Point-Counterpoint: Evolution & Intelligent Design

Pauli, Ben

The recent events involving the lawsuit in Dover, Penn. over the teaching of so-called intelligent design as an alternative to evolutionary theory has again raised the issue of the roles of Darwinian evolution and religious theories in public schools. The teaching of intelligent design in public schools as a critique of and alternative to evolutionary theory is both an affront to the separation of church and state and an insult to the teaching of science in general.
Intelligent design suggests that life is too complex to have been created simply by random genetic mutation and variability and that, therefore, some sort of intelligent being must have had a hand in the process. Unfortunately, such religious theories are often couched in the idea that scientific theories must be constantly critiqued.
This is, of course, true. Darwinian and neo-Darwinian evolutionary theories do, indeed, have gaps and problems that should be addressed. The overwhelming majority of evidence, however, illustrates that not only has evolution produced the complexity we see in organisms today, but that evolution is still happening and can even be observed in real time (as in “The Beak of the Finch”).
Moreover, a number of characteristics of extant organisms suggest evolutionary tinkering as the ultimate creator, as opposed to some supreme architect of life. Why, for example, did our grand creator leave us with a largely useless appendix? Why do whales have finger bones inside their flippers? Why are there flightless birds with awkward, non-functioning wings? Despite these glaring problems with intelligent design, perhaps the most troubling aspect is the fact that intelligent design is simply not science, but rather religion, and therefore should not be taught in a science classroom. Science is based on observation, logic, and the ability to test hypotheses. Intelligent design is based on faith and is utterly untestable and is, therefore, inappropriate for a science class. Citizens in every school district need to be more vigilant and involved in order to ensure that such faith-based theories do not jeopardize the separation of church and state as well as the importance of science education.