Democratic Underground

The Dangers Of Creationism
April 12, 2001
by AjreinHA

In an April 8th article in the New York Times, a theory known as intelligent design is discussed as a new threat to the long-standing Darwinian theory of evolution. While evolution maintains that all biological structures are the result of billions of years of change through the process of natural selection, intelligent design supposes that the complexity of life could have only occurred with the help of an intelligent designer.This theory, unlike the common evolutionary threat of Creationism, has some basis in actual science and is being adopted by the same people who have long supported Creationism.

The focus of this debate revolves around whether intelligent design should be taught alongside evolution in classrooms across America. This is a dangerous notion for several reasons. First, the debate is not being argued by scientists in universities, but by politicians in state assemblies. I doubt I'm alone when I say that I would prefer our children learn what is correct according to scientists rather than politicians. Politicians have agendas and are responsive to their electorate. They have no allegiance to science or the pursuit of the truth.

Second, those favoring intelligent design also have specific agendas. The few scientists who are proponents of this new theory are fundamentalist Christians. Their work is funded by right-wing religious groups. The goal of science is to turn an objective eye on the world and determine reality. When scientists begin their inquiry with such overt biases, they are not acting in the best interests of science.

Third, science is about formulating hypotheses and then testing those hypotheses through experimentation. Creationism and intelligent design are not science according to this broad definition. There is no way to test the idea that an intelligent creator is responsible for life. One might as well conjecture that life originated in the center of the Earth. There's no way to disprove it!

The fact is that hypotheses that cannot be tested have no place in science. It may be fun to think up possible explanations for the existence of life, but if those explanations cannot be tested, they have no place in the realm of science. Even if intelligent design becomes a highly respected scientific theory, there is no reason to rush to print new textbooks proclaiming it the equal of evolution. Millions of experiments have been conducted for over a century and a half confirming different tenants of the theory of evolution by natural selection. In fact, the current theory of evolution is vastly different than when it was originally discussed by Darwin in On the Origin of Species.

Every time a scientist comes along with a new theory, the scientific community cannot immediately adopt it as the new standard. It would have to be tested over and over again by scientist after scientist. The overt bias of the religious right becomes obvious with their rush to change a theory which has survived the test of time and is accepted unwaveringly by almost the entire scientific community on the basis of a handful of scientists with little experimental evidence and a competing theory which cannot be tested.

Finally, as mentioned in the article, 45% of Americans believe in Creationism. Forty-five percent! If that isn't reason enough to teach evolution even more strongly then I don't know what is! But there is something even more important with this fact. Notice that it says 45% of Americans believe in Creationism. It's not that they think Creationism is correct but instead that they have faith in the theory. When was the last time you have heard someone say "I believe in gravity" or "I believe in chemistry?"

Science is not about faith. It's not about beliefs. It's about thinking and examining and experimenting. Dangers erupt when faith is confused for science. Even Einstein himself fell prey to this when he refused to accept some of the basic tenets of quantum physics, a new science at the time when he helped discover it, claiming that "God does not play dice." Another prominent physicist, Niels Bohr, responded cleverly by saying "Quit telling God what to do!"

I think we can assume the same attitude today by separating faith and science as the two distinct disciplines that they are. Instead, let us steer clear of our personal biases and allow science to flourish by leaving it to the scientists and not the politicians.

For further reading on this subject:
Abusing Science: The Case Against Creationism by Philip Kitcher
Science on Trial: The Case For Evolution by Douglas Futuyma

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