What is Intelligent Design Creationism?

Obvs, he did it.

Obvs, he did it.

Larry Moran discusses some apologetics from Jonathan McLatchie, in which McLatchie briefly argues for intelligent design. I think the fact that it’s in the context of Christian apologetics already gives away the store, but at least he gives a succinct definition of intelligent design:

The study of patterns in nature which bear the hallmarks of an intelligent cause

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An unintelligent Intelligent Design creationism quiz

Larry Moran has been given a quiz to test our comprehension of Intelligent Design creationism. Unfortunately, it was composed by someone who doesn’t understand ID creationism but merely wants everyone to regurgitate their propaganda, so it’s a major mess, and you can also tell that the person writing it was smugly thinking they were laying some real traps to catch us out in our ignorance.

Larry has posted his answers. I’ve put mine below the fold (I sorta subtly disagree with him on #2). If you want to take a stab at it untainted by our answers, here’s the original quiz, untainted by logic or evidence, so you can view them in their pure naked ignorance.

Also, another thing: the person who composed the quiz clearly expected simple yes/no answers, yet wrote questions that demand explanation. Yet again, the idiocy of the IDiots is exposed. I’ve actually troubled to explain my answers.

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Behold! The Legendary Intelligent Design Creationism Research Laboratory!

The Discovery Institute released a video of one of their stars, Ann Gauger, explaining the flaws in “population genetics” (I put it in quotes because it wasn’t a description of the field of population genetics that any competent biologist would recognize). Larry Moran points out the errors.

But then, someone noticed something else: the video was fake. It was Ann Gauger, all right, talking in a “lab”. Again, the quotes are because she was actually talking in front of a green screen, and a stock photo of a lab was spliced in behind her. Oops. It adds comic absurdity on top of the egregious errors in her babbling.

But of course that’s exactly what the DI wants. They can’t answer for the stupidity of her comments, but they can wave their hands and shout, “We do too have a lab! A real lab! And it’s sciencey and everything!” Because, after all, when you’re doing cargo cult science, the props are all important, and the substance doesn’t matter.

So, yeah, the indignant DI released a real photo of their real lab, with Gauger gazing at a petri dish. And here it is:


Errm, are we supposed to be impressed? I could give you an equivalent photo of a few shelves in one of our student labs — it would look similar, just messier. A petri dish, a few orange-top bottles, a small hood in the background—all they needed to make it really sciencey were a few bubbling bottles of colored water. D. James Kennedy did a better job in “Darwin’s Deadly Legacy”.


See? Now that’s a lab!

But seriously, the furniture does not make the lab — the work being done in it does. When you think it matters that you can pose with a petri dish, you really are doing cargo cult science.

David Klinghoffer whines about an imaginary foul


Uh-oh. I’ve disappointed David Klinghoffer. I should probably put that on my CV.

You see, the other day he praised a fellow named Tom Gilson for a post in which he provided a succinct summary of Intelligent Design creationism, and I took that summary apart, point by point. You might think, perhaps Klinghoffer finds fault with my analysis? He doesn’t provide any rebuttals. Did I get something wrong in using Gilson’s definition of ID? Nope, he doesn’t say…that would be hard to do anyway, since Klinghoffer praised it as exactly accurate!, exclamation point and all. Even in his title he declares that Tom Gilson Nails It.

So what’s his complaint? That I corrected the wrong person.

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Correcting errors is now anti-religious bigotry?

That paper that cited the Creator for designing the hand has been retracted. The authors say it was a translation error — that they assumed that “Creator” was synonymous with “nature” in English, and apparently, they weren’t aware of the potential for willful misinterpretation of the word “design” in the creationist community. I can sort of accept that, except, of course, that they managed to write an entire complex technical paper on the physiology and anatomy of the hand in fluent English. I wouldn’t have expected a retraction, though, but only a revision of an unfortunate mistake.

Except now it has become a different story: Science Journal Publishes Creationist Paper, Science Community Flips Out. Wait, who’s flipping out? It wasn’t a creationist paper, but an ordinary technical paper that leapt to an inappropriate conclusion. I think it was entirely reasonable for scientists to be irritated by some sloppy editing that would be abused by creationist propagandists. But no — this is now the tale of deranged atheist scientists getting unwarrantedly upset about a casual mention of a god in a science paper.

Even more amusingly, I am now the villain.

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Intelligent Design creationists unable to grapple with the substance. Surprise!

Uncommon Descent linked to my criticisms of the Biology of the Baroque, Intelligent Design creationism’s latest misconception, that biologists believe every detail of every organism is the product of natural selection…but they didn’t bother to quote any of my criticisms. It’s weird. They could have quoted the gist of my complaint:

So evolution should produce only the biological equivalent of sterile gray Soviet architecture, and if you find something that is the equivalent of a Baroque church, then evolution is refuted. This entire argument is built around what Michael Denton calls the fundamental assumption of Darwinism…that all novelties are adaptive. To which biologists around the world can only say, “Fu…wha?” in total confusion. That is not one of our assumptions at all. Novelties are going to arise as a product of chance mutation; if they are not maladaptive (and sometimes even if they are), they can spread through a population by chance-driven processes like drift. And some elaborate fripperies can acquire a selective advantage, like that example of Soviet architecture, the peacock’s tail, which this video actually uses as an example of non-adaptive order.

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The structuralist heresy

Larry Moran has heard the words of Michael Denton, and has come away with a creationist interpretation of structuralism. I have to explain to Larry that Denton, as you might expect of a creationist, is distorting the whole idea. Here’s the Denton/Intelligent Design creationism version of structuralist theory.

As Denton says, the basic idea is that the form (structure) of modern organisms is a property of the laws of physics and chemistry and not something that evolution discovered. He would argue that if you replay the tape of life you will always get species that look pretty much like the species we see today because the basic forms (Baupläne) are the inevitable consequences of the underlying physics.

Say what? Look, I’m a developmental biologist; I was baptized in the Stygian stream of structuralism by D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson, I reacted and diffused with Alan Turing, I danced disco by the light of the Belousov–Zhabotinsky reaction, and no, that is not the structuralism I have studied. There is a grain of truth to it, in that structuralism does imply that there are physical/chemical constraints on form, but only the extremists would suggest that that means life on Mars would evolve to look like life on earth. That overlooks the fact that structuralists are thoroughly familiar with the diversity of life on this one planet, and since those physical laws can generate both mushrooms and monkeys, it’s clear that there is some room for exploration of form.

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With a final pretentious squeak, the attack mouse sinks into the sunset


Aww, what sad news. Casey Luskin is leaving the Discovery Institute. Hilariously, he declares victory as he fades away, and cites two instances that he claims have finally validated intelligent design creationism.

The first is that the ENCODE proved that the genome is nearly entirely functional, exactly as ID predicted and against the expectations of those Darwinists. Unfortunately for him, that is not the case, and the ENCODE propagandists relied entirely on a peculiar and narrow definition of function that did not match any kind of function the creationists might have imagined.

The second is — hang on to your hats — epigenetics. Didn’t I just post something about epigenetics? Why, yes I did. I also posted something somewhat lengthy about it. It seems to be a common misconception among creationists.

Interestingly, these were also two of the obsessions of another creationist, Perry Marshall. He didn’t understand those concepts, either.

I think it’s quite appropriate that Luskin should vanish in a puff of misconceptions and ignorance. It’s been his stock in trade all along, after all.


The Discovery Institute is working hard to prove that the Intelligent Design creationism movement isn’t dead. So, they have a post listing all their great accomplishments since the Dover decision. There have been lawsuits and movies!

The cause of academic freedom has also seen significant victories. In one case, as we reported here, “[T]he University of Kentucky paid $125,000 to settle a lawsuit by astronomer Martin Gaskell who was wrongfully denied employment because he was perceived to be skeptical towards Darwinian evolution.” Two other Darwin skeptics received settlements for discrimination. Applied Mathematics Letters retracted mathematician Granville Sewell’s article critical of neo-Darwinism; a lawsuit followed, leading to a public apology and $10,000 payment to Sewell. After the California Science Center (CSC) cancelled the showing of an intelligent design film, Darwin’s Dilemma, the American Freedom Alliance sued. The CSC paid $110,000 to avoid going to trial over the evidence that they discriminated. And the film Expelled drew over 1.1 million viewers to movie theaters to learn about discrimination against scientific dissenters from Darwinism.

They have lawyers! And people pay money to settle their nuisance suits! What a triumph for Intelligent Design science creationism.

They also have people writing books, and can scrape up a few people to give them positive reviews.

Public outreach on intelligent design is also doing very well post-Dover. In 2009, Stephen Meyer published Signature in the Cell, which received praise from famed atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel, who named it “Book of the Year” in the respected Times Literary Supplement of London.

In 2013, Meyer published Darwin’s Doubt which made the New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestseller lists. That book was endorsed by scientists including Harvard geneticist George Church and Mount Holyoke College paleontologist Mark McMenamin. UC Berkeley paleontologist Charles Marshall gave Darwin’s Doubt a serious review in the top journal Science and participated in a radio debate with Meyer.

I’ve read both of Meyer’s books; they are delusional exercises by a long-winded narcissist. It’s lovely for them that Thomas Nagel liked it, but then Nagel’s gone full loopy creationist. McMenamin is a crank. They keep touting the fact that it was reviewed in Science, but they never tell you what the review said. Hint: it’s not a positive review.

Finally and most importantly, science supporting ID continues to move forward. Several areas of research have seen groundbreaking progress, including work by the Evolutionary Informatics Lab (using computer models to test Darwinian evolution) and Biologic Institute (exploring evidence for ID in biology). To date, there are more than eighty peer-reviewed articles supportive of intelligent design, with over fifty of them published post-Dover.

Virtually none of this “work” is getting published in serious science journals; it’s all going into cheesy dumpsters of bad science like the Journal of Cosmology, or their own house organ, Bio-Complexity. Eighty articles is nothing, especially when you are claiming to be founding a whole new discipline and approach to analysis. Eighty articles, when you’ve got a whole propaganda mill dedicated to pushing your ideas, is an abysmal failure.

Also, when you look closely at their list of ID creationism science articles, they are exposed as puff pieces, empty musings, and noise published by hacks.

But the Discovery Institute always looks on the bright side.

Given how quickly ID scholarship is moving forward in so many areas — science, public policy, and culture — we can only anticipate how much stronger ID will be twenty years after Dover.

Have you ever read The Wedge Document? In the late 1990s, the Discovery Institute proposed to get 100 academic articles published in the scientific literature. Now, a decade and a half later, they are bragging about 80…and most of them are transparently garbage.

Nope, sorry guys, “Intelligent Design” is a spent force. The only reason it’s still coasting along is because the evangelical/fundamentalist creationists still like to use it as a pseudo-secular cover when proposing their laws, to get around that pesky separation of church and state thing. But even there, the real blow that the Dover trial dealt to them was in exposing that ID creationism was terrible at providing that excuse. Barbara Forrest smacked ’em hard.

Creationism is still around and still causing trouble, but the success story there is old school young earth creationism, and that’s not a good thing for anyone. Still, it must hurt the fellows at the Discovery Institute when they look at Answers in Genesis and see that all their sneaky dissembling was for nothing.