The Intelligent Designer’s Identity Crisis

This humble blog has chronicled the travails of the intelligent designer — blessed be he! — through the years that we’ve been aware of claims for his miraculous (albeit controversial) activities. The designer’s existence is the heart of an allegedly scientific theory propounded by the Discoveroids — described in the Cast of Characters section of our Intro page.

The Discoveroids are, in fact, operating a creationist ministry, but they claim to be doing science — a charade they’ve been desperately trying to maintain since their founding in 1990 when they began struggling to implement their Wedge Strategy.

The amazing thing is that despite their endless pretensions of advocating a scientific theory, no one — not the Discoveroids, not their followers, not their critics — has the slightest doubt that their magical designer is Yahweh. The most tragic and at the same time the most amusing aspect of the Discoveroids’ crusade is their silly refusal to reveal the true identify the designer. Instead they maintain that he’s merely a strange (but intelligent) force of some kind that does wonderful things without leaving a bit of evidence as to his methods or even his existence.

Over the years they’ve tinkered with the designer’s description and the definition of their “theory.” They’ve got their latest definition (see Intelligent Design Redefined) and we’ve got ours, which you’ve probably seen before. We say the intelligent designer is:

An 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), who arrived on earth somehow at some unspecified time (or several times), and then in some unspecified way (technological or magical), for unspecified reasons, did something (or maybe several things) to influence the genetic characteristics of some (but maybe not all) of the creatures on earth.

Defending the designer hasn’t been an easy task. He’s obviously a classic god of the gaps, but the Discoveroids keep insisting otherwise (see Casey Luskin and the God of the Gaps). He’s also Paley’s watchmaker — except that he produces cheap and inaccurate watches (see Rethinking Paley’s Watchmaker Analogy).

The designer’s miraculous works are usually claimed to be impossibly complex and therefore un-achievable by natural means. They are also amazingly flawless — like man himself — who couldn’t be the product of a sloppy, natural process like evolution. Belief in the designer’s unnaturally perfect craftsmanship is why the Discoveroids insist there’s no such thing as junk DNA.

Alas, such claims have resulted in a series of crises for the designer and his advocates. Undeniable evidence of poor design made it necessary for the Discoveroids to invent the doctrine that The Designer Can Be Sloppy. Desperation measures like that are not a good omen.

The obvious failure of the Discoveroids’ “theory” to qualify as science (it’s an untestable, unfalsifiable concept) has goaded them into erecting a Potemkin village that simulates the appearance of scientific activity, complete with their own captive “peer reviewed” journal (BIO-Complexity), and their own creation science lab (Biologic Institute), and their own “peer reviewed” vanity press operation (Discovery Institute Press). Their imitation of the accouterments of science has caused intelligent design to be described as a cargo cult.

The designer has other problems, of course (besides non-existence). Today we’ll focus on his limited repertoire of tricks. The Discoveroids’ latest post is Robert Asher’s “Impoverished Creator” vs. Intelligent Design. It’s by Casey Luskin, our favorite creationist. Casey says, with bold font added by us and his links omitted:

In his book Evolution and Belief: Confessions of a Religious Paleontologist, anti-ID paleontologist Robert Asher says that if non-random origins point to design, then ID must be arguing that (theologically speaking) a random or unguided origin means God wasn’t involved in any way. He therefore charges that ID implies an “impoverished Creator.” He exclaims “Some deity!”

That’s an interesting argument. The Discoveroids claim that the evidence of intelligent design can be spotted, at least by them (see Casey Defines “Complex and Specified Information”), but only if you know what to look for. That’s important, because if God (or the designer) is involved in everything, then the Discoveroids’ claim that they can actually detect design becomes meaningless. Considering that most things don’t appear to be intelligently designed — that is, they don’t exhibit complex and specified information (CSI) — we should conclude that the universe exhibits almost no design activity at all.

Casey doesn’t like that. He says:

Here Asher has badly misunderstood ID. However, his misunderstanding is common — especially among theistic evolutionists like Asher.

We haven’t read Asher’s book, so we can’t be certain that Casey has correctly described his position. However, the limited amount that Casey tells us presents an interesting critique. If almost everything is the result of natural processes, and only a very few phenomena are the detectable result of the designer’s interference with the natural order, then the designer doesn’t have much of a portfolio. A flagellum here, an eyeball there — it’s not much to brag about. But if there’s any validity to the “science” of intelligent design, then that’s all there is. Thus, an impoverished creator.

Interestingly, if design theory were truly a scientific theory, it shouldn’t be a problem that the designer has limitations. Many forces in nature have limits and operate only within measurable distances. There’s no reason why the designer should be unlimited in scope. But Casey seems to instinctively defend the designer’s universal omnipotence, thus betraying the designer’s true identity. You can see this as he tries to explain where Asher went wrong:

ID doesn’t promote a theological doctrine that claims to explain God’s actions in every instance. ID is a scientific theory that claims that sometimes we can scientifically detect design, and sometimes we can’t. Just because we can’t scientifically detect design in a particular instance doesn’t mean that we’ve claimed, theologically, that God was entirely absent from that event or process.

Did you understand that, dear reader? It appears that not only can the blessed designer produce sloppy work, but because he’s everywhere and involved in everything, he can also produce work that doesn’t appear designed at all. This is a new development in design theory, and it totally negates the meaningfulness of concepts like “Complex and Specified Information”. Let’s read on:

All theists who support ID affirm that God is behind, in some sense, every event. “Natural cause” never means (for theists anyway) “not caused by God.” I’m not aware of any ID theorist who is also a theist and who has ever claimed otherwise.

What’s going on here? Are the Discoveroids finally dropping their goofy masquerade and admitting that the designer is Yahweh and therefore everything is designed? If so, they might as well join ol’ Hambo at the Creation Museum. Casey continues:

There are two potential extreme positions in this debate: (A) Everything is detectably designed and God never uses material causes, or (B) Nothing is detectably designed and God always uses “material” causes.

Interesting reaction. When cornered, duck the issue and claim that there are two extremes involved, and the opposition is falsely accusing you of taking one of those positions. Here’s more:

Ironically, even as ID critics (wrongly) accuse ID proponents of adopting extreme position (A), it is ID-critics themselves, including many theistic evolutionist proponents of theistic naturalism, who seem to adopt extreme position (B).

This is glorious! No one — certainly not Asher as far as we can tell — claims that the Discoveroids occupy position A (that everything is detectably designed). On the other hand, it’s true that the theory of evolution says that species aren’t magically designed — they only appear that way if one doesn’t understand the mechanism of mutation and natural selection. Moving along:

This makes for bad science because it [proposition B, presumably] presupposes scientific answers before all the evidence is considered, and bad theology because it [proposition A, presumably] tries to dictate to God what He ought to do. In science and theology alike, it enshrines presuppositions.

Casey has rejected both extremes. He rules out the fictional straw-man of proposition A (that everything is detectably designed); and because he’s a creationist he also rejects proposition B (the scientific position that, in the absence of evidence, science is unable to consider God as a designer). Here’s how he concludes:

In contrast, ID rejects both extreme positions, and lives by this motto: “Don’t presuppose the answers. Follow the evidence where it leads.”

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! According to Casey, everyone is an extremist, except for the Discoveroids who alone are reasonable. Nevertheless, despite Casey’s desperate gyrations, Asher’s criticism remains — if the Discoveroids claim (as they do) that they can detect design, then the apparent random or unguided origin of most things means God (or the designer) wasn’t involved in any way.

Copyright © 2013. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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14 responses to “The Intelligent Designer’s Identity Crisis

  1. Charles Deetz ;)

    Casey says case B is “bad theology because it tries to dictate to God what He ought to do.” Um, yea, that is even true for case C (C for Casey?). Any assumption about what God did is bad, period. True creationists can at least say the bible said so, but Luskin doesn’t have that choice. But for ID, they are pushing actions on god that he may or may not have done, much how some preachers do with modern miracles that just as easily could be claimed by the devil (or random luck).

  2. As a long-standing admirer of Mr. Luskin’s remarkable intellectual gyrations, I must say that his particular article here is possibly the acme of his achievement — a new, all-time low in sophistry I would scarcely have thought possible.

    I marvel even more at Luskin than I did before.

  3. Megalonyx says: “I marvel even more at Luskin than I did before.”

    I marvel that he chooses to stick with his buddies. By now they all must know that Hambo has by far the better deal — he can just quote scripture and threaten with the Lake of Fire. Solid stuff! The Discoveroids thought they could fake science, and they keep sinking into the ooze of their own creation.

  4. Curmudgeon: “The Discoveroids are, in fact, operating a creationist ministry, but they claim to be doing science — a charade they’ve been desperately trying to maintain since their founding in 1990…”

    Right. As “desperately” as I try to become a millionaire by buying lottery tickets. Sometimes I think most of you fellow “Darwinists” are still living in 1990. Sure, Discoveroits still trot out bogus “ID is science” arguments if they think the audience is gullible enough. And in fact most audiences are, not because they’re stupid or ignorant, but because they just don’t have the time and/or interest to see through the catchy sound bites.

    Several key DI players have clearly admitted years ago that ID is not science. A quote from Phillip Johnson and another by Paul Nelson are often cited to that effect. Until they unequivocally retract it, I read it as “Yeah, you ‘Darwinists’ figured us out, but we can still fool the masses, and you don’t even try to stop us.”

  5. GoldsteinSquadFanClubMember

    You do realize your blog is a Hate Site, don’t you?

  6. retiredsciguy

    Only in the sense that at least a few of us “regular” posters detest willful ignorance — but “detest” is not “hate”.

  7. Tim Anderson

    Hate? I don’t think so. I think ID creationism is more fun than a night out at the circus.

  8. He had plenty of time to respond. Too late now, he’s banned.

  9. That Gerbil line is the best: sometimes you can and sometimes you can’t.

    Sometimes you can measure the boiling point of water, and sometimes you can’t. Sometimes you get a yield of 80% and sometimes you get a yield of 10%. You just never know what’s gonna happen! Alas, if that was true I would have gotten an “A” in organic chemistry lab instead of a “C.”

  10. Oh, oh, and this line, too:

    Every ID theorist who is not an atheist believes God is the designer!

    Gerbil Gold!

  11. In contrast, ID rejects both extreme positions, and lives by this motto: “Don’t presuppose the answers. Follow the evidence where it leads.”

    For Casey, this means create the evidence you need in order to follow it where you want to go.

  12. docbill1351 says: “Gerbil Gold!”

    I can’t think of a comparably incongruous expression.

  13. @SC: The troll post above made me curious. I’ve found several other posts similar in (lack of) content to the one above. The troller will say something that he thinks is “a zinger”, which we realize is him simply pointing out his own mental deficiencies. Good that you banned him. The post above is probably the most intelligent post he’s made around the Interwebz.