Straw Men Aside, What Is the Theory of Intelligent Design, Really?
by Casey Luskin
Over at Amazon I posted a review of Darwin’s Doubt. The very first commenter on my review, calling himself “Nick,” asked me the question:
What’s the “scientific theory of ID”? Who or what is the designer and how can we tell? What did it do and how can we tell? How did it do it and how can we tell? Where did it do it and how can we tell? When did it do it and how can we tell? Please pass on my thanks to all your colleagues for never bothering to answer these questions.
Given that my Amazon review responded in part to Nick Matzke’s false accusations of errors against Stephen Meyer, I wonder if this is the same “Nick.” Even though we’ve answered such questions numerous times, they are reasonable things to ask, and as a result I’m more than happy to answer them yet again — not at Amazon for perpetually disgruntled critics, but here at ENV for everyone else to see.
First, let’s discuss what the theory of intelligent design is not.
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Part A: What Intelligent Design Is Not
Many critics of intelligent design have promoted false, straw-man versions of ID, typically going something like this:
Intelligent design claims that life is so complex, it could not have evolved, therefore it was designed by a supernatural intelligence.
Of those many ID critics who have promoted this false definition, some know it is a falsehood: I call them “Type I” critics. Others, whom I call “Type II” critics, actually believe the false version to be true but only because they have been misled by Type I critics. Of course it’s not always easy to distinguish the two groups. In the Kitzmiller v. Dover ruling, for example, Judge Jones adopted the plaintiff’s false version of intelligent design — making him, according to my paradigm, a Type II critic, even though ID had been explained to him repeatedly in the courtroom what ID really is. Since Judge Jones knew how ID proponents define their theory, but nonetheless mischaracterized it, does this make him a Type I critic instead? Who can really know?
In any case, there are two main components of this definition, both false…
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