Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

In the past twenty years, how has the landscape changed for ID?


In 2002–2004, I (O’Leary for News) worked on a book, By Design or by Chance?, about the ID movement and community, as I understood it at the time.

Much has changed. Certainly, Darwinism certainly isn’t the hot stuff it was. Heck, even Darwinian racism is coming to be seen as a problem. So it’s clearly no longer protected by pixie dust.

But now, readers, what do you see as the most significant changes in the last twenty years for ID and for Darwinism?

News, when I was taking classes in the history of science, it seemed to me then that British Deism was an unstable way-station half-way between Theism and Atheism. Despite many big names (including Paley!) and lots of books and articles, no one today seems at all interested in defending Deism. Perhaps I should make a caveat and say that "Theistic Evolution" is looking more and more like Deism, but of course everyone at Biologos would deny that vigorously. My claim is that Darwinism is exactly the same sort of animal as British Deism. It is a way-station between some sort of Paley or Aristotelian teleological biology, and a mechanistic gene-editing engineering biology. Just as Deism served its purpose in splitting teleology from a benevolent creator, so also Darwin served its purpose in splitting teleology from this exquisite machinery. Once we have mastery of the machinery, we no longer need to remind ourselves where it came from--we are too busy modifying and making it ours. Once we have the keys to the car, we no longer have to admire people passing by in exquisite automobiles. Darwin helped us with our biology-envy, but once we can transplant organs from harvested prisoners, modify genes in in vitro human embryos, and apply morality drugs to the residual resistant population, we don't need Darwin anymore. His theories may be worthless, but his spirit lives on. As Humpty Dumpty said to Alice, "The question is who is to be master, that is all." Yes, Darwin will fade because it is a powerless, useless theory. And yes, ID will increase, as it should, because finding purpose is essential to harnessing the power of biology. But what will not increase is the fear of the Lord. When biology was mysterious, it was also the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Now that we have tasted the fruit, we have the power to change it, for good and for evil. But what we have lost in this exchange, is the fruit of the Tree of Life. Robert Sheldon
Denyse, The title of your book really nails the issue which Phillip Johnson accurately identified as primarily a philosophical one. In terms of ID, it's Intelligent Design vs. (Darwinian) Unintelligent Design with each side of the argument relying upon different interpretations of the scientific evidence. Over the past 20 years, books like Steve Meyer's "Signature in the Cell" and "Darwin's Dilemma" have powerfully tackled two of the most significant issues in the origins debate. "Signature" painted a persuasive picture of how our increasing scientific knowledge has made the growing gap between life and non-life virtually insurmountable without intelligent input. "Dilemma" buried the myth that increasing species diversity would have ultimately produced the disparity of the higher taxa. In addition, Doug Axe's work on protein space brought solid biologically relevant mathematics into the proverbial equation multiplying improbabilities into unimaginable implausibilities. Built upon the solid foundation of cosmologists that the origin of the universe came into existence in the finite past, more and more people have come to realize that Mind preceded matter ... and it matters. That said (and I could have said a lot more about the contributions of Mike Behe, Jonathan Wells and a host of others in the ID community), I don't think a tipping point will ever be reached within the greater scientific community toward any ID "theory" simply because the natural sciences are limited to explaining how nature functions. Describing natural phenomena is what scientists get paid to do. This is why scientists receive NSF grants. Making a plausible case for ID doesn't do that. Yes, ID does a wonderful job undermining the validity of Unintelligent Design and for that I'm very thankful. But my sense from talking to a number of scientists at UCSB who are Christian is that better research needs to be done to more accurately describe how nature functions even if it turns out that purely natural processes inhibit major evolutionary change from occurring on a gradual step-by-step basis (in the absence of any influence or direct action by an Intelligent Designer). Battman
Polistra @5: Good observation. Could it be that the pressure of the piling evidences is making the anti-ID crowd slowly realize that reality might be different than they wanted to believe? jawa
Not much change in the cultural and legal requirements, but a big change in the language of textbooks and articles. Previously every sentence started with "Evolution caused". Now a lot of sentences include phrases like "This system was designed for..." or "humans were designed to...." polistra
A mechanism for hunchback promoters to readout morphogenetic positional information in less than a minute
Cell fate decisions in the fly embryo are rapid: hunchback genes decide in minutes whether nuclei follow the anterior/posterior developmental blueprint by reading out positional information in the Bicoid morphogen. This developmental system is a prototype of regulatory decision processes that combine speed and accuracy. Traditional arguments based on fixed-time sampling of Bicoid concentration indicate that an accurate readout is impossible within the experimental times. This raises the general issue of how speed-accuracy tradeoffs are achieved. From development to chemotaxis and immune response, living organisms make precise decisions based on limited information cues and intrinsically noisy molecular processes, such as the readout of ligand concentrations by specialized genes or receptors
https://elifesciences.org/articles/49758 jawa
BobRyan @2: Excellent point. jawa
There has never been any evidence to support macro-evolution (speciation) and never should have been considered a valid theory. Without something being witnessed and the results replicated, it remains a hypothesis. Darwin admitted the Cambrian explosion posed a problem for his hypothesis, but wrote it off as more fossils would eventually been found. He was wrong and still remains a problem for his hypothesis. When pointing to fossils don't work, since there has never been a fossil showing mutations leading from something to something else, they point to adaptation. Adaptation is no more proof of speciation than the universe is proof of a multiverse. BobRyan
Scientific research, specially in biology, has made discoveries that increasingly confirm the ID paradigm. This trend seems to accelerate as research digs deeper into the controls. We ain’t seen nothin’ yet. jawa

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