Richard Colling: New paradigm needed: More intelligent 'intelligent design'

New paradigm needed: More intelligent ‘intelligent design’

Richard D. Colling is chairman of the biology department at Olivet Nazarene University and author of “Random Designer – Created from Chaos to Connect with the Creator. His e-mail address is Richard Colling

Dr Colling points out how the debate about evolution and religious faith has been fueled by unsupportable statements by both atheists and creationists.

Fueled by bold, but unsupportable atheistic pronouncements from a few scientists that science and evolution render God superfluous, and reinforced by a continuous barrage of heated anti-evolution rhetoric flowing from scientifically naive creationist voices over many years, this idea of mutual exclusivity has seemingly become entrenched as the prevailing premise in contemporary American culture.

This has caused a tension which is now spreading into issues of public policy and education.

Dr Colling observes that Intelligent Design however is not the answer, at least not in its present form

However, in my view, as a measure that promotes sound science while preserving the long-term viability of faith, intelligent design, as it is currently understood, fails both tests.

I have been arguing much along the same lines namely that Intelligent Design poses risks for both scientific integrity as well as religious faith.

Dr Colling recommends that the Dover school board reconsiders their earlier decision for the following reasons

  • Intelligent Design is too new to have been subjected to scientific scrutiny needed for it to be included in a science curriculum
  • Intelligent Design is not an accepted concept within mainstream science
  • The links between Intelligent Design and creationism are too deeply rooted
  • Intelligent Design may run the risk of running afoul of the separation of Church and State although Dr Colling admits he is not a legal scholar

I will quote the following reason verbatim since it is so relevant

If the goal is to preserve an element of faith in the classroom, intelligent design provides but a temporary solution by positing an intelligent designer to explain perceived gaps in current scientific understanding. Such an approach is fraught with liability, and actually counterproductive to the stated purpose.

If history has any lesson for us, it is this: As understanding in science and biology inexorably march on, the perceived scientific mysteries of today will give way to well-understood processes tomorrow. And as this inevitability unfolds, science will incrementally, yet systematically erase the prospects of a designer – one data point at time.

The risks of Intelligent Design, formulated in its ‘argument from ignorance’ or ‘God of the gaps’ format seems to inevitable run the risk of causing grave damage to religious faith as gaps are slowly closed.

If science can show, convinvingly, that it can be open to the possibility of a Creator and if religious faith can accept wherever science may take them, then there may be future for faith and science.

A personal note

One may rightly object that ‘true science’ does not say anything about religious faith, one way or another. But reality is that many scientists have made statements which are now used by creationists to send a wrong message namely that science is hostile to their faith.

Even if one does not understand why people have the need for religious faith, one need to realize that many of the hotspots in the evolution/creation debate could have easily been avoided if people were less skeptical towards the scientific community.

PandasThumb is doing an excellent job at addressing the scientific aspects of these issues but this mostly impresses those who are already friendly towards the concept of evolution. There is a large group of people out there who rally in support of their faith all over this country with a misunderstanding of what science is really all about. That science is no enemy of religious faith and that religious faith is no enemy of science is something which may be self evident to many of us but it may be far less self-evident to mainstream US. The recent creation/evolution flare-ups around the country show that there are still many people who incorrectly feel threatened by science.

One cannot ignore the discomfort sceince may cause and hope that this will all go away. Over time the sides will become more and more polarized and any hope for reconciliation will be lost.

Professor Richard Colling, author of the book “Random Designer: Created from Chaos to Connect with Creator” is quoted by Sharon Begley in Tough Assignment: Teaching Evolution To Fundamentalists, Wall Street Journal, December 3, 2004; Page A15

Prof. Richard Colling wrote:

In his new book, “Random Designer,” he writes: “It pains me to suggest that my religious brothers are telling falsehoods” when they say evolutionary theory is “in crisis” and claim that there is widespread skepticism about it among scientists. “Such statements are blatantly untrue,” he argues; “evolution has stood the test of time and considerable scrutiny. [1]”

Sharon Begley in Tough Assignment: Teaching Evolution To Fundamentalists, Wall Street Journal, December 3, 2004; Page A15

An olive branch has been offered. Will we accept it? Can we afford not to?