Posted by: John Vandivier | December 4, 2012

ID Is Real Science! (Part 2)

Is ID just Creationism repackaged?

This article will address objection #3 on my list of the top 5 objections to ID by Intelligent Design Skeptics. Scroll to the bottom of the linked article, which was the article which kicked off the current series of posts, to read all 5 objections.

So to answer the question directly: Yes and no! Intelligent Design may be called Creationism repackaged because the ID movement is the historical successor of the Creationist movement and maintains some of the assertions of Creationism as hypotheses of ID. The reason why Intelligent Design is not Creationism is because ID does not fit the definition of Creationism because it has made severe and important distinctions which allow it to operate as an empirical and objective science.

First, what is Creationism? According to Collins English Dictionary:
1. The belief that God brings individual human souls into existence at conception or birth
2. The doctrine that ascribes the origins of all things to God’s acts of creation rather than to evolution

Creationism.” Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins Publishers. 04 Dec. 2012. .

Wikipedia also characterizes Creationism as a religious belief and further identifies religious belief as a belief in supernatural, mythological or spiritual aspects of religion. To summarize, Creationism implies the existence of God. It also connotes mythological, spiritual and supernatural beliefs which are all generally considered unscientific because they are often neither observable nor falsifiable.

Historically, this is a reference to the Biblical Christian idea of God. One form of Creationism which particularly irked the secular scientific community would be Young Earth Creationism. This form was a particular interpretation of the Genesis account and it included many other ideas considered unscientific beyond the simple assertion of God as a creator of the universe.

In the historical sense it is true that the underpinnings of Creationism are manifest in ID. The National Center for Science and Education (NCSE), in this article, sums up the connection fairly well this way:

“[ID] is a successor to the “creation science” movement, which dates back to the 1960s. The IDC movement began in the middle 1980s as an antievolution movement which could include young earth, old earth, and progressive creationists…”

So, in a sense, ID is Creationism repackaged. Most notably Creationism’s assertion that God exists is repackaged in ID as the hypothesis that certain biological organisms and perhaps the universe itself contain features of design. However this designer need not be a God. More on that later. Furthermore Creationism and ID have in common that ID support is widely populated by Christians and “anti-evolutionists.” That’s not true of course. ID proponents recognize the explaining power of many tenets of evolution, such as natural selection, they simply do not believe that such explaining power is sufficient to explain the complexity we see. Consequently they prefer “guided evolution” and similar concepts of “evolution + teleology” (ie, design). As an example, the recognition of the explaining power of natural forces are recognized inside the logic of Dembski’s explanatory filter. ID is not opposed to “evolution,” it compliments much of evolution. Although the idea of “evolution” as being a single monolithic idea is quite convoluted. In reality evolution refers to several logically distinct concepts, some of which have good reason for being objected to.

ID does not require or imply the existence of any God, let alone such a particular definition as that of the Christian God, nor does it imply or require any mythology, spiritual belief or supernatural belief. Allow William Dembski, a leading ID scholar, to characterize the distinction in greater detail (It’s only 1.5 minutes long):

So according to Dembski, ID requires a creator. However it does not concern itself with describing the creator. It only asserts that the creator has explaining power sufficient to make up the lack presented by a simply natural explanation. I would characterize the requirements of a creator as the following 2:

1) Teleology. The creator has a reason to create the things it creates, and, therefore, the thing has a purpose for which it was created. Like a hammer is created to be useful to a person.
2) Ability. Not even “good” ability, only some amount of ability. In other words the creator is able to work toward its goals at a success rate greater than 0, allowing it to have explaining power in the creation of the thing it intends to create. Both a gardener and a commercial farmer have the ability to grow food in this absolute and strict sense. Thought the farmer may have better ability, ID would not be able to detect whether a designer was a farmer or a gardener. This is because (Intelligence)*(Ability) = Explanatory effect and ID can only test for the presence of an explanatory effect. It cannot discern the magnitude of ability or intelligence, only that both must exist to some degree. This, by the way, is all my work. I came up with the explanatory effect dichotomy of ability and intelligence and the note about absolute vs magnitude of presence of the qualities of intelligence and ability.

Finally, as a statistical science, ID only shows likelihood of being due to creation. It cannot say “X had a creator.” It can only say, “We are A% confident that X had a creator, because natural forces alone account for only B% of the existence of X.” This holds when A+B = 100%, and B% is significantly low enough to foster choosing an alternative explanation. This reasoning was first made somewhat rigorous by Dembski’s “Explanatory Filter.” Dembski never states this, but I would assume that this logic would hold as long as BB, causing a preference change. That test would make the filter a little more precise and rigorous. Dembski does some weird shit where he actually comes up with a static value, but I don’t see how that’s plausible because natural forces are dynamic and have different explaining power in different situations.

For example, people are “creators” and “designers” under ID, as shown by my hammer example above. The hammer possesses “intelligent design” and the person who created it possessed both “intelligence” and “ability,” each to some unknown but absolutely positive degree. Significantly, this assertion that such agents exist is greatly strengthened by the validity of the Austrian School of Economics, which assumes the accuracy of the “Action Axiom.” That axiom claims that people are rational (nearly synonymous with “intelligent”) and teleological (working to accomplish a purpose) agents.

Here’s what Ludwig von Mises says more specifically:
“Human action is purposeful behavior. Or we may say: Action is will put into operation and transformed into an agency, is aiming at ends and goals, is the ego’s meaningful response to stimuli and to the conditions of its environment, is a person’s conscious adjustment to the state of the universe that determines his life. Such paraphrases may clarify the definition given and prevent possible misinterpretations. But the definition itself is adequate and does not need complement of commentary.”

Von Mises, Ludwig. “Human Action, A Treatise on Economics.” Ludwig Von Mises Institute, n.d. Web. 6 Dec. 2012. .

The fact that Austrian Economics are so effective is evidence that teleology and intelligence are significant and real concepts, not just theory.

I will expand on the Austrian-ID link further in later posts, but for now I will leave it at that. ID does not imply the existence of a God, only of an intelligent agent capable of producing a result they desire.

Hope that made sense lol. Read this article for some clarification perhaps, or comment if you think this explanation was a bit rough and I will try to revise this article or write a new one to improve my communication!


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