Just What is Intelligent Design?

May 2, 2008 | By | 4 Replies More

I’ve been following the reviews of the Ben Stein “Expelled” movie since it was first shown. Many of them properly criticize it for its many inherent cinematic flaws. Others angrily take it to task for its clear violations of sense or sensibility. There is also ExpelledExposed.com, the not-mentioning of which I get chided for every time I post about this movie.

Then there are some who applaud it for “speaking the truth” and “opening conversations”. On my second post about this movie, I asked people to send me links to any non-negative review coming from sources outside of the Discovery Institute (Answers in Genesis, EvolutionNews.org, etc). I suspect that there is now an effort afoot to produce as many positive reviews as there are negative ones, in order to keep things “fair and balanced” online.

After the initial spate of bad reviews by reputable critics, various Christian columnists have been lauding it for exposing the religious suppression of the “Scientific Theory of Intelligent Design” and especially the efforts of reviewers (and scientists, and “W” appointed conservative judges) to associate this “scientific theory” with the openly religious (and mostly equivalent) ideas of Creationism. Bad intellectuals, bad experts.

But, what is this Scientific Theory? Well, an idea has to have 3 elements to qualify as a scientific theory :

  1. Explain all currently and previously observed facts in the category of interest in terms of natural laws.
  2. Describe what facts, if discovered, would prove it false.
  3. Make predictions about future (as yet undiscovered) measurements or discoveries, and suggest how these might be found.

As near as I can tell the Scientific Theory of Intelligent Design misses on all three counts. I have visited its cradle at the Discovery Institute website, and nowhere is the theory itself concisely stated. They wave many words at the idea that complexity (as they define it) requires design (as they define it). They point out that evolution doesn’t explain things that are outside of its scope (like “who created life”), and therefore it is a failed theory.

They offer a theory of “Irreducible Complexity” and give examples of biological features that have not yet been proven to have evolved. But almost as fast as they discover and publicize something not yet explained, researchers find simple mechanisms to explain them.

Prove me wrong. If anyone has ever published a version of Intelligent Design that qualifies as a Scientific Theory, please point it out.


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Category: American Culture, Censorship, Current Events, Evolution, Films, Good and Evil, History, ignorance, Religion, Science, snake oil

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A convoluted mind behind a curly face. A regular traveler, a science buff, and first generation American. Graying of hair, yet still verdant of mind. Lives in South St. Louis City. See his personal website for (too much) more.

Comments (4)

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  1. Ben says:

    Here is a video from the NCSE about how the eye evolved.

    I found it at a great website:


    You really should try it, Dan.


  2. Erich Vieth says:

    The researchers polled a random sample of nearly 2000 high-school science teachers across the US in 2007. Of the 939 who responded, 2% said they did not cover evolution at all, with the majority spending between 3 and 10 classroom hours on the subject.

    However, a quarter of the teachers also reported spending at least some time teaching about creationism or intelligent design. Of these, 48% – about 12.5% of the total survey – said they taught it as a "valid, scientific alternative to Darwinian explanations for the origin of species".


  3. Erich Vieth says:

    "I'm not one of those religious nut cases who denies that evolution is real. Of course evolution is real, just not during the 'Triassic period.'

    For a half-dozen million years, life advanced from prokaryotes to primitive fish to mammal-like reptiles via natural selection, and we're supposed to believe that that just continued happening? I don't think so. Isn't it much more likely that a formless, invisible deity intervened, temporarily stopped the course of evolution, and shaped each and every trilobite over a period of six days? Of course it is, at least to any objective observer.

    So, if you follow my reasoning to its logical end, the only sound conclusion is that, at some point, God paused evolution and stepped in, made a few modifications, and boom! Pterosaurs.


  4. Erich Vieth says:

    Check out this comment at Karl Zimmer's site:

    One of my favorite creationist arguments-If you found a pocketwatch on the ground and studied its mechanisms, would you think it came to be by chance, or that it had a creator?

    well, if there was vestigial evidence that its ancestors had been sundials, and that its offspring displayed mutations that showed they were evolving to tell time more accurately, yeah I would think it came to be by chance…

    That response is just silly enough to catch a young-earther off guard.


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