Id is nothing new latest attempt to put a modern face on some very old ideas is old wine in new bottles…



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Intelligent Design - Old Wine in New Bottles


  • Intelligent design is the latest salvo in a long running battle between science and creationism

  • ID is nothing new - latest attempt to put a modern face on some very old ideas

  • is old wine in new bottles…

  • Fit between form and function in nature has been observed since antiquity

  • Modern biologists attribute this to adaptation, evolution

  • Earlier biologists believed it to be the result of an intelligent, benevolent, and supernatural plan

  • “Argument from design” goes back to Plato and Aristotle – idea of natural order or purpose - nature must have a point

  • Greek telos, = end, or purpose – teleology

  • Naturalists must search for the underlying meaning and purpose of nature

  • Many people still advocate this argument from design

  • Living things are so complex, there is no possible way they could have evolved from random physical and chemical forces

  • They must have been designed by God

  • Most eloquent expression of this ancient idea came from the school of natural theology

  • Began in the early 1700’s and continued in one form or another until Darwin’s day

  • Started by John Ray (1627-1705) - Wisdom of God in Creation (1691)

  • Natural theologians observed the complexity and diversity of life, and the balance of nature

  • Believed it resulted from the progressive unfolding of the divine plan behind nature

  • The word evolution itself comes from the Latin evolutio = to unroll

  • Evolution before Darwin meant the progressive unfolding or unrolling of the predetermined divine plan behind nature

  • Natural theology maintained that every living thing was perfectly adapted to its way of life

  • Fit between form and function in organisms was designed by the Creator

  • Natural adaptation and design proved the existence of a wise and benevolent deity

  • Natural theology was revived in the 19th Century by William Paley (1741-1805)

  • Paley’s Natural Theology (1802), greatly influenced Charles Darwin

  • Paley viewed the Creator as the master gardener, or cosmic watchmaker (an idea that dates back to Cicero)

  • Belief in intelligent design was very widespread in the 19th Century

  • Typical attitude was that of Baron Georges Cuvier (1769-1832), father of comparative anatomy

  • Knew more about the workings of the animal body than any man before him

  • Research led him to believe that animal design was so perfect, no way any part of it could change without destroying the whole

  • Modern knowledge of comparative anatomy makes Cuvier’s doubts irrelevant

  • ID makes the same intellectual error, with the scientific bar set a little higher

  • Biological design of cells and metabolic (chemical) cycles is so complex, for example, cells could never have evolved…

  • Most scientists in Darwin’s day had little trouble reconciling faith with evolution

  • Realized that the creator could have established the basic physical and chemical rules of this universe

  • Let the universe unfold according to those original divinely-inspired laws

  • Modern creationists, however, reject almost all science - geology, astronomy, biology…

  • Adhere instead to a strict and literal interpretation of the Bible

  • Creationists represent a distinct minority of modern Christians

  • Most organized religions have issued strong formal statements against creationism

  • Pope John Paul II, for example, said “The Bible does not wish to teach us how Heaven was made, but how one goes to heaven.”

  • Even within the Baptist church, most sects of Baptists have repudiated creationism

  • Supported in America by a small but vocal and well-funded group of strict fundamentalists, with informal ties to Southern Baptists

  • Ironically, Fundamentalism was not initially opposed to evolution

  • Fundamentalism began in 1910 with two Scottish brothers, Lyman and Milton Stuart

  • Published a series of pamphlets they called The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth

  • Tracts were relatively liberal by modern fundamentalist standards

  • Fundamentals left a little elbow room for interpretation and discussion

  • Over three million copies had been distributed by 1915

  • Edited by Reuben A. Torrey, a prominent minister associated with Dwight L. Moody

  • Issued as twelve pamphlets, containing 90 essays (now collected into 4 volumes)

  • Intended as a resource for ministers, Sunday school teachers and other defenders of the faith

  • One of the tracts dealt specifically with creation, left the issue open to interpretation

  • James Orr The Early Narratives of Genesis

  • Suggests the days of creation were a metaphor for eons of time, claims science and religion are not opposed to one another…

  • The Fundamentals were written in response to European liberal theology and Higher Criticism

  • Affirmed the orthodox Protestant beliefs

  • Attacked all other faiths or philosophies - Catholics, Mormons, and socialists among others

  • Strongly opposed to anything Germanic

  • Much liberal theology coming from Germany, “loose morals”, Freud, etc…

  • First Fundamentals volumes (1910) see Germany as a threat

  • By 1916, they were truly the enemy

  • Billy Sunday once declared that “if you turned Hell upside down, it would say Made in Germany on the bottom”

  • Left little doubt about his feelings for higher education:

“Thousands of college graduates are going as fast as they can straight to hell. If I had a million dollars I’d give $999,999 to the church and $1 to education.”

  • The fundamentalist movement was taken over by more extreme groups like the charismatics - evangelicals with even less sympathy for Biblical interpretation

  • To allow that even one word in the Bible was less than literally true was to challenge every word

  • Ongoing liberalization of both Baptist and Methodist sects

  • Increasingly large audience of devout Christians who felt ignored by mainstream organized religions

  • Fundamentalists became isolated within the broader Evangelical movement

  • These same individuals were increasingly upset with progress:

  • Increasing pace of modern life

  • Rapid growth of modern science (Einstein, eugenics, chemical warfare, etc…)

  • Tragic waste of the First World War

  • Growing intrusion of the government into their personal lives

  • Men like Dwight L. Moody (founder of the Moody Bible Institute), Billy Sunday, and William Jennings Bryan found a ready ear

  • Though opposed to science, evangelicals at first weren’t focused on evolution

  • Darwin shared the blame with Einstein, Marx and Freud for the decline of human morality

  • Darwin was blamed for the “might makes right” attitude of the German war machine

  • Evolution had little effect on the general public until the 1920’s

  • Restricted mainly to university classrooms, taught mainly to graduate students

  • Took about 50 years to finally trickle down into high schools and grade schools

  • 1920’s, children were coming home from school bearing these new ideas and textbooks

  • Parents viewed them as rank heresy

  • Several states responded by passing legislation forbidding the teaching of evolution in public schools

  • Tennessee law was challenged in 1925, in the small town of Dayton, Tennessee

  • Scopes monkey trial was to become the greatest show trial of the era

  • Chronicled in the Broadway play Inherit the Wind, later adapted for film and TV

  • A watershed event in American intellectual history...

  • Overnight, sleepy little Dayton became a media circus …

  • H. L. Mencken covered the trial for the Baltimore Sun - acid tongue painted the locals as ignorant hicks

  • Greatly reinforced the idea that all Southerners were rednecks and hillbillies

  • John Scopes, local school teacher, volunteered to participate in an ACLU test case to overturn the law

  • Scopes was quiet, well-mannered, not looking for a fight, but annoyed with the intrusion of religion into his classroom

  • William Jennings Bryan, “The Great Commoner”, volunteered to prosecute - gave the trial national attention

  • Famous statesman and orator, three time Democratic nominee for President, Secretary of State in 1913-15

  • Near the end of his career, saw liberal theology and criticism as a serious threat

  • Became obsessed with the inroads of Darwinism into higher education and even organized religion

  • Darwinism contributed to the decline of morality that led Germany to World War I

All the ills from which America suffers can be traced back to the teaching of evolution. It would be better to destroy every other book ever written, and save just the first three verses of Genesis.”

William Jennings Bryan

  • Radical attorney Clarence Darrow volunteered for the defense

  • Darrow was a famous champion of lost causes, the “Attorney for the Damned”

  • Judge refused to allow Darrow’s expert witnesses to testify

  • Darrow called Bryan himself to the stand

  • Bryan had foolishly styled himself (on the record) as an expert in matters of faith

  • Darrow grilled Bryan mercilessly for an entire day in the intense heat and humidity

  • Quickly reduced him to jelly

  • Five days after the trial, the stress caught up with him, and Bryan collapsed and died

  • Scopes was found guilty on a technicality, and fined $100

  • ACLU tried to appeal, had intended all along to take the case to the Supreme Court

  • But the ruling was reversed on a technicality

  • The fine should only have been $50

  • Scope’s supporters celebrated their moral victory over Bryan

  • But their celebration was short-lived

  • Effect of the Scope’s trial on educators turned out to be both immediate and long lasting

  • Publishers and teachers were intimidated by the fundamentalist outcry

  • Evolution disappeared from textbooks and classrooms for nearly 40 years

  • National survey in 1942 found less than half of the nation’s biology teachers had even mentioned evolution in their classes

  • Publishers removed any mention of evolution from their textbooks, or pulled entries from the index, changed captions on charts and illustrations…

  • 1960’s - AIBS (American Institute of Biological Science) formed a committee (BSCS) to rewrite the nation’s textbooks

  • AIBS sought to restore evolution to its proper place as the central underlying theme of all modern biology

  • Versions of the BSCS texts (green, yellow, blue) all stressed evolution as the unifying principle of biology

  • Became the first modern textbooks in biology

  • The creationist response to this new threat posed by the AIBS came in 1963

  • Henry Morris founded the Creation Research Society

  • Morris was a successful hydraulic engineer when he became involved in creationism

  • Considered the father of modern creationism

  • His Scientific Creationism is still the central text of the movement

  • In 1972 Morris founded the Institute of Creation Research

  • ICR is still the largest and most important creationist organization

  • Series of legal reversals in the 1960’s required a change of strategy

  • Epperson vs. Arkansas 1968 – Supreme Court ruled against statutes forbidding the teaching of evolution

  • Creationists had to give up on trying to ban evolution altogether

  • Creationists tried a new legal approach derived from the FCC Fairness Doctrine (courtesy of law student Wendell Bird)

  • FCC requires equal time in the media for opposing viewpoints

  • Creationists tried to use the FCC doctrine to force the teaching of creationism as an established scientific viewpoint

  • Hence the addition of the term “scientific” to creationism to make it sound more respectable

  • Naming it “scientific” creationism is merely an attempt to make creationism more palatable to politicians and teachers

  • Disguising religion as scientific inquiry

  • There is nothing scientific about scientific creationism:

  • Creationists do not propose hypotheses that make testable predictions

  • They do not conduct tests of the validity of those predictions

  • They do not submit their work for peer review by other scientists

  • New strategy sought equal time in the classroom for both evolution and creationism

  • Problem with “equal time” as a legal argument - which version of creation should we teach?

  • Bobby Henderson tried to make this point to the Kansas State Board of Education in 2005

  • He created his very own religion and creation myth, based on the flying spaghetti monster…

  • Sent a letter to the school board, outlining his creation myth and demanded equal time:

One third time for , one third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, and one third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence”

  • Bobby Henderson is free to believe in the flying spaghetti monster

  • Creationists are free to believe whatever they like about evolution

  • But should any religious group be given exclusive license to present their views in a public classroom?

  • So far, none of these “equal time” statutes has survived a court challenge

  • Statutes in Arkansas and Louisiana ex. both struck down as unconstitutional

  • Recent “sticker” problem in Cobb County Georgia shares same fundamental problem of other “equal time” assaults on biology

  • Seems innocuous enough:

This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.”

  • Sounds like the kind of warning that precedes the kind of movie your parents would never let you watch…

  • Also confuses the meaning of theory

  • Should we put one on the physics text warning about the theory of gravity??

  • Singles out biology over all other subjects

  • Why not similar stickers on history texts warning against the guiles of communism, or on sociology texts warning against the price of compassion…

  • So the legacy of the Scope’s trial is still felt today

  • 2007 Gallup poll, 48% of Americans “did not personally believe” in evolution

  • Apparently, they don’t watch the Simpsons...

  • Road to success for creationists did not pass through the courtrooms of America

  • Rather, it passed through our local school boards and textbook selection committees

  • Very successful strategy…

  • Easier to sway local school boards

  • Economics of textbook adoption in several key states – if it won’t sell in Texas, it won’t be profitable to publish

  • Succeeded in continuing a climate of fear that is widely evident, especially in high schools and elementary schools

  • Simplest way for teachers and publishers to deal with controversy is to weasel out of it altogether

  • Make no mistake - if creation is introduced into our biology classrooms, it will be followed by broader demands

  • Creationism is the thin edge of the wedge of “biblical science”

  • And lest you think creationism is yesterday’s news...

  • Creation Museum and Family Discovery Center opened in May 2007, $27 million monument to 19th Century Science

  • Thus the basic nature of the creationist strategy has evolved over the years:

  • Strict fundamentalist creationism

  • Scientific creationism

  • Intelligent design

  • Intelligent design sneaks creationism in under the tent flap

  • No direct mention of whose “intelligence” is responsible (space aliens?)

  • 1987 - Supreme Court ruled in Edwards v. Aguillard against teaching creationism in public classrooms

  • Louisiana’s “Balanced Treatment Act” violated 1st Amendment’s Establishment Clause, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”

  • Creationists responded by simply rewriting their standard text Of Pandas and People

  • Substituted “intelligent design” for “creationism” throughout the text

  • Just as the BSCS texts had jump started the creationist movement, Edwards v. Aguillard was the impetus behind ID

  • Spurred Phillip E. Johnson to write Darwin on Trial (1991), sparked the modern ID movement

  • Johnson joined with Michael Behe, Stephen C. Meyer and William Dembski to form the nucleus of the ID movement

  • Goals were to replace scientific materialism with “theistic realism” through what became called the “wedge strategy”

  • ID advocates conceded the middle ground in evolution (macroevolution)

  • Moved the battleground to the murkier waters of molecular biology and teleology

  • Replaced arguments over chimp anatomy with arguments over enzyme kinetics

  • Makes it harder to argue with ID proponents

  • Modest background in science was sufficient to argue with creationists

  • Need a major in biochemistry with a minor in philosophy to argue with ID

  • ID makes the same intellectual error as Cuvier, with the scientific bar set a little higher

  • Biological design of cells and metabolic (chemical) cycles is so complex, for example, cells could never have evolved…

  • Intelligent design centers on the principles of

  • Irreducible complexity (Behe)

  • Specified complexity (Dembski)

  • Michael J. Behe, professor of biochemistry at Lehigh, author of Darwin’s Black Box proposed the idea of irreducible complexity – such biological systems are

“composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning”

  • Biological complexity could not result from a series of small changes

  • Only the complete and final form of any system or organ would work at all

  • Simply returns to Paley’s watchmaker, with a more complex watch

  • William Dembski is another guiding light in the ID movement

  • Began at Baylor, now teaches philosophy at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary,

  • Author of The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance through Small Probabilities

  • Proposed the idea of specified complexity

  • Specified complexity is a tangled morass of information theory and probability, widely discredited

  • “A specified pattern is one that admits short descriptions, whereas a complex pattern is one that is unlikely to occur by chance”

  • Dembski argues that it is highly improbable for specified complexity to exist in systems formed by random processes

  • Dembski says, for example:

“A single letter of the alphabet is specified without being complex. A long sentence of random letters is complex without being specified. A Shakespearean sonnet is both complex and specified.”

  • If Shakespeare’s sonnets are intelligently designed, biological systems must also be intelligently designed…

  • Creationism and ID suffer from the logical fallacy known as the “argument from ignorance”

  • A premise is true because it has not been proven false (or)

  • A premise is false because it has not been proven true

  • If current scientific theories can’t provides an adequate explanation for design, the only explanation remaining is that God did it

  • Cuvier fell into the same logical trap…

  • Lest you doubt that creationism and intelligent design are “the thin edge of the wedge”…

  • “The Wedge” document - internal memo of Discovery Institute, leaked to the internet

  • Full frontal assault on science, naturalism, intellectual freedom!

  • States as its “governing goals”:

  • To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies

  • To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God

  • “Five-year goals” include:

  • To see intelligent design theory as an accepted alternative in the sciences and scientific research being done from the perspective of design theory

  • To see the beginning of the influence of design theory in spheres other than natural science

  • To see major new debates in education, life issues, legal and personal responsibility pushed to the front of the national agenda

  • And lest you English majors think you are immune, the “20-year goals” are:

  • To see intelligent design theory as the dominant perspective in science

  • To see design theory application in specific fields, including molecular biology, biochemistry, paleontology, physics and cosmology in the natural sciences, psychology, ethics, politics, theology and philosophy in the humanities

  • To see its influence in the fine arts

  • To see design theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life

  • Intelligent design is hardly a new idea

  • It is merely old wine in new bottles

  • Latest strategy of a movement that seeks to force science to serve religion, rather than respect both as separate paths to the truth

  • In the immortal words of Archie Bunker...



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