How many false and misleading statements can you find in this passage from The Language of God, by Francis Collins, published in 2006?
Intelligent Design burst on the scene in 1991. Some of its roots can be traced to earlier scientific arguments pointing out the statistical improbability of the origins of life. But ID places its major focus not on how the first self-replicating organisms came to be, but rather on perceived failings of the evolutionary theory to account for life’s subsequent stunning complexity.
ID’s founder is Phillip Johnson, a Christian lawyer at the University of California at Berkeley, whose book Darwin on Trial first laid out the ID position. Those arguments have been further expanded by others, especially Michael Behe, a biology professor whose book Darwin’s Black Box elaborated the concept of irreducible complexity. More recently, William Dembski, a mathematician trained in information theory, has taken up a leading role as expositor of the ID movement.
In this series, I will draw on and supplement the timeline that I posted earlier.
I will also draw on the 2002 book Species of Origins: America’s Search For a Creation Story, by Karl W. Giberson and Donald A. Yerxa. As many know, Giberson is Vice President of Biologos. This well-researched book explicitly undermines much of what Collins writes. Since it is co-written by Giberson, who is a proponent of theistic evolution, it reflects some bias in that direction. But it is far more fair to ID than is Collins, and it is far more accurate. I will also draw on the article “A Brief History of the Scientific Theory of Intelligent Design” by Jonathan Witt and an article by Donald Yerxa, which are accessible on the web.
I will start with the most egregious error: the book Darwin on Trial does not lay out the ID position at all. Intelligent design is only mentioned once in passing in the main text on page 17, and once in the Research Notes on page 204. The book is simply not about ID per se, but about whether Darwinian evolution as a complete explanation of biological history has been proven with sufficient evidence. What this indicates is that Collins apparently did not read this book before writing his, nor did anyone who proofed his book for accuracy.
Lest you think I am merely nit-picking details, I will discuss some of the general problems with Collins’ description of ID in my next post.