Discovery Institute: Intelligent Design Redefined

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?

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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8 responses to “Discovery Institute: Intelligent Design Redefined

  1. You can put lipstick on a pig, but you still can’t make a purse out of a sow’s ear. Unless it’s irreducibly complex. Does this make any sense?? Not much more than this new definition of ID. Well, I off to Louisiana (the new LA LA land. It’s not just Calif. any more).

  2. Critics if Intelligent Design point out issues like: it can’t be falsified or that they’re not producing peer-reviewed research. There’s a major baffling issue I have with the so-called science of Intelligent Design. Here’s a theory where there are no facts at all about the central tenets. By this I mean, nothing is known about the designers, and nothing is known about the process of design. This is a field of science where no one seems interested in researching the two major claims. I find no evidence that anyone has ever worked on determining the nature or location of the designers. I don’t see anyone talking about how a design is translated into an object in the real world. As an example, look at the “top 10 news stories” published by the Access Research Network. For several years running, there have no findings at all about the nature of the designers or about the process of design.
    If you were a scientist who truly believed that there is an intelligent agent capable of designing living things, I can’t imagine you would waste time on trivial ideas like an “explanatory filter.” You wouldn’t be satisfied with inferring this or that about design. If ID were real science, then 90% of the research money and 90% of all researchers would be focused on finding out everything they can about these designers. But that’s not what we observe.
    This is an issue that needs more attention from those of us who attempt to expose ID for the public relations machine that it is. If the ID crowd got it’s way and taught ID in school, what would they teach? How can they claim that this is a scientific theory when no one has done any work on the two central tenets of the theory?

  3. retiredsciguy

    Curmy, your definition of ID is far superior to the Discovery Institute’s.

    Intelligent Design cannot be called a scientific theory. It is simply a religious belief that the Intelligent Designer created all species of living things. The only evidence that those who believe in Intelligent Design can offer to support their idea is that living things appear (to them) to be “irreducibly complex”, whatever that means.
    I think it means they simply don’t have the intelligence to understand the complexity, and thus ascribe it to God, the Intelligent Designer,
    much as the Ancients ascribed all things they couldn’t understand to their gods.

  4. Recently an evolutionary biologist suggested that if the theory of Evolution were to be replaced, it would have to be replaced by a better model.I would venture to suggest that the theory contained in Intelligent Design Message from the Designers,is that new model. The theory of Evolution is an excellent and Darwin did a great service to science and humanity,in that it helped us to look at the old understanding of our origins in a new way.The evidence of evolution, is evidence of progression of design by nature.That said the problem with evolution is that it excludes any explanation for the religions.With this new theory we are dealing with progression of design by very advanced science.When our scientists create life in the near future, they will follow more or less the same pathway as evidenced by the theory of evolution.They will having synthesized the DNA, start off with single celled animals, then move on to create more complex organisms and eventually man and the buckle will be closed and we will become as the’ gods’ of old. If our scientists can do this then why not other scientists in other solar systems? So the debate should perhaps move on to Evolution of Design by nature versus evolution of Design by advanced science? Once one understands the big picture provided by this theory then one can understand the original intention behind ALL the world religions.That being to survive as a humanity on our own, that scientifically predictable phase when we first use nuclear power for destructive purposes. (oh my god the kids have found the matches!), as we did at Hiroshima. From that point on a humanity enters that predictable phase where science and technology accelerate very rapidly alongside population growth.This is a universal law for any humanity in any solar system and for the many humanities that have existed on this very ancient planet before and disappeared for the self-evident reasons we can see today.
    If you think the theory in the book referred to above is science fiction, then in the context of the theory so are the dangers of nuclear war, over-population and environmental degradation.
    This theory is more inclusive than Evolution in that itdeals with many issues at the same time.It is about the demystifying of the old understandings and the spiritualization of 21st century science. We need an evolution of thinking and not too slowly, given the unfortuante prediction this theory makes. We are on our own but not alone.

  5. Michael “I would venture to suggest that the theory contained in Intelligent Design Message from the Designers,is that new model.”
    And, if the website linked in your sig is any indicator, you believe that aliens made Man 13,000 years ago. Congratulations, your version of the theory has already been disproved!

    “The evidence of evolution, is evidence of progression of design by nature.”
    Design without a designer. Untelligent Design.

    “That said the problem with evolution is that it excludes any explanation for the religions.”
    No, the problem with religion is that its explanation is wrong. That’s not ToE’s fault. Most religions started long before anybody knew anything about how things actually worked.

    “From that point on a humanity enters that predictable phase where science and technology accelerate very rapidly alongside population growth.This is a universal law for any humanity in any solar system and for the many humanities that have existed on this very ancient planet before and disappeared for the self-evident reasons we can see today.”
    Based on, what, a sample group of one? Don’t ever become a statistician.

    “It is about the demystifying of the old understandings…”
    That’s what science does. That’s it’s forte. Mixing in the supernatural just muddies the waters.

    …and the spiritualization of 21st century science.”
    Scientists are already profoundly spiritual. What could be more edifying than figuring out how things work? I suspect, that that (the sense of wonder, of curiosity, of joy at filling in a piece of the universal puzzle) isn’t the kind of spirituality to which your refering.

    “We are on our own but not alone.”
    Until the Designer pokes its head in, science will stick to the null hypothesis.

  6. Raelian spam! Enjoy it, because we won’t be getting much more from that source. (I’m such a grump.)

  7. Dear Modusoperandi -thank you for your comments
    Congratulations, your version of the theory has already been disproved!

    [Raelian nonsense deleted.]

    Once one starts looking at the whole of humanity a lot of things begin to make sense AT THE SAME TIME. of course you may say where is the evidence re the Ufos? I would reply given the amount of research I have done, it is not a question of if there are other people out there , but what do they want and why they do not come down and announce themselves?

    [Raelian nonsense deleted.]

    I am not talking about the super-natural, I am taliking about advanced science by other men from other solar systems.

    [Raelian nonsense deleted.]

    Would you if you were an advanced scientist want to land on a planet where people are still killing their own, let alone any visitors? When a scientifically advanced race visits a lesser advanced race, pretending to be gods is the only way of visiting peacefully those people.

    [Raelian nonsense deleted.]

    Dear Curmudgeon … Maurice Chatelaine in his book Our Ancestors came from Outer Space, raised the issue as to how the Sumerians, were able to have precise knowledge of the moons of Neptune ,Uranus,Jupiter and Mars. his suggestion was that their were only tow possibilities, either God gave them theat knowledge or an astronaut. Which would you think the most realistic in the 21st century?

  8. Michael: Excuse me if I’ve completely misinterpreted everything that you just wrote, thus taking your comment on a terribly amusing tangent, but what you’re saying is that they’re…Illegal Aliens from Outer Space!? (dun-dun dun!)