Is Intelligent Design Getting an Intelligent Hearing?

In a New York Times editorial Design for Living, published Feb. 7, Dr. Michael Behe, recognized as one of the most authoritative spokesmen for the Intelligent Design (ID) movement wrote, "The strong appearance of design [in nature] allows a disarmingly simple argument: if it looks, walks and quacks like a duck, then, absent compelling evidence to the contrary, we have warrant to conclude it's a duck. Design should not be overlooked simply because it's so obvious." He continues, "Still, some critics claim that science by definition can't accept design, while others argue that science should keep looking for another explanation in case one is out there. But we can't settle questions about reality with definitions, nor does it seem useful to search relentlessly for a non-design explanation of Mount Rushmore."

Behe's column in America's paper of record is only the latest of recent coups gained by the embattled, much-misunderstood movement, variously portrayed as an imposter ("creationism dressed up in a cheap tuxedo") or an elegantly simple, yet maturing scientific research enterprise. Recent stories—actually this is not new—by ABC World News Tonight, Newsweek and other popular and scientifically prestigious media have given rise to not only pride and hopefulness by adherents, but increased denunciation by detractors. However, the gains of ID have come at a price, not the least of which has been a steady stream of attack from the Darwinist establishment. The hottest situation for ID at present involves a refereed article by Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture director Stephen Meyer in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, tied to the Smithsonian Institution. Claims of persecution by in-house Darwinist ideologues have clouded the relatively recent retirement of the Proceedings' then-editor, Dr. Richard M. v. Sternberg, who oversaw the publishing of Meyer's essay on intelligent design. Sternberg has set up a Web site to clear up the confusion and accusations surrounding the publishing of the paper, which generated a firestorm.

Wired magazine recently lambasted Meyer and Discovery Institute in response. The Institute's Web site reads, "In an effort to keep the line between fiction and reality distinct, Meyer was asked to comment on the story. 'The piece portrays the theory of intelligent design as a religiously motivated political crusade rather than what it actually is, an evidence-based scientific research program,' said Meyer. 'It portrays our scientific research and publications as a nefarious plot to infiltrate the public schools with a virulent new form of creationism. We’re hoping they’ll follow up this yarn with a non-fiction piece about the real attempts to shut down discussion of the weaknesses of neo-Darwinism.'" (Source: Wired magazine reporter criticized for agenda driven reporting,, accessed 2-10-05).

Leadership University has covered the topic of Intelligent Design several times before (links below), focusing mostly on its scientific and philosophical content and claims. In fact, LeaderU's sponsoring organization, CLM, was a driving force behind the seminal Mere Creation Conference in 1996, which helped launch the new movement. We created ID godfather Dr. Phillip E. Johnson's first Web home. We now approach the topic journalistically to ask, "What is the state of affairs regarding ID in the American public square and how is it affecting the public discussion and education of origins?" While surveying this briefly, we also offer a primer or introduction to Intelligent Design, featuring past Special Focus features, etc. Lastly, we include selected rebuttals to critiques of two prominent ID practitioners, Dr. Michael Behe and Dr. William Dembski.

—Leadership University Editor/Webmaster, Byron Barlowe


Explanation of Graphic:

The bacterial flagellum is an example of what Michael Behe describes as an irreducibly complex system. In his book, Darwin's Black Box, he explains that such irreducibly complex systems could not have arisen by a gradual step-by-step Darwinian process. For more information, see

Featured Articles

How is ID holding up in the public square against heavy criticism and handling the barbs, as well as the legitimate critiques? Can it seize the initiative?

Dealing With the Backlash Against Intelligent Design—NEW
Dr. William Dembski
As one of the Intelligent Design movement's leaders and shapers, Bill Dembski has learned to be good-humored in the face of heavy criticism from all sides, even vitriol and personal attack. ID is increasingly at the center of a polemical, political debate and is even seen by some as "evil." Dembski tracks "recent scores" by the ID movement despite what he terms a "zero-concession policy" adopted by detractors. Rather than responding in kind, he urges maintaining a policy of "there-might-be-something-to-it-after-all" in order to appeal to the "undecided middle watching this debate and trying to sort through the issues." He then describes attacks that take on three forms, regarding: logos, or a reasoned case; ethos, or the perceived reputation and character of the ID adherent, and; pathos, the emotion, passion that is evoked from the audience.

Science's new heresy trial—NEW
Professor Gene Edward Veith
Conservative cultural critic Veith laments that "a Smithsonian-backed editor is defrocked by the priesthood of science for publishing an article on Intelligent Design." A good indicator of the temperature in mainstream academia regarding Intelligent Design.

PBS Evolution Series
Dr. Ray Bohlin
The PBS television series Evolution primarily targets high school students with the best and most persuasive evidence for evolution coupled with state of the art graphics, interactive web site, and colorful new textbook by the same title. But it's shameless propaganda, according to credentialed scientist Dr. Bohlin.

State of the Movement: Then & Now

Opening the "Big Tent" in Science: The New Design Movement
Nancy Pearcey
Originally titled "The Evolution Backlash." Cultural commentator and brilliant author of Total Truth Pearcey offered a state of the movement assessment, historical background and a brief apologetic for the intelligent design movement in this 1997 piece. She particularly highlights the "godfathers" of the movement, including Dr. Philip Johnson, as well as the effect on the public school science curriculum debate, which has grown more active since then. "The origins debate is clearly entering the mainstream."

Becoming a Disciplined Science: Prospects, Pitfalls, and Reality Check for ID—NEW
Dr. William Dembski
Keynote address delivered at RAPID Conference (Research and Progress in Intelligent Design), Biola University, La Mirada, California, in October 2002. The aim of this conference was to examine the current state of intelligent design research.

Design & the Discriminating Public: Gaining a Hearing from Ordinary People
Nancy Pearcey
Pearcey relates the public's rising interest in Intelligent Design and its potential impact to the peak of the Scientific Revolution, in which people focused much more on the philosophical or worldview implications than the details. She assesses ID as "simple, easy to explain and based solidly on experience," and thus, popular among regular people. "At stake in this controversy is which worldview will permeate and shape our culture."

The Coming Revolution in Science
Dr. Ray Bohlin
Dr. Bohlin writes, "There is the potential of the intelligent design movement bringing about a revolution in science.... William Dembski has issued a strong challenge through his books and more are to follow from others dealing with the philosophy and science of intelligent design. The next several years should be very exciting indeed."

A Brief ID Primer

The basics and background to the ID movement, its claims, counterclaims, research scope and cultural effect.

Ten Questions to Ask Your Biology Teacher About Design—NEW
Dr. William Dembski
Darwinism as a naturalistic metanarrative to explain life and the universe has reigned supreme until the Intelligent Design movement recently began gaining the power to mount a serious challenge. Rather than remain on the defensive under the teaching of hardcore Darwinist dogma, students can ask questions like these to challenge the professors who often try to shut down debate. Dembski cuts to the intellectual chase, if you will.

Frequently Asked Questions About Intelligent Design
Mark Hartwig, Access Research Network
Definitions and context regarding Intelligent Design posted at our sister site,, and provided by ID site ARN.

The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance through Small Probabilities
Dr. William Lane Craig
A review of William Dembski's book, The Design Inference, which provides the philosophical under-pinning for the upstart Intelligent Design movement. It is shown how Dembski's Generic Chance Elimination Argument might be applied to the so-called "fine-tuning" of the universe to yield an inference to a Cosmic Designer.

Designer Universe: Intelligent Design Theory of Origins
Edited by Byron Barlowe, LeaderU
Intelligent Design is an alternative theory to Darwinian evolution receiving frontpage prominence in papers like the New York Times. It's also turning heads in academia and science, but not without stirring hot debate. Discover more in our Special Focus (published 4/16/01)

Our Universe: Fine-Tuned for Life?
Edited by Byron Barlowe, LeaderU
Science has recently discovered just how finely tuned the universe must be to accommodate us and the rest of carbon-based life on our planet. Many believe the best explanation is a Creator. We examine the arguments in our Special Focus (published 2/8/02).

The Church of Darwin
Edited by Byron Barlowe, LeaderU
The Kansas Board of Education recently ignited a firestorm when they removed macro-evolution from state testing requirements. Is this primarily a science issue or are there other, deeper considerations? See our special focus (published 9/8/99).

Behe's Blackbox Bombshell & Dembski's Domain:
Replying to Critics

The ongoing controversy over Intelligent Design's legitimacy and claims is nowhere exemplified more clearly than the debate over Michael Behe's groundbreaking Darwin's Black Box. Anti-sites and published rebuttals abound, sites like  Darwin's Empty Box. We offer a sampling of responses by two of ID's most visible proponents, Behe and William Dembski.

The Sterility of Darwinism
Dr. Michael Behe
Behe, biochemist and author of Darwin's Black Box, responds to critic H. Allen Orr, further elucidating his debate-changing points regarding irreducible complexity.

Rebuttals to Common Criticisms of the Book Darwin's Black Box
Robert DiSilvestro, Ph.D.
Michael Behe, in Darwin's Black Box, proposes that intelligent design is necessary to produce irreducibly complex systems. This idea has drawn much criticism from the world of biology and beyond. DiSilvestro replies to eight common objections.

Conservatives, Darwin & Design: An Exchange
Larry Arnhart, Michael J. Behe, William A. Dembski
Professor of Political Science Arnhart makes the case for conservative Darwinism, refuting the claims of Behe and Dembski that ID does not necessitate an appeal to faith. Further, he claims that Darwinism is compatible with biblical faith. The deeper issue, he writes, is that "most of the opposition to Darwinian theory among conservatives is motivated not by a purely intellectual concern for the truth or falsity of the theory, but by a deep fear that Darwinism denies the foundations of traditional morality by denying any appeal to the transcendent norms of God’s moral law.... If conservatism is to remain intellectually vital, conservatives will need to show that their position is compatible with this new science of human nature."

Behe rebuts that Darwinism offers no such help to any theory--but simply how to make more offspring. Further, any demonstrable preference can be claimed by Darwinism, he argues. "Darwinism is now seeking to become parasitic on politics, too, by offering shallow, ad hoc justifications for what we already know about human nature." Dembski mainly deals with the counterclaim that "design is always inferred, it is never a direct intuition."