Intelligent design

Intelligent design

Intelligent design (ID) is the pseudoscientific view[1][2] that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection."[3] Educators, philosophers, and the scientific community have demonstrated that ID is a religious argument, a form of creationism which lacks empirical support and offers no tenable hypotheses.[4][5][6] Proponents argue that it is "an evidence-based scientific theory about life's origins" that challenges the methodological naturalism inherent in modern science,[7][8] while conceding that they have yet to produce a scientific theory.[9] The leading proponents of ID are associated with the Discovery Institute, a politically conservative think tank based in the United States.[n 1] Although they state that ID is not creationism and deliberately avoid assigning a personality to the designer, many of these proponents express belief that the designer is the Christian deity.[n 2]

ID presents negative arguments against evolutionary explanations, and its positive argument is an analogy between natural systems and human artifacts,[10] a version of the theological argument from design for the existence of God.[n 3] Both irreducible complexity and specified complexity present detailed negative assertions that certain features (biological and informational, respectively) are too complex to be the result of natural processes. Proponents then conclude by analogy that these features are evidence of design.[10][n 4] Detailed scientific examination has rebutted the claims that evolutionary explanations are inadequate, and this premise of intelligent design—that evidence against evolution constitutes evidence for design—has been criticized as a false dichotomy.[11][12]

Though the phrase "intelligent design" had featured previously in theological discussions of the design argument,[13] the first publication of the term intelligent design in its present use as an alternative term for creationism was in Of Pandas and People,[14][15] a 1989 textbook intended for high school biology classes. The term was substituted into drafts of the book after the 1987 United States Supreme Court's Edwards v. Aguillard decision, which barred the teaching of creation science in public schools on constitutional grounds.[16] From the mid-1990s, the intelligent design movement (IDM), supported by the Discovery Institute,[17] advocated inclusion of intelligent design in public school biology curricula.[4] This led to the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial in which U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III ruled that intelligent design is not science, that it "cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents," and that the school district's promotion of it therefore violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution,[18] often described as the "wall of separation between church and state".


Origin of the concept

By 1910 evolution was not a topic of major religious controversy in America, but in the 1920s the Fundamentalist–Modernist Controversy in theology resulted in Fundamentalist Christian opposition to teaching evolution, and the origins of modern creationism.[19] Teaching of evolution was effectively suspended in U.S. public schools until the 1960s, and when evolution was then reintroduced into the curriculum, there was a series of court cases in which attempts were made to get creationism taught alongside evolution in science classes. Young Earth creationists (YEC) promoted creation science as "an alternative scientific explanation of the world in which we live." This frequently invoked the argument from design to explain complexity in nature as demonstrating the existence of God.[10]

The argument from design, the watchmaker analogy argued that, in the same way that a watch has evidently been designed by a craftsman, complexity and adaptation seen in nature must have been designed, and the perfection and diversity of these designs shows the designer to be omnipotent, the Christian God.[21] Like creation science, intelligent design centers on Paley's religious argument from design,[10] but while Paley's natural theology was open to deistic design through God-given laws, intelligent design seeks scientific confirmation of repeated miraculous interventions in the history of life.[19] Creation science prefigured the intelligent design arguments of irreducible complexity, even featuring the bacterial flagellum. In the United States, attempts to introduce creation science in schools led to court rulings that it is religious in nature, and thus cannot be taught in public school science classrooms. Intelligent design is also presented as science, and shares other arguments with creation science but avoids literal Biblical references to such things as the Flood story from the Book of Genesis or using Bible verses to age the Earth.[10]

Barbara Forrest writes that the intelligent design movement began in 1984 with the book The Mystery of Life's Origin: Reassessing Current Theories, co-written by creationist Charles B. Thaxton, a chemist, with two other authors, and published by Jon A. Buell's Foundation for Thought and Ethics. Thaxton held a conference in 1988, "Sources of Information Content in DNA," which attracted creationists such as Stephen C. Meyer.[22]

In March 1986, a review by Meyer used information theory to suggest that messages transmitted by DNA in the cell show "specified complexity" specified by intelligence, and must have originated with an intelligent agent.[23] In November of that year, Thaxton described his reasoning as a more sophisticated form of Paley's argument from design.[24] At the "Sources of Information Content in DNA" conference in 1988, he said that his intelligent cause view was compatible with both metaphysical naturalism and supernaturalism.[25]

Intelligent design avoids identifying or naming the intelligent designer—it merely states that one (or more) must exist—but leaders of the movement have said the designer is the Christian God.[26][n 5]