Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version



The Science Teacher : Commentary v. 70, no. 8 (2003), p. 12.


Published by National Science Teaching Association


Alternative explanations to evolution are very popular these days. An articulate advocacy exists for the Intelligent Design (ID) theory, led nationally by the Seattle-based Discovery Institute and academicians like Michael Behe (1996), Phillip Johnson (1997), and William Dembski (1998). In many U.S. communities science teachers are besieged with requests by local boards of education to include ID and evidence against evolution. Whether national or local, those representing the latest attacks on biological evolution demand such alternatives out of fairness, for religious reasons, or to protect a basic freedom of choice. The motives of individuals making these demands notwithstanding, the consequences of adopting ID as a scientific theory must be carefully weighed.

When presented with fascinating new biological questions concerning the human genome, for example, we might apply both evolution and ID tools to see which one works best. Better scientific theories, after all, are distinguished from poorer ones on the basis of their ability to explain patterns of evidence, make accurate predictions, and solve unique scientific problems. Evolution has evidenced the repeated ability to do all three. ID, unfortunately, only explains anomalous patterns of evidence. Thus, even if one were to admit ID as a viable theoretical companion to evolution, it does not appear to be as powerful. Predictions using ID theory, in other words, don’t occur and scientific problems (e.g., finding new vaccines and creating new antibiotics) are left completely unsolved. What advantages does ID offer?