Is ID Anti-Evolution? Yes and No

A1: Is ID Anti-Evolution? Yes and No.

Notice the paradox.

  1. ID is not meant to be anti-evolutionist (agreed), but…
  2. ID is populated by many anti-evolutionists, and hasn’t figured out how to separate itself from anti-evolutionist rhetoric and argumentation.

For this reason, it does not seem strictly correct to insist that “ID has nothing to do with anti-evolutionism.” I suggest this language, in addition to pointing to this post/thread:

“ID is a complex movement, that includes both anti-evolutionists, and people who affirm, or are open to, common descent.”

That is something everyone should agree with, because it is true. I suggest that we hammer out agreed upon language here. Rather than saying ID has nothing to do with anti-evolutionism (false), we should explain the paradox of ID. I would join with you in arguing against the claim that ID is merely full of anti-evolutionist YECs (a false claim). The solution, however, is not going to far the other way. What is the accurate compromise language you can agree with so we can work together?

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I agree with you entirely that ID is frequently intertwined with anti-evolution sentiment. That is not going to change in the short term, but it might in the long term. I’ve tried to speed up the distancing of ID as such from anti-evolutionism by stressing that even in its formal statements ID does not rule out common descent, that some of its most published authors accept common descent, and that Discovery has lately published more books by Michael Denton, an evolutionist, than by any other author.

I think the best way of characterizing ID is as a Big Tent group of thinkers which includes OEC, YEC, and evolutionist members (maybe in the proportion 40/40/20, if we count the rank and file, or 60/30/10, if we count the more famous members), all of whom are united not by a common position on evolution (descent with modification) but by a common belief in design as an essential causal factor (where “causal” is used broadly, and not in any narrow sense of mechanical or efficient cause) in the rise of life and species. It is therefore neither “creationist” nor “evolutionist” as those terms are commonly understood, but operates on a plane which is, so to speak, at right angles to the question of creation vs. evolution. I don’t know how to fit all that into a handy short definition. I’m open to suggestions.

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(That last post was 230 words, not 200. Make them short and sweet.)

If you just quote this everywhere, and point to this thread (when it is split) every time is necessary, you are going to save everyone a lot of time.

Notice, this is distinct from what you original said:

Actually, the answer is “yes” and “no.” In some ways it is, and in other ways it isn’t. It is complicated. Point them to this thread to make your case. Do not overstate you case, or you lose. Do not give verbose replies, or you lose again. How do you know you won? When others make your case for you.

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No, I would stick to my guns. Using your preferred term “ID theory” (rather than “ID in itself” or “ID per se”), I would say that “ID theory” is not inherently anti-evolutionary, because it is (or aspires to be, anyway) a theory of design detection, and is silent about whether or not evolution (in the sense of macroevolution) actually happened. It can’t be formally “anti-evolutionary” if it takes no position on whether evolution happened.

Of course, I agree that the majority of ID proponents are anti-evolutionary, either extremely so (YEC) or moderately so (OEC has a little more leeway for moderate amounts of change), but I don’t agree that ID theory is inherently anti-evolutionary.

So if anyone here says, “most ID proponents do not accept evolution,” I will not protest the statement or even comment on it in most cases; it can be assumed that I agree with such statements.

But if anyone says, without qualification, that “ID is anti-evolutionary,” in a context that might mislead newcomers into thinking that all ID proponents reject common descent, I will gently protest, and, on your suggestion, will cite my discussion here, rather than writing out all this stuff over and over again.

Since you want me to use these replies as a reference to save time, I can mention a few names:

Definitely accepting Common Descent: Mike Behe, Michael Denton, Dave Scot (former UD moderator)

Probably accepting Common Descent: Richard Sternberg (though his last public statements are old ones)

Used to accept Common Descent, now apparently meditating on the question: Ann Gauger

Undeclared, but showing no overt hostility to Common Descent: John West, Jay Richards

Not accepting Common Descent, but granting its compatibility with ID: Bill Dembski
(and probably also, though perhaps with qualifications, Steve Meyer, Jonathan Wells, and Paul Nelson)

That is fine by me. I’m just trying to give you a way out, where you can make you valid point, without channeling your inner spam bot. Your point is valid too. It deserves its current place in our reference section. I agree with it.

I would point out too, that there is a major inconsistency in ID rhetoric.

  1. It is often argued that evidence against the sufficiency of natural processes is also evidence against common descent.

  2. There are very frequently ID arguments being made against common descent.

When either of these two arguments are advanced, I’m sure people will perceive ID to be anti-evolution, making this thread important once again.

I agree with you, Joshua, about the inconsistency. The theoretical claim that ID is in principle open to common descent and even to naturalistic models of evolution (where the design is “front-loaded”) often does not seem to match up with the frequency of criticisms of apparently all forms of evolution coming from some ID quarters.

Certainly if one considered only the recent Crossway book, and had to deduce empirically, from the papers in that book, whether or not ID was compatible with evolutionary models, one would tend to conclude that there was little to no room for evolution within ID. And since many major ID players appear in the Crossway book, the public could easily be forgiven for drawing the conclusion that the Crossway book represents the ID position.

That’s why I’ve been trying to make sure people here know that the Crossway book (which has its merits – I’m not trying to denigrate the essayists or the contents) represents only a subset of ID positions. It’s the larger subset – the creationist one – but it’s still not the only one. So it’s important for anyone who wants the fullest picture of ID to read some of the authors published by Discovery whose names and essays are not found in the Crossway book.

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