Is Intelligent Design Science or Religion?

Author and biochemist Isaac Asimov once wrote, “The Earth, in nearly 5 billion years since it assumed approximately its present form, has undergone a vast evolution.” (Science Past-Science Future, 1970). Today, the proof of evolution is in abundance, while the proof of an “Intelligent Designer” cannot be surmised without asking a person, who has religious faith, to question that faith, and one without faith to accept someone else’s belief. In recent years, a new movement has presented itself to the American public-this movement is “Intelligent Design”. There has been much attention focused on the wave of legislative proposals and court cases, which aim at placing this new idea into public school science classrooms, and pit it against the theory evolution. The concerns and disagreement arise from what Intelligent Design really is. It is religion in disguise and not science, attempting to grind an axe at evolution and Charles Darwin for his leaving the science community a way in which to explain valid observations.

For centuries, civilizations have been plagued by a need to know the origins of life. Before scientific explanations came on the scene, most civilizations and cultures developed a story of creation, a way in which to explain the splendor we are surrounded by, and most carried a few similarities in their tales. Life came from a chaotic episode, and supernatural entities (polytheism) or entity (monotheism) assisted in designing it all. Amazingly, the label of myth is placed upon many creation stories, such as that of the ancient Greek, Norse, Native Americans, while other stories have developed into foundations of acceptable religions of today. Some believe a higher intelligence, maybe alien life, was responsible for how life came to be. When we do not have all the answers, it becomes easy to accept this reasoning. The world and all its wonders, how could there not be a supernatural entity responsible for its creation? But, then came science, and the often-misinterpreted theory called evolution.

There was, and still is, a movement to have creationism taught in public schools, but in 1987, the United States Supreme Court ruling in Edwards v. Aguillard declared the teaching of creationism in public schools violated the establishment clause of the constitution, halting, to a point, the creationism movement; and now, there is the new movement of Intelligent Design. Intelligent Design is a repackaged version of creationism, which claims to not specify a God, but rather an un-named supernatural designer, who is the creator of all, while it attempts to chip away at proven scientific evidences derived from the application of the theory of evolution.

When tracing the path of the Intelligent Design movement, the trails lead to Christian supporters and ax grinders who believe that Darwin’s theory of evolution has stripped God from life, and therefore created immorality in the world today. There is a misrepresentation of the information disseminated, and when peeling away the cloak, there is very little science held within the theory of Intelligent Design. Intelligent Design cannot be tested and most of their proponents, such as William Dembski, have failed to show testable proof. It falls upon whether or not you have faith in the possibility of a supernatural creator, which is the ideology carried upon religious belief.

Key people involved in this movement hail from the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. Philip E. Johnson, a lawyer and author, is said to be one of the major founders of this movement, and has publicly expressed views against evolution, while promoting creationism as an alternative. He went as far as to develop strategies called The Wedge with evidence of this strategy found in his book “The Wedge of Truth: Splitting the Foundations of Naturalism”. The Strategy involves three phases, a five-year goal, and twenty-year goal all of which outline an attempt at replacing the scientific views on evolution with a theistic explanation and understanding that nature and humans are created by God. He does not hide behind the cloak of Intelligent Design in his views, but rather reflects the true nature of his views as being religious in nature.

Then we find another organization, which has aligned itself with the Intelligent Design movement and that is the organization Idea (Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness). One only needs to read their mission statement, on their website, to see what they are really advocating – a religious agenda with no interest in validating Intelligent Design as a legit theory of science.

After peeling away the layers of this new packaged idea called Intelligent Design, one is left with a circle that keeps coming back to an attempt at preventing scientific explanation, and replace it with an un-testable theory or rather a religious belief in an Intelligent Designer; because Intelligent Design has failed to prove itself as a viable scientific theory. There is no supporting basis of observational and experience evidence, no method of testability, and no way to be proven or disproved; and is that not what religion is-unquestionable faith. So, does Intelligent Design carry enough weight to be taught along side other more proven scientific theories like evolution, or would it not be better served by placing it in an elective curriculum of study? An elective curriculum of study which teaches the different stories of creation, with the usage of Intelligent Design as one more supernatural means of explaining; instead of forcing all students to accept a non-scientific theory along side a true scientific theory, one which actually guides scientific exploration, investigation, and has yielded evidence. Or, is it beneficial to create a classroom environment that pits non-science against science, and possibly creating an uncomfortable division between students?

Now to further reason that Intelligent Design is not science, look at what the theory of evolution really is. The theory says that living species develop from other species, all living things are related to a varying degree through common decent, and that the process where one species evolves into another involves random heritable genetic mutations or genetic changes. Some of these changes are more likely to spread and continue in a gene pool, while others do not. These changes (mutations) that result in the survival of the organism will spread and continue in future offspring. This is what Darwin observed, and this is what he left as a foundation for future scientists to continue to use as comparison as they retest the theory over and over against new observations and discoveries. This theory can utilize scientific method, which is an organized guide for detailing and recording data about observations, and then putting them through tests, and retests to encourage accuracy and evidence of valid proof. Evolution has three important mechanisms, mutation, natural selection, and genetic drift, which have been observed, tested and documented. All parts of evolution are part of science. Mutations are changes in the genetic information (DNA) of a gene; some are lethal and will cause death, while others are neutral where they do not harm. Natural selection is the process where traits that provide an advantage for survival and reproduction increase in frequency in the population over time, while other phenotypes that leave organism at a disadvantage tend to decrease over time. Then genetic drift reflects the frequencies of existing genes in a population change over time due to chance. Evolution is science, and can be held to the standards dictated by the studies entailed in science.

Intelligent Design is asking that students question evolution, when evolution is a theory of science that helps guide the future of scientific observation, explanation, experimentation, and the future of advancement in the scientific arena. Its valid to question whether or not a supernatural force was responsible for the complexities of life, as this is human nature; but to discount the theory of evolution or attempt to confuse it by aligning religious views against it, serves students as divisive means of stifling their true understanding of evolution.

Forecasting ahead, one can only surmise the cost and ramifications that will trickle down from any legislation aimed at placing Intelligent Design into public school science classrooms. School districts all across America will be tied up in costly legal actions, which will ensue. With the current state of education, and the already lacking funds, does America’s public schools really need to fight a battle between science and religion? Would it not be better served by proposing public schools, at the high school level, offer an elective class in the different theological and philosophical theories of creation, which would include a variety of myths and religions creation stories? Making it an elective class, a class that offers a content which reflects the many different and similar creation stories, would eliminate so much of the controversy.

Intelligent Design is religion, or at least, an attempt aimed at forcing the youthful mind to accept supernatural reasons for creation, with out giving these students an understanding of how such a theory can be tested or used in scientific investigation. Evolution is a scientific foundation used as a tool which guides future studies in, the continued placement of order through observations of fossils, natures discoveries, genetic advancements, medical improvements and more; and people need to be aware of the true difference. People will begin to see that these two different theories do not belong taught side by side; and that they will see Intelligent Design for what it is, by peeling away its disguise and calling it religion, which its inclusion in public education would go against what has been established in the United States Constitution.

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