An anti-ID argument I get tired of hearing: "Only motivated by Apologetics"

Every so often I see a new essay put up at BioLogos, where the thesis is to shame ID proponents for using ID to try to prove that God exists. “How dare they! Don’t they know it’s just a god-of-the-gaps argument? And that gaps could disappear? And if faith is built on something so flimsy, it will come crashing down?!?”

Yeah, yeah, I get it. But the foundation of ID doesn’t rest on the desire to construct arguments for God’s existence. The foundation of ID rests on an intuition of design. “Hey! That looks like somebody designed it!” Now if we investigate the thing that triggers the design intuition, we might decide that it wasn’t really designed after all. Or we might decide that we don’t know…yet. Anti-ID people think that this last statement combined with a desire to prove God’s existence is what fuels ID. But I don’t think that it is always the story.

What I think is often the real story is that it is the combination of both the “we don’t know…yet” with the “Hey! That looks like it was designed” that fuels ID. In other words, who cares whether or not this is a good argument for God’s existence? It just looks like design is a reasonable explanation.

Now I can understand people deciding that it is more reasonable to reject a design explanation and to keep looking for a non-design explanation. What I can’t understand is why they deny that the design explanation at least looks reasonable.

And what I find particularly annoying is the constant accusation that the only reason people favor the design explanation is that they want to base their religious apologetics upon it. Give it a break already, will ya’?

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I completely understand your frustration. A lot of arguments against ID that I’ve seen do tend to focus on the whole “creationism in disguise” aspect. What I want to know is, specifically: what scientific facts are they not getting straight, and why?


Personally, Bilbo, I find that design is a reasonable explanation. The problem with ID as I see it is that the existence of an ultimate Designer gets into the metaphysical realm, and we only have tools to explore the physical. Since it is extremely difficult (if not impossible) to study metaphysical questions with physical tools, the only avenue left to ID research is to attempt to punch holes in physical explanations. I find the scientific evidence sufficient to accept that the Designer used evolution as His tool. Ironically, while EC is quite clear about God as Creator, the ID PR department is intentionally less willing (is it fair to say “unwilling”?) to state that God is the Intelligent Designer.


Hi @cwhenderson,

Yeah, that brings up another annoying accusation against ID that I get really tired of hearing. I don’t know if I should address it here or save it for another thread. If someone is inspired by the combination of a design intuition and lack of a non-design explanation to think it is reasonable to suspect or even believe that a design explanation is reasonable, that is independent from beliefs about who the designer is. I think that’s really clear. Yet, no matter how often ID people stress that point, they are accused of dishonesty, and of trying to smuggle in God. Give that a break, too, will ya’? If something inspires a design intuition, then it inspires it regardless of who one thinks the designer might be.

I tend to agree. As long as we’re venting, I’m sick and tired of conservative Christians accusing EC as either anti-God or “on the slippery slope”, compared to ID that does not publicly acknowledge God at all.



Yes, I agree with you. I think EC is a theologically acceptable position, and I have no objections to it along those lines.


Thanks, if only YEC proponents thought the same way!

But it is not independent from a belief that a designer was required. The only options for the designer that I am aware of is God or aliens with God being the much more reasonable option.


You could throw in time travelers. And when one says “God,” do they mean a transcendent monotheistic God, or just a very powerful, intelligent being? You or I might think God is the much more reasonable option, but it’s an issue that is open for debate.


Or at least exhibited more tolerance of us heretics.

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The ID movement began only after the teaching of creationism in Louisiana public schools was ruled unconstitutional in 1987 (Edwards v. Aguillard.) A textbook for creationism had been written while the case was in progress, with the hope that creationism would be allowed in the public schools. After the decision, that textbook was rewritten via a simple mass edit, replacing the word creationism with "intelligent design,” and published under the title “Of Pandas and People.” The teaching of ID was struck down as creationism in disguise in the 2005 case Fitzmiller v. Dover Area School District.

I personally find that the more I learn about how complex the world is, the more I see the hand of God everywhere. The difference between my EC belief and ID is that I recognize that God is outside the range of science. Whether you call the intelligent designer God or Vishnu or Allah, ID is still a religious belief. The problem with apparent design is that our brains can find patterns everywhere, whether they are really there or not. All of the constellations are the result of human brains finding patterns in randomly spaced stars. This shapes we see in clouds do not prove that clouds are formed by a master sculptor somewhere.


Hi Larry,

There’s a difference between the ID “movement” and ID. One can believe that features of living organisms are designed without being a part of a “movement.”

Second, believing in ID is not necessarily religious. Nor did the belief only begin in 1989. The atheist Fred Hoyle was espousing ID back in 1982.

Thanks for the link. Fred Hoyle seems to think that life originated elsewhere, and came to earth. That doesn’t sound like ID, unless he believes the designer was on another planet.
The design evidenced by life appears to me to be like the design shown by ice crystals-- pretty, but the result of natural physical processes, not actual design. Arbitrary percentages against life’s having formed by random chance is more guesswork than science. I remember reading that even against artificially high odds, life could have started in a bubble of sea water by random processes within a few years.

Hi Larry,

Hoyle made it clear he thought life was designed:

Once we see that life is cosmic it is sensible to suppose that intelligence is cosmic. Now problems of order, such as the sequences of amino acids in the chains which constitute the enzymes and other proteins, are precisely the problems that become easy once a directed intelligence enters the picture, as was recognised long ago by James Clerk Maxwell in his invention of what is known in physics as the Maxwell demon. The difference between an intelligent ordering, whether of words, fruit boxes, amino acids, or the Rubik cube, and merely random shufflings can be fantastically large, even as large as a number that would fill the whole volume of Shakespeare’s plays with its zeros. So if one proceeds directly and straightforwardly in this matter, without being deflected by a fear of incurring the wrath of scientific opinion, one arrives at the conclusion that biomaterials with their amazing measure or order must be the outcome of intelligent design [my emphasis]. No other possibility I have been able to think of in pondering this issue over quite a long time seems to me to have anything like as high a possibility of being true." (27-28)

How good is the evidence for or against ID? That’s for other threads.


I agree, and in fact I would go one big step further. I think the concept of design is independent from whether there is a “designer.” For me, design is a thing whether or not it comes from a “designer.” Dan Dennett argues this point, strongly, and I think he’s right. In any case, it is wrong to object to ID simply because the ID camp is (indisputably) overwhelmingly creationist, and it doesn’t matter whether ID people use it for apologetic purposes. What matters is whether the claims are plausible, whether the arguments are sound, whether the evidence is present or absent or honestly considered. The vast majority of ID theorists fail these tests spectacularly, but that’s a different thread.


I think this is a perfectly fair request.

In fact, it strikes me that refraining from this sort of argument is merely an application of the Golden Rule, for those of us who are bone-tired of the accusation that we favor the evolutionary consensus for the sole reason that we, too, want to appeal to the unchurched masses and base our own brand of apologetics on EC. There was one frequent YEC poster in particular a few months back on here who just. would. not. let. up on this tired ad hominem line of attack that was demonstrably false.

So I feel your pain, brother. And besides, as others have said, there are plenty of other fertile lines of debate (e.g. “Are particular examples of putative irreducible complexity actually irreducibly complex?”) that we can pursue without getting lost in the weeds with this one.


This outlook I intuitively appealing - my concern is with attempts to derive a scientific “law” or let us, at least, theorising from this to a scientifically testable proposition for design.

My view is that anything that is mathematically demonstrable and/or consists of geometric elements, implies design. But when we enter the biological arena, the conflicts erase any intuitive aspects of any argument.

The particular ID design explanation would look a lot more reasonable if it was accompanied by a testable hypothesis (they don’t have one), some explanation of mechanism (they don’t have one), accurate predictions (they haven’t made any), and the actual advancement of scientific knowledge through discoveries with practical application (they don’t have any). Where is the ID tiktaalik? Where are the practical applications of ID?

It’s hard to avoid that conclusion when we see IDers oppose evolution on the grounds that “something, something, Calvinism”, or “something, something, original sin”. And when IDers place evolution in opposition to creation, or belief in God, then it doesn’t look like their case is based on science.


Annoying? Did somebody say annoying? Oh boy, that throws the door wide open! Here are three of my ID annoyances:

1) ID is a philosophical argument, not a scientific argument.
Simply because one uses information/data from science to make the argument does not make it a scientific argument. All of the philosophical arguments for the existence of God (or first cause, prime mover, necessary being, intelligent designer, etc.) draw upon the natural world to make their case, such as Aquinas’ “five ways.” Why, then, does the Discovery Institute insist that it is a scientific argument? (Are the reasons political? hmmm)

2) ID says that it is not arguing for the existence of God, but only an intelligent designer.
Fine. Then why should I care? My faith is in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. I want people to come to know him, not some indeterminate designer. (I actually find this offensive to my Christian sensibilities. How does it glorify God to argue that he exists, yet avoid using his name? But … I’m sure God views it differently than I do. I have no idea what he thinks about all this. All I know is that I could not do it. To me, it is mealy-mouthed and borders on intentional deception.)

3) ID paints science as a great conspiracy of atheists fighting against God.
Ever since Darwin on Trial, the ID movement has campaigned to paint “methodological naturalism” as a conspiracy to keep God out of science (and, by implication, the classroom). The whole approach is doomed to failure. If the Discovery Institute thinks they can reinvent the way that the world does science simply with a handful of researchers and a few polemical books and articles, they are dreaming. Might as well rename it the Don Quixote Institute.

Personally, I have no problem with intelligent design arguments. Some of them I even find persuasive. What I do have a problem with is the Discovery Institute and their political agenda. They are more concerned with “winning” the Culture Wars than with winning people to Christ. My 2c

Edit: Their approach actually pushes people away from Christ, particularly the young, and there is loads of data to back up that statement.


I suggest making a distinction between a scientific belief and a reasonable belief. I believe that the other people responding were in fact conscious at the time they composed their comments. There is no scientific way of proving that belief. However, I claim that it is a reasonable belief.

Likewise, even if ID does not qualify as a scientific belief - I think there is reasonable debate about this issue - I think it can still qualify as a reasonable belief.

I agree that people who offer religious objections to EC are annoying, also.

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