Intelligent Design in Science?

A stone tool, somewhat similar to those discussed in the article (click for credit)
I am not sure how this ever made it past the reviewers, but an article in the January 28, 2011 issue of the journal Science discussed research from an intelligent design standpoint. The article reports on research done by Hans-Peter Uerpmann and his colleagues. They were excavating a rock shelter at the end of a long limestone mountain near Al-Madam, Sharjah Emirate (of the UAE), and they found stones that were shaped rather differently than most of the other stones in that same area. Most of them were tapered at one end and curved at the other, and there were specific surfaces that seemed perfectly suited for fingers to hold onto the stones.1 The research is considered important, because if the results stand up to scrutiny, they upset current ideas regarding the migration of human beings out of Africa.

It is hard to keep track of the evolutionary model of the origin of human beings, because it changes abruptly every time new data cannot be forced into compliance. Nevertheless, the evolutionary view currently accepted by the majority of evolutionists is that modern human beings evolved in Africa and then started migrating from there about 50,000-75,000 years ago. Dr. Uerpmann’s research team, however, found these stones in the Arabian peninsula, and based on scientifically irresponsible dating techniques, they claim the stones are 125,000 years old.

How can a bunch of stones upset the currently-accepted evolutionary view of man’s origin? Well, according to a commentary piece that ran in the same issue of Science, the research team used the properties of the stones to conclude:

…that these tools were made by modern humans who may have crossed directly from Africa as part of a migration spreading across Europe, Asia, and Australia.2

So the researchers looked at the stones, and even though there were a lot of stones in the general area, they decided that their shape, composition, markings, etc., made these stones special. Rather than being stones that were simply worn into odd shapes by erosion, there were elements of design in the stones. They seemed to be perfectly suited for use in human hands. As a result, they decided that the stones were the products of design, not chance. Thus, the stones must have been created by a designer.

That’s not the end of the story, however. They used the properties of these designed tools to learn about their designer. They decided that based on the sophistication of the tools, they could not be the work of a primitive designer. Instead, they needed to be the work of modern humans. Michael Petraglia, an archaeologist from the University of Oxford, examined the team’s findings, and it is reported that:

Petraglia agrees that it’s likely that H. sapiens made the tools and that they came from Africa.3

Thus, the researchers conclude that modern humans arrived in the Arabian peninsula up to 75,000 years before the currently-accepted view has them leaving Africa.

Now I am not all that excited about the research, because the importance of it is based on terrible dating methods. But there’s something I just don’t get. The journal Science has made it clear that intelligent design is not science. However, this research clearly used the methods of intelligent design. The researchers found stones whose properties indicate that they are not the result of chance. Because of this, they concluded that the stones were the result of design, and then they used those stones to draw conclusions related to the designers.

Don’t they understand that this leads to a terrible “human of the gaps” problem? After all, as soon as you say something is designed, you can’t learn anything more about it. You just have to throw up your hands and say, “Humans designed it.” After that, you can’t say anything more. Why don’t the authors of this study realize that they are shutting down further inquiry into these stones? Don’t they understand that the only way to truly learn about the stones is to describe how they developed naturalistically through the processes of weathering and erosion?

I just hope that some poor Science editor doesn’t lose his or her position over this!


1. Simon J. Armitage, et al., “The Southern Route ‘Out of Africa’: Evidence for an Early Expansion of Modern Humans into Arabia,” Science 331:453-456 , 2011.
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2. Andrew Lawler, “Did Modern Human Travel Out of Africa via Arabia,” Science 331:387, 2011.
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3. Ibid
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4 thoughts on “Intelligent Design in Science?”

  1. The November 2010 Tabletalk magazine discussed a similar issue. As I recall, the article talked about the SETI project that is listening for sounds from space, assuming that if these sounds have a pattern then that could mean intelligent life in space or something to that effect. Yet, design/patterns on earth do not, according to the scientific community, indicate an intelligent creator. I don’t remember the specifics, but the gist of the article was the same as the Science journal article.

    1. Good point, Kathy. SETI also uses intelligent design reasoning. Some naturalistic zealots say that SETI is not science specifically because of this.

  2. Nice article!

    On a somewhat related note, I think that all view-points that are contrary to the truth, can be shown as self-contradictory at heart. Would you agree?

    Also, It seems that a lot of proponents of evolution make up for a lack of reasoning by the sheer volume of their fallacious arguments.

    Thanks for providing a resource where I can get reinforced in true, rational scientific method, which always testifies to ultimate truth.

    Currently, I’m semi-debating some evolutionists on the Khan Academy website.
    ( )
    They are more numerous than I, and I’m convinced have no desire to learn. I’m afraid I probably don’t do justice to the scientific case against evolution, I probably shouldn’t have brought it up, but I hate to see evolution being advertised as such a fool-proof, infallible law.

    It is so surprising to me how it ever got to so widely accepted, but it probably shouldn’t surprise me, because the intelligent design world-view has a good explanation as to why people love darkness rather than light. And the evolution/non-creation world-view has yet to have a reason as to why people would even desire to believe in something false and self-destructive (as they try to paint intelligent design.)

    Thanks again for the article!

    1. Thanks, Enoch. I am not sure that all viewpoints contrary to the truth are SELF-contradictory. Some simply contradict external facts. I think evolution became widely accepted because we were rather ignorant about biology at the time. Now, like any other false paradigm, its popularity overcomes its poor performance when compared to the data.

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