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From Discovering Intelligent Design: Opposition from the Scientific Establishment

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Excerpted from Discovering Intelligent Design, by Gary Kemper, Hallie Kemper, and Casey Luskin; Chapter 19, "Materialism of the Gaps":

When trying to understand scientific opposition to ID, people make two common mistakes.

One mistake is to believe that scientists universally oppose ID. That's not true. While ID is currently a minority scientific viewpoint, there is a growing community of scientists who are sympathetic to intelligent design. This expanding community pursues a vibrant research program and publishes data supporting design in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

Another mistake is to assume that if the scientific establishment opposes ID, it always does so based on objective scientific investigations. Some scientists do oppose ID because of their interpretations of the evidence -- and of course, there might be strong rebuttals from the ID viewpoint to their claims. But there are other reasons for opposition to ID which have little or nothing to do with evidence. Four prominent reasons are:

  • Saving science from the ignorant masses.
  • Defending a materialist worldview.
  • Protecting their comfort zone.
  • Going with the flow.

Let's investigate the first of these motives.

Fighting Against Ignorance

For thousands of years, superstitious people tended to attribute anything they didn't understand, any gaps in their knowledge of the natural world, to God or the gods. That has been referred to as "God-of-the-gaps" argumentation. Over time, many of these gaps were filled with scientific explanations instead of the supernatural.

In today's culture, many scientists believe that their work must be based strictly upon materialism--meaning they think that any threat to materialism directly threatens science. Since ID points to evidence challenging materialism, critics conclude that it is an "anti-science" resurgence of ignorance and superstition based on God-of-the-gaps thinking.

Philosopher and political scientist Marshall Berman expresses those fears:

The current Intelligent Design movement poses a threat to all of science and perhaps to secular democracy itself.... Replacing sound science and engineering with pseudo-science, polemics, blind faith, and wishful thinking won't save you when the curtain of "Dark Ages II" begins to fall!

Does ID really threaten to bring on a new Dark Ages? Of course not.

ID challenges a reigning scientific paradigm. But as sociologist Steve Fuller says, ID is not anti-science, but rather anti-establishment. ID theorists want more scientific investigation, not less. They simply want the freedom to follow the evidence without harassment or philosophical restrictions.

An ID-based view of science promises to open new avenues of scientific investigation. Without materialist paradigms governing science, perhaps more scientists would have sought function for structures like "junk" DNA and vestigial organs, rather than assuming they were non-functional evolutionary relics.

Now that we've addressed the "Dark Ages" issue, let's consider a more sensible question: Does ID present a God-of-the-gaps argument? Again, it does not. First of all, ID refers to an intelligent cause and does not identify the designer as "God."

Moreover, ID theory is not based on what we don't know (gaps), but on what we do know (evidence). For example, we know from experience that high levels of complex and specified information come from the action of an intelligent agent. When we find objects in nature with high CSI, we have positive evidence for design.

There will, of course, always be gaps in scientific knowledge. But by insisting that all gaps must be filled with materialistic explanations, ID critics are engaging in "materialism-of-the-gaps" thinking. While ID critics may think they are protecting science, they are actually hindering it by restricting scientific inquiry.

In contrast, ID rejects gaps-based reasoning of all kinds, and suggests we should follow the evidence where it leads -- free from philosophical blinders.

To buy or learn more about Discovering Intelligent Design, the first comprehensive curriculum to present the scientific evidence for intelligent design for both young people and adults, visit our website at DiscoveringID.org!