Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Intelligent Design: A Scientific Secular Alternative?

I suggest copy/pasting into a word processor and putting it in a double-spaced format for easier reading. It's finally almost complete, I appreciate anyone who reads this.


“The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” Carl Sagan said these words. Something a true scientist like Sagan would not explain is that science is materialism. He or she would also not explain that science is a religion, or that science has many interpretations based on religious beliefs. Only a scientist from the times of the medieval ages would make such erroneous statements. And yet, to this day, around every corner of knowledge that someone looks, there is a person claiming to be a scientist, who tries to hold back the progressive goal of science in favor of the traditional mind-set that has a majority of Americans ideologically entrapped. Such is not science. Science is progressive, and only has ceased when that progress has been suppressed, such as during the medieval ages.
The medieval ages seemed to have returned in the form of pseudoscience masquerading as legitimate in the United States. In order to make up for their ignorance, religious fundamentalists will try to fill the gaps with anything and everything. In the recent centuries, these gaps of ignorance were replaced by a concept called “Creationism Science” that sought to teach a literal interpretation of the Bible’s Genesis, and apply “science” to it. There were, and still there exists today several flaws with this pseudoscientific reasoning. None of which the least addresses the questionable objectivity of the argument. The goal of science has always been to prove itself through vigorous postulations, experimentation, and through objective analysis of data. Its goal is not however to continue to dispel the arguments from half a millennium ago which Intelligent Design continues to advocate, and which have all been refuted.
Recently, despite constant ridicule, Creationism has evolved into a new-age theory called Intelligent Design, which seeks to upset science at its very foundations, to fit its own specific needs in order to reshape not only science, but a progressive society in general. There is a difference between science and ideology. To be science-driven is to objective despite whatever personal beliefs one has, and to be mindful of all the possible variables out there. Ideology, as far as science is concerned, should not play a part in the process of analysis, as ideology is strictly one’s political and philosophical beliefs. This could mean religion, it could mean Atheism; either way, it does not belong in the scientific process. Though many would argue that God could very well be one of those variables, as well as any possible intelligent force out there which might have created the Earth’s creatures in their present form. The requirement however, of observable scientific data almost always undermines this notion of an intelligent designer in the scientific form. So what Intelligent Design (hereinafter “ID”) tries to do is to go a step further, to redefine science from its present sense to fit its own needs. To lay the arguments of incredulity to rest, a thorough definition of science must be presented.

The scientific method was developed through history so that it now includes six basic principles that all theories must adhere to in order to be considered real science. Scientific investigations consist of these six principles, and they are followed in order to produce constant, objective data and reasoning. Because of this, science has developed to become enormously self-critical. Science has become so effective, that it is able to take in new ideas and put them together. But these ideas do not just come up out of thin air. No, they are novel scientific ideas presented by scientists from all over the nation, and all over the world.
According to an essay (Sawin, Enoch I.) which describes the way science ought to be taught, the six requirements that any novel scientific claims need to fulfill in order to be considered a valid theory includes: 1) a felt need to exist; need for conclusion for something that remains unexplained. As an example, human origin has always been in question, where the gaps have always been filled with supernatural explanations. For science, this is not good enough. A constant feed of knowledge is needed in order to explain observable natural phenomena. 2) A formulated problem, a need for well rounded problem ready for an experimental approach. 3) A formulated hypothesis, or prediction. Suggested solutions are put forth based on educated guesses. 4) Data is collected, supporting facts are sought out to support the hypothesis in question. 5) Conclusions from the collected data are drawn out. 6) Analysis of the conclusion. By the end, the science is applied to everyday lives. This is the point where science will explain what question was answered, and why it even matters that research was even done. Evolution is applied to the past, present and future in this way. Because the theory of evolution has a strong basis from steps 1-6 inside and out, it has held firmly in place when confronted by many forces trying to bulldoze the foundation. .
It is true that science must be accurate, it must be trustworthy, and it must not lie. If the conclusions that have been drawn by science were ever inaccurate, then the answers to some of the most important fundamental questions would never be solved. This is why the Scientific Method is used (Sawin, Enoch I). It is more important to know why it has worked so well throughout history. During the development of civilized world history, humans have depended on technological advancements to forward their culture. The Greeks and the Romans established the basis of what is now called science. It was Ptolemy for example who conceived the first idea explaining how the sun goes around the Earth . But it would serve better to mention the development of science during the Enlightenment period of European world history.
It was during this time that, with such minds as Giordano Bruno, Galileo Galilei, and Johannes Kepler, science went through a highly charged reform. Isaac Newton’s research also brought forth revolutionary ideas that would change the workings of science forever. During this period, Kepler and Tycho Brahe worked together. Kepler’s main area of study concerned the laws of Planetary motion, whereas Tycho Brahe sought to prove his Geo-heliocentric model of the universe. Even after Brahe’s death, Kepler continued to use the scientific tools leftover from his colleague’s discoveries. He also used science that derived from the ancient times of the Greeks, and the Romans. (Kepler, 1609) All of this eventually led up to the collapse of the planetary system that Ptolemy brought forth a millennium and a half before.
The new and improved heliocentric view of the Earth’s position holds that the sun lays in the center of the solar system, and that the planets orbit around the sun in an elliptical manner. Kepler thus came up with the three laws of planetary motion, and those observations by kepler were later shown to be evidence that there was another force acting upon the planets. This was a force, later defined by Newton, called gravity.
Kepler was persistent in his research of the planets. Before he figured out his three laws of planetary motion, Kepler sought to prove that the planets were created in an orderly fashion following the number and shapes of the Platonic solids. The platonic solids included the cubed forms of the circle, triangle, square, pentagon, hexagon and octagon. After several attempts to justify this, Kepler eventually gave up on that idea, because it was not working, and he then pursued other explanations.
This also helped along Galileo’s claim that the Sun was in fact the stationary object in the universe. Thus it is demonstrated that during the Enlightenment period the development of the Scientific Method both weeded out unsatisfactory theories, and replaced them with well-reasoned ones. That is not to say however that Kepler’s ideas did not go through history as indisputable fact. It was merely a firm basis on which to build an enormous scientific idea that would continue to develop over the next several centuries. Today, the ideas brought out by Kepler, and Sir Isaac Newton are needed absolutely to launch anything ranging from satellites to teams of astronauts into orbit around the Earth as flawlessly as humanly possible.
Of course it is notable to mention that there are alternate theories out there concerning Gravity and Planetary motion. Yet, these theories have time and time again been debunked by modern science. Of course the opposite spectrum does exist, and they claim that the science and reasoning behind the Scientific Method are flawed, that they are too naturalistically narrow-minded, and are censoring the ideas surrounding Creationism (Bergman, 1996), when the forum is always open for debate– after all, that is what drives science forward (Sawin, Enoch I.).
An open forum is also precisely why science works as well as it does. It is an open forum to all new ideas that have made it past the developing phase, and research phase that science requires. Once the community has picked the theory apart, the leftovers if there are any will be incorporated as they make sense into the scientific theory that it surrounds, and that theory into the broader scope of science.
To determine the validity of a scientific claim, which has gone through the processes of scientific inquiry, one must rely on the numerous peer-reviewed journals that are out in mainstream science. These journals do include but are not limited to Nature, Science, Frontiers, and Scientific American.
All in all, the things required for the objective consideration of a scientific claim come down to the validity of the hypothesis where objectivity and progressiveness is concerned. Looking at the procedures used during experimentation to determine whether they accurately and objectively were used to collect the data is also key to identifying a valid theory. Finally, the conclusion and analysis of the data to determine whether or not the original hypothesis is correct must be taken into account. Does it align with the current facts that preceded this hypothesis? Scientists and publishers of scientific journals must ask themselves this and many other questions when considering a theory. It is the lack of all of this due process that often declares a proposed theory, especially where creationism is concerned, invalid.

Intelligent Design has a mission. And that mission as defined by the Discovery Institute is “to make a positive vision of the future practical. To promote ideas in the common sense tradition of representative government, the free market, and individual liberty using book reports, debates ...” (Discovery Institute). The real roots behind the Discovery Institute lays in the Wedge Document produced by it, but this more public goal in short means that: ID will try everything in its power to manipulate its way into the scientific community by getting high-profile people particularly in the government to lobby for the inclusion of its ideas into society.
An analysis of Intelligent Design and its use of the Scientific Method is essential to proving its affiliation with pseudoscience. Before that takes place though, a summary of the history of Intelligent Design must be looked at. Some say it began with the explosion of controversy that erupted at the beginnings of the 21st century. Others say that it began with the court ruling in 1987 that banned Creationism from schools for good (Edwards V. Aguilard). Roots of this movement go as far back as Greek and Roman times. But it appears that modern-day intelligent Design can be traced back to Philosopher William Paley, who presented the Watchmaker Analogy (Paley, William A., Natural Theology, 1802). This analogy is extensively used by modern Creationists today, and is cited in Michael Behe’s book, and is still quoted in many online communities as actual proof for an Intelligent Designer.
This theory is the foundation of the modern ID movement. If something such as a biological system or function is very complex, and there is no scientific explanation yet, it then draws the conclusion that an intelligent designer had placed that specific system or function directly, explaining why the system is supposedly irreducibly complex.
First, one must ask, is there a felt need for the idea of Intelligent Design to exist? Some argue yes. ID specifically addresses the problems surrounding the evolution of the bacterial flagella, and other microbiological areas using the notion of irreducible complexity for instance (Behe, Michael J., Darwin’s Black Box). ID advocates assert that the function of the flagella could not have evolved through natural selection because it can function only as it does by possessing the proteins which it does, and by no other means.
The second question requires a well-formulated problem that needs to be explored. Again, the complexity of the flagella comes into play. ID asserts that Evolution fails to explain the naturalistic process of this biological system, that it is irreducibly complex. Solving this complexity requires an alternate explanation; God did it.
Third, A hypothesis. Referring to the flagella again, Intelligent Design postulates that there is no conceivable way for the functions of the proteins to have been evolved. Therefor, in the absence of any data, it should be concluded that a Designer created it at some point. God created the flagellum because its complexity is too great for it to have arose in any other way.
Fourth, Data is collected. There has yet to be any scientific data to be collected that promotes ID’s postulation. Such books as Of Pandas and People and Darwin’s Black Box are touted as the leading explanations in favor of Intelligent Design. Both explore the idea of Irreducible Complexity, as well as flaws with the “icons of evolution”. Otherwise, Intelligent Design effectively uses the data collected by science in the past, and doesn’t necessarily require to generate any new evidence of its own besides conceptual evidence.
The fifth question regards the conclusions which can be drawn. Since no data has been collected thus far, Intelligent Design has instead decided to run its arguments primarily based off the logistical arguments presented by such minds as William Dembski, and Michael J. Behe to conclude that with the lack of data from Evolution evolution is false, and the only explanation left, is to place an Intelligent Designer in the equation.
The sixth and final step is the analysis of the conclusion. The conclusion of ID is based upon the analysis of the data, which is based upon the accusation that evolution has presented no explanation for the complexity of the bacterial flagellum. Taking all of this to note, to ID, it is quite obvious that evolution cannot explain themselves, and thus Intelligent Design is the only alternative to learning about biology.
All of these questions have been tied together, and this way the Scientific Method is applied to Intelligent Design.
Irreducible complexity remains the master argument for Intelligent Design; an icon of ID, just as Evolution has proclaimed icons such as the natural selection evidence concerning the evolution of peppered moths. When paraphrased however, something that is irreducibly complex means that something has parts of it that cannot be divided into simpler terms. The bacterial flagella, they say, has so many parts that it’s too complex to have developed its functions using natural selection. Other things that they find irreducibly complex include the human eye, the immune system, and any functioning blood-clotting system. The idea was first proposed in Michael Behe’s book, Darwin’s Black Box, and is then defined as, ". . . a single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning." (Behe, 39). The flagellum consists of three major parts, with several tens of proteins, resembles a whip, and enables a bacteria to swim about in its environment (Berg C., Howard). The structure of flagella has been studied for years, has been hotly debated on several peer-reviewed journals, and discussed also heatedly on many relevant online scientific communities such as talk.orgins. The consensus among the scientific community is that the bacterial flagellum has evolved over time from another organelle that perhaps increased the chances of latching onto another cell which happened to be passing by. It’s also notable to mention that evidence exists which shows a protein family in the flagellum to have a common ancestor (Gibbons, I.R.)
The concept most ignored by IDCs (Intelligent Design Creationists) is the concept of “change in function.” This is the idea that a different function can evolve from the components that made up a past function. Charles Darwin discussed this idea in his book, Origin of the Species. The example he used was the eye, but he also presented that if any research demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not have been formed by modifications over an extended period of time, his theory would break down absolutely. (Darwin, Charles, 146) This is an example of a theory’s ability to be falsified.
To put all of this into a bit of context, scientists ought to be able to apply their ideas in a real scientific experiment. They should be able to take their ideas and make predictions with them, in turn, these predictions ought to be testable. Since science can look for modifications on the molecular level, if evolution is correct, it should be found that there are alternative biological functions to these complex systems or their components. If Evolution is wrong, there should be no way that these proteins would have any other function. The idea proposed by ID, that Irreducible Complexity is an obstacle for evolution, is wrong if it is found that these proteins can serve other functions.
To begin, the notion of the bacterial flagellum and its complexity will be taken into account. Intelligent Design holds that If any part of the system from the flagellum is taken away, then the proteins could not function, thus it had to have a creator to drive the process.
If evolution is correct, then several parts of the bacterial flagellum ought to be able to be eliminated, and the remaining proteins should still have a function.
So, in taking away several of the proteins from the system, 40 of them in fact, the result ends up still having a recognizable function. Very recognizable in fact, the function is that of the type III Secretory System. This system is used by numerous bacteria to inject paralyzing proteins into other cells. It’s not a flagellum, but it is a fully functional system. (Miller)
Keep in mind this is just one type of flagellum. This is just referring to the bacterial flagellum, and not those of the eukaryotes, or even cilia, which all have completely different designs (
Even though the many parts were taken away, the remaining parts still have a function. This means that the proteins that make up the flagellum can have other functions. With the knowledge of the history of science, and its methods one can come to the general conclusion that with time, science can explain what functions may have existed before the flagellum. Therefore, it can be reasoned that evolution is in fact completely ready to explain how the function of the flagellum came about through time. This is the Scientific Method at its best, and it clearly shows its efficiency in drawing accurate conclusions with collected data. This method has answered innumerable questions mankind has generated throughout history, and continues to do so to this day.
In each and every case of alleged Irreducible Complexity, a mountain of evidence can be presented in front of the advocates which certainly drowns their arguments immediately. Their persistence and public relations alone keep them afloat.
Take the blood clotting process for example. If one factor is taken away, it has been found, the function is still able to take place in several sea mammals (Robinson, Jean A., 1420) and the same is true with the puffer fish, though rather than just 1 factor removed, there are three removed. Given that macro-evolution did occur, which Intelligent Design does not dispute, some 450 million years ago when the transition went from mammals living on land to mammals living in the water, the blood clotting system developed through gene duplication. (Davidson et al, 1487)
When Michael J. Behe was on the expert witness stand in Dover, he presented his argument that the immune system was irreducibly complex. Behe was then presented with over fifty peer-reviewed scientific publications describing just how the immune system could develop via evolution (Kitzmiller et al.). Behe claimed that all of this evidence just wasn’t enough. And it is here where the true colours of the Discovery Institute finally come out. The evidence just isn’t good enough for them.

With all of these arguments in mind, and the six questions applied, it can be easy to refute these arguments used by design. And can also easily be identified as a direct attack upon evolution, and for no other purpose than that. For when making their arguments, proponents of ID state their points and then attack evolution openly. For example, when Ohio’s state board of education decided to place warning labels on the biology book, which read “This textbook has material on Evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This subject should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered” (Cobb County Board of Education), the board members were religiously motivated in their decision. Fortunately, the judge saw this, and in January of 2005, the decision was overturned (MSNBC).
Creationists try to admonish those that cite the first amendment against so-called “critical thinking” policies. After all, this label on the books doesn’t mention a thing about religion, or even Intelligent Design! What it is trying to do though, is to try to promote the false notion in a child that somehow a theory is more weak than a fact.
It also should be mentioned that Gravity is also only a theory, and not a fact. What the sticker means to tell kids though, is that Evolution is a very controversial subject, especially in these times, when the country is collectively considering such touchy subjects as Separation of Church and State in the most literal senses. However, it is not worth tearing down one section of the wall to let the two separate entities flow into each other.

Through all of these inconsistent points brought forth by ID, one thing does remain consistent: Something is completely awry. Science, or religion? Education or indoctrination? What do they mean by uttering the phrase “teach the controversy” when in reality, it has been shown above that there is no controversy?
In its “Wedge Document”, the Discovery Institute bases its entire existence on the fact that the western civilization was influenced on the existence of the belief that most people had a belief in God.

When looking at what Carl Sagan said about the universe being absolutely everything, what could he possibly have meant? Perhaps that the Universe just exists, perhaps he meant that humans have no purpose relatively in this vast physical existence. But knowing what Sagan did with his life, knowing what he pursued, and what mattered to him in his life, this notion could be tossed out without question. An understanding about what the universe actually is, why it is, how it is, and perhaps more importantly, what the universe could become, what humans can do with this existence. The beauty of the world must held in awe, certainly. But after a respectable awe, human understanding must tackle these things which cannot yet be explained. The problem with Intelligent Design as it stands, is that it prevents, or even more frustratingly, alters completely the system around which science orbits. Without the objectivity that science has on the outcome of collected data, false ideas would be published, and just because a wrong turn is made does not mean that a dead end will not be hit. When hitting a dead end, the solution is to always turn around and try to backtrack, setting the correct course and speed again, and learning from the mistake. The map by which science is driven now works fine, and it has for the past several centuries. Taking a wrong turn toward dumping the definition of science down a paralyzing abyss is not only a completely unfortunate dead end, it’s very dangerous. It’s dangerous in that humans depend on the progress of science to live their lives.


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Cobb County Board of Education, March, 28 2002

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Dawkins, Richard. “The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design” W. W. Norton & Company: New York, NY, 1987

MSNBC, associated press “Judge nixes evolution textbook stickers: Disclaimer questioning theory ruled unconstitutional” January 13, 2005)

The National Center for Science Education (

Gibbons, I.R., “Dynein family of motor proteins: present status and future questions”

Kitzmiller V. Dover Area School District

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Miller, Kenneth R., Lecture

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Perakh, Mark. "Does irreducible complexity imply Intelligent Design? Michael Behe's "irreducible complexity," according to "design theorists," implies Intelligent Design of biological systems. In fact, such a conclusion lacks a logical foundation. Irreducible complexity can even more reasonably be construed as an argument against Intelligent Design.(EVOLUTION AND THE ID WARS)." Skeptical Inquirer 29.6 (Nov-Dec 2005)

Pigliucci, Massimo. "Design Yes, Intelligent No A Critique of Intelligent Design Theory and Neocreationism." Skeptical Inquirer 25.5 (Sept 2001)

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Ruse, Michael. "Creationism." New Dictionary of the History of Ideas. Ed. Maryanne Horowitz. Vol. 2. Detroit: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2005. 489-493. 6 vols.

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