In October of 2004, the Dover Area School Board of Dover, Pennsylvania attempted to incorporate intelligent design (ID) into its ninth grade biology classes, promoting it as an alternate theory to the theory of evolution. The book Of Pandas and People would be the supportive textbook to the ID theory. Upon a school board vote, it was determined that science teachers would be required to read a statement noting that Darwin’s Theory is not a fact, that ID is a possible explanation to the origins of life, one that students might explore through the Of Pandas and People text. The courageous science teachers refused to read the statement, fully aware of the true meaning of a scientific theory and further aware of the statement’s religious implications.
Brought to trial in September of 2005 (Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District), the plaintiffs, consisting of 11 parents of students enrolled in the Dover Area School District, sought to demonstrate that the defendants, the Dover school district and certain members of the school’s board of directors, were attempting to insert creationism (under the guise of the ID name) into a public school room, a direct violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Pivotal to the ruling in favor of the plaintiffs was the discovery that the Of Pandas and People textbook, in earlier manuscript drafts, had used the word CREATIONISM within its pages. Later drafts, however, revealed that this word was simply replaced with INTELLIGENT DESIGN. The two were defined in exactly the same terms, just under different names. Within his 139 page decision, the judge presiding over the case stated, “The overwhelming evidence at trial established that intelligent design is a religious view, a mere relabeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory.”
**For a riveting look into this trial and its effect on the Dover community, I highly recommend the NOVA documentary regarding this case.
So, here we are talking about creationism again . . . I mean intelligent design. Chapter 40, the last in Natasha Crain’s Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side, seeks to answer the question, “What is intelligent design?” Natasha defines ID as “the scientific theory that says some features of the universe and living things are best explained by an intelligent cause. To this end, ID proponents attempt to find objective ways to detect any actual design in nature.” In the very next paragraph, Natasha clarifies ID’s neutrality in both defining that intelligent cause and ascribing to any particular religion. From my introduction, we know this to be a complete farce. ID is creationism renamed and revamped.
In an attempt to objectively detect and evaluate design, ID proponents promote the term specified complexity. As Natasha describes, in specified complexity, the first mark of design is contingency, meaning that something’s properties are not the result of a necessary event. Complexity indicates design through its improbability, while specified refers to a known pattern. “The reason [ID theorists] claim this is the mark of design is that all known examples of information meeting these criteria are the product of intelligent agents—not material processes.” She explains that a computer programming code, obviously the product of an intelligent mind, demonstrates all of these criteria. Thus, these features can be applied to other forms of information, such as that in DNA. She reasons, “Given that DNA exhibits specified complexity, and that all other known examples of specified complexity originate from an intelligent source, intelligent design theorists say we can also infer that intelligence is the best explanation for the biological origin of DNA."
First of all, for intelligent design theory to even be considered a viable hypothesis, it needs to be falsifiable, which it is not. How can a master intelligent designer (Yahweh) that is outside of space and time ever be demonstrated or falsified? Secondly, specified complexity is a term specifically “designed” to point to the intelligent designer that ID proponents were already convinced exists. It is nothing more than an ad hoc argument that has been completely debunked. Dr. William Dembski, the ID proponent who attempted to mathematically demonstrate specified complexity, failed to do so because his calculations did not take the workings of natural selection into account. Moreover, as Matt Dillahunty points out in a lively exchange with an ID proponent (especially from the halfway point and beyond), if specification requires an intelligent designer, then specified complexity becomes intelligently designed complexity, obviously a circular argument that cannot then be used as evidence for design.
**And since Natasha has asserted that DNA exhibits specified complexity just like a computer programming code, I’ll just steal from a previous post that I wrote regarding intelligent design:
Once again, we have a false analogy, in which two things that share a similar quality are indicative of a similar endpoint. We have evidence that a computer's code is designed by an intelligent agent. However, that does not suggest that DNA's informational code was designed by God. Upon what evidence can this assertion be made? To suggest this is to inject an unknown into the argument, ultimately offering nothing but more questions. Which god? One god or many gods? Does this god still exist? Is it a good god? Furthermore, if we continue with this line of thought, how can we make any meaningful distinctions between that which occurs naturally (DNA) versus that which is designed (computer coding)? If everything of complexity has a perceived intention and therefore a perceived designer, then the ability to contrast the two categories is eliminated; and consequently, everything becomes designed. Rather, design must be demonstrable.
Having already written a lengthy post, I think I’ll stop here and save my final thoughts on this eight month endeavor for my next post. Thanks for sticking with me!