Thursday, November 20, 2008

A War on Science

The theory of evolution is under attack from a controversial new idea called intelligent design. But is it science?

When Charles Darwin published his theory of evolution nearly 150 years ago, he shattered the dominant belief of his day – that humans were the product of divine creation. Through his observations of nature, Darwin proposed the theory of evolution by natural selection. This caused uproar. After all, if the story of creation could be doubted, so too could the existence of the creator. Ever since its proposal, this cornerstone of biology has sustained wave after wave of attack. Now some scientists fear it is facing the most formidable challenge yet: a controversial new theory called intelligent design.

In the late 1980s Phillip Johnson, a renowned lawyer and born-again Christian, began to develop a strategy to challenge Darwin. To Johnson, the evidence for natural selection was poor. He also believed that by explaining the world only through material processes was inherently atheistic. If there was a god, science would never be able to discover it.

Johnson recruited other Darwin doubters, including biochemist Professor Michael Behe, mathematician Dr William Dembski, and philosopher of science Dr Stephen Meyer. These scientists developed the theory of intelligent design (ID) which claims that certain features of the natural world are best explained as the result of an intelligent being. To him, the presence of miniature machines and digital information found in living cells are evidence of a supernatural creator. Throughout the 90s, the ID movement took to disseminating articles, books and DVDs and organising conferences all over the world.

To its supporters, intelligent design heralds a revolution in science and the movement is fast gaining political clout. Not only does it have the support of the President of the United States, it is on the verge of being introduced to science classes across the nation. However, its many critics, including Professor Richard Dawkins and Sir David Attenborough, fear that it cloaks a religious motive – to replace science with god.

Throughout the 20th century Christian groups resisted the theory of evolution. Many US states did not teach it until 1968 when the Supreme Court ruled that banning the teaching of evolution contravened the first amendment of the constitution of America, the separation of church and state. It was however still legal to teach religion as part of science class until the Edwards vs. Aguillard case in 1987, where mentioning a theory called 'creation science' in biology lessons was also deemed unconstitutional. This left evolution as the only theory of biological origin that science teachers were allowed to teach.

In 2005, the school board of Dover, a small farming community in western Pennsylvania, became the first in America to adopt the theory of intelligent design. The move divided the community and the small town became the centre of national attention. The school board voted to teach the ninth grade biology class that there are gaps and problems with the theory of evolution and to present intelligent design as an alternative.

Dover science teacher Bryan Rehm and his wife Christy believed that this new policy was not only anti-science, but religious and therefore unconstitutional. By promoting religion it was a violation of the law passed in 1987. The Rehms and nine other parents and teachers filed a law suit against the school board. Neighbour was pitted against neighbour in the first legal challenge to intelligent design.

After 40 days of trial, Judge John E Jones III ruled against the school board, stating: "We have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents."

Evolution supporters heralded this victory as the damning blow to the intelligent design movement. However, as history shows, law suits have little effect on the support for creationism in a country where over 50% of citizens believe that God created humans in their present form, the way the bible describes it.

More documentaries like this...

Flock of Dodos

The Root of All Evil

The Genius of Charles Darwin

The God Who Wasn't There

Evolution - Darwin's Dangerous Idea

Judgement Day - Intelligent Design on Trial

Richard Dawkins - The Enemies of Reason


Anonymous said...

There is a theory contained in Intelligent Design Message from the Designers, which provides a useful interface between the world's religions and modern science.Great theory evolution, it broke the stranglehold of the old understandings.Problem is it dismisses the worlds religions and has past it's sell-by date.With this new theory we can now understand a bigger scientific picture, which allows for a simple explanation for the original function of the religions. What this theory amounts to is the artificial evolution of design as opposed to the natural theory of evolution.If our scientists can do what they are doing, particularly in genetics, why not other scientist in other solar systems,doing much more advanced science. This theory also explains why the evidence for other intelligent life in other solar systems, is not easy to obtain.They are simply waiting for us to either 'cook' ourselves or prove ourselves.We are on our own but not alone. Should one doubt the dangers of nuclear war, it as well to remember the the Doomsday clock of the Bulletin of Atomic scientists, and the fact that there are some 27000 nuclear weapons on this planet.We have since 1945 we have been in that scientifically predictable phase of POTENTIAL self-destruct.So it is worth considering this theory alongside other understandings, in a what if it is true mode. Even if this were science fiction,described as breath taking,by a famous individual, it still provide a useful hypothetical framework at least.

Anonymous said...

excellent site mike

Alexzander said...

This video has a sync issue.

Chris said...

The 2nd law of thermodynamics (aka entropy) says in essence everything is moving from a state of order to a state of disorder. In other words things are breaking down. This law of science is seen in everything from the human body to the automobile in which you drive. Want to deny entropy, never change the oil, fluids, check the air pressure in your tires, fill your car with gas etc, and entropy is going to take place. Now keep in mind this is a law of science. There are very few laws of science because a law of science has to be absolutely the case and be tried many many times before it can be declared a law.
So think about this for a second if everything is moving from a state of order to disorder as this law of science shows, then that would mean that there was one time when everything was in pristine condition. This would mean that everything at one time was at its best and is now wearing down and eventually will one day wear out. Yet this is exactly the opposite of what evolutionist teach!!! They teach the primitive earth was a flat, ugly, mess. Keep in mind the 2nd law of thermodynamics is just that a law. Why do I emphasize this? Listen to what one evolutionary website proclaims and in doing so denies a law of science.
"The infant earth that is pictured by scientist today basks in a sun that shines with 70% of its present power (now they say the power of the sun is getting stronger but a law of science denies this!!). A world with no free oxygen in the atmosphere (how can there be no oxygen when they say the ocean existed H2O oxygen is present in water!!!) and no sounds other than wind, the hissing lava against water (H2O!!), and meteorites hitting the earth. (By the way all of this is speculative, there is no evidence that supports this story of the early earth). No plants, no animals, no bacteria, or viruses existed on the earth. From that point on, scientific opinion vastly diversifies. (So most if not all scientist agree up to this point, thus denying the law of entropy!!!). It continues, " in a steamy world after accretion, earth may have been ( again speculating) a ball of fiery magma. Volcanoes, geysers, and hydrothermal vents would have leached out vital compounds where reactions could ensue (and they call the Bible fantasy??!!)".
Anyway you get the point that they say oh the earth was a mess and we are getting better. The 2nd law of thermodynamics a law of science denies this. It says everything was great and is getting worse. Yet what does the Bible say " and God saw everything that He had made and behold it was very good" Genesis 1:31. The Bible says that in the beginning everything was very good and after the fall of man is getting worse. Not coincidence that this agrees amazingly with a law of science.

Edmund said...

The second law of Thermodynamics unfortunately only applies Thermodynamics and is not generalisable to other systems. It specifically refers to the behaviour of molecules in a closed system; stating that the system will evolve to a state of greatest entropy. Here entropy means a macrostate of greatest multiplicity. In layman’s terms, the most probable outcome will occur and become prevalent.

In Thermodynamics this results in 'disorder' (a technical term not to be confused with an English dictionary definition) arising from order. To phrase it another way it means complexity arising from simplicity. While it is not valid to transport the 2nd Law to any other subject, if it were proven to apply in some esoteric context to evolution as you try to suggest, then it would be entirely complementary as evolution is the development of complex life from simple life.

The second law of thermodynamics has no bearing on either life evolution or solar system evolution as you go on to comment.

The 'strength' of our sun, or luminous intensity, is broadly consistent and unchanging, it has remained so since it's fusion ignition 5Bn years ago drove off the remaining accretion matter in our solar system. Prior to this ignition it was a protostar of much lower radiative intensity and as a young star would not have achieved its final equilibrium immediately.

A world without 'free' oxygen is exactly that. Oxygen in water as you correctly assert is present but it is bound to hydrogen. The geological processes which subsequently took place on the early Earth acted to break these chemical bonds 'freeing' oxygen into the atmosphere. A process also performed by living organisms.

The Miller - Urey experiment (though now consigned to the history books and no longer the current example) was the first experiment to demonstrate the synthesis of organic molecules (basic molecules of life) in the primordial chemical soup that existed on Earth with just the application of electricity (e.g. lightning).

I hope that is in some measure answers your questions.