I admit it ... I teach intelligent design

I just don't get it. Over at Uncommon Descent, Dembski posts on a course in the philosophy of biology at the University of Bern (Switzerland) that includes a single lecture (of ten) that discusses ID, and commentators are acting like this is a big deal.

Guys, there are courses all over this country that deal with ID, though probably not in a manner that the IDists would be happy with. For example, my BIO/HPS: Origins, Evolution and Creation course has been dealing with ID since its inception in 1998 and this semester will feature over 18 hours (nearly half the course) of lectures on ID.

The point is that it is perfectly appropriate to deal with ID at the university level. Those of us that object to ID being taught object to it being foisted on public high school science classes, either as "intelligent design" or as "teaching the controversy".

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In my opinion, high school science lessons should not teach controversy. Assuming the false opinion that ID is a "controversial scientific theory" it still has as much space in the high school curriculum as one of the versions of quantum gravity.

Dr. Lynch wrote:
"For example, my BIO/HPS: Origins, Evolution and Creation course has been dealing with ID since its inception...."

The title of your course suggests that while you may be dealing with Creationism, you may not be aware of the distinction between Creationism and Intelligent Design. I'm not being critical: knowledge of ID and it's distinction is growing, but there remains quite a lot of confusion.

I am aware that Evolutionists in general assert there is no difference and Judge Jones in the Dover case ruled there is no difference. I try to attribute the confusion to honest misunderstanding rather than deliberate misrepresentation.

Nevertheless, there is a difference between ID theory and creationism. As with any theory, it would seem only fair to ask those who are involved in the theory's development what THEY mean, what their definition is.

As an analogy, if I want to know what Democrats stand for, it's only fair to ask a Democrat: a Republican may give me a version of Democrat policy proposals somewhat unflattering to the proposals. If I understand the Democrat, I still may not agree, but at least I will have been fair.

The most recent article addressing this very subject by an active ID theorist is an article written by Dr. Stephen Meyer published Jan. 28, 2006 in the Daily Telegraph of London titled: "Intelligent design is not creationism". Here is the link:

Stephen C. Meyer earned his Ph.D. in the History and Philosophy of Science from Cambridge University for a dissertation on the history of origin of life biology and the methodology of the historical sciences. He is also director and Senior Fellow of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute, in Seattle.

G. Jennings
Houston, TX

By Red Reader (not verified) on 30 Jan 2006 #permalink

I *very* aware of the claimed distinction between ID and creationism. I don't buy it. Meyer and his fellow travellers can keep claiming all they like ... it don't make it so.

By John Lynch (not verified) on 30 Jan 2006 #permalink

Good point Red Reader! We should ask ID proponents what ID actually is!
Let's see what Michael Behe has to say!

Rothschild: I don t think I got a reply, so I m asking you, you ve made this claim here, ?Intelligent design theory
focuses exclusively on the proposed mechanism of how complex biological structures arose.? And I want to
know what is the mechanism that intelligent design proposes for how complex biological structures arose?
Behe: Again, it does not propose a mechanism in the sense
of a step-by-step description of how those structures arose.
Rothschild: And then further down the page at line 24 I asked
you, âIn terms of the mechanism, it s just a criticism of
Darwinian evolution s mechanism and not a positive
description of a mechanism.â And what did you answer,
Professor Behe?
Behe: I said âthat s correct.â

So in Behe's own words, Intelligent Design is just a criticism of the mechanism of evolution. Sweet! Now there is no more confusion. Everybody can go home and stop arguing about this; Behe has settled it for us!

On TalkOrigins today I wrote what I think is a fairly good description of what ID is about. I don't think it's exactly creationism of the Biblically literal kind, but it is in the same ballpark, with the same unwillingness to consider evidence and a desire to re-define science to support their less-literalistic views of the Bible and God. Anyway, here is what I think is a good characterization of what ID is up to:

Nearly all of this can be collapsed down to one observation about
IDists: They wish to simply define the complexity of life as
"designed", and they wish for this definition to supersede all normal
measures of design.
Were they serious about showing life to be designed using accepted
measure for design, they would be moving past Paley's, "I know it when
I see it". They'd show us how everything is designed at least as well
as a human would design things, the purposes of the "designs" we see in
nature, the constraints (if any) that the designer encountered, and
most of all, [evidence] that intelligence is actually capable of designing the
complexities of life.
I think the latter is particularly telling about ID. How absurd to
suggest that complex structures we as intelligent beings couldn't even
begin to produce at the present time (alongside design elements that
we'd immediately improve in a some cases) should, by analogy with human
design, be considered to be the default explanation for life's
complexities. Not that anything could really be the default
explanation, but clearly the intelligence that we know is not even in
the running as a candidate for a default explanation for life.
The reasons why gods were invoked as the explanation for life in the
first place is that human-type design is not evident in nature, with
neither human purposes nor human capabilities being evident in
organisms (which is why the "designer" of the IDists is neither human
nor humanoid, meaning once again that it is God). The IDiots are so
far removed from both science, and religion in its "natural state",
that they fail to notice that their anthropoid analogy is completely
inadequate for explaining organisms (OK, some are probably lying at
least in part, but if one notices how inept one like Behe is at dealing
with the overall issues, one realizes that at least some of these
people are incredibly ignorant sods), that no aliens would ever be
supposed by competent scientists to be the source of wild-type genetic
codes, and that any animal-designer would have designed for such
different purposes and through such different means than we recognize
that such a being would have to be a god of some kind.
It all comes back to the fact that they simply wish to re-define life
as designed, and not to bother with the evidence except in the most
tangential fashion. They re-define what "counts as evidence for
design", without any supporting evidence for their assertions, and
re-define the default position of what is not known to be "God's
doings" (OK, "Designer's doings"). This is their entire "scientific
project", indeed, this attempt to bypass the actual predictions
possible as a design hypothesis (because all such predictions have
failed), and to substitute unsubstantiated measures of design in place
of the scientific measures of design (to be sure, we don't really have
"measures of design" (since "design" doesn't really capture human's
animal purposes for manipulating the world), only various means of
showing that humans were responsible for various objects, but we can
use "measure of design" loosely in this context if we wish).
Their entire motivation in the matter of life is to brush off the
science that has failed their prejudices, and to redefine "science" to
fit their prejudices. Any scientific discussion of the evidences
simply gets in the way of this project that they are focused upon, and
in their minds it only makes sense to dismiss all real science and to
get back to their attempt to make science into an apologia for their

Glen Davidson

[One word was added, in brackets, for the sake of comprehension,]

This message in the TO context exists here:


By Glen Davidson (not verified) on 30 Jan 2006 #permalink