Intelligent Design, Evolution Clash in Courtroom

Evolution and intelligent design are the subjects of an ongoing wrongful termination lawsuit in Los Angeles, and it’s driving liberals nuts.

Former Jet Propulsion Laboratory systems administrator David Coppedge, who by many accounts aggravated his co-workers for a number of reasons, has sued JPL, claiming that his demotion and subsequent firing were because of his views on creationism, intelligent design and gay marriage.

Coppedge has testified in court that he was told by a supervisor that he was not allowed to discuss his political or religious views at work, while other workers were allowed to pass around political cartoons and have conversations insulting conservatives, Christians and President Bush with impunity.

Regardless of the ultimate merits of the case, the lawsuit has brought to light the conflict between evolution science and intelligent design, and the difficulties faced by many conservatives in liberal-dominated workplaces.

Real science proceeds from the evidence, and when there are different possible interpretations, real science is open to an honest debate.

Politicized science, however, clings to dogma and attempts to shout down or destroy the opposition.

There is an entrenched power structure in modern science that will brook no blaspheming of the evolution paradigm while insisting that they are the arbiters of rationalism and open-mindedness.

An honest look at evolution theory, however, will find holes you could drive a truck through. This is not necessarily fatal to a scientific theory, but it’s very worrisome for something promoted in many corners as “fact.”

Both evolution and intelligent design look at the same fossils and animals, but they propose different solutions. Evolution proposes the complexity of life occurred because of random changes that accumulate and eventually add up to development of different species. Intelligent design sees the same variety but believes the complexity is best explained through the intervention of intelligence.

Technically, intelligent design doesn’t have to imply God. It could be aliens, as suggested by Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of the shape of DNA, whose notion is called directed panspermia. It’s a hypothesis that is supported by celebrity atheist Richard Dawkins, who vehemently opposes the idea that an intelligent designer might be God.

Both evolution and intelligent design fall short in the area of exactly how different species might develop. The original Darwinian notion of slow, constant change was long ago abandoned in favor of the concept of “punctuated equilibrium,” which better fits the actual fossil record. Still, the actual mechanism of change remains mysterious.

The same holds for intelligent design. If change — “within types” is the ID-preferred phrase — is the result of intervention by a designer, how is it achieved? Direct, manual manipulation, chemical prompting, etc.?

Opponents often complain that ID is not testable. But then neither is evolution. Evolution “experiments” that change the genes of fruit flies or other simple organisms involve actual manipulation by scientists — ironically, closer to a case for intelligent design than evolution.

Opponents of ID who point to a link with creationism are often overreacting out of prejudice, but there is one valid point in the observation. Belief in the Bible is a good thing, but the Bible should not be the starting point of a scientific theory. It brings with it too many assumptions that will affect the assessment of scientific data.

The same can be said, however, about evolutionary assumptions. Scientists may overlook obvious conclusions that are right in front of them.

A renewed commitment to real scientific values would allow for an open, healthy debate of different viewpoints, even those that challenge current thinking. In the end, ID and evolutionary science need each other.