APS News, October 2005, Vol 14,No. 9 ----Intelligent Design: The New Creationism Threatens All ofScience and Society

From: Alexanian, Moorad <alexanian@uncw.edu>
Date: Tue Oct 18 2005 - 14:17:02 EDT

Intelligent Design: The New Creationism Threatens All of Science and
By Marshall Berman
Marshall Berman

"Intelligent Design? Creationism? Look, I'm very busy right now. I don't
have time for that nonsense. I've got work to do in the lab and on the
computer. I have a career. Besides, it will all go away soon."

What Americans Believe
Sound familiar? For most of my life, I thought everyone knew that
"Creation Science" was "dark ages" stuff. Until a physicist began to
argue with me that evolution was a bunch of "just-so" stories, with no
supporting evidence. Since then, I've seen, read, and heard hundreds of
other creationists and "Intelligent Design" advocates argue that there
is no fossil evidence to support evolution, that the only reason
evolution has endured for almost a century and a half is because modern
scientists are part of a conspiracy to cover up the real truth, that
there are major questions concerning the reliability of radioactivity
dating methods, and that many scientists "worship at the altar of
Darwinism." These people are scientists, lawyers, philosophers,
theologians, and politicians. Indeed, I learned that creationists, like
biological species, come in many varieties: young earth, old earth, and
a reincarnated species, intelligent design creationists.

Gallup polls taken during the past 20 years consistently show a
plurality (45 percent in February 2001) of Americans agreeing with the
statement: "God created human beings pretty much in their present form
at one time within the last 10,000 years or so" (Brooks, 2001).

Two-thirds of those surveyed favored teaching creationism along with
evolution in public schools, while 29 percent are opposed (Gallup News
Service, 2000).

Other surveys have shown that perhaps half of adults do not believe that
humans evolved from earlier species, instead believing the Biblical
account in Genesis.

What Scientists Believe
There is a stark difference between the views of scientists and those of
the general public. 5% of scientists hold creationist views, compared to
44% of the public. 95% of scientists hold naturalistic or theistic views
that evolution is valid (Gallup poll, 1997).

According to Newsweek, "By one count there are some 700 scientists with
respectable academic credentials (out of a total of 480,000 U.S. earth
and life scientists) who give credence to creation-science..." That
would put the support for creation science among those branches of
science that deal with the earth and its life forms at about 0.14%
(Newsweek magazine, 1987).

Science Illiteracy
Our nation is paying a heavy price for having failed to teach students
critical thinking skills, reasoning, and good science for several
generations. The consequences are an appalling science illiteracy among
most Americans. In a recent survey (NSF, 2000), about half the
respondents did not know:
*The earliest humans did not live at the same time as dinosaurs.
*It takes Earth one year to go around the Sun.
*Electrons are smaller than atoms.
*Antibiotics do not kill viruses.

Dr. Jon Miller, Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago,
studies American views on and knowledge of science. His data reveal some
major gaps in basic knowledge. American adults in general do not
understand what molecules are. Fewer than a third can identify DNA as a
key to heredity. Only about 10 percent know what radiation is. One adult
American in five thinks the Sun revolves around the Earth (Dean, C.,

International Competitiveness in Science, Math, Technology and
The US is falling rapidly and drastically behind in science and math
education (e.g., see Getty, S. and Berman, M., 2005), compared to other
industrial countries, especially in East Asia. Those countries hold
scientists, engineers, and teachers in high regard, and provide respect
and rewards. In this country, politicians talk about education, but
little will be accomplished until the culture itself changes. On the
business side, outsourcing has gone far beyond low-wage manufacturing.
Hi-tech companies are now outsourcing research and innovation to India
and China, because that's where some of the most competent scientists
and engineers are! US competitiveness is almost certainly destined to be
second-class, unless we can turn this around (e.g., see Friedman, T. L.,

Intelligent Design, The Discovery Institute, and The Threat to Society
As disheartening as these surveys are, they only tell a small part of
the story. In the 1980s, federal courts and the Supreme Court ruled that
the First Amendment prohibited the teaching of Bible-based creationism
and so-called "Creation Science." Shortly thereafter, an "evolved"
version of creationism appeared called "Intelligent Design" (ID). ID is
actually a re-incarnation of a discredited 200-year-old argument that
goes back to William Paley, who said that the complexity of living
things required direct, divine intervention by a creator (Berman, M.

Although the current version of ID professes to be scientific, it is
religious. Phillip Johnson, a retired lawyer, is considered to be its
guru; its center is the Discovery Institute (DI) in Seattle, Washington
[http://www.discovery.org/], which includes the Center for Science and
Culture (CSC) [http://www.discovery.org/csc/].Financial support for the
DI, millions of dollars, comes from 22 foundations, at least two-thirds
of them with explicitly religious missions.

ID refuses to "publicly" describe the "designer," or say anything about
methods or timing of the implemenation of design into life on earth,
demonstrate any scientific predictability, show any empirical support,
or even conceive of how the "notion" could be tested or falsified.
[Leading ID supporter, Michael Behe, has said: "...while I argue for
design, the question of the identity of the designer is left open.
Possible candidates for the role of designer include: the God of
Christianity; an angel--fallen or not; Plato's demi-urge; some mystical
new age force; space aliens from Alpha Centauri; time travelers; or some
utterly unknown intelligent being" (Behe, M. 2001)]. ID cloaks itself in
scientific vocabulary and pseudo-scientific concepts such as
"irreducible complexity" and "specified complexity." It attacks a few
details about the evolutionary process, all of which have been
extensively and fairly analyzed by the science community and found
wanting, false or just typical ongoing research questions. DI hired a
well-known public relations firm, Creative Response Concepts
[http://www.crc4pr.com/firm/clients.asp], and has influenced a large
group of local, state and federal politicians, including US Congressmen
and Senators, and even the President. It recently helped produce a media
statement by German Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, a close friend of the
current Pope (Schoenborn, 2005). The Discovery Institute does everything
a political advocacy group would do, except perform any scientific
research or produce any new scientific knowledge.

Nevertheless, they claim to be a growing movement, and that it is "only
fair" to "teach the (non-existent scientific) controversy." Their most
important immediate goal is to insert their unscientific ideas into
public school science classrooms, and they care little about gaining
acceptance in the science community. Unfortunately, many conscientious
religious people, including politicians and school board members, have
come to believe that there really is a scientific controversy.

Many readers of APS News may not understand the broad goals of the
Discovery Institute and the Intelligent Design advocates. The Institute
developed a plan called the "Wedge," which was anonymously leaked (Wedge
Strategy, 1999; and Forrest and Gross, 2003).

Evolution is only the initial target of the Wedge's edge, to be followed
by an attack on all of science, and ultimately by profound changes in
our society, culture, and government. They wish to change much more than
the content of science; they want to change the process of doing
science, and with it the entire character of American society. Here are
their own words, excerpted from their plan and goals, the "Wedge
"Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture
seeks nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural
legacies. Bringing together leading scholars from the natural sciences
and those from the humanities and social sciences, the Center explores
how new developments in biology, physics and cognitive science raise
serious doubts about scientific materialism and have re-opened the case
for a broadly theistic understanding of nature.

"Five Year Strategic Plan Summary
"The social consequences of materialism have been devastating. As
symptoms, those consequences are certainly worth treating. However, we
are convinced that in order to defeat materialism, we must cut it off at
its source. That source is scientific materialism. This is precisely our
strategy. If we view the predominant materialistic science as a giant
tree, our strategy is intended to function as a "wedge" that, while
relatively small, can split the trunk when applied at its weakest
points. The very beginning of this strategy, the "thin edge of the
wedge," was Phillip Johnson's critique of Darwinism begun in 1991 in
Darwinism on Trial, and continued in Reason in the Balance and Defeating
Darwinism by Opening Minds. Michael Behe's highly successful Darwin's
Black Box followed Johnson's work. We are building on this momentum,
broadening the wedge with a positive scientific alternative to
materialistic scientific theories, which has come to be called the
theory of intelligent design (ID). Design theory promises to reverse the
stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with
a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.

"Governing Goals
* To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural
and political legacies.
* To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding
that nature and human beings are created by God.

"Twenty Year Goals
* To see intelligent design theory as the dominant perspective in
* To see design theory application in specific fields, including
molecular biology, biochemistry, paleontology, physics and cosmology in
the natural sciences, psychology, ethics, politics, theology and
philosophy in the humanities; to see its influence in the fine arts.
* To see design theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral and
political life"

The above quotes demonstrate that Intelligent Design's claim to be
non-religious is false. It is also obvious that the ID movement has aims
far beyond attacking evolution in its attempt to return society to the
fantasized "idyllic" and "moral" culture that prevailed in Europe prior
to the Enlightenment. Most importantly, the preservation of many
freedoms, including the freedom to choose any religion, or none, is not
consistent with ID philosophy and goals. The writings of the leading CSC
senior fellows make this nostalgia for the Dark Ages frighteningly
"From the sixth century up to the Enlightenment it is safe to say that
the West was thoroughly imbued with Christian ideals and that Western
intellectual elites were overwhelmingly Christian. False ideas that
undermined the very foundations of the Christian faith (e.g., denying
the resurrection or the Trinity) were swiftly challenged and uprooted.
Since the enlightenment, however, we have not so much lacked the means
to combat false ideas as the will and clarity." (Dembski and Richards,

"The scientific picture of the world championed since the Enlightenment
is not just wrong but massively wrong. Indeed entire fields of inquiry,
especially in the human sciences, will need to be rethought from the
ground up in terms of intelligent design." (Dembski, W. A., 1999).

John Mark Reynolds is a CSC fellow on the faculty at Biola University
(listed by Access Research Network as an ID college,
www.arn.org/college.htm). He writes, "Torrey Honors Institute (at Biola)
is at war with the modern culture. Torrey does not want to 'get along'
with materialism, secularism, naturalism, post-modernism, radical
feminism, or spiritualism. We want to win over every facet of the
culture, from the arts to the sciences, for the Kingdom of Christ."
(Reynolds, J. M., undated)

The real goals of the modern ID movement are evident. Their target is
all of science and society; evolution is just the beginning, the edge of
the "Wedge."

Scientists and Politics
There are only two Ph.D. physicists in Congress: Rep. Vern Ehlers
(R-Michigan) and Rep. Rush Holt (D-New Jersey). (see Holt, R. 2005).
Both have been leaders in working for improving science and math
education. But they are small voices among 533 other Congressmen and

Scientists are mostly invisible in the realm of politics for good
reasons: long hours of research, dedication, raising research funds,
teaching, distaste for politics, and family needs, among other demands
on their time. But individual scientists and even science organizations
can be politically powerless, regardless of whether they are Nobel prize
winners or members of the National Academy of Sciences, or their
organizations represent tens of thousands of people. Unfortunately,
politicians generally regard scientists as a small voting bloc with
little political clout [although the number of employed US scientists
and engineers is about eleven million (NSF, 1999)]. Personal experience
has shown that scientists and their advice often get little respect from
politicians. However, in New Mexico, many of us have embraced the realm
of politics and have had a significant impact on public education.

In New Mexico in 1996, the State Board of Education decided to remove
all references to evolution and the age of the earth from the state
science content standards. The majority of Board members had little
knowledge of science and were misled by a physicist member who was a
creationist. His arrogance was astounding as he complimented himself on
reviewing the National Science Education Standards, finding faults, and
accusing the developers of the standards of being "completely clueless
as to the canonical characteristics of good standards, whether they hail
from the National Academy of Sciences or not." (Lenard, R., 1996). But
in this country, the opinions of a few activist minority scientists are
often given equal weight to an overwhelming majority of mainstream
scientists. The media frequently promote this disproportionate
representation by attempting to be "fair" to both sides.

New Mexico scientists, teachers, parents, and state and national
organizations organized to oppose this attack on the science standards.
We tried discussions, lobbying, letters, and even introducing a bill in
the state legislature. It all failed. We were outsiders. Ultimately, we
decided that we had to become insiders to effect change, and I ran for
the State Board in the next election.

Despite our trepidation on entering the unknown realm of campaign
politics, it actually became a valuable lesson in democracy. Many people
volunteered, including scientists, teachers, parents, concerned
citizens, clergy. We made signs and posted them. We searched the voter
rolls for groups who voted often. I spoke at every gathering we could
arrange. We had teams go door-to-door to talk to voters, most of whom
were quite receptive and very interested in education. We actually
raised more money (entirely from small contributions) than any other
candidate had in this kind of election. We built a website. We
distributed flyers. And we ultimately defeated a 20-year incumbent.

Despite having a full-time job, and an assignment 1500 miles away in
Washington, DC, I was able to make every State Board meeting. After a
learning period, I eventually gained the confidence of most of the other
fourteen Board members. They came to rely on me for issues related to
gathering and analyzing data, statistics, and many education issues,
especially related to science and math. It was a very worthwhile
experience. And we were able to return evolution and the age of the
earth to the New Mexico science standards in 1999 and again in 2003.
Ultimately, New Mexico approved some of the best science and math
standards in the US

But the political controversy continues. Despite having lost their
attempt to greatly modify the 2003 standards, they proclaimed victory
the day after the Board's unanimous vote. And right now, they are
attempting to promote new policies in local districts that would
disingenuously support their ID concept of "teaching the controversy." A
recent ID Op Ed said "For the record, our science standards were given
national recognition as some of the best standards in the nation." But
essentially all the recognition came from scientists and science
organizations (including the AIP) that are adamantly opposed to ID
proposals and arguments. And that recognition was a result of not
accepting many of the changes that the NM Intelligent Design Network
initially proposed.

The current Intelligent Design movement poses a threat to all of science
and perhaps to secular democracy itself. The movement is highly
political, very astute, extremely well-marketed, disingenuous, and
grossly misunderstood by most Americans. The so-called "controversy" has
been couched in slogans that focus on "fairness," "just the facts,
ma'am," "Darwinism is a religion," "what are scientists afraid of,"
"evolution equals atheism," and other loaded phrases that mask their
real initial target: open up public school science classrooms to address
possible supernatural phenomena. The ID movement has strongly influenced
many politicians with little or no scientific backgrounds. Of course,
the struggle is primarily political, religious and philosophical. And we
must therefore fight in the political arena as well as the science
community. Scientists must become more politically involved, if this
assault is to be stopped. Replacing sound science and engineering with
pseudo-science, polemics, blind faith, and wishful thinking won't save
you when the curtain of "Dark Ages II" begins to fall!

Marshall Berman has been a manager at Sandia National Laboratories, vice
president of the New Mexico State Board of Education, and Executive
Director for Education of the Council on Competitiveness in Washington

Behe, M. 2001. "The Modern Intelligent Design Hypothesis," Philosophia
Christi, Series 2, Vol. 3, No. 1 (2001), pg. 165. More at

Berman, M. 2003. "Intelligent Design Creationism: A Threat to Society -
Not Just Biology,"

Brooks, D.J. 2001. "Substantial Numbers of Americans Continue to Doubt
Evolution as Explanation for Origin of Humans." Gallup News Service.
Poll analyses. March 5. Available at

Dean, Cornelia, 2005. "Scientific Savvy? In the U.S., Not Much," New
York Times, August 30, 2005.

Dembski, W. A., 1999. Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and
Theology, Intervarsity Press, 1999, p. 224.

Dembski, W. A. and Richards, J. W., 2001. Unapologetic Apologetics,
Intervarsity Press, 2001, p. 20.

Friedman, T. L., 2005. "The World is Flat, A Brief History of the
Twenty-First Century," Farrar, Straus and Giroux, April 2005.

Forrest, B. and Gross, P. R., 2003. "Creationism's Trojan Horse: The
Wedge of Intelligent Design;" Oxford University Press, Nov. 2003.

Gallup poll, 1997. http://www.religioustolerance.org/ev_publi.htm.

Gallup News Service, 2000. "Kansas Voters Fail to Re-Nominate
Anti-Evolution School Board Members." Gallup News Service. Poll
analyses. August 2. Available at

Getty, S. and Berman, M., 2005. "International Competitiveness: Where Do
We Stand?" The Natural Selection, BSCS, Winter 2005.

Holt, R. 2005. "Intelligent Design: It's Not Even Wrong," Sep. 8, 2005,

Lenard, R., 1996. "Standard Fosters Scientific Rigor," Albuquerque
Journal, Sep. 21, 1996.

Newsweek magazine, 1987. June 29, 1987, page 23; and

NSF, 1999. Characteristics of Scientists and Engineers in the United
States: 1999;

NSF, 2000. Ch. 8: Science and Technology: Public Understanding and
Public Attitudes; http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind00/c8/c8h.htm.

PollingReport.com, 2005. http://www.pollingreport.com/.

Reynolds, J. M. "Origin of Torrey," Torrey Honors Institute, Biola
University, (removed from original site; now at

Schoenborn, C. 2005. Finding Design in Nature, Op Ed by Cardinal
Christoph Schoenborn, New York Times, July 7, 2005;

Wedge Strategy, 1999. Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture;


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