The Bible, which has not been updated in over 2000 years, is most decidedly not a science book. Charles Darwin’s controversial 1859 bestseller, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, which is widely accepted by modern scientists as the prevailing theory with regard to the origins of life, is not an holy book. And intelligent design, which is not based upon any religious text, is really more about mathematical probability — that life/nature are far too complex to have come about randomly/accidentally — than it is about creationism or any particular theism.
Charles Darwin did an excellent job of documenting a scientifically verifiable and therefore plausible accounting of the biological and genetic connections between living things and the scientists who have followed in his footsteps have expanded upon and modified Mr. Darwin’s original theories as new discoveries have been made over the years. However, the theory of evolution is still incomplete — it has been a work in progress for almost 150 years — in that it does not actually explain that much about the origins of life on Earth.
Creationism is based upon the literal reading of the Book of Genesis, in which the Biblical God created the heaven and the earth, the day and the night, the land and the seas, the plants and the trees, the sun, moon and stars, the fishes and the animals and of course, man — “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (Genesis 1:27, KJV) — in six days, about 6000 years ago.
Intelligent design is supposed to help to bridge the gaps between what we already know and understand from scientific observation and experimentation, what we have not yet learned and those empirical concepts and spiritual ideas which we accept on faith in the meantime until new research and discoveries come to light. Intelligent design is simply an effort to apply critical thinking and practical experience to the question of whether the apparent design of nature is a genuine design of an intelligent agent or the product of an undirected process. Unlike creationism, intelligent design is agnostic regarding the source of the design and does not involve defending the Bible or any other religious scriptures.
Because the origin of life is still a gigantic question mark and much of what we understand of it requires various leaps of faith in natural and/or supernatural forces, the teaching of both evolution and intelligent design in schools is a way to allow for a scientific basis for the leaps of faith we make to ease our uncertainties without sacrificing proper scientific instruction or promoting or dismissing any particular religious belief.
These distinctions should be fairly easy to understand if one is intellectually honest and open-minded about the many questions that science has yet to answer completely, but distinguishing between them appears to be quite difficult for the people who are so set in their ways that they think of alternative viewpoints as sacrilegious to either their scientific doctrine or religious dogma.
What I find most ironic about the evolution/intelligent design/creationism issue is the zeal with which some evolutionists will attempt to quash any debate about the controversies surrounding the incompleteness of the work Mr. Darwin began over a century ago (Mr. Darwin passed on in 1882 but his theory of evolution is still evolving). Those who agree with the idea of teaching the controversy and contemplating the possibility of intelligent design are automatically — and unfairly — branded as religious zealots hoping to sneak Biblical instruction into public school science curricula, supposedly leading us down the slippery slope into a future in which our childrens’ science textbooks are taken away and burned so that they can be replaced with Bibles.
These evolution zealots have created a straw man (ostensibly to push him down their slippery slope) and are trying to make intelligent design stand for religious fanaticism so they can debate against that easy target, thus avoiding the challenge of having to explain deficiencies in the theory of evolution or having to acknowledge that a lot of educated people who are not religious fanatics believe that some sort of intelligent design is evident in nature. And they likely also wish to avoid discussing the fact that Mr. Darwin himself believed in a Creator, “There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.”
Meanwhile, the real religious zealots are not actually relevant to the controversy — even if some of them might be laboring under the delusion that they are — because they completely reject the theory of evolution in favor of the literal Biblical explanation of creation and, by the same measure, reject the idea of intelligent design as well. Sure, they’re fanatics, but at least they are honest about their closed-minded assertions with regard to evolution and intelligent design.