What Theological Claims Does ID Make?

Hi Eddie. This is a short summary of my discussions with religious scholars and people of faith over the past 5 years and more. My apologies if I seemed to be mocking as that was not my intent, and I might have been more clear my meaning. A hypothesis that puts God on an equal footing with (for instance) a Flying Spaghetti Monster is (IMO) making a mockery of God. Others place the Bible on a pedestal of science, which is idolatry (in the words of a knowledgeable friend).

Sure, why not? There are no shortage of (religious) people who find ID to be theologically unacceptable. A God that science can measure does not fit the definition of anything we might call God. Perhaps “theologically distasteful” was a poor choice of words, but that conveys my general meaning, and I was in a bit of a hurry. I am open to better suggestions for better wording if you have any?

No, it doesn’t, unless you choose to mis-characteristic science and the actual predictions made by evolution.

ID makes a material claim about Design, but is unable to address questions of Who/What/When/Why/How regarding design. OTOH, we can answer What/When/Why/How about evolution, and Who doesn’t apply.
Further, the Designer could be evolution; there is nothing in ID that would disallow that possibility. This is a direct consequence of ID failing to define Design or the Designer.

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It is the foes of ID who invented the Flying Spaghetti monster, as a term of ridicule. The notion plays no part in ID theory.

No ID proponent has claimed that science can measure God. All ID proponents I know of would deny that science can measure God. You are probably referring to the idea that God, or at least a designer, can be inferred from the facts of nature. But that is not the idea that “science can measure God”. Aquinas, Newton, Boyle, Kepler, etc., all thought that a designer could be inferred from the facts of nature, but none of them thought that science could measure God.

What is theologically distasteful to some Christians isn’t theologically distasteful to others. But I agree with you that some Christians find ID theologically distasteful. Often this correlates with their view of natural theology. Some Christians reject even the mildest forms of natural theology, whereas other Christians have no problem with it. See the discussion here on Natural Theology for more details.

I made no characterization of “science” in general in my reply, and when I spoke of evolution I specified that I was speaking of the Darwinian account of evolution. The reason for that is that ID has set itself repeatedly against the Darwinian account, as can be seen from the number of times “Darwinian” appears in ID literature.

My point was that Darwinian natural selection allows for a huge degree of flexibility in explanation, and that almost any evolutionary outcome can be explained as in accord with the principle of natural selection. Since you were criticizing ID for having an idea of God or the Designer that is so broad that it could accommodate anything, I was returning the argument by pointing out that natural selection explanations are almost equally impossible to falsify. I gave plenty of examples. And as I said, even atheist evolutionary biologists like Gould have ridiculed the excesses of natural selection just-so stories.

You need to clarify this. You might be saying something that is true. Michael Denton is an ID thinker who sees evolution as having a built-in design. But his conception of evolution is non-Darwinian. Darwin didn’t see any design in the evolutionary process, whether imposed from the outside by God or contained inside by some sort of directive plan. Nor have most of Darwin’s successors.

ID is not opposed to “evolution” (descent with modification) in itself. Its main point is that even if descent with modification has happened, chance mutations plus natural selection plus other “stochastic” factors aren’t enough to explain the outcomes, without reference to design. You can agree or disagree with that, but it’s important to see that ID takes no position on “evolution” in the abstract; its position relates to “design versus chance”. There it differs from creationism, which pits “creation” against “evolution” – a different opposition.

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But ID does claim that science can detect design (despite leaving the designer’s name a blank). This it cannot do.

And now that this place defends the Special Creation of Adam/Eve in the midst of scientifically well defended Primate Evolution, it should be less troubling if ID drops this footnote. No good will come of it.

A doctrinaire statement, offered without evidence or argument.

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You can say that there are sound epistemological reasons why science cannot “control for variables when the variables are miraculous in nature”! It is the opposite side of science and its scope of competencies.


And yours is not equally so?

In fact, the last time legitimate science held views like these was in the age of Alchemy.

Science took a dramatic leap forward when it took 2 synonyms (Alchemy and Chemistry) and moved all attempts to measure or detect miracles into the Alchemy category!

What statement did I make? You said dogmatically that science could not detect design. I didn’t say dogmatically that science definitely could, or definitely had. I have said only that it is possible that science might be able to do so. So arguments against particular ID claims of design are fine with me. I object only to sweeping methodological claims that rule out any possibility at all of design detection. You just made such a sweeping claim.


Im not going to argue about What it is we are Arguing.

You asserted that my claim has no evidence.

I responded based on the implicit premise that my assertion has plenty of evidence… even though i didnt cite any of it in my rejection.

No - forget the ID, but the language of “mainstream”, in every example I can think of, is about power, not knowledge or truth.

As soon as it is clear that there is a body of (ever evolving) opinion which to be outside is to be a “nut,” “derailed,” “fringe”, and so on - or even to acquiesce when such terms are bandied about - is almost to guarantee that one is exercising will to power, not discernment.

The reason is obvious - make a list of very varied people in some way deemed to be outside the consensus and label them, as above, as “non-members”, and a message is given to everyone to toe the line - which will move as the “mainstream” opinion does, making compliance a matter of fancy footwork, rather than persuasion.

“Reputable mainstream theology can no longer credit a historical Adam - there are, of course, a few remaining fundamentalists even in the academy.”

“Let those who deny that works are necessary to receive grace and salvation be anathema.”

Galileo to Kepler (since they were mentioned on another thread): “You are the first and almost the only person who, even after but a cursory investigation, has, such is your openness of mind and lofty genius, given entire credit to my statements…. We will not trouble ourselves about the abuse of the multitude.”

Couple of nutters, evidently.



Id be shocked if @swamidass said no… with the clarification that Joshua is probably appreciative of the religious side of ID !

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What do I mean by structuralism or what do I mean I lean that way? I’ll answer you tomorrow. Big football game here today in Tuscaloosa. Roll tide.


No ID proponent has claimed ID can measure God - this is true - but neither have they ruled out this possibility. They deny ID can measure God when they want ID to be scientific and claim ID can measure the designer when it is “just their opinion”. (my quotes)
I’m actually OK with ID as a philosophy that accommodates both religion and scientific understanding, but that philosophy falls down when claims of material evidence for design are made. The Designer might be God implies a material measure - a quantification - of God. I do not think an entity that can be measured fits the definition of anything anyone would accept as a god. At the same time this measure lends equal support to the Designer being FSM; that is ridicule of God, and it’s coming from the proponents of ID.

I will follow up on that. Thanks. Really!

BUT we do not operate in complete absence of information. We examine interactions and environments and find a variety of environmental pressures. Then we apply the same basic principle Darwin identified; selection happens “naturally” to try to understand what happened. We don’t stop there - the science of evolution has added new concepts like neutral selection and drift, genetics, and more.
One thing evolutionary science is not, is a crystal ball. It does not allow us to peer into the future as you claim it should - that is a mis-characterization of evolutionary theory. If you want an example of a prediction of evolution, look at Tiktaalik (there are several good discussions of Tiktaalik here, check them out).

Gould is correct about some claims, but the same can be said of most claims in science. MOST initial claims and findings are overturned or corrected in some way. Have any of Gould’s claims been shot down?

So let’s apply this same standard to ID, to see what sort of answers ID can provide:

  • Does ID identify WHO the designer is? No.
  • Does ID identify WHAT is or is not designed? No.
  • Does ID identify WHY something is designed? No.
  • Does ID identify WHEN designed has occurred? No.
  • Does ID identify HOW the design was formed? No.

ID is undefined as to anything that it does, and as such is completely free to make any and every claim, including some about Flying Spaghetti Monsters. It also denies any possibility of falsification, because it never rules out that omnipotent designer who can do anything and everything.

Meanwhile, evolutionary theory is remarkable successful at the What/Why/When/How questions. “Who” doesn’t really apply except for those nice OEC/EC folks, and they are don’t make a fuss about their beliefs being scientific.


You’re still misapplying concepts of measurement and design here.

Can an Olympic weight-lifter lift a 100-pound barbell? Yes.

Could God life a 100-pound barbell? Yes.

Does answering the second question in the affirmative reduce the infinite God to the level of a mere human muscleman, and hence unworthy of worship?

I don’t think so.

Now, apply this to design.

Can an architect design a Gothic cathedral? Yes.

Could God design a Gothic cathedral? Yes.

Does answering the second question in the affirmative reduce the infinite God to the level of a mere human architect, and hence unworthy of worship?

I don’t think so.

You seem to think that inferring a designer of something, and then acknowledging that the designer could be God, somehow belittles God. That doesn’t follow, in either philosophy or theology.

The fact that neither Newton nor Boyle, good scientists and pious Christians both, didn’t adopt your reasoning should make you pause.

We still aren’t quite on the same page yet, This is the part about falsification:

So an ID advocate might say (and I know one who does), “XYZ is so complex it could not possibly have evolved, but if you want to falsify Design then demonstrate a stepwise pathway where XYZ could evolve.”

But a designer capable of creating something complex must also be capable of creating something very simple. So even if science can demonstrate some series of simple steps to the evolution of XYZ. that still does not falsify design, because the Designer (whoever that is) could easily do that too.
God is still OK so far, it’s just that God isn’t falsifiable.

The other part of this, the part that reduces the concept of God, is more subtle. It involves the implicit assumption in the alternative hypothesis, that disproof (evidence against) of evolution is positive evidence for design, which is false. Design cannot be a valid conclusion when there is no evidence to support it (or even a definition, I would contend). If we allow this sort of inference then any prior assumption we care to make is equally valid, be it God, FSM, The Great Green Arkleseizure, etc… This is BAD inference, a form of circular reasoning, which can only conclude the implicit assumption.

If we acknowledge that the designer could be God, then by the same argument we also must acknowledge FSM, GGA, etc… THAT is what belittles God.

For that matter, if we acknowledge that the designer could be God, then we know it cannot be a scientific argument by definition. This detail often gets swept under the rug. I see this done all the time, with the ID advocate arguing the scientific position one moment, and switching to the philosophical argument the next. It’s a Bait & Switch tactic. (That’s what I often see, not what I think you are doing here).

Somewhere above I made a comment about idolatry, I think I should withdraw that, because you do not seem to be making that sort of argument either.

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The problem with your response is that you are bringing in all kinds of statements and arguments that I wasn’t purporting to defend. Most of your response doesn’t deal directly with the simple point I was trying to make, i.e.: suggesting that the designer of life was God doesn’t reduce God to a being unworthy of worship.

At the end, you mention withdrawing the charge of idolatry. If that means that you accept the argument I have laid out above, then we are in agreement: it’s not unworthy of God to suppose that God designs things. If so, that’s great!

Some arguments I would not make include:

  1. “XYZ is so complex that it could not possibly have evolved.”

I would instead argue:

“XYZ is so complex that it is very unlikely that it could have evolved in the manner conceived of by Darwin or the neo-Darwinians.”

And I wouldn’t bring “God” into the discussion at all.

  1. “disproof (evidence against) of evolution is positive evidence for design”

I would never say this, since I would never oppose “evolution” to “design” in the first place.

I would oppose “chance” to “design” and “evolution” to “special creation”. “Design” and “evolution” are not necessarily at odds, as the positions of Behe and Denton show. And even Dembski, who opposes evolution (in the sense of macroevolution), doesn’t say that common descent is incompatible with ID, as a quotation of Dembski by Jon Garvey on another thread here shows. It is unfortunate that some ID supporters continue to oppose “evolution” to “design”. In almost every case where this happens, the ID supporter in question is also a creationist, and quite often a young-earth creationist. What can I say? I’m not a creationist. I’m not in that wing of the the ID movement.

One last point. You wrote:

The antecedent of “it” is not clear. Does “it” refer to the argument for design in nature, or the argument that the designer is God? ID people claim that the first type of argument is scientific, not that the second type of argument is scientific. They are very clear that the second type of argument belongs to philosophy, religion, theology, faith, etc. Another way of putting it: according to ID, the argument to design is scientific, but the argument from design [to God] is not scientific. So I don’t see any deliberate attempt to obfuscate.

Of course, I am speaking of how ID proponents argue when they are consistent with their own definitions and stated principles. It is unfortunately the case, especially in debates on blog sites but also in churches, in popular books by Christian apologists, etc., that some ID proponents (or people who claim to speak for ID, but may not understand it very well) are not very consistent about definitions and principles, and I think that is the sort of argument you are running into, and protesting against. Well, I too am against lack of clarity, inconsistent application of principles, etc. It’s too bad there is no “ID exam” that people have to pass before they are allowed to speak for ID in public; an exam which required the examinee to show knowledge of official Discovery statements and the main writings of the ID leaders would get rid of a lot of the confusion. But the nature of internet discussion (and popular discussion generally) is such that, in the absence of such an exam, your are going to get a lot of sloppy arguing done in the name of ID.


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This confuses me. Behe has said outright that there are certain features that could not evolve and are instead the product of design. I don’t see how you can square this circle.

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