Intelligent design – minus the intelligence

Science is presently defending its life in Pennsylvania and if it loses, everyone in America will lose too.

Monday, Sept. 26 in Dover, Pa., one of the trials that is sure to have a wide-reaching impact in the 21st century began. The trial of Kitzmiller v. Dover was brought by local parents who are angry that the town school board passed a resolution that requires science teachers to present a statement supporting intelligent design (ID) and saying that evolution, “is ‘not a fact’ and has inexplicable ‘gaps.'”

The parents allege that ID is an attempt to disguise creationism as a scientific theory and sneak religion into the classroom after the 1987 Supreme Court decision in Edwards v. Aguillard outlawed it.

Early testimony in the trial supports their position strongly.

However, the fact that this case is even going on shows a glaring lack of understanding and respect for scientific practice and method. By examining the facts of what ‘intelligent design,’ is it is easy to see why it does not belong in a science classroom.

The argument for ID basically says that life is too complex to have arisen just from evolution and that some kind of being must have designed it.

Defenders of this view, like Lehigh University professor Michael J. Behe, say that some constructs in life, like the first cell, contain too many separate parts, which are useless on their own, for the whole construct to have developed naturally. Behe calls this position irreducible complexity and uses the example of a mousetrap to show how a complex structure could not have arisen from separate, useless parts when each part is needed for the whole.

Scientists, however, have an explanation for this. They counter that while it is true that a complete complex structure could not have arisen all at once, it is probably the case that “evolution borrowed existing structures for new purposes, like taking the spring of a clothespin for use in a mousetrap.”

In addition, the many parts of a cell, like the parts of a mousetrap, had purposes before they came together. One example usually given by intelligent designers is that the flagella in bacteria (used for movement) have smaller structures in them that are useless outside of the whole construct. Kenneth Miller, a biology professor at Brown University, counters this quite easily, as evidence shows that the “group of proteins from the flagellum does work without the rest of the machine – it’s used by many bacteria as a device for injecting poisons into other cells.”

There are other arguments for ID, and even if scientists did not have explanations defeating them, which they do, nothing changes the fact that ID is not a scientific theory. It is not testable by any repeatable experiments, or any kind of experiments at all, and there is no body of evidence beyond conjecture and faith that supports it.

Yes, evolution is a theory, but in the scientific community, that does not mean it is untested or lacks supporting evidence. A scientific theory is defined as, “a structure of related ideas that explains one or more natural phenomena and is supported by observations from the natural world; it is not something less than a ‘fact,'” so if you think that any old idea can be called a scientific theory, you are very mistaken.

Evolution has been tested and retested for 150 years and all of the evidence gathered has helped to refine the theory and change it, but no evidence has ever disproved it. There are some gaps in the evidence, though not in the theory, but all that means is that more work needs to be done. Scientists are able to say that they do not know everything yet and that further experiments will hopefully provide answers. Science is a living discipline, which constantly corrects itself and adds new knowledge.

ID, however, remains just a personal belief, and such beliefs should not be mixed with the curriculum in a public school. Personal beliefs have their place in people’s lives and in religion classes, but not in science class.

A science professor at the College, who asked not to be named, agrees with this sentiment. “Personal belief systems have to remain separate from what is taught in the classroom,” adding that “scientific facts do not care what you believe in.”

Letting ID into science classes would be same thing as telling police investigators that they must consider that spirits and demons cause murders instead of looking for a human perpetrator.

This issue is not a question of giving equal time to an opposing theory to evolution. It is a question of whether we want to continue making scientific progress, which has given us all the fruits of modern life, or stop trying to understand the world in an intelligent way and slide back into superstition.

Information from –,, “The Evolving Clash of Darwinists and Doubters” by Kenneth Chang, “Challenged by Creationists, Museums Answer Back” by Cornelia Dean.