The Stupidity of Intelligent Design

One more time, people. Intelligent Design isn’t “the other side of the debate” or “a competing theory”. It’s not a theory at all, it’s just “shut up and worship God, dammit.” It’s not science, not even bad science; it’s anti-science, non-science. It’s not another answer to the question, it’s declaring the question answered and the interview over. It doesn’t belong in a science classroom or in any other classroom. You are crippling students by teaching it. Grow up and enter the twenty-first century.

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9 Responses to The Stupidity of Intelligent Design

  1. David Thiel says:

    Oh, it’s a bit more clever than that. There’s a depressing article in this week’s Time Magazine which details just how how effective the creationists have been in peddling this more sophisticated version of the same old dogma.

    Last week, Time also published a surprising column by conservative Charles Krauthammer (with whom I usually violently disagree) making a cogent case against teaching I.D. in schools. A sample paragraph:

    How many times do we have to rerun the Scopes “monkey trial”? There are gaps in science everywhere. Are we to fill them all with divinity? There were gaps in Newton’s universe. They were ultimately filled by Einstein’s revisions. There are gaps in Einstein’s universe, great chasms between it and quantum theory. Perhaps they are filled by God. Perhaps not. But it is certainly not science to merely declare it so.

    The problem with I.D. is that it is (intelligently) designed to resemble science for the consumption of those whom only have a vague notion of actual science. They make the case in such a non-threatening, secular (at least, on the surface) manner that it seems almost unreasonable not to teach it alongside evolution. Except, of course, that it isn’t science–lacking such basic building blocks as peer review or a means of testing for the presence of the designer.

    I’m an agnostic at best, so it’s never been a problem for me to reconcile God and evolution, but I have a really hard time with the notion of an intelligent designer. If I was really put together this way on purpose, then I have a few bones to pick with the architect regarding his flawed plan for a spinal column, not to mention making an esophagus which isn’t resistant to stomach acid.

  2. Chris Allen says:

    Hah, sounds like you are roundly dismissing it. Interview over. A theory, even a wrong theory, is still a theory and open for disproving or debate.

    What is troubling is that people are trying to push it as an educational agenda without a sounder grounding in science or even research…or even beter logic in their arguments.

    However, I will take a stance as a Christian on this point: God is not anti-science nor is Science anti-God. Most scientists will say, “The unexplained is only unexplained because we don’t have enough information yet.” and that is enough for most people. But to dismiss a God who has a hand in science is to have as much hubris as the ID folk for ignoring scientific facts: are you saying that you have enough data to make your decision to eliminate God as a bad theory, even with wonky esophaguses?

    The more Einstein learned about science the more he respected God. He didn’t fill in the gaps with religion, but he certainly wasn’t disdainful of it for it’s lack of provable theorms.

  3. Dave says:

    A theory, even a wrong theory, is still a theory and open for disproving or debate.

    Not true. A theory that introduces an untestable, unfalsafiable element is not open for debate. A true theory or hypothesis has ways to gather evidence that support it or weaken it. ID has no such mechanism and doesn’t desire one.

    But to dismiss a God who has a hand in science is to have as much hubris as the ID folk for ignoring scientific facts: are you saying that you have enough data to make your decision to eliminate God as a bad theory, even with wonky esophaguses?

    Not at all. I’m saying I don’t have enough data to make a decision to accept the existence of a God. Arguing from ignorance (we don’t know everything in the world so we have to accept that God might exists) is fine for God, but it’s equally fine for the invisible hippopotamus in your bathtub right now; do you know so much about the universe that you can casually dismiss such a possibility?

    This is fine, because God requires no proof, and in fact, is unprovable due to His alleged divine nature. I can no more prove that God does or doesn’t exist than anyone can prove that Ra does or doesn’t exist. It’s a matter of faith alone. If you have faith in God, that’s fine. That’s not a choice I’ve made.

    So since we have a workable (and no, not perfect, but constantly being refined) explanation for life on Earth, why must we toss it aside in favor of a theory meant to do nothing except “prove” that God is in charge? This belittles both science AND faith, and serves neither.

  4. David Thiel says:

    Chris, not sure to whom your response was directed, as it appeared to incorporate points that both Dave L. and I made. For my part, I don’t dismiss the possibility that God or some other creative force set the Universe and its laws in motion. That’s why I wrote that I have no problem reconciling God and evolution.

    What I do dismiss is the sort of hands-on, micro-managed design work that’s implied by I.D. If God is omnipotent and infallible, then why are we so haphazardly assembled? At this point, many will fall back to something along the line of “God works in mysterious ways,” which might be true but always sounded like rhetorical bullshit.

    While I would agree that science and God are not intrinsically opposed, I feel that’s untrue of science and faith. Science demands evidence, repeatable test results and peer review, whereas faith is strongest in their absence. The problem with “creation science” and I.D. is that they deliberately confuse the two, and by doing so, decrease our understanding of either.

    I would have absolutely no problem with teaching about religion in public schools. No matter what one may believe or disbelieve, religion is a powerful force which affects everyone and it needs to be understood. If the folks who are so eager to insert religion in the public schools would agree to keep it out of the science classroom, and to include all major religions, not just their own particular brand…

  5. Chris Allen says:

    de·bate ( P ) Pronunciation Key (d-bt)
    v. de·bat·ed, de·bat·ing, de·bates
    v. intr.
    To consider something; deliberate.
    To engage in argument by discussing opposing points.
    To engage in a formal discussion or argument. See Synonyms at discuss.
    Obsolete. To fight or quarrel.

    The ‘world is flat’ theory wasn’t testable for many many years, because there was no way to test it. Did it stop people from thinking and discussing it? Maybe we just don’t have the understanding now (or perhaps never, as it seems to be designed) how to test God’s hand in all this. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t think about it. I am going on the ‘engage in a formal discussion or arguement’ definition. Maybe disproving isn’t exactly the right angle, however, it is open to the question of ‘Why would you believe this rather wierd take on religion’ and then trying to prove one way or the other through logic, since that’s all they can use. It is an unsatisfying situation (which is the same reason that I deplore politics and political discussions, people lose most of the rational thought), but it is still there for those who are interested. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fan of ID and even more nervous about it being taught in schools. That is disturbing.

    And I don’t really know that I’d even approve of teaching **about** religion in high schools, certainly not in high school. Separation of church and state is actually a brilliant concept. The only exception is maybe in a class based on Philosophy, but even then you’d have to be extra careful.

    Wouldn’t it be fun if we eventually **could** prove that when people left their houses, giant invisible space hippos took baths in their bathrooms? Let’s put some taxpayer money on a task force!

    “While I would agree that science and God are not intrinsically opposed, I feel that’s untrue of science and faith.”-Dave T.

    Faith is the belief of things unseen. But, if you take a look, every religion has records of things that were supposedly seen: miracles (albeit unproven, sure but the point is you can’t have a religion based on faith without suposed visual proof). I agree that if you can’t sense God (or whatever diety you want to suscribe to) in the world around you, then you can’t have faith. So, science, for some people, becomes even more than just the study of the world around them but also serves as convincing evidence (and here I use the word in a looser, more religious, less Law and Order sense) of God’s presence on a very local level. Science and faith both seek to explain and unravel the secrets.

    I don’t know that I am satisfied with the ‘God works in mysterious ways.” (it does smack of the ‘wallow in your ignorance, that’s all you need!’ feeling) but I certainly can’t take the Donne approach who says he will “…explain the ways of God to Men.” Needless to say, people can and do twist a lot of pure things into mishappened forms. I know a LOT of Christian’s like this, which makes it understandable why the backlash.

    Obviously, the political agenda of ID is pretty transparent. I certain agree with Dave L’s point that science is a workable, but sometimes fallible system for exploration that should certainly not be tossed aside for the ID view. However, reconnecting faith and science without warping each other, while tricky, isn’t unthinkable.

    Perhaps it’s a bit naive, but I can’t help it. I’ve already kind of given up on politics, hah!

  6. David Thiel says:

    I think that both of you are right. (Come to think of it, I think that I’m right as well! Congrats to all three of us!) Dave L. is correct to consider I.D. “anti-science”: not only is it not science, but it exists solely to undermine the meaning of science. It’s a theory in the general sense of the word, but it can’t be debated on scientific terms because it doesn’t play by the rules. On the other hand, its logic can certainly be (and should be) argued, if only to expose it to rational analysis.

    While I agree that it would be tricky to teach comparative religion in high school–and I suspect that many school districts could not be trusted to approach the subject in the unbiased manner it requires–I think that we do ourselves a disservice by not exposing kids to different belief systems. They’re not going to get it from anywhere else, certainly not their church. Since the history of the world is so closely tied to religion, and as it still has a colossal affect on politics and conflict, it seems strange not to be use it to provide context in other subject areas.

    Science and faith are indeed both attempting to explain the world–and again, there’s no reason that they can’t work alongside each other–but their methodologies are diametrically opposed. “Evidence” such as records of miraculous events are hearsay, reported third-hand and quite possibly contaminated by the desire for something to be accepted as truth. They can rarely, if ever, be repeated, tested and verified. By their very nature, miracles exceed the bounds of science; if they could be explained by natural laws, they wouldn’t be miracles.

    I always thought “God works in mysterious ways” was another way of saying, “I’m sorry, but my argument has crumbled and this is my only fall-back position.” However, I do agree with it to the extent that I believe (and this is as close to a faith as I get) that the Universe is basically inexplicable, at least by us. When it comes to matters of God and the reason of existence, I am absolutely certain that I don’t have the answers. And I stand behind that belief.

  7. Dave says:

    In Chapter 10 of the book of Joshua, Joshua’s doing some fighting. And he’s worried that night’s gonna come before he’s done all the ass-kicking that needs to be done. So he prays to God, and God says, “No problem. I’ll hold back the sun for a bit and let you continue killing people I don’t like.” God gives him nearly an extra day of eternal sunlight, and Joshua got his fighting done.

    Now, we can look at that and say, “I’m not so sure we can treat this as a true history. If God is, as is implied by the text, stopping the rotation of the Earth, then Joshua’s army wouldn’t need to fight, because the enemy would get burned to a crisp. So would Joshua’s boys too. We know of no mechanism for stopping and starting the Earth. In addition, nobody in, say, China, has a similar history about a whole day full of 3 in the morning or whatever the time was in China when the Earth was supposedly stopped.”

    “But,” says another gentleman, “this is God we’re talking about here. God’s omnipotent. He’s got complete control over all of creation. If he wants the Earth stopped, it stops. And nobody gets burned up, and the Chinese people just don’t notice. You’re limiting yourself to our knowledge of how things work, and not God’s.”

    This isn’t a debate. There’s no logic here to discuss. As soon as you introduce into the discussion an omnipotent being who can change reality and our perceptions thereof, nobody can really argue anything. Some young-Earth creationists say that God did make the Universe only a few thousand years ago, but created it with the appearance of being billions of years old for reasons known but to Him. What do you say to that? You can go “Wow, that’s wild!” and pass the bong and then continue to wonder, “What if He made the Earth only ten seconds ago!” and amaze yourself, but you can’t have any kind of useful debate about this. You can perhaps speculate why He might lie to his creation, but since we can never know the mind of God, there’s not much of a conclusion that can be reached.

    We can suspect that water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit solely because an angel has been appointed to make it thusly, and that if that angel chose for it to be otherwise, the water wouldn’t freeze, and yeah, I guess that could be a theory, but really, of what use is it? Why can we not just say, “Look, we’re just going to have to assume that no capricious, omnipotent, undetectable beings are influencing our measurements and go with whatever it is we can account for, unless we detect otherwise?”

  8. Mrs. Mancer says:

    At the risk of being really pedantic here, I want to point out that I think it was Milton (Paradise Lost) who claimed he was but going to “…explain the ways of God to Men.�

  9. Chris Allen says:

    Ooof, that’s right…and here’s insight why I jumped ship on my Master’s in English, grin.