[Editor's Note: This article was originally published on American Chronicle on February 26, 2007. The original article may read here. The IDEA Center thanks American Chronicle for printing Steve Renner's article.]
Darwinists are famous for using the blanket statement that intelligent design is the result of "blind faith." It's easy to write that, but is it true? When Brian Trent made the bald assertion that intelligent design "inputs supernatural claims that rely on blind faith," (Brian Trent, Darwin's Day and Evolution's 'Alternatives'," American Chronicle, February 19, 2007 (1)) it carries little weight, lacking as it does, any evidence to support it.
For one, intelligent design does not try to identify whether the designer is natural or supernatural. While many ID proponents (myself included) may believe the designer is the God of the Bible, that belief, being unscientific, is irrelevant. The theory of intelligent design does not address religious questions about the identity of the designer. Many leading ID - theorists, such as Michael Behe and the Of Pandas and People textbook at the heart of the Dover case, make this point clear. As the Pandas textbook states, "All it implies is that life had an intelligent source."(2) As will be demonstrated below, the inference to intelligence causation is a scientific claim. But intelligent design does not try to specify whether that intelligence was natural or supernatural. Because "creationism" always specifically invokes the supernatural, there is no legitimate basis for Trent's labeling of intelligent design as "creationism."
ID and the Scientific Method In particular, Mr. Trent asserts that an organization of which I am president, the Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness (IDEA) Center, claims "upfront that beliefs rooted in blind faith should be considered on even ground with science." This is highly misleading. Unlike Mr. Trent, our organization does not denigrate the 90% of Americans who have faith-based beliefs. But our website also makes it clear that intelligent design is not derived from faith, rather it is a scientific theory which uses the scientific method to make and substantiate its claims:
"[S]cientific understanding begins with observations. Scientists then make a hypothesis to explain those observations. The hypothesis should make predictions which can be tested via experiments. If the predictions of the hypothesis are verified, it is concluded that the hypothesis is supported by the scientific data. That conclusion is an observation in-and-of itself, which can form the basis for further hypotheses, experiments, and conclusions."(3)
Intelligent design uses precisely this scientific methodology to form the tentative conclusion that life was designed. Our website clearly explains this point:
"i. Observation: The ways that intelligent agents act can be observed in the natural world and described. When intelligent agents act, it is observed that they produce high levels of "complex-specified information" (CSI). CSI is basically a scenario which is unlikely to happen (making it complex), and conforms to a pattern (making it specified). Language and machines are good examples of things with much CSI. From our understanding of the world, high levels of CSI are always the product of intelligent design.
"ii. Hypothesis: If an object in the natural world was designed, then we should be able to examine that object and find the same high levels of CSI in the natural world as we find in human-designed objects.
"iii. Experiment: We can examine biological structures to test if high CSI exists. When we look at natural objects in biology, we find many machine-like structures which are specified, because they have a particular arrangement of parts which is necessary for them to function, and complex because they have an unlikely arrangement of many interacting parts. These biological machines are "irreducibly complex," for any change in the nature or arrangement of these parts would destroy their function. Irreducibly complex structures cannot be built up through an alternative theory, such as Darwinian evolution, because Darwinian evolution requires that a biological structure be functional along every small-step of its evolution. "Reverse engineering" of these structures shows that they cease to function if changed even slightly.
"iv. Conclusion: Because they exhibit high levels of CSI, a quality known to be produced only by intelligent design, and because there is no other known mechanism to explain the origin of these "irreducibly complex" biological structures, we conclude that they were intelligently designed." (4)
Our website explains that, "only the scientific method, via observations of the natural world, is used to conclude that life was designed. There is no appeal to the supernatural, and no reliance upon faith or divine revelation (including any religious text). This scientific approach is the method that the IDEA Center takes when discussing intelligent design theory."(5) Mr. Trent can disagree with our conclusion that life was designed, but he should not blatantly misrepresent the methodology we use to detect design with the false and unqualified claim that we defer to "blind faith" in our approach to studying the natural world.
Since intelligent design relies upon the scientific method, Mr. Trent's assertion that intelligent design is equivalent to the creation accounts of various religions-like Chinese creation myths, Greek fables, or even the Biblical creation account in Genesis-is completely false. None of those "alternatives" use the scientific method to make their claims. Since intelligent design does employ the scientific method, any comparison between it and such religious creation accounts is spurious.
Modern-Day Galileos Mr. Trent also writes that "Not so long ago, it was immoral to claim the Earth went around the sun." But he doesn't recognize that there are modern-day Galileos who are being persecuted because they question the Darwinian paradigm. One example is biologist Dr. Richard Sternberg-who holds two Ph.D's in evolutionary biology-but was harassed and intimidated by Smithsonian officials after he allowed a pro-ID article to be published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. A recent Congressional report subtitled "Smithsonian's Top Officials Permit the Demotion and Harassment of Scientist Skeptical of Darwinian Evolution" found "Officials at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History created a hostile work environment intended to force Dr. Sternberg to resign his position as a Research Associate in violation of his free speech and civil rights."(6) The report concludes that the Darwinists "revealed their intent to use their government jobs to discriminate against scientists based on their outside activities regarding evolution." (7) It seems the persecution of scientists hasn't ended, but now it is the Darwinists who are behaving like the intolerant dogmatists of old.
ID and the Schools Finally, Mr. Trent asserts that ID "rants about how students should be exposed to alternatives to evolution." Ignoring the pejorative term "rant," what do leading ID-organizations really say about what should be taught in schools? The IDEA Center does not deal with the educational curriculum, as our main focus is to help students start extracurricular IDEA Clubs where they can have free discussions on intelligent design.
But like most leading ID-organizations, the IDEA Center does not think intelligent design should be required in public schools as an "alternative" at the present time. We do think that students should be exposed to the scientific problems with Darwinian evolution, but we strongly feel that alternatives like ID should not be required. That must wait for a future time when the Darwinian hegemony is broken and ideological dogmatists are not allowed to unfairly persecute sympathizers of intelligent design. The bottom line is that the political climate is too hostile at this time to mandate teaching intelligent design without creating more modern-day Galileos like Dr. Richard Sternberg.
Citations: (1) Available online at http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/viewArticle.asp?articleID=20929
(2) Of Pandas and People, pg. 161.
(6) http://www.souder.house.gov/_files/IntoleranceandthePoliticizationofSciencea ttheSmithsonian.pdf
(7) http://www.souder.house.gov/_files/IntoleranceandthePoliticizationofSciencea ttheSmithsonian.pdf