THIS is thrilling. The neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids) have drafted a new definition of Inteligent Design (ID), and they’ve put it up at their website: What is intelligent design?
They’ve got it broken down into three sections, so we’ll take them one at a time. Our commentary will appear in [red font] in the middle of the Discoveroids’ text. Here we go:
Definition of Intelligent Design
Intelligent design refers to a scientific research program as well as a community of scientists, philosophers and other scholars who seek evidence of design in nature. [But so far, this ID "research program" has produced no peer-reviewed research.] 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. [Never mind that the universe isn't biological, so it's not subject to natural selection; and never mind how we determine that ID is "best."] Through the study and analysis of a system’s components, a design theorist is able to determine [or at least claim] whether various natural structures are the product of chance, natural law, intelligent design, or some combination thereof. Such research is conducted by observing the types of information produced when intelligent agents act. Scientists then seek to find objects which have those same types of informational properties which we commonly know come from intelligence. Intelligent design has applied these scientific methods to detect [or claim to detect] design in irreducibly complex biological structures, the complex and specified information content in DNA, the life-sustaining physical architecture of the universe, and the geologically rapid origin of biological diversity in the fossil record during the Cambrian explosion approximately 530 million years ago. [So far, our "research" tells that everything is intelligently designed, but somehow no one believes us.]
Here’s the next section:
Is intelligent design the same as creationism?
No. [Wink, wink!] The theory of intelligent design is simply an effort [so far unsuccessful] to empirically detect whether the “apparent design” in nature acknowledged by virtually all biologists is genuine design (the product of an intelligent cause) or is simply the product of an undirected process such as natural selection acting on random variations. Creationism typically starts with a religious text and tries to see how the findings of science can be reconciled to it. [But that's clearly unconstitutional, so we stripped out the G-word and jazzed it up as this newfangled ID thing to slip through the First Amendment.] Intelligent design starts with the empirical evidence of nature and seeks to ascertain what inferences can be drawn from that evidence. [But like creationists, we end up inferring that undetectable agencies have been tinkering with the world.] Unlike creationism, the scientific theory of intelligent design does not claim that modern biology can identify whether the intelligent cause detected through science is supernatural. [But we all know that's where we're headed.]
Honest critics of intelligent design acknowledge the difference between intelligent design and creationism. [That difference is slick public relations, nothing more.] University of Wisconsin historian of science Ronald Numbers is critical of intelligent design, yet according to the Associated Press, he “agrees the creationist label is inaccurate when it comes to the ID [intelligent design] movement.” Why, then, do some Darwinists keep trying to conflate intelligent design with creationism? According to Dr. Numbers, it is because they think such claims are “the easiest way to discredit intelligent design.” In other words, the charge that intelligent design is “creationism” is a rhetorical strategy on the part of Darwinists who wish to delegitimize design theory without actually addressing the merits of its case.
Tracking down that Ronald Numbers quote isn’t easy. It was mentioned here at the Discoveroid blog in January of 2005, but with no link to the source. We found it mentioned in an article by John West from 2002, again with no source. Even if Numbers once said something like that, which is dubious, it doesn’t mean that ID isn’t creationism — only that one person once said so.
It’s notable that the Discoveroids devoted a full paragraph (out of only four in the entire definition of ID) to this alleged second-hand quote by Ronald Numbers. It reveals their desperation to find even one statement from a respected academic who — years ago — may have said that ID isn’t creationism. Update: We found this interview Numbers gave in 2007 where he says, on page 3, that most of the leading ID people aren’t young-earth creationists. Well, we know that.
And here’s the last section:
Is intelligent design a scientific theory?
Yes. [And as Micheal Behe admitted in the Dover trial, if ID is a scientific theory, so is astrology.] The scientific method is commonly described as a four-step process involving observations, hypothesis, experiments, and conclusion. [But ID is grotesquely lacking when it comes to proposing falsifiable predictions and testing them.] Intelligent design begins with the observation that intelligent agents produce complex and specified information (CSI). Design theorists hypothesize that if a natural object was designed, it will contain high levels of CSI. [But of course, so do many naturally occurring objects that aren't designed, so this isn't much of a test.] Scientists then perform experimental tests upon natural objects to determine if they contain complex and specified information. [These "tests" consist of looking at something and "concluding" that it's really complicated.] One easily testable form of CSI is irreducible complexity, which can be discovered by experimentally reverse-engineering biological structures to see if they require all of their parts to function. [But Michael Behe, the grand guru of irreducible complexity, has no verifiable results because he's conducted no tests.] When ID researchers find [or claim to find] irreducible complexity in biology, they conclude [or at least proclaim] that such structures were designed.
So there you are. The all-new description of ID for 2009. Last year’s model is no longer operative. But we prefer the Curmudgeon’s definition of intelligent design:
The “theory” of Intelligent design tells us that some unknown intelligence (whether it’s a solitary creature or a vast swarm is never addressed), with utterly unknown characteristics (mortal or immortal, sexual or asexual, plant or animal, physical or spiritual), whose home base is unknown, and whose ultimate origin is a mystery (evolved, created, or eternal), arrived on earth somehow (in a flying saucer, or maybe on a comet), at some unspecified time (or several times), and then in some unspecified way (technological or magical), for unspecified reasons (boredom, or maybe cosmic fulfillment), did something (or maybe several things) to influence the genetic characteristics of some (but maybe not all) of the creatures on earth.
Pretty good theory, huh? Lots of valuable applications.
Update: You may prefer the definition provided by the National Center for Science Education: What is “Intelligent Design” Creationism?
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