

re: Exposing intelligent design

Well, here's a belief: "God created the Earth in 7 days. He created everything exactly as the bible says, and he deliberately inserted false evidence to make the unfaitful believe in science. It's all a test"
"God created the Earth 7 minutes ago, put us all here, and filled up our memories to make us believe that we'd all been living a while."

Neither of these postulations can be refuted by science.

I'm not against God, or religion, but the problem is that once you introduce an all-powerful deity into science, one can say anything, and justify it by saying "God wanted it like that".

There are already people saying that the Hurricane was sent by God to cleanse the sin from New Orleans. Science cannot contradict that.

In my opinion, there must be a seperation between theology and science if our current society is to survive.

re: Exposing intelligent design

Cathy I reposted your links thus:

Bouchard Twins and Twin Research Links Genetics and Adult Spirituality

When you post hyperlinks you need to use anchor tags if you want to point directly to a webpage. These tags are written thus:

a href="http://www.yourlinkhere. with a< at the beginning, > at the end and a to show you have closed the tag.
You also need to enclose the hyperlink in " " expression marks because Web Diary uses XHTML (dynamic HTML)

If you want to be extra geeky you can put the page or article heading between the > at the end of the URL and the < at the beginning of the closing tag.

I cannot show them exactly here because the demonstration will create a hyperlink but this site may help.

There are flaws in the Minnesota twin study; one of them being that the sample was from one state in the US. Religion is a dominant subtext in American society so the environment could have subtle effects not accounted for in statistical analysis. It would have been better to study a larger sample of twins of both genders from a variety of countries.

re: Exposing intelligent design

Phil Uebergang, in Crikey on Thursday, 25 Aug 2005, you wrote:

"ID is an effort by an ever growing SCIENTIFIC community to come to terms with the paucity of evolutionary theory, when compared with empirical knowledge. Insidious doctrine, my arse – these guys hate the idea of God as much as evolutionists."

Some interesting assertions here. There is the ludicrous implication that evolutionists "hate the idea of God" - a vast number of theists and deists, perhaps even the majority, accept evolutionary theory, after all. And there's the curious notion that those evolutionists who are not theists and deists "hate" the idea of God. (As an atheist and an evolutionist, I don't 'hate' the 'idea' of your god any more than I hate the idea of anyone's gods. I just find them singularly uncompelling and logically unnecessary notions.)

But that's not what interests me. I'm curious as to know who, exactly, comprise the 'ever increasing numbers' of members of the scientific community who "hate the idea of God". One can only assume that they're not theists or deists (unless they believe in a God but hate the idea of it, a position that I guess might just exist...) So, we are left with an ever-increasing collection of atheist scientists who "hate the idea of God" but subscribe to 'intelligent design'.

I presume you can name at least twenty. Care to?

re: Exposing intelligent design

The way that Education is presented to our kids these days ensures that the majority of the kids are not interested and so they don’t remember anyway.

Subjects like Religion and Science should not be taught as such, they should be presented and debated as often there is more than one answer and people have different views and it really does depend on which way you look at it.

We need for our kids to connect and debate so that they can become interested in what is happening in the world and learn from their experiences. Memorising so called facts just doesn’t do it for the kids.

re: Exposing intelligent design

Michael Watson: "You can not make any scientific claims about ID because it is impossible to prove or disprove the 'theory'. As such it lies in the same realm of fantasy as the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Start teaching one in school and you will need to start teaching the other."

Exactly, Michael, and thanks for using quote marks around "theory". It's as much a theory (in the scientific sense of the term) as the belief that the Aboriginal Great Spirit brought the cosmos into existence. At best it's speculation, at worst it's just another variant of the "god of the gaps". It isn't a theory, just an extended Argument from Ignorance.

Forgive me for quoting myself from another context, but I'm a little fond of this: "Any brain that believes in intelligent design is evidence of the failure of the hypothesis."

re: Exposing intelligent design

I've often wondered whether I wasn't simply part of someone's experiment. I've often wondered whether the infinite universe we know actually simply exists inside a beaker or gas jar on a bench someplace. I've often wondered whether the fact that religions exist isn't the result of someone conducting sociology experiments on the sea monkeys we are.

I've often concluded that the whole shebang was very possibly designed by, and is now operated by someone or thing conducting science, or perhaps even just amusing themselves.

And, I've often wondered why I would need to worship that being, if it exists? I don't see how the credibility of ID in its own right necessarily supports religion as an exlanation. Presumably, there are muslims, hindus, buddhists et al somewhere pusing their own variety of ID.

More than one religion claiming the absolute truth has always told me one thing: They can't all be right, though they could all quite imaginably be wrong.

To me ID itself isn't the problem, it's the hijacking of it as a crutch for a particular religious theory we need to be wary of. Why shouldn't it be taught as an alternative in schools - as long as the "god" bit is left out?

re: Exposing intelligent design

"It will be interesting to observe the reaction of humanist proponents of sectarian freedom, to the freedom of allowing the non materialist teaching of ID to the next generation."

One of the reactions was Edwards v Aguillard in 1987 where the Supreme Court of the US ruled that the teaching of 'creation science' (in Louisiana) as a counterpoint to evolution violated the First Amendment by promoting religion.

The Discovery Institute mentioned in Duffy's article is responsible for the infamous "Wedge Document" which has a five year plan and a three part strategy as its 'reaction' to the above mentioned court judgement, number 3 reads thus:

Phase III. Once our research and writing have had time to mature, and the public prepared for the reception of design theory, we will move toward direct confrontation with the advocates of materialist science through challenge conferences in significant academic settings. We will also pursue possible legal assistance in response to resistance to the integration of design theory into public school science curricula. The attention, publicity, and influence of design theory should draw scientific materialists into open debate with design theorists, and we will be ready. With an added emphasis to the social sciences and humanities, we will begin to address the specific social consequences of materialism and the Darwinist theory that supports it in the sciences.

Their 20 year goals are:
* To see intelligent design theory as the dominant perspective in science.
* To see design theory application in specific fields, including molecular biology, biochemistry, paleontology, physics and cosmology in the natural sciences, psychology, ethics, politics, theology and philosophy in the humanities; to see its innuence in the fine arts.
* To see design theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life.

As Chris Mooney says in his article in American Prospect the hawkers of ID are intent on "teaching the controversy"; one they created themselves.

Essentially it would seem to me that the advocates of ID want to blame the current state of the world on Darwinism and materialism and that the whole state of this planet and its inhabitants today can be laid squarely at the feet of developments in science over the last century or so and that it can be redressed by introducing fundamentalist, evangelical teachings of religion into the science classes of schools not only in the United States but here as well.

Bill Moys' acceptance speech from Harvard Medical School where he talks of the belief held by so many in the current US administration and the population of the US of the coming 'rapture' and the 'end of days' gives another perspective altogether about letting religious belief override scientific research and the consequences such actions can have for all of us, believers or not.

The disingenuous argument that ID is not about creationism, but is in fact a new science to be taught or an alternative view is so bogus as to be laughable. As for it 'getting down and dirty' it got very down and dirty back in 1982 when Francis Schaeffer appeared on Pat Robertson’s 700 Club and called Secular Humanism the greatest threat to Christianity the world had ever seen.

The Washington Post's report back in 2001 of Robertson resigning his position as president of the Christian Coalition and the ascendancy of a new leader of the religious right in America one George W Bush was a sign of things to come. And we all know how slavishly our current administration follows its American leaders don't we?

re: Exposing intelligent design

Cathy Bannister, you might not be familiar with the work of the neuroscientist Michael Persinger on the propensity of some to perceive gods, but it's fascinating stuff. See this.

I'm a bit like Dawkins, I think. I just don't 'get' it. And my mum, now eighty, is the same: she's been an atheist since she was six and first turned her mind to the question. I was brought up as a Christian but it simply didn't take. That it is in part a genetic matter wouldn't surprise me in the least.

If it is a genetic matter, then there is a limited degree of free will involved. I don't know of any theists who could disbelieve as a matter of will, and I know I couldn't make myself believe in a god as a matter of will. It's not as though I don't know all the arguments and stories. I've read the Christian Bible and a range of other religions' writings without being swayed. It just doesn't work: all I see are the mythologies of sundry cultures. And if that is so, then it is impossible to posit a omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent god.

If you combine the Argument from Unbelief with the genetic and neurological research, then you reach a pretty stark conclusion about the existence of such a god.

The Argument from Unbelief is as follows:

1. God is omnipotent. (premise)
2. God is perfectly good. (premise)
3. A good being wants its creations to achieve spiritual fulfilment and enlightenment. (premise)
4. There is no limit to what an omnipotent being can do. (premise)
5. Spiritual fulfilment and enlightenment are impossible without belief in God. (premise)
6. An omnipotent being can ensure that its creations can achieve spiritual fulfilment and and enlightenment. (from 3)
7. A good omnipotent being will ensure that its creations achieve spiritual fulfilment and and enlightenment. (from 3 - 6)
8. The existence of a good omnipotent being is inconsistent with the existence of those who lack belief in it. (from 7)
9. Therefore, the existence of God is inconsistent with the existence of people who lack belief in him.

In other words, how could a benevolent, omnipotent god allow people like me to disbelieve in it through no failing of will? Or worse, how could such a god punish people like me by either sending them to eternal damnation (as some theists would have it) or deny them the eternal bliss of hanging out in the fun place?

To me, it simply comes down to certain Christians being unable to accept that their god might like to take a hands-off approach. They want to think of their god as being deeply involved with every aspect of reality, prepared to intervene when it's morally necessary to do so. (The problem with this interpretation is that this god clearly doesn't intervene when it's morally necessary. The Argument from Evil is almost as potent as the Argument from Unbelief.)

So 'intelligent design' was invented, way back when. 'When' is actually a long time ago. It was first raised, as far as we know, by Cicero two millenia ago, later considered and famously repudiated by David Hume in his Dialogues in 1779, and later regurgitated by William Paley in 1883. Darwin's works directly addressed his arguments. Much as some contemporary Christians seem to think they've stumbled upon an astounding new argument, it's one that looked utterly feeble millenia ago, and it looks no less feeble now.

Ironically, a really intelligent god would have set evolution in train. After all, look how successful it's been! I'd be impressed by such a god. But then, it can all be explained by the laws of physics, so why add the extraneous element of the supernatural?

(If anyone's interested in reading more on this subject, I'd heartily recommend Dan Dennett's Darwin's Dangerous Idea. If you believe in 'intelligent design', it'll make your brain burst with its sheer and overwhelming reason and evidence. If you don't, you'll find your head stretched to the most delightful level!)

re: Exposing intelligent design

Just a few comments on Phil Uembergang's introduction:

1. I believe that Brendan Nelson specifically said the ID should NOT be taught alonside science, however it could be taught if parents wanted it (but NOT alongside science).

2. The "neo-Darwin evolutionary origins theory" mentioned is said several times to be "troubling for neo-Darwinian explanations based upon chance and randomness, requiring the theory to jump through ever-higher hoops to make it work." This is not at all so. Natural selection actually fast tracks evolution with an ever compounding pace. Evolution is extremely fast as evidenced by our great surviving cohabitants on planet earth, the bacteria. They seem to have quickly managed to survive the beat of man's antibiotics.
3. If living species were deliberately designed for their tasks as Phil writes, they why do humans have the backbone of a quadruped? Why do we have an appendix, and why are babies heads so large as to lead to difficulties at birth?
4. If we were truly made in God's image, I guess we could ask how many legs God has.

Thanks for the artice - interesting contributions - any scientists among the ID people?

re: Exposing intelligent design

Damien: It wouldn't be the first untestable theory to masquerade as science. Freud and family come immediately to mind.

No, the problem isn't the just untestable nature. I've always believed that the need for testability was a systematic bias. More problematic is the logic, which just doesn't follow.

For the sake of argument, let's assume that the current version of evolutionary theory doesn't explain complexity (and Phil has in no way proved this). Why conclude that this proves that some greater intelligent force? There are as many other theories we could come to. The only reason you would come to the Intelligent Design conclusion is if you have a strong pre-existing belief which is confirmed by that reasoning.

re: Exposing intelligent design

Once upon a time, human beings couldn't explain anything much, and what they couldn't explain they attributed to supernatural beings: gods, demons, thunder - wow, that's big, must be a god, let's call him Odin, fire - blimey, another one, how about Loki, and it's a bugger to keep a fire going so he must be a trickster too.

Now we have the same stuff served up again: gosh, we can't explain absolutely everything, must be an Intelligent Designer (ignoring the well known fact that the designs are full of simple errors that noone intelligent would put their name to - perhaps the ID worked for the heavenly equivalent of Multiplex).

I particularly blame various small gods for hiding my car keys. I've started leaving little gifts out for them and, hey, it works, I always find them again!

re: Exposing intelligent design

Tony, my question was:

'Prove your god exists.'

Your response:

"Bob, The proof is all around us. It’s just that some people refuse to see/admit it."

Not exactly proof, rather an unverified assertion.

re: Exposing intelligent design

"Just read that link, Margo. Never realised Duffy was such an immense dickhead."

Pardon me for presuming Phil Uebergang as I don't really know you at all, but that doesn't sound like you. At least not the bloke who normally posts under your name.

"I would love to know what criteria you apply to conclude that Duffy is 'right wing.' And who are those right-wingers whose 'insights' falls so far behind Duffy’s? I have nothing against Duffy, but I doubt if I could ever remember anything he’s ever written!"

Now that does sound like Noelene. Could I suggest it's more to do with your powers of recollection or comprehension rather than Duffy's ability to write? I don't always agree with him - although in this case I whole heartedly agree – but he puts a case better than Ackerman or Bolt ever could. Question of style: substance and argument over rant and cant.

As to 'Intelligent Design' being taught as a scientific theory in schools – bull. As Duffy correctly argues "Intelligent design is a conspiracy by some fundamental Christians to undermine the theory of evolution. They believe that theory must be wrong because it contradicts the Bible's view of creation. So Darwin must be discredited."

Exactly. That is the nub of the argument. It does indeed contradict a literal acceptance of the Genesis stories. Personally, it never ceases to amaze me that religious scholars (even of my own Catholic faith) can argue forever on a (religious) 'theme and purpose' behind the writings of many books of the Bible (including the Gospels), going to great lengths to explain the allegories and metaphors used to make a point. Yet when it comes to Genesis, this is no allegory, this is no story to explain a point - this is rock hard, cold and incontrovertible fact. Never to be countered.

As I off-handedly remarked in one of the other 'creation' threads, were such an interpretation applied to other books one could only assume that Moses left the map of the Coele-Syrian trade routes back in Memphis. Couldn't he have followed a caravan?

The point that Duffy makes regarding the religious basis behind it is cogent:

"American Prospect magazine comprehensively documented the religious basis of intelligent design last month. It quoted an internal 1999 document from one backing organisation, the Discovery Institute, that claims the theory 'promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialistic world view, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions". The campaign will 'function as a wedge' and 'split the trunk (of scientific materialism) at its weakest points'."

"Christian and theistic convictions" doesn't really sound worrisome does it? Change the words: "Islamic and Sharia convictions."

The wedge functions just the same.

re: Exposing intelligent design

ID has a lot going for it in my opinion. However, the creation story as told in the book of Genesis is more about design flaws than design. For inter alia we read there that a talking snake persuaded Eve to take a bite out of a piece of fruit that was DEFINITELY NOT TO BE EATEN (and I am not shouting). God either saw that coming, or He didn’t. So either He is responsible for all the sin, death, mayhem, disease and damnation that followed logically upon that despicable Evian act, or so stupid He couldn’t find His way home from the pub.

And if there ever was a situation poised on the brink of even worse mayhem, it was that tick of the cosmic clock within which Adam weighed up the pros and cons of taking a bite too. If he had not indulged in that momentary, fleeting passion, the world might have faced a situation in which all women thereafter were marinaded in sin, while all of us males, in keeping with what would have been a magnificent feat of will power displayed by Adam, were as pure as the driven. THAT would have been complex. (Neither did I shout then either.)

Fortunately, the God of Genesis is not high in probability to qualify as Intelligent Designer. That gong is more likely to go to an Omnipotence whose glorious Prophet preached thousands of years earlier than Moses. Though it may be conceded that Moses started Judaism, Christianity and Islam – no mean feat – we have it from the Revelation of St Melbrooks that the clumsy fool stumbled and dropped two of the twelve commandments he was given on Mt Sinai, and that they were smashed to smithereens. So now we don’t even know whether we are sinning or not.

Ah, forget it. 'Tis but the music of a distant drum. Webdiarists are like unto those STANDING UP FOR OUR RELIGION ON THE INTERNET AND SHAKING THE IVORY TOWERS OF THE RICH LIBERALS AND INTERMARRIEDS. I commend them for your consideration. They arguably have the best horse in the race.

re: Exposing intelligent design

Noelene Konstandinitis, they do that already, in kindergarten. And the teacher asks: “What are you drawing, Masie?”

And Masie replies: “I’m drawing God.”

Teacher: “But... um... no one knows what God looks like.”

Masie: “They will in a minute.”

re: Exposing intelligent design

Ta, Dee, just wasn't sure that HTML worked in this context.

re: Exposing intelligent design

Irreducible cellular complexity. What a crock! I work in the field and, funnily enough, I've never heard a single scientist utter the phrase.

The watch analogy is plainly wrong. The components of a watch have specific individual functions and wouldn't work in any other watch or have another function within the same watch. Proteins which make up many of the individual components of cells are not like that. They can have more than one function and work in a completely different way with only tiny changes - say one or two amino acids out of hundreds. There's also redundancy, where many copies of a gene exist allowing for some to change, for good or bad, and one to keep producing the functional protein in case things don’t work out. These features allow for complex development. I could go on for ever with this kind of stuff but for all ID proponents talk of biochemistry they never give specific examples. Biochemistry is an incredibly complex subject, with 'simple' old DNA and proteins only the beginning (RNA and epigenetic phenomena are the current hot topics). But it's not irreducibly complex.

Here's my prediction. The emerging fields of bioinformatics and proteomics will quickly provide explanations for all questions ID believers currently pose. They'll have to think up new gaps for the IDer to fill pretty quickly.

Interesting thing - string theory is about as falsifiable as ID. Maybe it should be taught in religious class too if anyone could actually understand it.

re: Exposing intelligent design

Dee, actually, that the dominant culture being Christianity in Minnesotta is not necessarily a problem to the study. The level of religiosity across the sample was much less correlated, but within twin pairs, religiosity was surprisingly well correlated. If the level of correlation was the same across the population then the results might not have been significant. To translate to English, this means that each twin pair's beliefs were significantly more alike than they were like any other participants. This effect can't be explained by the homogeneous religious culture.

So this is very good evidence of a genetic basis. Not proof, as epidemiology and psychology can never truly prove anything absolutely, but enough to state the result with confidence.

The small sample size is more of a problem!

re: Exposing intelligent design

Military intelligence, intelligent design, guided democracy, meaningful dialogue - how many oxymorons do you morons want?

re: Exposing intelligent design

The problem:

Rigid belief in a group of books that have been translated from one language to another, edited a few hundred years later and then translated into another language - need I continue to make a point (I am no historian).

The solution:

Use it as a guide, not a crutch.

By the way. Anyone seen the movie "Bad Boy Bubby"? One of my favourites actually.

re: Exposing intelligent design

Frank Ashe (05/09/2005 5:25:06 PM): “What happens when a problem of ‘irreducible complexity’ that requires ID is explained in evolutionary terms? ID retreats one step.”

That’s the problem. ID looks to me like a militant version of the 'God of the Gaps' approach. ID-ists seem to want to draw lines in the sand and to tell scientists that particular areas are ‘irreducibly complex’, ie too hard, and hence forbidden to science but reserved for mythology. ID is necessarily antithetic to the advancement of science.

Apart from that, thank you to Michael Watson (05/09/2005 3:22:37 PM) for bringing up an equally scientific, equally powerful, equally falsifiable alternative model of ID, in the form of pastafarianism.

Thanks also to Margaret Morgan (05/09/2005 7:59:30 PM) for her spotlight on Phil Uebergang’s contradictions. I too find the idea of 'god-hating' scientists needing ID ludicrous. Anyone who needs a nameless designer-of-the-gaps is simply not a competent scientist.

More contradictions and confected dichotomies form the crux of Phil’s argument in this thread lies in his last few paragraphs:

PU: “The ID community is saying, 'science might end here', whereas the materialists proclaim, 'science must explain everything'.”

No. The ID-ists say “we want science to end here”, whereas scientists try to extend it further. Materialists may or may not be scientists, and vice versa.

PU: “Theologians and Christians have perceived their opening to prise back from science the territory of origins, an opportunity presented to them by scientists themselves.”

Phil – earlier, you said: “A common misconception, and an oft used misleading argument in the neo-Darwinian camp, is that ID is about creationism.”

So stop trying to sneak creationism back into your argument.

PU: “It is only to be expected that materialists and humanists will oppose them, and it's already getting down and dirty.”

You missed out 'rationalists' and 'scientists'. The creationists lost the fight, by any sane criteria, a long time ago, but are extremely poor losers, impossible to convince through rational argument, and very persistent. Now that lunatics are in the political ascendant in the US, UK and Oz, there is a chance that the creationists and ID-ists will achieve real influence and start dictating to the rest of us. This is already established in the US. These people can believe whatever non-facts they like, but have no right to inflict it on the rest of us or our kids.

PU: “The trouble with teaching ID in science class is that it will inevitably spill over into philosophical and religious discussions...”

No, Phil. The trouble with teaching ID in science is that it is not science. Save it for philosophy or RE or maybe psychopathology classes, if there is room for them in the timetable.

PU: “The question of ethics parents need to ask is, should my worldview stand in the way of my children being exposed to these concepts?”

Exposure is not a problem if the kids have been taught how to think critically and evaluate evidence. Whether the kids’ precious school time should be wasted on pseudoscientific drivel is another matter altogether, ethically.

PU: “Obviously for purported Christians such as George Dubya, Brendan Nelson and myself, the choice is simple.”

There are many Christians and other types of theist out there who have no need of a God who aggressively defends the Gaps and enforces ignorance, Phil. You go too far in lumping all Christians together against, presumably, non-Christians.”

re: Exposing intelligent design

Tony Powers, turn on your television to an inactive channel. Or your radio to an inactive station. Listen to the hiss. That 'white noise' is the echo of the Big Bang billions of years ago. Given our current knowledge, the sound of the beginning of Time.

If you wish to believe that the Big Bang echo is the footsteps of God then you are free to do so but someone else is equally free to disagree. Be aware that you might equally validly believe that either these or these created the universe so it may well be their footsteps.

Belief in a creator is neither necessary nor sufficient to explain the Universe.

re: Exposing intelligent design

Tony Powers: "even though after centuries there is still no proof."

Tony, evolution is a theory, so by definition there can be no proof, only confirmatory evidence (of which there is plenty) or disproof (of which there is none).

Yep, 'only' a theory.

Of course, ID isn't even that. Not a theory. Not a Law. Not science.

re: Exposing intelligent design

The traditional term for the 'intelligent design' argument for the existence of God is the 'teleological argument.' In my theological training as a very young man that was one of the four standard arguments for 'proving' that God exists, along with the so-called anthropological, ontological and cosmological arguments. It was elaborated on, complete with Paley's watch nonsense (thanks for making it clear that you are aware that it is nonsense, as it is considered so even by most theologians) by my church teachers as well as my three standard texts, Strong's Systematic Theology, Hodge's Systematic Theology and Shedd's, Dogmatic Theology. Maybe I was right when I was fifteen, but as it went I did move along.

This is difficult to engage with because I simply don't recognise your 'humanist' straw man (used five times) - never come across the dude. Humanism was a significant movement Phil, but is all but dead, as you must be aware, and for a variety of reasons that is a sad thing for me. You leave no room at all for the possibility that someone might just really want to know; someone might actually have an open mind and wish to hold every assumption contingently and critically (to me this is a duty to the Universe, or 'God' if you must). It is noble of you to recognise the assumptions behind your own viewpoints, but disingenious to then extrapolate that everyone else has an elaborate system of unqualified assumptions as well. If I argue with you I am no doubt basing stuff on 'humanist' assumptions. It's all loaded Phil. Some of us actually want to know.

I just hope that advocates of ID pursue their agenda with open-minded rigour and compete with other science in secular research institutions (may the best theory win!) rather than through politics. In the current political climate, the latter is just sick, as I'm sure you would agree.

But intelligent design is and has been taught in campuses for years. They're called theological seminaries. A relative of Margo's and mine, Ivan Alcorn, founded one of them in Brisbane, the Methodist Alcorn College. Maybe these colleges should put some money into pure research. Maybe they should start teaching evolution and geology as an alternate stream to studying Genesis. Um...

re: Exposing intelligent design

Tony wrote: "The proof is all around us. It’s just that some people refuse to see/admit it."

Tony, I know how you feel! I have a dragon living in my garage but everyone refuses to see/admit it! Sure he is a little shy and whenever someone who doesn't believe comes to take a look he turns invisible, incorporeal or otherwise hides his presence, but that's just a demonstration of his power!

Gah... I can't believe how self delusional people can be...

re: Exposing intelligent design

So Phil, why did god 'design' spina bifida and cystic fibrosis?

re: Exposing intelligent design

Cathy: "'Freud and family' are not taught in science but in psychology. They might also be discussed in philosophy or history classes. But not science."

Yet again, just because something is not science, doesn't imply anything about its right to be taught inside or outside of school.

But only science can be taught in science classes.

Intelligent design is not science - as a hypothesis it fails to possess the necessary qualities to be science - it cannot be wrong. No fact can ever cause a Christian to reject the theory.

I have yet to see ANY argument even put forward that ID meets the necessary requirements to be called science. This is surely the first step in proposing that ID be taught in science classes?

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
© 2005-2011, Webdiary Pty Ltd
Disclaimer: This site is home to many debates, and the views expressed on this site are not necessarily those of the site editors.
Contributors submit comments on their own responsibility: if you believe that a comment is incorrect or offensive in any way,
please submit a comment to that effect and we will make corrections or deletions as necessary.
Margo Kingston Photo © Elaine Campaner

Recent Comments

David Roffey: {whimper} in Not with a bang ... 12 weeks 6 days ago
Jenny Hume: So long mate in Not with a bang ... 12 weeks 6 days ago
Fiona Reynolds: Reds (under beds?) in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 1 day ago
Justin Obodie: Why not, with a bang? in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 1 day ago
Fiona Reynolds: Dear Albatross in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 1 day ago
Michael Talbot-Wilson: Good luck in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 1 day ago
Fiona Reynolds: Goodnight and good luck in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 3 days ago
Margo Kingston: bye, babe in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 6 days ago