Weighing in on Intelligent Design & co. (against my better judgment)

Well, since intelligent design continues to rear its ugly head in the current U.S. Presidential campaign, it’s time to weigh in and try to stop some of the nonsense (would you seriously vote for someone whose personal opinions go against over 150 years of thorough scientific research, for motivations that are unclear?). As the author of a book on evolution (see http://www.amazon.com/Russ-Hodge/e/B0024J8XO0/), and a native of Kansas (completely by accident, rather than by design), I’d like to pose the following questions. They mainly center around the following key points: What’s the difference between what people call a design and something that seems to be a pattern? and what would constitute valid evidence for attributing a structure to some sort of supernatural intelligence? I don’t really know why the following points are largely missing from the public debate on the topic, or why they aren’t the first questions raised by scientists, but there you have it.

1. If we were to accept the notion that patterns, structures, or other aspects of nature reflect some sort of intelligent design, why should we suppose that there is only one designer? Why couldn’t each individual phenomenon have its own independent designer, or even a committee of designers?

2. What is the difference between the concepts of pattern, structure and design?

3. We all know that incredible complexity can arise from something much simpler: it happens during the development of every human embryo. Why is evolution any harder to conceive of than embryonic development? Does an intelligent designer (or several) intervene in every one of the trillions upon trillions of biochemical reactions necessary to create a human being from a single fertilized egg?

4. Why should a person who believes he or she understands the Bible (or any other religious doctrine) ever experience a change of mind about a matter of faith? Why should today’s religious movements be any different than those of tens, hundreds, or a thousand years ago?

5. What theory (besides evolution) can explain the fact that several types of independent measurements seem to corroborate evolution’s concept of descent from common ancestors?

6. What if any significant differences are there between today’s ideas of intelligent design and the concept of Natural Theology as proposed by William Paley ca. 1800? What solutions does the intelligent design movement propose to the questions that caused Charles Darwin to discard natural theology as an explanation for our observations of living and fossil species?

Feel free to discuss the topic on this page; an alternative is to follow what’s happening at the following site:


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I am a science writer at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin, author of fiction and popular science books, an artist, and a professional musician who performs on the viola da gamba and Medieval and Renaissance stringed instruments. I edit manuscripts of all types and teach the full range of scientific communication skills. I am doing theoretical work in this subject - see for example https://goodsciencewriting.wordpress.com/2018/03/11/ghosts-models-and-meaning-in-science/

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