TCS Daily

Why Intelligent Design Is Going to Win

By Douglas Kern - October 7, 2005 12:00 AM

It doesn't matter if you like it or not. It doesn't matter if you think it's true or not. Intelligent Design theory is destined to supplant Darwinism as the primary scientific explanation for the origin of human life. ID will be taught in public schools as a matter of course. It will happen in our lifetime. It's happening right now, actually.

Here's why:

1) ID will win because it's a religion-friendly, conservative-friendly, red-state kind of theory, and no one will lose money betting on the success of red-state theories in the next fifty to one hundred years.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: families that reproduce people tend to reproduce ideas, as well. The most vocal non-scientist proponents of ID are those delightfully fertile Catholics, Evangelicals, and similarly right-leaning middle-class college-educated folk -- the kind whose children will inherit the country. Eventually, the social right will have the sheer manpower to teach ID wherever they please.

Despite what angry ID opponents may tell you, the advent of ID won't hurt American productivity a bit. Belief in ID does nothing to make believers less capable in science or engineering. No geek in the world will find his computer mojo diminished because of his opinions on irreducible complexity. To the contrary: ID might make biology and the natural sciences more appealing to believers who might otherwise find science to be too far removed from God's presence. As ID appeals to the conservative mindset without hurting anyone's skills, why wouldn't the social right embrace it?

To be sure, believers don't need ID to accept modern science. The Catholic Church, for example, made peace with traditional Darwinist theory long ago. Many scientists see no contradiction between Darwinism and their own religious beliefs. Rightly understood, Darwinist theory doesn't diminish God's glory any more than any other set of rules governing the world. An omnipotent God can act through scientific media as well as miraculous interventions.

But if ID is correct, then the intelligent designer of life must have lavished astonishing care and attention upon the human race to give it unique dignity and value -- as well as handicaps and temptations that only virtue can overcome. The God of Moses and Jesus didn't leave fingerprints at this scene, but it's His MO all the way. And as believers are detectives of the Almighty's presence, they're naturally more inclined to follow the clues revealing that familiar pattern.

2) ID will win because the pro-Darwin crowd is acting like a bunch of losers.

"Ewww...intelligent design people! They're just buck-toothed Bible-pushing nincompoops with community-college degrees who're trying to sell a gussied-up creationism to a cretinous public! No need to address their concerns or respond to their arguments. They are Not Science. They are poopy-heads."

There. I just saved you the trouble of reading 90% of the responses to the ID position. Vitriol, condescension, and endless accusations of bad faith all characterize far too much of the standard pro-Darwinian response to criticism. A reasonable observer might note that many ID advocates appear exceptionally well-educated, reasonable, and articulate; they might also note that ID advocates have pointed out many problems with the Darwinist catechism that even pro-Darwin scientists have been known to concede, when they think the Jesus-kissing crowd isn't listening. And yet, even in the face of a sober, thoughtful ID position, the pro-Darwin crowd insists on the same phooey-to-the-boobgeois shtick that was tiresome in Mencken's day. This is how losers act just before they lose: arrogant, self-satisfied, too important to be bothered with substantive refutation, and disdainful of their own faults. Pride goeth before a fall.

3) ID will win because it can be reconciled with any advance that takes place in biology, whereas Darwinism cannot yield even an inch of ground to ID.

So you've discovered the missing link? Proven that viruses distribute super-complex DNA proteins? Shown that fractals can produce evolution-friendly three-dimensional shapes? It doesn't matter. To the ID mind, you're just pushing the question further down the road. How was the missing link designed? What is the origin of the viruses? Who designed the fractals? ID has already made its peace with natural selection and the irrefutable aspects of Darwinism. By contrast, Darwinism cannot accept even the slightest possibility that it has failed to explain any significant dimension of evolution. It must dogmatically insist that it will resolve all of its ambiguities and shortcomings -- even the ones that have lingered since the beginning of Darwinism. The entire edifice of Darwinian theory comes crashing down with even a single credible demonstration of design in any living thing. Can science really plug a finger into every hole in the Darwinian dyke for the next fifty years?

4) ID will win because it can piggyback on the growth of information theory, which will attract the best minds in the world over the next fifty years.

ID is a proposition about information. It contends that the processes of life are so specific and carefully ordered that they must reflect deliberate action. Put simply: a complex message implies an even more complex sender. Separating ordered but random data from relevant, purposeful data -- that is, separating noise from messages -- is one of the key undertakings of the 21st century. In nearly every field, from statistics to quantum physics to cryptology to computer science, the smartest people on the planet are struggling to understand and apply the unfathomable power of information that modern technology has bequeathed to them. We have only scratched the surface of the problem-solving power that the Internet and cheap computing power open to us. As superior intellects strive to understand the metaphysics of information, they will find the information-oriented arguments of ID increasingly sensible and appealing. ID will fit nicely into the emerging worldview of tomorrow's intellectual elite.

This emerging worldview will take a more expansive view of science than does the current elite. Consider the "meme" meme. We all know what a meme is: a thought pattern that spreads from person to person and group to group like a viral infection spreading through a population. Yet memes cannot be bisected, or examined under a microscope, or "falsified" via the scientific method. Even so, we can make statements about memes with varying degrees of objective truthfulness. Is it possible to speak of a "science" of concepts? Right now, the scientific establishment says no. This unhelpful understanding of science will soon be discarded in favor of something more useful in the information age.

5) ID will win because ID assumes that man will find design in life -- and, as the mind of man is hard-wired to detect design, man will likely find what he seeks.

The human mind seeks order in everything. The entire body of knowledge available to mankind reflects our incorrigible desire to analyze, systemize, hypothesize, and theorize. It may well be that our brains are physically configured in such a way that we can't help but find order and design in the world. Don't look so surprised, evolutionists -- a brain attuned to order and design is a brain more likely to survive. The ability to detect design is essentially the ability to detect patterns, and the ability to detect patterns is the key to most applications of human intelligence. Hammers tend to find nails, screwdrivers tend to find screws, and the human mind tends to find design. Of course, the propensity to see designs doesn't mean that the designs aren't actually there. But the quintessential human perception is one of design -- and, to the extent that perceptions define reality, a theory built on the perception of design has a huge advantage over its competitors.

The only remaining question is whether Darwinism will exit gracefully, or whether it will go down biting, screaming, censoring, and denouncing to the bitter end. Rightly or wrongly, the future belongs to ID. There's nothing irreducibly complex about it.

Douglas Kern is a lawyer and TCS contributor. To see another view of the debate over ID, read "Descent of Man in Dover" by Sallie Baliunas on TCS today.


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