Once again there has been a new attempt to resurrect Frankenstein’s monster. The cables have been attached and zillions of bolts have been routed into the beast. As the raw energy pulsates, flashes, and buzzes those instigating this truly hideous and totally unnatural monstrosity are screaming “It’s alive, I tell you, alive” as they wait for the ghastly corpse to stir into motion.
But of course nothing happens.
Forgive my metaphor, but once again another attempt is being made to bring “Intelligent Design” back into public schools as “Truth”. This latest dark nefarious homage to ignorance is being attempted by Republicans in West Virginia. After sneaking into a local graveyard and digging up the long dead corpse of “Intelligent Design” (metaphorically), they are now attempting to claim it lives and are mandating it to teach in every school. This is despite the rather obvious fact that it is not only dead, but was never alive.
“Wow, strong stuff”, you might say, as you wonder what the story is here.
We will come to that.
First, I better nail down the specific of what “Intelligent Design” claims to be and point out just how crazy it actually is.
Intelligent Design 101
You will no doubt be familiar with the term “Creationism”. That’s basically a religious claim that asserts, on the basis of exactly zero credible evidence, that the ultimate and final explanation for everything is “A God did it all by magic”. I say “A God”, because it is not just a Christian belief, other belief system are into it as well. It comes in a vast array of flavours that ranges from old-earth creationism all the way through to young earth creationism. The former is of course an attempt to come to terms with the age of the earth being what it is and suggests that the days of Genesis are symbolic of geological ages, while the later is a belief that Genesis is a belief that planet earth and the entire universe suddenly appeared just 6,000 years ago.
Yes I know, a very naughty God not only magicked it all, but included lots of dinosaur bones, geological strata, and even tossed in some rather pissed off Sumerians who were rather annoyed about their day being interrupted by all this creation malarkey. Apparently it is like this as a “test”. A gullibility test perhaps, and so if you believe then you have failed the test.
“Well yes”, you might quip, “so where does “Intelligent design come into all this?”
Good question, so let’s go there now.
Roughly about the mid 1980’s the “Intelligent Design” movement emerged and gained traction amongst evangelical fundamentalists as a means to present creationism, not as religious but rather as supposedly scientific. It is in essence creationism with all the religious jargon stripped away. Not even God gets a mention, instead we have a “intelligent agent”.
A key moment for it happened in 2005 when it was legally tested in the now famous “Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District” trial.
That was a trial where 11 parent of students sued the Dover Area School District over the school board’s mandate that Intelligent Design must be taught as fact.
All the big Intelligent Design “experts” rolled up to present their solid “proof”.
Side note: Yes Behe was then and still is the professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University. His own university considers him to be a nutter. The university website has a very explicit disclaimer …
The department faculty, then, are unequivocal in their support of evolutionary theory, which has its roots in the seminal work of Charles Darwin and has been supported by findings accumulated over 140 years. The sole dissenter from this position, Prof. Michael Behe, is a well-known proponent of “intelligent design.” While we respect Prof. Behe’s right to express his views, they are his alone and are in no way endorsed by the department. It is our collective position that intelligent design has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally, and should not be regarded as scientific.
The trial did not go well for the intelligent designers. Having no credible evidence tends to make that outcome rather inevitable.
On December 20, 2005, Judge Jones issued his 139-page findings of fact and decision ruling that the Dover mandate requiring the statement to be read in class was unconstitutional. The ruling concluded that intelligent design is not science, and permanently barred the board from requiring teachers to denigrate or disparage the scientific theory of evolution, and from requiring ID to be taught as an alternative theory
So yes, not only is it a scientific fact that “intelligent design” is bullshit, but it was firmly established in a federal court as a legal fact as well.
Well done intelligent design guys, we thank you for your service.
Yes, but what is the harm?
“It’s just an alternative way of looking at things, so what harm does it do to present it“, some might say, “just live with it“
“Intelligent design is not a testable theory and as such is not generally accepted by the scientific community.” He said that the idea of intelligent design was not subject to falsification, and demonstrated that many claims made by intelligent-design advocates against evolution were invalid. When asked what the harm was in reading the statement, Miller gave a two-fold response. 1) “[I]t falsely undermines the scientific status of evolutionary theory and gives students a false understanding of what theory actually means.” And 2) “As a person of faith who was blessed with two daughters, who raised both of my daughters in the church, and had they been given an education in which they were explicitly or implicitly forced to choose between God and science, I would have been furious, because I want my children to keep their religious faith.”
That truly does nail it and clearly explains the pseudoscience designation that this supposed “science” attempts to masquerade with.
This is all History – What has now happened?
Despite it now being a federal legal fact that Intelligent Design is bullshit, those that believe will of course continue to push for it to be promoted.
Due to my introduction you most probably do now grasp that Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory.
To be clear, the word “theory” has a very specific meaning when discussing science …
A scientific theory is an explanation of an aspect of the natural world and universe that can be (or a fortiori, that has been) repeatedly tested and corroborated in accordance with the scientific method, using accepted protocols of observation, measurement, and evaluation of results.
So what does that bill actually do?
It does not tell you what “Intelligent design” is, and so it could potentially be interpreted to mean any whacky thing at all … aliens, fairies, time travellers. greek gods, etc… they would all qualify. No evidence needed, just make it up.
But wait, there is a bit of a twist to all this
The text of that initial draft has been modified.
“Intelligent Design” has been replaced with “Scientific Theories”.
I speculate that “Intelligent Design” was replaced with “Scientific Theories” to avoid the rather obvious red flag and yet also enable it to be taught … except this change means that they have come up with a bit of law that does absolutely nothing at all.
Today, right now, any teacher is wholly free and not constrained in any way discussing actual scientific theories. Since “Intelligent Design” is not science at all, its remains thankful off the agenda.
One other quirk
This is an attempt to amend existing law.
A law that is very specific to grading. In other words, they have simply grabbed an almost random bit of legislation in an apparent bid to sneak “Intelligent Design” back in, and have now so utterly screwed that up, that it has become an utterly pointless amendment that decrees that teachers should be empowered to do what they can already do.
(If you have not yet done so, then about here would be a great place to proceed to facepalm)
But hey, there are members of the “Intelligent Design” fan club, so concept such as independent “thinking” and also being competent at what they do generally tends to not be in their scope.