"ID insiders" and what they really think

I find this a rather interesting revelation. Apparently, there is a network of “ID insiders” that is sufficiently large and open that even our @eddie is privy to the thoughts of its members. And it would appear its opinions on matters pertaining to Intelligent Design are not always in step with what is published on Evolution News which, with the demise of Uncommon Descent and of the Biologic Institute, is pretty much the only remaining outlet thru which the ID movement communicates with the rest of the world.

This raises the question of how one is to know what ID proponents actually think on any given issue, and whether one ought to believe any of their public statements, since it appears these are nothing more than public relations.


I did not say that all or even most public statements on the Discovery site are “nothing more than public relations.” But Discovery is (like BioLogos) an advocacy site. And on all advocacy sites there is a PR element. Discovery wants ID to succeed, not just on the scientific level, but as an element of popular thought. And when one is concerned about altering popular thought, one sometimes becomes too zealous.

That was quite obvious, for example, at BioLogos, where arguments against ID based on genetics were often presented side by side with blatant advocacy of liberal or even heretical theologies which BioLogos people tended to favor. One had to realize that when one was reading Applegate or Giberson or Falk one was going to get more mushy subjectivity than objectivity, as compared with, say, some of the articles of Venema which stuck to technical aspects of genetics.

So it’s not surprising if some columns on EN are more of the passionate, rah-rah type than the cool, detached, analytical type. If one doesn’t like that kind of writing, one can just skip those articles after the first few sentences. Or one can choose not to read articles by writers whom one knows to be more rhetorical than substantial.

I haven’t read the column about the Tour debate, and don’t even know who wrote it, but I gather Faizal thinks it’s of the rah-rah type. Well, maybe it is. Who cares? I never check the opinions voiced on EN before making an evaluation of anything. My own views I state here, and I don’t particularly care if some columnist on EN disagrees with me.

I stated my views on Tour and the debate already. I said that Tour is a world-class chemist who knows a lot about chemical reactions, and at least some of his knowledge about chemical reactions is pertinent to some claims about the origin of life. I’ve also said he is guilty of rhetorical excess in saying researchers are “clueless”. I’ve also said he showed impatience and lack of control in the second part of the debate with Farina, and that he should have guarded against that. I’ve also said he was unwise to hold a live debate with Farina, knowing what Farina was like. I’ve also said that for a debate to be serious, it would have to be against an active researcher in the field, not a self-appointed science fanboy like Farina. Those are my views about Tour and the debate. If anyone on EN said anything in conflict with those views, there is nothing I can do about it, and I’m certainly not going to lose any sleep over it.

You can certainly trust Discovery to give an accurate definition of ID and of how it differs from creationism (since it’s their term, they know what they mean by it), and you can certainly trust Discovery to give an accurate statement of its own current policies regarding schools and curriculum (i.e., no creationism taught in schools, no mandating of ID in the schools, teach evolution and all scientific theories critically). You can also trust that the large number of papers and articles housed on the site, written by DI Fellows, represent the true views of those DI Fellows (at least, at the time the articles were written). But if you’re expecting clinical objectivity in EN’s coverage of the latest debates, and of the latest “science and culture” stories, with no PR element, your expectations will be disappointed. They are no more clinically objective than a New York Times editorial praising the policies of Biden, or, since I’m talking to the Canadian Faizal, than a Toronto Star editorial praising the policies of Trudeau. You don’t read editorials expecting to get a wholly fair treatment of a subject, and you shouldn’t read what amount to editorials on the EN site with that expectation either.

Instead of what they think, we might want to start with DO they think…

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That is irrelevant to the present discussion. Are you saying BioLogos did not or does not publish things that the members of the organization believe, and which they discuss in secret amongst themselves, discussions to which some their internet fanboys are privy? I honestly don’t know. Do you?

Really? How would we know what those policies are? Who decides them and where are they written down?

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My point in mentioning BioLogos articles is that they often exhibited exaggeration and oversimplification due to their zeal to convince their readers of their conclusions. I have not read the EN article about the Tour debate, but I took it that you thought it grossly exaggerated the significance of the debate and the quality of Tour’s performance. I was conceding to you that the EN article might have been guilty of exaggeration and unbalanced partisanship.

If you are asking whether BioLogos ever published opinions that deliberately mislead about what BioLogos believes, I’d say no; but then, I’d say that about Discovery, too.

However, BioLogos was often vague about certain beliefs, producing uncertainty about what it believed, or at least about what the particular person writing believed. I don’t think this was deliberate collective deception, however; I think it was due to either fuzzy, incoherent thought (the writers weren’t very well trained in the task they were trying to do, i.e., reconcile theology and science) or political defensiveness (because direct speech might get them in hot water with donors or with their home churches). The latter might be seen as somewhat dishonest, but it’s not quite the same as lying to the public about what you believe. It’s more like “telling the truth … and nothing but the truth” but leaving out “the whole truth”. Of course that would be entirely dishonest for an academic to do, but in a church situation where nasty political things can happen to you if a certain faction doesn’t like your view, it’s an understandable defensive tactic.

Because they are stated explicitly and repeatedly all over the DI site.

The top management in consultation with the Fellows, and they’re written down all over the DI site, as I already said.

What is the DI position on common ancestry? Are lineages separately created, or is there common ancestry with guided mutations? Are all mutations guided, or just some of them? Is their direct supernatural intervention, or would these design processes appear to be natural from our point of view?


Four more:

Is peptidyl transferase a protein or a ribozyme?

Are peptides with fewer than 100 residues functional?

Do the >2500 papers published on catalytic antibodies have any relevance to the prevalence of function in sequence space?

Are many OoL researchers working on testing metabolism-first hypotheses?

Ah, good ol’ Christian tolerance.


As far as I know, there is no DI position on any of the questions you asked. There are positions of individual DI proponents on them, however.

The DI takes positions only on the core claims of ID: Design is at least in principle detectable, classical neo-Darwinism cannot explain the phenomena, the origin of life very likely needed design input, the universe appears to be fine-tuned for life… the other things you asked about are not core claims of ID and therefore there is no need for the DI to insist on a unified “confession” regarding them.

How old is the earth? Is it 4.5 billion years? Or is 6000 years closer to the actual answer?

When did the dinosaurs die out? 65 million years ago? Or somewhere around the time when humans were first domesticating the goat, as Dr. James Tours believes possible?


That’s my assessment as well. These are pretty basic concepts, so its hard to say that ID can be accurately defined without them.

The question of common ancestry, mechanisms of change, and testability are essential parts of biology. If ID is to make any headway into biology they are going to have to tackle these questions. For example, why is there more sequence conservation in exons as compared to introns? Why do transitions outnumber transversions when comparing genomes between species? Why a nested hierarchy? It seems ID is more about culture than science.


Fair enough. However, is it not reasonable to expect them to at least have a definable consensus on some of these question? For instance, if you were to ask whether evolutionists believe the earth is 6000 years old, whether common ancestry is true, or whether Hammurabi might possibly have included trained T. rexes in his army, you will receive immediate and clear answers. Is there a reason these are difficult and controversial issues for the “ID insiders”?

Nooooo! Really?


ID is a theory of design detection, not a theory of the history of life on earth. So there’s a range of opinion on such questions among ID proponents. Behe and Denton have the same timeline that you do. So do a number of less famous ID proponents. So do I. But it’s irrelevant to design inferences. From the ID point of view, what it calls “Darwinian” processes couldn’t have produced what we see even if earth were much older than 4.5 billion years. So the differing IDer opinions on the age of the earth (Behe: old; Nelson: young) are irrelevant.

The reason you guys can never get this straight is that you don’t take ID proponents literally enough. They tell you their only goal is to establish design and you keep insisting that their goal is to prove Adam and Eve lived 6000 years ago. But ID, per se, couldn’t care less when Adam and Eve lived, or even whether there ever were such people.

None of those questions requires, as an answer, that the evolutionary process was completely unguided. And therefore none of them necessarily leads to any conflict with the ID argument that things are designed. If modern biology could ever prove that the whole march of life was completely unguided, then ID would be in conflict with modern biology. But modern biology cannot prove that.

Again and again, you guys keep framing the question wrongly. You are still stuck, mentally and emotionally, in the question as it was framed in the 1950s and 1960s: evolution, or creation? But the new question (since the 1990s) is: chance, or design? And design is compatible with a whole whack of evolutionary change, with mutations, with selection, with an ancient earth, with apelike human ancestors, etc. You keep looking at ID and getting frustrated by its answers, saying to yourselves, “That does not compute!” Well of course it does not compute, because your ears are hearing “ID” but your brain is registering “creationism”. ID couldn’t possibly make any sense, given the filter you apply to it. It only makes sense if you drop the filter and take it literally.

ID is not Meyer. ID is not Nelson. ID is not Ken Ham. ID is not James Tour talking about dinosaur blood. ID is about design detection. Anything any of those people say about origins, if not strictly limited to questions of design detection, is not part of ID theory but is their own religious or philosophical commitment. Anyone who insists that the earth is only 6000 years old speaks entirely without support from ID theory, and is giving a private and personal opinion of his own, which no other ID theorist has any obligation to support or agree with.

Then what would conflict with ID arguments?

What would that take?

It’s still the same question. This is given away by the fact that there still isn’t a clear answer to common ancestry. Separate creation is creationism, and its still a part of ID.

What isn’t it compatible with? What types of similarities or differences between the genomes of two species would falsify ID? What types of features would a fossil need in order to falsify ID? What distribution of features in living species would falsify ID?

Then why is it that all we hear is arguments against evolution? Nowhere do we see original research that tests ID. It is always an attempt to falsify evolution. Always.


…which does not excuse them from having to possess a basic level of scientific literacy.

I mean, if you are going to keep making such a big deal about credentials, don’t you think these “ID insiders” should at least be able to pass a high school science test?

There’s that “Eddie” and his hypocrisy again. Dave Farina can’t draw a specific chemical bond on command? Big win for Team ID. But when the ID’ers stutter and stammer if asked when the dinosaurs died out? Hey, no fair, they never claimed to be expert paleontologists!


Perhaps the closest we will ever get to knowing what ID proponents really think is the Wedge Document.


No, it really isn’t. There’s never been any real attempt by the ID movement at producing anything like that. Even Dembski’s ideas amount to no more than attempting to rule out all the alternatives.

Obviously we can’t trust ID proponents to tell us what ID is.


[emphasis mine]

So ID is merely claims. No hypothesis nor theory there.

No, there is nothing approaching theory in ID. No ID advocate has even tested a single ID hypothesis.

Please stop with the pseudoscientific “theory” scam. There’s no science in there.

And you keep dancing. Inferences are neither hypotheses nor theories.

Arguments are neither hypotheses nor theories.

And the straw-man cherry on top that you’ve been pushing for >14 years. Selection isn’t chance, so it’s a phony bifurcation.

None of those are science.

How can anything possibly be part of a theory that doesn’t exist?

How can there be any ID theorists in the absence of ID hypotheses or theories?


You should note that “the universe is fine-tuned for life” is incompatible with “the origin of life very likely needed design input”.


Isn’t Meyer’s book Darwin’s Doubt an implicit claim to being an “expert paleontologist”?