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Intelligent Design 101: Leading Experts Explain the Key Issues

Original Article

It’s not every day that a volume is published including articles by leading intelligent design (ID) proponents (and Discovery Institute fellows) like Phillip Johnson, Michael Behe, Jay Wesley Richards, and J.P. Moreland. But that’s exactly what is offered by Intelligent Design 101: Leading Experts Explain the Key Issues. Edited by legal scholar and theologian H. Wayne House, the book covers the debate over ID from scientific, philosophical, and legal perspectives. If you’re looking for a one-stop shop book that includes chapters from leading ID proponents making the case for design in multiple fields, then this book is for you.

Phillip Johnson, seen by many as the “godfather” of the ID movement, opens with a must-read chapter for anyone who wants to understand the strategic value of the ID-position. Johnson’s chapter recounts his own journey in this debate, explaining why he feels that ID is superior approach than devoting time to debating various brands of creationism. According to Johnson:

Fifteen years ago I published a book that I thought might add a few ounces of balance to the debate over Darwin’s theory of evolution. The main thrust of that book, Darwin on Trial, was that evolution is propped up more by naturalistic philosophy than by the scientific evidence. Much to my pleasant surprise, this book turned out to be the match that lit the tinder beneath a stockpile of dry logs. This is not to my credit; the logs had been piled high, and the tinder gathered. Darwinian naturalists had accumulated a large stock of public discontent. [p. 23]

Discovery Institute fellow J.P. Moreland follows up with a chapter arguing that ID qualifies as a scientific theory even though it is a non-materialistic conception of science. According to Moreland, “ID theory does not attempt to identify the designer nor does it make explicit reference to God. What I shall demonstrate is that even if ID theory did do these things, it would not thereby be disqualified as science.”

Discovery Institute Research Coordinator Casey Luskin offers a chapter making a broad positive case for intelligent design based upon evidence from the fields of physics and cosmology, biochemistry, genetics, and paleontology. From the grand cosmic architecture of the universe to the miniature molecular machines found in the cell, Luskin argues we find positive evidence for design in nature.  Luskin explains that

Though intelligent design may be compatible with the teachings of various religions, the theory itself is not a “faith-based” explanation. Intelligent design is an empirically based theory that uses the scientific method to make its claims. The scientific method is commonly described as a four-step process, involving (1) observations, (2) hypothesis, (3) experiments, and (4) conclusion. As noted, intelligent design begins with the observation that intelligent agents produce complex and specified information (CSI). Design theorists hypothesize that a natural object that is designed must contain high levels of CSI. Pro-ID scientists perform experimental tests upon natural objects to determine if they contain complex and specified information. We have seen that one easily testable form of CSI is irreducible complexity, in which reverse-engineering experiments on biological structures show whether they require all of their parts to function. When ID researchers find irreducible complexity in biology, they conclude that what is irreducibly complex must have been designed. Even if some critics disagree with the conclusions of intelligent design, they cannot deny that the theory has an empirical basis. [pp. 74-75]

Michael Behe’s chapter elaborates on the evidence for design from irreducible complexity, some primary examples of irreducible complexity include the biochemistry that underlies vision and the blood clotting cascade in vertebrates. Behe, who is also a senior fellow at Discovery Institute, spends time rebutting critics who claimed that these systems are not irreducibly complex.

Discovery Institute senior fellow Jay Wesley Richards follows up with a chapter that elaborates the argument for design from the fine-tuning of physics and cosmology. Richards surveys various requirements that life needs in order to exist and finds that Earth contains these unlikely properties. But he goes further and explains why the requirements for habitability are in fact also optimized for scientific discovery. According to Richards:

If our argument is correct, then the universe exhibits the same kind of meaningful pattern That pattern may not constitute a knock-down-dragout proof for God’s existence; but if nature really is a book that’s meant to be read, then this is just what you would expect. [p. 152]

An appendix to the book by Casey Luskin and then-Discovery Institute staff member Logan Gage offers “A Reply to Francis Collins’ Darwinian Arguments for Common Ancestry of Apes and Humans.” Luskin and Gage go through Collins arguments for human/ape common ancestry from and find that many are based upon long-refuted claims that non-coding DNA is genetic junk. They also take on Collins’ “chromosomal fusion” argument for common ancestry, and also assess Collins’ claims that human cognitive abilities evolved in a step-by-step fashion from primitive primate ancestors. Their appendix is available online here for free.