Archive for April 2002

Evolution vs Intelligent Design

A Smackdown of Darwinian Proportions

Currently there is an argument in Ohio and grumbling elsewhere over the theory of evolution and its presence in school science curriculums. Opponents claim that the evidence for evolution is thin, that evolution is just a theory – not a fact – and demand students be taught alternate ideas about how life arose in science classes.

Opponents of evolution claim that the theory is under constant debate in scientific circles and that science itself is undecided about evolution, stating that there are many “holes” in the theory which disprove it. According to David King, an associate professor in the anatomy department at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Carbondale, “The modern theory of evolution is almost universally accepted among scientists. It is far and away the best explanatory framework ever proposed for understanding data from paleontology, biogeography, systematics, comparative anatomy and physiology, ecology, ethology, population genetics, and molecular genetics.”

Many of these supposed “holes” in the theory are actually “holes” in the critics’ knowledge of the natural sciences. Every instance of these supposed “holes” in evolutionary theory – from the presence of vestigial organs such as the appendix to the impossibility of the evolution of the eye – have been explained and proven by evidence through evolutionary theory. They mistake current experiments in evolutionary theory – such as those conducted on fruit flies and fish – as showing the “weakness” of the theory. They forget that there are many aspects of gravity and relativity scientists are exploring even today – 315 years after Newton presented his gravitational theory and nearly a century after Einstein first published his work on relativity. Experiments in astrophysics and high-energy particle physics add to our knowledge about gravity and the subatomic realms – but the overall theories are not likely to be changed. Should new breakthroughs be made, they will build upon existing theories – not overthrow them.

Critics of evolution like to point out that evolution – like the theory of gravity and the theory of special relativity – is a theory and not a fact. They forget the true power of the scientific usage of the word “theory”. Without gravitational theory it would be hard to watch a Little League game as the ball sailed into space off the bat of a third grader. Anyone doubting the power of the theory of relativity should visit Hiroshima, or better yet, explain how the twenty- percent of local electricity that comes from nuclear power stations manages to run their television sets. Gravity, special relativity and evolution are theories because they explain the world around us based on the careful experimentation, accumulation and examination of evidence. In science, facts are used to support theories as evidence, and the evidence for evolution is overwhelming.

At the same time, those who argue against evolution ignore the lack of evidence for their own positions. They cannot provide data to disprove evolution or prove their own ideas. Where is the scientific evidence to support intelligent design? How many articles and experiments about it have stood up to peer review? What testable hypothesis and predictions does it make?

Take dating methods and species diversity. Why do such varied methods as radioactivity, tree rings, ice cores, corals, supernovas – from such diverse disciplines as astronomy, biology, physics, geology, chemistry and archeology – all point to an old Earth and life being present for at least three quarters of that time? Why do different animals and different plants live in different places? Why do possums appear in my backyard but not in my friend’s backyard in England? Why are some species of birds limited to a handful of islands off the South American coast?

Intelligent design is not science and has no place in a science class. It is creationist belief stripped of its religious origins in order to appear credible and nonsectarian. It lacks scientific validity because there is no evidence for it – while anyone who has picked up a fossil in a creek bed has held evidence for evolution in his or her hands.

The attack on evolution is nothing less than an attack on the scientific method itself and the system of logic that lies at its core. Those arguing against the teaching of evolution are the guilty of science ignorance and undermine America’s future prosperity by attempting to dull the young minds of future scientists. At a time when America must look abroad for 7,000 doctors a year to fill residency vacancies, and companies must hire workers from India and China to fill engineering and technical positions, this is inexcusable.