Just another flare-up
Kitzmiller v Dover is now famous as the first test case on the constitutionality of teaching "intelligent design" (ID) in public schools, involving a six-week trial in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, dozens of lawyers and witnesses, nine expert witnesses, 342 filed legal documents, 400 exhibits, national and international media, subpoenas, depositions, lies, videotape, bacterial flagella, the Constitution, civil rights, education, science, religion, history, evolution, the meaning of life, divine intervention, and one recently appointed federal judge. However, it began as just another "flare-up" for the NCSE staff.
A major part of the day-to-day work at NCSE consists of monitoring flare-ups around the country. In 2004, this included about a dozen anti-evolution bills proposed in state legislatures, several battles over evolution in science standards, and 50 or more local level flare-ups, usually school-board controversies over teaching evolution.
When I first became aware of the Dover situation, I had only been working at NCSE for five months. On June 8 and 9, 2004, news articles from the York Daily Record and York Dispatch appeared on my computer screen, reporting on a controversy at a June 7 meeting of the Dover Area School Board (DASB). The controversy was over whether or not the school district would purchase a new edition of the mainstream textbook Biology, by Ken Miller and Joe Levine. A school board member named William Buckingham claimed that Biology was "laced with Darwinism," that "[i]t's inexcusable to teach from a book that says man descended from apes and monkeys," and "[w]e want a book that gives balance to education." Buckingham and another board member, Alan Bonsell, both expressed support for finding a book that would teach both creationism and evolution. Addressing Max Pell, a recent graduate of Dover Area High School who noted during the public comment period that teaching creationism would violate the separation of church and state, Buckingham asked, "Have you ever heard of brainwashing?" and declared, "If students are taught only evolution, it stops becoming theory and becomes fact." Buckingham said that the separation of church and state was "a myth." Apparently to emphasize the point, Buckingham claimed, "This country wasn't founded on Muslim beliefs or evolution," adding "This country was founded on Christianity, and our students should be taught as such."
The June 9 article in the York Dispatch contained an accurate summary of the legal situation, noting that a 1987 Supreme Court decision (Edwards v Aguillard) had barred teaching creationism in public school science classrooms. The article also quoted Rob Boston, a spokesperson for the civil liberties group Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who stated the obvious: "Creationism isn't a science, it's religion, and any attempts to introduce creationism into public school science classes would most likely spark a lawsuit." He added, "The district would almost certainly lose a lawsuit like that. It's not even worth wasting the time and energy to consider."
In retrospect, all of these statements are highly significant, and sometimes prophetic, but at the time they did not seem particularly remarkable. It may sound surprising, but such news stories are not uncommon at the NCSE office. Demagogic politicians issuing blustery uninformed anti-evolution rhetoric are a dime a dozen. The fact that "intelligent design" was not even a part of the discussion early on indicated that the anti-evolutionism in Dover was of a fairly crude and unreconstructed sort. Talk of "monkeys" and "balance" — echoes, respectively, of the Scopes Monkey Trial and the creation scientists' "Balanced Treatment" legislation in the 1980s — only confirmed this impression.
Because the Edwards decision makes the law clear in this area, proposals to teach "creationism" typically fade away when the proponents learn that the Supreme Court settled the issue in 1987. The Dover situation simmered along throughout the summer and fall of 2004, but the opposition to the anti-evolutionists appeared to be strong, and the legal situation appeared to be deterring rash action. The Miller and Levine textbook was adopted after an acrimonious board meeting, and although the ID textbook Of Pandas and People was donated to the school a few weeks later, the newspapers seemed to indicate that a reasonable compromise had been reached. In October 2004, I was about to close the file on Dover. But on October 18, the DASB voted 6–3 to pass a policy inserting "intelligent design" into Dover's biology curriculum, using Pandas as a reference. On the morning of October 19, the front page of the York Daily Record screamed, in big bold type, "'Intelligent Design' voted in." Someone immediately faxed the headline to the NCSE office.
I distinctly recall walking into the office that morning. Genie Scott was already on the phone with someone about Dover, and she waved the newspaper headline at me as I walked past her office. In a true Homer Simpson moment, I slapped my forehead in shock. Evidently the DASB was bound and determined to bring a test case on the constitutionality of "intelligent design".
Little did we know that fights over evolution had been going on behind the scenes in Dover for years before outsiders learned about it. We also did not know that the Thomas More Law Center had been seeking a test case on "intelligent design" for at least five years, and that it was TMLC that had encouraged the board to adopt the "intelligent design" terminology and the ID textbook Of Pandas and People as a recommended text, on the understanding that they would represent the school district when the inevitable court challenge came. Because of these behind-the-scenes facts, Dover was destined to develop into the famous case that attracted attention around the world, and by virtue of having been assigned the Dover flare-up at the NCSE office, I was put right in the middle of it.
The Dover ID policy and the initial steps in the Kitzmiller case, filed on December 14, 2004, were described in a previous article, "Design on trial" (RNCSE 2005 Sep/Oct; 24 : 4–9). In late 2004, NCSE joined the plaintiffs' legal team as a pro bono consultant and was included as a core part of the team from the start. Over a dozen lawyers and legal staffers eventually participated in the case. The lead attorneys were Eric Rothschild and Steve Harvey of Pepper Hamilton, Vic Walczak of the Pennsylvania ACLU, and Richard Katskee of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The lawyers were superb in every way, but it is worth noting that NCSE also made some early contributions to the language of the initial complaint, and to the philosophy of the case, that in retrospect proved very important.
Everyone knew that this case would be about "intelligent design". However, NCSE staff repeatedly emphasized the bigger picture, which was that language reflecting the "evidence against evolution" approach (the "gaps/problems" and "theory, not fact" wording in the Dover policy) also needed to be addressed in order to minimize problems associated with dealing with this argument in the future. We argued that because ID is easier to defeat than "evidence against evolution" language, we should try to discredit the latter by linking it with the former. We pointed out that the legal team should take advantage of the link in the Dover policy between the "gaps/problems" and "intelligent design" language since we might not again have the opportunity to connect them in some future lawsuit.
A supporting point we made was that ID itself, as exemplified in Pandas and other ID literature, consists almost entirely of "evidence against evolution", with only a vague argument from analogy presented as the positive explanation for biological complexity. These points became themes in the trial, and were emphasized in the plaintiffs' Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law. Judge Jones accepted this reasoning, issuing a massive and devastating 139-page opinion that ruled broadly against ID and the various anti-evolution euphemisms in the Dover policy. The ruling was hailed internationally, and the aftershocks are still being felt. For example, the Kitzmiller ruling clearly contributed to the overturning of Ohio's "critical analysis of evolution" lesson plan in February 2006 (details to follow in the next issue of RNCSE). Various other aftershocks may yet come.
How was this amazing result achieved? It was clearly the result of coordinated action on the part of many involved people and organizations. I will concentrate here on my own work in this case, which made up perhaps 5% of the total. Much of the other 95% I only learned about while sitting through the trial, and some of it I am still learning about as I review the case history and legal filings. Imagine an artistic masterpiece such as a famous painting or symphony, the culmination of a lifetime of training and practice. Then imagine getting twenty such masterpieces from lawyers, academics, and creationism nerds and somehow putting it together seamlessly into a court case. Melodramatic this may be, but it gives you some idea of how the Kitzmiller decision came about.
In the spring of 2005, I was given two main assignments: helping to prepare the plaintiffs' expert witnesses and helping to prepare the lawyers to cross-examine the defense experts. After the Kitzmiller case was filed, Judge Jones put the case on an expedited schedule, setting the trial for the coming fall. The discovery period of the case, when each side may gather evidence through document requests, subpoenas, depositions, and so on, ran through June 15. Expert witnesses would have to be declared on March 1, and expert reports stating the content of their trial testimony would have to be produced on April 1. Rebuttal experts, if any, would be declared by April 15. Sworn depositions would be conducted in May and June.
NCSE suggested the experts for the plaintiffs, whom the legal team discussed. The lawyers chose Kenneth Miller (biology), Robert Pennock (philosophy of science), Jack Haught (theology), Brian Alters (education), Barbara Forrest (history of ID), and Kevin Padian (paleontology). Jeffrey Shallit (mathematics and probability) was added later as a rebuttal expert. Alters and Forrest, of course, are on the NCSE board of directors, and Kevin Padian is president of the board. The ID expert list originally consisted of the A-team: Michael Behe (biochemistry), Scott Minnich (microbiology), William Dembski (philosophy and mathematics), John Angus Campbell (rhetoric of science), Warren Nord (religion in education), Dick Carpenter (education), with Stephen Meyer (philosophy of science) and Steve Fuller (philosophy of science) added as rebuttal experts. This list included five Discovery Institute fellows and most of the "heavy hitters" in the ID movement.
The story of the drafts
Starting with the plaintiffs' experts, I primarily worked with Barbara Forrest, on the history of ID, and with Kenneth Miller, our anti-Behe expert. Eric Rothschild and I knew that defense expert Michael Behe was the scientific centerpoint of the whole case — if Behe was found to be credible, then the defense had at least a chance of prevailing. But if we could debunk Behe and the "irreducible complexity" argument — the best argument that ID had — then the defense's positive case would be sunk. Kenneth Miller prepared an excellent expert witness report, but I suggested that he reference a number of recent papers that had been published on the evolution of new genes, the flagellum, blood-clotting, and particularly the immune system. Since expert testimony is technically limited to the contents of the expert report, it was important include every topic that might be important to discuss. When we got to trial, Miller included segments on each of these topics, all of which were used in Jones's opinion as refuting the arguments of the ID movement and of Behe specifically.
Barbara Forrest was the expert who would have to make the connection between the ID movement and creationism. She had, of course, co-authored Creationism's Trojan Horse, on the origins and history of the Discovery Institute, the "Wedge document", and the leaders of the ID movement. However, the Discovery Institute only established the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture in 1996. Of Pandas and People, which is the first book to use the terms "intelligent design" and "design proponents" systematically, and which presents all of the modern ID arguments, was published in 1989. The creationist origin of Pandas and the "intelligent design" phraseology was not covered in detail in previous works on the history of ID, so my job was to dig up everything we could possibly find on the origin of Pandas and "intelligent design". The NCSE archives contain several files on Pandas and on the publisher of the book, the Foundation for Thought and Ethics (FTE).
Because Frank Sonleitner and John Thomas had done significant work analyzing the book and tracking FTE's activities in the 1980s and 1990s (see Of Pandas and People resources), I gathered advice and old files from both of them. I also rummaged through the relevant files in NCSE's archives and looked up various books and articles published by the Pandas authors, working through NCSE's collection of old creationist magazines and newspapers. Finally, I examined three recent books that give histories of the ID movement — Larry Witham's By Design and Where Darwin Meets the Bible, and Thomas Woodward's Doubts About Darwin: A History of Intelligent Design. Although the role of Pandas in the ID movement is minimized in these sources, they nevertheless contained various useful tidbits from interviews with the "academic editor" of Pandas, Charles Thaxton, and other early players in the ID movement.
Examination of all of these sources together — apparently something that no one had taken the time and trouble to do before — revealed some interesting facts about the history of Pandas: (1) Thaxton and the book's authors were working on Pandas for about a decade before it was actually published in 1989; (2) in early references to the Pandas project in the 1980s, Thaxton and FTE's president John Buell described themselves and their work as "creationist" and about "creation" — not "intelligent design"; and (3) the label "intelligent design" was chosen for Pandas very late in the evolution of the book, almost as the last change made before publication. This all built a nice circumstantial case that ID developed from creationism, and this case is made in Barbara Forrest's first expert report, filed on April 1, 2005.
On about April 8, NCSE's then archivist Jessica Moran came across another document in a file in the NCSE archives: a prospectus for a book entitled Biology and Origins, sent to a textbook publisher in 1987. Somehow this ended up in the files of the late Thomas Jukes, a prominent molecular biologist and longtime NCSE supporter. In 1995, Jukes sent the page to NCSE with the handwritten note "I found this in an old file, but it is certainly fascinating!" The prospectus document indicated that Biology and Origins existed in draft form in 1987, and furthermore had been sent to school districts for testing as well as to prospective publishers. The existence of unpublished drafts of Pandas should have been obvious from the evidence mentioned in the previous paragraph, and references to Biology and Origins were known, but we thought of it as just a working title for Pandas. The prospectus document made it clear that Biology and Origins was an actual draft that was widely reproduced and sent out to publishers and reviewers, and also explicitly indicated that the book would "give students the scientific rationale for creation from the study of biology."
This discovery shed light on a rather important historical fact that had somehow been omitted from all previous histories of the origin of the "intelligent design" movement. It has always been obvious that ID arguments derived from creationist sources, but never in the wildest dreams of creationism watchers had it occurred to anyone that the phrase "intelligent design" had quite literally originated as a switch in terminology in an actual physical draft of an explicitly creationist textbook.
I summarized the situation, as I understood it at the time, to the legal team as follows, in a discussion of Dembski's expert report:
Dembski doesn't mention the "version 0" of Pandas, Biology and Origins, which is mentioned in some of the 1980s FTE fundraising letters and other material. I am reasonably sure that the word "creation" would be substituted for "design" or "intelligent design" at many points within that manuscript. This would prove our point in many ways. We have a couple written sources indicating that picking the words "intelligent design" was one of the very last things that Charles Thaxton did during the development of Pandas. We don't know:
(a) Whether any copies of Biology and Origins still exist, e.g. at FTE in Texas or in the files of Thaxton, Davis or Kenyon;
(b) Whether Dembski has seen them (based on the expert report, Dembski either doesn't know the prehistory of Pandas, or is leaving that out).
At the time, it was far from clear that creationist drafts of Pandas still existed. But Eric Rothschild knew what to do. He immediately issued a subpoena to the Foundation for Thought and Ethics for any documents relating to the origin and development of Biology and Origins and Of Pandas and People.
After a failed attempt to quash the subpoena, FTE coughed up the documents in early July. To our amazement, five major drafts were uncovered, and we were able to trace the switch in terminology from creationism to "intelligent design" to just after the Supreme Court's Edwards v Aguillard decision in 1987. Barbara Forrest included all of this in a supplementary expert report and in her testimony at trial, and it became a key piece of Judge Jones's opinion.
Although the Pandas drafts were obviously important in the Kitzmiller case, it is only slowly dawning on everyone just how significant they are. The drafts are nothing less than the smoking gun that proves exactly when and how "intelligent design" originated. This was probably the biggest discovery in creationism research since the finding that the Coso Artifact was actually a 1920s sparkplug (see RNCSE 2004 Mar/Apr; 24 : 26–30). They prove that the cynical view of ID was exactly right: ID really is just creationism relabeled, and anyone who thought otherwise was either naively misinformed or engaging in wishful thinking.
Irreducible Complexity on Trial
The other half of the expert case was the cross-examination of the defense experts. NCSE staff divided up the defense experts to prepare our legal team for their depositions and cross-examination. I took Michael Behe and Scott Minnich, the two biology/irreducible complexity witnesses, and attended their depositions in May.
Three Defense expert witnesses — Discovery Institute fellows William Dembski, Stephen Meyer, and John Angus Campbell —dropped out of the case and therefore did not testify, much to the disappointment of the NCSE staff assigned to their depositions (and presumably to the dismay of the defense). The reasons for this remain mysterious, although apparently the last news that Dembski received before withdrawing from his deposition was that Wesley Elsberry and Jeff Shallit planned to attend and pass questions to the lawyer (see "Can I keep a witness?" p 45).
When Eric Rothschild flew out to Berkeley for Kevin Padian's deposition, we discussed how to deal with Behe. One key result was convincing Rothschild that Behe's biggest weakness was the evolution of the immune system. This developed into the "immune system episode" of the Behe cross-examination at trial, where we stacked up books and articles on the evolution of the immune system on Behe's witness stand, and he dismissed them all with a wave of his hand. This clearly made a negative impression on Judge Jones, who mentioned the episode in his opinion. The details of this episode are reviewed in an essay I recently coauthored in Nature Immunology (2006; 7: 433–5; available on-line at http://www.nature.com/ni/journal/v7/n5/pdf/ni0506-433.pdf).
The Train Ride
Everyone knows that the trial did not go well for the defense, and that the judge's decision was devastating, but what is not well known is that the case was actually lost between January and September 2005. A real trial, in front of the judge and the media, is like a train ride — by the time the trial gets going, it is too late to change course, find new evidence, or bring new passengers on the ride. In desperate circumstances, people can be thrown off the train (such as when the Defense dropped two more expert witnesses, Warren Nord and Richard Carpenter), but that is about it.
The trial began on September 26, 2005, and lasted for six weeks. My role was to observe the trial, work with the lawyers in the evenings and weekends, and prepare for the next day. I also spent a fair amount of time talking to the media, being careful not to provide details that would harm the case. However, few details were needed, because the daily events were so amazing and so damning for the defense and the ID movement that very little "spin" was needed.
It was clear throughout the trial that things were going badly for the defense. Whether the witness was an expert or fact witness, whether the topic was biochemistry or school board votes, ID was taking hits every time a plaintiffs' attorney was asking the questions — and sometimes when the defense attorneys were asking questions also. The plaintiffs' experts all gave the performances of their careers, bringing to bear years of actual experience and research on exactly the topics the ID movement loves to yammer on about: fossils, irreducible complexity, philosophy of science, and so on. Every scientific point was documented with scientific articles, usually from Science or Nature, and each article was put on the screen for everyone to see, and then entered into evidence as an exhibit. Of Pandas and People took fire from all directions as just another poorly informed anti-evolution polemic with some last-minute editing to introduce the "intelligent design" terminology. Barbara Forrest made a massively documented case that ID really was — as her book had said long before the Pandas drafts were discovered — "creationism's Trojan horse." On cross-examination, the plaintiffs' experts if anything outdid themselves. The Thomas More Law Center lawyers would try the usual ID talking points, but our experts had heard every single one dozens of times before, and would reply with a thorough analysis of the claim and the evidence against it.
The fact side of the case was equally impressive. For some reason, the defense insisted that every single one of the 11 Dover parents who were plaintiffs testify in court. As a result, all of them took the stand and explained exactly why they had joined the suit. Each had a powerful reason — protecting their children's education and their right to teach their children religion themselves. Outsiders might naively think that Dover's one-minute ID statement was not a big deal, but the impact on the Dover community was enormous, precisely because the core issue was that the government was getting involved in promoting particular religious beliefs. The community was torn apart over the issue, and plaintiffs and their children were accused of being atheists and unpatriotic.
After three weeks of continuous bombardment, the defense finally got its chance to attempt a reply, leading off with their star witness, Michael Behe. Due to the withdrawal of the other leading ID experts, it was up to Behe to make the entirety of the case for ID, and apparently he saw his testimony as his chance to prove all of his critics wrong once and for all. The result was a confused mishmash of standard ID talking points and graphics, continuations of old arguments with his numerous critics, argument-by-quote-mine, and soporific bits of biochemistry that I am pretty sure made sense to no one in the court room. One thing Behe did not present was any empirical research testing the ID claims — something that the plaintiffs had repeatedly emphasized as important in their direct case, presenting examples where evolutionary models had been tested and the results published in the research literature. Complaints about your opponents do not a scientific case make. And unfortunately for Behe, "complaining" really describes his testimony rather well. Unlike the cheerful plaintiffs' experts, Behe came across as embittered and downright angry at the scientific community at large — particularly the National Academy of Sciences — for not taking his objections to evolution seriously.
Behe's direct testimony went on for nearly two full days. By the time he got to talking about how Kenneth Miller had wronged him in a debate about the lac operon back in 1999, the courtroom was asleep. Then the cross-examination began.
Unbeknown to Behe, Eric Rothschild had been plotting his cross-examination for months, with help from Kenneth Miller, Kevin Padian, me, and numerous others, including random members of the public offering unsolicited e-mail suggestions ("When you get Behe on the stand, you have to ask him this …"). Rothschild had assembled several dozen lines of questioning that would dissect the irreducible complexity argument, its various supporting examples, and perhaps more importantly the indignant rhetoric that Behe uses to give the impression of an impressive scientific case. Rothschild showed numerous contradictions between Behe's statements and the published evidence (for example, the immune system episode), and between different statements made by Behe. A particularly impressive example of the latter involved blood-clotting.
Rothschild noticed something that I had not in the 1993 edition of Pandas: in 1993, Behe (who wrote the blood-clotting section on p 141–6 of the 1993 Pandas, although he is not listed as an author) defined the irreducibly complex blood-clotting system differently than he did in his 1996 Darwin's Black Box. In 1993, Behe said that if an organism had only the four core components of the blood-clotting system ("Stuart factor and his friends," as Rothschild put it), it would have a nonfunctioning system and would die. However, in 1996, Behe, presumably having become aware of the fact that there is a fair bit of variability in vertebrate blood-clotting systems, said that those four proteins constituted "the system", and furthermore at trial, Behe criticized Ken Miller for ignoring this definition. Rothschild, with mock innocence and a big grin, pointed out the discrepancy, and then let Behe attempt to invent a rationale on the fly. Behe ended up coming up with yet another definition of "the system", but the point was made — Behe protected his irreducible complexity argument from what would otherwise be a clear falsification by redefining the "irreducibly complex system" at will. Contradictory evidence was dodged with word games, rather than accepted. Rothschild set up example after example of this sort of thing, and each time Behe would exercise his substantial powers of rationalization to paper over the problem, or define it away, or provide some excuse about why evolution had produced the scientific goods and ID had not.
Although the pretrial preparation work was the bulk of my contribution to the case, I was able to provide a little more help on the scene. For example, during his direct testimony, Behe claimed vehemently that Darwin's Black Box had received more peer-review than the typical journal article. He even named the reviewers. One was Michael Atchison, a veterinary professor at the University of Pennsylvania. However, I remembered reading an on-line article written by Atchison that told a different story. I gave the Atchison article to Rothschild, who read it to Behe during cross. In short, Atchison never read Behe's book; instead, he spent ten minutes on the phone with Behe's publisher in 1994. According to Atchison, "It sounded like this Behe fellow might have some good ideas, although I could not be certain since I had never seen the manuscript" (see http://reports.ncse.com/index.php/rncse). The implication of this and numerous other vignettes in Rothschild's cross was not that Behe was dishonest, but rather that he viewed the evolution debate through a set of filters so thick that no contradictory evidence could ever convince him he was wrong.
After the downfall of the mighty Michael Behe, the defense case was probably hopeless, but they gamely staggered on. Unfortunately every day just dug the hole deeper. The defendants — the pro-ID members of the Dover Area School Board — were shown to be either ignorant, liars, or in some cases, bigoted liars. Although the expert side of the case was important, the real heart of the case turned out to be William Buckingham and Alan Bonsell versus the beleaguered Dover science teachers. Cross-examination of the defense witnesses revealed step-by-step how the DASB had applied the screws to the teachers to attempt to get them to stop teaching evolution, despite the fact that teaching evolution was the teachers' job as mandated by the Pennsylvania science education standards. This, not any of the expert testimony, was the most important part of the case: for once, the outright intimidation of biology teachers — by far the most common, though rarely reported, anti-evolution problem in the US — was exposed in all its ugly glory, in open court for everyone to see.
Steve Harvey of Pepper Hamilton cross-examined Buckingham. Harvey is the nicest man you could ever meet, but somewhere deep down there is a bit of the classic movie lawyer — think of Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men. It was the movie lawyer who conducted the cross-examination of Buckingham. It turned out that Buckingham, who had said at his deposition that he didn't know who had donated the money to buy the Pandas books for the Dover school, had actually stood up in front of his church and taken up a collection to purchase the books. Harvey confronted Buckingham with a copy of the check that Buckingham had written, saying, "Mr Buckingham, you lied to me at your deposition on January 3rd, 2005. Isn't that true?" After a few minutes of Buckingham's quivering on the stand under such questions, Judge Jones had seen enough, saying "Mr Harvey … I get the point, and you've made the point very effectively."
Alan Bonsell, also caught lying by Harvey, did not experience a tonguelashing from Harvey, because in this case Judge Jones was so annoyed he stepped in and interrogated Bonsell himself. When a witness lies in court, the integrity of the entire justice system is compromised, and Jones raised his voice for the only time in the entire six-week trial to point this out personally to Bonsell, who was reduced from confident gum-chewing to meek apologies.
Against this backdrop, the testimony of the two surviving defense experts, though genuine, had an air of unreality about it. Steve Fuller, a prolific professor from the United Kingdom who studies the sociology of science and who is a fellow traveler with the ID movement, attempted to make the case that it was those in the scientific establishment who were the "meanies" — a bizarre argument in light of the events in Dover. Fuller did not help the Defense case much when he conceded that, yes, ID was creationism, nor when he stated that he believed science needed to have "an affirmative action strategy with regard to disadvantaged theories".
In the last week of the case, everyone began to realize that they were living through and participating in a piece of history. Analogies to the Scopes trial and the McLean v Arkansas trial were a regular feature of discussions. The presence of national media and several documentary filmmakers added to this feeling (one of the journalists/documentarians was Matthew Chapman, a great-great-grandson of Charles Darwin himself — and frankly looking a bit like the pre-beard Darwin in his 50s — who regularly sat at the front end of the jury box, glowering at the ID witnesses as if the very spirit of Darwin had showed up to observe the proceedings). As if that weren't enough, Robert Gentry, the final creation-science witness in McLean, pitched up in Harrisburg to watch the last few days of the Kitzmiller trial. He even held a press conference in the nearby state capitol building, giving the same old lines about how polonium halos proved a young earth and how the judge and Brent Dalrymple snubbed him back in 1981.
Scott Minnich, the final witness, probably performed the best of any of the defense witnesses, mostly through his reasonable demeanor and much shorter presentation. However, he had nothing new to add beyond what Behe said and was much less adept at dancing away from contradictory evidence than was Behe. The most memorable episode on cross came with Harvey's first questions, in which Harvey put up young-earth creationist articles (another NCSE contribution), showing that they used the bacterial flagellum in exactly the same way that Behe did, years and even decades before Behe's 1996 book. The ID jig was clearly up at this point in the case and the plaintiffs were just running up the score. This is probably why little attention was paid when Minnich gave away the store yet again. In response to a question from Harvey about evil designs in nature — such as the Type III secretion system, which the bubonic plague bacterium uses to inject toxins into human cells, and which Minnich studies for a living — Minnich replied that such issues were questions of "theodicy". Theodicy is the part of theology that deals with defending the benevolence and omnipotence of God in the face of suffering and evil; Minnich's remark thus bolstered the plaintiffs' case that ID was all about God after all.
On Friday afternoon of the sixth week, Rothschild and Gillen gave closing arguments for each side. Rothschild masterfully wove together all of the threads of the case, putting special emphasis on the eerie parallels between the local situation in Dover, where the school board had adopted ID and denied they wanted to teach creationism, despite abundant written evidence to the contrary, and the national ID movement, which had performed exactly the same operation on a grand scale after the 1987 Edwards decision (see p 26). Gillen's closing argument was not particularly memorable, but he redeemed himself just as the judge was about to close the proceedings:
THE COURT: Counsel, do you have anything further before we adjourn these proceedings? From the plaintiffs?
MR. ROTHSCHILD: No, Your Honor. Thank you.
THE COURT: From the defendants?
MR. GILLEN: Your Honor, I have one question, and that's this: By my reckoning, this is the 40th day since the trial began and tonight will be the 40th night, and I would like to know if you did that on purpose.
THE COURT: Mr. Gillen, that is an interesting coincidence, but it was not by design.
(Laughter and applause.)
With that, I declare the trial portion of this extended case adjourned.
Everyone in the fully-packed courtroom stood up, clapping, as the judge walked out. At this point I halfway expected a movie director to emerge and shout, "Cut it, print it!" This was one of those moments where real life and fiction merged.
A long press conference followed outside the courthouse, where the plaintiffs and their legal team finally felt that they could speak freely to the press without "giving away" any elements of the case. Then followed the post-trial party in downtown Harrisburg where the ACLU handed out little stuffed monkey dolls.
After the trial was finished we still had several weeks of work as the lawyers assembled the Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, a massive task in a six-week case. Primarily I helped the lawyers with the science aspects of these documents (I recall clarifying for one lawyer that organisms and organs are not the same — your NCSE dollars at work!). Once all of this was done, we had a few weeks where we could attempt to catch up with other business. On December 20, 2005, the decision came down, a grand slam home run. I was particularly gratified to see the science section of the case, which contains an amazingly erudite discussion of the science of evolution and the scientific problems with the ID arguments. I imagine that Kitzmiller is the only decision in existence where "exaptation" makes an appearance. December 20 was certainly the biggest media day in NCSE history, with the phone ringing off the hook from 8 am until the evening. Staff participated in several television interviews that week as well as many radio shows.
As I mentioned at the beginning, the aftershocks to Kitzmiller continue. The case was for "intelligent design" exactly what McLean was for "creation science" — the beginning of the end. It is hard to say if there will be an Edwards-like Supreme Court case for ID. The current situation in Kansas could potentially end up there, but first creationist members of the Kansas board of education have to survive the 2006 elections. Regardless, history shows that anti-evolutionism does not disappear after defeat in the courts: it merely evolves. But when it does, NCSE will be there to keep an eye on it.
Well, we are now about 120 years after Darwin and the knowledge of the fossil record has been greatly expanded. We now have a quarter of a million fossil species but the situation hasn't changed much. The record of evolution is still surprisingly jerky and, ironically, we have even fewer examples of evolutionary transitions than we had in Darwin's time. By this I mean that some of the classic cases of Darwinian change in the fossil record, such as the evolution of the horse in North America, have had to be discarded or modified as a result of more detailed information — what appeared to be a nice simple progression when relatively few data were available now appear to be much more complex and much less gradualistic. So Darwin's problem has not been alleviated in the last 120 years and we still have a record which does show change but one that can hardly be looked upon as the most reasonable consequence of natural selection.In contrast to the impression that Hanegraaff is trying to give, Raup is discussing how — not whether — evolutionary change has occurred. Raup clearly accepts evolution, but he is not convinced that the paleontological record supports Darwinian gradualism.
The origin of biological complexity is not yet fully explained, but several plausible naturalistic scenarios have been advanced to account for this complexity. “Intelligent design” (ID) advocates, however, contend that only the actions of an “intelligent agent” can generate the information content and complexity observed in biological systems.
ID proponents believe evolution theory is a failed enterprise that offers no credible explanations for the origins of complexity. They fault evolutionary scenarios for lacking sufficient detail. Furthermore, ID advocates claim to have presented empirical evidence that an “intelligent agent” designed at least some complex biological systems.
In contrast, this paper reviews several scientific models for the origin of biological complexity. I argue that these models offer plausible mechanisms for generating biological complexity and are promising avenues of inquiry. I take issue with ID proponents who dismiss such models for lack of “sufficient causal specificity,” arguing that this criticism is unwarranted. Finally, I look briefly at ID’s proposed explanation for the origin of biological complexity, and consider William Dembski’s “empirical evidence” for the design of bacterial flagella, arguing that his supposed evidence is biologically irrelevant.
The problem of complexity
Biological systems are staggeringly complex. Professional biologists devote their careers to describing those complexities, dissecting those systems by chemical and physical methods, and characterizing their structural components and functional interactions. How can such complex systems evolve? We understand the ways in which the individual components of a complex system can be altered in structure and function by mutation, and the way in which natural selection favors one form over another. Furthermore, in many cases we have traced the family relationships among different nucleic acid and protein variants.
Envisioning ways by which natural selection can construct biochemical and molecular systems that involve dozens of proteins integrated in complex and highly specific ways is much more difficult. How could all the necessary proteins be selected simultaneously with a common endpoint as the goal? Unless each intermediate construct possessed at least partial function, how could natural selection act?
This is the argument put forth by Michael Behe in his book Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (1996), and championed by ID advocates ever since. Behe contends that the structural and functional complexities found throughout biological systems could not have been established through evolutionary processes. He argues that the bacterial flagellum, for example, is an irreducibly complex system, in which the individual components have no function apart from the whole, and therefore could not have been selected for in nature.
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. An irreducibly complex system cannot be produced directly (that is, by continuously improving the initial function, which continues to work by the same mechanism) by slight, successive modifications of a precursor system, because any precursor to an irreducibly complex system that is missing a part is by definition nonfunctional. An irreducibly complex biological system, if there is such a thing, would be a powerful challenge to Darwinian evolution. (Behe 1996: 39)
Biologists recognize that integrated system complexity is a feature of living systems. That is, some biological systems consist of component parts that interact in a coordinated way so that the system as a whole exhibits a specific function. It is questionable, however, whether any such systems are irreducibly complex as Behe claims (see Coyne 1996; Doolittle 1997; Miller 1999; Shanks and Joplin 1999). But even if examples of irreducible complexity are found in living systems, the origins of such systems are not necessarily outside the realm of natural processes (Orr 1996; Miller 1999; Thornhill and Ussery 2000; Catalano 2001). That the function of a highly integrated system may collapse with the removal of a component part does not mean that the system in question cannot be deconstructed to reveal an origin by undirected evolutionary processes.
Behe was not the first to recognize that biological complexity poses a challenge (see for example Cairns-Smith 1986). During the past decade, the discipline of complexity science has blossomed, attracting an interdisciplinary contingent of scientists, including biologists interested in the very question Behe addresses: Can natural mechanisms account for the observed complexity of biological systems? (See Adami and others 2000; Strogatz 2001; Adami 2002; Carlson and Doyle 2002; Csete and Doyle 2002.)
Naturalistic models for the evolution of biological complexity
Several models have been advanced to account for a naturalistic origin of the complexity seen in biological systems. Following are brief descriptions of four models advanced to account for the origin of biological complexity.
Incremental additions model
The incremental additions model hypothesizes that an initial association of components favorable to some function may become an essential association through time (Lindsay 2000; Orr 1996, 2002). The complexity of the system may increase with the addition of new components. Suppose, for example, that a molecule carries out a particular catalytic function. If an association with another molecule enhances that function — for example, through structural stabilization — then natural selection can favor the association. The second molecule is initially beneficial although not essential. The second molecule may become essential, however, if an inactivating mutation in the first molecule is compensated for by the presence of the second.
There are numerous examples of molecules whose function is enhanced in the presence of another molecule. Consider the activity of RNase P (an RNA-protein complex responsible for processing transfer RNA molecules). The RNA component of the molecule possesses the catalytic activity and has been shown to function without its protein partner, albeit at a very much lower activity (Reich and others 1988; Altman 1989).
Work done with hammerhead ribozymes (RNA molecules capable of cleaving other RNA molecules) has demonstrated that the activity of one of these ribozymes increases 10- to 20-fold in vitro in the presence of a non-specific RNA-binding protein (Tsuchihashi and others 1993; Herschlag and others 1994). Furthermore, ribozymes are routinely generated whose activity can be regulated by other molecules (Soukup 1999), and in vitro evolution experiments have generated protein-dependent ribozyme ligases (Robertson and Ellington 2001).
Group II self-splicing introns, although capable of independent cleavage of RNA under some conditions, require stabilization by maturase proteins for effective in vivo functioning. It is generally accepted that the catalytically active RNA components of spliceosomes are able to function because spliceosome proteins stabilize a functional conformation (Lodish and others 2003). Therefore, one might speculate that a ribozyme could lose independent activity through a mutational event and yet continue to function in association with a protein molecule that promotes or stabilizes a catalytically active ribozyme structure.
Scaffolding is another mechanism whereby irreducible complexity might be established (Lindsay 2000; Shanks and Joplin 2000; Orr 2002). In the incremental additions model, a beneficial association of components becomes an essential association because mutational events compromise the independent activity of one or more component parts. In the scaffolding model, superfluous components are lost, leaving a system in which the remaining components appear tightly matched as if they were specifically designed to fit and function together. The arch is an example of an irreducibly complex structure that requires scaffolding for its construction (Cairns-Smith 1986; Lindsay 2000; Shanks and Joplin 2000; Schneider 2000; Orr 2002). Scaffolding may also be functional in nature.
Many biochemical systems are characterized by “redundant complexity” (Shanks and Joplin 1999, 2000). Biochemical pathways rarely function in isolation; rather, one pathway interconnects with another (see Nelson and Cox 2000). For example, carbon atoms entering the Calvin-Benson cycle within a chloroplast may find their way into any one of many different molecules and be shunted into other pathways. There are also many cases of a redundancy of enzymatic components, or variant isoforms. Gene duplications increase the number of genes in a species, which can then evolve in different ways. This branching pattern in protein evolution is significant. For example, several different yet related hemoglobin molecules are utilized in human development. These variant forms are understood to have arisen from gene duplication, mutation and selection processes (Lodish and others 2003).
An initial loss of redundant components in a biochemical pathway will not destroy function. However, at the point where a system cannot endure further loss of components without losing function, an irreducible system exists. The redundancy of biochemical components in such a scenario serves as scaffolding. Shanks and Joplin (2000) evaluate this model in reference to several of Behe’s examples of irreducibly complex biochemical systems. Robinson (1996) has also taken a similar approach by explaining in plausible evolutionary terms the origin of vertebrate blood-clotting cascades.
Natural selection acts upon an existing set of structures within a particular environmental context. An altered environment demands altered responses from an organism. Consequently, it should not be surprising to find in the fossil record and in comparative anatomical and physiological studies evidence that some structures have been modified through time to serve different functions. In fact, a common theme of biological evolution is that existing structures are often put to new uses, and new structures are created from the old. “Co-option” is the term used to describe the recruitment of existing structures for new tasks. This recruitment can explain evolutionary increases in biological complexity.
Genes co-opted for new functions can give rise to developmental and physiological novelties (Eizinger and others 1999; Ganfornina and Sanchez 1999; Long 2001; True and Carroll 2002). Genes can acquire new functions when protein-coding sequences are altered, when coding sequences are spliced differently during RNA processing, or when spatiotemporal patterns of gene expression are changed (True and Carroll 2002). Gene duplication followed by differential mutation will give rise to new protein configurations, and the alteration of regulatory controls for gene expression can result in significant developmental and morphological changes.
Many complex biological systems are characterized by a tight integration of component parts. Behe (1996) has argued that it is highly unlikely that such systems could arise through a simultaneous co-evolution of numerous parts or a direct serial evolution of the necessary components. But complex systems, even irreducibly complex ones, need not be assembled this way.
New associations of existing substructures or proteins may give rise to new functions, thus it is not necessary for the system to evolve in toto. Many critics of ID have pointed this out (Miller 1999; Thornhill and Ussery 2000; Miller 2003). A particularly instructive example of probable co-option is seen in the evolution of the Krebs (citric acid) cycle. Melendez-Helvia and others (1996) recognized that the Krebs cycle posed a real difficulty to evolutionary biologists because intermediate stages in its evolution would have no functionality. An analysis of the component enzymes and cofactors, however, revealed that the component parts and intermediate stages had functions apart from their role in the Krebs cycle.
Another example is the V(D)J gene splicing mechanism in vertebrate immune systems (Thornhill and Ussery 2000). True and Carroll (2002) also present examples of how multiple genes linked by a gene regulatory system can be co-opted as a unit for a new function; their examples include the evolution of butterfly eyespots, vertebrate limbs, complex leaves in plants, and feathers.
Emerging complexity model
Some complexity theorists believe that laws of self-organization exist that play a role in the evolution of biological complexity (Kauffman 1993, 1995; Solé and Goodwin 2000). Theoretical work in this area has expanded rapidly in the past decade (see, for example, Camazine and others 2001). The interaction of various component parts, it is argued, leads inevitably to complex patterns of organization.
One measure of complexity is the information content of a system, and Schneider’s “ev” program has demonstrated that new information can indeed emerge spontaneously. The “ev” program was constructed to simulate evolution by mutational and selection events. In the program, certain DNA sequences acted as “recognizer genes”, while other sequences were potential binding sites for the recognizer molecules. During simulations, both the recognizer genes and potential binding sequences were allowed to mutate. Selection was based upon successful binding of recognizer molecules and appropriate binding sites. The change in the complexity of the system was evaluated as a change in the information content of the DNA sequences. Specificity between recognition genes and corresponding binding sites increases the information content of the system, which is measured in bits of information according to Shannon information theory. Beginning with a random genome, the “ev” program leads to the evolution of DNA binding sites and a consequent increase in information. Furthermore, in the simulation, binding sites and recognizer genes co-evolved, becoming an irreducibly complex system. The results showed that processes of Darwinian evolution do generate information as well as irreducibly complex systems (Schneider 2000).
Conceivability vs plausibility: ID’s response
The above models are based upon natural processes that are subject to experimental investigation. Evidence supporting these models is accumulating. These models have been evaluated by ID advocate William Dembski in his book No Free Lunch (2002a). Dembski declared each model inadequate, with his most specific criticism directed toward Schneider’s “ev” program. He rejected Schneider’s claim that information had been generated de novo and accused Schneider of smuggling information into the program by specifying the program’s conditions for survival of “organisms” (Dembski 2002a). From a population biologist’s perspective, the criteria used by Schneider were perfectly reasonable. Nevertheless, Schneider eliminated the special rule that Dembski objected to, retested the program, and found the same results (Schneider 2001a, 2001b).
Arguing more globally, Dembski claimed that the No Free Lunch Theorems make it clear that the program could not do what Schneider claimed. David Wolpert, however, one of the developers of the No Free Lunch Theorems, says that Dembski applies the theorems inappropriately (Wolpert 2003).
Dembski’s criticisms of the other models were more general. He and other ID advocates complain that naturalistic models for the evolution of biological complexity lack causal specificity. According to Dembski, “Causal specificity means identifying a cause sufficient to account for the effect in question” (Dembski 2002a: 240). He argues that, until sufficient details are worked out (presumably in terms of the order in which components became associated, the manner by which these assembled components interacted to improve function, and the mutations that led to obligate dependency) there is no way to evaluate naturalistic scenarios. “Lack of causal specificity,” he says, “leaves one without the means to judge whether a transformation can or cannot be effected” (Dembski 2002a: 242).
Dembski accuses evolutionists of being satisfied with a very undemanding form of possibility, namely, conceivability (Dembski 2002b). Allen Orr reviewed No Free Lunch and took Dembski to task for using biologically irrelevant probabilities and requiring unrealistic details of causal specificity (Orr 2002). In his rebuttal, Dembski said that, for Orr, “Darwinism has the alchemical property of transforming sheer possibilities into real possibilities” (Dembski 2002b). He went on to say that “Orr substitutes a much weaker demand for ‘historical narrative,’ which in the case of Darwinism degenerates into fictive reconstructions with little, if any, hold on reality.”
Dembski positions himself as the critical empiricist, asking only for what all scientists should ask — details by which to determine the validity of Darwinist claims. Howard Van Till reviewed No Free Lunch and commented upon Dembski’s demand for causal specificity:
Many scientific hypotheses regarding the manner in which various transformational processes may have contributed to the actualization of some new biotic structure might fall short of full causal specificity — even though they may be highly plausible applications of mechanisms that are at least partially understood. When that is the case, the ID approach tends to denigrate them as nothing more than “just-so stories” and to remove them from further consideration. (Van Till 2002)
Dembski’s demand for greater details is reminiscent of earlier anti-evolutionists’ demands for more transitional fossils. Undoubtedly, there will always be gaps in the fossil record, and there will always be room for more details in evolutionary scenarios. The biologist’s search for these details is ongoing.
ID’s explanation for the origin of biological complexity
Biologists have proposed a number of models to account for biological complexity. ID proponents have criticized these models for lacking sufficient detail. It is instructive then to examine ID’s own explanations for the origin of biological complexity. Dembski (2002a) claims that certain types of biological systems, such as Behe’s “irreducibly complex” systems, must have been designed by an intelligent agent, because they possess a characteristic he calls “specified complexity.” It is possible, he says, to distinguish objects that were designed from those that arose by natural mechanisms because only designed objects have this characteristic (Dembski 1998, 2002a). ID advocates offer no models to explain the processes by which biological complexity came to be. They argue, nevertheless, that “specified complexity” is empirical evidence that the observed structure or function was intentionally designed.
How can we know that an object possesses “specified complexity”? Dembski says that structures or events that are highly complex will have a low probability of occurring by chance. Therefore a probability assessment must first be made. Because even rare or improbable events might occur by chance if given enough time, Dembski (1998) has set a probability value of 10-150 as a criterion for design.
To be specified, an object or event must possess a pattern independent of or detachable from the nature of the object or event in question (Dembski 1998). In the movie Contact, for example, SETI researchers interpret a radio signal as a sign of extraterrestrial intelligence because the signal contains the first 100 prime numbers. That particular sequence of numbers is specified because it has no inherent relationship with radio waves and is therefore independent of the radio waves themselves. Finally, a designed object or event, regardless of its complexity or specificity, cannot be the outcome of a deterministic natural law.
ID proponents argue that certain biological systems exhibit specified complexity and therefore must have been intentionally designed. But is specified complexity a reliable indicator of design? The validity of Dembski’s approach is questionable at best. Flaws in his argument have been pointed out previously (see for example, Orr 1996, 2002; Miller 1999, 2003; Schneider 2001a; Van Till 2002). But perhaps the best way to evaluate ID’s claim is to consider the application of their criteria to a specific example.
The bacterial flagellum: ID’s test case
Dembski (2000) says, “Design theorists are not saying that for a given natural object exhibiting specified complexity, all the natural causal mechanisms so far considered have failed to account for it and therefore it had to be designed. Rather they are saying that the specified complexity exhibited by a natural object can be such that there are compelling reasons to think that no natural causal mechanism is capable of producing it.” ID advocates have presented the bacterial flagellum as a biological structure that is clearly the result of design. Dembski’s application of his own complexity-specification criterion in the case of the bacterial flagellum, however, fails to demonstrate that the flagellum is either complex or specified (Van Till 2002).
Dembski’s calculation of the probability for the origin of the flagellum treats the flagellum as a discrete combinatorial object that self-assembled by pure chance. In other words, all the proteins spontaneously formed by the chance coming together of amino acids in the correct order, then the chance assembling of those proteins in the correct arrangements. This is not an evolutionary scenario ever postulated by biologists (Miller 2003; Van Till 2002). Evolutionists envision a far different scenario. Proteins are not built or assembled with the intent to construct a flagellar system. Protein variants appear through time, forming new interactions and taking on new functions. Protein assemblies that contribute to the reproductive success of the organism are maintained and shaped by natural selection.
Although Dembski (2002a: 19) stated that, in calculating the probability of an event, it is necessary to take into account all the relevant ways an event might occur, he himself failed to do so. By calculating only the probability that the flagellum arose by sheer chance, Dembski cannot justify his claim that the flagellum is a product of design (Van Till 2002). Dembski (2003) responded to such criticisms by stating that it was not his intention to “calculate every conceivable probability connected with the stochastic formation of the flagellum ... My point, rather, was to sketch out some probabilistic techniques that could then be applied by biologists to the stochastic formation of the flagellum.” Dembski then challenged his critics to calculate their own probabilities using whatever scenario they wish.
The bacterial flagellum is indeed a discrete combinatorial object, and the self-assembly that I describe is the one we are left with and can compute on the basis of what we know. The only reason biologists would refuse to countenance my description and probabilistic calculations of self-assembly is because they show that only an indirect Darwinian pathway could have produced the bacterial flagellum. But precisely because it is indirect, there is, at least for now, no causal specificity and no probability to be calculated. (Dembski 2002c)
There will always be a level of uncertainty in elucidating an evolutionary pathway for the origin of a flagellum or any other biological system. Dembski hides behind this uncertainty, content to continue using a pure chance model regardless of the fact that it bears no relationship whatsoever to our understanding of evolutionary processes.
ID proponents claim that biologists are engaged in a program of inquiry, which is doomed to fail. According to ID proponents, a naturalistic explanation for the origin of genetic information and complex biological organization is not possible. The ID proponents assert that they have developed rigorous criteria by which design in nature can be detected, but they have yet to demonstrate the validity of their criteria. Furthermore, ID proponents fail to engage fully the naturalistic scenarios of evolutionists to explain the origins of biological complexity.
Certainly much remains to be learned about the evolution of complexity, but there is every reason to believe it happened by natural processes. Consider for example the following case. In 1966, Kwang Jeon observed that his cultures of amoebae were dying as a result of a bacterial infection (Jeon 1991). The bacteria had apparently escaped digestion in a food vacuole and were reproducing within the amoebae. Over a period of time, some of the cultures began to recover. Bacteria were still present in the surviving amoeba, though at a much reduced level. Jeon was able to show that the bacteria had become dependent upon their host cell and the host cell was dependent upon the bacteria. Additional work demonstrated that genetic information lost from the bacterium and amoeba genomes had led to their obligate relationship. A mutually obligate endosymbiosis was established, creating what is essentially a new cell organelle. Two component systems became associated, mutated, and are now irreducibly linked to one another. Perhaps ID proponents will argue that the complexity is not sufficient to have required the action of an intelligent agent, but the point here is that undirected natural causes are all that are needed to explain an observed increase in complexity and generation of an irreducible system.
Biologists have advanced plausible naturalistic scenarios for the origins of biological complexity. These scenarios are based upon an understanding of established natural processes. To dismiss them as merely conceivable stories is unwarranted. To demand a detailed chain of causality for evolutionary scenarios is unrealistic. To insist that design has been detected in the bacterial flagellum by calculating the probability of its assembling by pure chance is simply wrong.
Adami C, Ofria C, Collier TC. 2000. Evolution of biological complexity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 97: 4463–8.
Adami C. 2002. What is complexity? BioEssays 24: 1085–94.
Altman S. 1989. Ribonuclease P: An enzyme with a catalytic RNA subunit. Advances in Enzymology and Related Areas of Molecular Biology 62: 1–36.
Behe MJ. 1996. Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. New York: The Free Press.
Cairns-Smith AG. 1986. Seven Clues to the Origin of Life: A Scientific Detective Story. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Camazine S, Deneubourg J-L, Franks NR, Sneyd J, Theraulaz G, Bonabeau E. 2001. Self-Organization in Biological Systems. Princeton (NJ): Princeton University Press.
Carlson JM, Doyle J. 2002. Complexity and robustness. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) Supplement 1; 99: 2538–48.
Catalano J. Behe’s empty box. 2001. Available on-line at http://www.simonyi.ox.ac.uk/dawkins/WorldOfDawkins-archive/Catalano/box/behe.shtml (link broken). Last accessed October 1, 2006.
Coyne JA. 1996. God in the details: The biochemical challenge to evolution. Nature 383: 227–8.
Csete ME, Doyle JC. 2002. Reverse engineering of biological complexity. Science 295: 1664–9.
Dembski WA. 1998. The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance through Small Probabilities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Dembski WA. 2000. Intelligent design coming clean. Available on-line at http://www.designinference.com/documents/2000.11.ID_coming_clean.htm. Last accessed October 1, 2006.
Dembski WA. 2002a No Free Lunch: Why Biological Complexity Cannot Be Purchased without Intelligence. Lanham (MD): Rowman & Littlefield.
Dembski WA. 2002b Sheer vs real possibilities: A response to Allen Orr. Boston Review. Available on-line at http://new.bostonreview.net/BR27.5/exchange.html. Last accessed August 7, 2006.
Dembski WA. 2002c. Naturalism’s argument from invincible ignorance: A response to Howard Van Till. Available on-line at http://www.designinference.com/documents/2002.09.Van_Till_Response.htm. Last accessed August 28, 2006.
Dembski WA. 2003. Still spinning just fine: A response to Ken Miller. Available on-line at http://www.designinference.com/documents/2003.02.Miller_Response.htm. Last accessed August 28, 2006.
Doolittle RF. 1997. A delicate balance. Boston Review. Available on-line at http://new.bostonreview.net/br22.1/doolittle.html. Last accessed August 7, 2006.
Eizinger A, Jungblut B, Sommer RJ. 1999. Evolutionary change in the functional specificity of genes. Trends in Genetics 15: 197–202.
Ganfornina MD, Sanchez D. 1999. Generation of evolutionary novelty by functional shift. BioEssays 21: 432–9.
Herschlag D, Khosla M, Tsuchihashi Z, Karpel RL. 1994. An RNA chaperone activity of non-specific RNA binding proteins in hammerhead ribozyme catalysis European Molecular Biology Organization Journal 13: 2913–24.
Jeon KW. 1991. Amoeba and x-Bacteria: Symbiont acquisition and possible species change. In: Margulis L, Fester R, editors. Symbiosis as a Source of Evolutionary Innovation. Cambridge (MA): The MIT Press. p 118–31.
Kauffman SA. 1993. The Origins of Order. New York: Oxford University Press.
Kauffman SA. 1995. At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity. New York: Oxford University Press.
Lindsay D. 2000. How can evolution cause irreducibly complex systems? Available on-line at http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/creation/evolve_irreducible.html. Last accessed August 28, 2006.
Lodish H, Berk A, Matsudaira P, Kaiser CA, Krieger M, Scott MP, Zipursky SL, Darnell J. 2003. Molecular Cell Biology, 5th ed. New York: WH Freeman.
Long M. 2001. Evolution of novel genes. Current Opinions in Genetics and Development 11: 673–80.
Melendez-Hevia, E, Wadell TG, Cascante M. 1996. The puzzle of the Krebs citric acid cycle: Assembling the pieces of chemically feasible reactions, and opportunism in the design of metabolic pathways during evolution. Journal of Molecular Evolution 43: 293–303.
Miller KR. 1999. Finding Darwin’s God. New York: Cliff Street Books.
Miller KR. 2003. The flagellum unspun: The collapse of “irreducible complexity”. Available on-line at http://www.millerandlevine.com/km/evol/design2/article.html. Last accessed August 28, 2006.
Nelson DL, Cox MM. 2000. Lehninger: Principles of Biochemistry, 3rd ed. New York: Worth.
Orr HA. 1996. Darwin v intelligent design (again): The latest attack on evolution is cleverly argued, biologically informed — and wrong. Boston Review. Available on-line at http://new.bostonreview.net/br21.6/orr.html. Last accessed August 7, 2006.
Orr HA. 2002. Review of No Free Lunch by William A Dembski. Boston Review. Available on-line at http://bostonreview.net/BR27.3/orr.html (link broken). Last accessed August 7, 2006.
Reich C, Olsen GJ, Pace B, Pace NR. 1988. The role of the protein moiety of ribonuclease P, a catalytic ribonucleoprotein. Science 239: 178–81.
Robinson K. 1996. Darwin’s black box: Irreducible complexity or irreproducible irreducibility? Available on-line at http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/behe/review.html. Last accessed August 26, 2006.
Robertson MP, Ellington AD. 2001. In vitro selection of nucleoprotein enzymes. Nature Biotechnology 19: 650–5.
Schneider TD. 2000. Evolution of biological information. Nucleic Acids Research 28: 2794–9.
Schneider TD. 2001a. Rebuttal to William A Dembski’s posting and to his book No Free Lunch. Available on-line at http://www.ccrnp.ncifcrf.gov/~toms/paper/ev/dembski/. Last accessed October 1, 2006.
Schneider TD. 2001b. Effect of ties on the evolution of information by the ev program. 2001b. Available on-line at http://www.ccrnp.ncifcrf.gov/~toms/paper/ev/dembski/claimtest.html. Last accessed October 1, 2006.
Shanks N, Joplin KH. 1999 Redundant complexity: A critical analysis of intelligent design in biochemistry. Philosophy of Science 66: 268–82.
Shanks N, Joplin KH. 2000. Behe, biochemistry, and the invisible hand. Philo. Available on-line at http://www.pdcnet.org/scholarpdf/show?id=philo_2001_0004_0001_0054_0067&pdfname=philo_2001_0004_0001_0054_0067.pdf&file_type=pdf. Last accessed August 28, 2006.
Sole R, Goodwin BC. 2000. Signs of Life: How Complexity Pervades Biology. New York: Basic Books.
Soukup GA, Breaker RR. 1999. Design of allosteric hammerhead ribozymes activated by ligand-induced structure stabilization. Structure 7: 783–91.
Strogatz SH. 2001. Exploring complex networks. Nature 410: 268–76.
Thornhill RH, Ussery DW. 2000. A classification of possible routes of Darwinian evolution. The Journal of Theoretical Biology 203: 111–6. True JR, Carroll SB. 2002. Gene co-option in physiological and morphological evolution. Annual Reviews of Cell and Developmental Biology 18: 53–80.
Tsuchihashi Z, Khosla M, Herschlag D. 1993. Protein enhancement of hammerhead ribozyme catalysis. Science 262: 99–102.
Van Till H. 2002. E coli at the No Free Lunchroom: Bacterial flagella and Dembski’s case for intelligent design. Available on-line at http://www.aaas.org/spp/dser/03_Areas/evolution/perspectives/vantillecoli_2002.pdf. Last accessed October 1, 2006.
Wolpert D. 2003. William Dembski’s treatment of the No Free Lunch theorems is written in jello. Available on-line at http://www.talkreason.org/articles/jello.cfm. Last accessed August 28, 2006.
[D]ifferent members of a holobaramin could have resulted from a sorting out to the offspring of different genes (DNA) from parental organisms. This is a common occurrence today. Or, since the time of creation there could have been some hereditary modifications of the DNA (mutations), and these were passed on to the diverging offspring. Selection in nature could have influenced the potential for survival of the diverse siblings. (Frair 2000)Finally, it is interesting to note that baraminologists, like phylogenetic taxonomists, claim to eschew "essentialist" thinking, which seems odd given their notions of limited created "kinds"; however, this is because they recognize that diagnostic baraminological features can be lost through variation within a kind. The result is that combinations of other features in the "kind" are used to unite them in a monobaramin (Wood and others 2003).
The baraminological groups were originally codified by ReMine (1993) and expanded by Frair (2000).
Holobaramin: All known living and extinct forms understood to share genetic relationships. It is the entire group of organisms related by common ancestry. This would correspond to Mayr's (1963) holophyly or Hennig's (1950) monophyly.
Monobaramin: A group containing only organisms related by common descent, but not necessarily all of them. This could be a group containing one entire holobaramin or a portion of it. This would correspond roughly to Mayr's (1963) monophyly or Hennig's (1950) paraphyly.
Apobaramin: A group consisting of one or more holobaramins. The group of holobaramins may share similar morphology, ecology, and function, but, by definition, not common descent. This may be somewhat like polyphyletic groups.
Polybaramin: A grouping of two or more individuals who are part of at least two holobaramins. It may be a combination of holobaramins, monobaramins, apobaramins, and individuals that by definition do not share a common ancestor. This is consistent with traditional notions of polyphyly.
Baraminologists also recognize a number of taxonomic groupings — archaebaramin (the original created individuals of a holobaramin), neobaramin (the extant individuals in a holobaramin), and paleobaramin (the extinct members of a baramin, or a wholly extinct baramin) — that do not have counterparts in traditional systematics.
Then God said, Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds. And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. …So long as people have been farming plants and raising livestock, they have been aware that one organism gives birth to another very like it. That is, they have known that living things come in kinds. This is not confined to the Bible, of course. Aristotle knew it. So did Theophrastus, his student, sometimes called the father of botany. It is not, as they say, rocket surgery.
And God said, Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky. So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. …
And God said, Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind. And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
Genesis 1, verses 11–2, 20–1, 24–5, New International Version
After long and considerable investigation, no surer criterion for determining species has occurred to me than the distinguishing features that perpetuate themselves in propagation from seed. Thus, no matter what variations occur in the individuals or the species, if they spring from the seed of one and the same plant, they are accidental variations and not such as to distinguish a species … Animals likewise that differ specifically preserve their distinct species permanently; one species never springs from the seed of another nor vice versa.This was the first recorded biological definition of "species", although the logical term had been used in biological contexts for a long time prior to that. But his was not the traditional view. Following a suggestion of Aristotle that new species were formed by hybridization at water holes in Africa, St Augustine, among others (including one of the translators of the King James Bible), happily accepted that new species could be formed out of old ones. Linnaeus himself, who is sometimes regarded as the originator of species fixism, observed hybridization between two plant species in his own garden, and late in life revised his view that species were as the "Infinite Being" had first created them. Certainly there was no tradition in Christian theological circles that species had to be unchanging before then.
… it will be seen that I look at the term species as one arbitrarily given, for the sake of convenience, to a set of individuals closely resembling each other, and that it does not essentially differ from the term variety, which is given to less distinct and more fluctuating forms. The term variety, again, in comparison with mere individual differences, is also applied arbitrarily, for convenience's sake.On the basis of this and other comments, he seemed to be saying that a species was not a real thing, but that it was just what we called something for convenience. But in his works overall, he treats species as real things, mostly (but not always) isolated by infertility, with different ecological adaptations. His point was, and it remains a sticking point today, that the difference between a species and a variety within a species was vague. This, of course, is due to the fact that species, like sand dunes, rivers and clouds, have no hard and sharp boundaries between them because of evolution.
[I]f species do not exist at all, as the supporters of the transmutation theory maintain, how can they vary? And if individuals alone exist, how can differences which may be observed among them prove the variability of species?Darwin rightly snorted to Agassiz's one-time student Asa Gray:
I am surprised that Agassiz did not succeed in writing something better. How absurd that logical quibble — "if species do not exist how can they vary?" As if anyone doubted their temporary existence.Creationists will often claim that they are not interested in the species level, though. Initially, creationism did require fixity of species. In the 1920s, when George McCready Price equated "species" to the biblical "kinds", he was forced, to allow for the Ark to carry "every kind", to raise the bar higher. Even this was not original. In the late 18th century, Buffon, Cuvier's predecessor, had suggested that there was a "first stock" from which all members of a kind had evolved, so that all cats evolved from an original animal, modified by geography and climate, for instance. So creationists themselves have a "vagueness problem" no less than evolutionary biology does. Life is vague. Certainly the creationist "kind", or "baramin", as they mangle the Hebrew for "created kind", is extremely elastic. Given that elasticity, the motivation for the inference that was made naturally during the 17th and 18th centuries that species do not evolve is undercut. If kinds are not exact in reproduction, why think that the Genesis account is enough to prohibit evolution? The answer is, of course, that biblical literalism is not the primary motivation here for opposition to evolution.
… a group of individuals fully fertile inter se, but barred from interbreeding with other similar groups by its physiological properties (producing either incompatibility of parents, or sterility of the hybrid, or both).This was the original genetic version of reproductive isolation concepts (Buffon had proposed interbreeding as a test a century and a half earlier, which Darwin rejected). Unfortunately, a version framed by Ernst Mayr got called the "biological" species concept, in contrast to what were seen as "nonbiological" concepts that relied largely on form and based in museum taxonomy, which were called "morphological" concepts by Mayr. But I think it is better to call these Reproductive Isolation Species Concepts (RISC) than "biological" ones, for any decent species conception is biological. Mayr's version changed over the years, but the one taught to most undergraduate biology students is the original:
A species consists of a group of populations which replace each other geographically or ecologically and of which the neighboring ones intergrade or interbreed wherever they are in contact or which are potentially capable of doing so (with one or more of the populations) in those cases where contact is prevented by geographical or ecological barriers.Or shorter:
Species are groups of actually or potentially interbreeding natural populations, which are reproductively isolated from other such groups.Much of the focus on species after this centered on Reproductive Isolating Mechanisms, or RIMs for short. Mayr's view was that species are formed when part of the species is geographically isolated from the main range and evolves in its own way such that when it gets back in contact, RIMs have evolved, as it were, by accident, and the two no longer interbreed successfully. Selection against hybrids, which are, so to speak, neither fish nor fowl in ecological adaptations, then strengthens the isolation (a process called "re-inforcing selection"). Mayr's version of the origin of species, published in 1942 and reiterated for the next 60 years (Mayr survived to 100, outliving many of his adversaries, and thus getting the last word), is called the allopatric theory of speciation. Allopatry means that two populations, or species, or groups, of organisms live in different areas (allo- = other, patria = homeland). The alternative kind of speciation, which is in effect Darwin's view, is called sympatric (sym- = together) speciation, and it is highly contentious among specialists, with some thinking that it occurs, particularly among fruitflies and lake-bound fishes, where it has been studied, and others thinking that it does not, and the debate goes on. It requires that RIMs evolve in place, so to speak, and the naysayers think this is unlikely to occur. If sympatric speciation does occur, then there can only be one reason — natural selection. Recent theoretical work shows that it is possible if the conditions are right. What we do not yet know for sure is how often the conditions are right.
An evolutionary species is a lineage (an ancestral–descendant sequence of populations) evolving separately from others and with its own unitary evolutionary role and tendencies.What counts here is that no matter what happens in terms of gene exchange, the populations remain distinct, and have their own forms, adaptations, and fate. The term "lineage" used here is particularly important, as it focused biologists' thinking more in evolutionary terms, and gave rise to yet another class of conceptions — phylogenetic species concepts.
Please note: This text is part of Species, Kinds, and Evolution, by John Wilkins, Reports of NCSE 26 (4), 2006.Summary of 26 species concepts
Supply resources for the rapid development of civilization and technology and the achievement of global occupation.God's mechanisms for achieving his purposes, according to Ross's model, involve a puzzling blend of naturalistic and supernatural processes. For example, Ross believes that God initiated the Big Bang under a precise set of conditions so that, over 13 billion years later, a planet would form on which God could create humans and where they could survive. Ross never explains why God did not create the universe and the earth in the same sudden and miraculous way that he created humans. Here is an example from the fossil record:
Provide humanity with the best possible viewing conditions for discovering, through a careful examination of the cosmos, His existence and attributes.
Set up the optimal physical theater — including an optimal human life span — for conquering sin and the evil it produces. (p 68)
… the Creator worked efficiently and effectively to prepare a home for humanity. A huge array of highly diverse, complex plants and animals living in optimized ecological relationships and densely packing the earth for more than a half billion years perfectly suits what humanity needs. These life systems loaded earth's crust with sufficient fossil fuels and other biodeposits to catapult the human race toward technologically advanced civilization. (p 140)Here we see Ross's astounding double standard. When it comes to astronomy and geology, Ross believes in an old universe, so he seeks reasons why God needed so much time. But when it comes to biology, Ross invokes a miracle at every turn:
From a biblical perspective, one reason so many apparent transitions appear in the fossil record for whales and horses is that Creation had a particular time, place, and purpose for each one in the ecosystem. Because these kinds of species go extinct so rapidly, the fossil record shows frequent replacements, or "transitions," for them. It seems God frequently created new species to replace those that went extinct. … The biblical creation accounts describe God as continually involved and active in creating new species until he created human beings. (p 143–4)The irony is this: the direct formation of fossil fuels would require far less creative effort than creating thousands of new species over millions of years. In a similar manner, Ross proposes that God compensated for changes in solar luminosity (apparently outside divine control) with a host of geological and biological miracles on earth and then concludes: "The number of just-right outcomes converging at the just-right times to compensate for the decreasing brightness of the youthful sun seriously strains naturalistic models" (p 132–3).
If earth's rotation rate slowed to 26 hours per day, no hurricanes or tornados would ever occur. … [Earlier in earth history] 21-hour days spawned enormously more destructive hurricanes and tornados. Placing humanity on earth when the rotation rate had slowed to 24 hours meant that the Creator timed the human era to correspond with the ideal hurricane and tornado era in geologic history — another piece of evidence that the timing of humanity's advent was planned rather than accidental. (p 171)Earth's rotation is not the main driving force for these storms — solar radiation is. If solar luminosity increased during the history of terrestrial life, as Ross contends, then intensity of storms could have increased. Slowing of earth's rotation would tend to reduce wind speeds, but hurricanes and tornados would not cease if the rotation slowed to 26 hours per day. Since primitive trees and land animals survived during 21-hour days, then there is no reason to doubt that humans could have also. Many other examples of Ross's dubious science could be cited.
One way to motivate students to study science and to think critically is to examine case studies of scientific controversy. Through case studies, students will gain insight into the standard scientific procedure of inferring the best explanation from among multiple competing hypotheses. ...These sorts of claims have been endlessly rebutted, most recently in Kevin Padian's dissection of Pandas's Cambrian arguments during his Kitzmiller testimony (available on-line, complete with the slides Padian used, at http://www.sciohost.org/ncse/kvd/Padian/Padian_transcript.html), but the creationists seem undeterred. Keas's handout shows that Explore Evolution will be more of the same in other areas as well. According to point #2 of the handout:
In today's climate of public educational policy, this would mean, at a minimum, teaching not just the strengths of Darwin's theory, but also the evidence that challenges it. For example, any complete theory of biological origins must examine fossil evidence. The fossils of the "Cambrian explosion" show virtually all the basic forms of animal life appearing suddenly without clear precursors.
2. Explore Evolution (supplemental textbook forthcoming in early 2007)Longtime Pandas watchers may be having flashbacks at this point, but there's more!a. Evaluates the main arguments for and against neo-Darwinism (does not teach about ID)i. Common descent (fossil succession, homologies, embryology, & biogeography)b. When used with a basal biology textbook, this supplemental curriculum provides an effective way to fairly teach the strengths and weaknesses of Neo-Darwinian evolution.
ii. Creative power of mutation and natural selection (mechanisms of evolution)
iii. Recent challenges to neo-Darwinism: Molecular machines (irreducibly complex?)
All in all, this looks like the long-rumored Discovery Institute "intelligent design" curriculum. After the Discovery Institute began moving away from ID and toward "critical analysis", the curriculum probably moved with it. From what the above material shows, the Explore Evolution curriculum closely matches the 2005 Kansas Science Standards and the most recent version may have originally been aimed directly at that market.c. Our curriculum primarily consists of a colorful 130-page book and a series of PDF slide shows (PC or Mac) that contain the book's main talking points and illustrations (plus additional images). We also include student study guides, sample lesson plans, quiz questions, and other auxiliary materials that may be printed and photocopied.
The indefatigable Michael Shermer has joined the lists of those authors bent on providing ammunition for the ongoing struggle against that old shape-shifting dragon, creationism, in its latest avatar, the "intelligent design" movement. His new book, Why Darwin Matters, gets high marks for its amiable style, its readability, and the unmistakable moral passion of the author. It is impressive in the wide range of issues and questions it addresses. Most important, it is likely to be a useful contribution to the unfinished task of providing the resistance to creationism, among both scientists and laypeople, with a repository of direct arguments, rhetorical devices, and philosophical themes useful in defeating or deflecting the spectrum of creationist assaults now directed against the educational system. On the other hand, if one is looking for a definitive volume of heavyweight analysis of theoretical questions about evolution and its place among the sciences, or about the history and sociology of American creationism, or about the interface between science and religion, Shermer's brisk little volume is not really in the running. It has flaws, gaps, and lapses, none fatal to its intended purpose, to be sure, but cumulatively serious enough so that it has to be said that a reader armed with this book alone will not be entirely prepared for a full-bore debate with a seasoned creationist, in or out of the context of fights over curricula and biology textbooks.
Among its virtues is the fact that Why Darwin Matters covers a very wide range of topics, citing a host of arguments against standard evolutionary theory from a number of strands of creationist ideology, and providing brief, accessible rejoinders — for the most part effective — to those arguments. Among its defects is the problem that this breadth, combined with the brevity of the book as a whole and its occasional digressiveness, inevitably renders some of the counterarguments sketchy and even shallow. The unpretentious informality of Shermer's style is welcome, but the downside is that some of his debating points have an improvised and off-the-cuff feel to them, and lack the depth and heft necessary to make really telling points in serious debate. They are starting points indicating the possibility of more elaborate and focused lines of argument, rather than crushing weapons in their own right.
The wide range of issues considered by the author also has the lamentable effect of diffusing the ostensible focus of the book, that is, how to counteract the ambitions of the "intelligent design" movement per se. The somewhat haphazard organization of chapters and topics has a similar effect. There are some matters that Shermer ought to have thought through seriously, from both a theoretical and expository point of view. Instead, he seems to have tried to work them out on the fly, at the cost of precision and even relevancy. In particular, the notion of what is supposed to be meant by "intelligent design" is somewhat wooly in this treatment, leading to the needless conflation of very different positions and attitudes.
What does "intelligent design" of the visible universe mean? Presumably, any religion or set of spiritual convictions that posits some kind of shaping intelligence in the cosmos and its history, some kind of entelechy, no matter how vague, providing purpose and direction for the universe, ipso facto incorporates a kind of "intelligent design theory". These belief-systems range from dogmatic, orthodox religion to non-sectarian theism, Deism, and even Spinozan pantheism. Rank atheists (like me) might not cotton to any of these ideas, but the point is that "intelligent design" in this very broad sense includes many creeds not particularly inimical to evolutionary theory or its privileged presence in biology classrooms.
But "intelligent design", as formulated and promulgated by the paladins of the Discovery Institute, is a very different matter. To keep things clear, let's refer to this as Intelligent Design™. This is a very narrow doctrine, or rather, scheme for denigrating standard evolutionary theory. The core tactic is to provide "scientific" arguments purporting to show that the quintessential Darwinian mechanism — random variation at the genetic level acted upon by various selective forces — cannot possibly account for the observed complexity and intricacy of living forms. It is conjoined with the thesis that the putative inadequacy of selection in accounting for various biological phenomena leads inexorably to the inference that a creative intelligence must be directly responsible for these phenomena. Intelligent Design™, moreover, incorporates a highly focused legal, political, and cultural strategy for making its ideals ultimately prevail in popular opinion. Its further goal, which it has been indiscreet enough to display from time to time, is to re-legitimatize the biblical creation story, rendering it immune to scientific refutation. Its ultimate goal is to remake this country and perhaps others as virtual theocracies subject to the dogmas of conservative Christianity.
Shermer finally gets around to defining and analyzing Intelligent Design™, as such, about two-thirds of the way through his book. But first, he spends quite a bit of time refuting some very different aspects of the broad notion of "intelligent design" — sometimes aptly, sometimes not. Finally, he appears to contradict himself, in that he adds a chapter on the desirability of irenic and mutually respectful relations between science and some kinds (necessarily liberal) of religious and spiritual belief. To the extent that these are teleological in character — and it is hard to think of any that are not — they encompass an "intelligent design" in the broad sense indicated above, albeit one that may be quite benign in the context of the current bloodletting over Intelligent Design™.
Shermer would have served his book and its readers better had he focused primarily on Intelligent Design™, its godfather Phillip E Johnson, and its hit squad, notably Michael Behe and William Dembski. Still, a parent or student menaced by an aggressively creationist school board would be well advised to get hold of a copy of Why Darwin Matters as a ready-to-hand source of arguments useful and pertinent enough to force the battle-lines to be accurately drawn.
Since there are no transitional forms ("missing links"), German geneticist Richard Goldschmidt, speculated that there must have been quantum leaps from one species to another. He wrote, "The major evolutionary advances must have taken place in single large steps. … The many missing links in the Paleontological record are sought for in vain because they have never existed: 'the first bird hatched from a reptilian egg.'" His ridiculous theory is called: (A) cataclysmic escalation; (B) precipitous equanimity; (C) punctuated equilibrium.There is no (D): None of the above — a choice necessary for an accurate answer to most of these questions. The answer they are looking for is (C): punctuated equilibrium. What's more, the same choices with the same answer are on a different question, this time for a "theory" advanced by a 1958 children's book about dinosaurs. Another pair of questions use the same Stephen Jay Gould quote with different words left out — but one cites the original Paleobiology article and the other from a book by creationist Jonathan Sarfati.
Christianity is not burdened with the requirement that everything result from natural processes. … either natural or supernatural explanations of nature are allowed. In the study of biology, … Christians have a broader palette of explanations to draw on than do materialists. (Timothy G Standish, p 119)Clearly, the conference participants quoted above have found it difficult or impossible to reconcile the generally accepted evolutionary theory with their personal religious views. The one speaker at the conference who accepts evolution, the philosopher and "friendly critic" Michael Ruse, summarizes the intention of his contribution in the sentence, "My aim has not been to defend Christianity, but to defend the integrity of the Darwinian who wants to be a Christian" (p 148). In the light of what the other twenty contributors have to say, he was probably wasting his time at the Biola conference.
The revolution from the paradigm of Darwinism to the paradigm of intelligent design will undoubtedly be accompanied by a metaphysical shift from materialism to theistic realism. (David Keller, p 159)
Years before, as a seminary student at Unification Theological Seminary in the late 1970s, I had become convinced that there is a fundamental conflict between theistic religions and Darwinian evolution. Among the former I include Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Unificationism and Zoroastrianism. … Now I realized I couldn't be a theist and a Darwinian. (Jonathan Wells, p 164–5)
[I]f Darwinism is true, Christian metaphysics is a fantasy. (Nancy Pearcey, quoting a 2002 interview of Phillip Johnson, p 228)
Complexity theory views the essence of life as independent of its particular physical medium, consistent with Christian belief. … We are thankful that the God of Christ's love is also the God of purpose and order who superintends complexity and chaos. (Wesley D Allen and Henry F Schaeffer III, p 300)
We have this going for us, however, which the evolutionary naturalists don't, namely, the evidence and arguments are on our side. It's therefore to our advantage to discuss intelligent design and naturalistic evolution on their merits. Conversely, the other side needs to delegitimate the debate, … casting intelligent design as a pseudoscience and characterizing its significance purely in political and religious terms. As a consequence, critics of intelligent design engage in all forms of character assassination, ad hominem attacks, guilt by association and demonization. (p 82)Part III, "Two Friendly Critics," is an odd fit in the general context of the book. The ever-idiosyncratic David Berlinski contributes two short fables. He attributes them to the Argentine literary giant Jorge Luis Borges (1899–1986). Though the fables clearly attempt to mimic Borges's dry, witty, and often hieratic style, Borges is a hard act to follow. The first fable ridicules the idea of evolution; the second does the same to the idea of IDC. Both sport a stiff manner that does Borges injustice. Nice try but no yerba maté.