Would C. S. Lewis Have Joined the Discovery Institute? (3 guesses and the first 2 don’t count)

Over at The Biologos Forum, David Williams has begun a series on what C. S. Lewis thought about evolution, Genesis, myth, and how all this fits together for Christianity (Surprised by Jack: C.S. Lewis on Mere Christianity, the Bible, and Evolutionary Science, Part 1).

Williams’s series is prompted by a recent publication of the Discovery Institute edited by John G. West (senior fellow and vice president). The Discovery Institute is a well-known apologetics organization advocating, among other things, Intelligent Design, which, according to their website, claims that “certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause [i.e., God], not an undirected process such as natural selection.”

For those new to this debate, you could call this “evolution lite”–some things, it is claimed, can only to be explained by direct divine intervention rather than simply a “process.”

Fair enough. It’s a free country. But what caught Williams’s attention is the aforementioned book, The Magician’s Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society. Its purpose, along with an accompanying website and documentary, is refreshingly transparent if also disturbingly idiosyncratic. As Williams reports, this project is aimed at,

enlisting Lewis as an ally in a wide-ranging campaign dealing with “evolution, intelligent design, bioengineering, moral relativism, and even the role of government” [from the Introduction, p. 13]…. To the essayists’ contentions that Lewis was politically conservative [at least in a British sense], a moral and epistemological objectivist, a sharp critic of atheistic Materialism, and an opponent of reductionistic Scientism I say nolo contendere. None of this is news. However, other features of the book are sure to raise eyebrows among close readers of Lewis, especially Edward J. Larson’s alarmingly paranoid chapter which argues that Lewis saw “science as the ultimate threat to freedom in modern society” [from Larson's essay. p. 57].

Williams further comments on the book’s apologetic aim:

For West … it is clearly unacceptable for theistic evolutionists to be able to cite Lewis in support of their alleged heterodoxy, and so West attempts to rescue Lewis from what he regards as a pro-evolutionary misreading of the man and his work.

West’s aim seems doomed to failure in the face of Lewis’s own very public statements advocating evolution, which West himself recognizes. But, to reach his apologetic goal, West claims to uncover for us the real Lewis, the one who can only be found beneath the surface of what he wrote rather than what Lewis explicitly said.

To make the case that Lewis is not an ally of theistic evolution … West [in his chapter "Darwin in the Dock"] weaves together a revisionist biographical sketch of Lewis, portraying him as having harbored deep-seated doubts about Darwin from his early days and then matured into a thoroughgoing but private skeptic towards evolution in his later years. It is this tendentious revisionist distorted biographical lens through which West then goes about re-reading some of Lewis’s other public statements. West’s new spin on Lewis depends upon selections taken from Lewis’s boyhood letters to his father and private correspondences with anti-evolutionist Bernard Acworth, observations about the ways in which Lewis underlined books in his private library, and an anecdote or two. When nothing firmer can be found, a quotation from Tolkien or another of Lewis’s known associates will do in a pinch.

Summarizing West’s view succinctly, Williams writes: “West attempts to squeeze Lewis back into West’s own preconceived orthodoxy, rather than letting Lewis be Lewis.”

Sometimes I wonder what drives people to such desperate measures.

In this series, Williams’s aim is to set the record straight (which until now needed little help) by laying out Lewis’s views on three areas relevant to this discussion: Scripture in general (especially Genesis and myth), Adam and the doctrine of the Fall, and evolutionary science and the myth of “Evolutionism.”

I am looking forward to this series, not so much for its promise to put to rest West’s awkward thesis (which, frankly, seems to be its own refutation), but for laying out Lewis’s thoughts on Scripture and evolution.


The Casualty Problem (Hardman, parts 3 of 3)
evangelicalism, evolution, and the facts
get to know me: my approach to interpreting the Bible, in 5 words
2 more reasons why Eric Metaxas’s “science proves God” approach falters
  • RickK

    ” Sometimes I wonder what drives people to such desperate measures”

    Perhaps it is the Young-Earth, Reconstructionist Christian benefactors that pay West’s bills. The Discovery Institute exists for one reason – to chip away at the separation of church and state and get God back into public policy and public education. If Genesis was taught as an alternative to evolution in public schools, “Intelligent Design” would vanish without a trace. ID is a political lobbying tactic and nothing more.

    • http://www.cslewisweb.com John West

      Actually, I support the separation of church and state (properly understood), and I don’t think Genesis is a science textbook, so why on Earth would I want it taught that way in public schools? It seems to me that a serious refutation of a position you disagree with requires more than hurling ad hominem attacks.


      John West
      Discovery Institute

      • Chris

        Having read Dr. Bruce Gordon’s statements on the relationship between ID and politics, I can confirm that many people at Discovery Institute are at the very least skeptical of the attempts to force ID into the classroom.

        That said, ID is just another God of the Gaps. It is a specific form of complexity theory which assumes that the answer for how things gain complexity is God, even though there is not, as of yet, any reason to believe that this is the case. Discovery Institute as a whole seems dedicated primarily to making the Christian culture war seem more academic and respectable, a comment which I am particularly capable of making since I see the personal Facebook pages of several Discovery Institute members and their friends. I’m sure they would disagree with my assessment, though.

        • AHH

          While I have not seen Bruce Gordon’s statement, it is well known that the Discovery Institute was involved in attempts to get anti-evolution viewpoints into public school science standards in Kansas (the most notorious case), Ohio, and Texas. If now they are saying they don’t want to force ID into the classroom, it must be a fairly recent change of heart.
          I agree with Chris’s perception about the DI (at least its part dealing with science) being very much a part of the “culture wars”. This is perhaps exemplified by their collaboration on the science part of Focus on the Family’s so-called “Truth Project”.

          • peteenns

            Oh My.

  • http://byzantium.wordpress.com Kullervo

    But doesn’t That Hideous Strength deal explicitly with idea that scientism as means to manmade utopia poses an immense threat to human dignity?

    • peteenns

      Yes, scientism, not evolution.

  • Christy

    Dr. Enns,
    Nice post. I really stopped by to say thanks for the wonderful Bible curriculum you wrote. We are halfway through the first Telling God’s Story book. (We are newly ex-pats, and the kids don’t yet understand much of their Sunday School.) We do the lessons on Sundays and the kids remind us if we forget, which is a huge compliment. We homeschool and we are still waiting for you and the Biologos or ASA folks to put out some science/theology materials for kids. (Hint, hint, hint.) There are plenty of beautiful books and nice DVD’s out there to teach my little kiddos all the stuff I don’t want them to learn, and not much from the other side that you could use below high school level (which as Carolyn Arends pointed out in her CT column recently, may be a little late to start the conversation. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/november/god-did-it.html) There are more than a few of us who would like to send our kids off to an academically solid Christian college prepared to agree with their intelligent, godly professors. I read your post lamenting the freedom to ask questions and teach freely in many Evangelical institutions, but thanks to blogs and books by you and others and the conversations they raise in mainstream Evangelical subculture, things are changing. I am encouraged to see that even my beloved alma mater Wheaton is progressing- this year’s science symposium was “Evolutionary Theory: Implications for Science and Christian Belief” and the 2010 theology conference was N. T. Wright’s New Pauline theory. Thanks again for the Bible curriculum, I recommend it to all my homeschooling friends.

  • AHH

    There was a good, thorough article in Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith a couple years ago called “C. S. Lewis on Evolution and Intelligent Design” by Michael Peterson of Asbury University. I haven’t seen the Discovery Institute propaganda piece, but I suspect much of it would be countered by Peterson’s scholarship. The article is available on the web:

    • http://www.cslewisweb.com John West


      By all means, people should read Peterson’s piece. Two of my three chapters respond in detail to Petereson’s analysis, which, as you might suspect, I disagree with at points. So I’d encourage fair-minded people to read both. BTW, I invited Peterson to have his piece included (or a revision of it if he so wished) in The Magician’s Twin, but he declined.


      John West
      Discovery Institute

  • Christian

    Often we quote people and use the quotes in support of our argument without realizing that quotes are just like Scripture – they need to have context, especially in a historical sense. What was going on at the time? Where did the person live? When did he speak/write this quote? At the end of his/her life?

    C.S. Lewis was a staunch atheist for his early years, and believed in evolution. Yet after becoming a believer, you can see in his next 30 years his belief in evolution dissolving. At the end of his life it appears he abandoned the belief.

    So can you find evidence of C.S. Lewis’ belief in evolution? Sure. But you can also find evidence of my belief in Santa Claus at one point.

    In Great Britain at the time, evolution was very influential. Many didn’t question it. Much like people in America believe democracy to be the best form of government. Don’t you think the culture surrounding Lewis had an impact in his belief?

    I’m not a supporter of evolution, nor am I against it. I don’t have a dog in the hunt. I do lament that too often we reduce people to jabs in arguments instead of celebrating God’s work in them.

  • Jim

    Re if Lewis would have joined DI, I’d ask Anthony Hopkins

  • John I.

    The book is hardly a desparate measure, and it is propaganda itself to say so; I guess it’s true, “it takes one to know one.” Does the book have an axe to grind? Of course, but so does virtually everything on the biologos site. Is the Discovery Viewpoint a legitimate one to investigate and analyze? Why not? It’s at least as valid as the pro-random evolution viewpoint. From past comments and this one, it appears you have only one brush with which to paint the Discovery Institute, and it’s not only broad but covered in tar.


    • peteenns

      The point concerns the book. I am pretty familiar with Lewis’s writings on science and evolution (as is David Williams), and though it is hard to put such a supple thinker as Lewis in any box, the book in question goes beyond reasonable bounds. That is not painting all of DI with one brush, just one book.

      • http://www.cslewisweb.com John West

        Dear Pete,
        David Williams’ initial critique of my book (since taken down and then reposted without the material you quote) was not accurate. Contrary to his claims, my analysis of Lewis in the book rests primarily on Lewis’s published writings, although I do indeed bring in his correspondence and some unpublished materials that provide further context. Also, I make clear that Lewis did not have a theological problem with the affirmation of common ancestry (I share Lewis’s view on this point). My main point in the chapter in question is Lewis’s skepticism of unguided natural selection and how much it can accomplish, and his skepticism of what might be called Social Darwinism. I should note that I only contributed three chapters to the book, and the book focuses much more broadly on the issue of Lewis and scientism, not just evolution and intelligent design. Other contributors include Jack Collins (from Covenant Seminary), Victor Reppert, and Michael Aeschliman.

        You assert that “the book in question goes beyond reasonable bounds.” But you also acknowledge that you haven’t read the book. It seems to me rather strange to condemn a book so vigorously (even angrily) that you haven’t read.


        John West
        Discovery Institute

        • peteenns

          Point well taken, John. I shouldn’t comment on books I haven’t read. I should have said, “based on Williams’s reading……”

    • Beau Quilter

      John I.

      The reason that ID is not as valid as evolution is clear. Evolution has mountains of scientific evidence and research supporting it; more peer reviewed articles and books supporting evolution than could be read in a lifetime. ID has barely a handful of peer-reviewed articles, most dealing with ID support peripherally – you could read them in an afternoon. Also, to be clear there is no theory of ID. ID only tries (unsuccessfully) to chip away at evolution has a model of biological development; it offers no alternative model of biological development.

      And, for the millionth time, evolution is not “random”. Mutations are “random” to an extent, but natural selection – the cornerstone of evolution science – is the opposite of “random”.

      • John I.

        Natural selection is also “random”, in the sense of “not predictable” and not the result of “natural laws” (e.g., like Boyles law, the four fundamental forces, etc.). While the associations between reproductive success, species characteristics, and particular environmental variables are not random per se, The occurrence, or not, of the environmental variables is unconstrained and hence effectively random. Moreover, the co-occurrence of any particular combination of genetic and epigenetic characteristics is also unconnected, and hence effectively random. So, while it is true that a particular set of characteristics in a particular environment will be statistically related to a greater or lesser rate of reproductive success (e.g., marsh sedges do not successfully reproduce in deserts), the occurrence of the characteristics and the environment are unrelated variables. Natural selection only works to eliminate genetic material; it does not generate it. Only random mutations do. Natural selection does not have any push power vis a vis the generation of new genetic material. Consequently, whether a particular species, or individual of the species, survives depends on whether it randomly gets the genetic material required to reproduce in greater quantities than others in a p articular environment (which is constantly changing in ways unrelated to the genetic mutations).

        As for evolution being proven in some sense (e.g., ” Evolution has mountains of scientific evidence and research supporting it;”), I suggest stop drinking the koolaid and reading more critical studies and reports.

        There are mountains of biological facts, and those facts can be understood and framed from the perspective of evolution with some success (but not complete, as evidenced by contradictory theories, contradicted hypotheses, etc.). However, the fact that that perspective is not completely successful means that we have not yet fully understood what has been happening over time. It could also be, and the evidence is also consistent with the following theory, that God directly intervened at times. Perhaps he takes delight in interacting with his creation as he does in interacting with humans. I don’t know, I’ll ask him when I see him in the resurrection. Until then, I’ll remain rather agnostic about materialist, random evolution.

        • Beau Quilter

          No, John I.

          I’m afraid that you are the one imbibing koolaid (my guess is that the only “critical studies and reports” you’ve ever read were published by the Discovery Institute – and over half were written by lawyers, not scientists). I was not referring to the “mountains of biological facts”, though they certainly exist. I was referring to the mountains of research specifically documenting the overwhelming evidence of natural selection. The idea that the vast scientific majority (at least 95%, probably more) in support of evolutionary theory, is somehow “drinking koolaid” is frankly silly.

          As for the “randomness” of evolution – you don’t understand the meaning of the word “random”. Even genetic mutation is not purely random, but is confined to the limited possibilities presented by the make up of genetic material and the cellular processes of genetic replication. “Random” does not mean “predictable” as you intimate. The paragraphs in a book are not random, yet you cannot predict what they will say until you open the cover. The power of natural selection to, as you say, “eliminate genetic material”, is driven by species survival, and thus is distinctively not random.

  • rvs

    I am confident when I say that Lewis would not like the reading practices of the DI, as a general rule. His Experiment in Criticism is too adventuresome, poetic, mythic, and discerning to allow for a dogmatic hermeneutics of Scripture aimed at shutting down conversation. I do not know enough about the DI to know if that is what goes on there, but I do know that too many in the Creationism-must-be-my-way-or-the-highway Camp use specific concepts of creation as litmus tests in ways that are profoundly stupid. Peter, of course, knows this as well.

    • John I.

      And since DI is not a creationism my way or the highway type of group, perhaps CSL would be interested in joining them. If not as a member, then at least for some good discussion over quality cigars and beer.

      • Beau Quilter

        um … are you suggesting that CS Lewis join the DI posthumously? He died in 1963. Before most of the Discovery Institute members were born

  • Stephen Hesed

    And so The Question for the Historical Lewis begins.

  • Beau Quilter

    Ultimately, the question of whether C.S. Lewis would have supported the Discovery Institute doesn’t seem particularly valuable to me. Lewis might have contributed something to theology (you’d have to ask a theologian), but his contributions to fields of science are nil. His ramblings on the nature of “instinct” in Mere Christianity, for example, are incoherent and completely unscientific.

  • http://www.discovery.org/a/7501 Casey Luskin

    Greetings all.

    Dr. Enns writes: “The Discovery Institute is a well-known apologetics organization advocating, among other things, Intelligent Design, which, according to their website, claims that “certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause [i.e., God], not an undirected process such as natural selection.”

    There are two things wrong with this Dr. Enns’s statement.

    First, I question Dr. Enns’s labeling of Discovery Institute as merely an “apologetics” organization. To be sure, many (though not all) of our fellows have interests in apologetics, but “apologetics organizations” don’t usually:

    (1) Fund scientific research;
    (2) Have atheists and agnostics affiliated with their organization;
    (3) Deal with many issues that clearly have nothing to do with apologetics, like transportation, communications, technology, and foreign affairs.

    Items (1), (2), and (3) are all true of Discovery Institute. I don’t mean to quibble, but it seems a bit inaccurate to label Discovery Institute as merely an “apologetics organization.”

    Second, Dr. Enns adds his own words “[i.e. God]” to the definition of intelligent design on Discovery Institute’s website. Again, to be sure, many folks at Discovery Institute believe the designer is God. I am one of them. In fact, folks in the ID movement are entirely open about their personal views about the designer. But that doesn’t mean that the theory of intelligent design identifies the designer. In fact, ID restricts its claims to what we can learn from the scientific data, and does not try to address religious questions about the identity of the designer. Stephen Meyer explains:

    “The theory of intelligent design does not claim to detect a supernatural intelligence possessing unlimited powers. Though the designing agent responsible for life may well have been an omnipotent deity, the theory of intelligent design does not claim to be able to determine that. Because the inference to design depends upon our uniform experience of cause and effect in this world, the theory cannot determine whether or not the designing intelligence putatively responsible for life has powers beyond those on display in our experience. Nor can the theory of intelligent design determine whether the intelligent agent responsible for information life acted from the natural or the ‘supernatural’ realm. Instead, the theory of intelligent design merely claims to detect the action of some intelligent cause (with power, at least, equivalent to those we know from experience) and affirms this because we know from experience that only conscious, intelligent agents produce large amounts of specified information. The theory of intelligent design does not claim to be able to determine the identity or any other attributes of that intelligence, even if philosophical deliberation or additional evidence from other disciplines may provide reasons to consider, for example, a specifically theistic design hypothesis.” (Signature in the Cell, pp. 428-429)

    Indeed, consistent with this, there are ID proponents who are not theists, and some are even atheists or agnostics.

    ID proponents are entirely open about their personal beliefs (or lack thereof) regarding the identity of the designer, they just make it clear that these are their personal views, and not conclusions of the scientific theory of intelligent design. In fact, I would say much the same thing as Meyer: I personally am a Christian theist, although my beliefs about the identity of the designer are not the conclusions of the theory of ID.



    Casey Luskin

    • peteenns


      I’ve always been curious about something, and your comment brought it to mind again. Does not the very term “Intelligent Design” imply–indeed, require–an intelligent designer, i.e., a sentient being we would normally call “God”? Whether or not members of ID are open or non-committal to the “identity of the designer,” does not “intelligent” and “designer” not imply some sort of theism?

      In other words, I am asking what kind of intelligent designer an atheist proponent of ID would be comfortable talking about.

      • http://www.intelligentdesign.org Casey Luskin

        Dear Dr. Enns,

        Thanks for your thoughtful question and reply. The term “intelligent design” means exactly what it says: “intelligent design.” To put it another way, it means design by an intelligent agent or some intelligent cause.

        Being Christian theists, you and I would certainly identify that agent as God. (And please note: I’m very open about my Christian beliefs regardless of whether I’m speaking before a secular, or religious forum.) So you, and I, and I’m sure many other people, would take ID to “imply” the existence of God.

        But that is not an absolutely necessary implication. The only requirements that intelligent design places on the designer is that it be a cause that is intelligent. In that regard, some people believe in natural designers. Some people believe in telic forces inherent in the universe. There are even atheist or agnostic proponents of intelligent design. I assume they believe in a designer who isn’t God, and are thus an atheist.

        You and I may not feel that a natural designer or a telic force the best candidates for the designer. You and I would reject atheism, agnosticism, new-age-ism, pantheism, etc. But the scientific theory of intelligent design doesn’t require this. It doesn’t specify who the designer must be. It is silent on the identity of the designer, and as such, there are ID proponents who span a variety of views on the question of the designer. Like the name says, all intelligent design requires is intelligent design.

        I should also note that this is not a rhetorical argument, or some kind of a “strategy,” but rather it’s a principled position. Thomas Woodward clearly outlines the principled reasons why the biological evidence for ID may not allow us to identify the designer:

        “There is no ‘Made by Yahweh’ engraved on the side of the bacterial rotary motor–the flagellum. In order to find out what or who its designer is, one must go outside the narrow discipline of biology. Cross-disciplinary dialogue must begin with the fields of philosophy, sociology, history, anthropology, and theology. Design itself, however, is a direct scientific inference; it does not depend on a single religious premise for its conclusions.” (Thomas Woodward, Darwin Strikes Back: Defending the Science of Intelligent Design, pg. 15 (Baker Books, 2006).)

        In other words, let’s assume (for the sake of argument) that the flagellar molecular machine indicates that it arose by intelligent design. If this is the case, then this biological structure is best scientifically explained by intelligent design. But the raw data–the flagellar machine itself–has no way of directly telling us whether the designer is Yahweh, Allah, Buddha, Yoda, or some other type of intelligent agency.

        Thus, ID’s non-identification of the designer stems from a scientific desire to take a scientific approach and respect the limits of science and not inject religious discussions about theological questions into scientific inquiry. In other words, using present knowledge, identifying the designer can’t be done by science. It is a strictly theological question, and thus for the theory of ID to try to identify the designer would be to inappropriately conflate science with religion.

        Thanks and hope this helps.



        • peteenns

          This helps, in a way, and part of the problem is not having thought much about it.

          It’s just…..”intelligent design.” Can’t you people think of better term? “Irreducible complexity” to me seems more non-committal about an “intelligence” behind it. I can’t get around both intelligent and design implying an all powerful being, and calling it an “intelligent agency” doesn’t help much.

          I suppose, then, that what agnostic/atheists IDers mean is more negative: evidence of irreducible complexity calls into question a Darwinian mechanism–which is not so much a nod to an sentient intelligent designer but a comment on the inadequacy of a particular theory.

          On the “flageller motor,” when I was with BioLogos, I recall seeing a presentation at a large gather on how FM is not irreducibly complex. I don’t remember a word of it, and I can only recall some shiny pictures, but I do remember some people were very impressed–which I guess calls up the whole “God of the gaps” criticism….

        • Richard Forrest

          My word! What a lovely word salad.

          So, to summarise: you are claiming that the existence of the bacterial flagellum indicates the existence of an “intelligent designer” but because the nature of that “intelligent designer” may be outside the remit of scientific investigation the identity of that “intelligent designer is not open to question.

          Let’s start with a few facts rather than obfuscation, shall we?

          “Irreducible complexity” – the supposed hallmark for the intervention of an “intelligent designer” (and why don’t we just just the acronym “GOD” (short for “Generalised Omnipotent Designer”) to save my typing fingers – was predicted on the basis of evolutionary theory by Herman Muller in 1918 . Here is the paper in which he predicted it http://www.genetics.org/content/3/5/422.full.pdf

          So the supposed test for ID was predicted on the basis of evolutionary theory nearly a century ago. Not a good start for ID.

          Setting this aside, let’s look at ID “theory”, which states {according to the DI here: http://www.intelligentdesign.org/whatisid.php

          “Intelligent design begins with the observation that intelligent agents produce complex and specified information (CSI).”

          As a basis for “theory” this is as silly as saying that because mackerel are fish, all fish are mackerel. Just because some instance of complexity are produced by “intelligent agents”, it is not a logical consequence that all instances of such complexity are the product of “intelligent agents”.

          “Design theorists hypothesize that if a natural object was designed, it will contain high levels of CSI.”

          ..which is an “hypothesis drawn not only from a logically incoherent premise, but is one which assumes the consequent – another logical fallacy. The weasel word is “specified” – which implies an agent who specifies (presumably GOD (and please note that this an an acronym, not a reference to the Christian (or Hindu or Moslem) God).

          “Scientists then perform experimental tests upon natural objects to determine if they contain complex and specified information.”

          They do? I am not aware of any research carried out by any scientists to determine if they contain “complex and specified information”. How would one do that? What observation or measurement could determine if a natural object does not contain “complex and specified information”? After all, all matter is complex, and anybody who believes in God (as opposed to GOD) believes that they whole of creation is designed.

          “One easily testable form of CSI is irreducible complexity,”

          …which, just to remind you, was predicted on the basis of evolutionary theory almost a century ago…

          ” which can be discovered by experimentally reverse-engineering biological structures to see if they require all of their parts to function.”

          …which of course is something ID researchers have never done. What they have done is to cherry-pick the research findings of scientists and misrepresent them to imply that they support their “theory” whilst studiously ignoring any evidence which refutes it. A rather clear example of this came from the Dover v. Kitzmiller trial, during which Michael Behe dismissed as “unconvincing” scientific papers he later conceded that he hadn’t even read.

          “When ID researchers find irreducible complexity in biology, they conclude that such structures were designed.”

          “Designed” being a term which they evade any attempts to define in the rigourous way in which scientists define their terms.

          Let’s just remind ourselves that the phenomenon of “irreducible (or specified) complexity” was predicted by evolutionary theory, which makes the supposed indicator of ID a load of dishonest crock.

          Setting that aside:
          In science, hypotheses must be testable. This means that they must set constraints on possible outcome. This means that there have to be potential observations or measurements which could not be explained by the hypothesis. If a dog gave birth to a cat, it would falsify evolutionary theory. There is no equivalent for ID – unless you can propose a potential observation or measurement which could not be “explained” by the intervention of GOD using unspecified but potentially supernatural means.

          Setting that aside:

          Assuming that certain natural phenomena could not be explained by any existing scientific theory, that does not mean that we invoke the intervention of GOD (and please not that this is an acronym, not a reference to the Christian (or Hindu, or Moslem) God) to explain them. We say “I don’t know” and carry on looking. Science exists not because of what we know, but because of what we don’t know. “I don’t know” is a perfectly valid scientific conclusion, and is what drives the whole process of scientific enquiry. When faced with a question science can’t answer, we look for answers. We don’t abandon science in favour of the untestable assertion that GOD did it.

          Science works. It made possible the device you are using to communicate your rejection of science. To redefine its fundamental nature to accommodate the supernatural, as ID proponents demand, would be ridiculous. To claim scientific support for a “theory” whilst demanding that we redefine science in this way so that the “theory” can be treated as science is downright dishonest.

          And that, quite frankly, is the root of the whole issue. We should reject ID not for any particular religious or scientific reason, but because it is dishonest. This dishonesty was exposed clearly during the Dover v. Kitzmiller trial, during which ID proponents lied under oath. The claims of ID for scientific legitimacy are dishonest, and the fact that some at least of its fellows have a perfectly respectable track record of scientific research and publication means that they must know that they are dishonest.

    • Beau Quilter

      So, Mr. Luskin, how many atheist scientists are members of the Discovery Institute?

      • http://www.intelligentdesign.org Casey Luskin

        I’m not sure–we don’t investigate the religious beliefs (or lack thereof) of our members. That said, DI fellow, mathematician, and philosopher David Berlinski is a well known agnostic proponent of ID. My DI co-worker Rob Crowther (who is pro-ID) is also a publicly identified agnostic. There are probably other folks affiliated with Discovery Institute who are not religious, but like I said, we don’t investigate the theological views of our members.

        • Beau Quilter

          So two agnostics.

        • Beau Quilter

          Mr. Luskin

          David Berlinski is an agnostic philosopher, not I scientist or biologist (though he dabbled as a research assistant in microbiology at Columbia); and, though he criticizes evolutionary theory, doesn’t he step back from being identified as an “ID proponent”? He stated his relationship to ID in this way:

          “My attitude is pretty much what it has always been: warm but distant. It’s the same attitude that I display in public toward my ex-wives.”

          Rob Crowther is an agnostic with a BA in Journalism and a career in PR – which is what he does for the Discovery Institute.

          My point is simply this. You are grossly overstating the “support” for ID among nonbelievers generally, and among atheists specifically.

        • Beau Quilter

          In fact, let me be much more specific: you have claimed that “There are even atheist or agnostic proponents of intelligent design.”

          Can you name even one scientist (most importantly, a biologist, but we’ll remain open minded), who is both an atheist and a proponent of ID?

    • Richard Forrest

      So, what scientific research has the DI funded, and where have they published their findings?

      It’s rather telling that they needed to fake the laboratory background when they were touting their “research” programme.


      Do you think that an organisation engaged genuinely in research would need to do so?

  • http://www.intelligentdesign.org Casey Luskin

    When discussing the whether or not Darwinian evolution is random, or predictable/purposeful, I find it less helpful to attack one another, and most helpful to simply look at what mainstream biology textbooks say:

    “[E]volution works without either plan or purpose … Evolution is random and undirected.” (Biology, by Kenneth R. Miller & Joseph S. Levine (1st ed., Prentice Hall, 1991), pg. 658; (2nd ed., Prentice Hall, 1993), pg. 658; (3rd ed., Prentice Hall, 1995), pg. 658; (4th ed., Prentice Hall, 1998), pg. 658; (5th ed. Teachers Edition, 2000), pg. 658; emphasis in original.)

    “Humans represent just one tiny, largely fortuitous, and late-arising twig on the enormously arborescent bush of life.” (Stephen J Gould quoted in Biology, by Peter H Raven & George B Johnson (5th ed., McGraw Hill, 1999), pg 15; (6th ed., McGraw Hill, 2000), pg. 16.)

    “Some even saw in the record of horse evolution evidence for a progressive, guiding force, consistently pushing evolution to move in a single direction. We now know that such views are misguided…” (Biology, by Peter H Raven & George B Johnson (6th ed., McGraw Hill, 2000), pg. 443.)

    “By coupling undirected, purposeless variation to the blind, uncaring process of natural selection, Darwin made theological or spiritual explanations of the life processes superfluous.” (Evolutionary Biology, by Douglas J. Futuyma (3rd ed., Sinauer Associates Inc., 1998), p. 5.)

    “Darwin knew that accepting his theory required believing in philosophical materialism, the conviction that matter is the stuff of all existence and that all mental and spiritual phenomena are its by-products. Darwinian evolution was not only purposeless but also heartless–a process in which the rigors of nature ruthlessly eliminate the unfit. Suddenly, humanity was reduced to just one more species in a world that cared nothing for us. The great human mind was no more than a mass of evolving neurons. Worst of all, there was no divine plan to guide us.” (Biology: Discovering Life by Joseph S. Levine & Kenneth R. Miller (1st ed., D.C. Heath and Co., 1992), pg. 152; (2nd ed.. D.C. Heath and Co., 1994), p. 161; emphases in original.)

    “Adopting this view of the world means accepting not only the processes of evolution, but also the view that the living world is constantly evolving, and that evolutionary change occurs without any ‘goals.’ The idea that evolution is not directed towards a final goal state has been more difficult for many people to accept than the process of evolution itself.” (Life: The Science of Biology by William K. Purves, David Sadava, Gordon H. Orians, & H. Craig Keller, (6th ed., Sinauer; W.H. Freeman and Co., 2001), pg. 3.)

    “The ‘blind’ watchmaker is natural selection. Natural selection is totally blind to the future. … Humans are fundamentally not exceptional because we came from the same evolutionary source as every other species. It is natural selection of selfish genes that has given us our bodies and brains … Natural selection is a bewilderingly simple idea. And yet what it explains is the whole of life, the diversity of life, the apparent design of life.” (Richard Dawkins quoted in Biology by Neil A. Campbell, Jane B. Reese. & Lawrence G. Mitchell (5th ed., Addison Wesley Longman, 1999), pgs. 412-413.)

    “Of course, no species has ‘chosen’ a strategy. Rather, its ancestors—little by little, generation after generation—merely wandered into a successful way of life through the action of random evolutionary forces …. Once pointed in a certain direction, a line of evolution survives only if the cosmic dice continues to roll in its favor. … [J]ust by chance, a wonderful diversity of life has developed during the billions of years in which organisms have been evolving on earth.” (Biology by Burton S. Guttman (1st ed., McGraw Hill, 1999), pgs. 36-37.)

    “It is difficult to avoid the speculation that Darwin, as has been the case with others, found the implications of his theory difficult to confront. … The real difficulty in accepting Darwin’s theory has always been that it seems to diminish our significance. Earlier, astronomy had made it clear that the earth is not the center of the solar universe, or even of our own solar system. Now the new biology asked us to accept the proposition that, like all other organisms, we too are the products of a random process that, as far as science can show, we are not created for any special purpose or as part of any universal design.” (Invitation to Biology, by Helena Curtis & N. Sue Barnes(3rd ed., Worth, 1981), pgs. 474-475.)

    “The advent of Darwinism posted even greater threats to religion by suggesting that biological relationship, including the origin of humans and of all species, could be explained by natural selection without the intervention of a god. Many felt that evolutionary randomness and uncertainty had replaced a deity having conscious, purposeful, human characteristics. The Darwinian view that evolution is a historical process and present-type organisms were not created spontaneously but formed in a succession of selective events that occurred in the past, contradicted the common religious view that there could be no design, biological or otherwise, without an intelligent designer. … The variability by which selection depends may be random, but adaptations are not; they arise because selection chooses and perfects only what is adaptive. In this scheme a god of design and purpose is not necessary. Neither religion nor science has irrevocably conquered. Religion has been bolstered by paternalistic social systems in which individuals depend on the beneficences of those more powerful than they are, as well as the comforting idea that humanity was created in the image of a god to rule over the world and its creatures. Religion provided emotional solace … Nevertheless, faith in religious dogma has been eroded by natural explanations of its mysteries, by a deep understanding of the sources of human emotional needs, and by the recognition that ethics and morality can change among different societies and that acceptance of such values need not depend on religion.” (Evolution by Monroe, W. Strickberger (3rd ed., Jones & Bartlett, 2000), pg. 70-71)

    “Nothing consciously chooses what is selected. Nature is not a conscious agent who chooses what will be selected. … There is no long term goal, for nothing is involved that could conceive of a goal.” (Evolution: An Introduction by Stephen C. Stearns & Rolf F. Hoeckstra, pg. 30 (2nd ed., Oxford University Press, 2005).)

    “[A]s E.O. Wilson puts it, a chicken is really the chicken genes’ way of making more copies of themselves. … [A]s an evolutionary biologist I believe that in some sense we exist solely to propagate the genes within us.” (Animal Behavior: An Evolutionary Approach, by John Alcock, pgs 16, 609 (Sinauer Associates, Inc, 1998).)

    Finally, Nicholas Barton et al.’s textbook Evolution (Cold Spring Harbor Press, 2007) explains that evolution involves “random genetic drift,” “random mutation,” “random variation,” “random … individual fitness,” and “random reproduction” and the “[r]andom growth of a sexual population” stemming from “the random number of offspring from each individual.”

    • Beau Quilter

      Of course, this is always a highly qualified use of the word “random”: “The variability by which selection depends may be random, but adaptations are not”. Therefore comparisons of evolution to processes such as successive dice rolling completely miss the point of natural selection. The only “dice rolls” that survive are those that actually contribute to species survival.

    • Beau Quilter

      Well the DI lawyer, Casey Luskin hasn’t returned for any substantive replies after bomb-shelling the blog with quotes that I’m sure he’s copy/pasted before. When Luskin says that he finds it “less helpful to attack one another, and most helpful to simply look at what mainstream biology textbooks” say, he is of course ignoring the fact that DI proponents are the ones who use the word “random” to attack evolution theory, as when John I., in a comment above, refers to “the pro-random evolution viewpoint”.

      ID creationists and other creationists refer to evolution as “random evolution” in order to call it into question, implying that the process of natural selection is like shaking a barrel of random parts and hoping that a car pops out. Yes, there are random processes involved in evolution theory, just as there are random processes involved in gravitation theory, molecular theory, and all theory. Randomness comes into play in all scientific processes – but when creationists like Luskin try to use the word to disparage scientific theory, they are implying a false understanding of the way theory works.

      One might as well disparage Einstein and his random theory of relativity. Or Newton and his random laws of gravitation (which “laws” actually turned out to be less ‘true” than Einstein’s “theories”).