On 20 December 2005, federal judge John Jones admonished a local school-board decision about Intelligent design movement harshly and inhibited the idea of intelligent design to be taught in science classes. Actually early in 1987 ——18 years earlier than Judge Jones’ verdict —— the U.S Supreme Court has already decided that religious “creation science” is not a science and cannot be included in public school sciences classes as a substitute of biological evolutionary theory. However, there still are schools which insisted to teach it in science classes 18 years later; there still are people who have infinite faith in intelligent design who can offer a rich amount of seemingly convincible ideas that prove it is rational. But it absolutely cannot take the place of evolution in the field of science.
Rights and wrongs aside, to find out the scientific basis of Jones’ decision, the essentials we need to understand are what is science and why we need it. Undoubtedly, science is an indispensable thing for a person who lives in the modern world. From finding the most suitable stones to make a large variety of stone artifacts in the Anthropolithic age, to the tests of more than a thousand kinds of material in order to find the most sufficient filament for light bulbs during the second industrial revolution; from the completion of the very first circumnavigation which testified the idea of the spherical earth by Ferdinand Magellan, to the very first footstep marked on the moon by Neil Armstrong —— through hundreds and thousands of years, us human beings have made remarkable progress in the field of science and technology. We keep creating things to make our life easier; we are still curious about the unknowns of the world we live in and try to find out the most proper explanation. Even if we believe there is a creator exist somewhere, we should have not stop thinking and tried not to attribute every unknown thing to the existence of him, otherwise, we would never make such advances. And science is the tool which we use to invent things and substantiate our hypothesizes that requires plentiful of evidence. In order to prove one single assumption, a larger amount of experiments need to be done to dismiss all the dubious ones objectively before getting the conclusion.
Since the idea of evolution has already deeply ingrained in my mind, I was surprised when I first heard about the concept of intelligent design. Even if I have read stories about how God created the world in 7 days, I never thought that there would be people who take it so seriously that consider it as a branch of science. According to Wikipedia, “intelligent design is a religious argument for the existence of God, which presents the assertions that certain features (biological and informational, respectively) are too complex to be the result of natural processes; and they are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.” Supporters of this idea have even tried to come up with a new scientific definition that contains religious beliefs and get it allowed to be taught in schools in the US, as the essay topic mentioned. Taking a step back, creationism could be one of the possible explanations of how life began, since nobody can go back into the time when the creator was creating our ancestors also could not see where our creator is. but we cannot either falsify or contradict it, therefore it is not a part of science. An old cliche goes “seeing is believing”, the whole theory about intelligent design is just too illusory.
When it comes to evolution, the condition becomes radically different. Evolution is an on-going process which we can observe through scientific methods: archaeological investigations, statistical surveys, etc. There are things that we can see and touch which convince us that living organisms are evolving. Fossils are regarded as the most direct evidence of evolution. For example, Archaeopteryx, a genus of theropod dinosaur, was the earliest ancestor of birds. Since 1861, 11 specimens of Archaeopteryx have been discovered. Its fossil shows both features of dinosaurs and birds, therefore is called as a transitional fossil. Although it looks like magpies and has wings and feathers complicated enough which enabled it to fly like a bird, the traits it shared with dinosaurs like sharp teeth, a long bony tail, and many skeletal structures indicate that it was not a bird but a species of dinosaur which pretty close to the birds. This makes Archaeopteryx the transition species of dinosaurs and birds, more so become an overwhelming proof of evolution.
Speciation is another piece of compelling evidence of evolution. The geographic speciation on Hawaiian islands is a fascinating case. Since the Hawaiian islands are volcanic islands formed by a submarine volcanic eruption, they have never had any connections with the continents. At the beginning, there were no signs of life on the islands; later, a variety of animal and plant individuals were brought to the islands by the sea winds from the Asia and North America continents accidentally: birds, insects, flowering plants, etc. These new-come residents started to explore their new home while being completely isolated with their ancestors. Finally, the individuals of same species settled down in different regions of each island, therewith they must adapt themselves to the environmental differences of each mountain, valley, or coastline of each island to survive. As a consequence, their habits started to diverge and that made them gradually evolved into different species separately. evolutionary biologists have found that a single colonized species on Hawaii islands has speciated into hundreds of different species within only a hundred thousand years.
Other than these long-time processes, there are also short-term, evolutional processes which we can witness within a few decades. The most classic example is the peppered moths and natural selection. As their name indicates, these moths are called “peppered” because they are white colored with black dots on their wings. With this kind of pattern, they can be well camouflaged when staying on the tree trunks with lichens. The moths with too much black dots cannot fuse their color with the color of tree trunks and easily got eaten by the predators. As a consequence, the number of whiter moths is much bigger than it of the black moths. However, during the industrialization in the 19th century, the air pollution smudged the tree trunks into a darker color also killed the lichens on them. Under this situation, after about 30 years around 98% of the peppered moths in the city turned to be black. After several decades when the environment was decontaminated, the tree trunks became brighter and the lichens grew back. Then the amount of whiter moths started to increase and exceeded the amount of black ones again. From the three examples, apparently, we can see that experts had done a lot of scientific researches to observe the processes. In other words, evolution is accord with science because of its provability.
However, it does not means that intelligent design is antagonistic to science and must be wrong. Even though there still are people who believe that fossils are in fact buried by Satan which are used to test the devoutness of Christians, we cannot judge them wrong because nobody can prove or disprove it. Being excluded from science classes, nonetheless, the idea of intelligent design can be taught in other classes such as religion, history, and philosophy. Religious beliefs are the shields of people’s spiritual world. No other than their unfalsifiability filled up the knowledge gaps so that eliminated people’s fearless and anxiety of the unknowns. Just as because of the presence of heaven, we are no longer afraid of death. It is hard to discard what has encouraged us for thousands of years in spite of we are getting to know more about the real world.
Even Darwin wrote in his own letters that: “It seems to me absurd, to doubt that a man may be an ardent Theist and an evolutionist.”, “I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God…” And surveys indicate that although very few, in the US there still are great scientists who are religious. Science and creationism are able to coexist. But still, we need to face the natural world head-on. Compare with evolution, intelligent design is so unscientific and impractical therefore not qualified to be taught in science classes. Imagining and mystifying the answers is not the proper way to explore the unknown. On the contrary, practice is the only principle for testing the truth. Hence only by reasonable scientific method hypothesizing and verifying can we get the answers that conform to the reality.
In conclusion, the scientific basis of Jones’ admonition is demonstrated as above. Although people are arguing that there are still some loopholes of evolutionary theories, instead of intelligent design which cannot provide any reachable evidence, they are the ones that explain how lives became complicated and diverged that should be taught in science classes.