Dembski 2002: Objective Measures of Progress in ID

Came across an interesting article from Dembski, from 2002, that lists out several “objective measures of progress” by which ID should judge itself. That was 16 years ago. I wonder how people think ID has done since then.

5. Objective Measures of Progress (OMP)
How do we gauge how well we are doing in developing ID as a scientific research program? We need some objective measures of progress. Rather than lay out such measures in pedantic detail, let me indicate what they are under four rubrics, each followed by a series of questions:

  • Intellectual Vitality . Have we become boring? Have we run out of things to say? Is the fount of fresh ideas drying up? Are we constantly repeating ourselves? Are people who once were excited about what we’re doing no longer excited? Or do we have the intellectual initiative? Are we setting the agenda for the problems being discussed? Are we ourselves energized by our research? Is there nothing we’d rather be doing than work on intelligent design? Are our ideas strong enough to engage the best and the brightest on the other side?

  • Intellectual Standards . Are we holding ourselves to high intellectual standards? Are we in the least self-critical about our work? Are we sober or immodest about our work? Do we demand precision and rigor from our each other? Do we examine each other’s work with intense critical scrutiny and speak our minds freely in assessing it? Or do we try to keep all our interactions civil, gentlemanly, and diplomatic (perhaps so as not to give the appearance of dissension in our ranks)? Does the mood of our movement alternate between the smug and the indignant – smug when we hold the upper hand, indignant when we are criticized? Do we react to adverse criticism like first-time novelists who are dismayed to discover that their masterpiece has been trashed by the critics? Or do we take adverse criticism as an occasion for tightening and improving our work?

  • Exiting the Ghetto . Do we refuse to be marginalized within an intellectual ghetto or second-class subculture? Are scholars and scientists on the other side actually getting to know us? Once they get to know us, do they still demonize us or do they think that we have an interesting, albeit perverse, point of view? Is intelligent design’s appeal international? Does it cross religious boundaries? Or is it increasingly confined to American evangelicalism? Who owns ID? Are we trying to get our ideas into the scientific mainstream? Are we continuing to plug away at getting our work published in the mainstream peer-reviewed literature (despite the deck being stacked against us)? Or are we seeking safe havens where we can publish our work easily, yet mainly for the benefit of each other? At the International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design, for instance, we encourage contributors to the society’s journal also to submit their articles to the mainstream literature. John Bracht, for instance, recently had his lengthy design-theoretic appraisal of Stuart Kauffman’s latest book, Investigations , accepted in the Santa Fe Institute’s journal Complexity . This is precisely what needs to happen.

  • Attracting Talent . Are we continually attracting new talent to intelligent design’s scientific research program? Does that talent include intellects of the highest caliber? Is that talent distributed across the disciplines or confined only to certain disciplines? Are under-represented disciplines getting filled? What about talent that’s been with the movement in the past? Is it staying with the movement or becoming disillusioned and aligning itself elsewhere? Do the same names associated with intelligent design keep coming up in print or are we constantly adding new names? Are we fun to be around? Do we have a colorful assortment of characters? Other things being equal, would you rather party with a design theorist or a Darwinist?


I would grade them F’s in all categories.

I would go as high as a B but thats what makes a market.:wink: The functional information argument is powerful. This has made it into main stream science through Szostak and Hazen. So is the appearance of design in cellular micro machines. The fine tuning argument is also solid. They are making progress making functional information estimates. Ewert’s dependency graph also has promise. As far as adding new names that has been so so.

Evolution has added possible mechanisms over the last few years but so far it is just throwing ideas against the wall and hoping something sticks.

Gives me greater respect for Dembski.

But how should we judge how ID has done since then? The meager results in spite of the massive amounts of spending? Sort of like climate change?

Attracting talent requires money, unless we are talking about ideologues. Oops!

How much does the DI spend on scientific research compare to how much it spends on producing public propaganda?

Climate change is the overwhelming scientific consensus. Like evolution its only nay-sayers are politically motivated, not driven by any science.

Which is why virtually every professional ID pusher is motivated by religious beliefs over scientific evidence. Oops!

1 Like

Look at you @Timothy_Horton! That is progress. “virtually every” instead of “every”. :smile:


Look at you, a scientist, misunderstanding proper scientific caution in expressing results.

1 Like

We may also consider the 5- and 20-year goals laid out in the infamous “Wedge Document”, written in 1998, and judge how well the ID movement has met those goals:

Five Year Goals

  • To see intelligent design theory as an accepted alternative in the sciences and scientific research being done from the perspective of design theory.
  • To see the beginning of the influence of design theory in spheres other than natural science.
  • To see major new debates in education, life issues, legal and personal responsibility pushed to the front of the national agenda.

Twenty Year Goals

  • To see intelligent design theory as the dominant perspective in science.
  • To see design theory application in specific fields, including molecular biology, biochemistry, paleontology, physics and cosmology in the natural sciences, psychology, ethics, politics, theology and philosophy in the humanities; to see its influence in the fine arts.
  • To see design theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life.

@John_Harshman what exactly am I misunderstanding? I’m talking about progress in @Timothy_Horton’s phrasing, not for ID.

1 Like

Er, I’m pretty sure John’s comment was tongue-in-cheek. :slightly_smiling_face:

1 Like

On this, I think ID has been successful.

At the moment, I think they have given up on this. It appears like this was a failure. Though, they are not even publishing much in safe-havens.

This has been disappointing. More than once, ID proponents have confided that they think specific ID arguments are really bad. Very rarely, if ever, do any of them come out publicly against ID arguments. Why not? @pnelson and @Agauger, why is this? How are you working to fix this problem?

Here it seems mixed. To their credit, this is not what I see from @Agauger and @pnelson. From others, however, that is exactly how the movement is described. How are you guys working to fix this problem?

For the most part, it seems that ID is rehashing the same arguments, as @Art noted here: Examining “Darwin’s Doubt”. However, I think it is important that some of @Agauger’s work brought forward important questions that ended up increasing our knowledge. Her work, however, did not have anything to do with design.

Generally speaking, “no”. However, Gunter Bechly is an interesting case, and so is Anthony Flew, and maybe (if he is associated) Richard Buggs. These are all real talent. However, they are also very much the exception, not the rule

There seems to be major hemorrhaging here. Dembski himself is no longer with ID. A whole generation of Christians in science grew up in ID, and most of us left ID when we encountered science. I am an example of that trend. I suppose someone could argue that I am not “talented”, but I hope not.

My overall verdict? Negative with some bright spots. It would be encouraging if ID actually remembered these goals and returned to them. Perhaps they might build credibility by putting to death their bad ideas, and engaging more deeply with their scientific critics.