Is Intelligent Design Worthless If It’s Not Peer Reviewed?




Many Atheists have dismissed Intelligent Design because they say “it’s not peer reviewed”. When you give a teleological argument to prove the existence of God, they will demand that you cough up peer reviewed papers or else they reserve the right to dismiss everything you just said. Is this a good way to sweep the designer of life under the table? Is Intelligent Design really worthless if it isn’t peer reviewed?

As Dr. Stephen Meyer said in his book “Signature In The Cell”, chapter 18:

“Logically, the issue of peer review is a red herring – a distracting procedural side issue. The truth of a theory is not determined or guaranteed by place of, or procedures followed in, it’s publication…it is neither surprising nor damning to intelligent design that currently many scientific journals are implacably opposed to publishing articles supporting the theory.”

I used to get this sort of thing all the time back when I debated atheists on Twitter/Twitlonger (Not saying I don’t debate atheists on Twitter/Twitlonger anymore, just not as much. Nowadays it’s mostly in the comment section of this blog and on Facebook). What usually happens is that I give an argument for design and they complain about lack of peer review. I used to do my best to search for the peer review papers online to produce for them (and I've read that ID has indeed been published in a few peer reviewed journals, though not many as its advocates would like) but, in reality, is IS a red herring as Stephen Meyer said in the quote above. You must address the argument itself.

I say to the atheist nowadays "Even if ID isn't peer reviewed, I want to know you think about the argument I just gave? What do you think about it? Do you still think it’s wrong? If so, how is it wrong? Are the scientific facts off or is the inference to the design explanation wrong? Is there an alternative explanation for X that's better explanation than the one I just gave? If there is, what is it?” If you’re a Christian and you’re arguing with an atheist who makes this retort, try to get that person you're talking to to give a specific rebuttal rather than essentially saying "Show me your papers."

It should also be said that the point of this particular blog post is NOT to defend Intelligent Design or my Old Earth Creationist position (therefore I don’t want the comment section of this blog post to be flooded with supposed refutations of irreducible complexity, the DNA-To-Design argument, or either of the fine tuning arguments); I’ve defended Intelligent Design and Creationism in other blog posts. The point of this post is rather to say that a teleological argument can be good or bad even if the peer reviewed journals acknowledging it are sparse. It’s goodness or badness doesn’t depend on how many journals it’s in. You shouldn’t fall for this ploy on the part of the atheist. He’s just trying to get out of having to deal with your argument. He’s committing the red herring fallacy.

As Luke Nix, apologist and author of the blog “Faithful Thinkers” wrote “There are two concerns with the requirement of peer-reviewed material only: First the accuracy of the data and the soundness of the arguments contained within the material is independent of whether they are reviewed by a peer or not. Second, just because something is peer-reviewed does not mean that the material has accurate data or sound arguments. Of course, peer-review does indicate that it has been submitted to a certain level of critique, so some of the critical evaluation may already be done, but the peers may also not be as critical as one would hope and not look at it as critically as they should. Ironically, it is possible that one may be more suspicious of certain material that is peer-reviewed than not.”

Luke Nix, apologist and author of the blog “Faithful Thinkers” went on to say “Now, I have to admit that I'm one of those who would ask if something is peer-reviewed. However, I normally ask for the purpose of getting the majority consensus of a basic idea. I don't project this result onto the truth of the claims. They must be evaluated independently of what the majority thinks. I don't have a problem with material that is not peer-reviewed (most blogs, including mine aren't). I don't have a problem with peer-reviewed materials. I just want people to be aware that both require the same level of evaluation; neither is above nor beneath the other in this regard.”

It seems to me that the demand, "Show me peer-reviewed material" is a dodge. It reminds me of criminals on the ABC show Castle who, when Castle and Beckett back them into a corner with the mounting evidence that he's the one who committed the murder, he says "I want to speak my attorney”. Rather than being able to explain any of it away and rather than confessing, he cops out and demands to speak with his attorney. I think that most who make this charge are doing just that. Rather than either giving a rebuttal or admitting God, they “demand to speak with their attorney” (i.e “I demand a peer reviewed paper"). Now, it should be said that there’s nothing wrong with desiring a peer reviewed article on any type of scientific issue, but I do have a problem with it when it’s used as a cop out for evaluating the evidence and arguments for themselves.