The major feature of Intelligent Design is the appeal to ignorance, where lack of evidence for one view is falsely claimed to constitute proof of an alternate position. The bulk of Intelligent Design planks are negative evidence arguments against evolution. But even if a legitimate question is raised against a component of evolution, it is a non sequitur to conclude that God must therefore be squeezed into the equation. The other side never explains how their proposed method works. While there remain questions about the origins of the universe and of organisms, the unexplained is not inexplicable. Admitting that we don’t yet have all the answers is a better alternative than invoking the supernatural.
Still, ID backers will point to order in the universe as proof that God did it. This is faulty thinking because it assumes God is only way for order to be attained. It is circular reasoning to cite order in the universe as proof of God while citing God as the reason for this order.
ID also relies on personal incredulity. I have heard its proponents declare, “There’s no way I can believe that something as wonderful as a mother holding her newborn is just the result of a series of chances.” Or, “You cannot tell me that beautiful mountains surrounded by evergreens and flowing streams came from anything but God.” However, a person’s inability to conceive of something is not an argument for its nonexistence.
That’s enough about the lack of evidence for design. Let’s look at the lack of evidence for intelligence. Consider these examples:
• The 2004 tsunami that left a quarter of a million people dead.
• The species of wasp that paralyzes its prey with a painful sting, then eats it beginning with the part farthest from the brain. This ensures the victim endures the maximum amount of mental anguish and physical suffering.
• The mouths of toddlers contain their most sensitive nerves, so they frequently put objects in them as a way of trying to make sense of everything. This leads to about a dozen preschool children dying each year after swallowing button cell batteries.
• Eventually life on our planet will vanish through an event such as an asteroid impact, the sun burning out, or Earth’s magnetic field reversing.
If all this is by design, it speaks poorly to whoever drew it up. British naturalist David Attenborough was asked how he could see a Bird of Paradise and conclude that it was anything but the beauty of God’s work. He could do this in part, he responded, because nature also features parasitic worms that destroy the eyesight of sub-Saharan African children.
Sometimes ID proponents will point out that we wouldn’t be here if there was no carbon, or if the sun was twice as close or twice as distant, or if gravity were 20 percent stronger, or dozens of similar arguments. They will say the odds of all this coming together are one in 100 billion, so it could never have happened without divine intervention. This is more faulty logic because it again assumes no other factors could be in play. Furthermore, there are at least 100 billion planets, making the idea of one of them beating 100 billion-to-one odds entirely plausible. Moreover, if some of the items on these lists had been different, it could have resulted in life developing elsewhere.
I’ve seen some ID proponents point out that a baby elephant will eat its dung in order to ingest the bacteria needed to digest food. What, they argue, outside of Intelligent Design could cause a creature to do something as seemingly unnatural as consuming dung? I’m unsure, but it is more appeal to ignorance to automatically credit this to God. And it seems that, rather than creating a mechanism whereby the pachyderm will feast on feces, that an intelligent designer would have made it so that the animal need not eat it at all. Why not have a full buffet ready for him each day?
Another argument is that an organism’s complexity could only be the result of a creator. By this point, you likely recognize that as more circular reasoning. Besides, the more complex something is, the more chances there are for something to go wrong. The very complexity and inherent defects of structures suggest a lack of intelligent design.
Many creatures that seem exquisitely designed are the product of millions of years of incremental changes in inherited characteristics. Changes which enhanced survival and reproduction led to complex organisms with adaptive features. We see only the winners, not the harmful mutations that led to extinction.
Intelligent Design is no more science than is alchemy or geocentrism. A legitimate scientific idea can be confirmed or disproven through experiment or observation. There exists no method to examine or falsify Intelligent Design claims. Intelligent Design supporters have yet to tell us how the process works and there are no papers explaining Intelligent Design in any peer-reviewed scientific journal. Also, a theory must be fluid when necessary, and corrected if faced with conflicting evidence, a distinction conspicuously lacking in Intelligent Design.