Why is it hard to defend evolution against intelligent design?

Despite the overwhelming evidence that evolution actually occurs, the theory is not widely accepted by the general populous.  How can there be such a disconnect with the science and public opinion?  The public’s apathy towards science is partly to blame.  Undoubtedly, attacks by intelligent design proponents on the theory of evolution also has a large effect.  But how can the pseudoscientific theory of intelligent design hurt the theory of evolution in the view of the public?

Different rules apply    

Intelligent design proponents are not playing by the same rules as scientists studying evolution.  They are not required to show any evidence for their theory. They don’t need to make predictions that can be tested.  They don’t even really have to define the designer or the mechanisms the designer used to create life.  All that is required for them is a gut feeling. 

Evolution, on the other hand, requires everything that science entails.  This means making testable hypotheses and actually testing them.  This also means taking all data into account, not just the data that fits.  With evolution, you can’t say anything to the scientific community without evidence.

Underlying motivations

Intelligent design also has the benefit of being able to support some of people’s most precious ideas: religion.  People are much more likely to listen to someone who reaffirms their preconceived notion of how the world works than listen to someone who goes against it.  Intelligent design proponents take advantage of this by implying that if you believe in evolution, you are an atheist.  it even goes a step further where people like Ben Stein compare evolutionists to the Nazis.

Limits of the human mind

Intelligent design also plays to imperfect human mind.  Humans have a hard time comprehending the large timescales that are required for evolution.  It is hard enough to imagine a million years let alone hundreds of millions or even billions of years.  Our brains have an equally hard time processing the ridiculously large numbers of organisms on the earth.  The fact that there is 1,000 trillion microorganisms in our bodies or that there is 100-400 million insects in one acre of land is hard to imagine.  Yet, these are the types of numbers that are required for the diversity of life on earth.  Intelligent design proponents use these weaknesses to argue that it would be impossible for evolution to have occurred.  The problem is that most people buy into this fallacy (arguing from personal incredulity). 

Everything under the sun works

Intelligent design is really a theory that can be argued to be supported by any evidence.  No matter what new evidence arises, an intelligent design proponents can simply say that this new evidence is that way because the designer did it.  When you have a supernatural designer, anything is possible.  Evolution has to follow the laws of physics. 

As the above points show, promoting evolution is an uphill battle.  Good thing there is so much evidence to support it.


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