From Natural History, April, 2002, page 73


The idea that an organisms complexity is evidence for the existence of a cosmic designer was advanced centuries before Charles Darwin was born. Its best-known exponent was English theologian William Paley, creator of the famous watchmaker analogy. If we find a pocket watch in a field, Paley wrote in 1802, we immediately infer that it was produced not by natural processes acting blindly but by a designing human intellect. Likewise, he reasoned, the natural world contains abundant evidence of a supernatural creator. The argument from design, as it is known, prevailed as an explanation of the natural world until the publication of the Origin of Species in 1859. The weight of the evidence that Darwin had patiently gathered swiftly convinced scientists that evolution by natural selection better explained life's complexity and diversity. "I cannot possibly believe," wrote Darwin in 1868, "that a false theory would explain so many classes offacts."

In some circles, however, opposition to the concept of evolution has persisted to the present. The argument from design has recently been revived by a number of academics with scientific credentials, who maintain that their version of the idea (unlike Paley's) is soundly supported by both microbiology and mathematics. These antievolutionists differ from fundamentalist creationists in that they accept that some species do change (butnot much) and that Earth is much more than6,000 years old. Like their predecessors, however, they reject the idea that evolution accounts for the array of species we see today, and they seek to have their concept—known as intelligent design—included in the science curriculum of schools.

Most biologists have concluded that the proponents of intelligent design display either ignorance or deliberate misrepresentation of evolutionary science. Yet their proposals are getting a hearing in some political and educational circles and are currently the subject of a debate within the Ohio Board of Education. Although Natural History does not fully present and analyze the intelligent-design phenomenon in the pages that follow, we offer, for the reader's information, brief position statements by three leading proponents of the theory, along with three responses. The section concludes with an overview of the intelligent-design movement by a philosopher and cultural historian who has monitored its history for more than a decade.

Special Report: Intelligent Design?

The Challenge of Irreducible Complexity by Michael J. Behe

The Flaw in the Mousetrap by Kenneth R. Miller

Detecting Design in the Natural Sciences by William A. Dembski

Mystery Science Theatre by Robert T. Pennock

Elusive Icons of Evolution by Jonathan Wells

The Nature of Change by Eugenie C. Scott

The Newest Evolution of Creationism by Barbara Forrest