To What Extent Does Motivated Reasoning Explain ID?

The title doesn’t 100% capture my thought, for which I apologise, but it’s the best short version I can come up with.

I was wondering about whether there were any of the promoters or adherents of Intelligent Design who were not already theists who believed in an interventionist God prior to beginning their interest in ID.

Was anyone who was an atheist, Deist or some other kind of for-all-practical-purposes methodological naturalist pushed to accept ID by the scientific evidence alone, or has every case been someone already pre-disposed by existing religious beliefs to accept the notion that God acts in material ways in the world?

Now, I realise that in some ways the question is unbalanced, since ID must postulate supernatural action to exist at all. So if someone actively disbelieved in supernatural action they might rule it out ab initio.

But the naturalism of most scientists is, I think, much more experiential and evidence-based than dogmatic, and is open to being challenged by new evidence.

An interesting counterpoint is that there are many religious believers in an interventionist God or gods who nonetheless accept and work within naturalistic evolutionary paradigms.

Really just some pre-coffee musings, but as a phenomenon, examples of people not already theist who nonetheless came to accept and promote ID would be interesting, I think.

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I believe there’s a small handful of quasi-not-theists of one type of another that support ID. The most often invoked example is David Berlinski who says he’s an agnostic IIRC.

There’s a couple of others as far as I am aware. But the correlation between strong theistic belief and ID-support is as close to total as you will get.


The best that I can tell the rise of modern ID is largely around the discoveries of the past 70 years in molecular biology.

The structure and nature of DNA is what first caught my interest.

The rise of modern ID was due to multiple court battles that removed overt creationism from public school classrooms. ID is an attempt to give creationism a scientific sheen so it can possibly pass constitutional challenges in court. The Cdesign proponentists was a perfect example where the word creationist was sloppily copied/paste with design proponent in the book “Of Pandas and People”.

In addition, the Wedge Document makes it plain that the goal is to push creationism back into public schools:

The Wedge Document came from the leading and most vocal ID institution, so there is very little doubt what the goal of ID was and is.


That helps with theistically-motivated reasoning, but Berlinski is very explicitly a proponent of conservatively-motivated reasoning. :wink:

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Berlinski supports ID’s anti-evolution arguments, but does not support their conclusion of a Designer, AFAIK, and in fact has explicitly disavowed that last step on a couple of occasions (you can find the quotes on his Wikipedia article).

Michael Denton also describes himself as agnostic.


This does not explain what they were arguing and why it was being accepted.

Also part of the question of the OP: who finds it convincing and why?


I find Behe’s argument to be very persuasive but limited. We have very limited if any evidence of arranged parts that can perform a repeatable function that are not the result of a mind planning the arrangement. Especially arranged parts in the form of linear code as DNA is.

Despite being limited I think it is very useful demarcating the low hanging fruit from the potentially unreachable fruit in science.

The same reason that creationism is accepted: It fits peoples’ religious beliefs.


Then you need to familiarize yourself with embryonic development. You started out as a single cell and you developed all of your interacting parts through a very natural process. Can you show us evidence for a mind acting during embryonic development?


We can infer that a mind was ultimately behind the process. The process required arranged parts to work. The arranged parts were DNA nucleotides.

Based on what?

We see new DNA nucleotide sequences forming all of the time, and no evidence of a mind involved.


We see specific protein-protein binding evolving in two weeks in our immune systems.

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Can you give an example?

You. Your genome has a DNA sequence that has never existed before. The sequence of your genome is explained by the natural processes of reproduction and mutation. Can you show us where a mind is involved in these processes?


One might also ask which of the 40 million mutations separating Bill from a chimpanzee were put there by a mind.

That is not an claim of ID. If you look at a human embryo pathway like the WNT pathway ID maybe an answer to the question of the ultimate origin of that pathway. We know it can get passed along by either common descent or common design yet its ultimate origin can possibly explained by design. Common descent would be a very tough claim to support for its origin.

Reproduction, mutation, and selection already explain it.

It would be very tough claim to say that the Earth is round.

I can say nonsense stuff too.


ID does increasingly appear to be a ‘god of the gaps’ set of claims.

Almost everything is claimed to be caused by naturalistic evolutionary processes, except ‘it’s hard for me to understand how that explains this complex thing, therefore God’. Every example that is brought of naturalistic processes is acknowledged, so the claim is not really falsifiable that ‘at some point, in some way, a mind was involved’.