A New Deal for Intelligent Design?

Continuing the discussion from 20 Years Ago, the Intelligent Design Movement’s “Wedge Document” Was Exposed:

I don’t want to ruin a good thing by drawing attention to it, but this is worth unpacking. This question and topic is likely to hit on some nerves, but it is important. For this reason, it will be more tightly controlled by the @moderators. Do not deface this thread with a silly argument.

@patrick, this is a genuinely surprising and important comment coming from you. It seems to signal that some of us are willing to move past the 2+ decade negative history with ID if it can “reform” some how. Here is my follow up question…

Imagine a perfect world that includes, somehow, the Discovery Institute, Intelligent Design, and the key concerns of this group. Imagine that we can somehow move beyond the “past sins” of DI/ID, and wipe the slate clean of the current personalities (as will likely happen by natural attrition in the next 15 years). imagine that “cheaters” and “spoilers” can be controlled somehow from screwing up this utopian world.

In this perfect future, what could Intelligent Design become? What would they be doing that would have value and grant legitimacy to them? What could be their New Way forward? What could be a New Deal between ID and mainstream science?

I’m honestly curious how people part of this conversation for a while might answer this question, including both ID proponents and critics (@bjmiller, @Art, @Patrick, @Philosurfer, @Agauger, @pnelson, @John_Harshman, @T_aquaticus, @glipsnort, @TedDavis, etc.).

Who can give me the answer that is (1) most plausibly achievable and (2) most peacemaking? Be constructive. Don’t just say that all ID leaders will all commit ritual suicide, or that evolutionary biologists will suddenly agree that Irreducible Complexity is a valid argument (it is not). That is alternately mean and silly. Answers like that are not constructive, and are not a New Deal. I suspect it might require some adjustment from mainstream science too, just maybe.

What could be a New Deal for Intelligent Design?

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I don’t see a way of answering this question. ID is a political and religious movement, not a scientific one. If it reformed to become a scientific research program it would probably just go away within a few years, as religion is its entire fuel.

You could as well ask the question of geocentrists or flat-earthers. In fact I will: In this perfect future, what could flat-earthism become? What would they be doing that would have value and grant legitimacy to them? What could be a New Deal between flat-earthism and mainstream science? Silly questions? Exactly.


What if the dropped the political side of it, settled on a legitimate way (somehow) to do science in a way that interacts with religious belief, and were able to find a way to have it funded? That would, it seems, give them a new way forward. However, the “devil” would be in the details of course.

That is different, because ID is sufficiently poorly defined that they are not necessarily locked into a losing position. For example, Francis Collins believes God created all things, and in that sense he believes God designed us all. They, obviously, aren’t going to go all the way to the BioLogos camp, but it shows that at least one central affirmation they have is neither unique to them nor fundamentally at odds with mainstream science.

Sure, you could de-fang ID and make it harmless by removing all meaning from the term. But I don’t think they’d be satisfied with that. Also, it eliminates any research program in ID by reducing it to regular research.

Not necessarily, if they can figure this part out:

The ID folk should attempt an honest study of whether evolution might itself be a system of intelligent design.

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I believe the word “somehow” demonstrates that, deep down, you know this is a vacuous scenario. While “interacts with religious belief” is a vague enough term to encompass almost anything, the acceptable parts of that range to science will be unacceptable parts to IDers, or, again, ID will cease to become meaningful.

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What does that mean and how would anyone study it?

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It would require coming up with a better idea of what we mean by “intelligent” and a better idea of what we mean by “design.”

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Actually, this has already been done, for a long time, but not by contemporary proponents of ID. Here’s what I mean: https://biologos.org/blogs/ted-davis-reading-the-book-of-nature/darwin-evolution-and-god

Generally speaking, ID folks don’t resonate with with the ideas and attitudes of John Polkinghorne and others like him, b/c Polkinghorne’s view “in no way seeks to be a rival to scientific explanation but rather it aims to complement that explanation by setting it within a wider and more profound context of understanding.” In other words, Polkinghorne understands that questions of purpose and design in nature are ultimately metaphysical, not scientific, and that such notions complement, rather than compete with, scientific explanations.

ID proponents (at least the folks I’ve read and interacted with) have always insisted that ID is scientific–that seems really important to them–and that ultimately (as in “some day,” often said in the past to be within one generation but still not yet attained) ID will actually replace neo-Darwinism as the reigning paradigm in biology.

What I just wrote is IMO the single biggest difference between EC/TE and ID. Contrary to what Steven Meyer believes, differences of opinion about the merits and scope of “methodological naturalism” aren’t the biggest difference, as important as they might be. It’s this: the claim that ID is itself scientific, and that it directly competes with scientific theories to answer the same questions.


It means I think it is likely to be a “negotiated” option. I certainly can’t propose something in a proscriptive sense, nor can they. I expect this would have to be negotiated.

Um @TedDavis, neo-Darwinism has already been replaced. It is not the reigning paradigm in biology. Can you clarify what you mean by this?

I agree, and I think they will have to moderate this. That is not going to fly, but perhaps is there a middle ground that could?

Start with the basics.

  1. Explain why there is a noisy correlation between phylogenies based on morphology and DNA sequence.

  2. Explain the pattern of substitution mutations.

  3. Explain the patterns of sequence conservation and divergence (e.g. divergence of exons and introns, Ka/Ks ratios).

  4. Explain pseudogenes.

That would be a start. @Winston_Ewert has at least started to tackle these problems, and could serve as a model for moving forward.

Overall, engage the scientific community and make an effort to look less like a PR firm. Focusing on doing science instead of writing articles on perceived persecution would be a step in the right direction. Like other scientific organization, money spent on research done in laboratories (including computer labs :wink: ), observatories, and in the field should be the biggest part of your budget.


Why was Mung’s post flagged? I don’t see a problem, especially since most of his truly objectionable posts don’t get flagged.


Start flagging his objectionable posts then. In this case, it was off topic on a thread that is being moderated closely, for good reason…

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I still have no idea what that means. Do you?

Yes I do. In a negotiation, a “proposal” made by one “side”, that adjustments offered by the other “side”, that are “negotiated.” If the goal is to come to a new approach, negotiating it is one way hash out a new way forward. In sense, this could be a thread that is part of that larger negotiation.

I don’t see any room for negotiation. But carry on.


On whose end? Do you really think both sides are totally immovable? I think, for example, this is a step in the right direction: