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Ten Myths About Dover: #3, "Intelligent Design Has No Peer-Reviewed Research or Publications"

Casey Luskin

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Editor’s note: The Kitzmiller v. Dover decision has been the subject of much media attention and many misinterpretations from pro-Darwin lobby groups. With the tenth anniversary of Kitzmiller approaching on December 20, Evolution News offers a series of ten articles debunking common myths about the case. Look here for Myths 123456789, and 10.

In the Kitzmiller v. Dover ruling, Judge Jones claimed that ID “has not generated peer-reviewed publications, nor has it been the subject of testing and research.” In case you didn’t get the memo, he said much the same thing in at least four other places in the ruling:

  • “ID is not science and cannot be adjudged a valid, accepted scientific theory as it has failed to publish in peer-reviewed journals…”
  • “A final indicator of how ID has failed to demonstrate scientific warrant is the complete absence of peer-reviewed publications supporting the theory.”
  • “In addition to failing to produce papers in peer-reviewed journals…”
  • “The evidence presented in this case demonstrates that ID is not supported by any peer-reviewed research, data or publications.”

These claims are all demonstrably false — and Judge Jones had the privilege of receiving such a demonstration at the trial, although he ignored the testimony he was given about pro-ID research and peer-reviewed publications. ID critics over the years have nevertheless found it extremely convenient to cite the Dover ruling on this point because it validates their false narrative.

For example, journalist Lauri Lebo, a science writer who wrote for the local York Daily Record at the time of the trial, blithely declares that “as we all know, there is no such thing as ID research.” Similarly in its response to the 2008 documentary Expelled, the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), an anti-ID activist group, claimed that “intelligent design has not produced any research to suppress.”

In a 2009 interview, BioLogos Founder Francis Collins was asked: “What do you think of this project that the Discovery Institute has launched with a laboratory where they want to do genuine scientific research, with their own in-house Intelligent Design scientists?” Reflecting Collins’s belief in many of the myths promoted about ID, he replied: “It is hard for me to imagine what they will do. ID doesn’t actually propose any falsifiable hypotheses.”

This myth has spread far into the larger culture. For example, as I noted earlier today, a student op-ed at the Iowa State University campus newspaper states:

So far, there has been no research done by intelligent design advocates that has led to any sort of scientific discovery.

The biggest problem with these claims is that they are not true. I have offered a reply to the student author at ISU that provides a lengthy discussion of much of the ID research that has been done; see here. However, much (though not all) of the research I discussed in that article is post-Dover.

In fact, since Dover, ID has experienced something of a scientific boom with over sixty peer-reviewed scientific publications. We provide a fairly complete list of pro-ID peer-reviewed publications at: “Peer-Reviewed Articles Supporting Intelligent Design.” The total count is now at ninety.

For the math-challenged, ninety is greater than zero, which is the number Judge Jones claimed for ID. So Judge Jones’s claim is false in 2015. But it was also false in 2005.

Of course, we can’t critique Judge Jones for not recognizing publications that came out after his ruling. No matter. There was plenty of published, peer-reviewed ID research back in December 2005 when he claimed it didn’t exist. So let’s discuss only ID peer-reviewed publications that were available at the time of the Dover trial. They are more than sufficient to refute Judge Jones’s claims.

Is Peer-Review a Requirement of Science?
Intelligent Design has published peer-reviewed research. But before we document some of the research publications that were put before Judge Jones during the Dover trial, we must ask this question: Is peer-reviewed research a requirement of good science? The answer, according to the best legal and scholarly experts I can find — excepting Judge Jones — is “no.”

Some of the most important and groundbreaking work in the history of science first appeared in published form not in peer-reviewed scientific journal articles but in scientific books. That includes Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus and Newton’s Principia. Einstein’s original paper on relativity was published in a scientific journal (Annalen der Physik), but did not undergo formal peer-review. Indeed, Darwin’s own theory of evolution was first published in a book for a general and scientific audience — his Origin of Species — not in a peer-reviewed paper.

Moreover, important scientific work has not uncommonly been initially rejected by peer-reviewed journals. As a 2001 article in Science observed, “Mention ‘peer review’ and almost every scientist will regale you with stories about referees submitting nasty comments, sitting on a manuscript forever, or rejecting a paper only to repeat the study and steal the glory.” Indeed, an article in the journal Science Communication by Juan Miguel Campanario notes that top journals such as “Science and Nature have also sometimes rejected significant papers,” and in fact “Nature has even rejected work that eventually earned the Nobel Prize.” In an amusing letter titled “Not in our Nature,” Campanario reminds the journal of four examples where it rejected significant papers:

(1) In 1981, Nature rejected a paper by the British biochemist Robert H. Michell on signalling reaction by hormones. This paper has since been cited more than 1,800 times.
(2) In June 1937, Nature rejected Hans Krebs’s letter describing the citric acid cycle. Krebs won the 1953 Nobel prize in physiology or medicine for this discovery.
(3) Nature initially rejected a paper on work for which Harmut Michel won the 1988 Nobel prize for chemistry; it has been identified by the Institute of Scientific Information as a core document and widely cited.
(4) A paper by Michael J. Berridge, rejected in 1983 by Nature, ranks at number 275 in a list of the most-cited papers of all time. It has been cited more than 1,900 times.4

Elsewhere, Campanario lists “instances in which 36 future Nobel Laureates encountered resistance on the part of scientific journal editors or referees to manuscripts that dealt with discoveries that on later dates would assure them the Nobel Prize.”

Campanario concludes:

Something is wrong with the peer review system when an expert considers that a manuscript is not of enough interest and it later becomes a classic in its discipline (or, even worse, when the work reported in a rejected paper earns the Nobel Prize). … Contrary to reports by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Academy of Sciences, publication in a peer-reviewed journal is not necessarily the best means of identifying valid research.

The Supreme Court Agrees: Peer Review is NOT Necessary for Good Science
Even the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that good science will not always be published in a peer-reviewed journal. In the landmark 1993 case Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the Court observed that while publication in peer-reviewed journals can be an indicator of legitimate science, it is not necessarily an indicator of good science:

Publication (which is but one element of peer review) is not a sine qua non of admissibility; it does not necessarily correlate with reliability, and in some instances well-grounded but innovative theories will not have been published. Some propositions, moreover, are too particular, too new, or of too limited interest to be published. (Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. , 509 U.S. 579, 593-594 (1993) (internal citations removed).)

While the Court noted that “submission to the scrutiny of the scientific community is a component of ‘good science,'” it ultimately held that “publication (or lack thereof) in a peer reviewed journal” is merely “a relevant, though not dispositive, consideration in assessing the scientific validity” of a claim.

The point that scientific progress depends upon considering minority views and unpopular ideas that may not have been published in peer-reviewed journals was made emphatically and eloquently by Stephen Jay Gould, writing with other scientists and historians of science, in an amicus brief submitted to the Supreme Court regarding the Daubert case:

Judgments based on scientific evidence, whether made in a laboratory or a courtroom, are undermined by a categorical refusal even to consider research or views that contradict someone’s notion of the prevailing “consensus” of scientific opinion. Science progresses as much or more by the replacement of old views as by the gradual accumulation of incremental knowledge. Automatically rejecting dissenting views that challenge the conventional wisdom is a dangerous fallacy, for almost every generally accepted view was once deemed eccentric or heretical. Perpetuating the reign of a supposed scientific orthodoxy in this way, whether in a research laboratory or in a courtroom, is profoundly inimical to the search for truth. A categorical refusal even to examine and consider scientific evidence that conflicts with some ill-defined notion of majority opinion is a recipe for error in any forum.. … As scientists, physicians, historians of science and sociologists of science who are members of the “scientific community,” amici can assure the Court that this is not how scientists work in their pursuit of truth. Amici challenge the Ninth Circuit’s premise that the only “good science” is that which is “generally accepted” and published in peer-reviewed journals, and reject the notion that scientific analysis and conclusions that might diverge from what a court deems the published “consensus” are so unreliable as to be wholly unworthy of consideration. The quality of a scientific approach or opinion depends on the strength of its factual premises and on the depth and consistency of its reasoning, not on its appearance in a particular journal or on its popularity among other scientists.

(Brief Amici Curiae of Physicians, Scientists, and Historians of Science in Support of Petitioners, Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993).)

Thus, there are many compelling arguments from both the theory and practice of the scientific enterprise that demonstrate peer-review is not an absolute requirement of good science. Judge Jones cited none of this history and precedent. When he defined science as requiring the presence of peer-reviewed research, he was, perhaps without realizing it, contradicting a holding on an issue by the U.S. Supreme Court.

ID Research Was Documented to Judge Jones During the Dover Trial
In any case, the fact of the matter is that in 2005, ID was already well supported by research. This was documented to Judge Jones during the trial and in amicus briefs filed by Discovery Institute and others.

Michael Behe testified about his research published in the journal Protein Science which shows that Darwinian mechanisms cannot produce multimutation features in multicellular organisms.
Scott Minnich testified about his estimate that there are between “seven and ten” peer-reviewed papers supporting ID. Minnich testified about his own genetic knockout experimental research on the bacterial flagellum, showing that it is irreducibly complex. Here’s what he said:

One mutation, one part knock out, it can’t swim. Put that single gene back in we restore motility. Same thing over here. We put, knock out one part, put a good copy of the gene back in, and they can swim. By definition the system is irreducibly complex. We’ve done that with all 35 components of the flagellum, and we get the same effect.”

(Scott Minnich Testimony, Day 20, pm session, pp. 107-108)

While this research itself had not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, it should have been enough to rebut Judge Jones’s separate and distinct claim that ID has not “been the subject of testing and research.”

Even one of the plaintiffs’ anti-ID experts, Barbara Forrest, testified about Stephen Meyer’s peer-reviewed paper, “The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories,” in Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington.

While this testimony alone should have been enough to refute Judge Jones’s false claims, unfortunately that was not so. The attorneys representing the Dover school board really didn’t do a great job of pushing ID’s peer-reviewed research front-and-center before the Court. However, that doesn’t let Judge Jones off the hook because amicus briefs provided ample documentation.

For example, Discovery Institute’s main amicus brief states:

4. Peer-reviewed and Peer-edited Scientific Literature Supports the Theory of Intelligent Design

In spite of efforts by critics of intelligent design to exclude them,22 scientists and philosophers advocating the theory of intelligent design have developed their theory and the empirical case for it in peer-reviewed publications, including:

  • articles in mainstream peer-reviewed scientific journals;
  • articles in peer-reviewed philosophy of science journals;
  • books published by prestigious university presses and trade presses;
  • articles in peer-edited or peer-reviewed scientific books and in scientific conference proceedings.23

Footnote 23 directs Judge Jones to read what was at the time our list of peer-reviewed pro-ID articles. As seen at a snapshot of that page at the Internet Archive, it lists multiple peer-reviewed articles.

But we also filed an Appendix with that amicus brief which documented specific peer-reviewed research articles, stating the following:

Section I highlights technical articles favoring intelligent design in science journals and academic books, showing that these articles nowhere posit a specifically supernatural creator but instead only an unspecified designing intelligence.


A. Stephen C. Meyer, “The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories,” Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, 117(2) (August, 2004):213-239.

This peer-reviewed research article in a mainstream biology journal exemplifies how design theory is advanced in scientific literature in a manner which is devoid of religious underpinnings. The article argues that there is empirical evidence for intelligent design during the Cambrian Explosion, and makes no reference to God or a “supernatural” designer.

Rather, the article emphasizes that there are valid empirical reasons to infer design by an intelligent cause:

An experience-based analysis of the causal powers of various explanatory hypotheses suggests purposive or intelligent design as a causally adequate — and perhaps the most causally adequate — explanation for the origin of the complex specified information required to build the Cambrian animals and the novel forms they represent.

B. Lönnig, W.-E. “Dynamic genomes, morphological stasis and the origin of irreducible complexity,” Dynamical Genetics, pages 101-119.

This peer-reviewed research paper explains that there are many features of biology which are unexplained by evolution, including the abrupt appearance of biological complexity in the fossil record, the extreme conservation of genes across diverse lineages, and the irreducible complexity of life. The author argues that an intelligent cause provides the best explanation for these observations, without appealing to “God” or the “supernatural.” His inference to design is based upon Dembski’s empirically-based model of detecting design by identifying “specified complexity.” The article concludes that this is a valid scientific approach:

…research on irreducible and/or specified complexities in biology definitely do not constitute metaphysical research programmes, but is at least as scientifically valid as the SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence), which is presently supported by thousands of scientists worldwide, not to mention the affiliated network of more than 4 million computers in over 200 countries around the globe (for an exhaustive discussion of further basic questions, see the contributions of Behe, Dembski, Lönnig, Meyer, and others [5-7, 21-23, 53-58, 68, 86]). Irreducible and specified complexity are inspiring tools that can and should be empirically investigated. Also, the concepts are potentially falsifiable in actual research (Popper) and thus clearly belong to the realm of science.

C. Michael J. Behe & David W. Snoke, “Simulating evolution by gene duplication of protein features that require multiple amino acid residues,” Protein Science (13) 2004 (13).

This peer-reviewed research article, co-authored by leading design proponent Michael Behe, makes no reference to God or the supernatural. The paper reports results of various computer simulations testing the evolvability of various protein-protein interactions. The authors note at the end that gene-duplication provides a poor explanation for the origin of complex protein-protein interactions, and infer that “other mechanisms” might be responsible for the origin of these features:

Although large uncertainties remain, it nonetheless seems reasonable to conclude that, although gene duplication and point mutation may be an effective mechanism for exploring closely neighboring genetic space for novel functions, where single mutations produce selectable effects, this conceptually simple pathway for developing new functions is problematic when multiple mutations are required. Thus, as a rule, we should look to more complicated pathways, perhaps involving insertion, deletion, recombination, selection of intermediate states, or other mechanisms, to account for most MR protein features.

While this article is framed as a challenge to evolution, Behe has argued extensively elsewhere that the best mechanism to account for the origin of these types of unevolvable biochemical pathways is intelligent design (See Behe, 1996; discussed here in section II (A)). Behe’s argument is purely empirical and makes no reliance upon God or the supernatural.


E. William A. Dembski, The Design Inference (Cambridge University Press, 1998).

In this peer-reviewed book by a prestigious academic publisher, Dembski lays out a theoretical model using detailed statistical analysis to determine when it is appropriate to infer design. Some of Dembski’s test examples include the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence, archaeology, and cryptography. There is no mention or reliance upon God or the supernatural in any of Dembski’s arguments. This highly technical book provides a purely empirical method for detecting design in nature. This method can establish the prior action of an intelligent agent, but cannot determine the identity of such an agent, nor does it appeal to religious notions of the supernatural.

Foundation for Thought and Ethics, the publisher of the textbook Of Pandas and People that was debated in the lawsuit, also filed an amicus brief that documented peer-reviewed pro-ID research. Their brief stated:

If this case were being argued in 1989, Pandas might be more dispositive as an authoritative guide to the theory of intelligent design. But there is now more than 15 years of scholarship by scientists and philosophers of science who think there are empirical means to detect design in nature. Pandas predates most of the major works of the contemporary design movement in science, including monographs by Cambridge University Press, and technical articles in peer-reviewed science and philosophy of science journals. The primary guide to the beliefs and views of intelligent design scholars today should be this record of scholarly and scientific and technical articles, not a supplementary high school textbook written more than a decade-and-a-half ago.50

Footnote 50 directs the Court to read Appendix D of the brief, which lists additional specific peer-reviewed pro-ID research papers. Some of the “Articles Supportive of Intelligent Design Published in Peer-Reviewed Scientific Journals” and “Peer-Reviewed Books Supportive of Intelligent Design Published by Trade Presses or University Presses” include:

  • W.A. Dembski, The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance through Small Probabilities (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).
  • John Angus Campbell and Stephen C. Meyer, Darwinism, Design, & Public Education (Michigan State University Press, 2003)
  • S.C. Meyer, “The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories,” Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, 117(2) (2004): 213-239.
  • M.J. Behe and D.W. Snoke, “Simulating Evolution by Gene Duplication of Protein Features That Require Multiple Amino Acid Residues,” Protein Science, 13 (2004): 2651-2664.
  • W.-E. Lönnig & H. Saedler, “Chromosome Rearrangements and Transposable Elements,” Annual Review of Genetics, 36 (2002): 389-410.
  • D.K.Y. Chiu & T.H. Lui, “Integrated Use of Multiple Interdependent Patterns for Biomolecular Sequence Analysis,” International Journal of Fuzzy Systems, 4(3) (September 2002): 766-775.
  • M.J. Denton, J.C. Marshall & M. Legge, (2002) “The Protein Folds as Platonic Forms: New Support for the pre-Darwinian Conception of Evolution by Natural Law,” Journal of Theoretical Biology 219 (2002): 325-342

Thus, Judge Jones was presented with ample evidence of ID research and pro-ID peer-reviewed publications. Yet he ignored it and held ID “has not generated peer-reviewed publications, nor has it been the subject of testing and research.”

And as we have noted, much ID research has been conducted and many peer-reviewed papers published since the Dover trial. As noted, I have documented quite a bit of this in response to Iowa State University student Michael Heckle. So When ID critics today perpetuate the Dover myth, their claims are even more clearly false than Judge Jones’s were.

As for Judge Jones, perhaps he disagrees with ID and can debate with ID proponents about whether the Type 3 Secretory System is a precursor to the flagellum or whether ID is a form of creationism. We think he’s clearly wrong there, too, but the question of whether ID has conducted research and published peer-reviewed scientific publications is a black-and-white question that has one, and only one, clear answer: Yes.

Unfortunately, Judge Jones got this simple question exactly wrong, giving life to a myth. This alone speaks volumes about the quality and accuracy of his ruling. How did he do it, though? How did the celebrated Judge Jones get such basic questions about ID so plainly wrong? For that, you’ll have to wait till tomorrow for the next myth.

Image: Kurhan / Dollar Photo Club.


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.



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