Icons of ID: Is intelligent design science or creationism 2.0?

In an opinion column for the Iowa State Daily, Scott Rank, a senior in journalism and mass communication from Knoxville, addresses intelligent design, and the recent lecture where two ISU professors addressed the fallacies and problems with Guillermo Gonzalez’s and Jay Richard’s “The privileged planet” [1].

Scott Rank’s comments show some excellent examples of the shoddy research of the issues as shown in detail by two Panda’s Thumb regulars: Richard B Hoppe and Gary Hurd. With permission of the authors I am reproducing their responses here since they show clearly what is wrong with Intelligent Design and its proponents. Richard B Hoppe has already posted his comments on Panda’s Thumb so I will focus on the comments by Gary Hurd and comments by the “Faculty and Graduate Students of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology”.

Gary Hurd wrote:

Posted 10/19/2004 The recent editorial about Intelligent Design Creationism (IDC) by Scott Rank was brought to my attention this morning. I note that Mr. Rank is a college senior majoring in journalism. This is a good news/bad news situation. It is good news that he is not a student of science, as this would mean that there is a serious failing in the sciences at Iowa State. Unfortunately, he has only one year remaining in the university environment that he might learn about objectivity and accuracy. I still hope that objectivity and accuracy are part of journalism, although Mr. Rank shows neither in his commentary.

” SR: This battle is also happening all across the nation, and it’s embodied in a new scientific theory that is gaining steam among scientists and laymen. It’s called intelligent design (ID), the argument that life shows signs of having been designed by an intelligent agent.”

There is no science in IDC, and it proposes no theory beyond “God did it.” The sum of IDC proponents’ publications are attacks on biological science, and semi mathematical antimaterialism polemic. The specific failures of IDC proponents are detailed in several recent books. One in which I am a contributor is “Why Intelligent Design Fails” edited by Matt Young and Taner Edis and published by Rutgers University Press. Several others are given below. Mr. Rank goes on to claim that this “theory” is gaining ground among scientists. Hogwash! For an amusing contrast I recommend “Project Steve” organized by the National Center for Science Education. This is a list of signatories to a clear and strong statement rejecting the pseudoscientific “theory” of intelligent design creationism. Why is it called “Project Steve?” Because the list is limited to scientists in relevant fields named Steve (or variants such as Stephanie) in honor of the late Steven Jay Gould. This statement reads:

“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. “ NCSE http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/articles/3541_project_steve_2_16_2003.asp

There are currently 500 “Steves” on the list including every living Noble Award recipient named Steve.

“SR: To critics, this “intelligent agent” sounds suspiciously like the Christian Triune God, but ID is a secular theory, and there are many ID researchers who are Jewish, Eastern Orthodox and Agnostic. The goal of the ID movement is not to kick evolution out of schools, but to allow students to question certain parts of Darwinian materialism.”

There are four truth claims in the sentences by Mr. Rank quoted above, and there are four errors of fact.

First , Intelligent Design Creationism is anything but a “secular theory.” This is attested to in publications and public presentations made by nearly every significant IDC writer. As an example, J. P. Moreland, Professor at the Talbot School of Theology at Biola (the Bible Institute of Los Angeles) University, offers this summary of the IDC program,

“William Dembski has reminded us that the emerging Intelligent Design movement has a four pronged approach to defeating naturalism: (1) A scientific/philosophical critique of naturalism; (2) A positive scientific research program (intelligent design) for investigating the effects of intelligent causes; (3) rethinking every field of inquiry infected with naturalism and reconceptualizing it in terms of design; (4) development of a theology of nature by relating the intelligence inferred by intelligent design to the God of Scripture.” (Moreland 1999 citing Dembski 1998).

Restating goals 2, and 3 in light of Dembski’s explicit equivalence of the “Designer” with “the God of Scripture” in goal four reveals that the movement is entirely undistinguished from its spiritual parent, Scientific Creationism.

More recently (March 7, 2004) Dembski gave a talk at the Baptist Fellowship Church in Waco, TX. that was taped recorded. Relevant to the current topic, Dembski, in response to an audience member’s question said, “When you are attributing the wonders of nature to these mindless material mechanisms, God’s glory is getting robbed.” He further added, “And so there is a cultural war here. Ultimately I want to see God get the credit for what he’s done – and he’s not getting it.”

Second, Mr. Rank claims that there are many IDC “researchers” and that they are of many faiths. There simply are not many IDC researchers of any sort, and I can not think of any who are not theists. Perhaps Mr. Rank can provide a name here? And perhaps Mr. Rank might explain why he disregards the Eastern Orthodoxy as Christian? I am sure they will be fascinated.

Third, the goal of IDC is quite literally to “kick evolution out of schools.” This is made explicit in many publications from the Discovery Institute senior fellows, and is most clearly stated in the famous “Wedge Document.” A recent book by Barbara Carroll Forrest and Paul R. Gross “Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design” (2004 Oxford University Press) provides in ample and chilling detail the political and social agenda of IDC. And, finally, Mr. Rank exposes his lack of familiarity with science in general, and biology specifically when implying that students are not already encouraged to question theory. He is bordering on the absurd claiming that there even is such a beast as “Darwinian materialism.” If Mr. Rank could give us a course listing on “Darwinian materialism” from the biological science catalog, I would be fascinated to read the syllabus.

I don’t count these counterpoints as addressing the most severe of Mr. Rank’s errors, they were merely those at the top of his article. It is equally clear that he is unacquainted with Darwin’s writing as he is with modern biology. But these errors would go beyond my available time and patience.

P.S.: An additional falsehood by Mr. Rank is that “universities are firing staff members who publicly advocate it (IDC).” Names Mr. Rank?

Dembski, William A. 1998 “Introduction” in Mere Creation “ Dembski (ed). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press

Barbara Carroll Forrest, Paul R. Gross 2004 “Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design” Oxford University Press

Moreland, J. P. 1999 “Postmodernism and the Intelligent Design Movement” Philsophia Christi Series 2, Vol. 1, No. 2: 97-101.

Mark Perakh 2003 “Unintelligent Design” New York: Prometheus Press

Niall Shanks and Richard Dawkins 2004 “God, the Devil, and Darwin: A Critique of Intelligent Design Theory” Oxford University Press

Robert T. Pennock (Editor) 2001 “Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics: Philosophical, Theological, and Scientific Perspectives” MIT Press

Matt Young, Taner Edis (Editors), 2004 “Why Intelligent Design Fails: A Scientific Critique of the New Creationism” Rutgers University Press

Gary S. Hurd, Ph.D. archaeologist Dana Point CA

I would like to give a special mention to Ryan Rapp who posted for the “Faculty and Graduate Students of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology[2].

Ryan Rapp et al wrote:

Biologists are open to new ideas- in fact that is what we seek to discover every day. But what does one have to do to have a new idea, such as Intelligent Design (ID) discussed and debated in the scientific arena? The scientific method calls for observations to be used in the formulation of a theory- a theory that can make predictions, and therefore be shown right or wrong. This method, outlined by Sir Francis Bacon in Novum Organum, is the foundation of all modern science taught in the classroom. For a topic to be included in a science curriculum, it must meet the criteria science demands. Therefore, ID must stand upon its own scientific evidence if it is to be considered in the arena of science. What constitutes scientific evidence? A valid scientific hypothesis is one that can be disproven if it is wrong; ID offers no theories which fit these criteria.

  • Avalos and Patterson on the ‘Privileged Planet’
  • Faculty and Graduate Students of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology: Ryan Rapp, Erin Meyers, Chris Olson, Suzanne McGaugh, Lex Flagel, Jennifer, Hawkins, Corrinne Grover, Jennifer Deitloff, Philippe Fortuné, Dale Tessin, David A. Losure, G. Sanchez-Ken, Chanda Skelton, Debora Christensen, Dean Adams, Barbara Pleasants, AND Carol Vleck