Is ID Just About Atheism vs. Theism?

Since ID is primarily a philosophical/theological argument, I honestly don’t know it would affect evolutionary science one way or another. Leaving aside the attempts to insert itself into education, ID could all be true and it wouldn’t change evolutionary science any more than the Resurrection would change the practice of medicine. So what if God “poofed” bacterial flagella into existence? That doesn’t practically change common descent or neutral theory, etc. any more than one person being raised from the dead changes the idea that dead people stay dead. It simply becomes an outlier in the data. Until ID presents a competing scientific hypothesis it’s nothing more than a philosophical/theological argument about the limits of science, MN, divine action and a historical argument from incredulity about the exact origin a few particular features in nature. Those are all internal theist debates that don’t have a whole lot to do with science itself.

The whole ID vs evolution debate is really theism vs atheism, so as @gbrooks9 likes to regularly point, what’s the point? Why should evolutionary biologists even care about ID, let alone spend hours and hours banging their head against the wall trying to refute it? There are much better arguments in that battle than ID and evolutionary science. This is what, in my opinion, @swamidass is showing in all of this. The ID folks expect a defense of an essentially atheistic worldview and @swamidass doesn’t give it to them. I think that confuses and frustrates them. He sort of dismantles the faux battle lines and exposes the “debate” as largely irrelevant.



I have been saying this for months! Why PEACEFUL Science endorses arguing over atheism is beyond me.

So the one big Caveat: I.D. is wrong about being able to prove God. Nobody can.

What do you think about this @Art? I think it sounds right to me.

Right, but that again is a philosophical/theological “internal” debate. It’'s certainly not a scientific one. So does that even actually change the practice of science? They should be free to go purse that argument if they want. It just doesn’t have anything to do with evolutionary science.

I actually don’t think scientists would generally care if another scientist wanted to pursue proving God through science, as long as they played by the rules of science and clearly delineated between when they were making a scientific argument and when they were making a philosophical argument. The problem is that ID often seems as if it doesn’t want to play by the rules of science but wants all the mantle of respectability and authority of science. I think that actually devalues the philosophical and theological work that they do do. I think people like Tour and Behe bring up great questions. My issue is that they seem to think raising questions is proving answers …



I think you have made this more clear in your one paragraph than Joshua has in a whole Blog (due to size of narrative, not due to a lack of trying).

Yup. Sounds right to me.


Why would you say that? There are theists on both sides. ID, considered in the abstract, may be nothing more than the idea that God exists and has at some time acted in the world. But that’s not what the ID movement is about at all. It’s an anti-evolution movement, just with varying flavors depending on which bits of evolution one rejects. IDers may conceive of it as a battle against atheism, but they’re wrong.


Yes, of course there are, but it also seemed like Behe was confused by @swamidass and I don’t think it’s because Josh affirms evolution. I think it’s more likely that it’s because Josh’s theistic worldview is fairly similar to Behe’s and so he doesn’t know what to do with it.

I think the vast majority of those who hold to ID think that’s what it is. I think they believe that evolution is a tool of atheism and that’s why it’s important to poke holes. If it was really about evolution I think they would have a stronger focus on building the alternative scientific hypothesis.

Of course I could be wrong, it’s just my anecdotal view of things and certainly no movement is monolithic. I just suspect that ID is primarily an apologetic defense of theism and only secondarily (and somewhat incidentally) about evolution.


As opposed to Ken Miller’s theistic worldview? Behe rejects rather less of evolution than the average IDer.

Of course they do. But you shouldn’t make the same mistake. Right?

Only if they were concerned with science, which they are not. But we can agree that they oppose evolution because they think it’s atheistic, not because of any science.

But they’re defending it against an illusory enemy, right?

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I think so, but I know Behe is more towards Miller than many in ID so your point is worth considering. Behe is kind of odd that way for me. I sort of wonder if he’s one of those cases where somebody comes up with a novel way of looking at something, gets “famous”, but has nowhere else to go so they just hammer on the same idea long past when anybody thinks it’s relevant. Irreducible complexity is an interesting question, but there’s not a lot of places to go with it. He thinks biology looks more like Rushmore than Everest. OK, so what? That’s not an actual argument or hypothesis. He marvels at the bug gears. Fine, me too. But I can easily grant each one of Behe’s points (and I’ll even throw in a “poofed” flagella) and it has essentially no effect on evolution. It’s only an argument against an atheistic worldview that says miracles can’t happen. So my question is why would he go to all that trouble to spend decades fighting for something that has very little to do with his supposed enemy? It seems to me the most likely explanation is that it’s not really about evolution, it’s about a worldview that says that God cannot act and even more particularly that God cannot act in any evident way in nature.

I think they represent ID as a movement more than Behe does.

Well, atheism isn’t illusory. I think their mistake is in weaponizing science (making evolution out to be primarily a tool for the advance of atheism) rather than acknowledging their apologetic task upfront.


But is it their enemy? They’re fighting against evolutionary biology under the impression that it’s atheism. In this they are incorrect, and you have a few times seemed to agree that it’s incorrect. Why is this difficult for you?

It is not difficult for him. He is explaining what they think, not agreeing with them.

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Then he needs to say so clearly.

I wasn’t trying to dodge @Timothy_Horton, but as @swamidass said, I wasn’t trying to make my own claim, just trying to explain how I see the ID movement working. I would have thought at this point it would be clear that I don’t consider myself a part of the ID movement at all. So I guess I’m a little confused as to what is being asked.


Look, this whole thing started when you said “The whole ID vs. evolution debate is really theism vs. atheism”. You didn’t say that was someone else’s view; you stated it as your view. If you meant that IDers mistakenly believed it was theism vs. atheism, then you should have said that instead.

And you compounded it by some ambiguous responses, as when you averred that atheism isn’t illusory, a non sequitur response to my statement that the IDers were defending against an illusory enemy. This is like saying, in response to a claim that Don Quixote was attacking illusory giants, that windmills really exist.

@John_Harshman he was clear as day. It was a statement about their perspective, that this how they see it. In the same paragraph, he then says they are wrong.


Clear to you, perhaps. Do you think you’re the first Christian Behe has debated?

Of course not. However, do you see the difference in rhetoric between Miller and myself?


I see a number of differences. But not a one of them makes you the first to demonstrate that it’s not a battle between religion and atheism.

Oh that’s been demonstrated a long time ago. I’m talking about rhetoric here, and I think @jordan is too.

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