INTELLIGENT DESIGN SHOULD BE TAUGHT IN BIOLOGY CLASSES

By O. R. Adams Jr.

Ó O. R. Adams Jr., 2006  

 (BACK TO ARTICLES) 

Intelligent Design should be taught in biology classes and in all other classes where evolution is taught. That is because it is a study of facts of nature as is the study of Darwinian Evolution. They should be studied together because it would help students get to the truth about the development of plant and animal life.

In this paper, I will submit material supporting this argument. I will also be criticizing the article, "Accepting 'intelligent design' in science classrooms would have disastrous consequences," warn Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne, published in The Guardian, September 1, 2005. (I will refer to this article as D&C).

First, I would like to point out that the D&C article failed to even admit that Dawkins himself had previously quite publicly recognized that things in nature studied in biology have the "appearance" of having been designed for a purpose. (The reference for this will be given below in material from the Teleological article.) This in itself shows a recognition of the evidence of intelligent design in nature. I will also show in detail that a number of other things were not fairly presented in the D&C article.

Stanford University is certainly not considered a supporter of teaching religion as a part of science, but its Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy website contains a very comprehensive article on intelligent design by Del Ratzsch, "Teleological Arguments for God's Existence."

(http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/teleological-arguments) A discussion of this article follows.

----------------------------------------

Although this article forms the argument on the side of design as an argument for the existence of God, with which I disagree, it contains a fair presentation of the arguments on both sides.

The following are some excerpts:

Some phenomena within nature exhibit such exquisiteness of structure, function or interconnectedness that many people have found it natural - if not inescapable - to see a deliberative and directive mind behind those phenomena. The mind in question, being prior to nature itself, is typically taken to be supernatural. …

Although enjoying some prominent defenders over the centuries, such arguments have also attracted serious criticisms from a number of major historical and contemporary thinkers. Both critics and advocates are found not only among philosophers, but come from scientific and other disciplines as well. In the following discussion, major variant forms of teleological arguments will be distinguished and explored, traditional philosophical and other criticisms will be discussed, and the most prominent contemporary turns (cosmic fine tuning arguments, many-worlds theories, and the present Intelligent Design debate) will be tracked. Discussion will concluded with a brief look at one historically important non-inferential approach to the issue.  ***

… there is precisely the same proof that the eye was made for vision as there is that the telescope was made for assisting it. (Paley 1802 [1963] 13)[6]  ***

… Richard Dawkins characterized biology as:

 the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose. (Dawkins 1987, 1)

Day-to-day contemporary biology is rife with terms like ‘design’, ‘machine’, ‘purpose’ and allied terms. And that is not just arbitrary convention, but may be virtually inescapable. Indeed, Kant, although a critic of design arguments, saw design as a regulative principle of science—that is, a principle which, whether true or not, science could not operate without. As historian of science Timothy Lenoir has remarked:

Teleological thinking has been steadfastly resisted by modern biology. And yet, in nearly every area of research biologists are hard pressed to find language that does not impute purposiveness to living forms. (Lenoir 1982, ix)

Whether or not particular biological phenomena are designed, they are frequently enough design-like to make design language (resisted or not) not only fit living systems extraordinarily well, but to undergird generation of fruitful theoretical conceptions as well.[10] (Advocates of design arguments claim that the reason why theorizing as if organisms are designed meets with such success is that organisms are in fact designed.) ***

… For instance, if just bare complexity is cited, then although complexity is in many respects easily demonstrable, that complexity does not just uncontroversially speak of intent. On the other hand, although the exhibiting of genuine purpose and value might constitute persuasive and even compelling evidence of a designer, establishing that the empirical characteristics in question really do betoken genuine purpose and value—and not just, say, functionality—seems to many to be difficult if not impossible. ***

… Some advocates see design arguments as inferences to the best explanation, taking design explanations—whatever their weaknesses—as prima facie superior to chance, necessity, chance-driven evolution, or whatever.[15] ***

Historically, design cases were widely understood to allow for indirect intelligent agent design and causation, the very causal structures producing the relevant phenomena being themselves deliberately designed for the purpose of producing those phenomena. … Paley himself, the authors of the Bridgewater Treatises and others (including even Augustine, earlier) were explicitly clear that whether or not something was designed was an issue largely separable from the means of production in question. Historically it was insisted that design in nature did track back eventually to intelligent agency somewhere and that any design we find in nature would not—and could not—have been there had there ultimately been no mind involved. But commentators at least from the early 17th century on (e.g., Francis Bacon, Robert Boyle) very clearly distinguished the creative initiating of nature itself from interventions within the path of nature once initiated. ***

In fact, a decided preference for design cases not involving gaps and supernatural intervention was common long before Darwin. A quarter century prior to the Origin, Charles Babbage expressed a typical position:

We cannot for a moment hesitate in pronouncing that that which, after its original adjustment, no superintendence was required, displayed far greater ingenuity than that which demanded, at every change in its law, the intervention of its contriver. (Babbage 1838, 40)

Boyle had expressed the same idea as far back as the 1680s, and Whewell and others expressed related sentiments in the 1830s.[23] This popular conception was neatly summarized by Mother Cary in Charles Kingsley's Water Babies:

[A]nyone can make things, if they will take time and trouble enough, but it is not everyone who, like me, can make things make themselves (Kingsley 1890, 273)

Indeed, even Darwin himself endorsed this view—a relevant quote from Whewell appears in the frontispiece of the Origin itself (Darwin 1859 [1966], ii)[24] —and he expressed related sentiments in his own words both in his pre-Origin notebooks and in his personal correspondence even after publication of the Origin.[25] This sort of pre-Darwin move (relocating design from intervention back one level to created laws and deliberately chosen initial conditions) was thus obviously not just a forced retreat from Darwin, as frequently claimed.[26] ***

The focus must now become whether or not the laws and conditions required for the indirect production of life, intelligent life, etc., could themselves be independent of intention, design and mind at some deep (perhaps primordial, pre-cosmic) point. In recent decades, exactly that question has arisen increasingly insistently from within the scientific community. ***

It was recognized centuries back that conditions necessary for the flourishing of life were fairly tightly constrained (making the move to design in natural conditions and laws inherently attractive), but not until quite recent times has it been revealed through science itself just how wildly tight the constraints actually are, and just how many separate things have to converge, each within a miniscule value interval. For instance, here are two examples taken from Robin Collins:

1. If the initial explosion of the big bang had differed in strength by as little as one part in 1060, the universe would have either quickly collapsed back on itself, or expanded too rapidly for stars to form. In either case, life would be impossible. (As John Jefferson Davis points out, an accuracy of one part in 1060 can be compared to firing a bullet at a one-inch target on the other side of the observable universe, twenty billion light years away, and hitting the target.)

3. Calculations by Brandon Carter show that if gravity had been stronger or weaker by one part in 1040, then life-sustaining stars like the sun could not exist. This would most likely make life impossible. (Collins 1999, 49.)[28]  ***

A high-profile development in design arguments over the past decade or so involves what has come to be known as the “Intelligent Design” (ID) movement. Although there are variants and unclarities, the movement involves efforts to construct design arguments taking cognizance of various contemporary scientific developments (primarily in biology, biochemistry, mathematics and cosmology)—developments which, as most ID advocates see it, both reveal the inadequacy of mainstream (naturalistic Darwinian) explanatory accounts and offer compelling evidence for design in nature at some level. ***

The movement has elicited vociferous criticism and opposition. Opponents have pressed a number of objections against ID including, inter alia contentions that ID advocates have simply gotten the relevant science wrong, that even where the science is right the empirical evidences cited by design advocates do not, in fact, constitute substantive grounds for design conclusions, that the existence of demonstrably superior alternative explanations for the phenomena cited (Darwinian, many-universes, etc.) undercuts the cogency of ID cases, and that design theories are not legitimate science, but are just disguised creationism, God-of-the-gaps arguments, religiously motivated, etc.

I will not pursue that dispute here except to note that even if the case is made that ID arguments could not count as proper science (and arguments for that more general claim are controversial[34]), that would not in itself demonstrate some deeper rational or inferential defect in design arguments as such. Science need not be seen as exhausting the space of legitimate conclusions from empirical data.

But the floods of vitriol in the current ID discussion suggest that much more than the propriety of selected inferences from particular empirical evidences is at issue. Although there is indeed much more that energizes the squabble on both sides (political, cultural, philosophical and, in some instances, religious) there is one further aspect of the ID attempt which ties in here, but which is also relevant to one final larger question. ***

A number of prominent figures historically in fact held that we could determine more or less perceptually that various things in nature were candidates for design attributions—that they were in the requisite respects design-like. Some held that we could perceptually identify some things as more than mere candidates for design. For instance, according to William Whewell:

When we collect design and purpose from the arrangements of the universe, we do not arrive at our conclusion by a train of deductive reasoning, but by the conviction which such combinations as we perceive, immediately and directly impress upon the mind. ‘Design must have a designer.’ But such a principle can be of no avail to one whom the contemplation or the description of the world does not impress with the perception of design. It is not therefore at the end but at the beginning of our syllogism, not among remote conclusions, but among original principles, that we must place the truth, that such arrangements, manifestations, and proceedings as we behold about us imply a Being endowed with consciousness, design, and will, from whom they proceed. (Whewell 1834, 344)

The world, says Whewell, impresses us with a perception of design. Thomas Reid also held a view in this region,[36] and Hume's Cleanthes made suggestions in this direction.[37]

If something like that were the operative process, then the ID movement, in trying to forge a scientific link to design in the sense of inferences from empirically determined evidences would be misconstructing the actual basis for design belief, as would be design arguments more generally. It is perhaps telling, in this regard, that scientific theorizing typically involves substantial creativity and that the resultant theories are typically novel and unexpected. Design intuitions, however, do not seem to emerge as novel construals from creative grappling with data, but are embedded in our thinking nearly naturally—so much so that, again, Crick thinks that biologists have to be immunized against it. Indeed, design structures seem to be part of the very fabric of science itself. According to physicist Paul Davies

Science began as an outgrowth of theology, and all scientists, whether atheists or theists … accept an essentially theological worldview. (Davies 1995, 138)

All of that suggests to some that we are dealing with a different category of belief formation and acquisition. And it also suggests that design thinking may be natural to our sorts of intellects.

6. Conclusion

Perception and appreciation of the incredible intricacy and the beauty of things in nature—whether biological or cosmic—has certainly inclined many toward thoughts of purpose and design in nature, and has constituted important moments of affirmation for those who already accept design positions. The status of the corresponding arguments of course, is not only a matter of current dispute, but the temperature of the dispute seems to be on the rise. And regardless of what one thinks of the arguments at this point, so long as nature has the power to move us (as even Kant admitted that the ‘starry heavens above’ did), design convictions and arguments are unlikely to disappear quietly.

---------------------------------------------

The above article shows that over the centuries great philosophers and scientists have recognized intelligent design in nature, just as Einstein did, and it is even more so now.

Getting back to the D&C article. I think the statement in the title that teaching intelligent design in science classrooms would have "disastrous results" is certainly true. If it were taught along with other valid criticisms of Darwinian evolution, it would relegate all of the unsupported speculation that is now taught as fact to the dust heap and the trash can where it belongs. It would restore the quest for truth in science to the classroom.

It is not a quest for truth when reasonable inferences drawn from well supported facts are barred from discussion. My comments on the D&C article are:

They state:  " It is simply creationism camouflaged with a new name ... ." This is false, and they know it. In my 2006 paper , "Evidence of Intelligent Design in Nature," I explain the reproduction designs of certain plants and animals. No one can deny that reasonable inferences of intelligent design can be drawn from those undisputed facts of nature. It is my opinion that the evidence supporting the conclusion is overwhelming.

If the evolutionists claim that the appearance of intelligent design is merely an illusion, and that it was actually brought about some way by natural selection, then they should present evidence to back up their mere speculative statements.  All of the available evidence points to design. Also, with the plants, for example, there are elements working in harmony with the design of the plants themselves, such as animals, wind, lightning and rain, that have no connection with the plants themselves. I do not believe that evidence can be presented that would show that the design for the reproduction was brought about by natural selection or any thing else without intelligence behind it.  

Also of great importance is the fact that the evolutionists have to know that their claim " it is simply creationism camouflaged with a new name" is patently false. Evidence of intelligent design is not evidence of who the designer was or how many designers there may have been. Whereas, "creationism" implies biblical creation by God. This is something that must be accepted on Faith, and can neither be proved nor disproved.

 (BACK TO ARTICLES)