Intelligent Design on Trial

Ted Davis reflects on the most important science/faith trial since Scopes.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at
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Hello Dr. Ted,

It is terrible when an American cannot express his own opinion concerning a possible scientific or philosophical matter. Any liberal group can say anything and get away with it; however, Christians that march to a beat of a different drum cannot express their own views. I believe that William Paley was right! There is intelligent design in nature, and that Intelligent Designer is the God of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. Do I see any conflict between YEC, OEC, or BioLogos in relation to ID? No, I do not. Ever since Ms. Murray O’Hare began running her big mouth in the 1960’s, Christians have been looked down upon. Before that “lady’s” time, people respected Christians. I believe in the Intelligent Design Theory, and it should be taught as philosophy of science in our educational systems. After serving over thirty years as an executive with Bank of America, I taught school for a while, both public and private. Today’s children have little or no biblical knowledge. They live in dysfunctional families and simply have no faith. Many of them are on illegal substances, or are mentally ill. Look at our society today. Murders, robbery, social diseases, and other things are worse. Medically speaking, I would rather live now. However, the world today seems worse than when I was younger. What happened to freedom of religion and speech? I am sure that someone will give a negative response to my opinions, but I still stand on what I say. Oh, why do I have a delete button with my comments? Is anyone afraid that I might start some controversy? Perhaps the icon is just there. I will accept that view.

12 posts were split to a new topic: Dcscccc discusses flagella

I see the conversation has already begun, even before I could leave the usual invitation for dialogue. This is (obviously) a hotly contested matter, even ten years afterwards. I’ll pay attention to comments and questions, but I won’t be active on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. MERRY CHRISTMAS to all.

Any disagreement involving BL and proponents of ID, Henry, tends to reduce to two bottom line issues, although other matters can also come into play, depending on the views of the specific individuals in a given exchange.

(1) Is “design” a strictly scientific inference, or does it go “beyond science” into metaphysics and theology? ID folks say that it’s mainly scientific, and leave the metaphysics for later–or for others. BL folks think the design inference is inherently metaphysical and/or theological, even though scientific evidence is involved in drawing the inference. In other words, contrary to what is often alleged, BL folks do believe that certain scientific evidence points to “design,” but we unabashedly think that the “designer” is a supernatural God–basically, if the entire universe has been “designed,” a supernatural God is the only viable candidate for that job–and we typically draw such inferences mainly (not exclusively) from cosmology and philosophy, not from biology.

(2) In most cases (Behe is an outstanding exception, and so is Michael Denton), proponents of ID very strongly oppose common ancestry, whereas BL folks do not. For a pertinent recent example, see the book by Ann Gauger and others discussed here: Even though this opposition to common ancestry isn’t written into the core of the ID position, in practice it means that ID often collapses into a type of OEC position, with the biblical issues being deliberately buried beneath the surface in order to avoid bringing “religion” into the science classroom. Basically, on this score, ID proponents want to ensure their audiences that the evidence for “macroevolution” is sketchy at best, whereas at BL that’s not on the agenda.

Yes, I must agree with you there. Many ID people tend to deny common ancestry. ID also does not necessarily point to the Supernatural. I see your point and you are right. The scientific evidence I see points to BioLogos. That is why, as a linguist, I see relationships between various creatures on the earth as I do the Indo-European Language Family. To give an example, our cat, Joe Biden, has two eyes and a brain. He makes noises that could be called primitive communication. He lets us know that he likes us, and he shows that “love” or “appreciation.” Yes, I can agree with you, Dr. Ted. But in defense of the other two views I mention, what if the Creator God, in whom I believe and worship, would create without common ancestry, but use the same basic design for various creatures simply because it works. Could that not be possible? I reject YEC because in my mind science shows the universe to be very ancient. Could not OEC be true also? There is one possibility that I believe would support BioLogos: Australia. I have mentioned this subject before. There are animals there that exist no where else in the world. Would that not support Theistic Evolution? It seems to me that Genesis has two creation stories, one is more advanced than the other due to what I call Progressive Revelation . As I have said before, Genesis 1 seems to support evolutionary creation. Also my good doctor, you have a great mind and I must respect that.

It would be interesting to see this decade later now, @TedDavis, how much science education happening across the nation heeds the wisdom of allowing discussion of philosophical/historical aspects of science to have at least some place in science classrooms. I can understand teachers who are feeling pressure to teach to certain tests not wanting to give precious time to material that doesn’t directly contribute to success on those tests. But if they aren’t prepared to help contribute towards critical thought in these areas, popular or parochial culture will be happy to fill that vacuum for them, in many cases perhaps to the loss of everything they tried so hard to teach their students.

Do you know the state of these topics in Dover classrooms these days? And would that represent the state of anything more broadly?

This has nothing to do with an American expressing his own opinion, it is about what can be taught in science class in public schools which are (must) be secular.

I must disagree, Patrick. Let’s not get into another circular argument. It is just a waste of time. You and I have different opinions concerning things due to our religious beliefs. Religions are taught in universities as well as philosophy of science. There would be nothing wrong with teaching Intelligent Design Theory in a philosophy setting. Aristotle believed in Intelligent Design; therefore, is it wrong to teach Intelligent Design in reference to various philosophers? The answer is no, Patrick. If atheism can be taught in philosophy classes such as David Hume or Voltaire, then religious concepts can be taught in philosophy classes too! You are wrong, Patrick!

Henry, I might have agreed with you … until I read the findings of the Judge in the trial. Below are some of the comments of the author to provide background to the reader:

"When ID advocates say, “teach the controversy,” they do not mean that ID should be taught as an alternative to evolution, in the same sense in which the authors of the Arkansas bill wanted creationism taught as another theory of equal merit to evolution. Rather, they are referring mainly to ID’s criticism of evolution as it is presented in textbooks: They want students to learn that some scientists do not accept important aspects of the standard picture of evolution. "

This is what the Judge said!:

"After hearing all the testimony about ID, the Judge concluded that the “tactic” of teaching the controversy “is at best disingenuous, and at worst a canard. The goal of the [ID Movement] is not to encourage critical thought, but to foment a revolution which would supplant evolutionary theory with ID.”

And THIS is what happens when Evangelicals attempt ANYTHING and EVERYTHING to have their religious views triumph in the public hustings.

And this is why so many BioLogos supporters are allergic to the term “Intelligent Design”. I will repeat again my earlier conclusion:

We should, at all costs, refuse to enter the debate over “ID” vs. “TE” and “EC”. No good will come of it. It’s a way to wedge religion into the schools…

Side Note: If I had my way, we would have a Silent Moment of Meditation in the schools. Because I find no religion in that practice.


The case was about what to teach in public high school, not at the university level. At the grade school and high school levels science education is basic and fundamental. Children need to learn about how the world works. Biology, Chemistry, Physics with Geology, Astronomy, Genetics as core to the curriculum. Starting the sciences at Kindergarten and progressing to AP Biology, Chemistry and Physics is at the core of a good education in 21st Century America.

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The larger issues about what can be, and what should be, taught in public school science classes are surely insoluble here, and perhaps also anywhere else. IMO, students benefit significantly when a bit less instructional time is given to certain basic scientific information, in order to devote at least some time to historical and philosophical aspects of science. Judging from common practice in high schools and colleges, many scientists and science teachers do not agree with this, or else they simply feel compelled not to do that even if they want to–compelled either by state mandated curricula (high schools) or by expectations placed on them by their own or related academic departments (colleges and universities). Nevertheless, that is my view, and the two-semester physics course I used to teach at Messiah reflected this.

Whether “religious” topics can actually be brought into high school biology courses (at state schools) is an interesting question. IMO, the answer is an unambiguous YES. Let me illustrate with a specific example. Shortly after the Kitzmiller trial, I did a lecture, “Honest Talk about Intelligent Design,” for this group in Seattle: It was a very hostile audience, but no matter. During the Q&A, when I stated that some aspects of ID might be appropriate to discuss in a high school biology class, I was challenged immediately, and here’s the example I offered. Would it be appropriate for students in an advanced biology course to read part or all of Darwin’s Origin of Species? Their answer, judging from a show of hands, was YES. In that case, I argued, it would border on malpractice not to give background for Darwin’s own concluding chapter, in which he compares at length design/creation with his hypothesis of descent with modification via natural selection. Otherwise, students would not fully appreciate what D was doing there, and also in the rest of the book. I didn’t get more kickback after that example, but it’s hardly the only one I could offer.

That is just one of several reasons why I think that a full implementation of Judge Jones’ decision would somewhat impoverish public education. It all depends on what it means to “teach ID as an alternative to evolution.” As I’ve said in various places, ID just is not (at least presently) an alternative to evolution–there isn’t really an ID research program that compares in any favorable way with evolution. So, it’s hard to imagine what that activity, prohibited by the judge (in two telephone area codes, since it’s just a federal district court decision rather than a Supreme Court decision), would look like. But, apparently, the defendants thought ID is a viable alternative to evolution.


The more I learn how complicated nature is, the more I believe that it has to have been designed by God. I think most of us who call ourselves Theistic Evolutionists have come to that conclusion. However, I don’t consider belief in God to be a part of science, and I don’t require scientific proof of God as a prerequisite for my belief. ID proponents are trying to say that by ascribing the appearance of design in nature to an unnamed intelligent designer, rather than to God, they can circumvent court decisions that do not allow teaching religion in public schools.


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I think science should be taught in the public school science classroom. But it would also be appropriate to explain why creationism and ID are not appropriate subjects there.


When I lived in the Federal Republic of Germany and attended school there, we had religion classes in public school and the science classes were separate. Why can’t we have that in the United States. Protestants went to their class, Catholics and Jews to theirs, and atheists to theirs. I do not see why in the United States that we make such a problem of it. Does Germany have separation of church and state now? Yes! Why are Americans so afraid to study philosophy of religion in public schools?


If you mean “philosophy” classes that teach about Hinduism, Buddhism, Catholicism and maybe even Astrology … that sounds fine. Do you think any Evangelicals would approve of such a broad-minded curriculum?


Judge Jones did mention that Intelligent Design would be an acceptable topic in a philosophy or comparative religion class.


Because it would be totally impractical as well as illegal to teach religion in public schools. School lead prayer in schools have been outlawed in the 1950’s. As for a class on the philosophy of religion in public schools, I seen this tried in many public schools mostly sponsored by Christian groups but have been cancelled by these same groups because it was impossible for them to treat all religions equally. Philosophy is an area of study that is usually introduced at the university level.

Hello Dr Ted,

Thank you for your thoughtful analysis of the trial in Dover. Having followed the trial pretty closely at the time, I find your analysis to be very insightful and thoughtful.

What the school board in Dover did was nonsensical in my opinion. ID may include some good arguments (i.e. irreducible complexity) but they are all god-of-the-gaps arguments. It does not constitute a body of science that can compete with evolution. In other words, if we removed evolution and replaced it with ID, there would be virtually nothing scientific to teach to explain what we see regarding life. A huge step backwards in my opinion.


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