The enduring futility of Intelligent Design creationism

It’s almost sad how pathetic the Discovery Institute has become. Every year they have a little roundup of their “accomplishments” of the year. This year, they got some guy named Brian Miller (sorry, I’ve lost track of the shifting roster of employees at the Fail Institute) to write up the grand summary. Let’s see if you notice what’s missing from this account.

So let’s review. In 2022, I participated in several conferences and private events in which I interacted with prominent scientists. Several acknowledged the strength of our arguments critiquing the current scientific orthodoxy and defending the evidence for design in life. At a recent conference, I spoke with one of the most recognized and admired evolutionary biologists. In a private conversation, he accepted that the arguments for design based on engineering analyses of living systems were substantive. And during a public lecture, he even tacitly conceded that the information central to life points to design. He stated that he wished to wait for future research to potentially explain the origin of biological information through natural processes. But his tone of voice suggested that he doubted whether such an explanation would ever materialize.

At another meeting, I sat on a panel with one of the leading evolutionary theorists. He stated that standard evolutionary analyses addressing nontrivial transformations typically are severely deficient in their mathematical cogency. He also thanked scholars in the ID network for addressing with rigor and nuance such questions as the rarity of functional protein sequences and the required timescales for generating coordinated mutations. At another conference, top-level biologists affirmed the strength of my arguments for the challenge of evolving new proteins that perform complex tasks. Many still wished to wait for natural explanations for the origin of novel protein structures, but they now much better appreciate the severity of the challenge.

I think he deserves a participation trophy! That’s all he did. He interacted with prominent scientists at conferences — all unnamed. He spoke to one of the most recognized and admired evolutionary biologists who tacitly conceded some ID talking points. They aren’t named, so we can’t assess the relevance of their discipline or their prominence. Then he was on a panel with a leading evolutionary theorist, again unnamed. Then he went to another conference with “TOP MEN” who affirmed ID … their names are a mystery.

Is it name-dropping if you fail to actually name any of them?

In addition to that hopelessly vague summary, they have an annual countdown of the top ten ID news stories. Shall I go through them all? No. Too boring. Too trivial. For instance, #6 is Megalodon, written by the most tediously pedantic nitwit in their stable, Günter Bechly. After a couple of paragraphs about the majestic size of Meg and it’s tremendous teeth, and noting that they are definitely entirely completely extinct, we get the dramatic exciting reason their contribution to intelligent design is being acknowledged here.

Sharks possess many remarkable biological features, of which some clearly point to intelligent design, such as their complex olfactory and electromagnetic sense organs. The latter are situated on and around their snouts and are called ampullae of Lorenzini (Bellono et al. 2017, Weiler 2017). The discovery of this electromagnetic sense by Adrianus Kalmjin is a fascinating story (Shiffman 2022). A recent study revealed further secrets, such as the fact that sharks only use these organs to find prey, while the related skates and rays also use them for electric communication (Weiler 2018). For more information on evidence for intelligent design in marine organisms like sharks and whales, I highly recommend the Illustra Media documentary Living Waters (Evolution News 2016).

That’s it! That’s all he’s got! Nothing new at all, some old news that sharks have a sophisticated sensory system, and none of the cited papers so much as mention Megalodon or discuss problems in evolutionary theory. I’m sure David Shiffman would be surprised to learn he’s being cited as a creationist authority.

So, for their great grand end of the year summary of the majestic progress of their agenda, all they have to show are vague assertions that the lurkers support them at conferences and that non-creationists have learned things that they can distort into some imaginary support for design theory. Mediocre.

Remember, they codified their plans back in 1998, in the Wedge document. Here’s what they were supposed to have done by 1993.

Five Year Goals

  • To see intelligent design theory as an accepted alternative in the sciences and scientific research being done from the perspective of design theory.
  • To see the beginning of the influence of design theory in spheres other than natural science.
  • To see major new debates in education, life issues, legal and personal responsibility pushed to the front of the national agenda.

Those all flopped. What about their goals for 2018?

Twenty Year Goals

  • To see intelligent design theory as the dominant perspective in science.
  • To see design theory application in specific fields, including molecular biology, biochemistry, paleontology, physics and cosmology in the natural sciences, psychology, ethics, politics, theology and philosophy in the humanities; to see its influence in the fine arts.
  • To see design theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life.

2023 is time for their twenty five year goals, which they didn’t specify in the original document. Here, I’ll help them out:

Twenty Five Year Goals

  • To have a few anonymous scientists whisper tentative support off the record that they might support us.
  • To appropriate random discoveries by legitimate scientists as, in fact, intelligent design discoveries.
  • To employ an array of no-name wankers to write puff-pieces on our website.

Finally, mission accomplished!


  1. StevoR says

    In the Dubya thr Lesser Bush on that aircraft carrier sense of “misson accomplished..”

    I.e. Massive failure.

  2. brightmoon says

    Blaming God for human ignorance = Intelligent Design. Even most Christians don’t accept this crap as science!

  3. raven says

    Wedge document Wikipedia

    “To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies”

    “To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God”

    This was written in 1998.

    Here it is, 24 years later, and how much of these goals did they accomplish?

    Notably, what the fundie xians and the Discovery Institute did is help destroy US xianity.
    In 1998, 80% of the US were self described xians.
    In 2022, 63% of the US are xians.

    US xianity is declining at 1% a year. Around 2035 it will go below 50%.

  4. Matt G says

    Hey, at least there are no bible references, nor private conversations with prominent televangelists.

  5. Akira MacKenzie says

    To see design theory application in specific fields… psychology, ethics, politics, theology and philosophy in the humanities…

    Yes, humans think and behave according to the will of the God… I mean, the Designer who is NOT AT ALL a religious being. There is no justifiable reason to question humanity’s condition or suggest that it could be approved upon for to do so would question the existence and eternal wisdom of The Designer. Capitalism, white supremacy, male chauvinism, are all part of The Designer’s divine…I mean, perfect plan and anyone who says otherwise is a total of Satan… I mean, The Anti-Desinger.

    …to see its influence in the fine arts.

    The Designer only wants us to paint Renaissance religious scenes and to compose Baroque hymns. All other so-called art are an affront to Jesus… I mean, The Totally Ecumenical and Non-Religious Designer.

  6. StevoR says

    @ brightmoon : More like praising God for human ignorance = Intelligent Design really I think.

    I mean if they didn’t have (wilful) human ignorance they’d be in, well, even more touble than they are in yeah?

    Also “praise” brain-washing & a Christianism soaked, bigoted, anti-intellectual culture for it too. Plus yes.

  7. StevoR says

    @8. Matt G : You sure?

    I mean if you just ask them ’bout that..

    (You get very extremely unreliable witnesses and compulsive liars but still.. )

  8. Bernie says

    Slightly off topic: Remember Bill Dembski’s law of conservation of information? I wonder it Sam Bankman-Fried could use that in his defense: “Your Honor, cryptocurrency consists of a string of zeros and ones, pure information, and since information is conserved I could not have lost all that money.”

  9. Pierce R. Butler says

    … I’ve lost track of the shifting roster of employees at the Fail Institute…

    … the most tediously pedantic nitwit in their stable, Günter Bechly.

    Our esteemed host has at least maintained a comparative index of Discotutes along the axes of tedium, pedantry, and nitwittitude.

    Do they have the right to demand his data tables and lab logs for this complex specified information? Will they do so anyway?

  10. mordred says

    Remember, they codified their plans back in 1998, in the Wedge document. Here’s what they were supposed to have done by 1993.

    I think I see what their problem is: They didn’t get the time machine working!

  11. brightmoon says

    Nat Jeanson. Oh,him. 🙄Leading scientist is not exactly what id call him, more like misleading pseudoscientist when I’m being polite.

  12. dstatton says

    When I read about those anonymous biologists, I assume they’re lying. They have a history, you know.

  13. robro says

    What I notice missing is any mention of open questions, counter evidence, and so forth. Everything they site is proof or support of their idea of Intelligent Design. When I hear scientists talk about their research, they are just as excited about the things that don’t jibe with their expectations as the things that do. These gaps suggest new avenues of research, new questions to explore. “God done it” is an absolute answer and boring. With science there is always something new to discover.

  14. Larry says

    “God done it” is an absolute answer and boring.

    Be that as it may, it makes for very short final exams.

  15. Owlmirror says

    Remember, they codified their plans back in 1998, in the Wedge document. Here’s what they were supposed to have done by 1993.

    Just pointing out the typo…

    Also, I have spoken to several notable theololgians and clerics, including the heads of exceedingly large and prestigious congregations, and many have privately admitted that they think that the probability of an actual personal God existing is very low indeed, and is actually quite doubtful. Yes, yes, I am quite serious, would I kid about such a solemn and important confession?

  16. nomdeplume says

    Biological “Information” is about as well defined as “kinds”. That is, not at all. The sense these people have of biology is about at the level of a three year old. But three year olds grow out of it, these fools are constantly neotonous, or, as Haeckel would say…

  17. says

    Yes, that’s why they have to narrow it down to “complex information” and “complex specified information.” That makes it more exact and more sciencey! Oh wait…

  18. chrislawson says

    @16– they’re not at the stage of lab logs; currently they can’t even define specified complexity except as “too complex for me to imagine it evolved”, and since they can’t define it precisely they certainly can’t collect any meaningful data about it. (In contrast, both Shannon complexity and Kolmogorov complexity are extremely clearly defined and have been demonstrably useful in information and computation science.) The undefinability of specified complexity is a feature, not a bug.

  19. nomdeplume says

    @29 Well, he would say they were recapitulating the primitive and mythological ideas about the universe that were held thousands of years ago before any kind of scientific understanding of the world around us began to develop.

  20. Kevin Karplus says

    I don’t think “to employ an array of no-name wankers to write puff-pieces on our website” will be necessary—ChatGPT can easily replace all their “writers”.