Intelligent Design

I was avoiding saying anything about the “Intelligent Design” debate, but I’m just fed up with the inanity of it: I believe that God created the heavens and the earth; maybe He used a Bing Bang, and allowed the natural laws that He created to govern evolution of life. Maybe not. There is plenty of empirical evidence for adaptive evolution within species/genera, but not a whole lot of evidence for macro-evolution.

So, we now have a school district or a teacher saying teaching a dull and vague concept like “perhaps the evolution of species wasn’t totally random, and an unnamed Force guided evolution”. How could this statement possibly be offensive? It is at least as scientific as “perhaps the evolution of species was totally random, and was not not guided by an unnamed Force”. We can’t go back and observe the process! At best the question is philosophical-scientific, not empirical-scientific (until we invent a time machine).

I used to think that when I read the Constitution, I would be able to get a fairly good grasp of what it actually means. The Constitution of the United States includes the following sentence in the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. What have we done to our Constitution since that sentence was written? This sentence doesn’t say anything about state governments or the local school board! In fact, many states in the U.S. retained official religions or anti-Catholic laws well into the 19th century. The first amendment doesn’t even say “the federal government shouldn’t believe there is a God”: the amendment is very carefully written to prevent the federal government from becoming explicitly sectarian, and it was actually promoted by the state of Maryland and the Catholics in it to prevent the U.S. government from enacting anti-Catholic taxes or laws.

Judicial activism, congressional ignorance, and misinterpretation of our founding documents has run so far from sanity I hardly believe we live under the rule of law any more. When our current president infamously ignores the rule of law and spies on his own citizens, and a lone judge can arrogantly assume the responsibility for banning the mere mention of intelligent design in a local classroom, it is time for weeping and outrage.

Atom Feed for Comments 11 Responses to “Intelligent Design”

  1. Elf M. Sternberg Says:

    Amendment XIV: Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

    That why the establishment clause applies to state and local governments: to the extent that public schools take public money, the equal protection clause establishes that constitutional protection of one’s rights and responsibilities– notably in this case the right not be subject to religious teaching by agents of the state (which is exactly what a teacher is if that teacher takes state or federal money).

  2. Benjamin Smedberg Says:

    What “privileges or immunities” are guaranteed to citizens of the Unites States which the teaching of Intelligent Design might violate? There is no “right not to be subject to religious teaching by agents of the state” (even the federal government “state”). The First Amendment specifically talks about congress and an establishment of religion, not about the rights of citizens or nonsectarian religion.

    It is also wrong and dangerous to equate “religion” with “the existence of God”. The latter (hopefully) provokes the former, but the existence of God is a philosophical question, while the nature of God is a theological question. Very different matters.

  3. Matt Zimmerman Says:

    (Hey Ben!)

    The one sticking point about the whole intelligent design debate is that, for better or for worse, supernatural explanations are by definition outside the realm of natural science. The real problem is that our culture confuses science with truth. Just because macro-evolution is the best theory that biologists have come up with does not imply it actually happened, just that it is the best explanation given the constraints of the scientific method. I think that intelligent design would be a wonderful discussion in a philosophy class, but is not really appropriate for a science class. I find it mildly disconcerting to see high school science teachers promoting a theory not accepted by mainstream science over one that is.

    That having been said, I think I agree with you. This is an issue for school boards, not courts. If they’re not overtly talking about religion– and honestly, they aren’t– I don’t see how the separation of church and state applies.

  4. Daniel Glazman Says:

    I _entirely_ disagree with you. A science course is made to teach what we know at the time the course takes place. At this time, intelligent design is not science, it’s pure speculation with a strong religious background. Hey even the super-liberal (kidding) John-Paul II did not refute evolution. Intelligent Design has nothing to do in a science course, and this is clearly the task of law makers to protect the most important thing in our world, education.

  5. gandalf Says:

    I _totally_ disagree with you Benjamin.
    There is a HUGE difference between “perhaps the evolution of species wasn’t totally random, and an unnamed Force guided evolution” and “perhaps the evolution of species was totally random, and was not not guided by an unnamed Force”.
    Literally, the former one requires to agree that there IS an unnamed Force. Otherwise, the statement is similar to “perhaps the evolution of species wasn’t random at all, and was guided by big red frog called Spookey”.
    The main argument of pro-intelligent design people is that evolution theory doesn’t explain everything… Our knowledge about flying doesn’t explain everything but that doesn’t mean that we should start lobbying that schools should start teaching that flying might be the result of impossible to see thin lines holded by some unnamed Force. It only means that we should try to fill those white gaps on the map of our knowledge.
    Many years ago, one of the key arguments against evolution was that “how there could be half-an-eye?” meaning that if the eye wasn’t able to see (=wasn’t complex) it would be useless. Well, this argument was abandoned once scientists proved that thermo-recting skin rised the chances of survival of blind animal, so everything is back in the place and evolution theory explains it.

    Intelligent design is both, a way for devoted religious people to sneak back God into science schoolar and return of the antic method of explaining things (very antic). When something was strange, people explained it by the existance of unnatural power like magic and later Gods. Now we also have UFO on the list.

    I’m agnostic, but I strongly believe that if God(or Gods) exists, he’s best idea was an evolution, and he’d get very angry if he’s followers wouldn’t be able to see it’s beauty.

  6. Mike Goodspeed Says:

    From the judge’s ruling:

    [T]he fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions.

    If you think religion should be taught in schools, take the idea of a religion class to the school boards or the courts. ID is teaching kids that “2 + 2 = 4”, but that it could also be written as “2 + 2 = a hairdo” because God is all powerful. Science isn’t truth, it’s our understanding of truth — a man-made system. I’m sure we’re wrong in places, but that’s part of the system. You can’t tell kids that a theory comes from a hypothesis, testing, and verification (the scientific method) and then say that ID is a scientific theory.

  7. David Baron Says:

    For some information on the constitutional questions, see:

    (Not sure whether I can use any HTML here, and there’s no preview button.)

  8. Marlene Says:

    Hey ben – Um, you are completely all wet on this one. My son was actually one of the two law clerks for Judge Jones this past summer. Judge Jones as appointed by George Bush and is a Republican. The question was as to whether this should have been taught in science classes.nIntelligent design is not science. What it is, is a thinly disguised religous doctrine. To have included it would be a violation of the Constitution. As a matter of fact, most of the people who live in that school district were so actually embarassed by this case and the actions of the plaintiffs – that they threw out the entire school board of people who initiated this case in the first place. THere is now an entirely new school board in Dover and they have published articles in their local papers decrying what the previous, misguided board members had wrought upon them.

  9. Ron Says:

    I still fail to see where the Constitution dictates that public schools cannot teach concepts that some may deem to be of a religious nature.

    “Separation of Church and State” is a myth, invented by those who want to turn America into a totally secular country, in spite of the fact that over 90 percent of the founding fathers were Christians.

    The Constitution simply states that Congress cannot make any law regarding religion. It never said that the government cannot acknowledge God or a Creator. Indeed, the Constitution itself acknowledges the Creator as the One who gives us our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    For things to get so twisted up as they are, people have had to convince themselves that the Constitution says things that it has never said.

    “Separation of Church and State” is a phrase that does not even exist in the Constitution. It is a myth.

    I believe in intelligent design, because it is the only intelligent answer to the question of “How did we get here?”

  10. Jack Shea Says:

    I believe it’s the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution, that refers to the Creator as the source of the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Curiously, the principal author of the Declaration was Thomas Jefferson, who was also the author of the term “wall of separation” referring to his own notion and policy as President wrt the relationship between religion and government. He used the phrase in a letter to a group of New England Baptists who were concerned that he might force his Deistic beliefs on the nation. It was meant to reassure them that his principles did not permit such an action.

    Regarding the controversy between Darwinian Evolution and ID, it seems to me that the current state of scientific knowledge pretty much excludes young-earth Creationism and essentially proves transmutation of species and natural, as well as sexual, selection as major operative influences in driving those transmutations. The main mechanism for generating, preserving and transmitting those transmutations has also been identified in the genome. The extent to which any exterior agency (or, for that matter, interior agency, such as is posited in Lamarckian Evolution) can influence the “random” mutations which are the raw material of natural selection is currently outside the purview of science. The only kind of randomness which is currently “legitimate” in evolutionary science is statistically “flat” and not biased in any way by external or internal agency. Indeed, the use of genetic drift as a clock for dating the antiquity of special characteristics relies on this lack of bias. (Which may explain some of the differences in species dating obtained by geneticists and dirt paleontologists.) But every professional gambler and historian knows “it ain’t necessarily so.” Whether one conceives of the extrinsic agency as the Divine Watchmaker tinkering or the “tide in human affairs that leads on to the flood,” statistically flat randomness over short runs is actually more the exception where living systems are concerned. But such matters would probably best be discussed in natural philosophy, philosohy of science, or metaphysics classes rather than in (natural) science classes.

  11. MI Says:

    When I first read about intelligent design as a college sophomore, I realized it was going to be a big thing, because many people don’t realize that falsifiability is a sine qua non for calling a hypothesis “scientific”. Use enough pseudo-scientific jargon, and you’ll be able to lead a lot of people around by the nose. ID, it appears to me, is simply a slickly-repackaged variant on “God of the gaps”. In order to falsify it, you need to have some understanding of the Designer’s state of mind (e.g., design goals, constraints, etc.), so as to determine whether a particular component was the result of design or random chance. Alas, without resort to extra-scientific sources (e.g., the Bible, presumptions regarding rationality & efficiency), I fail to see how this question can be answered.

    That being said, I agree with your take on the Constitution (in this regard). I don’t much care for judicially-imposed “incorporation of rights”; given my druthers I’d go back to having the Bill of Rights applicable only to the federal government (at least in any instance not covered by a Congressional statute passed pursuant to Section Five of the Fourteenth). Griswold, Roe, Romer…to h*ll with all of them. I think we’d be better off letting states & localities decide such matters. They might make mistakes, but at least the consequences thereof would be territorially circumscribed. Not so with the Supreme Court; when they screw up, the entire nation has to suffer the results. Plus we’d have fewer people feeling oppressed by some distant court’s restrictions on their right to live under laws of their own choosing.

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