Why Does ID Criticize TE?


Ok, so let me try to be more clear on my thoughts and position. So, I think God’s action could be scientifically detectable. I’ve always been agnostic about the fine-tuning argument but I seem to be leaning towards being for it. I think that qualifies as scientifically detectable. I just haven’t seen good evidence for it in biology. But I am completely open to this. I am very confident in common ancestry. I don’t ever see me denying it. It is such a successful franework. Continues to make predictions and guide research. And at this time I’m confident that all the mechanisms put forward by modern evolutionary theory can explain what we see. At this time I see no reason to adopt an intelligence into the explanatory toolkit. But who knows? Maybe one day this will change and I’ll adopt it as an explanatory tool. that’s all I was trying to say. More clear?



So what exactly is speciating in your model? Old Earth Creationists think special creation was used for all species… or at least for humans. So the only way your sentence could be true is if you are talking about non-humans evolving, while humans are getting the special creation.



Fine-tuning is not open to scientific investigation. Fine-tuning is a call to faith. You can’t make a scientific case out of Earth being in just the right orbit … because any planet that is in just the right orbit to have life, and that has life, would tend to have life forms that observe they are in just the right orbit.

That’s not a scientific hypothesis… it’s like saying any coincidence must be fate. How can you measure that? First you have to prove fate. And then you how do you know which coincidences really are just coincidences?



Perhaps you could explain the nature of your Old Earth Creationist views?

Do you think all life, including non-human life, emerged via special creation?
Or do you think some non-human life evolved/speciated, but humans were definitely part of God’s special creation?


@CaseyLuskin can’t respond in more detail now. I think what you are suggesting lays out the range of possibilities. He probably fits somewhere in there. Maybe later he will explain.



The way I read the article:

… he’s really a new-style BioLogos.

He rejects a global flood; he believes God guides evolution. He’s old Earth. Tell me how this makes him an Old Earth Creationist?


Um, he rejects common descent. Doesn’t that put him outside the BioLogos tent?



Are you sure he rejects common descent? I will certainly update my list if that is so.

When I read that he rejects the global flood, I assumed he allows for some speciation ass well.


@gbrooks9 @swamidass"
I’m open to common ancestry … I don’t think I would go as far as Eugenie. I think there is still some question about that but I know there are some very strong lines of evidence for common ancestry … So I’m open to that. That’s not a problem for me if that’s how it turns out."
~ William Dembski,


Not sure what the point is. Dembski does not personally affirm common ancestry, even though he is happy to embrace Behe. What exactly is your point?

Also, it should be clear, even though ID need not be opposed to Common Ancestry, it often spends a lot of time arguing against it.


That he doesn’t seem to accept common ancestry but is open to it


You are mistaking the fact that he has an alliance with Behe and other TE who agree with arguments, for personal openness. There is no indication that Dembski is personally open to common descent of humans. There is no indication that he has been open to this.

Of course, I am glad to be corrected. However, even when ID talks of common descent, they usually put humans in a different category. Behe and Denton are exceptions of course. Also, as framed in those quotes, he is saying he is “open to common descent” which is very different than saying he “affirms” it.


It’s hard to believe he risked his career over a global flood … but was still fooling around with denying common ancestry! But I guess he did!


Dembski’s focus is on information (see his Being as Communion, which I reviewed in several parts at the Hump before it was published in America!). His ID case is about the information in design being distinguishable from chance, rightly or wrongly.

Combine that with his undoubted belief in an old earth, and change over time is entailed, the empirical question being only what kind of change it is. Dembski’s issue is the addition of new information over time, from which viewpoint (it seems to me) the distinction between special creation and common descent gets decidedly fuzzy, and certainly difficult to demonstrate scientifically.

Examples (stylized, of course, for clarity):

1 - God creates the world ex nihilo: all the information is added at once, so slam dunk special creation. As far as I can see, few in any Christian evolutionary camp deny that to be the case (though some may dispute the fact of the Big Bang). Such creation is beyond science: but not beyond naturalistic claims of fluke, however implausible.

2 - God creates Adam from existing dust, by adding information for form and function. Would that be special creation, or descent from dust? The latter is in essence what abiogenesis means to Christian naturalists like Keith Fox, but it’s more about choice of words than anything.

3 - God creates Adam from existing ape, by adding new information along Asa Gray’s “certain beneficial lines”, or by dramatically increasing the rate of (designed) beneficial mutations (borrowing from the pop. gen. arguments from the “bottleneck thread”), whether saltationally or over geological time makes no difference: God’s input of information is the same. Is that special creation, or descent from apes? Like the dust, the ape only becomes Adam because of what God does.

4 - God does the same modification to the ape form, but at some higher “platonic” level of ideas in his own mind, instantiating Adam de novo, rather than by generation from ape parents. It’s not what is usually understood as common descent, but informationally it’s barely distinguishable - even less so if some of the ideas generated by quantum theory are correct, and even our reality is dependent on our minds.

Even more importantly, 3 and 4 are far closer to each other than to the Darwinian idea that mutations occur by chance and are preserved either fortuitously by drift or by natural selection. In considering a divinely guided situation, common descent is a relatively trivial issue, speciation being primarily about what has changed, not its continuity with some parent. Nobody is much interested in the kind of dust from which Adam came.

Common descent only becomes crucial when you’re promoting a naturalistic view of change over time, or some kind of Teilhard de Chardin evolutionary theology. so I’m not that surprised that so many ID people, not needing it for that, are more cognizant of the anomalies (like Orfan genes, molecular convergence, incompatible phylogenies etc), and so more agnostic about common descent itself.

Psychologically speaking, if they’ve kicked you into the professional long grass for suggesting design, there’s no particular motive for pleading your orthodoxy in other matters.


Thanks for the like, Joshua - but shouldn’t you get some sleep??


Woah there, @jongarvey.

What you are describing is “God-Guided Evolution”. Dembski supports this? I thought Dembski believed humans came from “special creation”. Could you clarify, or re-affirm, your intended meaning to your item #2?

You say it doesn’t matter whether it is saltational [i.e., abruptly] or over geological time. As far as the “informational spin” goes it doesn’t matter, but it materially affects whether Dembski is more like the usual I.D. proponent, or more like a God-Guided BioLogos supporter!


I’m fine with that.

I would be more than happy to have a discussion with him and make that distinction. Chiefly, I confess the Lord Jesus Christ. The atheist doesn’t. It isn’t difficult.



This strikes me as a “magical” view of the Universe, rather than a definitive statement of the nature of science.

Sometimes, things happen well out of view. Look at the notorious case of the asteroid “dino-killer”. Was the asteroid on its way from the very moment of God-Designed Creation? - - but long before there would be any aggregation of matter that a human could label as an asteroid?

Or did God “poof” the asteroid into existence somewhere in Jupiter’s neighborhood and send it on its precise trajectory?

Obviously, this is not something anyone is going to answer with science.

And if God-Guided Evolution includes a lot of irrelevant mutations in place, with some new ecological shift suddenly making a few of them relevant, how would anyone be able to use science to detect that?

The idea of Science detecting acts of God is nowhere near as easy as some make it out to be.


Thanks for the input, @vjtorley. I’ll need to read Rossiter closely to see exactly what he means by point number 1. Regarding point number 2, this really isn’t an argument that targets only TE, but Christianity as a whole. I have read so many atheists claim that either God doesn’t exist, or He is a horrible nightmare because “how could an omniscient and omnipotent entity allow bad things to happen??!?”. I honestly don’t see this as an effective argument, at all.

Another thought - would I be in error if I assumed that “some ID thinkers criticize EC”, is an understatement? In my admittedly limited experience, plus a 1000+ page volume of critique, it seems that most ID thinkers criticize EC. I would reserve the word “some” for those ID thinkers that are vehemently opposed to evolution, or at least common descent.



I was using Dembski as an example of how thinking in design terms can loosen the distinction between “evolution” and “special” creation, so that one could easily become agnostic about common descent etc - and so appear to be a rank and file creationist to your detractors.

What I know about Dembski specifically is that he recognises YEC is theologically neat but the evidence is against it. As for process, it is less important to him than final causation. So in critiquing BioLogos a few years ago for its adherence to Darwinian mechanisms, he wrote:

But for natural selection, as a trial and error mechanism, to traverse vast swatches of biological function space, we need to see an extended series of small gradual structural changes (under neo-Darwinism, these are genetic mutations leaving effects at the phenotypic level) that continually improve, or at least maintain, function, with evolving functions and evolving structures covarying and reinforcing each other. But we know of no detailed testable (macro-)evolutionary pathways like this in any field, whether in the evolution of living forms or in the evolution of language or in the evolution of technologies. In fact, when we can trace such evolutionary pathways, we find that significant change happens in creative leaps, not via trial and error tinkering.

Note here that his argument is against Darwinian mechanism, but the last sentence assumes evolution by “creative leaps” whose mechanism is unspecified - I think because he’s not presuming to create a new theory, but challenge the naturalistic assumptionsof the old.

Beyond that I don’t know his views, but whether he is a theistic evolutionist would seem to depend on whether he, or perhaps others, regard “evolution by creative leaps” as “proper” evolution. I think the crux is, again, “natural causes”, whatever they may be - a metaphysical, not a scientific, question.