Kansas Citizens for
Science February 12, 2001
A Response to the Intelligent Design Networks Proposals
to Include Intelligent Design in the Kansas Science Standards
The Intelligent Design network (IDnet) has repeatedly argued that intelligent
design (ID) should be included in the Kansas science standards.
The IDnets proposals to insert ID into the standards have been based
on two main beliefs: that science embraces the philosophy of Naturalism and
that intelligent design is a valid competing hypothesis to
the theory of evolution.
The IDnets main beliefs are not accepted by the scientific community.
They are in fact considered wrong. On that basis alone, the IDnets proposals
should not be included in the state science standards.
Both the nature of science and the specific scientific content described in
the 2001 Kansas science standards represent essential, mainstream science as
It is not the responsibility of the state BOE to decide what is and is not
verified science. If the ideas put forward by the IDnet ever become an essential
part of mainstream science, then they may earn a place in the public school
science curriculum. At this time, however, the IDnets quarrel is with
the scientific community, not with public education. The IDnet should not be
allowed to use the public school curriculum as a means of bypassing the accepted
ways for establishing scientific knowledge.
From their two main beliefs, the IDnet concludes that science has atheistic
implications, that science has contributed to the moral and cultural decay
of society, that the evidence for design is censored, and that
there are Constitutional reasons why design should be given consideration in
the science curriculum. These conclusions, being based on false premises, are
Naturalism and the Nature of Science
The IDnet believes that science, by limiting itself to natural explanations,
as stated in Draft 6, inherently embraces philosophical Naturalism [their
capitalization], the philosophical belief that all phenomena result
only from natural causes - chance and necessity. (page 1)
The IDnet is wrong: science neither embraces nor endorses philosophical Naturalism.
Science is purposely limited to seeking natural explanations for observable
phenomena. Science does not attempt to offer theological explanations for such
phenomena. Neither does science attempt to explain our moral, aesthetic, or
spiritual experience: these fall outside the realm of science.
Seeking natural explanations has proven to be highly successful in building
a universally accessible body of knowledge about how the world works. Explanations
involving non-natural causes cannot be investigated empirically with the tools
of science, and have not successfully contributed to science.
Nowhere in the practice or teaching of science is there a commitment to the
belief that what science studies is all that exists, or that the methods of
science are the only valid human ways of seeking knowledge. Science is not
a dogmatic philosophy about either the ultimate nature of the world or the
full nature of human beings.
It is true that some individuals within the scientific community have used
evolution as a vehicle to promote a true "philosophical Naturalism." However,
it is equally true that many scientists who accept the evidence for evolution
are also committed and outspoken theists. Both groups of individuals see our
current scientific understanding of the universe as supporting their philosophical
position. However, neither position is an inherent implication of that scientific
understanding. Science itself is neutral on issues of the ultimate nature of
The IDnet claims that natural processes are not sufficient to have produced
some features of life, and that an additional type of cause, design, the
action of a mind or some form of intelligence, is necessary to
scientifically explain those features. The IDnet writes as if design is
an obvious and accepted alternative to natural causation, and that a scientific theory
of intelligent design (ID) exists to compete with the theory of evolution.
Neither of these claims is true.
There is no theory of intelligent design. First, ID proposes no testable hypotheses
to explain how the alleged design happens - there is no proposed mechanism
for design. Second, although ID claims that the identity of the designer is
unknown, leaders of the ID movement make it clear the designer is God: the
logical alternative to natural causation is obviously supernatural causation.
In fact, both William Dembski and Phillip Johnson have recently identified
the Word of God as the source and mechanism of intelligent design.
ID does not explain how to determine precisely when design has taken place,
or how to distinguish between what has been designed and what has evolved.
ID writers have proposed vague philosophical concepts for use in detecting
design (irreducible complexity and complex specified information),
but they offer no empirical means for applying these concepts to actual reality.
There is no ID research. There are no published scientific papers on ID-based
experiments that test any specific aspect of the theory of ID nor produce any
new, usable knowledge. There just isnt any theory of ID.
The theory of evolution is truly a scientific theory: a well-substantiated
explanation of some aspect of the natural world that incorporates observations,
inferences, and tested hypotheses. (Draft 6) ID, on the other hand, is
not even a hypothesis because it makes no testable claims about the world.
It is non-empirical speculation.
The IDnet continually calls ID a competing hypothesis, but this
is a claim without merit. The theory of evolution and ID are not remotely equal
in their status as scientific explanations. The IDnets repeated argument
that ID should be given equal time throughout the standards is unjustified.
The evidence for design and censorship
ID relies on gaps in our knowledge for its "evidence, pointing to
aspects of the natural world which currently have inadequate scientific explanation.
However, since science has a reliable history of narrowing such gaps, this
type of design argument is forced to continually emphasize new areas of uncertainty.
Dependence on such negative evidence does not establish the claim that a supernatural
intelligence must be considered in scientific explanations.
IDnet claims that design, and evidence for it, is censored because
of sciences adherence to Naturalism. The truth is that the propositions
of ID and the purported evidence for it have been rejected, not censored, because
ID offers neither useful hypotheses nor productive research.
The claim of censorship is unfounded. The repeated use of the word,
much like that of competing hypothesis, is a rhetorical tactic
meant to elevate ID to a status that it does not have. It is the nature of
the scientific enterprise to evaluate new ideas. At this point, ID has made
little progress in being accepted as valid science. To acknowledge this lack
of acceptance by excluding ID from the science standards is not censorship.
Religious and Cultural Implications
The IDnet believes that science, by embracing Naturalism, is consistent with,
and therefore promotes, atheism, while design is consistent with and promotes
theism. They conclude that sciences adherence to Naturalism has important
negative moral and cultural consequences such as the Naturalistic belief
that peoples ethics and morals can be based on whatever they decide
or whatever the scientific elite tells us about nature. The IDnet is
wrong about both of these points.
As explained above, science does not embrace Naturalism. Science does not declare
that other types of knowledge are invalid, and it also does not presume to
add to those other types of knowledge.
All people reach conclusions about morals, values, and spiritual reality by
drawing on such non-scientific sources as religious faith, philosophical belief,
and personal choice. They may integrate scientific knowledge into their larger
belief system, but scientific knowledge itself forces no inherent moral or
The IDnet incorrectly concludes that, in the interest of fairness, a theistic theory
of ID is needed to balance the atheism they believe is implied by evolution
. The appeal to fairness here is misplaced. Religion and science are complementary
ways of looking at the universe, not antagonistic ways of knowing between which
people must choose. True fairness involves acknowledging and honoring the interrelated
complexity of human knowledge, which demands both scientific and other types
ID attempts to drive a wedge between scientific and religious understanding.
If anything is unfair, it is the IDnets insistence that accepting the
evidence for evolution is incompatible with both a belief in God and a commitment
to moral standards.
Draft 6 presents a religiously neutral science. It is ID that inserts theistic
considerations into science. The IDnet places too great a value on scientific
explanations as an ultimate arbiter of truth. They make the very mistake they
claim others are making: trying to find empirical explanations for truths which
must be reached in other than scientific ways. It is they who act like philosophical
Naturalists as they seek to establish an empirical basis for all aspects
of the world, including our beliefs about God and morality.
The IDnet claims that Constitutional issues arise because the theory of evolution
promotes atheism and the theory of ID promotes theism. However, as we have
shown, the theory of evolution does not promote atheism and has no inherent
religious implications. Therefore, there are no Constitutional issues of the
kind mentioned by the IDnet.
The true Constitutional issue here is that ID, if fully articulated to include
the nature of the Designer and the undetectable nature of His interventions,
is clearly a religious belief, and thus has no place in the science curriculum.
State standards should reflect science that is considered essential and fundamental
worldwide. ID does not meet this criteria. The IDnets incorrect beliefs
about science and its relationship to religious and cultural issues have no
place in the Kansas science standards. It is wrong for the IDnet to try to
use the public school system as the vehicle to establish these beliefs.
Therefore, for all the reasons outlined in this paper, the proposals made by
the IDnet should be rejected, and intelligent design ideas should
not be incorporated into the Kansas science standards.