Evolution, Intelligent Design, and Testability
by Kyle Butt, M.Div.
As modern science has acquired the ability to see deeper and deeper into the natural world, problems with the waning theory of evolution continue to plague its proponents. A multiplicity of natural, biological systems exhibit complexity that could not have arisen through natural, evolutionary processes. In response to these findings, the Intelligent Design movement has begun to gain major footholds in academic circles. In a nutshell, intelligent design suggests that many natural systems are too complex to have evolved.
In an attempt to discredit intelligent design, supporters of evolution have made and repeated one primary line of attack. They posit that intelligent design is not scientific because it cannot be tested. The writings of those who bring this accusation against intelligent design are legion. In an article titled, “UNLV Teachers Dismiss ‘Design’ Theory,” the author quotes Stanley Smith, professor of the Department of Biological Sciences, as saying: “[S]cience includes hypotheses that must be tested and proved or discarded.” Smith then stated: “All science follows the scientific method, in which we make observations in nature, create testable hypotheses as to why we see patterns that we do and then conduct experiments that test those hypotheses” (as quoted in Thomas, 2005). Smith further quipped that intelligent design does not meet this criterion. Associate professor of biological sciences, Steven de Belle, commented on intelligent design as well. He stated: “‘It is not science. The defining feature of the scientific method is lacking in ID,’ which includes making observations and testing hypotheses” (Thomas, 2005).
In an article describing the University of Kansas decision to teach a course on intelligent design as religious myth, Paul Mirecki, the chair of KU’s religious studies department, and teacher of the new course, commented on intelligent design in this way: “Creationism is mythology…. Intelligent design is mythology. It’s not science. They try to make it sound like science. It clearly is not” (Gendall, 2005).
In his article titled “Scientific Theories More Than Guesses,” Jonathan Hoffman wrote: “Thomas Harrington correctly pointed out that a scientific theory is testable and falsifiable. What he failed to state, however, is that ‘intelligent design’ does not meet these criteria” (2005).
Here, then, is the alleged situation. Evolution is scientific because it is testable and falsifiable, and has been tested and confirmed. Intelligent design, on the other hand, is not scientific because it cannot be tested and cannot be falsified, and therefore should not be viewed as science. In order to sort this out, it would be appropriate to see just how testable and falsifiable the theory of organic evolution really is.
Every evolutionary scientist must recognize that the fundamental tenet of organic evolution is the idea that life arose from non-living material substances such as chemicals. This idea, often referred to as spontaneous generation, certainly is a testable idea. Ironically, however, biological scientists have been testing this idea for centuries and have discovered that life in this Universe does not and cannot arise spontaneously from natural processes. This fact is well-known and admitted even by evolutionary scientists. George Wald wrote in Biological Sciences: “If life comes only from life, does this mean that there was always life on earth? It must, yet we know that this cannot be so. We know that the world was once without life—that life appeared later. How? We think it was by spontaneous generation” (1963, p. 42). David Kirk noted: “By the end of the nineteenth century there was general agreement that life cannot arise from the nonliving under conditions that now exist upon our planet. The dictum ‘All life from preexisting life’ became the dogma of modern biology, from which no reasonable man could be expected to dissent” (1975, p. 7). And Martin Moe stated:
A century of sensational discoveries in the biological sciences has taught us that life arises only from life, that the nucleus governs the cell through the molecular mechanisms of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and that the amount of DNA and its structure determine not only the nature of the species but also the characteristics of individuals (1981, p. 36, emp. added).
According, then, to every piece of experimental data that has been collected, life in this material Universe does not arise from non-living chemicals. Thousands of experiments have been designed and executed, each of which verifies this fact (for more information see Thompson, 1989). And yet, the general population is being led to believe that evolution is scientific because it is experimentally testable and falsifiable? If, by scientific, it is meant that, regardless of the outcome of the experiments, the theory will be maintained, then by all means evolution is scientific. In reality, the origin of life according to organic evolution has been tested and disproved. Therefore, if the foremost precept of organic evolution is untestable (at the least) and has been satisfactorily disproved (at the most), how can its advocates maintain that it alone belongs in the science classroom?
Is intelligent design scientific and testable? Can intelligence be tested and verified? In reality, intelligence in the Universe can be tested and verified. The SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) project is a classic example of the testability of intelligence. Basically, millions of dollars were pumped into a project to detect codes or messages from outer space that would indicate intelligence. Those involved in the project recognized that mathematical patterns, codes, languages, algorithms, and various other “fundamental laws” would be accepted as evidence that some type of intelligence did exist. The premise that can be surmised from the SETI program is that intelligence could be recognized and distinguished from non-intelligent, natural explanations; the required criteria for this recognition being some type of code, mathematical sequence, physical patterns, etc. Such codes have been found in biological systems such as DNA and living organisms (see Butt, 2005).
Another example of testing for intelligence would be that of the IQ (Intelligent Quotient) test designed to measure intelligence scientifically. Countless tests have been designed to assess the amount of intelligence possessed by individuals. Web sites that discuss such testing often use words and terms for their tests such as “scientifically valid,” “intelligence testing,” “developed by Ph.D.s,” etc. (see IQtest Home Page). From such admissions, it can be inferred that intelligence is measurable and testable. If a person could take the different aspects of IQ tests that verify intelligence and apply them to things that are studied in the natural world, then intelligence could be tested and verified. In essence, that is exactly what has been done in intelligent design books such as Michael Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box and William Dembski’s Intelligent Design.
W.R. Thompson, in his introduction to the 1956 edition of Darwin’s Origin of Species, stated it perfectly when he said:
It is…right and proper to draw the attention of the non-scientific public to the disagreements about evolution. But some recent remarks of evolutionists show that they think this unreasonable. This situation where scientific men rally to the defense of a doctrine they are unable to define scientifically, much less demonstrate with scientific rigor, attempting to maintain its credit with the public by suppression of criticism and elimination of difficulties, is abnormal and undesirable in science (p. xxii).
In truth, proponents of evolution know that it cannot withstand open criticism. Furthermore, they know that evolution cannot be tested nor is it any more scientific than intelligent design; in fact, it is less so. Therefore, in order for them to keep it ensconced in textbooks, they must suppress criticism of it and not allow its varied and numerous flaws to be considered critically. The situation that has arisen due to this irrational adherence to evolution is nothing short of “abnormal and undesirable in science.” The next time someone demands that evolution is testable, ask for the experimental evidence that confirms that life came from non-life and observe the tell-tale silence that speaks the truth.
Behe, Michael J. (1996), Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (New York: The Free Press).
Butt, Kyle (2005), “The SETI Project, Falling “Floppy Discs,” and A Major Missed Implication,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/361.
Dembski, William A. (1999), Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press).
Gendall, Michael (2005), “Religious Course Stresses Mythology,” [On-line], URL: http://badgerherald.com/news/2005/11/29/religious_course_str.php.
Hoffman, Jonathan (2005), “Scientific Theories More Than Guesses,” [On-line], URL: http://www.alligator.org/pt2/051129column.php.
IQtest Home Page (2005), [On-line], URL: http://www.iqtest.com/.
Kirk, David (1975), Biology Today (New York: Random House).
Moe, Martin A. (1981), “Genes on Ice,” Science Digest, 89:36,95, December.
Thomas, Laurel (2005), “UNLV Teachers Dismiss ‘Design’ Theory,” [On-line], URL: http://unlvrebelyell.com/article.php?ID=880.
Thompson, Bert (1989), “The Bible and the Laws of Science: The Law of Biogenesis,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2004.
Thompson, W.R. (1956), “Introduction,” Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (New York: Dutton: Everyman’s Library).
Wald, George (1963), Biological Science: An Inquiry Into Life (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World).
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