The Collapse of Intelligent Design?

Charles Minard's flow map of Napoleon's March]

Charles Minard’s flow map of Napoleon’s March

What is that graphic doing here? It’s the famous graph by Charles Joseph Minard showing the numerical decline of Napoleon’s Grande Armée as a result of the French invasion of Russia. The wide line shows the numbers that embarked on the campaign, and the narrow black line shows the number of those who returned. Be patient. Its relevance will be explained in due course.

From time to time we see news of public opinion polls asking about belief in creationism. Here’s the latest (May 2012) Gallup poll on Evolution, Creationism, Intelligent Design. They’ve been asking the same question for 30 years — since 1982. It’s about time for a new poll. We wrote about this one last year, but it’s the best data we have at the moment.

Those who believe that God created humans in their present form are 46% of the US population. That figure has varied slightly over the years between 44% and 47% (although it dipped to 40% in 2010), so it’s essentially unchanged. Rock solid, one might say.

The number for those who believe humans evolved and God had no part in the process is now 15%. That figure has risen steadily since 1982, when it was 9%. And the number of those who believe that humans evolved with God assisting in the process (that’s theistic evolution) has bounced around between 45% and 40%, but this year it hit a new low of 32%.

If we ignore what may be one-year anomalies, the only figure that has shown a steady change is for those who fully accept the scientific view of evolution, and that’s been on a steady rise. So what do we make of this?

Well, we can’t ignore the large and stable number for the creationist portion of the population. There are a lot of invincibly ignorant people running around, and that is bad news indeed. But we shall once again quote from that scene in Braveheart where Longshanks (Edward I) is planing to send his son’s wife to speak to William Wallace, and he’s warned that she might be killed. Longshanks responds:

My son would be most distressed by that. But if she were to be killed, we would soon find the King of France a useful ally against the Scots. You see, as king, you must find the good in any situation.

And so it is that your Curmudgeon finds some good in the poll results It’s definitely worth noting that the ignorance isn’t getting worse. That’s in spite of all the propaganda efforts of all the creationist organizations. That segment of the population is holding firm, and it has political influence, but they aren’t making a dent in the rest of the population.

The really good news is the total failure of the Discovery Institute — described in the Cast of Characters section of our Intro page. You know about their manifesto — the Wedge Document. That’s a link to the Wikipedia article which describes it. You can read the actual document at the NCSE website: The Wedge Document.

The Wedge Document states in its “Five Year Strategic Plan Summary” that the intelligent design movement’s goal is to replace science as currently practiced with “theistic and Christian science.” Also, among the intelligent design movement’s “Governing Goals” are to “defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural, and political legacies” and “to replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.” Listed among their “Twenty Year Goals” is: “To see design theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life.”

The Discoveroids have failed. Their grand crusade has gone absolutely nowhere. An interesting indicator can be seen in search engine statistics. Check out this history of Google searches on “intelligent design”. It peaked during the Kitzmiller trial in 2005, and it’s been steadily — precipitously — trending downward ever since.

The collapse of interest in the Discoveroids’ “theory” reminds us of the graphic which you see at the start of this post. Were we too dramatic in choosing to post that graphic? Maybe, but one could argue that the intelligent design graphic looks even worse than the one showing the obliteration of Napoleon’s Grande Armée. The Discoveroids have spent millions and they’ve accomplished nothing. Well, they’ve got Louisiana — how wonderful for them.

In contrast, here’s the result of a google trend search on “Sensuous Curmudgeon”. It’s not much, and it certainly looks bad for June, but that month has just begun. Anyway, the trend looks far healthier for us than it does for the Discoveroids’ “theory” of intelligent design.

Hey, Casey — if you’re planning on leaving that sinking ship in Seattle, don’t come to us. We don’t have any budget. You may as well stay where you are, as long as it lasts. After that — good luck! Besides, the Discoveroids are the only creationist outfit with political ambitions. When you guys shut down there won’t be much need for what we do here.

Copyright © 2013. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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22 responses to “The Collapse of Intelligent Design?

  1. I would agree it has failed. I have also noted this trend which backs up the general impression having followed ID for sometime that the movement has lost any momentum it may have had when it was more in the pubic eye. I would add a word a caution though about the Google trends numbers. I did a similar comparison of word use trends and wrote about the problems. the main one is that they are relative to all traffic. Since web traffic has grown greatly a trend downward doesn’t mean there are fewer searches for “intelligent Design” only that the as a percentage of all searches there are fewer searches. It could be there are the same number of people searching for “ID”. What it does say for sure is that ID isn’t growing in popularity. TNH

  2. Very good article, Natural Historian.

  3. Adding a second unrelated trend can be a good comparison, especially if you can find something which remains fairly constant. Try adding “dog license”, “herpes virus”, or “hernia surgery”.

  4. anevilmeme

    Sorry, but that 46% believe in special creation and that the number hasn’t shifted in 30 years is depressing. More so because they can’t all be written off as ignorant, uneducated conservatives. To be 46% of the population that must also include millions of people who aren’t social conservatives or conservatives at all. This problem cuts across all political, social, economic and education demographics.

    Or am I totally wrong?

  5. anevilmeme asks: “Or am I totally wrong?”

    No, you’re not wrong. In my post about that same Gallup poll last year I went into more detail. They had a breakdown by political party. 58% of the YECs were Republicans, but another 41% were Dems.

  6. Polls and demographics are interesting and tell a lot of the story, also of importance is financial resources and political clout. They still have some very wealthy backers to continue what they are doing. Their political clout is distinctly minority, nothing ever comes of legislative attempts. In the reverse of the saying that a space elevator will be built 50 years after people stop laughing about it, I suspect I.D. will last another 50 years or so (because we are laughing now).

  7. Pete Moulton

    I give the IDiots a shorter projection, Troy, on the grounds that people would be actively researching the possibility of space elevators (if only to disprove the underlying hypotheses), while there’s no chance at all that anyone will be researching ID. How could they? They can’t even formulate a falsifiable hypothesis to start the ball rolling.

  8. Pete Moulton says: “They can’t even formulate a falsifiable hypothesis to start the ball rolling.”

    They don’t need to. Evolution can’t explain the uvula. Intelligent design is the only alternative.

  9. Recall from “The Will to Believe” item by SC,

    “Most people were born into their “faith” and exercise a “will to believe” without ever examining its teachings.”

    This creationist nonsense seems to be imprinted in the mind, and children are not given an opportunity to think otherwise. For many years they accept this and creationist ideas becomes the norm. I suspect the vast majority of people who hold these creationist beliefs are far less educated, or as in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, even Ohio, etc. in particular, the educational system betrays them and refuses to teach science, rather preferring pseudoscience for their curriculum.

    But there’s another side to this topic, and that is the matter of life and death. What happens when we die? Creationists are secure in their beliefs of an afterlife, like the Egyptian pharaohs or Viking kings or the Popes, etc. The religious creationist world depends on spreading this belief, and a science that does not “accept” an afterlife is anathema to them. So regardless of how much you can teach science, the belief in the protective spiritual world will often win the debate. That’s another reason the Dishonesty Institute folks always give their talks to the flocks they fleece, a willing audience.

  10. What about BioLogos? Doesn’t these data also indicate that BL has also been pretty much a non-factor in trying to convince YEC evangelical xians to accept evolution?

  11. docbill1351

    The Disco Tute was on a bit of a roll in 1999-2000 when Behe and Dembski were active. Then Dembski self-destructed at Baylor, never recovered, and embarked on a decade long slide into oblivion. Behe gained celebrity or notoriety up until Kitzmiller where he crowned himself King Fool of Intelligent Design, losing all credibility in both the scientific and creationist community in one fell swoop. The other clowns, Meyer, Luskin, Wells, Sternberg and Berlinski haven’t produced enough between the pack of them to fill a decent blog.

    Post-Kitzmiller, the Tute abandoned all facade of scientific pretense and plummeted head first into Young Earth Creationism with Paul Nelson blathering away and Dembski recanting for the Baptists and Meyer going on the holy roller circuit. Shocking to see, really, that they lost it that quickly.

    The Tute went from teaching the controversy to not “mandating” ID, to being ID “friendly” to viewpoint discrimination to academic freedom not so much in an attempt to promote ID as to discredit science.

    Now the Tute is embarking on their latest campaign to be a player in the homeschool market. It just gets more pitiful with each passing day. Just when you think the Tute is at an all time low they go lower. The irony of the Tute disappearing is that they are so insignificant as it is, only of interest to those of us who follow creationism as a hobby, that they could go under tomorrow and nobody would know. Now that’s insignificant!

  12. Our Curmudgeon observes:

    we can’t ignore the large and stable number for the creationist portion of the population

    You neglected to prefix this statement with “Unfortunately”….

    And, although their number may be ‘stable’, the general mentality of Creationists is anything but.

  13. @Doc – good point about the DI’s insignificance. When I talk to anyone about the “culture war” between creationism and science, I have to tell them who the DI is, and explain it’s mission, etc. They are basically unknown to the general public. Other than their cult following of like-minded crazies, and those of us who laugh at them, no one would notice if they closed their operation tomorrow.

    More importantly, no one would advance Intelligent Design. It seems that the only individuals who write books or otherwise make contributions to ID are all employees and fellows of the DI. There are no other “thinkers” out there writing and “researching” (making up stuff) on ID. The “science” would disappear along with the institute.

  14. There’s no doubt that ID has failed miserably as a science. Their existence depends on “smart talk” whereby they fool the uneducated public time & again.
    But creationist organizations are receiving large sums of donation from believers every year. With this money they’ll continue to fund ID. And as long as there’s money, IDiots will keep on writing stupid books and embark on legal battles. There’s no end in sight to this for the foreseeable future.

  15. Let’s not forget the age factor. ID sold itself to the public by portraying their theory “a magic man dunnit” as the new, modern, cuttin’ edge science. Their advertising pamphlets and books have endless invocations of the word “modern”, along with misrepresentations of how dumb ol’ Darwin was (e.g. he was so dumb, he though cells were blobs of protoplasm!)

    But Intelligent Design is cuttin’ edge science, promoted a NEW GENERATION of YOUNG SCIENTISTS. Well, most of them were never scientists, but the audience can’t see that. OTOH the audience can see that they’re not young anymore.

    Dembski is well into middle age, Behe must be approaching retirement by now, Berlinski is the Crypt Keeper, and Phillip Johnson is off to the Near Death Star. Even Casey Luskin, once “the young one”, is now a middle-aged man with a law degree but no actual career in law. Ouch.

    What new blood do they have? That a-hole Youngkin? A horrible person, but he’s a lawyer; he can’t pass as a “young scientist.” Maybe Maclatchie; but Maclatchie is, alas, not enough of an a-hole to carry on the Johnsonian/Dembskian tradition of ad hominems and personal attacks confected in the pseudo-intellectual jargon of “challenging metaphysical presuppositions.”

    “Grumpy Old Men” are not the best spokesmen for the alleged “revolution.” If you ever have to debate ID proponents, you could win just by comparing what they wrote 20 years ago to what they write today, and show photographs of their wrinkled selves.

  16. Slightly off topic, over at Why Evolution is True, there is a post about a debate between Zach Kopplin vs Michael Medved and Casey Luskin today at 3pm CDT on Medved’s radio show. There is a link to the broadcast on the post.

  17. It’s instructive to add to SC’s search the word “evolution.” That graph shows that both have declined almost in parallel, though with “evolution” maintaining a large edge throughout. Based on that, I’d conjecture that the decline of intelligent design is due to a generalized decline of interest in the issue overall, which, of course, is consistent with SC’s original point.

  18. That’s neat, RBH. I didn’t know you could graph two different items at the same time. Here’s Discovery Institute and Charles Darwin. Darwin’s doing okay.

  19. //// What new blood do they have? ////

    There’s Jonathan M. He writes about different multisubunit protein complexes over at ENV (often accompanied by an animation of the same), likening them to machines and then concluding they’re designed.

    IDiots are doing everything to draw fresh blood. Apart from writing stupid books & new educational curricula, they organize annual seminars for graduate students to ‘catch them young’. One of the conditions for attending these seminars is either a phone interview with the bosses at Seattle or a reference letter from an ID-friendly supervisor!

  20. docbill1351

    Jonathan M(cLatchie) is a Scottish grad student working on a biochemistry or some such degree which he will probably receive. In other respects, though, he’s quite stupid or, perhaps, totally deluded is a better description. PZ Meyer publicly shamed McLatchie at a conference and basically called him stupid to his face. McLatchie hemmed and hawed then claimed he had “proof” of his conjecture but he left it in his hotel room. Ah, the Paul Nelson Defense – the proof is in my hotel room.

    Jonny M is also captivated by animations. Yes, cartoons. He believes that cartoons are real and, therefore, constitute proof of “intelligent” design. (Note to Jon: they’re cartoons, Jon, CARTOONS.)

    I don’t see Jonathan M ever producing “original” work in ID or even being considered an “ID theorist,” whatever that is. He’ll spend his career pointing to cartoons and exclaiming, “Oooooh, lookie that! Designed it must be!”

  21. docbill1351

    That’s PZ Myers. I can never spell that name!

    Here’s the McLatchie public smackdown.

    I should also note that whenever ID proponents find themselves in a scientifically literate (or just plain literate) audience they always get smacked down. Dembski got trashed publicly at OU by ART STUDENTS of all things who saw through his bogus argument and called him out on it. Dembski then took a chance (and lost) by whining that it was a complicated argument, the evolution of the flagellum and they would have a difficult time following it. Then a biologist took the microphone and said, “I’m Dr. X and I study the evolution of the flagellum and what you have presented is total garbage.” It went downhill from there.

    So, you wonder why ID proponents don’t publish their work, don’t attend conferences, keep their proceedings secret, self-publish their books and sit behind their blog site firewalls?

  22. Doc Bill said:

    So, you wonder why ID proponents don’t publish their work, don’t attend conferences, keep their proceedings secret, self-publish their books and sit behind their blog site firewalls?

    Nope. Don’t wonder that at all. Cuz if they did emerge from behind all of that “fluffy pillow” protection, they’d have to deal with you… or, even worse, Kink. And there’s nothing worse than that. Fear the Kink!