The Evolution of Intelligent Design

By Paul DesOrmeaux

This article appeared originally in the December 2008 Skeptical Briefs newsletter and is used by permission of the Skeptical Inquirer.

Following is a concise, authoritative, and warped timeline that more or less accurately presents the history and “facts” behind the development of creationism, creation science, Intelligent Design, and more importantly, scientific illiteracy. For an alternative, but parallel, perspective of the “other theory,” purchase the 27th Edition of Darwin’s final publication, “The Human Evolution Colouring Book.”

Days 1 through 6 In the beginning, God creates night and day, firmaments, heaven, fruit trees, poison ivy, seeds, marijuana, every living creature–including a male and female, beasts, fowl, creepy-crawly things, and killer bees–the concept of multiplication, and then, unfortunately, pulls a groin muscle.

Day 7 through the 16th century Most of Europe buys into the facts about creation as laid out in the Bible. Without the oppressive burden of science and reason, Europeans are quite religious and thankful for the deity’s blessings, such as the murderous Crusades, the Black Death, the Inquisition, witch hunts, and brand-new Christian torture devices, including the rack, thumbscrews, the head crusher, and the saw, to name a few. Toward the end of the 16th century, the first YMCA is built.

16th century to 1858 Although creationists don’t yet exist, they begin getting somewhat nervous because naturalists discover different fossils in different rock strata, suggesting that different animals may have existed in different eras, and that Earth may be older than the biblical contention of 6,000 years, especially after the discovery of a 35,000-year-old fossilized enlarged prostrate.

1859 Charles Darwin publishes On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, which he later modifies to increase sales by shortening it to Harry Potter and the Origin of Species. His book suggests that humans evolved through a system of natural selection, which “creationists” immediately attack as laughable and absurd and offer the more reasoned scientific version that humans were made in God’s image from clay, mud, and a rib.

1910 By now, the theory of evolution is widely accepted by most scientists, but there is a clear undercurrent of hostility and opposition from certain religious groups since the best-selling bumper sticker of the year reads “Darwin’s A Dodo!”

1918 A number of anti-Darwinists voice their concern that teaching evolution as a fact in schools will undermine the creation story, overshadow the moral lessons of Christianity, and negatively impact Christian fundamentalist student’s self-esteem.

1922 William Jennings Bryan initiates a campaign to convince state lawmakers to ban the teaching of evolution in public schools and promises students an alternate textbook with plenty of pictures of a naked Eve and Adam cavorting in the Garden of Eden.

1925 After Tennessee passes a law prohibiting the teaching of evolution in state-funded schools, substitute school teacher John Scopes stands trial and is found guilty for teaching Darwin’s theory. After several appeals, the charges are eventually dismissed on the technicality that, while in the jury box, the jurors should not have been allowed to derisively dress in monkey costumes.

For the next half century or so, the anti-evolution proponents prevail and the teaching of evolution practically disappears from public-school texts, with the notable exception of the Fun with Dick and Jane and the Leakeys reader.

1957 When the Soviets launch the first satellite, Sputnik, into outer space, the U.S. government has a cold-war anxiety attack and passes the National Defense Education Act for the purpose of emphasizing science education in public schools, which includes the teaching of evolution and the physics of the Wham-o Frisbee.

1959 The one-hundredth anniversary of Darwin’s famous book “sparks” a renewed interest in evolutionary biology. Readers from all over the country rush to the bookstores to purchase the bestseller ‘Twixt Twelve and Twenty by singer Pat Boone.

1961 Henry Morris and John Whitcomb publish The Genesis Flood, which advocates a literal interpretation of the Bible, meaning the earth is somewhere between 6,000 and 10,000 years old, a global flood once covered the earth as described in Genesis, and the Noah family is kept awake for 40 days and 40 nights by the relentless and vicious fighting between the Brachiosauruses and Tyrannosaurus Rexes, as well as the nonstop barking of two extremely nervous poodles.

1963 A Christian creation organization, the Creation Research Society, is formed to disprove all scientific theories of evolution, while at the same time use science to prove the Genesis account of creation. The first meeting ends in chaos and arguments when one of the members forgets to bring the necessary scientific equipment for testing their hypothesis: a slide rule, a copy of the Old Testament, a Ouija board, and a Magic 8-Ball.

1968 The U.S. Supreme Court in Epperson vs. Arkansas rules that the 1928 Arkansas law banning the teaching of evolution in public schools is unconstitutional because it’s “…contrary to the mandate of the First, and in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, and was written on the side of a brown grocery bag.”

1972 Henry Morris forms the Institute for Creation Research to promote research and the teaching of “creation science,” a novel approach that uses the “scientific” method to prove the Genesis account of the Bible by offering scientific answers to questions like: What was God sitting on when he created the universe out of nothing? The ICR is still active today as a leading advocate for creation science and shows its dedication to the Bible by soliciting donations in shekels only.

1981 The Louisiana legislature passes the “Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science in Public School Instruction Act,” which requires that if schools are going to teach evolution, they must also teach creation science, and if they are going to teach foreign languages, they must also teach speaking in tongues.

1987 After two lower courts rule against Louisiana’s 1981Creation Act–another attempt to introduce religious doctrine in public schools–the state appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court (Edwards v Aguillard). The majority rule that the Act is unconstitutional, a decision reached by nine judicial coin flips: seven heads and two tails. The two “dissenting” Justices, conservatives Scalia and Rehnquist, write that the ruling is “obviously a sign from Satan.”

1989 A newly published textbook, Of Pandas and People, attacks the theory of evolution and, without mentioning a supernatural god, offers evidence that living forms, as well as the universe, were designed by some intelligent force, or intelligent designer, who also spontaneously wrote, published, and designed Of Pandas and People from landfill waste.

1991 Philip Johnson, considered the “father of Intelligent Design,” publishes Darwin on Trial, in which he exhaustively challenges most of the evidence for evolution by natural selection using classical argument techniques, such as logic, facts, and asking God what he should think.

1993 A revised edition of Of Pandas and People is intelligently redesigned.

1996 Michael Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box is published, in which he sets out to prove that “irreducibly complex” biological systems could not have randomly evolved from simpler and disparate biological parts and therefore must have been “designed” by an undefined intelligent designer or “Lone Arranger.” Behe’s examples of “irreducible complexity” include the perfectly structured human eye, the bacterial flagellum, and the U.S. Tax Code.

1996 Pope John Paul II shocks the Christian world by declaring his belief that the Catholic religion and evolution are compatible; however, he assures his flock that God is responsible for the human soul, which first appears about 550 million years ago in the Cambrian fossil record.

2005 In Kitzmiller v. Dover, a handful of parents, supported by atheist-like organizations, bring a lawsuit in federal court against the Dover Area School District, which is trying to introduce its public-school students to Intelligence Design as a possible alternative theory to evolution. Judge Jones decides in favor of the plaintiffs, writing: “The overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory, and I’d like to thank you goddamn atheists for blowing my chances at a U.S. Supreme Court vacancy under the Bush administration!”

2008 A new documentary entitled Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed in This Movie ridicules the theory of evolution, strongly suggests that evolution inspired the Holocaust, portrays ID advocates as victims of discrimination, and supports the indisputable scientific fact that co-writer and star, Ben Stein, has serious structural problems in his brain’s frontal lobe. Ironically, the movie actually proves why the public needs MORE science in the classroom. It walks away with one Cannes Film Festival award: the Golden Dunce Cap.

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Skeptical satirist Paul DesOrmeaux teaches at Rochester Institute of Technology and Monroe Community College and writes humorous articles for a number of well-known skeptical magazines and newsletters. His goal is to introduce skepticism to a broader audience by combining reason and science with humor and satire to expose myths, pseudoscience, fraudulent claims, and general nonsense.

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21 thoughts on “The Evolution of Intelligent Design

  1. Recently an evolutionary biologist suggested that if the Evolution theory were to be replaced, then it would have to be replaced by a better working model.Great Theory evolution, trouble is it is rather like a 150 year old shopping trolley, which has lost three of its wheels and its is going in circles. Some of the contents are past their sell by date and it just cannot reach the check-out. One famous scientist asked the question has evolution come to an end? What does it predict for the future? Further evolution does not allow for a sensible explanation for the world religions.
    If our scientists can do what they are doing, then why should there not be much more advanced scientists in other solar systems? There is a useful working hypothesis,though perhaps it could be called a theory as it offers a prediction,contained in Intelligent Design Message from the Designers. This hypothesis allows everyone to be partly correct
    in that the scientists are not entirely wrong, in that what we are dealing with is an artificial evolution of design and the religions have a common sense explanation.Remember the famous scientist who said that man would never land on the Moon. Well as we know it happened, though there is a hypothesis that it did not, but we cannot go into that right now. If this hypothesis is science fiction, then in the words of a famous film star, it ranks alongside the most breathtaking of its kind, but if it is true then it is earth shaking. This hypothesis is paradigm busting in that it allows for other, issues into the debate, such as life in other solar systems and the cyclical nature of the development of a human race, of which there have been many on this very ancient planet In the words of Montaigne, ‘ …let nothing pass the sieve of understanding , through mere confidence and authority.’ I feel that given the prediction given by this hypothesis, there is a certain urgency for this to be at least brought into the debating arena,as soon as possible as it provides a useful solution to diffusing the issue of religion and at the same time allows for a plausible scientific explanation behind the appearance of the so called ‘Ufos’ throughout the millennia, but especially since 1945 . With Hiroshima one can imagine hypothetically,the kind of comments from a lofty scientific perspective, ‘oh my God, the kids have found the matches!’ We have to look at the whole of humanity as a single biological entity with a predictable stages of development, as one would observe a child developing in the womb. Wonder when the penny is going to drop, especially amongst the scientific community.

  2. I agree with Professor Agazzi, who says: If you read Darwin’s books, Darwin directly, You can see that he was never opposed to the idea of Creation. Never. He was always opposed to the idea of individual species being created by God or by Someone, Separately rather than being the result of a transformation. What happens nowadays? Unfortunately once again in the United States there is a minority of fundamentalist Evangelicals, Seeking to take the Bible word for word, as a discourse that tells us how the world was created. They call themselves creationists. Once again the term has been seized for another use. The term “creationists” does not mean in the slightest. That the book of Genesis should be taken as a true story about the Cosmos. But for them it does. They say yes, here is something that at the very least. Should be taught alongside the theory of evolution.. Once again a mistake has been made. And people say, Creationists are enemies of science and enemies of Evolution.
    Regards,
    Santiago Chiva
    Granada, Spain

  3. What if our scientists started creating life in our own laboratories through DNA synthesis?

    First they would create simple organisms and as they developed their techniques, would design more and more sophisticated models of living art.

    This would appear like evolution, except it was a progressive design. And if we eventually ended up by designing intelligent humans just like us, then these would surely start arguing amongst themselves as to whether they evolved or were created. The more primitive of them would think we were gods.

    if we embed a certain level of variability in each design to enhance adaptability, then it would be almost indistinguishable from evolution. The evidence supporting evolution also supports such an artificial progressive scientific design, including the above point about chromosome 2 and I challenge anyone to disprove it.

  4. Michael–I know you put a lot of time into your post, and you have probably thought a lot about these points, but your post is incomprehensible.

    Satiago–Leaving Darwin out of it (because who cares what he thought–it’s evolution that is the point of discussion, not Darwin, right?), I think that you are right in that there is certainly a place where many intelligent, religious people have accepted evolution alongside their religion. If that works for them, then there should be no problem from anybody who is simply pro-science. Personal beliefs should be irrelevant when the issue is whether or not we should teach the most viable and scientifically supportable science to children.

    Marcus–How would one go about disproving that? And even if it can’t be disproven, so what? You are talking science-fiction at this point. Here’s what I read in your post: if we could come up with something that is almost indistinguishable form evolution, it would be almost indistinguishable from evolution. Um, yeah? We can hypothesize anything–if God created the world, he could make it seem like it evolved. If aliens created the world, they could make it seem like evolution and make us believe there was a creator God. So what. We can’t do what you hypothesize, and until we can, it is a bad argument based on a made-up premise.

    Paul (the author)–Everyone else is forgetting, this is satire. I like the piece. It was funny and well written. I hope more of your work can get posted on this site!

  5. @Paul

    Excellent job! Fun article! 🙂

    @Michael

    “Some of the contents are past their sell by date and it just cannot reach the check-out.”

    No, it is not. Evolution is still as applicable today as it was at the time of Darwin. Even more so actually. I agree with Koos on the incomprehensibility of your post.

    @Santiago

    “You can see that he was never opposed to the idea of Creation.”

    That is because evolution is completely different than a biogenesis. It is the CREATIONISTS that seem to get these two subjects confused. Creationism should not be taught along side of evolution because a) it has nothing to do with the theory of evolution, and b) it does not use the scientific method for it’s creationist conclusion.

    @Marcus

    “What if our scientists started creating life in our own laboratories through DNA synthesis?”

    It would prove once and for all that creationism is wacked and that yes, life can begin from a chemical composition.

    “This would appear like evolution”

    No it wouldn’t – at all. For example, we wouldn’t see things such as retroviruses in our genes that compare to other animals that share the same ancestor. There wouldn’t be vestigial organs. So on and so fourth. Also we can see evolution in action.

    Thanks,
    ‘trick

  6. There are a lot of things we don’t know about the universe, but just because you don’t know something doesn’t mean you should make up an answer. Nor does it mean you should ignore all the amazing things we do know.

    “God did it” is not an answer to anything. It’s a cop-out and a placeholder for ignorance.

    Fight your ignorance. Learn as much as you can about evolution. You will be amazed at what you learn and gain a new perspective on life in the universe.

  7. Micheal,

    yes, aliens could have initiated life on this planet and then evolutionary processes taken it from there.

    that theory is fine and dandy. It just needs something critical. Evidence. Meanwhile we have plenty of evidence confirming, over and over again that the modern synthesis of evolution (as opposed to darwins original natural selection model) is as good as it gets in understanding life on this planet.

    The wheels of evolutionary theory have not only been repaired, but improved. You would know this if you looked into it.

  8. While I am occasionally prostrate (alcohol is sometimes involved), my gland is spelled prostate. Otherwise, very funny.

  9. Great analogy, Michael: “A shopping cart that has lost three of its wheels and is going around in circles.” Anyone else think a shopping cart with only one wheel would be hard to move at all? Typical creationist insight. In point of fact, 150 years of scientific research have put the Theory of Evolution on a rock-solid foundation.

  10. Michael>>If our scientists can do what they are doing, then why should there not be much more advanced scientists in other solar systems? There is a useful working hypothesis,though perhaps it could be called a theory as it offers a prediction,contained in Intelligent Design Message from the Designers.<<

    @ Mike

    Good, Mike! You’re thinking in terms of hypothesis. That’s a good start. Now, didja ever hear of Occam’s Razor? Good ol’ Occam pointed out that the simplest explanation is usually the right one. See, what you’ve done is just inject another “god” (the “more advanced scientists”) where none is needed. Those “more advanced scientists” can be quite easily explained by evolution thank you very much! We don’t need the artificial injection of a “more advanced scientist” to make our “dumber” scientists. WE make the “more advanced scientist” of the future! Get it?

  11. Even if aliens initiated life on earth, evolution would still be the only feasible explanation for how aliens became so advanced. Their evolution of course wouldn’t have happened here on this planet.

  12. Paul, you are as brilliant as entertaining as ever. The only thing missing was a picture of three guys wearing skirts! It’s an inside joke, but worth posting.

  13. While I am occasionally prostrate (alcohol is sometimes involved), my gland is spelled prostate. Otherwise, very funny.

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