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Darwinist: ID Could Have Redeemed Itself by Leaping to Prejudged Conclusion on COVID-19

David Klinghoffer
Image source: CDC, via Unsplash.

Just when you thought Darwinists had exhausted their imagination and couldn’t come up with any silly new put-downs of intelligent design, along comes science historian Adam Shapiro. He has an article at American Scientist, unveiling a brand new zinger. Give him credit for novelty if not for coherence. His argument is that ID, a disreputable and unscientific theory, could have redeemed itself in the coronavirus pandemic by proclaiming that the virus is no lab-designed bioweapon.

He offers the usual bouquet of misrepresentations. There is the Judge Jones trope, whereby a federal judge in Harrisburg, PA, is fit to determine that “intelligent design’s appeal to nonnatural explanations or supernatural creators is not scientific.” But ID is not an “appeal” to the “supernatural.” it’s an inference to intelligent agency, and its validity is not a question for a judge to decide.

There is the trope of tarring ID as “antievolution,” when in any normal use of English, defining the limits of unguided evolution is not “antievolution,” any more than it’s “anti-science” to say that science as a whole has limits to what it can do or what it can tell us.

There is the “injecting religion into schools” trope. See our Science Education Policy, which  couldn’t be clearer that Discovery Institute opposes “injecting” anything into schools other than a more balanced, objective treatment of evolutionary theory. 

“Casting Stones at Darwin”

In Shapiro’s view, ID and its proponents are merely about “casting stones at Darwin.” His proposal explains how ID could have redeemed itself, morally, but failed.

I would say that when it comes to ID he hasn’t got the foggiest idea what he’s talking about, except that he does seem to have made a quick study of several recent posts at Evolution News, by Michael Behe and Michael Egnor. Shapiro quotes Behe, writing here on March 10, fairly early in the corona crisis:

Behe wrote that although he believes that viruses in general are the products of intelligent design, the emergence of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 was an act of random evolution. “Viral mutations can change the shape of the skeleton key at random. Most of the time the process doesn’t work but, every once in a while, the virus hits the jackpot.” 

Was that not clear enough for him? Shapiro himself waves away the idea of COVID as a bioweapon with a sentence: “It’s both biologically and diplomatically unlikely that a virus that has these effects and transmission patterns would be weaponized and released in such a fashion.” He worries about media discussions:

The suggestion that the virus was a deliberate (or unintentional) bioweapon is sometimes elided [sic] with valid criticism of China’s communication and response to the initial outbreak to strengthen efforts to blame the Asian country for the global pandemic.

Intelligent Design Doesn’t Prejudge

Dr. Shapiro should look up “elide” in a dictionary. He seems to mean “conflate” or “confuse.” The problem is that ID, unlike Adam Shapiro, doesn’t prejudge questions, nor does it conflate or confuse them. What is desirable to conclude is not necessarily what is valid to conclude. Darwinists often forget that. The more important the question, the more important it is to resist the temptation to prejudge. Whether aspects of nature bear evidence of design is the most important question science can ask, and so it calls for careful application of the tools that ID has developed.

Those tools might be valid or they might be invalid. That is not for Judge Jones to decide, nor is it to be decided by whether ID comes to conclusions that align well with a certain view of reality, or with someone’s political preferences. 

If ID as a methodology is invalid, “unscientific,” as Shapiro thinks, following Judge Jones, then how does it become redeemed as science by reaching a conclusion about COVID that is pleasing to Adam Shapiro? If it’s valid, or at least arguably valid, then its coming to one conclusion or another about COVID, or no conclusion yet at all, is not a coherent objection.

Weighing the validity of ID, not by distorting its conclusions or imputing false intentions to it, but fairly and objectively, is what evolutionary biology has largely refused to do. Darwinists could redeem themselves, anytime, by grappling in a serious manner with the scientific evidence for design.