Friday, January 07, 2005

Why Intelligent Design Fails

Many authors, scientists, philosophers and religious people have spoken out against the claims made by Intelligent Design proponents. Please enjoy... More to be added soon.


In thirteen chapters contributors Gert Korthof, David Ussery, Alan Gishlick, Ian Musgrave, Niall Shanks, Istvan Karsai, Gary Hurd, Jeffrey Shallit, Wesley Elsberry, Mark Perakh, Victor Stenger and of course Taner Edis and Matt Young show how the foundations of ID are without much scientific support. As experts in their various fields, these scientists take on various aspects of Intelligent Design claims and methodically take them apart.

This book is the lastest in a line of excellent books in which authors have addressed various aspects of the Intelligent Design movement and have shown how Intelligent Design has failed to live up to its scientific claims.

  • Unintelligent Design by Mark Perakh, Prometheus Books (December 1, 2003)
  • God, the Devil, and Darwin: A Critique of Intelligent Design Theory by Niall Shanks
  • Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design by Barbara Carroll Forrest
  • Has Science Found God? The Latest Results in the Search for Purpose in the Universe by Victor J. Stenger
  • Darwin and Design: Does Evolution Have a Purpose? by Michael Ruse


Patrick Frank is the author of “On the Assumption of Design”, Theology and Science, Volume 2, Number 1 / April 2004, pp. 109 - 130.

Abstract: The assumption of design of the universe is examined from a scientific perspective. The claims of William Dembski and of Michael Behe are unscientific because they are a-theoretic. The argument from order or from utility are shown to be indeterminate, circular, to rest on psychological as opposed to factual certainty, or to be insupportable as regards humans but possibly not bacteria, respectively. The argument from the special intelligibility of the universe specifically to human science does not survive comparison with the capacities of other organisms. Finally, the argument from the unlikelihood of physical constants is vitiated by modern cosmogonic theory and recrudesces the God-of-the-gaps.

Ryan Nichols is the author of Scientific content, testability, and the vacuity of Intelligent Design theory, The American Catholic philosophical quarterly , 2003 , vol. 77 , no 4 , pp. 591 - 611,

Abstract: Arguments of the following form are given against theories like psychoanalysis: Psychoanalysis implies X. Psychoanalysis also implies NOT(X). Hence, no observations of X or of NOT(X) can falsify psychoanalysis. Since an important proportion of propositions implied by psychoanalysis are similar to X in this respect, psychoanalysis is not falsifiable. Since psychoanalysis isn’t falsifiable, it is not a science.
In my argument against Intelligent Design Theory I will not contend that it is not falsifiable or that it implies contradictions. I’ll argue that Intelligent Design Theory doesn’t imply anything at all, i.e. it has no content. By ‘content’ I refer to a body of determinate principles and propositions entailed by those principles. By ‘principle’ I refer to a proposition of central importance to the theory at issue. By ‘determinate principle’ I refer to a proposition of central importance to the theory at issue in which the extensions of its terms are clearly defined.
I’ll evaluate the work of William Dembski because he specifies his methodology in detail, thinks Intelligent Design Theory is contentful and thinks Intelligent Design Theory (hereafter ‘IDT’) grounds an empirical research program. Later in the paper I assess a recent trend in which IDT is allegedly found a better home as a metascientific hypothesis, which serves as a paradigm that catalyzes research. I’ll conclude that, whether IDT is construed as a scientific or metascientific hypothesis, IDT lacks content.


Recent work in Intelligent Design Theory (IDT) reopens a number of questions concerning God's providence over nature. Friends of IDT claim that their "explanatory filter" allows us to detect design empirically and that this provides a way to make appeal to supernatural design in properly scientific explanations while at the same time undercutting methodological naturalism. I argue here that the explanatory filter is fatally flawed, and that detection of detection of design would not undercut methodological naturalism in any case. Friends of IDT fail to see this because they adopt a Newtonian conception of natural providence, while failing even to consider a preferable Leibnizian conception.

Or listen to Del Ratzch's wise words.

So typically, patterns that are likely candidates for design are first identified as such by some unspecified (“mysterious”) means, then with the pattern in hand S picks out side information identified (by unspecified means) as releavant to the particular pattern, then sees whether the pattern in question is among the various patterns that could have been constructed from that side information. What this means, of course, is that Dembski’s design inference will not be particularly useful either in initial recognition or identification of design

(Del Ratzsch Nature design and science p. 159)


“I do not wish to play down or denigrate what Dembski has done. There is much of value in the Design Inference. But I think that some aspects of even the limited task Dembski set for himself still remains to be tamed.” “That Dembski is not employing the robust, standard, agency-derived conception of design that most of his supporters and many of his critics have assumed seems clear.

(Del Ratzsch Nature design and science)

or Bill Wimsatt

Unfortunately “popular” presentations of “Intelligent Design” have tended to give the impression that it rested solely on mathematical demonstrations. Anyone who could have succeeded in showing that natural selection is incapable of generating biological structures according to standards from mathematics or logic would have constructed a mathematical proof that would have dwarfed Godel’s famous Undecideability theorem in importance. As one who read Dembski’s original manuscript for his first book, found much to like in it, and had appreciative remarks on the dust jacket of the first printing, I can say categorically that Demski surely has shown no such thing, and i call upon him as a mathematician to deny and clarify the implications of this advertising copy.

(Wimsatt on Yahoo Evolutionary Psychology discussion group)

Now the 'offending' quote...

"It's chilling that suddenly in the midst of a national debate over intelligent design PBS, funded by taxpayer dollars, decides to suppress an educational film that provides a scientific examination of the theory," said Rob Crowther, director of communications for Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. "At a time when many in the public are wondering what intelligent design theory is, here comes PBS deciding what the public will learn about intelligent design and what it won't."


Read more!