The Dishonesty of Intelligent Design

I’ve written a number of posts on the problems of Intelligent Design, and how it’s merely a cover for Creationism, but the problems go deeper than that. Functionally, its proponents pretend that they have ‘nothing in particular’ in mind when they argue for a designer, and under that cover, they attempt to shoe-horn Creationism into the class-rooms of North America.

Intelligent Design masquerades as a ‘scientific theory’ about how human life originated and evolved over time, and its proponents claim that it’s entirely distinct from Creationism, an obvious lie when you review the origin of Intelligent Design. There are, however, other ways to demonstrate this lie.

Intelligent Design

First, a quick overview. Intelligent Design is the proposition that the best explanation for the diversity and complexity of life on this earth is that it was designed by some unnamed being. While the proponents of the argument claim that it’s also about the universe as a whole, the arguments are typically only based in evidence from earth. It’s important to note that in order to avoid being obviously religious, Intelligent Design takes great pains to avoid naming the being responsible for the creation of life on earth, and it additionally avoids postulating any mechanisms.

While the proponents of Creationism may see this as a strength, rather than a weakness, it opens up their claims to the following counter argument.

First Contact

Thought experiments are fairly popular in Philosophy, and are disparaged by those outside of the discipline, mostly because (I believe that) the people who disparage them misunderstand their point. The point of a thought experiment isn’t to tell us anything about the real world, but to help us better understand our own intuitions. The next time you’re confronted by someone insisting the Intelligent Design is different from Creationism, pose the following to them:

Let’s imagine that tomorrow, an alien species touches down on earth and claims that they are responsible for the origin of life on earth. Not only that, but at certain points in the history of earth, they stepped in to ‘nudge’ life along, either by altering the climate of the planet, or helping increase the diversity of life after a catastrophic event (e.g. the Cambrian “explosion”). Let’s say that in order to support their claims, that they had entered a certain sequence of nucleobase pairs into the DNA of all living organisms on earth (a sequence of a few thousand base pairs, in the so-called “junk DNA“, let’s say), and scientists the world over agreed that it was wholly improbable that such a sequence would arise at random across all species (including plants and fungi). Furthermore, they are able to provide geologic samples of the earth that match the geologic history of the earth. In short, their evidence is all but irrefutable: these entities absolutely, to absolute certainty, created and managed life (albeit with a light touch) on earth. Moreover, they have hundreds of thousands of hours of footage (both visual and audio) of earth at a wide variety of times of our past, also including events that we can verify ourselves (such as periods during our own recorded history).

How is a modern scientist to react to this? “Fair enough” is the most likely response. “They have extraordinary claims, but they also have extraordinary evidence” is another. “I guess the origin of life on earth now has an explanation” is a third. That’s about the full extent of the implications: it’s an interesting fact to add to the body of knowledge that we have already collected, but it has no fundamental impact on our understanding of biology or anything else.

How about the proponent of Intelligent Design? They are entirely vindicated in their claims about the origin of life on earth, and all their claims (regardless of how outlandish) are shown to be true. What do you think the probability is of all the Intelligent Design proponents sitting down, satisfied with their victory? Do you think that 80% would crow with victory? 50%? 10%?

I don’t doubt that there are some poor, misled souls who honestly and sincerely believe that Intelligent Design means nothing more than ‘some unknown entity created life on earth’, but I would place serious money (all that I own) that if the above occurred, the vast, overwhelming majority of Intelligent Design proponents would reject the claims of the aliens, would deny them as liars and deceivers, and yet continue to claim that life on earth was ‘intelligently designed’ by a different entity.

Because Intelligent Design is nothing but a cover for Creationism. Ask around. See what they say.

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