My Intelligent Design Column - Published in the School Newspaper

Fujisawas Sake

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Hello Everyone.

Well, as my bio states, one of my hobbies is writing. Given the current U.S. controversy about the "theory" of Intelligent Design, I felt that I had to make a stand, even if it was only in the Humboldt State University Lumberjack. I decided to share it with my fellow TONMO'ers, mostly because, in retrospect, I think Kun-Fu Tze (Confucius, to all us Westerners) was right - "Never write a letter while angry." This goes for newspaper columns as well.

Science is a deeply personal thing for me, and what I have viewed from studying its history and many of the nuances involved is that its in trouble, and will probably always be. I find it funny that people expect from science what it cannot deliver, and do not appreciate what science brings to the human experience.

Well, without further adieu, here is the original artice (sans school-added title). Hope someone makes meaning of this. I know I'm still trying... :




A lot of debate has raged lately about the theory of intelligent design, or “ID”. ID is a hypothesis that some of the observed complexity in living systems must be the result of having been designed by some outside force. This is now being considered as an alternative to evolutionary theory in some U.S. public schools with the backing of President Bush and many scientists, and school boards. The question must be asked if ID should be taught in a science course, and if it truly qualifies as a scientific “theory”.

The proponents of ID look for what is known as “irreducible complexity”, or other physical signs that seemingly point toward an intelligent designer of life. What is “complex” or “simple”, however, and by whose standards is this judgment passed? Many older zoology texts have a somewhat straight-line evolutionary path from “simple” life like sponges to more “complex” forms like man. This idea is the shadow offspring of Aristotle’s scala naturae. This theory influenced early biologists to consider evolution as a natural pursuit of evolutionary “perfection”, driven by purposeful motives by an unseen force (God, if you will). Interpreted this way, we are at the top of the evolutionary ladder, and everything else is below our “level”.

On June 21, a New York Times article by Carl Zimmer shed new light on the vast genetic information of jellies (Phylum Cnidaria), indicating that these “simple” creatures, are in fact, far more derived than first thought. Should this truly be the case, does this make them “complex”? This question becomes unscientific, because we interpret levels of complexity based on ourselves as the model organism. Upon examination, “simple” and “complex” are not exactly appropriate terms for biological science curricula, nor for this subject debate.

So is ID a theory? In the scientific sense, it is not. A scientific theory is based on observation and experimentation, both of which are at the core of any real evolutionary study. ID is based on the relativistic notion that because we humans cannot understand all the processes of life what we do not understand must be a product of the supernatural. The fallacy of ID lies in the religiously humanistic relative interpretation, and the lack of understanding of about what science actually is. Given the religious undertones of ID, we are asked to set aside skepticism and have faith, which science and scientists cannot do.

So is religion the source of ID? Because the very nature of science is systematic study and collection of evidence to determine empirical truth, science must be atheistic. Science cannot be used to determine the existence or nonexistence of a god or God. So it would be more appropriate to say that while science is atheistic, it is not anti-theistic. This is outside the realm of empirical study.

From a theological perspective, the points espoused by followers of ID and the related Creation Science movements are disturbingly antithetical to the notion of religious faith itself, which is probably best defined by the Apostle Paul who wrote, "Faith is the substance of that which is hoped for, the proof of that not seen.” (Hebrews 11.1). Therefore, these hypotheses do not further the agendas of religion, and indeed seem more to undermine science than strengthen faith.

So why ID? I would argue that the nature of this debate is all about politics. Today, many politicians speak openly about the “culture wars”, where ideologically-driven political debates rage about hot button issues like abortion, separation of church and state, homosexuality, morals, etc. These politicians drive the study of evolution into this mix, blaming in part the study of evolution for the apparent loss of respect for the value of human life. I would argue that the human experience, the overall history and metaphysical meaning of our lives are independent of evolution for the aforementioned reasons. Put simply, our experiences are important whether to a creator, or if only to us as humanity itself.

ID is scientifically and theologically flawed and should not be taught in schools as a science. The motives of its proponents should be questioned, as science itself should constantly be challenged by new scientific ideas. Science grows with scientific debate and empirical information, and withers in the darkness of speculation and pseudoscientific conjecture. Hopefully, both religion and science can agree to send ID back to the halls of politics to vanish into obscurity.


John F. Jaramillo

Humboldt State University
Marine Biology/Zoology Senior
Arcata
m_ingens@yahoo.com
 

Fujisawas Sake

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Oh, and a hearty thank you to monty, and my friend Thomas Hovie without whose help, this article would never have been written... (or at least would have been a LOT less interesting).
 

Phil

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#3
An excellent piece or writing there John. You really boiled down the issues to the core and argued very purposefully.

You really should get together with Richard Dawkins one of these days!
 

Architeuthoceras

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#7
Nice, very nice.

And how did your dig go? I'm off myself for a week with the crew digging Falcarius. Funny how the ID thing probably wont even come up around the campfire unless someone throws out a line of pop gear. :smile:
 

sorseress

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#9
By the way, don't forget The Daily Show starts it's week long special on Evolution vs. Intelligent Design

Intelligent Design is neither very intelligent nor very good design.
 

monty

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#10
good show

well written article, John. I'll be interested to hear if it is rebutted by letters to the paper or anything...
 

erich orser

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#11
Terrific work, John. I'd also enjoy hearing about any objecting letters from the unscrubbed detritus out there...
 

Fujisawas Sake

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erich orser said:
Terrific work, John. I'd also enjoy hearing about any objecting letters from the unscrubbed detritus out there...
Thanks for all the compliments everyone. I was worried that it was too technical for most. Eric, its funny that you should mention this, because I have the feeling that the student population at HSU is going to be too apathetic to really care. We'll see. There is an "Ask the Pastor" paid advertisement column from a local church, but I doubt he (the pastor in question) will care either.

It would be nice to have people actually talk about this issue rather than a bunch of politically-appointed scientist sellouts and barely educated school board members.

I have read ID information posted by a number of PhD researchers, to which I have to reply "HUH?". How'd these guys get their degrees without a basic knowledge of science? *sigh* I realize that if I ever become a professor I will be the kind of Prof. of which I am afraid. :grad:

Oh well. Que sera, seratonin

Piece (of sushi with your good sake),

John
 

sorseress

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Fujisawas Sake said:
"It would be nice to have people actually talk about this issue rather than a bunch of politically-appointed scientist sellouts and barely educated school board members."

When I ran a bookstore I was accused by a local woman of "having too much education!" Unfortunately there are a whole lot of people like her.

"I have read ID information posted by a number of PhD researchers, to which I have to reply "HUH?". How'd these guys get their degrees without a basic knowledge of science?"

What's really scary is when they actually do have those degrees and went to reputable universities to get them. It's unfathomable how they can turn off their brains in one area, and still be capable of using them in others.

*sigh* I realize that if I ever become a professor I will be the kind of Prof. of which I am afraid. :grad:"

JOhn, you will be exactly the kind of professor I really enjoyed!
 

Jillykim

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Throw me on your bandwagon, if there's room. It seems science can be distilled into a fairly simple framework: constant inquiry. This runs counter to the ID premise of "legitimizing truth." Indeed, how can a theory exsit in a framework of answers?
 

rrtanton

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#19
John:

For what it's worth, it's a belated response, but I agree with everyone else, this is an excellent article. I don't think you were too technical at all. Rather, you managed to explain some of the most fundamental problems with ID, and its conflict with the nature of science, in intelligent yet accessible language.

I especially like your breakdown of the problem of defining "complexity," and your use of Zimmer's article on the recent genetic discoveries in cnidarians. That's a great article, and it works well to highlight the problems with complexity and with considering any modern organism to be "primitive."

I'm not sure I can really come up with anything to nitpick, at least not in my lethargic post-lunchtime state :wink: . I would personally have added some more detail as to why ID isn't scientific. "The religiously humanistic relative interpretation" is accurate, to be sure, but that might leave readers thinking that's the core of your objection, when in fact there's plenty of examples of false scientific claims IDists make that could be debunked as an example. Neither would I say the answer to "why ID" is just about politics. Sure, politicians are exploiting it. But I would also look to the individuals making up the political base and why they believe it. I would try to dissect some of their thinking. Personally, I suspect part of the problem is they want to add some authority to their faith, and to relieve themselves of any nagging internal conflicts between their faith and science. I suspect most IDists generally respect and like science, or at least think they do.

BUT I'm not saying those items belong in your article anyway. Your article is sticking to the more...um..."theoretical" aspects of this debate, more about the motives and the tools both sides are using rather than the down-n-dirty details. I think that's a good approach if done right, as you have.

Oh, and, uh, Greg: I like my sig, especially in discussions like this one, but yours sorely tempts me to switch...:mrgreen: One of my favorites:

"The past tempts us, the present confuses us, and the future frightens us. And our lives slip away, moment by moment, lost in that vast, terrible inbetween."
 

Fujisawas Sake

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Oh, as a sidenote, the maximum word limit of the article was 750 words. I have been considering doing a bit of a rewrite for publication elsewhere.
 

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