Sunday, May 21, 2006

Intelligent Design Overview For US Science Teachers

Here's something I slapped together to present to the science faculty at Boston Latin School.

Intelligent Design Overview For US Science Teachers
Mike Huben 5/19/06

Intelligent design is:
• A creationism masquerading as science.
• Supported by two main pseudoscientific theories: irreducible complexity and specified complexity.
• Unconstitutional to teach as science.
• A sophisticated public relations campaign, called the Wedge Strategy.
• Part of a larger US fundamentalist movement to create a god-centered society.
• Part of a conservative strategy to attack and discredit opponents.

• ID is a slight variation on the “argument from design” of William Paley and many earlier creationists.
• The only way ID differs from any other creationism is that it tries to hide its religious bias behind an ambiguous “designer”.
• 99% of creationism consists of attacks on evolution. (The rest is unscientific and/or theological.)

The great fallacy of creationist argument.
Successful attacks on evolution would:
• Make creationism scientific.
• Mean creationism must be right.

Irreducible complexity.
• The idea that complex systems could not have arisen through evolution, and thus must have been designed. Mousetraps, bacterial flagella and blood clotting systems are their favorite examples. Note this is not based on evidence of design or any other evidence.
• Orgel's second rule: "Evolution is cleverer than you are."
• "Never say, and never take seriously anyone who says, 'I cannot believe that so-and-so could have evolved by gradual selection.' I have dubbed this kind of fallacy 'the Argument from Personal Incredulity.' Time and again, it has proven the prelude to an intellectual banana-skin experience." Richard Dawkins

Specified complexity.
• Mathematical and philosophical nonsense designed to be outside the expertise of most biologists, and thus difficult for them to refute.
• Claims to infer design.
• Design is an evolutionary process: simply non-biological. If specified complexity worked, it would be an evolutionary process detector.

• There are no peer-reviewed studies supporting intelligent design in the scientific research literature.
• Funding is dedicated to public relations, not research.
• "'s a strange scientific revolution that seeks to establish its position in secondary school curricula before the research itself has been accomplished."
• A callous disregard for accuracy and extraordinary misquotation and misrepresentation in the ID literature.
• Bogus institutional affiliations of researchers and affiliates.

• Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District
• Judge Jones barred intelligent design from being taught in public school science classrooms.
• A humiliating and thorough defeat.
• All those Dover school board members are out of office now.
• Judge Jones said: The overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory.
1) ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation;
2) The argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980's; and
3) ID's negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community.

Wedge Strategy.
• Set forth in a leaked Wedge Document.
• 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.
• Outlines a public relations campaign meant to sway the opinion of the public, popular media, charitable funding agencies, and public policy makers.
o Phase I: Scientific Research, Writing & Publicity,
o Phase II: Publicity & Opinion-making, and
o Phase III: Cultural Confrontation & Renewal.
• Created by Phillip E. Johnson, author of "Darwin on Trial".
• Authored by the Discovery Institute, a conservative Christian think tank.
• Run by the Center for Science and Culture (a subsidiary of the above.)
• Legal front groups: Thomas More Law Center, Alliance Defense Fund, and Quality Science Education for All.
• A creationist production company Discovery Media.
• Illustra Media, a front group for Discovery Media.
• Textbook “Of Pandas and People”.

Conservative/Fundamentalist Movement.
• Attempt to create a God-centered society, with Biblically-based laws and values.
• Vague “designer” makes ID compatible with mainstream churches, such as Catholocism, and evades conflict between old earth and young earth creationists.
• Major Funding from extreme right-wing Christians and foundations:
o Howard Ahmanson Jr.
o Philip F. Anschutz
o Richard Mellon Scaife
o MacLellan Foundation

The other Abrahamic religions also have creationism.
• Islam – Christian creationist arguments (including ID) are widely parroted by Muslim fundamentalists to attack westernism and secularism.
• Judaism – creationist teaching in orthodox-dominated public schools in Israel.

Combatting ID.
• Ridicule: Flying Sphaghetti Monster
• Teach the controversy: in a social studies class as an example of how public relations are used by special interests to sway public opinions.
• Debate only for the audience: you cannot convince the ID believer. Show the audience the fraud and errors, ignore the attacks on evolution.
• Do not debate without extensive preparation. They’ve prepared far more than you have. Read successful debate strategies at
• Beware of their framing: ignore their frames and impose those of science.
o “Evolution is a theory in crisis.” No, creationists are desperate.
o “Teach the controversy.” There is only religious controversy about this.

• Wikipedia has surprisingly good articles and references to both sides.
• University of Ediacara, ( FAQs)
• Skeptic’s Dictionary,
• Why Intelligent Design Fails: A Scientific Critique of the New Creationism by Matt Young (Editor), Taner Edis (Editor)


Bronze Dog said...

Looks like you've covered everything pretty well. A few more points that might be worth adding:

1. It's impossible to prove if something is irreducibly complex, since there could always be a simpler system we just can't think up. That's another layer of argument from personal incredulity/lack of imagination.

2. Some explanation of why "supernatural" things aren't scientifically viable.

3. You might mention that "Of Pandas and People" featured "Creationism" in its text, and was simply changed to "Intelligent Design" with a blind find/replace.

You might want to skim around and link to Talkorigin's Index of Creationist Claims as well as some of MarkCC's stuff. (Got a link to his articles in each word of that clause)

One-Eyed Pirate said...

Yes, indeed, you certainly did "slap this together." You guys are running scared. You know you don't have the goods to go head-to-head EVO vs ID on the merits of the case, so you opt for the cop-out of decrying ID as "religiously inspired," and therefore, by your own convenient definition, "not scientific." You can destroy all the straw men you want to among yourselves, and, maybe after a few beers, feel pretty good, but deep down you know that materialistic Darwininism is in very serious trouble, and the reason it's in trouble is the findings of scientific investigation. Why don't you start acting like "real men" (as my daughter would pun), acknowledge the difficulties besetting your theory, and rise to the challenge?

Bronze Dog said...

Note how this guy not in any way like the much better known Skeptico doesn't address any merits of ID at all.

ID has no merits: It's just an argument from lack of imagination. I've never seen a version of ID that was anything else. "We don't know and can't think of anything, therefore we do know."

It doesn't matter if was religiously inspired or not, but it does demonstrate one more layer of deception employed by its members.

Of course, Evolution is in no trouble at all on the science front. Just the political one.

Why don't you start acting like "real men" (as my daughter would pun), acknowledge the difficulties besetting your theory, and rise to the challenge?

Why don't you try telling us one that hasn't been refuted a thousand times, instead of simply implying, implying, implying?

Bronze Dog said...

Of course, Evolution does have some real difficulties, but they aren't insurmountable or damning by any stretch of the imagination. Nothing's perfect, but it's a heck of a lot better than ID, which "addresses" those problems by effectively saying "A wizard did it!"

Now watch as someone doesn't read the link and claims that incomplete = false and hopeless.

That's pretty much what the IC and fossil gap "arguments" against evolution are.

If anyone would like to present a better ID argument than any I've read in my entire life, feel free.

Skeptico said...

To the imposter posting as “Skeptico”

Yes, indeed, you certainly did slap that excuse for a comment together. You are running scared. You know you don't have the goods to go head-to-head with evolution on the merits of the case, so you opt for the lame tactic of dishonestly pretending to be me, pretending to have an argument against evolution, and the cop-out of decrying science as only including naturalistic explanations. Of course it does – “supernatural” just means “no way of testing it”.

You can destroy all the straw men you want to among yourselves, and, maybe after a few beers, feel pretty good, but deep down you know that intelligent design is in very serious trouble (otherwise you wouldn’t have to sink to these dishonest tactics). The reason it's in trouble is it makes no predictions, and is at odds with the evidence. Why don't you start acting like "real men" (as your daughter would apparently pun), acknowledge the difficulties besetting your “theory” (which it isn’t), and rise to the challenge you dickhead?

- The Real Skeptico