design Intelligent: a new challenge to Darwin?
design Intelligent: a new challenge to Darwin?
Author: Santiago Collado González
Published in: Revista Alfa y Omega nº 480, de 5-I-2006, p. 7
Date of publication: 2006
Intelligent Design (ID) is a movement that was born in the early 1990s. Its leader throughout that decade was Phillip E. Johnson, a prestigious lawyer and law professor at the University of Berkeley. In one of his books, graduate Darwin on Trial, published in 1991, he makes a harsh criticism of Darwinism, accusing it of not being a scientific theory but a Philosophy. Johnson argues the need to confront a scientific culture dominated by a materialist ideology of which Darwinism is a complete expression. Intelligent Design is, according to Johnson, the wedge with which this hegemony will be broken. The ID received its most important boost in the following years thanks to the work of Johnson himself and several scientists and philosophers, including Michael Behe and William Dembski. The former, a biochemist, wrote a book in 1996, graduate Darwin's black box, which became a best seller that same year.
"Darwin's black box" contains one of the central ideas defended by the movement's promoters: there exist in the natural world Structures to which Nature has not been able to arrive through gradual changes, as Darwinism or neo-Darwinism claims. The functions performed by these Structures necessarily require a series of elements working in a coordinated and precise manner. If one of its elements is missing, or does not possess the required properties, the structure is incapable of fulfilling its function. It is extremely unlikely that the components of the structure will acquire their arrangement by chance. Behe called this property irreducible complexity.
To illustrate the notion, Behe uses a very familiar and simple example: the mousetrap. Despite its simplicity, the mousetrap fulfils the conditions required for a structure of irreducible complexity: the absence of a single element makes the trap a completely harmless contraption. result A gradual evolutionary process that, starting from the simplest elements, would result in a perfectly functional mousetrap is unthinkable: the intermediate steps are useless and, therefore, a process driven by essay-error through natural selection would not know how to choose the pieces that make up the trap and arrange them in order to hunt mice. Anyone observing a working mousetrap can state, with a high Degree degree of certainty, that it is an instrument designed and constructed by the human hand.
According to Behe, the analysis that science is currently able to make of certain biochemical Structures such as the bacterial flagellum or the blood coagulation system, allows us to state, with the same or greater Degree certainty than with the mouse trap, that they are designed. Who has designed and assembled these systems? ID members do not want to answer this question as they consider it to be outside the strictly scientific realm.
One of the most prominent and prolific proponents of ID is undoubtedly William Dembski. The breadth of his mathematical, philosophical and theological training has enabled him to assume leadership within the movement from the late 1990s onwards. The central goal of his publications consists of solving the problem of the "inference of design": under what conditions can we affirm that a system is designed and when not? His research has led him to propose what he calls the " design filter": a procedure with which to scientifically answer the above question.
An obligatory dialogue
Perhaps the greatest triumph achieved so far by ID's followers has been to force many of evolutionism's most renowned defenders into dialogue with them. Evolutionists never tire of repeating that Intelligent design is nothing more than a sophisticated remake of "Creation Science", which they fought and defeated in the first half of the 20th century. ID proponents insist that they use exclusively scientific arguments. The dialogue has not been conducted in the purely scientific sphere but is tinged with ideology. The character and tone of the confrontation suggests that more than pure science is at stake.
The movement has also succeeded in resurrecting the legal confrontation between creationists and evolutionists over the last century concerning the teaching of evolution in academic institutions. In Pennsylvania, a trial has just taken place to decide the legitimacy of the Dover Area School District's initiative to teach class Biology that design Intelligent is an alternative to evolution. Regardless of the result of the Dover Trial, the discussion will last a long time. ID has put its finger on an old wound: some Darwinists are hiding something that is not science. Many of them have been quick to react by pointing out the shortcomings of Intelligent Design in its claim to be considered scientific. In any case, the discussion is forcing both scientists and philosophers to revisit questions that had already been taken for granted.