Bruce Chapman, President of the Discovery Institute

Discovery Institute a public policy think tank based in Seattle, Washington, best known for its advocacy of the pseudoscience “intelligent design” (ID), claims ID is a scientific theory that concludes certain features of the universe and living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.

watch reproductionThey claim that certain natural objects are too complex and must arise from an intelligent action. The argument is that since a watch is too complicated to arise naturally and requires a designer, than so to must a living cell need a designer. Most of us, with the exception of the Discovery Institute and Republican presidential candidates, have realized early in our development that populations of watches do not have genetic material nor do they reproduce.

The proponents of ID are the judges of what is ‘best explained’, which leaves no room for real science. Science is not about values, it is about facts no matter how unlikely something should be. The problem is Discovery Institute’s campaign aims to teach creationist anti-evolution beliefs in United States public high school science courses alongside accepted scientific theories. This is a disservice to our children.

As an proof that the universe is intelligently designed, ID proponents calculate the odds of a life friendly universe at one part in 1010^23  to have the laws of physics matched to a very narrow band of parameters enabling life. This is not a scientific argument any more than claiming the odds are 100% of having the laws of physics such that life is probable. It is purely a philosophic argument.   The only test of this hypothesis shows that the universe harbors life and the odds of that happening by chance are between one part in 1010^23 and 100%. In other words this is a meaningless argument.

Similar arguments are made for the origin of life and the complexity of higher organism. The basic premise they offer is that in their opinion it is too complex to have arisen from natural selection alone. They define the term irreducibly complex for systems that are “composed of several interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, and where the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning. An irreducibly complex system cannot be produced directly by slight, successive modifications of a precursor system, since any precursor to an irreducibly complex system is by definition nonfunctional. “

They argue that many bimolecular processes fit this definition including protein synthesis since it is too complex and requires so many unique steps, none of which can be removed without failure. Therefore the process is irreducible.

The problem is that whenever one of these ‘irreducible systems’ is shown to have arisen by natural selection than there are still other irreducible systems. They even admit that “a number of factors might have affected the development of life: common descent, natural selection, migration, population size, founder effects (effects that may be due to the limited number of organisms that begin a new species), genetic drift (spread of “neutral,” nonselective mutations), gene flow (the incorporation of genes into a population from a separate population), linkage (occurrence of two genes on the same chromosome), and much more. The fact that some biochemical systems were designed by an intelligent agent does not mean that any of the other factors are not operative, common, or important.”

In other words, this is a non-testable, non-falsifiable hypothesis. It is a hallmark of pseudoscience.   Non only is the hypothesis of ID not testable, the designer can not be measured or observed. It is simply a belief system that has caught the Republican candidates off guard and put them out of touch with reality on this issue.