Because it juxtaposes atheistic and theistic ideas about the creation and evolution of the Earth, Intelligent Design: Unlocking The Mystery of Life offers viewers a both balanced and thoughtful representation of divergent knowledge systems. Throughout the film, scientists and philosophers present information regarding both the Darwinian theory of evolution and emerging viewpoints geared towards legitimating the argument for Intelligent Design. In presenting this information in a factual and non-biased manner, these academics explore theories about the universe in a manner that expands the depth and scope of discourse regarding the origin of life. They thereby increase the likelihood that thoughtful discourse about the inception and evolution of the Earth and its inhabitants will continue. When one considers the validity of both the Darwinian theory of evolution and the Intelligent Design argument, it seems clear that both ideological frameworks should be taught in schools so that students are not afforded a fragmental understanding of theories pertaining to our biological origins.
While all of the scientists who shared their views regarding Darwinian evolution and Intelligent Design had profound and provocative things to say about the issue, Paul Nelson’s assessments were particularly insightful. In discussing his thoughts regarding how methodical studies of the material world should transpire, Nelson states “Science ought to be a search for the truth about the world…we shouldn’t prejudge what might be true.” Elaborating on his own views regarding science, he went on to add “One of the problems I have with evolutionary theory is it artificially rules out a kind of cause even before the evidence has a chance to speak and the cause that’s ruled out is intelligence.” In making this statement, Nelson revealed his willingness to engage ideological views that do not parallel those traditionally accepted by scientists as accurate and rational. In so doing, he increases the likelihood that scientific discourse regarding the nature and evolution of the universe will not rule out theories that legitimate theistic arguments about the biological origins of Earth’s creatures.
Just as Nelson’s suppositions regarding the shortcomings of Darwin’s arguments enrich discourse about biological theories of the Earth’s inception and evolution, mathematician William Dembski’s views in reference to the argument for Intelligent Design expand the depth and scope of such debates. In discussing his own ideological frame of reference, Dembski cited his book The Design Inference. In it, he argues that the presence of external realities revealing evidence of intentional creation rather than random occurrence make a strong case for the design argument. In outlining the criteria one would need to use in order to infer design, Dembski referenced improbability and specification as integral to concluding that something was intentionally created. (The probability principle references the improbability of an object being created in a certain way while specification signifies a highly recognizable pattern.) An example of imposing this principle onto readily observable aspects of the world would be assessments made about the origins of hieroglyphics. According to the video announcer, no one would attribute hieroglyphics to erosion in large part because of the highly specified drawings that have been carved into the physical structures. Moreover, one could conclude that the hieroglyphic drawings are improbable insomuch as the arrangement of the iconography doesn’t appear to be the result of random or natural causes. Thus-when people assert that the presence of hieroglyphics imply that someone created them-they are rationally inferring that the structure resulted from design. Ultimately, Dembski’s argument contributes to the existing ideologies that buttress the Intelligent Design theory by legitimating the notion that observable phenomena exhibiting specified characteristics resulted from intentional creation.
While Dembski’s arguments regarding design expand the discussion regarding the validity of Darwin’s theory of evolution, philosopher of science Stephen C. Meyer’s assessments regarding methodological naturalism also contribute to discourse about the issue. In defining the term, Meyer asserts that methodological naturalism is a system of thought in which an individual conducting research can only invoke scientific explanations that imply natural causes. This mode of thinking eliminates and/or ignores the possibility of intelligence playing a role in the inception and evolution of the biological laws we observe today. According to Meyer, the methodological naturalism has shortcomings rooted in the fact that natural causes don’t produce information-rich systems. Therefore, the fact that these information-rich systems exist provokes questions about their origins. In outlining a possible answer, Meyer states that many humans conclude that the presence of these systems (DNA, for example) imply intelligent design. In so doing, Meyer expands discourse regarding the origins of life by offering a rational theory that counters Darwinian evolution.
When one considers both the plausibility of the Intelligent Design argument as well as the need to have balanced discussions about the origins of Earth and our existence, it seems clear that discussions about the shortcomings of Darwin’s theory as well as the logical strength of ideas like the design inference should become integral to discourse about the biological aspects of the planet. Therefore, people that oppose the Intelligent Design theory are not justified in keeping the argument out of school systems. While it is pragmatic for students to learn the Darwinian theory of evolution in that its principles expand consciousness about scientific theories and contribute to the intellectual progress of the individual, it is also important that young people be exposed to ideological frameworks that challenge prevalent philosophies about our biological origins. When this is done, our understanding of how and why we conceptualize the universe in atheistic or theistic terms will increase exponentially.
Jocelyn Crawley is a 28-year-old college student currently pursuing a Masters of Divinity degree in preparation to become a pastor. She holds B.A. degrees in English and Religious Studies.