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7.9 Creating and Teaching the Controversy

A key strategy of the Intelligent Design movement is convincing the general public that there is a debate among scientists about whether life evolved. The Intelligent Design movement creates this controversy in order to convince the public, politicians and cultural leaders that schools should “Teach the Controversy”. But in fact, there is no such controversy in the scientific community; the scientific consensus is that life evolved.

Advocates of Intelligent Design seek to keep God and the Bible out of the discussion, and present Intelligent Design in the language of science as a scientific hypothesis. However, the general public’s major concern in the United States is whether conventional evolutionary biology is compatible with belief in God and in the Bible, and how this issue is taught in schools. President George W. Bush expressed support for the idea of teaching Intelligent Design alongside evolution in August 2005. In the Kitzmiller v. Dover case, the court ruled that Intelligent Design was a religious and creationist position, finding that God and Intelligent Design were both distinct from the material that should be covered in a science class.

ID supporters hold that religious neutrality requires the teaching of both evolution and “Intelligent Design” in schools, saying that teaching only evolution unfairly discriminates against those holding creationist beliefs. Teaching both, they argue, allows for the possibility of religious belief without causing the state Intelligent Design followers believe that “Scientism” is itself a religion that promotes secularism and materialism in an attempt to erase theism from public life. They view the promotion of Intelligent Design as a way to return religion to a central role in education and other public spheres.

According to critics, “Intelligent Design” has not presented a credible scientific case and is an attempt to teach religion in public schools. Some critics have said that if one were to take the proponents of “equal time for all theories” at their word, there would be no logical limit to the number of potential “theories” to be taught in the public school system.

Critics have asserted that “Intelligent Design” proponents cannot legitimately infer that an Intelligent Designer is behind the part of the process that is not understood scientifically, since they have not shown that anything supernatural has occurred. The effect of this outside intelligence is not repeatable, observable or falsifiable, and it violates the principle of parsimony.

Supporters of Intelligent Design have also reached out to other faith groups with similar accounts of creation. Many religious bodies have responded by expressing support for evolution. The Roman Catholic Church has stated that religious faith is fully compatible with science. Prominent scientists who strongly express religious faith have been at the forefront of opposition to Intelligent Design. While creationist organizations have welcomed Intelligent Design’s support against naturalism, they have also been critical of its refusal to identify the designer.

Some religiously commentators, such as Natan Slifkin, have said that Intelligent Design presents a perspective of God that is dangerous to religion. Slifkin also asserts that the Intelligent Design movement is concerned with portraying God as “in control” when it comes to things that cannot be easily explained by science, but not in control in respect to things which can be explained by scientific theory. Kenneth Miller expresses a view similar to Slifkin’s: “Intelligent Design … is rejected by science because it does not fit the facts, and it failed religion because its proponents think too little of God.