10 Reasons To Oppose Teaching Intelligent Design
By Clay Farris Naff
Nebraska Citizens for Science
Several groups are petitioning to add intelligent design theory to our state's science standards. They argue that evolution is flawed and that intelligent design, or ID for short, should have a place in the science curriculum, too.
ID holds that some intelligent being created the variety of life we see around us. The idea of teaching ID alongside evolution may sound very democratic and fair. It's not. It's bad for science teaching, bad for democracy, and bad for religion. Here are some reasons why.
No. 1 Evolution is a scientific theory; ID is not. A scientific theory isn't just a guess. It's a tested explanation for a body of facts. Intelligent design has no test or detailed explanation to offer. Evolution, by contrast, explains in great detail nearly all the data we have about the history of life on earth (see below). To put it simply, evolution says that heritable variations and natural selection can account for all the kinds of life that we see. Can it be tested? You betcha.
No. 2 Evolution has passed every scientific test thrown at it. The next three headings are things Darwin didn't know that might have proven him wrong.
No. 3 The age of the earth is right. If geology showed the Earth was less than a million years old, no one would believe that evolution could have produced so many species in that time. In fact, a variety of evidence points to the earth being about 4.6 billion years old. That's 4,600 million-year stretches of time.
No. 4 All fossil beds show a progressive order. If complex creatures were found in layers older than fossils of simple bacteria, that might prove evolution wrong. But worldwide, the progression of fossils is consistent. Life started simple, stayed simple for a long time, and then got more complicated.
No. 5 DNA is the common code of life. If species used different chemicals to encode genomes, that might put the kabosh on evolution. Instead, we find DNA in all living things, and the closer they are, the more similar their DNA. In fact, now that whole genomes are being transcribed scientists are making surprising finds: Sure, humans share nearly 99 percent of their active genes with chimpanzees, but who expected that we'd have a 75 percent overlap with pumpkins? Evidently, big changes can occur through small alterations in genes.
No. 6 Evolution is slow but observable. The National Center for Science Education provides several examples of new species caught in the act of forming. A fly that used to eat hawthorn fruit during its larval stage switched over to apples in the Hudson River Valley about 170 years ago. Over time the original hawthorn-fly and the new apple-fly developed different breeding cycles, so now they rarely interbreed. The apple fly is thought to be well on its way to becoming a new species.
No. 7 Evolution explains things that are very hard to explain otherwise. Why is the world filled with invisible, brainless, and often deadly bacteria? Why do some people suffer from sickle-cell anemia? Why are there racial differences among humans? Evolution provides excellent answers, along with the good news that race doesn't matter. Intelligent design is silent on this. Myth-based answers have often led to terrible injustices.
No. 8 What evolution doesn't explain today it may tomorrow. Just because biologists haven't yet found a tested answer to every question doesn't mean "an intelligent designer must have done it." Science, through its experimental and analytical methods, produces continually improving models of the natural world. Intelligent design theory would merely produce more untestable mystery.
No. 9 ID as science would degrade religion. If we bring the scientific method to bear on the ID claim, we are obliged to examine the evidence and make deductions. The purported designer's track record is hardly ideal: 99 percent of all species that ever lived were unable to survive changing conditions. Of today's survivors, many have just-good-enough design. Look at the imperfect design of human eyes, knees and backs. Amazing though life is, it lacks the qualities you'd expect from an all-knowing, perfect Creator making life with his own hands. No doubt religion can provide answers to these puzzles, but not in a public school classroom. Thus, ID would be not just an assault on science but an insult to God.
No. 10 Religion can deal with evolution. Pope John Paul II has no problem with evolution. Many other religionists have no problem with evolution. In their view, evolution must be God's chosen means of elaborating life. The fact is, most Americans continue to believe in both God and science.
So what's a rational solution to this conflict? Teach the best science available. In medical school, that means antibiotics, not leeches. In biology class, that means evolution, not ID. However, teachers could start the unit by saying, "You are required to learn the methods, concepts and evidence of evolution and be prepared to discuss them in a knowledgeable way. But no one in this class is required to believe the findings or theories of science. That's entirely between you and your conscience."