Sunday, February 26, 2006


Visits Pass the Thousand Mark!

Since I installed a site metre two months ago, visits to ID.Plus have now exceeded the one thousand mark, with an average of 19 visits per day and rising! Visitors come mainly from the USA and the United Kingdom, but also includes folk from: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Hawaii, Netherlands, Phillipines, Spain, Switzerland and Turkey. So whether you visit to agree or to disagree, to keep up to date with me in particular or the world of ID in general, to read my pieces or use the recommended web links, thanks for visiting!

Saturday, February 25, 2006


How Horizon Got Intelligent Design Wrong

My critical review of Horizon's anti-ID documentry, 'The War on Science', is now available from

'The War on Science: How Horizon Got Intelligent Design Wrong' @

Friday, February 24, 2006


British Academics Sign 'A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism'

Looking at the Discovery Institute's recently updated 'Scientific Dissent From Darwinism' I note that 11 of the now 500+ signatories are British (not counting Stephen C. Meyer who got his PhD from Cambridge but resides in the States). They come from the universities of Oxford, London, Glasgow, Coventry, Leeds and Bristol, the University of Wales, and from the British Museum.

If you have a PhD. in biology, chemistry, physics, engineering, mathematics, computer science, or one of the other natural sciences, and would like to add your name to the following statement, "We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged," then you might like to contact the Discovery Institute at

Let's try and increase the British contingent in this list!


Analysis of Origins Polls on both sides of the Pond

Eddie at has posted several new pieces on my 'featured author' page, including my article comparing recent polls of British and American adult's beliefs concerning origins. cf.

Eddie even managed to get my pie graphs and charts to reproduce!

One slight mistake of mine in the 'Playing Both Sides' article that I should point out here (and which I've asked Eddie to correct for me), is my mention of Edinborough University as one of the British universities with academics who support ID. I don't know whether it is or is not; but what I actually had in mind was Prof. John Haldane at the University of St Andrews, which is also in Scotland.


Michael Ruse takes Dennett and Dawkins to Task

In a remarkable exchange of e-mails published by Dembski's Uncommon Dissent Blog, hard-line Darwinian Prof. Michael Ruse responds to philosopher Daniel Dennett's suggestion that he (Ruse) is 'being enlisted on the side of the forces of darkness'. Ruse's robust response extends to a critique of zoologist Richard Dawkins:
(you need to read from the bottom of the page upwards)

Highlights from Ruse' e-mails:

''It is true that I condemn or at least want to point to evolutionism, which I do think functions as a secular religion – but never have I said that Darwinian evolutionary theory is anything but a genuine theory... I have no more belief than either you or Dawkins – I call myself a sceptic because I think that atheism is unprovable, but I don’t believe in the trinity or whatever – and have never concealed this... I think that you and Richard [Dawkins] are absolute disasters in the fight against intelligent design – we are losing this battle, not the least of which is the two new supreme court justices who are certainly going to vote to let it into classrooms – what we need is not knee-jerk atheism but serious grappling with the issues – neither of you are willing to study Christianity seriously and to engage with the ideas – it is just plain silly and grotesquely immoral to claim that Christianity is simply a force for evil, as Richard claims – more than this, we are in a fight, and we need to make allies in the fight, not simply alienate everyone of good will.'

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Radio 4 discussion on ID

Creatoinist Prof. Andrew Macintosh, Philosopher Prof. Roger Trigg and Evolutionist Prof. Denis Alexander (all of whom are Christians) have a rather good discussion about creation, evolution and ID on Radio 4

'Monday 20 February 2006 - Intelligent Design - On Beyond Belief this week, Ernie Rea is joined by three guests who discuss the concept of Intelligent Design.'

For once ID was fairly clearly distinguished from Creationism, despite the fact that it was left to the creationist to represent ID arguments; and some good points were made about the ubiquitous influence of different philosophical and theological assumptions upon science.

In the face of Prof Macintosh's challenge about the origin of information, Dr. Denis Alexander asserts that information comes from the properties of the physical world studied by scientists but then immediately says that we 'don't know' where the information in DNA comes from. However, as Stephen C. Meyer and others have argued, the chemical bonds in the DNA sequence do not explain the sequencing. As Macintosh rightly says, the information is something over and above the physical forces and constituents at work here (just as the ordering of alphabet fridge magnets that spell out a message on a fridge is something over and above the magnetic forces that explain why the letters stick to the fridge surface.)

Roger Trigg mentions that he think there is plenty of evidence for design in physics.


Third Way Magazine article discusses ID

In March's Third Way magazine James Carey has some interesting things to say about evolution, intelligent design theory and Richard Dawkins:

'It has been hard to avoid Richard Dawkins recently, who has been popping up all over the media in recent months, breathing insults against Christians like a pre-Damascus Saul.'

[If one were given to betting, I think it would be worth having a flutter on the following bets: 1) Dawkins will accept intelligent design theory, but will continue to hold that the source of the design detected in nature - and he will suggest some kind of advanced alien intelligence as at least a possibility - must itself be susceptable to a naturalistic reductive explanation. In other words, he will go as far or almost as far as Fred Hoyle went; accepting that there is a designer/s but denying that they are supernatural. 2) A little while later, Dawkins will follow Antony Flew by declaring himself more open to a supernatural explanation whilst denying that he has become a Christian and being rather vague about what kind of 'Creator' he believes in. Then, who is to say how far he could slide down the slippery slope to God?]

'The intelligent design lobby are well within their rights to question the theory of evolution. This is not Creationism by another name. They are simply pointing to some potential flaws in a system which the likes of Dawkins claim is bullet proof. Bill Bryson's excellent A Short History of Everything cheerfully points out that the chances of just one chemical reaction producing just one of the many amino acids necessary for life are billions of trillions to one. It does seem amaizing that a complex organ like the eye would naturally occur by mutation. It is no real stretch for the theist of any kind to attribute these to God. But it is surely poor science to end biological study with a conclusion that an organism or process is so complex or implausible that it must be divine?'

'Clearly Intelligent Design lobbyists overstate their scientific case by asserting hard evidence of theism in creation. To use God to explain gaps in science is bad science.'

On the plus side: thank you James for recognizing that ID is not Creationism by another name. Thank you for contending that ID theorists are within their rights to question the theory of evolution. Thank you for observing that abiogenesis is a scientific 'just so' story that flies in the face of overwhealming odds (and those odds are actually the chances of even one out of all the possible chemical reactions that can be factored in being able to accounting for the origin of even one necessary amino acid).

However: while it may or may not be 'poor science to end biological study with a conclusion that an organism or process is so [irreducibly or specifically] complex or implausible that it must be divine' (i.e. caused by divine design), ID simply does not do this!

Why, exactly, would it be 'poor science' to assert that anything in nature had been made by God via primary causal action? I refer James to J.P. Moreland's book Christianity and the Nature of Science (Baker) for a philosophical challenge to his assumption here, and to Del Ratzsch's Science & It's Limits (Apollos) for a defence of the claim that ID is science. Even if James were right about mentioning God in science being bad form, he unfortunately seems to confuse mentioning 'God' and mentioning 'Intelligent Design'. Terminologically speaking, 'God' necessarily includes 'intelligent design' and 'intelligent design' can include God, but ID is a much broader category than 'God'. The latter has only one member (in three persons if one is a Christian theist), while the former extends to a great many members, including Julian, Thor the god of thunder, ET the extra-terrestrial and the angel Gabriel. Hence to infer intelligent design is not necessarily to infer God. To which of the many members covered by 'ID' one should in fact attribute any specific instance of intelligent design is a matter for debate on a case by case basis. Crop Circles, Mount Rushmore and DNA all exhibit specified complexity. Personally, I think it makes most sense to attribute the former to humans and the latter to God, but some people think that crop circles are the work of aliens and others think that crop circles are human hoaxes but that human DNA was made by aliens... Agreeing about design raises a host of potential philosophical and religious disagreements!

On the basis of experience, ID infers 'intelligent design' as the best causal explanation for biological structures which are both very complicated and specified and/or irreducible (mere complexity is not the issue). Infering intelligent design using such criteria of design detection is considered perfectly legitimate science, even by the likes of Dawkins, in scientific fields such as archaeology, cryptography, fraud detection, forensic science and SETI. However, some folk, like Dawkins, have poorly supported philosophical objections to mentioning intelligence as a cause in fields like physics and biology (this is basically because they are a priori comitted to reductive naturalistic explanations foe everything). ID theorists don't share that philosophical hang-up. As David Hume pointed out a long time ago, design arguments can tell you very little about the metaphysical nature of the designer without philosophical extention. His point is well made, and 'God' has no place in the assumptions, scientific methodology or conclusions of Intelligent Design Theory.

Of course, ID doesn't exclude God philosophically speaking, and it is 'no real stretch for a theist of any kind to attribute these things to God.' Nevertheless, making such an attributation is not part of ID per se.

Hence, ID theosists do not 'overstate their scientific case by asserting hard evidence of theism in creation', for the simple reason that they do not assert such evidence.

What they assert (as ID theorists, as a scientific hypothesis) is hard evidence of 'intelligent design'. (ID claims far more than pointing out some 'potential flaws' in evolutionary theory - it claims to point out some actual flaws, and to subsume the good bits of evolutionary theory as Einstein's theory subsumed and Newton's.) For many ID theorists, philosophical and theological thinking extend this scientific conclusion to make an identification of the intelligence in question and God the most rational explanation - but ID is very clear that this conclusion is beyond the bounds of ID and that ID can be accepted by scholars from a wide range of religious and philosophical backgrounds.

Monday, February 20, 2006


Dr. Denis Alexander on Richard Dawkins' 'Root of All Evil'

Theistic evolutionist Dr. Denis Alexander, Director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion ( at St. Edmund’s College, Cambridge, and Editor of the journal Science and Christian Belief (www.scienceandchristianbelief .org) has an article reviewing Richard Dawkins' recent two part television series on religion 'The Root of All Evil?'. Having appeared in the Times Higher Educational Suppliment, the article is now available from UCCF's excellent apologetics website, entitled 'A Clash of Fundemantalisms' @


Making Your Mind Up: Philip Van der Elst on Scientific Methodology

In his book C.S. Lewis: A Short Introduction (Continuum, 2005), political philosopher and C.S. Lewis expert Philip Van der Elst (whom I met in person last year at a conference in Hungry) has a couple of paragraphs on the relationship between philosophy, religion and science when it comes to questions about origins which I consider to be clear, interesting and provocative:

'Darwinian evolutuion is actually only a theory about human origins which may be true but is also questioned by a number of biologists and scientists - not all of whom are Christians... The only observation it is appropriate to make here is a methodological one: scientific knowledge is derived from the formulation and testing of theoretical hypotheses through observation and experiment, activities which can only be carried out by living human beings. Since modern scientists were not around at the time to witness the birth either of the Universe or of our solar system, or the beginnings of organic life, or the creation, appearance or development of animal species and the human race, their views about the remote past can at best only be intelligent guesses based on observations and inferences related to current physical, chemical, and biological processes. Whether, however, the structures and processes of Nature as we observe them today were once different, or were created and designed by God, are ultimately philosophical rather than scientific questions - though scientific observation may furnish useful hints or clues which may help to answer these questions (assuming they can be answered). For these reasons, it is dangerously misleading to pretend that science has either proved or disproved the theory of evolution or the alternative religious hypothesis of 'special creation'. Whilst there may or may not be apparently compelling scientific evidence for either view, interpretation of the relevant physical and chemical data is inevitably influenced (or distorted) by prior (if often unstated) philosophical or religious assumptions, and we need to be aware of this fact. Hence, for instance, if we are already convinced on philosophical grounds that there is no God, or that His existence is extremely improbable, we are more likely to believe in the truthfulness of Darwinism since it is difficult to imagine any alternative naturalistic explanation of the development of life and the appearance of complexity and apparent 'design' in Nature. On the other hand, if we believe in God and the truthfulness of the Bible, and adopt a literal rather than a metaphorical or allegorical interpretation of Genesis, we will look at the relevant scientific data through 'creationist' spectacles and seek confirmation of a truth in which we already believe on religious grounds. What this means, therefore, is that if we want to restrict ourselves to a genuinely open-minded scientific approach, great care must be taken to distinguish between what the 'raw' field data actually and in itself reveals about the origins and development of life, and the conclusions that follow from fitting this data into a particular interpretive framework (whether Darwinisn or 'creationist').' p. 52-53.

A quibble: there are other naturalistic alternatives to evolution (e.g. aliens, time travellers), but I would argue against anyone who adopted such an explanation (e.g. Ralieans) that such a view was philosophically implausible (for example, it invites an infinite regress of explanations).

This said, Philip is surely right:

Naturalists generally assume that whatever the correct explanation of origins is it cannot possibly be an explanation that involves intelligence (let alone a supernatural intelligence - and most especially not God). On the basis of this assumption such naturalists clear the expanatory field in advance of empirical investigation, allowing 'evolution' to win by default as the best available naturalistic explanation. Having defined biology so that it excludes explanation with reference to intelligence, they proclaim 'evolution' as being the only 'scientific' explanation, as if this were a highly significant fact rather than an example of trying to win an argument by fiat.

Creationists, on the other hand, assume that the correct explanation of origins is provided in substance by the Bible (interpreted their way) and that since God's word and God's world cannot contradict each other, true science will always cohere with or even support their reading of scripture. Given a sufficiently strong commitment to a creationist reading of scripture it is in practice very difficult (if not impossible) for a creationist to be convinced by scientific evidence that their reading of scripture must be wrong. Hence, in effect, creationists clear the explanatory field in advance of empirical investigation, allowing 'creationism' to win by default as the only (or the best) theologically permissable explanation. Some creationists even try to define science so that evolution doesn't count as a scientific theory...

It seems to me that Intelligent Design Theory constitutes what Philip Van der Elst calls an attempt to 'restrict ourselves to a genuinely open-minded scientific approach', an approach which takes care not to settle the question of origins one way or the other in advance of empirical investigation.

ID is not 'naturalistic' or 'Darwinian', in the sense that it does not exclude the conclusion that intelligence plays a role in the correct explanation of origins a priori. But ID is not 'Creationism' either, because it does not assume that intelligence (let alone a particular and supernatural intelligence called 'God') must play a role (let alone the highly specific role envisioned by creationists) in the correct explanation of origins a priori.

All that ID assumes a priori is that there are reliable scientific tests for ruling in intelligence as the best explanation for certain carefully defined types of empirical fact, and that it is legitimate to apply these tests to nature to see if anything therein passes them. ID doesn't make its mind up before looking at the scientific evidence, except that it makes its mind up to be open minded about the conclusion the evidence may support.

(After all, every worldview recognizes the existence of 'intelligence' and that 'intelligence' can cause things at some level of reality. This is surely as true for the naturalist as the theist or the pantheist. There is therefore no philosophical reason why 'intelligence' could not possibly be a cause of anything within what we call 'nature'.)

The 'Darwinist' makes their mind up in advance and therefore all too quickly takes evidence of micro-evolution as evidence for macro-evolution. The 'Creationist' makes their mind up in advance and therefore all too quickly takes problems with macro-evolution as scientifc evidence for the Biblical creation story literally interpreted. From an ID perspective, both extremes in the origins debate can seem too eager to reach their pre-ordained conclusion without putting in the necessary argumentative work.

The ID theorist does not make their mind up in advance. On the basis of scientific tests and empirical evidence the ID theorist notes that micro-evolution explains much, but that the grander claims of macro-evolution are problematic. On the basis of scientific tests and empricial evidence the ID theorist notes that there is evidence for intelligent design within nature, but that this does not automatically mean the vindication of theism, let alone the specific version of theism embraced by creationists.

In point of fact, ID as a scientific theory leaves the field wide open to a very wide variety of philosophical and religious interpretations. ID is not for those who want a 'quick fix' solution to the question of origins that swiftly vindicates their own metaphysical and/or religious assumptions.

Saturday, February 18, 2006


MP3 File of Radio Debate on ID

Pete Hearty, my debating partner from the national secular society re: Intelligent Design Theory on Premier Christian Radio last weekend, has an MP3 file of the programme on his web site and kindly said I could link to it :

For my reflections and 'footnotes' on our debate, cf my previous post @

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Letter to The Times, 'Junk Criticism of ID'

Here's a copy of the letter I wrote to The Times re Mark Henderson's inaccurate article about ID and creationism:

Dear Sir,

Science correspondent Mark Henderson ('Junk Medicine: Creationism' Feb 11th), gets the facts about intelligent design theory (ID) and creationism wrong. He is wrong about ID being a 'cloak' for creationism, because ID explicitly excludes essential creationist assumptions and conclusions.
ID neither draws upon, nor concludes with, any supernatural assertions; whereas creationism is rooted in 'literal' interpretations of religious texts. ID makes two purely scientific claims: 1) there are scientific tests for ruling in intelligent design as the best explanation for certain types of pattern (something readily accepted within forensics, the search for extra-terrestrials, etc.), and 2) some things in nature pass these tests. Mr Henderson is wrong to say that either creationism or ID undermine medicine by denying evolution, because neither denies the micro-evolutionary explanations required to understand the mutating pathogens he references. Finally, he is wrong to imply that ID cannot contribute to medical research, because it already has (cf. ID theorist Dr Jonathan Wells' article, 'Do Centrioles Generate a Polar Ejection Force?', published in the peer reviewed journal Rivista Biologia, which uses the ID hypothesis as a guide to cancer research).

Yours Sincerely,

Peter S. Williams (MA, MPhil)


Comments from 'Red Reader', with a response

I received an e-mail today from an ID.Plus blog reader who likes to be known as 'Red Reader' on-line, asking about posting comments. While I don't want to turn on the 'leave comments' function for this blog, for a number of reasons (basically I don't want to spend my time policing a de facto discussion forum), I also really enjoyed Red Reader's e-mail and thought I would post the comment he sent in so that others could enjoy it too. Over to 'Red Reader':

'Thank you for your critique of Mark Henderson's article in The Times. Mr. Henderson's article is not about good science: it is about reinforcing one particular religious world view instead of another. Henry Morris recently reviewed a book by a "leading modern evolutionist", Michael Ruse. Ruse's book is titled, "The Evolution-Creation Struggle".
Dr. Morris quotes Ruse from the book's prologue: "In particular, I argue that in both evolution and creation we have rival religious responses to a crisis of faith-rival stories of origins, rival judgments about the meaning of human life, rival sets of moral dictates...." Dr. Morris says that writers like Ruse (and Henderson) portray the rival views as a "struggle is between evolutionary science and creationist religion." That's why Henderson must re-cast ID as "creationism": it fits the template he's comfortable with. You are absolutely right that ID is science based on observation and infers logical conclusions based on all that is known in many fields including physics and mathematics. A guy like Henderson doesn't know how to deal with the science, but he's smart enough to know that dealing with ID as science is a real loser for his religious view.'

Back to me for some reflection inspired by Red Reader:

Scientific questions about origins, and philosophical questions about how we should approach the study of origns, are inevitably tied up with a host of wider philosophical, theological and even political issues. The interplay between these aspects of the debate is not a simple one-way street. ID is a far more 'minimalistic' approach to the question of origins than either 'Darwinism' or 'Creationism'. Darwinism begins from the a priori naturalistic assumption that nature must do all of its own creation (once one is given the existence of the basic structire of physics). 'Creationism' begins with the a priori theological assumption that the biblical God not only created that basic structure (a point accepted by 'theistic evolution'), nor merely guided the development of that structure in an empirically undetectable manner (as accepted by some theistic evolutionists), but that he created through discreet primary actions within that basic structure in a very specific manner (as derrived from a certain interpretation of scriptural texts). As for Intelligent Design Theory, the existence of intelligent design in nature is neither assumed nor excluded a priori, but is infered a posteriori on the basis of scientific criteria of design detection married to empirical evidence. However, the metaphysical nature of the source of design is necessarily left underdetermined by this scientifc evidence. Neither is the activity of the designer/s laid down independently of the scientific evidence, as is the case with creationism (it seems to me that some but not all of the scientifc evidence matches up with the creationist model, which is why I support ID but not creationism). Ultimately I agree that the results of ID are difficult to square with a belief in metaphysical naturalism, once one has been through the necessary philosophical examination of all the available explanations of design in nature; but even to accept that the best philsoophical interpretation of ID points in the direction of a theistic worldview is to fall short of endorsing any particular theistic religion (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, etc.), let alone to settle questions of biblical interpretation!

Monday, February 13, 2006


The Times lambasts Intelligent Design

In this Saturday's edition of The Times (Feb 11th 2006) the Times' science correspondent, Mark Henderson, lambasts Intelligent Design theory in an article for the newspaper's 'body & soul' news section. The article is headed: 'Junk Medicine, Crteationism, How evolution can save lives'.

Mr Henderson begins by asserting: 'The creationist movement and its cloak of "intelligent design" theory, is usually seen in Britain as a pecularly American phenomenon.' He also seems rather irked by 'columns pushing intelligent design in The Daily Telegraph' (this is surely a reference to Stephen C. Meyer's recent op-ed piece, cf. and having made advocacy of a scientific theory seem like pushing drugs, he warns on this basis that 'creationism is seeking to establish a British foothold.'

I'd say that creationism already has something more than a 'foothold' in Britain (cf. Answers in Genesis)! Intelligent Design certainly is trying to establish a foothold in Britain (no British ID society exists, as yet...) - and why not? If it is really 'creationism' that Mr Henderson is worried about, let him take comfort from my recent experience advocating ID on Premier Christian Radio. A creationist phoned the show to say how frustrated she was that I wasn't advocating young earth creationism. She was particularly concerned to refer us to the early chapters of the book of Genesis (understood in her particular way). For my part, during the course of my debate with Peter Hearty of the national secular society and various phone callers, I never once so much as referenced, let alone attempted to draw any epistemic support from, a single verse of scripture! Intelligent Design theory is NOT a cloak for creationism. Creationists certainly can be ID theorists, but this is because ID is a 'big tent' rather than because ID is a cloak for creationism. If ID is supposed to be a cloak for creationism, it is doing an exceptionally poor job since ID defines itself as excluding epistemic support from any religious documents and as leading to a conclusion that underdetermines ones metapysical and religious commitments.

Creationism is rooted in assumptions about the correct interpretation of the biblical teachings about creation and attempts to demonstrate that a legitimate interpretation of the available scientific evidence bears out that scriptural interpretation. Young Earth creationism is wedded to such concepts as a 'recent' creation completed over the course of six 24 hour days throusands but not millions of years ago, a global flood, a literal Adam and Eve as the very first human beings, etc.

ID is rooted in two purely scientific claims, 1) that scientific tests for ruling in intelligent design as a best explanation for certain types of pattern exist and 2) that some things in the natural world pass these tests. Where is the 'creationism' here?

ID neither makes religious assumptions, nor leads to a religious conclusion. There are people who accept the conclusion of intelligent design without accepting that the bible is the word of God, or that there is even a God. After all, the metaphysical nature of the source of design is something about which science can offer very little guidance. One could accept ID as a Platonist, or a Raelian, or a polytheist. One could chalk up the design to angels or demons or aliens or time travelling human genetic engineers, or to Frank Tipler's emergent 'Omege Point'.

Astronomer Fred Hoyle made similar arguments to those made by ID theorists for the conclusion of design, but although he argued that the evidence pointed in the direction of a 'non carbinacious intelligence', and although he noted that this falsified Darwinism and left the theological explanation given by the likes of William Paley in the running with a chance of being right, he did not embrace that explanation himself. ID certainly offers grist for philosophical argumentation aimed at supporting a belief in God, but to make such arguments one must leave science behind for philosophy and bear in mind David Hume's sound points about the theological limitations of such arguments.

Mr Henderson begins to make his point about medicine by observing that:

'It is impossible to understand biology, and therefore medicine, without a good grasp of evolution.'

But as Professor Steve Fuller testifies:

'as a matter of fact, reference to the claims of Darwinian evolution is unnecessary for the conduct of the vast majority of contemporary biological research…Neo-Darwinism functions more as a disposable ‘made for export’ world-view than a code of professional conduct.'

Fuller quotes historian of science Nicolas Rasmussen:

'As a point of fact most biologists do not know, and do not need to know, much about evolutionary theory. It is unlikely that any of the life sciences deriving their basic logic from experimental physiology (including molecular genetics, classical genetics, biochemistry, pharmacology, etc.) would have to change its ways substantially in a Lamarckian or even Creationist world. Anatomical fields (including cell biology, if it does not fall under the physiological) are just as theoretically independent, as is ecology, insofar as they concern themselves with short time frames. Arguably, even systematics and paleontology might go on much as before without evolutionary theory.'

Rasmussen observes that less than 10% of the articles published each year in the journals included in Biological Abstracts are devoted to evolutionary theory: ‘At the very least,’ comments Fuller, ‘such a finding suggests that the status of evolutionary theory may be debated safely without worrying that its refutation might undermine the rest of biology.’If there is a sense in which evolution is the central unifying concept of biology, this is only because it is currently the unifying paradigm within which ‘normal science’ takes place; a fact that does not mean evolution necessarily deserves such a status.

Mr Henderson attempts to press home his point with reference to the importance of evolution to understanding infectious diseases like MRSA, which show natural selection in action. However, not even young earth creationists deny the sort of mirco-evolutionary change involved in such examples. Talking about the necessity of evolutionary explanations for mutating pathogens is besides the point, because the point is the legitimacy of the massive Darwinian extrapolation from such examples of evolution in action to a totalizing 'macro-evolutionary' explanation. Intelligent Design theory does not deny any of the science which Mr Henderson extolls as having 'Its importance... proven at the coalface of medical research, where creationism has contributed, and can contribute, absolutely nothing.' Indeed, ID is beginning to contribute to medical research...

Mr Henderson says that cancer is the result of an 'evolutionary trade-off' between the ability of tissues to repair themselves and the possibility of uncontrolled cell division. However, that looks like an engineering trade off to me - there is nothing specifically evolutionary about this example. It's as if I were to observe that car crashes are an 'evolutionary' trade off between the possibility of automated mobility and the possibility for uncontrolled mobility this provided... Meanwhile, ID theorist Dr Jonathan Wells has authored an article 'Do Centrioles Generate a Polar Ejection Force?', published in the peer reviewed journal Rivista Biologia, which uses the ID hypothesis as a guide to cancer research:

Abstract: A microtubule-dependent polar ejection force that pushes chromosomes away from spindle poles during prometaphase is observed in animal cells but not in the cells of higher plants. Elongating microtubules and kinesin-like motor molecules have been proposed as possible causes, but neither accounts for all the data. In the hypothesis proposed here a polar ejection force is generated by centrioles, which are found in animal cells but not in the cells of higher plants. Centrioles consist of nine microtubule triplets arranged like the blades of a tiny turbine. Instead of viewing centrioles through the spectacles of molecular reductionism and neo-Darwinism, this hypothesis assumes that they are holistically designed to be turbines. Orthogonally oriented centriolar turbines could generate oscillations in spindle microtubules that resemble the motion produced by a laboratory vortexer. The result would be a microtubule-mediated ejection force tending to move chromosomes away from the spindle axis and the poles. A rise in intracellular calcium at the onset of anaphase could regulate the polar ejection force by shutting down the centriolar turbines, but defective regulation could result in an excessive force that contributes to the chromosomal instability characteristic of most cancer cells. (my italics)

Wells's article is available from the journal's publisher in Italy:

Or you can download the PDF

Mark Henderson is wrong when he says that ID is a cloak for creationism (because ID excludes essential creationist assumptions and conclusions by definition), wrong when he says that creationism and ID undermine medicine by denying evolution (because they simply don't deny the relevant type of micro-evolutionary explanations), and wrong when he implies that ID has not and cannot contribute anything to medical research (because it already has).


Reflections of Premier Inteligent Design Debate

I enjoyed my recent experience debating ID on Premier Christian Radio's Saturday lunch-time 'Unbelieveable' show. I enjoyed talking with Peter Hearty of the national secular society both on and off air, and our host Justin Brierly did a good job of keeping a level playing field. The format did mean picking the simplest/shortest response to questions from the various possibilities that sprung to mind rather than the most comprehensive, and I did have to let a lot of points slide, but that was in the nature of the beast.

Here are the 'footnotes' I would add to the show if one could do such a thing!

On 'specified complexity' as a reliable test for design with special reference to Richard Dawkins (the example I used on the show) cf: Peter S. Williams, 'Is Life Designed or Designoid? Dawkins, Science and the Purpose of Life'

I wrote one of the first articles tracing Antony Flew's journey from athesim to a minimal form of philosophical theism (cf. 'A Change of Mind for Antony Flew'), although as I noted in this blog not all that long ago, more recent comments from Flew on this issue have muddied the waters somewhat.

By defending the ID position I naturally frustrated both many evolutionists (Christian and secular) and creationists. However, perhaps reporters in the British media who refuse to take ID theorists at their word when they assert that ID is not creationism will take creationists (like the lady caller who called the show to say how frustrated it made her not to hear me defending a young earth) at their word when they make the same point! Nevertheless, here's an ID theorist making clear the differences between ID and creationism:
John G. West, 'Intelligent Design and Creationism are Just not the Same'

As for the conspiracy theory that ID is 'creationism in sheep's clothing', as I said on the show, it contradicts the testimony of ID theorists, ignores the differences between the two views, and fails to account for the support for ID in Britian by non-creationists such as myself (where there is no seperation of state and church - something the national secular society would like changed, although they currently would prefer to do it without help from disestablishmentarians within the church!). For a historical rebuttal of this conspiracy theory, cf. Jonathan Witt, 'The Origin of Intelligent Design'

To tell the truth, I was somewhat taken-a-back by the caller who was so very insistent about Michael Behe being shown to be a liar by the Dover Court! The caller didn't specify what it was Behe is meant to have lied about, and I know of nothing that indicates such a sin on his part - despite having followed the Dover trial quite closely. Behe himself recently posted a devistating response to the Dover decision: Michael Behe, 'Whether Intelligent Design Is Science: A Response to the Opinion of the Court in Kizmiller vs Dover Area School District'

By the way, leading ID think tank The Discovery Institute do not advocate teaching ID in schools. They advocate teaching criticism of evolutionary theory as it appears in the peer reviewed scientific literature. There is a difference between presenting evidence for and against evolution and presenting an alternative theory (of which ID is one among several).

Also on the question of whether ID is science, may I recommend the following:
William A. Dembski, 'In Defence of Intelligent Design'
Stephen C. Meyer, 'The Scientific Status of Intelligent Design'
Bradley Monton, ‘Is Intelligent Design Science? Dissecting the Dover Decision’
Peter S. Williams, 'IF SETI Is Science and UFOlogy Is Not, Which Is Intelligent Design Theory?'

On the related issue of my reference to David Hume and the limitations of design arguments in general cf: Peter S. Williams, 'Design and the Humean Touchstone'

Unfortunately, many critics of Behe accept proposed defeaters to his claims without considering the rebuttals that Behe and other scholars have made in defence of irreducible complexity. Interested readers may like to consider the following links:
Michael Behe, 'In Defence of the Irreducibility of the Blood Clotting Cascade' (an issue raised in passing by one of our phone callers)
Michael Behe, 'A True Acid Test: A Response to Ken Miller'
William Dembski, 'Still Spinning Just Fine: A Response to Ken Miller'
William Dembski, 'Irreducible Complexity Revisited'

For a quick response on the 'flagellum and the pump' debate, cf:
Stephen C. Meyer, 'Verdict on the Bacterial Flagellum Premature'

On the question of the fossil record and whether or not it supports evolutionary explanations of life's diversity, cf: Mark Hartwig, 'Doesn't the fossil evidence support natural selection?' (very brief); Stephen C. Meyer et al, 'The Cambrian Explosion: Biology's Big Bang' & Stephen C. Meyer, 'Intelligent Design: The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories' (two not very brief peer reviewed articles!)

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


Hear me debate ID on Premier Christian Radio

I've been invited to take part in a debate/phone-in radio show on Britains' Premier Christian Radio. The show is called 'Unbelievable', and is hosted by Justin Brierley. The show I'll be on goes out this Saturday (11th Febuary) at lunch time, starting at 12:05pm UK time.

You can listen in on-line @, or on your TV if you have 'freeview', 'Sky Digital' etc. You can also take part by calling 08450 212121

The subject of the show is intelligent design theory, and I'll be debating with Peter Hearty of the National Secular Society (see for yourself what Mr Hearty thinks of intelligent design theory by reading his article 'Intelligent Design Leads Religious Renaissance' @

From Premier Christian Radio's website:

'Can Christianity really live up to the claims it makes? Justin Brierley invites you to join the debate by calling 08450 212121.'

Thursday, February 02, 2006


More on Daily Telegraph ID Letters

Thanks to my old friend David West for posting me Monday's Telegraph letters page (Jan 30th 2006. cf. Dr Meyer's op-ed piece caused some of the usual Darwinian suspects to write in, together with one letter of support. The next day's letter page (see previous posting on this matter) was more positive.

Matt Ridley said that ID is 'merely a dishonest attempt to repackage a literal interpretation of the Bible as science -and so sneak it into the American school curriculum, where religion is banned.' Frankly, I resent being called dishonest. I resent being told that I believe in 'a literal interpretation of the Bible' creation accounts in the first place (unless he means to say that I believe God created, which I do, but which is not a part of ID), since I am not a 'creationist' in the sense he clearly means. And if Ridley's explanation is true, why would anyone in Britian support ID? I'm British and I support ID. But religion is not banned from schools here! So why do I support it? Could it possibly be because I was intellectually convinced by the arguments?! Ridley also falsely represents ID as an argument which moves from 'living things are complicated' striaght to 'Therefore they must have been put together by an intelligent entity' (there is suddenly, and correctly, no mention of God here).

Steve Jones of University College London complains that Meyer, 'in explaining the difference between ID an biblical creationism' failed to mention Judge Jones' conclusion that ID is 'a mere re-labelling' of creationism. Funny that, because Meyer's whole point was that ID is not creationism, and that Judge Jone's conclusion was wrong! A Judge can be wrong you know, and Jones was, in this case, wrong. I know because I have read and interacted with the proponents of ID, and because I am a proponent of ID. Any creationist know's that ID is not creationism. Find one who has heard and read about ID and ask them. Ask them whether there are some similarities between ID and creationism, and ask them whether or not they are one and the same thing. Ask, 'Can you be a member of the ID movement without being a creationist?' I already know the answer they ought to give, because I am.

Bob O'Hara from the University of Helsinki notes that whether ID counts as science depends on your philosophy of science and notes that 'Behe went so far as to suggest that science should be redifined in a way that would include astrology.' But of course, even if one does define science in a way that would have to include the claim that astrology is true as being a scientific theory does not mean that one has to think that astrology is true. Astrology might be a very bad scientific theory, one that is falsified by the evidence. Being scientific doesn't mean being right. Hoyle's steady state universe was a scientific theory, but it was wrong. Having read Professor J.P. Moreland's Christianity and the Nature of Science (Baker) I am satisfied that 'creation science' can be legitimately described as scientific. I just happen to think that it is incorrect.

Peter Risdon's letter simply asserts that ID is 'the state of the art in creationism', something that would no doubt annoy the folk at Answers in Genesis, and suggests that it should be taught, but in religious education (RS) rather than in science because 'it has no place in any scientific forum'. Unfortunately for Mr Risdon, ID already has a place in several scientifc forums, if one cares to count all the debates, conferences and peer reviewed journal articles, not to mention informal scientific discussions, that it has engendered. Of course, he might be suggesting that ID 'isn't science' - a criticism that I have dealt with at length elsewhere.

And now, for the letter of (perhaps qualified) support:

Sir - Prof Meyer's explanation of ID as evidence-based science provides an interesting contrast with many media reports. I cannot help but note that the scientific methodology promoted by figures such as Richard Dawkins cannot handle intelligent agency (beyond human causation). Indeed, it excludes it as a matter of principle. There is a science that accepts only material causes and a science that has material causes plus intelligent agency. Both these science methodologies seem to have metaphysical roots that have religious implications. Intelligent Design challenges the positivist assumptions underpinning much modern science. This issue is not "is ID faith-based?" but "can science be practised with a diversity of metaphysical roots?" - Dr David J. Tyler, Manchester Metropolitan University


Education Guardian interviews Prof Steve Fuller

Professor Steve Fuller was recently interviewed by Zoe Corbyn of the Education Guardian (UK). Fuller is a professor of sociology at Warwick University and last October, in Dover, Pennsylvania, gave evidence in court as an expert witness in support of intelligent design.


Here are some edited highlights:

Fuller claims he doesn't personally favour ID, but feels that it should have a "fair run for its money". His view on evolutionary theory is that the jury is out, though he acknowledges that Darwinism does have the most evidence on its side. He describes himself as "very sympathetic to Christian ideas", although he doesn't go to church or belong to any particular denomination. "I don't see that there is a point at which one needs to make some radical decision between being a Christian or a secularist," he says. When pushed, he labels himself a "secular humanist", admitting he does so partly to provoke a response. "Typically, people who call themselves secular humanists think of themselves as Darwinists," he says. His own version puts "human beings at the centre of reality, creating God in their image and likeness" and "taking control of evolution". He criticises Richard Dawkins, professor of public understanding of science at Oxford University, who recently made two films for Channel 4 attacking religious belief. "My guess is that Dawkins just doesn't know enough about the history of secular humanism to realise that Darwin killed off man at the same time as he killed off God," says Fuller, who featured in a BBC2 documentary, The War on Science, last Thursday... Fuller's research field is social epistemology and he cites "putting it on the map" as his greatest achievement. It's a radical attempt to bring philosophy and sociology together, within the discipline of science studies. The resulting fusion looks at how knowledge is justified and legitimised in society. According to Fuller, what does and does not count as science is the result of a power struggle between the evolutionists, who control the scientific establishment, and a marginalised ID community with a large religious following. "I see myself in an affirmative action position, voicing a point of view that would otherwise be systematically excluded," he says. "If you were having a science studies class, all the things I was saying would be completely normal. The problem is, when you say them in a courtroom and it has a bearing on science policy, then people go ballistic." He thinks science studies practitioners need to take themselves more seriously. "We have never had the nerve to say them in a place where they could actually make a difference before." Fuller argues that the way ID's practitioners approach the debate means they are actually engaged in a scientific enterprise. But he draws the line at creationism because, he says, it has abandoned the scientific method: "Those guys are basically teaching the bible as science." For Fuller, religion and science are compatible. He complains that evolutionary theory is being taught as dogma. It needs a "critical foil" and ID satisfies that function as well as anything else. Historically, he says, it's religion that has motivated people to study science. "We wouldn't have science as we know it today if it weren't for monotheism," he argues, reeling off references to Newton and Mendel and their belief in divine plans. "Dawkins says religion is the root of all evil. Well, even if that were true, it's also the root of all science." As he sees it, religion has been a positive influence, leading to scientific breakthroughs that people accept today even if they don't believe in God. Fuller thinks ID could have a similar effect and that is why more people should be working on it... Fuller didn't tell Warwick University he was giving evidence in the Dover trial. They found out quickly enough. "There were people calling the university, calling for me to be fired, saying they wouldn't send their children there." The university's response has been to use it as an opportunity for a larger public debate. "There's been an enormous amount of discussion on campus about it," says Fuller. Straight after he gave evidence, the internet was abuzz with bloggers analysing his testimony. He spent between five and 10 hours a week answering criticisms. "It is not like people love you for doing this," he says... "...your colleagues and all sorts of people will just denounce you," Fuller says. "I wouldn't encourage this kind of behaviour on the part of people who don't have regular academic posts."

Well, good for you Steve; there are people who love you for doing this!

Dr. Fuller's book that deals with ID, The Philosophy of Science and Technology Studies, has just been published by Routledge

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Letters of Support

Off the back of the recent biased Horizon documentary about ID, Dr Stephen C. Meyer, who featured in the programe, got an opinion piece published in the Telegraph.

(cf. Stephen C. Meyer, 'Intelligent Design is not Creationism' @;jsessionid=YY0KEO44VLRRJQFIQMFSFFOAVCBQ0IV0?xml=/opinion/2006/01/28/do2803.xml)

Meyer's piece has engendered some letters of support from British academics in the Telegraph letters page (cf.

Sir - Most readers of books by Michael Behe or William Dembski find intelligent design a rational, but not necessarily correct, idea (Letters, January 30). Darwinists clearly think they can refute the idea that complex structures need a designer; others think they are wrong. All this is fine - we call this scientific debate. However, for taking this line, I have been called a creationist (when I am an agnostic) and anti-evolution (despite having provided an addition to the theory of natural selection). From this, I conclude that most of the debate is not about science, but is a battle between the creationists and atheists to determine who will set the present, and future, cultural agenda. Those of us who are not involved should make sure that neither side wins. - Dr Milton Wainwright, University of Sheffield

Sir - Stephen Meyer's article (Opinion, January 28) on intelligent design was a thoughtful and calm outline of the background to the debate.In my own research area of evolutionary algorithms, intelligent design works together with evolutionary principles to produce better solutions to real problems. Sometimes the results are novel and surprising, but, on reflection, they were always inherent in the initial formulation. Without the initial activity of an intelligent agent, the evolutionary mill has no grist to work on. As molecular biology advances, the Darwinist dogma becomes ever more implausible as an explanation for the sort of complexity that Meyer describes. - Prof Colin Reeves, Rugby, Warwickshire

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