Intelligent design full of holes and hooey

The philosophical problems with natural religion were pointed out before Darwin.

While proponents of intelligent design may pretend that theirs is a new way to explain the gaps in Darwin’s theory of evolution through natural selection, the public should not be misled. While this may be how Michael Behe presented it in his book, “Darwin’s Black Box,” he has things exactly backwards. 

The idea of intelligent design goes back at least to Plato’s argument that the order we perceive in the world could only be the product of a mind. The Roman physician Galen argued that the human body must have been divinely planned. Darwin proposed his theory of evolution in response to perceived weaknesses in tradition then known as natural religion or natural theology. 

Intelligent design or natural religion face factual and philosophical problems. If species were designed by a divine intelligence, why have so many gone extinct? Why do we find similarities in the bone structure of the human hand, the fin of the porpoise and the leg of a horse? Intelligent design can only try to explain the facts scientists already discovered. The philosophical problems were pointed out long before Darwin. Galen’s use of the argument supports polytheism just as easily as monotheism, a committee of gods. How can we presume the designer thinks as humans do, so that what looks designed to us looks designed to a supernatural intelligence?

Intelligent design in no way proves the designer’s moral goodness. Why would the bee have been designed to cause its own death by stinging its enemies or parasites that eat their hosts alive? If the designer was intelligent enough to foresee problems, but did nothing to prevent them, then this being either was not powerful enough to prevent them, didn’t care or worse. No scientific theory solves every problem, but instead leaves them open for further research. However, intelligent design has far more unsolved problems than does evolution. Perhaps it would be a good idea to let high school students compare evolution to a genuine theory, such as reading the last chapter in Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species,” where he summarizes the difficulties with the natural religion alternative.

Warren Schmaus is a professor of philosophy at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Please send comments to [email protected].