Thursday, September 10, 2009

Intelligent Design

Within days of my daughter starting college this fall semester she came home relaying this comment from her biology teacher (I'm paraphrasing), "Creationism and intelligent design are not scientific whereas evolution is scientific". I explained to my daughter that the teacher's comment reveals a very common error based on ignorance regarding the meaning of "scientific"...odd coming from a college science teacher!

Many people confuse the meaning of the term "scientific" with the classic phrase "scientific method". One term (scientific) is used as a general almost "pop" term defining something as more or less adhering to the principles and "spirit" of objective, evidence based, investigation. The "scientific method" however, refers to a specific methodology that includes testing a hypothesis by experimentation. Now herein lies the "dirty little secret". Evolutionary "science" does not adhere to the scientific method any more than does Intelligent Design "science". In fact, I believe a strong case can be made that Intelligent Design theory follows (or can follow) the scientific method more so than Evolutionary theory. Evolutionary theory does NOT develop hypotheses that are then tested experimentally in a lab setting or otherwise. But Evolutionary theory is "scientific" in the sense that I defined above. It does seek to provide an objective theory to explain data that is observed in (presumably) a controlled and structured manner. So it does qualify as something that more or less adheres to the principles and "spirit" of objective, evidence based, investigation. It has developed a theory (Darwinian evolution) to explain data gathered by observation. It does not and cannot TEST its theory in the lab. Actually it cannot even PREDICT (which is critical to any good theory) outcomes because it claims the processes responsible for evolution are so incremental and slow that we cannot observe them!

Intelligent Design theory is similar to Evolutionary theory in that it too seeks to explain data gathered by observation. Obviously it has develop opposing hypotheses to Evolutionary theory. Evolutionary theory claims the evidence shows that each animal species developed from an earlier species (ancestor) through a slow, random, incremental process of change "governed" by the "law" of natural selection. Intelligent Design on the other hand, claims that animal life and the entire universe (so it covers not just origin of species but origin of the cosmos) displays clear evidence of having been designed by an intelligent designer/creator. As for testing its theory Intelligent Design has the edge. The fundamental Intelligent Design hypotheses (roughly stated) that all matter is organized in such a way that its cause is best explained by an intelligent creator rather than by random chance + long epochs of time, can be somewhat tested in the lab. For instance experiments can be setup to demonstrate the relative ineffectiveness of random processes to produce order, structure, and design. Experiments can also clearly reveal the kinds of patterns and order that result from intelligent design processes - because we CAN duplicate the kind of intelligent design processes (to a point) that is claimed by the theory but we CANNOT duplicate the kind of evolutionary processes claimed by that theory.

All of this is to simply say that Intelligent Design theory is very scientific and probably even more scientific than evolutionary theory. So don't shrink back from the debate. Know that the Christian worldview is THE MOST POWERFUL AND EFFECTIVE WORLDVIEW in existence to explain the way the world really is (1Cor 1:25).

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