Intelligent Design

Defining Intelligent Design


The following is taken directly from: because I could not say it any better.

The theory of intelligent design (ID) holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection. ID is thus a scientific disagreement with the core claim of evolutionary theory that the apparent design of living systems is an illusion that can be adequately explained by only natural causes.

In a broader sense, Intelligent Design is simply the science of design detection — how to recognize patterns arranged by an intelligent cause for a purpose. Design detection is used in a number of scientific fields, including anthropology, forensic sciences that seek to explain the cause of events such as a death or fire, cryptanalysis and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). An inference that certain biological information may be the product of an intelligent cause can be tested or evaluated in the same manner as scientists daily test for design in other sciences.

ID is controversial because of the religious implications of its evidence, rather than the significant weight of its evidence. ID proponents believe science should be conducted objectively, without regard to the implications of its findings. This is particularly necessary in origins science because of its historical (and thus very subjective) nature, and because it is a science that unavoidably impacts religion.

Positive evidence of design in living systems consists of the semantic, meaningful or functional nature of biological information, the lack of any known law that can explain the sequence of symbols that carry the “messages,” and statistical and experimental evidence that tends to rule out chance as a plausible explanation. Other evidence challenges the adequacy of natural or material causes to explain both the origin and diversity of life.

Intelligent Design is an intellectual movement that includes a scientific research program for investigating intelligent causes and that challenges naturalistic explanations of origins which currently drive science education and research.

We are not dealing with the term “natural selection.” Selection is a term that implies the making of a choice, a decision. Synonyms include picking out, choosing, and preferring. A mindless process cannot “select” in this sense. A river does not choose to follow the path of least resistance; sodium and chloride ions do not choose to form a salt crystal; gasoline, oxygen, and a spark do not choose to explode; and a colander does not choose to retain noodles. The term “natural selection” is an oxymoron and its widespread use contributes to the pervasive confusion so characteristic of this topic. We are dealing with ID or “Intelligent Design”

ID addresses one question only: is life the product of a guided or an unguided process? Did it arise from a mind or from the meaningless meandering of molecules in mindless motion?

A purposeful relationship can only derive from a mind or some form of intelligence that has the capacity to think of it. Purpose, meaning or function can only be a derivative of thought. It is produced in the mind through the capacity of the mind to “know” the present, store that “knowledge” in memory, to “think” about that knowledge so as to “predict” the future and to then “choose” to alter the future for an intended purpose.

Material causes and random processes, which lack a mind, simply do not have the capacity to produce an intention in the first instance. Material causes cannot know or think. They can’t know the present, have knowledge of the past or choose to alter the future. Minds order events for a future purpose. They order patterns that will command, inform, assemble, build, enable, excite, please, transport, house, nourish, and destroy. Each manifestation of a mind is preceded by a set of steps. The steps often reveal the ultimate intention of the mind, but not always. The inference to a mind arises from the clues left behind by the mind – the physical steps that had to be taken to produce the intended non-physical function or effect.

There is a difference between a gift and a found object. If one views one’s life as a gift, then it is dependent on the mind of the giver. The recipient might be interested in what the giver wants the gift to be used for. However, if life is just a found object produced by a combination of physical and chemical necessity and chance, then one may do with it as one pleases. If life is a found object it is not dependent on a mind. It is simply the independent result of random interactions of matter, energy and physical forces.

Is life a gift or a found object? Is it a creation or the chance occurrence that Jacques

Monod contemplated in the following statement: “We call these [mutation] events accidental; we say that they are random occurrences. And since they constitute the only possible source of modifications in the genetic text, itself the sole repository of the organism’s hereditary structures, it necessarily follows that chance alone is at the source of every innovation, of all creation in the biosphere. (Jacques Monod, Chance and Necessity, pp 112-3 (Vintage Books 1971); Molecular Biologist known for his work on gene expression in the Lac Operon. Nobel Prize in Physiology)? Based on belief about that issue, religions then address the subsidiary questions of the nature of life, how life should be lived and what happens when life on earth ends. Traditional theistic religions explain life as a gift. Nontheistic religions like Atheism and “Secular” Humanism explain it as simply the product of an accumulation of unguided material causes over time. The idea is that life just arises or occurs from materials of the past. These religions hold that life comes from matter, not mind.

The primary defect of the unobserved hypothesized process of biological evolution is the absurd implausibility of the claim that a random mechanism can produce the sophisticated array of functional systems needed to run life. The exponential increase in the time necessary for each new step needed to attain the required function is the killer. Random events and random mutations are not good explanations for the messages needed for life. Since the messages are not related by chance or necessity, their evident function and purpose inexorably leads one to the mind of an author.

The key philosophical and theological flaw in the ID movement is the unwillingness to identify the designer. ID’s ‘big tent’ strategy is trying to unite all possible opponents to Darwinism from whatever religious background. Strategically, this is supposed to bring together the most number of people to oppose Darwinism, and also emphasize the scientific (as opposed to ‘religious’) basis for design. But when this allows for appeals to ‘teleological organizing principles’, the efficacy of this strategy is questionable. It hardly sounds ‘more respectable’ than the discredited vitalism or ‘life force’ that some early evolutionists appealed to (a doctrine that maintains that life and the functions of a living organism depend on a nonmaterial force or principle separate from physical and chemical processes.), with almost pantheistic (any religious belief or philosophical doctrine that identifies God with the universal) overtones.

It is worth noting that ID’s ‘big tent’ claim sounds hollow at times. While the ID camp does credit young-earth creationists for opposing evolution and for pioneering the information argument, they too often pretend by omission that YECs make little contributions to the design argument today.

Whether leaving the identity of the designer for later is good strategy or not, it is assuredly bad theology. Salvation rests not on the fact that we were designed, but on the intervention of the designer as the identifiable Saviour, Jesus Christ. And soteriology (theology dealing with salvation especially as effected by Jesus Christ) is just the beginning of the problem. If Christianity is true, and the Bible is the very revelation of God, then we have a duty to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, to do all things to the glory of God. As Christians, we must recognize God’s sovereignty over biology as well as everything else. But the standard ID approach states that if design happened, the identity of the designer is a question that is yet to be determined. Unfortunately, this stands in opposition to any robust Christian scholarship. If, on the one hand, we believe God’s word to be the truth, and God to be the sovereign creator of all things, it does not appear consistent to say on the other hand that the designer’s identity is inconsequential in the field of science. Avoiding the identity of the designer has another significant problem: it gets in the way of important scientific and philosophical theorizing.

Since ID lacks a coherent history of the acts of a designer, it has two major vulnerabilities that misotheists (like Richard Dawkins) and theistic evolutionists (like Kenneth Miller) exploit:

  1. Apparent ‘bad design’ in the world, as well as design features that are designed to hurt. But biblical creationists recognize that we live in a cursed world that resulted from the Fall of Adam, so we are not seeing the world as originally created.
  2. Extinctions and the fossil record: why would a designer be so incompetent that his creatures die out? But this death is not only the result of the Fall, but also the global Flood.

And as long as the ID camp is unwilling to face the question of the identity of the designer, it never will be able to offer an alternate historical account of origins. Without the historical framework (which does depend on the identity of the designer), ID can challenge Darwinism on many fronts, but it does not have the stuff to replace Darwinism.


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