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Intelligent Design – A Telling Debate

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Intelligent Design

A Telling Debate

Controversy is intensifying as to whether the theory of Intelligent Design should be addressed by science teachers in public schools. Why is this issue so divisive?

Learn the why behind the headlines.

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On September 26, 2005, a civil trial began in a federal court in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, centering on the theory of Intelligent Design (ID). This theory proposes that the universe is too intricate and complex to have developed through evolution and natural selection.

The lawsuit Kitzmiller et al v. Dover Area School District has been brought against the Dover, Pennsylvania, school board by eleven parents in that town. The American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State have come to the aid of this group of parents, while the school board is being represented by attorneys from the Thomas More Law Center, who state that they are doing so in the interest of preserving Christian religious freedom.

The parents object to the Dover school board requiring 9th grade biology teachers to read the following statement before beginning a unit on evolution: “The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin’s theory of evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part.

“Because Darwin’s theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The theory is not a fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.

“Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin’s view. The reference book, ‘Of Pandas and People,’ is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what Intelligent Design actually involves.

“With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the origins of life to individual students and their families. As a standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on standards-based assessments” (Associated Press).

Note that Dover teachers are not required to teach ID alongside evolution—they are merely required to read this statement before setting forth the standard evolutionary views. Yet, three of the parents in the suit have testified that this statement alone is harmful to their children. Why has this seemingly objective, measured disclaimer caused such a firestorm?

Two Camps

The court battle has brought to the stand expert witnesses on both sides of the issue. One of these is Dr. Michael Behe, a professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University and a prominent advocate of Intelligent Design. His 1996 book Darwin’s Black Box essentially began the ID movement. Although Dr. Behe is Catholic, he maintains that his theory is not based on religious convictions, but rather on physical evidence seen in nature. He believes that the “irreducible complexity” of natural processes and mechanisms demonstrates that the universe and life could not merely have happened through random, unguided forces, but rather was designed.

Opponents contend that ID is simply a new name for creationism—the acceptance of the Bible’s creation account in the book of Genesis. They believe that discussing Intelligent Design in a public school violates the principle of separation of church and state. (As an aside, the phrase “separation of church and state” can be traced back to an 1801 letter sent by President Thomas Jefferson to the Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut. It is not found in the U.S. Constitution or any of its amendments, as some mistakenly assume.)

Witnesses testifying on behalf of the plaintiffs assert that ID cannot be classified as scientific, as it cannot be tested or disproved. (Of course, evolution fails to meet the same criteria.) Some have compared ID to medieval sciences such as alchemy, and the president of Cornell University has called the effort to bring this theory into the classroom “very dangerous” (The New York Times).

Elsewhere, the National Academy of Science and the National Science Teachers’ Association are not allowing their copyrighted materials to be used by the Kansas Board of Education in Kansas’ science curriculum, due to the curriculum’s critical stance toward evolution.

At Iowa State University, 120 faculty members signed a petition declaring that Intelligent Design is not science. This was in response to one of their colleagues, a faculty astronomy teacher, who wrote a book that contends that Earth had to have been designed. Similar battles are in progress at the University of California at Berkeley and Ohio State University.

The majority of academia seem to oppose even entertaining the possibility of the universe having originated from anything other than blind chance and happenstance.

Predictably, some prominent media outlets are already framing this debate with a pro-evolution slant. Articles drawing comparisons between the Pennsylvania lawsuit and the “Scopes Monkey Trial” of 1925, a case in which teacher John Scopes was charged with violating a Tennessee state law that forbade the teaching of evolution. Some consider the media coverage of this high-profile trial, which in general ridiculed the creationist side, to have been a tipping point, influencing public opinion in favor of evolution.

The Crux of the Controversy

Dr. Behe believes that he has faced considerable bias against his theory. In court, he stated, “My ideas on Intelligent Design have been subjected to a thousand times more scrutiny than anything I’ve written before” (The New York Times).

Again, we must ask, why is there so much opposition even to the mention of an alternate theory of origins?

Evolution has largely been accepted as fact by those who are considered highly educated. In the New Testament, the apostle Paul describes the state of those who are willingly ignorant of the Creator: “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God has showed it unto them. For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things…Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator” (Rom. 1:19-23, 25).

Why must the status quo of evolution be maintained? This can be answered by merely connecting the dots. If the universe was designed, this implies that there is a designer. This designer would have to be superior to human beings in intellect and power. This sounds suspiciously like a “Supreme Being”—God. If God exists, then He is sovereign over His creation. If this Creator happens to be the God who inspired the Holy Bible, then this God sets forth laws and requires that human beings live by them.

However, living within God’s laws is contrary to human nature: “Because the carnal [fleshly, natural] mind is enmity [hostile] against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom. 8:7). The human mind vehemently opposes the notion of subjection—being ruled!

Continuing the passage cited earlier, Paul goes on to describe the character and mindset of individuals who choose to ignore the reality of God’s existence: “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate [unfit, worthless, rejected, debased, degraded, useless] mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them” (Rom. 1:28-32).

This is a very strong description—and warning!

Acknowledging a Designer eventually leads to uncomfortable questions regarding law and sin, right and wrong. It is far easier to swallow evolutionary propaganda because blind, purposeless natural forces do not require human beings to change their ways or to submit to any standards of behavior.

Also, those on both sides of this debate are purportedly seeking the truth on the question of origins. However, speaking of the nature within all human beings, we read, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). The theory of evolution places human beings at the top of the food chain, accountable to no higher authority—veritable “gods” (Gen. 3:5). This sounds like a comfortable position, if it were accurate. But this scenario is a case of mass delusion—self deception on a grand scale.

On the other hand, blurring a very real and personal Creator God into a nebulous, anonymous “intelligence” does not honor that God!

However, we can be thankful that the question of origins will soon be settled conclusively! After Jesus Christ returns to establish His government on the earth (Isa. 9:6), true education will prevail: “…yet shall not your teachers be removed into a corner any more, but your eyes shall see your teachers: And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way, walk you in it, when you turn to the right hand, and when you turn to the left” (Isa. 30:20-21).

To learn more, read our brochure Evolution – Facts, Fallacies and Implications.

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