Intelligent design is the study of patterns (hence “design”) in nature that give empirical evidence of resulting from real teleology (hence “intelligent”). In this definition, real 37 teleology is not reducible to purely material processes. At the same time, in this definition, real teleology is not simply presupposed as a consequence of prior metaphysical commitments. Intelligent design asks teleology to prove itself scientifically. In the context of biology, intelligent design looks for patterns in biological systems that confirm real teleology. The definition of intelligent design given here is in fact how its proponents understand the term. This definition avoids two common linguistic pitfalls associated with it: intelligent design’s critics tend to assume that the reference to “design” in “intelligent design” commits it to an external-design view of teleology; moreover, they tend to assume that the reference to “intelligent” in “intelligent design” makes any such external design the product of a conscious personal intelligent agent. Both assumptions are false.
Granted, intelligent design is compatible with external design imposed by a conscious personal intelligent agent. But it is not limited to this understanding of teleology in nature. In fact, it is open to whatever form teleology in nature may take provided that the teleology is real. The principle of charity in interpretation demands that, so long as speakers are not simply making up meanings as they go along, terms are to be interpreted in line with speakers’ intent and recognized linguistic usage. The definition of intelligent design just given, which explicitly cites real teleology and does not restrict itself to external design, is consistent with recognized meanings of both words that make up the term intelligent design. Design includes among its recognized meanings pattern, arrangement, or form, and thus can be a synonym for information. Moreover, intelligence can be a general term for denoting causes that have teleological effects. Intelligence therefore need not merely refer to conscious personal intelligent agents like us, but can also refer to teleology quite generally. quoted with permission from final pages
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