Science, Just Science

2 June 2007

Misconceptions About Intelligent Design

Filed under: Creationism & Intelligent Design,SJS Comment — Kyuuketsuki @ 8:57 pm

*** Originally posted by Chris Hyland of SJS ***

A common reply to critiques of Intelligent Design is that the author of the critique does not understand ID and is in fact attacking the strawman. The problem of course is that the definition of Intelligent Design changes from one proponent to another, so if you refute one set of views another person will simply say you are attacking a strawman. Nevertheless there are a few core points where an ID proponent will always claim that you are unfairly representing ID, new creationism has a list.

1. It’s Creationism in Sheep’s Clothing

While some intelligent design proponents are not young earth creationists, there is plenty of evidence that shows the ID movement arose as a response to court rulings in the 1980’s that banned the teaching of creationism and ‘creation science’ in US public schools. All ID arguments are refined versions of, and often identical to older creationist arguments, and the majority of ID proponents appear to believe in a young earth. Futhermore a series of statements from leading ID proponents, including the Wedge Strategy of the Discovery Institute, show that the mission of the ID movement is primarily religious.

2. An Expectation of Optimal Design

Often critics of Intelligent Design fall prey to the Optimal Design straw man which basically says that the establishment of less than optimal (or perfect) design invalidates Intelligent Design Theory. While Optimal Design implies Intelligent Design, the reverse is not true. There are many designs that are not perfect but fulfill the role and desires of the designer.

The key here is that even poor designs usually show the signature of intelligent causation. There is indeed a chasm between what we can expect chance to do versus what even basic intelligence can produce.

While non-optimal design is not a refutation of ID in it’s most basic form (and it isn’t at all clear what optimal means in this case), the point is that biological structures are not ‘optimal’ to the point that they appear not to have evolved. Evolution is also expected to produce structures of varying levels of efficiency, so it is hard to tell why intelligent design is the more likely explanation.

3. Intelligent Design is guilty of the God of the Gaps

Intelligent Design is: X couldn’t have evolved, X is analogous to some kind of machine, therefore X was designed. ID fundementally relies on the assumption that it is impossible or highly improbable for a system to evolve, that’s why the vast majority if ID’s efforts are spent attacking evolution. Therefore it’s hard to see why ID isn’t guilty of God of the gaps.

4. The Strong Dichotomy with Evolutionary Theory

Often Intelligent Design is squared off against Evolutionary Theory, but Intelligent Design can be synthesized with some variants of Evolutionary Theory. In fact, theistic (or directed) evolution is arguably a form or expression of Intelligent Design.

Theistic evolutionists do not believe that design in nature has been scientifically detected, they also agree with evolutionary theory. So as far as science is concerned they are completely different from ID proponents.


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