Monday, January 09, 2006

Apparently the ID V Evolution debate is still ongoing in the Meridian Star

Alawine: Scrutinizing intelligent design

OCEAN SPRINGS - A recent columnist, contributing his thoughts on the debate concerning intelligent design vs. evolution, stated, “I still can't bring myself to believe that an amoeba suddenly grew legs and decided to walk on land.”Apparently, many supporters of I.D. do not understand the basic tenets of evolution through natural selection. Organisms do not “decide” to grow limbs, nor does the development of complex biological structures take place in such a generally short time. Also, his assertion that “the notion that natural selection could produce new organs or wings or tails is simply unsupported by any observable evidence that would withstand the scientific method” would harvest quite a few objections from those who work in the life sciences. I myself would be interested in knowing how well I.D. stands up to the scientific method. But I digress.

Setting aside the debate of whether I.D. is a scientific theory on par with the theory of evolution through natural selection, several issues should concern the open-minded individual following this controversy.

First, many proponents insist on “teaching the controversy” - i.e., present both sides of this issue and allow students to decide for themselves that which is true. As a man of both science and, I hope, of common sense as well as being a parent, this approach alarms me greatly.Would these I.D. advocates be as willing to have other controversial subjects (such as abstinence vs. safe sex) be presented so young minds could decide for themselves? Methinks not. The responsibility of science educators is to mold young minds with the latest accepted, peer-reviewed scientific knowledge, not to confuse them with sociopolitical controversies.

Secondly, the whole concept of I.D. seems to smell just slightly of intellectual dishonesty. Intelligent design rests on the foundation that an Intelligent Designer exists or existed. If an Intelligent Designer exists/existed, He/She/It must have designed or created all that is. This sounds remarkably like creationism, something the courts of this nation have prohibited being taught in our public schools. Proponents of I.D. would gain more respect for their position if they admitted I.D. is repackaged creationism rather than to push I.D. as if it were something new and not tied to one particular religion.This “repackaging” causes one to speculate as to the true motives of I.D. proponents, but that's not a subject I'm prepared to discuss in this forum at this time.

Lastly, I would like to point out certain practical considerations have yet to be addressed by those pushing to introduce I.D. into the classroom. I.D. requires the presence of an Intelligent Designer, a Creator. If all the facts are to be presented to students, who is to be the Intelligent Designer? What is to be His/Her/Its purpose for designing all life? What predictions can we make as to the future actions of an Intelligent Designer?There are numerous religions in this word, all which have their own cosmogony: Judeo-Christian, Islamic, aboriginal, pagan, etc. (My personal favorite is Flying Spaghetti Monsterism.) Other religions, such as Hinduism, view time as cyclical. Also to be included would be theories in which aliens introduced life to this planet (I.D. = E.T.?).From a truly objective I.D. viewpoint, all of these scenarios must be presented as each is just as valid as the other. Are proponents of I.D. willing to travel that road? Again, methinks not.

I suspect proponents of I.D. are interested in only the Designer of one particular religion.The concept of creatio ex nihilo (creation out of nothing) is the starting point for both the theories of evolution/natural selection and intelligent design. While my personal beliefs allow me to accept evolution through natural selection as perhaps the vehicle by which a Creator brought life as it is to be, I refuse to be dogmatic about it. The search for truth begins with the simple statement: “I do not know.”Science tells us how. Religion tells us why. The two are complementary. To attempt to supplant one with the other benefits no one.As Albert Einstein said, “Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.

Bo Alawine, a Meridian native and 1983 graduate of Clarkdale Attendance Center who currently lives in Ocean Springs, is a computer programmer/systems engineer for a defense contractor.