- What is Intelligent Design?
- Is there evidence for design in nature?
- Did this concept exist before (or only after) Darwin proposed his theory on evolution?
At times nature clearly reveals opportunities to recognize characteristics of life that are more a product of design than features produced by randomness and chance. This certainly was a perspective considered by some scientists centuries ago ... and even today ... continues to lead us to a discussion of [our] existence in terms of design. The attention grabbers here are those features or traits that have no plausible explanation based on evolution theory. Moreover, these are details and complexities that really reveal a presence of an intended design. The construction and appearance of these features also cannot have come together by the classical processes presupposed for evolution.[A key word to keep in mind here is either "complexity" or "irreducible complexity," which we specifically address in another article. ] Examples of design now are regaining and spurring new prominence in discussions on science education. Intelligent design deserves careful consideration. It speaks to something special with regard to our origin.
The look, fit, multiple integrated intricacies, and thus the exact nature of the inner workings of beings, their organs, tissues, and cells suggests an intelligence put all this together. An apparent confluence of origins simply makes for a veil that others label evolution, but lift the veil and look further ... there is a viable alternative view that must be considered.
In an earlier era of general observations the data suggested evolution could account for change and life stemming from a common ancestor. Yet, if evolutionary time is truly limited—not workable to any reasonable extent—then the existence of design and thus a designer emerges as a reasonable explanation for origins. The discomfort with such an conclusion makes for a debate and thereafter we find ourselves entering philosophical space. This brings us back to the preconceptions of how one might wish to explain our being here. But as discussed elsewhere, chance falls short, time is insufficient, the fossil record speaks to rapid appearances of life, and other issues beg our attention on design issues. So, set aside the issue of the designer's identity and look at the science first! You can think the rest through later, for now consider the data in support of intelligent design!
In fact Gray fancied that he comprehended the implications of Darwin's theory better than Darwin himself. In a letter written in 1863, he confessed to a bit of cunning: "Under my hearty congratulations of Darwin for his striking contributions to teleology, there is a vein of petite malice, from my knowing well that he rejects the idea of design, while all the while he is bringing out the neatest illustrations of it" (Gray 1973, 2:498). Pearcey (MC) Page 83
To think in terms of intelligent design requires open and critical thinking. Some of the information hitting the public is now finding an open ear and increasing acceptance. Students are taking note and the 'thought-scape' in some spheres of education is now experiencing change. This is not a mistake. The data once considered reveal something wonderful, intriguing, thought provoking, worthy of scientific discussion, and even funding along with all other science to conduct further research.
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Certainly, intelligent design may sound like a new concept to many, but only recent data in support of this is what's new. Again, the idea of design goes back to ancient thinkers, long before Darwin entered the scene. Discussion in terms of nature based on design persisted to Darwin's time. But as described in other feature articles here at WindowView, the idea of intelligent design opens the question of there being a designer. Darwin, and company, sought a way away from such a conclusion. But it's not that Darwin or anyone would prefer to think in terms other than design, the continual building base of perspectives reveals and yields more on design than science could have ever imagined in the mid-19th or even early-20th centuries.
'One could not, Wallace argued, explain the uniquely human attributes of abstract reasoning, mathematical ability, wit, love of music and musical aptitude, art appreciation and artistic talent, and moral sense as necessary for survival in a state of pure nature through which (by Darwin’s own principle) natural selection must operate. Therefore, some other cause or action must be invoked. That cause of action Wallace called “an Overruling Intelligence.”' [2011. Michael A. Flannery. Alfred Russel Wallace - A Rediscovered Life. page61-62 ]
We've opened up the cell, imaged all structure, mapped all pathways, determined the nature to the inner workings of life itself, and we now come face-to-face with meticulous examples that seem to scream out for an interpretation based on design. And again ... evolution can make no accounting for these features! So, we now see that where design arguments fit, and evolution lacks support. The idea that evolution fails to explain is not new ... but centering our focus on what can be said for intelligent design begs the coming discussion. Watch that discussion unfold and assuredly the arguments for evolution will ring hollow—in spite of scientism, PBS specials, or the general media's inattention to detail—its the details that count.
One of the key and perhaps the original classical example for design is that of Paley's watch scenario. If you happened upon a watch—out in the middle nature, say off in the midst of a field somewhere—without knowing its true origin, what would you surmise? Could such a thing have come about by chance? Assess its inner workings and think about how every part has a function and every part fits well to serve the purpose of keeping time. Could chance even 'know' that time needed to be told!
William Paley (1743-1805), an English Christian philosopher and author, wrote two influential books on the relation between religion and science. In these books he tried to show how one could find religious faith by observing nature. ... This book continued the theme of the first, and in it he updated an old argument for the existence of a Creator, which has become known as the Argument from Design. Spetner (NBC) page 5
You may be surprised to learn that up to Darwin's time many scientists accepted the Argument from Design. As indicated in this and other WindowView articles, even Darwin was aware of this argument and he clearly was responding to this as he considered evolution theory.
Darwin's answer was that Paley's argument for the watch cannot be used for the pigeon. Although the suggestion about the watch is indeed unreasonable, that about the pigeon may well be sound. The pigeon could have come about by natural means. A pigeon differs from a watch in a way that's important for Darwin's argument: the pigeon reproduces itself ... Darwin suggested that, given enough time, there was no limit to what one could achieve a by selective breeding. He hit on the idea that the ordinary workings of nature could play the role of the pigeon breeder. Spetner (NBC) Page 12
What seems strange about this line of argument is that Darwin attributes an intelligence involved in directing the breeding of birds—that is, the human who does the pigeon breeding—is somehow a resident attribute of nature. His argument against design embodies intelligence in that the outcome of breeding is a desired result, not a random one. Further, he thought breeding could go beyond the species being bred. This has never happened.
Darwin's attack on the Argument from Design seemed successful. A pigeon reproduces itself, but a watch does not. The difference seemed a enough to blunt the force of the Argument from Design for living and reproducing organisms. Spetner (NBC) Page 17
With the Argument from Design out of the way, scientists could accept evolution. Spetner (NBC) Page 18
Remember, evolution's mantra is that many undirected small changes over time bring change and new organisms. So, Darwin is simply forging his points to circumnavigate the issue of design. He presumes that nature's way of working is the full accounting of the process for evolution. But not every scientist thought this was the proper course to take ...
... the very revolutionaries responsible for modern science embraced design in nature. For example, Johannes Kepler is widely admired as a great modern scientist, but as Gingerich points out, he never wavered in his "views of God as a geometer and of the universe filled with God's geometrical designs" Kaita (MC) Page 386
The public may be slow in getting the proper scientific context for intelligent design. This, in part, is due to the media being slow to respond to the technical reporting that is necessary to portray the design approach in terms of doing research from a valid perspective. That design has not been researched vigorously in the past does not mean the field cannot expand in the future. To presume it cannot is ... simply presumption.
Intelligent design is neither repackaged creationism nor religion masquerading as science. Intelligent design is a theory for making sense of intelligent causes. Dembski (MC) Page 93
If you read around you'll discover that Dr. William Dembski is sometimes the lightening rod for intelligent design research. Much of what he has accomplished does not require a laboratory, but the information he weaves is directly from the labs of eminent scientists. The process of synthesizing ideas— from data to realize the full implications of the findings that were previously interpreted in other ways —brings controversy.
Thus we are likely to see more lightening. But Dr. Dembski is likely to tell you the sound of thunder is evolution crashing ... and then he'll demonstrate how that can happen. (For more on Dembski and others who write and research intelligent design issues, we refer you to the Access Research Network's web site).
How did eminent scientists during and after Darwin's day handle the design issue? Some straddled the fence by allowing God to direct evolution through His supervision. The laws of nature, also considered a product of design, played a role. An approach along these lines was held by ...
... Asa Gray, Charles Kingsley, the Duke of Argyll, St. George Jackson Mivart, Baden Powell, Robert Chambers and Richard Owen. Despite important differences among these men, they agreed that natural laws are expressions of divine purpose and that God or mind directs or preordains the course of evolution. Pearcey (MC) Page 82
Darwin's approach was to find a path that sidestepped the Creator altogether. But in doing so Darwin also confronted the dilemma of granting purposeless agency (i.e., nature) the role of yielding purpose—remember that nature and evolution within it according to Darwin operated by no purpose and everything resulted through randomness and chance (also see Pearcey (MC) Page 83).
Critiques of Darwinism also raise the point that support for evolution ultimately becomes a belief system that is much akin to a religion. So, separating issues to stand on the scientific merits is a vital part of examining intelligent design.
Critiques of Darwinism by creationists have tended to conflate science and theology. Design theorists want none of this. Their critique of Darwinism is not based on any supposed incompatibility between Christian revelation and Darwinism. Rather they begin their critique by arguing that Darwinism is on its own terms a failed scientific research program—that it does not constitute a well-supported scientific theory, that its explanatory power is severely limited, and that it fails abysmally when it tries to account for the grand sweep of natural History.
... Darwinism is the totalizing claim that this mechanism accounts for all the diversity of life. The evidence does not support this claim. What evidence there is supports limited variation within fixed boundaries, or what typically is called microevolution. Macroevolution —the unlimited plasticity of organisms to diversify across all boundaries—even if it is true, cannot legitimately be attributed to the mutation-selection mechanism. To do so is to extrapolate the theory beyond its evidential base. This is always a temptation in science—to think that one's theory encompasses a far bigger domain that does. Dembski (MC) Page 22
Dembski also reminds us that we live in an era where science is the only "universally and valid form of knowledge within our culture" (Dembski (MC) Page 27). How much credit do you give to modern science? Certainly much credit is deserved, but only to a point! For in Western society less attention is given to religion, philosophy, and the arts. The impact of science is certainly immense. And perhaps once on a roll, science then folds in evolution to round out the explanation to entire life experience.
Science has given us technology—computers that work as much here as they do in the Third World. Science has cured our diseases. Whether we are black, red, yellow or white, the same antibiotics cure the same infections. It is therefore clear why relegating intelligent design to any realm other than science (e.g., religion) ensures that naturalistic evolution will remain the only intellectually respectable option for the explanation of life. Dembski (MC) Page 27
There is thus a momentum behind evolution that is hardly warranted. To see that this is not the credible explanation takes turning the momentum around. But there is a process in this turning. Once a shift is initiated, there needs to be a place to receive the new momentum ... and this is part of what we call a paradigm shift.
... In response to the question How did life originate and develop? what is wrong with saying we don't know? ... As philosophers of science Thomas Kuhn and Larry Loudan have pointed out, for scientific paradigms to shift, there has to be a new paradigm in place ready to be shifted into. ... If you are going to reject a reigning paradigm, you have to have a new, improved paradigm with which to replace it. Naturalistic evolution is the reigning paradigm. But what alternative is there to naturalistic evolution? Logically the only alternative is intelligent design. But intelligent design, we are told, is not a part of science. Dembski (MC) Page 28
So, the above stated quotes from Dr. Dembski suggest there is something to be gained by thinking in terms of intelligent design. There are indeed others who would approach Dembski's thoughts with some differences and possibly additional important questions to add to the discussion. To give you an idea of Dembski's strategy, we quote four points he outlined in the introduction to a symposium that was held in the mid-1990s. As you can see, Dembski is asking that we make a full reassessment in that intelligent design encompasses:
1. A scientific and philosophical critique of naturalism, where the scientific critique identifies the empirical inadequacies of naturalistic evolutionary theories and the philosophical critique demonstrates how naturalism subverts every area of inquiry that it touches;
2. A positive scientific research program, known as intelligent design, for investigating the effects of intelligent causes;
3. A cultural movement for systematically rethinking every field of inquiry that has been infected by naturalism, reconceptualizing it in terms of design; and
4. A sustained theological investigation that connects the intelligence inferred by intelligent design with the God of Scripture and therewith formulates a coherent theology of nature. Dembski (MC) Page 29
What Dembski proposes may bring some discomfort. If the reassessment reveals that we've denied something—a human corporate denial based on assumptions and not fact—then reality gives us answers to the uncomfortable questions we've put off until now. Material thinking puts off theology, but if theological considerations are as valid as the evidence science gives us, then we have come face-to-face with reality defined in its own terms and not ours. That is the paradigm space that can be examined within WindowView. This is the reason to ask questions and to take a closer look at the unique existence we live each day.
There are other examples in terms of design that we need to quickly review to correctly understand design. Consider the following:
[From Berloit...] In his words: "The brief history of aircraft technology is filled with branching processes, phylogeny and extinctions that are a striking counterpart of 3 billion years of biological evolution ." ... Unfortunately, the analogy is false. At no stage during the history of aviation industry was the design of any flying machine achieved by chance, but only by the most rigorous applications of all the rules which govern function in the field of aerodynamics. [while] ... the space of all possibilities is inconceivably large. All such analogies are false because in all such cases the search for function is intelligently guided. Denton (ETC) Page 317
Remember how examples may fail, such as: how animals and plants are selected and bred by traditional practices, or how automobiles and airplanes are designed and constructed, etc. The fact is that intelligence is part of the design process everywhere humans are part of the picture. And no other analogy serves to support evolution except to defer to chance, which we noted earlier fails.
Design's evidence comes in many forms. We've really got to step back to get a grasp of this. In cells, metabolism depends on pathways that show optimization of materials use. Denton ((ETC) Page 337) notes how protein breakdown products are conserved with an efficiency that goes beyond human design considerations! A single starter ("mother") protein may be used, then broken down to products that in turn are used, broken down, and these byproducts are further utilized. This multiple step use from one original molecule may be argued a result of 'evolution using' what becomes available, but if thought completely through this cascade of efficiencies, there is an ingenuity here that again goes beyond chance.
It is the sheer universality of perfection, the fact that everywhere we look, to whatever depth we look, we find an elegance and ingenuity of an absolutely transcending quality, which so mitigates against the idea of chance. Is it really credible that random processes could have constructed a reality, the smallest element of which—a functional protein or gene—is complex beyond our own creative capacities, a reality which is the very antithesis of chance, which excels in every sense anything produced by the intelligence of man? Denton (ETC) Page 342
Denton reminds us that researchers keep coming up with findings of various experiments and projects, followed by dutiful reporting of the details. Yet, in the minutia of these works scientists fail to recognize what they are dealing with. Science and Nature magazines repeatedly display life's complexities in the form of designed molecules, complex cell functions, intricate genetic codes that are altered to meet environmental challenges, and more. It all speaks to design, even if the authors of the reports fail to say so!
... To those who still dogmatically advocate that all this new reality is a result of pure chance one can only reply, like Alice, incredulous in the face of the contradictory logic of the Red Queen:
"Alice laughed. "There's no use trying", she said. "One can't believe impossible things". "I dare say you haven't had much practice," said the queen. "When I was your age I did for half an hour a day. Why sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." Denton (ETC) Page 342
Perhaps the battle for recognizing the presence of intelligent design is not the thought that a designer lurks somewhere, but instead that we have not been paying attention. We've defined reality in a shroud of denial and self deception. Life is remarkable. If scientists fail to be awe struck and awakened to the implications that their work addresses each day, than they've completely lost perspective. WindowView is presented to beg the question of finding the holistic context, to build perspectives, and then step back to see what's there. Once you've looked a while, then the question of who or what is the designer seems less the problem!
You might find yourself asking: How can we detect design in our world?
The idea of design finds support where a test can be applied to confirm that we are indeed seeing something designed and not as the product of brute chance.
An explanatory filter is detailed further in a related feature article here within the window. In brief, the discussion presented there notes that there are three considerations that we must address before concluding something exhibits design. The keywords are contingency, complexity, and specificity. The animation below displays the three levels at which these keywords come into play. The filter as presented by Dr. William Dembski is essentially a research tool. To see how this works, we refer you to the link and the article noted above.
Designed objects and the evidence for intelligent design include many cellular features as is discussed in yet another article on Irreducible Complexity.
There is a purpose to sitting at the window. As noted elsewhere, the presentations in the WindowView feature articles are not so much about winning a debate as they are an opportunity to see a golden ray of light shining through. If there really is anything to intelligent design, then initially it's not so much identifying the Intelligent Designer, but to first appropriately unseat the naturalistic explanations. This is a practical matter—nothing less. This strikes a chord in an unusual way, for now we have another option so long denied.
If the validity of this approach can build a broader base, then there is less for evolution theory to rest on. That initiates the paradigm shift. If well enough researched in time to come, then intelligent design may present a fuller definition and appropriate context for our life experience. Along the way, we are all awe struck by the notion that indeed the intelligence must have some source. From this point the window starts a transition. Thus, life has some special quality not commonly permitted by Western thought to this point.
Beyond this point there are concerns for the totality of convergent processes that constitute global change and events in the news that effectively set us along a course that defines a specific timeline. The window includes a look at global change, world events along time, the specific role for a harmony among peoples, and a final stretch of time that's already been described for what is ahead of us. The idea that evidence for our origin goes beyond the everyday scientific explanations may seem an extrapolation in thought. Yet, a critical view of origins and the content of remainder of the window's view does bring us to scenarios that are as widely refused or denied as what evolutionists claim by discounting the validity of intelligent design. All options must be placed on the table to allow us to consider a purpose to life. If there is a purpose, then we need to explore what 'design' entails at yet another level—specifically: what lies ahead of us.
Writer / Editor: Dr. T. Peterson, Director, WindowView.org
Quotations from "Mere Creation" (MC) edited by William A. Dembski are used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com All rights reserved. No portion of this material may be used without permission from InterVarsity Press.
Quotations from "Not By Chance" (NBC) written by L. Spetner, are used by permission granted by Dr. Lee Spetner.
Quotations from Dr. Michael Denton's "Evolution: A Theory in Crisis" are used by permission granted by Adler and Adler Publishers Inc., 5530 Wisconsin Ave., Suite 1460, Chevy Chase, MD 20815
Excerpts and links to Feature Articles
''According to Darwinism, undirected natural causes are solely responsible for the origin and development of life. In particular, Darwinism rules out the possibility of God or any guiding intelligence playing a role in life's origin and development. Within western culture Darwinism's ascent has been truly meteoric. And yet throughout its ascent there have always been dissenters who regarded as inadequate the Darwinian vision that undirected natural causes could produce the full diversity and complexity of life.''
''Until the mid 1980s this dissent was sporadic, focused largely at the grass roots, and seeking mainly to influence public opinion through the courts (and not very effectively at that). With the Intelligent Design movement this dissent has now become focused, promising to overturn the cultural dominance of Darwinism much as the freedom movements in eastern Europe overturned the political dominance of Marxism at the end of the 1980s.'' MORE on this, read: Dr. William Dembski on Intelligent Design
''What is science going to look like once Intelligent Design succeeds? To answer this question we need to be clear what we mean by Intelligent Design. Intelligent Design is not repackaged creationism, nor religion masquerading as science. Intelligent Design holds that intelligent causation is an irreducible feature of the biophysical universe, and furthermore that intelligent causation is empirically detectable. It is unexceptionable that intelligent causes can do things which unintelligent causes cannot. Intelligent Design provides a method for distinguishing between intelligent and unintelligent causes, and then applies this method to the special sciences.'' MORE on this, read: Dr. William Dembski on Explanatory Filter Detecting Intelligent Design
''Anna Harvey, a bright, straight-A sophomore in Lawrence, Kansas, raised her hand in biology class one day in early 1999. "Mr. Roth, when are we going to learn about creationism?"
''Stan Roth exploded. "When are you going to stop believing that crap your parents teach you?" Anna was stunned, and within five months Roth was removed from the classroom. Some say the irascible high-school teacher was about to be fired anyway; others wonder if it was mere coincidence that, three months after he was forced to retire, the Kansas Board of Education voted 6-4 to de-emphasize the speculative aspects of evolution—a move that sparked a national debate.'' MORE on this, read: - Nancy Pearcey on Education and Evolution
''To be sure, you are fulfilling your obligation to the state by teaching evolutionary theory as it is presented in accepted high-school and beginning-college biology texts. But having presented what you are required to teach, you are also critiquing the theory you have just presented. What's more-to add insult to injury-you are offering a positive alternative to evolutionary theory, an approach increasingly referred to as intelligent design. You are even using a supplemental biology text called Of Pandas and People to teach intelligent design. The teaching of intelligent design particularly infuriates the new policy makers. As far as they are concerned, intelligent design is just a sexy new name for the tired old creationism of the 1980's. This brand of creationism was roundly defeated in the courts, is not permitted to be taught in the science curricula of public high schools, and certainly does not deserve to be resurrected. Intelligent design is not science, and should not be taught as science. So the story goes. MORE on this, read: - Dr. William Dembski on Teaching Intelligent Design
Yale Symposium - November 2000
Science Evidence for Design in the Universe - An Interdisciplinary Symposium
Held quietly during the fall of a typical academic year, from November 2 to 4, 2000, the Rivendell Institute for Christian Thought and Learning, along with cosponsors, hosted a very special symposium at Yale University. This truly significant event focused on Intelligent Design. In the near future, WindowView will add notes based on some of the symposium's presentations. For now you can download the symposium's program via the 'File Link' at the bottom of this page. This PDF file also contains a number of bios for speakers, who are also authors of feature articles here at WindowView. Books by many of these authors also appear on our BookList page.
Also, a separate 'Yale Page' is linked here. In the future, this page will will serve as the hub for thumbnail descriptions based on some of the symposium's plenary or concurrent sessions.
Link: Yale Symposium Program November 2000 (file in Acrobat PDF format)
Science and Evidence for Design in the Universe
WindowView Thanks the Rivendell Institute for permission
to provide this PDF reproduction of their symposium's program.
Download a PDF of a ID Briefing Package here!
The WindowView drops many of the typical presumptions to take another look. What does scientific data tell us if we start without assumptions? And ... how contiguous is science information if examined along with scriptural perspectives provided by the Bible? The Bible is the only religious or holy book we know of that is in fact consistent with science. While not a textbook, the Scriptures are either contradictory or complementary to scientific perspectives. Have you looked at these perspectives? To see 'Science and Scripture in Harmony' is to reveal life, reality, and your future.