What is Intelligent Design Creationism?

Obvs, he did it.

Obvs, he did it.

Larry Moran discusses some apologetics from Jonathan McLatchie, in which McLatchie briefly argues for intelligent design. I think the fact that it’s in the context of Christian apologetics already gives away the store, but at least he gives a succinct definition of intelligent design:

The study of patterns in nature which bear the hallmarks of an intelligent cause

Oh, so it’s 19th century natural history? Been there, done that. About two centuries ago and a little less, that was the underlying assumption of natural theology: that studying science was for the purpose of seeing the fingerprints of the creator on its creations. Darwin himself was a fan of Paley, and made his voyage on the Beagle with a head full of such ideas. We all know how that turned out.

But we could define science in a similar way: the study of patterns in nature. Notice what I left out? The presumed conclusion. That’s one of their problems, that they are not open to interpreting the science for what it is, but are trying to shoehorn their desired interpretation into the data, no matter what it is.

McLatchie also makes an analogy to forensic science — here’s a crime scene, let’s figure out who did it. But sometimes no one did it, and it’s an error to try and force a conclusion. If someone is struck by lightning and killed, could I examine the scene and come up with a string of arguments and innuendo that lead to the conclusion that Jonathan McLatchie did it? Sure I could. I could also obsess over it and write long-winded, tenuously logical books that claim that all those natural explanations for lightning are false, and that we need to recognize them as McLatchie-Associated Phenomena.

But that would make me a crank. Just like ID is a crank movement.

Larry also succinctly summarizes ID.

The main goal of the movement is to provide scientific justification for the belief in a creator god. No amount of twisting and turning (apologetics) is going to fool us into thinking that the ID movement has nothing to do with the belief in a creator. The entire movement is just another version of creationism and all you have to do is look on the main ID blogs and websites to see that this is true. That’s why we refer, correctly, to the movement as Intelligent Design Creationism.

True. And it’s been exposed as religiously motivated over and over again.

This has led some of the cranks to claim that pointing out the source of their crankiness is an example of the genetic fallacy. This would only be the case if we were saying ID is wrong because its proponents are religious. That isn’t the case at all: it’s wrong because they fail to support their arguments with good evidence, because they solely make poor arguments against evolutionary theory, and because they all seem to be painfully ignorant of what evolutionary theory is. That leads us to ask why they make such ludicrously bad arguments, and their religious motivation is the answer to that question. They aren’t following the evidence honestly, they are trying to distort it to support their mythology.


  1. #1 dean
    October 21, 2015

    What is Intelligent Design Creationism?

    A scam? A blatant attempt to dress up plain creationism in an attempt to take it to the science classroom dance? A ruse to attempt to convince folks that the rubes who believe in biblical creation aren’t really rubes “because of all the science we’re doing?” – even though they haven’t done any.

    “All of the above” is the best choice.

  2. #2 Wtc444
    October 21, 2015

    Belief in an intelligent designer is about the big picture. Science is about the details. I believe in an intelligent designer, i.e. God, because it is more rational than to believe everything happened by random chance. In this I am In agreement with Darwin and Einstein. It takes too much faith to believe that the universe and everything in it happened by chance. Science requires observable evidence. Evolutionist theory does not offer that for events that happened several billion years ago. When it does I will consider the evidence and make a conclusion based on the facts.

  3. #3 Richard Forrest
    United Kingdom
    October 21, 2015

    “intelligent Design” is not about the “big picture’. It’s about trying to sneak religious dogma into science classes by dressing it up in sciency-sounding language. It promotes itself as science whilst at the same time demanding that we redefine the fundamental nature of science to accommodate the supernatural – which would allow it to be called science.
    Far from offering a “big picture”, it offers a picture of a tiny, incompetent God (and the fact that they use the euphemism “intelligent designer” when they mean this is simply illustrative of their dishonesty) who has made the universe so badly that it can’t run without constant tinkering. It is a clear illustration of the fundamental dishonesty of the movement that the supposed evidence for the intervention of “intelligent agency” is “irreducible complexity” – a phenomenon predicted on the basis of evolutionary theory almost a century ago. Not that any ID proponent will tell you that. They will simply continue to feed you sciency-sounding arguments to support your dogmatically held beliefs and ignore anything which contradicts them.
    It doesn’t require faith to accept the findings of science. and no scientist would ask that you accept uncritically anything they say.
    The fact is that no honest (and I stress that term) interpretation of the evidence supports any conclusion other than that the earth is several billion years old and that life on earth is the product of billions of years of evolution. If you bothered to educate yourself in the nature of science and the evidence and argument supporting these conclusions, you’d find that for yourself. You won’t get reliable accounts of the evidence and argument from creationist sources, which includes of course the ID crowd.

  4. #4 Randy
    Midwest, USA
    October 21, 2015

    Faith is, by definition, belief without evidence. That is as irrational as a person can get. I don’t care how lacking, thin, meager, or weak the evidence is, it is ludicrous to say it is because of a god… which has absolutely no evidence whatsoever.

  5. #5 Rich Bly
    Ocean Shores
    October 21, 2015

    The simplest test of ID is to ask who’s god is the designer. Neither mine (prove that he, she, it is the true god) or it doesn’t matter (whose in charge) are acceptable answers.

    Isaac Asimov had a short story about a world that wanted to build a computer that could understand every detail of the universe. The final computer was the universe. Under this logic to have ID the designer would have to be as complex as the universe; therefore it would be the universe.

  6. #6 Chris Weiss
    United States
    October 21, 2015

    Anyone who supports ID should read the Kitzmiller v. Dover case. In the court of law, one ID’s most famous proponents, Behe, was forced to admit ID was not scientific. In general, ID is pushed using proof by awesomeness – life, the universe, DNA, whatever, is too awesome to have emerged from anything other than a brilliant self-aware entity.

    Dawkins’ book “Climbing Mount Improbable” takes this head on with his long discussion of the mathematics behind selection and the finding of niches as local maximums of “fitness.” He also discusses designoids in nature, which are truly random things that appear to be designed.

    The human mind is wired to find patterns. The side effect is that we impose patterns on purely random data. Try teaching a statistics class if you want to see how hard it is to break people out of these cognitive patterns. ID is this problem taken to an extreme.

  7. […] vid on intelligent design vs creationism has brought up PZ Myers, as well as Larry Moran, Darwin’s tenure tag […]

  8. #8 Theot58
    October 22, 2015

    Intelligent Design is a valid scientific theory which asserts that there is clear evidence of design in the prevailing world.

    Since all cases of such design are the product of an intelligent being – it is totally logical to conclude that an Intelligent designer is behind it.

    Intelligent design is much more plausible than Darwinian/Macro evolution which is easily refuted on scientific grounds but is continually propagated by dogma and propaganda.
    Dr. Raul Leguizamon, M. D., Pathologist, and a professor of medicine at the Autonomous University of Guadalajara, Mexico said:
    “I signed the Scientific Dissent From Darwinism statement, because I am absolutely convinced of the lack of true scientific evidence in favour of Darwinian dogma.
    Nobody in the biological sciences, medicine included, needs Darwinism at all.
    Darwinism is certainly needed, however, in order to pose as a philosopher, since it is primarily a worldview.
    And an awful one, as George Bernard Shaw used to say.”

  9. #9 MadScientist1023
    United States
    October 22, 2015

    “Intelligent Design is a valid scientific theory which asserts that there is clear evidence of design in the prevailing world.”

    Sorry Theot, but ID is none of those things. It’s not valid, scientific, or a theory, and it certainly doesn’t provide evidence of design. ID does not define “design” in an empirically meaningful way. It does not propose any testable hypotheses. It does not make any predictions about the natural world. It exists only in the minds of those who don’t understand science well enough to realize how unscientific it is.

  10. #10 lpadron
    United States
    October 22, 2015

    “…because they solely make poor arguments against evolutionary theory,…”

    So what are the *good* arguments against evolutionary theory?

  11. […] week, I came in for criticism from biologists P.Z. Myers and Larry Moran as a result of the above short interview in which I am asked about the difference […]

  12. #12 Peter Kinnon
    New Zealand
    October 22, 2015

    One of the most common, and from a rational perspective, superficially strongest arguments advanced regarding ID is in fact deeply flawed.
    Both atheist and creationist camps subscribing to the fallacy that “fine tuning of our universe for life”, a phenomenon which actually has a very sound observational basis, is indicative of some kind of “designer”.
    This naive conflation is in no way justifiable. There is, however, another, much sounder basis for rejection of the ID myth which does not include the entirely irrational denial of “fine tuning”.

    Here is a short extract from my latest book .”The Intricacy Generator: Pushing Chemistry and Geometry Uphill”, of which this issue is a major theme:

    “If there was a prize for the word most responsible for the woolly thinking found in discussions such as this it is “intelligent”.
    Along with its equally ill-defined, introspective and often emotive derivatives it is guaranteed to muddy the clearest of intellectual waters. An attempt at its assassination and replacement with the far better term, “imagination” will occur in chapter 27

    The seemingly far less innocuous word “design”, too, has a
    serious problem. Particularly when used as a verb or in the context of a “designer”.

    It is beyond question that this particular concept is useful in our everyday lives. But if we look more carefully, and from a wider perspective, we find no real evidence for underlying phenomena that correspond to design or designers.”

  13. #13 Steve Greene
    October 23, 2015

    Creationism today is merely a throwback to pre-19th century thinking. Or, rather, it’s the pre-19th century thinking that never died. I’m always amusing when I see creationists today still using arguments against evolution that were used – and debunked – back in the 1800s. In the case of young earth creationists, we see them still using arguments against the geological antiquity of the earth that were used – and debunked – in the 1800s. (If you’re one of those people who discusses these issues online in forums with creationists, I know you know what I’m talking about – like the creationist who comes up with some rhetoric based on the notion that evolution is about to collapse in biological science, which is a piece of rhetoric they’ve been using since the 1800s, literally.) Of course, modern creationist pseudoscience really got going as a “cottage industry” in the 1950s (the book *The Genesis Flood* by Henry Morris and John Whitcomb published in 1961 being one early result of this), so often these days we’re still dealing with creationist pseudoscience claims and arguments that were presented and debunked in the 1960s and early 70s. Second law of thermodynamics, population growth calculation from Noah’s Flood (8 people), and etc.

  14. #14 Rob Ward
    New Zealand
    October 23, 2015

    Emotion: traditionally thought to reside mainly in the female species, but now manifesting itself in large doses in anti-ID ranters.

    How unfortunate that the writer and most of the commenters above are emotional rather than rational thinkers, evidenced by their emotional rantings and ignorance of what ID actually claims.

    Read people, read. Know your enemy !!!

  15. #15 lpadron
    October 23, 2015

    Dr.Meyers noted one reason ID supporters are wrong is “because they solely make poor arguments against evolutionary theory.”

    I’m genuinely curious about what he or anyone else here would consider *good* arguments against evolutionary theory.

  16. #16 Jiri
    October 23, 2015

    @Rob Ward
    “[Emotion]: traditionally thought to reside mainly in the female species”

    What is the “female species”?

    “but now manifesting itself in large doses in anti-ID ranters.”

    Who are these – precisely? As far as I’ve able to discern, supporters of the evolution are trying – quite reasonably and patiently – to respond the rantings of ID-ers, quite devoid of any rational or empirical evidence supporting them.

    “How unfortunate that the writer and most of the commenters above are emotional rather than rational thinkers, evidenced by their emotional rantings and ignorance of what ID actually claims.”

    Any actual evidence for this? 😉

  17. #17 See Noevo
    October 23, 2015

    From the WSJ:
    From English philosopher Roger Scruton’s “The Soul of the World” (Princeton, 2014):

    “There is a widespread habit of declaring emergent realities to be “nothing but” the things in which we perceive them. The human person is “nothing but” the human animal; law is “nothing but” relations of social power; sexual love is “nothing but” the urge to procreation; . . . the Mona Lisa is “nothing but” a spread of pigments on a canvas; the Ninth Symphony is “nothing but” a sequence of pitched sounds of varying timbre. And so on. Getting rid of this habit is, to my mind, the true goal of philosophy. And if we get rid of it when dealing with the small things—symphonies, pictures, people—we might get rid of it when dealing with the large things too: notably, when dealing with the world as a whole. And then we might conclude that it is just as absurd to say that the world is nothing but the order of nature, as physics describes it, as to say that the Mona Lisa is nothing but a smear of pigments. Drawing that conclusion is the first step in the search for God.”

  18. #18 GregH
    October 23, 2015

    SN: Are you and Roger Scruton claiming that you’re the only ones who see truth and beauty in love, art, law, and science etc.? Does that somehow justify the endless nonsense you post because it’s based on abject ignorance of the detail underlying those arts and sciences you find so compelling?

  19. #19 Jiri
    October 23, 2015

    @See Noevo:

    Non sequitur (in itself rather muddle-headed and fighting various strawmen at that) quote by an idealistic philosopher (Scruton is quite generally respected in the field of aesthetics, and not-so-much-generally respected as a theorist of European conservatism) without any discernible bearing on the question discussed (the quotation comes from a chapter on the subjective perception of works of art) instead of a reasoned argument? Just what I’d expect from good ol’ SN –

  20. #20 Rob Ward
    New Zealand
    October 24, 2015

    Jiri, as a very simple example, just listen to or read the anti-ID people using the phrase “ID creationism”. I cannot think of a time when I have seen this used in a non-pejorative manner.

    For anyone who actually knows much about these movements, the “ID creationism” label is plainly false, and certainly those who use it intentionally are thinking the worst (rather than the best) of the ID community.

  21. #21 dean
    October 24, 2015

    Rob, it isn’t clear why you are trying to maintain the lie that there is a difference between intelligent design and creationism, when a simple reading of the ideas behind each shows they are the same.

  22. #22 Jiri
    October 24, 2015

    @Rob Ward: Perhaps use of this specific term offends sensitivities of ID-supporters, but in general it’s widely acknowledged that “Intelligent Design” is just a form of creationism (e.g. ruling in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case) – sort of “creationism-lite”. Even some ID proponents acknowledge it.

  23. #23 SteveP
    Safely A
    October 25, 2015

    World View Wrestling Federation Fight Of The Week

    Upstart human behavior called Science takes on entrenched, multi-millennial organism called Religion. Science will wrestle with this grand monster of self perpetuating memes, a beast that has ensnared and survived with minds since minds began.

    Check your local listings.

  24. #24 dean
    October 25, 2015

    Drawing that conclusion is the first step in the search for God.”

    It’s actually the first step in identifying yourself as a gigantic horse’s ass with no understanding of science.

  25. #25 Rob Ward
    New Zealand
    October 25, 2015

    #21 Dean: “…it isn’t clear why…” — my motivation in these comments is irrelevant (genetic fallacy). I would say that a “simple reading” is a naïve reading. The world is big and complex, and smart people do not lump everything together in one big blog and hope for the best. Smart people separate and make distinctions. Do you apply simple readings to other complex ideas, or only to ID and creationism?

    #22 Jiri: I don’t think that equating ID and creationism “offends the sensitivities” of ID supporters. Rather, ID supporters in my experience over quite a few years have shown little negative emotion towards their interlocutors and have instead focussed on the science and promoting ID ideas to as wide an audience as possible (just like everyone else does). To test what I am saying, just look, for example, at the daily “ID the Future” podcast titles and contents that go back over several years. They deal primarily with science.

    The fact you continue to equate ID and creationism is, to my mind, a reflection of the sad reality that is part of the human condition, which is that we are in reality a lot less rational and a lot more emotional that we would like to believe. Few people are as honest as Anthony Flew who, as a lifelong atheist, became a theist of sorts just prior to his death, because he was honest enough to follow the evidence where he though it led.

    As an aside, a couple of recent ID related (podcastable) discussions can be found here. These are on Premier Christian radio, BUT they have a person from each side of the debate. You should all know who Peter Atkins is, since he has debated Dr. Steve Meyer from the Discovery Institute and Prof. John Lennox from Oxford.

    Unbelievable? Is God the best explanation for apparent design in nature? – Jonathan McLatchie & Cory Markum

    Unbelievable? The case from science for & against God – Peter Atkins (~75 yrs) vs Zachary Ardern (~25 yrs, New Zealander)

  26. #26 dean
    October 26, 2015

    Rob, there is nothing sophisticated about intellegent design. It is creationism with a different name. Its “researchers” have produced zero science – nothing testable, no predictions, nithing that agrees with what we know.
    A simple reading is all that is needed, and that is probably more scrutiny than is needed.

  27. #27 Jim
    San Diego
    October 26, 2015

    Rob: “The fact you continue to equate ID and creationism….”
    Rob, if you study the history of creationist attempts to defeat evolution (at least in public science classrooms) it is a no-brainer that ID is in fact the newest attempt by creationsists, to superficially distance their arguments more and more from God. This should be a secret to no one.
    In your opinion, what would disporve the “intelligent designer”?

  28. #28 Jiri
    October 26, 2015

    (Rob Ward):

    “Jiri, as a very simple example, just listen to or read the anti-ID people using the phrase “ID creationism”. I cannot think of a time when I have seen this used in a non-pejorative manner.”
    “” I don’t think that equating ID and creationism “offends the sensitivities” of ID supporters””
    Only you gave it initially as as example of the (alleged) “anti-ID rants”.

    Pity you thus seem to be an example of “an emotional, rather than intellectual thinker”, or aren’t you?

    “The fact you continue to equate ID and creationism is, to my mind, a reflection of the sad reality that is part of the human condition, which is that we are in reality a lot less rational and a lot more emotional that we would like to believe.”
    I’m hardly the only one – just about everyone who actually looked up and judged rationally what the ID promotes came to the conclusion, that it’s just a continuation of creationism under a different guise.

    “Anthony Flew who, as a lifelong atheist, became a theist of sorts”
    1) Anthony Flew converted to a rather weak deism.
    2) His conversion was based chiefly on an argument from incredulity, rather than any evidence for creation/design, even the slightest one.

  29. #29 wolfrespecter190
    October 27, 2015

    Intelligent design and evolution are compatible. Aetiology (as a branch of philosophy) and evolutionary theory are two separate fields.

  30. #30 dean
    October 27, 2015

    Intelligent design and evolution are compatible

    Not even close to true. Evolution (whether used as the word for the observed fact that life changes over time or the theory that used to describe those changes) is based on observed data, scientific research, and reality. ID is based on lies.

  31. #31 Jim
    San Diego
    October 27, 2015

    Intelligent design and evolution are compatible. ”

    Growing big pumpkins and hardworking garden fairies are compatible also, assuming garden fairies are real. Mutation causing invisible Klingons would also be compatible with evolution. But why bring in invisible Gods, Klingons and garden fairies when our understanding is perfectly fine without them (and there is absolutely no evidence of them)? Us humans are ignorant enough as it is, let’s try to find ways to reduce the bandini, not dig ourselves deeper in it.

  32. #32 Warren McIntosh
    October 30, 2015

    There’s a common tendency among, well, everyone, to take the worst argument in support of a position one is opposed to and knock it down based upon that worst supporting argument. The worst supporting argument for ID is (and always will be) goddidit.

    It’s not something I know anything about, but I’d be interested in what I assume is the ‘best’ argument for ID – that complex life was seeded/manipulated on earth by another species, group or individual. I readily concede that if such an advanced species existed one must also accept that complex life can occur without the need for intervention (otherwise where did the ‘others’ come from?). Nevertheless, I assume its not controversial that in a relatively short span of time (say 100 years) we will be in a position to routinely create and/or modify complex organisms to the extent of creating new or significantly enhancing existing intelligent species at will, and in some further period we may be able to visit other worlds and do our own seeding/manipulation. That, it seems to me, is a perfectly reasonable and testable scientific hypothesis, although I expect the most likely answer is that we would see tell-tale indications in our DNA as a result of such manipulation, and we see none.

    Perhaps at the very least, if ID as a historical science is a vehicle for crackpottery, that should not blind us to the fact that ID has already become a very real scientific discipline (indirect genetic manipulation has been around for 1000’s of years, and now we can finally achieve direct manipulation), and one that is still only in its infancy. Conflating ID science and creationism seems to me to miss that reality.

  33. #33 dean
    United States
    October 30, 2015

    ID has already become a very real scientific discipline

    Not at all – there has been nothing in the realm of science that ID has produced – even the “research” in their own specially published with no real quality control journals has been close to non-existent.

  34. #34 Warren McIntosh
    October 30, 2015

    Sorry, I obviously didn’t make myself clear enough – although we don’t call it that, indirect and direct genetic manipulation IS the scientific discipline of Intelligent Design.

  35. #35 dean
    United States
    October 30, 2015

    “scientific discipline of Intelligent Design.”

    No again. There is no scientific basis for ID – the name was created because the efforts to sneak the ideas it has into classrooms by calling the notions what they really are – Creationism – didn’t work. Intelligent Design, the name and the movement, was a PR move, nothing more.

  36. #36 Tim Bradley
    November 4, 2015

    Wow, are the hacks at the DI STILL trying to utilize that old “watchmaker” analogy?!? What is up with them?

    The only thing I can conclude is that it’s sort of like the practice of Disney to release their older animations every so many years to reach a new generation. They are so intellectually dishonest it hurts my brain. (sigh) OK, rant over.

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