Giving intelligent design its due
Science | Major scientific journal publishes supportive study
by Julie Borg
Posted 10/15/20, 02:17 pm
Intelligent design just received a boost in the scientific world. The prestigious, peer-reviewed Journal of Theoretical Biology published an academic paper on Sept. 21 that clearly supports the idea as a viable concept that “challenges conventional Darwinian thinking.”
Peer-reviewed journals have largely censored scientific research that credits intentional design by a creator for life in the world rather than random genetic mutations and natural selection. This publication marks a significant step forward: Journal of Theoretical Biology ranks in the top 12 percent of publications in the area of biological sciences and agriculture and is the 25th most-cited in the field, according to CiteScore.
Discovery Institute, a hub of intelligent design research, praised the publication as a major breakthrough for science and freedom of speech. If this paper is any indication, “some of the suffocating constraints on ID advocacy may be coming off,” it said.
The study’s authors, Steinar Thorvaldsen, a professor of information science at the University of Tromsø in Norway, and Ola Hössjer, a professor of mathematical statistics at Stockholm University, referenced notable intelligent design researchers such as 2009 WORLD Daniel of the Year Stephen Meyer, molecular biologist Douglas Axe, biochemist Michael Behe, paleontologist Günter Bechly, and mathematician William Dembski.
Thorvaldsen and Hössjer used statistical analysis to study biological fine-tuning, echoing researchers who have long pointed to it as evidence of design. They described the concept as 100 knobs set to certain values determining the characteristics of the universe. Turn even one knob just a bit to the right or left, and the universe would become hostile to life or make it impossible.
“The chances that the universe should be life-permitting are so infinitesimal as to be incomprehensible and incalculable,” they wrote.
The researchers point to the organization found in biology as further proof of design: “One of the surprising discoveries of modern biology has been that the cell operates in a manner similar to modern technology, while biological information is organized in a manner similar to plain text.” Terms like “sequence code,” “information,” and “living machine” fill mainstream biological science literature.
Critics quickly attempted to discredit the paper. Darwinian biologist Jerry Coyne called it “science-y sounding publicity for intelligent design.”
Intelligent design theorists weren’t surprised. Though the article appeared online in June, Discovery did not mention it publicly until after its print publication in September out of concern Darwinists would try to cancel it. “As you know, intelligent design isn’t loved by the establishment media, or elite professors, or social media giants,” said John G. West, a vice president at Discovery Institute. “Intelligent design supporters are well-acquainted with the ‘cancel culture’ because we’ve faced it for a long time.”
Even in the face of intense criticism, the journal did not retract the paper. The editors scheduled a disclaimer for the December issue that reads, “We believe that intelligent design is not in any way a suitable topic for the Journal of Theoretical Biology.” It also says they did not know the authors were “connected to a creationist group.”
West said the disclaimer only adds to the significance of the article’s publication: “It meant that the article survived peer-review and was accepted for publication despite the open hostility of the journal’s top editors.”
Julie is a World Journalism Institute graduate. She covers science and intelligent design for WORLD and is a clinical psychologist. Julie resides in Dayton, Ohio.