Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Correspondence with Australian reporter


Here’s an exchange with an Australian reporter who asked some perceptive questions about ID (my answers are interspersed in italics):

Dr Dembski,

My name is [snip]. I am a journalist working on an Australian daily newspaper, [snip]. Debate surrounding intelligent design is starting to gather pace here in Australia, especially this week with the Time cover story and a local politician saying the issue should be looked into.

I’m preparing a story on intelligent design. In Australian at present the issues seems to be being debated among cognoscenti in both Christian and academic communities (not neccessarily exclusive) with participants following predictable – ID versus Darwinian Theory respectively – and wonder if you would not mind answering just a few questions for the article.


Your definition of intelligent design

The study of patterns in nature that are best explained as the result of intelligence.

When you first wrote of the subject did you think it would have such impact and such a shelf-life.

Yes I did. My editor at Cambridge University Press, when I first suggested that he attempt to get the New York Times to review my technical monograph The Design Inference, chuckled at the prospect. Yet three years later the Times did a front page story featuring my work and that of my colleagues (April 8, 2001). And the momentum has only increased since then. Intelligent design gets at the very heart of our origin story: Are we here as the result of an intelligence that had a purpose for bringing us about? Or are we here as the result of a blind mechanistic evolutionary process, which treats intelligence not as a fundamental causal power in the universe but simply as a strategy for furthering survival and reproduction? Intelligent design touches on a very basic human concern: How did we get here and what is our purpose? This transcends the Bible-Science controversy. That’s why ID is not going away.

Do you consider intelligent design should be taught alongside evolution theory in schools

I would like to see it taught alongside conventional evolutionary theory, but as a choice that teachers are entitled to make — its teaching should not be mandated. If there are to be any legal strictures here, it should be against those who would teach evolutionary theory exclusively and uncritically. Certainly, censoring criticisms of evolutionary theory must not be allowed — the theory, as any theory, has its faults, which need to be fairly pointed out, and that includes a discussion of alternative views, like intelligent design.

Is the controversy that has resulted since you postulated intelligent design not a conflict between religion and science but rather an argument over filling in the spaces were both do not fit.

Evolutionary theory and intelligent design both have a scientific core: the question whether certain material mechanisms are able to propel and evolutionary process and the question whether certain patterns in nature signify intelligence are both squarely scientific questions. Nevertheless, they have profound philosophical and religious implications. Have a look at http://www.designinference.com/documents/2005.06.Defense_of_ID.pdf.


The Designer is unique as unique God is. When religions speak of “gods” they intend different aspects or attributes of the unique God. In this sense there never were very "polytheistic" religions. All traditional religions are strictly monotheistic. God is unique because the metaphysical Being is One. niwrad
I agree that any Designer must be supernatural, and moreover, any theory that the Designer is "aliens" is ridiculous, because if there are "aliens" they must also be the children of the Designer. But I am troubled by something. Some religions have multiple gods, so could there be an Intelligence theory with Multiple Designers? If ID is taught in schools, would a theory of Mutliple Designers have to be taught in school in order to not favor monotheistic religions? Does evidence for a Designer contradict any evidence for Multiple Designers? Does ID favor certain religious beliefs over others? kharley471
"Ben Z" is perfectly right. The Designer cannot be a natural being. Because we should ask about him the same questions we ask about man (how and where did man arise from?). The Designer must be supernatural. niwrad
Would it be correct to say the debate over Intelligent Design can be broken down into five components? (1) Whether or not ID is a valid scientific tool. Personally I believe that this question is a foregone conclusion considering that ID is useful in deriving whether an object was conceived by intelligence in fields like archaeology, forensics, cryptography, and SETI where the results do not pose a danger to anyone's belief systems. Well...or at least everyone is so focused on biology that I've never seen anyone deny ID is useful in those fields. (2) Whether or not it is valid to apply the scientific tool of ID to Cosmology and Biology. (3) Whether or not the scientific tool of ID is returning false positives in regards to Biology. (4) Whether or not the results from the application of ID to Biology supports or contradicts certain aspects (common descent, RM + NS, etc.) of evolutionary theory. As in, whether or not both ID and "certain" evolutionary models could still be valid. (5) Whether or not the metaphysical implications of ID are valid. As in, whether or not we are able to detect an Intelligent Designer through scientific inference. Most objectors to ID seem intent on bundling all 5 together and then denying the entirety of ID as a package. I believe that if the subject is approached by building a strong foundation in question 1 that the acceptance of ID would go smoother. Gumpngreen
I think the question is not so much about the terms "natural" and "supernatural", but any Designer must, in my opinion, transcend our space-time continuum. A Designer must exist outside of our time and universe. I think it is interesting that our modern day definition of science, which uses the word "natural" assumes that there is a "supernatural" since why else would there need to be a distinction made that science is "natural". Otherwise it would just be called "science", right? Even if you assume that a Designer is supernatural and therefore falls outside of the realm of natural science, the design occurs within the natural universe. I think much of the uproar around ID, and questions concerning its validity as science, stem from the fact that most people don't have or don't want to accept a clear set of assumptions about a Designer. All logical arguments are based on a certain set of assumptions. If you have those in place, the rest (design inference) also falls into place. reblevins
If you don't care about the truth why do you prefer to conclude there is no designer? DaveScot
I keep reading http://www.designinference.com/documents/2005.06.Defense_of_ID.pdf. over and over again, and I also read "Mike Gene's" explanation http://www.idthink.net/back/iden/index.html. But for the love of me, I do not understand how this designer does not have to be supernatural. If I accept that this designer could be, say, a space alien, then wouldn't this space alien also have to be under natural laws, and this space alien could not withhold the natural laws that apply to it from applying to us. So, we can observe its natural laws also, and come to the conclusion that these natural laws should lead to its existence and then ours? If we can do this, then why not leave out the designer in the first place? Ben Z

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