Intelligent design – a war on science

Intelligent design (ID) and its defeat in the 2005 Dover trial, in Pennsylvania USA, are old news. It’s sad that we in New Zealand had to wait until Sunday evening to see the BBC documentary “A War on Science” which covered the Dover trial and its background. If you missed the programme it is available online. Meanwhile a new film , Judgment Day, a reconstruction of the Dover trial, screened in the US last week. It is now also available online.

ID and miracles


Although ID claims to be a new movement it is actually an old idea. William Paley presented his argument by design in 1802, over 50 years before publication of Darwin’s “Origin of Species”. Despite this there is no credible body of science supporting ID. This is because it, in essence, relies on miracles – explaining a gap in knowledge by declaring “God did it!” rather than researching the problems. The latter is the scientific approach and it has produced a huge body of science supporting evolutionary theory.

Appeal to supernatural explanations is a “science stopper.” In Isaac Newton and intelligent design I describe how Newton made this mistake when he couldn’t explain the organisation of planets in the solar system. This mistake prevented him from solving a problem he was perfectly capable of handling.

ID controversy is not a problem in science

The “War on Science” documentary showed that there is no real controversy within science about evolution. This battle is actually occurring in the non-scientific world – the courtrooms, school boards, politics and the battle for the hearts of minds of the non-scientific population. Robert T. Pennock, professor of history and philosophy of science at Michigan State University, USA, pointed out that “at its base [the creation/evolution debate] is about religion and it is about philosophy.”

Intelligent design/creationism may indeed be carrying out a war on science, but it is not a controversy within science. If anything it is a conflict within religion.

See Also:
The Collapse of Intelligent Design Ken Miller (one of the expert witnesses for the defense in the Dover trial) demolishes specific scientific claims made by ID.
Judgment Day NOVA documentary
A War on Science BBC documentary
Critical Analysis of Intelligent Design
Evolution, Education and the Law
National Center for Science education
Pandas Thumb
Talk reason
Center for the Understanding of Origins Video Library
Video: Intelligent Design and Creationism/Evolution Controversy – Eugenie C. Scott

Related Articles:
Should we teach creationism?
Intelligent design/creationism I: What is scientific knowledge?
Intelligent design/creationism II: Is it scientific?
Intelligent design/creationism III: The religious agenda
Intelligent design/creationism IV: The religion – science conflict
Intelligent design/creationism: Postscript
Evolution’s threat to religion?
Isaac Newton and intelligent design
Intelligent design attacks on Christianity

4 responses to “Intelligent design – a war on science

  1. I’ve watched both and recommend Nova’s “Judgement Day” over the BBC one. It goes into a lot more depth and you get a better feel for just how disingenuous the ID crowd were being. It was a bit off-putting having to watch actors stand in for the likes of Ken Miller but presented a fuller view of the trial.


  2. Is it not “The Theory of Evolution? I happen to believe in the “Theory” that we were created by aliens using DNA and genetic engineering. In that sense, I have no quarrel with “intelligent design”. cheers.


  3. *sigh*

    Lapu Lapu, I’m not sure whether you are taking the piss or not but just in case you are serious:

    Intelligent Design by aliens is a possibility but if you want to be scientific about it you need to do a little more than state that you believe in it. You will need to explain the relationship between our DNA and every other living organism and how these aliens engineered it. Or did the aliens use evolution to do it? In that case what’s compelling about alien involvement.

    This is the same with positing a god as the designer. You can’t just say you believe it’s true and expect that to stand as science. Describe how it works, show how we can test the theory, see if it stands up to criticism.

    Also, you seem to be falling into the silly fundamentalist trap of “It’s only a theory”. A “theory” in science is not the same as a “theory” in everyday use. It’s a collection of facts and observations that has stood up to enormous testing over a long period of time. We have the Theory of Gravity, the Germ Theory of Disease and others. They are not hunches.

    I refer you to if you want to find out all about the Theory of Evolution and from there you will be able to go out and test the claims yourself if you like. If you find evidence against the theory you will earn a place in history.


  4. Lapu Lapu it’s interesting that you use the word belief – this seems to be a common word used about religious dogma rather than scientific theory. Evolutionary theory is something one “accepts” rather than “believes.” It’s just a matter of accepting a theory as the best way of explaining the current evidence. When the explanations break down one then looks for a better theory. It’s not a matter of having an emotional commitment (belief?) to a theory.

    Having said that I would be interested to see the evidence that has lead you to a theory of alien involvement in “our creation” (what about other living creatures), what specific hypotheses have been advanced and what steps are being taken to test these. I’m genuinely interested but do like to see evidence and results of evaluations.


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