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How Darwinist Myths Are Spread (Part I)

Casey Luskin

Access Research Network has noted a Darwinist’s lecture at East Tennessee State University entitled “Intelligent Design Theory and the Poverty of Anti-Science Thought,” by historian, philosopher, and cognitive scientist George Kampis. ARN aptly observes, “Dr. Kampis hit every ‘talking point’ of Darwinists.” Dr. Kampis’ lecture spread much misinformation about intelligent design. For example, a premed female student said: “he raised a good point when he said Intelligent Design wasn’t science.” Would her view have been the same if she had heard the facts about ID and not a false caricature? A few of Kampis’ errors will be highlighted over a series of two posts:

Dr. Kampis says:

“The Intelligent Design movement holds that living organisms are too complex to have arisen through random mutation and natural selection, and therefore must have been designed by some outside entity.”

Question: Where do ID-proponents define ID like that? Answer: Nowhere. ID makes positive arguments where design is inferred based upon detecting the types of complexity we know are produced only by intelligence. ID is not inferred merely based upon the falsification of evolution. In short, the theory of intelligent design holds that some aspects of nature are best explained by an intelligent cause because they hold informational properties which are known to come only from intelligence.

Kampis again wrongly characterizes ID as if it is merely a negative argument against evolution with no positive content:

“When they can’t explain a phenomenon they immediately claim that it must be the work of God. This is just giving in.”

This is wrong for two reasons: ID doesn’t try to identify the intelligence responsible for life. Second, design isn’t an argument from ignorance. Design theorists infer intelligent design because intelligence does explain the data. Consider what ID-proponents actually say:

Molecular machines display a key signature or hallmark of design, namely, irreducible complexity. In all irreducibly complex systems in which the cause of the system is known by experience or observation, intelligent design or engineering played a role the origin of the system. … Although some may argue this is a merely an argument from ignorance, we regard it as an inference to the best explanation, given what we know about the powers of intelligent as opposed to strictly natural or material causes. We know that intelligent designers can and do produce irreducibly complex systems. We find such systems within living organisms.

(Scott Minnich and Stephen Meyer, “Genetic analysis of coordinate flagellar and type III regulatory circuits in pathogenic bacteria”)

Kampis continues his misrepresentation of ID:

“Supporters of Intelligent Design don’t take the normal route to creating a theory. They don’t write peer reviewed papers or present research at scientific seminars.”

That’s easy to say, but is it true? No, it’s false. ID-proponents do write peer-reviewed papers supportive of ID (see here) and ID-proponents also offer papers at conferences. For a couple of examples, see the poster here and Jonathan Wells presented a poster based upon a scientific article he published. Dr. Kampis appears to have been misinformed, and unfortunately he passed on that misinformation to his audience. This is how the spread of misinformation works among ID-critics.

It gets worse when Kampis misrepresents Phillip Johnson, which will be discussed in the next post on this topic. But this is a good example of how misinformation about intelligent design is spread to students and recycled to other anti-ID academics.


Casey Luskin

Associate Director, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.