ID: Separating theory from dogma

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

The controversial debate on intelligent design (ID) has led me to a single fascinating observation: When political ideology and religious fundamentalism manipulate science and science abandons reason for dogma, human intelligence de-evolves at an exponential rate.

Intelligent design has a dual meaning: It is both a scientific theory and, separately, a socio-political movement. Let us disregard for a moment this latter definition, in which ID ? hijacked by those with either politically conservative or religiously fundamental agendas ? has become a fad. In an objective analysis of the theory itself, this sad reality becomes entirely irrelevant. Its claims must be evaluated on their own merits. Incredibly, though, the scientific community has come to a near-consensus in dismissing ID as resurrected creationism, illustrating what seems to be a lack of basic understanding by those who ought to know better.

Detractors have used a variety of labels to characterize intelligent design as unscientific, ranging from ?21st-century creationism? to ?religion masquerading as science.? Yet the arguments posited by ID ? developed through conscious employment of the scientific method ? are firmly grounded in biochemistry and other related disciplines. As there are no references to religious doctrine, the claim of equivalence to creationism is absurd and woefully uninformed. Though its propositions may inevitably be proven incorrect (just as evolution?s may), the theory of intelligent design is most assuredly not ?pre-scientific mythology.?

In an age where the majority of natural scientists seem to view religion and even spirituality as their sworn enemies, Charles Darwin?s personal view on philosophy of religion is rarely known. Would he be pleased with the path mainstream ?Darwinism? has taken since his death ? accusing anyone who suggests the existence of a designer guilty of heresy? Indeed Darwinism has become an ideology, a sort of religion among increasingly reactionary scientists. Ironically, Darwin himself testified that theism and evolution were not contradictory beliefs. He insisted on calling himself an agnostic, maintaining that he had ?never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God.?

Though most critics claim otherwise, intelligent design makes no attempt to disprove the theory of evolution. H. Allen Orr, a biologist at Rochester and critic of intelligent design, wrote of ID proponent and Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe: ?He has no problem with stories of moths evolving dark coloration so as to hide on polluted trees or of streptococci outwitting antibiotics. Nor does he deny common descent, the notion that all species, including humans, are derived from one or a few common ancestors.? Instead, Behe and other serious ID advocates highlight biological complexities that are empirically unexplainable by the theory of evolution, suggesting the possibility of design by a higher power, unseen force, or other unknown. Intelligent design begins in science and ends in philosophy, two disciplines in which logical inquiry and rational thought matter very much.

Because I despise the perversion of science by ideologues with solely political or religious motives, I condemn those on the so-called ?religious right? who have hijacked intelligent design as a means of implanting religion in public education. But I equally resent those detractors who respond to ID with polemics rather than scientific investigation. As a wise man once noted, ?Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of the imagination.?