Why I Am an ID Proponent

Perhaps - but such statements are typical “high ground” claims, taking for granted that ones own position is “deeper.” It’s analogous to the argument that many believe X, but “those who take a mature view” believe Y. One can scarcely reply “I AM mature” or “My view IS deep!” without proving oneself immature or superficial.

However, my own impression is that those who are completely blind to teleology in nature have, in some cases, studied contemporary evolutionary theory in depth - but seldom much in a wider context.

Charles Darwin’s correspondence shows that the more obsessionally he studied biology, the less aware he became of beauty and meaning not just in the natural world, but in music and art as well. He had sufficient sensitivity to express regret, rather than to deny the realities he could no longer appreciate.

One has to say of Richard Dawkins that the very interests that make him so odious in his anti-religious writing at least maintain his awareness of ther big picture. He’s not a good philosopher, but he is interested enough in the questions philosophers and theologians ask to think about them, not simply dismiss them as meaningless.

My own education and career were scientific. I can only say for myself that the deeper I looked both into science, and into that vast area of knowledge beyond science, purpose has become more obvious and pervasive in nature, not less. Since it has taken me over six decades to arrive where I am, no doubt I have been getting progressively less mature, and more superficial - but that trajectory somehow seems counterintuitive.


Would it help you if I granted (again) that design arguments are not of the type used in Euclidean geometry or formal logic, and are not, therefore, absolutely binding upon the intellect? (But of course, that actually applies to all arguments in natural science of any kind! I have been told again and again on these websites by atheist Ph.D.s that “science does not deal in proofs.”) Design arguments are always of the “best explanation” type, and therefore always leave an escape hatch for those who don’t find design explanations the “best” available.

To save long and pointless future arguments between us, let me say that I grant from the outset that it’s entirely possible that the universe just happens to have a set of constants, properties of matter, natural laws, etc. suitable to the evolution of intelligent life, and that intelligent life has arisen here on earth (and maybe nowhere else, but maybe in some other places as well) through blind processes of chance and natural laws, and that there is no purpose or planning behind anything that has arisen, whether in the organic or inorganic sphere. I therefore grant that multiple coincidences strikingly favorable to life, multiple coincidences within the structure and physiology of organic beings, etc., do not “prove” that design is real.

You, in turn, however, should grant that the opposite is possible, i.e., that the universe has the features it has due to the choices of an intelligent mind, and that the arrangements of the cosmos and life may be caused by design. If you can concede this as a real possibility, then we can have profitable future discussions. If you reject this as even a possibility, then it’s unlikely our discussions will bear any fruit.

Yes and no. It is obvious that from many points of view we can speak of parts. On the other hand, you are quite right to say that organic beings are “grown” rather than “assembled from parts” in the way that a machine is. However, even granting this important difference, it does not follow that design language becomes irrelevant. It simply means that “design” has to be returned to its broad original sense of “contrivance”, and not constrained by metaphors such as carpentry or stonemasonry or factory assembly of machines. The body is a set of dynamic systems rather than a stiff assemblage of hard chunks, but it doesn’t follow that there are no means-ends relationships throughout the body; in fact, they are quite pronounced (even below the cellular level, where the components are molecules rather than cells, tissues, or organs). It is not as if our deeper understanding of biology (deeper than Paley’s was) has made the number of fortunate coincidences less; the opposite is the case. So design thinking is still relevant, though it has to move away from its earlier dependence on machine and carpentry analogies.

Agreed, but if “assembly” is given a different sense, then organisms are indeed “assembled” – not by the stitching together of discrete parts, but by the attachment together of incoming atoms and molecules (drawn into the organism from the digestion of external foodstuffs) into the protein “stuff” that cells and tissues and organs are ultimately made of. Those atoms and molecules are assembled according to templates, rather than randomly thrown together. But the very existence of such templates, far from evidence against design, are very much compatible with a design perspective. In a very real sense, organisms can be said to be assembled from the “top down” rather than the “bottom up,” for the while they are built up from simple atoms and molecules, templates dictate where and when those atoms and molecules will be placed, joined, separated, etc. And top-down assembly, whether of a “mechanical” or “organic” type, is compatible with design thinking.


If one accepts consensus science, then these arguments end at fine tuning, possibly after a detour through multiverses and anthropic explanations.

At some point scientific explanations must end.

Once you reach that end, you either accept the Principle of Sufficient Reason and postulate some form of necessary being or you simply take the universe (or multiverse) as brute. The choice is made (or not made) according to your personal worldview and priorities.

This is all philosophically well-trodden ground. Two recent books I enjoyed.


That comes straight from ID proponents.

The ID program is, predominantly, an anti-evolution program.

They keep arguing “teach the controversy”. If “evolution” and “design” were not seen as incompatible terms, then there would be no controversy.



I was disagreeing with the view that likened the eye to the camera.

Then, from your further posts, it seemed that you only meant that they both use a lens. That’s a totally trivial and uninteresting point. They both use a lens, but they use the lens in very different ways and to accomplish very different things.

If your only point was that both use a lens, then there was reason for me to continue engaging with that point.

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That’s quite a straw man!

Since I used the third person, I’m clearly not using the concept of depth to refer to my expertise as you are claiming, but am referring to getting deeper into the cases that “look designed” and finding that the look vanishes.

Anyone can do it!!!

Your straw man is analogous, but my position is not.

There you go with the straw man again. I’m no evolutionary biologist. I’m merely talking about being willing to look more deeply into the mechanisms that look designed on the surface. Are you?

Perhaps you didn’t notice that your pal Eddie just deflected my offer to have a deeper discussion about a structure that “looks designed” by telling me instead to read a book that he considers to occupy the “high ground.”

When we look at the relationships between the crystallins and other proteins, where do you see purpose?

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Are you this condescending in person?

And I’m following the back and forth carefully and saying that it is.

It’s highly relevant to the mechanism. Telescopes don’t have liquid lenses with a thickness that is dynamically changed. “The same function” of focusing light in this case is dictated by physics. Look deeper at the mechanism of focus and apparent design vanishes.

More unnecessary condescension. I will remind you that I was stating a middle ground between you by agreeing that there is an appearance of design until one looks deeper.

Don’t you like compromise?

I don’t see why you are referring to me, as I wasn’t saying anything about optics. Would you please stop with the condescension?

Does it discuss the origin of the crystallins?

Does it discuss the fact that the retina doesn’t send an image to the brain, as a camera would?

Those are just two examples of the appearance of design vanishing. If he omits those, he is cherry-picking.

No, I’m talking about the sort of depth one can often find even in Wikipedia.

No. I mean the view that anyone can get if they wish. It’s obvious that you don’t wish to. Why not just state that up front?

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I thought we had come to enough mutual understanding by now that you knew I wasn’t interested in defending all the culture-war activities of some ID proponents, but only in discussing design, chance, theories of design detection, teleology in nature, etc. If you want to go into the mode of harping on the faults of the Discovery Institute on the social front, you may of course do so, but I’m not going to respond to such complaints. I’ve already indicated that I don’t agree with all the rhetorical tactics employed by certain ID proponents at certain times. I find your comments much more interesting when you argue about more foundational theoretical issues. We have all these Ph.D.s in various subjects talking here, so why not talk about things that are intrinsically theoretically interesting?

That won’t do. I conceded the term “camera eye” to you immediately, and all the rest of my posts concerned the refracting telescope, not the camera. You haven’t been responsive since then, except to say that there was no likeness at all between the eye and the telescope – which is incorrect.

It’s unlike you in these discussions not to concede a point like that, which caused me to wonder aloud if you were having a bad day yesterday. :slight_smile:

Side Note: On the distinct subject of cameras and eyes, there are both differences and similarities between the ways they work. You might want to read the more balanced discussion of a photographer on the subject:

I didn’t mean to sound condescending. If I did, I apologize and will try to watch my choice of words in the future. I meant to convey not condescension but impatience – impatience with what appeared to be a hurried and inaccurate reading of what I was saying to Neil.

(And by the way, if you wish to talk about attitudes, I find that Ph.D.s in biology on sites on origins sometimes sound condescending to those they disagree with; they may not intend to do so, but that comes across. Of course I can’t say that the attitudes of the biologists who tend to argue on blog sites are typical of all biologists – maybe it tends to be a more self-assured sort of biologist who spends time arguing on the internet, and most biologists are gentle as pussycats in the way they exchange ideas. But if I had to judge biologists (and scientists generally) by the way they argue on origins sites, I would say they tend more to the arrogant than to the humble side of the conversational spectrum. I may sometimes try to overcompensate for this perceived arrogance – which is combined often with massive intellectual narrowness – and that may make me sound more scolding than I am in normal conversation.)

Now, to get back on topic.

No, it isn’t, and I’ll try to explain why, Whatever the human eye lens is made of, it bends light rays so that they converge at a point on the retina. That is its function within the system, to bend light. Do you wear glasses or contact lenses, or know anyone who does? These things used to be made of glass; now they tend to be made of plastic. Those are two different substances, but the function of a glass lens and the function of a plastic lens are the same. The function of the lens in the eye is the same as the function of the lens in a telescope – to bend light rays so that they tend to converge upon a point. The difference between the eye and the refractor telescope is where the point of convergence is. You can see this from diagrams of various types of refracting telescope.

I’m perfectly aware of this. So was William Paley, over 200 years ago. That doesn’t change the fact that in both devices the light is bent by the lens. It means only that the lens of the human eye is adjustable to circumstances – a very useful and good thing.

In fact, the means by which the lens shape is altered is intricate, and thus the lens-connected parts of the human eye are more elaborate than the lens of a telescope. This excited the admiration of Paley.

Not just “in this case” but in all cases. The bending of light is always governed by principles of physics. How much it bends will depend on type and thickness of medium, but the general rules are rules of physics.

Neil and I weren’t arguing (directly, anyway) over the question of whether there is even an appearance of design in nature. I was having that dispute with Rumraket. Neil and I were arguing only over whether the telescope and human eye are similar in some respects (me) or not similar at all (Neil). Possibly you have conflated the two discussions in your mind. Anyway, the only thing I wanted to draw out of Neil was a retraction of his claim that the eye and the telescope aren’t similar at all. Now he is conceding that there is a similarity regarding the lens, but adding that he thinks the difference is “trivial.” I don’t agree that it’s trivial, but at least he now implicitly admits that he made an overstatement. So unless Neil resumes the conversation with new points, I consider that discussion done with.

In social, political, and family life, compromise is essential to maintaining peace and harmony. I don’t see what role it plays in theoretical matters. And people on your side of the fence seem to take the same view. When a “compromise” between creation and evolution is suggested, i.e., that evolution is real but that God guides or plans the process, I haven’t found any atheist biologists, and a surprisingly small number of Christian biologists, who like that sort of “compromise.” They seem to think that such a view is theoretical hash, and don’t see a virtue in compromises of that sort.

Yes, you were. By denying my point – that the lens in both the human eye and the telescope perform the same function of bending light rays, regardless of what material they were made of – you were saying something about optics. You were denying what numerous physicists, astronomers, opticians, etc. have written about the parallel between the lenses of a telescope and an eye.

I don’t recall immediately, but I don’t think so; but of course any evolutionary account one might give of the hypothetical evolutionary origin of crystallins (and by the way, Denton accepts macroevolution fully) would have to go into far too much detail to fit into the plan and purpose of Denton’s book, which is relatively brief.

It discusses the retina in some detail. Denton has a Ph.D. in biochemistry and his area of research was retinal cancers. He knows a little bit about the retina.

You offer speculations without having read the book. And this, I find, is all too common on these sites – that atheist or atheist-sounding biologists hear about a book secondhand, and, without reading it, start imagining what it might say and all the ways it is probably wrong.

Denton knows a little more about eyes and retinas than most people who write stuff for Wikipedia.

Do you always impute motivations to people in that way? Can you not see that this is just as bad as, and probably worse than, condescension? I have noticed that a number of atheist biologists have a tendency to do this. Is that something taught in the training of modern biologists – that scientists have the right to impute bad motives to others – or is it just a habit of biologists who post on sites like this?

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Michael Denton has found the opposite; that the deeper he looks into nature, the stronger is the appearance of design. He has written four books on this theme, one quite long (Nature’s Destiny), and three quite short (Fire-Maker, The Wonder of Water, Children of Light), the last three all published quite recently. You’re not of course obliged to read his books, but if you think design proponents have no evidence for their statements, you can find more evidence in his writings. (By the way, Denton accepts macroevolution and natural causes, and he is not a Christian, so you wouldn’t have to fear being contaminated by the views of a fundamentalist.)

If ID embraces evolution as a method of design, then the ID movement will wither and die.

I disagree with the view he expresses. Contrary to what he writes, we do not perceive images (except when looking at photographs).

So are you claiming that every single similarity he points out is non-existent, or only that the two systems are not as similar as he is claiming? If you are claiming the latter, I have no reason to continue disputing. If you are claiming the former, then I think you are simply in error, because if there were no other similarity at all, at the very minimum both employ a lens to refract light rays.

I have been asking only for a very small retraction or qualification on your part, not a surrender of your overall point that the eye is not exactly like man-made optical devices. So I’m not reactively saying yes to your no. But you are remarkably reluctant to say, “OK, so I overstated the facts a bit.” Anyhow, whether you want to concede that or not, I’m content to drop this discussion, with no hard feelings. Can we move on?

ID would never embrace “evolution as a method of design” – I’m not even sure that such a conception is logically coherent, given the normal meanings of “evolution”, “method”, and “design”. But already many ID proponents grant that a design might be actualized through a process of evolution.

And far from causing ID to wither and die, this view gives ID a wider appeal, because it means that people other than creationists will buy and give consideration to ID books. Denton has now published three pro-evolutionary books, and guess who the publisher is? Discovery!

Yes, both use a lens. Apart from that, they are not very similar at all.

The camera lens and the telescope lens are quite complex, being designed to avoid chromatic aberration and spherical aberration. The eye lens is crude, and does not try to avoid those aberrations.

But adjustable, via a complex set of muscles, which is a pretty neat trick, and one which a single fixed lens in a tube can’t duplicate.

I think another reason I am an ID proponent is because of the stances the ‘critics’ of ID take against it. They often go against my sense of justice and fair play. Take for example two recent posts here at PS by @swamidass.

In one he seems to be claim that two threads here at PS consist of an ID argument and that the argument in each is an apologetic for God.

I think this is helping me better understand where Joshua is coming from if he thinks ID is making arguments that are supposed to demonstrate the existence of God. If he’s not making that claim I hope he will explain himself and why he offered these two threads as examples.

When people claim that an argument, which in my mind has nothing to do with God, is actually engaging in apologetics, and bad apologetics at that, I think it actually ends up, in my case at least, working against the arguer and pushing me towards greater support for ID.

In another thread Joshua made another claim that I also deem to be mistaken:

Where has Behe ever stated that IC1 systems “cannot evolve by natural mechanisms.” There was a rather lengthy conversation here on just this very issue that seems to have escaped Joshua’s attention.

I think it would help if people would stop trying to turn ID arguments against the Darwinian mechanism into arguments against evolution as a whole and against natural processes as a whole. It just serves to harden my stance on the side of ID rather than weaken it. If it matters. :slight_smile:

To Joshua’s credit he want back and edited his previous comment.


This is not a single fixed lens, but two lenses, that are not fixed. What is your point @Timothy_Horton?


You seem to have retreated from design to function. I’m not seeing the connection.

For example, you clearly function as a shill for books by DI Fellows, but that may not be your designed purpose in posting here.

It seems that your apology for being condescending was not sincere, since you continue to write extremely condescendingly.

I would request that you treat me as an individual, because you seem to be lumping me in with people with whom I may disagree. Can you manage that?

Then it cherry picks and I’m not interested.

A paragraph would suffice. Omitting that is cherry-picking.

That wasn’t my question, which was about the mechanism of information transfer from the retina to the brain. Do you really not see that, or are you just pretending not to?

You seem to be obsessed with PhDs. Why?

Does Denton’s book discuss the fact that the retina doesn’t send an image to the brain, as a camera would?

I’m trying to determine if it is worth my time. I’m asking questions that you are not answering.

But does the book cover those two points I asked you about? You’ve evaded both questions.

Based on your responses to my questions, I am skeptical of your claim. Are you sure he just doesn’t want to see the appearance of design, so much so that he ignores basic mechanisms that don’t appear to be designed?

What has “Eddie” found when he looks more deeply?

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Why is it “retreating from design to function” to point out that the lenses in both telescopes and eyes perform a similar function? Isn’t that simply a fact?

Why is it condescending to mention the existence of diagrams of eyes and telescopes – when the person I’m talking to denies any similarity between the two? What is wrong with asking them to look at a picture to make the point?

A fair request. I will make that effort. Will you please advise some anti-ID folks you encounter to make the same effort not to lump Behe in with the creationists?

That doesn’t follow. And not having read the book, you can’t possibly know whether it cherry picks. You are trying to infer that it cherry-picks from a secondhand account of what’s in it. On my side of the campus, we would call such inferences “bad scholarship.”

Absurd. A 135-page book aimed at making a broad general point (and not just about the eye, but about the physics of light, the electromagnetic spectrum, the composition of the atmosphere regarding the admission of EMR, and many other things) is not a 1,000-page textbook on the biochemistry of the optical system. It necessarily has to omit thousands of important scientific considerations that one would expect to see in a specialized technical work. Why pick on just one such consideration?

You can’t know whether the book unjustly excludes relevant facts without reading it to see whether or not any excluded material damages the argument of the book.

He discusses as much as needs to of that in order to establish his point. If you are in doubt about that, you can read it, instead of speculating about it. It won’t cost you any money – your university library can order the book upon a faculty member’s request, and you can then read it for free.

Because so many Ph.D.s in science are involved in these debates, and throw their weight around about it.

Denton’s argument is not based on proving that the eye is exactly like a camera. Nor was mine.

The book is about 130 pages of easy, general prose, with generous spacing between the lines. Someone with scientific training should be able to read it pretty quickly. In the time you have invested in reading my posts and the posts of people I’m talking to here, plus the time you have spend composing replies to me and reading my replies, you could have read a good chunk of it by now.

Are you aware of the fact that Denton is not a Christian, and, as far as anyone can tell from his statements, currently adheres to no religious tradition? What would be his motive for wanting to see the appearance of design?

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