Skip navigation.
The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

Are ID Advocates Required to Lie Once a Day or More?

Jonathan Witt has an article up at "ID the Future". Darwinism: From Strength to Strength purports to find a contradiction in pro-science activism, between what was argued in Pennsylvania and then in Ohio. Following that, Witt proceeds with an uninformed screed about what "Darwinists", whoever they are, might be up to in the future. Since PZ Myers has dissected the latter part of Witt's offering quite nicely, I'll just make a few points about alleged contradictions.

The Darwinist reversal worked like this:

In Dover, they insisted that physical evidence presented against their theory wasn't an argument for intelligent design. Darwinist Kenneth Miller made this argument on the stand and the judge concurred. But in Ohio they wanted to scare people into thinking that simply teaching students the scientific evidence for and against Darwinism was somehow legally dangerous. Since it isn’t, the Darwinists had to get creative, had to change their story. So now they asserted that simply exposing students to the evidence against Darwinism constitutes the teaching of intelligent design. Thus, their Ohio position flatly contradicts their Dover position.

To sell both required a propaganda machine of extraordinary skill and nerve. Bravo!

Contradiction has a very specific meaning in logic. What Witt has uncovered is not contradiction, but rather consistency. In making the statement quoted above, Witt is lying. I use the word advisedly. I don't know with certainty whether Witt is lying to us about his ability to utilize logic and his familiarity with the relevant data, or whether he is lying in claiming that a contradiction exists where none does. One of those two alternatives, though, does apply.

There's a very important concept that Witt either fortuitously ignored in learning about the Kitzmiller or is deliberately concealing from his readers, namely, that intelligent design argumentation consists mainly, if not exclusively, of negative arguments against evolution. One cannot be familiar with either Judge Jones decision in Kitzmiller or the trial transcripts and avoid this concept.

[191]Q. If I understand your testimony correctly, it's your understanding that intelligent design doesn't make any positive argument for design, only a negative argument against evolution?

[192]A. About 90 percent or more of their argument is certainly about criticism of evolutionary theory, much like creation science was. There is this bit about irreducible complexity and there is this bit about specified complexity, but there's been very little work done on it. For example, I don't know whether Mr. Behe -- sorry, Mr. Dembski has elicited a single natural example, a case where specified complexity is an explanation of a particular biological incidence in the record.

[193]Q. You said 90 percent is negative to evolution. Is that, I'm assuming that there's at least 10 percent of the argument that demonstrates a positive argument for design?

[194]A. Up to 19 if I were being charitable, I'm trying to, but I really don't see that there's very much here. If you look at Of Pandas and People there's very little evidence for a designer. It's all evidence against conventional biological concepts. --(Testimony of Robert Pennock)

ID is at bottom premised upon a false dichotomy, namely, that to the extent evolutionary theory is discredited, ID is confirmed. ([93]5:41 (Pennock)). This argument is not brought to this Court anew, and in fact, the same argument, termed "contrived dualism" in [94]McLean, was employed by creationists in the 1980's to support "creation science." The court in [95]McLean noted the "fallacious pedagogy of the two model approach" and that "[i]n efforts to establish 'evidence' in support of creation science, the defendants relied upon the same false premise as the two model approach . . . all evidence which criticized evolutionary theory was proof in support of creation science." [96]McLean, 529 F. Supp. at 1267, 1269. We do not find this false dichotomy any more availing to justify ID today than it was to justify creation science two decades ago.

ID proponents primarily argue for design through negative arguments against evolution, as illustrated by Professor Behe's argument that "irreducibly complex" systems cannot be produced through Darwinian, or any natural, mechanisms. ([97]5:38-41 (Pennock); [98]1:39, [99]2:15, [100]2:35-37, [101]3:96 (Miller); [102]16:72-73 (Padian); [103]10:148 (Forrest)). However, we believe that arguments against evolution are not arguments for design. Expert testimony revealed that just because scientists cannot explain today how biological systems evolved does not mean that they cannot, and will not, be able to explain them tomorrow. ([104]2:36-37 (Miller)). As Dr. Padian aptly noted, "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." ([105]17:45 (Padian)). To that end, expert testimony from Drs. Miller and Padian provided multiple examples where Pandas asserted that no natural explanations exist, and in some cases that none could exist, and yet natural explanations have been identified in the intervening years. It also bears mentioning that as Dr. Miller stated, just because scientists cannot explain every evolutionary detail does not undermine its validity as a scientific theory as no theory in science is fully understood. ([106]3:102 (Miller)).

As referenced, the concept of irreducible complexity is ID's alleged scientific centerpiece. Irreducible complexity is a negative argument against evolution, not proof of design, a point conceded by defense expert Professor Minnich. ([107]2:15 (Miller); [108]38:82 (Minnich) (irreducible complexity "is not a test of intelligent design; it's a test of evoluti on"). Irreducible complexity additionally fails to make a positive scientific case for ID, as will be elaborated upon below.


As irreducible complexity is only a negative argument against evolution, it is refutable and accordingly testable, unlike ID, by showing that there are intermediate structures with selectable functions that could have evolved into the allegedly irreducibly complex systems. ([116]2:15-16 (Miller)). Importantly, however, the fact that the negative argument of irreducible complexity is testable does not make testable the argument for ID. ([117]2:15 (Miller); [118]5:39 (Pennock)). --(Kitzmiller decision)

It is clear from the trial transcripts and decision that Witt is working from a false premise in his quoted paragraph. For Witt's juxtaposition to hold, the pro-science group in Kitzmiller had to have avoided characterizing the content of intelligent design argumentation, and instead solely limited themselves to discussion of the principle that negative argumentation does not establish the truth of another proposition. This was not the case. In Kitzmiller, the witnesses established both the characteristics of ID argumentation and the invalidity of the "two model" thinking that underlies it. This is plainly reflected in the quotes I've given above. Not only did Kitzmiller expose "contrived dualism" yet again as a deficient argument, but it also revealed that "intelligent design" is merely a recent label for the same tired arguments we've seen used in creationism, scientific creationism, and creation science. Intelligent design is an ensemble of negative arguments against evolution, and one can recognize those arguments when packaged under another label.

In Ohio, the faulty logic of the arguments in the "critical analysis" lesson plan had already been exposed. What was new there this year was the documentation that showed that the argumentative content of the "critical analysis" lesson plan was drawn directly from "intelligent design".

Wise, a 27-year veteran of the board, got things rolling with her assertion that a lesson plan written for Ohio schools had been lifted directly from a seminal book on intelligent design. The lesson, Wise said, was a thinly veiled version of intelligent design. And, she added, those who supported the lesson knew it.


At the January Ohio Board of Education meeting, Martha Wise’s motion to delete the lesson plan failed by one vote. The threat of legal action, which would be bolstered by the documents Americans United has obtained, seems to be eroding support for the lesson plan. A lawyer on the board, Eric Okerson, suggested that even if Ohio’s policies weren’t “nearly as bad as what happened in Dover,” they did “reflect a compromise where it is clear that intelligent design is competing for a place in the standards.” The risk of litigation was real.

--(Weird Science: How "Intelligent Design" Got A Toehold In Ohio Public Schools, and What's Being Done To Dislodge It)

The "seminal book" would be Jonathan Wells's "Icons of Evolution", which was listed on the Discovery Institute web page as a "Wedge book".

The pro-science activists have been utterly consistent in working to bar outdated, erroneous, and misleading "criticisms" of evolutionary biology from science classrooms, no matter whether those arguments are called creationism, scientific creationism, creation science, intelligent design, critical analysis, teach the controversy, free speech, academic freedom, sudden emergence theory, or intelligent evolution. There is the concern about whether the arguments indisputably made by ID advocates on the one hand actually constitute a valid support for ID. Then there is the concern over identifying the history and previous adoption of an ensemble of such arguments, which is indicative of the advancement of religious antievolution. I've shown that both of these concerns have been raised in both Pennsylvania and Ohio. Witt's house of cards depends upon only one being pursued in one location, and only the other being pursued in the other location. And to say that's the case is a flat-out lie.