Thursday, October 21, 2010

Politics of Intelligent Design

Political campaigns are both amusing and depressing. Ideally, different viewpoints on political issues and proposed solutions for the challenges of governing should be showcased. Instead, obscure past statements, beliefs, and actions of the candidates are touted as campaign issues; what the candidate would do to solve the problems of government sometimes becomes secondary. Outrageous charges often supersede the truth and coherent solutions to the day’s significant problems are not offered and considered.

So it is with the concept of intelligent design (ID) which posits that the order, design, and successful functioning of the cosmos and its life forms are best explained as the product of an intelligent mind operating at some time in the past, setting things in motion. Christian supporters of the ID concept would acclaim the Judeo-Christian God of scripture as the designer. Other religions could legitimately be considered proponents of ID, but their designer may not be the God of Christian scripture.

Consider the term “design.” Observing the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D. C., no one would deny that design is apparent. It has interdependent elements such as pattern, structure, arrangement, and function. Our conclusion of a past operational intelligence is inescapable, so the design is qualified as “intelligent.” By analogy, living systems manifest similar design features. Therefore, ID believers feel justified believing an intelligent agent acted in the past to design and create the systems.

Those opposed to the idea of ID in the natural world raise such points as (1) ID is a “cover” to promote supernatural creationism, particularly young earth, six-day creationism, (2) ID is a religious concept and, therefore, has no place in a scientific discussion, and (3) ID is not legitimate science. Other points have been raised with respect to ID, even by creationist Christians. There are issues worthy of discussion with respect to each of these points. Each one, when enthusiastically proclaimed by the media, repels segments of the population who might otherwise consider ID on its own merits, whether or not it fits under the definitional umbrella of modern science.

Just as a worthy candidate for political office could unfairly lose support by the revelation of a youthful indiscretion, so ID has lost favor due to the strident objections mentioned above. Other philosophical objections await discussion.