Natural Theology vs. Design Arguments vs. ID

Continuing the discussion from Eddie's Defense of Natural Theology:

Sorry @eddie, I can’t really work with these definitions. Maybe if we get them straight we will understand each other.

I like the natural theology definition and think we should encourage natural theology. The definitions of ID arguments and design arguments, however, are not workable for me. The issue is that we want to dignify and endorse natural theology, and we want to make space for divine design arguments outside of science, at least when they are logical and accurate. However, design arguments generically (pooling God and aliens together) is not sensible to me (or @dga471). Moreover ID arguments will unavoidably bring up the ID movement. That reference is always going to be contentious.

So…can you propose a more helpful set of terminology so we are not constantly triggered down the rabbit hole every-time you want to talk to us about natural theology? You need not agree with us, but I want to avoid the circular repetition.

I want to talk to you about natural theology and divine design arguments outside of science, without provoking a defense of ID or critique scientific methodology. What is the terminology that could make that possible?

Plus Eddie is missing one very important one:

Design by Natural Selection: The APPEARANCE of design from a purposeless, unintelligent natural process.

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I have been trying to understand this concept, and this is the first time I’ve read it in a way that I can wrap my brain around. To me, “design” implies or at least hints at intent.

Since evolution cannot have “intent” per se, it must, when recognized, be the appearance or illusion of intent.

Is that universally understood in this environment? That to use the word “DESIGN” is really short for “appearance of design”? If so, does it not seem that it should always be referenced in this way? Is this not teleonomy?

Every other time I have seen it (the word “design”) used, it seems to blatantly overstep the boundaries set here. It may be considered the reverse of what is set forth here, but if one cannot invoke an intelligence within a scientific discussion to bolster a theological position, then one should also not be able to invoke an intelligence without properly identifying it (as you have here) as an illusion, to bolster a materialistic position, right?

And, thank you Patrick, for agreeing to tutor me!! :slight_smile:

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Many Christians on this site concur that God manipulates Evolution to produce the results god wanted.

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Agreed George! But “agreement” among Christians and having a purely scientific discourse (what I’ve been trying to get at here) are two different things.

I would imagine that in having a purely scientific dialog, a materialistic evolutionist and an evolutionary creationist (using generic terms here) would agree that classic evolution is the means by which all life we observe came about. An evolutionary creationist would then go on to have a theological discussion that would invoke a deity as the driver of that evolution.

I think we agree on that… but my comment and questions are referring to the purely scientific discussions that so often include the word “design” but imply that there is design with intent. Patrick described it as:

So I am merely trying to understand how “design” is being used in the scientific realm (according to Joshua’s discussion rules) in a way that is logical to me and to others. Hoping that happens. :slight_smile:

Awesome video! Thanks! I was looking for a little written assistance too, but good start.

I wonder how far back in time exist preserved termite mounds, such that we can see how much the architecture has changed over time… There must have been quite a bit of structural change over time as the various architectural attributes came about.

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I don’t mean to sound fussy…

But Peaceful Science is a discussion about theological propositions… especially in connection to two mutually compatible notions of Creation performed by God (which is the ultimate theological position).

I stepped into your discussion for just one reason: you made it sound like Evolution HAS to be non-theological. I’ve made my corrective… So, as you were.

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Is 54 million years far enough back in time for you?

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You are right George. I may have relied too much upon sentiment expressed (in too many words) by me in earlier unanswered posts. I had hoped the link to the post here:

… would have correctly articulated my question. It did not and you were not fussy at all.

I mean to ask this question from the scientific perspective and clarify how the word “design” is understood in this context and how is should be used. Patrick’s use makes the most sense to me.


You are giving a rather contentious answer to my post, which was meant to be not at all argumentative, not at all an attempt to prove anything, but simply an explanation of what I mean by certain phrases.

  1. “design arguments” I use in the standard way; you will find the phrase in the writings of historians of ideas, historians of science, philosophers, Classics scholars, etc. in all the typical journal and book literature of the humanities subjects. I wasn’t trying to pull a “fast one” on you and slip any sneaky definition by. It is standard to say that the Stoics used design arguments, that Paley used design arguments, that the writers of the Bridgewater Treatises used design arguments. Nobody in mainstream scholarship questions this usage or quarrels over the phrase, so I’m left puzzled why it would bother you.

  2. “ID arguments” – refers to arguments put forward by people like Behe, Meyer, Dembski, etc. They could be regarded as a subset of the wider set of “design arguments” which have been advanced in Western thought since about the 5th century B.C. But they indicate a particular body of literature produced in the past 25 years or so. And that’s useful: when I say “ID arguments”, you know I’m not talking about Paley, Cicero, etc. but Behe, Meyer, etc. That helps focus the discussion on a particular, recent body of writing.

I don’t see the huge issue here that you do. I’m merely indicating what I mean by these phrases, not contesting for the validity of ID arguments or even design arguments in general.

If you recall, the reason I wrote this post is that you accused me of sounding confused, of lumping things together, etc. I wrote the post to show you that my conceptions and terminology were quite clear and distinct.

But nothing at all in my post above was a defense of ID or a critique of scientific methodology. My post contained three definitions, explaining how I used words. It made no defense of ID and no attack on anyone’s use of the word “scientific”. You seem to be referring back to something in another post of mine, but if it is another post of mine that you are objecting to, then the place for your comment would surely be under that post, not under a post where I don’t either defend ID or attack any definition of “science”!

If you have any objections to the definitions I posted, as definitions, I’m glad to discuss them, but I don’t want to have to defend the post for something it isn’t guilty of!

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George, Scientific discussion of evolution HAS to be non-theological to be considered scientific as science is neutral on the question of God’s intervention/guidance or no intervention/guidance.


Yes, that’s plenty far back. But now I’m really ticked… I read that entire article on termites hoping to learn how their architectural skills evolved over time, but only learned this:

The factors promoting termite evolution are elusive, as the timing does not appear to coincide with evolutionary origins of major food sources (woody plants and grasses), or predators (ants). Our phylogenetic tree has also helped to illuminate the global distribution pattern of termites; however a larger sampling of the termite diversity is needed to resolve the precise origins and date the dispersal events that gave rise to several clades, particularly in the polyphyletic Termitinae. Our study paves the way toward a sound understanding of the evolution of one of nature’s most prevalent ecosystem engineers.

I feel as though they way has definitely been paved. :slight_smile:

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@the honest skeptic

I too feel PAVED. My son’s elementary reader on termites was more fascinating…

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George: I think that you misunderstand. Both he and I were differentiating between a “scientific discussion” and a more general discussion, as per the discussion rules. That’s what I’m understanding and it meets with Joshua’s discussion rules here:

Continuing the discussion from The Rules of the Game:

No one can legitimately suppress your opinion regarding God or how he may have decided to manifest himself. But, even as Joshua says, in terms of having a purely scientific discussion, it must not be theological in nature.

Honestly, this is why I asked the question that I asked. Assuming that these are the rules, a scientific discussion must also NOT include a theological assumption, such as a nod to “design”. Hope that makes sense.

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Here is an interesting thought. The termites building the architectural structures have no access to the plans, nor know of the design involved or even of the intent of the design. The just continue building the structure because they “always did it like that” giving the very appearance of design intent. But there is No intelligence, no knowledge, but there is certainly both purpose and meaning to the termites.

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No accusations. Just hoping to clarify communication. That’s all.

I see what you mean by design arguents and natural theology. I think we are getting to the same page.

It is a very interesting thought, but I wouldn’t agree that it makes sense. Termites obviously do not “just continue building the structure”… They obviously have a plan to the structure, else the structures would not be so similar in function from place to place and generation to generation. The design must (because of their pin-head sized brains, per the video) be encoded in their genetics and inherited, else we would not be talking about termite mounds at all.

I would not agree that the functionality allowing for optimal heating and cooling in such oppressively hot climes, came about apart from a plan or design. I agree that the termites may not comprehend the design involved, nor the intent of the design, though they clearly benefit from it. I would disagree with your assertion that there, in the scenario you describe, could be both purpose and meaning to the termites. Only the illusion of purpose and meaning. Purpose and meaning could not come from a non-intelligence.

This is really hits upon my initial question. I’m honestly surprised that you didn’t agree with me, because of your focus on separation of the scientific and theological discussions.

Further, I don’t think that you can say (in the context of the scientific discussion) that there is “no intelligence” and “no knowledge” because you are really appealing to the theological side of the discussion are you not? I wondered that when I read one of your posts where you asked Joshua if he was going to be as fair to the “Nones” as he was to the “Christians”… Hopefully the answer is yes! They will all be excluded from the scientific discussions, right?!

I could be wrong about all of this, Patrick. Really, I’m just trying to figure it out and to play by the rules.

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It could be argued that the APPEARANCE of purposeless unintelligent natural processes as a cause for Design is a result of inherent limitations/biases in the scientific method.
It seems the scientific method cannot acknowledge purpose or intelligence in biology… Just as there is nothing surprising about a blind man not seeing the light, there is nothing surprising about a methodology that assumes materialism not finding things like purpose, intelligence etc.

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Ashwin: What would be an example of this:

Are you speaking of evolution here??

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