Questions For Those Who Believe ID Is Creationism

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This entry is part 4 of 8 in the series Is ID Creationism?


Yesterday in the thread on ID and creationism, a commenter using the handle “Wheels” pointed out,

The starting point [for both ID and creationism] is with religion, namely Christianity in this case. The arguments used in Pandas were all Scientific Creationism arguments. The terminology used in Pandas‘ early drafts were all old-hat Creationism. When ID was substituted, the arguments and substance of Pandas did not change.

Then he asks why I say the current question is not about Of Pandas and People, the Discovery Institute, or the historic roots of ID. That’s a reasonable question, and to answer it I’m going to set up some background and then ask a few questions of my own.

The meanings of terms are certainly influenced by their history, and Intelligent Design does have a strong historic link to creationism. Of course that is true for both creationism and ID; and I believe for most people, creationism still means what it did for most scientists back in the 1960s and in the decades following. It would go something like this:

Creationism begins in Genesis and argues for certain conclusions based on a certain understanding of the Scriptures. It is known for its persistence in seeking scientific data that fits that interpretation of Genesis, and for finding creative but irregular interpretations to help in that search. It is committed to a young-earth view of origins, opposes common descent, and violates scientific thinking by supposing that God can and does intervene in the regular workings of nature. As such it has gained an unsavory scientific reputation.

That’s creationism as it is commonly understood. Now, are there other ways to understand creationism? Of course there. This is a “Thinking Christian” blog, and I believe in God as creator. I believe God has performed acts of creation; thus in a sense I am most certainly a creationist. But I am not a creationist in the sense stated in that prior definition.

And I think that prior definition is the relevant one for the sake of this discussion. I’ll come back in a moment to explain why. First, we need to look at the other term under discussion, Intelligent Design. Its proponents would define it something like this (I’ve added a couple of clarifying phrases):

A scientific and philosophical research program, not committed to any source Scripture or to young-earth theories, not necessarily opposing common descent, and open on the question of God and his potential involvement in the regularities of nature; which explores the proposition that certain features of life and nature are best explained by reference to a designing intelligence.

Is there some creationist agenda hidden there? Certainly it has an anti-philosophical materialism intent, and most ID proponents would love to see that philosophy overthrown. That’s an agenda, but it’s not specifically a religious or creationist one. Certainly ID has historical roots in common with creationism, and some ID advocates would be happy to call themselves creationists.

But agendas and overlapping group membership were not the topics of the past blog entry. The question was, “why do some people insist on saying ID is creationism?” That issue is clearly distinct from agendas or group membership. Unitarian-Universalist ministers overwhelmingly vote Democratic; does that mean Unitarian-Universalism is the same thing as the Democratic Party? Of course not. There is more to both of them than their agendas; so even if Intelligent Design had a politico-religious agenda just like that of the most religious creationist, that would not make ID equivalent to creationism. In order form them to be the same (as I said yesterday afternoon), ID would have to fulfill the definition of creationism along with its own definition, like this:

Intelligent Design is a scientific and philosophical research program investigating the proposition that there are certain features of the natural world that are best explained by reference to a designing intelligence, which is not committed to any particular religious view of origins, is not committed to opposing common descent, is not committed to a Young Earth view of origins, and which is open on the question of God’s interventions in nature; which is unscientific, committed to the book of Genesis, is opposed to common descent, holds to a Young Earth view of origins, and insists on the importance of God’s interventions in nature.

So here is my first question for you who believe ID is equivalent to creationism: Do you see now why I say they are not the same? Do you see why that is true regardless of ID’s history?

I said I would come back to address whether it was right to define creationism the way I did above. It has a rich and varied set of potential meanings, after all. I’m going to handle that by asking my second question, which gets to the heart of the matter as it comes up in actual practice. When ID opponents say “ID is just creationism” or when they refuse to refer to it as anything other than “Intelligent Design Creationism,” what are they intending to communicate? What sense of “creationism” do they have in mind? What impression are they trying to convey?

If the answer is anything similar to the definition I gave above, then that’s the meaning that matters for this discussion. I contend that that definition is so predominant, if anyone wants to use the term to mean something else they must carefully explain what they have in mind. Otherwise listeners/readers will assume the default definition, the one given here, is what is intended.

And then I have one last pair of questions: If the default meaning of “creationism” is anything like what I’ve suggested here, does it advance productive dialogue to equate ID and creationism? Do they even care about productive dialogue?

Some of you will no doubt answer, “No, why should they care? ID is just creationism, after all!” I suggest you re-read this post.

Note to commenters: I intend to keep discussion here focused on the questions I’ve asked. If your answer is not relevant to those questions, don’t be surprised if it disappears without warning. The prior thread is still open for other topics, provided they relate to that blog post and discussion.

Series Navigation (Is ID Creationism?):<<< Creationism and ID: Definition or Rhetoric?ID and Creationism: Learning As I Go >>>
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62 Responses to “ Questions For Those Who Believe ID Is Creationism ”

  1. On your definition of creationism, old-earth creationism isn’t creationism. And William Jennings Bryan and the other old-earth creationists in the fundamentalist movement in the 1920s (where old-earthism was dominant) weren’t creationists. Even though they all believed God specially created organisms like it says in Genesis (according to their interpretation of Genesis).

    On your definition, Hugh Ross isn’t a creationist, even though he is proud to say he is, and argues specifically for divine intervention at numerous periods in the history of life to create new “kinds”.

    Also, your specific definition of “intelligent design” is unique to this blog. In fact, denial of young-earthism is NOT part of ID — the movement includes many YECs, and if there is an official position for the ID movement, it is “avoid the question so that we can keep the young-earth creationists and the old-earth creationists in the same big tent.” Ditto for common ancestry. These positions are quite possibly even more intellectually irresponsible than just being a young-earth, common-ancestry denier.

    If the ID movement had come out at the beginning and said, “the young earth view is as wrong as the flat-earth view, and so is denial of common ancestry, and if you don’t agree, we don’t want your support, and won’t include you in the movement, because we are interested in serious science and not creationist pseudoscience” then maybe your re-definition would have some merit. But instead, they dissemble on these questions and tell different people different things, precisely so that they can appeal both to people like you, and to YECs (and the secular press, etc.).

    I think history is important, but the bottom line is basically whether or not someone thinks special creation of stuff (species, organisms, flagella, etc.) belongs in biology. If so, you have a creationist in the most accurate sense of the word, even if they are for the moment obfuscating for political/legal/press purposes.

    If what you are arguing is that there is a long historical lineage for Design Arguments, much older than the 20th-century debate about creationism, then that’s fine, but the words “intelligent design” aren’t really appropriate for that, since the proponents of “intelligent design” associated the term with all kinds of specific features not found in the generic Design discussions. The term that was used back then, and is used by historians currently, is the Argument from Design.

  2. Nick,

    You didn’t even address my questions (rephrased here): Do you see why someone like me would say ID is not equivalent to creationism? What do ID antagonists intend to convey when they tag Intelligent Design as creationism? What good does it do for the discussion when they do that?

    Your answers are irrelevant to the post, though if you look at the end of my post you’ll see that I reserved that option for myself. (Maybe you think you addressed the first question, but if so I’ll ask you to connect your thoughts more directly.)

    One reason I don’t want to delete it is because I want to show how you miss things. You did it all over the place in your Panda’s Thumb post, but I’ve learned not to wade into that swamp.

    In your comment here you said,

    Also, your specific definition of “intelligent design” is unique to this blog. In fact, denial of young-earthism is NOT part of ID — the movement includes many YECs, and if there is an official position for the ID movement, it is “avoid the question so that we can keep the young-earth creationists and the old-earth creationists in the same big tent.” Ditto for common ancestry.

    But my specific definition of ID was that it was “not committed to any source Scripture or to young-earth theories, not necessarily opposing common descent.”

    You’re correcting me for something I said, and then patiently you go on to explain that what I should have said is exactly what I did say.

    If you (or anyone else) have anything further to offer, please make it relevant to the questions I asked. This post is focused specifically on that, and I will enforce that. Why? Because in the other post I asked those kinds of questions and nobody answered them. I want to know what your answers are. (The other thread remains open, as I said at the end of the post here.)

  3. Tom, in the previous discussion/thread, you described ID thusly:

    \Intelligent Design has a completely different starting point in observations of nature, and in both empirical and philosophical interpretations of scientific data. It sees phenomena like the high information content in biological organisms, instances of apparent irreducible complexity, or fine-tuning of the cosmos for life, and argues that the best explanation for them is to be found in a designing intelligence.\

    Now, ID has become:

    \A scientific and philosophical research program, not committed to any source Scripture or to young-earth theories, not necessarily opposing common descent, and open on the question of God and his potential involvement in the regularities of nature; which explores the proposition that certain features of life and nature are best explained by reference to a designing intelligence.\

    The first definition used by you is part and parcel, out-and-out YEC creationist antievolutionism. There is no avoiding the history of the concepts you associated with ID, the fact that they are little more than YEC anti-evolution talking points.

    The second definition is something else entirely, and looks for all the world like little more than an attempt to divorce ID from its somewhat questionable past.

    Not that this is necessarily wrong. But this discussion is going to continue to go round and round in very confusing circles as long as you switch back and forth between these two very different forms of ID. They are very different, and you need to clarify just what you really mean.

  4. ID opponents like to refer to ID as creationism because they prefer to frame the issues of biological origin and development as a contrast between science (naturalism) and religion (ID/creationism). It is a convenient and highly useful tactic in that everyone from the militant Dawkins, to the more moderate Scott of the NCSE seems to be using it. After all, if you can paint your opponent as essentially being a religious fanatic, or at least as a science illiterate, it really obviates the need to respond to any of his/her arguments.

    I suspect this strategy has been employed for so long that many of the anti-theists are unintentionally conflating the two terms (ID and creationism). Considering that they can still get a lot of mileage out of this strategy, I suspect it will be in use for the foreseeable future.

  5. Hi Tom — technically I was answering some of your questions, such as:

    When ID opponents say “ID is just creationism” or when they refuse to refer to it as anything other than “Intelligent Design Creationism,” what are they intending to communicate? What sense of “creationism” do they have in mind? What impression are they trying to convey?

    But, I’ll answer a few others:

    But agendas and overlapping group membership were not the topics of the past blog entry. The question was, “why do some people insist on saying ID is creationism?” That issue is clearly distinct from agendas or group membership.

    Eh, why? It’s clearly relevant. See below.

    Unitarian-Universalist ministers overwhelmingly vote Democratic; does that mean Unitarian-Universalism is the same thing as the Democratic Party?

    This is a poor analogy to the creationism-ID situation. The real situation is much more like the situation where an industry lobbying group changes its name to make it seem less like what it actually is. E.g. the “Global Climate Coalition” was actually an industry lobbying group.

    And once one gets wind that this kind of euphemistic relabeling is going on, it becomes particularly important to point it out.

    Do you see now why I say they are not the same? Do you see why that is true regardless of ID’s history?

    Sure, I understand. You say they are not the same because you *wish* they were not the same, you wish there was an rigorous empirical science that actually did support the role of divine intervention in biology. And, before the last post, you probably were more familiar with the whitewashed version of ID currently put forward by the Discovery Institute, rather than the older, more obviously creationist versions put forward by the Discovery Institute and the Foundation for Thought and Ethics. And, finally, you are embarrassed at the various absurdities which the creationist movement has produced, and, like the ID movement generally, rather than doing the only scientifically responsible thing, which is to say flat out that the creationists were wrong about the young-earth and denial of common ancestry, and that anyone holding those positions has clearly let fundamentalist religion overwhelm their scientific judgment, you find it much easier to just dodge these theologically uncomfortable issues by pretending that “intelligent design” can be isolated from them, without making scientific decisions about them.

    If the default meaning of “creationism” is anything like what I’ve suggested here, does it advance productive dialogue to equate ID and creationism? Do they even care about productive dialogue?

    I’ve shown based on actual history of the use of the term “creationism”, and actual common, widely accepted use of terms like “old-earth creationism”, that the default use cannot be YEC.

    But nevertheless, as long as the ID movement maintains its ridiculous policy of agnosticism on the age of the earth, and it’s equally ridiculous policy of official agnosticism on common ancestry, but almost entirely arguing against it (95%+ of major ID advocates, Behe is the only real exception), they are showing (a) strong, scientifically damaging YEC influence, and (b) overwhelmingly strong ties to general special-creation creationism.

    My turn for a few questions for Tom:

    * What is your opinion on the age of the earth? If you think the Earth is old, how do you explain how so many people think it is young?

    * Do you accept that known life shares common ancestry? If not, what do you think happened instead?

    * Do you accept that humans and chimps share common ancestry? If not, what do you think happened instead?

    * Do you see how thinking that ID is a subtype of creationism is a perfectly rational conclusion for someone who has been following the ID movement for awhile, and who has observed several switches to more and more vague and more secular-sounding definitions occur due to court cases and the like, even while the fundamental positions being advocated (YEC might be right, common ancestry almost certainly wrong, God intervened in biology) remain the same?

  6. After all, if you can paint your opponent as essentially being a religious fanatic, or at least as a science illiterate, it really obviates the need to respond to any of his/her arguments.

    I suspect this strategy has been employed for so long that many of the anti-theists are unintentionally conflating the two terms (ID and creationism). Considering that they can still get a lot of mileage out of this strategy, I suspect it will be in use for the foreseeable future.

    It will continue as long as the objectors to evolution are primarily conservative evangelicals committed to Biblical inerrancy (fundamentalists, in the original 1920s sense) (plus a few others, e.g. conservative catholics), and as long as they really are primarily science illiterates when it comes to evolution, which, sadly, is true for everyone from Behe on down as far as I’ve seen.

  7. Nick, what kind of “creationist” would you consider Fred Hoyle to be when he makes a statement like:

    The difference between an intelligent ordering, whether of words, fruit boxes, amino acids, or the Rubik cube, and merely random shufflings can be fantastically large, even as large as a number that would fill the whole volume of Shakespeare’s plays with its zeros. So if one proceeds directly and straightforwardly in this matter, without being deflected by a fear of incurring the wrath of scientific opinion, one arrives at the conclusion that biomaterials with their amazing measure or order must be the outcome of intelligent design [my emphasis]. No other possibility I have been able to think of in pondering this issue over quite a long time seems to me to have anything like as high a possibility of being true.

    He made this statement in 1982 in his Omni Lecture at the Royal Institution.

  8. Arthur Hunt wrote:

    Tom, in the previous discussion/thread, you described ID thusly:

    Intelligent Design has a completely different starting point in observations of nature, and in both empirical and philosophical interpretations of scientific data. It sees phenomena like the high information content in biological organisms, instances of apparent irreducible complexity, or fine-tuning of the cosmos for life, and argues that the best explanation for them is to be found in a designing intelligence.

    The first definition used by you is part and parcel, out-and-out YEC creationist antievolutionism.

    I think the point that is getting missed here is that Tom’s first definition of “ID” is very similar to what the creationists said “creation science” was, when the creationists were trying to defend Louisiana’s Balanced Treatment law for creation science in the 1980s — which was an explicit young-earth creationist invention, originally. During the case, their lawyer, Wendell Bird, and their lead expert witness, Dean Kenyon (a YEC who later coauthored Pandas and transformed into an ID advocate), cooked up this definition for use in the Supreme Court Edwards v. Aguillard case:

    Definitions of Creation-Science and Evolution. Creation-science means origin through abrupt appearance in complex form, and includes biological creation, biochemical creation (or chemical creation), and cosmic creation. […] Creation-science does not include as essential parts the concepts of catastrophism, a world-wide flood, a recent inception of the earth or life, from nothingness (ex nihilo), the concept of kinds, or any concepts from Genesis or other religious texts.

    They deny religious origins and claim scientific basis for their views! So it must be so, right?

    One more question: Tom, what do you think of this definition of creation science? Keep in mind that this is the creationists’ lead expert, in the most important court case (Supreme Court) on the topic. Should we, and the courts, have taken this definition as-is without criticizing it, or is it sometimes legitimate to be skeptical of definitions which seem to be inaccurate and which seem to have been cooked up late in the day for political/legal reasons?

  9. Well, Hoyle did entitle his 1981 book on this Evolution from Space: A Theory of Cosmic Creationism. And his coauthor on the book, Chandra Wickramasinghe, testified for the creation scientists in the 1981-1982 McLean v. Arkansas case. Basically they were arguing that there was some Hindu-esque pantheist creator creating DNA in space. It’s a weird variety, but it’s still creationism, and they admit as much in the book title.

  10. I think Lynn Ellis identifies a critical point. Those who use the term “Intelligent Design Creationism” seem to do so in an attempt to convince people that ID is a religious belief.

    Consider this statement by PZ Myers from his blog. He certainly doesn’t seem to leave any question what definition of “creationism” he is referring to:
    “Intelligent Design creationism is all about hiding Jesus under a blanket of pseudoscience and smuggling him into the public schools. Nothing more, nothing less.”

    Barbara Forrest certainly associates creationism as purely a religious belief. For example, the abstract of a recent paper starts, “Intelligent design creationism (ID) is a religious belief requiring a supernatural creator’s interventions in the natural order.” (quoted from http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2009/05/forrest-respond.html#more).

    And from Nick’s own comments we can clearly see that he believes that the only people who could possibly oppose evolution are motivated by religious reasons.

    Even in the Edwards v. Aguillard case the working definition of “creationism” that the court used was that which was “’tailored to the principles’ of a particular religious sect or group of sects” (http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/conlaw/edwards.html); specifically, biblical creationism.

    Thus, within these contexts it is wholly accurate to say that ID is not “creationism” with all the religious overtones associated with that term. When ID proponents say that ID is not “creationism,” what they are distancing themselves from is not the idea that the universe was created, but the religious connotations commonly associated with “creationism.” Whether this means YEC or OEC is moot. The critical distinction between ID and a ministry like Hugh Ross’ Reasons to Believe or Answers in Genesis is that RtB and AiG are both committed to an understanding of the universe that encompasses biblical revelation, while ID purposefully avoids any religious connotations. YEC and OEC are specifically religious positions while ID is not.

    This can be seen in Charles Thaxton’s explanation of the shift away from the term “creationism” in Of Pandas and Peoples:

    “Unfortunately for Westerners … anytime you use the word creation it automatically conjures up any of a number of religious discussions. We knew from the beginning of our project, that turned out to be the making of Of Pandas and People, that we wanted to avoid this automatically concluding that what you’re talking about was religion because in fact we were dealing with a biological discussion. So we were trying to operate entirely within the empirical domain. And my thought was, how to arrive at a set of terms that would allow us to traffic the literature and the discussion and build an argument without having to use terminology that would automatically bring one into the religious realm?”

    He continues to describe how “intelligent design” was adopted as the most appropriate term to describe what they were trying to convey, distinguishing it from the religious overtones associated with “creationism.”

    That was also Kenyon’s intent in offering the definition for “creation-science” that Nick cited.

  11. Nick,

    I’m disappointed in you, starting with this:

    This is a poor analogy to the creationism-ID situation. The real situation is much more like the situation where an industry lobbying group changes its name to make it seem less like what it actually is. E.g. the “Global Climate Coalition” was actually an industry lobbying group.

    That’s a dodge, and not a very effective one. The point of my analogy was that having similar agendas does not make two groups identical in every way, and your answer amounts to nothing other than “but they are identical, and so there!” In other words, your analogy is the correct one to prove your point, provided we already agree that your point is proven; it’s arguing in a circle.

    You say they are not the same because you *wish* they were not the same, you wish there was an rigorous empirical science that actually did support the role of divine intervention in biology.

    I do wish there was more rigorous empirical science going on in support of ID, no doubt about it. But my wishing that does not create the conceptual distinction between ID and creationism.

    rather than doing the only scientifically responsible thing, which is to say flat out that the creationists were wrong about the young-earth and denial of common ancestry, and that anyone holding those positions has clearly let fundamentalist religion overwhelm their scientific judgment, you find it much easier to just dodge these theologically uncomfortable issues by pretending that “intelligent design” can be isolated from them, without making scientific decisions about them.

    Actually, the scientifically responsible thing is for me not to play scientist. I’m not going to pretend that I am one. I have my opinions about whether young-earth is right or wrong (I’m quite sure it’s wrong) and whether common descent is right or wrong (I lean toward agreeing but I don’t have a strong conviction on it) but my opinions are not a scientist’s opinion. I have said in the past, and I will say it again, that I limit my opinions here to what I have enough knowledge to speak about.

    That doesn’t mean I cannot speak about science here. I generally limit my statements to aspects having to do with the philosophical, socio-cultural, or religious issues surrounding it. You’ll note that I’ve been focusing conversation not on whether ID’s conclusions are true, but on the way ID’s program is consistently misrepresented.

    I have also said in the past and I will repeat it now: I don’t know whether ID’s empirical research program will end up where its supporters hope it will. I tend to think it will, but I really don’t know. I am quite sure its philosophical openness to something beyond materialism will stand any test put to it. I am quite sure that ID is worth pursuing, to follow where it may lead. I am quite sure it is worth defending from things like being lumped incorrectly with creationism in the sense I have been speaking of here. Of this I am very sure. But I won’t pretend to know everything.

    Do you see how thinking that ID is a subtype of creationism is a perfectly rational conclusion for someone who has been following the ID movement for awhile

    Sure! Of course it is, if you define creationism broadly and carefully enough. But in actual practice (as I have said repeatedly here) people who call it creationism don’t very often intend for it to be understood broadly or carefully; and by being careless they obfuscate the whole discussion. Isn’t that what I’ve been saying from the start of this discussion?

  12. Arthur, thank you for illustrating my point. The first definition does not specify young earth, but I guess for some reason you are unable or unwilling to see that.

    Hi Tom,

    Nick answered before I could. But I can try an illustration for added effect.

    What you are doing with the first definition of ID that you provide is akin to someone extolling the great and wondrous feats of Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Maris, Berra, Ford, Jackson, Munson, Dent (!!#$#%@^##), et al. Now, (s)he never mentions the actual name of the Yankees, but there isn’t much doubt that we’re talkin’ about a Yankees fan, is there?

    You’re talking up the line-up and trying to tell us that it isn’t the Yankees lineup. But that dog ain’t flying.

    (Note – I’m not saying that you are a Yan, um, er, YEC. I’m just trying to explain how your argument comes across.)


  13. I think Lynn Ellis identifies a critical point. Those who use the term “Intelligent Design Creationism” seem to do so in an attempt to convince people that ID is a religious belief.

    A. In almost all cases, belief in ID is pretty obviously a religiously motivated belief.

    B. Again, in almost all cases, the variety of ID believed in is a form of creationism.

    Can there be exceptions? Yes, its possible.

    But if they exist at all they’re few and far between.

    Sure, it would be a bad description of someone who believed, as in 2001 A Space Odyssey, that aliens tinkered with the DNA of earth creatures. But since nearly all ID proponents are creationists and the intelligent designer they believe in is God why exactly is the term “intelligent design creationism” an inappropriate description?

    Other than the fact that it doesn’t play into their political and legal agenda.

  14. Let me put Arthur’s question out to everyone: does my argument come across the way he said in his 9:04 comment, even though it involves reading YEC into it? Because how something “comes across,” when it’s not explicit in what was said, could be a function of worldview.

  15. My position is the reverse of what he said. Creationism is a subgroup of ID (purely in regard to the abstract definition) rather than the other way around—a creationist always believes in an intelligent designer but believers in an intelligent designer could, conceivably (if almost never in actual practice) be talking about an alien species or something of the sort rather than a creator deity.

    Not that I want to get back into this over-long discussion other than to make that brief comment. I think everything that needed saying on this topic’s already been covered rather early on in the discussion. I’m amazed its gone on for so long.

  16. Sure! Of course it is, if you define creationism broadly and carefully enough.

    This pretty much represents complete defeat for the suggestion that failure to separate creationism and ID was due to worldview blindness.

    But in actual practice (as I have said repeatedly here) people who call it creationism don’t very often intend for it to be understood broadly or carefully; and by being careless they obfuscate the whole discussion. Isn’t that what I’ve been saying from the start of this discussion?

    Sure, but this part is not supportable. The specific people you mentioned at the beginning, e.g. Barbara Forrest and Robert Pennock, I know personally and very well, and I know their writings well, and would say what I say — creationism basically means special creation in biology, and includes young-earth, old-earth, and other varieties. FWIW special creation = creationism was also Darwin’s usage, and he pretty much invented the term “creationist” as far as I’ve been able to trace.

    Let’s have a look at the OED:

    creationism

    A system or theory of creation: spec. a. The theory that God immediately creates a soul for every human being born (opposed to traducianism); b. The theory which attributes the origin of matter, the different species of animals and plants, etc., to ‘special creation’ (opposed to evolutionism).

    Hey, look! Special creation right there, just like I said! And nothing about young-earth…

    Here’s Darwin (apparently) inventing the term “creationist”:

    creationist

    One who believes in or advocates creationism.

    1859 DARWIN Life & Lett. II. 233 What a joke it would be if I pat you on the back when you attack some immovable creationists. 1882 FARRAR Early Chr. I. 463 The verbal controversy between Creationists..and Traducianists

  17. Does it advance productive dialogue to pretend that ID is a research program, although it makes no testable predictions and does no research, or that you can do credible science on our biological origins without taking a stand on e.g. the age of the Earth or common descent? Exactly what is this dialogue trying to produce, I wonder? Maybe the problem here is that Tom is trying to produce the impossible (i.e. make science out of pseudo-science).

  18. Or, in other words, what’s all this fuzz about a “dialogue”? If only ID was productive, then ID would no longer need a “dialogue”, although it surely would receive one, and a serious one, too. But then, ID is not productive. That’s why we’re discussing about the lack of a “productive dialogue” and blaming the mainstream.

  19. Nick,

    The specific people you mentioned at the beginning, e.g. Barbara Forrest and Robert Pennock, I know personally and very well, and I know their writings well, and would say what I say — creationism basically means special creation in biology, and includes young-earth, old-earth, and other varieties.

    Okay; but are you saying they define it in the broad sense I would apply to myself, according to which you think my case has evaporated? I think you’re equivocating on definitions again: “Tom’s case has failed because on Definition A he admits he is a creationist, and therefore Pennock and Forrest and others are not being unfair to call him a creationist. By the way, Pennock and Forrest use Definition B for creationism.”

    Their Definition B is certainly not what I claim for my own position. Pennock said in his testimony at Dover,

    Although the terminology is slightly different in a few points, these central claims are identical to those of creation science, the earlier version of creationism that attempted to bypass the wall of separation by not explicitly mentioning the Bible and claiming to be science.

    Barbara Forrest says,

    Until a few years ago, “scientific” creationism was led by biblical literalists like Duane Gish and Henry Morris, whose Bible-thumping and logic-chopping were easy to discount, even for ordinary (nonscience) journalists, by exposing the obvious errors of fact and logic—independently of the gross errors of actual science. But those old-timers have now been eclipsed by a new brand of creationists who have absorbed a part of their following: the new boys are intelligent design promoters, mainly those associated with the Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture (now Center for Science and Culture), based in Seattle, Washington.

    Does that sound much at all like the creationism I own up to?

    And when someone whose name you would recognize said “Intelligent Design is creationism in a cheap tuxedo,” do you think that broadly construed approach to creationism was what he had in mind? Do you think many readers would have taken that as his intent? (Some readers may have to google the source of that, but I doubt you would have to.)

  20. Tom,

    There is no doubt that ID originated from creationism, but that in itself does not make ID creationism. ID could, in principle, be distinguished by new ideas that creationists did not have. Alas, there aren’t any to speak of. ID’s entire intellectual content is borrowed wholesale from “scientific creationism.”

    You may be interested in reading what creationists themselves say about IDers on this subject. Here is Henry Morris reviewing Dembski’s The Design Revolution:

    These well-meaning folks did not really invent the idea of intelligent design, of course. Dembski often refers, for example, to the bacterial flagellum as a strong evidence for design (and indeed it is); but one of our ICR scientists (the late Dr. Dick Bliss) was using this example in his talks on creation a generation ago. And what about our monographs on the monarch butterfly, the bombardier beetle, and many other testimonies to divine design? Creationists have been documenting design for many years, going back to Paley’s watchmaker and beyond.

    Dembski uses the term “specified complexity” as the main criterion for recognizing design. This has essentially the same meaning as “organized complexity,” which is more meaningful and which I have often used myself. He refers to the Borel number (1 in 10^50) as what he calls a “universal probability bound,” below which chance is precluded. He himself calculates the total conceivable number of specified events throughout cosmic history to be 10^150 with one chance out of that number as being the limit of chance. In a book written a quarter of a century ago, I had estimated this number to be 10^110, and had also referred to the Borel number for comparison. His treatment did add the term “universal probability bound” to the rhetoric.

    If you are curious about Dembski’s response, read it here.

    To me this correspondence is proof positive that ID has no intellectual content of its own. It’s just scientific creationism cleansed of references to God. It’s a movement started by a lawyer with a specific purpose of circumventing legal hurdles. The timing certainly fits.

  21. “If you are curious about Dembski’s response, read it here.”

    While reading, please disregard labels like “Darwinian materialists”, and certainly don’t bring them up here, because such observations would not advance productive dialogue. 😉

  22. You seem to be trying to present ‘old style’ ID (which you think might have been considered some form of creationism), as something from long ago. But Kiztmiller (when the leading ID ‘scientists’ had to actually testify under oath) wasn’t four decades ago, it was only four years ago (from the decision):

    Moreover, in turning to Defendants’ lead expert, Professor Behe, his testimony at trial indicated that ID is only a scientific, as opposed to a religious, project for him; however, considerable evidence was introduced to refute this claim. Consider, to illustrate, that Professor Behe remarkably and unmistakably claims that the plausibility of the argument for ID depends upon the extent to which one believes in the existence of God. (P-718 at 705). As no evidence in the record indicates that any other scientific proposition’s validity rests on belief in God, nor is the Court aware of any such scientific propositions, Professor Behe’s assertion constitutes substantial evidence that in his view, as is commensurate with other prominent ID leaders, ID is a religious and not a scientific proposition.

    And:
    First, Professor Behe has written that by ID he means “not designed by the laws of nature,” and that it is “implausible that the designer is a natural entity.” (P-647 at 193; P-718 at 696, 700). Second, Professor Minnich testified that for ID to be considered science, the ground rules of science have to be broadened so that supernatural forces can be considered. (38:97 (Minnich)). Third, Professor Steven William Fuller testified that it is ID’s project to change the ground rules of science to include the supernatural. (Trial Tr. vol. 28, Fuller Test., 20-24, Oct. 24, 2005). Turning from defense expert witnesses to leading ID proponents, Johnson has concluded that science must be redefined to include the supernatural if religious challenges to evolution are to get a hearing. (11:8-15 (Forrest); P-429). Additionally, Dembski agrees that science is ruled by methodological naturalism and argues that this rule must be overturned if ID is to prosper. (Trial Tr. vol. 5, Pennock Test., 32-34, Sept. 28, 2005).

    Further support for the proposition that ID requires supernatural creation is found in the book Pandas, to which students in Dover’s ninth grade biology class are directed. Pandas indicates that there are two kinds of causes, natural and intelligent, which demonstrate that intelligent causes are beyond nature. (P-11 at 6).

    If you want to try to make the ‘that was then, this is now’ argument you need to show that either these main luminaries have left all that behind or have been totally replaced by those with different views. And if you want to say it’s an actual scientific research program, it would help to show what actual scientific research has been done, is being done, is planned on being done.

  23. olegt,

    ID could, in principle, be distinguished by new ideas that creationists did not have. Alas, there aren’t any to speak of. ID’s entire intellectual content is borrowed wholesale from “scientific creationism.”

    ID could also in principle be distinguished by jettisoning ideas that creationists did have, and clearly that is the case. That’s sufficient to answer your point. I think there have been a lot of new ideas generated by ID, but that’s not the topic of this post.

    To me this correspondence is proof positive that ID has no intellectual content of its own.

    If that were the only thing ID had ever thought of, and if it had made no progress on that one field, you might have a point.

    esko,

    Does “Darwinian materialist” have a strong association with a particular pejorative tendentious definition?

    Maybe the problem here is that Tom is trying to produce the impossible (i.e. make science out of pseudo-science)…. But then, ID is not productive

    I’ll just smile and let those old ones pass by. They’re off topic anyway.

  24. JACortina,

    You don’t give us the source of these quotes. They look out of context to me. Were they actually from Judge Jones’ decision? I don’t think he did a very good job on that; and I doubt that if he had ruled the other way, you would be saying the judiciary is the best qualified source to go to for a definition of what is or is not science.

    For example, as to “the ground rules of science have to be broadened so that supernatural forces can be considered,” that is not just an ID requirement, it’s also good philosophy of science. A rigid adherence to naturalism leads to the odd conclusion that science is not seeking truth, but rather seeking the best natural explanation, even if it is not true (see Monton). Unless you know in advance that there is no supernatural, but in that I think you are standing on very shaky ground.

  25. Tom wrote:

    ID could also in principle be distinguished by jettisoning ideas that creationists did have, and clearly that is the case. That’s sufficient to answer your point. I think there have been a lot of new ideas generated by ID, but that’s not the topic of this post.

    I am afraid I don’t buy it. Let’s apply your argument to old-Earth creationism. YEC is creationism. OEC has jettisoned ideas that creationists had (young Earth), so OEC is not creationism. Reductio ad absurdum.

    Furthermore, IDers did not abandon any of the creationist ideas (it’s a big tent, remember), they just agreed not to argue about them. The only thing they did dispense with are references to God as the designer. But that I explicitly mentioned.

    Lastly, no, IDers don’t have any new ideas that would distinguish them from creationists.

  26. Olegt:

    Furthermore, IDers did not abandon any of the creationist ideas (it’s a big tent, remember), they just agreed not to argue about them. The only thing they did dispense with are references to God as the designer.

    I know what you mean Olegt. It’s similar to what Richard Dawkins does. At times he has been known to advocate atheism. Other times he makes arguments referencing biological organisms and events of natural history to debunk creation or biblical passages. The debunking makes explicit his view that creation is implausible and by logical implication that atheism is the plausible alterntive explanation. So Dawkins illustrates a point known to many but a stumbling block for opponents of Intelligent Design, namely, that one can support a concept directly (atheism or creation) or indirectly (creation debunking or ID) by focusing on different logical and evidentiary issues. Doing so does not conflate ID with creation any more than it conflates the two different approaches utilized by Dawkins.

  27. William,

    Theory of evolution has content that sets it apart from atheism. For example, cladistics was invented by evolutionary biologists and is absolutely orthogonal to both theism and atheism. Genetic drift was not borrowed from atheism, either. I can easily name dozens of other things that set evolutionary biology apart from atheism (and I am not a biologist). Try as you might, you can’t name a dozen concepts that were not borrowed by IDers from creationism.

  28. Hi Tom,

    Getting to your questions:

    So here is my first question for you who believe ID is equivalent to creationism: Do you see now why I say they are not the same? Do you see why that is true regardless of ID’s history?

    I can see what you are saying. Hopefully, you understand that at least one of your manifestations of ID causes me to consider your opinion to be erroneous. And that the definition being criticized cannot be discussed in the absence of the context of the history of the ideas.

    When ID opponents say “ID is just creationism” or when they refuse to refer to it as anything other than “Intelligent Design Creationism,” what are they intending to communicate? What sense of “creationism” do they have in mind? What impression are they trying to convey?

    I’ll only speak for me. The bottom line isn’t about religion, materialism, or any deep philosophical theme. Rather, it’s all about evolution NO!. Creationism is, more than anything else, a movement that denies the central theory that defines biology. When I say “ID is creationism”, I am saying “ID is antievolutionism”. Frankly, this representation is spot-on.

    If the default meaning of “creationism” is anything like what I’ve suggested here, does it advance productive dialogue to equate ID and creationism? Do they even care about productive dialogue?

    Yes and yes.

  29. Those quotes were indeed from the Decision in the Kitzmiller case:
    Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District

    And no, it is absolutely, positively NOT “good philosophy of science” to deconstruct what science IS. The reason science has been so incredibly useful is that it gets to HOW THINGS WORK, thereby letting us get to HOW TO WORK THINGS. Magic *poofing* as an explanation is just as incredibly useless; it makes no predictions, it allows no human usage.

  30. Tom,

    You wrote:

    I think there have been a lot of new ideas generated by ID, but that’s not the topic of this post.

    and

    Esko: Maybe the problem here is that Tom is trying to produce the impossible (i.e. make science out of pseudo-science)…. But then, ID is not productive
    Tom: I’ll just smile and let those old ones pass by. They’re off topic anyway.

    When the topic of the post is about the (purportedly unfounded) confusion over the differences between creationism and ID, the new /productive ideas generated by ID (that would put the lie to that misconception) would certainly be appropriate to the topic of this post.

    If ID is practically, materially, significantly different than creationism, what is the evidence that this is the case? Why should we consider ID to be what, historically, it has not been? Why the sudden need for review?

    It seems that you consistently demur on this question, but not from your position that ID is somehow different. It appears that you are being stubborn to your worldview in the face of valid criticism.

  31. Creationism is, more than anything else, a movement that denies the central theory that defines biology. When I say “ID is creationism”, I am saying “ID is antievolutionism”.

    I could think of a number of exceptions and other difficulties related to that definition, but let’s not go there, and instead consider what it means if you have it right. I take it you mean the definition works reflexively: antievolution=creationism and creationism=evolutionism. If that’s the case, then you’ve laid a nice groundwork for a case that teaching creationism in schools is not unconstitutional. Can you see where I’m heading with that?

    I’m not advocating teaching either ID or creationism in schools, mind you; I’m just pointing out that your definition leads in a direction you yourself might object to.

    And then there is also this: you have an essentially private definition of creationism. Do you think your definition is what actually is communicated to listeners/readers when the hear/read that Intelligent Design is creationism?

    JACortina,

    I don’t have time or energy to respond to you on “magic *poofing*”. I’ve referred you to a better source already, and I’ll leave it at that.

  32. Tony,

    If ID is practically, materially, significantly different than creationism, what is the evidence that this is the case?

    Let’s suppose ID has produced no results. I think that is far from true, but I want to reduce the argument to its essentials here. The evidence that ID is different from creationism (using what I have called the “relevant” definition in these posts) is that they have different starting points and appeal to different kinds of evidences and reasoning in support of their conclusions. Those are only two things, but their implications are large. (I’m too short on time this afternoon to spell it all out.)

  33. @David Ellis

    A. In almost all cases, belief in ID is pretty obviously a religiously motivated belief.
    B. Again, in almost all cases, the variety of ID believed in is a form of creationism.
    Can there be exceptions? Yes, its possible.
    But if they exist at all they’re few and far between.

    Yes, they do exist. And the fact that they exist is an important point that cannot be dismissed. When you have someone like David Berlinski or Bradley Monton accept the idea of ID this shows that belief in ID is certainly ~not~ a religiously motivated belief. You can accept ID without being religious because ID is not inherently a religious belief.

    Creationism is a subgroup of ID (purely in regard to the abstract definition) rather than the other way around—a creationist always believes in an intelligent designer but believers in an intelligent designer could, conceivably (if almost never in actual practice) be talking about an alien species or something of the sort rather than a creator deity.

    This would actually be consistent with what ID proponents say about ID. For example, Michael Behe wrote, “Although intelligent design fits comfortably with a belief in God, it doesn’t require it, because the scientific theory doesn’t tell you who the designer is. While most people – including myself – will think the designer is God, some people might think that the designer was a space alien or something odd like that.” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 02/08/01). So this would encompass someone like Fred Hoyle, for example.

    This is the primary distinction that ID proponents would draw between ID and creationism: creationism adds the religious or “God” component to the more general belief in some kind of intelligent designer.

  34. Kendalf, actually Monton does not completely accept ID’s arguments. He finds them somewhat persuasive, and says they make him less sure of his atheism.

  35. Olegt:

    Theory of evolution has content that sets it apart from atheism.

    Don’t give your fellow critics that much credit. I’ve witnessed many objections to ID over the years which have nothing to do with science and nothing to do with evolution. In fact the theme of this blog entry highlights a false critique of ID. Tell me what biblical passage is referenced in the recent Dembski/Marks paper (Life’s Conservation Law).

    Try as you might, you can’t name a dozen concepts that were not borrowed by IDers from creationism.

    I can get a dozen from the Dembski/Marks paper alone. Creation is a theological rather than an empirical concept. Creationists can cite physical aspects of the fossil record or other phenomenon to bolster their arguments if they wish, but that does not make creation a design centric concept. Creation is focused on God and ID on design. Analogous to the difference between a focus on Obama and a focus on his governing policies. You’re smart enough to discern the difference.


  36. When you have someone like David Berlinski or Bradley Monton accept the idea of ID this shows that belief in ID is certainly ~not~ a religiously motivated belief.

    From “I know one or two people who don’t believe X for religious reasons” it doesn’t follow that X is not, in the vast majority of cases, a religiously motivated belief (and recall, I DID say “in almost all cases”—which means there can be exceptions).

    And Monton, by the way, is NOT a believer in ID (I’m not familiar with Berlinski so I can’t comment on him). Monton merely thinks the arguments for ID aren’t entirely without merit. That can be said for an enormous number of things that probably aren’t true.

    I notice after writing the above that Tom’s already pointed that out. I’ll have to do some reading about Berlinski. I’ve heard the name in relation to this topic before but haven’t read anything by him.


  37. Let’s suppose ID has produced no results.

    Well, its produced results. Lots of political maneuvering. Lots of books and articles. Some philosophical arguments.

    But has it done any sound scientific work?

    I don’t see any indication that it has.

  38. JACortina quoted,

    “Consider, to illustrate, that Professor Behe remarkably and unmistakably claims that the plausibility of the argument for ID depends upon the extent to which one believes in the existence of God. (P-718 at 705).

    If we want to understand what someone is really saying, I think it’s important to see their actual statement rather than someone’s interpretation of that statement. I’ve been having the darndest time trying to find where Behe makes that claim. Anyone know what Judge Jones is actually referring to so we can see the context of this statement? This would also apply to the other statements by Minnich, Fuller, and Johnson that Jones cited.

    Professor Behe’s assertion constitutes substantial evidence that in his view, as is commensurate with other prominent ID leaders, ID is a religious and not a scientific proposition.

    If anyone can show me where in Behe’s testimony from the trial or elsewhere that he views ID as a religious and not a scientific proposition, I’d be very interested to read it.

    Further support for the proposition that ID requires supernatural creation is found in the book Pandas, to which students in Dover’s ninth grade biology class are directed. Pandas indicates that there are two kinds of causes, natural and intelligent, which demonstrate that intelligent causes are beyond nature.

    Perhaps if Judge Jones had actually taken the time to read the relevant sections of Pandas he would see the error of his logic. Here is a pertinent excerpt from Pandas that shows the error of his statement:

    “For example, the place of intelligent design in science has been troubling for more than a century. That is because on the whole, scientists from within Western culture failed to distinguish between intelligence, which can be recognized by uniform sensory experience, and the supernatural, which cannot. Today we recognize that appeals to intelligent design may be considered in science, as illustrated by current NASA search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). Archaeology has pioneered the development of methods for distinguishing the effects of natural and intelligent causes. We should recognize, however, that if we go further, and conclude that the intelligence responsible for biological origins is outside the universe (supernatural) or within it, we do so without the help of science.” (Of Pandas and People (2nd ed, 1993), pg. 126-127)

    What Jones fails to recognize is that intelligent cause does not mean supernatural cause. Intelligent cause is contrasted with natural causes in the same sense that artificial is constrasted with natural. You and I are the intelligent causes of these comments; this does not mean that we are supernatural. An intelligent cause can be within nature or beyond nature.

    ID does not require a supernatural creator. Those who hold ID and then believe that the designer must be God draw their conclusions from beyond the actual scope of ID.


  39. Those who hold ID and then believe that the designer must be God draw their conclusions from beyond the actual scope of ID.

    Hence, ID creationists.

  40. Hi Tom,

    You said in reply to a comment of mine:

    I could think of a number of exceptions and other difficulties related to that definition, but let’s not go there, and instead consider what it means if you have it right. I take it you mean the definition works reflexively: antievolution=creationism and creationism=evolutionism. If that’s the case, then you’ve laid a nice groundwork for a case that teaching creationism in schools is not unconstitutional. Can you see where I’m heading with that?

    I don’t think you understand my position in the least. For me, the matter of teaching creationism or ID in schools isn’t one of religion, church-state separation, and the like. Rather, it’s about competence. An earth science teacher who teaches, in science class, that the earth is 6000 years old should be relieved of his/her teaching duties. If a biology teacher teaches, in biology class, that humans and apes do not share a common ancestry, this teacher should be relieved, reassigned, or fired. Not because it’s unconstitutional, but because these teachings are wrong, far beyond the point of rank incompetence.

    So, just where are you heading with your comment?

  41. Arthur,

    I don’t think you understand my position in the least. For me, the matter of teaching creationism or ID in schools isn’t one of religion, church-state separation, and the like. Rather, it’s about competence.

    Then it doesn’t bother you that the conclusion of your previous argument tends toward it being constitutional to teach ID in public schools? Because that is the case that I made. I mean, apart from the question of whether ID is competent science. Most ID antagonists would say that ID is both unconstitutional and incompetent. Do you hold that it is incompetent, but not unconstitutional?

    Let me clarify why I ask the question. It’s not because I’m trying to argue for ID in schools. It’s because I was trying to illustrate what the logical conclusion of your argument really is. I didn’t spell it out last time; I guess I need to do so now.

    What I said was this:

    I take it you mean the definition works reflexively: antievolution=creationism and creationism=evolutionism. If that’s the case, then you’ve laid a nice groundwork for a case that teaching creationism in schools is not unconstitutional.

    There was a typo in my earlier comment. I meant to write, I take it you mean the definition works reflexively: antievolution=creationism and creationism=antievolutionism.

    If the entire conceptual space describing and containing creationism is “antievolutionism,” then creationism is no longer religious. It is not dependent on believing in any religion whatever. It is not dependent on any holy books or texts. It is completely dependent on opposition to evolution. It could be based simply on revulsion toward the idea of being related to the apes, which is not unconstitutional.

  42. Tom wrote:

    Actually, the scientifically responsible thing is for me not to play scientist. I’m not going to pretend that I am one.

    Anyone can do science. Why not you?

    I have my opinions about whether young-earth is right or wrong (I’m quite sure it’s wrong) and whether common descent is right or wrong (I lean toward agreeing but I don’t have a strong conviction on it) but my opinions are not a scientist’s opinion.

    Why don’t you have a strong conviction on the truth or falsehood of common descent? Have you bothered to look at the evidence for yourself, or do you rely entirely on hearsay?

    I have said in the past, and I will say it again, that I limit my opinions here to what I have enough knowledge to speak about.

    What’s preventing you from acquiring sufficient knowledge to assess common descent?

    That doesn’t mean I cannot speak about science here. I generally limit my statements to aspects having to do with the philosophical, socio-cultural, or religious issues surrounding it. You’ll note that I’ve been focusing conversation not on whether ID’s conclusions are true, but on the way ID’s program is consistently misrepresented.

    Yet you misrepresent it below.

    I have also said in the past and I will repeat it now: I don’t know whether ID’s empirical research program will end up where its supporters hope it will.

    Tom, there is no empirical research program.

    I tend to think it will, but I really don’t know.

    Shouldn’t you be more certain about its existence before speculating?

    I am quite sure its philosophical openness to something beyond materialism will stand any test put to it. I am quite sure that ID is worth pursuing, to follow where it may lead.

    Then why not pursue it yourself instead of blogging about it?

  43. John, you asked,

    Anyone can do science. Why not you? … What’s preventing you from acquiring sufficient knowledge to assess common descent?

    Not anyone can responsibly evaluate all the arguments in this debate. I’ve been reliably informed that there are reasons scientists go to grad school :), which I have also done, but in a different field (organizational psychology). I’m not going to go back to start over again on a different topic.

    Then why not pursue it yourself instead of blogging about it?

    Thank you for the advice you offer on how I should set the major priorities and direction of my life, but I don’t think you really have a deep enough insight into my family, my life, my employment, my purposes, and so on to be my counselor in this.

    The empirical research program for ID is very small, but it is not nonexistent, and time will tell whether it will grow.

  44. John, you asked,

    Anyone can do science. Why not you? … What’s preventing you from acquiring sufficient knowledge to assess common descent?

    Not anyone can responsibly evaluate all the arguments in this debate. I’ve been reliably informed that there are reasons scientists go to grad school :), which I have also done, but in a different field (organizational psychology). I’m not going to go back to start over again on a different topic.

    Why don’t you have a strong conviction on the truth or falsehood of common descent? Have you bothered to look at the evidence for yourself, or do you rely entirely on hearsay?

    This is funny. Of course I’m relying on secondary sources, I’m not an evolutionary biologist! I’ve read the best secondary sources I can get my hands on: Gould, Dawkins, Dennett, and Mayr, for example, from the evolutionary side. I’ve read the other side too, obviously. Both sides have their arguments, and both sides say the other is mixed up. To take a strong stand on it would require the ability to evaluate both sides in depth, which I don’t pretend to have. I have my leanings (toward common descent) but I’m not in a position to say I have it all figured out. I’ll let the specialists work on it.

    Why do I have to have a strong conviction on it, by the way? Do you have strong convictions on motivation theory? What do you think of Vroom, Festinger, or Hackman and Oldham? What does the literature say on it? Who makes the most sense?

    I think that holding strong convictions outside one’s area of specialty is not necessarily a very good idea.

    Then why not pursue it yourself instead of blogging about it?

    Thank you for the advice you offer on how I should set the major priorities and direction of my life, but I don’t think you really have a deep enough insight into my family, my life, my employment, my purposes, and so on to be my counselor in this.

    The empirical research program for ID is very small, but it is not nonexistent, and time will tell whether it will grow.

  45. Tom wrote:

    Not anyone can responsibly evaluate all the arguments in this debate.

    Tom, you’ve got a conceptual roadblock. Science is about evidence, not arguments. You clearly have sufficient intelligence to evaluate a sample of the sequence evidence, which is freely available.

    I’ve been reliably informed that there are reasons scientists go to grad school , which I have also done, but in a different field (organizational psychology).

    But first-year grad students do science. High-school students do science in labs around the country, including mine, in the summer. Science is about doing, not listening to lectures and debating.

    So you do have a (soft) science background, so there’s no excuse for you not to dive into the evidence–not what anyone says about evidence–for yourself.

    I’m not going to go back to start over again on a different topic.

    Straw man. A graduate degree is not required to do science. Tens of thousands of technicians without graduate degrees do science every day. Graduate degrees are not technically required for many faculty positions, either.

    This is funny. Of course I’m relying on secondary sources, I’m not an evolutionary biologist!

    I’m a molecular geneticist and I produce primary data that directly test the theory of common descent. Your attempt to squeeze this into a tiny, specialized niche is ludicrous.

    I’ve read the best secondary sources I can get my hands on: Gould, Dawkins, Dennett, and Mayr, for example, from the evolutionary side.

    It’s not a debate in science. Look at the evidence for yourself. My psychological hypothesis is that you have no faith and that you are afraid of the evidence; this hypothesis predicts that you will continue to evade.

    I’ve read the other side too, obviously. Both sides have their arguments, and both sides say the other is mixed up.

    But only one side has evidence, and only one side produces new evidence every day.

    To take a strong stand on it would require the ability to evaluate both sides in depth, which I don’t pretend to have.

    To take a strong stand would require evidence, just as our judicial system requires before taking a strong stand. There’s a reason why hearsay is generally prohibited, don’t you think?

    I have my leanings (toward common descent) but I’m not in a position to say I have it all figured out. I’ll let the specialists work on it.

    Why not test your leanings against the evidence?

    Why do I have to have a strong conviction on it, by the way?

    Because you have such strong convictions about ID and the existence of an ID research program that doesn’t exist, of course.

    Do you have strong convictions on motivation theory?

    No, but I don’t blog about it, Tom. You blog about ID. Jesus Christ said nothing about evolution, but He said a whole lot about hypocrisy.

    What do you think of Vroom, Festinger, or Hackman and Oldham? What does the literature say on it? Who makes the most sense?

    I would go with the evidence, not my impressions of the arguments.

    I think that holding strong convictions outside one’s area of specialty is not necessarily a very good idea.

    Then why do you have a strong conviction that an empirical ID research program exists? Why do you refer to Behe going into his lab, when there’s no evidence that he’s done anything in a lab for more than a decade?

    I asked: Then why not pursue it yourself instead of blogging about it?

    Thank you for the advice you offer on how I should set the major priorities and direction of my life, but I don’t think you really have a deep enough insight into my family, my life, my employment, my purposes, and so on to be my counselor in this.

    No advice was given, Tom, and you know it. Note that I asked a question that you can’t answer.

    The empirical research program for ID is very small, but it is not nonexistent, and time will tell whether it will grow.

    No, Tom, it simply does not exist. No ID proponent has ever done an empirical test of an ID hypothesis, and I have a high degree of faith that none ever will. I know this because I am intimately familiar with the evidence, and I know that they deliberately lie about the evidence. More importantly, they lack the faith to test their own hypotheses.

    This says everything about their motivations, which are identical to the motivations of people in the parent creationist movement.

  46. John,

    Tom, you’ve got a conceptual roadblock. Science is about evidence, not arguments. You clearly have sufficient intelligence to evaluate a sample of the sequence evidence, which is freely available.

    I think you have just given away all your credibility, John.

    If there are two possible interpretations of a set of data, then science is not just about the evidence (the data). There has to be some interpretation, which is quite commonly about arguments. That is most certainly the case in this debate.

    No advice was given, Tom, and you know it. Note that I asked a question that you can’t answer.

    Close enough, and you know it.

    No ID proponent has ever done an empirical test of an ID hypothesis.

    You have no remaining credibility.

  47. Tom,

    John: No ID proponent has ever done an empirical test of an ID hypothesis.

    Tom: You have no remaining credibility.

    What empirical test of an ID hypthesis are you thinking of? And could you please provide a reference to it?

  48. Hypothesis: Complex Information such as that expressed in DNA comes only from minds. Source: Signature in the Cell by Meyer.
    Test Type 1: Observe whether information does in fact come from minds. The test is being performed as you think about and evaluate what you are reading here.
    Test Type 2: Empirical testing to determine whether significant new information such as that expressed in DNA can come from any other source. Lots and lots of people are working on that, some of them in ID (Marks and Dembski, for example) and some in mainstream OOL research.

    Hypothesis: Evolution will be unable (at least in sufficient frequency to explain life’s diversity in the available time) to produce productive variations if more than two mutations are required to produce said mutation, and none of the three or more mutations without the other(s) produces an adaptive advantage visible to natural selection. Source: Edge of Evolution by Behe.
    Test: Ralph Seelke’s multiple generations of microorganisms at UW Superior.

  49. Tom wrote:

    I think you have just given away all your credibility, John.

    How, exactly? By suggesting that you are intelligent enough to evaluate the sequence evidence for yourself?

    If there are two possible interpretations of a set of data, then science is not just about the evidence (the data).

    1) Science is then about avoiding becoming attached to one of those competing hyptheses, followed by empirical testing of the predictions of those hypotheses.
    2) The IDC movement does not interpret the massive amount of sequence data, they quite literally lie about it and claim that represents nothing more than vague “similarity.”

    There has to be some interpretation, which is quite commonly about arguments.

    No, Tom, real, honest scientists like me evaluate more than one hypothesis at a time and design experiments (or look to make observations) that distinguish between them. This is why presenting science as a high-school about interpretations of a set of data, as though new data aren’t generated every day, is fraud.

    That is most certainly the case in this debate.

    It most certainly is not, which you would quickly discover if you examined the evidence for yourself–but we both know that you’re afraid to.

    Hypothesis: Complex Information such as that expressed in DNA comes only from minds. Source: Signature in the Cell by Meyer.

    1) Not an ID hypothesis.
    2) Already demolished by dozens (probably hundreds) of experiments in artificial evolution, which IDers don’t acknowledge (another falsification of your “set of data” claim above). Are you familiar with any of these specific tests?
    3) Already demolished by routine observations of 30,000-fold increases in protein-protein binding affinity accomplished in only two weeks, driven by nothing other than genetic variation and selection. You won’t see any IDers mentioning this important phenomenon, because their goal is deception. Can you identify the phenomenon to which I am referring, Tom?

    Test Type 1: Observe whether information does in fact come from minds.

    Which is, of course, utterly irrelevant to the hypothesis that it comes ONLY from minds. The test of the hypothesis is to create complex information in DNA (not even your cheating “such as that in DNA”) using only the Darwinian mechanisms of variation (random wrt fitness) and selection.
    4) More information is generated by non-Darwinian mechanisms, too.

    The test is being performed as you think about and evaluate what you are reading here.

    It’s irrelevant, while you parrot those who deliberately conceal all the direct tests of the hypothesis (which isn’t an ID hypothesis).

    Test Type 2: Empirical testing to determine whether significant new information such as that expressed in DNA can come from any other source.

    Done as described above, but you’re afraid to learn about it.

    Lots and lots of people are working on that, some of them in ID (Marks and Dembski, for example)

    Marks and Dembski have never done anything empirical, Tom. Do you even know what the term “empirical” means?

    … and some in mainstream OOL research.

    Not really, they are in other fields, and the hypothesis is completely false.

    Hypothesis: Evolution will be unable (at least in sufficient frequency to explain…

    1) Not an ID hypothesis. An ID hypothesis would be, “There was intelligent design input during the Cambrian “explosion.””
    2) Not a scientific hypothesis at all, because scientific predictions are about what one will directly observe, not how anyone will interpret them. The point of the scientific method is to do the interpretation BEFORE you get the results, not after. It’s about preventing misinterpretation through wishful thinking, which is why no one in the ID movement has ever or will ever test an ID hypothesis.

    … life’s diversity in the available time) to produce productive variations if more than two mutations are required to produce said mutation,

    I’m sorry, but this is unintelligible. How can two mutations possibly be required to produce “said mutation,” Tom? Isn’t a mutation a mutation?

    …. and none of the three or more mutations without the other(s) produces an adaptive advantage visible to natural selection. Source: Edge of Evolution by Behe.

    But Behe has done nothing empirically to test this non-ID hypothesis. He just wrote a book to bamboozle people like you.

    Test: Ralph Seelke’s multiple generations of microorganisms at UW Superior.

    Real test: HIV evolved an entirely new, complex biochemical function in real time that Behe finally had to admit he had “overlooked.” Guess how many mutations had occurred to create that new function?

    As I explained to you, there’s no way this political debate is about two different interpretations of the same data set, Tom. Your side always leaves out massive chunks of any data set they pretend to be interpreting. ALWAYS.

  50. 2) Already demolished by dozens (probably hundreds) of experiments in artificial evolution, which IDers don’t acknowledge (another falsification of your “set of data” claim above). Are you familiar with any of these specific tests?

    Can you give me a link to some of the primary ones you are referring to? I’m not sure if you’re thinking of the same ones that I’m thinking of.

  51. John,

    Thanks for your last entry. I particularly liked this:

    … scientific predictions are about what one will directly observe, not how anyone will interpret them. The point of the scientific method is to do the interpretation BEFORE you get the results, not after.

    I think that’s a very powerful way of stating something vital about science in a very few words.

  52. Hello John

    No, Tom, real, honest scientists like me

    I have yet to see any evidence that you are a scientist and I still think you are offensive and condescending.

    Real test: HIV evolved an entirely new, complex biochemical function in real time that Behe finally had to admit he had “overlooked.” Guess how many mutations had occurred to create that new function?

    https://www.thinkingchristian.net/2009/08/scientific-bias-and-its-cures-or-why-intelligent-design-is-essential-to-mainstream-biology/#comment-15121

    https://www.thinkingchristian.net/2009/08/scientific-bias-and-its-cures-or-why-intelligent-design-is-essential-to-mainstream-biology/#comment-15128

    https://www.thinkingchristian.net/2009/08/scientific-bias-and-its-cures-or-why-intelligent-design-is-essential-to-mainstream-biology/#comment-15133

  53. Tony,

    Philosophers of science agree that it is incorrect to consider that there is one method that is “the scientific method.” There is an ideal scientific method, in which scientists are ideally trained—it was part of my psych training, too—in which one can do the interpretive work as part of setting up the hypothesis for experimentation. It works wonderfully where one has a prior existing theory to test and the ability to run a controlled experiment. But there are situations where a true controlled experiment is not possible. One extreme example: what happens if you expose a random sample of a population of elephants to large amounts of ionizing radiation, and not the rest of the population? Non-experimental science is often correlational science, typical of social sciences and other research.

    And then there are cases where you have the results before you can begin working on the interpretation. That’s exactly how it was in Darwin’s case. He saw the results: varied populations of finches in the Galapagos, to cite the most well-known example. He did not do the interpretation before he observed the finches.

    So John’s statement is powerful with respect to one ideal way of doing science. It is very effective where it is possible. But it is not what defines science, unless Darwin himself was not a scientist.

  54. Hi Tom

    I wonder how you can interpret the results before you get them. You may speculate about which results a particular experiment may produce (hypothesis) but you cannot interpret them (evaluate how well they fit the hypothesis) until you have results to interpret.

    I apologize if I am a little rude toward “John” but being familiar with the anonymity of this technology (unless you have the time and resources to subpoena IP records) it is laughably easy to pretend to be something you are not. You will note that “John” never offers a substantive rebuttal, only vague generalities and ad hominems.

  55. Interpreting results before you get them means I decide in advance that if I get experimental result a I will conclude A, and if I get experimental result b I will conclude B. At least that’s what I understood John and Tony to mean.

    John’s comments are going to the moderation queue before appearing here.

  56. Tom,

    Philosophers of science agree that it is incorrect to consider that there is one method that is “the scientific method.”

    And I did not say such a thing.

    There is an ideal scientific method, in which scientists are ideally trained—it was part of my psych training, too—in which one can do the interpretive work as part of setting up the hypothesis for experimentation. It works wonderfully where one has a prior existing theory to test and the ability to run a controlled experiment.

    This is bizarre. You seem to think that the only time one can do interpretive work (generate a hypothesis) before experimentation is if one has a prior existing theory to test. Not only would this make it logically impossible to form a new scientific theory, I doubt you can show me a philosophy of science book or scientific textbook that makes such an odd assertion.

    But there are situations where a true controlled experiment is not possible.

    And nowhere did I say otherwise, nor do I see where it’s relevant to the argument. But the inability to control every aspect of an experiment doesn’t mean that scientists can’t conduct an experiment. The result of any experiment is contingent on those things that can’t be controlled, but this would not alter the nature of the (contingent) conclusion of an inductive argument. It would simply make the conclusion more speculative. Hence, more interpretation and testing.

    One extreme example: what happens if you expose a random sample of a population of elephants to large amounts of ionizing radiation, and not the rest of the population?

    What? “What happens if we do something…?” without establishing a hypothesis prior would be conducting animal cruelty, not science. This is the kind of thing Priestly was criticized for, and why, despite his contributions, many feel that he was not even a scientist in the modern understanding of the word.

    Non-experimental science is often correlational science, typical of social sciences and other research.

    You are talking, I think, about “soft” sciences here. Yes, Psychology is a soft science. But Biology is a hard science.

    And then there are cases where you have the results before you can begin working on the interpretation. That’s exactly how it was in Darwin’s case.

    That’s exactly not how it was in Darwin’s case. Darwin collected data, he did not collect results. Darwin did not conduct an experiment on natural selection, he formed a theory that explains biological structures and behavior, that can be falsified (the rabbit in pre-Cambrian rocks, etc.), has engendered new hypotheses (the search for genetic information, etc.) and led to lab experimentation (Lenski’s bacteria, etc.).

    He [Darwin] saw the results: varied populations of finches in the Galapagos, to cite the most well-known example. He did not do the interpretation before he observed the finches.

    I believe you are confusing results and data. You cannot “see” results before you have formed a hypothesis. I believe this is elementary science. For instance, there’s this:

    [from “How to Write a Science Fair Project Report”] Data and Results are not the same thing. Some reports will require that they be in separate sections, so make sure you understand the difference between the concepts. Data refers to the actual numbers or other information you obtained in your project. Data can be presented in tables or charts, if appropriate. The Results section is where the data is manipulated or the hypothesis is tested.

    I point all this out because you frequently appear to try and define science while dismissing the attempts of others to do so. It seems clear from the comments in this post (as well as others) that your understanding of what constitutes science is idiosyncratic, and that also your appearing to take the simultaneous positions that — a) science is impossible to define and b) that you know that ID can be defined as scientific — is itself contradictory.

    I see that you have not allowed John’s latest comment. Previously, you had asserted that John “had just given away all [his] credibility here.” for stating that “No ID proponent has ever done an empirical test of an ID hypothesis.” After John refuted your assertion you have held up his last comment in the queue. I understand that you reserve the right to control the content of comments on your blog, but I will point out that shielding your argument from criticism does not enhance your argument’s credibility.

  57. This is bizarre. You seem to think that the only time one can do interpretive work (generate a hypothesis) before experimentation is if one has a prior existing theory to test. Not only would this make it logically impossible to form a new scientific theory, I doubt you can show me a philosophy of science book or scientific textbook that makes such an odd assertion.

    I’m willing to back down on this. It matters little to me. John brought up a strange point, that there was no interpretation after results have been produced, and of course what that would mean is that if someone sees results in a new light, then one is not being a scientist. It would also mean that there could never be a set of results that might be subject to more than one interpretation. That would be a silly conclusion to arrive at, and I hope you would agree with that, and we could drop that aspect of this discussion.

    What matters is your summary:

    It seems clear from the comments in this post (as well as others) that your understanding of what constitutes science is idiosyncratic, and that also your appearing to take the simultaneous positions that — a) science is impossible to define and b) that you know that ID can be defined as scientific — is itself contradictory.

    A. My position that science is impossible to define is not in the least idiosyncratic. See here and here, from Laudan.

    That is not to say that one cannot recognize science when one sees it, but that it is impossible to draw a hard and fast definition: x is science if and only if y, z, ….

    I don’t think I’ve used language that “ID can be defined as scientific.” I would say instead that some of the approaches and activities undertaken by ID researchers can be accurately described as doing science. There’s a subtle difference there. I think it would be bizarre to say that Guillermo Gonzalez’s work is not science. He published a lot, and was featured on the cover of Scientific American. You may disagree with his interpretations of his work, but he was doing science.

    I’m not shielding my argument from John’s criticism. I’m shielding my time from his repeated obviously false and time-consuming claims. The explanation for this is on another thread.

  58. Tom,

    You wrote:

    John brought up a strange point, that there was no interpretation after results have been produced, and of course what that would mean is that if someone sees results in a new light, then one is not being a scientist.

    Except I don’t think John ever said that. The nearest thing to that that I think John wrote was:

    John: … scientific predictions are about what one will directly observe, not how anyone will interpret them. The point of the scientific method is to do the interpretation BEFORE you get the results, not after. It’s about preventing misinterpretation through wishful thinking, which is why no one in the ID movement has ever or will ever test an ID hypothesis.

    And after that he wrote…

    John: As I explained to you, there’s no way this political debate is about two different interpretations of the same data set, Tom.

    … from which one can infer that two different interpretations of the same data are scientifically possible.

    A. My position that science is impossible to define is not in the least idiosyncratic. See here and here, from Laudan.

    But I never said that it would be idiosyncratic to claim that science is impossible to define. I believe you misread me; I said, “It seems clear from the comments in this post (as well as others) that your understanding of what constitutes science is idiosyncratic…”

    I don’t think I’ve used language that “ID can be defined as scientific.”

    Now you’re getting to the point where words seem to lose all meaning.

    Along with what your comment on this post, here you are two days ago as well:

    ID employs science and conducts investigations by scientific means. When Behe, Minnich, Marks, Seelke, Gonzalez, etc. go into their labs, they are doing scientific investigation. In that sense ID is scientific.

    Regarding your choice to silence criticism of your claims as being based on this:

    I’m not shielding my argument from John’s criticism. I’m shielding my time from his repeated obviously false and time-consuming claims.

    I agree that psychologizing is annoying and should be refrained from in debate. But you are unfairly characterizing your opponent’s claims as obviously false. Here’s just one of many cases I could cite:

    Tom [to John’s response to Tom’s assertions]: You say my Hypothesis 1 is not an ID hypothesis. You are destroying your credibility still further, for it is the main hypothesis of Meyer’s recent book.

    You had claimed that “Complex Information such as that expressed in DNA comes only from minds” constitutes an ID hypothesis. Following that claim, John refuted it by pointing out that 1) it is not a hypothesis for ID, 2) both tests you cited have already been demolished in tests and observations, and 3) both tests could never even prove that that it complex Information such as that expressed in DNA comes ONLY from minds.

    So your characterization of John’s refutation as false seems to be ungrounded. And your reply ignores the substance of his refutations and turns to a fallacy — that because something is the main hypothesis of a book then it must be a scientific hypothesis. And it is this kind of easy analysis that further undermines the credibility of your argument.

  59. Me: The point of the scientific method is to do the interpretation BEFORE you get the results, not after.

    Tom: It works wonderfully where one has a prior existing theory to test and the ability to run a controlled experiment. But there are situations where a true controlled experiment is not possible.

    It doesn’t require a controlled experiment, Tom. Predictions work just fine for ecological studies (that does not mean ecology, btw) and for observations like looking for a particular fossil in a particular geologic stratum. What they have in common is basic correction for bias–you do the interpretation before making the observation.

    Tom: So John’s statement is powerful with respect to one ideal way of doing science.

    No, this is *the* way of doing science. You are trying to claim that this only pertains to controlled experiments.

    Dave:I wonder how you can interpret the results before you get them.

    You should reread what I wrote, Dave. I never said you should interpret the results, you’re interpreting your hypothesis (prefereably more than one). It’s the same principle as double-blinding when gathering data in an experiment or ecological study.

    Dave: You may speculate about which results a particular experiment may produce (hypothesis) but you cannot interpret them (evaluate how well they fit the hypothesis) until you have results to interpret.

    The predictions aren’t mere speculations, Dave. If your hypothesis doesn’t make clear predictions on which reasonable people can agree, it’s not a useful tool and you should be using another hypothesis to advance knowledge. A classic example is Einstein’s perihelion prediction.

    Do you really think that most scientific studies are done in the absence of hypothesis testing?