Unintelligent Design

The harshly worded verdict that threw out the intelligent design statement used in Dover, Pennsylvania biology classes, partly on the basis that intelligent design is not science, turns out not to be an outrage after all, but is entirely deserved. As revealed in detailed accounts of the trial published in the New Yorker and Harperís, the school board members who added the intelligent design statement to their biology curriculum were in fact creationists dishonestly using intelligent design as a cover for creationism. Excerpts from the trial transcript also suggest the intellectual unseriousness of leading IDíers such as Michael Behe, who made a hash of his own testimony and failed to articulate basic points about ID.

The larger flaw of the intelligent design movement revealed in this disastrous trial is that it was a huge mistake to push the notion of intelligent design at all. The truth, the scientific truth, is that no one knows how the evolution of new life forms occurred. Therefore all that the critics of Darwinism needed to do was to show that the Darwinian (or rather neo-Darwinian) theory of evolution by random mutation and natural selection is not sustainable; this is the approach used, for example, by Francis Hitching in his excellent book The Neck of the Giraffe. But, instead of keeping the spotlight on Darwinism where it belonged, the IDíers set up their own half-baked theory to replace Darwinism, providing an easy target for the Darwinians to attack, and so letting Darwinism off the hook.

Though I have been a convinced disbeliever in Darwinian evolution since I first read and thought about the subject many years ago, I could never muster any enthusiasm for the intelligent design movement, but I also could never articulate why. Now I realize why. The important thing is to demonstrate the scientific unsustainability of Darwinism, not to posit a vague substitute for Darwinism that is also scientifically unprovable.

(Here is a further discussion of this topic, in which a defender of intelligent design, who felt I had been too discmissive of it here, does a good job of laying out the case for ID.)

Posted by Lawrence Auster at March 04, 2006 11:57 AM | Send

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