I decided to write today, albeit somewhat late, about intelligent design and evolutionary theory. I am not intending to degrade any religion. I have religious beliefs of my own, and I hate to hear people say demeaning things about it. That said, I am not questioning religion or its truth for anyone, I am just presenting my own perspective. I hope that it is interesting and informative. If you agree or disagree, I'd love to hear thoughts or comments about it.
Today, I thought I'd stand on my soap box, because I've been quite frustrated with education and the religious right's obsessive desire to butt in on it. I am referring, of course, to the introduction of intelligent design into the school system (in Kansas for the moment, but the argument has been introduced into more school districts), as an alternative "scientific" viewpoint to Darwinian evolution.
The people who support the inclusion of teaching intelligent design are by and large fundamentalist Christians (as far as I have seen: this, generally, to me, is the religious right). I have no quarrel with anyone's choice of faith, but I do have a problem when they want to push it onto everyone else. They say that they aren't, but even they know that they're lying through their teeth. Intelligent design has the concept of a god written all over it (hence the idea of a "designer"). Public schools are free institutions, and as such, in this great free country of ours (where one of our most cherished freedoms is that of religion), no one religion has a place in our schools. Private schools funded by religious organizations have every right to teach intelligent design as an alternative viewpoint to evolution. Heck, they don't even have to teach evolution. It's their school. But apparently it's not enough to teach only those who want to share their beliefs. They want to teach everyone else about it too. Public schools are possible thanks to taxes, which are collected by the government and then put toward community stuff. The US government has no religious affiliation, so therefore intelligent design has no place in public schools.
One of the biggest problems with intelligent design supporters is their blatant admission to being closed-minded. Most of these people posses only a limited knowledge of Charles Darwin and his theory. For example, it's a little known fact that Darwin himself was religious, and that he never questioned the church's teaching. He did not set out on the H.M.S Beagle with an idea of evolution already in mind. He reported what he saw. So his name is smeared by religious people who hate the idea that it's possible that their ancestors were monkeys. I think, too, that this idea makes them think that their life has no real purpose in the grand scheme of things. Well, when I think about it, life really has no purpose in the grand scheme of things. Will my own life change the shape of the planet? It may (hopefully) impact my own people, but not the earth itself. It does have purpose in the here and now. And really, isn't that all that matters?
I also feel that intelligent design does not have much to back it up, save for one religious document. Supporters are doing their best to make it seem more scientific, but the arguments are pretty weak. It seems to me that it is simply creationism, with a little more thought and a snazzier title.
One common argument intelligent designers use to make their argument is that evolution is only a "theory." I suppose, then, that their personal belief in god (the designer) is 100% true. The problem with this argument is that an idea can only be termed a theory after at has shown, time and again, that it explains the data. I don't think the religious right is out questioning the theory of gravity (yes, it's a theory), or the theory of relativity. So many things we assume to be true are theories, so if we question the theory of evolution, we should question these other ones as well.
Intelligent designers claim that organisms are simply too complex to have been formed by natural selection or random mutation. Have we forgotten that it takes thousands, sometimes millions, of years, for things to change? The world is a young 5 billion years old (or thereabouts). Believe me, it's had time to go through changes.
Human life, when compared to the age of the earth, is pretty well nil. Human existence, as we know it, has only existed for some 6,000 years, give or take. I would like to remind intelligent designers about the previous rulers of the earth, the dinosaurs. Or do they think all those huge creatures in natural history museums didn't really exist? The dinosaurs roamed Earth for upwards of 175 million years. Humans have not even lasted a fraction of that. That said, we haven't had much opportunity to see very much change, so I can see, in some ways, why intelligent designers don't think things change.
But a quick look at our teeth might be in order. Humans today eat large amounts of processed meat. As a result, we don't use our molars nearly as much as in the past when hunting and rough meat was a major part of life. Ever wonder why so many people have to get their wisdom teeth removed? It's because our mouths are getting smaller, and can't fit them anymore. And why is that? Simple, we don't need them. There are some people too, whose wisdom teeth never even come in. This is no mutation, this is practicality. Personally, I think it's pretty cool that we change over time. It is the ability to adapt to ever changiing conditions that allows us to continue to inhabit this earth. A person living 500 years ago probably could not handle breathing the polluted air we have today (i.e. they'd probably get pretty darn sick), but we have no problem with it because our bodies have adapted in order to deal with it. In short, we have evolved. Not noticeably, mind you, but we have nonetheless.
I feel that evolution could apply even to modern medicine. For example, HIV is something humans contracted by eating chimps in Africa. The blood found in the meat transferred the virus to humans. Humans and chimps, according to geneticists, have 95% similar DNA. We are very similar. However, HIV is devastating to humans, and harmless to chimps. I am left wondering why. What is it in their DNA that renders HIV harmelss that humans lack? Perhaps, if we look into our histories and see where exactly humans and chimps parted ways in genetic code (referred to as "split" in anthropology), perhaps we could find out what we're missing. It could be a pretty useful thing to look into. I'm no expert, this is just a humble idea, but I think at the very least that it has some potential.
So there's some of my thoughts on the subject. I hope if made for an interesting read. I want it known, as I mentioned at the beginning, that I am not degrading any religious beliefs, for I have my own personal beliefs. This is just my perspective, and I wanted to share it. Thank you for reading.