Stephen E. Jones

My Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
Design: Intelligent Design (ID) in a nutshell

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FAQ: Intelligent Design (ID) In a Nutshell

Q. What is Intelligent Design (ID)? A. "Intelligent Design" (ID) is a scientific hypothesis that there is empirically detectable evidence of intelligent causation in nature.

Q. What is the Intelligent Design Movement (IDM)? A. The IDM is a loosely organised circle of scholars and laypersons who broadly share agreement with the above hypothesis. The acknowledged leader of the IDM is Berkeley Emeritus Professor of Law, Phillip E. Johnson. There is a wider circle of scholars, including Michael Denton, Hugh Ross, and others, who may not regard themselves as being part of the IDM, but who broadly support the IDM's objectives.

Q. When did the Intelligent Design Movement (IDM) begin? A. The IDM is generally regarded as beginning with the publication of Thaxton, et al.'s "The Mystery of Life's Origin" (1984). Other milestones in the brief history of the IDM since then were the publication of Denton's "Evolution: A Theory in Crisis" (1985), Johnson's "Darwin on Trial" (1991), Moreland et al.'s "The Creation Hypothesis" (1994), Behe's "Darwin's Black Box" (1996), Dembski's "The Design Inference" (1998) and "Intelligent Design" (1999), as well as other significant works. The IDM has also hosted important scientific conferences. It has two major centres, Access Research Network in Colorado, and the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture in Seattle.

Q. Is ID religious? A. ID is not necessarily religious. ID does not itself make any arguments for the existence of God. ID is not the same as the argument from design, which argues from the evidence of design in nature to the existence and attributes of God (e.g. Aquinas, Paley). Nor is ID the same as the argument to design, which argues from the existence and attributes of God to the existence of design in nature. ID is therefore not the same as natural theology, or revealed theology. ID merely aims to empirically detect design. While the existence of design would, of course, entail the existence of at least one designer, ID needs only to posit a designer with sufficient intelligence and power to cause the effect in question. ID need make no other claims about the identity and attributes of the designer(s).

Q. Is ID Christian? A. ID is not specifically Christian. ID itself makes no claims that any design it may detect was necessarily caused by the Christian God. The empirical detection of design in nature would be supportive of a wide range of religious and philosophical views, including, but not exclusive to, Christianity. The IDM is therefore not a Christian movement. While most ID members (IDists) are Christians, not all are, at least one is Jewish, another is an agnostic, and an ID leader Jonathan Wells, is a member of the Unification Church (Moonies). Also some Christians are strongly opposed to ID, most notably theistic evolutionists, but also some young-Earth creationists (YECs). ID is therefore not the same as creationism, let alone young-Earth creationism, since among those IDists who are Christians, many are(OECs), and some are even true theistic evolutionists.

Q. What fields of research is ID involved in? A. (see below):

Philosophical: The dominant philosophical position underlying science today is the twin assumptions of materialism ("matter is all there is") and naturalism ("the universe is a closed system of natural cause and effect"). These philosophical assumptions are embodied in Darwinism, the dominant theory of biological origins and development. Darwinism acknowledges the appearance of design in nature, but assumes that is merely an illusion. All three philosophical positions : Darwinism, materialism and naturalism, deny the reality of design, and therefore the scientific legitimacy of ID. Therefore a major part of ID's efforts to date has been in mounting counter arguments against materialism, naturalism and Darwinism, as well as asserting its own scientific legitimacy. ID's fundamental strategy in loosening the grip of materialist philosophy on science it calls "The Wedge". This aims to exploit the logical `crack' between the fact that empirical science and materialistic philosophy are not necessarily the same thing.

Scientific: Being relatively new and denied legitimacy by the scientific establishment, the IDM has no access to public funding which is necessary to do any meaningful scientific research today. Moreover, mainstream naturalistic science, though it denies the reality of design, is nevertheless discovering evidence of it, which, being public information the IDM is entitled to use as support for its own case. However, the IDM has commenced laying the foundations for specific ID scientific research programs in four main areas :

Q. What are the objections to ID? A. Common objection to ID include:

What progress is ID making? A. ID is making rapid progress in gaining public recognition and support. It remains to be seen, however, if ID will be successful in gaining a permanent place in mainstream science. If ID's research succeeds in producing conclusive scientifically verifiable empirical evidence of design, then this will be one of the (if not the) greatest scientific discovery of all time and ID will be mainstream science! However, even if ID fails in its main quest, of empirically detecting evidence of intelligent causation in nature, the problems of materialism-naturalism and Darwinism, and the increasingly strong evidence for design, may still be sufficient to convince the majority of the general public and a significant minority of scientists of the reality of design in nature.

Are there any threat to ID? A. There are major threats to ID and its success. The first is that materialistic science may overcome its problems and succeed in demonstrating a plausible, fully naturalistic scenario for the origin of life. Even the discovery of extraterrestrial life that could not have been related to life on Earth, would be strong evidence that such a naturalistic pathway did exist. If ID is not necessarily true, and hence scientific, this must be regarded by ID as a possibility. Second, biological evolution may overcome its problems, and succeed in developing a plausible, fully naturalistic general theory of evolution. Third, because of its `big tent' diversity, the ID movement contains fault lines along which, under pressure, it could fracture. Perhaps the major such potential fracture zone is young-Earth vs old-Earth creationism. While YECs have, in the main, been supportive of ID, there have been some ominous rumblings of discontent. Not unexpectedly, ID's opponents have used their own version of the wedge to try to exploit these potential cracks in ID. Finally, ID is vastly outnumbered by a immensely powerful, highly intelligent, and richly resourced foe, which has shown it can be ruthless and unscrupulous in the defence of its privileged position. At times the ID movement has allowed itself to indulge in the luxury of thinking that its ultimate success is inevitable. But that may be a dangerous delusion. All successful revolutions have had to be won usually at great cost to the revolutionaries. There is no reason to think that ID's revolution will be any different.


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Created: 4 April, 2001. Updated: 6 August, 2003.