Intelligent Design

Discussing the concepts surrounding intelligent design, its use in various scientific fields, debating faulty logic, discovering the humor of human thinking.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Intelligent Design Theory in Sports Medicine

- Detecting Enhanced Performance

It’s sad to see a hero fall, but this hero may have served the greater good: truth. 2006 Tour de France winner Floyd Landis may have fallen from grace as a world-famous cycling super star, but his story demonstrates intelligent-design reasoning in action in a biological-science setting. Apparently there are certain features in biological systems that are best explained by an intelligent cause, as opposed to a natural cause, such as elevated levels of testosterone.

According to the Associated Press, after his second doping sample tested positive for higher-than-allowed levels of testosterone, Landis was fired by his cycling team and the Tour de France no longer considered him the 2006 champion.

The head of France's anti-doping commission said the samples contained synthetic testosterone, indicating that it came from an outside source. The second or "B" sample “confirmed the result of an adverse analytical finding" in last week's "A" sample, the International Cycling Union (ICU) said.

Pierre Bordry, who heads the French anti-doping council, said the lab that found higher-than-allowable levels of the hormone in both samples also discovered synthetic testosterone.

"I have received a text message from Chatenay-Malabry lab that indicates the 'B' sample of Floyd Landis' urine confirms testosterone was taken in an exogenous way," Bordry told The Associated Press. Landis had claimed the testosterone was "natural and produced by my own organism."

Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme said Landis no longer was considered champion, but the decision to strip him of his title rests with the ICU.

"It goes without saying that for us Floyd Landis is no longer the winner of the 2006 Tour de France," Prudhomme told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "Our determination is even stronger now to fight against doping and to defend this magnificent sport."

If stripped of the title, Landis would become the first winner in the 103-year history of cycling's premier race to lose his Tour crown over doping allegations. Landis' spokesman, Michael Henson, confirmed recently that the rider had tested positive for a testosterone-epitestosterone ratio of 11:1, well above the 4:1 limit.

Earlier, a New York Times report cited a source from the ICU saying that a second analysis of Landis' "A" sample by carbon isotope ratio testing had detected synthetic testosterone, meaning it was ingested.

Since the Phonak team was informed of the positive test on July 27, Landis and his defense team have offered varying explanations for the high testosterone reading:

  • Cortisone shots taken for pain in Landis' degenerating hip
  • Drinking beer and whiskey the night before
  • Thyroid medication
  • His natural metabolism

According to Neo-Darwinists, Landis can’t be a cheater because science is limited and cannot detect intelligent causes in biological structures. Indeed, according to the logic and evidence presented at the recent Kitzmiller v. Dover case in Pennsylvania, a search for causes apart from unguided material causes is “not science” if one is dealing with the biological sciences. According to the Dover Darwinists, science is not allowed to go beyond the thought of unguided material causes, and apparently any substance or apparatus found in a biologic body must have arrived there via naturalistic means. But what are we do to when we detect clear evidence of intelligent causes in nature?

Surely if a micro-machine like a flagellum (which can spin at up to 100,000 rpm to provide propulsion and operate in both forward and reverse) is the result of natural causes and nothing more, then the minor issue of elevated testosterone must be naturalistic in cause also? (I say this tongue-in-cheek, but perhaps the same type-III secretory system that Neo-Darwinists postulate evolved into the flagellum may have just as well secreted extra testosterone into Landis in a purely naturalistic way - despite the evidence and odds.)

Intuitively, if a blind watchmaker is responsible for the biological cascade that enables blood to clot when Landis and friends take a tumble and get some road rash, then perhaps this incredible blind watchmaker also made some extra testosterone for Landis. We simply don’t realize that Landis and those before him are evolving into a family of super-cyclists, far more fit than his cycling friends. “Better cycling through superior chemical evolution!”

In seriousness, in the relatively simple case of Landis, we don’t put much faith in the just-so-stories of:

  • Beer and whisky before the race
  • Type-III secretory system injecting extra testosterone into his system
  • His superior ancestral evolution into a testosterone-laden cyclist able to soundly defeat the less fit

Instead the cycling and scientific communities see this as a rather simple case of cheating to enhance performance. Once again, we observe that science is quite able to detect that there are certain features of biological systems that are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than a naturalistic cause, and the elevated testosterone levels of Landis’ biological system is being explained by both the cycling authorities and scientific studies as the result of an intelligent cause.

While the verdict of intelligent cause vs. natural cause is clear, there is still no determination of who invoked the “intelligent cause.” We don’t know if:

  • Landis took banned substances knowingly
  • A trainer slipped them into his food or drink before a race
  • A competitor contaminated his food or drink in a deliberate act to disqualify Landis

True to the theory of intelligent design, we don’t necessarily have the evidence to determine who or what the intelligent agent is that committed the intelligent act, but we do have the capability to distinguish between intelligent cause and non-intelligent cause (natural cause).

Greg LeMond, the first American to win the Tour said, "When I heard it was synthetic hormone, it is almost impossible to be caused by natural events. It's kind of a downer… I hope Floyd will come clean on it and help the sport. We need to figure out how to clean the sport up, and we need the help of Floyd."

A telling similarity exists between cycling and the biological sciences, and perhaps a rephrasing of LeMond’s statement will make it clear:

“When I heard there was irreducible complexity and complex specified information inside biological systems, it is almost impossible to be caused by natural events. I hope those scientists with a prior commitment to methodological naturalism will come clean and help out science. We need to figure out how to clean up this aspect of science, and we need the help of all scientists to honestly consider intelligent causes not just in sports medicine, archeology, forensic science, cryptology, copyright violations, and the search for extra-terrestrial life (where it is already used extensively), but in all science, including biological science, evolutionary biology, and origin-of-life research.”

It is sad to see a hero fall, and Landis may have unknowingly served the greater good, for his case has brought to the public’s eye the prevalence of the use of causal determination and science’s ability to differentiate between a natural and intelligent causes within biology. The theory and techniques of intelligent design are not outside science, they are used by science with regularity in a variety of scientific fields.

Lee Penick

Many thanks to Dr. Paul Nelson for the conceptual idea for this article and for his writings on


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