Reclaiming ‘intelligent design’

Intelligence Design by Lisa Boulanger (fac), Dept. of Molecular Biology and Princeton Neuroscience Institute


This is a pyramidal neuron from the hippocampus, a part of the brain where some kinds of memories are formed. This neuron has been labeled with fluorescent antibodies so that we can visualize microtubules (shown in green), which form a structural network inside the neuron, and insulin receptors (shown in red), which are cell surface proteins that instruct neurons to make connections with other neurons. These connections, called synapses, become stronger or weaker as memories are constructed.

This is one of the photos from The Art of Science contest at Princeton University. The contest includes some of the the most beautiful and coolest of the images produced at the university in the course of scientific research.

An annual event, the organisers chose this year the theme of “intelligent design.” Intentionally, to be provocative. The organisers are hoping to push scientists to reclaim the term from those who attack evolutionary science. To remind one another of its other possible connotations: the intelligently designed product of a thoughtful engineer, or the clever new simulation from a creative computer scientist.

The image above attracted me – but it was not one of the prize winners. There is a gallery of over 50 great images entered into the contest at the Art of Science website.

Thanks to: CultureLab: Reclaiming ‘intelligent design’ with stunning photos.

7 responses to “Reclaiming ‘intelligent design’

  1. Unfortunately for “Intelligent Design” proponents, their only argument which has an evidential basis rather than the hearsay of mythologies, that of the “fine tuning” and directionality of the overall life process. which is increasingly apparent in such fields as geology, biology and chemistry, just does not hold water. Simply because, as is readily observed on close examination of history there really are no “designers” at all, even at the human level.
    Their inference that these persistent and pervasive patterns imply “design” contains a fatal flaw which results from the naturally anthropocentric world-view that we inherit both genetically and from our culture. Namely the concept of “designers”. We intuitively assume that individuals of our race “design” things. But only in a very trivial everyday sense is this seemingly obvious notion valid.

    It can be argued, with strong evidential support, that we do not, invent or create artifacts of systems but that , rather, these are more properly viewed as having evolved within the collective imagination of our species.

    To quickly put this counter-intuitive view into focus, would you not agree that the following statement has a sound basis?

    We would have geometry without Euclid, calculus without Newton or Liebnitz, the camera without Johann Zahn, the cathode ray tube without JJ Thomson, relativity (and quantum mechanics) without Einstein, the digital computer without Turin, the Internet without Vinton Cerf.

    The list can. of course be extended indefinitely.

    It may be seen that fine tuning (an effect which extends well beyond the values of the physical constants) does not require the assumption of any kind of “designer”, merely the full appreciation of the observable fact that selection is a function of dynamically changing prevailing conditions which are themselves subject to evolutionary processes such that they are sufficiently often “just right”. This seemingly an intrinsic property of nature’s machinery.

    This very broad evolutionary model (extending beyond biology) is expanded upon (very informally) in “The Goldilocks Effect: What Has Serendipity Ever Done For Us?” which is a free download in e-book formats from the “Unusual Perspectives” website.


  2. To say that nature designed itself by accident and no intelligence went into the creation of universe is highly illogical. Saying something as complex as DNA with it’s own very specific coding and programming was able to create itself without any intelligence and accidentally formed is highly improbable. That’s like saying a laptop computer with programs already installed just created itself out of nowhere by accident. I mean a computer is way less complex than DNA. So there should have been and still should be a whole bunch of random creatures accidentally forming.


  3. But you see “God & History”, nobody claims that the DNA we observe today formed just by accident.

    It evolved by the process of natural selection, which is far from accidental.

    It is only mutations which are considered to be accidental.

    Natural selection filters the results of mutations.

    Furthermore, you are quite wrong in assuming that laptop computers haven’t evolved in a rather similar way.

    As pointed out in in my previous post, they have! As have the programs that run on them.

    There are not a whole bunch of creatures randomly forming because that is not how nature works. Creatures do not accidentally form.

    They evolve over long very long periods of time by the strongly evidenced and quite well understood process of natural selection.


  4. Such hypocrisy! Attempting to deflate the notion of Intelligent Design by hosting an image design event called “Intelligent Design”.

    Take no pride in your awards, you miserable contestants! The outcome was no more intelligent than a random number generator. Even your celebration is an accident.

    Here’s a hint for all you self-referential nay-sayers: The ID crowd is having all the fun. Time is on our side. Our only obstacle is censorship from scared-witless opponents like you.


  5. Our only obstacle is censorship from scared-witless opponents like you.

    It’s a konspiracy!1!!!!!

    Claim CA325:
    Creationists cannot get their views accepted by mainstream science because they are prevented from publishing in mainstream scientific journals.
    Source: Morris, Henry M. 1998. Bigotry in science. Back To Genesis 114a (June).

    1. The priorities of creationism are politics and religious evangelism. Science is not very important to creationists in the first place. The main reason that they do not get published in reputable science journals is that they do not try to publish there. In a survey of editors of sixty-eight journals, only eighteen out of an estimated 135,000 submissions were found that could be described as advocating creationism (Scott and Cole 1985).

    In the McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education creationism trial, the creationists complained to the judge that the scientific journals refused to consider their articles, but they were unable to produce any articles that had been refused publication.

    2. Creationists are free to publish in other venues, such as books and their own journals. These venues are as reputable as their authors and editors. Note that Darwin’s major works were published in books.

    3. Creationists do get published in reputable peer-reviewed science journals when they do real science. In addition, many creationists have published science articles not related to creationism.

    4. Scientists themselves are prevented from publishing in peer-reviewed journals when their science is not up to par. The peer-review process prevents lots of substandard work from being published, even from noncreationists such as myself. (The process, of course, is imperfect and produces a substantial borderline area, so some fairly good articles get rejected and some fairly poor ones get accepted. On the whole, however, it keeps quality up.) Creationists face no obstacles that mainstream scientists do not face themselves.

    5. Creationists prevent others from publishing critical views in creationist journals. Glenn Morton, for example, has had papers rejected by the Creation Research Society Quarterly for violating their view that the Flood must be global and for criticizing Carl Froede’s poor geology (Morton 1998).


  6. I am honored to be worthy of a reply.

    I have read your points, and not one of them mentions ID or Intelligent Design. I am speaking about ID. I have been fed Evolutionary literature since my youth. I have a healthy respect for theory. But I really don’t think you desire to understand us.

    Few things are more intellectually painful than to be misunderstood, or mischaracterized. Everyone has an aim. Call it an agenda, if you want. Here’s one for you: It seems out of balance to me that atheists can be motivated, and draw strength from Evolutionary theory, but if an ID proponent does the same from his world view, you hate it.

    Is it fair to say that all atheists are evolutionists, but not all evolutionists are atheists? If so, all creationists are ID proponents, but not all ID enthusiasts are creationists … not at all!

    Item 5, above, is a nuisance, and I can’t wait to complain and talk it up in my circles. Good catch.

    You really do sound scared.


  7. I have read your points…

    They are not my points. I just cut-and-pasted them from the website. The Talk.Origins Archive is a collection of articles and essays that explore the creationism/evolution controversy from a mainstream scientific perspective.

    It seems out of balance to me that atheists can be motivated, and draw strength from Evolutionary theory

    Claim CA602: Evolution is atheistic.
    Source: Morris, Henry M. 1985. Scientific Creationism. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, p. 215.

    I am speaking about ID.

    ID creationism. Yes, we know. Dressing it up in a cheap tuxedo does not help if you are going to recycle creationist talking points from the 80’s.

    You really do sound scared.

    You really do sound like a creationist.


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