Intelligent Design proponents are not stupid

In talking with some of my colleagues about intelligent design (ID) it has become clear to me that there are some misconceptions about ID.  These misconceptions are not limited to science professionals as these ideas can also be seen when viewing message boards, reading comment sections, or anywhere else the subject arises.

The general consensus seems to be that ID proponents are just not very smart.  Although I do think this is true for some “IDers,” it is not a prerequisite for belief in the pseudoscience.  Just look at the Discovery Institute.  Many of the “fellows” there have PhDs or have achieved other higher levels of education.  Perhaps the most telling is how cogent their arguments appear to be.  I honestly think it takes some kind of weird intelligence to be able to defend a evidence-less theory against the onslaught  of ever increasing evidence for evolution.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying ID proponents are geniuses.  I am just saying stupidity is not the source of their belief in ID.  So, what are the sources?  Well, Christian fundamentalism is an obvious one.  These people are going to twist the world around them to their preconceived notion of the universe no matter what evidence is available.

Another source could be a strong reliance on the logical fallacy of personal incongruity (personal disbelief).  This logical fallacy basically says that just because someone has a hard time believing something does not mean it is not true.  People can not accept that we are evolutionarily related to monkeys.  Some people can’t believe that the diversity of life happened on its own.  They say “look how complicated life is. It had to be designed.” The feeling is so strong that they abandon reason and acceptable evidence for pseudoscience.

Willful ignorance is undoubtedly another reason that otherwise intelligent people believe in intelligent design.  Some people just don’t really care about the subject, so they will just go along with what there preacher or friend believes.  Other people are not willing to find out the truth for the fear that it will shatter their world view.

Whatever the reason, simply insulting their intelligence is not going to be an effective way to convince them of reality.  I didn’t write this post to defend ID proponents, I am just hoping that understanding where they are coming from will help during debates.


11 Responses

  1. With the hypothesis in Intelligent Design,Message from the Designers one has to be prepared to consider many issues at the same time., in a much bigger picture.Including history, religions, and how this relates to modern science, particularly genetics and not least the issue of the appearance of Ufos especially since 1945 and Hiroshima. In addition, with the concept of progression of design, evidenced by the theory of evolution, we should move on to the idea of progression of design by advanced science.If our scientists can do what they are doing, why should there not be much more advanced scientists in other solar systems? This hypothesis also allows for a sensible reason why , as yet, they do not choose to announce themselves.

  2. When ascribing motives for belief (or non-belief), Michael Shermer found that people will mostly say their convictions are intellectually based, but when asked why they think someone else believes in God (or an intelligent designer), they say the other person has an emotional need to fill a void (or some other non-intellectual reason). See this excerpt from his book How We Believe.

    This, I believe, is partly the basis for why we say IDists aren’t educated, even though it isn’t true.

  3. Just listened to Michael Behe on the Point of Inquiry podcast. I gained a new insight to Behe’s motivation, which I’m not sure the host (D. J. Grothe) entirely grasped. Behe points out that he was raised Catholic, which means he took evolution for granted. It wasn’t until later on in life that he read Denton’s book which questioned evolution and the odds of random mutation leading to complex life. His main examples are the ‘motorized’ flagellum, the red blood cell, and the malaria virus. So I can understand how complex chains of molecules must look designed to him, taking, as he does, a statistical point of view. I think he, like all ID proponents, jump to quickly to a conclusion – i.e. that because science can’t yet explain it, therefore an intelligent designer must be involved. Rather, he should just publish his mathematical analyses and leave it as an open question. And if the homologies and branches are eventually shown for the flagellum (which we now know is not so irreducibly complex as Mayer might have you believe), red blood cell, and malaria virus – well then there’s still a huge panoply of living organisms to choose from that science has not yet explained.

    So, there’s something very fundamental missing from Behe’s logic. Science has time and time again shown that we are not special. We’re in no special place in the solar system, the galaxy, or the universe. There’s nothing special about the time in which we live. And there’s nothing truly remarkable that sets man’s DNA apart from that of the yeast cell. Nevertheless, IDists are arguing otherwise and, from this point of view, their arguments make no sense.

  4. Your correct, ID proponents are not dumb, just logical flawed. When you point out the flaws in their reason, they often feel like their beliefs are being attacked and use their minds to twist the facts to what they believe. The smarter they are, the more mental gymnastics they perform to twist the truth. A good example of this is the entire cult/religion known as Scientology. I forget the reference article (I’m sure you could Google it) that did a study and found out that most scientologists are actually smarter then the average person. When one fails to separate their own bias from their analytical thinking they will view all facts that contradict their belief as attacks on themselves, their friends, their way of life, and their soul/self idenity. Trying to convince them that all these things have been wrong their whole lives, as you said, would shatter their world.

  5. I see Darwinism has become a Religion, not true Science… for darwinist scientists and mainstream media treat Darwin as he was a god and his theories like the absolute and irrefutable truth. Who thinks differently may be a religious fanatic, or a stupid, or a charlatan. Evolution and natural selection have become taboos and dogmas. For me Darwinism is not real science, it’s a new form of religion, whose scientists are persecutors just like the Inquisition ones were. Not even the great french american historian Jacques Barzun took Charles Darwin seriously, so he omitted him on his book about ocidental civilization launched in the year 2000.

    • I agree Darwinism becoming like a religion.It would seem that Darwin fundamentalists feel threatened by IDN in they way they respond and refuse to even debate the issue, as I believe was demonstrated by Dawkins in his refusal to even meet an IDN scholar recently.I believe Dawkins in his lectures uses a picture of an atomic weapon exploding, in order to re-inforce the dangers of religious fanaticism .I would say by the same token Darwinism also may indirectly contribute to the vary same situation, because the scientific community seem to be unaware of the urgency of finding an evolved alternative to Darwinism. Evolution II in Intelligent Design Message from the Designers does offer a serious scientific alternative, which acts as a compromise between the two perspectives re our origins.Problem with this publication is that is is a classical example of something scientists ignore simply because it does not come from a scientifically credible source. I thin there should be a public debate re Evolution II, it is a much better scientific model than Evolution I of Darwin. It is not surprising given that we are 150years on from Darwin. An evolution of thinking is required in order to grasp the understanding this presents in a much larger paradigm than Darwin’s theory.Could imagine that while Darwin might be happy with the importance attached to his theory, he might be somewhat alarmed that they seem to have thrown ‘the baby out with the bathwater’ in not attaching a simple and respectful explanation for the world religions.

  6. After 150 years, we can see Darwin got a lot of things wrong, but his basic principle, enshrined in the theory of evolution, remains valid. Religion requires faith without evidence, but you don’t need faith when you have mountains of evidence. Scientists have no religion for gravity, electromagnetism, of quantum mechanics. They can test these theories daily. However, when a scientific theory endangers the book of Genesis, potentially undermining the moral teachings of the entire bible (as fundamentalists believe it would), then, lacking any better methods, they attack the theory with spurious and silly arguments. The truth is that you can have your evolution and your morality too. The Catholic church doesn’t seem to have a problem with it, and I doubt they would call Darwin a god.

    • Dear SkepTik I do not think the theory in IDMD in any way threatens the moral teachings in the Bible.If anything I think think theory applies common sense to those numbers in Genesis. and should encourage Biblical enthusiasts to re-read those texts through the eyes of the 21st century and NOT through the eyes of those who wrote that information down thousands of years ago.Further it should encourage reading of any of the forty religious texts.I do not think when people like Craig Ventner will morally offend Bilical enthusiasts when he succeeds in the near future in reaching the’ starting grid’ of creating life artificially..

  7. Let us suppose Darwin is correct.If that is the case then what next? I see no prediction or the future in the theory.Maybe I am wrong and I have not fully understood Evolution theory.Does the theory offer any solutions for the world we live in TODAY.

    • A couple things…
      Basic science is not concerned with how it could be used to offer solutions or predict the future. It is concerned only with what is reality.
      Evolution has predicted the future. Darwin predicted that there would be a fossil found in africa that would contain features that are both human and more apelike (Lucy). More recently, evolutionary theory predicted that there would be a fossil that had the characteristics of a fish and a tetrapod. Tiktaalik was found that not only had those features, but was located in the predicted geographic and historical location.
      Finally, evolutionary theory has real applications to modern medicine. The way we administer antibiotics is a direct result from our understanding of evolution. Another example is in the way that we design and use the seasonal flu vaccine.

  8. A criticism of ID from philosophy of science:

    Basically: ID confound what amounts to be a scientific explanation

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