Just noticed this post from MikeGene on Telic Thoughts, where he offers a typology of ID critics. I actually think it’s a reasonably accurate typology, though I think his choice of words in saying that the Richard Dawkins type of ID critic wants to “coerce people” into accepting their beliefs is both inaccurate and needlessly inflammatory. He may perceive Dawkins to be a bully, but there is no evidence that he advocates any type of coercion whatsoever. His methods of persuasion may be bothersome, both to MikeGene and to me, but that does not make them coercive.
In a dispute that often involves accusations of Stalinism and Naziism lobbed at scientists who reject ID, that’s hardly the type of rhetoric we need, especially if you’re trying honestly to portray someone’s position. Aside from that, I think his categories are fairly accurate and useful in discerning the different approaches among ID critics. Obviously, I would be a Type A critic, and proudly so; any grouping that puts me in the same category with Genie Scott and Jack Krebs is not one I’m going to dispute.
But I would strongly disagree with this section:
There are several things that unite all these factions. Already mentioned is their inability to contemplate the issues related to ID without relying on the “ID=religion/God” stereotype. Furthermore, I would argue that all groups entail a very strong tendency toward closed-mindedness: Types B, C, D for metaphysical reasons and Type A for political reasons. Also, all groups are united in their strong tendency to label ID proponents as “Creationists” and “threats to Science.”
This is where he goes off the tracks. His categories are more or less accurate, but this section is rather silly. He basically says that you have to be closed-minded to think that ID = religion; frankly, I think one would have to be blind or mad to think otherwise. I keep hearing that it’s possible for the designer to be an alien, but only the Raelians and their fellow travelers actually believe that, and the ID advocates find those people as laughable as the rest of us do.
And do we really need to go through all the evidence in favor of this conclusion? The book hailed by ID advocates as the world’s first ID textbook used the exact same definition in early versions, word for word, for “creation” that it used for “intelligent design” in the final published version. Indeed, that “ID textbook” was explicitly marketed as a “creationist textbook” prior to the Edwards ruling in 1987, when they literally did a word search in the manuscript and replaced “creationism” with “intelligent design” and “creationist” with “design proponent.” I’m sure ID advocates may be tired of hearing about this, but they’ve never managed to answer it.
There is the fact that every single pro-ID argument today, including all of Wells’ “Icons” and the concept of irreducible complexity (and even the specific examples of IC that Behe uses), is derived directly from creationist literature, and even their strategic plans as well (Wendell Bird came up with the “teach the arguments for and against” evolution strategy nearly 15 years before Meyer proposed it in front of the Ohio Board of Education). And the fact that so many of today’s prominent ID advocates were making the same arguments about creation science 20 years ago that they now make about ID.
Then, of course, there are the clear words of ID advocates themselves. There is Dembski’s declaration that Intelligent Design is merely the “the Logos theology of John’s Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory.” There is also his declaration, obviously true, that because the “designer” had to design the universe itself, the designer has to be transcendant, i.e. supernatural. And there is the DI’s very definition of intelligent design, which includes cosmological design, something that cannot be accounted for by aliens or anything but a supernatural being. All of this talk that the designer could be anything but god (fill in your own details if you want to make it God) is pure poppycock and they know it.
Now, there may be a few people out there with a sympathetic view of ID who are agnostics or who don’t have committed religious beliefs. There may be a few who have genuine doubts about the ability of known evolutionary processes to account for biochemical complexity but who really don’t have any concern over what the designer might be. But until they actually produce a competing model that provides some positive case, there simply isn’t any reason to take them seriously.
And frankly, I don’t think those people, if they exist, are terribly relevant to this discussion. ID is not a theory, it’s a movement. If there was an actual ID theory or model, then one might be able to speak objectively about that theory or model itself in purely scientific terms. But no one has ever come up with anything more than a set of arguments, most of them false at best and highly dishonest at worst, against evolution.
As long as that is the case, ID is really nothing more than a label applied to a PR campaign and a political advocacy movement. And the content of those movements is judged by the arguments and beliefs of those within the movement. And on that score, Bruce Gordon had it absolutely correct in his 2001 article: ID will be taken seriously if, and only if, it produces useful scientific research that contributes to our understanding of the natural world.
Until then, it will be seen for exactly what it is, a PR campaign to place a thin veneer of scientific-sounding terminology over good old-fashioned religious anti-evolutionism. And that has nothing to do with being closed-minded; it has to do with being able to accurately discern what is going on and not fall for attempts at misdirection.
P.S. Please, please, please, do not turn the comments on this post in to yet another argument over whether atheism is the truth, whether belief in God is inherently irrational, or whether Dawkins is the devil incarnate. It’s boring and repetitive and never goes anywhere.