There are few things more frustrating than hearing the same tired old myths and misconceptions over and over again, particularly when they directly relate to the subject you’ve devoted your education and career to. Intelligent Design theory suffers this plight, even at the hands of Christians who freely criticize it without doing their homework. In this short post, I would like to list and comment upon the untruths I hear most frequently.
MYTH #1: Intelligent Design (ID) is just a fancy name for Creationism.
The true story: Intelligent Design theory is not a form of, nor is it synonymous with “creationism.” Rather, it is an over-arching scientific theory that disputes wholly naturalistic/materialistic accounts of the origin of the universe and the origin of life. ID does not utilize religious texts, traditions, or dogmas, yet it is an indispensable ally for those who espouse any of the various creation models. ID makes NO CLAIM about the age of the earth.
MYTH #2: ID has been disproven by the fossil record, which supports common descent.
The true story: ID does not rule out the theory of common descent, nor does it support it. It is true that some advocates of ID also doubt the integrity of the theory of common descent, but that question is completely separate from ID theory, strictly speaking. One of the leading scientists in the ID movement, biochemist Michael Behe, Ph.D., is comfortable with the theory of common descent. Other ID scientists are more skeptical of common descent, such as biologist Jonathan Wells, Ph.D.
MYTH #3: ID claims that the “intelligent agent” had to supernaturally intervene in natural history over and over again.
The true story: ID’s claim is much more modest. ID simply states that there are characteristics of the universe and of living systems that are BEST EXPLAINED by a designing intelligence. ID is not “interventionist” as many theistic evolutionists (and atheistic evolutionists) like to claim. The idea of a designing intelligence steadily and purposefully guiding the development of life at the sub-atomic level is compatible with ID, but that particular scenario is not required by ID, either.
MYTH #4: ID uses a disguised form of the “God of the gaps” fallacy.
The true story: ID does not say “We don’t yet know how life emerged from non-life, therefore an intelligence must have done it.” Rather, it makes a two-fold argument: 1) Neo-Darwinian explanations for the emergence and divergence of life are sorely insufficient in their explanatory power and 2) there are features of nature, such as the specified complexity of the digital information in DNA, that are best explained by intelligent agency. We already know from direct experience how to detect intelligence in other branches of science, so inferring intelligence based on the same type of observed effects is completely reasonable. In scientific practice, we infer the existing cause that is KNOWN to produce the effect in question. Since biochemistry contains information, ID theorists infer that there must be an informer, because there are no other sources of information. Ironically, whenever a materialist says, “We don’t yet know how life emerged from non-life, but one day science will explain it,” they are actually using the Science of the Gaps fallacy.
MYTH #5: ID research has not produced peer-reviewed literature.