Intelligent Design

College level ID textbook to be released March 1, 2007 (chapter 1 available online)

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The Design of Life

…this book is poised to become the authoritive textbook on the theory of intelligent design.


Nor does design always have to refer to human design. Some psychologists study animal learning and behavior. Animals display intelligence and can design things. For instance, the dams that beavers build are designed. Nor does design have to be confined to Earth.

The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) looks for signs of intelligence in radio signals from outer space. SETI’s underlying assumption is that we can sift out naturally occurring radio signals to make out those that are designed.

Biologists Francis Crick and Leslie Orgel have even proposed that life is too complex to have arisen here on planet Earth and so must have been seeded by intelligent space aliens
(traveling to our solar system in spaceships). Though regarded as wildly implausible by some, their theory of directed panspermia, as it is called, is nonetheless regarded by the scientific community as falling within the bounds of science. The Crick-Orgel theory proposes a design-based view of life on Earth.
There are now good reasons for thinking that no such causal mechanism exists and that mind is inherently irreducible to brain.23 This is good news for intelligent design, which treats intelligence as irreducible to material entities and the mechanisms that control their interaction. At the same time, it does not mean that intelligence should be regarded as something “supernatural.” Supernatural explanations invoke miracles and therefore are not properly part of science. Explanations that call on intelligent causes require no miracles but cannot be reduced to materialistic explanations. Indeed, design theorists argue that intelligent causation is perfectly natural, provided
that nature is understood aright.


The human characteristic that poses the greatest difficulty for evolutionary theory is not extraordinary cognitive ability.
But what about ethics and, in particular, altruism? What about the willingness of some
human beings to risk or sacrifice themselves for others, without reasonable hope of
reward? How does evolution explain such acts?
This ethics-as-illusion view of morality makes perfect sense within an evolutionary worldview. Even so, how do Ruse and Wilson know that ethical principles are merely an illusion? As will become clear in subsequent chapters, the actual evidence for evolutionary theory (especially the grand claim that natural selection is the principle force driving evolution) is slender at best. So to base evolutionary psychology on conventional evolutionary theory is like building a house of cards on a castle of sand. Equally problematic for Ruse and Wilson is that their evolutionary view of morality cannot be squared with the facts of our moral life. Within traditional morality, the main difficulty is to come to terms with the problem of evil. For evolutionary ethics, by contrast, the main difficulty is to come to terms with the problem of good. Evolutionary theorizing regards reproductive advantage as lying at the root of ethics. Yet it is a fact that people perform acts of kindness that cannot be rationalized on evolutionary principles. Altruism is, as a matter of human practice, not confined simply to one’s in-group (those to whom one is genetically related). Nor is altruism outside one’s in-group always simply a quid pro quo. People do, in fact, often transcend their drive for reproductive advantage (of their own genes or of their kins’34)

Holocaust rescuers, who aided the escape of Jews and others persecuted by the Nazis at great cost and risk to themselves, provide a particularly striking example of genuine altruism.


Intelligent Design. The study of patterns in nature that
are best explained as the product of intelligence.

Intelligence. Any cause, agent, or process that achieves an
end or goal by employing suitable means or instruments.

Design. An event, object, or structure that an intelligence
brought about by matching means to ends.


1. Briefly summarize the fossil evidence for human evolution. Are there any nonhuman fossils (e.g., the Australopithecines) that have been conclusively shown to be ancestral to modern humans? If not, on what grounds can the fossil record be taken as supporting human evolution? Is further independent evidence required? Assuming that the fossil record supports evolution, does it also reveal the mechanism by which evolution operates?

2. What does it mean to say that humans and chimpanzees share 98 percent of their genes? Does this mean that humans and chimpanzees are 98-percent similar? Does the genetic similarity between humans and chimpanzees indicate that they are descended from a common evolutionary ancestor? Support your answer.

3. List some ways in which humans and chimpanzees differ at the level of gross morphology (anatomy and physiology). How can such differences be squared with the genetic similarity between humans and chimpanzees? Are there differences between humans and chimpanzees that are surprising given their genetic similarity?

4. How is the brain size of organisms related to their intelligence? Is there a strong correlation or are there examples of smaller brains that exhibit remarkable cognitive abilities? What is the significance of the case study by John Lorber in which he describes a young man with a high IQ who “has virtually no brain”? Does appealing to redundancy in the brain, as Lorber does, adequately explain such anomalies? Why or why not?

5. Are our cognitive abilities simply a product of brain function? Or, are those abilities not reducible to brain function? Together, these two questions summarize the famous mind-body problem. What light, if any, does the relation between brain size and intelligence throw on the mind-body problem?

6. Is human language unique among animal communication systems? How so? Summarize Noam Chomsky’s view that human language ability is fundamentally different from the communication systems of other animals. Is Chomsky’s view widely accepted among evolutionary anthropologists such as Barbara King? What is Barbara King’s view? Which view about the nature of human language and animal communication systems do you find more compelling? Why?

7. What are the three main evolutionary hypotheses for explaining the emergence of higher cognitive abilities such as mathematics in humans? How, for instance, do Darwinists employ these hypotheses to explain human mathematical ability? What, if any, evidence is there to support these hypotheses? [See general notes to section 1.6.]
22 Human Origins 1

8. Define morality and altruism. From a Darwinian perspective, can there be anything like a truly selfless act? Why are reciprocal altruism and kin selection, as developed within evolutionary theory, incompatible with altruism in its ordinary sense of selfless acts of kindness? Who were the holocaust rescuers? Who was Mother Teresa? How does Darwinism explain the altruistic acts of people like holocaust rescuers and Mother Teresa?

9. What does E. O. Wilson mean when he describes morality as an “illusion fobbed off on us by our genes”? Can this view of morality be squared with the facts of our moral life? Comment on the following remark from section 1.7: “Within traditional morality, the main difficulty is to come to terms with the problem of evil. For evolutionary ethics, by contrast, the main difficulty is to come to terms with the problem of good.”

10. Comment on T. H. Huxley’s famous claim that “it is as respectable to be modified monkey as modified dirt.” Did humans evolve from monkeys? Are there compelling reasons for thinking that humans did evolve from monkeys? Are there compelling reasons for thinking that they did not? Which of these positions is compatible with intelligent design? Are both compatible? Support your answer.

14 Replies to “College level ID textbook to be released March 1, 2007 (chapter 1 available online)

  1. 1
    JGuy says:

    This is exciting -Very Nice! The layout looks good in the pdf file. Congrats to those that made it happen.

    I’d like to get a signed copy by Dembski, Wells et al? Nevermind – I will just sell it on eBay to pay the cost for two unsigned copies. 😉 Just kidding, I still have a copy of ‘The Art of Deception’ signed by Kevin Mitnik. Though, I did ask him to make it out to those on eBay.

  2. 2 says:

    This is great news. I can hardly wait! I hope it will be available in paperback!

  3. 3
    Jehu says:

    There may be an error in the first part of Chapter 1, according to wikipedia William James Sidis did not predict Black Holes, he predicted Dark Matter.

  4. 4
    scordova says:

    Well, I suppose like all textbooks, we can consider this the first edition.

    Also, I think the names of Crick and Orgel are reversed (affixed to the wrong photo).


  5. 5
    DaveScot says:

    Awesome Jon and Bill!

    We really needed something like this after what happened with Pandas and People in Dover and you guys delivered the goods. Way to go!

  6. 6
    JGuy says:

    You’re correct. They did mix the names up.

    But hey, let’s get back on tangent 😉 … how different are the DNA between man and woman? Could it be factually argued that the difference is greater between man and woman, than it is between man and chimp?

  7. 7
    kairos says:

    The Design of Life …this book is poised to become the authoritive textbook on the theory of intelligent design.

    I find very important that the book be pre-released for review on Internet. First, this will allow minor errors to be fixed through woldwide checking (probably also by NDEers …). Second, and most important this could give the book a huge diffusion provided that also the final release could be freely available. I agree that “the labourer is worthy of his hire” but the experience in such fields as computer science tells us that even more hardcopies are actually sold for more and more people like to buy a copy.

  8. 8
    jmcd says:

    I was a bit mystified ta the end of the section on brain size.

    “Supernatural explanations invoke miracles and are therefore not properly part of science. Explanations that call on intelligent causes require no miracles but cannot be reduced to materialist explanations. Indeed, design theorists argue that intelligent causation is perfectly natural, provided that nature is understood aright.”

    We are kinf of left hanging there and I would be very much interested in finding these arguments. It is a very nebulous statemnet that seems to evade the question. How can intelligent causation on this planet, four billion years ago be natural. The statement seems to be saying that intelligence is an emergent property of nature and nature is itself intelligenlt designed to create intelligence. I cannot think of anything there that disputes ET.

  9. 9

    The genetic differences between male and female humans are entirely contained within the y chromosome. There are a remarkably small number of genes in the Y chromosome:

    “In humans, the Y chromosome spans 58 million base pairs (the building blocks of DNA) and represents approximately 0.38% of the total DNA in a human cell. The human Y chromosome contains 78 genes, which code for only 23 distinct proteins. This relationship is typical in that most species’ Y chromosomes contain the fewest genes of any of the chromosomes.” You can check the actual number and find a description of the genes here:
    So, in fact, the genetic differences between human males and females are considerably less than the genetic differences between humans and chimpanzees.

  10. 10
    scordova says:


    That is a good question. Intelligence is not reducible to material components. That was Wigner’s thesis which Morowitz and others highlighted.

    Visit wikipedia for interpretations of quantum theory and you’ll see the “consciousness collapse” interpretation. Proof by contradiction suggest non-mateiral mind (even your mind) has a component that is non-material. That is an uncomfortable deduction from quantum physics because it has metaphysical implications.

    God and the The New Physics by chair of a physics department, Paul Davies is a good book on the topic. It explores even disembodied intelligence by arguing software is “disembodied”, thus intelligence and consciousness can be reasonably argued to be disembodied or decoupled from being reducible to matter and energy. Davies is a respected physcist and winner of the Templeton prize.


  11. 11
    jmcd says:

    Thanks Salvador

  12. 12
    Collin says:

    Are there supernatural laws? Could there be a higher nature? Could God have a computer and He is running a program He designed?

    On Intelligence, I find David Chalmer’s work on consciousness to be interesting. He argues (if I am getting it right) that consciousness is a fundamental thing like gravity or mass or something. Is intelligence the same as consciousness?

  13. 13
    scordova says:

    Is intelligence the same as consciousness?

    My understanding, according to Penrose is that consciousness is a necessary but not sufficient component of intelligence.

    Regarding “laws”, intelligence cannot by definition be characterized by law. Thus, any view of nature that says “natural” = “law like” I suppose is a view that is flawed.

    Even Mark Perakh echoed this problem:
    Mark Perakh on the supernatural and science

    there still remain unanswered many fundamental questions about nature….nothing should be prohibited as a legitimate subject of science, and excluding the supernatural out of hand serves no useful purpose.

    Moreover, it does not seem a simple task to offer a satisfactory definition of the difference between “natural” and “supernatural.” A phenomenon which seems to be contrary to known theories and therefore appears to be a miracle, and, hence, to meet the concept of the supernatural, may find a “natural” explanation in the course of a subsequent research. The distinction between natural and supernatural belongs more to philosophy than to science.


  14. 14

    […] [Pagel, whether he realizes it or not, echoes the pro-ID arguments in the first chapter of an upcoming college level, pro-ID textbook.] […]

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