The Scotsman: Intelligent Design Evidence-Based

Jonathan Witt

Scotsman Alistair Donald recently engaged Peter Jones concerning intelligent design and the age of reason, and came off sounding both intelligent and reasonable. His first letter:

One of the principles of the Enlightenment was the careful examination of evidence before reaching conclusions. It is, therefore, startling that Peter Jones (Opinion, 7 February) should conclude that Islamic extremism and the theory of intelligent design are both manifestations of irrational, anti-Enlightenment thinking.
ID is not a religiously-based idea but an evidence-based theory about life’s origins. A seminal text, William Dembski’s The Design Inference, was published by Cambridge University Press, not usually thought of as a fundamentalist publishing house.
It is true that many have found that ID provides support for theism, but that is not grounds for dismissing it. To do so is to confuse the evidence for a theory with its possible implications.
Significantly, it was the evidence for design in cell DNA, as expounded by ID theorists, that persuaded the philosopher Antony Flew to renounce atheism some months ago. His words are instructive: “We must follow the evidence, wherever it leads.”

This prompted some silly responses, citing Judge Jones of Dover fame as the last word on the history and philosophy of science, and denying that intelligent design theory played a role in philosopher Antony Flew’s change of mind. Donald responded thus:

In response to Alistair McBay (Letters, 16 February), defining what is and is not science has proved notoriously difficult for philosophers of science to agree on. Is it seriously to be maintained that the decision of one American district court can be the last word on the matter?
The use of authority to try to circumscribe scientific inquiry does not have a noble history. In the past, some inconvenient findings were suppressed by religious authorities, but the truth came out in the end. In a neat reversal, it is today’s widely-accepted dogma that we are the product of blind and purposeless processes that is now being increasingly questioned, on the basis of the scientific evidence itself.
Contrary to A Guthrie Stewart (Letters, 17 February), Antony Flew did cite the arguments of design theorists in his renunciation of atheism, when he said: “Investigation of DNA has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce life, that intelligence must have been involved.”

Donald has a doctorate in environmental science, worked in acid rain research and other pollution control work, and this May will be doing a seminar in scientific apologetics at a conference in Hungary.