Evolution Icon Evolution
Faith & Science Icon Faith & Science
Intelligent Design Icon Intelligent Design

Is the Market for Articles that Ask “Is Intelligent Design Dead?” Dead?

David Klinghoffer


Evidently not, because atheists and theistic evolutionists keep pumping them out, as they’ve done for ten years now since the Dover decision. Yet all these numerous funeral processions later, here we still are.

Here’s a partial list of contributions:

Back in 2012, a person identified only as RJS wrote at the blog Jesus Creed, “Is Intelligent Design Dead?” Now RJS is back with more musings at the same venue, and asking the same question, “Is Intelligent Design Dead?” RJS begins:

A decade ago Intelligent Design with a capital I and a capital D was a hot topic. A major trial testing the teaching of the ID in Pennsylvania was decided in late 2005 and Stephen C. Meyer’s massive book Signature in the Cell was published in 2009. It was a common topic in evangelical churches — viewed as a way to combat the evil influence of evolution. Quite frankly, it was a topic I was ready to see disappear. The controversy was tainting most conversations about Christianity in my circles at the University.

“Tainting conversations”? Why? He doesn’t say.

RJS quotes a religion professor at Pepperdine University, Ron Highfield, who’s looked into ID a bit. He concludes on Highfield’s authority that intelligent design isn’t “a particularly useful scientific or theological approach.”

Not “useful”? Toward what end? What about “true,” “serious,” “honest”? But fine, then what would be “useful”? This, says RJS:

[T]he best empirical evidence for intelligence isn’t found in the pattern of DNA but in the existence of intelligence in the universe. This is complexity at its highest. In fact, the sciences that look for intelligence … forensic science, information theory, cryptography etc. … rely on intelligence to detect intelligence. “Only a mind can detect information or the activity of another mind.” (p. 163)

Intelligent design theory as an empirical science alone cannot get us to a designer. It cannot offer an alternative to biological evolution. There is no reason to set it up against modern science as science. On the other hand, as a philosophical argument — reasoning from intelligence to intelligence — it has something to offer.

RJS allows that as a Christian he believes “the world is intelligently designed for a purpose.” What he rejects is recognizing objective, scientific evidence of that. If I follow the line of reasoning correctly, he would rather infer “intelligence” from “intelligence.” Once again quoting the indispensable Ron Highfield:

Had [William] Dembski argued from the mind’s perception of the pervasive presence of intelligible reality with in the universe, in itself and other human minds, in biological structures, in cosmological laws and in the micro world of subatomic structures to the existence of a cosmic mind, his argument would demand attention. It would be built on a primitive , undeniable and universal human experience. (p. 164)

What? I don’t want to give RJS, or Ron Highfield, less credit than they deserve, but that makes no sense. Because we experience minds at the human level, therefore…intelligent design? That’s an “undeniable” argument that would “demand attention”?

Guys, please. You may notice that everyone dramatically heralding the demise of the ID movement does so with his own idiosyncratic justifications, often leaning on the vaporous authority of someone else who said it first, and never taking note of the excellent decade that ID has in fact enjoyed since Dover.

With the religious critics in particular, it’s hard to resist the suspicion that it’s easier to say “ID Is Dead” than it is to grapple with the relevant science, which can admittedly be challenging. RJS seems to regard the sheer volume of Stephen Meyer’s “massive” book as off-putting. (It’s actually not that massive.)

But this is not surprising. If you write for a blog called Jesus Creed, it’s probably not because of your interest in biology.

And I sympathize. Not everyone can picture himself cracking open a “massive” science tome. But then at least when someone asks you “Is ID Dead?,” or when it occurs to you to write an article with that title, have the humility to say, “I don’t have the slightest idea.”

Photo: Funeral procession of President Warren G. Harding, by National Photo Company [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

David Klinghoffer

Senior Fellow and Editor, Evolution News
David Klinghoffer is a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute and the editor of Evolution News & Science Today, the daily voice of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, reporting on intelligent design, evolution, and the intersection of science and culture. Klinghoffer is also the author of six books, a former senior editor and literary editor at National Review magazine, and has written for the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Seattle Times, Commentary, and other publications. Born in Santa Monica, California, he graduated from Brown University in 1987 with an A.B. magna cum laude in comparative literature and religious studies. David lives near Seattle, Washington, with his wife and children.