Intelligent Design

Looking for Patterns in Nature

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Intelligent design’s place at the table:
Intelligent design is the scientific pursuit of understanding patterns in nature, its proponents say.
By Julia C. Keller

. . . . That the complexity of nature argues for a designer is not a revolutionary idea, said Ronald Numbers, a historian of science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Numbers added that for the general public, the concept of God’s design in nature is a no-brainer. “Ninety percent of Americans are theists. They’re able to draw on a huge reservoir in a popular belief of a designer God,” he said. . . .


23 Replies to “Looking for Patterns in Nature

  1. 1
    mageen says:

    Two unrelated questions: (1) could you comment on the defeat of the eight members of the Dover School Board who were up for re-election yesterday? What does that say about how ID is perceived and how does that play into your elaborate media strategy? (2) How do address the idea of intelligent design *not* being directly linked with the notion of a “God” in light of Thomas Aquinas and his following Aristotle on this matter? (I’m thinking of the fifth aspect of the cosmological argument, from design to an intelligent designer.)

  2. 2
    dodgingcars says:

    “From the point of view of the most prominent theologians today, not only is ID poor science, it’s also poor theology,” said John Haught, a Catholic theologian at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. “To think of God as a designer is to diminish the divine mystery.”

    Hmmm.. apparently Mr. Haught is not familiar with Saint Paul:

    Romans 1
    19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

  3. 3
    DaveScot says:

    Someone here has pointed out several times that if ID isn’t science then the claim that evolution is an undirected process isn’t science either because the only way to falsify the claim of no direction is by there being a scientific way to detect direction.

    Darwin accepted that demonstration of irreducible complexity in any biological structure would falsify his theory. NeoDarwinists insist that such falsification is not science. Thus there’s no way to falsify the claim of no direction in evolution. Yet they continue to make it. 38 Nobel prize winning scientists recently wrote a letter to the Kansas BoE stating that evolution is an undirected process. No equivocation there. 38 Nobel prize winning scientists either advanced a pseudo-scientific claim to Kansas or they unknowingly bestowed the blessing of legitimate science upon ID. Dumbasses. Idiot savantes.

  4. 4
    Rick Toews says:

    “We stick to natural causes in science because it works,” said Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center of Science Education, an organization that defends the teaching of evolution in public schools based in Oakland, Calif. “Science is brutally practical. If it works we grab it, even if we don’t like it much,” she said.

    Yes. Of course. In seeking explanations for phenomena in the present, we stick to natural causes: these are what we can observe, test, and repeat. And yes, this approach works is well attested; and our level of knowledge is much enriched by it.

    But the controversial claims of evolution fall outside of what is observable in the present. It therefore seems inappropriate–fallacious, actually–to appeal to the well-earned credibility of science in the present to endorse claims made in regard to that the unobservable past. Yet such appeals seem commonplace. They are even apparently made by intelligent folks one would think should know better. I wonder why?

  5. 5
    jmcd says:

    Saying that evolution is an unguided process is the same as saying that it is a natural process. Everything that we know about life’s progression on Earth would suggest that evolution is indeed a natural process. Irreducible Complexity and Specified Complexity both rely on what we do not yet know. Nothing in ID has been shown to explain what we know as being the product of a non-natural/supernatural process. The Nobel winners were simply stating this fact: everything we know suggests that evolution is a natural process.

    Calling Nobel Prize winners “dumbasses” is pretty silly. You are talking about people that have quite possibly individually contributed more to society then the sum total of what you and your ten best friends will accomplish.

  6. 6
    jmcd says:

    You can throw in everything that I might accomplish as well.

  7. 7
    Rick Toews says:

    “Everything that we know about life’s progresson on Earth…”

    But how do we know these things? Is it because we’ve actually seen it happen? Or is it because we’re taught that that’s how it happened?

    “Nothing in ID has been shown to explain what we know as being the product of a non-natural/supernatural process.”

    This seems rather strange. Information received from space (say, a string of prime numbers) would probably be recognized as strongly suggestive of an intelligent source. Yet the vastly more complex information encoded in our DNA presumably falls under the heading of “what we know” to be the product of “natural process.” So again, how do we know this? And why is it that, even though in every one of the multitude of cases in which we encounter information of which we know the source, it’s the product of intelligence, many nevertheless insist that the genetic information we all carry around in our bodies must have a natural cause?

    “Calling Nobel Prize winners “dumbasses” is pretty silly.”

    Yeah, I’d probably agree; and I don’t doubt that the contributions of these folks deserve tremendous respect. At the same time, that doesn’t render them immune to intellectual blindspots.

  8. 8
    Ben Z says:

    “Saying that evolution is an unguided process is the same as saying that it is a natural process.”

    That’s just begging the question. I could reword it anyway I wanted to: “Saying that evolution is an unguided process is the same as saying that it is unnatural.” Neat.

  9. 9
    jboze3131 says:


    in another thread you said darwinisn isnt inherently atheistic, yet in this thread you proclaim that all processes on earth have been easily shown to be unguided. of course, that is not a scientifc claim- how would detect the lack of guidance?

    if all of the history of the universe is unguided, that sounds pretty atheistic to me!

    and how did unguided suddenly become natural? thats an arbitrary definition you or someone else gave it, and it means nothing.

    and yet again, you show a lack of understanding of ID.

    “Nothing in ID has been shown to explain what we know as being the product of a non-natural/supernatural process.”

    ID doesnt strive to explain unnatural or supernatural processes. youre putting definitions into words that dont fit. if something is designed, it seems that youre automatically assuming that its supernatural. that need not be the case. i would argue that the designer is god, based on history, philosophy, religion, etc. and i could also easily argue that that same god is, indeed, part of nature and not in any manner supernatural. thats not ID science tho…ive gone into another realm of knowledge to gather that information. it remains tho- ID doesnt try to explain a supernatural process.

    if all intelligent acts of creation are supernatural, then architects, computer programmers, and many others have a lot of explaining to do.

  10. 10
    pmob1 says:

    I think Darwin used “chance” in the sense of “unguided,” but this can not be a scientific term. Any evolutionist will tell you that guidance from “behind” nature is undetectable, (and therefore not testable or falsifiable). Science is confined to physical qualifiers. “Unguided” is used as a metaphysical disqualifier.

    I suppose each bio-materialist abstract might begin with: “Nope. Didn’t detect any undetectable Creator again today…”

    In fairness to Darwin, neither probability theory nor scientific methodology was as developed as today. His modern followers do not have that excuse. However, it is a very confusing issue. For example, in the Rawlings piece, posted on this forum, there is a citation that confuses the randomness of “natural laws” with the randomness of individual mutations. The first addresses metaphysics, the whole shebang. The second addresses discrete, observable events.

    Ask any Darwinist to produce a scientific definition of “random.” This is not an idle term, but one of four absolute bedrock Darwinist concepts. The Darwinist should be able to pop a spec out immediately, (just like another scientist pro might delineate “tachyon” or “surfactant” or “valence.”) Believe me, this rarely happens, even though they’ve had 150 years to think about it.

    Design Inference claims to provide a rigorous definition. If true, can it be applied directly to biological sequences?

  11. 11
    jboze3131 says:

    i dont think one could say, even scientifically, that mutations are purely random. if there was a guidance behind the mutations, how would you test it? if you cant even test that, how could you possibly falsify it?

    it all comes down to intent, which i cant see how you could EVER possibly falsify or even attempt to support in any truly empirical manner. intent is something that is invisible and immaterial.

  12. 12
    DaveScot says:


    Honest, informed evolutionists will tell you that “random” in this case means “incalculable” and what’s incalculable today is often calculable tomorrow with improved methods of calculation.

    There’s no way to reliably identify chance as intelligence can mimic chance. The burning question is whether the converse is true – that chance can mimic intelligence. This is the question that Dembski addresses and his answer is that, at least in some selected cases, chance cannot mimic intelligence and a design inference is warranted in those cases.

  13. 13
    DaveScot says:


    “You are talking about people that have quite possibly individually contributed more to society then the sum total of what you and your ten best friends will accomplish.”

    Not in my case. The computer you’re using has several of my inventions in it going back over 25 years and if the Nobel prize is still a million bucks I won the cash equivalent of 3 Nobel prizes for my work at Dell Computer in the 1990’s.

    So there.

    As far as calling them dumbasses – I calls em like I sees em. If they say a dumbass thing then they get called a dumbass.

  14. 14
    DaveScot says:

    Rick Toews

    “Calling Nobel Prize winners “dumbasses” is pretty silly.” Yeah, I’d probably agree;

    It was hyperbolic, not silly. Silly would be pointless. Hyperbole is exageration to emphasize an underlying truth.

    doesn’t render them immune to intellectual blindspots

    And there you have the underlying truth.

  15. 15
    DaveScot says:


    Your argument hinges on the presumption that design is undetectable. I don’t agree with your presumption. Few people without bias stemming from anti-religious phobia agree that design is undetectable. Scientists as a lot suffer from anti-religious phobia. Get over it. No scientists have been executed for heresy in quite some time now.

    If it’s any consolation I’m willing to consider that the scientist religiphobia is genetic in nature. Their scientist ancestors who feared the church and hid from its wrath were able to produce more offspring than their peers who were tortured and executed for their heresies.

    You can quote me on this genetic hypothesis. I do believe it’s original right here and now.

  16. 16
    Rick Toews says:


    “It was hyperbolic, not silly. Silly would be pointless. Hyperbole is exageration to emphasize an underlying truth.”

    Fair enough.

    Although I accept, as a matter of principle, that all of us have blindspots in our thinking, it’s still difficult to square with the fact that people who you’d think would know better can remain oblivious to some of the more glaring ones. In some instances, one is inclined to suspect that the person isn’t unaware of the nonsense he is spouting but is merely counting on it passing unnoticed by those he is trying to influence. But I’m not inclined to believe that’s true most of the time.

    I’m not familiar with how much attention higher education gives to critically examining that which is generally accepted as fact, but I have wondered whether those who have spent the time and effort to gain an advanced education might have been in some cases thoroughly trained not so much to question as to accept. One often meets the assertion that most scientists reject ID [therefore, since they’re “the experts,” there must be a good reason to reject it that simply isn’t obvious to laypeople]. But if all through a person’s education he is told, without any argument to the contrary, that everything we can see is explicable by natural processes, then isn’t it likely that that’s exactly what he’s going to think? I doubt that most people are entirely unsusceptible to the power of ideas presented with emotional persuasion or intellectual confidence by a respected authority figure–who believes those ideas himself–even in lieu of actual positive evidence.

    I think it was in Unlocking the Mysteries of Life that Michael Behe commented on having encountered objections to Darwinism in a book by Michael Denton. He remarked that, even though he had earned his Ph.D. by this time, he had never encountered such things in his education. I believe he said he felt like he “had been led down a primrose path.”

  17. 17
    DaveScot says:

    It was Denton’s Theory in Crisis that made me start questioning the evolutionary dogma I’d been taught. I read that in 1991. I didn’t get serious about digging into the evidence until about a year ago when someone challenged me to come up with a plausible explanation for the DNA/protein paradox. I then discovered that the best explanation was a lame hypothesis called the “RNA World” which has more holes than swiss cheese in it. As a computer scientist my most critical skepticism lies in the molecular machinery represented by DNA and ribosomes. This is essentially nothing so much as a computer controlled machine like a robotic “pick & place” (a robotic machine that assembles circuit boards from individual components). DNA is a code and where there’s a code there’s a coder IMO until such time as someone can demonstrate to me how a code driven machine like a ribosome can materialize out of thin air with no intelligent input. Since the ribosome itself takes hideously complex code to construct it there’s a paradox of which came first – the codes that specify the construction of proteins and protein assembling machinery or the proteins and protein assembling machinery required to create the code storage mechanism. Explain that and I’ll concede that much simpler IC structures like the flagellum required no intelligent input for instantiation.

  18. 18
    cambion says:


    The origin of life does pose quite a chicken and the egg paradox (in this case ribosome being chicken and DNA being egg). However, barring a transcendent cause, it had to occur at some point in the history of the universe. You cannot argue that it’s impossible for life to spontaneously emerge and evolve into more complex forms via evolution by natural selection, and then posit that an alien intelligence of some sort created life on earth instead. How did the alien designer come about? If it worked for the designer, why can’t it work for us? If we were / are the first designers, how would our history (told through the fossil record and extant DNA sequences) differ from the history of a designed creation?

  19. 19
    cambion says:


    It seems you have an answer to everything. You must have one to this…

  20. 20
    DaveScot says:

    “How did the alien designer come about?”

    I don’t know.

    Now let me ask you a question. You claim that undirected laws of nature are the cause of life on earth. How did nature and nature’s laws come about?

    There’s always going to be a logical necessity for a first cause. Not knowing what it is not an excuse to ignore secondary causes. You don’t get to have your cake and eat it too. If you demand a first cause from me I get to demand a first cause from you.

    Now for an answer you probably haven’t heard before – I think natural physical laws allow intelligence to evolve at the quantum level and that quantum intelligence preceded macroscopic forms of which we are an example. Quantum intelligence may be what so many humans seem to instinctively sense as some greater power (a deity or deities of some sort) in the universe.

    There’s lots of research going on in quantum computing. We don’t really know what the bounds of possibility are in quantum computing yet so I’m waiting for research in that area to provide more data.

  21. 21
    cambion says:


    For the most part, quite an acceptable answer. But, your reasoning does mean that the first designer cannot be the product of evolution by natural selection. It seems to me that this sort of mechanism would be what create quantum intelligence as well as macro-intelligence.

    I guess, my point is that one cannot simply posit aliens as the designers of life on earth, one needs either an transcendental designer or some sort of quantum intelligence or the like. Although either of these options are a possibility, neither has scientific backing at this point (which is not to say they never will). For me, it just seems too speculative.

    For evolution by natural selection, we know what to expect. We predict that this natural mechanism can, over the course of billions of years, result in the staggering complexity we see around us. I agree we should keep our options open, however it seems to me there is a lot left to pursue in understanding evolution by natural selection.

    I’m not trying to say ID cannot be pursued as science, only that Darwinian evolution is not as dead as many on this forum seem to think it is.

  22. 22
    pmob1 says:


    A very snappy conjecture. If I may modify it slightly, those who fled were pious dissidents as well as Ben Franklin types. They came to America, as you suggest, and begat more offspring, who now show up in polls as the believing 70%. This is the “unnatural selection” spoken of in the bible and on deer stands around Grantsburg, WI.

    I think we’re talking past each other. My point was simply that Darwinism is hyped in 4 marketing terms:

    random mutation natural selection

    All 4 are bogus. Point mutations don’t happen fast enough and if they did, they’d soon wreck the genome anyway. Also, all known genomes seem to be incredibly complex already. Staggering permutations available through mitosis alone.

    None of the other 3 even qualifies as a science term. “Random” is usually used as metaphysical disqualifier, not a probabilistic standard (physical qualifier). I think you would agree. That’s why Darwinists go kind of fuzzy blank when they explain “random” as “unguided,” as in (universe + eternity) = directionless. I mean that’s a lot of Petrie dishes for your typical life sciences guy.

    Their take on “unguided” reminds me of Captain Kirk when Scotty can’t get the main engines going. Drifting into the galaxy-sucking maw, Kirk accidentally peeks over the lip of time. He turns, ashen, sweating like 2 pigs. It’s obvious he was late to the set and can’t remember the script, which was terrible. “Bones,” he rasps, “there’s noth– it’s not it’s all …unGUIDED.” Bones is deadpan. “Jim, I’m a doctor, not an ontologist.”

    “Random” can only be scientific if it references a statistical standard, like a distribution curve. Otherwise it’s not testable and falsifiable. That’s all I meant. No such distribution has ever been demonstrated in a typical Darwinian development sequence, since no sequence, no hypothetical, has ever been put forward, not even a little beak-lengthening sequence. I’d like to see ‘em try ur-bear to walrus sometime. Now there’s a story only Shatner could narrate!

    I think I see what Dembski is driving at but I don’t see exactly how you would apply it to known bio-sequences.

  23. 23
    pmob1 says:


    regarding: “the defeat of the eight members of the Dover School Board”

    So be it. It’s their district, their board, their decision, their curriculum. Unlike many of the Darwinists on this site, I have no problem with a district’s “waywardness” or lack thereof.

    Ditto for Grantsburg, WI. Ditto for any other local body.

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