Ben Stein, of Ferris Bueller fame, has finally done something to make me forget how much I enjoyed his droning hilarity in that film. He has brought so-called intelligent design to the forefront of public conversation once more, reviving one of the most widely-accepted hoaxes in the history of mankind.
This latest bit of nonsense is called Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, and features Stein interviewing a host of supposed academics and scientists, disgruntled because they are ostracized from academics because of their belief in a concept called ‘intelligent design,’ which, despite its name, is a theory featuring very little intelligence. Theatres showing the film are scarce (thankfully), so I have yet to see the documentary, but that’s not my concern for this week. My concern is intelligent design, and this notion that Stein and his fans have that this is somehow a valid theory worthy of merit or even consideration, when the truth is, the so-called academics who believe in it should be ostracized and laughed at. Let’s look at this ‘theory’ a little closer.
Intelligent Design vs. Evolution
Intelligent design is the belief that the development of life on Earth was guided by some intelligent being, rather than being governed by the random processes of inheritance, mutation, and natural selection. It is based strongly in a belief that god, or some incarnation of it, created the universe and has guided the development of mankind and, indeed, all species of animal on Earth. This is in opposition with the currently accepted theory of species development: neo-Darwinian evolution.
I’m going to go ahead and dumb this down, so you biologists out there, just keep quiet as I put things in layman’s terms. To the neo-Darwinian scientists, things happen something like this: cells randomly mutate all the time. Sometimes those mutations end up favorable to the life-form (i.e. beans gaining a resistance to a certain bug), and thus that life-form is able to reproduce more offspring and pass on that trait. In the same way, organisms which develop unfavorable mutations die out before they can reproduce, thus killing those bad genes off.
Theory vs. Bullshit
Neo-Darwinian evolution is what one calls a scientific ‘theory.’ Now, in common lingo, a theory can be just about any conjecture or opinion. In science, however, a theory is a testable prediction of natural phenomenon based on observable facts.
Neo-Darwinian evolution, for instance, is a theory to predict how new life-forms develop from old ones, based on facts from the fossil record and much of the work done in genetics and geological research. It is testable by looking at the fossils of connected species, and in fact, some of the more extraordinary research being done actually shows the evolution of quick-growing bacteria in action.
Here’s where we get to the big pile of smelly bullshit: intelligent design. Proponents of this theory say there’s nothing to explain where life began, and they argue that there are too many coincidences and improbabilities for evolution to occur randomly. While it is true that we have little evidence supporting any theories of how life began, deifying our own ignorance and calling it ‘god’ is not a scientific solution.
Intelligent design proponents try to replace all that is unknown with some vague deity. This does not create a valid scientific theory. This is superstition masked as science; theology pretending to be biology. God cannot be tested, seen, heard, or even smelled. To the scientist, it does not exist, as there is absolutely no evidence to support its existence.
Expelled for no Intelligence
Stein’s documentary makes the argument that academics who subscribe to intelligent design have been unfairly treated: ridiculed, not taken seriously, and even fired. I argue that they were treated fairly; they were laughed at as academics for believing in superstition.
The biologist who argues, despite all evidence to the contrary, that leprechauns are real would be laughed at. He would be ridiculed out of any legitimate conference. Why is intelligent design somehow worthy of merit, despite its basis in myth and superstition? If belief in intelligent design is accepted as science, we may as well begin teaching classes on dragons, proposing theories about the evolution of unicorns, and offering majors in Chupacabra Studies.
So, for those of you fooled by Stein’s documentary, just keep in mind what a theory is in science. Don’t accept this unfalsifiable nonsense as fact, for there is no intelligence in intelligent design. See it for what it is: superstition masquerading as biology.