Thursday, July 15, 2010

In response to a comment

In response to one of my posts,"Intelligent Design, Sh** or get off the Pot!", Rory Roybal said

"Actually, an increasingly large percentage of today's scientists believe in an intelligent designer of the universe and life, and this is now an established one way trend. To understand this turn of events, including perspectives of many leading scientists, see Intelligent Design vs. Evolution — The Miracle of Intelligent Design."
In a nutshell, I disagree. But my response got a little long for a comment response so I decided to make it a new post. So according to Rory "an increasingly large percentage of today's scientists believe in an intelligent designer of the universe and life, and this is now an established one way trend." If this statement is true, we should see evidence of that. Now rather than first look at his link, I wanted to look at other sources and see if I can verify this.

My first thought was that the Discovery Institute, the less than honest bastion of ID would be crowing about it. Alas that is not so. Oh they make this claim, but they have not even attempted to substantiate it. In fact I have already pointed out, in the the post Rory responded to, concerning Phillip Skell and Norman Nevin, identified by Meyer they were not previously known as ID advocates, but the reality is they are both long-time advocates. So where else might we find these scientists? Any new additions to the "Dissent" petition?

You might remember that the Discovery Institute has a petition they started in 2001 that currently has over 700 names. Originally they claimed the list held over 700 Doctoral Scientists, but a closer examination shows that not only are they not all have Doctorate degrees, but many are not even scientists -- and while the title of the petition is "A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism" the primary reason many of the signers signed was due to a religious rather than a scientific objection.

The reason I bring up the list is because it took 8 years to break 700 signers, even ignoring the other issues with the petition (Few Biologists but many Evangelicals Sign Anti-Evolution Petition), it was presented as an amicus curiae brief in the Kitzmiller v. Dover court case in October 2005. The the list was used in an attempt to show this upswelling of support for Intelligent Design (Something Rory is claiming). So a check of the petition site ( and I find the site has changed a lot since I was last there. First of all the number of signers is no longer displayed. And to think they were so proud of their 700+ names. Second some names on the list show more than one position. For example:
Charles E. Hunt is both a Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Professor of Design University of California, Davis and also, Visiting Professor of Physics University of Barcelona (Spain).
It makes the list look even longer, but if Rory is correct I would expect to see a bunch of new names, but it doesn't look like they have passed 800. No, I didn't count them all, there are about 40 names per page and 18 pages . . . Rory, you can do the math. Oh and just in case you ask, the site says the list was last updated in January 2010.

Now what about scientists against teaching ID as science? After the Dover Trial and in response to the use the Discovery Institute put their little list -- a grass-roots effort petition supporting the teaching of evolution was started. (A Scientific Support For Darwinism). In four days 7,733 scientists signed up and, unlike the DI's list, over 68% work in biology or a biology related fields.

OK, let's look for other evidence.

In Ohio (2002) a list of 44 peer-reviewed articles, were presented to the State School Board. This list was supposed to show another ground swell of support for Intelligent Design. When the majority of the authors were contacted (26 of the 34 authors) most of them expressed surprise that their work could be construed as support for Intelligent Design and those articles that even mentioned it did so in the negative. (Intelligent Design Bibliography Misleading) So has the list of peer-reviewed literature changed since then?

Let's shift over the Pub Med, a repository of scientific papers used by researchers looking for both support and citations for reference material for their own scientific research. How many scientists have published papers in support of Intelligent Design? Do this test for yourself, go to PubMed and search for "Intelligent Design" then look through the abstracts of those papers and see how much support you are finding among actual scientists. While I found 127 references, the majority of them used the terms in a more colloquial sense.

There were a few that did tie into the Intelligent Design, but not in the way Rory's comment made it sound:
  • The religious essence of intelligent design. Forrest B. Cold Spring Harb Symp Quant Biol. 2009;74:455-62. Epub 2009 Dec 22.
  • Introduction: protistan biology, horizontal gene transfer, and common descent uncover faulty logic in intelligent design. Espinosa A. J Eukaryot Microbiol. 2010 Jan 1;57(1):1-2. Epub 2009 Dec 18
  • Deconstructing design: a strategy for defending science. Miller KR. Cold Spring Harb Symp Quant Biol. 2009;74:463-8. Epub 2009 Sep 4.
  • The relationship between evolutionary biology and religion. Reiss MJ. Evolution. 2009 Jul;63(7):1934-41. Epub 2009 Apr 13.
  • The evolution of creationists in the United States: where are they now, and where are they going? Padian K. C R Biol. 2009 Feb-Mar;332(2-3):100-9. Epub 2008 Nov 26. Review. Biol Res. 2009;42(2):223-32. Epub 2009 Aug 20.
  • Some considerations about the theory of intelligent design. Carreño JE, Hansen F, Irarrázabal M, Philippi R, Correa M, Borja F, Adriasola C, Silva F, Serani A.

There were a few more like these, but these look like a good representation. I would expect to see a great deal of work on intelligent design, but the lack of work tells a different message. Now in contrast there were over 5,000 when I searched for "Natural Selection" and over 269,000 when looking for "evolution".

What about Labs doing ID work? Remember in 2005 the Discovery Institute opened their own Lab, The Biologic Institute. The stated purpose of this 'Lab' was to find the scientific evidence supporting ID as a viable scientific theory. So far the lab has been conspicuously silent on the work supporting it's stated goal. So who else is doing ID work? If any of them are, they are not talking about it!

So Rory, where is this 'one way trend' you mentioned. I have not been able to find any evidence of it. So I went search at a few other places where I would expect to see evidence of this paradigm shift, colleges and Universities that teach Biology.
  • Butler University -- Their curriculum in Biology makes no mention of ID, but it does mention . . . dare I say it . . . Evolution. But Butler is not a secular school, how about the largest Baptist University in the US?
  • The biology department at Baylor has this posted on their website:
"Evolution, a foundational principle of modern biology, is supported by overwhelming scientific evidence and is accepted by the vast majority of scientists. Because it is fundamental to the understanding of modern biology, the faculty in the Biology Department at Baylor University, Waco, TX, teach evolution throughout the biology curriculum. We are in accordance with the American Association for Advancement of Science's statement on evolution. We are a science department, so we do not teach alternative hypotheses or philosophically deduced theories that cannot be tested rigorously." (
  • Lehigh University, the home college of Discovery Institute Senior Fellow Michael Behe and one of the few actual biology-related scientists associated with the DI. Well here is their posted comment:
"The faculty in the Department of Biological Sciences is committed to the highest standards of scientific integrity and academic function. This commitment carries with it unwavering support for academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas. It also demands the utmost respect for the scientific method, integrity in the conduct of research, and recognition that the validity of any scientific model comes only as a result of rational hypothesis testing, sound experimentation, and findings that can be replicated by others.

The department faculty, then, are unequivocal in their support of evolutionary theory, which has its roots in the seminal work of Charles Darwin and has been supported by findings accumulated over 140 years. The sole dissenter from this position, Prof. Michael Behe, is a well-known proponent of "intelligent design." While we respect Prof. Behe's right to express his views, they are his alone and are in no way endorsed by the department. It is our collective position that intelligent design has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally, and should not be regarded as scientific." (

  • Let move closer to home, UD, better known as the University of Dayton. For those of you not familiar with UD:
    "The University of Dayton ranks as a top-tier national, doctoral-level university and one of the 10 best Catholic universities in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report."
    No, no fancy statements like Lehigh and Baylor, but a complete lack of any mention on UD's biology department website of Intelligent Design.
OK, Rory, now I will take a look at your link . . . and I am quite disappointed. I am not trying to be insulting, but you really haven't done much in the way of research, like maybe for a Master's program, have you? Your self-authored paper says 40% of American physicists, biologists and mathematicians believe in God -- so what? Belief in God in no way implies support for ID. Plus it doesn't show any significant change in recent years. In fact if we could go back and have a similar poll done say in 1920, I bet the number would have been considerable higher. But that is my opinion.

Let's see where do you go from there . . ever hear of Quote-Mining? It's a common, but reprehensible, Creationist tactic and that's what your list of quotes looks like. Very un-impressive. You make a lot of self-serving statements, but you provide no actual support for the comment made in my blog. Sorry, Rory -- you need to do better than this. Your paper is a collection of common creationist ideas, but just writing them down again doesn't mean they are true.

Bottom line . . . no support I have been able to find agrees that scientists are changing their mind on Creationism/Intelligent Design. It's not science, it should not be taught as science, and it should not be part of the conversation until proponents engage in more than unsupported wishful thinking and unsupported comments -- like yours.


  1. "Actually, an increasingly large percentage of today's scientists believe in an intelligent designer of the universe and life"

    Where are these scientists?

    I dunno. They were here a second ago.

    What have they done to test the idea of Intelligent Design?

    Uh, I dunno. Some sort of science, I guess. They're scientists, you know. With science degrees.

  2. Some days I feel that way too, but since Rory was kind enough to give me a link to his self-authored ID document, I figured I would take another look and see if there is any evidence of the trend he spoke of. So far nothing!

    I was tempted to ask about the 'one-way trend' idea. Was he stating that there were no scientists going from ID proponent to anti-ID? If so I think he is further from the truth. One example -- Michael Denton, who wrote the book that got Phillip E. Johnson's attention has changed gears and is no longer a supporter of ID -- even though many still reference his book.

    So not only is there no evidence scientists are changing their mind and supporting ID, there is evidence that at least one major supporter left the camp. He's not the only one.

    I have also heard that a number of Young Earth Creationist groups are questioning their associatation with the DI because the DI still refuses to address their main concern over the age of the Earth. While that wouldn't remove them from the Creationist camp, it would certainly start the DI's 'Big Tent' approach being folded. Only time will tell.

  3. I like the point about pub med. You can do a search on the most arcane aspects of evolutionary theory - like tree frog toes for example and come up with more research than the entire 20 year output of the ID community. They're not supressed - they're not even trying.

  4. Ted said ... I have also heard that a number of Young Earth Creationist groups are questioning their associatation with the DI because the DI still refuses to address their main concern over the age of the Earth.

    I don't see much YEC concern, if any, about the DI's refusal to address Earth's age. Explicitly YEC organizations are more concerned with the DI's hesitance to explicitly name God as the guiding intelligence, as part of DI policy.

    That said, YECs use DI-related materials without apparent hesitation. And let's not forget that YECs really do constitute a significant chunk of DI supporters, even at the highest levels.

  5. Dear Ted,

    Thanks for your comments and rebuttal. We can agree to disagree.

    If you read my article, you probably noted that The Wall Street Journal article I quoted said:

    “Scientists ... often change their minds when they see new evidence. I was reminded of this a few months ago when I saw a survey in the journal 'Nature'. It revealed that 40% of American physicists, biologists and mathematicians believe in God — and not just some metaphysical abstraction, but a deity who takes an active interest in our affairs and hears our prayers: the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

    Jim Holt, Science Resurrects God, The Wall Street Journal, December 24, 1997, Dow Jones & Co.

    This was based on a poll published in Nature by Edward J. Larson and Larry Witham, "Scientists Are Still Keeping the Faith," Nature 386 (1997): 435; and Larry Witham, "Many Scientists See God's Hand in Evolution," Washington Times, April 11, 1997, p. A8. Edward J. Larson is an American historian and legal scholar. He is University Professor of history and holds the Hugh & Hazel Darling Chair in Law at Pepperdine University, he was formerly Herman E. Talmadge Chair of Law and Richard B. Russell Professor of American History at the University of Georgia.

    The Nature article can be referenced on Nature's site at Scientists are Still Keeping the Faith.

    I also quoted Science, which is the most prestigious peer-reviewed scientific journal in the United States. Its August 1997 issue featured an article entitled Science and God: A Warming Trend? which said:

    “The fact that the universe exhibits many features that foster organic life — such as precisely those physical constants that result in planets and long-lived stars — also has led some scientists to speculate that some divine influence may be present.”

    Science Digest reported:

    "Scientists who utterly reject Evolution may be one of our fastest-growing controversial minorities ... Many of the scientists supporting this position hold impressive credentials in science."

    Larry Hatfield, “Educators Against Darwin,” Science Digest Special (Winter 1979), pp. 94-96.

    The Union of Concerned Scientists, the leading nonprofit science advocacy group, says:

    "The growing strength of the movement to discredit evolution and promote the teaching of intelligent design and other non science-based views of biological diversity in public science classrooms is of great concern. Please see the UCS position statement on this alarming trend."

    Ref. Science, Evolution, and Intelligent Design

    Regarding your comment on 'quote mining', this a typical accusation by those who simply don't want valid but revealing information exposed that damages their position, but have no other rationalization to dismiss it. The definition of 'quote mining' includes distortion of intended meaning of those quoted, which does not occur in this case. It is perfectly valid to quote anyone as long as intended meaning is conveyed accurately. There is no quote mining, distortion or misinformation in the article.

    I hope people will take the time to check the sources I quote, which will simply verify I quoted them accurately. It's pretty obvious from the abundance of quotes that the context and conclusion is clear, and there is no possible distortion. These kinds of false accusations come with the territory on this issue, unfortunately.

    The considered testimony of many eminent scientists I quoted remains clear and consistent, and should not be lightly dismissed.

    Best Regards,


  6. Please refer to one more post, Rory. I really dislike the limit on responses.