We are back with another breathtaking series on the blog. This time, my goal is to present a critique of the defense of DI (Intelligent Design) made recently, in an article in this Folha, by professor Marcos Eberlin, chemist at Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie.
For those who do not know, the Intelligent Design hypothesis is an aspect of creationist thinking that seeks to use modern science methods (with special emphasis on biochemistry) to identify signs of an intelligent project or "design" in living beings. The idea is to show that the theory of evolution is based on weak empirical bases and, therefore, should be abandoned in favor of the hypothesis of the action of a cosmic designer who may or may not be identified with the God of traditional religions.
Professor Marcos's text, as I personally told him through our social networks, seemed to me to be a simple list of names and concepts that would support the DI, without an attempt at argument. I intend to show here that this list does not by any means strengthen the position of the DI – indeed, it reveals that it has never been sustained or shows that it will someday be sustained as a SCIENTIFIC alternative to the theory of evolution.
As the list of the original article is gigantic and says almost nothing for the reader who is not familiar with the (supposed) debate, I will need to make a series of posts, but I will try to compensate for the lack of conciseness with as much explanatory clarity as possible. However, before I dive into the examples themselves, I think it is important to make clear some basic assumptions:
1) Intelligent Design was not born as a scientific movement
That's what I'm calling “addiction to origin” in the title of the post. There may or may not be serious scientists who embrace the idea today (hence, embracing it for good reasons is another story), but it is public and notorious that ID was thought of as a strategy of the American “cultural war”, with the aim of offering US population what its creators consider a philosophical and spiritual alternative to the “materialism” of modern science. The scientific data that supposedly supports ID did not come first: what came first was the philosophical – and, to a large extent, religious view.
This logic is behind the so-called “Cunha Strategy” created by the Discovery Institute (a partner in the work of Professor Marcos at Mackenzie) throughout the 1990s. This “wedge” is the very idea of DI, which would serve to pave the way, within science, to a return to the traditional Christian view that human beings and the Universe were created directly by God, thus defeating the “evils of scientific materialism”. As one of the strategy's architects, law professor Phillip Johnson, who died in 2019 said:
“If we understand our own time, we will know that it is necessary to affirm the reality of God by challenging the domain of materialism and naturalism in the world of the mind. With the help of many friends, I developed a strategy for doing this, which we call ‘wedge’. ”
Or as the mathematician William Dembski, another exponent of the movement, says:
“Christ is indispensable for any scientific theory, even if those who work with it have no idea about Jesus. The pragmatic side of a scientific theory can, of course, be followed without turning to Christ. But the conceptual correction of the theory can, in the end, only be found in Christ. ”
This, of course, does not in itself show that ID's arguments are wrong. It just shows that it is not a disinterested scientific movement that takes experimental data as a starting point. On the contrary, its starting point is philosophical and religious.
2) The relationship between ID and traditional creationism is closely related
Most DI members in the US and around the world defended positions of traditional creationism (in general, that of the young Earth, according to which the Earth and the Universe are a few thousand years old, according to the literal reading of the Bible). The American textbook "Of Pandas and People", whose published versions defend the DI and were the subject of court decisions against them in the USA in the past decade, initially used the word "creationism" instead of "intelligent design" in its drafts.
It would, therefore, be interesting for proponents of ID to clarify exactly which model of the origins of the Universe, Earth and life they really believe in before just casting doubt on the theory of evolution. It does not help much to say that agnostics or atheists or defenders of the theory of the Gods Astronauts also claim to be defenders of DI. These exceptions do not change the fact that, in general, there is a close relationship between literalist (in general Christian biblical literalist) theism and the movement.
That's it for now. We'll be back soon with more posts on the topic.