Challenge: Intelligent Design Isn’t Science

Posted: February 15, 2011 by Amy Hall in Intelligently Designed, Weekly Challenge

This is quite a common challenge I come across:

Intelligent Design isn’t science. It’s not testable. It doesn’t make predictions. It’s just religion masquerading as science–a way to try to get creationism into schools.

So what do you think? Any ideas about how to respond to this challenge from your friends? This week, we’ll be hearing a response from Alan, so be sure to stop by again on Thursday to hear his answer.

  1. rob says:

    when it comes to evolution vs creationism there isnt a stero-type look at how the person just assumes creationism is a reilgion there are relgious people who belive in evolution im all for having both creation and evolution taught in schools – and i think we might to to ask a columbo ? to the challenger “what do you mean ID isn’t testable or make predictions” make them get into depth on that.

  2. Adrian Urias says:

    Well, I’m not interested if its a science or not. I’m interested if the conclusions it draws are true or not.

    genetic fallacy as well? at the end

  3. Glenn Gardner says:

    IMO and experience the posited assertion of “not testable” applies equally to the “current evolutionary synthesis” broadly described as being “the overwhelming consensus” by most ID opposition. It is not enough to call variation what it is – variation – they almost to a man insist on calling it”random” variation. It is not enough to call selection what it is – selection – they almost to a man insist on calling it “natural” selection. It is not enough to recognize analogous similarities – they almost to a man insist they are homologous similarities…….and so on down the line across various categories of discussion.
    There is little disagreement that design is apparent. It’s the origin of the design that is at stake in the debate. No matter how far one reduces the explanations for the appearance of design in the observable phenomena – eventually everyone reaches a “border” past which one is required to make untestable predictions if one wants to infer/assert “origins” or “causes” of that design. Cuts both ways IMHO.

  4. Luke Nix says:

    The challenger needs to provide their understandings of both “intelligent design” and “science”. The second part of the challenge statement indicates a strawman understanding of “intelligent design”, and the assumption that science is the only source of truth indicates an elementary concept of the philosophy of science and other academic disciplines.

  5. Elliot Neff says:

    Is intelligent design science? Well, it seems that there are numerous assumptions implanted into the question itself that the challenger must hold, even if they do not come right out and say them at the onset. With that in mind, I would, as others have already mentioned above, simply try asking them questions to see what they really know about their assertion. More than likely, their understanding of evolution vs. creation is fairly limited.

    Aside from questions though, there are a few things which I think are important to address:

    I think one of the most common arguments for Atheism or Atheistic evolution would be the ‘God of the gaps’ argument. In other words, many people believe that whenever Theists encounter a scientific difficulty or apparent conflict between their beliefs and scientific data, they simply conclude “God must have done it.” Richard Dawkins commonly points to ancient civilizations and societies who, not knowing where natural occurences such as lightning, earthquakes, or volcanoes came from, attributed the act to their God/gods. In this case, many people believe that creation is a way to ‘fill in’ the gaps of knowledge in order to somehow avoid an unpleasant conclusion.
    I think this view is mistaken. First and foremost, I believe that this standpoint commits the genetic fallacy– namely that EVEN IF it were true that Creationism is an attempt to simply ‘fill in’ the gaps of our scientific knowledge (which I do not for a minute admit), it does not in any way allow you to logically conclude that God therefore did not create the earth & universe.

    Secondly, keep in mind also that the issue at hand is not a dispute over a 6-day literal creation, but rather, the question is only concerning whether God created the universe.
    In fact, many Christians hold that the earth was not created in a literal 6 days. Dr. William Lane Craig, for example, would support the view that best scientific estimates today on the age of the earth are somewhere around 13 billion years old. He, along with many other qualified scholars, would also agree though that there is no real conflict between evolution and Theism. They could both true.
    Again, however, the real question comes back to whether or not we have good reasons to believe that God created the universe. Ultimately though, there is a bigger underlying question we could raise instead– “Does God Exist?” Because if He does exist, then Creationism must necessarily be true.
    That is an entirely different discussion, but it is good to recognize what the real objection is here. This really is an objection to the existence of God.

    Thirdly, I also thought that perhaps someone would object to Creationism because they believe that God cannot be scientifically tested; that they only choose to believe things that are able to be scientifically proven.
    There are many problems with this view though. To point out a fairly obvious one– it is a self-defeating statement because the statement itself is not scientific– it is philosophical & cannot be scientifically tested.
    On top of that though, there are a number of things that science cannot prove:

    1. Logical & mathematical points of reasoning (Science presupposes logic & math so that to attempt to prove them scientifically would be arguing in a circle).

    2. Metaphysical truths

    3. Esthetic judgements

    4. Moral judgements

    5. Science itself (Science is permeated with unprovable assumptions that simply cannot be proven scientifically. For example, in Einsteins theory of general relativity, the entire theory hinges on the assumption that a beam of light is constant from point A to point B. This, however, strictly cannot be proven. We simply have to assume it in order to believe it).

    So, by pointing these things out, we’re able to demonstrate that we cannot logically rely on science alone for our answers.

    And lastly, (Sorry– I know this is a bit long…) I think that there may also be a philosophical prejudice or bias against miracles. Many may conclude that since creationism is a miracle, it must therefore be false. This assumption though entirely hinges on the question of whether or not God exists (which I already mentioned above). If God does exist, then miracles are certainly possible and should even be expected. But we cannot afford to conclude that God does not exist because miracles are not possible (as the works of Immanuel Kant or David Hume may suggest). To do so would be circular reasoning.

    These are what, I feel, are the main objections behind this question… 🙂

  6. Intelligent design doesn’t make predictions?

    There was not just one prediction in God’s design revealed in Jesus that came true. Not one prediction proved false, but they were “repeatedly” true. Many other prophesies in the plan that God designed produced similar results.

  7. Daniel Gruhn says:

    The major issue I take with this notion is that the asker has a very narrow view of science and defines it in a self serving way. Firstly, the requirement for science to be predictive undercuts all descriptive science. Descriptive science is the foundation of most experimental endeavors as you always have to experiment within a given defined framework. Secondly, biology is very descriptive in essence and I, as a biologist/ecologist, find the notion that “predictions are what make science” to be troubling. Most of the lab work I’ve done was more about uncovering/observing how something works rather than creating a hypothesis to test. Testability as a foundation of what science is began as a notion in the philosophy of science, not among experimental scientists. Likewise, the concept of falsifiability which was given renewed vigor by Karl Popper, is just not how experimental scientists think.

    Regarding the viability of intelligent design (ID) as a science, I see no reason why it should not be taken seriously. Just look at the grass roots of modern day science. Most of philosophers like Francis Bacon who just so happened to endeavored to explain the natural world, were theists. What more, it was their Christian theism that inclined them to think the natural world could be understood as opposed to other forms of theism where a more chaotic thus unintelligible world existed. The issue then becomes not if ID is science but since Darwin gave us a means that could bring about order without control, should ID be accepted.

    To this I must say that by virtue of a conceived possibility (say macro-evolution), it does not follow that that possibility must have occurred. The kind of logic used to glean hypotheses from data is not the deductive kind, the logic is adductive in nature. This is why Popper espoused falsifiability: since you can’t necessarily prove many positives, you can show a negative. But it does not show the impossibility of proving some statements: there’s an even number of ducks in the world. But as far as the proponents of Darwinian evolution goes, evolution can’t be proven wrong since they always change it to fit the current observations. But the scientific method is almost by definition ad hoc: hypothesis, test, adjust hypothesis. It is a double standard when they say ID can’t do the same.