On his blog, William Dembski is trying once again to argue that the intelligent designer need not be God: Everyone knows he doesn’t mean it, of course, but this is the pretense that they must maintain for purposes of their legal strategy. Unfortunately, their own words keep tripping them up in the attempt. He writes:
In those programs, Stewart & Co. had some lines that were not only funny but also memorable. The one that sticks out poked fun at ID: “We’re not saying that the designer is God, just someone with the same skill-set.” That line is now being reused on the debate circuit, with Eugenie Scott, for instance, deploying it this November at a debate at Boston University (go here).
Although the line is funny, it is not accurate. God’s skill-set includes not just ordering matter to display certain patterns but also creating matter in the first place. God, as understood by the world’s great monotheistic faiths, is an infinite personal transcendent creator. The designer responsible for biological complexity, by contrast, need only be a being capable of arranging finite material objects to display certain patterns. Accordingly, this designer need not even be infinite. Likewise, that designer need not be personal or transcendent (cf. the “designer” in Stoic philosophy).
Now let’s look, for the umpteenth time, at how the Discovery Institute – where Dembski is a senior fellow – defines intelligent design:
The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.
And bear in mind the argument put forth by the DI on cosmological evolution in The Privileged Planet and other material, which argues that the physical laws of the universe itself, cosmological constants, and the positions of planets and stars are all evidence for intelligent design. The designer, then, cannot merely be a being capable of “arranging finite material objects to display certain patterns”, but is responsible for the laws which govern the behavior of matter and energy itself and for the creation of that matter with the known physical properties and laws that govern its behavior.
But in fact, we don’t even need to do this analysis to show that, by Dembski and the DI’s reasoning, the designer must be transcendant and supernatural. Dembski himself did the analysis for us in The Act of Creation: Bridging Transcendence and Immanence when he wrote:
“The fine-tuning of the universe, about which cosmologists make such a to-do, is both complex and specified and readily yields design. So too, Michael Behe’s irreducibly complex biochemical systems readily yield design. The complexity-specification criterion demonstrates that design pervades cosmology and biology. Moreover, it is a transcendent design, not reducible to the physical world. Indeed, no intelligent agent who is strictly physical could have presided over the origin of the universe or the origin of life.”
This is yet another example of the Janus-like nature of the ID movement, presenting one face to one group when it is convenient to do so, then the opposite face to another group when that is convenient. The thing that astonishes is how brazen Dembski is about it.