Questionable Motives

February 12, 2010

The End of Intelligent Design?

What’s wrong with inserting Intelligent Design as an alternative explanation to evolution in biology class? Everything, actually.

It is time to take stock: What has the intelligent design movement achieved? As science, nothing. The goal of science is to increase our understanding of the natural world, and there is not a single phenomenon that we understand better today or are likely to understand better in the future through the efforts of ID theorists. If we are to look for ID achievements, then, it must be in the realm of natural theology. And there, I think, the movement must be judged not only a failure, but a debacle.

Very few religious skeptics have been made more open to religious belief because of ID arguments. These arguments not only have failed to persuade, they have done positive harm by convincing many people that the concept of an intelligent designer is bound up with a rejection of mainstream science.
The ID claim is that certain biological phenomena lie outside the ordinary course of nature. Aside from the fact that such a claim is, in practice, impossible to substantiate, it has the effect of pitting natural theology against science by asserting an incompetence of science. To be sure, there are questions that natural science is not competent to address, and too many scientists have lost all sense of the limitations of their disciplines, not to mention their own limitations. But the ID arguments effectively declare natural science incompetent even in what most would regard as its own proper sphere. Nothing could be better calculated to provoke the antagonism of the scientific community. This throwing down of the gauntlet to science explains not a little of the fervor of the scientific backlash against ID.

The question I am raising is whether this quixotic attempt by a small and lightly armed band to overthrow “Darwinism” and bring about a new scientific revolution has accomplished anything good. It has had no effect on scientific thought. Its main consequence has been to strengthen the general perception that science and religion are at war.

And this is from someone sympathetic to the religious views. Dr. Barr’s entire article called An End to Intelligent Design can be read over at First Things.



  1. For an excellent critique of Barr’s essay, check out Jason Rosenhouse’s post over at his Evolutionblog

    Comment by tildeb — February 12, 2010 @ 2:39 pm | Reply

  2. Often scientists are blamed for blinding people with science. Actually, it is the ID people that do this.

    The thing is it is not hard to prove Darwin wrong, in fact it is very easy – everyone who understands evolution knows exactly what evidence would be required to prove Darwin wrong. It is not difficult to identify what is required, the research required while extensive is simple – i.e. you wouldn’t need to be the best scientist to have ever lived to prove Darwin wrong, you would just need to find the evidence that proves him wrong – so far no one has.

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — February 12, 2010 @ 8:51 pm | Reply

    • I’ve seen several of Carroll’s videos and read him with a great deal of interest. Thanks for the link: it’s a terrific interview.

      And, yes, you hit the nail on the head when you explain how evolution can be proved wrong. I’ve asked people who disagree with evolution and insist on special creationism what it might take to prove their own idea wrong. I have yet to hear of an example, which means the creationist idea cannot be dislodged… unless and until the creationist comes to his or her sense and realizes that the belief is 100% assumption and assertion closed to honest intellectual inquiry. A special creation’s mind is a closed mind by their own inability to provide a means to prove themselves wrong.

      Comment by tildeb — February 12, 2010 @ 10:20 pm | Reply

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