In the near decade that I’ve been watching the Intelligent Design movement, one thing has consistently amazed me: the pathological inability of many ID critics to accurately represent what ID actually is, what claims and assumptions are made on the part of the most noteworthy ID proponents, and so on. Even ID critics who have been repeatedly informed about what ID is seem to have a knack for forgetting this in later exchanges. It’s frustrating – and this from a guy who’s not even a defender of ID as science.
But I’m interested in progress on this front, and I think I’ve come up with a good solution: let’s have an ID quiz. And let’s put this quiz to critics, in public, so at the very least we can see whether or not they’re even on the same page as the ID proponents they are criticizing.
I want to stress here: the goal of this quiz isn’t to score points, or force ID proponents to concede controversial things – asking ‘Is there a complete and satisfactory origin of life theory?’ is an important question, but it’s not what I’m after here. I’m talking about the bare and basic essentials of Intelligent Design arguments, as offered by Dembski, Behe and others.
To that end, here’s the quiz I’ve come up with, just by recalling off the top of my head the systematic mistakes I see made:
1. Is Intelligent Design compatible with the truth of evolution, with evolution defined (as per wikipedia) as change in the inherited characteristics of biological populations over successive generations?
2. Is Intelligent Design compatible with common descent, with common descent defined as the claim that all living organisms share a common biological ancestor?
3. Does Intelligent Design, as offered by its most noteworthy proponents (Behe, Meyers, etc) propose to explain any purported incident of design by appeal to miracles or “supernatural” acts of any kind?
4. Does Intelligent Design, as offered by its most noteworthy proponents, argue that any given purported incident of design must have been performed by God, angels, or any “supernatural” being?
5. Is Intelligent Design, as offered by its most noteworthy proponents, compatible with atheism?
6. Does Intelligent Design, as offered by its most noteworthy proponents, rely on the bible, or any religious document? (as a source of evidence, etc)
7. Hypothetical scenario: a designer starts an evolutionary process. The designer arranges the environment and the organisms involved in the process in such a way so as to yield a particular, specified and intended result, with no intervention on the designer’s part aside from initially setting up the situation, organisms and environment. Is this an example of Intelligent Design in action, according to ID’s most noteworthy proponents?
8. Revisit 7. Stipulate that designer only used completely “natural” means in setting up the experiment and successfully predicting the result. Is this still an example of Intelligent Design, as offered by its most noteworthy proponents, in action?
9. An ID critic proposes that intelligent aliens, not God, may be responsible for a purported incident of Intelligent Design – for example, the origin of the bacterial flagellum. Has the ID critic proposed a scenario which, if true, would disprove Intelligent Design, as offered by its most noteworthy proponents?
10. A creationist argues that evolution must be false, because it isn’t mentioned in the Bible. Has the creationist made an Intelligent Design claim?
This list could be tweaked or expanded, I’m sure. But I have a suspicion here: I think many ID critics, at least critics of public note, would be unable to pass the quiz I just outlined. Not just unable, but unwilling – because to answer it would be to obliterate some common misrepresentations of Intelligent Design, and for whatever reason, those misrepresentations are very important to people. And pardon the repeated inclusion of ‘as offered by its most noteworthy proponents’ bit – I’m being stuffy about that because I don’t want to see someone exploit a loophole and run off on a tangent.
Regardless, I offer this quiz for ID regulars – critics and supporters alike. Feel free to take it in the comments if you’re interested! I can already name a few ID critics on UD I think would successfully pass the test, and maybe some ID proponents would actually fail it. Perhaps we’ll see.