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.
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