. . . and he’s absolutely right. All the bluster of intelligent design (ID), once so visible in books like Michael Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box and Phillip Johnson’s Darwin on Trial, has been reduced to pathetic sniping at evolutionary biologists on a few ID websites. The arguments of IDers have been countered, the ID “science” that, we were told, was “right around the corner” hasn’t made an appearance, and their same refuted arguments keep cropping up.
(Here’s one: “Not enough time for complex organs to have evolved! Ergo Jesus.” I’d love it if people who make arguments like that would actually produce calculations supporting their claim. I’m unaware of any. In the meantime, evolutionists have the counter in the Nilsson and Pelger model showing that complex camera eyes can evolve from simple pigmented spots in an evolutionary instant.)
And, the death rattle: the überpompous David Berlinski is trotted out to recycle the old creationist claim that the fossil record doesn’t support Darwinian evolution. What has he been smoking in those cafés?
There is no longer any pretense that ID is science. It’s been reduced, as have all forms of creationism, to simpleminded criticism of evolutionary theory, without any predictions or insights of its own. Twenty years on, ID has offered us not a single insight into nature.
. . .here comes ID to provide what seems like a scientifically plausible form of anti-evolutionism. You could apparently oppose evolution without descending into outright religious obscurantism. I worried that people would find that sufficiently appealing to avoid looking too carefully at the details, rather like it’s easier to just enjoy a chocolate covered Oreo than it is to think about what it’s doing to your innards.
But that’s not what happened. Even leaving aside the blow of Dover v. Kitzmiller, ID has simply collapsed under the weight of its own vacuity. In the nineties and early 2000s, ID seemed to be producing one novel argument after another. They were variations on familiar themes, of course, but books like Darwin on Trial, Darwin’s Black Box, No Free Lunch and even Icons of Evolution, written by people with serious credentials and written with far more skill than the YEC’s could muster, seemed to advance the discussion in original ways. These books attracted enormous interest among scientists, if only in the sense that they were promoting bad ideas that needed be countered. Many books were written to counter the ID’s pretensions, and major science periodicals took notice of them.
Not so today. Consider the two biggest ID books of recent years. Michael Behe’s follow-up book, The Edge of Evolution, dropped like a stone. It got a few perfunctory reviews written by scientists who perked up just long enough to note its many errors, and then everyone ignored it. Frankly, even the ID folks don’t seem to talk about it very much. Stephen Meyer’s book Signature in the Cell was likewise met with crickets. It briefly seemed like a big deal, a big book released by a mainstream publisher, but scientists gave it a scan, saw nothing remotely new, and yawned.
The ID blogs are hardly in any better shape. It’s mostly just post after post whining and kvetching about how mean old scientists don’t take them seriously.
Indeed. I wonder whether people like Berlinski, Jon Wells or William Dembski sit around at the Discovery Institute and still pretend that they’re relevant. Can they really think that ID has caught on?
Apropos, Jason’s new book about his experiences attending creationist conferences and talking to the participants, Among the Creationists, will be out in April. I’ve read it in manuscript form and provided a cover blurb. Read it; it’s well written, packed with science, and loaded with unique insights into the people whom we often demonize but seldom meet.