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Index to Creationist Claims,  edited by Mark Isaak,    Copyright © 2006
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Claim CI001.4:

Intelligent design in biology has been supported by several peer-reviewed journals and books. As of December 2005, intelligent design supporters offer, in support of this claim, the following articles:

and books (Discovery Institute 2005):

The journal Progress in Information, Complexity and Design (PCID) is also peer-reviewed.


Discovery Institute. 2005. Peer-reviewed and peer-edited publications supporting the theory of intelligent design (annotated).

Discovery Institute Top Questions.

Dembski, William A., 2003. Three frequently asked questions about intelligent design.


  1. Even by the most generous criteria, the peer-reviewed scientific output from the intelligent design (ID) movement is very low, especially considering the long history and generous funding of the movement. The list of papers and books above is not exhaustive, but there is not a lot else. One week's worth of peer-reviewed papers on evolutionary biology exceeds the entire history of ID peer-review.

    Virtually none of the papers show any original research. The only paper for which original data was gathered is Axe (2000), and see below regarding it.

    The point which discredits ID is not that it has few peer-reviewed papers, but why there are so few. ID proponents appear to have no interest in conducting original research that would be appropriate for peer-reviewed journals, and other researchers see nothing in ID worth paying attention to. Despite empty claims that ID is a serious challenge to evolution, nobody takes ID seriously as a science, so nobody writes about it in the professional literature.

  2. The papers and books cited by the Discovery Institute do not make a good case for peer-reviewed intelligent design for one or more reasons.

    1. Many of the papers do not talk about design. Some do not even attempt to. For example:

      • Axe (2000) finds that changing 20 percent of the external amino acids in a couple proteins causes them to lose their original function, even though individual amino acid changes did not. There was no investigation of change of function. Axe's paper is not even a challenge to Darwinian evolution, much less support for intelligent design. Axe himself has said that he has not attempted to make an argument for design in any of his publications (Forrest and Gross 2004, 42).

      • Behe and Snoke (2004) argues against one common genetic mechanism of evolution. It says nothing at all in support of design. Its assumptions and conclusion have been rebutted (M. Lynch 2005).

      • Lönnig and Saedler (2002) cite Behe and Dembski only in a couple long lists of references indicating a variety of different options. Neither author is singled out; nor is the word "design" used.

      • Denton and Marshall (2001) and Denton et al. (2002) deal with non-Darwinian evolutionary processes, but they do not support intelligent design. In fact, Denton et al. (2002) explicitly refers to natural law.

      • Chiu and Lui (2002) mention complex specified information in passing, but go on to develop another method of pattern analysis.

    2. The peer-review that the works were subject to was often weak or absent. The sort of review which books receive is quite different from the stringent peer review of journal articles. There are no formal review standards for trade and university presses, and often no standards at all for popular presses. Dembski has commented that he prefers writing books in part because he gets faster turnaround than by submitting to journals (McMurtrie 2001). Anthologies and conference proceedings do not have well-defined peer review standards, either. Here are some other examples of weak peer review:

      • Dembski (1998) was reviewed by philosophers, not biologists.

      • Meyer (2004) apparently subverted the peer-review process for the sole purpose of getting an "intelligent design" article in a respectable journal that would never have accepted it otherwise. Even notwithstanding its poor quality (Gishlick et al. 2004, Elsberry 2004a), the article is clearly not appropriate for the almost purely taxonomic content of the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, and the Biological Society of Washington repudiated it (BSW n.d., NCSE 2004). For more information, see Elsberry (2004b).

      • Wells (2005) was published in Rivista di Biologia, a journal which caters to papers which are speculative and controversial to the point of crackpottery (J. M. Lynch 2005). Its editor, Giuseppe Sermonti, is a Darwin denier sympathetic to the Discovery Institute.

    3. With some of the claims for peer review, notably Campbell and Meyer (2003) and the e-journal PCID, the reviewers are themselves ardent supporters of intelligent design. The purpose of peer review is to expose errors, weaknesses, and significant omissions in fact and argument. That purpose is not served if the reviewers are uncritical.

      This same criticism applies to any reviewers who are "true believers" of any aspect of biology. However, mainstream scientists recognize that science grows stronger through criticism, not through mere agreement, because criticism helps weed out the bad science. Most any evolutionary biologist can attest that supporting evolution is not enough to get a paper accepted; the paper has to describe sound science, too.

  3. Publishing is not an end in itself. Scientific ideas mean nothing unless they can withstand criticism and be built upon. None of the "intelligent design" publications have led to any productive work. Most have had their main ideas rebutted (e.g. Behe 1996, Dembski 1998, Dembski 2002, Gonzalez and Richards 2004).


Schafersman, Steven, 2004. Frequently asked questions about the Texas science textbook adoption controversy.

Wikipedia, 2004. Talk:Intelligent design.


  1. BSW. n.d. Statement from the Council of the Biological Society of Washington.
  2. Discovery Institute. 2005. (see "Sources" above)
  3. Elsberry, Wesley R. 2004a. Meyer 2004 and deja vu all over again.
  4. Elsberry, Wesley R. 2004b. The "Meyer 2004" medley.
  5. Forrest, Barbara, and Paul R. Gross, 2004. Creationism's Trojan Horse: The wedge of intelligent design. Oxford University Press.
  6. Gishlick, Alan, Nick Matzke, and Wesley R. Elsberry, 2004. Meyer's hopeless monster.
  7. Lynch, John M. 2005. Revisiting Rivista. (June 2).
  8. Lynch, Michael. 2005. Simple evolutionary pathways to complex proteins. Protein Science 14: 2217-2225.
  9. McMurtrie, Beth. 2001. Darwinism under attack. Chronicle of Higher Education, Dec. 21.
  10. NCSE. 2004. BSW repudiates Meyer.

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created 2004-3-19, modified 2005-12-22