Friday, September 23, 2005

My answers to questions on ID by a local newspaper

Here are questions by a journalist for a local newspaper on ID and my answers. The journalist has given me permission to post her questions, provided I don't mention her name and the name of her newspaper. I have made slight changes to improve my answers and her questions. In the original for the newspaper, URLs were cited separately, but in this blog copy they are hidden under hyperlinks. Also, the footnotes have here been hyperlinked.

----- Original Message -----
From: [...]
To: 'Stephen E. Jones'
Sent: Wednesday, September 21, 2005 10:03 AM
Subject: RE: Intelligent Design


1) Please provide a brief profile of yourself.

I am an evangelical Christian in my late-50's and my position on the creation-evolution spectrum is Old-Earth/Progressive Creation.  I have been debating creation/evolution on the Internet since 1994 and have been a member of the Intelligent Design (ID) movement since 1995.  I completed a biology degree in 2004 and am currently writing a book, "Problems of Evolution." I also write a blog, CreationEvolutionDesign.

2) Please detail your stance on the ID versus evolution debate - what is your own belief, and what factors have influenced your arrival at this belief?

Intelligent Design (ID) is the scientific theory that there is empirical evidence of design in nature.[1]  ID is not creationism, since ID is not based on the Bible but solely on the evidence of design nature.[2]  Also, there are IDists who are not even theists and there are creationists who are opposed to ID.

As for "ID versus evolution," ID is not necessarily opposed to evolution if by "evolution" is meant microevolution, such as insects becoming resistant to insecticide, changes in the frequency of light and dark moths in a population, or the lengths of the beaks of finches on the Galapagos islands.  ID is not even necessarily opposed to universal common ancestry.  One of ID's leaders, Professor Michael Behe, has stated, "I find the idea of common descent (that all organisms share a common ancestor) fairly convincing, and have no particular reason to doubt it"[3].  Another ID leader, Dr William Dembski, has pointed out that, "intelligent design is compatible with ... the most far-ranging evolution (e.g., God seamlessly melding all organisms together into one great tree of life)."[4]  I myself accept universal common ancestry.[5]

ID is only necessarily opposed to "evolution" when the latter denies that there is design in nature, e.g. Darwinian evolution (or Darwinism), as in the title of leading Darwinist, Professor Richard Dawkins' book, "The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design" (Norton, New York, 1986. My emphasis).

Factors that influenced my belief in ID is that I accepted the evidence of design in nature in my late-teens when I was an atheist.  It was several years later in my early twenties that I became a Christian from the evidence of the Bible.  When I heard of the ID movement in the mid-1990s, its focus on the evidence of design in nature was what I had already long believed, so I joined it.

3) What is your response to evolutionary scientists who claim that evolution is fact?

I would first ask them what they mean by "evolution" and "fact"? If they meant "fact" in the sense that it is confirmed by the evidence, and by "evolution" that all living things share a common ancestor, then I would agree with them.  But then I would ask them why they don't just say that? I would also point out to them that common ancestry is not necessarily "evolution." For one, Prof. Behe is called an "intelligent design creationist" by Darwinists in the full knowledge that he accepts common ancestry.[6]  For another, both ID and a version of creationism are compatible with common ancestry because an Intelligent Designer/God could have intervened supernaturally at links in ancestral-descendant chains to introduce new information, while leaving the chains intact.[7]  Dawkins cites Darwin as conceding this possibility of "miraculous additions at any one stage of descent."[8]

4) What research has the ID movement conducted into the science of ID? What evidence does the IDM have to support the scientific hypothesis of ID?

At this comparatively early stage (ID has only existed since 1984 and receives no public research funds), ID's main focus has been in establishing and defending its theoretical base (e.g. defending itself against claims that it is not even a "science" and therefore that it does not even have scientific "evidence").  But Prof. Behe has several times submitted ID research papers to peer-reviewed scientific journals, only to have them rejected with no explanation.[9]  Also, recently ID geophysicist-philosopher Stephen Meyer managed to have a paper published on the Cambrian explosion in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington.[10]  However, after the paper had been published, Darwinists forced it to be withdrawn[11] and then hounded the editor who published it, Dr Richard Sternberg, from his job.[12]

5) What was your response to Brendan Nelson's comments that ID could be taught in a school classroom, should this be the wish of parents?

I agree with Dr Nelson that evolution should be taught, and where parents and schools agree, they should have the choice to also have ID taught.[13]  In the USA polls have consistently shown that the majority of the public want their children taught both sides of the evolution question, including the case for Intelligent Design.[14]  I assume that Australian parents would share a similar view.

6) Do you believe school students should be presented with a range of possible scientific ideas, and encouraged to explore the choices and arrive at their own decision?

Only where those "scientific ideas" are a major source of controversy in the wider community, as is the case with evolution.  Clearly there is not enough time for a school curriculum to cover all possible scientific ideas.

7) Do you believe that ID should be taught in a high school science program?

Only where parents and schools agree.  The ID movement itself is opposed to mandatory teaching of ID in schools.[15]  However, irrespective of whether ID is taught, the ID movement believes that the controversy should be taught in schools[16], and that schools should teach more about evolution,[17] including evolution's philosophical assumptions, its problems, and controversies within the evolutionary literature.

8) If ID was to be taught at a high school level, it should also be taught at a university level - do you agree?

Same basic answer as 7) above.  I have just finished a biology degree at one of Perth's universities and intelligent design is taught now in biology classes by some lecturers, but in a prejudiced, cursory and unscholarly (e.g. no references to the primary ID literature) way.  In fact my biology textbook had a two-page interview with Richard Dawkins,[18] in which he briefly discussed, and then dismissed as "wrong", an 18th century design argument, with no mention of modern design arguments.  Also, if the argument against design is science, then the counter-argument for design must also be science.[19]

9) Although ID has a steady following in the United States, it has been very difficult to find a group willing to stand up for the idea here in Australia.  Why do you think this is? Given the science of ID, shouldn't there be a network of people willing to provide comment on the research and concepts behind ID?

A major reason is the Internet, which means that IDists do not have to physically meet, and the fact that historically ID began in the USA in the 1980's and that is where the leading ID theorists mostly are.  There is a voluminous ID literature, both online at the two main ID sites, Access Research Network in Colorado and the Discovery Institute in Seattle, and over a dozen ID books.[20]  There are also ID Internet discussion groups, both private and public, the latter tending to be replaced by blogs (see sidebar at my blog CreationEvolutionDesign for some leading ID blogs) because of the difficulty of keeping up with the sheer volume of mail in Internet discussion groups.


[1] Dembski, W.A., "The Intelligent Design Movement," Access Research Network: Colorado Springs CO, 1998 & Hartwig, M., "What is Intelligent Design?," Frequently Asked Questions about Intelligent Design. Access Research Network: Colorado Springs CO, 2003. [return]

[2] West, J.G., "Intelligent Design and Creationism Just Aren't the Same," Discovery Institute- Center for Science and Culture: Seattle WA, December 1, 2002. [return]

[3] Behe, M.J., "Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution," Free Press: New York NY, 1996, p.5. [return]

[4] Dembski, W.A. , "Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 1999, p.109. [return]

[5] Stephen E. Jones, "Why I (a Creationist) Accept Common Ancestry," 2005. [return]

[6] For example, Pennock, R.T., "Tower of Babel: The Evidence Against the New Creationism," The MIT Press: Cambridge MA, Fourth printing, 1999, pp.29,264. [return]

[7] "Even were God to intervene directly to suspend natural law and inject essential new genetic material at various points in order to facilitate the emergence of new traits and, eventually, new species, that miraculous and deliberate divine intervention would by itself leave unchallenged such key theses of evolutionary theory as that all species derive ultimately from some common ancestor. Descent with genetic intervention is still descent-it is just descent with nonnatural elements in the process." (Ratzsch, D.L., "The Battle of Beginnings: Why Neither Side is Winning the Creation-Evolution Debate," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 1996, pp.187-188). [return]

[8] "Darwin ... wrote in a letter to Sir Charles Lyell, the leading geologist of his day: `If I were convinced that I required such additions to the theory of natural selection, I would reject it as rubbish. ... I would give nothing for the theory of Natural selection, if it requires miraculous additions at any one stage of descent.' [Darwin, C.R., letter to C. Lyell, October 11, 1859, in Darwin, F., ed., "The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin," [1898], Basic Books: New York NY, Vol. II., 1959, reprint, pp.6-7]. This is no petty matter. In Darwin's view, the whole point of the theory of evolution by natural selection was that it provided a non-miraculous account of the existence of complex adaptations. ... For Darwin, any evolution that had to be helped over the jumps by God was not evolution at all." (Dawkins, R., "The Blind Watchmaker," [1986], Penguin: London, 1991, reprint, pp.248-249. Emphasis original). [return]

[9] Behe, M.J. , "Correspondence with Science Journals: Response to Critics Concerning Peer-Review," Access Research Network: Colorado Springs CO, August 2, 2000. [return]

[10] Meyer, S.C., "The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories," Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, 117(2), June, 2004, 213-239. Meyer's paper has since been republished at the Discovery Institute site. [return]

[11] The Biological Society of Washington, 2004, "Statement from the Council of the Biological Society Of Washington, 5 October 2004. [return]

[12] See Dr. Richard Sternberg's home page. See also Powell, M., "Editor Explains Reasons for 'Intelligent Design' Article, "Washington Post, August 19, 2005. [return]

[13] Wroe, D., "'Intelligent design' an option: Nelson," The Age, August 11, 2005. [return]

[14] See CBS poll:"Poll: Creationism Trumps Evolution," CBS, New York, November 22, 2004; the Harris poll:"Nearly Two-thirds of U.S. Adults Believe Human Beings Were Created by God," Harris Poll #52, July 6, 2005; and the Pew poll: Lester, W., "Poll: Public divided on evolution," USA Today/AP, August 31, 2005. [return]

[15] Discovery Institute, "President Bush's Support for Free Speech on Evolution and Intelligent Design Draws Praise from Discovery Institute," Discovery Institute News, August 2, 2005, Discovery Institute: Seattle, WA. [return]

[16] Meyer, S.C., "Teach the Controversy," Cincinnati Enquirer, March 30, 2002. Discovery Institute: Seattle, WA. [return]

[17] Discovery Institute, "Georgia Schools Should Teach More About Evolution Not Less," Discovery Institute News, January 29, 2004, Discovery Institute: Seattle, WA. [return]

[18] Dawkins, R., "Mechanisms of Evolution," in Campbell, N.A., Reece, J.B. & Mitchell, L.G., "Biology," [1987], Benjamin/Cummings: Menlo Park CA, Fifth Edition, 1999, pp.412-413. [return]

[19] "Clearly if you have a question, the answer yes and the answer no to the question are still in the same subject area. ... It can't be that the yes answer is science and the no answer is religion." (Johnson, P.E., "Evolution and the Curriculum: A Conversation with Phillip Johnson and Gregg Easterbrook," Center Conversations No. 4, September 1999, Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington DC. [return]

[20] A good popular level introduction to ID is Denyse O'Leary's book, "By Design or by Chance?: The Growing Controversy on the Origins of Life in the Universe," Augsburg: Minneapolis MN, 2004. [return]


Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol.)
"Problems of Evolution"

1 comment:

goliah said...

COMPLETELY UNEXPECTED. A real monkey wrench is about to hit both sides in the ID vs Evolution debate and particularly religion is in for difficult times. For a wholly new interpretation of the teachings of Christ, contained within the first ever religious claim and proof that meets all the criteria of the most rigorous, evidential, testable scientific method, is published and circulating on the web. It is titled The Final Freedoms. An intellectual, religious and political bombshell!

It is described by a single Law and moral principle, offering its own proof, one in which the reality of God confirms and responds to an act of perfect faith, by a direct intervention into the natural world, delivering a correction to human nature, including a change in natural law [biology], consciousness and human ethical perception [proof of the soul], providing new, primary insight and understanding of the human condition!

So while proponents of ID may have got the God part right, if this development demonstrates itself to be what it claims, and the means exist to do so, all religious teaching, tradition and understanding of ID are wholly in error, while the proponents of evolution who have rightly used that conception to beat down the credibility of religious tradition, but who have also used it to deny the potential for God, are in for a very rude shock.

However improbable, what history and theology have presumed to be impossible now looks all too achievable. The implications defy imagination! No joke, no hoax and not spam.

Pre publication review copies of the manuscript, The Final Freedoms, are a free pdf download at and