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Warren Reports Blog: Judge Jones Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It (Part II)

Casey Luskin

In Part I of this series, I discussed how Michael Francisco’s post last year had a bumper sticker for people who take the “Judge Jones Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It” approach to intelligent design. Devin James Carpenter, over at Warren Reports blog deserves the bumper sticker due to his many inaccurate statements about intelligent design and his thoroughgoing acceptance of Judge Jones’ Kitzmiller ruling. In this second installment, I will discuss problems with some of Carpenter’s arguments against intelligent design (ID).

Misrepresentations of ID
Carpenter states that ID “calls into question (on a theological basis) the ability of nature to transform simple biological beings into complex ones.” To claim that ID challenges neo-Darwinism “on a theological basis” is a flat-out misrepresentation of ID. Michael Behe provides clear empirical reasons, based upon challenges which go back to Darwin himself, as to why the mutation-selection mechanism cannot produce irreducible complexity. But to summarize some Behe’s of empirical and non-theological challenges:

In The Origin of Species, Darwin stated:

If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.

A system which meets Darwin’s criterion is one which exhibits irreducible complexity. By irreducible complexity I mean a single system which is composed of several interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, and where the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning. An irreducibly complex system cannot be produced gradually by slight, successive modifications of a precursor system, since any precursor to an irreducibly complex system is by definition nonfunctional.

To dismiss Behe’s arguments by asserting they merely have “a theological basis” completely misrepresents them and dismisses them in a fashion which will leave any informed person–whether a critic or supporter of ID–fully cognizant that Carpenter has neither appreciated nor engaged the real issues.

Intelligent Design and Negative Arguments
Carpenter states: “‘intelligent design’ seems to be merely a negative theory, meaning it only criticizes evolution and doesn’t propose anything scientific of its own” and he quotes a critic saying that because ID does not explain some things, therefore it explains no things. Again, this is a blatant misrepresentation of ID. ID proposes to positively explain (among other things) that high levels of specified complexity, such as irreducible complexity, come from intelligence. This is a positive and predictive argument for intelligent design (that is further outlined here). This positive case was made explicit by Scott Minnich during the Dover trial, where he eloquently stated:

In other words, you’re saying, it’s an argument out of ignorance. And I don’t think it is. Again, it’s an argument out of our common cause and effect experience where we find these machines or information storage systems. From our experience, we know there’s an intelligence behind it. (Day 21, pg. 86)

Clearly there is a positive argument for design, which Carpenter completely ignores.

Who is Promoting “Bad Philosophy”?
Carpenter accuses ID-proponents of employing “bad philosophy,” but I will let you, the reader, judge Carpenter’s philosophy for yourself. Carpenter states:

[T]here are many other examples that would lead the viewer to believe that humans and animals are not designed by a sentient being but by nature. For example, “some cave animals, descended from sighted ancestors that invaded caves, have rudimentary eyes that cannot see; the eyes degenerated after they were no longer needed.”

Since Carpenter concedes that the “cave animals” are descended from organisms with functional eyes, the obvious answer from ID-perspective would be that the eyes were designed, and subsequently lost function through precisely the same explanation he gives (“degeneration”). In our experienced, designed structures often undergo degeneration after they were initially designed. For example, if you take a functional television and put it on top of a mountain and then return after 30 years, my guess is that it will no longer function. Since natural processes destroyed its function, does that mean that it was not originally designed? Of course not.

ID does not deny that natural selection is a real force at work in nature, even acting upon organisms which were designed. In fact, ID-proponents are often amused that the best examples Darwinists give of natural selection typically entail loss of function, not the generation of a novel feature. ID is concerned with how new biological functions originate, not with how they can be lost due to misuse.

Carpenter also asks, “what about the human appendix? An appendix is ‘certainly not the product of intelligent design,'” and then he quotes Jerry Coyne, who assumes that the appendix is functionless and simply causes disease. Carpenter is promoting a Darwinist urban legend. As a physiology professor Scientific American states at Scientific American: “For years, the appendix was credited with very little physiological function. We now know, however, that the appendix serves an important role in the fetus and in young adults. … Among adult humans, the appendix is now thought to be involved primarily in immune functions.” So Carpenter is wrong to imply that the appendix is a useless organ that only causes pain and suffering.

But what about pain and suffering? Is design refuted if the structure can sometimes cause pain? Carpenter then quotes Neil deGrasse Tyson discussing diseases and natural events which kill organisms and species, claiming this is “counterintuitive to a design theory.” But ID does not try to analyze the moral purposes of the designer. Indeed, whether we like it or not, guns and atomic bombs are all designed–designed to kill. On what basis does Carpenter claim that something which causes pain or death cannot be designed?

In fact, most of Carpenter’s arguments here are simply theological objections to design, based upon the “problem of evil.” Since he raises theological objections it should be noted that many religions have had theological answers to the “problem of evil” for millennia. But ID does not concern itself with such theological questions, and thus Carpenter’s objections are moot.

This whole discussion from Carpenter is intriguing, because he previously attacked ID as something that cannot be “falsified and tested” (see part I). Yet now he claims that the presence of disease and death is “counterintuitive to a design theory.” If Carpenter wants to claim that ID is both unfalsifiable and false, and cite the fact that “cave animals” can lose their sight or that organisms get sick and die as evidence that ID wrong, then I will let readers judge for themselves who is promoting “bad philosophy.”

Get yours today: the “Judge Jones Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It” bumper sticker!

When A Court Hands you Lemons…
Carpenter’s makes one final blunder I’ll discuss, regarding Judge Jones application of the Lemon test. The Lemon test is a three-part legal test used to determine if a law violates the First Amendment’s prohibition on establishing religion. Carpenter writes: “Judge Jones made the right decision, concluding that ‘intelligent design’ is based on religion rather than science, and…that intelligent design is an updated version of ‘creation science’ which is unconstitutional given that it violates all three facets of the ‘Lemon’ test.”

There are at least 2 major problems with this statement: First, Carpenter claims that the law violated “all three facets” of the Lemon test. The third “facet” of the Lemon test prohibits “excessive entanglement” between government and religion. But as Judge Jones said in a footnote: “Plaintiffs are not claiming excessive entanglement. Accordingly, Plaintiffs argue that the ID Policy is violative of the first two prongs of the Lemon test, the purpose and effect prongs.” Thus Judge Jones did not even assess the third prong of the Lemon test.

Second, ID is not based upon religion, but upon an empirical argument which looks at the types of information produced by intelligent agents and then seeks to test for that information in natural objects. When tests reveal such information is detected, design is inferred. It’s a simple empirically based argument with no theological basis whatsoever.

The moral of this story is: Just because a judge and a bunch of his internet supporters say something, doesn’t mean it is true.


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.



Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District