Taner Edis


This book concerns “intelligent design,” a new and comparatively sophisticated form of creationism. Concerned scientists and educators will find answers to questions such as the following:

What is intelligent-design creationism?

            A conservative religious agenda masquerading as a scientific alternative to evolution.

Why is it universally rejected by mainstream science?

            Because it makes no real predictions and lacks explanatory power.

What are the specific scientific errors in intelligent design arguments?

            They ignore how modern science has already solved the questions they raise about complexity.


The book is critically needed today, a time when state school boards are under pressure to allow the teaching of intelligent-design creationism in the public schools, sometimes at the option of the local boards. Intelligent design is presented as science; therefore, effectively answering its claims depends on the availability of resources highlighting the scientific shortcomings of ID claims.

This book is addressed primarily to scientists, science educators, and educated people who are interested in the intelligent-design controversy and want to understand why mainstream scientists almost universally reject intelligent design. We present critiques of intelligent design from a scientific perspective, yet at a level which is accessible to readers who do not have specific expertise in some or all of the disciplines of our contributors. Our readership will thus include science educators, readers of popular science books, students, and scientists who do not have direct expertise with intelligent design arguments.

Critical Responses

Convinced that they are excluded from science classes by sheer prejudice, intelligent-design proponents have especially concentrated on attacking what they perceive as the prior naturalistic commitments of modern science. Since the intelligent-design movement has gained the sympathies of a number of philosophers with conservative religious backgrounds, including eminent figures such as Alvin Plantinga, book-length critical responses have largely concentrated on the philosophical and theological issues raised by intelligent design.

Such critical books have generally presumed that the primary mistake in intelligent-design claims was philosophical and argue that non-naturalistic ideas should not be given scientific consideration at all. Concentrating on the philosophy was understandable, given that intelligent design has met with scorn from the mainstream scientific community. Nonetheless, intelligent design presents itself as a respectable scientific alternative to Darwinian evolution and natural selection. Hence, though intending to exclude intelligent design altogether, philosophical critiques emphasizing naturalism in science have paradoxically given intelligent design a measure of intellectual legitimacy even in the face of its overwhelming scientific failure. Too often, intelligent design has become a philosophical perspective to be debated in typically inconclusive fashion, with only passing reference to the decisive answers from mainstream science.

The integrity of science education is best supported by presenting the successes of actual science rather than by highlighting philosophical attempts to define the boundaries of proper science. Intelligent design, like older versions of creationism, is not practiced as a science. Its advocates act more like a political pressure group than like researchers entering an academic debate. They seem more interested in affirming their prior religious commitments than in putting real hypotheses to the test. They treat successful scientific approaches, like a preference for naturalistic explanations, as mere prejudices to be discarded on a metaphysical whim.

Pointing out such dubious practices in the intelligent-design camp must remain an important part of any critique. However, it is even more important to explain how mainstream science explains complexity much more successfully, without invoking a mysterious intelligent designer. We know how Darwinian mechanisms generate information. We know how evolutionary biology fits in with our modern knowledge of thermodynamics. We know that computer science and information theory give creationism no comfort. In the end, scientists reject claims of intelligent design because of their failures not because intelligent design is indelibly stamped with a philosophical scarlet letter.

This book therefore emphasizes the scientific failures of intelligent design. It makes a strong case against intelligent design from many disciplines and also demonstrates its technical failures to readers who are not experts in the specific fields being discussed. This book will be a standard reference for anyone seriously interested in the debate over intelligent design since, in the end, science education and not philosophy is the primary area on which the battle over the new creationism is being fought.


The contributors to this book are legitimate academic researchers who are also active in criticizing varieties of creationism, particularly intelligent design. Some have more than 40 years of experience, all are published authors, and some have published one or more books in their fields. They have also published articles, both in print journals and on the Worldwide Web, that refute the neocreationists’ pretensions. Indeed, we have recruited them because of our familiarity with their work criticizing intelligent design.

The contributors represent a broad spectrum of physicists, mathematicians, and computer scientists, as well as biologists. This spectrum is needed because, though some intelligent-design advocates, such as Michael Behe, concentrate on biology, the intelligent-design movement is not ultimately about biology alone. Its claims have direct relevance to physics and cosmology as well, and its principal arguments are mathematical. Indeed, much of the intelligent-design literature concerns physics and cosmology, and, particularly in William Dembski’s work, computer science and mathematics. The main purpose of the intelligent-design movement is to re-establish design as a basis for explaining our world. All our sciences are thus under attack.

Defending science from such attacks requires not just direct criticisms of intelligent-design arguments, but also explanations of how contemporary science has made significant progress in explaining complexity. This defense calls for an interdisciplinary approach, because complexity is an area of research where different perspectives from physics, computer science, and biology come together. Our contributors therefore include representatives from these disciplines and others. They emphasize the success of mainstream approaches to the evolution of complex systems in order to bring across the scientific emptiness of intelligent design.


Boulder, Colorado, and Kirksville, Missouri

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