The Case for Intelligent
Design in Biology
Author: Samuel Metz
There is no case for
Intelligent Design in biology.
There is no case against it,
Thatís the problem.
Intelligent Design (also known as Creationism) proposes
that our current world is the product of a Higher
Intelligence (usually referring to a Biblical God)
following a Design (as reported in the Old Testament)
whose purpose is not apparent to us. As philosophically
appealing as this explanation may be, it is scientifically
For one thing, when we see
the slaughter, famine, and brutality endemic in the human
condition, it is difficult to accept that Intelligence of
any kind plays a role. Indeed, the quality of American
politicians or the lack thereof, suggests a kind of Divine
Stupidity. If Intelligence is at work, the world as we
know it must be a Divine Proto-type, to be discarded
before the Professional Version is introduced.
It is also difficult to
accept a Design at work. Earthshaking events occur
randomly. The innocent suffer. Injustice triumphs.
Hypocrisy goes unpunished. Who is the Intelligent Designer
who created such a world? Is this the best design
Intelligence can generate?
But the primary reason
Intelligent Design is scientifically useless is that the
concept is not testable, not verifiable, and does not
predict what might happen next. The answer to every
puzzling question becomes, "The Intelligent Designer
knows, we donít." Once we accept Intelligent Design,
nothing more need be said. Or can be said. This proposal
offers an elegant simplicity, and also incidental
confirmation of one sect of one Western religion.
But it is not science.
Evolution is equally
unsatisfying, but in a different way. If we accept this
theory, how do we explain the evolutionary advantage of a
one-humped camel over a two-humped one? Why are both
species alive and well? What is the purpose of the horn on
the nose of a rhinoceros? Why do spiders have eight legs
while insects have six? Do mosquitoes have any
evolutionary purpose other than to spread disease and make
summer barbecues an agony?
But we can test answers to
these questions, and maybe find acceptable ones. Evolution
allows us to guess what direction life might take under
different conditions. Evolution as a theory allows us,
even encourages us, to ask more questions to constantly
test its veracity, and perhaps change the theory to
accommodate more information.
This is what science is
about. No true science offers authoritative answers; it
only leads us to the next set of questions. Until the 17th
century, humans knew, for a fact, "What goes up, must come
down." It was the law. It was science. Then Newton
proposed that if an object were launched into the sky with
a certain velocity, it would go into orbit and not come
down. Out with the old law; in with the new. The same
generation of physicists also told us that light traveled
in a straight line. It was the law. It was science.
Einstein then proved that the path of light bent as it
passed through a gravitational field. Out with the old
law; in with the new.
And so it goes in Biology. An
unusual phenomenon stimulates a biologist to propose a
hypothesis that explains it. Another biologist tests the
hypothesis with an experiment. If the hypothesis is
corroborated by enough experiments, it becomes a theory.
If future tests confirm the theory without fail, it
becomes a law. And it is taught to future biologists as
law until finally, the next generationís biologist
observes a phenomenon that completely contradicts it. A
new hypothesis is generated, and the process starts anew.
This process is not
religiously satisfying, philosophically nourishing, or
personally reassuring, but it is science. And quite
Some esoteric philosophers
challenge us with the proposal that the world was created
yesterday, complete with implanted memories of events that
didnít really happen. They dare us to prove this wrong.
And we cannot. There is no way to either prove or disprove
this idea. Whether it is right or wrong, the world is as
we see it and accepting this proposal gives absolutely no
insight. Philosophically unchallengeable, and in practice
completely useless. This is not science.
Those who advocate teaching
Intelligent Design because they fear Evolution will cause
future generations to doubt the literal word of the Bible,
need not fear. Evolution as a scientific theory is doomed,
as are all scientific theories. Just as successive
generations of physicists discarded old laws as new
observations contradicted them, successive generations of
biologists will find new phenomena that Evolution fails to
explain. One of the brighter ones will propose a new
hypothesis, test it, and, if it passes, replace Evolution
with another theory that explains even more of what we
And thatís the case for
Evolution. It is only a theory, but even if were an
accepted law, we know its days are numbered. For that is
the nature of science. Intelligent Design is a final
definitive authoritative answer, and that is not the
nature of Science.
Out with the old, in with the
George J, Annas:
Intelligent Judging ó Evolution in the Classroom and the
Courtroom. New England Journal of Medicine, 2006;
354:2277-81 (May 25, 2006)