In his new book, 40 More Years: How the Democrats Will Rule the Next Generation, Democratic strategist James Carville badly misrepresents intelligent design (ID) as a wholly negative argument against evolution. What’s most incredible is that Carville makes this inaccurate characterization directly after quoting passages from ID proponents making wholly positive arguments for design.
One such passage he quotes is from our Intelligent Design Briefing Packet for Educators, as follows:
Intelligent design “begins with the observation that intelligent agents produce complex and specified information (CSI)….One easily testable form of CSI is irreducible complexity, which can be discovered by experimentally reverse-engineering biological structures to see if they require all of their parts to function. When [intelligent design] researchers find irreducible complexity in biology, they conclude such structures were designed.”
Carville then asserts: “Basically, because they don’t understand evolution, and they can’t replicate it, these intelligent design ‘scientists’ have decided it can’t have taken place.” (pg. 89) No, that’s not what this passage says. In fact, this passage says precisely the opposite. It makes a strong positive case for intelligent design that is not based upon the mere refutation of neo-Darwinian evolution.
The same Briefing Packet notes that observation-based experience teaches that intelligent agency is the cause of high CSI systems, such as irreducibly complex machines. This yields a positive argument for design. As Michael Behe explained during the Dover trial, “This argument for design is an entirely positive argument. This is how we recognize design by the purposeful arrangement of parts.” (Michael Behe, October 17 AM Testimony, Page 110)
In the 2006 edition of Darwin’s Black Box, Behe further explains why irreducibly complex features provide positive evidence for design:
“[I]rreducibly complex systems such as mousetraps and flagella serve both as negative arguments against gradualistic explanations like Darwin’s and as positive arguments for design. The negative argument is that such interactive systems resist explanation by the tiny steps that a Darwinian path would be expected to take. The positive argument is that their parts appear arranged to serve a purpose, which is exactly how we detect design.”
(Michael Behe, Darwin’s Black Box, Afterward, pgs. 263-264 (Free Press), emphasis added.)
Scott Minnich and Stephen Meyer put it even more forcefully in a research paper they co-published in the Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Design & Nature in Rhodes, Greece:
“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 [in] 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 intelligence as opposed to strictly natural or material causes.”
(Scott A. Minnich & Stephen C. Meyer, “Genetic Analysis of Coordinate Flagellar and Type III Regulatory Circuits in Pathogenic Bacteria“)
Regardless of what Carville thinks, ID proponents have made it clear that their argument is a positive one, based upon what we do know about the information generative powers of intelligent agents, not based upon what we don’t know about Darwinian evolution or any other theory. ID is not based upon a mere refutation of evolution, nor is it based upon our ignorance of how evolution worked.
It seems clear that Carville has little or no idea of what ID actually is. Moreover, Carville’s book really doesn’t offer any serious treatment of this topic. In fact, he has a clear agenda in misrepresenting ID: his purpose to miscast the whole matter as a Democrat vs. Republican issue.
Carville’s chapter on evolution really boils down to a rhetorically outlandish defense of intellectual intolerance a la Richard Dawkins’s infamous line, “It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid, or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).” My guess is that Carville would be horrified to learn just how many Democrats disagree with him, and support academic freedom in evolution education.