Intelligent Design is definitely NOT 'Creationism'
Dismissing Intelligent Design as 'Creationism' is the easy way of avoiding having to deal with the empirical evidence for design.
It was with some frustration that we read Chris Watt’s article, ‘Would you Adam and Eve it?’ in the Sunday Herald (published in Glasgow, UK) of October 10th 2010. Its treatment of Intelligent Design (ID) bore very little resemblance to the content of an interview with Alastair Noble. Indeed the thrust of the feature was completely misplaced. It is absolutely not the case that the Centre is intent on advancing the teaching of biblical creationism in schools as suggested by the article.
Strictly speaking, ID holds that certain features of the natural and living worlds show evidence of design. The pervading stereotype of ID as ‘creationism’ is just plain wrong. ID is essentially an inference drawn from evidence in nature, whereas creationism, as popularly understood, is based on interpretations of religious texts. It’s hard to see how the two things could be more different.
Proponents of ID point to the fine tuning of natural laws and constants and the inter-related complexity of living systems as suggestive of design. In any other field of human experience, the design in such finely engineered systems would be immediately recognised.
But it’s when we look into the mind-boggling complexity of the living cell that the evidence of design becomes most apparent. And it’s not just the chemical complexity which is breathtaking. It’s the vast information content of DNA which poses the enduring problem of modern biology. What is the source of this functional, specified information? Information is not essentially a physical entity. It is an immaterial but real phenomenon, in this case digitally coded on to the spine of the DNA molecule.
All human experience suggests that such information arises only from intelligent mind. To propose that the information in DNA is a reflection of intelligence is to make an inference to the best explanation. In the absence of any other coherent explanation, the ID position, at the very least, is worthy of debate. The core of the issue remains the scientific evidence, and raising these other and irrelevant religious points really does nothing to address the evidence.
ID is therefore a minimal commitment to intelligent causation. That’s very different from Biblical creationism. That ID, and indeed Darwinism, have philosophical and religious implications is undeniable. But the exploration of consequences is very different from the debate about evidence.
There are two further points to make. Firstly, members of the network that support C4ID are quite entitled to hold a variety of religious or philosophical views which do not necessarily relate to their interest in ID. To deny that would be like insisting that members of political parties cannot hold legitimate and differing views on a range of social or demographic issues.
Secondly, C4ID is not specifically targeting schools. The debate about ID is primarily for the public and professional sphere. The curriculum of schools necessarily reflects the consensus of professional opinion. However, it is unlikely that school students will fail to notice the debate and it is bound to be raised in schools. That teachers should simply ignore it or ban its discussion hardly reflects the best traditions of education.
Intelligent Design in one form or another has been around for a very long time and was a major factor in the development of modern science with its emphasis on order and rationality. It is unlikely to go away any time soon.
Alastair Noble BSc, PhD; Director, Centre for Intelligent Design
David J Galloway MD FRCS FACS; President, Centre for Intelligent Design
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