Spelling “Intelligent Design” without “Intelligence”
I have yet to see Ben Stein’s new movie on intelligent design, “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” but after seeing him do the rounds on the networks, I decided to look into the debate. I’m not sure why conservatives keep pushing intelligent design, since it seems self-defeating.
While digging through YouTube for William F. Buckley, Jr.’s take on the issue, I found an incredibly informative hour-long debate. It was a 1997 episode of “Firing Line” in which Buckley invited several pro-ID people and evolutionary biologists to hash it out. I found, more or less, what I expected. The pro-design crowd didn’t have an organized argument. No counter-theory was posited. Dr. David Berlinski, a mathematician, argued that a recently-discovered insect “simply appeared.” His argument against evolution was spotty; he pointed out flaws in textbooks and gaps in the fossil record. On the other hand, the other side came prepared with extensive evidence and a strong case for the scientific processes associated with evolution. That is to say intelligent design has no scientific method applied to it or methodologically monistic “theory,” and should therefore remain in departments of theology.
One retort in the debate was especially apropos: An opponent of intelligent design said that criticizing gaps in the fossil record is like walking into the fourth inning of a baseball game and saying that the rest of the innings are missing. The metaphor is slightly flawed, but the meaning is clear: while scientists continue to study the fossil record, opponents study their textbooks looking for errors. If the design movement really wants to get some agency, it should start practicing science rather than conjecture.
Buckley was, understandably, on the design side. In fact, I probably would have been, too. I believe that the universe was created intelligently. I don’t think that evolution speaks against that