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Is intelligent design taken seriously?

Are scientists giving serious consideration to an intelligent design process in the production of the wide diversity of life forms? Is such a process totally contrary to Darwin’s evolution theory in which survival of the fittest predominates?
Matthew Trainer from Glasgow (age 55+)

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2 Responses

  1. A theory will be given serious consideration if it is useful, i.e. if by taking the results of that theory you can explain more features of the world around us, explain features we already see in greater depth, or explain things using less experimental data, compared to other alternatives.

    According to these criteria, intelligent design does not provide a competitor to evolutionary theories. The problem is that any questions like ‘Why do animals exhibit the same basic skeletal structure?’ (the issue of homologies), ‘Why are large parts of the genome ‘junk’?’ and ‘How, exactly, was life created from the primordial soup?’ only have one answer in ID: ‘Because the designer did it that way.’

    Now this might be a valid answer to these questions, but it doesn’t broaden the sum total of knowledge available to the human race. Accepting that ‘it just is so’ does not broaden our knowledge of the interrelatedness of different species (for the purposes of breeding programmes, if nothing else), it does not answer the question of whether other animal ‘designs’ would be possible, or whether the same structure is repeated throughout the living kingdom because it is the most efficient, and although the one premise of ‘an Intelligent Designer did it’ is very parsimonious in its one premise, that premise is so complex as to allow for anything else to happen once you accept it.

    Intelligent design is contrary to evolution if one assumes an intelligent designer would have wanted to produce the final model straight away. If, however, she was happy to create a first prototype, and then nudge it in the direction she wanted, then ID could be compatible with evolution: but one has to ask if, given that situation, Occam’s razor wouldn’t draw us to cut out the intelligent designer altogether.

    Another (yes, more!) problem with ID is that it’s not a developed, coherent system. There are a lot of varied branches of it (almost as many as there are religions, which is odd for a scientific theory, don’t you think) and they contain conflicting points (examples: the age of life on earth, whether speciation is possible with a certain designated level of variation from a basic animal ‘kind’, the veracity of the fossil record.) So in order to take ID seriously as a counter theory, it would need to become more coherent – as it, you need to argue with each ID proponent individually, which is just too time consuming.

    Finally, the fact that new species are arising all the time – you can watch microevolution in a Petri dish, live, if you’re bored of Big Brother – suggests that any intelligent designer either is micromanaging to a ridiculous level, or at least allows some place for evolution in her arsenal of animal-creation tools. If this be the case, ID would have to accept the theory of evolution as the method of diversification of animal species, and relegate the question of whether someone set that evolutionary process in motion to metaphysics or religion, where some would say it belonged all along.

  2. The idea that an intelligent designer created all species on Earth has been given a lot of consideration by scientists in the past, but it is no longer deemed a credible alternative as a scientific explanation for the diversity of life on Earth since the central ideas of the intelligent design hypothesis are not evidence-based or testable, therefore they lie beyond the remit of science.

    Evolution theory offers a non-supernatural explanation for the origin of species on Earth. The very fact that it is a scientific theory means that it explains a vast body of evidence and is also susceptible to testing by the appearance of new evidence.

    Evolution theory explains how species can arise and also explains the relatedness of all life on the planet. It doesn’t, however, completely preclude the possibility of a divine Creator (scientific theories generally do not address supernatural issues), but it does demonstrate that we need not accept that the explanation for the diversity of life on Earth lies “beyond nature” or beyond the remit of scientific enquiry.

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