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God Squad Review CXXXIX (Evolution vs Intelligent Design)

August 22, 2005 | 36 Comments

A religious ninth-grader who wants to be a scientist wants to know if the Squad agrees with Darwin’s theory of evolution, whether they accept the Biblical account of creation, and whether the two accounts can be reconciled. The Squad starts out with these confidence-inspiring credentials:

We love God, but we are not experts on God. We also love science, but we are not experts in science.

Ordinarily these concessions would disqualify one from answering the questions, but with the Squad, apparently “love is all you need”:

Here are our answers to your very good questions: We agree that Darwin had a good theory, but it is a theory, which means it might or might not be true. His theory is that mutation and natural selection determine how life on Earth evolves. If that theory is false, it’s false because scientific facts make it false. Darwin’s theory cannot be false just because it doesn’t agree with the Book of Genesis. Genesis is a religious book, which includes the science of 4,000 years ago.

But isn’t the science of 4,000 years ago still “science?” If Genesis contains “science,” wouldn’t it also be false only because scientific facts make it false? You’d think it would be more accurate than any science that could be conducted today, insofar as the observational data would have been collected at the time the universe was created — rather than four millennia later. After all, the Bible is trustworthy in other respects:

The Bible is definitely true in what it tells us about how God wants us to live, but some scientific statements in the Bible (like the idea that the Earth sits on poles in a pool of water and that there’s a hard shell above the Earth with gates that open for the rain to come down) are not good science.

Sure, God has some crazy, Rube Goldberg conception of how the very thing he created works. Humans are entitled to correct Him about those sorts of matters. But when it comes to living their own lives, they have to defer to God. Now, you might have suspicions that both the scientific and moral rules were just written by a bunch of cranky sexist homophobic old men — but that’s resolved by the Bible itself, which says that it was written by God.

Darwin said that what he wrote was true, too. Is that good enough? No:

Maybe Darwin’s theory is good science, but some scientists don’t think so. They point to the cell, for example, saying that all the parts of a cell had to work correctly from the beginning for cells to exist, and that if each part of a cell had to evolve, there never would be cells at all. These scientists say Darwin did not know about DNA or about the parts of a cell, so he didn’t understand how everything had to be in place all at once and not over time. They say some intelligent power had to design life on Earth.

Who are these “some scientists”? Are there any “other scientists” who have looked at cells and come to a different conclusion? Is the conclusion regarding the “intelligent power” a scientific one? Is there a scientific theory regarding how something intelligent enough to create the universe thought that “there’s a hard shell above the Earth with gates that open for the rain to come down”? Let’s ask cell-expert William Paley:

Think of a watch. If you look at one, you know there had to be a watchmaker because only a smart designer could have made something with so many parts that works so well. Scientists who differ with Darwin point to the world, noting that it has even more parts and works even better than a watch. Their logic says that just as we know watches are designed by watchmakers, it’s clear that a world maker created the Earth.

Hey, wait a minute! If the world works better than a watch, how come we have leap years? Isn’t the world off by a few seconds every year? Don’t we know that by looking at our watches?

But let’s get back to the cell analogy. Aren’t the little parts of the watch and the raw material that goes into them the equivalent of “cells”? You don’t need a smart designer to make them, because they don’t have “so many parts that work so well.” Or is there an itsy-bitsy watchpartsmaker that we haven’t seen? Does it have a name?

The Squad doesn’t say. But the scientists are unanimous about one thing:

Some of these scientists call the world maker God, while others refer to Intelligent Design.

Or Allah, or Ganesh, or Zeus. What should we tell the kids?

We do not think the biblical story of Creation should be taught in school, but we do agree with President George W. Bush that the concept of Intelligent Design should be taught in science class as another scientific theory on how life came to be.

Maybe Darwin’s theory will win out over the theory of Intelligent Design, or maybe ID will win. In any case, we don’t think science teachers should keep you from hearing both sides of the argument.

But they just said that some scientists call the world maker God. Doesn’t that “scientific theory” get into the classrooms too?


36 Responses to “God Squad Review CXXXIX (Evolution vs Intelligent Design)”

  1. Andrea
    August 22nd, 2005 @ 10:54 pm

    Hey, if I don’t quite understand how the world was made, then no one must understand, therefore, someone made the world. That makes perfect sense.

  2. Jennifer
    August 22nd, 2005 @ 11:17 pm

    How does one determine which parts of the bible are “good” and which parts are “not good”. Frank I await your response with heavy breathing.

  3. tenspace
    August 22nd, 2005 @ 11:36 pm

    The God Squad Waffles Again. I think all the answers are yes – Yes, Darwin had something right, yes, we cannot forget the Intelligent Designer potential, and yes, you can talk and talk and not really say a word.

    It would be nice if they could have at least mentioned the scientific meaning of theory.


  4. ocmpoma
    August 22nd, 2005 @ 11:52 pm

    I cannot believe the utter bullshit put forth by the Squad this time. Once again, they have marginilized and ignored those who don’t fall in line with them and their idiotic beliefs.

    I mean, they didn’t even mention His Noodliness!

  5. Paul
    August 23rd, 2005 @ 1:20 am

    The Squad was so disingenuous when they said that evolution may or may not be true. What insight! They make no sign of being aware of everything that shifts the balance *way* toward evolution. Instead, they think it’s about a 50/50 shot.


  6. PhalsePhrophet
    August 23rd, 2005 @ 1:48 am

    What the squad should have said: Some scientists consider life to be too complex to be explained wholly by the theory of evolution. These scientists theorize that an intelligent designer created life. The term intelligent designer is used because it is logically impossible for the Judeo, Christian, or Islamic God to qualify as the intelligent designer of life. No scientific claims are made or implied. Until life can be fully explained by science, the theory of intelligent design should serve as the official counter theory to evolution.

  7. Vernichten
    August 23rd, 2005 @ 7:50 am

    The thing that makes ID “theory” so useless is that it’s, well, useless. It doesn’t make any predictions. If it’s true it doesn’t matter, if it’s not true it doesn’t matter. We still need to keep pushing forward with real science to make useful discoveries.

  8. glenstonecottage
    August 23rd, 2005 @ 9:10 am

    Some people believe that pi equals 3.1415926, but 1 Kings 7:23 plainly demonstrates that pi equals three.

    So let’s teach the kids both versions and let them decide for themselves.

  9. Frank
    August 23rd, 2005 @ 10:59 am


  10. Frank
    August 23rd, 2005 @ 11:00 am


  11. Frank
    August 23rd, 2005 @ 11:02 am

    oops — ran into a technical clitch, I didn’t mean to post twice. Sorry.

  12. hermesten
    August 23rd, 2005 @ 11:31 am

    A handbreadth is “about” 3 inches
    the brim of a cup is flared out (“perhaps” an inch)
    The circumference of the bowl would “probably” be taken from the inside.

    Yes, well, when you choose your assumptions “correctly,” you can prove just about anything.

  13. Viole
    August 23rd, 2005 @ 11:42 am

    What, Frank, did you run that equation backwards to find the correct measurements? This is simply another case of you(meaning biblical apologists) making up stuff to find the correct answers. As has been pointed out; the Earth isn’t round. It’s got mountains and valleys, and the diameter is greater near the equator than from pole to pole. Round works as a rough conceptualization, but if you’re doing science, you need complete accuracy. If I’m allowed to work backwards from the answer, I can get pi to equal any number you want.

  14. qedpro
    August 23rd, 2005 @ 11:47 am

    Here’s another competing theory that should be taught.

    Babies come from storks…….instead of well you know the other way…..
    Maybe we should get the medical community to teach this as well. It has about the same scientific foundation as ID so it must be correct.
    Or better yet, we should force all the churches to teach evolution on Sunday as a competing theory to ID and the bible.

  15. Frank
    August 23rd, 2005 @ 11:58 am

    hermesten – I was just demonstrating that the 1 Kings passage is not the

  16. Sternwallow
    August 23rd, 2005 @ 12:42 pm

    According to the rules that apologists regularly demand (by which the bible, aka word of god, is inerrant and complete) and that they as regularly break, that nothing may be added to or taken from the bible, your “assumptions” about the possible deliberate stupidity of those trying to measure a caldron, having come out of your mortal head, are not admissable. Since a scientific value for pi is indeed calculable to any desired precision, the only reason for god to have stated both the diameter and circumference is to spotlight an incorrect value of three (no more no less). This is another of god’s tests to see if we can be made to believe the bible instead of reality.
    Paraphrasing, “believe 1 = 2 or you go to hell”.

  17. a different tim
    August 23rd, 2005 @ 1:26 pm

    I really can’t believe there’s an issue here. Darwinism makes testable predictions that have been confirmed time and time again (a list of examples will probably bore you, but if anyone challenges me on this I will give one. it will be longer (and more tedious) than my posts on the beginning of the universe. So watch it).
    ID does not, as Frank has so generously demonstrated. Frank – judging from previous posts you are normally smarter than this.
    End of fucking story. Except…..
    To be honest this issue makes me furiously angry, more so than any other. How dare these theocratic scumbags try to sneak their religion into science classes through the back door? Calling it “intelligent design” does not even show the courage of their own convidtions. Call it “creationism” and have done with it. As a Brit I’d be smug about the fact that they’re American, but our beloved leader Tony thinks it’s OK to teach ID in UK classrooms as well. (In spite of the statistic – revealed today here,,1554496,00.html, that 2/3 of UK citizens oppose state funding of faith schools. Sometimes they make me proud…..)
    These creationists are the American Taliban and should be bombed into oblivion just like the original.
    There, I feel a little calmer now.

  18. GenghisDirt
    August 23rd, 2005 @ 1:58 pm

    a different tim said: “These creationists are the American Taliban and should be bombed into oblivion just like the original.”
    Ooh. Watch your rhetoric there, Tim. You kinda sound like Pat “kill ‘em all!” Robertson.

  19. a different tim
    August 23rd, 2005 @ 2:15 pm

    I know. I kinda lost it there a little.
    I don’t know why this one offends me so much, given the various atrocities, Jihads etc perpetrated by the religious on the world. Normally I like to be the calm voice of reason. it’s just that this issue really offends me.
    Perhaps it’s because I’m a teacher and am therefore professionally offended as well as intellectually and morally.
    Perhaps it is the sheer intellectual dishonesty of ID and its advocates. It’s creationism! They should say what they mean!
    Anyway, you’re right, we probably shouldn’t bomb them. But I still think they’re the American Taliban.
    Anyway, if you’re called Genghis wouldn’t you be all in favour of killing them all?

  20. GenghisDirt
    August 23rd, 2005 @ 3:13 pm

    Different Tim: I completely agree with you about the ID/Creationism dishonesty…. and, now knowing that you’re a teacher (a martyr for the cause) I forgive you for your violent outburst. It burns me to no end to think of grade school children being taught to distrust the scientific process.
    As far as the Genghis thing, I acknowledge the violent history of my namesake but have learned to transcend the historical association. I’ve been using the name for so long now (it’s a bit of an inside joke/pun thing) that I’m loathe to drop it.

  21. Debbie
    August 23rd, 2005 @ 4:45 pm

    Evolution is rock solid. As posted elsewhere on The Onion, quantum mechanics and relativity need to be reconciled, and there are questions about gravity, and so I think we should offer the IDs a trade; we will admit that Intelligent Falling will be taught alongside gravitation, but they can keep their hands of evolution.

  22. Debbie
    August 23rd, 2005 @ 5:00 pm

    Regarding “we don’t think science teachers should keep you from hearing both sides of the argument” … there’s a problem you see because ID is not science by any stretch of the imagination. No evidence, no peer reviewed articles. If it’s not science it doesn’t belong in a science class room, any more that astrology, crystal healing etc. The fact that ID is being inserted in rural curricula through politics and legal efforts, and not through scientific reasearch says everything you need to know.

    Perhaps it belongs in a sociology discussion, but a science class is the last place for it. What other major scientific theories entered the classroom only through legal mandate and politics?

    I have an analogy for the rabbi. Some people say the holocaust is just bullshit made up by Jews and their sympathizers. Doesn’t this alternative view belong in history lessons? Shouldn’t children get to hear both sides of the argument?

  23. Jennifer
    August 23rd, 2005 @ 6:31 pm

    And we still don’t know how one determines which scripture is “good” and which isn’t.

  24. cubic rooms
    August 24th, 2005 @ 12:41 am

    If pi equals 3.1415926 then pi is a complex and mysterious number requiring an intelligent designer. But pi equals three (hat tip to glenstonecottage), a very simple number. Therefore, Intelligent Design is clearly false and it is out. Now, evolutionists don’t use pi and do not even know what pi is. Therefore, Evolution is clearly false and it is out. If pi equals three, Creationism is clearly the truth and should be the only scientific theory taught in schools anywhere. We know pi equals three because the Bible says so. In addition, we all know that pi are square and that pi is round. Now, who but God Almighty could perform such a miracle. It is settled. I have stated the facts and counted to three.

  25. Jennifer
    August 24th, 2005 @ 9:01 am

    Well, I’m reading fafblog this morning and I see now that I am a fool in not appreciating the potention contributions of Fundie surgeons, for while the atheist surgeon is performing the regular double bypass, it may indeed be valuable to have the Christian surgeon there to lure out the stroke faries.

  26. hermesten
    August 24th, 2005 @ 9:42 am

    Frank: “I was just demonstrating that the 1 Kings passage is not the

  27. ocmpoma
    August 24th, 2005 @ 10:20 am

    Hey, Frankie:

    I’ve looked at 1 Kings again, and it says (at least, the KJV says):
    “7:23 And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other: [it was] round all about, and his height [was] five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about.”
    (found here)

    Now, if it’s ten cubits from brim to brim, that’s a measure of the interior diameter, not from the edge of the brim – so the thirty cubit measurement, if taken from the interior is still in error, and if taken on the edge of the brim, is even more in error.
    Or is this just a translation error?

  28. a different tim
    August 24th, 2005 @ 12:45 pm

    Here’s another.
    The Earth does not move. The bible says so.
    “…who laid down the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever” (psalms.54.5)
    “The world shall also be stable, that it not be moved” (1 Chronicles.16.30) which sounds pretty unambigous to me.
    If this sounds familiar, it should. It is from the treatise of Ludovico delle Colombe (“Against the Motion of the Earth”), used as evidence by the Holy Office of the Catholic church in it’s indictment of Galileo.
    So, Frank, should we teach Ptolemaic astronomy as an “alternative” to the usual? Unless of course we take the strong implication that since the world has foundations it should be interpereted as flat.
    After all, the bible may not be a science book, but “when it speaks on these matters it is reliable”.

  29. Frank
    August 24th, 2005 @ 3:22 pm


  30. Frank
    August 24th, 2005 @ 3:28 pm

    a different tim — are you honestly incapable of distinguishing between the lyrics of songs (which make liberal use of metaphors and poetic license to make a point) and straightforward text? Both of your biblical examples are taken from the lyrics of songs and should be read as such.

  31. Viole
    August 24th, 2005 @ 5:14 pm

    Please, Frank. I merely highlighted–albeit in a less polite manner–Herm’s point that, if you put in the correct value, you can get whatever you want out of an equation.

    Obviously you need a little help with this concept, so I’ll try and go over it for you. The point is that if you know the ending value–that is, pi = 3.14…–it’s easy to provide numbers that will get you that answer. Numbers that aren’t in the bible. Now, pretend you don’t know what pi is–the concept or the number. Tell me what answer you get then.

  32. Sternwallow
    August 24th, 2005 @ 7:05 pm

    This pi issue illustrates a whole class of biblical problems in which scientific claims are made that have since been shown incorrect. Bird-bats, stability of the earth etc. The crux of the issue is not about the limits of the knowledge of the primitives of that time, rather why did god go to extra lengths to say silly things. Why state both the diameter and circumference? The whole passage would have contained the same information if the sea were “round with a diameter of 10 cubits”, or “round with a circumference of 30 cubits”. Then it would have been correct for any age and any reader. Similarly, we now know that many diseases are caused by microbes. It is not reasonable for god to have explained microscopic life to goat herders, but if god hadn’t attributed those diseases to malevolent spirits with consciousness and agendas, it would not have been simply incorrect. We know that stars don’t fall from the sky, or if they did it would destroy the planet and probably the solar system as well. So that passage in the bible is wrong. The solution is not for god to have written a treatise on astronomy for sand people, it would be to leave that part out, or perhaps substituting meteorites for stars. Why tell us things that are not true just because we might not understand rather than telling the truth in a way we can understand?

    A related issue is, why ruin a good parable with an important moral lesson by casting it in unbelievable terms. Jonah comes to mind.

  33. glenstonecottage
    August 25th, 2005 @ 4:23 am

    A handbreadth is about 3 inches

    Sorry, but I just measured mine and it is about four and a half, Frank. I’m an average sized man, so I assume my hand measurement is probably about average too.

    and the brim of a cup is flared out (perhaps an inch).

    And you know this imaginary brim is “flared out” exactly how, Frank? The Bible completely fails to mention any flare.

    The measurement from outside to outside of the brim was 10 cubits (about 180 inches).

    And you know this imaginary measurement was taken from outside to outside of the brim exactly how, Frank? The Bible doesn’t mention this.

    The circumference of the bowl would probably be taken from the inside.

    And you know this imaginary measurement was taken from the inside exactly how, Frank? The Bible doesn’t mention this either.

    The FACT is that this passage uses the EXACT WORDS:

    “ten cubits from the one brim to the other”
    “round all about”
    “a line of thirty cubits did compass it”

    But hey, if you want to change the ground rules so we are ALL allowed to make up whatever shit we wish to in discussing the Bible, it would make the discussion a lot of fun.

  34. hermesten
    August 25th, 2005 @ 9:46 am

    All good points Sternwallow, all good points.

  35. a different tim
    August 25th, 2005 @ 2:06 pm

    Wasn’t me who confused song lyrics with scientific reality. it was the holy office of the inquisition. They used this as evidence, as I said, in the trial of Galileo. This was a fairly major event in both the history of the church and the history of sciuence, and the church’s position was clear. The scholars of the catholic church – who, I submit, were at least as well versed as you in bible interperetation (indeed as professional theologians it was their job) certainly felt it was to be taken literally.
    Which bits of the Bible are you calling “reliable” and which metaphorical? On what grounds are you making your decision? Christian scholars of the past certainly didn’t agree with it. You seem to be selecting only the bits of the bible that suit your argument. Your statement was “when [the bible] speaks on these matters, it is reliable”. You didn’t say “except for the bits that rhyme”. Changing the ground rules again…….

  36. St. Teabag
    August 26th, 2005 @ 4:29 pm

    Franker said “Bottom line: This passage does nothing to injure the reliability of Scripture.”

    This is true, in much the same way that stabbing a quadriplegic in the thigh does nothing to injure his career as an olympic pole vaulter.

    Thanks for a good laugh though frank. Got any more bible related hilarity for us??

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