How is Intelligent Design different from intelligent design?

Continuing the discussion from Is there any legitimacy to the claim that EC leads to atheism?:

I thought this merited its own thread, and I know many people could weigh in with informed insights.

Here is my brief summary to get the conversation started. (Adapted from stuff I wrote up for the Integrate glossary.)

The idea of intelligent design with lower case letters can mean there is an intelligent Creator that is the source of creation. No argument there. The debates arise when talking about Intelligent Design.

Intelligent Design (with capital letters) says that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, and these features could not have arisen by chance or as a result of an undirected process such as natural selection. Intelligent Design proponents think that evidence of intelligent cause is empirically detectable through scientific investigation. ID arguments often center on arguments for irreducible complexity, specified complexity, and fine-tuning.

Irreducible complexity claims certain existing biological systems could not have evolved through natural selection. ID proponents consider a biological structure “irreducibly complex” if it is a single system made up of several well-matched, interacting parts, and none of those parts can be removed without causing the system to stop functioning. They argue that, since the parts are so intricate and interdependent, and since all the parts must be present for the system to function, it is not possible for the system to have evolved through successive modifications over time. The vast majority of scientists reject the idea that any true examples of irreducible complexity have ever been found.

Specified complexity says nature is full of examples of non-random patterns of information called “complex specified information,” or CSI. They point to DNA as an example of CSI in nature. ID proponents argue that intelligence is necessary to produce CSI, so it is evidence of design.

Fine-tuning refers to the observation that if any of several fundamental constants in the universe were only slightly different, the conditions necessary for the development of matter, elements, stars and planets, and life as we understand it would not be possible.

ID Proponents are usually ideologically opposed to materialism and atheism. Even though ID theory does not equate the Intelligent Designer with God, most ID proponents are theists who believe that proving the existence of design in nature will prove the existence of God.

Some people consider ID a form of creationism. Many ID proponents are Christians who believe ID arguments are a useful addition to Christian apologetics. Some ID proponents believe that accepting the scientific theory of evolution necessarily implies things about humanity that are unacceptable for Christians. However, some people who accept common descent are also ID proponents.

Many Evolutionary Creationists believe that what they see in nature points to an intelligent designer, but most Evolutionary Creationists reject the assertion that design is empirically detectable, and they critique ID methodology as unscientific for assuming a supernatural cause, since that violates the principles of methodological naturalism. (Methodological naturalism is an approach to questions that scientists agree to use when studying the natural universe. It requires that scientists assume all causes are empirical; they can be observed, measured, quantified, and studied methodically. So, when using the scientific method to investigate a question, supernatural explanations are not considered as possibilities.)

The Discovery Institute (DI) is a non-profit think-tank that advocates Intelligent Design (ID) and works to promote the idea that there is significant controversy surrounding accepted scientific theories and this controversy and the alternative explanations of Intelligent Design should be taught as part of public school science courses. DI runs the Center for Science and Culture which provides funding to scientists for ID-related research projects. DI also provided the funding to set up the Biologic Institute, a research lab where several full-time researchers are attempting to prove that beginning investigations with design principles will lead to advances in science.

In conversation about ID, often the “Dover trial” comes up. This refers to a controversial federal lawsuit that was brought to trial in 2005 (Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District) in which eleven parents sued their school district after the local board of education added a one-paragraph disclaimer to the high school biology curriculum requiring that Intelligent Design (ID) be taught as an alternative to evolutionary theory.

The court ruled that Intelligent Design is not science, but rather it is a form of creationism (and therefore fundamentally religious), so requiring teachers to teach it in a public school violates the establishment clause of the Constitution.

Now all the people who love ID can jump in and tell me what I got wrong and how BioLogos is just the worst for not recognizing how wonderful ID really is. :slight_smile:


Yeah, I see why this got it’s own thread. I’ll be following the responses.

This does not follow.

When you use evolutionary algorithms, I don’t think the word “design” is applicable. It is a different way of doing things like letting children figure things out for themselves. The results can be very surprising and that doesn’t sound like design. Perhaps it would better be called “intelligent participation” or “creative contribution.” But no I don’t think “intelligent design” is a good description of this.

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Would you not agree, though, that since the evolutionary process was at some point designed (conceived, planned…etc) by God as the mechanism through which he would create things, it is (at least in some sense) 'intelligent design? In other words, designed by an intelligent being as a creative mechanism…?

I’m not really bothered if we use the phrase or not in regards to EC, but I’m just seeing if there’s a sense in which can apply. Though, given all the baggage that comes with the term, I can see why it should be pretty much avoided!

It follows that if God is the ground of being for eternity, His eternal instantiation of the immutable laws of nature is so designed that no further intervention is necessary or even possible. He’s THAT smart. THAT intelligent.

For me, the question now, is does He instantiate each individual universe, or is it even grander; He continuously instantiates a single, eternal, infinite universe self conceiving matrix, womb, which is what would have to exist without Him. It has to be the latter I feel. Something seethes, ferments below universes. They can’t just happen from the if-null-then-not-null principle directly I feel. And I feel that it makes Him more likely. The infinite order in the universe generator speaks of meaning. I feel. I hope.

What someone else said is basically the same reasoning I have. ID seems to come with baggage. I’ve watched ID debates where the people were still YEC believing that the world was 10,000 years old or less.

Another issue I often see is how an actual evolutionary process is denied as randomly occurring and that the process is specially an act of God.

Take the moth whose wing pattern looks like a snake. I’ve seen ID argue that how would a moth know to make its wings look like a snake unless God made it look like a snake on purpose.

Well that entire paradigm is wrong. Evolutionist will say that the moth had no idea. That it did not breed that way on purpose. What happened was that at some point this species just happened to have some born with wings that look similar. Because it looked similar birds who did know what snakes were would be less likely to attack them. So these moths bred with others in their species and had larva that grew to look more like snakes. Over the ages these moths keep breeding as the survivors because of the chance appearance resulting in that pattern becoming more and more defined.

Same can be said for passiflora plants and butterflies and any form of mimicry.

So the biggest difference I see is that ID seems to say that the wing pattern is clear evidence of a God and when we look at that we know there is a God vs EC who sees that as simply natural selection. EC tends to argue that all of the examples can be explained away with just science but that potentially the magnitude of the coincidences leaves reasonable concepts of fine tuning vs ID proponents who say each example is a clear example of a designer.

EC and ID are very similar in many ways for many people. However, it’s the nuance that they seem to carry that separates them.

Nuances play a role.

The forest was very dark.
The forest was very shady.
The forest was very gloomy.
The forest was covered in an overcast.

All those sentences are very similar. Those words are very similar. Typically though the words carries a different image in your mind centered around how the forest looks despite all the similarities and that’s the nuance that I also seem separating ID and EC.

What fine tuning?

I covered some of it in the text. Many of the blogs in here also covers the fine tuning aspects in great detail and how it’s different from the typical understandings of ID.

I’m sure you and they did and do Mi. Is there a trunk of the tree, of ‘the magnitude of the coincidences leaves reasonable concepts of fine tuning’, rather than twiglets? I don’t see what part coincidence has to play or therefore fine tuning.

No. If I design a card game does it therefore follow that I am responsible for the hand everyone in the game is dealt? I think the critical question is whether God is capable of creating anything but machines and robots? I think He can create things which organize themselves and make their own choices. I think He can create things with free will.

I think He is even smarter than that – that He can create something with which He can have a meaningful relationship – self organizing processes which make their own choices in growth and learning open to the help of a shepherd or a teacher.

To Diplodocus and Klax,
One thing we have learned from quantum physics is that knowledge cannot be considered obtainable absolutely independent of that which is known. Sometime the thing, like the spin of an electron, doesn’t exist to be known until a measurement forces it into that particular state of spin. By insisting otherwise you diminish God rather than magnify Him by saying God cannot even create electrons which have such a demonstrable nature.

Who’s insisting otherwise?

My favorite fine-tuning argument:

It’s a third rate analogy. Order does not imply - or require - meaning.

If we were just talking about a simple box, you might be correct.

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We’re talking about the eternal physical cosmos, the disinterested starting point of enquiry for which being, it appears to be utterly meaningless, purposeless. It lacks nothing. We crave significance, meaning as a by product of our fear of death. That is irrelevant to the fact, the correct fact, the true fact of material eternity. Four billion years of evolution is an analogy for this, we weren’t there from around RNA world onwards, omniscient of every mutation, but here we are as a result of that. And that’s a finite process. Material existence is infinite. Eternal. That’s correct. So it lacks nothing. Forever. The fact that we can’t fill in the details, see it happening now in our vesicle in the foam, is irrelevant and of course we wouldn’t, anymore than we’d be able to reproduce the conditions of abiogenesis in a flask when it takes a planet. That has nothing to do with me being correct. It is correct. All round. It has to be dealt with. By theists too.

To have to believe that it is a one off anomaly, that there is only one single solitary universe, is not rational. To have to believe that the fine structure or cosmological constants could be random and happen to be dependent on infinite significant figures of precision to work at all therefore fine tuning therefore God is too. Arguing against molecular evolution by saying that the probability of haemoglobin arising by chance are one in ten to the one hundred and ninetieth power (i.e. practically infinite) is a similarly useless analogy. Existence is ordered by definition. It always has been. If anything can exist, and look around you, then the ‘anthropic’ dimensionless constants will crystallize, be at points of dimensional intersection. They are what they have to be with no purpose, no once upon a time and they all lived happily ever after, no human shaped story whatsoever.

Is there room for a purposeful ground of being? God.


Does there have to be?


Only in our ravening hearts.

Is there any hope?


The human testimony of the early Church to an act of excession by God.

Not the spurious, third rate Kalam cosmological argument about a simple box made relatively non-complex, insignificant, meaningless by Kolmogorov in the face of an eternal infinity of boxes.

You must expect people to presume from the evidence that their lives have no meaning. Little children don’t, and that is what God wants our hearts to be like.

The point was about curiosity and explanatory scope.


(Craig is not an ID advocate, btw.)

Certainly it is, if you believe in God and know why he created the universe.


To assume it is eternal is unwarranted. Desirable for unbelievers, absolutely, but not necessary.

What has belief in God and therefore purpose got to do with it?

To assume otherwise is irrational.


And Craig is smarter than Behe that’s for sure, both immeasurably smarter than me, they can’t help that. I’m measurably more grounded. I don’t expect people to presume anything rational at all. Our guts drive our presumption. Our guts are afraid.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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