Kevin Shapiro in The Wall Street Journal: A Fig Leaf for Darwinism and a Strawman of Intelligent Design

Jonathan Witt

Kevin Shapiro’s recent Wall Street Journal essay, “Misplaced Sympathies,” appeals to the opinion of a low-level district judge (John Jones of Dover fame), an Ohio school board vote, and a strawman characterization of intelligent design in an effort to convince us that Darwinism is settled truth.

Consider Shapiro’s strawman:

Proponents of intelligent design, like the mathematician William Dembski, argue that we don’t understand the origins of various biological systems and never will, because they can’t be broken down into smaller parts that could be explained by natural selection. Therefore, we should give up on Darwin and accept the existence of a designer.

Shapiro describes this as an “argumentum ad ignorantium,” but his description betrays his own apparent ignorance of ID. As philosopher of science Stephen Meyer explains in this National Post essay, the theory of intelligent design (1) critiques all the leading models of biological origins that are based purely on material causes, and (2) provides positive evidence for intelligent design.
This positive case for design is based on our growing knowledge of biological systems. It’s also based on our uniform experience. For instance, every time we can trace complex strings of functional information back to their source, they always turn out to be the product of an intellgient cause. To borrow the words of the great uniformitarian thinker Charles Lyell, intelligence is the “presently acting cause” for complex, functional information. This uniform experience is positive evidence that the complex, functional information found in the cell is the product of intelligent design.
The Darwinists’ ongoing determination to rebut a mere caricature of ID rather than our actual arguments is one reason such an overwhelming majority of Americans remain skeptical of the Darwinian model.
They also have good reason to remain underimpressed by the Darwinists’ frequent claims of “overwhelming evidence.” Shapiro’s essay is representative. If you set aside his mischaracterization of ID and his unsubstantiated claims about the “ever-increasing amount of evidence” for modern evolutionary theory, you find that his call for neoconservatives to jump on the Darwinist bandwagon is supported by only one piece of empirical evidence, a lonely Canadian fossil dubbed Tiktaalik roseae.
I call it lonely because the morphological space between it and its nearest neighbors is as vast as Canada. If Darwinism is true, not one but millions of transitional species, each slightly evolved from its predecessor, existed between bony fish and land-dwelling vertebrates. Darwinists have neither the fossils nor even a credible description of a hypothetical pathway to support such an evolutionary journey, just a new fig leaf from the Canadian arctic masquerading as the emperor’s royal robes.
A growing number of more than 500 Ph.D. scientists reject Darwinism (undirected evolution by natural selection). A Finkelstein poll even shows that a majority of our medical doctors reject the Darwinian story of human origins. Pretending that the origins debate is over is an old talking point for the Darwinists, and it’s time they got a new one.

Jonathan Witt

Executive Editor, Discovery Institute Press and Senior Fellow, Center for Science and Culture
Jonathan Witt, PhD, is Executive Editor of Discovery Institute Press and a senior fellow and senior project manager with Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. His latest book is Heretic: One Scientist’s Journey from Darwin to Design (DI Press, 2018) written with Finnish bioengineer Matti Leisola. Witt has also authored co-authored Intelligent Design Uncensored, A Meaningful World: How the Arts and Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature, and The Hobbit Party: The Vision of Freedom That Tolkien Got, and the West Forgot. Witt is the lead writer and associate producer for Poverty, Inc., winner of the $100,000 Templeton Freedom Award and recipient of over 50 international film festival honors.