A special report reprinted from Natural History magazine
Darwin's evidence convinced scientists
that natural selection can better explain life's complexity than intelligent design (ID).
Prepared by Richard Milner & Vittorio
Maestro, senior editors of Natural History
The idea that an organism's complexity is evidence for
the existence of a cosmic designer was advanced centuries before Charles Darwin was born. Its best-known exponent was English
theologian William Paley, creator of the famous watchmaker analogy. If we find a pocket watch in a field, Paley wrote in 1802,
we immediately infer that it was produced not by natural processes acting blindly but by a designing human intellect. Likewise,
he reasoned, the natural world contains abundant evidence of a supernatural creator. The argument from design, as it is known,
prevailed as an explanation of the natural world until the publication of the Origin of Species in 1859. The weight
of the evidence that Darwin had patiently gathered swiftly convinced scientists that evolution by natural selection better
explained life's complexity and diversity. "I cannot possibly believe," wrote Darwin in 1868, "that a false theory would explain
so many classes of facts."
accept that some species do change and that Earth is much more than 6,000 years old but reject that evolution accounts for
the array of species.
In some circles, however, opposition
to the concept of evolution has persisted to the present. The argument from design has recently been revived by a number of
academics with scientific credentials, who maintain that their version of the idea (unlike Paley's) is soundly supported by
both microbiology and mathematics. These antievolutionists differ from fundamentalist creationists in that they accept that
some species do change (but not much) and that Earth is much more than 6,000 years old. Like their predecessors, however,
they reject the idea that evolution accounts for the array of species we see today, and they seek to have their concept --
known as intelligent design -- included in the science curriculum of schools.
|ID is getting a hearing
in some political and educational circles.
Most biologists have concluded that
the proponents of intelligent design display either ignorance or deliberate misrepresentation of evolutionary science. Yet
their proposals are getting a hearing in some political and educational circles and are currently the subject of a debate
within the Ohio Board of Education. Although Natural History does not fully present and analyze the intelligent-design
phenomenon in the pages that follow, we offer, for the reader's information, brief position statements by three leading proponents
of the theory, along with three responses. The section concludes with an overview of the intelligent-design movement by a
philosopher and cultural historian who has monitored its history for more than a decade.
Intelligent Design position statement
The Challenge of Irreducible
Every living cell contains many
ultrasophisticated molecular machines.
By Michael J. Behe
|Black box: a system
whose inner workings are unknown.
Scientists use the term "black box"
for a system whose inner workings are unknown. To Charles Darwin and his contemporaries, the living cell was a black box because
its fundamental mechanisms were completely obscure. We now know that, far from being formed from a kind of simple, uniform
protoplasm (as many nineteenth-century scientists believed), every living cell contains many ultrasophisticated molecular
Does natural selection
account for complexity that exits at the molecular level?
How can we decide whether Darwinian
natural selection can account for the amazing complexity that exists at the molecular level? Darwin himself set the standard
when he acknowledged, "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed
by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down."
systems: systems that seem very difficult to form by successive modifications.
Some systems seem very difficult to
form by such successive modifications -- I call them irreducibly complex. An everyday example of an irreducibly complex system
is the humble mousetrap. It consists of (1) a flat wooden platform or base; (2) a metal hammer, which crushes the mouse; (3)
a spring with extended ends to power the hammer; (4) a catch that releases the spring; and (5) a metal bar that connects to
the catch and holds the hammer back. You can't catch a mouse with just a platform, then add a spring and catch a few more
mice, then add a holding bar and catch a few more. All the pieces have to be in place before you catch any mice.
|Natural selection can
only choose among systems that are already working so irreducibly complex biological systems pose a powerful challenge to
Irreducibly complex systems appear very
unlikely to be produced by numerous, successive, slight modifications of prior systems, because any precursor that was missing
a crucial part could not function. Natural selection can only choose among systems that are already working, so the existence
in nature of irreducibly complex biological systems poses a powerful challenge to Darwinian theory. We frequently observe
such systems in cell organelles, in which the removal of one element would cause the whole system to cease functioning. The
flagella of bacteria are a good example. They are outboard motors that bacterial cells can use for self-propulsion. They have
a long, whiplike propeller that is rotated by a molecular motor. The propeller is attached to the motor by a universal joint.
The motor is held in place by proteins that act as a stator. Other proteins act as bushing material to allow the driveshaft
to penetrate the bacterial membrane. Dozens of different kinds of proteins are necessary for a working flagellum. In the absence
of almost any of them, the flagellum does not work or cannot even be built by the cell.
traffic flow in cells is an example of a complex, irreducible system.
Another example of irreducible complexity
is the system that allows proteins to reach the appropriate subcellular compartments. In the eukaryotic cell there are a number
of places where specialized tasks, such as digestion of nutrients and excretion of wastes, take place. Proteins are synthesized
outside these compartments and can reach their proper destinations only with the help of "signal" chemicals that turn other
reactions on and off at the appropriate times. This constant, regulated traffic flow in the cell comprises another remarkably
complex, irreducible system. All parts must function in synchrony or the system breaks down. Still another example is the
exquisitely coordinated mechanism that causes blood to clot.
|Molecular machines are
Biochemistry textbooks and journal articles
describe the workings of some of the many living molecular machines within our cells, but they offer very little information
about how these systems supposedly evolved by natural selection. Many scientists frankly admit their bewilderment about how
they may have originated, but refuse to entertain the obvious hypothesis: that perhaps molecular machines appear to look designed
because they really are designed.
Advances in science
provide new reasons for recognizing design.
I am hopeful that the scientific community
will eventually admit the possibility of intelligent design, even if that acceptance is discreet and muted. My reason for
optimism is the advance of science itself, which almost every day uncovers new intricacies in nature, fresh reasons for recognizing
the design inherent in life and the universe.
response to Michael J. Behe
The Flaw in the Mousetrap
Intelligent design fails the biochemistry test.
Kenneth R. Miller
|Michael J. Behe fails
to provide biochemical evidence for intelligent design.
To understand why the scientific community
has been unimpressed by attempts to resurrect the so-called argument from design, one need look no further than Michael J.
Behe's own essay. He argues that complex biochemical systems could not possibly have been produced by evolution because they
possess a quality he calls irreducible complexity. Just like mousetraps, these systems cannot function unless each of their
parts is in place. Since "natural selection can only choose among systems that are already working," there is no way that
Darwinian mechanisms could have fashioned the complex systems found in living cells. And if such systems could not have evolved,
they must have been designed. That is the totality of the biochemical "evidence" for intelligent design.
|Parts of a supposedly
irreducibly complex machine may have different, but still useful, functions.
Ironically, Behe's own example, the
mousetrap, shows what's wrong with this idea. Take away two parts (the catch and the metal bar), and you may not have a mousetrap
but you do have a three-part machine that makes a fully functional tie clip or paper clip. Take away the spring, and you have
a two-part key chain. The catch of some mousetraps could be used as a fishhook, and the wooden base as a paperweight; useful
applications of other parts include everything from toothpicks to nutcrackers and clipboard holders. The point, which science
has long understood, is that bits and pieces of supposedly irreducibly complex machines may have different -- but still useful
complex biochemical machines.
Behe's contention that each and every
piece of a machine, mechanical or biochemical, must be assembled in its final form before anything useful can emerge is just
plain wrong. Evolution produces complex biochemical machines by copying, modifying, and combining proteins previously used
for other functions. Looking for examples? The systems in Behe's essay will do just fine.
favors an organism's parts for different functions.
He writes that in the absence of "almost
any" of its parts, the bacterial flagellum "does not work." But guess what? A small group of proteins from the flagellum does
work without the rest of the machine -- it's used by many bacteria as a device for injecting poisons into other cells.
Although the function performed by this small part when working alone is different, it nonetheless can be favored by natural
The blood clotting
system is an example of evolution.
The key proteins that clot blood fit
this pattern, too. They're actually modified versions of proteins used in the digestive system. The elegant work of Russell
Doolittle has shown how evolution duplicated, retargeted, and modified these proteins to produce the vertebrate blood-clotting
see evolution in subcellular systems.
And Behe may throw up his hands and
say that he cannot imagine how the components that move proteins between subcellular compartments could have evolved,
but scientists actually working on such systems completely disagree. In a 1998 article in the journal Cell, a group
led by James Rothman, of the Sloan-Kettering Institute, described the remarkable simplicity and uniformity of these mechanisms.
They also noted that these mechanisms "suggest in a natural way how the many and diverse compartments in eukaryotic cells
could have evolved in the first place." Working researchers, it seems, see something very different from what Behe sees in
these systems -- they see evolution.
|Behe's points are philosophical,
If Behe wishes to suggest that the intricacies
of nature, life, and the universe reveal a world of meaning and purpose consistent with a divine intelligence, his point is
philosophical, not scientific. It is a philosophical point of view, incidentally, that I share. However, to support that view,
one should not find it necessary to pretend that we know less than we really do about the evolution of living systems. In
the final analysis, the biochemical hypothesis of intelligent design fails not because the scientific community is closed
to it but rather for the most basic of reasons -- because it is overwhelmingly contradicted by the scientific evidence.
Intelligent Design position statement
Detecting Design in the
Intelligence leaves behind
a characteristic signature.
By William A. Dembski
|Chance, necessity, or
design covers every eventuality in ordinary life.
In ordinary life, explanations that
invoke chance, necessity, or design cover every eventuality. Nevertheless, in the natural sciences one of these modes of explanation
is considered superfluous -- namely, design. From the perspective of the natural sciences, design, as the action of an intelligent
agent, is not a fundamental creative force in nature. Rather, blind natural causes, characterized by chance and necessity
and ruled by unbroken laws, are thought sufficient to do all nature's creating. Darwin's theory is a case in point.
|Does nature require
no help from a designing intelligence?
But how do we know that nature requires
no help from a designing intelligence? Certainly, in special sciences ranging from forensics to archaeology to SETI (the Search
for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), appeal to a designing intelligence is indispensable. What's more, within these sciences
there are well-developed techniques for identifying intelligence. Essential to all these techniques is the ability to eliminate
chance and necessity.
|Complex, sequenced patterns
exhibit intelligence in their design.
For instance, how do the radio astronomers
in Contact (the Jodie Foster movie based on Carl Sagan's novel of the same name) infer the presence of extraterrestrial
intelligence in the beeps and pauses they monitor from space? The researchers run signals through computers that are programmed
to recognize many preset patterns. Signals that do not match any of the patterns pass through the "sieve" and are classified
as random. After years of receiving apparently meaningless "random" signals, the researchers discover a pattern of beats and
pauses that corresponds to the sequence of all the prime numbers between 2 and 101. (Prime numbers, of course, are those that
are divisible only by themselves and by one.) When a sequence begins with 2 beats, then a pause, 3 beats, then a pause . .
. and continues all the way to 101 beats, the researchers must infer the presence of an extraterrestrial intelligence.
|If a sequence lacks
complexity, it could easily happen by chance.
Here's why. There's nothing in the laws
of physics that requires radio signals to take one form or another. The sequence is therefore contingent rather than necessary.
Also, it is a long sequence and therefore complex. Note that if the sequence lacked complexity, it could easily have happened
by chance. Finally, it was not just complex but also exhibited an independently given pattern or specification (it was not
just any old sequence of numbers but a mathematically significant one -- the prime numbers).
the characteristic trademark or signature of intelligence.
Intelligence leaves behind a characteristic
trademark or signature -- what I call "specified complexity." An event exhibits specified complexity if it is contingent and
therefore not necessary; if it is complex and therefore not easily repeatable by chance; and if it is specified in the sense
of exhibiting an independently given pattern. Note that complexity in the sense of improbability is not sufficient to eliminate
chance: flip a coin long enough, and you'll witness a highly complex or improbable event. Even so, you'll have no reason not
to attribute it to chance.
be objectively given.
The important thing about specifications
is that they be objectively given and not just imposed on events after the fact. For instance, if an archer shoots arrows
into a wall and we then paint bull's-eyes around them, we impose a pattern after the fact. On the other hand, if the targets
are set up in advance ("specified") and then the archer hits them accurately, we know it was by design.
processes are incapable of generating the specified complexity in organisms.
In my book The Design Inference,
I argue that specified complexity reliably detects design. In that book, however, I focus largely on examples from the human
rather than the natural sciences. The main criticism of that work to date concerns whether the Darwinian mechanism of natural
selection and random variation is not in fact fully capable of generating specified complexity. More recently, in No Free
Lunch, I show that undirected natural processes like the Darwinian mechanism are incapable of generating the specified
complexity that exists in biological organisms. It follows that chance and necessity are insufficient for the natural sciences
and that the natural sciences need to leave room for design.
response to William A. Dembski
Mystery Science Theater
The case of the secret agent.
By Robert T. Pennock
|Science requires positive
evidence that biological complexity is intentionally designed.
William A. Dembski claims to detect
"specified complexity" in living things and argues that it is proof that species have been designed by an intelligent agent.
One flaw in his argument is that he wants to define intelligent design negatively, as anything that is not chance or necessity.
But the definition is rigged: necessity, chance, and design are not mutually exclusive categories, nor do they exhaust the
possibilities. Thus, one cannot detect an intelligent agent by the process of elimination he suggests. Science requires positive
evidence. This is so even when attempting to detect the imprint of human intelligence, but it is especially true when assessing
the extraordinary claim that biological complexity is intentionally designed.
William A. Dembski
has no way to show that genetic patterns are set up in advance.
In this regard, Dembski's archery and
SETI analogies are red herrings, for they tacitly depend on prior understanding of human intellect and motivation, as well
as of relevant causal processes. A design inference like that in the movie Contact, for instance, would rely on background
knowledge about the nature of radio signals and other natural processes, together with the assumption that a sequence of prime
numbers is the kind of pattern another scientist might choose to send as a signal. But the odd sequences found within DNA
are quite unlike a series of prime numbers. Dembski has no way to show that the genetic patterns are "set up in advance" or
that evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics, but this misunderstands how the law applies to biological systems.
Dembski has been promoted as "the Isaac
Newton of information theory," and in his writings, which include the books he cites in the essay here, he insists that his
"law of conservation of information" proves that natural processes cannot increase biological complexity. He doesn't lay out
his case here, and a refutation would require too much space. Suffice it to say that a connection exists between the technical
notion of information and that of entropy, so Dembski's argument boils down to a recasting of an old creationist claim that
evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics. Put simply, this law states that in the universe, there is a tendency
for complexity to decrease. How then, ask the creationists, can evolutionary processes produce more complex life-forms from
more primitive ones? But we have long known why this type of argument fails: the second law applies only to closed systems,
and biological systems are not closed.
Random genetic variation
is subjected to natural selection by the environment.
In the evolutionary process, an increase
in biological complexity does not represent a "free lunch" -- it is bought and paid for, because random genetic variation
is subjected to natural selection by the environment, which itself is already structured. In fact, researchers are beginning
to use Darwinian processes, implemented in computers or in vitro, to evolve complex systems and to provide solutions to design
problems in ways that are beyond the power of mere intelligent agents.
of design provides precious little that is testable.
If we really thought that genetic information
was like the signal in Contact, shouldn't we infer we were designed by extraterrestrials? Intelligent-design theorists
do sometimes mention extraterrestrials as possible suspects, but most seem to have their eyes on a designer more highly placed
in the heavens. The problem is, science requires a specific model that can be tested. What exactly did the designer do, and
when did he do it? Dembski's nebulous hypothesis of design, even if restricted to natural processes, provides precious little
that is testable, and once supernatural processes are wedged in, it loses any chance of testability.
|Darwin followed the
clues given in nature to solve the mystery of origins.
Newton found himself stymied by the
complex orbits of the planets. He could not think of a natural way to fully account for their order and concluded that God
must nudge the planets into place to make the system work. (So perhaps in this one sense, Dembski is the Newton of
information theory.) The origin of species once seemed equally mysterious, but Darwin followed the clues given in nature to
solve that mystery. One may, of course, retain religious faith in a designer who transcends natural processes, but there is
no way to dust for his fingerprints.
Intelligent Design position statement
Elusive Icons of Evolution
What do Darwin's finches and the four-winged fruit fly
really tell us?
By Jonathan Wells
|Many features of living
things appear to be designed.
Charles Darwin wrote in 1860 that "there
seems to be no more design in the variability of organic beings and in the action of natural selection, than in the course
which the wind blows." Although many features of living things appear to be designed, Darwin's theory was that they are actually
the result of undirected processes such as natural selection and random variation.
are one of the "icons of evolution."
Scientific theories, however, must fit
the evidence. Two examples of the evidence for Darwin's theory of evolution -- so widely used that I have called them "icons
of evolution" -- are Darwin's finches and the four-winged fruit fly. Yet both of these, it seems to me, show that Darwin's
theory cannot account for all features of living things.
Finch beaks appear
to be adapted to different foods through natural
Darwin's finches consist of several
species on the Galápagos Islands that differ mainly in the size and shape of their beaks. Beak differences are correlated
with what the birds eat, suggesting that the various species might have descended from a common ancestor by adapting to different
foods through natural selection. In the 1970s, biologists Peter and Rosemary Grant went to the Galápagos to observe this process
in the wild.
|Direct evidence for
this was found in the 1970s.
In 1977 the Grants watched as a severe
drought wiped out 85 percent of a particular species on one island. The survivors had, on average, slightly larger beaks that
enabled them to crack the tough seeds that had endured the drought. This was natural selection in action. The Grants estimated
that twenty such episodes could increase average beak size enough to produce a new species.
|Modern scientists did
not observe new species emerging.
When the rains returned, however, average
beak size returned to normal. Ever since, beak size has oscillated around a mean as the food supply has fluctuated with the
climate. There has been no net change, and no new species have emerged. In fact, the opposite may be happening, as several
species of Galápagos finches now appear to be merging through hybridization.
works only within established species.
Darwin's finches and many other organisms
provide evidence that natural selection can modify existing features -- but only within established species. Breeders of domestic
plants and animals have been doing the same thing with artificial selection for centuries. But where is the evidence that
selection produces new features in new species?
|Major evolutionary changes
require anatomical as well as biochemical changes.
New features require new variations.
In the modern version of Darwin's theory, these come from DNA mutations. Most DNA mutations are harmful and are thus eliminated
by natural selection. A few, however, are advantageous -- such as mutations that increase antibiotic resistance in bacteria
and pesticide resistance in plants and animals. Antibiotic and pesticide resistance are often cited as evidence that DNA mutations
provide the raw materials for evolution, but they affect only chemical processes. Major evolutionary changes would require
mutations that produce advantageous anatomical changes as well.
|The four-winged fruit
fly is another "icon of evolution."
Normal fruit flies have two wings and
two "balancers" -- tiny structures behind the wings that help stabilize the insect in flight. In the 1970s, geneticists discovered
that a combination of three mutations in a single gene produces flies in which the balancers develop into normal-looking wings.
The resulting four-winged fruit fly is sometimes used to illustrate how mutations can produce the sorts of anatomical changes
that Darwin's theory needs.
|This fly does not provide
evidence for evolution.
But the extra wings are not new structures,
only duplications of existing ones. Furthermore, the extra wings lack muscles and are therefore worse than useless. The four-winged
fruit fly is severely handicapped -- like a small plane with extra wings dangling from its tail. As is the case with all other
anatomical mutations studied so far, those in the four-winged fruit fly cannot provide raw materials for evolution.
|Intelligent design should
be taught in school.
In the absence of evidence that natural
selection and random variations can account for the apparently designed features of living things, the entire question of
design must be reopened. Alongside Darwin's argument against design, students should also be taught that design remains a
response to Jonathan Wells
The Nature of Change
Evolutionary mechanisms give rise to basic structural differences.
Eugenie C. Scott
|Darwin proposed a scientific
rather than a religious explanation of nature.
Without defining "design," Wells asserts
that "many features of living things appear to be designed." Then he contrasts natural selection (undirected) with design
(directed), apparently attempting to return to the pre-Darwinian notion that a Designer is directly responsible for the fit
of organisms to their environments. Darwin proposed a scientific rather than a religious explanation: the fit between organisms
and environments is the result of natural selection. Like all scientific explanations, his relies on natural causation.
|Modern science can now
draw on evidence from biological processes.
Wells contends that "Darwin's theory
cannot account for all features of living things," but then, it doesn't have to. Today scientists explain features of living
things by invoking not only natural selection but also additional biological processes that Darwin didn't know about, including
gene transfer, symbiosis, chromosomal rearrangement, and the action of regulator genes. Contrary to what Wells maintains,
evolutionary theory is not inadequate. It fits the evidence just fine.
that Galapágos finches had a common ancestor is confirmed by modern genetic analysis.
Reading Wells, one might not realize
the importance of the Grants' careful studies, which demonstrated natural selection in real time. That the drought conditions
abated before biologists witnessed the emergence of new species is hardly relevant; beak size does oscillate in the short
term, but given a long-term trend in climate change, a major change in average size can be expected. Wells also overstates
the importance of finch hybridization: it is extremely rare, and it might even be contributing to new speciation. The Galápagos
finches remain a marvelous example of the principle of adaptive radiation. The various species, which differ morphologically,
occupy different adaptive niches. Darwin's explanation was that they all evolved from a common ancestral species, and modern
genetic analysis provides confirming evidence.
|The discovery of Ubx
genes shed light on how body plans evolve.
Wells admits that natural selection
can operate on a population and correctly looks to genetics to account for the kind of variation that can lead to "new
features in new species." But he contends that mutations such as those that yield four-winged fruit flies do not produce
the sorts of anatomical changes needed for major evolutionary change. Can't he see past the example to the principle? That
the first demonstration of a powerful genetic mechanism happened to be a nonflying fly is irrelevant. Edward Lewis shared
a Nobel Prize for the discovery of the role of these genes, known as the Ubx complex. They are of extraordinary importance
because genes of this type help explain body plans -- the basic structural differences between a mollusk and a mosquito, a
sponge and a spider.
|A very small Ubx
change results in a big difference in the body plan of organisms.
Ubx genes are among the HOX
genes, found in animals as different as sponges, fruit flies, and mammals. They turn on or off the genes involved in -- among
other things -- body segmentation and the production of appendages such as antennae, legs, and wings. What specifically gets
built depends on other, downstream genes. The diverse body plans of arthropods (insects, crustaceans, arachnids) are variations
on segmentation and appendage themes, variations that appear to be the result of changes in HOX genes. Recent research
shows that fly Ubx genes suppress leg formation in abdominal segments but that crustacean Ubx genes don't; a
very small Ubx change results in a big difference in body plan.
|These genes allow for
Mutations in these primary on/off switches
are involved in such phenomena as the loss of legs in snakes, the change from lobe fins to hands, and the origin of jaws in
vertebrates. HOX-initiated segment duplication allows for anatomical experimentation, and natural selection winnows
the result. "Evo-Devo" -- the study of evolution and development -- is a hot new biological research area, but Wells implies
that all it has produced is crippled fruit flies.
|Science only has tools
for explaining things in terms of natural causes.
Wells argues that natural explanations
are inadequate and, thus, that "students should also be taught that design remains a possibility." Because in his logic, design
implies a Designer, he is in effect recommending that science allow for nonnatural causation. We actually do have solid natural
explanations to work with, but even if we didn't, science only has tools for explaining things in terms of natural causation.
That's what Darwin did, and that's what we're trying to do today.
The Newest Evolution of Creationism
Intelligent design is about politics and religion, not
By Barbara Forrest
|Intelligent Design (ID)
proponents put most of their effort in swaying politicians and the public.
The infamous August 1999 decision by
the Kansas Board of Education to delete references to evolution from Kansas science standards was heavily influenced by advocates
of intelligent-design theory. Although William A. Dembski, one of the movement's leading figures, asserts that "the empirical
detectability of intelligent causes renders intelligent design a fully scientific theory," its proponents invest most of their
efforts in swaying politicians and the public, not the scientific community.
|The leading ID organization
is the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture (CRSC).
Launched by Phillip E. Johnson's book
Darwin on Trial (1991), the intelligent-design movement crystallized in 1996 as the Center for the Renewal of Science
and Culture (CRSC), sponsored by the Discovery Institute, a conservative Seattle think tank. Johnson, a law professor whose
religious conversion catalyzed his antievolution efforts, assembled a group of supporters who promote design theory through
their writings, financed by CRSC fellowships. According to an early mission statement, the CRSC seeks "nothing less than the
overthrow of materialism and its damning cultural legacies."
|The CRSC calls its strategy
the "Wedge," because it wants to liberate science from "atheistic naturalism."
Johnson refers to the CRSC members and
their strategy as the Wedge, analogous to a wedge that splits a log -- meaning that intelligent design will liberate science
from the grip of "atheistic naturalism." Ten years of Wedge history reveal its most salient features: Wedge scientists have
no empirical research program and, consequently, have published no data in peer-reviewed journals (or elsewhere) to support
their intelligent-design claims. But they do have an aggressive public relations program, which includes conferences that
they or their supporters organize, popular books and articles, recruitment of students through university lectures sponsored
by campus ministries, and cultivation of alliances with conservative Christians and influential political figures.
|Philip E. Johnson: "This
isn't really, and never has been, a debate about science. It's about religion and philosophy."
The Wedge aims to "renew" American culture
by grounding society's major institutions, especially education, in evangelical religion. In 1996, Johnson declared: "This
isn't really, and never has been, a debate about science. It's about religion and philosophy." According to Dembski, intelligent
design "is just the Logos of John's Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory." Wedge strategists seek to unify Christians
through a shared belief in "mere" creation, aiming -- in Dembski's words -- "at defeating naturalism and its consequences."
This enables intelligent-design proponents to coexist in a big tent with other creationists who explicitly base their beliefs
on a literal interpretation of Genesis.
|At heart, ID proponents
are not motivated to improve science but to transform it into a theistic enterprise.
"As Christians," writes Dembski, "we
know naturalism is false. Nature is not self-sufficient. … Nonetheless neither theology nor philosophy can answer the
evidential question whether God's interaction with the world is empirically detectable. To answer this question we must look
to science." Jonathan Wells, a biologist, and Michael J. Behe, a biochemist, seem just the CRSC fellows to give intelligent
design the ticket to credibility. Yet neither has actually done research to test the theory, much less produced data that
challenges the massive evidence accumulated by biologists, geologists, and other evolutionary scientists. Wells, influenced
in part by Unification Church leader Sun Myung Moon, earned Ph.D.'s in religious studies and biology specifically "to devote
my life to destroying Darwinism." Behe sees the relevant question as whether "science can make room for religion." At heart,
proponents of intelligent design are not motivated to improve science but to transform it into a theistic enterprise that
supports religious faith.
|The ID movement is advancing
its strategy but its tactics are no substitute for real science.
Wedge supporters are at present trying
to insert intelligent design into Ohio public-school science standards through state legislation. Earlier the CRSC advertised
its science education site by assuring teachers that its "Web curriculum can be appropriated without textbook adoption wars"
-- in effect encouraging teachers to do an end run around standard procedures. Anticipating a test case, the Wedge published
in the Utah Law Review a legal strategy for winning judicial sanction. Recently the group almost succeeded in inserting
into the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 a "sense of the Senate" that supported the teaching of intelligent design.
So the movement is advancing, but its tactics are no substitute for real science.