The Absurdity of Intelligent Design

There is an ongoing debate withing the American education system on whether to include a thesis in the curriculum, which indicates the evolution of the world is the product of a grand design.

There is a big struggle raging now in the United States over the question of whether to allow the schools in the various states to present the "intelligent design" hypothesis - alongside the Darwinist picture - which competes with the theory of evolution as an explanation of the complexity of nature in the world.

The proponents of intelligent design - among them the president of the United States, who said recently that this is an alternative theory of equal value to the Darwinist world picture - argue that the enormous complexity that is revealed to us in the universe, especially in the animal and plant world, is the reflection of the action of an intelligent entity. As they see it, only planning by an intelligence of this sort can explain the existence in the world of complicated systems like the human eye or ear, or the wonderful pattern of a peacock's tail spread wide.

This argument is now being presented in the United States forcefully as a competitor to the world of biology's theory of evolution, the foundations of which were laid by Charles Darwin. The Darwinist is no less moved and impressed by the complexity, the purposefulness, the order and the beauty that are revealed in animal and plant life, but he attributes them not to any intelligent designer, but rather to the statistical regularity of random processes that occur in the world. In the Darwinist view, none of the processes that propel the evolution that yields the great variety revealed in the world can be attributed either to intelligence, or to design, or to emotion or to will.

In school boards and institutions in a number of American states there is an increasingly sweeping drive in the direction that is supported by the president, and in various schools intelligent design is indeed being taught in the classrooms, alongside the theory of evolution. This trend is alarming many scientists and educators, not only in America. It certainly should be giving educators and decision-makers in Israel sleepless nights.

The political-cultural struggle has become so heated that it is making headlines in the international daily press. The Haaretz Hebrew edition, for example, recently published an article by Richard Dawkins and Gerry Quinn, among the leading evolution researchers in our generation, which explains the weakness of intelligent design theory and the dangers inherent in the presentation of it classrooms in schools as a scientific theory. About a month ago The New York Times published a long article in a similar spirit, by American philosopher Daniel Dennett.

The main weakness in the idea of an intelligent designer is that it is impossible to see it as any sort of explanation of the phenomenon it purports to illuminate. The main premise at the basis of its argument can be presented thus: No reasonable person would think that the wonderful paintings by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel could have been produced as the result of random processes, without intention and without intelligence. The same applies to the F-16 aircraft. How much more so is an explanation like this necessary for biological systems in the world, which are inestimably more complex.

However, this conclusion is based on reasoning based on a nonsensical premise. The assumption that an intelligent being designed the F-16 does indeed constitute a satisfactory explanation for the existence of this complex system, because we know of the existence of aeronautical engineers, in a way that is independent of our knowledge of the plane itself. The thought that the hand of an intelligent being painted the Sistine Chapel can explain the paintings, only because we possess prior knowledge of the existence of beings who can design and execute such works.

With respect to the natural world and the universe, however, we do not have any prior knowledge of the existence of an intelligence that is capable of planning them. Concluding from the existence of the complex and wonderful world that an intelligent designer exists is not an explanation of the phenomenon, but rather a psychological result of it.

To what is this similar? To the case of Yehezkel, who has been working now for 17 years as a cashier at a small bank branch in Rishon Letzion. Two years ago he bought eight dunams (two acres) of land in Caesarea and built a 400-square-meter villa, a tennis court, two swimming pools and a stable for race horses. This aroused the suspicion of the bank manager and the income tax authorities, who sent an investigator to look into the matter. The investigator's first question to Yehezkel was: Where did you get the money?

Yehezkel's reply came immediately and without hesitation: On the night of the Ninth of Av, 2001, Elijah the Prophet was revealed to me in a dream at night and said to me: Yehezkel, my son, arise, take a shovel and go forth to the grave of Queen Esther in the Galilee. At midnight on the first day of the lunar month stand by the gravestone and walk north exactly 613 paces and 49 paces east. At that point, dig seven cubits into the ground and you will find an ancient metal coffer there. Open the coffer, clasp it and say three times: "Na-Nach - Nachm - Nachman from Uman." And here Elijah rose heavenward in a tempest. I did as he commanded and as I stood on the night of the new moon of the month of Elul holding the open coffer, it began to fill up with NIS 10 million in new NIS 200 bills. This is the source of the money I have invested in Caesarea. The investigator did not relent and asked: Do you have any evidence for this story? Of course, replied Yehezkel. Isn't the villa in Caesarea sufficient proof?

And this is exactly what the proponents of intelligent design are saying. We see a wonderful world. The explanation for its complexity is an intelligent being who designed it. And if you ask us how we know that such an entity exists, we will answer immediately: Isn't the existence of a marvelous world like this sufficient proof?