Intelligent Design Origin Of Life

Carl Woese, discoverer of a whole domain of life, regretted not overthrowing Darwin

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Origin of Life Circus From Suzan Mazur’s The Origin of Life Circus, which I (O’Leary for News) started to read the other day, is already beginning to seem like a must-have on origin of life:

Biophysicist Carl Woese [1928–2012] many consider the most important evolution scientist of the last century, and Woese was, indeed, honored with the major prizes in his lifetime—except for the Nobel, perhaps because he was truly a revolutionary. In our conversation (Chapter 15), for example, which may be the last feature interview he gave, Woese lamented not having “overthrown the hegemony of the culture of Darwin.”

Carl Woese is perhaps best remembered for his identification of a “Third Kingdom of Life,” the archaea—a methane-producing microbe that lives in a range of habitats, including the gut of modern animals. Like other microbes, the most prevalent form of life on the planet, archaea rely on the lateral transfer of information.

University of Chicago microbiologist James Shapiro and Oxford’s Denis Noble, who now have a web site called “The Third Way of Evolution”, pick up where Woese left off on paradigm shift in my separate interviews with them (Chapter 15).

From Third Way,

The vast majority of people believe that there are only two alternative ways to explain the origins of biological diversity. One way is Creationism that depends upon intervention by a divine Creator. That is clearly unscientific because it brings an arbitrary supernatural force into the evolution process. The commonly accepted alternative is Neo-Darwinism, which is clearly naturalistic science but ignores much contemporary molecular evidence and invokes a set of unsupported assumptions about the accidental nature of hereditary variation. Neo-Darwinism ignores important rapid evolutionary processes such as symbiogenesis, horizontal DNA transfer, action of mobile DNA and epigenetic modifications. Moreover, some Neo-Darwinists have elevated Natural Selection into a unique creative force that solves all the difficult evolutionary problems without a real empirical basis. Many scientists today see the need for a deeper and more complete exploration of all aspects of the evolutionary process.

Actually, overthrowing Darwin will take care of itself, once the real story gets out there. Lots of change, maybe, but not much Darwin?

See also: Suzan Mazur, author of evolution industry expose, has new book on the origin of life industry

and Some basic reasons why the field is stalled

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36 Replies to “Carl Woese, discoverer of a whole domain of life, regretted not overthrowing Darwin

  1. 1
    rhampton7 says:

    The problem ID theory specifically addresses is a strictly material explanation for life and evolution. Say Darwinism were to ‘fall’ and yet replaced by another theory equally materialistic. What will ID theory have gained? A stronger argument for materialism because of a better theory.

    So not only do you need to show why Darwinism fails, but why all material explanations fail. Thus the operation of symbiogenesis, horizontal DNA transfer, the action of mobile DNA and the epigenetic of information is just as much a problem for ID theory as are random mutations.

  2. 2
    Timaeus says:


    ID is not against “material explanations” but only against “material explanations which by deliberate intention allow no role for intelligence.”

    Thus, Michael Denton, an ID proponent, offers an explanation of evolution that is, on one level, nothing but “material explanation” (no “life forces” or miraculous tweakings), but on the more important level incorporates intelligent design.

    The problem with the Darwinian explanation, and with most (not all) other explanations for evolution is not that they invoke material causes, but that they leave no room for intelligent planning or input of any kind; indeed, the whole *point* of the work of most evolutionary biologists is to try to expel any notion of intelligent planning. That was the motive of Darwin, and it’s the motive of Dawkins. For Dawkins, the whole purpose of biology is to teach the human race that all those things that look designed really are not designed. That’s quite a different position from that of Denton, whose explanations on one level are just as “material” as those of Dawkins, but on another level introduce design as a real, not illusory, cause.

    You have been in these debates long enough that there is no excuse for you to interpret “design” as “miracle” or “intervention.” And those who claim to be familiar with the notion of “formal cause” might be able to see a way in which, without invoking miracles, one can interpret evolution in terms of intelligent planning. But modern biologists are satisfied with a truncated notion of “explanation” which involves only material and efficient causes. This is why, in the end, evolutionary biology, as practiced by most, is a sub-intellectual discipline, from an Aristotelian point of view. It is not “science” in the full Aristotelian sense, but only a maimed part of science. It gives only partial knowledge, as looking at an object with only one eye, rather than two, gives only a partial view of the object. To look at evolution with a right or “material” eye and also with a left or “formal” eye — that is the task of a full, philosophically sophisticated evolutionary biology. But of course, that is not a project that the modern scientific academy, with its bias in favor of “nothing but” reductionist explanations, will support or reward, and any biologist foolish enough to attempt it had better have tenure, because otherwise he will soon cease to be an employed biologist.

  3. 3
    rhampton7 says:


    You are correct that design need not rely on miracles or the supernatural – but there is one enormous caveat that can not be dismissed.

    For example, Weaver birds build very intricate nests. IF their intelligence can be said to derive completely from material processes, then we have documented examples that materialism alone can produce both an Irreducible Complexity and Specified Complexity.

    This means that the current scientific assumption about materialism, at least in the case of Weaver birds, is warranted. Thus, even though the nest was intelligently designed, that new information arose from strictly natural means. However, that’s not the premise of ID theory:

    whether we appeal to materialistic causes like mutation and selection, or non-material causes like intelligent design

    Only if intelligent design is a non-material cause – i.e. supernatural – can ID refute the materialism baked into science.

  4. 4
    Timaeus says:


    It is always puzzling to have a conversation with you, because you claim to be both Catholic and Thomist but tend to put forward both premises and conclusions that are more reminiscent of Lucretius or Hobbes. But be that as it may, I shall respond.

    I see no reason to grant that the intelligence of any animal is derived completely from material processes.

    But even if that were the case, I would not have to grant that human intelligence, which in some respects marks a quantum leap above animal intelligence, is derived completely from material processes. And if there is even *one* intelligence in the universe that is not derived from material processes — man’s — then there could be others — the intelligence of angels, or of God.

    Frankly, I don’t always agree with the choice of words of some ID proponents. I would see ID more in terms of “formal causality” in something like (not perhaps exactly like, but something like) Aristotle’s sense, than in terms of “non-material causes,” which, though correct in the sense that “formal cause” differs from “material cause,” sounds to a typical modern ear like invisible ghosts or spirits running around monkeying with things.

    As for materialism being “baked into science,” I might ask you whether for you “materialism” means nothing more than “naturalism” (which can allow the existence of God, as long as God is understood to work exclusively through natural causes), or whether “materialism” has the further implication that there is no God (because God is by definition not material, and nothing non-material exists). If the latter, then you are saying that modern science assumes from the start that there is no God. Is that your position, that modern science is not just naturalistic, but materialistic, in the sense of denying non-material reality and therefore denying God?

    We might also want to discuss the ambiguity of the word “science.” Do you mean “modern science” — science based on thinkers such as Descartes and Bacon? If so, I would agree that there has been a tendency of modern science to be “materialistic.” It’s not a uniform tendency; Newton’s views were not materialistic, and I don’t think Kepler’s views were either (though I know less about the latter). But even granted that the main thrust of modern science has been materialistic, must *any* science of nature necessarily be materialistic? I don’t think so. I don’t think the science of either Plato or Aristotle was materialistic, and I don’t think the science of some of the schools of Indian or Chinese thought was materialistic.

    So it might help if you would clarify what you mean by terms such as “naturalism” and “materialism,” and state whether you think that *modern* natural science (as opposed to Thomistic natural science, Aristotelian natural science, etc.) is necessarily incompatible with the existence of God. And you might also tell us whether by “God” you mean nothing more than the abstract deity of “classical theism” as put forward by certain modern “Thomists” (dubiously named), or whether you mean the full-blooded Biblical conception of a God who is very much involved in personal and wholly contingent ways in both history *and* nature.

  5. 5
    rhampton7 says:


    I don’t know if intelligence and free will are simply the products of “meat computers” or that they must appeal to a supernatural component. Thomism requires free will is supernatural. Then again, if we are fated from the outset as some Protestants argue, then the “meat computer” would provide a explanation for why that must be materially so. I’m willing to let Science challenge Philosophy/Theology for the best descriptions of nature.

    In any event, it does not matter. Science and Intelligent Design as discussed, having nothing to do with my opinions.

    I’m trying my best to understand ID theory on its (via Dembski, Meyer, Behe et al.) terms. As I understand it, ID theory equates naturalism with materialism as evidenced by Stephen Meyer’s methodological naturalism (MN). Do you disagree?

    Further, ID theory proponents often make the charge that “Science”, because of its basis in material explanations, discounts the notion the supernatural and thus intelligence.

    MN tells you that you simply must posit a material or physical cause, whatever the evidence. One cannot discover evidence of the activity of a designing mind or intelligence at work in the history of life because the design hypothesis has been excluded from consideration, before considering the evidence, by the doctrine of methodological naturalism (and the definition of science that follows from it).


    Here Stephen Meyer clearly posits that Intelligent Design, by necessity, is excluded from MN and thus Science, because only material causes are considered. In other words, Meyer claims that Intelligent Design is a non-material cause undetectable to Science because of the materialism baked in. Do you think this is a misunderstanding on my part?

    So, for the sake of argument, if we grant that Weaver birds nests are examples of IC/SC, then we can safely conclude that they are intelligently designed, yes?

    Now if we posit that Weaver bird intelligent is solely a function of MN, then we must accept that “nature” can be creative, yes?

    Therefore, the only way to deny that nature has any creative abilities (can generate IC/SC) is to claim that Weaver bird intelligence must be in some part supernatural. So to with any non-human intelligence be it mammal, fish or insect.

    Human intelligence is a higher hurdle to clear. However, ID theory never claims that the intelligence it detects is equal to or surpasses that of human intelligence because it makes no claims about the designer. Do you disagree?

  6. 6
    Silver Asiatic says:


    ID theory never claims that the intelligence it detects …

    ID detects design, not intelligence.

  7. 7
    rhampton7 says:

    Silver Asiatic

    ID absolutely detects intelligence via evidence of intelligent causation. How could you suggest otherwise? Do you claim to know of an example of intelligent design that arose from non-intelligent cause(s)?

  8. 8
    Silver Asiatic says:


    ID directly observes design, not the intelligence that created the design.

    In the same way that ID makes no claims about the designer, it makes no claims about the intelligence.
    ID observes design, which necessarily is created by some sort of intelligence. But ID does not observe or analyze the intelligence itself.

    I’d just quibble about what is actually detected. You’d be right to say ID detects ‘intelligence of some kind’ as an essential aspect of an observed-design, but the intelligence itself is not observed.

  9. 9
    rhampton7 says:

    Silver Asiatic,

    Note that I did not say that ID observes intelligence, but that it detects it. You erred in assuming that I did not understand the difference.

    Did you disagree with anything else from #5?

  10. 10
    Timaeus says:


    In your past postings here you have often given the impression that Thomism is a non-negotiable for you. Now, I am hearing something different: that you would consider declaring Thomism false if the best science appeared to oppose it. Interesting…

    I don’t agree that science and intelligent design have nothing to do with your theological opinions. No one is without motivation in these debates. If you are indeed committed to Thomism, you will not allow certain conclusions to be drawn, and you will read the evidence of science in ways that, say, Jerry Coyne would not. And if your opposition to ID springs in part from theological conceptions that you hold about God, then I need to have those theological conceptions out in the open. (The biggest problem with the Protestant TEs is that they are constantly taking theological swipes at ID, but will not clearly advocate a theology of their own.)

    Not only are you withholding your thoughts about God and Christian theology; you are withholding your thoughts about modern science. I asked you if modern science was inherently “materialistic” in a particular sense; you have not answered that question.

    Regarding the Meyer quotation and other statements like it, here is how I understand them:

    1. Regarding natural versus supernatural:

    If someone wants to know the truth about origins, he has to consider two possible answers: purely natural, and supernatural or partly supernatural. Prior to all investigation, either one might be true. Therefore, the student inquiring into the origin of the solar system, or of oxygen on the earth, or of life, or of vertebrates, or of man, will have to consider the possibility that at one or more points along the way some supernatural activity was involved. If the student rules out either of these possibilites a priori, the student is being metaphysically dogmatic. So when considering, for example, the origin of life, the student must find out everything we know so far, and then must weigh and balance the two possibilities, the natural and the supernatural. It will not be possible to declare a clear winner, but it should be possible to declare which is “the best explanation” given *current* knowledge. (The best explanation may change as new knowledge flows in.) For Meyer, who believes that the origin of life involved not merely design but actual miraculous action, “the best explanation” is direct divine activity to create the first living cell, along with the genetic code and all other necessities of life’s operations. In his view, that should be a permissible conclusion for a scientist to draw. That is, a scientist should not rule out the possibility of the existence of a supernatural being who interacts from time to time with nature. The scientist’s job is to give the most rational explanation for what we see in nature, and if that explanation happens to involve a non-material being who assembles the first living matter, that is fine.

    2. Regarding design versus chance:

    All ID proponents, whether or not they agree with Meyer about the need for direct divine input at the beginning of life, or at the Cambrian Explosion, think that design is inferable from living nature. They think that at the very least life would have to be “set up” in the fundamental laws and constants of nature. Once that setup was accomplished, it might well be that galaxies, solar systems, planets, life, and man would emerge in accord with natural laws and common contingencies. In such a case, nothing “supernatural” is involved beyond the first creation of matter-energy and the laws and constants; after that, the universe runs itself. So if there is not design of the bat’s wing, the snake’s bite, etc., there is at least design of the universe so that variations such as bat’s wing and snake’s bite are bound to emerge.

    The difference between these two conceptions is that in Meyer’s view, there is a close relationship between the design and making of particular things, whereas in the other view, the relationship between design and actual making of particular things is more remote: the universe in a sense makes its own parts without any involvement by the designer, but the fact that it is capable of making its own parts is due to the supreme intelligence of the designer.

    Both of these are legitimate views within the ID camp. the former view is held by Meyer, and apparently (I surmise) by Johnson and Dembski and Wells and Nelson; the latter view is held by Denton, and sometimes Behe comes close to it (though he endorses directly neither Denton’s view nor the view of the others).

    So within ID you can affirm a hands-on designer or a remote designer. And the remote designer is in principle compatible with a wholly naturalistic evolutionary process. However, ID proponents who accept evolution (Behe, Denton, Torley and others) do not believe that the biological evolutionary process, even if wholly natural and without supernatural tweaking, could have been wholly or even primarily Darwinian in character.

    With this general discussion in mind, you should be able to apply the various ID positions to your weaver bird example, or any other example, and envisage what each type of ID proponent would say about it. I don’t think I should have to do the detail work for you on that.

    Regarding your last question, ID is not as powerless to speak about the designer as you make out. ID is powerless to speak about the designer’s ultimate motives or ultimate nature in the way that religion speaks about them. But ID is not powerless to *partly* characterize the designer based on what appears in nature. For example, if Denton’s cosmic-biological design inference is correct (read *Nature’s Destiny* if you want it in full), the designer has solved the problem of self-reproducing automata, and therefore is *much* more intelligent than the very best human engineers and scientists. So yes, it is in principle possible to infer that whatever designed the universe or life is much more intelligent than a human being. What is forbidden in ID is dragging in information about the designer known from *revelation* rather than inferred from the facts of the universe.

    This is all I have time for on this thread — unless you are willing to be more forthcoming regarding: (1) your statements about Thomism (non-negotiable or not? and if negotiable, which truths of Thomas are up for grabs, and which would you hold the line on no matter what modern science appeared to show?); (2) your statements regarding the intrinsic connection between science and materialism (any science of nature at all, or only modern science? and if modern science, then does materialism automatically deny the existence of God, meaning that a biologist has to be an atheist?)

  11. 11
    Timaeus says:


    You should be able to do this yourself, but I would make a qualification to what I said about Meyer. Meyer would not say, speaking as a scientist, that God or divine intervention created the first life. He would say as a scientist that some unknown designer created the first life. But speaking as a Christian, he would identify that designer with the God of his tradition. The science, he would say, could take him only to the designer and the designer’s basic attributes (existence, intelligence, freedom of choice, etc.); for the rest, faith in revelation would be needed. Similarly, supposing that it turned out that only a non-material being could have been the designer. We might term such a being “supernatural” because that being would not be made of “natural” stuff like matter and energy. But *which* supernatural being was involved, ID could not say. Was it the Allah of Islam, the YHWH of Judaism, or the Triune God of Christianity? Was it Siva? Was it Vishnu? Was it Ahura Mazda? Nothing in ID’s design-detection bag of tricks could determine the identity of the designer so closely. At most ID could say that once one pushes the natural as far back as one logically can, one will meet with the supernatural, and that a supernatural designer has to be posited to explain even the natural facts. But no conclusion regarding “which religion is true” can be drawn from that inference of an ultimately supernatural cause.

    Once you supply these qualifications which my hasty summary account left out, you will see that Meyer’s position regarding a designer, even a supernatural designer, is not inconsistent with his claim for the religion-neutrality of ID.

  12. 12
    Silver Asiatic says:


    Note that I did not say that ID observes intelligence, but that it detects it. You erred in assuming that I did not understand the difference.

    That was my mistake, yes.

    Did you disagree with anything else from #5?

    I think you’re misreading what ID is to some extent – that’s why I reacted (incorrectly) to your comment.

    As I understand it, ID theory equates naturalism with materialism as evidenced by Stephen Meyer’s methodological naturalism (MN). Do you disagree?

    I disagree. I don’t think ID equates naturalism and materialism – that distinction is irrelevant to the ID inference. ID is just the empirical observation of design. The philosophical distinctions regarding materialism are not essential to the theory.

    Further, ID theory proponents often make the charge that “Science”, because of its basis in material explanations, discounts the notion the supernatural and thus intelligence.

    I think you’re right that ID proponents say things like that, but again, I don’t think those ideas are relevant to the ID proposal. There are some IDists who believe the design found in the origin of life on earth is best explained by directed panspermia — and thus, a material explanation for the intelligent design (although not the ultimate explanation). ID has always accepted that — the intelligence does not need to be supernatural.

    Here Stephen Meyer clearly posits that Intelligent Design, by necessity, is excluded from MN and thus Science, because only material causes are considered. In other words, Meyer claims that Intelligent Design is a non-material cause undetectable to Science because of the materialism baked in. Do you think this is a misunderstanding on my part?

    You’re arriving at a conclusion about ID, when what Meyer was talking about was MN. He wasn’t saying that ID is excluded from science. He was pointing to a limited view of science that would eliminate ID on the basis that ID could point to a non-physical intelligence. So, Meyer was offering a critique of the MN bias at work in much of science today.

    So, for the sake of argument, if we grant that Weaver birds nests are examples of IC/SC, then we can safely conclude that they are intelligently designed, yes?

    Yes, and in this case we know the source of the intelligent design – the birds themselves.

    Now if we posit that Weaver bird intelligent is solely a function of MN, then we must accept that “nature” can be creative, yes?

    Ok, sure, but human beings are part of nature – therefore nature can write theological texts and compose symphonies? You could say that, but basically what is meant by nature is the blind, unintelligent forces of physics. That’s what naturalism proposes.

    Therefore, the only way to deny that nature has any creative abilities (can generate IC/SC) is to claim that Weaver bird intelligence must be in some part supernatural. So to with any non-human intelligence be it mammal, fish or insect.

    I think the origin of intelligence indicates that no, known, natural (blind, unintelligent) process can create it. The source could be some other kind of natural intelligence, but as with every regress of causes, we eventually have to get back to something that preceeds nature. Whether it is supernatural or preternatural would be another question.

  13. 13
    rhampton7 says:


    Thomism is not infallible. Do you believe otherwise? And finding flaws in Thomism, and correcting them, is not equivalent to rejecting Thomism. I can’t recall if I discussed this previously with you or someone else, but Catholic theology, though heavily influenced by Thomism, is not strictly Thomist.

    All of which does not matter. Neither does my motivation. Do we need to consider the theological motivations of ID theorists in conjunction with ID theory. Of course not! The argument will stand or fall on its own merits. So why would you hold me to a different standard?

    What is important to remember is that Intelligent Design theory does not make any claims about the intelligence it detects. Is it one or more intelligent entities? Does the intelligence originate inside our universe or outside? Is the intelligence a purely material entity or is it in part or whole non-material? On these questions ID theory is agnostic. Do you disagree?

    Only if ID theory is wedded to the concept that IC/SC is categorically a non-material phenomena does it get into trouble. It then falls into the same trap as (MN) by rejecting a priori a possible explanation for ideological reasons.

    Thus ID theory, as it is currently formulated, can not claim that nature lacks creative capabilities. It’s an open (scientific) question, because the nature of the Weaver bird’s intelligence is unknown (as just one example).

    I agree with the appeal to God as the ultimate cause, but that is not a helpful answer in this respect (to scientific explanations). Natural forces, despite being created by God, are sufficient proximal explanations for all sorts of phenomena. ID theorists do not dispute this. So a strictly material intelligence, should it exist, would likewise be an equally sufficient proximal explanation. Hence ID theory should be compatible with the claim that nature may be a creative force capable of generating IC/SC.

  14. 14
    rhampton7 says:

    I think the origin of intelligence indicates that no, known, natural (blind, unintelligent) process can create it

    But that is not my point. Once intelligence exists, as with the Weaver bird, should it operate exclusively on material causes – the motion quantum particles, the interaction of chemicals, etc. – then it would be scientifically correct to say that materialism can account for the generation of IC/SC. Not to the origination of intelligence within the universe, but to specific examples afterwards like nests or ant hills.

  15. 15
    Timaeus says:


    You and I have discussed Thomism on a few occasions on this site. The impression I got was that you thought Thomism was good theology and ID was intrinsically guilty of bad theology. That is why I asked you for clarification, in case some *theological* motivation for disliking ID was tainting your impartiality regarding ID’s empirical arguments. But I am willing to drop the discussion of Thomas for the time being.

    You still have not answered my question about science and materialism. You claimed above that science was materialistic. Without your definition of materialism, and without your specification of what science you are talking about (Greek natural science, medieval natural science, modern natural science since 1600, modern natural science since 1800, etc.), you have left me with a large gap in my understanding of your meaning. I hope you will fill in this gap, as it was you, not I, who asserted a relationship between science and materialism.

    You write:

    “What is important to remember is that Intelligent Design theory does not make *any* claims about the intelligence it detects.”

    No, this is not right. It is something that you have taken on board in trying to understand the claims of ID, but you have not got it right.

    ID is an inferential project. It attempts to infer things from nature. It can also (in principle, anyway) infer *certain things* about the intelligence behind nature. It is true that it cannot infer that the intelligence belongs to the Biblical God, that it cannot infer that the intelligence belongs to a “spiritual” being (as opposed to, say, a material alien from another dimension who created our universe as a science project), and that it cannot infer many other things. But you gave a very specific example. You spoke of the question whether or not the intelligence behind nature was greater than human intelligence. That question is in principle judicable by the methods of ID. If ID can infer what Denton infers in *Nature’s Destiny*, then it follows by inescapable logical necessity that the designer/s of nature is/are more intelligent than man.

    What is confusing you is that ID writers speak about not being able to identify the designer or describe the designer. The point there is that we have no direct access to the designer (such as, say, a religious prophet would have), and therefore can only know of the designer only those things which he allows us to infer from what he has designed. But it is certainly logically possible that the things designed could point to an intelligence far beyond our human intelligence. And given that one of the things which is allegedly designed, the living cell, is more complex by far than any computer or industrial system humans have ever designed, and that many if not most of its workings still escape our understanding, it is not merely logically possible, but logically inevitable, to conclude that *if* the cell is designed (rather than the product of sheer chance), its designer(s) is/are far more intelligent than we are.

    I have not claimed that nature has no “creative” capacities. Nor does ID claim that. Indeed, it is clear in Denton that nature is very “creative” in a sense. And if weaver birds can build nests through intelligence, that is neither here nor there as far as ID is concerned. I do not know of any ID leaders who would deny that certain animals possess limited intelligence that enables them to make things, and I don’t know of any ID leaders who are agonizing over the existence of such “creative” animals as if their existence threatens the very possibility of design inferences. If anything, they would see the existence of such animals as further positive evidence of design. How could it be that such a wonderfully intelligent creatures could have arisen by sheer chance, without the input of design at some level, even if that input was only into the foundations of the evolutionary process itself? One instinctively suspects design every time one watches such creatures. The onus, it seems to me, is on the person who claims to *know* that such creatures arose by a chancy blind-search process.

    I ask one last time for your exposition of your view on the relationship between science and materialism. I suspect that much of what you are saying about information, immaterial causes of information, etc., is tied up with notions of “nature” and “natural science” and “materialism” that you have hinted at, but not explained. I need to know how you are conceiving of nature, what you think are the proper limits of natural science, and most of all why you linked science with “materialism.” If you are unwilling to take the time to carefully answer *my* question about this, I feel no further obligation to give so much of my time to answering *your* questions.

  16. 16
    rhampton7 says:


    I answered your question about science and materialism re: Stephen Meyer’s (MN) and ID theory’s position on on the matter. Again, my opinion is not relevant. We are discussing what ID considers to be the problems with Science and its adherence to materialism.

    You can not infer that the designer of nature is greater than man because you can not know if life on Earth is the product of one designer from the outset or an ad-hoc compilation of many designers throughout time.

    Is it not possible that each extinction event, and subsequent explosion of new life is the work of one generation of designers reworking a previous generation’s design? Only on ideological/theological grounds would you reject this hypothesis. Again, ID theory is agnostic. But if I’m wrong, perhaps you can show me where Meyer, Dembski, Behe, et al. demonstrate that specific attributes of the designer(s) have been identified by use of Intelligent Design theory.

    And to be clear, it is your understanding the ID theory and its scientists dispute this claim:

    Material processes alone (absent an or intelligence or will or intent that is at least in part supernatural/non-material) can not generate IC or SC (again, speaking as a proximal cause).

    I think it can be easily demonstrated that some very respected people at UD would disagree with you. So I’m trying to sort the truth from the opinions. That’s why I keep rejecting your requests to talk about my opinions. My concern is to understand ID on its terms, as it defines “nature,” “natural science,” and “materialism”.

  17. 17
    skram says:

    I find it interesting that Timaeus puts Denton’s Nature’s Destiny in the ID camp. As I recall, the ID luminaries (Johnson, Dembski, Meyer, Nelson, and Behe) had a roundtable discussion of the book and expressed some fundamental disagreements with Denton. As far as I can tell, they disliked his idea that “macroevolution unfolds over time” without direct involvement from God the Designer. They wanted God who intervenes.

    Dembski: One can also understand natural law in a more general sense, of course, which lays the emphasis on the mechanistic or causal autonomy of nature. God doesn’t need to intervene to make the apple fall, because gravity is available to do that. And, on Denton’s account, presumably, God doesn’t need to intervene to create life, because some unknown self-organizing principle will do the trick.

    But this whole notion of “design by law” turns out to be an unstable equilibrium.

    If one focuses on “design,” then one looks for a designer–an intelligent agent–who will act at some point or another, even if only at the beginning of the story; and then laws fail. They’re insufficient. If one focuses on “law,” on the other hand, meaning the actual natural regularities, the designer inevitably fades away into a brute natural process. In fact I think this is what happened to the natural theologies of the early 19th century, which Denton admires. Science said, in effect, ‘Well, we can see the laws in action, anyway. Parsimony would tell us that the laws are sufficient, and to drop the designer as superfluous.’ The equilibrium tipped in favor of autonomous natural processes, and the designer lost his job. Permanently, say the philosophical naturalists. It is hard to see how Denton’s argument can avoid a similar fate.

  18. 18
    Timaeus says:


    I see now, in reviewing your older posts, that your remark about materialism being baked into science was your own paraphrase of Meyer’s view, not something you yourself affirmed. So I withdraw that part of my question.

    However, you *also* mentioned “the current scientific assumption about materialism” when speaking *in your voice* — not Meyer’s — about modern science. I would like to you explain what you mean by “the current scientific assumption about materialism.” Do all, or only some, “scientists” assume something about materialism? What do they assume? You have made this statement, of your own free will; I do not understand the statement; I am asking you to explain what you meant. If you are conversing in good faith, i.e., not just trying to appear to have won the argument, but actually trying to exchange ideas and information with me in hopes that we might learn something from each other, you will not block my understanding by failing to explain your own voluntarily offered statement. We shall see if you are conversing in good faith, from your next reply.

    As for the rest, the problem is that you are asking me to reconcile disparate accounts by individuals, whereas I am trying to restrict my discussion only to what all ID proponents hold in common. I will not be able to reconcile all the varying statements of Johnson, Meyer, Behe, Dembski etc. for you.

    What they have in common is not an argument about supernatural vs. natural. (Behe hardly mentions that contrast at all, and if he does, only glancingly, whereas, say, the earlier Dembski, and Johnson, put much emphasis on it; further, that contrast does not figure in the writings of Denton or Sternberg.) What they have in common is the claim that it is possible, at least in principle, to infer design of natural systems or entities, and their rejection of neo-Darwinism as an adequate explanation for the macroevolutionary process.

    You know, I could do the same trick on you with “modern evolutionary theory.” I could have you running in circles trying to square all the statements made by various proponents of “modern evolutionary theory.” There are large differences between Mayr, Gould, Dawkins, Kimura, Margulis, Newman, Coyne, Jablonka, Shapiro, etc. Their different views on evolutionary mechanisms are as diverse as the different views of ID proponents. But they all agree on a few core things: (1) there is common descent; (2) the transitions from one form to another are effected by wholly natural means, with no supernatural tinkering; (3) there is no built-in necessity which guarantees any particular evolutionary outcome, not even if a particular planet and particular starting date and time of the first life is specified.

    So if I wanted to, I could show you that “modern evolutionary theory” is incoherent because Shapiro’s statements can’t be squared with Coyne’s and Margulis’s statements can’t be squared with Dawkins’s. But you could reply that it isn’t your responsibility to account for every opinion expressed by every evolutionary theorist, and that in the main, the theory of evolution — meaning the common elements of the theory held by all — is a plausible hypothesis, and you accept that such a thing as evolution as occurred, while reserving the right to accept or reject particular formulations of individual evolutionary theorists. And that would be reasonable.

    I’m claiming the same right here. I refuse to spend hours upon hours parsing every statement you can call up from yesterday all the way back to 20 years ago, at the start of ID, and to try to reconcile and harmonize them all at any level of detail. I defend only the main claims: (1) Design is potentially inferrable; (2) Neo-Darwinism — along with analogous suggestions which depend heavily upon blind search — is an implausible explanation for evolution. For the rest, I take no responsibility.

    Meyer, Dembski, Behe, etc., all have institutional addresses at which you can reach them, if you wish to take up individual statements of theirs which you do not understand, or which you disagree with. I am not going to guess what each of them might say to each of your objections, especially since some of them, e.g. Dembski, have been known to change emphasis and ideas over time.

    If you want my response to the specific point about information and material causes, I would agree that Meyer and several other ID leaders have asserted that information — at least, large amounts of it — cannot come from material causes acting by themselves, but requires an entity — call it mind for the sake of a placeholder — which cannot be adequately explained in terms of material causes alone. But not all ID theorists have made that particular claim.

    Regarding your statement about whether the designer is one or many, it’s a hypothetical possibility that there could be a series of designers, each contributing a part of the whole. I suppose that one designer could have invented carbon dioxide, then another designer the simple nucleotide bases, then another designer a crude form of DNA, then another designer the first amino acid, then another designer invented the first simple cell, then another designer perfected the cell, etc. Note, however, that even by dividing up the chores in this way, we still come to hurdles (e.g., causing the DNA to associate with proteins and cell walls and so on) where no existing human designer would have the intellectual capacity to do the job.

    But even supposing that the design job could be broken up into bits, each comprehensible by the brightest scientists of today, the fact is that the brightest scientists today have not been able to put it all together sequentially in one big picture; no one knows as yet how the first cell formed or even could have formed; not even when we put the best protein experts, the best DNA experts, the best cell wall experts, etc. in the same room and allow them to exchange information and mathematics for years can they give a coherent account. So I could simply reduce my claim to: “We can infer that the totality of knowledge of nature exhibited by the collection of these designers far exceeds the totality of knowledge of nature of our civilization.”

    But really your objection is cavilling. On assumptions which you almost certainly accept (about the Big Bang, the birth of solar systems, the age of the earth, etc.), we are in practice not talking about one designer inventing a molecule 8 billion years ago, and another one inventing another molecule 6 billion years ago, etc. We are talking about a single designer, or an ensemble of designing intelligences operating at the same time — perhaps at the time just prior to the Big Bang, perhaps at the time of the first life, and perhaps also at some other times such as the Cambrian explosion or the emergence of man. The coherence of the overall connections between cosmos, earth, chemistry, life, higher animals, etc. is such (as you would know if you read Denton’s second book, which I don’t believe you have done) that even if several distinct intelligences are responsible for actualizing design in different periods, they are clearly all acting in accord with some overall design. And I fail to see any important difference between a committee of intelligences acting over time in order to realize a vision initially set forth by one of more of them, and a single intelligence that does all the designing itself.

    So your objection about multiple intelligences is purely theoretical, like the discussion of these people who say that the laws of thermodynamics (or some other laws) permit — in theory — a statue of General Grant to walk across the lawn, if all the molecules just happen to move “randomly” in the right way at the right time. But no one in practice supposes that this has ever happened or ever will happen, and to press it as a practical possibility is a frivolous ivory tower exercise. So is your multiple designer scenario, which you have concocted out of desperation, not because you think it is something that ever would have really happened.

    And finally, so what if you are right that ID cannot say for sure that the designer is more intelligent than man? Suppose all that it can show is that some things are designed, period. That does not matter. For, even if ID cannot measure the intelligence of that designer, if ID can show only “this system or organ or entity is designed by designers unknown” — if it can do that *in even a single case*, then to that extent Dawkins etc. are wrong. Dawkins says explicitly that biology is the study of things that look designed but are not. *If even one living system or organism really is designed, then Dawkin’s central axiom is falsified.* That is why the atheists fight so fiercely against any and all design inferences, never granting a single one of them even partial plausibility. They cannot allow even *one* case where design would be the most reasonable explanation. Their commitment to materialism is a totalitarian one.

    None of Coyne, etc. think that your bird’s nest example proves anything. None of them suppose that the ID people are talking about life being invented on earth by a bird, or a beaver, or an ant colony. The fact that a being made of matter such as a bird can design a nest (if indeed it does design, as opposed to acting on mechanical instincts without understanding) doesn’t mean that anything like a bird could have designed the first living cell. Clearly both ID proponents and all their significant detractors imagine that a different sort of entity is supposed to be the designer of the first life, of the Cambrian explosion, etc. So again your remarks seem irrelevant to the general discussion.

    Again I have spent too much time on this. I will simply summarize: I personally believe that it is possible, in principle, to infer that some natural things or systems are designed, without relying on premises derived from religion, using only our natural intelligence and the data that can be summoned forth from nature. This is the core assertion of all ID proponents as well. Beyond that, ID proponents approach origin questions in varying ways, and I neither know nor care whether all those ways can be reconciled into one perfectly harmonious theory, any more than you seem to know or care whether all the views of Dawkins, Kimura, Margulis, Gould, etc. can be reconciled into one perfectly harmonious theory; you seem quite willing to accept the fact of evolution without requiring that. I believe that for all practical purposes we can say that the designer of life, if one exists, must be either a single intelligence, or a multiple intelligence acting in such close coordination that it can be treated as an effective unity. I think that all the major ID proponents would agree with me on this point as well. And I think that this single or group intelligence is vastly greater than the intelligence of man. Again I think that every significant ID proponent would agree with me on that. So overall, on the *main outlines* of ID, your charge that I am not in tune with the ID leaders can be dismissed. On the details, it is very true that I do not always see eye-to-eye with some ID leaders, and sometimes I side with the minority of them rather than the majority. But so what? I have the right to disagree with thinkers within my own party, as Catholic theologians can differ from each other or as atheist evolutionary biologists can differ from each other. My disagreement, or the disagreement of ID theorists with each other on some points, no more proves that ID is completely untenable than disagreements between evolutionary biologists proves that common descent is untenable or disagreement between Augustine and Irenaeus proves that Christian theology is untenable.

    I have nothing against your attempt to get straight what ID is saying. I don’t mind your attempt to understand particular statements or authors. What I object to is the way you stand back and take potshots at what you believe to be incoherences in ID, never tipping your own hand on a whole range of issues, never revealing where your criticisms are ultimately coming from. So your readers are prevented from seeing that just possibly your own views on the origin of life, the origin of species, the existence or non-existence of design, etc. are even more incoherent than anything found in ID. It is much easier to be a critic than to offer a constructive alternative. I take it that you have no constructive account of origins of your own to offer, or that you have one, but do not have the courage to submit it to public scrutiny, as Behe, Dembski, etc. have put their ideas out for public scrutiny. That makes you a lesser scientist, lesser theologian, and lesser person than any ID proponent is, in my book.

  19. 19
    Timaeus says:


    Your comment about Denton and the ID roundtable (which by the way is a bit stale, having been raised by ID critics about a million times on the internet) is easily handled.

    First, Behe either was not part of that roundtable discussion, or if he was there, he was not the one offering a dismissal of Denton. (I did read the whole thing once, but it has been a while, so I won’t swear to this, but I think I’m right.)

    Second, while I can’t recall exact words, I recall that Meyer, Dembski, etc. found Denton’s evolutionary scenario untenable, i.e., they did not think that a front-loaded scenario was in accord with the scientific facts about DNA, information, etc., but I do not recall them saying that he was not a design theorist.

    Denton is clearly a design theorist in that he infers design from the facts of nature without reference to revelation. He uses the word “design” scores of times in *Nature’s Destiny.* He is also a Fellow of the Science and Culture division of Discovery. He publishes articles in BioComplexity. He appears in podcasts on Discovery. He goes to ID conferences and reads papers there. Michael Behe wrote a strong dust jacket endorsement for Denton’s second book. When you take all of this into account, it is pretty ridiculous not to count Denton as a theorist of “intelligent design.” The fact that he disagrees with Dembski or Meyer over *the means by which design was realized in nature* no more excludes him from the ID camp than the fact that Luther disagrees with Aquinas over *the exact working of grace in the Lord’s Supper* excludes Luther from the Christian camp.

    By the way, I disagree that the point of Dembski’s objections has to do with “wanting a God who intervenes.” That unnecessarily imputes a religious motive to Dembski here. Dembski’s argument against Denton’s position is not that it is theologically inadequate, but that it is not in accord with the scientific facts, i.e., we know of no means by which “laws” can make the kinds of choices that are necessary to establish e.g. the genetic code. You can disagree with Dembski’s science here, but he does offer the objection as a scientific one, not a theological one.

    As for Denton, I maintain that *Nature’s Destiny* is the best ID book yet written. It surpasses the others in that it does not restrict itself merely to criticism of neo-Darwinism (ND can’t explain a flagellum, can’t explain the Cambrian Explosion, can’t generate specified complexity, etc.), but offers a positive alternative to neo-Darwinism. I am not saying that I entirely accept Denton’s conclusions or that his arguments are without flaw, but it is the longest and most thorough *positive* account of origins to emerge so far out of the ID camp. I hope he will soon produce another book, taking into account the more recent discoveries in various branches of biology.

  20. 20
    rhampton7 says:

    About “the current scientific assumption about materialism” I’m refering to this idea expressed by Stephen Meyer:

    Biologists, and scientists generally, assume the rules of science prohibit any deviation from a strictly materialistic mode of analysis. Even most physicists sympathetic to design would quickly label their intuitions “religious” or “philosophical” rather than “scientific.” Science, it is assumed, must look for exclusively natural causes. Since the postulation of an intelligent Designer or Creator clearly violates this methodological norm, such a postulation cannot qualify as a part of a scientific theory.


    As to this “We can infer that the totality of knowledge of nature exhibited by the collection of these designers far exceeds the totality of knowledge of nature of our civilization.” I would add the caveat; “exceeds the totality of knowledge of nature of our civilization up to the present.” At one point pottery exceeded the totality of knowledge of nature of our civilization. It may that be in the future that humans or our genetic descendants will be able to create unique synthetic life forms with analogies to cells, dna, and the like.

    I would also leave open the door for other possibilities like intelligent cells. While it has no explanation for its origin, intelligent cells may explain life onward — if cells have enough awareness to alter their genetic structure to adapt to stresses and/or changing conditions, then the driving force behind evolution may not be a single grand intelligence but something much, much smaller and millions of times more numerous. Again, ID theory is agnostic on the matter.

    To be clear, I don’t find fault with detecting intelligence by way of detecting design. However, and this is the $64,000 question, can a designing intelligence be explained solely by material causes?

    IF ID theory categorically rejects that nature (materialism) may be capable of producing examples IC/SC then it is committing the same type of error as Darwinism and its categorical rejection of the supernatural via methodological naturalism (MN).

  21. 21
    Joe says:

    However, and this is the $64,000 question, can a designing intelligence be explained solely by material causes?

    If it can then ID is sliced off by the Razor, period, end of story.

  22. 22
    Joe says:

    Information is neither matter nor energy. It dos not just emerge from their interactions.

    Living organisms are also not just matter, energy and what emerges from their interactions.

    Those are two core tenets of ID.

  23. 23

    Woese lamented not having “overthrown the hegemony of the culture of Darwin.” – Was he a crypto Wedge Document subscriber???

  24. 24
    rhampton7 says:

    DNA is matter, the bits in memory chips are energy. So yes, information can be material.

    Living organisms are also not just matter, energy and what emerges from their interactions.

    You do realize that if this really is a core tenets of ID, and not a misunderstanding on your part, than ID theory necessarily relies upon supernatural causation. Not that it merely allows for the possibility, but that it rejects any other explanation except for the supernatural.

  25. 25
    Joe says:

    I didn’t say information couldn’t be matter. Matter and energy are required for its transmission and storage. Information is neither matter nor energy.

    Yes, DNA is matter. What allows organisms to utilize DNA is immaterial information- software. And no, that does not mean ID relies on the supernatural and it doesn’t matter anyway.

  26. 26
    rhampton7 says:


    The non-material is the supernatural.

    Also, it’s a point of conjecture that information exists outside of the material. It may be true, it may not. It’s an open scientific question.

  27. 27
    Joe says:

    My thoughts are supernatural!

    Conjecture? What conjecture? Weigh a CD loaded with information and a blank CD. If information were matter then one CD should weigh more than the other.

  28. 28
    rhampton7 says:


    You would need a really precise scale, but you could measure the difference in weight. A bit in a CD is produced by etching a small hole in the material. A completely blank CD has more mass than one full with information (pits).

    It gets a bit more complicated because a clear coating is put on top, which may fill the pits. But the clear coating should have a different density than the information medium, so again, there should be a difference in mass that is measurable.

  29. 29
    skram says:


    Second, while I can’t recall exact words, I recall that Meyer, Dembski, etc. found Denton’s evolutionary scenario untenable, i.e., they did not think that a front-loaded scenario was in accord with the scientific facts about DNA, information, etc., but I do not recall them saying that he was not a design theorist.

    In my view, the Dembski quote I provided establishes the nature of his objections to Denton pretty well. I won’t bother to repeat it.

  30. 30
    Timaeus says:


    In that particular passage from Meyer, I think he is merely complaining about the non-level playing field between natural and supernatural possibilities for origins. That is a fair point to make in itself, in the discourse of philosophy and methodology of science, but the problem is that readers might think that *design inferences* are all about postulating supernatural causes.

    For what it’s worth, I agree with you that Meyer sometimes conflates the simple inference to design and the inference to “the designer must be non-material” or “the designer must work through supernatural causes.” I have seen him do that in several places, and I’ve seen Dembski and Johnson do it, too.

    What is happening when ID writers talk suddenly about “the supernaturally produced,” where one would expect them to restrict themselves to “the designed,” is — I think –this:

    Meyer etc. have concluded that design is inferrable from nature.

    Meyer etc. have *also* concluded — by reasoning beyond the design inference proper — that the designer cannot be something material or natural, but must be immaterial or supernatural.

    These two conclusions, and the arguments that lead to them, Meyer etc. have rehearsed so often in their minds that the two ideas just tend to spill out whenever they write, and the two ideas get blurred together to the point where “it is supernaturally caused” and “it is designed” are sometimes treated as substitutes for each other. So it then looks to the reader who is trying to learn ID — i.e., the reader who has not read thousands of pages of ID writings and able commentary thereupon — as if an inference to design is an inference to the supernatural, i.e., to God. And since this goes against ID’s claim that God is only a *possible implication* of design in nature, the reader is understandably confused. Are the ID folks trying to prove the existence of design, or the existence of God? Often their writing does not clarify this.

    My approach to both thinking and writing is to separate things into steps and arrange the steps in logical order. Since the ID folks say over and over again that they aren’t trying to prove the existence of God by science, but merely to prove the existence of design, the following should be the arrangement of steps in Meyer’s argument:

    1. First argue for design. E.g., show that the DNA/protein complex could not have arisen by chance alone, but required a designer to set it up. It is in *this* step that the “design inference” proper is employed.

    2. Then make a further argument that the designer cannot be a material being and that his/her/its influence upon matter would have to be “supernatural.” This argument, though it can be made quite logically, is *not* a design inference. It is not about “the purposeful arrangement of parts” etc. It is another kind of argument. It may be a valid argument. But because it is not a design inference, it is not part of ID theory per se. It falls under “philosophizing about the implications of design in nature.”

    My criticism of some of the ID leaders is that they frequently conflate these two steps, thus giving the impression that it is part of *the essential definition of ID* that a supernatural being interfered with the laws of nature. But it isn’t. It may be a possible implication of design. It may even be a logically inevitable deduction from design. But it isn’t part of the definition of ID as an enterprise.

    When the ID people are being careful, they avoid this conflation. In most of the definitions you see on Discovery, for example, they will speak of an “intelligent cause” versus a “random cause” rather than an “immaterial cause” versus a “material cause.” The question whether the intelligent cause is material or immaterial, natural or supernatural, is left on one side. And that’s as it must be, if ID is pretending to be only a modest theory of design detection using scientific methods. But while the *definitions* on Discovery are usually careful, the *discussions* in some columns on Discovery (and in other venues), by ID proponents speaking as individuals, are sometimes *not* so careful.

    I think the basic idea of ID — that we can infer intelligence from the facts of nature — is a very reasonable idea, with a pedigree going back to ancient Greeks and running through the history of Western thought. And I think that updating the arguments used for this idea, i.e., supplementing the anatomical approach of Paley with approaches derived from information theory, probability theory, and biochemistry, is quite a sensible thing to do. Obviously the argument for design in nature will be more convincing to modern people if it uses the science of today instead of the science of centuries ago. But I think the ID people get so confused by their double motivation — to found a science of design detection, and to be Christian apologists — that they don’t always arrange their ideas in a clear and disciplined way, bearing in mind that a great chunk of their *potential* audience regarding design inferences is not interested primarily in Christian apologetics. They should be writing to catch the attention of people like Nagel and Monton more than anyone else. They already have the conservative Christians onside, so there is no need to beat the intuitive connection between a designer and God to death. What they need is to convince more people in the secular world.

    In my view, the two best ID authors for convincing the people in the secular world are Behe and Denton, because they focus much more on inferring design than inferring God or supernatural realities. The secular person is skeptical of supernatural realities and will not easily accede to their existence; but he is capable of seeing that some things look very much as if they are designed and are hard to explain on any other hypothesis. I would guess that the books of Behe and Denton have made a good chunk of their sales — maybe as high as 50% — to people who do not necessarily think of themselves as churchy. I would guess, on the other hand, that the books of Johnson have sold mostly to conservative evangelicals. In terms of definition, exposition, and extension of audience, I think that Behe and Denton have found the better approach.

    I hope that nothing I have said is taken as a slam against the other ID folks. I think that Meyer has made some very good arguments regarding methodology and regarding the arbitrary nature of the genetic code, Dembski regarding mathematics and information and computer simulations, and Wells regarding the propaganda side of Darwinism and the insufficiency of genomic science by itself, separated from developmental biology, to be able to explain life or evolution. I admire and am grateful for those contributions. ID is a team effort of a community of like-minded thinkers. But I think that certain ID authors are clearer in exposition and better at not conflating various distinctions. My presentation of ID is a streamlined presentation of its core ideas, based on ID as I find it in its clearest and most consistent statements — regardless of which ID proponent made them — and I do not pretend to be able to vindicate all statements made by individual ID authors, any more than I would try to vindicate all statements by Thomistic philosophers if I were trying only to make a plausible case for the basic propositions of Thomistic thought.

  31. 31
    Timaeus says:


    I have reread the Dembski passage. I now see why you might take Dembski to mean that Denton is not a design theorist. Dembski appears to be arguing that you can’t be a design theorist if you don’t believe in a hands-on designer. I have several responses concerning this.

    First of all, that roundtable discussion is *very* old. I am not sure that Dembski would say the same thing about Denton’s book today, or about Denton’s more recent work. I would like to see more recent statements of Dembski on Denton.

    Second, I don’t think that Dembski is fair to Denton’s treatment. Denton’s book makes clear that the whole universe is designed, as it were a great computer program for producing intelligent beings. It is clear that for Denton there has to be a designer of the overall setup, and a very intelligent designer who has calibrated laws and constants with great precision. So if Dembski is implying that Denton did not argue for real design in that book — design that is the product of an intelligence — Dembski is simply wrong, has not read the book carefully enough.

    Third, I think that Dembski’s objection that a designer would have to be more frequently active than Denton’s designer is a reasonable objection. I don’t say Dembski is right, but it’s a reasonable objection. It is not clear that any purely front-loaded arrangements could guarantee the outcome of a self-conscious, manlike being, without many special adjustments along the way. And that argument is based on what we know of mutations, genes, inheritance, the arbitrariness of the genetic code, etc. These are not religious objections, but scientific ones.

    Fourth, even if it turns out that Dembski’s arguments are valid, I think it would be unfair not to class Denton as a design theorist. Denton would still be a design theorist because he inferred design from nature. But his *particular* design theory would be shown to be flawed. It would be ridiculous to say that Lamarck did not count as an “evolutionary theorist” because his mechanism of evolution was (allegedly) wrong. The proper thing to say would be that Lamarck was not a very good evolutionary theorist.

    My only point was that Denton is properly classed with the ID theorists, in the same sense that Lamarck and Darwin were both evolutionary theorists or that Aquinas and Luther were both Christian theologians. Denton has the two universal characteristics of design theorists: (1) Rejecting Darwinian explanation as grossly insufficient; (2) Inferring design from “the purposeful arrangement of parts” and from fine-tuning etc. I was neither saying nor implying that his detailed ideas matched those of the other ID theorists. Nor was I saying that all ID theorists held his version of design in high regard. But clearly he is a design theorist. His continuing presence in BioComplexity, on Discovery podcasts, at ID conferences, etc. seems to confirm my judgment. The ID folks would not showcase Denton so often if they did not think he was a member of the family, even if only a cousin or uncle rather than a favored son.

  32. 32
    rhampton7 says:


    My criticism of some of the ID leaders is that they frequently conflate these two steps, thus giving the impression that it is part of *the essential definition of ID* that a supernatural being interfered with the laws of nature. But it isn’t. It may be a possible implication of design. It may even be a logically inevitable deduction from design. But it isn’t part of the definition of ID as an enterprise.

    I agree completely agree. Moreso, I suspect that if ID leaders made an effort to be as clear as you have then quite a few ID supporters would be very disappointed (including some here at UD) to learn that ID theory does not make as strong a claim as they were led to believe.

    Finally, one last question. If you were reviewing the public discussions of material, evolutionary scientists (counterparts to Meyer, Dembski, Behe, et. al.) would you be as charitable in presuming innocent intentions in regards to mispeaking?

  33. 33
    Timaeus says:


    I’m glad we finally agree on at least some parts of our analysis.

    I would add this: *all* of the ID leaders, *some* of the time, do make the appropriate separation between “proving God” and “proving design”; and *some* of the ID leaders, *most* of the time, make that separation; so the problem here is one of inconsistency — inconsistency across the ID writers, and inconsistency even in the presentation of individual ID writers, depending on the venue they are speaking or writing in. It is this inconsistency that had given the opponents of ID so many opportunities to make hay.

    I wish it were otherwise. I have tried to use my time here to present a more focused and internally coherent version of ID, drawing upon what strike me as the best and most disciplined definitions and other statements I can find on the Discovery website, and in the writings and speeches of the ID proponents.

    I cannot answer your last question, because you have not given any examples of the kind of “misspeaking” you are talking about.

  34. 34
    rhampton7 says:


    Perhaps you could write an article for UD explaining why ID theory does not infer that a designing intelligence must be non-material/supernatural, and why some accidentally conflate the issue. If I were to do this, I think the argument would be roundly dismissed, but you are trusted and respected (at least in comparison to myself).

  35. 35
    Timaeus says:

    rhampton (34):

    No need for a new article. If anyone argues with you, you can just link them to my wise words on this page. 🙂

  36. 36
    rhampton7 says:

    Wouldn’t have the same impact. Perhaps promoting comment #30 to the front page as has been done recently with others, like RDM’s challenge to naturalistic hyperskeptics regarding THEIR “extraordinary claims”?

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