Intelligent Design Theory Belongs in the Science Classroom

By Betty, ord | National Catholic Reporter, October 21, 2005 | Go to article overview

Intelligent Design Theory Belongs in the Science Classroom


Betty, ord, National Catholic Reporter


Although a frequent critic of President Bush, I think he as correct to say that intelligent design theory deserves a mention in science classrooms alongside Darwinian evolution.

Intelligent design theory is not based on the Bible or any other scripture. It is not creationism in disguise, as opponents of intelligent design misleadingly claim. Intelligent design accepts evolution as a fact. It accepts an ancient earth (4.6 billion years) and a still more ancient universe (13.7 billion years). It accepts all the findings of responsible science. But it does not accept Darwinism.

Darwinism is not the same thing as evolution. It is a particular theory of how evolution occurred. According to Darwinism, the entire process was unguided and happened "naturally." Intelligent design theorists contest this claim. They call into question Darwinian evolution's cardinal doctrine, natural selection. Proponents of natural selection claim that the process by which more complex organisms arise from less complex ones is not guided by any intelligence. Proponents of intelligent design say it is.

Supporters of intelligent design hold that Darwinian evolution is not good science. Here is why:

According to the tenets of Darwinian evolution, a genetic accident within a member of a species sometimes (actually very rarely) has a beneficial effect on the species. Consider archaeopteryx, the transitional form between dinosaur and bird that Darwinian evolution holds is the ancestor of birds as we know them. A long series of genetic accidents gradually turns the dinosaur's forearm into a feathery appendage (wing) that enables the archaeopteryx to better flee its enemy by soaring above the ground. And that advantage gives it a much better chance of surviving. Thus birds evolve from dinosaurs, according to standard Darwinian teaching. In a similar manner every species has evolved. All is explained by a long series of lucky genetic accidents, the survival of the fittest, and a steady march forward across hundreds of millions of years from blue-green algae to Mother Teresa.

The theory sounds great, as no doubt you were told in your high school biology class. But it has one potentially fatal flaw. Let's get back to the example of the feathery appendage. There is no evidence that the wing evolved in one fell swoop. Darwinians grant that it took a whole series of genetic accidents spanning millions of years for the wing to fully evolve. At first there was just some extra fluff on the dinosaur's forearms. Then a little more. Then still more. Then something that resembled feathers. Then more feathers. And finally two wings that enabled the first proto-bird to rise off the ground.

Do you begin to see the problem? What survival advantage did the first genetic accident resulting in a little extra fluff on its forearms give the dinosaur? Or even the 20th fortuitous accident resulting in something genuinely feathery? None that intelligent design can see, because the dinosaur still can't fly. So what would push the dinosaur along such a line of evolutionary development? Nothing that intelligent design can see unless there was some kind of intelligence guiding the evolution. …

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