Evolutionary design

Issues come and go in today’s society. For the most part, we find the same issues coming and going every couple of years – abortion, health care reform, oil prices – and we find the same arguments moving along with them.

Some of these issues I notice never get resolved. They probably never will. The two sides are so adamant in their views that there is no possible chance for resolution, regardless of how hard those in the middle try to bring them together. Abortion is one of these issues, and the teaching of evolution is another.

Over the past few weeks I have heard numerous things about the idea of “intelligent design,” which is, more specifically, the notion that “that certain features of the universe and of living things exhibit the characteristics of a product resulting from an intelligent cause or agent (wikipedia),” or “the world’s just so complex that something must have created it out of thin air.”

Here’s the problem – there isn’t any evidence of this.

Evolution is taught in science classes because it’s a scientific “theory” (a word that, in a scientific context, means a logically self-consistent model or framework describing the behavior of a certain natural or social phenomenon (thus either originating from observable facts or supported by observable facts) (wikipedia). In other words, it’s an idea supported by observable facts – so many facts that the only thing that’s keeping it from being a scientific “law” is the inability to actually see it happen (due to the millions of years it takes to produce a slight change in a population.) The argument that evolution is a “theory,” and therefore is not fact, is a typical uninformed defense – people in this line of thinking want the word “hypothesis,” not theory.

Intelligent design, however, has no basis in science whatsoever. It’s akin to the way we used to think about the solar system (with the Earth in the center, obviously) and the earth itself (with its completely flat contours – don’t dare go close to the edge!), two proposals that were, eventually, shot down because of scientific discoveries. The difference is this: intelligent design was shot down years before it came out and, despite this fact, it’s still being pushed as an actual defense against evolutionary biology.

In today’s literary culture, anyone can write a book about anything and get it published, especially if it’s cause for discussion or controversy. Because of this, many books have been written on the subject of intelligent design, books that I’m sure do a good job in convincing people of intelligent design’s validity. William Dembski gives us the idea of Mount Rushmore as a model of intelligent design. His quote:

“What about this rock formation convinces us that it was due to a designing intelligence and not merely to wind and erosion? Designed objects like Mt. Rushmore exhibit characteristic features or patterns that point us to an intelligence.”

Mount Rushmore is one rock formation, carved and created by one man and hundreds of workers. It took, relative to the history of the universe, no time at all to make. Herein lies the flaw.

Evolution, or the idea of natural selection (which is truly what’s under fire here,) shows us that over time, populations of a species will gradually gain positive traits that are eventually passed on and on until the original traits are phased out. This is basic genetics – genes sometimes mutate, and those mutations may help a specific creature to live a better life. In living a better life, that creature may be more inclined to reproduce. Any trait that gives an advantage to a creature over time will be more likely to be passed on simply because there will be a better chance of survival and reproduction.

This isn’t hard. The only thing that really stops this up is that the opponents don’t want this to be true, creating an irrational preference for religious beliefs. Since creationism is based on biblical evidence, evidence that is reportedly without dispute due to its divine place in religious ceremony, it’s somehow just assumed to be true despite the evidence against it.

Here’s where I lose some readers: I don’t believe the Bible is a straight forward word for word representation of the beginning of life. I agree that there is history in it, but ultimately it is a written word, word that was passed from generation to generation through stories and songs before it ever had a chance to be placed on paper. The Bible, and especially the story of creation, is an explanation of a very complex idea that happened before anyone can remember and prior to any true knowledge, scientifically, of the origin of life. Therefore, I can’t really accept it in its “every word is law” context.

I can’t possibly touch upon every small argument against natural selection and evolution in this one post, and I wouldn’t want you to have to go through that. I just wanted to throw a simply explanation of my views out there so, in the future – and as this proposed “Intelligent Design in Science Classes” idea gets thrown around – you’ll know where I stand. From now on, I’ll “skillfully” comment on anti-evolution theory as it comes.

Lucky for you, huh?

This was lovingly handwritten on August 23rd, 2005