A Review of the Intelligent Design Debate
The Underwear of Evolution:
A Review of the Intelligent Design Debate
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D.
The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life - that is the full title. A title so laden with eugenical overtones has almost all but been lost to the scientistic sounding, "Darwin’s Origin of Species."
On March 1, 2005 I attended an all-day event at Elizabethtown College focused on debating Intelligent Design. The forum,"Intelligent Design: The Scientific, Theological and Civil Dimensions of the Debate," was open to all. The impetus for this is no doubt the highly controversial stance York County's (PA) Dover School District has taken. Of course, the ACLU was all over it.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and attorneys with Pepper Hamilton LLP filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of 11 parents who say that presenting ‘intelligent design’ in public school science classrooms violates their religious liberty by promoting particular religious beliefs to their children under the guise of science education.
Behe vs Shanks
The first debate was between Michael J. Behe, a national proponent of intelligent design (ID) and Lehigh University biology professor, and Niall Shanks, author of a noted critique of intelligent design and East Tennessee State University philosophy professor. Their debate addressed the scientific aspects of intelligent design. Both speakers were interesting to hear. Shanks had a bit of an advantage with his Scottish brogue. He was also comical at times and looked as though he enjoyed Scotch ale more often than Behe which also gave him a notable advantage.
Behe argued the familiar issues of “irreducible complexity” which have provoked the scrutiny of the Darwinian priesthood. A mousetrap is his favorite ordinary-life example. All the parts must be there for it to work. A mousetrap cannot evolve with first a base, then the hammer, etc. Shanks answered the (alleged) “irreducible complexity” of such examples as the bacterial flagellum (a kind of cellular outboard motor) with the idea of “scaffolding.” Evolutionary scaffolding is a scientific alternative to design according to Shanks. His ordinary-life example was an arch. An arch must have all parts in place to function, but one can stack one rock on another. He imagined that the pathway toward something like the flagellum was to have one part function doing something else, then another part doing something else, etc. until all the parts are together and then the final function emerges. The flagella is supposed first a secretory system (jetting out goo for some organism), then to the motile function (cruising around). For what it’s worth, I think it is rather a devolution to go from a jet to a prop. His reference was to the Musgrave. Shanks was respectful to ID, but called it natural theology, not science.
Haught vs Martin
In the second debate, we heard John Haught, Landegger Distinguished Professor of Theology at Georgetown University, and Rev. Dave Martin, senior pastor at Evangelical Free Church of Hershey. They hardly debated, danced around the theological aspects. They were weak in rhetorical clubbing, however, Landegger had a pretty good Power Point presentation. Martin presented an intelligent but dull case for the value of ID and related that to Biblical authority. [Where is Greg Bahnsen when you need him?] Bible-believing Martin conceded quite a bit to the priesthood of science and finally whimpered a plea that government schools ought permit free thought about metaphysical assumptions. While rightly assessing the worldview pre-commitments of origins, he failed to do the full court press on naturalism and evolution.
Haught serves as a Levite in the priesthood of evolution, giving a new theological justification for the problems that naturalist science creates for Christianity. He urged that God is calling consciousness from the future – hence evolution. His most interesting point was the long ages of mere dead matter. He pictured it as a bookshelf. We have billions of years of nothing more than dirt. How can there be a God who sees humanity as special? He resolves this evolutionary fiction by appeal to the thought Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, French Jesuit, paleontologist, biologist, and philosopher, and (I might add) heretic. De Chardin bought the evolutionary picture at top dollar. He then reasoned from pure naturalism to a biased syncretism with Roman Catholic dogma. Thoughtful, but false.
Thompson vs Walczak
The most lively debate of the day was no doubt between Richard Thompson, president of the Thomas More Law Center, defending the Dover school district, and Witold Walczak legal director of the Pennsylvania ACLU. At least lawyers can put up a fight. They debated the civil/legal issues. Thompson was a very challenging speaker and passionate. Walczak was also quite able to manage the challenge. Thompson provoked the most “Amens” of any speaker - a sign that the faithful were aroused by vigor. He appealed to the indoctrination against religious values that take the name, science. Walczak met him face to face by illustrating the importance of religion. He also gave examples of the ACLU coming to the rescue against merciless fundamentalists. In Q&A he said to call the ACLU if any science teacher teaches atheism. That would be a site, the ACLU lawyer riding a white horse to save public school Christians from atheistic indoctrination. If I took this seriously, I could occupy quite a few Walczak's with the athiestic, secularistic, and Christian-bashing professors under which I have studied at two Statehood institutions.
The Capstone Lecture
While Pro-ID and Con-ID sides were basically fairly represented through the day. The final lecture was quite one-sided. It was given by Paul Gross, emeritus professor of life sciences at the University of Virginia. He co-wrote "Higher Superstition" and "Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design." Essentially, he played the part of the evolutionary dogmatist saying that 99.9 percent of the world's scientists believe evolution is fact and the other .1% lie. He pontificated. ex-cathedra that the "intelligent design" critique is "insignificant." If there is a naturalistic Darwinistic priesthood, he spoke as the pope. Only, he had real trouble with the elements of his sacrament - he could not get the overhead projector to work. There were technical difficulties in proving his points. His presentation was plagued (I apologize for the Exodus metaphor) with scientific glitches. God laughs too.
One would like to cross-examine such an ardent proponent of the evolutionary cult. But alas, Dr. Gross was hard-of-hearing and all questioners had an exceedingly unscientific challenge just communicating. Really! I am not making this up. Dr. Behe was able to first question him, though it was hard to get Dr. Gross to merely understand the questions. I felt exasperated after all the repositioning to get a hearing. When Behe went for the scientific jugular, Dr. Gross appealed to the 300 responses to Dr. Behe’s work “on the internet.” Very scientific.
The Dover Requirement
Just notice the publicity on this. Lancaster’s New Era newspaper said, “York County's Dover district voted in October to require that its schools teach the theory of intelligent design.” Gil Smart, of Intelligencer (a Lancaster newspaper) asks, “What is gained by insisting that intelligent design be inserted into a child's curriculum? Is this about opening kids minds? Or is it really about slamming them shut? Religion is not science, and religion does not belong in the science classroom. Period. And to say otherwise is to say to kids: You know what? We really don't care about your science education. Our agenda is more important.”
In fact, what Dover teachers are required to do is so exceedingly minimal that one cannot intelligently call it teaching. It will have no educational effect whatsoever. Here's what the whole fuss is about. Ninth grade biology teachers are required to read (one time) the following language:
Because Darwin's Theory is a theory, it is still being tested as new evidence is discovered. The Theory is not a fact. Gaps in the Theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.
Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view. The reference book, Of Pandas and People is available for students to see if they would like to explore this view in an effort to gain an understanding of what intelligent design actually involves. As is true with any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind.
That's it. One 30 second statement once in a 12 year career of what I would call “special-combat unit-enforced Agnosticism” in the government schools. This is all shaking my faith in intelligent design because I cannot see how intelligently designed people can call that “teaching” – much less — bringing religion in the classroom.
The Underwear of Evolution
Unlike Paul Gross who assumed the neutrality of science and at the same time both the certainty of evolution - he even called evolution “a fact” — unlike this scientific imperialism, we will lay our cards down honestly. There are no uninterpreted facts. All truth claims are subject to worldview biases. Evolution has its underwear. It has its own presuppositions which are unproven and indeed which cannot be proved.
Dr. Gross and many others feel that they can find a tooth or a bone in the dirt which is a solid fact confirming a completely naturalistic outlook. There was the fraudulent Piltdown Man which was supposed to be the missing link but turned out to be a pig’s tooth and a jawbone. But Darwinism is a Piltdown Theory. The whole thing is fraudulent. To the Priesthood, all the natural world counts as verification of atheistic naturalism — but any gaps in naturalistic explanations cannot be appealed to – since we cannot have a “God of the gaps.” An empty tomb proves nothing, but a rock in the dirt proves the evolutionary descent of man.
I wish I could buy stock in the evolutionary myth-theory. All of the natural world (allegedly) creates a bull market and no challenges, like Intelligent Design, lower the stock price. If thousands of scientists sell their stock in evolution, that still does not affect the price. It keeps going up. It opened with its IPO in 1859 and now it’s 13.7 billion dollars a share. One wonders how long this inflation can last.
Is it not plain that Darwinism is just a plain-old dime-store philosophy? There have been a lot of philosophical outlooks and explaining everything by random itty-bitty mutations probably deserves a place. I will call it IB-ism (itty-bitty-change-ism). IB-ism should go right on my philosophy bookshelf beside Thales’ "all-is-water" theory and Anaximenes’s "all-is-air," not to mention Heraclitus "all is fire-flux."
When Princeton theologian Charles Hodge answered the question in Darwin's day, What is Darwinism? He said rightly, “Atheism.” Carl Sagan put it, “the Cosmos is all that was, is, or ever will be.” Leading Harvard evolutionary geneticist, Richard Lewontin, speaking on behalf of modern science (the Priesthood) made it just as clear,
We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.” (Lewontin, 1997, p. 31).
He goes on to say,
It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation for the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated” (Lewontin, 1997, p.31).
Lewontin frankly states,
Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. (Lewontin, 1997, p.31).
That is so candid. Stephen Gould, former high priest, says the same,
In other words, evolution is not a fact, it's a philosophy. The materialism comes first (a priori), and the evidence is interpreted in light of that unchangeable philosophical commitment. If the evidence seems to go against the philosophy, so much the worse for the evidence. To a materialist, putting up with any amount of bad practice in science is better than to let that Divine Foot in the door! (Johnson, 1997a, p. 81)
While not a scientist, I know something about philosophy. The above statements are not science, obviously. Ok, they are philosophy and everyone has a navel. Yes, but as responsible philosophers we must not be incoherent. Put out your philosophy and we want to see if there are any holes in it. This materialistic view is a self-refuting position. If all that exists is mere atoms formed into molecules and chemical compounds, why should I believe that the bag of chemicals between my ears is right or true about there only being bags of chemicals. How true, how reliable is a bag of chemicals? Consult my garage here. Several such bags are there. No truth can be obtained from the mix of discarded elements in my trash can.
C.S. Lewis pointed this out, “If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true ... and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.” ([Lewis C.S., “Miracles” p.15; quoting Haldane J.B.S., “Possible Worlds,”  2001, reprint).
Darwin himself expressed his “horrid doubt” that the reasoning of a mind that was the result of chance could not be trusted upon (Darwin, 1898, p. 285). Grown-up monkey brains are telling us that we evolved from monkey brains. To quote the Grand Wizard in “O Brother Where Art Thou,”“ “And from all those smartass folk say we come descended from the monkeys! That's not my culture'n heritage!” I think that Grand Wizard has a point.
The Unitelligence of Intelligent Design
Augustine said, credo ut intelligam - “I believe in order to understand.” That is, we must first have commitments before we find knowledge. We must first have faith in order to learn.
In appraising the Intelligent Design case, positively, I certainly hope that the Dover school board succeeds. Their chief counsel (Thompson) used the Emperors New Clothes story as a metaphor - essentially - the Emperor evolution has no clothes - it is not some pure science and there's a little boy watching Emperor evolution prance in pretended cloths. The little boy says, “The emperor doesn't have any clothes on - I see your underwear!” I know that if the Dover board is successful then many other school boards will do the very same thing. May it be so.
But, unfortunately, and I wish this were not true, but they cannot succeed ultimately on the legal side. And this is why, the government schools have already officially compartmentalized knowledge with a controlling presupposition: Only naturalistic explanations are scientific knowledge. That's the underwear of government science. Though the gap in the evolutionary explanation for reality is wider than the Grand Canyon - it doesn't matter. Our government by the court system has already said, “No way, Hosea!” If it's not naturalistic, then its not knowledge. The word, “science” is derived from the Latin, scientia - knowledge. Claims about a Creator are legally inadmissable as scientia.
Bruce Alberts, President of the National Academy of Sciences, makes this clear in the Academy’s publication on creationism, “In 1987 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that creationism is religion, not science, and cannot be advocated in public school classrooms.” And “Creationism, intelligent design, and other claims of supernatural intervention in the origin of life or of species are not science because they are not testable by the methods of science.”And “No body of beliefs that has its origin in doctrinal material rather than scientific observation, interpretation, and experimentation should be admissible as science in any science course. Incorporating the teaching of such doctrines into a science curriculum compromises the objectives of public education.”[http://books.nap.edu/html/creationism/] (We surely would not want to compromise the objectives of public education!
In the legal debate (on March 1) this was perfectly clear. Though Mr. Thompson spoke passionately and effectively at many points, in the end his view was reduced to this. These are almost direct quotes: “It is not education, but indoctrination to teach only Darwinism” AND “All we are going to teach is Darwinism, we are just making a disclaimer of ID.” Or, “This is all really about the suppression of Christianity in our county” AND “This is not religious, it's about science.”
This is what happens when you let the rules of the game be made-up by naturalists. It's like playing the card game Chairman Mao, the rules are set by the evolutionists. (This card game has the dealer make up the rules and tell no one, but begin executing the game while everyone else is in the dark.) It's going to be pretty hard to win until we have a new Chairman.
I believe this leaves us with two broad conclusions. Richard Dawkins, Oxford Professor for the Public Understanding of Science, speaking for the naturalists says, “there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference” (Dawkins, 1995, p.155). Or Ecclesiastes 3:11, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.” I don’t believe the latter is a blind leap, though it is a pre-commitment which undergirds fact claims, knowledge, and truth. But I believe the former is self-refuting and nihilistic.
Dawkins, R., 1986, "The Blind Watchmaker," Penguin: London, 1991, reprint.
Johnson, P.E., 1997, "Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL.
Lewis, C.S., 1960, "Miracles: A Preliminary Study," , Fontana: London, Revised edition, 1963, reprint.
Lewontin, R., 1997, "Billions and Billions of Demons." Review of "The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark," by Carl Sagan, New York Review, January 9.