January 5, 2012
I have watched the entire first DVD in this series and portions of the other two DVDs.
For the record, I do NOT regard myself as an atheist.
Although I am a biologist by profession, allow me to make it clear that I do not like to try and defend evolution against the sorts of arguments posted by those coming from the intelligent design/creationist camp. This is because intelligent design/creationism (which certain individuals regard as a more viable explanation for the emergence of new species than the theory of evolution) does not constitute science. Thus, to even begin to defend evolution against intelligent design/creationism is to suggest that this allegedly alternate assertion, intelligent design/creationism (believed by some to be a better explanation than evolution for the emergence of new species), is a scientifically legitimate position. This sort of defence does a disservice to the evolution and, indeed, all of science.
First, here is, from the Dover trial, Judge Jones' (an avowed conservative Christian and appointed by then President George Bush [himself an intelligent design supporter] to preside over the Dover trial) final decision as to why intelligent design is simply another name for creationism (and hence a non-scientific assertion that should NOT be taught in the United States public school system); note that Judge Jones says that the validity of this decision should be, "... readily apparent to an objective observer, adult or child.":
"For the reasons that follow, we conclude that the religious nature of ID [intelligent design] would be readily apparent to an objective observer, adult or child. (page 24)
A significant aspect of the IDM [intelligent design movement] is that despite Defendants' protestations to the contrary, it describes ID as a religious argument. In that vein, the writings of leading ID proponents reveal that the designer postulated by their argument is the God of Christianity. (page 26)
The evidence at trial demonstrates that ID is nothing less than the progeny of creationism. (page 31)
The overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory. (page 43)
Throughout the trial and in various submissions to the Court, Defendants vigorously argue that the reading of the statement is not `teaching' ID but instead is merely `making students aware of it.' In fact, one consistency among the Dover School Board members' testimony, which was marked by selective memories and outright lies under oath, as will be discussed in more detail below, is that they did not think they needed to be knowledgeable about ID because it was not being taught to the students. We disagree. .... an educator reading the disclaimer is engaged in teaching, even if it is colossally bad teaching. .... Defendants' argument is a red herring because the Establishment Clause forbids not just 'teaching' religion, but any governmental action that endorses or has the primary purpose or effect of advancing religion. (footnote 7 on page 46)
After a searching review of the record and applicable caselaw, we find that while ID arguments may be true, a proposition on which the Court takes no position, ID is not science. We find that ID fails on three different levels, any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science. They are: (1) ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation; (2) the argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980s; and (3) ID's negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community. ...It is additionally important to note that ID has failed to gain acceptance in the scientific community, it has not generated peer-reviewed publications, nor has it been the subject of testing and research. Expert testimony reveals that since the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries, science has been limited to the search for natural causes to explain natural phenomena. (page 64)
The one textbook [Pandas] to which the Dover ID Policy directs students contains outdated concepts and flawed science, as recognized by even the defense experts in this case. (pages 86-87)
ID's backers have sought to avoid the scientific scrutiny which we have now determined that it cannot withstand by advocating that the controversy, but not ID itself, should be taught in science class. This tactic is at best disingenuous, and at worst a canard. The goal of the IDM is not to encourage critical thought, but to foment a revolution which would supplant evolutionary theory with ID. (page 89)"
Now, before I go any further, I know that there will be those among you who will insist that alleged intelligent design and creationism are NOT equivalent terms. The last time I checked, the Discovery Institute (which is the organization that produced these DVDs), I noted that it contends that intelligent design is NOT the same thing as creationism.
This is a lie (see Judge Jones' ruling above).
Remember, it is the Discovery Institute that produced this three-DVD 'Intelligent Design' set and they contend that intelligent design is a legitimate scientific assertion throughout this series. Thus, I shall mostly address this general and most fundamental assertion in my review.
Indeed, please be informed that 'intelligent design' and 'creationism' are equivalent terms. If you don't believe this, just watch the NOVA (for television) production of the now famous Dover, Pennsylvania trial (science versus intelligent design) that aired on PBS about 4 years ago. This program captures the gist of the Dover trial and shows why the conservative Christian judge (appointed by then President George W. Bush) ruled, at the trial's conclusion, that 'intelligent design' IS just another word for creationism (also note the dishonest manner by which the proponents of alleged intelligent design tried to cover up this fact; why does God need people to lie for Him?; do some folks think He is so weak?).
This conservative Christian judge also noted that, because it calls upon supernatural causation and also because it is NOT subject to falsification, 'intelligent design'/'creationism' cannot qualify as science. Thus, the teaching of intelligent design/creationism in the public classroom is disallowed as it violates separation of church and state.
You can watch the NOVA program about the Dover trial on-line at the following link:
So why is intelligent design/creationism put forth in this 'Intelligent Design' three-DVD set not science (mind you, I am NOT saying that it may not be true; rather, I am asserting the obvious; intelligent design cannot qualify as science because it does not meet certain criteria required for an assertion to be regarded as scientific in character)?
Creationism asserts that, in the beginning, the God of the Bible called upon His alleged supernatural powers to will a material universe into existence out of nothingness. The Bible calls this a miracle (see first miracle of the Bible), which, by definition, is a supernatural act, and, hence, an act that should forever remain off limits to scientific/natural world-based understanding.
Supernatural acts are disallowed in scientific explanations. That is, by definition, a scientist cannot assert something akin to the following:
"And because we presently cannot find an adequate natural world-based explanation for the observed phenomena, this is proof that supernatural forces are at work and it is thus proof of the hand of the God of the Bible at work."
No, a scientist can NEVER make such a claim and still call her/his assertion scientific in character (consider how we never would have discovered pathogens, such as bacteria and virsues, if we had simply assumed that all diseases were exclusively the result of the will of God).
Thus, a basic assumption of science is that natural forces (as opposed to supernatural forces/miracles) underlie all observed natural phenomena. To assume otherwise is to enter the realm of any number of theologies (Christianity being one of these) that allow for superntaural forces to be regarded as viable explanations for natural phenomena.
But theology is not science.
And before I go any further, allow me to assert that, for all anyone knows, intelligent design/creationism and its supernatural forces may be the ultimate truth with regard to explanations for the origins of species and life itself: but because this viewpoint calls upon supernatural forces it cannot, by definition, be regarded as science.
Thus, the responsibility is upon organizations such as the Discovery Institute (i.e., the folks who produced these intelligent design/creationism DVDs), to come up with a scientifically testable alternate explanation for the emergence of new species/evolution (please do not confuse evolution with abiogenesis, which is the emergence of the first living organisms on a planet; this is potentially an aspect of biology that does NOT constitute evolution [evolution being the emergence of new species from previously existing examples]).
Of course, IF intelligent design/creationism IS scientifically supported, this is in complete contradiction with what is arguably the most fundamental assertion of the Bible. Specifically, a natural world-based/scientific explanation of intelligent design/creationism (which, as per the Bible, asserts that all species were created in one day via God's willing them into existence) would indicate that God's alleged creation act was NOT a miracle/supenatural act. This is so because biblical miracles, by definition, are off limits to natural world-based/scientific explanations. Indeed, to remain miracles, they must forever be unexplainable via scientific/natural world-based means. For this reason, I would think that anyone, as a Christian believer, would NOT want to regard creationism as an alternate scientific explanation to evolution for the emergence of new species.
Unlike theologies (such as Christianity) which profess to do so, science does not claim to KNOWINGLY put forth ultimate truths. In this sense, then, science never PROVES anything. Yes, you read that correctly. Science does not prove anything (despite the fact that we often hear, in popular media and such, things akin to, "Scientists have proven..."). Science either DISPROVES or, for the time being, FAILS TO DISPROVE some interpretation of how the natural world functions. In this sense, then, all scientific claims are held to be potentially wrong. Therefore, in science, we never say something akin to the following:
"And thus, this proves that thus and such was, is, and shall ever be, amen."
No, that is the language of theologies that implore one to think without questioning, without doubting.
And yet doubt is the very cornerstone of the discipline of science (think of how the priest/minister/preacher does NOT encourage the congregation to doubt the existence of God; that stance is just NOT GOOD for the business of running the church).
So, to summarize, the Discovery Institute must do the following to have others take them seriously in what I assume is their quest to supplant evolutionary theory with creationism as a scientific explanation for the origin of species:
1) Present a testable model by which scientists can garner natural world-based experimental results (i.e., data) to show that species originated by the supernatural powers of the God of the Bible
2) Suggest hypothetical, natural world-based experimental data that would disprove intelligent design/creationism (evolution, for example, could be pretty much dismissed as a legitimate scientific theory if we could show, say, that mutations never occurred and what we thought was a mutation was really no change in the genome at all; to date, no such data have been found and thus evolution persists as a viable SCIENTIFIC explanation for the emergence of new species).
Thus, let the experiments that support this assertion of intelligent design BEGIN! To date, no scientific data in support of this alleged intelligent design has ever been published in a peer reviewed scientific journal.
I will be happily proven wrong if one can demonstrate otherwise. Indeed, there is the greatest Nobel prize waiting for the individual who can debunk evolution as a legitimate scientific assertion. And if one can supplant evolution with an assertion (i.e., intelligent design/creationism) that is supernatural in character, then the scientific world will literally be turned on its ear as it will be necessary to REDEFINE science to include supernatural data in its explanations.
Mind you, my basic argument is as follows:
Intelligent design/creationism cannot pass for science because it calls upon supernatural forces, which are disallowed in science.
Again, I am NOT saying that this alleged intelligent design/creationism is NOT true (for all anyone knows, it may be the ultimate truth). Rather, intelligent design/creationism CANNOT be considered science as it calls upon supernatural forces and is not subject to either scientific analysis or falsification.
I am not at all bothered by anyone asserting that her/his religion is the one true faith insofar as such an individual does this in a respectable-towards-others manner. But, as a biology educator and researcher, I am keenly aware of two things. First, evolution is an EXTREMELY useful and experimentally well-supported concept. It integrates the various disciplines of biology (think ecology, genetics, physiology, taxonomy, etc.) in a way that is completely consistent with experimental results. Secondly, evolution also enables those working in the medical field to develop new drugs to combat disease as pathogens evolve to become resistant to formerly effective drugs.
Programs such as these DVDs dumb down science education in the United States. Our nation now ranks 52nd in the world with respect to science and math education. The sort of pseudoscience asserted in these DVDs is a major reason for why this is occurring.