The relevant purpose here, per the OP, is to determine if ID shares enough similarities with creationism to justify using the term “ID creationism.”
That’s an excellent clarifying point, so thank you, Cameron. The answer is quite simple. The point of putting words in sentences is to communicate through them. It is a communication issue. From a communication perspective, what does “creationism” contribute to the term, “intelligent design”? Does it promote understanding or confusion?
Versions of Creationism
That’s a helpful question worthy of exploring. Adding “creationism” to ID indicates that it’s a subspecies of creationism. That means it is a subspecies of one or more of these beliefs, all of which could be called creationist:
1. That something or someone unknown, outside the natural order, has intervened through a creative act sometime in natural history (a bare, minimal denial of philosophical materialism as a way of viewing origins)
2. That some god or gods created the initial conditions of the universe and has let it unfold uninterrupted since then, without intervention and without teleological design of any sort. Life happened, but not because of any divine intent (Deism; bare, minimal denial of philosophical materialism, with the addition of some deity)
3. That God created the universe billions of years ago and “front-loaded” the initial conditions so that unfolding natural processes would inevitably lead to life as it now exists (“front-loading”)
3.1 And signs or hints of his work in doing so aredetectable scientifically now, looking backward (FL with God’s fingerprints)
3.2 And signs of his work in doing so are not detectable (FL undetectable)
4.That God created the universe billions of years ago, starting with a Big Bang, and has let it unfold without interruption except by seeding the earth with its first life. Subsequent life evolved from that point with some intervention from God, but none that would be detectable by the tools of observation even as it was happening, much less looking back eons in time (Theistic Evolution)
4.1 And humans were no exception: we evolved by unguided chance and selection just like every other organism (TE non-exceptionalism)
4.2 Humans are the one exception; God intended and directed us to evolve the way we did, but his intervention then is not subject to being detected by science today (TE exceptionalism)
5. That God created the universe billions of years ago starting with a Big Bang and intervened on earth to produce the first life and subsequent life in ways that leave recognizable signs or hints of his intervention at various points along the way (Fingerprints on Creation)
6. That God created the universe some 10,000 to 20,000 years ago, all scientific indicators of an older universe are either misinterpreted data or some other form of confusion, and that each kind or species was a distinct separate act of creation (Genesis interpreted literally)
6.1 And signs of his creative acts are detectable by science today (Scientific Creationism)
6.2 And signs of his creative acts are not detectable by science today (Creationism without scientific support)
I’m sure this is not a complete list, but it serves the purpose. (I made up the “Fingerprints on Creation” label; if anyone knows a better or more standard label, please let me know.) What these have in common is that something outside the natural order did something at some point in natural history. Otherwise they are quite different and in many aspects mutually contradictory.
Confusion and Contradiction
Of these, ID’s hypotheses are fully consistent only with 3.1 and 5 (Front-loading with God’s Fingerprints; Fingerprints on Creation). It shares with Scientific Creationism the expectation that signs or hints of some of God’s creative acts in history may be detectable scientifically, but it does not share Scientific Creationism’s biblical assumptions, its insistence on a young earth, or its a priori denial of common descent. Intelligent Design’s hypotheses are generally in contradiction to the other versions I’ve listed here.
Evolution, on the other hand, is quite consistent with 2, 3.2, 4.1, and 4.2 (Deism, Front-loading Undetectable, Theistic Evolution), unless one insists on philosophical materialism as part of the evolution package.
So what additional understanding are we adding, what confusion are we removing, by adding “creationism” to “Intelligent Design,” without specifying what creationism we’re talking about? None. From a communication perspective the additional word serves no positive purpose; it adds contradiction and confusion.
Does Context Help?
But maybe I’ve rushed too quickly to that conclusion. Lots of words have multiple meanings, and we use words like that in almost every sentence without stopping to define which meaning we have in mind. Why not allow using “creationism” without stopping to explain?
The reason we can use words with multiple meanings that way is because context tells us clearly what meaning is intended. If context fails to do that, then we have what our English teachers called a “mistake.” Some of them are called “crash blossoms or “Garden path sentences” (these are mostly for fun, but also to demonstrate the point):
McDonald’s Fries the Holy Grail for Potato Farmers
Violinist linked to JAL crash blossoms
The old man the boat.
The man returned to his house was happy.
The author wrote the novel was likely to be a best seller.
Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.
Even in these odd sentences, context determines the meaning of the words (eventually). But what context determines the meaning of “creationism” in “Intelligent Design Creationism”?
Typical Contexts for “Intelligent Design Creationism”
Usually the relevant context is one or both of the following:
A. The immediate surrounding context of communication, which is typically that of an ID antagonist. Usually that context points toward something very much like 6.1 Scientific Creationism; which is contradictory to ID’s hypotheses. Adding “creationism” in that sense seriously confuses the meaning of Intelligent Design by introducing a contradictory concept.
B. The larger social context, which of course includes the historical aspect that commenters have incorrectly but repeatedly accused me of ignoring in the prior three posts. This is more ambiguous. More often than not, I think, it tends to point toward something like 6.1 Scientific Creationism, so it is confusing in the same way (A) is. Even if that is not the case, “creationism” adds ambiguity rather than reducing it. It indicates that ID disputes philosophical materialism, but didn’t we all know that already? It’s wasted verbiage at best, like “atheism that denies a knowable God;” but it’s really worse than that because of the wide and ambiguous range of possible meanings it introduces, some of them mutually contradictory.
If speakers and writers were careful to disambiguate “Creationism” when they used it in conjunction with ID, and if they were also careful not to assign it a meaning that contradicts “Intelligent Design,” then the word could be useful for some purposes. But that doesn’t happen very often.
An Open-and-Shut Case
Much of the argument in the past three posts has been about the scientific status of Intelligent Design and its historic connections to creationism. From a communications perspective, though, appending “creationism” to “Intelligent Design” definitely detracts, and this is true regardless of whether ID is science, and regardless of what its historical background may be. Those objections are irrelevant to the communication issue. It’s an open-and-shut case: “Intelligent Design Creationism” is poor communication. Cameron’s question is answered; there is no good justification for using the term that way.
One final exception to this much be acknowledged. If the speaker really wants to associate ID with 6.1 Scientific Creationism, without signaling that their assumptions and hypotheses differ in many ways, then “Intelligent Design Creationism” is a useful term. Inaccurate, dishonest, manipulative, but useful.
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