Stranger Fruit

Arnhart on ID

I have a student currently working on conservative reactions to the Kitzmiller v. Dover ruling. As part of the preparations, I’m having him read Larry Arnhart’s Darwinian Conservatism [amaz] and John West’s response, Darwin’s Conservatives [amaz]. Over at his blog, Arnhart has made the following trenchant observation that I felt was worth sharing:

I claim that intelligent design is mostly a negative argument from ignorance with little positive content. That is to say, the proponents of ID attack Darwinian science for not satisying the highest standards of proof, and then they conclude that if the Darwinian arguments fall short of absolute proof, then ID wins by default. The sophistry here is that the proponents of ID set up standards of proof for Darwinian science that they themselves could never satisfy if they had to make a positive case for ID.

I say that for ID to have some positive content, its proponents would have to explain exactly where, when, and how a disembodied intelligence designed “irreducibly complex” structures like the bacterial flagellum. West responds by saying that the proponents of ID don’t have to do this. They can infer that there is an intelligent designer without explaining exactly where, when, or how the designer works. But that confirms my point! The proponents of ID cannot do what they demand that the Darwinists must do–provide detailed, step-by-step explanations of exactly how these “irreducibly complex” mechanisms are constructed.

Be sure and browse through Arnhart”s blog – he has had some interesting exchanges with Discovery Institute Fellows such as West, Francis Beckwith, and Richard Weikart.

Update: In an earlier version of this post, I referred to Francis Beckwith as an “ID supporter”. Dr Beckwith informs me that he “has never been much of fan [of] design arguments, ever.  [His] interest in the debate focuses on the jurisprudential questions involving the First Amendment and what could be permissibly taught in public schools under that amendment.” I apologize for any confusion caused.


  1. #1 Boo
    December 17, 2006

    “I claim that intelligent design is mostly a negative argument from ignorance with little positive content.”

    Have they ever produced any positive content?

  2. #2 FhnuZoag
    December 17, 2006

    Off the top of my head, there’s the banana-fitting-hand argument.

    Wait, why are you laughing! This is GOOD SCIENCINESS!

  3. #3 Chris E
    December 18, 2006

    Hi John, Did you link to Arnhart’s blog? Chris

  4. #4 John Lynch
    December 18, 2006

    Heh, it was there yesterday! I swear.


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