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Intelligent Design Call-in Show

Monday, March 18, 2002 at 2:01 PM

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Web Exclusive - Is the theory of evolution wrong in its assertion that species adapt and evolve through a series of random mutations? Can the question of whether a conscious, intelligent agent is responsible for the creation of life be answered scientifically? On Monday, March 18th, we took a critical look at Intelligent Design - a theory that some would like to see added to the state's academic science curriculum. We talked with two experts - one for and one against the idea. As part of the call-in show, we asked listeners to email us their comments. Here is a listing of the comments that didn't make it on the air.


As I understand the argument for intelligent design, proponents believe that the complexity of biological systems precludes their existence due to natural phenomena, or evolution exclusively. This alleged “designer” must be more complex than any type of life form we could ever imagine. In this scenario, who designed the designer?

John P.


Why are there still being things taught in science classes concerning evolution that have been all but proven false even by Darwin’s own writings? Isn’t there a measure of faith being taught in science class?

Jeff B.


One criticism of intelligent design, as a putative scientific theory, is that it lacks internal consistency. For example, some proponents of intelligent design such as Paul Nelson think that Earth is young; others like Jonathan Wells agree with mainstream science that the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old. If intelligent design is to be taught in high school in an Origins class, should the Earth be 10,000 years old or 4.5 billion years old?

Perhaps conundrums like this are why a leading proponent of intelligent design, William Dembski, has stated that he does not presently support the teaching of intelligent design in high schools.

David L.


Intelligent design is the answer for all those people who like certainty. It is a comfortable explanation that attempts to answer all the questions we don’t have answers to yet. That has been the purpose of religion in the past - to provide certainty and comfort in an uncertain world. Science and true scientists are comfortable with not knowing. They just keep on searching, questioning, experimenting.

There have been so many discoveries and changes in scientific ideas over just the last century. I have read the adjusted science guidelines proposed by the intelligent design proponents. Curiously, it removes all references to the age of the earth. This is an important scientific fact that school students should know. If they don’t learn how old the earth is in school, won’t that eliminate any field trips to the natural history museums throughout the nation, where timelines are used to explain the presence of different species that have lived on earth before us. And if this intelligent designer was so smart as to create humans, then why did he create dinosaurs, that were a dismal failure. Is this intelligent designer possibly a scientist that is running experiments on which species can survive the longest?

Ellen H.


The philosophy proposal gets to the nub of the issue. Philosophy deals with subjects that cannot be subjected to the scientific method. Isn’t this issue already dealt with in most philosophy curricula? Isn’t it called theology or religion?

Marc, Cleveland


Intelligent design is a method to redirect state owned schools toward direct instruction in religion. As soon as we state that there is intelligent design the next scientific questions will relate to the motivations, behaviors, and characteristics of the designer. Institutions related to governments have traditionally failed to address these kind of questions well because of their tendency to make increasingly complex rules and procedures. This leads to prescribed and proscribed behaviors, which in the case of this set of questions would mean government promotion of a state religion.

The whole debate relative to intelligent design seems to be closely related to one group of people attempting to incorporate their own concept of God into public schools using a two or three step plan where a one step plan has failed in the past.

This “intelligent design” issue seems to be an attempt to rehash the “evolution/creation” question. The theory of evolution is about how evolution takes place after we have observed it in nature. The theory of creation addresses questions about the characteristics, methods, and motivations of a supernatural being. It is also related to the “starting place” for evolution. Clearly these are different categories of questions and should be addressed by different types of institutions.

Bob S.


Hello,

I find the comments of those in the scientific community opposed to the public dissemination of the idea of Intelligent Design to be reminiscent of the book Flatland by ... . The notion that because we cannot identify or “know” the purported agent behind Intelligent Design and must therefore decline to draw any inferences based on this agent, reminds me of the characters in this book who lived in 2-dimensions. Because they could not conceive of it, they forbade, even persecuted, proponents of the idea that there were 3-dimensions in the universe…

In any event, when I took a college-level biology course a decade ago, our text introduced us 2 main tenants underpinning biological science: 1) All life is composed of cells. 2) All cells derive from preexisting cells.

I always found this second tenant to be incompatible with the theory of evolution. In the long run, macro-evolutionists have to hold that cells just suddenly somehow appear out of nothing, yet this runs completely contrary to this second of the foundational statements of biology. How can proponents of Macroevolution explain this paradox without a leap of faith?

D. Cripe


I fix electronic equipment. It is extremely helpful to assume a printer was created for a purpose, it makes understanding it’s operation much easier.

I believe we would be much more advanced if we would try to understand why things were created to do what they do.

Most scientists are limited because of the following reason.

1 Tim 6:20 O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called:

Heb 10:31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Larry K.


Hi

What is the limit for the theory of “intelligent design;” does is apply only to biological systems or even to the origin of the cosmos? If it does try to extend itself to explain the “cosmos,” it becomes a philosophical explanation - not scientific theory. Thank you,

Nader R.


Mr. Rudy,

Do not vestigial organs, such as mole’s eyes, bring into question the intelligence of the designer?

Roberto M.


I wonder to what extent this controversy might be abated if one were to focus on the evolutionary theory of the origins of (not just human but all animal and other) intelligence. Clearly, humans are intelligent and use that intelligence to influence survival. So too, other animals.

The effects of intelligent living things on the history of their own survival would seem an entirely valid field for scientific research and one in which both sides ought to be able to talk to one another cordially.

Note also that Darwin made allowance for intelligent selection in his theory of ‘sexual selection.’

Terry P.


If there is any validity to Intelligent Design Theory (IDT), then in the general course of discovery, science will discover it. Until then, it belongs in a philosophy class, not a science lab.

Ann P.


Rudy states ID is a new idea and is just in its development stage. Darwin took how many years studying, researching, gathering data before publishing Origins?

Mr. Rudy: Where are the articles, where’s the data, what is the data for ID?

Pdlovett


Good Morning!

I wonder in what context would intelligent design be taught? How do we avoid slipping into “religion,” and if we can’t avoid it, will there be a bias of Western religious ideas over Eastern ideas. Wouldn’t intelligent design do better in a Philosophy or World Religion course? Are we trying to fit a square peg into a round hole here?

Laurie S.


Hello,

To prove intelligent design, wouldn’t you need an “un-intelligent” design to compare it to? You can tell an arrowhead is intelligently designed because it is different from a rock, but with our planet there is nothing to compare it to.

Andrej


What does it say about the integrity of the “intelligent design creationists” that they would attempt to bypass the normal scientific review process and appeal directly to the general public and force their views into public schools. “Intelligent design creationism” exists nowhere in the peer-reviewed scientific literature and thereby is not science. It has been considered and rejected by the scientific community - why would they forcibly inject it into my children’s school?

Frank F.


ID is not a theory: leading proponents Wells and Behe differ fundamentally: Wells doubts even that humans and chimps share a common ancestor. Behe accepts the common descent of all animals. The only common thread is a religious agenda.

Russell D.


Given that Biology does have a higher degree of complexity, why don’t the “Intelligent Design” proponents start with geology? They could explain the design of the Sun, Earth, and Moon, their ages and their mechanics?

Is there a difference between Science and Religion and Philosophy(Metaphysics I thought captured the concept of ideas beyond science)? Of course if you look at the history of science you might think that what is beyond science has evolved.

Joan B.


Regarding the notion that some things must have been designed because their complexity or structure dictates the necessity of an intelligent force behind it (like the guests’ reference to a radio tower or his software projects). I would put forth that these examples are also the direct result of evolution - an iterative process of change as a result of outside forces upon it. In human inventions we only see the successful results - not all the failures. Your guest is unable to “create” any successful solution for his customers without the knowledge of all the failures - or wrong solutions. In fact, they pay him because he has already weeded out all the possible wrong solutions.

In the end, all creations are designed by evolution.

Vincent F.


Patricia mentioned the “How” question being science.

That is exactly what the question about Intelligent Design is. It is some kind of intelligence.

We are not asking “WHO” the designer is, but simply giving another theory about “How” it was done.

Jeff B.


So would the proponents of intelligent design consider that we come from another planet or that we were created by aliens??? ; )

jjclark


Mr. Rudy’s admission that ID is in its infancy is a good enough reason NOT to include ID in the life science’s curriculum until it is accepted by most of the scientific community.

I have a 5-year-old who will start public school in the fall, and I do not want her fed unproven concepts. I believe that evolution has withstood one and one-half centuries of scrutiny. ID needs to submit itself to the same rigors.

Roberto M.


Rudy’s explanation that anyone who does software knows that it’s clearly the product of the human brain reveals the totally circular reasoning he uses. Ergo, the only way to explain the complexity of DNA is to attribute it to something like the human brain, that is a conscious designer for which there is no evidence. Printhouse is right: The ID advocates simply cannot grasp the fact that even the most complex phenomena are subject to empirical inquiry and falsibility - the beauty and power of Science. Perhaps if the ID advocates seriously studied science, they might better understand complex phenomena.

Marc, Cleveland


Why are we having this discussion. A standards writing committee composed mostly of scientists recommended that evolution be taught in science classes because it is not in doubt in the scientific community. “Intelligent design creationism” was not recommended to be taught. Why was the recommendation of the science committee rejected? Who is responsible for attempting to bypass the experts’ recommendation?

Frank F.


A question to Douglas Rudy, ID proponent: Who designed the designer?

Also, on WCPN home page you have ‘intelligent design’ listed as ‘theory.’ Intelligent Design is not a theory, it is a belief. Theories must be refutable to be considered science.

Marialitt


Regarding the disagreements between Intelligent Design advocates on the age of the earth, I take this as a sign of health. The point that Intelligent Design advocates have been arguing is that it is possible to isolate the issue of the origin of bio-complexity from other issues that “creationists” have typically conflated with it. The fact that there are advocates of ID from widely varying philosophical viewpoints only serves to buttress the claim that it is a specific scientific theory, not a religious position.

Regarding the changes to the science standards proposed by Intelligent Design advocates for Ohio, Ellen H. is incorrect when she claims that the changes remove all reference to the age of the earth. See www.sciohio.org for documentation on the proposed modifications. The proposals generally seek to modifiy the dogmatism of the claims made for the theory of evolution to bring them more into line with what the data actually support for the theory.

Regarding the vestigial organs providing reason to question the intelligence of the designer, I’d say a couple of things. What we’re learning recently is that there is a tremendous amount of variability coded into the genomes of living things. The mole’s eyes, I would predict, fall into this category, although we don’t know enough yet about the causal pathways from genes to macro- structures to test that claim. The computer software analogy is telling here. It takes greater intelligence, greater programming skill, to build a program with a range of variability that is parameterized than to build one that is hard-wired for a particular function. Regardless, Intelligent Design doesn’t seek to address the character (perfection or lack thereof) of the designer. That question is one that moves the discussion into the philosophical arena.

Regarding Pdlovett’s and other’s comments that ID is too new to be seriously considered: my view, expressed on the program, is that only in the last couple of decades has it become a coherent theory. But in many areas of science, two decades is an eternity, and biochemistry is one of those areas.

Regarding the “who designed the designer” question which appears in a couple of emails, I responded on the program that this is ultimately a philosophical, not a scientific, question. I’d add this however: the questioners are implying that an explanation of Design for a particular biological system is incomplete and therefore unscientific because the designer itself requires explanation. But surely there are many areas in science in which we are satisfied with a correct causal account even though that causal account can’t be traced all the way back to ultimate causes. For example, we accept the theory of plate tectonics as the correct explanation for some mountain-building activity, even though we cannot trace ultimate causation seemlessly back indefinitely. In everyday life, we accept as the proper explanation for (for example) a letter we receive in the mail that our friend wrote it, and don’t require further explanation for that friend.

Regarding the several objections that Intelligent Design should not be forced onto students, I agree. In last week’s debate, Steven Meyer recommended the same position to the Ohio board of education. I think many people would also be interested in ensuring that the dogmatic claims made for evolutionary theory are brought more into line with what the data warrants, and that evidence both for and against the theory would be presented in the schools. I believe it would be a good idea to provide Biology teachers the freedom to discuss Intelligent Design as well, if they are comfortable in doing so.

Thanks again for inviting me on the program!

Sincerely, Doug Rudy

Additional Information

For Intelligent Design:
Intelligent Design Network, Inc.

Against Intelligent Design:
National Center For Science Education

H.B. 481
H.B. 484
S.B. 222

To contact one of the guests, Douglas Rudy, click here.

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