Term Paper: Intelligent Design, Evolution

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Intelligent Design, Evolution

INTELLIGENT DESIGN vs. EVOLUTION

One of the major issues concerning evolution and speciation -- or, rather, how the flora and fauna that we see around us came to be, starting from species that are largely now extinct -- is the process or mechanism by which they occurred.

Intelligent Design advocates believe that the evolved species that we see on earth today is the result of creationism. This means that some "intelligent" cause was responsible for what we observe, which were not a process of natural selection. That everything we see today was created at the beginning of time, simultaneously, as written in the bible. To ascribe a scientific side to it, intelligent design theorists believe that a Christian God is the Intelligent Designer. For example, the existence of a cell in an organism could be a supernatural phenomenon. One of the common examples given by ID proponents is that for one single cell in an organism to have evolved just by random occurrence the odds were 1 in 1040,000. (Skjaerlund (n,.d.))

The other primary scientific theory about speciation and evolution arise from the contributions of Charles Darwin, who theorized the notion of survival of the fittest or by natural selection. (Stamhuis, Meijer and Zevenhuizen 1999).

There are two major theories for evolution of organisms and speciation: phyletic gradualism and punctuated equilibrium. This has been the primary point of an ongoing debate that spans several decades. Phyletic gradualism, at least as the word gradualism suggests, involve evolutionary changes that occur individuals through beneficent mutations. These changes often occur in order to adapt to changes in the environment. These changes then occur across a population across generations by the mutated gene achieving dominance following interbreeding. Punctuated equilibrium, on the other hand, is in direct contrast with phyletic gradualism. (Eldredge and Gould 1972) the primary changes, according to this theory, occur with radical mutations that render a species, or its immediate offspring, into a completely new species. After the change has occurred, and when the environment that surrounds the species is stabilized, these species have no major changes in them, until the next time an upheaval occurs. The theory also assumes that the radical mutations in these species allow them to evolve and reproduce such that an entity that is distinct from the parent species is established. The period when no changes occur are called periods of stases.

CRITIQUING EACH THEORY

Intelligent Design has been soundly criticized by Science and Education organizations. The criticisms center on the fact that ascribing supernatural reasons to explain phenomena does not constitute science. These groups believe that for something to be considered as science, it has to involve hypothesis testing in laboratories or experimental situations. The Intelligent Design proponents and those that believe that speciation begins and ends with Creationism mock Darwin's theories as incorrect, because they are incomplete. The critique is centered on the fact that there is no fossil evidence that shows the progression of evolution, for example, from lower primates, to the super apes to man -- the missing link, if you will. They do not believe that speciation as we observe is -composed of logical steps in the process of evolution. They believe that every species is complete in and of itself. In her book, which was critical of liberal thought, Godless (Coulter 2006), conservative commentator Ann Coulter asks why every fossil found is of a complete and potentially functional individual organism, and none of the mistakes that were taken out of the evolutionary process by natural selection.

Before delving into a brief critique of Intelligent Design by its opponents, one must explore two of the basic tenets and justifications for Intelligent Design.

Intelligent Design deals with every object as complete and functional and that a super natural creator has created it. Michael Behe, one of the main defenders of Intelligent Design uses the example of a mouse trap to demonstrate this -- using a notion that he called "irreducible complexity." (Behe and Singh 2005) Behe argues that several components go into the making of a mouse trap, wood, metal, springs and bait. He analogizes that a grand design is responsible of putting these component together that they come together to perform a specific function. By themselves, each component not only cannot perform the function, it is useless. To counter this, opponents argue that while this may be true, each component can also function in other situation. Or two or more of those components can form other utility tools. They also the use the example of the human body, which ID proponents believe are God's most perfect creation. They argue that the human body while the most ascendant in modern times is also an imperfect work in progress. To accommodate bipedal motion and a huge brain, some design flaws had to be accommodated that result in some of the ailments such as slip discs, weak knees, arthritis, neck and back pain and hemorrhoids.

Evolutionists use the example of a canal and a river. They believe that while a canal might fit the scheme of Intelligent design -- a receptacle of water for storage and transportation that is created by man; a river while not built for a specific purpose has its own functions despite the fact that its course can be best described as meandering. William Dembski, a mathematician, was also one of the originators of Intelligent Design theory. (Dembski 1999) Dembski proposed the idea of specific complexity. Human beings are specifically complex. And whenever there is a complexity that is specific and reproducible among a species, according to Dembski, it is the result of design and not selection. Mathematicians have shown that Dembski's ideas are based on faulty mathematics, statistics and basic misrepresentations.

Another critique of intelligent design is that they completely ignore available fossil evidence, carbon dating that places species in chronological order or DNA evidence that links species. As an example of the latter, consider the similarity between human and chimpanzee genomes.

LANDMARK COURT CASES

The issue of Intelligent Design is very controversial. The cloaking of creationism within a science construct means that it becomes part of the education process. The question then arises, should it be taught in schools and a replacement to evolution or as another theory that is also acceptable with evolution.

Aguilard v. Edwards. (Brennan 1987) This case was heard by the Supreme Court in 1987. The case involved the question whether Intelligent Design (creationism) should be taught with evolution as equal theories in Louisiana schools. The Supreme Court decision ruled in favor of Aguilard that teaching creationism as an alternative to evolution was unconstitutional since it was an idea that was held by one religion, and this violated the separation of church and state. However the court did indicate that creationism could be taught to complete and advance the student's knowledge of the various issues associated with speciation. Aguilard was supported by academicians and scientists, which included several Nobel Laureates.

Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al. (TalkOrigins 2005) This case involved Ms. Kitzmiller and the parents of eleven other students who attended school in Dover, PA, versus the Dover School Board. This case was argued before a Federal judge in 2005. Eight members on the school board had pushed to teach Intelligent Design as an alternative to evolution and required that it be taught in ninth grade. The parents, supported by the ACLU, filed an injunction that it violated the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of First Amendment. These clauses stated that government will not make a law that respecting the establishment of a religion or to prohibit it's free exercise.

OPINION believe that much like any science, research in understanding how Darwin's theories of evolution fit with all the observables from the fossil evidence is a process which can not be answered in a few sound bites. Science will always be fraught with controversies, because the evidence is very difficult to find and process. It is conceivable that in the future (perhaps, distant) current theories of evolution will be proven wrong and a more universal theory will take its place. Every anthropological discovery is very painstaking. A dig is not done with backhoes.

Small pickaxes are used to make the initial dig. Then, anthropologists carefully separate the dirt from the bones and other calcified deposits. The fossils are then compared to other available evidence via DNA testing to ascertain if this discovery is a novel one. If no other fossils of this species exist, then carbon-dating is performed to identify the era where this species (of those of its type) existed. The difficulty of doing this sort of research cannot be discounted for theories made out of whole cloth.

Indeed, Newton had solved most of the problems of mechanical physics and invented calculus more than five hundred years ago. But these problems were applicable only to macroscopic objects. When quantum theorists attempted to apply the laws of dynamic motion to microscopic particles to explain the behavior… [END OF PREVIEW]

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