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Intelligent Design is not Science

07 June 2012, 08:28

Cause for debate

When Edmund Halley published the famous work of Newton, Principia Mathematica, in 1687 he wrote in his “Ode to Newton” in the preface about Newton that  “Nearer the Gods no mortal may approach”.

A very different closeness of Science to the Gods has evoked quite a bit of debate on News24, most recently when one Sean the Sheep started publishing a number of his beliefs, borrowed from the Discovery Institute in a series of articles. Although the content of these articles were presented as being science, the title betrayed the religious motivations behind the writing.

The beliefs touted are commonly known as Intelligent Design (ID)

Heinz Oldewage subsequently published a piece in News24Voices called “Science vs. Faith? Really?” in which he proposes that “it’s neither necessary nor fair to argue that the worlds of science and faith are in conflict. I think it is far more sensible to say they complement each other.”

It is hard to throw these beliefs out to the court of public opinion, as these writers both noticed from debates that followed. As a casual observer I found it really strange that there seems to be a great controversy around this apparent divide between Science and Religion. It is almost as if someone has Driven A Wedge in between the two!

Enters the Discovery Institute

Like many concerned citizens I found it quite disconcerting when I discovered that a religious sect called the Discovery Institute is lobbying to have school curriculums changed to stop teaching Evolution as the accepted theory in Biology! A leaked document, which they subsequently admitted to publishing and defended in public, state the purpose and strategy of the Discovery Institute being to, "drive a wedge" into the heart of "scientific materialism, thereby divorcing science from its purely observational and naturalistic methodology and reversing the deleterious effects of evolution on Western culture."

This document has come to be known as “The Wedge Document” and has been widely discussed.

Unfortunately the strategy is proving to be rather successful at indoctrinating the non-suspecting, religiously rather than scientifically inclined public, as has been evident on News24.

The Discovery institute has officially made it their mission to discredit Evolution by a myriad of well calculated actions, amongst which was the publication of “A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism”. They were just recently enthusiastically haled by Sean the Sheep proclaiming “Darwin is going down baby!”. Their public list, at last count, listed 761 names. What they are not saying out loud is that this represents less than 0.023% of the world’s known scientists. Calling this a majority is evidently a blatant lie..

Project Steve is a tongue-in-cheek parody of these “Creationist” lists, created by the scientific community in honor of evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould. The purpose is to reveal the truth, firstly that scientists do have a sense of humor, and secondly that the overwhelming majority of scientists today support Evolution and denounce Intelligent Design as a scientific alternative.

 The project allows verifiable scientists to sign a declaration supporting Evolution and denouncing Intelligent Design on one condition. That you may only sign the list if your name is Steve or some derivative thereof such as Stephen.

This list of course allows quantitative comparison to Creationist lists by asking “How many Steves on your list”.  To date there are 1215 Steves who have signed the Project Steve declaration, including Professor Stephen Hawking (Steve Number 300) and both of the Nobel Prize winners in Science who were called Steve. In comparison the Discovery institute list contains only 5 Steves! (5 is 0.4% of 1215).

Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District.

Fortunately for us this debate has actually been tried in a real court in the USA fairly recently in the case of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. The case involved the dreaded situation where a School Board decided to essentially start teaching children that Evolution does not in fact ring true.  

The Judge reluctantly had to “summarise” his findings in a 139 page document which now of course presents a wealth of information on the subject.

The Court was primarily tasked with determining if Intelligent Design should be considered to be science or religion. The significance of this is that the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States aims to prevent a merger of state and church, such as was seen in England, by prohibiting the state from selecting any particular religion and promoting it over other religions.

The Court finds that :

“After a searching review of the record and applicable caselaw, we find that while ID arguments may be true, a proposition on which the Court takes no position, ID is not science.”

This finding is based on the following three different levels “any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science.

They are:

 (1) ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation;

 (2) the argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980's; and

 (3) ID’s negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community. As we will discuss in more detail below, it is additionally important to note that ID has failed to gain acceptance in the scientific community, it has not generated peer-reviewed publications, nor has it been the subject of testing and research. Expert testimony reveals that since the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries, science has been limited to the search for natural causes to explain natural phenomena.”.

The Judge finishes in conclusion

Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false.

Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs’ scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.

To be sure, Darwin’s theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the 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.“

The following shortlist out of many observations in the Court’s findings (consider that there are 139 pages) are enlightening.

1)      Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs’ scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.

2)      Not a single expert witness over the course of the six week trial identified one major scientific association, society or organization that endorsed ID as science.

3)      Both Drs. Padian and Forrest testified that recent literature reviews of scientific and medical-electronic databases disclosed no studies supporting a biological concept of ID.

4)      Defense experts concede that ID is not a theory as that term is defined by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and admit that ID is at best “fringe science” which has achieved no acceptance in the scientific community.

5)      ID is at bottom premised upon a false dichotomy, namely, that to the extent evolutionary theory is discredited, ID is confirmed.

6)      Additionally, Professor Behe conceded that there are no peer-reviewed papers supporting his claims that complex molecular systems, like the bacterial flagellum, the blood-clotting cascade, and the immune system, were intelligently designed.

7)      Evolution, including common descent and natural selection, is “overwhelmingly accepted” by the scientific community and every major scientific association agrees.

8)      It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.

In Conclusion

I have to say that I concur with the Court’s findings.

Intelligent Design, while it may very well be true that we were created by God, a proposition on which I will take no position here, is not science, but a form of religion.

To make it worse, it is the kind of religion that borrows its roots and morality from Fundamentalist Christianity which classifies Intelligent Design with the likes of David Koresh and Timothy McVeigh. A morality where cursing, lying and even murder is perfectly OK as long as it is done for the right reasons.

Lest we expose it for which it is before it is too late for our children to learn science in school!

Project Steve Declaration:

“Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to "intelligent design," to be introduced into the science curricula of our nation's public schools.”

Easy References of interest:

http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Kitzmiller_v._Dover_Area_School_District_et_al.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intelligent_design

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discovery_Institute

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wedge_strategy

http://ncse.com/taking-action/project-steve

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