THE INTELLIGENT DESIGN DEBATE
From Kansasto Dover, Pennsylvaniato BaylorUniversitya debate has been raging
across the United Statesover whether or not the theory of intelligent design should
be taught in schools. Recently, televangelist Pat Robertson said of the voters in
Dover, Pennsylvaniawho turned out a pro-ID school board, ?If there is a disaster
in your area, don?t turn to God. You rejected him from your city.? Is a decision not
to include intelligent design in school curricula equivalent to rejecting God?
?What should the ?Christian? position be on this divisive debate? Much of the angry
rhetoric is the result of a failure to understand the nature of the evidence
pro and con as well as a lack of insight into scientific methodology. Another major cause
of misunderstanding is that many do not understand that there are two distinct
fundamental questions which must asked about the intelligent design hypothesis. This essay
?is an attempt to delineate and separately answer these two questions. They are:
1. Does the evidence support belief in an intelligent designer of the universe
and of life
on the earth?
2. Should intelligent design be part of the required curriculum in public school
Of course, if the answer to question number one is no, then the
answer to the second question is also no. It is this author?s belief that many
if not most of those who are involved in the emotional debate over ID fail to
address the two questions above separately on their own merits. Most supporters of
intelligent design assume that if there is valid reason to believe in an intelligent
designer, then automatically this implies that it should be taught as the principal
or at least an alternate paradigm of science. Of course, it should not surprise us
that those who say no to the first question react strongly and negatively to
those who push a positive agenda to put intelligent design into required school
IS THERE SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE OF AN INTELLIGENT DESIGNER?
Let us begin by addressing the first question. Does the information we have at hand
regarding the nature of the physical world require or at least support belief
in a designer? The emphatic answer is yes! The evidence from nature for a designer of the
universe and of life is overwhelming, and it is increasing. In fact, the evidence is so
strong that there is a developing movement among scientists toward accepting
the anthropic principle. The anthropic principle is a basic paradigm regarding the laws of
nature. The anthropic paradigm is a way to answer the basic ?why? regarding the laws
which govern the universe. It can be simply stated as follows: The laws of the universe
are what they are and the fundamental constants have the values they have because
this is what is required for advanced forms of life to exist. In other words, the
reason for the existence of gravity, of the electromagnetic force, of the conservation
of mass/energy, the rule of entropy and so forth are because a designer created
them so that ?we? can exist. The same would apply to the fundamental constants which
determine the size of the four fundamental forces, the mass of the elementary
particles and so forth. The gravity force, the electromagnetic force constant, the
size of the strong and the weak nuclear force are finely ?tuned? to allow for
galaxies, stars, planets, atmospheres and living systems to be self-sustained
by those laws.
An example of the inexorable move toward belief in the Anthropic Principle is
the recent ?conversion? of one of the world?s most renowned atheists, Antony
Flew (for a recent interview, go to http://www.biola.edu/antonyflew/). Fle
w?s change of mind was a direct result of the fact that he could not refute
the anthropic principle. However, it is not all roses for the believers in intelligent
design, as we all know. There has been a determined backlash against deism from
many scientists as well as organizations such as the Smithsonian Institute,
the NSTA and others, but the quiet and unheralded fact is that although most
scientists are afraid to mention it publicly for fear of the backlash, a majority
of scientists believe in design. Why? Because of the evidence.
But let us return to that evidence. Knowledge of the fundamental laws of nature is what
leads scientists to the anthropic principle. The size of the gravitational constant is
in tune with the energy in the original big bang to an incredible degree. If it had
been larger by one part in 1060 the universe would have collapsed in just a few
million years without forming stable galaxies, stars or planetary systems. If it had
been smaller by a similar one part in 1060, then galaxies and stars would have
never formed, and therefore no life. If this is luck and not a matter of conscious
design, then it is luck of the highest imaginable order. No one would be foolish
enough to play the lottery if they understood that their chance of winning was
one part in 1010, never mind one part on 1060! There are over twenty fundamental
constants and important ratios in basic physics, including the size of the electromagnetic
force, the nuclear strong and weak forces and many more, all of which must be
finely tuned to a value within a very small range of the actual values we measure
for life to exist in the universe. For more information on this subject, see Is
?There A God (www.ipibooks.com) in the chapter on design.
There is much more evidence for design in the universe beyond the incredibly
precise fine tuning of the fundamental constants of the universe. One could mention
the amazing and unique properties of water, without which life would not exist.
Other very lucky accidents of nature (lucky, that us, if there is no designer)
include the unique but absolutely necessary properties of carbon and several
other elements for life to exist. Knowledge of biochemistry offers us a seemingly
unlimited number of examples of design, including the amazing structure of DNA,
which just happens to carry a code to instruct the synthesis of proteins, while
proteins are required to construct DNA. There are literally hundreds of properties
and laws in the physical world; each of which is necessary for advanced life
forms to exist; each of which are either outrageous coincidences or the product
of a designer. No wonder that many scientists have been forced into the position that
design is the organizational principle to explain the laws of nature.
From all this, we can conclude that intelligent design is real. It is not the product
of religious presupposition, but the only reasonable conclusion from the evidence.
Those who persecute the supporters of ID would do well to consider the facts. Bu
t then again, most of them approach the question already predisposed toward
materialism and the assumption that only ?natural? explanations are to be accepted
as valid. No wonder that people who assume the answer (only random, ?natural? explanations
are allowed) before lo
oking at the data reach this conclusion. Intelligent design is the
only reasonable answer to the question WHY as it is applied to the physical
SHOULD INTELLIGENT DESIGN BE PRESCRIBED IN PUBLIC SCHOOL CURRICULA?
As stated in the introduction, the question of whether intelligent design is
correct is not the only important one we should ask. Just because something is
true does not automatically mean it needs to be included as curriculum in science
classes. Scientific theories which are consistent with experimental evidence are what
should be discussed in science classes. Many assume that the validity of intelligent
design automatically means that it must be taught as a scientific theory. We must
look at this assumption carefully.
First, let us consider what makes for a good scientific theory. When scientists create
theories, their goal is not to discover ?the truth.? In fact, scientists are not in
the business of discovering the truth. When the partisans of evolution declare that
?evolution is a fact,? they are either ignorant about how science is supposed
to work, or they are manipulating their hearers. Rather, the goal of science is to
find an explanation which is consistent with the experimental evidence. An acceptable
theory is one which is at least as consistent with the evidence as rival theories.
There are two requirements for a theory to work in science.
1. The theory must be testable by experiment.
2. The theory must be falsifiable.
What does it mean for a theory or hypothesis to be falsifiable? It means that it must be
possible to refute the theory by some experiment. An irrefutable hypothesis is not a scientific
This is where the theory of intelligent design runs into trouble for scientists?
even those who believe in design such as myself. There is no experiment one can even
conceive of which can test the design hypothesis. What could one do in a laboratory to
test whether a system was designed? Intelligent design ?researchers? do not do experiments.
The question one must ask is not whether the universe shows evidence of design,
but whether it can be positively proved by experiment.
The intelligent design idea fails the second test of a scientific theory as
well. Not only is there no experiment which can be done to test the theory, there
is no conceivable way to disprove design. Design is a paradigm, but it is not a scientific
paradigm. Perhaps it is a theological paradigm. Perhaps it is a philosophical paradigm. Bottom line,
creation is a supernatural event which does not lend itself to reproducible
experiment. Science does not, nor can it preclude the supernatural. It just does not know how to deal
If it is true that nature was designed?that the evidence is consistent with
the anthropic principle?and it is also true that this has profound implications
for how we view the physical world, what are scientists to do with this dilemma?
Should they pretend that they do not know what they know? Evolution is a theory,
but intelligent design is a fact.
I am a professor who has taught physics and chemistry for over twenty years. I hav
e taught everything from biochemistry to organic to physical chemistry to calculus-based
physics. There is hardly a course I have taught in which I do not have the opportunity
to point out the evidence for design. I do so freely in my classes and have for many
years. However, when I consider where I would put intelligent design into my curriculum,
the answer is nowhere. I cannot think of any experiments we could do. Which course would
I put the design theory in? Chemistry? Biology?
I do teach a class where intelligent design definitely does belong. I teach
?a class on the history and philosophy of science. In this class, we do a chapter on
science and religion. We cover the anthropic principle, we discuss the evidence for
design, we mention that science came about as a result of believers in a monotheistic
God looking for order in the universe. Intelligent design definitely belongs in a class
on the philosophy of science. It probably would be appropriate in a philosophy class
or a theology class, but I struggle to see where it belongs in a science class.
Bottom line, intelligent design is not a scientific theory. It is truth. It is a beautiful
organizational paradigm which explains the underlying ?why? of the physical
world, but it is not science. It definitely deserves a place on the lips of every science
teacher, but should a unit on design be a required part of public school science
classes? I say no.
What about evolution? Is the theory of evolution from Satan? Is it a conspiracy promoted by
demons? No. Evolution is a model which fits the proper criteria as a scientific theory.
Contrary to the polemical cries of some, evolution is not a fact. There are many
unresolved ?problems? with the claim that all life on the earth evolved by random
forces from a single original randomly created life form four billion years
ago. Nevertheless, evolution is a powerful scientific theory. It can be successfully
used to explain much of what we know from genetics. It can and has been tested by experiment.
?Mutation and natural selection has been shown in the laboratory to work for
very simple life forms such as bacteria. Evolution is not a fact. Design is. However, evolution
is a good scientific theory and design is not.
I for one deeply respect those who have been at the forefront of the ID movement. M
ichael Behe, Hugh Ross and many others have braved the undeserved wrath and
even hatred of a small but extremely vocal part of the scientific community. Many have
been fired from university positions and been blacklisted for simply stating
the obvious: the universe is the product of a very powerful and intelligent designer. Such
?behavior is reprehensible. I believe, however, that efforts to ?prove? design scientifically
are doomed to failure, although I respect those who make the effort. I believe that
believers? energy should not be turned to forcing design into high school curricula.
?Rather we should take the opportunity, through science, to show to any who
will consider, that ?The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim
the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night the
display knowledge.? (Psalms 19:1-2)
 A scientific paradigm is an underlying model or world view of a basic question
which forms the basis for the acceptable theories within a field of study. For examp
le, plate tectonics is a paradigm of geology, quantum mechanics is a paradigm
of chemistry, germ theory is a paradigm of medical science and evolution is
a paradigm of biology.