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CREATIONISM, EVOLUTION, AND INTELLIGENT DESIGN A seminar given to the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Louisville School of Medicine, Dec. 14, 2005 Revised and updated, March 2006 Thomas J. Wheeler, PhD Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

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A seminar given to the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Louisville School of Medicine, Dec. 14, 2005

Revised and updated, March 2006

Thomas J. Wheeler, PhD

Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTSSome slides (especially concerningintelligent design) are based on slides provided by:
  • Eugenie C. Scott, National Center for Science Education
  • Glenn Branch, National Center for Science Education
  • Chris Thompson, University of Washington
  • Karen Bartelt, Eureka College

Some slides are based on overhead transparencies originally prepared with Frank Lovell.


"More on Creationists and Meteoritic Dust” Creation/Evolution Newsletter 7, No. 4, 14-15 (1987)

In: Reviews of Creationist Books (L.R. Hughes, ed.), pp. 97-102. National Center for Science Education, 1992. Reprinted in Appleman, P. (ed.) Darwin (3rd ed.) (Norton Critical Editions), 2000

Reports of the National Center forScience Education 19(5), 17-19 (1999)

Creation/Evolution 13(2), 25-35 (1993)

  • Introduction – position statements, polls and news
  • Definitions – evolution, creationism; views of some religious groups
  • Creationism – young-Earth, old-Earth
  • The evidence for evolution
  • Creationist arguments
  • Creationism and the public schools
  • Intelligent design –positions, critiques; Dover trial
  • Conclusions – impact on teachers; political activities
  • Resources
introduction position statements

Professional organizations in the biological sciences stand firmly behind teaching of evolution, and against teaching of “intelligent design.”


Letter to President Bush from Judith Bond,

ASBMB President, Aug. 4, 2005:

“Intelligent design" is not a theory in the scientific sense, nor is it a scientific alternative to the theory of evolution. The theory of evolution has survived rigorous scientific scrutiny ever since it was promulgated in the mid-19th century, and is now recognized as one of mankind's greatest intellectual achievements. By contrast, "intelligent design" is not science since it is based on a belief that is inherently untestable--that is, that some unknown intelligence created life on earth…

The overwhelming majority of scientists, including many who are people of faith, strongly support teaching the theory of evolution as how life developed on earth. Injecting untestable explanations for this highly complex phenomenon into science classrooms only confuses the distinction between theology and science, to the detriment of both.


Board resolution on intelligent design, Oct. 2002:

Recognizing that the "intelligent design theory" represents a challenge to the quality of science education, the Board of Directors of the AAAS unanimously adopts the following resolution:

Whereas, ID proponents claim that contemporary evolutionary theory is incapable of explaining the origin of the diversity of living organisms;

Whereas, to date, the ID movement has failed to offer credible scientific evidence to support their claim that ID undermines the current scientifically accepted theory of evolution;

Whereas, the ID movement has not proposed a scientific means of testing its claims;

Therefore Be It Resolved, that the lack of scientific warrant for so-called "intelligent design theory" makes it improper to include as a part of science education;

Therefore Be Further It Resolved, that AAAS urges citizens across the nation to oppose the establishment of policies that would permit the teaching of "intelligent design theory" as a part of the science curricula of the public schools…


From “Position Statement: The Teaching of Evolution” (2003)

Policy makers and administrators should not mandate policies requiring the teaching of "creation science" or related concepts, such as so-called "intelligent design," "abrupt appearance," and "arguments against evolution." Administrators also should support teachers against pressure to promote nonscientific views or to diminish or eliminate the study of evolution.

This position statement reprinted courtesy of the National Science Teacher’s Association, Arlington, VA,


Press release, Dec. 22, 2005

polls and news
Polls and News
  • CBS poll reported Oct. 23, 2005: “51% of Americans say God created humans in their present form.”
  • Louisville Courier-Journal poll, Feb. 2000: among Kentuckians, biblical creationism was preferred to evolution by 63% to 23%.
  • October, 1999: Kentucky Education Department substitutes “change over time” for “evolution” in curriculum guidelines.
state of state science standards
  • Released by Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Dec. 2005

  • Concerning Kentucky’s standards: “The gravest lack is the absence of the word ‘evolution.’… We must conclude that the writers tried to get the needed content into the standards and, by omitting that politically fulminating E-word, to suggest to suspicious persons…that it isn't there. For this reason the grade could have been reduced to ‘F,’ but the effort elsewhere, including the actual content of evolutionary biology provided, is strong enough so that we allowed the score-determined grade ‘D’ to stand.”
Gallup Poll results (1982, 1993, 2004) show that Americans’ views on creationism and evolution have not changed in this period
  • 44 to 47% agreed with the statement that humans were created in their present form within the last 10,000 years
  • 35 to 38% agreed with evolution guided by God
  • 9 to 13% agreed with evolution without God
creationism proponents already in classrooms
“Creationism Proponents Already in Classrooms”
  • A story in the Baltimore Sun by Arthur Hirsch (Nov. 27, 2005) documented sympathy for creationism and intelligent design among high school teachers.
  • Randy Moore (University of Minnesota): “There’s a consistent, a significant number of biology teachers in public schools who are creationists.”
  • More than 2/3 of Kentucky teachers support teaching creationism along with evolution.
  • In 5 states, nearly 20% of teachers do not accept evolution.
president bush comments on intelligent design
President Bush comments on intelligent design
  • According to a story in The Washington Post, by Peter Baker and Peter Slevin (Aug., 2005), President Bush told reporters “that he believes that intelligent design should be taught alongside evolution as competing theories.”
  • “Both sides ought to be properly taught…so that people can understand what the debate is about,” he said.

But according to presidential science advisor John Marburger: “evolution is the cornerstone of modern biology…intelligent design is not a scientific concept”

evolution vs evolution theory
  • Evolution, the diversification of life from earlier forms (common descent) is something that has happened beyond any reasonable doubt.
  • Evolution theory is the set of explanations (mutations, natural selection, geographic isolation, etc.) for how this diversity has come about. It is well-established, but fine points are debated.
evolution is not anti religious


View of some religious groups


Some religious groups that have taken positions defending the teaching of evolution and/or attacking inclusion of creationism or intelligent design (from NCSE web site):

American Jewish Congress

Central Conference Of American Rabbis

General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA)

The General Convention Of The Episcopal Church

Roman Catholic Church


Today, almost half a century after the publication of the Encyclical, fresh knowledge has led to the recognition that evolution is more than a hypothesis. It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge. The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favour of this theory.

Pope John Paul II

Message to Pontifical Academy of Sciences (1996)

intelligent design rejected by leading vatican astronomer
Intelligent design rejected byleading Vatican astronomer

According to an Associated Press story (Nov. 18, 2005), Rev. George Coyne, director of the Vatican Observatory, said that “’intelligent design’ isn’t science and doesn’t belong in science classrooms.”


Francis Collins, director of the Human Genome Project, and an evangelical Christian, said: “From my perspective as a scientist working on the genome, the evidence in favor of evolution is overwhelming.”


Creationists (and intelligent design advocates) attack evolution for its “materialism” or “naturalism.”

This attack is inappropriate. Science relies on methodological materialism: when doing science, only naturalistic explanations are considered.

There is also philosophical materialism: rejection of the existence of the supernatural. But evolution (like other areas of science) takes no position for or against the supernatural.

  • Young-Earth
  • Old-Earth
young earth creationism
Young-Earth Creationism
  • A leading organization promoting young-Earth creationism has been the Institute for Creation Research in California.
  • Henry Morris, former president of the ICR, wrote the creationist textbook, Scientific Creationism.
young earth creationism29
Young-Earth Creationism
  • More recently, Answers in Genesis, based in northern Kentucky, has become prominent in the young-Earth creationist movement.
  • This group is led by Ken Ham.
  • Answers in Genesis is currently building a Creation Museum, scheduled to open in 2007.
scientific creationism model
  • Sudden creation of universe, Earth, and living things a few thousand years ago.
  • Changes only with major “kinds” of life (microevolution); no evolution from one “kind” to another (macroevolution).
  • Humans are a distinct “kind,” unrelated to any other animal.
  • A worldwide flood created most of Earth’s geological strata and fossils.

These points are not based on scientific evidence, but on religious faith in the literal truth of Genesis.

the major claims of young earth creationism have been disproved
The major claims of young-earth creationism have been disproved
  • The Earth and universe are billions of years old, not a few thousand years old. Evidence comes from geological features, radiodating of rocks, and distant astronomical objects.
  • There has not been a worldwide flood that created most of the fossil record. It cannot explain the order of the fossil record, and many features could not have formed under flood conditions or in only a few years.
  • All forms of life did not appear suddenly at about the same time. They appeared at many different times over billions of years.
  • Humans are not a distinct “kind” of life. We are closely related to apes.

Old-Earth Creationism

One leading old-Earth creationist is Dr. Hugh Ross, of the

Reasons To Believe ministry

old earth creationism
  • Accepts the scientific evidence that Earth and universe are billions of years old.
  • Rejects the idea of common descent.
  • However, if common descent is not true, there must have been thousands of creation events spread over billions of years in a pattern that looks like evolution.


(Among nearly all experts in the biological sciences, there is no doubt that evolution has occurred.)



  • The hierarchy of living things – comparative anatomy, DNA sequences, etc.
  • The fossil record – gradual appearance of living things over billions of years, including intermediate (transitional) forms
  • Biogeography – the distribution of living and fossil plants and animals
  • Vestigial features – useless or altered features reflecting evolutionary history.
  • Embryology – stages of development reflect evolutionary history.
  • Creationism cannot explain these observations.
evolutionary developmental biology evo devo
Evolutionary Developmental Biology (“Evo-Devo”)

“Evo-Devo can trace the modifications of structures through vast periods of evolutionary time – to see how fish fins were modified into limbs in terrestrial vertebrates, how successive rounds of innovation and modification crafted mouthparts, poison claws, swimming and feeding appendages, gills, and wings from a simple tube-like walking leg, and how many kinds of eyes have been constructed beginning with a collection of photosensitive cells.”

--Sean B. Carroll, Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo

evolutionary developmental biology evo devo37
Evolutionary Developmental Biology (“Evo-Devo”)

“…all complex animals…share a common ‘toolkit’ of ‘master’ genes that govern the formation and patterning of their bodies and body parts…The discovery of the ancient genetic toolkit is irrefutable evidence of the descent and modification of animals, including humans, from common ancestors.”

Sean Carroll



PHYLOGENY: comparative features show that humans are closely related to the great apes, and, among the great apes, most closely related to the chimpanzees.

In 2005, the sequence of the chimpanzee genome was reported.

“The papers confirm the astonishing molecular similarities between ourselves and chimpanzees. The average protein differs by only two amino acids, and 29% of proteins are identical…The total genetic difference between humans and chimps, in terms of number of bases, sums to about 4% of the genome.”

Science 309, 1468-9 (2005)



The fossil record documents an abundance of forms that, over millions of years, gradually change from more ape-like to more human-like. See, for example, the chart found in Nature422, 849-857 (24 April 2003).

BIOGEOGRAPHY:As Darwin predicted, these fossils are found in Africa, near our closest relatives, the great apes.



  • The embryo has a notochord, which later disappears
  • Pharyngeal pouches, similar to gill pouches, develop
  • Three separate sets of kidneys develop
  • The eyes form at the side of the head, then shift to the front
  • A tail develops, then regresses
  • Muscles to move our tails
  • Appendix
creationism is not supported by evidence
Creationism is notsupported by evidence
  • For the most part, creationists do not attempt to present positive evidence for creationism.
  • Mostly they present negative arguments, attacking evolution
  • The only positive argument is that living things appear to be well-designed.

(Discussed later with intelligent design)

popular creationist arguments have been refuted by experts
Popular creationist arguments have been refuted by experts
  • No transitional forms
  • Gaps in the fossil record
  • Second Law of Thermodynamics
  • Probability arguments
  • Humans and dinosaurs living together
  • Out of sequence geological strata
  • Dust on the moon
  • Decline in Earth’s magnetic field
  • Salt in the ocean
  • Evolution is in chaos

Scientists have considered the hypotheses proposed by creation science and have rejected them because of a lack of evidence. Furthermore, the claims of creation science do not refer to natural causes and cannot be subject to meaningful tests, so they do not qualify as scientific hypotheses.

National Academy of Sciences, 1999

creationism vs evolution a religious and social controversy not a scientific controversy
Creationism vs. evolution: a religious and social controversy, not a scientific controversy
  • There is no significant doubt within the scientific community that evolution has occurred.
  • Creationists take their case to the general public, not the scientific community
  • Creationism is promoted largely by religious organizations
  • Creationist materials are filled with religious arguments and Biblical references.
creationism and the public schools
  • Arkansas and Louisiana cases
  • Kansas standards
  • Georgia stickers
  • Santorum amendment
  • Academic freedom

(Intelligent design, Dover later)


The First Amendment (1791):

…Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercisethereof …

  • The Lemon Test (1971):
  • the government’s action must have a secular purpose;
  • the primary effect of the government’s action must neither promote nor inhibit religion; and
  • the government’s action must not excessively entangle it with religion
1 banning evolution
1. Banning evolution

Antievolution laws 1919-1927

1968 - Epperson vs Arkansas - invalidated Arkansas statute that prohibited teaching of evolution.

2 seeking equal time
2. Seeking “equal time”

“Creation science” 1961-1987


Judge Overton in McLean v. Arkansas (1982):

… the evidence is overwhelming that both the purpose and effect of Act 590 is the advancement of religion in the public schools.

Ruled that creation “science” is not science.


Edwards v. Aguillard,

1987 – struck down Louisiana law requiring“equal time” for creation science. The law was endorsing a particular religion.

edwards v aguillard 1987
Edwards v. Aguillard, 1987

… teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humankind to schoolchildren might be validly done …

--Justice Brennan

The people of Louisiana … are quite entitled, as a secular matter, to have whatever scientific evidence there may be against evolution presented in their schools…

-Justice Scalia (dissenting)

consequences of edwards decision
Consequences of Edwards Decision

“Scientific alternatives to evolution”

- “abrupt appearance theory”

- “intelligent design theory”

(but these are not scientific)

“Evidence against evolution”

(but there is no evidence that casts

serious doubt on evolution)

“Teach the controversy”

(but evolution is not controversial

among scientists)


Politics and ID: Kansas

1999 – Kansas Board of Education deletes evolution from science curriculum

2001 – changes in Board lead to restoration of evolution

2002 and 2004 – elections lead to more conservative Board

2005 – after months of deliberation, in November the Board votes 6-4 to institute changes that are critical of evolution. The Board also decides to redefine science, so that it would not be limited to natural explanations.

2006 – candidates on both sides prepare for the next round of elections.

disclaimers textbooks
  • 1995 - Alabama - "This textbook discusses evolution, a controversial theory…No one was present when life first appeared on earth. Therefore, any statement about life's origins should be considered as theory, not fact."
  • 1997 - Texas - BOE proposed replacing all biology textbooks with new ones that did not mention evolution.
  • 2000 - Oklahoma disclaimer- similar to Alabama's
  • 2001 - Mattoon, IL - school board rejects textbooks because of evolutionary content (later reversed)
  • 2001 Cobb County, GA - disclaimers in HS biology and middle school science texts.

This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.

Cobb County, GA, 2002


Cobb County, Georgia, stickers

Subject of federal court case.

Outcome: stickers ruled unconstitutional, January 2005

(hearing of appeal begins, December 2005)


Politics and ID: Santorum Amendment

June 2001 - Sen. Rick Santorum (R, PA) proposes amendment to the No Child Left Behind bill. (Amendment drafted by Phillip Johnson, a leader of the intelligent design movement)

It is the sense of the Senate that–

(1) good science education should prepare students to distinguish the data or testable theories of science from philosophical or religious claims that are made in the name of science; and

(2) where biological evolution is taught, the curriculum should help students to understand why this subject generates so much continuing controversy, and should prepare the students to be informed participants in public discussions regarding the subject.

the santorum amendment
The Santorum amendment
  • Passed 98-1, but went to conference committee, where it was deleted. Some language from the original amendment is in a committee report, which has no force of law.
  • However, creationists sometimes cite this amendment as if it were a law.
academic freedom issues
Academic freedom issues
  • Considered to apply to right of college and university professors to perform research and publish in areas of choice. “Academic freedom is not a license to teach anything you like.” – Kenneth Knight, AAUP.
  • For high school science classes, issues are appropriateness (e.g., must be science, not religion) and competence (in accord with what the scientific community considers good science)
  • Peloza case (1991): “Teachers do no have a constitutional right to teach or not teach certain subjects based on their personal views.”


Old Earth

Bible Free



Evolution of Creationism







Earth Round

Last Common Ancestor

refutation of the design argument
Refutation of the design argument
  • Design is only apparent, and can be explained by evolution.
  • There are many things in biology that do not appear to be well designed.
refutation of the design argument64
Refutation of the design argument
  • The biological arms race
  • Parasites
how does intelligent design differ from the classical design argument
How does “intelligent design” differ from the classical design argument?
  • Discoveries in biochemistry and molecular biology reveal far greater complexity than previously thought, and it is claimed this could not have evolved. (Behe)
  • Claims based on information theory. (Dembski)
intelligent design other general aspects
Intelligent design: other general aspects
  • Takes no position on the identify of the designer.
  • Takes no position on the age of the Earth (though most leading advocates are old-Earth).
  • Could include progressive creationism (intervention at multiple times to create new species or features) and theistic evolution (common descent, but with special intervention needed to create some complex features).
  • Component of “cultural renewal,” seeking to remove strict naturalism from science.

Minor players in ID

Paul Nelson – Young-Earth creationist

Stephen Meyer – Exec. Dir. Of the C(R)SC

Guillermo Gonzalez – Astronomer at Iowa State

Alvin Plantinga – Theologian at Notre Dame

David DeWolf – Law Professor at Gonzaga U.

John Calvert – Lawyer, Dir of ID Network

Scott Minich – Microbiologist, University of Idaho

but mostly we just hear about four individuals
But mostly we just hear about four individuals:

Philip Johnson – lawyer

Michael Behe – biochemist

Jonathan Wells – trained in molecular and cell biology

William Dembski – mathematician

Only two of these have trained in relevant areas (one of them only to the postdoc level).

Is this a scientific movement that deserves to be included in high school science classes?

the discovery institute
The Discovery Institute
  • Conservative Seattle think tank run by former Reagan adviser Bruce Chapman
  • 1996 - DI establishes the Center for Renewal of Science and Culture - funds whole ID movement - $1 million/year
  • $2.8 M through 2003 from Howard Ahmanson and Fieldstead and Co. (Christian reconstructionist movement)

Center for Science and Culture(previously Centerfor the Renewal ofScience and Culture)


  • To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies.
  • To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.

CRSC web site, Oct. 1999

the wedge
The Wedge
  • A document detailing the plans and strategies of the CRSC to reform science.
  • “If we view the predominant materialistic science as a giant tree, our strategy is intended to function as a ‘wedge’ that, while relatively small, can split the trunk when applied at its weakest points.” (Wedge document)
  • Phases: 1. Research; 2. Publicity and Opinion-Making; 3. Cultural Confrontation and Renewal
foundation for thought and ethics
Foundation for Thoughtand Ethics
  • Publisher, Of Pandas and People, the intelligent design textbook
  • Has other intelligent design publications as well
  • William Dembski, Senior Fellow, Center for Science and Culture, is Academic Editor.


Major players in ID: Philip Johnson

Professor of Law (emeritus), Berkeley

Books: Darwin on Trial

The Wedge of Truth

Defeating Darwinism By Opening Minds

Reason in the Balance

Presumed author of the “wedge document”

Role in ID: Tear down the

“evil” that is naturalism


Major players in ID: Jonathan Wells

Book: Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth?

PhD from Berkley, Yale

Reverend in the True Parents Organization (Unification Church)

Role in ID: Poke holes in the best known examples of evolution

icons of evolution logic
“Icons of Evolution” Logic
  • Textbooks illustrate evolution with examples

2. Examples are flawed/misleading or fraudulent

3. Therefore evolution is false/bad science

#3 does not follow from 2;

#2 is not generally true!


Major players in ID: William Dembski

  • Books: The Design Inference; No Free Lunch
  • Doctorates in mathematics and philosophy, and master of divinity degree
  • Recently joined the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, where he heads a new Center for Science and Theology
  • Accepts that the Earth is billions of years old
william dembski s explanatory filter
William Dembski’s“Explanatory Filter”
  • The filter is presented as a flowchart for assessing the cause of an event.
  • If the event is “highly probable” it could be due to natural law.
  • If it is of “intermediate probability” it could be due to chance.
  • If it is of “small probability” but not “specified,” it could be due to chance.
  • If it is of “small probability” and “specified,” it must be due to design.
some flaws in the explanatory filter mark perakh skeptic nov 2005
Some flaws in the explanatory filter(Mark Perakh, Skeptic, Nov. 2005)
  • We can’t assign probability without knowing the cause
  • Most events arise from a combination of causes
  • Specification is related to probability, not a separate feature
  • Hasn’t been shown to work; only examples are where answer already known.
  • It is simply an argument from improbability.
another book by dembski no free lunch
Another book by Dembski:No Free Lunch

“In No Free Lunch I argue that material systems are not capable of organizing themselves into complex specified structures apart from intelligence.”

NFL refers to certain theorems in optimization theory, related to search algorithms and fitness functions.

NFL says that a given algorithm does no better than another when averaged over all fitness landscapes.

Dembski claims that, therefore, evolution can do no better than a random search – which isn’t good enough.

But an algorithm can do better than random in specific fitness landscapes, such as encountered in evolution.

Moreover, evolution does not have a prespecified target.

critique by david wolpert co author of the no free lunch theorems
Critique by David Wolpert, co-authorof the No Free Lunch theorems:
  • "…his (Dembski's) arguments are fatally flawed and imprecise…All one can do is squint, furrow one's brows, and then shrug."
  • "…neo-Darwinian evolution of ecosystems does not involve a set of genomes searching the same fitness function, the situation considered by the NFL theorems…recent results indicate that NFL results do not hold in co-evolution."

Lack of peer review:

Dembski claims to have made revolutionary discoveries. “He has even been hailed by one of his allies in the Discovery Institute as ‘the Isaac Newton of information theory.' Yet his work on these subjects has not appeared in any journal of statistics or information theory, and, as far as I can determine, not one professional statistician or information theorist has approved of this work.“ – Richard Wein


Conclusion of philosopher of science Michael Ruse: “Dembski is ‘just plain wrong.’”

Pennock, Science 301, 1051 (2003)


Major players in ID: Michael Behe

Book: Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution

Professor at Lehigh University

Popularized “Irreducible Complexity”

(Supports common descent)


Major argument in ID: Irreducible Complexity

“By irreducibly complex I mean a single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning."

Michael Behe, Darwin’s Black Box

The Bacterial Flagellum: ID’s mascot

behe s examples of irreducible complexity
  • Molecular motors: bacterial flagella; cilia
  • Blood clotting cascade
  • Protein trafficking
  • Immune system
  • Metabolic pathways

Despite his claims in Darwin’s Black Box, there were many papers on the evolution of the systems he discusses. Plausible evolutionary pathways have been proposed, even if all of the steps are not known.

scientists respond to behe
Scientists respond to Behe
  • Simpler systems may exist in some organisms, showing that the structures are not irreducibly complex.
  • Complex features can arise from simpler precursors. Eventually all parts may be indispensable, but this need not have been true in earlier stages.
  • Co-optation: structures that have one function can be recruited to take on new functions. Considerable evidence indicates that proteins involved in complex pathways and structures have evolved from other proteins.
  • Darwin's Black Box is nothing more than an argument from personal incredulity: Behe can’t imagine how a flagellum could have been produced via natural selection, therefore, the flagellum is the product of intelligent design!
intelligent design arguments are simply negative arguments against evolution
Intelligent design arguments are simply negative arguments against evolution:
  • Supposed disproofs of evolution (irreducible complexity, information): experts agree that these arguments are flawed and do not disprove evolution
  • Probability arguments: but we cannot assess the probability without knowing in detail all possible evolutionary scenarios
behe responds by changing arguments
Behe responds by changing arguments:
  • “’I quite agree that my argument against Darwinism does not add up to a logical proof,’ he says – though he continues to believe that Darwinian paths to irreducible complexity are exceedingly unlikely.
  • “Behe and his followers now emphasize that, while irreducibly complex systems can in principle evolve, biologists can’t reconstruct in convincing detail just how any such system did evolve.”
    • H. Allen Orr, The New Yorker, May 30, 2005

Many flagellar proteins are homologous to proteins in the Type III secretion apparatus.

Bacterial flagella

(colors indicate conserved functions; proteins do not necessarily have homologous sequences)

Blocker, Ariel et al. (2003) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 100, 3027-3030

Copyright 2003 National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A. Used with permission.

Possible evolutionary scenarios have been proposed in which a primitive export pore changes to an active secretion system; acquires an adhesion function; develops a pilus, which becomes a flagellum; acquires regulatory and switching mechanisms, etc. Function changes from export to secretion to adhesion to motility.

blood clotting
Blood clotting

Prothrombin and factors X, IX, XI, and VII are homologous.

A proposed scenario (Miller, Finding Darwin’s God):

A plasma serine protease (zymogen form), when exposed to damaged tissue, can get activated, cutting proteins nonspecifically and producing clot.

Addition of an EGF domain allows cellular binding.

A fibrinogen-like protein is recruited to be the target of the proteolysis.

The original protease is autocatalytic, but by gene duplication an activating protease can be added.

The cascade is extended backward.

Further levels of control are added.

immune system
Immune system
  • Innate immune system: found in all multicellular organisms.
  • Adaptive or antibody-based immune system: restricted to jawed vertebrates.

Emergence of the organs, cells, and molecules of the AIS during the evolution of chordates

Black = fully developed

Shaded = ancestral form

Light = not known

Klein, Jan and Nikolaidis, Nikolas (2005) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 102, 169-174

Copyright 2005 National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A. Used with permission.

Copyright ©2005 by the National Academy of Sciences


Hypothetical scenario for the emergence of the major histocompatibility, T cell receptor, and B cell receptor molecules by gradual evolution, which encompassed modification of preexisting domains, joining together of different domains, and possibly generation of new domain designs

Klein, Jan and Nikolaidis, Nikolas (2005) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 102, 169-174

Copyright 2005 National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A. Used with permission.

Copyright ©2005 by the National Academy of Sciences

darwin on the eye
Darwin on the eye:

Reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a simple and imperfect eye to one complex and perfect can be shown to exist, each grade being useful to its possessor, as is certainly the case; if further, the eye ever varies and the variations be inherited, as is likewise certainly the case; and if such variations should be useful to any animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, should not be considered as subversive of the theory.

To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree…

evolution of the eye
Evolution of the eye
  • Possible stages in evolution of the eye, as indicated by eyes in existing organisms.
  • Photosensitive epithelium
  • Simple eye cup (some gastropods)
  • A deeper cup, providing directional information (many annelids and gastropods)
  • Further toward a pinhole eye (some molluscs)
  • Refractive lens, resulting from increased protein concentration (some gastropods)
  • Flat, pigmented iris surrounding the lens allows for better focusing (fish, squids; some gastropods, annelids, and crustaceans)
  • (from Futuyma, Evolutionary Biology)
  • See figure at:
evolution of the eye two recent papers on eye proteins
Evolution of the eye: two recent papers on eye proteins

1. C-Opsin found in light-sensitive cells in the brain of Platynereis, a marine worm (Arendt et al. (2004) Science 306, 869-871)

r-opsin = rhabdomeric (invertebrates); c-opsin = ciliary (vertebrates)

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Evolution of the eye: two recent papers on eye proteins

2. βγ-Crystallin was found in Ciona, a urochordate (which does not have a lens) (Shimeid et al. (2005) Current Biology 15, 1684-1689).

“The conservation of the regulatory hierarchy controlling βγ-crystallin expression between organisms with and without a lens shows that the evolutionary origin of the lens was based on co-option of pre-existing regulatory circuits controlling the expression of a key structural gene in a primitive light-sensing system.”

evolution of complex structures summary
Evolution of complex structures: summary
  • We do not know in complete detail how these structures evolved.
  • However, plausible scenarios have been proposed.
  • Simpler systems are found in some organisms, demonstrating that they are not irreducibly complex.
  • Moreover, the molecular evidence indicates that these structures did evolve.
  • In no case have researchers reached an impasse to further understanding of how the structures may have evolved.
the problem with accepting the evolution of complex features
The problem with accepting the evolution of complex features
  • It is difficult (especially for people not trained in science) to imagine the power of the immense number of replicating organisms, taken over millions of years, to produce cumulative changes.
  • But there are many things that are true yet beyond our ability to comprehend:

Examples: the universe is about 14 billion years old and contains about 1076 atoms.

The human body has about 1014 cells.

An estimated 1030 bacteria live on Earth.

recent books providing critiques of intelligent design
Recent books providing critiques of intelligent design
  • Tower of Babel: The Evidence against the New Creationism (Robert T. Pennock)
  • Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics: Philosophical, Theological, and Scientific Perspectives(Robert T. Pennock, ed.)
  • Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design (Barbara Forrest & Paul R. Gross)
  • Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction (Eugenie C. Scott)
  • Finding Darwin's God: A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution (Kenneth R. Miller)
  • Why Intelligent Design Fails: A Scientific Critique of the New Creationism (Matt Young and Taner Edis, eds.)
  • Unintelligent Design (Mark Perakh)
scientific problems with intelligent design
Scientific problems with intelligent design:
  • No concise definition of what is meant by "design.”
  • No consensus on who the "designer” is.
  • No position on when, or how many times, the “designer” acted.
  • No position on the age of the Earth
  • No position on common ancestry. Did evolution occur, with the designer just inserting complex structures and pathways?
scientific problems with intelligent design102
Scientific problems with intelligent design:
  • No proposed mechanism for “design.”

Michael Behe in the Dover trial:

In an attempt to pin Professor Behe down, Mr. Rothschild asked, “What is the mechanism that intelligent design is proposing?”

Mr. Behe said: “It does not propose a mechanism in the sense of a step-by-step description of how these structures arose.” He added that “the word ‘mechanism’ can be used broadly” and said the mechanism was “intelligent activity.”

Laurie Goodstein, New York Times, Oct. 19, 2005

scientific problems with intelligent design103
Scientific problems with intelligent design:
  • No theory:
  • “Easily the biggest challenge facing the…
  • intelligent design community, is to develop a full-fledged theory of biological design. We don’t have such a theory right now, and that’s a big problem. Without a theory it’s very hard to know where to direct your research focus. Right now we’ve got a bag of powerful intuitions and a handful of notions such as irreducible complexity and specified complexity, but as yet no general theory of biological design.”
  • ---Paul Nelson, Touchstone Magazine, Aug. 2004
scientific problems with intelligent design104
Scientific problems with intelligent design:
  • Many things in biology do not look well-designed. (“Features that strike us as odd in a design might have been placed there by the designer for a reason – for artistic reasons, to show off, for some as-yet undetectable practical purpose, or for some unguessable reason – or they might not.” – Michael Behe, Darwin’s Black Box.)
scientific problems with intelligent design105
Scientific problems with intelligent design:
  • No research in support. “In the nearly ten years since the publication of Behe’s book…I.D. has inspired no nontrivial experiments and has provided no surprising insights into biology.” H. Allen Orr, The New Yorker. (In 2005, a peer-review paper was finally published in an obscure journal, but it offered no new evidence or arguments.)

“The Templeton Foundation, a major supporter of projects seeking to reconcile science and religion, says that after providing a few grants for conferences and courses related to debate intelligent design, they asked proponents to submit proposals for actual research. ‘They never came in,’ said Charles L. Harper Jr., senior vice president…’From the point of view of rigor and intellectual seriousness, the intelligent design people don’t come out very well in our world of scientific review,’ he said.” – Laurie Goodstein, New York Times, Dec. 4, 2005

scientific problems with intelligent design106
Scientific problems with intelligent design:
  • Intelligent design is a “science stopper”: if we give up and say something was designed, then we will stop looking to see how it may have evolved.

“Science is a philosophy of discovery. Intelligent design is a philosophy of ignorance. You cannot build a program of discovery on the assumption that nobody is smart enough to figure out the answer to a problem.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of Hayden Planetarium, Natural History, November 2005.

Even if intelligent design qualified as science, it is not appropriate to teach in school science classes
  • There is virtually no published research in support.
  • It is rejected by nearly all experts in the relevant areas of science.
  • In no other area of science do the schools teach something with so little support among scientists.

“…once you win the scientific consensus, quite automatically you wind up in the curriculum, college courses, and eventually in high school and grade school classes. Intelligent design has been either unable or unwilling to win the scientific consensus, so what you see now is an end run around the scientific process to use political means, state boards of education, curriculum development to inject this into the classroom without winning the scientific consensus…”

--Kenneth Miller (Brown University), American Enterprise Institute panel discussion on intelligent design, Oct. 21, 2005

johnson admits what id is really about
Johnson admits what ID is really about

"This isn't really, and never has been, a debate about science," said the [Biola]

conference's prime mover, law professor Phillip Johnson of the University of

California at Berkeley. "It's about religion and philosophy." [Jay Grelen, "Witnesses for the Prosecution,“ World, 11-30-96, (11)26]


Goals of the Discovery Institute, Center for Renewal of Science and Culture (leading promoter of intelligent design):--To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies. --To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.

Intelligent design is a religious movement

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Intelligent design is a religious movement

“…intelligent design is just the Logos theology of John’s Gospel restated in the idiom of information technology.”

William Dembski, Touchstone, July/Aug 1999:84.

The Intelligent Design movement starts with the recognition that “In the beginning was the Word,” and “In the beginning God created.” Establishing that point isn't enough, but it is absolutely essential to the rest of the gospel message.

Phillip Johnson (2000). Forward to Creation, Evolution, & Modern Science, Probe Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. p. 5

"Father's words, my studies, and my prayers, convinced me that I should devote my life todestroying Darwinism, just as many of my fellow Unificationists had already devoted their lives to destroying Marxism. “

Jonathan Wells, Unification Church sermon


Dover, Pennsylvania

  • In 2004, the school board adopted a policy in which biology teachers were to inform students about “gaps/problems” in evolution, and to include intelligent design in the ninth grade curriculum.
  • The intelligent design textbook Of Pandas and People was endorsed as a reference.
  • A lawsuit was filed against the policy, with a federal trial held in late 2005.


  • Evidence presented in the trial clearly showed that:
  • The school board wanted to teach creationism.
  • The school board knew that intelligent design is a form of creationism.

In November, 2005, eight of the school board members that had supported intelligent design were up for re-election. All were defeated.

dover trial
  • In December 2005, Judge John Jones issued a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs.
  • “After a searching review of the record and applicable case law, we find that while ID arguments may be true, a proposition on which the Court takes no position, ID is not science.”

We find that ID fails on three different levels, any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science. They are:

  • ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation;
  • the argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980’s; and
  • ID’s negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community.
  • --Judge John Jones, decision in Dover case

As we will discuss in more detail below, it is additionally important to note that ID has failed to gain acceptance in the scientific community, it has not generated peer-reviewed publications, nor has it been the subject of testing and research.

--Judge John Jones, decision in Dover case



  • It will now be more difficult to introduce intelligent design in high school classes.
  • In February, 2006, the Ohio Board of Education reversed an anti-evolution policy, partly in response to the Dover decision.
  • Plans to introduce intelligent design legislation in some states were modified after the decision.


Creationism provides the driving force.

Intelligent design provides a superficially intellectual cover, supposedly free of religious content.

Proponents appeal to the idea that it is only fair to admit alternative views.

  • Impact on teachers
  • Recent political activity


In many textbooks, evolution is placed in a chapter near the end, where it is often rushed through (or left out entirely) at the end of the school year.

NSTA Survey (March 2005)

When asked if they feel pressured to include creationism, intelligent design, or other nonscientific alternatives to evolution in their science classroom, 31% of teachers responding said they did.

When asked if they feel pushed to de-emphasize or omit evolution or evolution-related topics from their curriculum, 30% agreed.



Reports of the National Center for Science Education, Nov-Dec 2004


Antievolution legislation in 2004

Oklahoma HB 2194

Michigan HB 4946, HB 5005

Missouri HB 911

Minnesota HF 2003, SF 1714

Alabama HB 336

Mississippi HB 1288


Antievolution legislation in 2005

Alabama HB 352/SB 240

Arkansas HB 2607

Georgia HB 179

Missouri HB 35

Mississippi HB 2886

Montana HB 1199

Oklahoma SB 719

South Carolina SB 114

Texas HB 220 (textbooks)

New York A 3036

politics kentucky
Politics: Kentucky
  • In December, it was reported that Republican members of the legislature were interested in intelligent design legislation.
  • In January, Governor Fletcher, in his “State of the Commonwealth” address, said: “So I ask, what is wrong with teaching ‘intelligent design’ in our schools. Under KERA, our school districts have that freedom and I encourage them to do so. This is not a question about faith or religion. It’s about self-evident truth.”
  • At a later news conference, Fletcher said that teaching of intelligent design should be a local decision.
  • No bills related to evolution have been introduced in the 2006 session.
politics indiana
Politics: Indiana
  • A November story reported that some Republican Indiana legislators were developing legislation to require teaching of intelligent design.
  • Some of these legislators had met earlier with Carl Baugh, a young-Earth creationist.
  • A January story reported that as a result of the Dover decision, the intelligent design idea was replaced by a bill requiring “accuracy in textbooks.”

Crisis center

  • The Talk Origins Archive: Exploring the Creation/Evolution Controversy

  • Critically Examining the “Intelligent Design” Movement

  • The Panda’s Thumb: Group weblog on evolutionary theory, the claims of the anti-evolution movement, and the defence of the integrity of both science and science education.