What Intelligent Design Is-and Isn't
The more scientifically sophisticated we get, the stronger the argument for intelligent design.
Unless you've been hiding in a cave, you've heard of "intelligent design" (ID) and some of its leading proponents-Phillip Johnson, Michael Behe, William Dembski. Unfortunately, you probably got the mainstream media's spin. It's so predictable, I sometimes wonder if reporters aren't using computer macros.
The reporter types control-alt "CE" and out pops the witty headline: "Creationism Evolves." Control-alt "Scopes Trope" and out pops a lead referencing the old Spencer Tracy film "Inherit the Wind," a cartoon-like caricature of the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial over evolution in the classroom.
Control-alt "Conspiracy" and, presto, a paragraph about the religious right and its scheme to smuggle Bibles into the science class as the first step toward establishing a theocracy. Next comes a quotation supposedly representing the view of all "serious scientists," with the phrase "overwhelming evidence" thrown in for good measure. The story practically writes itself, and it possesses this virtue: it saves the reporter the bother of actually investigating what design theory really is.
So what is ID, really? ID is not a deduction from religious dogma or scripture. It's simply the argument that certain features of the natural world-from miniature machines and digital information found in living cells, to the fine-tuning of physical constants-are best explained as the result of an intelligent cause. ID is thus a tacit rebuke of an idea inherited from the 19th century, called scientific materialism.
Natural science in the Victorian Age, or rather, its materialistic gloss, offered a radically different view of the universe: (1) The universe has always existed, so we need not explain its origin; (2) Everything in the universe submits to deterministic laws. (3) Life is the love child of luck and chemistry. (4) Cells, the basic units of life, are essentially blobs of Jell-O.
Onto this dubious edifice Charles Darwin added a fifth conjecture: All the sophisticated organisms around us grew from a process called natural selection: this process seizes and passes along those minor, random variations in a population that provide a survival advantage. With this, Darwin explained away the apparent design in the biological world as just that-only apparent.