Just over a year ago, a federal court prohibited the Dover Area School District in Pennsylvania from suggesting that intelligent design could fill in the gaps that exist within Darwin’s theory of evolution. The plaintiffs argued that intelligent design was simply creationism in disguise, and thus violated the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution; the courts agreed. Since then, in Kansas, the Board of Education voted that students should expect to study doubts about modern Darwinian Theory. The controversy continues and recently coalesced at the CATO Institute when Michael Shermer, director of the Skeptics Society, and Jonathan Wells, senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, met to discuss everything from the legitimacy of intelligent design to educational requirements.
Shermer concedes the point that the universe and Earth consists of designs and patterns, but argues that Darwin provided a theory to show how design came about through functional adaptations designed by natural selection. Shermer continues, “The problem is we are designed by evolution to find design in nature; we are pattern-seeking animals.” Indeed, humans find order in design, and without order there can only be chaos; according to Shermer, this inference in design is what drives all religion.
Ultimately, according to Shermer, this focus on design exposes a serious flaw in intelligent design, which is “If the world is complex and looks intricately designed, and therefore the best inference is that there must be an intelligent designer, should we not then infer that an intelligent designer must itself have been designed.” Or, simply put, where did God come from? Shermer believes that this is a very important point in debunking intelligent design.
Furthermore, Shermer claims that intelligent design is too simple because it doesn’t provide a bottom-up explanation for how things started, “All the intelligent design theorists are doing is saying that ‘we can’t figure out how X came about naturally, therefore X came about supernaturally…end of story.’” Shermer labels this thinking the “God-in-the-gap argument,” which works to infuse intelligent design in all gaps of scientific knowledge.
Wells questions Shermer and other doubters: How is it that everything else is designed, but living things? Furthermore, he rejects Darwinism “for the simple fact that it is false.” In fact, Wells challenges Darwinists to find any documentation of the origin of a new species from another species through a Darwinian process. However, Wells does agree with Shermer on one point, “In the free market place of ideas, turning to the government to force your theory on others, particularly children, goes against every principle of liberty upon which modern Western democracies are founded.” That said, “It is not intelligent design theorists that are doing this, it is the Darwinists themselves.” In fact, Wells suggests, “Despite what you may have read in the establishment news media, there is no national campaign to mandate intelligent design in any science curriculum.”
Furthermore, when science curricula do adopt a critical analysis on evolution, like those in Ohio and Kansas, Darwinists work to forbid that analysis, and eventually succeeded in Ohio, Wells claims. He labels this “Government imposed indoctrination.” In universities, when professors challenge Darwinism they become outcasts in their departments and can even lose their jobs, Wells alleges.
So, what is Wells alternate theory to the origin of life? “I don’t think I’m obligated to propose an alternate theory,” Wells continues, “I do claim to have an alternate theory that legitimates logical inference from evidence that some features of the national world are designed.” Answering the criticism from Darwinists over who designed God, Wells states, “Theologians say that God is eternal. It so happens when I ask a materialist where matter comes from, the answer is the same, ‘The matter is eternal.’”
For what it’s worth, Wells does believe that Darwinian evolution should be taught in science classes, but that “it should be taught honestly, with full acknowledgment of the problems it has with the evidence. It should be taught critically rather than as a doctrine that cannot be questioned.” Wells and Shermer both want to see the emergence of private schools, which would solve the policy debates between intelligent design and Darwinian evolution. Shermer states, “School choice would be a nice start…at least let parents choose.” Wells adds, “The debates we’re having here…about Darwinism and intelligent design will, and should, continue—private or public schools.”
Matthew Hickman is an intern at Accuracy in Media.