Why I Prefer Evolution to Intelligent Design

First, it is perverse to reject evolution outright. Darwin was largely right, and people who try to reset science to pre-Darwinian assumptions are engaged in folly.

The converging lines of evidence from numerous scientific disciplines point to the fact that we live in an ancient and evolved cosmos that is unfolding according to laws and mechanisms, not the whims of spooks hopping in and out of it from supernatural realms.

So in my view, the intelligent design inference (if you are prepared to make it) should be for the cosmos as a whole (God set up the laws and conditions from the beginning for the evolved cosmos we see). We can then, by science, discover the details of the mechanisms set up. Otherwise, anything goes and science is run into a ditch.

It’s one thing to posit that an intelligent agent set up the cosmos as a whole, and another to posit that intelligent agents (gods, devils, angels, or aliens) jump into the gaps wherever scientific explanation runs up against a difficulty. History suggests that positing such gods in the gaps of our knowledge is not wise.

A god that hops into the cosmos at key moments to suspend or violate natural law, create things out of nothing, and to move things about is a worthy assumption for the 13th century, not the 21st century. It’s not that such an assumption isn’t logically possible–there are lots of things that are logically possible, but not true. It’s just that it kills science to start with such an assumption. It cannot be tested, it provides no rationale (“God works in mysterious ways”), etc.

In critical thinking, there is the concept of abduction. First proposed by Charles Sanders Pierce, it means “inference to the best explanation.” It’s not enough to generate a theory, you’ve got to compare it to all the other theories on offer.

So if you reject Darwinian evolution, how do you meet Pierce’s adbuction challenge? What is your alternative theory that accounts for what we see around us as well as (or better than) the theory that we live in an ancient evolutionary cosmos? Does your alternative theory make predictions? How is your theory tested?

An example of the success of evolutionary prediction is Tiktaalik. Neil Shubin staked numerous of his summers hunting for a transitional fossil between fish and land dwelling animals in strata that evolutionary theory suggested should have such a fossil. He found one.

What alternative theory yields such a striking example of prediction, success, and explanatory power?

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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5 Responses to Why I Prefer Evolution to Intelligent Design

  1. Pingback: LIFE'S TRUE BEGINNINGS - World Exposed | World Exposed

  2. dcyates says:

    I’m sorry I was unable to continue our other, recent correspondence (I’m afraid I’ve been ridiculously busy, but if you would like to continue it, I would like to try getting back to it when things finally do slow down for me). However, in the meantime, I did want to make a quick comment here. I suppose we can chalk it up to very different personal experiences; whereas you’ve evidently encountered a majority of Christians who could be labelled as ‘young Earth creationists’ (YEC), my own experience with my fellow believers has been such that these have been only a minority. (And is it fair to say that my three decades as an adherent of Christianity has meant my experiences with other Christians would exceed your own — perhaps even considerably? I don’t mean by this that there aren’t a lot of YEC out there, but rather that there aren’t as many as you might think.) That said, even as a theologically conservative Christian who holds to the verbal plenary inspiration of Scripture, I can openly and honestly declare that I have no problem whatever acknowledging that the universe looks to be roughly 13.7 billion years old, that our planet looks to be around a third that age, and that life on Earth has developed via the process of evolution. I assert all this only to let you know (just in case you didn’t already) that it’s perfectly possible to be a firm believer in God (as well as in the central doctrines of Christianity) and yet can still give mental and intellectual assent to the legitimate findings of scientific inquiry.

    • Peter Smith says:

      it’s perfectly possible to be a firm believer in God (as well as in the central doctrines of Christianity) and yet can still give mental and intellectual assent to the legitimate findings of scientific inquiry.

      Precisely. You have expressed it well.

  3. Pingback: The Deductive Evolutionary Design Argument | ajrogersphilosophy

  4. Peter Smith says:

    It is interesting how atheism propagates this persistent and false theme that religion and science are in opposition, science works, therefore religion must be false.

    It contains two falsehoods, the second one by implication.
    1) religion and science are not in opposition. Science explains the ‘how’ of the operation of the universe and religion explains the ‘why’ of the operation of the universe. You need only read the Four Gospels of the New Testament to see the obvious truth of this statement. They nowhere, even in the remotest way, begin to resemble a science textbook. They talk about morality and the theistic warrant for morality.

    2) the faulty understanding of religion by some groups is representative of religion and shows that religion is false. Religion takes many forms as it is inevitably shaped by local culture. Some of these forms are degenerate and show a faulty understanding of the nature of God. Does any of this surprise us? It should not, look how cultures have shaped democracy into many forms that are in some cases clearly perverted.

    The defective understanding of religion by some people does not make religion defective.

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