Monday, December 05, 2005

Is ID Dying?

Over the weekend The New York Times published this interesting article, by Laurie Goodstein. After breifly summarizing the recent goings-on in Kansas, Pennsylvania, and the Catholic church, Goddstein writes:

Behind the headlines, however, intelligent design as a field of inquiry is failing to gain the traction its supporters had hoped for. It has gained little support among the academics who should have been its natural allies. And if the intelligent design proponents lose the case in Dover, there could be serious consequences for the movement's credibility.

I would go even further. If the decision in Dover goes against ID, I think that will effectively kill ID as a scientific enterprise. With decisions against them in Cobb County, GA and Dover, PA (assuming those decisions don't get overturned on appeal), few school boards will have the stomach to include the subject in their science classes. And with their prospects of getting ID into science classes reduced to effectively zero, there will be no incentive to maintain the fiction that ID is about producing scientific results.

ID will find itself reduced to the same position as creation science in the late eighties. Once it became clear that the courts weren't buying the subterfuge, creation science prety much stagnated. Nowadays you hear very little about it. In the early eighties creation science was sufficiently menacing that high-powered scholars like Niles Eldredge, Phillip Kitcher and Douglas Futuyma though it worthwhile to write books on the subject. Who would bother doing likewise today?

So it will be with ID. If it fails as a strategy for introducing creationism in the public schools, its usefulness will be gone. ID exists solely for the purpose of creating a constitutionally acceptable form of creationism, after all. Of course, people like William Dembski will continue to peddle their gobbledygook to their handful of admirers, just as representatives of ICR and Answers in Genesis do today. But everyone else will just go back to ignoring them.

The article goes on to describe the chilly reception of ID at many Christian colleges.

P.Z. Myers offers some typically insightful comments in reply:

Really. This is the funniest thing I've read in days. When Baylor and Wheaton dismiss you, when Templeton rejects you, when the major evangelical colleges start backing away from you, maybe it's time to realize that your little Wedge strategy isn't working, and the only thing getting split away from the mainstream is your freaky-weird useless ideology.

John Lynch also wieghs in here:

There you have it. A bunch of people - who had previously funded ID - wanted to give money for research and the ID supporters couldn’t even put together a research proposal. Why? Well ID does not have a positive research proposal merely a definition of design that sees it within the “gaps” of evolutionary explanation.

Meanwhile, William Dembski has offered a whiny little reply to the article here:

I know for a fact that Discovery Institute tried to interest the Templeton Foundation in funding fundamental research on ID that would be publishable in places like PNAS and Journal of Molecular Biology (research that got funded without Templeton support and now has been published in these journals), and the Templeton Foundation cut off discussion before a proposal was even on the table. What has disillusioned Templeton about ID is not that it failed to prove its mettle as science but that it didn’t fit with Templeton’s accommodation of religion to the science of the day and Templeton’s incessant need to curry favor with an academic establishment that by and large thinks religion is passé.

Bitter much?

Pro-ID articles in the PNAS and the Journal of Molecular Biology? News to me, and I follow these things pretty closely.

Ed Brayton has a thorough smackdown of Dembski's claims. His conclusion:

Dembski has crossed over a line at this point, I think. I don't think it's any longer possible to maintain that he is merely an ideologue undergoing cognitive dissonance, or that he's just engaging in wishful thinking of the type we are all probably prone to when defending ideas we have a personal stake in. He is now simply lying outright, and he has to know that.

Well said.


At 4:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For those of you who are productive members of society and did not have time to follow the goings-on going on at the Panda Trial:

The ID text, "Of Pandas and People," was originally a creationist text. They did a search and replace for that term after the Supreme Court invalidated the constitutionality of teaching "scientific creationism" in 1987. Really. The definiton of "creation" was simply reassigned to "ID."

The publishers of Pandas are now working on a new, and re-named, text in which "ID" is replaced with "sudden appearance."

Is ID dying, or is SA aborning?

At 10:37 PM, Anonymous Anne said...

"Presenting creationist ideas in science classes as if they have any scientific merit would be a terrible disservice to our students. It is tantamount to telling them lies. For this reason, creationism in all its forms must be opposed." I agree with this statement from your mission statement on your webpage. I am arguing the same thing in my english class, and your site has been very helpful for rebuttals.

At 10:29 AM, Anonymous Dick Lessard said...

I think the key question all pro-science folks should be asking is "what's next?". Even if ID dies (and it is premature to start picking out a coffin), there will always be something else. Like death and taxes, creationists will never give up. My belief is that there will be a much stronger push for "school choice" programs, i.e charter schools, vouchers, and home schooling. If creationists can't change public education in the U.S., they may well try to make it irrelevant (or at least diminished in significance).

At 10:51 AM, Blogger Mark said...

So did everything come from nothing?

There is an interesting article here:

That discusses this issue.
I would be interested in reading what you think of his explanation/theory.


At 11:08 AM, Anonymous ybj said...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Intelligent Design v. Darwin's Theory

This entire debate could be tempered if we will just change the officially recognized title of Darwin's theory to Darwin's law. Fundamentalists are by nature law-abiding citizens, so this nominal change in title will provide the necessary link to guide the confused back to reality. School boards everywhere can return to the heady days of sex-education debate, and the sins of prayer before Friday night's game.

We must first provide an example or two of accepted laws. There is the Law of Gravity, for example. That's meat & potatoes for you. Black and white. No gray matter, or area. It's the theories that get us in trouble. How about the Theory of Relativity? Why don't we encourage the Reverends Dobson & Falwell to take on that one? They will argue, no doubt, that they are to relative, by god! No, we better stick to laws.

There is the Law of Averages. But that's too nebulous. How about the Law of Diminishing Returns? (See aforementioned Reverends). Speaking of laws: Didn't we decide all this at the Scopes trial early last century? Or at least in Epperson v. Arkansas in 1968? In The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy's index, after Dark Ages comes dark horse, Darrow(Clarence), Darwin (Charles), then Das Kapital. How's that for Natural Selection?! And what about Ockham's Razor?

At 11:22 AM, Anonymous Kevin from NYC said...

When IDers ATTACK!!

At 12:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is an interesting article in todays' Washington Post.
Of particular note is the quote from a young lady from Gaithersburg High School in Maryland stating that she is convinced that the earth is not older then 6000 years. A typical example of the born-again mentality, my mind is made up, the facts are irrelevent.

At 3:52 PM, Blogger Jason said...


Thank you for the kind words (and for your previous comment in the “Ugh” post). I'm glad you find the blog useful.

dick lessard-

You're right that challenges to evolution will never end. In addition to the items you mentioned, there will also be a lot of emphasis for including “evidence against evolution”. Eventually some school board will come up with something sufficiently watered down that it will both pass constitutional muster, and mostly be irrelevant. But what I was arguing in this post is that ID as a scientific enterprise will be reduced to the same level of irrelevance as scientific creationism.


I gave the article you mentioned a quick skim, and it looked interesting. I like his basic premise. You either have to agree that something came from nothing, or that something has always existed. I don't find either of those options especially appealing, so I mostly avoid the question. I would point out, though, that appealing to God does not help, because then you must explain where God came from. It's an obvious point, but one some of my theistic critics manage to overlook.

At 8:04 AM, Blogger Dr. Gary Chiang said...

Much of what we see about the debate between evolution and creation is essentially religious. Few of the opponents on either side understand what the debate is really about. It is about what we WANT to believe, not what we HAVE to believe.
Is ID dying? NO, it will never die. Although reworked to address a modern world, it is still as compelling an argument as it was when William Paley first used the "Watch on a path" analogy.
But is it science? I say yes, but as long as it challenges naturalistic evolution, the courts of the land will labeled it religious.
I have never had trouble refuting evolution in any of my university biology courses. Why? Because I stick to the scientific understanding of what evoluton really is. Once the religious nature of evolution is known, it is much easier to bring in other "religiously-based" scientific theories such as ID and Creation Science.

At 11:29 AM, Blogger Mark said...

Jason, Thank you for your reply.

Quote: "I like his basic premise. You either have to agree that something came from nothing, or that something has always existed. I don't find either of those options especially appealing, so I mostly avoid the question."

Why avoid the question? Is there no other explanations? Is it possible that the laws that we hold as true, simple do not apply outside this universe?

Mark R.

At 4:27 AM, Blogger Personal Development said...

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