Intelligent Design

24 MB MP3

It might be Creationism in a cheap tuxedo, but a lot of people like the cut of that tuxedo.

Kenneth Miller

More than 20 states are thinking about challenging Darwin’s theory of evolution in biology classes with theories like “intelligent design??? — the idea that organisms are too complicated to be accounted for by natural selection, that our evolution must have been guided by some superior intelligence.

Proponents of I.D. aren’t always explicit about the identity of the intelligent designer, but the subtext is clear: it’s God. And virtually any biologist you ask questions the scientific basis of the I.D. debate. So here’s the question: what’s the political and cultural movement here? And if you believe in God but also in Darwin, is there another way you can imagine mixing religion with biology?

Kenneth Miller

Professor of Biology at Brown University.

Author of Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution and a biology textbook called Biology.

[by ISDN from RI]

Wes McCoy

Head of the Science Department at North Cobb High School in Georgia.

[by phone from Georgia]

Some interesting links:

A recent New Yorker article on intelligent design (written by a professor of biology at the University of Rochester)

A blog (ID the Future) from the Discovery Institute, one of the leading proponents of intelligent design

A blog (Pharyngula) written by a professor of biology at the University of Minnesota, Morris, that argues for Darwin’s theory of evolution

A blog (Salt) written by Episcopal parish priest Father Gawain De Leeuw at St. Bartholomew’s in White Plains, NY. Here’s his post on intelligent design.

Bush says on 1 August that intelligent design should be taught in schools

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  • Vanessa

    Charles Darwin has a posse…you know, like Andre the Giant?

  • fgrose

    As a scientist, I’ve learned to separate matters of faith, the foundation of my religion, from matters that can be studied scientifically.

    A good review of the scientific method would be useful and enlightening for those not actively practicing it.

    One lesson we hear many and great scientists report is that the more we learn, the more we realize how little we actually know.

    That suggests grounds for a truce. We shouldn’t expect to logically or scientifically understand certain items that must remain matters of faith.

    As most scientists and humanists report, the more we learn about the universe and its inhabitants, the more fascinated one becomes. But to expect to understand it all is grandiose.

    To claim that the complexity and greatness of biology or the universe necessitates an intelligent designer is not logical, but could fit with one’s faith. It should not be confused with science.

    I recommend that you begin this topic with a really good review of the scientific method. For example, the mandate ‘to fail to disprove what you believe you have discovered’ is not easily appreciated.

    The non-scientist audience will likely learn some important rules about science that might stabilize the subsequent discussion on God, natural selection, and intelligent design.

  • One way to circumvent the culture war problem might be to look at the evolution of the idea of evolution itself. It didn’t start with Darwin cold — people like the geologist Lyell were important precursors. Moreover, many new theories and questions have emerged ‘within’ evolutionary biology since its initial appearance. Discussing this history neutralizes the culture war aspect a little by suggesting that scientific knowledge is not quite as rock-solid as we often think. [These comments are in line with Fgrose’s comments above]

    Also, a surprising number of philosophers of science had a central place for God in their schemes of the universe, including the universe’s creation. People like Isaac Newton were moing towards a “deist” model of the divine role in the creation of the universe: He set the clock in motion, and vanished from the scene. This is not that far from the ID position, but there are still some important differences.

    The ongoing presence of an idea of God in the philosophy of science shows that the secularization of scientific thinking was more gradual than one would think. It didn’t happen with a ‘bang’ (to use a loaded metaphor), but rather through a process of gradual… evolution away from divine involvement in natural processes.

    THAT SAID, there is still no positive, empirically testable evidence for intelligent design in any of ID’s recent formulations. So while “alternative to evolution” or “acknowledgment that evolution is a theory” might be reasonable demands to make of the school board, teaching Intelligent Design alongside evolution as if ID were equally viable is not. ID is not a scientific theory; it’s more like a scientific fantasy. If the idea of this proposed show is to ‘soften’ the support for teaching evolution in public schools, it might be difficult to find quality guests…

    My suggestion is to not refer to “Intelligent Design” in the title of the show per se. If you call it something like “The Evolution of Evolution” instead, you might end up with a better discussion.

  • shpilk

    Good place to start the discussion, the scientific method, and the history of it.

    Discussion of ‘Intelligent Design’ implies that a specific religion has specific answers to questions, such as the nature of humanity and the Universe. If there is to be validity given to one particular version and this is mandated to be taught in publicly funded school systems, it certainly seems like a clear violation of separation of Church and State. One can easily make the case that, Hindu, Arapaho, Shintoist, Inuit, the aboriginal and native or any of the other stories are just as valid as that of a ‘Judeo-Christian’ interpretation. To put the imprint of the State on one peculiar variation of a belief and insist it be taught to exclusion of others should be an anathema to the very core of our Constitution.

    All these stories are a wonderful rich tradition that belongs in the private lives of people’s personal religious beliefs, but it does not belong in a publicly funded science classroom – {perhaps the sociology class would be the ‘proper’ place for all these to be discussed, if the time would permit}.

    Can one can have a religious belief and still believe in the discoveries of modern science and the scientific method? This discussion started well before Darwin, as amardeep said above – and the clash is between that of dogma, the fixed beliefs of man-made religion – and that of truth, as man continues to strive for knowledge, by using the best tool so far we have discovered {so far}, the self-correcting tool of the scientific method.

    Newton, Einstein and Hawking have all wrestled with the question. Did Newton {who was very religious} have thoughts of blashphemy when he discovered the laws of gravity and motion which showed Earth was not the center of the Universe? Einstein said of quantum mechanics ‘God does not play dice’– Stephen Hawkings answer — ‘God not only plays with dice, He sometimes throws them where they can’t be seen {measured}’.

    {Except perhaps by a Feynman diagram}.

    One need not reject the theory there is a ‘Creator’ to maintain consistency with the theories of Darwinism, QED and other mysteries the Universe: it is in that search to uncover the truth of the nature of the Universe, that we begin to approach the ‘Creator’.

  • Abby

    The big anti-creationist, pro-evolution blogger is PZ Myers. He’s a Professor at the University of Minnesota at Morris. You will not avoid controversy if you have him on your show, because he despises the ID folks. He’s also an atheist, but you might contact him to ask him about other sources.

  • fred02472

    At best, Intelligent Design is a very flimsily structured set of ideas that constitute an unfocused critique of perceived weaknesses in mainstream evolutionary thought. The work of Behe and Dembsky have given the ID movement a faint whiff of respectability, but their work does not even begin to shake the edifice of evolutionary science that has been erected over the last 150 years.

    At worst, ID is nothing but a front for the creationists. Doing a show on it lends it more credibility than it deserves.

    You should consider having Michael Ruse as a guest.

  • KSF

    If you do this show, please invite this blogger couple, Jonathan and Amanda Witt (both Ph.D.s):

    Jonathan Witt’s profile –

    Their page of links about ID and Darwinism:

  • Jon

    My suggestion would be to avoid having the show focus on evolution per se. Instead, I think the more central issue is the place of the scientific method and even of mathematics in American primary and secondary education. We tend to teach too many science facts and not enough experiential measurement. As a result, students fail to learn first-hand how to accrue, painstakingly, little bits of data that in the aggregate may allow one to start seeing order out of what initially appeared to be overwhelming complexity. In the 1960’s after the Soviet Union launched sputnik, the American scientific community rushed to reform its pre-university scientific curricula, and particularly noteworthy was the resulting “PSSC” high school physics course developed by leading physicists. I was fortunate enough to take this course the first year it was offered, and to this day I remember my jaw dropping when, after a series of messy measurements of hockey pucks traveling over a smooth, icey surface, I found my pencil and paper calculations leading me to the very equations that Isaac Newton had originally discovered to describe the laws of motion. This is heady stuff. Just imagine, though, how arguments of “irreducible complexity” could instead convince an impressionable young student not to even try approaching complex problems. Whether it’s physics, geology, chemistry, or even biology, it’s really the same thing. In the case of evolution, I believe it is our difficulty in understanding the influence of extraordinarily long intervals of time that initially poses challenges that seem unintuitive. To get beyond this hurdle, one must engage in some serious study of not only science, but also math. Studying inifinte series and even calculus make a huge contribution to one’s ability to tackle problems that initially seem hopelessly complex. It is in this realm, rather than simply focusing on a particular discipline such as evolution, that I think is required to frame the alternative approach that in its present reincarnation is referred to as intelligent design. But can a radio show even as good as Open Source really deal with this issue adequately?

  • Reading the comments of fgrose and amardeep, made me wonder: at what point does a theory have enough evidence to proclaim it as something we can call a likely reality. I like the idea of focusing on scientific method. Anything can be theory. Perhaps we shoud build a school curriculum that includes a series of classes of all the theories that ever have been. Yes, that’s absurd, but if ID doesn’t have enough support from a scientific method perspective, how can any school system even begin to consider it as part of their school curriculum.

    So, when is a theory more than a theory? And what do we want to teach in schools? Perhaps there has to be some sort of metric that has to be met before we can teach a theory in a science class. Perhaps there is another discipline where theories that haven’t passed that test can be discussed. Or we decide to leave those out.

    Of course, there is also the question at the other end of the spectrum. If we are not going to maintain a separation of church and state, and religious groups are going to find back door ways to get their views taught in schools, why not open the floodgate. Let’s take it all out of the science department and teach comparative religion in schools. With our pluralistic culture, it seems to me that we might be more accepting of one another if we were respectively taught to understand what the different religious/philosophical schools of thought are about. How many Christian Americans even know how beautiful Muslim prayers are? How many have any idea that there is an esoteric reason for wearing a veil? ( Not just an oppressive one.) How many know the difference between Taoism and Confuscism and Buddhism? What a world it would be if we all began to see that each religion is the different facet of the diamond of truth.

    When will the state embrace the fact that everybody has a spiritual belief system (even if its atheism)? And when will we all embrace the reality that these belief systems are the foundation for how we see the world? It would be a lot better if we could respect these perspectives through some understanding of each other. To quote Elvis Costello, “What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding?” I do think they go together.

    So, when is a theory a theory? And when does the state need to embrace that everybody has a spiritual belief system that informs everything they do? When do we move from making the discussion of religious beliefs a taboo, to making it vernacular? You can’t get to vernacular without a lot of education. Perhaps we schould scrap the entire idea of teaching maths and sciences and spend 13 years teaching our children how to offer peace, love and understanding.

    Just a thought…..

  • plaintext

    The term evolution is also somewhat misleading. I think a more accurate term would be something like Natural Selection. There is no such thing as Darwinism.

    Anyway I just had this great image of two wrestlers, “Intelligent Design” in one corner and “Natural Selection” in the other. Maybe we should start the show off with the clang of a bell. Heck, they could even tag team with “Big Bang” and “The Flood”.

    Seriously, is there any evidence that Science is bullying Religion? That seems to be the crux here. People of Religious Belief have no compunction about taking Science to the deck whenever their tenets are threatened. Why doesn’t Science take a more assertive role? Religion could use a good thrashing right about now. We need to get the pendulum going back in the other direction.

    Is there something in Human Nature that is biased against Rationalism?

  • Any discussion about intelligent design and Darwinism should begin with the science. Imagine if when Edwin Hubble presented evidence that the universe had a beginning, the media had begun analyzing him–“What are Hubble’s hidden motives for wishing to believe the universe had a beginning? Almost all leading scientists believe in an eternal universe. Is Hubble part of some secret plot to form a theocracy?” No, the sensible thing to do was to consider his evidence for a universe that had a definite beginning in time.

    That event teaches us another lesson as well: that the majority opinion in science is sometimes wrong. Currently, a large majority of biologists accept some form of Darwin’s theory. But more than 400 Ph.D. scientists, many of them highly regarded, have signed a statement expressing skepticism about Neo-Darwinism. No thinking person will be injured by hearing what these scientists have to say.

    There are a number of extremely bright defenders of intelligent design, a theory that goes beyond biology to argue that design is the best explanation for things like the fine tuning of the physical constants of nature for life. Biologist Jonathan Wells has Ph.D.s from Berkeley and Yale. Stephen Meyer has a Ph.D. from Cambridge. Jay Richards a Ph.D. from Princeton, and William Dembski has so many advanced degrees I can’t remember them all.

    The best Open Source forum will be one that is open about the scientific controversy, and leaves the motive mongering and conspiracy theories to those that find that sort of thing intellectually stimulating.

  • Intelligent design is the first blog virus.

  • Not every believer is a non-scientist and not every scientist is a non-believer.

    The cultural movement here, to the extent that there is one, seems to pit the vocal sub-sub-set of believers who fear science against the ever-so-strident margin of scientists who hate belief.

    What legitimate scientific questions remain regarding the well accepted theory of evolution? Have proponents of intelligent design addressed any of these questions? If so, here is the intersection of ideas that might lead to the type of radio you seek.

  • In response to “is there another way you can imagine mixing religion with biology?”, there is a growing literature on the effects of genes and behavioral traits such as gullibility and religiousity. In essence, it could be the case that true believers are true believers partly because of genetic predisposition to believe in the supernatural. This still leaves the strong effect of parental conditioning, of course. Therefore, in the context of a biology course, it might be appropriate to discuss the heritability of rational thought.

  • greggory67

    In the strictest sense, religion is meant to enlighten, for humans to mediate and find a higher purpose that one does not find in the scientific method. Science is the acquisition of knowledge through unbiased means. Religion can not do that because it is biased; it assumes that a Higher Power is the prime mover of all things. Moreover, religions have an awful record of providing the truth about history, geography, civics and foreign policy. Why should we lend science to such miscreants?

  • thedullroar24

    “So, when is a theory more than a theory? And what do we want to teach in schools? Perhaps there has to be some sort of metric that has to be met before we can teach a theory in a science class.�

    Science definition:

    Theory – a significant advancement in thinking which explains some naturally occurring observable phenomenon. The resulting explanation, to qualify as a theory, must stand the test of time and, presently, have no disputing evidence to the contrary.

    Allison is absolutely right. ‘Theories’ should need to pass a test before being taught in our science classes. That test is simple. Does the ‘theory’ qualify as a theory to the scientific community? The theory of evolution certainly does. My ‘theory’ that my grandmother was broadsided by a police officer because he was focusing on a jelly donut does not. Neither does the ‘theory’ of intelligent design. ‘Theory’ is misused even in the introduction to this blog, “… theories like “intelligent design�!� I.D. is not a theory, and people on both sides of the issue need to stop calling it one because it trivializes the theory part of ‘theory of evolution.’

    And now, another definition.

    Evolution – a change in gene frequency over time due to outside influences.

    They should have started calling it the Law of Evolution when the mechanisms for molecular genetic change were elucidated. No rational person can deny that things evolve (again, paying attention to the actual definition). The classic example to cite here is that of the peppered moths in England. For any who are unfamiliar, read here.

    I.D. is not founded on scientific principal and does not qualify as a theory, therefore it should not be taught in science classrooms. End of discussion. It’s not science, so you don’t teach it in science class. If you want to discuss it as part of a philosophy or comparative religion class like Allison suggested, that is not my problem. It actually sounds like a class I would want to take. I’m sure someone out there objects to the idea of talking about these things in any school setting, but that is a different debate.

    So, how do I mix religion with biology? It’s quite simple really. Well, simple if you don’t believe that God made the world in seven twenty-four hour days. It is very easy to reconcile creation with evolution. All of science is observing the physical world. There is proof that gene frequencies in a population change over time. It appears as though reptiles diverged from a common ancestor of fish, birds from a common ancestor of reptiles, man from a common ancestor of apes. None of this means that God did not create these things. I’ve never understood why people think creation and evolution are mutually exclusive. If you want both, you must look at evolution as God’s mechanism for creating.

    If you really want to, it is sort of possible to reconcile creation with evolution even if you believe that God created the world in seven days. I oft comment that the bible was written by men, for men. However, should you take everything there to be absolute truth, you can take the word of Peter to iron out the seven day dilemma. “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.� II Peter 3:8. Seeing as how there were no men to learn the story as it was happening from the beginning, it must have been imparted to them by God, hence the timetable is told from the perspective of God. Then the only problem left is that Genesis gives an order of creation which is not exactly in line with the generally accepted order of descent, but surely you could bridge that gap too: God made birds before reptiles, but that isn’t to say that some of the reptiles didn’t evolve into birds later.

    Anyway, I’ve always found it interesting that people can get so riled up about creation. The way I see it, it is really not an important part of religion. Spend your time worrying about things that might actually matter in day to day life. Regardless, if you want your kid to learn about creation and/or intelligent design, that is up to you. And if you are concerned about introducing other people to the idea of creation/I.D., it is up to you and your religious community, not the public school system.

  • joel

    Oh, where is Stephen Jay Gould when we need him?

  • For an entertaining (to some) guide to the evolution of intelligent design, please see:

    Courtesy of the National Center for Science Education.

  • By the way, “intelligent design” is the most popular search term today at Over 400 blog posts so far today (17,846 posts total). I think I have those stats correct — regardless, a hot term right now thanks to Bush’s expression of fondness this week.

  • darwin

    Joel, SJG (Stephen Jay Gould) lives on in spirit at The Panda’s Thumb (

    And BTW, how come all of the Blogs posted in the “Some interesting links:” entry on this article are “intelligent design” blogs? You should add The Panda’s Thumb, because it is the antidote to Discovery Institute’s disingenuous and unfounded crap.

    I have an open challenge out to William Dembski to answer a very simple question about Complex Specified Information (CSI), one of the fundamental concepts on which “intelligent design” is founded — namely (to put it briefly), if CSI is an intrinsic attribute/characteristic of the information artifact, how can it be that we need what Behe and Dembski refer to as “side information” to recognize it as such? In other words, if we don’t have foreknowledge of the pattern that supposedly contains the CSI, we can’t determine whether it’s present — which means that whether or not a given information artifact can be considered CSI or not is entirely dependent on side information, and thus it can’t be “specified” in the sense that Behe and Dembski claim it is.

    I asked him this question — and also how he explains the fact that his supposedly intellgent designer created a code (the genetic code) that is over 99% meaningless garbage, and which must be decoded by a Rube Goldberg apparatus (multi-stage transcription involving not one, not two, but three different phases before the coded protein is fabricated).

    One last point: Dembski — styled the “Newton of Information Theory” by Behe (I believe that’s who said it, although Dembski might have claimed it himself) — doesn’t seem to be able to keep one definition of “information” in his head through a short exposition. When it suits him — i.e., when he’s presenting the information theoretic concepts originally stated by Claude Shannon — he uses “information” in its correct sense: randomenss; but he then pulls a sleight of hand and starts using “information” to denote “meaningful content”.

    Listen, Newton, information theory doesn’t address the CONTENT of messages, just the structure, and information in that context is defined in terms of the size of a program to encode the message: if the program is the same size as the original message — which occurs when the message is totally and truly random — it carries the highest possible information. This is precisely the OPPOSITE of the colloqual meaning of “information”, by which a message with maximal information (in the information theoretic sense) carries NO information (in the colloquial sense of “meaning”).

    Put that in your calabash and smoke it.

  • darwin

    P.S. “Proponents of I.D. aren’t always explicit about the identity of the intelligent designer” is an understatement: they — at least the pseudo-scientists like Behe and Dembski — are unfailingly coy about the identity of the “designer”, and will in fact suggest that “design” only IMPLIES a designer, but they make no judgment on whether or not one exists.

    That this is disingenuous sophistry becomes obvious when you hear them talking amongst themselves, when they apparently think nobody is paying attention: then you’ll hear Dembski, for example, say things like “As Christians we know that naturalism is false.” Since “naturalism” is a synonym for Darwinian evolutionary theory, and is considered by some “id” advocates to the the “religion of secular humanism, atheism, and agnosticism”, it’s pretty clear where Dembski et al. are coming from.

    “Scoundrel” is too flattering a term for these guys.

  • Republican, the Janus ( faced party – I find it interesting how this issue illustrates one of the many fault lines in the Republican coalition(s).

    Social Conservatives vs. Philosophical Conservatives – This split is between those social conservatives, who normally base their political beliefs on fundamental religious foundations, and those philosophical conservatives who come form more of the libertarian schools of thought. The social conservatives have correctly surmised that they have lost the cultural battle that has been fought over the last 40 years or so, where they used to depend on institutions like the public schools to help teach / reinforce their beliefs, and are trying to use the teaching of Intelligent Design (ID) as a point to turn this losing battle around. Social conservatives are not held to Thomas Paine’s libertarian principle of “the best government is the government that governs least� ( when it comes to this subject because they are more than willing to use public government institutions to further their cause. We should not be surprised at this though since, as pointed out above, the social conservatives were accustomed to having this widespread support in the past.

    Even within the last few years, the use of the public schools for the teaching of religious beliefs has not ended. I have personal family stories of teachers in small town Texas schools who teach “Bible History� courses whose content would easily fit into the most fundamentalist church’s Sunday schools. The teachers and principles of these schools seem to either be ignorant of, or actively ignore, the findings of recent Biblical scholars. Most of the “history� taught in these classes cannot be reconciled with any thing discovered in the last 300 years.

    Then there is the question of the idea of ID itself. The proposition that ID is a viable / debatable scientific theory is laughable. Even the Discovery Institute, the CA based think tank formed to promote the idea, cannot construct a cogent, consistent set of principles that would be contained within a theory if ID. Even their most visible proponents Dr Dembski ( and Dr Behe ( disagree on what believers in ID would call the most basic concept. Dembski teaches that most all facts discovered by modern biology require that an intelligent designer had intervened to make it work and is thus a proponent of the “Young Earth� theory. While Behe has been forced to admit, by other scholars, that he believes the universe to be billions of years old and that ID is simply another way to explain the complexity (that he claims is irreducible) we find.

    All of this leads to a very fractured and lively debate among conservatives as illustrated by a series of posts and links to posts on the libertarian / conservative website

    WELL, HE DID PUT LEON KASS IN CHARGE OF BIOETHICS: Bush wants to teach Intelligent Design in schools. That’s just pathetic.

    It’s not going over well in some places on the right, either. Rick Moran at Right-Wing Nuthouse writes:

    Alright then, I’ve got a few more “ideas� that students should probably be exposed to as long as we’re talking about filling their heads with a bunch of nonsense like ID:.

    1. The earth is actually a bowl sitting on the back of elephants. Hey! If its good enough for the Hindus, why not us?

    2. The God Manitou took pity on a mother bear who had lost her cubs while swimming across Lake Michigan and turned the cubs into islands (the Manitou islands) and the mother into a sand dune (Sleeping Bear Sand Dune). The Ojibwa’s believe it…I did too until I was about 5 years old. . . .

    6. Gerry Thomas, who recently passed away, invented the TV Dinner. Hell, the MSM believed it, why not teach it?

    One can go on and on.

    Who the devil cares if some people believe that “Intelligent Design� is the “correct� interpretation for the massive amount of fossil and anthropological evidence showing how human beings evolved? If it were up to you Mr. President and the right wing idiotarians who are pushing this “theory� humans would still believe that the earth was the center of the universe and that stars were fixed in the sky in a series of crystal spheres.

    Ouch. And The Politburo observes: “Sheesh. Trying to prove the Dems right, one stupid f*cking statement at a time. Is Bush ‘playing to the base’ or does he believe it? I don’t know which is worse.”

    Of course, if Bush were more than a fair-weather federalist, his answer would be that the President shouldn’t have anything to say about what’s taught in schools anyway.

    Hmm. Maybe he’s trying to convince everyone of that? This just might do it . . .

  • Katherine

    darwin asked (see above) why all of the “interesting links” are intelligent design blogs. Sorry if it’s not clear, but we have a good mix of blogs up there. You might want to check out Pharyngula or Salt (links above).

  • darwin


    Unlike “ID”ologues, I am happy to be corrected, admit error, apologize, and move on.

    I stand corrected. I spoke before I checked. I am sorry to have misrepresented the situation, which you have correctly characterized.



  • darwin

    Jonathan Witt said: “But more than 400 Ph.D. scientists, many of them highly regarded, have signed a statement expressing skepticism about Neo-Darwinism. No thinking person will be injured by hearing what these scientists have to say.

    There are a number of extremely bright defenders of intelligent design, a theory that goes beyond biology to argue that design is the best explanation for things like the fine tuning of the physical constants of nature for life. Biologist Jonathan Wells has Ph.D.s from Berkeley and Yale. Stephen Meyer has a Ph.D. from Cambridge. Jay Richards a Ph.D. from Princeton, and William Dembski has so many advanced degrees I can’t remember them all.”

    Where should one start in on this sack of irrelevancies and distortions?

    For starters, the DI’s list does not consist of all “Ph.D. scientists”: less than half of them identify their degrees, and many of the “scientists” are in fields that don’t give them much credibility vis-a-vis Evolutionary Theory (Meterology? Veterinary Medicine? Kinesiology? Animal Nutrition?)

    Second, there is a disproportionate representation from schools with an avowedly (on their home pages) evangelical Christian orientation; coincidence?

    Third — and this is admittedly a quibble — there are duplicate entries on the list. I don’t know about you, but I’m capable of generating a list of half a million items and assuring that there are no duplicates, and all I had to do to find the dupes in the DI’s list was load it into Excel and sort by name.

    Fourth, the statement that the signatories to the DI’s list subscribed to was “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.â€? Pretty mild, particularly considering the next paragraph.

    Finally, 400 sounds like a lot — maybe to some people — until you consider the National Center for Scientific Education’s Project Steve ( Briefly, only 1% of scientists are named Steve (see the FAQ at the NCSE website), and NCSE has compiled a list of 577 signatories (as of July 8, 2005) — all named Steve. This translates to roughly 57,700 scientists who have signed a strong statement supporting the theory of evolution — far stronger and far less ambiguous than the corresponding statement in the DI’s list: “Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to ‘intelligent design,’ to be introduced into the science curricula of our nation’s public schools.”

    To put the numbers into perspective — not that scientific theories are an appropriate subject for popularity contests (Project Steve started out as a joke) — at most 0.693241% of scientists who expressed an opinion (this is starting to sound like a Dentyne commercial, isn’t it?) question evolution to any extent.If less than 1% of the population believes in UFOs, or that fluoride is dangerous, or in the phlogiston theory of combustion, or that the moon is made of cheese, who gives them any credence strictly on the basis of that number?

    Regarding academic pedigrees: intelligence does not imply integrity, and advanced degrees don’t imply competence. Dembski can have one of each of every kind of degree known to civilization, but if he misuses, abuses, misrepresents, and obscures the facts in any of the domains in which he’s got those degrees, he’s a charlatan. Same goes for Behe, who I have heard make statements that are (to be minimally polite) explicitly contrary to fact.

    If the proponents of “id” are so bloody interested in dialogue and considering all the facts, why do they routinely (I’ll stop short of saying “always”, but only in the interests of not overstating my case) either ignore any challenges or resort to ad hominem attacks when their “theory” is challenged? Because the silence (and insult) are the last refuges of scoundrels. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s “scoundrel, Ph.D.” or “scoundrel, V.M.D” or “scoundrel, J.D” — lying about facts, and refusal to engage in real debate, are antithetical to science.

  • shpilk

    One can make the case that science is the ONLY mechanism that can reveal the nature of “God” or an “Intelligent Designer” – and it’s certainly not going to result in the Judeo-Christian or any other man-made version of “God” {which mostly is based upon fear driven religion, a man-made construct intended to control the masses}.

  • KenLac

    Damn, it’s so simple: we invented the concept of religion to explain our inherent morality. Morality is a HUMAN trait, not a religious trait.

  • mulp

    A scientific theory is able to “predict the future”. For example, using classical mechanics I can predict that a rock held above the ground will drop to the ground when released and I can alos predict how quickly it will fall.

    The facts and theories of science can be tested. That means that experiments can be repeated and the same results obtained.

    I have not seen anything about what Intelligent Design predicts. Without any predictions that can be tested, ID is either history or it is philosophy.

    What are some of ID’s predictions and what research is being done to test these predictions.

  • If there is an intelligent design proponent reading this page…is it true that some believe in an intelligent undesigner — the equivalent of a devil? Positing the existence of such an entity might help explain why organisms are often so _poorly_ designed.

  • Potter

    Coincidentally Bush just caused a ruckus (once again) two days ago when he said that “both sides should be properly taught� in the schools “so that people can understand what the debate is about�. I say-fine kids can be taught this in Current Events. He went on to say that “part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought�… “different ideas� and called this a “debate�.

    Thus he placed the issue (purposely I say) just where his creationist supporters designed it to be, equally valid and opposing evolution. This is an entirely political game that must not be won by the anti-scientists. I have no idea how to deal with it as it feeds on this publicity.

    This may be the result of the deficits in science education to begin with.

    A letter to the New York Times yesterday August 4th 2005 expresses it for me :

    To the Editor:

    Re “Bush Remarks Roil Debate Over Teaching of Evolution” (news article, Aug. 3):

    President Bush, in suggesting that there should be time given over to teach intelligent design, continues to display a shameful degree of science illiteracy, consistent with his attitudes toward global warming and stem cell research.

    His anti-science bias has done more to diminish the office of the presidency than of anyone in memory. It is in shocking contrast with the early days of our Republic, when science-minded political leaders like Thomas Jefferson held sway.

    A. R. Liboff
Rochester, Mich., Aug. 3, 2005
 The writer is professor emeritus of physics, Oakland University.


    I did not hear any discussion of scientific method on this program which was all too short. Understanding scientific method, it’s history and and it’s meaning, is all important to getting under the hood of this and other issues like stem cell research and climate change.

    (I did contribute during the pledge period just for this program though- in thanks for it’s own evolutionary leap.)

    Some thoughts after the show:

    How about a starter course on the difference between science and religion?

    Then we can graduate to the political problems.

    If ID/Creationists are threatened by evolution it’s because they are unable to make that (evolutionary) leap to the idea that one does not have to give up God to accept evolution. Fundamentalist beliefs would have to go to reconcile the two though.

    This is a continuation of the Scopes uproar.

    Why evolution, why don’t they object to relativity and all kinds of other scientific theories?

    Fearing a loss of meaning confirms how significant and awesome evolution is and how poor some religion. There is a certain brand of religious belief that puts man above and separate from everything else.

    If God is in charge or planned this then there is nothing we can do to cure disease and save the planet. Let’s continue to drive our SUV’s.

    We as a society absolutely have to stand firm about not advocating any particular religion in the public classroom. ID belongs in Sunday school, if anywhere, or even as Allison suggests, only maybe as part of comparative religion courses or metaphysics/ philosophy courses in the schools and way down on the list. These kind of courses should be taught as an antidote ( answering my original question about how to deal) and would be most helpful in grades lower than college level. Kids are smart and impressionable. Start with the ideas of Joseph Campbell in “A Hero with a Thousand Faces”.

    The “Secularization” of science (amardeep) is about replacing superstition or erroneous ideas or beliefs perhaps originating in religion as science comes up with solid answers. Thus it is a threat. Religion is in reluctant retrea. It it need not be because there is plenty of room for religion.

    Religion can still calm, guide and give meaning.

    So I think this is also a matter of assuring the fearful. Somehow.

    This NCSE statement bears repeating from above :

    “Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to ‘intelligent design,’ to be introduced into the science curricula of our nation’s public schools.”

    Scientists are quiet types. They need to turn up the volume.

  • think

    I came across the following entry in the Concord Desk Encyclopedia (presented by TIME, NY 1982) a few years ago. It seemed to be unusually critical of the scientific method and scientific community that my education taught me to trust, and while doing further research, found the same entry (word for word) in the Concise Encyclopedia of Science. Of particular interest is the second paragraph:

    Scientific Method. Science (from Latin scientia, knowledge) is too diverse an undertaking to be constrained to follow any single method. Yet from the time of Lord Bacon, well into the 20th century, the myth has persisted that true science follows a particular method- Bacon’s celebrated “inductive method.� This allegedly involved collecting a vast number of individual facts about a phenomenon, and then working out what general statements fitted those facts. After the 17th century, nobody attempted to follow that program. In the 19th century, philosophers of science came to recognize the possible existence of the “hypotheico-deductive method.� According to this model, the scientist studied the phenomena, dreamed up a hypothetical explanation, deduced some additional consequences of his explanation, and then devised experiments to see if these consequences were reflected in nature. If they were, he considered his theory (hypothesis) confirmed.

    But K Popper pointed to the logical fallacy in this last step- the theory had not been confirmed, but merely not falsified; it could, however, be worked with provisionally, so long as new tests did not discredit it. Philosophers of science now recognize that they cannot justly generalize about the psychology of scientific discovery; their role must be confined to the criticism of theories once they have been devised. Historians of science, meanwhile, have pointed to the importance in scientific discovery of “external factors� such as the contemporary intellectual context and the structures of the institutions of science. Once distinct terms- “theory,� “model,� “hypothesis,� “explanation,� “description,� and “law�- are all now seen to represent different ways of looking at the same thing- the units in what constitutes scientific knowledge at any given time. Indeed there is still no general understanding of how scientists become dissatisfied with a once deeply-entrenched theory and come to replace it with what, for the moment, seems a better version.

    This seems to reveal a glaring amount of scientific subjectivity… is it true?

  • Jon

    First, my thanks for reading my contribution to the blog. I felt that Brendan nicely edited the key points. It is very gratifying to contribute to the show in this manner.

    But I did have a number of concerns about this program, which I’ll proceed to share with you.

    I initially heard the program in real time (or so I thought) through the WGBH stream that is linked to your website. While I am a very long time financial supporter of public radio, and often even enjoy enlightened fund-raising efforts, I found myself close to a state of rage this evening, an evening of potentially very poignant discussions on Open Source, and there I found myself listening to what I’m afraid was pretty mindless drivel in the fund-raising room. I wondered through these time outs whether or not other people in the country, such as those listening on XM satellite, were hearing parts of this story that would lead to a fuller appreciation of the evolution vs ID discussion. So, I stayed up a bit late to listen to the rebroadcast from Seattle (at midnight, Eastern time). Sure enough, I now heard a version that was far more successful to my ear. Not only did I hear my own post-sputnik experience referenced a second time in context with the ongoing discussion, but I heard a missing first link to the Stephen Gould reference, I heard a fuller explanation of the scientific objections to ID, and all-in-all I heard a critical continuity of the discussion. For a live call-in program, where callers at later points in the program really are at a terrible disadvantage if they’ve been forced to miss what can be key parts earlier in the broadcast, I think you have a serious structural problem. Perhaps no one can be immune from fund drives–but I just don’t see how a live call-in program can have part of the listenership and not other parts of that listenership blocked out of the evolving shared experience. It’s then no longer a truly open source for all.

    Even though the Seattle airing was far better than the Boston one, I still have serious concerns about tonight’s program. I’m sure no one ever thought it would be easy to pull off this particular show. Yes, Ken Miller was a terrific talker. He also made very real contributions to putting ID in an appropriate perspective. And to have someone on the program who appeared as a credible tutor to the Pope was indeed a sort of coup. But even though Open Source characteristically structures the programs differently from the point-counter-point debate style so common on the airways, this time I really felt a lack of balance that disturbed me. Here’s the crux of it: Ken Miller represents a compelling combination of Catholic believer and ID-bashing pro-evolutionist. Wes McCoy similarly appeared to be a teacher who supported evolution, but also delivered a significant dollop of Christian faith (albeit in a manner seeking to preserve a degree of separation from his science teaching). During the course of the program, there was a strong permeation of everything discussed by religious belief–even the beauty of nature was repeatedly tied together with some sense of God. I believe Ken Miller at one point spoke of “a God big enough to believe in”. Or, when Theresa phoned in with what sounded like a modern-day sequel to how to tell her child about the birds and the bees–only now it was creation versus evolution, the answers provided seemed to be restricted to and couched within a religious approach. But in allowing the program to proceed to completion in this manner, Open Source effectively sent its own message to the listenership of such a religious approach to our world being so central a norm that it ended up being quite alienating. Without going all the way to aggressive point-counter-point radio, there should have been at least one other strong voice on this very program representing a poetic, appreciating view of this wonderful world that did not necessitate a theistic approach to achieve this. And while Ken Miller’s achievements are certainly remarkable and admirable, in my view it was just too narrow to have the only people supporting evolution also constantly be showing their religious credentials–as if supporting evolution without a concomitant religious orientation was somehow off-target for this program.

    I was also disappointed over a certain lack of poignancy that I think was missed in tonight’s program. For example, this morning I too heard the amazing interview of Senator Santorum on Morning Edition, and like Ken Miller I thought that this was worth commenting upon. But I think it may well be precisely because of Ken Miller’s own religious convictions that he failed to verbalize what was so notable about the Santorum statement. Santorum implies that in order to avoid the catastrophic conclusion of a lack of moral meaning in life for himself and those who think like him, it is imperative that the theory of evolution be rejected. Thus, he’s now publically gone way beyond the argument of simply wanting to maintain scientific objectivity until the very last piece of evidence is found to bolster a theory. Rather, he is pretty clearly stating that the decision must come out in a particular direction, because too much else of importance to him is at stake if any other conclusioin emerged. I think this really blows away the cover of the anti-evolution forces in a way that people usually guard against more carefully. But even with two listenings to tonight’s show, I found the treatment of this event relatively superficial, and perhaps a bit timid.

    I never thought it would be easy putting on this show–it’s such a huge topic, and one is constantly in danger of disagreements growing into battles royal that are difficult if not impossible to moderate. But I do hope Open Source will find some way to return to this topic at some point, to provide yet more viewpoints.

  • Regarding Jon’s most recent comments, I should add that Open Source should be commended for not including a pro-intelligent design person for “counterpoint”. However, Jon has made an excellent comment about the pro-religion flavor to the show — indeed, most shows (on radio or television) on creationism orient the program to feature pro-religion scientists, which in turn tends to attract pro-religion call-ins. Scientists that lack religious credentials are not yet palatable as spokespersons for science education. In part, this is a good strategy in the United States, where the vast majority of people — even public radio enthusiasts — believe there is a god. There is also something profoundly fascinating and irresistable in exploring, on air, the beliefs of people who accept scientific reality yet simultaneously believe in the supernatural.

  • thedullroar24

    Santorum’s idea that in order to have moral meaning in our life we must have been put here by an intelligent designer is absurd. We are inherently moral and spiritual beings. The existence of a god or faith in a certain religion is not what makes us moral. Would you argue that atheists have no morality because they have no god? Scientific evidence of the origin of species does not take away our morality. The physical universe has no inherent meaning. Whether it was created by an all powerful sentient being or otherwise, it has no meaning beyond that which we give it. Our own lives have no meaning unless we give them meaning. If Senator Santorum’s life ceases to have meaning because his existence is a product of chaos, that is very unfortunate for him, but my life still has meaning because I give it meaning. If anything, I would think our existence more significant because it arose out of chaos, rather than being plopped down by some mystical entity.

  • joel

    Darwin – Wow! I had no idea! I guess the battle is joined. Thanks for the front row seat. I think the non-believers in rational thinking should be seated in front of a culture of a bacterium which reproduces every 20 minutes for so, let them watch the creation of new, ie different, organisms, sooner or later, for themselve and challenge them to explain the current, long after the book of Genesis was concluded, and ongoing phenomenon of evolution.


  • joel

    Darwin – P.S. It seems like that wrist bone (a carpel? or a process of the radius?), given all of the above and “pandasthumb,” is still evolving.

  • Potter

    Thanks to Jon,for his last long post here. Well said. As an ongoing contributor who pledged even more in the break for this show I am annoyed that I missed possibly important parts of the discussion. This is my constant problem with these fundraisers. Those who contribute regularly have to suffer these mindless interludes and in a discussion that grabs interest, miss something. A punishment!

    I will go back and listen again for the whole of it but I agree about his comments that the show came down on the side of religion ot the reliigious approach ( have you cake and eat it); that struck me too. It was a tough show to do in the time alloted even without the pledging.

  • Philnick

    I tried to post the following last night shortly after the show ended but hit a “server error” Though I sent it to the blogmaster asking that it be added manually, it wasn’t, so here goes:

    The answer to Sen. Santorum’s fear that without a master designer pulling

    the strings, there’s no basis for morality is, in fact that if there was

    master puppeteer, we wouldn’t need morality – it’s because we have free

    will that morality is necessary.

    As to what is the basis for morality, my dad used to say that he found

    that getting someone to see why they should act morally could be done by

    showing that it was in line with their long-term self-interest. This is

    commonly-referred to as “enlightened self-interest.” In philosophy, this

    is taught as the Immanuel Kan’s “categorical imperative”: “Act so that

    the axiom of your actions could be made a universal rule.”

    The best known version of this is the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as

    you would have them do unto you.” Thus, Sen. Santorum need not fear –

    religion and scientific rationality end up recommending the same test for

    moral conduct.

    What’s the evidence that evolution favors moral, not immoral, conduct?

    Evolution favors species that engage in mutual support. That mutual

    support takes many forms. The sharing of resources leads to disaster

    relief and social insurance – and makes the society a safe place for

    individual experimentation.

    In a long-term view, social evolution is profoundly progressive, once one

    realizes that social arrangements like the New Deal, which encouraged

    experimentation and innovation by providing social insurance to mitigate

    the the risk of losing, were what propelled American economic power in

    the period after World War II.

    Only in a snapshot view is evolution a “Republican” concept. But

    evolution is precisely the opposite of a snapshot view – it is the long

    view. Thus, the political prescription of Hobbsean “social darwinism” in

    which life is “cruel, brutish and short” was a perversion of evolutionary

    teaching, as such policies do not favor the long-term survival of a


    The best-known contemporary example of this is the allowing of the

    libertarian capitalists to make the tax system subsidize the outsourcing

    of manufacturing and even service jobs in the recent past. That has

    weakened our society, and can be seen as writing a virus into the social


  • fanya

    With respect to Santorum’s comments about morality and meaning being incompatible with evolution: There’s even a stronger argument for deriving meaning and morality from evolution without necessitating a top-down designer. And that is: take seriously the hypothesis of Robert Wright in his book “NonZero” []. The hypothesis is that biological and cultural evolution are driven by groups of organisms getting together and participating in win-win games. If this is the case, then cooperation and higher levels of organization evolve because they are more adaptive. They benefit a larger number of organisms and produce more stable states than win-lose games. So what Write calles complexity, and I call higher levels of organizational abstraction, out of which can be derived meaning and cooperation, came out of evolution from the bottom-up, not just randomly, but because groups of organisms found them beneficial. Benefit to participating organisms is how the “win” in “win-win games” is defined.

    *** NOTE TO PRODUCERS ***: You should have Robert Write and Martin Seligman [] (read last chapter of “Authentic Happiness”) on to discuss the evolution of morality (goodness), knowledge, and technology (power) — all properties theists want in a god — which correspond to being the creator, all good, omniscient, and omnipotent, respectively. It may be that biological and cultural evolution is creating those properties we value in a god, but doing it bottom-up and incrementally, not top-down and all at once. You should have Kurzweil on too (although he may be too controversial for other reasons) to talk about the Singularity, because I think he shares this bottom-up, naturalistic view of spirituality.

    This argument can cut through all the crap about science and the natural world being souless and amoral.

    So far as I can see, the crux of the matter is whether you believe that God did things top-down, or a “god” principle (or set of principles) does it bottom-up. Top-down means you believe in a closed Universe, where everything is known and determined ahead of time, and nothing new can happen. Bottom-up means an open Universe where more knowlege, power, and goodness can continue to be created and higher and higher levels of organizational abstraction can continue to come into being. Personally, I find more meaning in the latter kind of Universe.

  • Part of the problem in the audio program that I listened to a day after its broadcast was that all the arguments among guests hinged on the two opposing forces of evlutionary biology vs. those of religion. It is true that if one were to use evolutionary biology alone to explain the ontological questions one would reach a point where the argument for design could be argued against evolutionnary theoriesi to the point of a stalemate; but what we lack in understanding is that it is not evolutionary biology alone that comes to the debate table against the arguments of religion. Evolutionary biology is backed by such diverse fields as Cultural Anthropology, Linguistics, Astrophysics, Neuroscience, psychology, sociology, and most importantly History! Although creationists are now arguing that evolutionnary theory simply explains the process set forth by God, other fields such as psychology, sociology, and history explain our inescapable need for having a God and concurrently explaining why we insist on plugging in the word God somewhere in the equation, no matter what the oposing argument is. And it isn’t until we understand this whole picture and the roundness of the converging arguments against design that we truly understand the powerful logical blow it deals to the traditional lines of thinking. Science tells us that just because we have an emotional “need”, be it personal, social, or moral to have a God – whether it is to find our existance more meaningful, or find moral, peaceful codes of conduct in everyday life, it does not follow that there exists a desigher for each design. Just because we have a need for his existence, we can not say that he exists.

    Science is nothing more that objective empiric analysis of verifiable facts and truths. It’s about building thoeories and testing them. It is dynamic and its conclusions, unlike religion, are amenable to change; but science is not biology alone. The systematic analysis of information is, in essence, a form of science. And this analysis in many fields ranging from astrophysics to neurosciece has followed that evolutionary biology, based on the evidance available to objective, rational minds today, is the most correct explanation for our presence here. This may not sit well with many people. This is probably why even the greatest scientsts could potentially reject this Theory on grounds of its implications to their psychology/feelings.

    The argument for design is a political/social/and moral argument. It is about control . It is about a society that does not want to accept the implications of such theory, should it be actual fact or not.

    Here, we as a nation would prefer to utter: “ignorance is bliss”.

  • Katherine

    The great comments on this thread have inspired us to think about a follow-up show based on the questions about meaning & morality you’ve raised here.

  • Jon

    Endoman eloquently expands upon and develops a point I offered in my original post on this topic–that the debate really isn’t just about evolution per se, but is much broader with respect to science in general. And, as Endoman discusses, about quite a bit more in the realms of history, human psychology, etc. Nice how a little probing into one hot button topic can really lead to such a comprehensive review of so much that is central to our concepts of ourselves and of the world in which we live.

  • If you’re looking into a new show about morality and how it might intersect with discussions of religion and science, you might consider exploring the US federal government’s data on religiosity of convict population.

  • Boy, this ID stuff has me steamed. I just followed Jonathan Witt’s link to the CSC site. He’s a PhD in English man! He’s not even a scientist! Look at the bios for the heavies at the CSC. Most of them are not actually biologists. They’re usually mathematicians, or astronomers or geologists or animal nutritionists or something.

    It’s one of the most Orwellian trends in an Orwellian time: the use of pseudoscience to undermine authentic scientific method and theory. The doublespeak the most maddening and, I think, dangerous aspects of the culture of the most powerful nation in the world. Theology is science. Attack is defense. Wealth is charity. Hierarchy is equality. Pollution is progress. Crime is war and war is crusade. To paraphrase Phil Ochs, if you made a movie about our country, John Wayne would play George Bush. And George Bush would play God.

  • tom r

    Evolutionary science is parsimonious. Intelligent Design is oh so hoaky.

  • pmassari has a great point. Why is it that the arguments against evolutionary science are always lead by those with the least amount of training in the subject they wish to debase? I want someone of Dawkin’s caliber, a Steven J Gould style whistleblower to come to the table for once. I want someone with a thorough understanding of evolutionary science and science as a whole to lead the debate against evolution – not someone with a degree in Math or English background and only a marginal understanding of the fossil record and convergence of multidisciplinary science on the meaning of the evolutionary big picture. See, there are many arguments that can be made against evolutionary science. Many of them correctly attack the very assumptions held sacred in basic sciences to be true. The big bang theory, for example, revolves around the assumption that the laws of physics are eternal, and universal, something that is purely hypothetical since we have not lived long enough or been anywhere else in the universe but our immediate surrounding. So, while there are scientific arguments against scientific arguments, these philosophers of morality debase science not based on logical analysis, but rather, on grounds of necessity. They don’t say the theory fails because it’s premises are wrong, instead, they proclaim that the theory fails because it’s conclusion is horrible. Sorry, science doesn’t work that way. Scientists don’t modify their results to appease the mind any more than a scatologist would paint a rosy picture of dysentery!

  • I believe that there is/was some intelligent design guiding creation and that it is still occurring. When we educate in our public and/or private schools do we only provide the Christian alternatives to evolutionary theory or do/will we discuss other views like those of Native Americans, Native Africans, Jews, Muslims, Buddhist, Hindu etc. That would really create a very rich atmosphere from which all might benefit.

  • Dqdubva, there’s no question that all creation stories should be thought to all kids in all places. There’s nothing wrong wtih knowing more about various cultures and their beliefs. The only issue is that they should be tought in a philosophy of religion class and in an entirely different context than teaching science, and scientific theories at school. Religious ideas do not belong in a science class any more than oregamy belongs in the Geology class. A course in relgion should be thought on its own frequency, and elsewhere than in a science class. There’s nothing scientific in any of the creation myths. They are blind belief handed down to us from people in positions of authority. Their so called theories aren’t based on objective inferences that are verifiable like those of science. They amount to hear say, and handed down stories that aren’t even historically verifiable in an objective manner. So, although I have no objection in kids being exposed to various explanations about deontological questions, let’s categorize such theories in their proper places and not mix apples and oranges. Teaching evolutionary science hand in hand with religious doctrine is like teaching music in conjunction with calculus, simply because our heartfeld need to explains the roundness of our daily experience!

  • manning120

    I don’t think the previous contributors distinguished two issues regarding intelligent design. On one hand, we have a clash between ID and(other?) science. On the other hand, we have a political dispute about whether ID should be taught in schools. This latter issue implicates separation of church and state, which raises a whole new set of concerns.

    I think the vehement opponents of ID will have to admit that for once, George Bush has a point. As cpurrin1 (8/4/05, 1:17 p.m.) points out, there’s fervent interest in the controversy. Why should children be shielded from this? I would have been consumed as a young man, almost as now, with a question like, “Explain in five pages or less why intelligent design is, or is not, science.� (Or rather, for the kids, “Write as least five pages explaining . . .�). What a great way to get a discussion going.

    Science can be freely taught in publicly funded schools because it isn’t religion. The trick in getting ID into the curriculum is to avoid advocacy of a religious belief, which ID does when it posits a “designer.� I think a teacher could explain that the student isn’t forbidden or requested to believe there is a designer. The student could be instructed just to compare ID’s method of addressing the problem of origins to the methodology of science. And for good measure, have students learn about other origins “theories,� such as Biblical (“Creationism�), ancient philosophy, Hindu, Muslim, American Indian, etc. The kids could discuss ID’s claim that it’s different from the others because it’s science.

    Allowing children to examine the issue as stated above is very different from banning the theory of evolution or questioning its basic acceptance in the scientific community. That certainly shouldn’t happen.

    Learning what something isn’t can sometimes be a good way to better understand what it is. So by all means, let our kids in on the action.

  • galoot

    I had to scroll down to the bottom of the posts to find one mention of Richard Dawkins, the eloquent British defender of evolution. Why? I grew up in the US and have lived in the UK since 2002, but I thought he was recognized widely back there. I remember when he was on the Connection with Chris, and it was a great show. The fact that he was not mentioned once on the show seems bizarre… he pulls no punches, and I find his view one of the only unmuddled, uncompromising ones worth listening to. As for the idea that the US is going to be the place to address this issue, sorry, but I think it has way too high a percentage of people who are non-fact-based for this to happen.

  • Just a note on Intelligent design.

    There should be room in schools for all religious studies. Rather than taking religion out of our schools, why not teach all religions and theories? When I went through the English school system, which is a Church of England led and incorporated design 😉 We not only studied Christianity but many other forms of religion. In the 5 years of ‘High School’ we covered many ‘theories’ but were never told that any was the defacto standard.

    Teach them all the religions, theories – whatever – let the student draw their own conclusions from a fact based program. Is this not what school is about anyway!


    Tired of this debate but confused as to why it’s become an issue in the first place!

  • Rycke

    It’s an issue because education is inherently religious. Religion is what one believes is the truth. Education is teaching what one believes is the truth. People don’t like their money being spent to teach what they believe are lies. The only way to end all these debates over what to teach in the schools is to abolish public education.

    Let people pay voluntarily to teach others what they believe. Let them pay to have their kids and others taught what they believe. Let people educate their children as they see fit, and with whatever resources and help they can find.

  • It seems like the debate is a fundamental miscategorization of types of belief. Science is derived from a series of observation, hypothesis, prediction, test. This type of belief, though often has powerful tangeable results, is not necessarily always true. Hence the claims that there are holes in the theory. This is also demonstrated when scientific ideas are overturned in light of new data.

    On the otherhand, ID is a faith, an idea believed in without predictions that are testable. ID makes no useful predictions that can be objectively tested beyond its original observation. This does not make ID false, it just makes it unproveable. Until people are willing to separate objectively testable knowlege from untestable faith, the debate will rage on.

    I’ve written more at if anyone really cares :).

  • manning120

    Josh Bryan cites his interesting article, “Is Intelligent Design Science?,� which I read. He states,

    “. . . the idea of ID is that all of the observed phenomena and species are far too complex to have evolved from particles in a big bang, or that the big bang itself must have had some motivation.�

    I don’t understand ID to claim the latter. ID, as I understand it, says that after the Big Bang, there were acts of designing that stand apart from the natural evolutionary process and therefore elude Darwinian understanding. If these acts occurred at the moment of the Big Bang, I don’t think evolutionary biologists would have a problem, just as they don’t have a problem with the idea that evolution occurred before and after “irreducible complexity� (IC) came into being. The essence of ID is that the act of designing/creation occurred during the history of evolution, not at the very beginning of it.

    Mr. Bryan next argues ID isn’t science because, although it hypothesizes that a creator designed IC, it fails to offer an essential element of the scientific method: the means to test for a creator. I have two problems with this. First, as I understand it, ID suggests the existence of evidence in the form of irregularities in the evolutionary records (fossil and otherwise) that would imply the advent of IC uncaused by natural processes. Of course, no such evidence has been found (at least not to my satisfaction), but that isn’t to say ID doesn’t at least propose the existence of such evidence.

    Second, as I understand it, ID isn’t a substitute for evolutionary theory. Instead, it purports to determine scientifically, through the science of probability and by means of necessary inference as well as the premise that all natural phenomena are caused, that evolutionary theory is flawed. Why? Because IC couldn’t have occurred “by accident� in evolutionary development, so that something else must have caused it. This being the primary thrust of ID, we shouldn’t demand that it make predictions the way the theory of evolution does, except, as noted, that there must be irregularities in the history of evolution after the Big Bang.

    The major respect in which ID partakes of religion or faith is in the presupposition that a designer or designers (D) intervened in the history of evolution. This view, which parallels the widely accepted belief that God and other supernatural beings intervene in the world to bring about events that couldn’t occur according to the laws of science, cannot be proven. Yet virtually no critics of ID have attacked it on that ground.

    Finally, Mr. Bryan, like so many others, fears that teaching students about ID will damage scientific education. Frankly, that’s a minor footnote. The real importance of ID is its use as a tool by fundamentalists to attack “atheistic materialism.� Once the attack succeeds, the way will be open to the establishment of a theocracy here in the U.S. similar to what we recently have observed in Afghanistan. I have in mind Dominionism or Christian Reconstructionism. I believe it’s vital that those of us who believe in freedom of thought devote our most considered attention to removing ID from the fundamentalists’ arsenal.

  • Thanks for taking the time to read my article and respond in such detail. I will readily concede that my brief definition of ID is not perfect. It does include some as aspects of creationism that aren’t strictly ID.

    You mention that ID suggests irregularities in the fossil record as evidence for “the advent of IC uncaused by a natural process.” This could potentially be a prediction in the scientific thought process that leads to ID. We first observe that life is highly complex, then we hypothesize that an intelligent being guided the evolutionary process, we then predict that there would be anomolies in the fossil record that are incongruent with Darwinian evolution. However, this test is really a test of our leading theories about the formation of rock layers, techtonic motion, and the nature of evolution itself. The leap in logic from “There are unexplained anomolies in the fossil record” to “A supreme being must have intervened” makes as much sense as jumping from “Some quantum aspects of gravity are not explained,” to “Gravity is controlled by invisible anomolous creatures called Graviton Fairies.” Ascribing intelligence and autonomy to some aspect of a natural process requires a test that can actually demonstrate intelligence and not just throw doubt on our own understanding of the process. There do exist scientific test of intelligence brought to us from psychology, however, I am unaware of any proposition about how to apply these test to the Designer.

    I believe that one of the most powerful and important aspects of scientific thought is its ability to make meaningful predictions. That is fundamentally what makes it useful. If a scientific theory did not have that ability, it would be of no more use than any other myth. This is not to say that a belief that is incapable of making novel predictions is necessarily false, it just means it isn’t scientific. It has no testability. The difference be gravtions and Graviton Fairies is only in the acription of personality. Unless I can make a novel prediction about the interaction of massive objects due to this personality, and can then subsequently test that prediction, I don’t have a scientific theory. I absolutly believe that all scientific theories should be held to the same standard, and an exeption should not be made for ID because it hypothesizes itself free of prediction. That is fundamentally what all faith based beliefs do. If they were testable, they wouldn’t be a faith.

    I definately agree about the use of ID by fundamentalists to attack “atheistic materialism.” Although, I believe that the rise of fundamentalism and the weakening of logical Socratic and scientific thought walk hand in hand. If students are taught how to rationalize the differences between faith and religion, and the differences between science and faith, fundamentalism will not have any ground in which to take root.

  • manning120

    I’m placing the following in both ID threads in the hope that someone will offer help.

    ID claims that IC must have been designed, after the Big Bang, by a highly intelligent being (often described as God) because the universe hasn’t existed long enough for natural laws and chance occurrences to produce IC. I believe this argument is seriously flawed. Consider the following:

    1. If a wrapper for, say, M&M’s were discovered on a planet in a distant galaxy, we would immediately know that it was designed by an intelligent being, as opposed to coming into existence by the same “mindless� processes that produced non-living structures like stars, planets, oceans, etc. The probability that those processes could have produced the candy wrapper is so small as to rule out anything but intelligent design.

    2. The simplest life is far more complicated than a candy wrapper, and hence far less likely to have occurred through the aforesaid “mindless� processes. Can we then conclude that even the simplest life could never have arisen without intelligent design?

    3. Doesn’t the argument that IC is too complex to have arisen by “mindless� evolution therefore suffer from the defect of proving that all life, not just IC, could never have evolved?

    I would appreciate comments or citations to comments that address this matter.

  • Pete Dunkelberg’s article on IC ( addresses several similar issues with the feasibility of evolution, though it doesn’t address this one directly. Pete does talk about the problem of defining complexity in terms of divisions of ‘functions’ and ‘systems’. These arbitrary divisions assigned by human observation really only exist to simplify the whole for our own understanding.

    Also, somewhat related, is our own inate ability to recognize complexity. With the above example, we recognize the M&M wrapper as not just created, but as something WE created. We can identify the familiar text that has been especially designed by humans to be recognizeable by other humans. What if it was not covered by the well recognized M&M logo but by apparently random dots and scratches. We might be more likely to see it as naturally occuring since the markings may appear more like those dirived from a natural phenomenon.

    The truth is, our ability to recognize ‘design’ and patterns is incredibily powerful and incredibly biased. The number of sightings of the face of the holy Mother Mary every year is testiment to this. We see faces in natural phenomona far more often than they ‘really’ occur (the moon, burnt sides of pancakes, rock formations, calcium deposites under freeways …). But, faces don’t really get created naturally, we just (for survival reasons ) have a strong bias toward recognizing faces. However, if you take a real face and encode it in binary and represent the binary as dots on a TV screen, it looks no different to us then the naturally occuring electromagnetic noise we see when no signal is provided to the TV. Our ability to recognize that pattern hasn’t been developed.

    I think humans are not as good at recognizing complexity, design, and functionality as we would like to believe we are.

  • manning120

    In response to the last post, I don’t think bias in recognizing complexity addresses my question. That even simple human artifacts could never occur, in any environment, unless they were intelligently designed, is undeniable. Our subjective biases and recognition abilities have nothing to do with the mathematical (im)probabilities.

  • I am certainly not suggesting that a candy wrapper could occur naturally. What I am calling into question is the very premise of the argument provided in the previous post in point 2: “The simplest life is far more complicated than a candy wrapper.” In order for the argument to stand, we must categorically know what is more complex. If complexity is defined by our ability to understand the components involved, then we might not be in a very good position to evaluate relative complexity. As manning120 pointed out, the probabitlity of a candy bar wrapper occuring naturally is virtually nothing, however, many scientists’ calculations of the probability of life occuring makes it seem at least possible. It is clear that a candy bar wrapper wouldn’t exist without human intervention, but perhaps it is because it has a level of complexity in logo, design, etc. that we aren’t recognizing.

  • manning120

    Jose Bryan makes a very good point. Defining complexity does lie close to the heart of this debate. Knowing that one thing is more complex than another gives insight into the nature of complexity. Wouldn’t one gauge of relative complexity by the difficulty humans have duplicating objects using raw materials? If we ask a team of scientists to duplicate a candy wrapper and the very simplest life form, I don’t doubt they could succeed in the former much more easily than the latter. In fact, scientists have been trying without success for hundreds of years to create life out of its raw materials.

    So far my question raised on March 29, 2006 hasn’t been answered, I think.

  • If complexity is to be defined as our ability to understand and recreate a particular system or object, then it clearly has no impact on the probability that it could have arisen by “mindlessâ€? evolution.