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     Response to ACLU ID FAQ: Part 4

     "Is intelligent design a credible scientific theory?"

by Casey Luskin

FAQ 4: "Is intelligent design a credible scientific theory?"
  • 4a. "No. There has been no original research published in scientific journals providing evidence for intelligent design, nor does intelligent design provide testable explanations."
  • 4b. "The American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Academy of Sciences have both described intelligent design as scientifically unwarranted."

  • Response:
    FAQ 4A. "No. There has been no original research published in scientific journals providing evidence for intelligent design, nor does intelligent design provide testable explanations."

    Regarding original research, this is a complete bluff. In 2002, over 50 leading proponents of intelligent design gathered at Biola University for the RAPID (Research and Progress in Intelligent Design) conference where I attended. I witnessed numerous researchers who presented papers on protein specificity, and using Dembski's explanatory filter, found that many biological systems bear exceedingly high levels of complex and specified information, implying they are the result of design. All of these presenters presented their own lab research which they personally conducted.

    Bona fide research can come from sources outside of the lab or computer simulations. Modern intelligent design theory itself had its groundwork laid in William Dembski's 1998 peer-reviewed The Design Inferenc, published as a part of the Cambridge University Press series in statistics. The book proposes new ideas as to how to discriminate between intelligent causes and non-intelligent causes by using modal logic to eliminate non-intelligent explanations. This is truly original research in the field of statistics, mathematics, and philosophy. It is said to be the bestselling member of the series ever published, although they reportedly declined Dembski the opportunity to publish a sequel in the series.

    At another intelligent design conference at Biola in April, 2004, Michael Behe presented the result of computer simulations from a research project he conducted with physicist David Snokes, which bore heavy implications as to the irreducibly complex nature of some of the simplest protein-protein interactions. Behe and Snokes published their work in Protein Science in August, 2004. This may come as horn-tooting, but when the ACLU says something as blatantly false as implying that the intelligent design community has produced "no original research published in scientific journals providing evidence for intelligent design," then a little horn-tooting is allowed.

    Furthermore, much of the research on intelligent design involves interpreting previous findings from the fields of biology, cosmology, physics, geology, and chemistry, and seeing how it fits under an intelligent design hypothesis. The reader should be reminded that when Darwin published Origin of Species back in 1859, Darwin himself had done very little research directly related to evolutionary biology. Rather, he reinterpreted the knowledge of biologists at that time under a different paradigm--the paradigm of evolution. This is exactly what intelligent design proponents do when they look at articles talking about how knockout experiments on the bacterial flagellum imply that if you remove a part, it stops working. That research had already been done. ID proponents are more than able to reinterpret the findings of other biologists under the paradigm of intelligent design. After all, this seemed perfectly acceptible in Darwin's day. The same could be said for Stephen Meyer's paper in Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington (discussed immediately below) which reinterpreted much paleontological evidence in light of the design hypothesis.

    Yet some ID proponents have done original experimental research on important subjects like the flagellum. In September, 2004, Stephen Meyer and Scott Minnich presented a paper at the Second International Conference on Design & Nature, Rhodes Greece entitled "Genetic Analysis of Coordinate Flagellar and Type III Regulatory Circuits in Pathogenic Bacteria." The paper presented their research which indicates that the Type Three Secretory Sytem does not provide a compelling evolutionary intermediate for the origin of the flagellum. They even made predictions based upon their own laboratory research, which turned out to be true. Minnich, who co-authored the study, runs a lab where the flagellum is an object of study at the University of Idaho, Moscow. Minnich is thus a prime microbiologist to present original research on the flagellum, and cited much of his own personal research in the study. So much for the claim that ID proponents do no original research.

    It appears that the claim that ID proponents do no original research is another bluff on the part of the ACLU. It is simply a completely incorrect statement.

    Regarding peer reviewed publication, the ACLU is simply bluffing. Quite simply, there have been peer reviewed publications in mainstream scientific journals, authored by intelligent design proponents, supporting core concepts in intelligent design theory. Here are 2 references: Stephen C. Meyer, “The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories,” Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 117(2) (August, 2004):213-239. (proposing intelligent design as an explanation for the Cambrian explosion)

    Michael J. Behe & David W. Snoke, “Simulating evolution by gene duplication of protein features that require multiple amino acid residues,” Protein Science (13) 2004 (13). (demonstrating that standard evolutionary explanations for the origin of biological (i.e. irreducible) complexity--such as gene duplication and neutral evolution--are unlikely to produce even simple binding sites between interacting proteins unless the probabilistic resources available are unreasonably enormous)
    Despite these publications, it is also the case that ID proponents have tried to publish other papers and found their work rejected not because of the merits, but because of a fear on the part of journal editors to break from the established orthodoxy. There is no doubt that there is bias keeping intelligent design out of journals. (See Peer Review FAQ for a detailed discussion of why intelligent design is not often found published in journals.) Nonetheless, ID has produced many other secular publications dealing solely with science published outside of journals. Just a few examples include:

    Stephen C. Meyer, Evidence for Design in Physics and Biology: From the Origin of the Universe to the Origin of Life, 9 The Proceedings of the Wethersfield Institute (Ignatius Press 2000).

    Michael J. Behe, Answering Scientific Criticisms of Intelligent Design, The Proceedings of the Wethersfield Institute (Ignatius Press 2000)

    Michael J. Behe, Darwin's Black Box (Free Press 1996).

    William A. Dembski, The Design Inference (Cambridge University Press 1998).

    William A. Dembski, No Free Lunch (Rowman & Littlefield, 2002).

    Also, see various essays in Uncommon Dissent: Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing (ISI Books, 2004). (Cornelius G. Hunter: "Why Evolution Fails the Test of Science; Roland F. Hirsch: Darwinian Evolutionary Theory and the Life Sciences in the Twenty-First Century; David Berlinski: The Fossil Record is Incomplete, The Reasoning is Flawed: Is the Theory of Evolution Fit to Survive?).

    Debating Design (Cambridge University Press, 2004). (William A. Dembski: The Logical Underpinnings of Intelligent Design; Walter L. Bradley: Information, Entropy, and the Origin of Life; Michael J. Behe: Irreducible Complexity: Obstacle to Darwinian Evolution; Stephen C. Meyer: The Cambrian Information Explosion).

    Mere Creation (InterVarsity Press, 1998). (Michael J. Behe: Intelligent Design Theory as a Tool for Analyzing Biochemical Systems; Siegfried Scherer: Basic Types of Life; Sigrid Hartwig-Scherer: Apes or Ancestors?; Jeffrey P. Schloss: Evolutionary Accounts of Altruism and the Problem of Goodness and Design; and also various essays regarding design in the cosmos and other aspects of the universe (see pgs. 363-445).

    Finally, see various chapters in Darwin, Design, and Public Education (John Angus Campbell ed., Michigan State University Press 2003).

    It is true that ID certainly does not have a large volume of papers published in mainstream scientific theories, but there are very good explanations for this which have little or nothing to do with a lack of empirical merit on the part of intelligent design theory or a lack of research efforts on the part of intelligent design proponents. The small number of papers that have currently been published (with more coming down the pipeline) is about what one would expect from a fledgling theory which has to swim against an extremely powerful river of orthodoxy. There is no doubt that ID proponents face an uphill battle because of the severe biases against them in the scientific community. So far, in less than a decade since Behe published Darwin's Black Box, a few peer reviewed papers, posters, and number of books is not bad at all. These show that ID proponents are interested in talking about science. In fact, the history of science has shown that many ultimately successful scientific ideas had to be originally proposed outside the journals in books, where they could be published. Examples include Aristotle's Physica, Ptolemy's Almagest, Newton's The Principia, Lavoiser's Elements of Chemistry, Lyell's Principles of Geology, and of course Charles Darwin's Origin of Species. Regardless of whether or not major ID proponents become listed among such intellectual giants in the end, the point here is that even great minds with radical new ideas had to publish their ideas outside of the mainstream journals because orthodoxy would not permit such new ideas to be brought into the mainstream journals. Bias against non-orthodox ideas is strong in science.

    The ACLU's statement is simply wrong because of the clear presence of papers like that of Meyer. Of course the ACLU can always cite to criticisms or controversy surrounding of Meyer's paper (though much of the controversy is based upon invented charges), but their point here is flatly false: there has been original research published in scientific journals published for intelligent design.

    Intelligent design and testability:
    What about the testability aspect? Intelligent design is quite testable because it makes clear predictions. First we must ask, however, if it even matters if a scientific theory is testable or not.

    There is currently no definition of science agreed upon by all philosophers of science. (Lauden, 1988) Nonetheless, many scientists and philosophers have suggested that scientific explanations are: 1. Based upon results obtained through observations and experiments that can be substantiated by other scientists. (NAS, 1998)
    2. Subject to testing because scientists can observe the natural world to see if the explanation holds up. (Ayala, 1974; Popper, Conjectures and Refutations, 1963)
    3. “Falsifiable,” in the sense that some type of observations could conceivably count against the theory. (Ayala, 1974; Popper, Conjectures and Refutations, 1963)
    4. "Tentative," meaning that they are not held absolutely but are held subject to state of the evidence. (NAS, 1998)
    The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) explains that observations (often via experimentation) are fundamental to science: "Anything that can be observed or measured is amenable to scientific investigation. Explanations that cannot be based upon empirical evidence are not a part of science…The statements of science are those that emerge from the application of human intelligence to data obtained from observation and experiment." (NAS, Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science, pg. 42) According to the NAS, "[s]cience is a particular way of knowing about the world." (Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences [herein "S & C"], pg. 1). Additionally, the National Academy of sciences states that a primary goal of science is to understand nature, where "understanding" means "relating one natural phenomena to another and recognizing the causes and effects of phenomena." (NAS, 1998) Progress in science consists of the development of better explanations for the causes of natural phenomena. Intelligent design is one such cause for natural phenomena, and thus would represent progress in science.

    At the heart of science is observations, which is what forms the beginning of the scientific method. These observations allow us to make a hypothesis which make testable predictions about what we would expect to find if that hypothesis were true.

    Putting Intelligent Design to the Test:
    Intelligent design theorist Stephen C. Meyer emphasizes many of the positive predictions of intelligent design: "Experience teaches that information-rich systems … invariable result from intelligent causes, not naturalistic ones. Yet origin-of-life biology has artificially limited its explanatory search to the naturalistic nodes of causation … chance and necessity. Finding the best explanation, however, requires invoking causes that have the power to produce the effect in question. When it comes to information, we know of only one such cause. For this reason, the biology of the information age now requires a new science of design.
    (Stephen C. Meyer, Mere Creation, pg. 140).

    "Indeed, in all cases where we know the causal origin of 'high information content,' experience has shown that intelligent design played a causal role."
    (Stephen C. Meyer, DNA and Other Designs)

    "Intelligent design provides a sufficient causal explanation for the origin of large amounts of information, since we have considerable experience of intelligent agents generating informational configurations of matter."
    (Meyer S. C. et. al., "The Cambrian Explosion: Biology's Big Bang," in Darwinism, Design, and Public Education, edited by J. A. Campbell and S. C. Meyer (Michigan State University Press, 2003)
    We can observe how intelligent agents act when designing to help understand how to detect design, as is highlighted in Tables 4-6 (keep track of the numbers of observations, predictions, and data as they correlated throughout the tables):

    Table 4. Ways Designers Act When Designing (Observations):
    (1) Take many parts and arrange them in highly specified and complex patterns which perform a specific function.
    (2) Rapidly infuse any amounts of genetic information into the biosphere, including large amounts, such that at times rapid morphological or genetic changes could occur in populations.
    (3) 'Re-use parts' over-and-over in different types of organisms (design upon a common blueprint).
    (4) Be said to typically NOT create completely functionless objects or parts (although we may sometimes think something is functionless, but not realize its true function).

    Table 5. Predictions of Design (Hypothesis):
    (1) High information content machine-like irreducibly complex structures will be found.
    (2) Forms will be found in the fossil record that appear suddenly and without any precursors.
    (3) Genes and functional parts will be re-used in different unrelated organisms.
    (4) The genetic code will NOT contain much discarded genetic baggage code or functionless "junk DNA".

    Table 6. Examining the Evidence (Experiment and Conclusion):
    Line of Evidence
    Data (Experiment)
    Prediction of Design Met? (Conclusion)
    (1) Biochemical complexity / Laws of the Universe. High information content machine-like irreducibly complex structures are commonly found. The bacterial flagellum is a prime example. Specified complexity found in the laws of the universe may be another.
    (2) Fossil Record Biological complexity (i.e. new species) tend to appear in the fossil record suddenly and without any similar precursors. The Cambrian explosion is a prime example.
    (3) Distribution of Molecular and Morphological Characteristics Similar parts found in different organisms. Many genes and functional parts not distributed in a manner predicted by ancestry, and are often found in clearly unrelated organisms. The "root" of the tree of life is a prime example.
    (4) DNA Biochemical and Biological Functionality Increased knowledge of genetics has created a strong trend towards functionality for "junk-DNA." Examples include recently discovered functionality in some pseudogenes, microRNAs, introns, LINE and ALU elements. Examples of DNA of unknown function persist, but discovery of function may be expected (or lack of current function still explainable under a design paradigm). Yes.

    As can be seen here, intelligent design makes clear predictions which are eminently testable. Again, this claim seems to be a bluff on the part of the ACLU.

    FAQ 4B. "The American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Academy of Sciences have both described intelligent design as scientifically unwarranted."

    The ACLU's is correct that the AAAS and NAS have both issued statements criticizing intelligent design. First, let's look at the AAAS statement: It first needs to be noted that the AAAS's primary journal, Science, took a mocking tone on towards intelligent design in September, 2002 (Science 297:1991): "In the past few years, the chief think tank for 'intelligent design'--the thinking man's creationism--has transformed its public image. The Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture, part of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute used to have Michelangelo's God creating Adam as its logo ... last month, "renewal" was eliminated from the center's name ... But [the anti-creationist political activist group the "National Center for Science Education" (NCSE)] NCSE says, "There is still a superfluous word in the center's name: 'Science.''" The last phrase, though a quote from the obviously-skeptical NCSE, is nothing less than an endorsement of a joke made at the expense of intelligent design proponents, claiming that intelligent design is not science. This may seem like a petty incident, but it reveals their attitude: Science is not just any journal--it is probably one of the two leading scientific journals in the world, and the most eminent in the United States. If the most eminent scientific journal in the U.S. makes intelligent design the butt of jokes with the message that intelligent design is not science, then how can we expect that most journals would take intelligent design seriously?

    But Science has gone much further than making jokes about intelligent design. In 2002, AAAS issued a press release against intelligent design theory where it said, in part: "The movement presents "intelligent design theory" to the public as a theoretical innovation, supported by scientific evidence, that offers a more adequate explanation for the origin of the diversity of living organisms than the current scientifically accepted theory of evolution. In response to this effort, individual scientists and philosophers of science have provided substantive critiques of "intelligent design," demonstrating significant conceptual flaws in its formulation, a lack of credible scientific evidence, and misrepresentations of scientific facts."

    "Recognizing that the "intelligent design theory" represents a challenge to the quality of science education, the Board of Directors of the AAAS unanimously adopts the following resolution:"

    "Whereas, ID proponents claim that contemporary evolutionary theory is incapable of explaining the origin of the diversity of living organisms;"

    "Whereas, to date, the ID movement has failed to offer credible scientific evidence to support their claim that ID undermines the current scientifically accepted theory of evolution;"

    "Whereas, the ID movement has not proposed a scientific means of testing its claims;"

    "Therefore Be It Resolved, that the lack of scientific warrant for so-called "intelligent design theory" makes it improper to include as a part of science education;"

    "Therefore Be Further It Resolved, that AAAS urges citizens across the nation to oppose the establishment of policies that would permit the teaching of "intelligent design theory" as a part of the science curricula of the public schools;"

    "Therefore Be It Further Resolved, that AAAS calls upon its members to assist those engaged in overseeing science education policy to understand the nature of science, the content of contemporary evolutionary theory and the inappropriateness of "intelligent design theory" as subject matter for science education;"

    "Therefore Be Further It Resolved, that AAAS encourages its affiliated societies to endorse this resolution and to communicate their support to appropriate parties at the federal, state and local levels of the government."
    The AAAS provides no citations or discussions of where ID proponents have misrepresented evidence, but merely makes that as an assertion. If intelligent design theory has scientific problems, it is curious why Science would not publish research directly rebutting intelligent design theory and permitting debate over the subject. To my knowledge, Science has not published a single article specifically rebutting the claims of intelligent design theory. Rather, it simply makes broad and unreferenced Papal-proclamations in press releases asserting that "intelligent design is wrong" with the implicit message to the scientific community to "avoid ID if you, your colleagues, and your journals want to be taken seriously us folks at the top." Evolution is declared the winner, intelligent design the loser. No discussion of evidence.

    As noted earlier, even prominent Darwinist Michael Ruse and ID-proponent William Dembski recognize that this sort of behavior indicates a bias in journals: “Journals such as Science and Nature would as soon publish an article using or favourable to Intelligent Design as they would an article favourable to phrenology or mesmerism – or, to use an analogy to the claims of the Mormons about Joseph Smith and the tablets of gold, or favourable to the scientific creationists’ claims about the coexistence of humans and dinosaurs. Recently, indeed, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (the organization that publishes Science) has declared officially that in its opinion Intelligent Design is not so much bad science as no science at all and accordingly has no legitimate place in the science classrooms of the United States.”
    (Michael Ruse and William Dembski in "General Introduction" to Debating Design, pg. 3-4 (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2004))
    Thus there is clearly a bias against intelligent design by the main scientific organizations. It should be reiterated that there are no references to the refutations in this press release, nor is there a detailed quotation of intelligent design proponents. It is indeed very odd for a journal--especially a journal like Science--to issue a press release against an idea. This indicates something abnormal and unscientific is going on and shows that they have political motivations over this issue much more than they have scientific interest in fairly investigating intelligent design theory. Thus, the AAAS is clearly not an objective source to trust with regards to intelligent design theory: they have simply issued press releases making bold proclamations and they themselves have not demonstrated any scientific evidence against ID.

    As for the NAS, let's first understand exactly what the NAS is: "The NAS is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of sciences and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters" (S & C, pg. ii) The ACLU might have pointed us to their 1999 booklet Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences (herein "S & C") where the NAS does attempt to make some scientific arguments against intelligent design theory. This document has been critiqued extensively elsewhere, however a few of its most outstanding problems are worth highlighting here:
    1. The NAS states that some "advocates of creation science … argue that the various types of organisms … could only have come about with supernatural intervention, because they show 'intelligent design'" (S & C, p. 7). The NAS then claims that proponents of intelligent design argue that "structural complexity is proof of the direct hand of God in specially creating organisms as they are today … echo[ing] the 18th century cleric William Paley" (S & C, Pg. 21). Thus, the ACLU makes the same mistake as the ACLU in that they characterizing intelligent design theory as an appeal to the supernatural. As noted previously, intelligent design theory cannot identify the designer, and does not bring the supernatural into science. Thus, the NAS is operating under a fundamentally incorrect understanding of intelligent design theory. This insight explains the deficiencies with S & C, as discussed in points 2 and 4.

    2. A wonderful quote from the document comes when it says that "it is the job of science is to provide plausible natural explanations for natural phenomena" (S & C, Pg. 7). Here the NAS has hard-coded the working assumption that naturalism is true into its definition of science--if it ain't a "naturalistic" cause, they reject it immediately. Here, by naturalistic, I mean anything which can be studied through observations of nature. Thus, it thus becomes clear that because they (mistakenly) think that ID reduces to a supernatural explanation, that thus it cannot be science. For them, ID cannot be accepted because they have created a definition of science which they think excludes it a priori.

      In reality, intelligent design is based wholly upon our understanding of how intelligent agents operate, and our understanding of how intelligent agents operate is based upon observations of them in the natural world. In essence, the fundamental basis of intelligent design theory can reduced to normal empirical observations: a. We observe that when intelligent agents act they produce property X, Y, and Z.
      b. Object A in the natural world contains properties X, Y, and Z, we thus have reason to believe that A is the result of design.
      c. This inference to design can become strong when competing theories, such as Darwinian evolution, are incapable of producing some or all of X, Y, and Z.
      There's nothing supernatural about this argument and it is based wholly upon observations of how intelligent agents operate, and then proceeds to test natural objects to see if they contain the tell-tale signs which we know are usually products of intelligent agency.

    3. The NAS also attempts to counter the claim that irreducibly complex structures exist within the cell. This would seem to imply that intelligent design has put forth some testable ideas which can be falsified, because the NAS goes to great lengths to show that Darwinian evolution can account for the origin of these structures, by attempting to argue that they are not irreducibly complex: "[S]tructures and processes that are claimed to be "irreducibly" complex typically are not on closer inspection. For example, it is incorrect to assume that a complex structure or biochemical process can function only if all its components are present and functioning as we see them today. Complex biochemical systems can be built up from simpler systems through natural selection." (S & C, Pg. 22)

      Firstly, it should be pointed out that the NAS's counter-argument to ID implicitly accepts the fact that irreducible complexity is testable, for the NAS is attempting to falsify irreducible complexity for these systems. This would question the ACLU's claim that ID does not make testable predictions.

      Secondly, Michael Behe, in Darwin's Black Box, does not claim that the hemoglobin system is irreducibly complex. In fact, Behe specifically writes, "can we infer intelligent design from the function of hemoglobin? The case for design is weak." (Darwin's Black Box, pg. 207) In fact, I know of no ID proponent who has made such a claim. Yet the NAS provides no refutation of the structures that Behe actual claims are irreducibly complex, such as the flagellum, the blood clotting cascade, the immune system, or the processes behind vision. Their prime refutation of an irreducibly complex system is for a system where Behe himself states "[t]he case for design is weak"!! The NAS has refuted only a straw man and has not refuted any actual examples of irreducible complexity put forth by Michael Behe or other ID proponents.

      Thirdly, this critique of irreducible complexity makes general statements which are without supporting evidence. The use of the word "typically" leads one to believe that irreducibly complex systems can exist (but often don't). The booklet attempts to outline the growth of a complex system from a simpler system by claiming that organisms such as jawless fish have simpler hemoglobin than do the more complex jawed fish. However, this term "simpler" means nothing. Even within each fish, the fact that their hemoglobin system is "simpler" does not mandate that the system is not irreducibly complex. Under evolution, one has to assume that an evolutionary pathway took one system to the other. It is entirely possible that both systems are irreducibly complex, although one has fewer parts than the other. Thus, it is entirely possible that no stepwise evolutionary pathway exists through which one system could evolve from the other. The actual data here is purely circumstantial--all we have observed is that that two systems are similar. If both systems are indeed irreducibly complex, then an account of how one system could turn into the other must be given. That is the only way to really falsify irreducible complexity, and the NAS has not demonstrated that there is an evolutionary pathway from the "simpler" fish system to the more complex system, and has thus not refuted irreducible complexity in this example.

      The booklet gives a vague explanation of how this can happen, claiming that, "[n]atural selection can bring together parts of a system for one function at one time, and then at a later time recombine those parts with other systems of components to produce a system that has a different function" (S & C, Pg. 22). Without assessing the complexity of the parent and daughter systems, this re-assembly scenario might very well be to be the same type of evolutionary jump which irreducible complexity indicates is impossible. For evolutionists and the authors of S & C, the question they need to answer is "can natural selection spontaneously reassemble many already-existing components into entirely new functions requiring many parts?" They assume the answer to that question is "yes" but there is no justification for such a bold claim. The heart of irreducible complexity is the problem of functional intermediates, and there are also no discussions of how intermediates between these two irreducibly complex systems were functional. All we are told is that "natural selection" can do the job--we are given no details and the NAS is essentially handwaving with rather unlikely explanations. Behe and Snokes 2004 article directly indicates that protein interactions, such as what we might expect between hemoglobin and other molecules, are unlikely to arise by naturalistic processes.

    4. As noted, this discussion indicates that the claims of intelligent design proponents are testable. As far as constitutional analysis goes, this should count well in favor of intelligent design theory. Yet in S & C, the NAS experiences a lapse in its logic train: they argue that intelligent design does not qualify as science because it is "not subjectable to meaningful texts, which require predicting plausible results and then checking these results through observation and experimentation” (S & C, pg. 2) or "are not science because they are not testable by the methods of science." (S & C, pg. 2) Yet, in the same breath, they argue that, "[s]cientists have considered the hypotheses proposed by creation science [previously defined to refer to young earth creationism, old earth creationism, and intelligent design] and rejected them because of a lack of evidence." (S & C, pg. 2) The lapse of logic in this statement is clear, for the NAS is essentially stating:
    5. A. Intelligent design cannot be tested and therefore is not science
    6. B. Scientists have tested intelligent design and rejected it.
    7. Both A and B cannot be true. Because the NAS has clearly made empirical arguments against intelligent design in S & C, it seems that A is not true. (And they haven't done a very good job of demonstrating B, but hey, at least they acted as if in principle, it could be done.)

      In reality, statement A is probably based upon their previously noted incorrect understanding of intelligent design that it supposedly proposes a supernatural explanation. If ID actually did propose supernatural explanations (which it really does not), then the NAS (and the ACLU) would be correct to state that ID cannot be tested, because, just like Pandas and virtually every other ID proponent has agreed it is impossible to use scientific inquiry to identify the designer as supernatural. Thus, the NAS and essentially all ID theorists, including Pandas, are presumably in agreement that one cannot identify the designer as supernatural through the scientific method. The only difference between the NAS and ID propnents presumably lies in their respective characterizations of intelligent design theory: those formulating intelligent design theory (including, at great lengths, Pandas), have explicitly stated time-and-time again that one cannot use scientific inquiry to determine if the designer is supernatural and thus such answers are beyond the scope of the limited scientific answers provided by intelligent design theory. Those critiquing intelligent design (NAS and ACLU) have wrongly claimed that intelligent design theory proposes supernatural explanations. The NAS and ACLU have presumably done this because it makes their critique of intelligent design much easier. Hopefully a judge would see the clear evidence that ID does not propose supernatural explanations.
    To conclude this response, the ACLU's claim that ID has been refuted is a bluff. For one last example, let’s take a core claim of the ID research community: that the bacterial flagellum is irreducibly complex.

    Because there is no evolutionary precursor for the flagellum, nearly all Darwinist attempts to “refute” its irreducible complexity by postulating a “Type III secretory-system" (TTSS) precursor to the flagellum. The problem with this model is that the TTSS actually evolved from the flagellum according to the best research (Nyugen et. al.) and there is good reason for this: the TTSS serves to inject toxins into host cells. Given that the host cells (eukaryotes) didn't appear in the fossil record for billions of years after bacteria (and their flagella) evolved, it makes sense why the flagella arose first, and the TTSS later. Furthermore, the phylogenetic trees of flagellar proteins look very similar to trees built from other bacterial proteins, but TTSSs actually don't build a similar type of tree--suggesting that the TTSSs evolved later and was transferred horizontally by lateral gene transfer.

    Without a type III secretory system, the Darwinist has no biologically plausible precursor for the bacterial flagellum, and hence the power of the intelligent design argument from irreducible complexity returns with full force. Finally, the TTSS only has 10 proteins homologous to the bacterial flagellum. Thus, it only can purport to explain the origin of about 1/3 of the total proteins in the flagellum. 2/3 of flagellar proteins are without homologues in such a coherent system. The irreducible complexity of the flagellum has not been refuted by any means—and the claim that ID has been wholly refuted is a bluff on the part of the ACLU.

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    Note and Update
    Original note with corrected URLs: This musing is merely a commentary on the "ACLU's 'Intelligent Design' FAQ" as found on the ACLU website. While I am a lawyer, and this response to the ACLU ID FAQ mentions the case over teaching intelligent design theory in Dover, Pennsylvania, this commentary is not intended to be legal advice for anyone. This is simply my thoughts about the claims made by the ACLU in its ID FAQ on their website. Some of their claims, and thus some of my commentary relates to case law, but much of this discussion is also completely unrelated to legal issues. A full legal discussion about whether or not it is constitutional to teach intelligent design would go into much more depth than the commentary made here. This is not intended to fully or adequately discuss the general question of whether or not it is constitutional to teach intelligent design theory. My purpose here is simply to respond to the various sorts of claims made by the ACLU in its ID FAQ. If readers have further questions about the author's opinion, they are invited to contact the author at

    Update [10-26-05]: Also, these response pages were originally posted on February 11, 2005. I just learned today that as of September 16, 2005, the ACLU had published an updated ID FAQ at the same URL where the original FAQ was located. Thus, I apologize if there has been any confusion as this response was written months before the new FAQ replaced the old one. Thus, this response here is in response to the original ACLU ID FAQ which is still available at I have tried to change links to the ACLU's ID FAQ throughout my response to reflect the change in their URLs. I would also like to thank the ACLU for making me aware of the changes in the URLs and their FAQ.

    [Addendum added 2/22/06: I realized today that this FAQ had previously stated that I was not a lawyer. That is because I wrote this before I was admitted to the California bar. I am now an attorney and have updated this page accordingly today.]