To Teach or Not to Teach: Common Misconceptions About Intelligent Design (Part 3)

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[Ed: This post was written by a legal intern at Discovery Institute who has chosen to post anonymously.]
The Establishment clause of the United States Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof […].” Today the popular argument against intelligent design (ID) is that it is just an extension of creationism, which implicates ID as a religious theory. The argument begins when proponents of neo-Darwinian evolution attempt to use some definition of science to disqualify ID from being a scientific theory. Intelligent design is then equated with religion through the assertion that if the theory is not science, then it must be religious in nature. Even Judge Jones adopted this dubious logic in the Kitzmiller ruling, holding that “since ID is not science, the conclusion is inescapable that the only real effect of the ID Policy is the advancement of religion.” As the argument goes, if ID is religious in nature then it violates the Establishment Clause, just like creationism. Consequently, the “ID = religion” argument has become the default argument used by ID’s opponents. The problem with this argument is that ID is actually a secular-based scientific theory. Unfortunately, materialistic theories of evolution have become so ingrained in the scientific community that any alternate view is immediately disregarded as “unscientific,” this bringing the “ID = religion” argument to its starting point.

An example of this logic is found in Anne Marie Lofaso’s Pierce Law Review article, “Does Changing the Definition of Science Solve the Establishment Clause Problem for Teaching Intelligent Designs as Science in Public Schools? Doing an End-Run Around the Constitution.” Lofaso argues that “it is now generally well-accepted that creation-science is religion […] and has been discredited as a scientific theory.” (FN 218) Perhaps that’s true, but the article then lumps intelligent design into the category of “creation-science.” When did creationism become the same thing as intelligent design? Unfortunately, many in the scientific community make this theoretical jump without taking the time to evaluate what they theories really say. Intelligent design is not creationism, and just because ID may be palatable to many creationists does not mean that it is inherently religious.
If I take an apple and an orange and look at them side by side and notice that they are both round in shape and both come from trees, it is not wise to assume that they will taste the same or be identical on the inside. Such is the case with creationism and intelligent design; though they may have similar traits, they are not the same theory. Any scientist who makes the assumption that they are the same has declared to the world that he is a narrow-minded evolutionary puppet. Discovery Institute’s Intelligent Design Briefing Packet for Educators is instructive on this point:

“The theory of intelligent design is simply an effort to empirically detect whether the ‘apparent design’ in nature acknowledged by virtually all biologists is genuine design (the product of an intelligent cause) or is simply the product of an undirected process such as natural selection acting on random variations. Creationism typically starts with a religious text and tries to see how the findings of science can be reconciled to it. ID starts with the empirical evidence of nature and seeks to ascertain what scientific inferences can be drawn from that evidence. Unlike creationism, the scientific theory of intelligent design does not claim that modern biology can identify whether the intelligent cause detected through science is supernatural. The charge that ID is ‘creationism’ is a rhetorical strategy on the part of Darwinists who wish to delegitimize ID without actually addressing the merits of its case.

Lofaso goes on to argue that “if ID proponents want ID to be taught as science, they must present a falsifiable, predictive theory about the origins of life and then obtain scientific acceptance of the design inference” (FN 278). In fact, ID makes clear predictions that are testable and falsifiable. But how can ID obtain scientific acceptance given the current prevalent, though inaccurate, belief that ID is just a façade for religious fundamental creationism?
From an Establishment Clause perspective, Lofaso claims that ID has two hurdles to overcome: “First, it must establish itself as science. Second, it must disentangle itself from religion” (p. 271). There are multiples problems with this statement.
Regarding the first hurdle, Lofaso advocates a materialistic definition of science that wrongly excludes intelligent design. She uses such a bloated definition of the “scientific method” in order to dogmatically exclude any alternative to evolution from the classroom: “If the scientific method is taught correctly, there is no confusion in presenting evolution as the dominant scientific theory, and there would be no confusion that evolutionary theories are anything but absolute […].” Yet as I discussed in Part 1, intelligent design meets any standard definition of the scientific method (that leaves off the dead weight of materialist requirements).
Regarding the second hurdle, Lofaso fails to recognize that the “disentanglement” argument, when applied fairly, could have dramatic implications for the teaching of evolution. As David DeWolf, John West, and Casey Luskin argue in “Intelligent Design will Survive Kitzmiller v. Dover” in Montana Law Review, “leading proponents of Darwinian evolution frequently raise the cultural and metaphysical implications of the theory in their writings” and therefore:

“Judge Jones set forth a double standard by considering how design proponents have interpreted ID within the context of their own religious beliefs, but ignored the fact that evolutionists have done precisely the same thing by interpreting evolution within the context of their religious (or anti-religious) beliefs. … Not only does this represent a non-neutral treatment of theistic religious motives versus anti-theistic religious motives, but it proposes a rule which, if applied consistently, could even threaten the teaching of evolution.” (p. 51, 52)

In a final assertion by Lofaso we read that “Reliance on supernatural causes […] stifles the pursuit of knowledge.” Ignoring Lofaso’s misconstrual of ID as necessarily referring to “supernatural causes,” let’s pause to consider her intolerance: According to Lofaso, there is no place in the classroom for a theory which is not agreeable to materialism. Equating ID with religion allows evolutionists to use the Establishment Clause to conveniently avoid addressing the merits of ID. By claiming ID is religion they hope that they can avoid the debate entirely. However, as noted in an article in Harvard Law Review titled “Not Your Daddy’s Fundamentalism: Intelligent Design in the Classroom” reviewing Francis Beckwith’s book Law, Darwinism, and Public Education: The Establishment Clause and the Challenge of Intelligent Design:

“While lumping ID with creationism may be a good rhetorical strategy for ID’s opponents, it only detracts from an independent and rigorous evaluation of the merits of ID’s claims […] Perhaps the most ironic aspect of this debate is that Darwinists are even opposed to the inclusion of ID in the public school curriculum. If there is any fundamental tenet of Darwinism, is it not that competition leads inexorably to progress?” (p. 7)

This quotation sums up the issue nicely. Rather than using the default argument that ID is religion, evolutionists should embrace ID as a challenge and opportunity to strengthen their own theory. Finally, after scientific debate and experimentation, ID will be seen for what it always has been: real science.

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