Jason Rosenhouse pronounces intelligent design dead

November 30, 2011 • 1:47 pm

. . . and he’s absolutely right.  All the bluster of intelligent design (ID), once so visible in books like Michael Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box and Phillip Johnson’s Darwin on Trial, has been reduced to pathetic sniping at evolutionary biologists on a few ID websites.  The arguments of IDers have been countered, the ID “science” that, we were told, was “right around the corner” hasn’t made an appearance, and their same refuted arguments keep cropping up.

(Here’s one: “Not enough time for complex organs to have evolved! Ergo Jesus.”  I’d love it if people who make arguments like that would actually produce calculations supporting their claim. I’m unaware of any. In the meantime, evolutionists have the counter in the Nilsson and Pelger model showing that complex camera eyes can evolve from simple pigmented spots in an evolutionary instant.)

And, the death rattle: the überpompous David Berlinski is trotted out to recycle the old creationist claim that the fossil record doesn’t support Darwinian evolution. What has he been smoking in those cafés?

There is no longer any pretense that ID is science. It’s been reduced, as have all forms of creationism, to simpleminded criticism of evolutionary theory, without any predictions or insights of its own.  Twenty years on, ID has offered us not a single insight into nature.

But enough ranting, for in a short but incisive post at EvolutionBlog, “Twenty years after Darwin on Trial, ID is dead,” Jason Rosenhouse shows how ID has become the Ozymandias of science:

. . .here comes ID to provide what seems like a scientifically plausible form of anti-evolutionism. You could apparently oppose evolution without descending into outright religious obscurantism. I worried that people would find that sufficiently appealing to avoid looking too carefully at the details, rather like it’s easier to just enjoy a chocolate covered Oreo than it is to think about what it’s doing to your innards.

But that’s not what happened. Even leaving aside the blow of Dover v. Kitzmiller, ID has simply collapsed under the weight of its own vacuity. In the nineties and early 2000s, ID seemed to be producing one novel argument after another. They were variations on familiar themes, of course, but books like Darwin on TrialDarwin’s Black BoxNo Free Lunch and even Icons of Evolution, written by people with serious credentials and written with far more skill than the YEC’s could muster, seemed to advance the discussion in original ways. These books attracted enormous interest among scientists, if only in the sense that they were promoting bad ideas that needed be countered. Many books were written to counter the ID’s pretensions, and major science periodicals took notice of them.

Not so today. Consider the two biggest ID books of recent years. Michael Behe’s follow-up book, The Edge of Evolution, dropped like a stone. It got a few perfunctory reviews written by scientists who perked up just long enough to note its many errors, and then everyone ignored it. Frankly, even the ID folks don’t seem to talk about it very much. Stephen Meyer’s book Signature in the Cell was likewise met with crickets. It briefly seemed like a big deal, a big book released by a mainstream publisher, but scientists gave it a scan, saw nothing remotely new, and yawned.

The ID blogs are hardly in any better shape. It’s mostly just post after post whining and kvetching about how mean old scientists don’t take them seriously.

Indeed. I wonder whether people like Berlinski, Jon Wells or William Dembski sit around at the Discovery Institute and still pretend that they’re relevant. Can they really think that ID has caught on?

Apropos, Jason’s new book about his experiences attending creationist conferences and talking to the participants, Among the Creationists, will be out in April.  I’ve read it in manuscript form and provided a cover blurb. Read it; it’s well written, packed with science, and loaded with unique insights into the people whom we often demonize but seldom meet.

94 thoughts on “Jason Rosenhouse pronounces intelligent design dead

        1. You need to cut the head off and stuff it’s mouth with garlic too, as well as crumbling “Host” and probably holy water into the coffin. Didn’t you actually read ‘Dracula’ – there’s a good deal more to the story than the Hammer versions.

          1. Yes, but these vampIreDs are attracted by crosses, lap up holy water, and nom hosts like they were so much Elvin waybread….

            Speaking of Hammer, though, Kitzmiller mauled their Wedge up good….


  1. I really liked the Rosenhouse article. I’d also suggest that ID was always an uncomfortable fit for the creationists… I can imagine that they’d be happy with evolution taking a hit, but is that really enough for them? They don’t want the ambiguity of a ‘designer’, they want Biblical stuff. All these people want to put a different, more PC mask in creationism and sneak it into schools, but I think the creationists must realize that it essentially still implies that their beliefs are not valid on their own, which really isn’t that much better for them.

    1. I think ID is problematic for creationists precisely because it is so coy about the “designer” — in a pathetic attempt to gain some scientific respectability, the IDers border on apostasy, and that can’t go down well with creationists.

    2. Yeah, the problem with ID was always that it was really just stealth creationism, and the problem with that is creationists aren’t very stealthy. They can’t help themselves from declaring how they love standing up for Jebus. And after Dover, once it became clear that the courts wouldn’t buy into their barely-disguised religious chicanery, there was no longer any need for the pretense of objectivity. So the creationists shed their ID masks and went back to being what they’ve always been.

  2. Read it; it’s well written, packed with science, and loaded with unique insights into the people whom we often demonize but seldom meet.

    Well, some of us scientists were raised in that environment. For example, a hefty percentage of my high school friends and some of my family still subscribe to creationism of some very crass varieties. But for the grace of Ceiling Cat go I…

  3. I’m not sure if I agree with this. If an idea is dead when its refuted, well, ID was never alive in the first place- they’ve never presented a valid challenge to evolution and never presented complelling evidence for ID. But if anything IDers have been showing increasing chutzpah in what they’re willing to say which suggests to me that they at least feel they’re gaining ground. I always thought Philip Johnson was relavitely cautious in what he’d claim, but Luskin, McLatchie and others have been saying things of late that barely distinguish them from YECs. And society as a whole is surely more aware of ID as a movement than at any time in the past. I’ve even seen 2 or 3 scientific papers in the last five or so years that address ID at the end…in the negative of course.

    1. If an idea is dead when its refuted, well, ID was never alive in the first place

      absolutely correct.

      ID, since in playing their game the refused to identify which designer they could possibly mean, and how it could possibly measurably interact with the environment, never gave any way to even formulate a hypothesis TO test for design.

      it was never meant as anything more than a PR stunt, and anyone who hasn’t figured that out yet is either very, very credulous, or quite oblivious.

      1. what’s really funny, is that Behe PROJECTED what ID was in the very title of the book that lies at the base of ID support:



        all he did was project this black box onto actual science, and pretend that wasn’t really at the root of ID all along.

  4. If you wouldn’t mind, could you kindly direct me to some hard evidence that shows that life can come from non-life naturally? I would be very much interested to see the science that proves this to be the case.

    I understand that the theory of Evolution as an explanation for the diversity of life does not itself deal with the origin of life, but without a proper understanding of the origin of life, it is impossible to claim that evolution does not require a creator. If evolutionists are to claim that there is no need for a creator, they need to show that life can come from non-life without a creator, and to my knowledge, this has not been shown to be possible. That would mean, even if evolution is true, it would require a creator to initiate the process of evolution.

    To my knowledge, most evolutionists are atheists (though there are definitely theistic evolutionists). However, this atheism is not based on science, unless science has shown that life can come from non-life naturally, and I have yet to see this evidence, hence the original question. This would mean that the belief that there is no creator is not a factual belief, based on science, but is instead a belief based on their metaphysical presuppositions, and hence taken to be true on faith.

    again, I would very much appreciate information about where I can find hard evidence that backs the claim that life came from non-life naturally, without the need for interference from an intelligent source.

    1. There is no science that proves anything to be the case. Science does not deal in proofs.

      It is quite possible to claim that biopoiesis and thus evolution does not require a creator. Je n’avais pas besoin de cette hypothèse-là. See, I just did.

      Where is your evidence that falsifies the hypothesis that life can — and did – come naturally from non-life?

      To claim that a creator is required is superfluous unless you have such evidence – or evidence that such a creator (a) exists, and (b) did, indeed, create life.

      The “belief” that there is no creator is, in fact, a quite rational conclusion given the overwhelming lack of evidence for any interference from an intelligent source in the origin of life, the world, the cosmos.


    2. “To my knowledge, most evolutionists are atheists”

      This statement is incorrect. All Catholics and many Protestant faiths accept evolution. ‘Evolutonists’ are agnostic, too. Many (most?) Hindus, Buddhists, etc. around the world also accept evolution.

      1. I could be wrong, and that is okay. it doesn’t negate the rest of what I am trying to say. It just seems to me the majority of the people on the internet and publicly promoting Evolution are either atheist or agnostic. I stated that there are many theistic evolutionists out there. again, I could be wrong (remember, I stated a matter of opinion and personal perspective, rather than fact) but it doesn’t change the rest of what I said

    3. again, I would very much appreciate information about where I can find hard evidence that backs the claim that life came from non-life naturally, without the need for interference from an intelligent source.

      I sincerely doubt you would – considering that you propogate lies on your website (e.g. that mutations cannot increase the amount of information in a genome), you don’t know what atheism means, and you believe in a god of the gaps.

      But I’ll help you out anyway. Perhaps an honest person will see this and care. First of all, an invisible magician is not the default explanation whenever humans don’t know why something happens. It used to be. We’ve grown up since then (ok, some of us have). So your implication that we don’t have a full explanation for abiogenesis, therefore magical sky daddy, is stupid.

      Scientists have been working on explaining and/or recreating the various stages of abiogenesis, and have been successful with some of them. Further information can be found at the following:
      Organic chemicals observed spontaneously assembling RNA
      Forgotten Experiment May Explain Origins of Life
      Organism Sets Mutation Speed Record, May Explain Life’s Origins
      Proof That Meteors Could Have Sparked Life on Earth
      A Theory of Evolution for Evolution (how evolution begins)

      1. Good references, Tim, thanks. I didn’t realize that Derek has his own website where he professes his Christian beliefs and love of Jesus. I think it would be especially appropriate for us to ask Derek to give us evidence that Jesus was really the son of God and was resurrected.

        Here’s a quote from Herbert Spencer that’s absolutely appropriate for Derek:

        Those who cavalierly reject the Theory of Evolution, as not adequately supported by facts, seem quite to forget that their own theory is supported by no facts at all. Like the majority of men who are born to a given belief, they demand the most rigorous proof of any adverse belief, but assume that their own needs none.

        1. Not true Jerry. first, I am not cavalier in my rejection of the Theory of Evolution. There are reasons why I think it has problems, and I express those belief openly, and with respect. I am not condescending, rude, or dismissive of those who believe differently than I. I must say, at least two replies to my comment have been cavalier towards my position.

          Second, I have many reasons why I believe that Jesus is the son of God, and that he was resurrected. I can share those with you in a different place than the comments of this post (perhaps I will even create a blog about the reasons why I believe that Jesus was resurrected from the dead), but you must be careful of what kind of evidence you demand. The kind of evidence I suspect you seek is scientific, which is not possible. What I can give you are historical evidence and reasons for believing that the resurrection is true, the same historical standards by which every other ancient document is scrutinized.

          1. Why should Jerry be careful about what sort of evidence he demands, if its you trying to convince him? After all, you wouldn’t expect someone announcing any new theory in any field to only take questions of a specific fashion.

            And I think you should put your reasons here, in this blog. I think you’ll find they’re not as strong as you think they are.

            1. first, What I mean when I say he should be careful what kind of evidence he demands, what I am saying is that you cannot hold a historical claim to a scientific standard of evidence, because the statement in question is not a scientific, but rather a historic one.

              the reasons in question are my reasons for believing that Jesus is who he claimed to be, and that he rose from the dead. That is not the topic of this post, and the explanation would be long enough to fill an entire post on its own. I do not see the point of posting my defense of the historicity of the Resurrection claim on a post about the death of ID. If you wish, leave me a way to contact you, and I will inform you of when I formulate such a post. I cannot guarantee when I will have the time to do so, because I am quickly coming up on finals, but will either post something on it, or if you wish, we can begin an email correspondence and discuss it.

              1. For Jesus to be who he claimed to be, he would first have had to exist, and where is your historic evidence for that? Where are the extra-biblical accounts of his birth, life and death, let alone his resurrection? The overwhelming lack of any mention of Jesus in any contemporaneous histories when there certainly should have been had he existed leads to the rational conclusion that he did not.


              2. Oh, and Jerry specifically asked you to give us evidence that Jesus was really the son of God and was resurrected. So, it’s quite appropriate to reply here in the comments, even though it’s off topic. Indeed, it would be discourteous not to, wouldn’t it? Moreover, it’s one of roolz.

                We’re all waiting with bated breath.


              3. Why not just do a blog post over on your own blog…. perhaps some of us can see you over there.

                But yeah, as others have said, the Gospels are pretty bad historical documents, made as they were 30 to 50 years after Jesus lived, in a different language than he spoke (should he have existed), claiming miraculous, world altering stuff that didn’t show up in any contemporaneous accounts. And those accounts exist in part because Christian writers in later centuries quoted them in annoyance that they didn’t mention Jesus. And it also doesn’t explain why you view Jesus’s accounts as true, and not, say those of the Quran, or the Iliad, or any other holy book.

              4. Sajanas,

                That is my plan, to post a response to the historicity of Jesus, the historicity of the Gospels, etc. I don’t know when I can get started on this, as I have a 15 page paper on Aristotle and Plato, an 8 page Epistemology paper, and an 8 page philosophy of leadership paper, all due by Thursday, but I should have time over Christmas break.

                To address a few of your points on the Historicity of the Gospels without going into deep detail, 30-50 years after Jesus’ Death and resurrection is not that long for an ancient document, with several being written hundreds of years after the life and death of the person in question, and are still considered reliable. It is not long enough for legendary material to have made its way into the text, as many of the people who were eye witnesses to the events were still alive and could have testified to the falsehood of the claims. The fact that the Gospels were written down at all is amazing, considering it was an oral culture, and they would have been tales passed along (down, around?)orally for the entire time between the events and the writing of them.

                To address Ant Allan’s point, Jesus does show up in contemporaneous historical accounts, such as the letters of Paul to various churches (which btw, to answer your inquiry, does account of the miraculous things Jesus did), and in non-Christian sources such as Josephus, and He is mentioned in many other sources, especially hostile to Jesus, such as writings in the Talmud.

              5. Oh, come on!

                Paul was simply a propagandist! 

                And the pro-Christian bits of Josephus have been recognised as a clear forgery since the late 1800s.

                I don’t know where the Talmud mentions Jesus, but it’s hardly contemporaneous; the Mishnah dates from about 200 CE – long enough for eyewitnesses to have died! – and the Gemara from about 500 CE. (It’s also kind of desperate to cite one religion’s writings to confirm the “truth” of a competing one.)

                “they would have been tales passed along … orally for the entire time between the events and the writing of them.” And, obviously, the narrative remained completely accurate and unembroidered for the entire time… and no-one introduced new elements into the written version, such as a non-existant census that compelled Joseph and Mary to go to Bethelehem for Jesus’s birth to allow an OT prophesy to be fulfilled.

                You’ll have to do better than that…  and explain why Jesus is nowhere mentioned in contemporaneous documents by Philo,  the Dead Sea Scrolls, &c., &c.


              6. As an anti-theist, I think Derek has set the bar rather high for the standards of his rebuttal of you and Sajanas; I would hope that he would have a knowledge of Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek and Latin, as well as half a life’s work, in order to produce a convincing case for the historicity or otherwise of Christ.

                In the absence of that, he will have to appeal to reputable Biblical scholarship, which brings me to my request. I am perfectly willing to believe in the existence of Jesus, seeing him as an obscure preacher from a back-water who made virtually no impact during his lifetime, hence the lack of contemporaneous writing about him.

                Contrary, to something Derek posted, Paul, who is not contemporaneous, but wrote a few years after the Anointed One’s death, mentions 8 pieces of information about Jesus’ life, one of which, less than impressively, is that he was born of a woman. In fact, Paul is more interested in Jesus’ death than his life, and therefore of its theological implications.

                To be fair to Derek who mentioned something on this point, it is indeed interesting that stories started circulating 30 to 50 years after his death, in a different (high-status) language to that which Christ, steeped in his illiterate, oral culture, spoke. That seems to me a genuinely fascinating historical puzzle.

                I, finding the ideas of Bart D. Ehrman plausible, tend to think that Christ did exist and that he was merely an Apocalyptic Jew; but, being an atheist, I do not find it affects the way I live my life either way, whether he lived or not.

                What I am interested in is reading the academically reputable historical sources you and Sajanas may have for the thesis that Jesus never lived; I have 2 Christian colleagues at work and would like to clarify in my own mind my own views before discussing with them. (The ‘Apocalyptic Jew’ angle, by the way, genuinely shakes my honest Christian colleague).

                All the best.

              7. Thanks Tim.

                Good extensive bibliography, as well. That’s tonight’s reading sorted out and a library search for the references.

          2. Derek J. Brent wrote:
            What I can give you are historical evidence…

            Do you have any historical evidence at all, that the Resurrection is true, besides the account given in the Bible?

            1. “Do you have any historical evidence at all, that the Resurrection is true?”

              FIFY. Please don’t imply that the Bible is historical evidence in any way. 😉


      2. actually, I do sincerely want to look into the evidence there is for life coming from non-life accidentally. I sincerely appreciate the links and will read through them.

        “I sincerely doubt you would – considering that you propogate lies on your website (e.g. that mutations cannot increase the amount of information in a genome)”

        This is in fact a lie and a misrepresentation of what I said. What I posted in on my blog is the following:
        “First, mutations are not a good explanation for new info, as a mutation is usually only a denaturing of a protein, and therefore it is not prime candidate for being a means for introducing new, useful information.”

        this is not a statement that mutation CANNOT increase the amount of information, but that it is not a reliable source or even a prime candidate for it.

        Second, I am not stating that because there is not a complete understanding or scientific backing to abiogenesis, that therefore God did it. I have many reasons (both metaphysical and logical) fore believing that God created the universe, and therefore created life, but my case is not a god of the gaps argument because it is not predicated on the lack of information science has. It is predicated on other arguments.

        1. Your argument against mutation being a source of new information only works if you presume that there isn’t any natural or artificial selection that picks out the mutations that benefit the organism, it becomes surprisingly easier to modify genes. And there are plenty of duplication events, chromosomal rearrangements, and horizontal gene transfers that can provide additional copies of genes that can be allowed to drift into completely new genes.

          I’d also suggest that evolution’s existence completely alters changes the way we relate to the natural world, as was conceived by the Biblical and Gospel writers. If we evolved, then there was never a special creation of humans and a fall, but rather a slow rise up to our current state. And evolution is a brutal, callus process, and many of our flaws are due as much to our status as hairless, angry apes, not because we made some sort of choice. And if God used evolution, what right does he have to call us sick and bad, if we just evolved this way? And why kill off his son… what does that prove?

        2. I apologize for misstating what you wrote on your blog. I missed the distinction that you point out in your comment.

          That said, all talk of “information” on your blog (that I have seen) is nonsense. Are you referring to Shannon Information Theory or Kolmogorov? From your definition in your “Evolutionary Beginnings” post, you are referring to neither. “Information” is a rigorously-defined mathematical measure in real information theory, and it has been researched for about 50 years or more at this point. You seem to have made up your own definition, given us no indication of how you would quantify this “information,” and then used this to make claims against evolution. I don’t say this to offend, but it’s clear you don’t know what you’re talking about. What is a “prime candidate” for increasing your definition of information? And why should we care if mutation is not a “prime candidate,” as long as it is a candidate? Furthermore, what do you find lacking about the fact that duplication events are common? Seems like a pretty good way to increase “information” to me.

          You’re just talking out of your ass here.

          actually, I do sincerely want to look into the evidence there is for life coming from non-life accidentally. I sincerely appreciate the links and will read through them.

          Perhaps the problem, then, is not sincerity, but honesty. I’m sorry to cast aspersions against your character even though I barely know you, but the evidence for evolution, like the evidence for gravity or atomic theory, is simply too obvious for any honest person to disagree with. You made the claim earlier that most evolutionists were atheists. This is false. You seem to think there are less evolutionists in the world than there are. Most of the developed world accepts evolution, including the majority of the citizens of almost every predominantly Christian country. And of course, 99% of all earth and life scientists accept evolution as well. The fact is that only in areas where religious fundamentalism is high do people disagree with evolution – though they presumably agree with gravitational theory and atomic theory, two other theories with practically universal support. All of these theories are amply supported by science. It is religious bias that causes people to have a problem with only one of them. (I have made this argument more strongly here.)

    4. Derek, you’ve conflated a number of issues. As you note, the theory of evolution does not itself deal with abiogenesis. So evolution itself could be the correct explanation of organismic diversity even if some magic was required to produce the first cell. There is no need for scientists to explain abiogenesis in order for evolution to be a correct theory, just as there is no need for astrophysicists to explain the origin of the universe in order for their physical theories of how the universe currently is to be correct. One can be, in a sense, a “Deist” about abiogenesis and still think that evolution is the best scientific account of what happened after than one initial event.

      If evolutionists are to claim that there is no need for a creator

      But they don’t have to — they merely need to claim that there is no need for supernatural intervention to explain organismic diversity — that is a completely different matter.

      As for evidence for abiogenesis, Tim has admirably handled that. Indeed, there is a lot of research in this area, and a lot of relatively recent advances. I’d be willing to wager a fair sum of money that, in two decades, a lab will have produced self-assembling entities from relatively simple chemicals under plausible primordial conditions, and these entities will be able to incorporate new material from the environment, use this material to grow and reproduce, and show transmissible variation in their ability to grow and reproduce. In other words, I think in twenty years we’ll see what can reasonably called “life” produced in a lab from scratch.

      1. Oh, that won’t satisfy Derek. He’ll object that just because we can demonstrate that life can arise from non-life doesn’t mean that life did do that. And he’d probably cite the experiment itself as interference from an intelligent source…


        1. to reply to this off-hand remark, I would say that demonstrating that life can come from non-life would not be enough: you must also show that it happens naturally, that is, without the assistance, or intervention of an intelligent agent. If they can provide an experiment that shows that life can come from non-life under certain conditions that can be plausibly thought to be the original circumstances under which this process is thought to have taken place, without the interference of the experimenters, (other than setting up the experiment) then I would say that would be reasonably impressive, and evidence towards the theory that abiogenesis is possible.

          You are right, this evidence wouldn’t mean that it did actually happen, any more than if I were able to show you that a rock can, under the right conditions, and without the aid of any intelligent agents, fly at your car and leave scratches on it, scratches that upon first glance appear to be the work of your ex-girlfriend who was upset because you cheated on her and in response keyed your car, proves that it was a rock and not your angry ex-girlfriend. There must be sufficient reason to believe that it was a rock and not your ex. (in my example, there could be the fact that your ex has an alibi for the time that this scratch occured, or proof that there were no such rock capable of this in the vicinity, etc. etc.)

          You and others can (and indeed do) say that there is no need for a creator for x, which may be true, but that doesn’t mean that X wasn’t created.

          An example of this; Just because there is no need for a creator or intelligent agent for a pile of leaves to form, doesn’t mean that this particular pile of leaves wasn’t formed as the result of actions taken by an intelligent agent. In order to be justified in saying that this pile of leaves formed naturally, you have to provide evidence that it did so, without the intervention, interference, or aid of an agent.

          1. I’m not sure why you characterise my remark as “off-hand”. Given your confirmation, it actually seems quite shrewd. 😉

            Well, yes, the lack of need for a creator for x doesn’t mean that x wasn’t created *, but absent any evidence for a creator, it is then rational to conclude,mat least tentatively, that there is none.

            At this time of year, when it is windy, the L-shaped frontage of our house funnels the wind into a vortex that contrives to create a pile of leaks about a metre from our front door. Yes, someone could have raked those leaves into that pile, but why should I think anyone had done so? However, if they had, then there almost certainly would be eyewitness (or ear-witness!) or forensic evidence. Even without that, it’s still a realistic possibility, since we know that (a) people exist, and (b) people do rake leaves into piles. (Although, other than me and my sons, I’ve never seen anyone do that on our driveway!)

            And this is where your analogies fail. Unlike a Creator, we know that people (gardeners, ex-girlfriends) exist. Unlike a Creator, we know that people create things (piles of leaves, scratches on cars). Therefore, even if we first tentatively rule them out, their actions are still realistic possibilities. Whereas, we do not know that a Creator exists (and there is an overwhelming lack of evidence that one does), and we do not know of anything that a Crator created (there is an overwhelming lack of evidence that anything in nature was created by anything but natural processes and agents – man, beavers, ants, and so on).

            TL;DR: It is irrational to suppose that a Creator exists.


            * Excepting the argument from bad design, of course.

      2. “There is no need for scientists to explain abiogenesis in order for evolution to be a correct theory”

        I never stated that Scientists need to prove abiogenesis in order to prove the theory of evolution as the explanation for the diversity of the species. what I stated was that in order to support their claim that there is no need for a creator, they must show abiogenesis is possible, and that there are sufficient reasons to believe that the conditions under which they show abiogenesis to be possible are the conditions of Earth way back when, and that this process is able to be reproduced naturally under these conditions, without the interference or assistence of an intelligent agent.

        “One can be, in a sense, a “Deist” about abiogenesis and still think that evolution is the best scientific account of what happened after than one initial event.” I agree. One can also be a theist and still think evolution is true (and btw, I mean macro evolution, because micro-evolution has been demonstrated to be true)

        “But they don’t have to — they merely need to claim that there is no need for supernatural intervention to explain organismic diversity — that is a completely different matter.”

        ah, but in order to say that no supernatural intervention was needed to explain organismic diversity, they have to show that life sprang into existence naturally, without a creator in order to do that. This is because if the origin of life is supernatural, then even if further assistance or intervention is not needed for diversity to take place, there was still a supernatural beginning to the process.

        On your last paragraph, I haven’t had the opportunity to read the articles Tim has provided, but with what I currently know about abiogenesis, and because of my metaphysical beliefs, I do not believe that will be the case. only time will tell.

        1. I never stated that Scientists need to prove abiogenesis in order to prove the theory of evolution as the explanation for the diversity of the species. what I stated was that in order to support their claim that there is no need for a creator, they must show abiogenesis is possible

          But again, you are conflating abiogenesis with evolution. Evolutionary theory itself does not speak to abiogenesis, and so the notion of a “creator” that produced the first life isn’t relevant to evolution. Those who argue for theistic evolution, for example, could quite readily agree that a “creator” was needed to get things going, but once life appeared, it was governed by natural selection, which is best described in terms of evolutionary theory. You are demanding that all evolutionary theorists be atheists in principle, and that a) simply isn’t the case, and b) irrelevant to the science of the situation.

          in order to say that no supernatural intervention was needed to explain organismic diversity, they have to show that life sprang into existence naturally

          Not at all — once again, these issues are in principle orthogonal. An electrician may wire your house, but they presumably don’t personally move each of the electrons in your wiring. A landscaper may move earth to create a watercourse, but they don’t actually push the water through it when it rains. Likewise, there could have been a single biogenesis, which also set up the physical rules for natural selection, and everything else has run naturally since then. Thus my characterizing this position as “biological Deism”.

          I’m not saying that is what happened, of course, but merely pointing out that just as one doesn’t need to understand the Big Bang to predict how gravity will govern the path of a ball, abiogenesis is a complete red herring, and orthogonal in principle to understanding evolution.

          because of my metaphysical beliefs, I do not believe that will be the case

          So what you’re really saying is that we are wasting our time, and that you aren’t arguing in good faith, because there is literally nothing that would change your mind.

        2. If you wouldn’t mind, Derek, could you kindly direct me to some hard evidence that shows that there is a meaningful distinction between micro- and macro-evolution?

          Thank you.


    5. There is a lot of information about Abiogenesis out there. Not to be flippant, but I’d suggest you could start with going to http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed, and searching for ‘abiogenesis’ and other likely things… if you have any access to a university, you can get a lot more current articles and see where the theory is at (and its likely to be all over the place).

      But I would suggest to you that there is nothing fundamentally different about the molecules and reactions of something that is ‘alive’ and those same reactions occurring outside the context of a living thing. Various amino acids, sugars, and other simple molecules have been found in comets, detected in the products of lightening, and other non living systems. Heck, Titan alone is a stew of weird, nonliving organic compounds. In short, there is nothing chemically special about life besides process to put it together. We may never know the exact specifics of how life originated on earth, but its clear that all life had a common ancestor, which we share our genetic code and a lot of the basic DNA to RNA to protein production machinery with. Its not the same sort of story as, say, special creation of humans.

      1. Indeed. If you want to see life coming from non-life without intelligent intervention, plant a seed and watch it grow into a dandelion. All those non-living molecules become a living flower, with no intelligence needed.

        There’s no magic boundary between life and non-life.

    6. but without a proper understanding of the origin of life, it is impossible to claim that evolution does not require a creator

      how so?

    7. Try these links. (If you are really interested in sifting facts, not just in supporting a favorite position regardless of the evidence.)


      (plenty of links to more academic stuff here)


      The bottom line is that abiogeneticists have tested models for all the stages involved in abiogenesis, they just do not know for certain which of the variety of methods, and in which combination, set off the strain that led to life as we know it.

      The prevailing theory, which is holding up nicely, is that life originated from RNA (think viruses), not the more complex DNA (think bacteria).

      There is no truly “standard model” of the origin of life. That does NOT mean that it did not happen in one, or more, of the ways described by the theories being currently tested.

      Some scientists argue that life started more than once and that we may even be able to find one or more forms of this non-carbon-based “alien” life here on earth – if we look in the right places.

      The main question is deciding where the dividing line is between life and non-life. There are so many transitional forms that is is not at all clear what we should label “life”. Are viruses “life”, or not?

      We DO have replicating chemicals that are evolving. We DO have the ability to create new life and design new forms of bacteria by making a DNA strand and inserting it into an empty cell wall. We have created material that reproduces, including its “marker” DNA genes. We have seen the products clump together and form colonies.

  5. To be fair they did give us a good laugh and allowed the new species Americarnia Atheisisacus something to cut its fledgling teeth into.

  6. Basically, ID was good for one thing–it presented some very flimsy arguments that were easy for scientists to knock down, such as irreducible complexity. This has ultimately strengthened evolution even more (as if it needed it), which is never a bad thing IMO.

  7. “Can they really think that ID has caught on?”

    Well it has “caught on” in the sense that the ignorant masses of faithful still look to the ideas to counter evolution. A student of mine just returned from an admissions interview at a prestigious liberal arts school in the midwest. On the plane, she sat next to someone reading an uber-right-wing rag called The Dakota Beacon. There was an article called “Darwin’s Error: Disproving the Theory of Evolution,” so she asked the person if she could tear the pages out to take them home. She brought them to me and it recycles the irreducible-complexity-of-the-bacterial-flagellum argument almost verbatim. No mention of Dover or the counter-argument. Just “Michael Behe writes about this in his landmark book Darwin’s Black Box…”

    The publication is here http://www.dakotabeacon.com/
    but I couldn’t find a link to the article to know how old it is. It is sometime relatively recently, because there is an article on one of the opposite pages that is rabidly anti-Obama.

  8. Granted, ID is dead.

    But I don’t see the next cycle of creationist strategy, ‘discuss the alternatives’, doing much for them either in their, ultimately, legal battles.

    Am I wrong or should we expect the next evolutionary state of creationism sometime soon? (Whatever is left of that infamous Wedge.)

    1. You absolutely can expect it. Jason knows better than anybody that, while ID may be dead, creationism never dies. Standard creationism morphed into creation science, which morphed into ID, which is changing into things like “academic freedom”; witness the Louisiana law. There are pending anti-evolution bills in at least seven other states that have various permutations of the wording, “academic freedom,” “critical evaluation,” and the like.

      I actually think this is a critical time in the creationism wars. If a Republican president replaces Justice Ginsburg, (78 yrs old, with a history of health problems), and/or Justice Breyer (73 yrs old), the Scalia wing will become the majority and anything can happen. After all, Scalia wrote the dissent in Edwards v. Aguillard and strongly believes that some flavor of creationism should be taught alongside evolution in science casses.

      1. “Pending” is the wrong word to describe the anti-evolution bills. Some bills are postponed until next year, some died in committee, some are still active. Creationists will keep introducing them, though, until they can pass some version of them, as they did in Louisiana.

  9. Oh sure, you can be vulgar and merely point to the lack of evidence and the vacuous arguments. But R. Joseph Hoffman rejects ID for much more sophisticated reasons that you all do.

    1. But R. Joseph Hoffman rejects ID for much more sophisticated reasons that you all do.

      sarcasm done right.


      I keep picturing Hoff as an Angry Arthur from “Holy Grail”:

      “Bloody Peasants!”

  10. I’ll believe it when, for starts, the DI’s website is no more. And then if ID does ever crash and burn, it’ll presumably only be a western victory. There’ll still be Harun Yahya’s troops, apparently gaining ground at present.

    Anyway, if the conclusion is based on the flagellum argument going dormant, it’s because Jason never went to the Dakotas (cf. KP@9) and/or since it’s been replaced by ATP Synthase (to the chagrin of John Walker, I imagine).

    I expect any dormancy of ID is more likely that focus has temporarily been diverted to defeat of the antiChrist (Obama), but I’d be happy to find I’m wrong.

    1. I’ll believe it when, for starts, the DI’s website is no more.

      ideas die long before the money for them does.

      I expect the DI already has enough cash to keep going for a few years yet.

  11. Michael Behe’s follow-up book,

    There was a follow-up?

    The Edge of Evolution, dropped like a stone.

    Hadn’t even heard of it. It hasn’t made my day.

  12. ID shall rise up from its ashes like a magnificent phoenix – or some other town in Arizona.

    ID is creationism 3.0, after biblical creationism and creation science. It was only a matter of time before it ran out of gas, and I don’t see what can come next. They’ve been putting of the inevitable for years, since ID has no explanatory power, no predictive power, and doesn’t lay a foundation for any kind of research program. They’re finally receiving their just desserts.

  13. Apropos, Jason’s new book about his experiences attending creationist conferences and talking to the participants, Among the Creationists, will be out in April. I’ve read it in manuscript form and provided a cover blurb. Read it; it’s well written, packed with science, and loaded with unique insights into the people whom we often demonize but seldom meet.

    Thanks for the plug, and double mega thanks for the cover blurb! I’m sorry the production process seems to drag on for so long, but hopefully people will think it’s worth the wait.

  14. well. ID provides endless entertainment. that has to count for something. it’s pretty fun watching them try to make their “science” more and more sophisticated so that with enough confusion and obscurantism, the general public may buy what they’re selling. it’s theology in action!

  15. “Not enough time for complex organs to have evolved! Ergo Jesus.”


    I, tongue firmly in cheek, accuse you of plagiarism. Compare your line above with one from my own geologically slowly evolving novel.

    “I contrast the eternity and infinity of the heavens and my own finite and death-incubating self; ergo God.”

  16. Is Muslim version of ID now taking over?
    We need to ask PZM. Last time I looked on Pharyngula I’m sure he said that the Koran is full of scientific facts.
    Of course it is otherwise there wouldn’t be so many true believers looking for the guaranteed EOL (end of life) virgins!

    1. This is what The Koran promises the believers regarding heaven and hell; all predictions come directly from the Last Testament. I’ve just clothed them in the garb of religious ecstasy. I think you’ll find it simultaneously, repellent, adolescent and amusing.

      When the present world comes to an end it shall be the Day of Judgement,
      It shall be the last Day,
      It shall be the Day of Resurrection; it shall be the Hour,
      It shall be the day of Distinction,
      It shall be the Day of the Gathering; it shall be the Day of the meeting (of men with God)

      And The Hour shall come suddenly; it shall be heralded with a shout,
      It shall be heralded with a thunderclap,
      It shall be heralded with the blast of a trumpet,
      It shall be heralded with a double blast of the trumpet

      And a cosmic upheaval shall then take place;
      The mountains shall dissolve into dust,
      The seas will boil up,
      The sun shall be darkened,
      The stars will fall,
      And the sky will be rolled up

      And God shall appear as the judge in the midst of angels arranged in ranks,
      And they shall circle his throne and praise him,
      And 10-month pregnant camels shall be neglected

      All mankind shall be gathered before the Judge;
      The graves shall be opened,
      And humans of all ages shall be restored to life –
      And they shall have no knowledge of the time elapsed

      The books with the records of a man’s deeds shall be opened;
      And he shall be asked to read it; and whole communities shall go to hell, as they shall have rejected the prophet;
      And those who believe shall be welcomed to heaven
      And those who are unbelievers shall be consigned to hell

      And the result of the Judgement shall be everlasting bliss or everlasting torment;
      There shall be no intermediate condition

      There shall be only 2 destinations – There shall be heaven or there will be hell;
      There shall be 3 classes;
      There shall be those who are brought near,
      There shall be the people of the right and there shall be those who count false
      And they shall go to hell

      And Hell shall be called Gehenna; it shall be the Hot Place,
      It shall be the blaze,
      It shall be the Fire;
      And the overseers of hell shall be angels
      And those who administer punishments shall be angels;
      And the inmates of hell shall ask those in Paradise for water;
      And they shall have hot water to drink;
      And they shall eat the bitter fruit from the zaqqum tree

      Heaven shall be called the Garden; it shall be the Garden through which rivers flow;
      It shall be the Garden of Eden;
      It shall be the Garden of delight; and the blessed shall enjoy luxuries of many kinds;
      And they shall recline on couches, and they shall eat fruit,
      And they shall have wine served to them by ever-youthful boys;
      And there shall be milk and honey and there shall be ever-flowing springs;
      And they shall experience forgiveness, peace and satisfaction of the soul in God;
      And they shall have the vision of God

      And Wide-eyed houris shall be their maidens
      And they shall be the companions of the blessed;
      And they shall be spotless virgins, and they shall be amorous,
      And they shall be like of age;
      And they shall resemble hidden pearls or ruby and coral,
      And they shall have swelling breasts, untouched by men or djinn, and they shall modestly keep their eyes cast down
      And they shall be enclosed in pavilions

      And Men, women and children shall enter Paradise as families

      And the life of paradise shall satisfies man’s deepest desires
      And it shall involve warm human relationships.

      Particularly obnoxious are the petty sadism and gleeful anticipation of retributive punishment meted out to the hell-dwellers. Tertullian said much the same thing 1800 years ago. Plus ça change…

  17. I was watching television the other day and I saw a debate involving candidates for the Republican nomination for President of the United States.

    Most of them were creationists and most of them mouthed the standard slogans of Intelligent Design Creationism.

    If that’s what a dead horse looks like, I urge you all to keep beating it before it gets up and bites you in places you won’t like.

    Jerry, you and Jason are being very naive. Intelligent Design Creationism is a “movement” not a scientific hypothesis. It’s about as dead as homeopathy and astrology.

    1. +1

      The pessimistic view wins. Creationism 3.0 was obviously God in the Gaps from day #1. I actually thought Jerry gave it way too much credit by pronouncing it dead. As many have said, it was never alive as a scientific idea, and won’t be killed by exposing its scientific vacuity – just as the exposure of the scientific vacuity of creationism 1.0 and 2.0 didn’t kill them. The only interest that creationists of all flavors have in science is the highjacking of science’s earned credibility for their intellectually bankrupt superstition.

  18. In my ‘hood’ we were taught that to let your guard down invited a sucker punch.

    ID is not dead by a long shot, anyone who thinks it has expired doesn’t understand what you are dealing with.

    ID is a weed, it’s roots are underground and spreads out like a virus.

    If ID WERE dead political candidates would not dance around the subject. If it were dead there would not be local initiates to infiltrate school curriculum. If it were dead donors would find other causes to support.

    It may appear dead to some, but let your guard down and you will see that the weed has spread while you were distracted and you will wind up with a black eye!

    1. I think it’s dead in the sense that flood geology or other earlier forms of creationism are dead. I don’t think that creationism is dead, though, as it will reappear in some other form. Fine-tuning is one, “teach the controversy” is another.

  19. In Darwins Black Box, Behe reports that a search of scientific papers finds almost none on the subject of the origin of life (IIRC, at least it was something close to that). That was early in the book and helped build his arguement for ID, by claiming the science us weak or non-existent.

    So using Behe’s own logic, if nobody is publishing on ID, then the ‘science’ is weak or non-existent.

    Of course, don’t expect Behe to admit that point. In one chapter, he wrote that mathematical modeling isn’t scientifically valid. In the next chapter he presents a mathematical model ‘proving’ that the odds of certain molecules forming together to create life are so astronomically large to be effectively impossible.

  20. Impressive that everyone has resisted saying “It is an ex-theory, it has ceased to be” or “it has gone to join the choir invisible”.

    I hate it when people just quote other people instead of saying something new, don’t you?

    Ah, dammit.

    (And of course, doing what I just did is equally unoriginal).

  21. The big problem is not the amount of time, as it is adequate, it is the ability of the human mind to grasp large numbers. A million years is 1000 1000, perhaps that helps.

  22. jfm wrote:
    All Catholics and many Protestant faiths accept evolution.

    This is simply not true. In America, polls consistently show that Catholics deny evolution at about the same rate as the general population, perhaps slightly less. For instance, this Pew Survey of the religious landscape in America shows 42% of Catholics deny evolution. As for Protestants, many sects may not deny evolution, but overall, about 50% of mainline Protestants deny evolution, and 75% of evangelicals deny it.

  23. Just to provide a counter-example, I attend medical school at Loma Linda University in California, which is a Christian school almost entirely comprised of Christian students. There are a number of YECs in my class, but in my experience virtually all of those comfortable with long ages seem to feel pretty strongly that ID is on to something, and that unguided evolution simply isn’t adequate. I’ve only met one classmate who agrees with me that it’s all rubbish.

Leave a Reply