Using Protistan Examples to Dispel the Myths of Intelligent Design



    1. Department of Cellular Biology, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30602, and
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    1. Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health, Empire State Plaza, Albany, New York 12201, and
    2. Department of Biomedical Sciences, School of Public Health, The University at Albany, Empire State Plaza, Albany, New York 12201
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  • Presentation delivered at the workshop: Horizontal Gene Transfer and Phylogenetic Evolution Debunk Intelligent Design, 1st International Society of Protistologists—North American Section Meeting, 11–13 June 2009, Roger Williams University, Bristol, RI, USA

Corresponding Author: M. A. Farmer, Department of Cellular Biology, University of Georgia, 724 Biological Sciences, Athens, Georgia 30602—Telephone number: 706 542 3383; FAX number: 706 542 4271; e-mail:


ABSTRACT. In recent years the teaching of the religiously based philosophy of intelligent design (ID) has been proposed as an alternative to modern evolutionary theory. Advocates of ID are largely motivated by their opposition to naturalistic explanations of biological diversity, in accordance with their goal of challenging the philosophy of scientific materialism. Intelligent design has been embraced by a wide variety of creationists who promote highly questionable claims that purport to show the inadequacy of evolutionary theory, which they consider to be a threat to a theistic worldview. We find that examples from protistan biology are well suited for providing evidence of many key evolutionary concepts, and have often been misrepresented or roundly ignored by ID advocates. These include examples of adaptations and radiations that are said to be statistically impossible, as well as examples of speciation both in the laboratory and as documented in the fossil record. Because many biologists may not be familiar with the richness of the protist evolution dataset or with ID-based criticisms of evolution, we provide examples of current ID arguments and specific protistan counter-examples.