Evidence-based theory

One of the principles of the Enlightenment was the careful examination of evidence before reaching conclusions. It is, therefore, startling that Peter Jones (Opinion, 7 February) should conclude that Islamic extremism and the theory of intelligent design are both manifestations of irrational, anti-Enlightenment thinking.

ID is not a religiously-based idea but an evidence-based theory about life's origins. A seminal text, William Dembski's The Design Inference, was published by Cambridge University Press, not usually thought of as a fundamentalist publishing house.

It is true that many have found that ID provides support for theism, but that is not grounds for dismissing it. To do so is to confuse the evidence for a theory with its possible implications.

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Significantly, it was the evidence for design in cell DNA, as expounded by ID theorists, that persuaded the philosopher Antony Flew to renounce atheism some months ago. His words are instructive: "We must follow the evidence, wherever it leads."


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Peter Jones fears that the age of reason may be washed away by a tide of religious fundamentalism. However, he clearly fails to employ the logic and reason that he claims to value so highly.

Having tried to connect violent demonstrations by Muslim fanatics with intelligent design theory, he goes on to dismiss this theory on the grounds that it is a short step from believing in ID to creationism, and another short step from creationism to moral absolutism.

A theory cannot be attacked on the grounds of its consequences. Surely we seek the truth, not whatever backs up our position or leads to conclusions that we like. If Peter Jones wishes to discredit ID rationally then he might, for example, challenge its concept of specified complexity, question the explanatory filter employed in the design inference, or dispute the universal probability bound. But that is probably a bit too much like intellectual hard work, so dogmatic dismissal on ideological grounds will continue to suffice for most critics of ID.


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