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Rhetoric & Public Affairs

This special volume of Michigan State University’s Rhetoric & Public Affairs is devoted to exploring the debate over intelligent design. Proponents of teaching intelligent design include Discovery Fellow and University of Memphis professor John Angus Campbell and University of Pittsburg professor John Lyne who contend that design is useful for teaching students reasoning skills by, as Lyne puts it, “taking the creationist argument out of the religious context” (pg. 580).

Many scientists refuse to acknowledge the design in the universe, and refuse to believe an intelligent cause is behind anything in the natural world, writes Discovery Institute Senior Fellow William Dembski. Dembski explains that “[w]hat has kept design outside the scientific mainstream these last 130 years is the absence of precise methods for distinguishing intelligently caused objects from unintelligently caused ones.” Yet in the mean time, “chance and necessity have proven to thin an explanatory soup on which to nourish a robust science.” With the current formulation of intelligent design, “[w]ith precise methods for discriminating intelligently from unintelligently caused objects,” Dembski argues that scientists can now reliably infer design.

Discovery Institute Fellows Jonathan Wells and Paul Nelson provide various lines of scientific data which “don’t make sense in the light of evolution.” In particular, the fossil record confronts Darwin with a “paradox,” in that it shows that nearly all of the major animal groups appear at approximately the same time, without any record of their divergence from a common ancestor. The genetic code, once hailed as proof of common ancestry, turns out to be non-universal. Moreover embryonic development and genetics show that differences appear precisely where Darwinism predicts they shouldn’t, as do many similarities in genetic programs. They conclude that “nothing in biology makes sense except in light of the evidence.”

Phillip Johnson, Program Advisor for Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, believes intelligent design is labeled as religious indoctrination because “an unyielding philosophical materialism is the basis of all science.” According to Johnson, such “all or nothing” judgments reflect clear propaganda, rather than basic reality. Talking about a designer may spark new conversations that will no doubt anger many in the scientific community, but people need to think and decide for themselves – something philosophical materialism does not ultimately allow.

Discovery Institute Senior Fellow and Director of Discovery’s Center for Science and Culture, Stephen Meyer, argues that the incredibly complex information found in DNA, RNA and proteins is best explained by intelligent design. Early biologists, such as Ernst Haeckel and Thomas Huxley believed life was a relatively simple construct of simple chemicals, allowing life to evolve from a series of chemical reactions. However, that fundamental principle of Darwinian evolution simply has no basis in reality. Therefore, “chance becomes clearly inadequate as origin-of-life biologists have almost universally acknowledged.”

Finally, Discovery Institute Senior Fellow Michael Behe states that Darwin’s theory has difficulty explaining the differences between organisms. Behe writes that while natural selection can explain relatively small changes, the sufficiency of Darwin’s mechanism to account for larger, more complex changes in organisms remains in question.

The volume also contains a rejoinder from critics, including various contributors not associated with Discovery Institute, such as Celeste Michelle Condit, David Depew, Steve Fuller, Thomas M. Lessl, and Bruce H. Weber.

John Angus Campbell

John Angus Campbell is a retired American Professor of Rhetoric and is a Fellow of Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture and of the International Society for Complexity, Information and Design.