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Ten Myths About Dover: #10, "The Intelligent Design Movement Died After the Dover Decision"


Editor's note: The Kitzmiller v. Dover decision has been the subject of much media attention and many misinterpretations from pro-Darwin lobby groups. With the tenth anniversary of Kitzmiller approaching on December 20, Evolution News offers a series of ten articles debunking common myths about the case.

In December 2005, Judge John E. Jones ruled that intelligent design is not science, but religion. Critics predicted this would mean the end of the ID movement.

Expert witness Kevin Padian and Nick Matzke of the National Center for Science Education, for example, wrote:

It's over for the Discovery Institute. Turn out the lights. The fat lady has sung. The emperor of ID has no clothes. The bluff is over. Oh sure, they'll continue to pump out the blather. They'll find more funding, at least for a while, from some committed ideologue or another. But no one with any objectivity will take them seriously any longer as scientists.

Similarly, Matzke told Nature that "Intelligent design as a strategy is probably toast."

Barry Lynn, Executive Director of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, predicted in September 2005, "I believe that we will be successful in the Dover case as far as it goes in the federal court system, and that it will prove to be the death knell for intelligent design as a serious issue confronting American school boards, period. I think this will be the last case."

But in December 2015, the ID movement is not only still alive -- it's thriving. This holds true across the board, in education, science, and the public dialogue.

Over the past decade, academic freedom and objective education on evolution have advanced, reflecting the growth of scientific research and scholarship critical of neo-Darwinian theory and supportive of intelligent design.

Currently, ten states have science standards, laws, or other provisions that support the rights of teachers and/or students to critically analyze evolution: Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Texas. Louisiana passed its academic freedom policy, the Louisiana Science Education Act, in 2008. Tennessee followed in 2012. Neither of these policies has been challenged in court.

In Texas, students are required to examine "all sides of scientific evidence" for explanations and to "analyze and evaluate" scientific evidence regarding evolution. South Carolina expects students to "Summarize ways that scientists use data from a variety of sources to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory."

The cause of academic freedom has also seen significant victories. In one case, as we reported here, "[T]he University of Kentucky paid $125,000 to settle a lawsuit by astronomer Martin Gaskell who was wrongfully denied employment because he was perceived to be skeptical towards Darwinian evolution." Two other Darwin skeptics received settlements for discrimination. Applied Mathematics Letters retracted mathematician Granville Sewell's article critical of neo-Darwinism; a lawsuit followed, leading to a public apology and $10,000 payment to Sewell. After the California Science Center (CSC) cancelled the showing of an intelligent design film, Darwin's Dilemma, the American Freedom Alliance sued. The CSC paid $110,000 to avoid going to trial over the evidence that they discriminated. And the film Expelled drew over 1.1 million viewers to movie theaters to learn about discrimination against scientific dissenters from Darwinism.

Public outreach on intelligent design is also doing very well post-Dover. In 2009, Stephen Meyer published Signature in the Cell, which received praise from famed atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel, who named it "Book of the Year" in the respected Times Literary Supplement of London.

In 2013, Meyer published Darwin's Doubt which made the New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestseller lists. That book was endorsed by scientists including Harvard geneticist George Church and Mount Holyoke College paleontologist Mark McMenamin. UC Berkeley paleontologist Charles Marshall gave Darwin's Doubt a serious review in the top journal Science and participated in a radio debate with Meyer.

Illustra Media has released a slew of excellent video documentaries since Dover, including their Design of Life series: Metamorphosis, Flight, and Living Waters. Discovery Institute has produced a series of science videos, which have collectively received over half a million views on YouTube, including molecular machine animations of ATP Synthase and Kinesin, along with Journey Inside the Cell. Our latest video, Information Enigma, was released this fall.

The ruling sure hasn't stopped young people from getting excited about ID. Since Dover, over three hundred students -- many of them graduate students who are pursuing careers in the sciences -- have attended Discovery Institute's Summer Seminar on ID. Intelligent design is making an impact on the rising generation of scientists, which means far from being over, ID has excellent prospects for the future.

Finally and most importantly, science supporting ID continues to move forward. Several areas of research have seen groundbreaking progress, including work by the Evolutionary Informatics Lab (using computer models to test Darwinian evolution) and Biologic Institute (exploring evidence for ID in biology). To date, there are more than eighty peer-reviewed articles supportive of intelligent design, with over fifty of them published post-Dover. Casey Luskin has documented much of this work:

[T]he ID research community has published dozens of pro-ID peer-reviewed scientific papers advancing the scientific case for ID since Dover. This includes experimental research demonstrating the unevolvability of new proteins, as well as theoretical papers refuting alleged computer simulations of evolution, showing that intelligence is needed to produce new information.

This research is being presented at scientific conferences, such as a major ID research conference held at Cornell University in 2011, which led to the publication of the volume Biological Information: New Perspectives through World Scientific, a major mainstream scientific publishing house.

Even non-ID researchers have unwittingly and decisively confirmed ID predictions since Dover. In 2012, an international consortium of researchers published the ENCODE project, supporting the longstanding ID prediction that "junk DNA" would turn out to have function. Likewise, the burgeoning field of epigenetics has validated ID's claim that we will find new layers of information, code, and complex regulatory mechanisms within biology.

At the same time, Darwinian arguments have suffered. Brown University biologist Kenneth Miller's main argument at the Dover trial was that a stretch of DNA called the beta-globin pseudogene was "non-functional" junk, supposedly demonstrating our common ancestry with apes. In 2013, however, a paper in Genome Biology showed the "pseudogene" was functional, refuting his argument.

Likewise, in 2014 a favorite argument against pro-ID biochemist Michael Behe was overturned as chloroquine-resistance turned out to be a multimutation feature that is difficult to evolve.

Meanwhile, the past 10 years have seen a flood of peer-reviewed scientific papers critiquing core tenets of neo-Darwinian theory, and concessions from influential evolutionists that neo-Darwinism faces serious scientific criticisms. Couple this with major admissions from leading atheists like philosopher Thomas Nagel that ID arguments have merit and should be taken seriously, and the anti-ID intelligentsia is not happy.

What all this shows is that Michael Behe was correct when he said of Judge Jones's decision:

[It] does not impact the realities of biology, which are not amenable to adjudication. On the day after the judge's opinion, December 21, 2005, as before, the cell is run by amazingly complex, functional machinery that in any other context would immediately be recognized as designed. On December 21, 2005, as before, there are no non-design explanations for the molecular machinery of life, only wishful speculations and Just-So stories.

Given how quickly ID scholarship is moving forward in so many areas -- science, public policy, and culture -- we can only anticipate how much stronger ID will be twenty years after Dover.

Image credit: Frans Hals (1582/1583-1666) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.