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Jay Richards’ Response to Barbara Forrest

In a recent interview with USA Today (March 23, 2005), Barbara Forrest, a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University and a critic of intelligent design, states incorrectly that “[design theorists] aren’t published because they don’t have any scientific data.” Similar critics of intelligent design have said similar things. 

Initially, it’s not clear what Forrest is arguing. Obviously she’s not claiming that there are no critiques of contemporary Neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory in the scientific literature. That literature is large and beyond dispute. (See, for instance, the bibliography compiled here. Rather, she’s saying something about design theorists themselves. But what?

When Forrest says that design theorists “aren’t published,” does she mean that there is no literature advocating intelligent design? Presumablynot, since she must know that there is now a substantial literature arguing for design in nature. That literature argues for design not on the basis of oracles or private religious experience, but on the basis of evidence drawn from natural science (sees below). 

Perhaps she means that there are no articles in the peer-reviewed academic literature. But that’s false, too. For instance, there are scores of articles defending intelligent design in the peer-reviewed philosophical literature. And many of those articles are based on evidence from natural science. Obviously the arguments in these articles are either valid or invalid. Their location in philosophy journals does nothing to change that. Since Barbara Forrest is trained as a philosopher, we can assume that she knows this as well.

So to be charitable, should we assume that Forrest means that ID advocates don’t publish in the peer-reviewed scientific literature? But even this narrowly interpreted, her claim is clearly false. Together, proponents of intelligent design, such as Michael Behe, Henry Schaefer, Walter Bradley, Guillermo Gonzalez, and many others, have hundreds of scientific articles published in mainstream scientific journals.

So, again to be charitable, perhaps we should interpret Forrest as saying something still more specific. Maybe she means that no design theorists publish peer-reviewed scientific literature that is relevant to intelligent design. 

Alas, once again, anyone with a passing familiarity with the debate over fine-tuning knows of the peer-reviewed literature in physics and cosmology going back more than twenty years that supports intelligent design. See, for instance, the work of Fred Hoyle, Paul Davies, and Guillermo Gonzalez. 

Can we qualify Forrest’s claim still more? Well, let’s suppose that she means to say that no advocates of intelligent design publish in the peer-reviewed scientific literature that is relevant to intelligent design in biology. Since the debate over intelligent design is most controversial in biology, perhaps we have finally arrived at Forrest’s complaint. But even in this most guarded of forms, her claim is demonstrably false. 

What follows is a representative list of peer-reviewed scientific publications, by no means exhaustive, written by proponents of intelligent design, all of which support intelligent design in biology. Since Forrest says design theorists “aren’t published because they don’t have any scientific data,” even one such article refutes her assertion.

To see a list of peer-reviewed scientific publications, click here

Jay W. Richards

Senior Fellow at Discovery, Senior Research Fellow at Heritage Foundation
Jay W. Richards, Ph.D., is the William E. Simon Senior Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute, and the Executive Editor of The Stream. Richards is author or editor of more than a dozen books, including the New York Times bestsellers Infiltrated (2013) and Indivisible (2012); The Human Advantage; Money, Greed, and God, winner of a 2010 Templeton Enterprise Award; The Hobbit Party with Jonathan Witt; and Eat, Fast, Feast. His most recent book, with Douglas Axe and William Briggs, is The Price of Panic: How the Tyranny of Experts Turned a Pandemic Into a Catastrophe.