Intelligent Design, or ID for short, is an emerging theory about how life came into being. It suggests the complex structures and functions found in even the simplest one-celled organisms could not have originated by random forces, but must have been designed.
Religious groups worldwide hail ID as scientific proof that God exists. President Bush recently advocated the teaching of ID in public schools as an alternative to evolution, however, many who promote the separation of church and state view ID as fantasy.
ID is a valid scientific theory, worthy of study. To dismiss ID as religiously motivated fiction before reviewing the evidence would be narrow-minded. We must separate the science of ID from its religious and philosophical connotations to truly understand it.
Scientifically-sound evidence supports the concept that all known life was designed. What science cannot do is tell us much about the designer or designers. Answers to those questions leave the realm of science. ID no more suggests the existence of a Christian, Jewish or Muslim god than it does the existence of an advanced race of aliens with the abilities to travel the stars, construct complex biological machines and organisms, and seed viable planets with their creations.
ID and Darwinian Evolution are complimentary, not competing theories for the creation of life. Each has its part to play. Darwinism works well in explaining variation within species. The variety of dog breeds and types of orchids humans have created serve as examples of selectively bred species. Darwin observed the same process in nature, where species showed variation as a function of adaptability. For example, the polar bear and the brown bear are closely related, the former having evolved from the latter. The polar bear’s coat did not simply turn white through some mystical force. It was a gradual process.
While Darwin’s theories work well to explain variations in nature, they fall short in explaining how life could have begun or how complex mechanisms such as eyes and lungs could have developed. Darwin taught of slight successive variations over time that produced advantages in a living thing. To him, the variations were totally random, but the ones that helped the plant or animal to survive and reproduce were passed on, while the ones that hindered survival were eliminated.
Intelligent Design rejects the notion that a random convergence of amino acids into proteins could produce the first living cell, a cell capable of the complex functions and processes that give it life, and at the same time, the means to reproduce. ID also rejects the idea that something as complex as the human eye could have evolved, since without all its parts, it would not function.
The standards of Darwinian evolution would eliminate it long before it could develop into a useful form, since it provided no functional advantage to life until it became a complete, working organ of sight. Quoting Darwin, “To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree.”
Fifty years ago, the discovery of the structure of DNA opened the door to a better understanding of what makes life possible. DNA is a programming code, and the genes carried within it provide all the necessary instructions to produce a particular life form. DNA’s structure allows it to easily divide and replicate, so these essential instructions can be passed from cell to newly-formed cell, and from parents to their offspring.
The concept to focus on is that DNA is information-rich. Information can be studied, deciphered and ultimately understood. We are learning to read the coded information in DNA, and can predict if a person is likely to suffer from certain diseases based on the presence of particular genes. Also, humans have recreated certain genes using the original as a model.
ID theorists propose that any information-rich system must have been designed, and they use scientific criterion to determine if something is information-rich. For example, if we discover an ancient piece of pottery covered in artwork, we don’t attribute that artifact’s creation to natural forces, such as wind and erosion, but to an intelligent creator. Design is the best explanation, and we accept it intuitively. In every known case, with the exception of life itself, information-rich systems found on Earth are considered to be the product of intelligent design.
Life is the most complex, information-rich system known to mankind, and looks more and more like the work of highly advanced bioengineers, and less like the work of natural, unguided processes.
For more information on Intelligent Design, I recommend the DVD “Unlocking The Mystery Of Life.”