Dear Reader,

Please answer this skill testing question before continuing with the rest of the post.

“What movement makes a claim about the natural world that is consistent with the gospel, yet despised by several prominent LDS science bloggers, hated by 99.9% of the BYU Department of Biology faculty, and even distrusted by famous LDS author Orson Scott Card?”

If you said Intelligent Design, you are right.  

Why do so many LDS scholars despise ID? This is the first post in a 3-part series which seeks to answer this question.  

I am sure most of you have heard about intelligent design. Discussions surrounding ID are polarizing and have the tendency to stir up strong emotions on both sides of the debate.

Personally I am not an IDer, yet I am intrigued by it central tenet. It advocates a perspective consistent with LDS theology, that intelligence created the complex natural world in which we live. However, simply making a claim consistent with LDS theology doesn’t make ID a legitimate and worthwhile endeavor.

In order to truly understand ID, I am stepping out of the emotionally charged atmosphere and evaluating ID from an empirco-rational perspective. These posts contain commendations, criticisms, and cautions. I do not grant favors to ID just because I like its central tenet. Any paradigm wanting acceptance by the prestigious scientific community must satisfy the standards of modern science on its own merits.   

Let’s take a close look at the merits of ID.

The Discovery Institute is the leading “think tank” on intelligent design. I went to its website and found 7 major claims of the ID movement. I present each claim along with evaluative comments.

Claim 1.   The basic tenet of ID is that there is undeniable evidence pointing to intelligence in the design of nature. 

Taken at face value, there is nothing in this tenet that precludes ID from being scientific. Notice that it does not claim that the source of intelligence is God. If it said that the intelligence is a supernatural deity, then that would be problematic because science concerns itself with the natural world, not the supernatural. However, ID does not explicitly invoke deity which is good because science deals with the natural, not supernatural.

Claim 2.   ID is a scientific enterprise. 

ID is seeking full acceptance by the scientific community. It wants to be treated as a first class scientific pursuit. Whether it deserves to be called a science depends on whether its actions fit the traditional definition of science, and whether it follows an accepted scientific approach. The second post will address this issue.

Claim 3.  ID is not creationism.

Creationism generally refers to a biblical, young earth creation perspective of the world. Many critics of ID claim that ID is repackaged creationism or a rebranding of creationism; however, just saying so does not make it so. The Discovery Institute says that it is not creationism and I’ve seen nothing in today’s ID which indicates that it is creationism. However, there is evidence to suggest that ID is an outgrowth of creationism. Nevertheless, we must judge ID by what it is today, not by its historical roots.

Claim 4.  Evolution should be taught in schools.

That’s right, ID accepts evolution as scientific. ID is pro-evolution in the sense that it claims that evolution belongs in the science curriculum. 

Claim 5.  Science education must explore the weaknesses of evolution. 

Sounds good, as long as the counterarguments are empirico-rational, and not religious in nature. Evolutionary hypotheses are not irrefutable. Like every other scientific theory, it has its weaknesses. Evolutionists should willingly entertain the theory’s weaknesses; this will make the theory stronger or possibly lead to its replacement by a better theory. Either way, we are moving closer to the truth about the natural world and that is a good thing.

Claim 6.  Teaching ID in schools does not violate the separation of the church and state clause.

I agree. ID does not explicitly state the existence of God. Even if it did, I still don’t think there would be a constitutional problem. The separation of church and state refers to organized religion, not a personal belief in deity. Believing in God is not quite the same thing as Mormonism, Catholicism, and Protestantism.

Claim 7.  School teachers should not be forced to teach ID. 

The Discovery Institute does not want ID politicized.  If ID is to gain credibility, it must be done through the scientific process, not political fiat. The Discovery Institute opposes the Pennsylvania Dover School District’s 2004 attempt to mandate teaching ID into the school curriculum. The school board’s misguided efforts led to the Kitzmiller vs. Dover trial wherein ID was misrepresented and misjudged by Judge John Jones. The judge’s ruling set back the ID movement tremendously. 

In the next post I discuss whether ID satisfies the traditional definition of scientific activity. Some critics claim that it does not.

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