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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Intelligent Design - Part VI

This is the final chapter in this series. Thanks to everyone for their comments.

Chapter Five
Intelligent Design Critics

The most common argument against the intelligent design theory is that it is not a true science. According to scientist Linus Pauling, science is defined as the “search for truth” (Harris and Calvert 2003, p 557). Sciences that study the origin of life (origin sciences), such as intelligent design, seek the truth regarding how life began. In order to separate truth from fiction, scientists follow a procedure called the scientific method. Can scientists apply this method to the intelligent design theory?

The Scientific Method

The scientific method generally consists of five steps:

1. Observe an object or phenomenon and gather information
2. Form a hypothesis (a description of what is observed)
3. Make predictions based on the hypothesis
4. Perform experiments to test the predictions and update the hypothesis if the test results require it
5. Continue testing and modifying the hypothesis until the hypothesis and test results match one another (Wudka 1998).

Critics claim that intelligent design is not scientific because it cannot be tested or make predictions – two elements of the scientific method (Harris and Calvert 2003).

Can Intelligent Design be Tested? Make Predictions?

Harris and Calvert (2003) explain how intelligent design is tested by the same techniques used in other sciences such as forensics, cryptanalysis, and archeology. Scientists in these three fields must determine if intelligent action is at work:

Ø Forensics: Scientists perform tests to determine whether a death is a result of an accident or natural death (chance/necessity) or murder (intelligent action proven by the intent to kill).

Ø Cryptanalysis: Specialists called code breakers look closely at characters to determine if they communicate a message (intelligence).

Ø Archeology: Archeologists test objects to determine if they are man-made (intelligent action) or produced by natural causes. For example, a clay pot exhibits intelligent design while a rock formation may exist because of natural causes (wind, erosion, etc.).

Likewise, intelligent design is a science that uses various methods (discussed in chapter three) to “test” whether or not objects are caused by intelligent action or chance.

Intelligent design also makes predictions. For example, theorists predicted that a purpose for “junk DNA” would be found (Harris and Calvert 2003). As you recall, the instructions in DNA are made up of sequences or patterns of letters. DNA that does not contain instructions is called non-coding or “junk” DNA. Recently, scientists discovered that so-called “junk” DNA has a special job within the nucleus – to help the proteins created by DNA to function (The Designing Times 2002; The Free by Farlex 2005).

Is the Intelligent Design Theory Peer Reviewed?

When scientists want to share their findings with others, they follow a process called peer review. Scientists submit their manuscripts to at least two experts who work in the same field addressed in the manuscript. For example, if a scientist writes about molecular biology, then experts in the biology field read and comment on the contents contained in the manuscript (Henneberg 1997).

Critics argue that the intelligent design theory is unscientific because it is not peer reviewed. However, this claim is deceptive. Because the majority of scientists today do not support intelligent design, many refuse to review any work on the subject (Harris and Calvert 2003).

However, others have reviewed the works of leading scientists in the intelligent design movement - Michael Behe and William Dembski, and “an enormous amount of work is being done to find naturalistic explanations of their arguments” (Harris and Calvert 2003, p 538).


While early design arguments relied on the metaphysical realm as well as scientific data, today’s intelligent design theory relies exclusively on scientific evidence. Scientists have discovered, through advances in technology, that objects in nature – such as the cell – exhibit the same complexity as designed objects made by human hands and minds. Therefore, many scientists have concluded that nature exhibits signs of intelligent design. Why, in spite of the evidence, do many scientists reject intelligent design? Perhaps the following quotes help explain the motivation behind the rejection of intelligent design:

Evolutionist Sir Arthur Keith wrote, “Evolution is unproven and unprovable. We believe it because the only alternative is special creation, which is unthinkable” (Dvorak 2004, p 4).

Dr. Michael Walker, Senior Lecturer – Anthropology, Sydney University said, “One is forced to conclude that many scientists and technologists pay lip-service to Darwinian theory only because it supposedly excludes a Creator” (Dvorak 2004, p 5).

Dr. Scott Todd, an immunologist at Kansas State University wrote, “Even if all the data point to an intelligent designer, such hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic” (Dvorak 2004, p 5).

“Naturalistic” refers to the philosophy of naturalism. This philosophy is the foundation of evolution and states that natural laws explain all phenomena. Naturalism eliminates design, purpose, and the supernatural.

Take Note
Naturalism is a philosophy and not a belief based on scientific data. All other possible causes of life are rejected, not based on scientific data, but because they fail to meet the definition of naturalism (Harris and Calvert 2003).

The Future of Intelligent Design

The belief that living organisms show design and, therefore, are a product of intelligent action has existed for thousands of years. While Darwin offered an alternative to the design theory, and many scientists have followed his lead, advances in technology will continue to strengthen evidence for intelligent design.

Perhaps Behe says it best:

The idea of Intelligent Design is widely discussed now and, although there’s resistance to it, I think it will fade as science progresses. As we learn more about biology, we’ll see that it’s becoming more complicated and fits less into the Darwinian evolutionary model (Peters 1999, p 6).


Access Research Network. 1998. Molecular Machines Museum. Accessed 2005 March 31.

Behe, Michael J. 1996. Darwin’s black box. New York: The Free Press.

Behe, Michael J. 1999 June 7. The God of science: the case for intelligent design. Accessed 2005 January 24.

Carpi, Anthony. 1999. The cell. Accessed 2005 January 27.

Cells Alive. 2004. Lysosomes, peroxisomes, secretory vesicles. Accessed 2005 January 26.

Dembski, William A. 1999. Explaining specified complexity. Accessed 2005 January 24.

Dembski, William A. 2003a August 28. Intelligent design.
Accessed 2005 January 26.

Dembski, William A. 2003b February 17. Still spinning just fine: a response to Ken Miller. Accessed 2005 January 26.

Dembski, William A. 2004a January 16. Detecting design in biological systems. Accessed 2005 February 2.

Dembski, William A. 2004b. Introduction: the myth of Darwinism. In: Dembski, William A, editor. Uncommon dissent: intellectuals who find Darwinism unconvincing. Wilmington: ISI Books. p xvii-xxxvii.

The Designing Times. 2002. Accessed 2005 January 26.

Dvorak, Allen. 2004. When evolutionists tell the truth. Sermon outline that includes quotes from evolutionists regarding the problems with the theory of evolution.

The Free by Farlex. 2005. Non-coding DNA. Accessed 2005 February 2.

Harris, William S; Calvert, John H. 2003. Intelligent design: the scientific alternative to evolution. The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly Autumn 2003: 531-561. Accessed 2005 January 26.

Henneberg, Marcie J. 1997. Peer review: the Holy Office of modern science.
Accessed 2005 February 25.

Intelligent Design Basics. [undated]. What is the theory of intelligent design? Accessed 2005 January 27.

Luskin, Casey. 2001. The science behind intelligent design theory. Accessed 2005 January 26.

McDonald, John H. 2000. A reducibly complex mousetrap. Accessed 2005 March 31.

Meyer, Stephen C. 2000 April 1. DNA and other designs. Accessed 2005 January 26.

Mondore, Robert; Mondore, Patricia A. 2002 December 14. Designer genes. Accessed 2005 January 31.

Peters, Holly. 1999. Darwin’s demise. Accessed 2005 January 26.

Pittman, Sean D. 2003. Natural selection. Accessed 2005 February 25.

Richards, Stephen. 2004. The design argument. Accessed 2005 February 25.

Strobel, Lee. 2004. The case for a Creator. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. GCE “o” level biology (5093) study guide. Accessed 2005 March 31.

University of California in Santa Barbara [undated]. The bacterial flagellum.
Accessed 2005 January 26.

University of Wisconsin. 2005. The why files. Accessed 2005 March 31.

West, John G. 2002 December. Intelligent design and creationism just aren’t the same. Accessed 2005 January 26.

Wudka, Jose. 1998. The scientific method.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Intelligent Design - Part IV

Chapter Four
Examples of Design

Human artifacts (man-made objects), such as the mousetrap, exhibit irreducible complexity; therefore, we know intelligent action caused them to come into existence. Dembski concludes, “Therefore, biological systems that exhibit irreducible complexity are likely to be designed” (Dembski 2003a, p 1).

The cell exhibits the same irreducible complexity as the mousetrap. How do evolutionists explain its existence? Cell biologists Franklin Harold and James Shapiro state, “There are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations” (Dembski 2004a, p 16).

The Cell

Cells are the basic units of life. Our bodies are made up of many different kinds of cells. Each cell is composed of a variety of parts that function in various ways. Figure 4.1 on page 11 is a diagram of an animal cell. In Darwin’s Black Box, Behe (1996) lists the parts of the cell and their functions as follows:

Ø Nucleus: holds DNA

Ø Mitochondria: produces cell’s energy

Ø Endoplasmic reticulum: processes proteins

Ø Golgi apparatus (or complex): stores proteins that are being transported

Ø Lysosome: contains enzymes that help the cell digest various materials (Carpi 1999).

Ø Secretory vesicles: stores secretions such as hormones before they are sent from the cell (Cells Alive 2004)

Ø Peroxisome: helps body digest foods, such as fats

Because each part of the cell is sealed off from other parts by a membrane, the question arises: how do materials the cell needs get past the membrane barriers and into their special compartments?

The cell moves proteins into various compartments using three methods (Behe 1996).

I. Gated Transport - Gate opens and closes to allow or block proteins from passing through membranes.

II. Transmembrane transport - A single protein is guided through a protein channel through the cell membrane

III. Vescular transport - Protein is transported by “containers”

Gated transport and transmembrane transport are essentially the same. The only difference between the two is the size of the channel the proteins pass through: gated transport uses a large channel; transmembrane transport uses a small channel (Behe 1996).

In order for gated transport to work, several components must be in place:

Ø Proteins must send out signals in order for the “gate” to recognize the proteins and allow them to pass from one place to another.

Ø On the other side of the gate, enzymes must have receptors in order to recognize the proteins’ signals. Once the enzymes recognize the signals, the gate is opened.

Ø Proteins must have a channel to pass through. However, if a channel allows all proteins to pass through, then all compartments would contain the same materials (Behe 1996).

All components that allow these processes to take place must exist at the same time, not gradually. Therefore, this system is irreducibly complex; and Darwinian evolution cannot explain how this system came into existence.

According to Behe (1996), vesicular transport is more complex than gated transport and requires six components in order to function. If all six parts are not in place, the system either fails to function or the proteins fail to reach their proper destination.

This is a brief explanation of gated and vesicular transport. However, even this simple description shows the system’s irreducibly complex nature (Behe 1996).

Bacterial Flagellum

A motorboat uses a rotary propeller or motor to move the boat through water. Similarly, bacterial cells use a “rotary motor” called a flagellum to move the cells through liquid (Behe 1996). Figure 4.2 on page 13 is a picture of the bacterial flagellum, showing its parts that are similar to that of a man-made rotary motor.

This whip-like tail is made of a protein called flagellin. The flagellum is lodged in the cell membrane and attached to the rotor drive near the surface of the cell. The material that attaches the flagellum to the drive shaft is called hook protein. This protein works like a universal joint, which allows the flagellum and drive shaft to rotate. The motor that rotates the flagellum is located at the base of the flagellum where several rings are located (Behe 1996; Strobel 2004; undated University of California in Santa Barbara).

Take Note
The flagellum requires the coordination of 40 proteins. If one protein is missing, the flagellum will not function (Dembski 2003a).

How did the bacterial flagellum come into existence? While evolutionists claim evolutionary processes are responsible for the flagellum’s existence, no scientist has ever presented an evolutionary model of the bacterial flagellum (Strobel 2004).

Evolutionists’ Arguments

While scientists have failed to explain how evolution produced the flagellum, they have criticized Behe’s argument that the bacterial flagellum is irreducibly complex.

Ken Miller argues that the bacterial flagellum is not irreducibly complex for two reasons. Within the flagellum is a subsystem called Type III secretory system (TTSS). This system acts as a pump to move proteins to the outside of the cell. The function of TTSS is separate from the rotary propeller function of the flagellum. Evolutionists argue that the flagellum is not irreducibly complex because it evolved from TTSS. Remember, for an object to be irreducibly complex, it cannot have any precursors, i.e., any previous form of the object from which the more complex evolved (Dembski 2003b).

However, the existence of a subsystem within a functioning system is a poor argument for evolution. Dembski points out, “One might just as well say that because the motor of a motorcycle can be used as a blender, therefore the motor evolved into the motorcycle” (2003b, p 2).

Miller also claims that the flagellum is not irreducibly complex because TTSS can still transport proteins even if some proteins are missing. However, transporting proteins by the subsystem has little to do with the rotary propeller function of the flagellum. These are two separate functions. Moreover, if parts of the rotary system are missing, the propeller cannot function – regardless of whether or not proteins are missing. Therefore, the bacterial flagellum is irreducibly complex (Dembski 2003a).

Why does it matter whether or not an object or system is functional during its development? Evolutionists want us to believe that natural selection is how life began. However, if a system is not functioning, natural selection will not work. Since all parts must be in place at the same time in order for the bacterial flagellum to function, the flagellum could not have developed gradually over time (Behe 1996).


DNA is located in the nucleus of the cell and contains the information – the instructions - needed to make all the proteins that build our bodies. We depend on an alphabet that consists of 26 letters to form words that convey messages (Strobel 2004). Likewise, DNA’s instructions or messages are written with a special “alphabet” that consists of only four letters. Scientists have named these letters after the acids that form the DNA bases: A (adenine), G (guanine), T (thymine), and C (cytosine).

Each “letter” alone is meaningless, just as a single letter in the alphabet is meaningless. DNA’s letters must be in a specific order (called a sequence) in order to create instructions, just as the letters in this sentence must be in a specific arrangement in order to create a coherent message (Harris and Calvert 2003).

Therefore, DNA exhibits specified complexity because

Ø It is complex (made up of many components – letters)

Ø It is contingent (More than one combination of letters is possible.)

Ø It is specified (Follows a pattern called a sequence.).

Problem for Evolution

DNA and the information it contains must be present in order for life to begin (Strobel 2004). But how did DNA come into existence? Natural selection cannot explain the existence of DNA. Natural selection only works if organisms can duplicate themselves. In order to duplicate, organisms must have DNA. Therefore, if DNA is absent, natural selection cannot work. You have heard the question asked: “Which came first: the chicken or the egg?” Obviously, the chicken must exist first in order to reproduce to get the egg. In the same way, DNA must exist first in order for organisms to reproduce (Intelligent Design Basics undated).

Furthermore, the probability that DNA assembled itself in the first cell is 1 x 10 –190, which essentially equals zero (Harris and Calvert 2003).