Touching The Limits Of Knowledge

Cosmology and our View of the World


Intelligent Design vs. Evolution - A Scientific Debate or else?

Lead: Ashlee Cieslak & Matthew Lubicki


Summary by Kyle Wilson

Reading Material

• Part Three in God for the 21st Century by Russell Stannard
• Interview with Daniel Dennett published in German News Magazine “Der Spiegel” December 2005 (English)
• Evolution in Action, Science News article (Feb. 2006)
• Evo-Devo, article from Boston Globe
• Catholic Scientists and Evolution, Boston Globe (March 2006)

A point to take in mind before making any assumptions about Intelligent Design is that creationism and intelligent design are not necessarily the same thing.

The class started with Matthew trying to clarify the actual meaning of Intelligent Design. He speculated that intelligent design meant that cells were irreducibly complex, meaning that if you try to break the cells up any more they simply won’t work. He followed this up with the point that many believe that the cells are too complex to exist naturally, meaning there has to be some sort of intelligent designer.

The analogy that explained this concept very well was a mousetrap and we actually watched a video on it. The video talked about how there are 5 parts to a mousetrap, if one of those parts is taken away, the mousetrap will not function properly. After the video many people argued that the mousetrap could still work, just not in the same way. The class decided that yes the parts left could still function, but they would not function as the same mousetrap, they would be the parts of something else.

Matthew then started to talk about the flagellum. There are 41 proteins in a flagellum and the point is made that it is irreducibly complex. You cannot take away one of the proteins and have it still be a flagellum. Something seemingly as simple as a flagellum is so complex, and that leads many to believe that there is a designer behind many of the universe’s subtle intricacies. But what qualifies something as being irreducibly complex? Many things cannot work after being broken down, but are they irreducibly complex? That’s one impending question when dealing with this issue. Another very ominous problem for the irreducibly complex argument is that there is no concrete way of testing whether something like a flagellum is actually irreducibly complex. But as we’ve learned in the past, just because there’s no way of testing it now, doesn’t mean that we couldn’t one day.

Although intelligent design is not the same as creationism, they are both related. Creationists believe that the idea of intelligent design should be taught in classrooms because there is no evidence supporting or disregarding a design. The view that is currently being taught in classrooms is the scientific view and that is that the universe was created 15 billion years ago, the earth formed about 4.5 billion years ago, and life most likely started as some form of bacteria and evolved over time. Creationists have a problem with the scientific view.

There are two types of creationists: New Earth and Old Earth Creationists. New Earth Creationists believe that the Earth was created by god not more than 10,000 years ago and that every form of life on Earth was there at the beginning with few changes to any species over that time. Old Earth Creationists have a more liberal view believing that god created everything billions of years ago and had a hand in what happened to each form of life over time. The Old Earth creationists’ views comply more with the Theistic Evolution view, and that is that the various processes of cosmology, abiogenesis, biological evolution, etc. happened just as scientists believe. However, they are viewed as tools created, used, directed, and/or controlled by God in order to accomplish a higher purpose.

For many, evolution threatens the idea of “special creation.” This means that we are not as special as many would like to believe after all; we are not God’s children. Another interesting and somewhat scary point about evolution is that we are not the final product. Evolution is a continuous process and eventually we will evolve into something else, and something else could be more dominant than us. DJ constructed a scenario during class where computers could one day be more evolved than humans, making us insignificant after all. It’s not to say that computers have the ability to evolve and that we will one day be wiped out by them, but we do not know the potential of our surroundings when discussing evolution. If all prior dominant species knew what was going to evolve and debunk them from their reign as king, they probably would have stopped it long before the process had a chance to occur.

The question to ask about creationism and evolution is whether they are mutually exclusive—many scientists believe that they are. The reason why they do not necessarily overlap is that science tells us how the natural world works, and religion attempts to tell us how to live. Evolution is a set of theories that can be tested scientifically, whereas creationism and intelligent design are backed only by religious beliefs. Most believe that the two don’t overlap, to have one you can’t have the other, but they are very closely related, and that is why it is such a hot button issue. It’s a question that might never be answered, evolution or design, because both arguments are have strong proponents and although one may have a stronger case, they both have many people to believe in them.