The Furor Over Intelligent Design

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It’s standard operating procedure to distinguish between theory and fact.

One notable exception is Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Many scientists and science teachers consider Darwin’s theory the “only” explanation of the origins of life. Regis Nicoll referred to Darwinism as the 800-pound gorilla in his article, “The Rumble in the Jungle.” He described it as “a fact to be accepted, rather than a theory subject to critical analysis.”

Anyone who critiques Darwinism is considered an ignorant fundamentalist or “religious extremist” who seeks to destroy the separation of church and state. Eugenie C. Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, uses words like “sectarian dogma,” “bad science” and “fake critical analysis” to describe educational theories that question evolution.

Yet, hundreds of scientists, engineers, philosophers and theologians have exposed major problems and gaps in the theory. If the tables were turned and people of faith were arguing for evolution from monkey to human, they would be ridiculed for thinking that the complexity of living organisms could be explained so simplistically or that intelligent people could ignore the obvious inconsistencies and gaps in evolutionary theory.

Currently, scientists, primarily from the Discovery Institute in Seattle, are advocating that schools point out the flaws in Darwin’s theory and acknowledge that there is a debate over the origins of the universe.

“Intelligent Design” is what the Discovery Institute calls its theory that various forms of life began abruptly (rather than evolving over time) through specific action. From the outset, the theory says, these forms had distinctive features. They do not claim that God created the world and its inhabitants; they merely say that there is “intelligent design” (ID) behind the complexity of various living things. Its supporters say that a scientific model like Intelligent Design, should not be dismissed solely because it has theistic implications. After all, they claim, evolution has cosmological implications.

That suggestion has created a firestorm of controversy that was exacerbated when President Bush, in response to a reporter’s question, supported the idea that “intelligent design” ought to be presented along with Darwin’s theory “so that people can understand what the debate is about.” The President also said, “I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought.”

The professional scientific associations went crazy. They don’t even want to discuss any other theory of the origins of life because it would mean that debating it is legitimate. They keep repeating the mantra that Darwin’s theory is a “matter of science, not a matter of faith.”

A recent cover of Time magazine posed the question, “Does God have a place in science class?” essentially polarizing the issue to the false dichotomy of science vs. faith. Charles Krauthammer, the Bradley award-winning columnist, weighed in with evolutionists and declared that Intelligent Design is a matter of faith, not science.

On the other hand, British philosopher and former atheist Anthony Flew studied Intelligent Design and became a deist because, he said, the scientific evidence indicates that the universe was designed. Faith arguments, he said, are irrelevant.

The two views clearly are based on two different world views. Ultimately, hard evidence will determine which theory prevails. Christians, generally, feel confident that “all truth is God’s truth” so they welcome hard science. According to a Zogby poll, 71 percent of the public favors allowing teachers to acknowledge the scientific controversy surrounding the origins of life.

Ironically, ID proponents are not ready for widespread use of their theories in the nation’s classrooms. They say that, for now, they merely want to teach that the theory of evolution has problems and gaps in the evidence. They want the scientific community to acknowledge criticism of Darwinism, not necessarily to accept Intelligent Design.

Other ID proponents worry that a backlash against Intelligent Design would set them back significantly since they have concentrated on getting the science right rather than on training teachers to teach the science or on getting their ideas into the textbooks. More groundwork needs to be laid, they say, before they are ready to compete on a level playing field with evolutionists.

Intelligent Design scientists are working toward a mature model about the origins of life; they are following empirical disciplines as they seek to understand the fine tuning, complexity and diversity of the universe. They are laying a solid foundation.

Ultimately, they will have to be taken seriously by the scientific community. After all, following the evidence means going where it takes you.

Janice Shaw Crouse is senior fellow of Concerned Women for America’s Beverly LaHaye Institute.

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