Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

They said it: CNN’s loaded strawman “definition” of ID

arroba Email

According to a report by CNN political correspondent, Peter Hamby, US Presidential Candidate Michele Bachmann recently went on record as saying:

“I support intelligent design”  . . .  “What I support is putting all science on the table and then letting students decide. I don’t think it’s a good idea for government to come down on one side of scientific issue or another, when there is reasonable doubt on both sides” . . .  “I would prefer that students have the ability to learn all aspects of an issue”  . . . “And that’s why I believe the federal government should not be involved in local education to the most minimal possible process.”

This is in itself interesting, as it means that significant numbers of policy makers are increasingly aware of the problem of Lewontinian-Saganian, NAS, NSTA style a priori imposition of evolutionary materialism on science education.

But, this is not the main issue for this post.

That comes up when Mr Hamby provides a “definition” of ID:

Intelligent design suggests that the complexity of the universe cannot be explained by evolution alone, and must also be attributed to a creator or supernatural being.

By now, surely, CNN’s reporters and editors — never mind that artful wriggle-room word, “suggests” — know they could easily find a reasonable, non-loaded, accurate definition of ID, such as is provided by New World Encyclopedia:

Intelligent design (ID) is the view that it is possible to infer from empirical evidence that “certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection[1] Intelligent design cannot be inferred from complexity alone, since complex patterns often happen by chance. ID focuses on just those sorts of complex patterns that in human experience are produced by a mind that conceives and executes a plan. According to adherents, intelligent design can be detected in the natural laws and structure of the cosmos; it also can be detected in at least some features of living things.

This discussion immediately continues:

Greater clarity on the topic may be gained from a discussion of what ID is not considered to be by its leading theorists. Intelligent design generally is not defined the same as creationism, with proponents maintaining that ID relies on scientific evidence rather than on Scripture or religious doctrines. ID makes no claims about biblical chronology, and technically a person does not have to believe in God to infer intelligent design in nature. As a theory, ID also does not specify the identity or nature of the designer, so it is not the same as natural theology, which reasons from nature to the existence and attributes of God. ID does not claim that all species of living things were created in their present forms, and it does not claim to provide a complete account of the history of the universe or of living things.

ID also is not considered by its theorists to be an “argument from ignorance”; that is, intelligent design is not to be inferred simply on the basis that the cause of something is unknown (any more than a person accused of willful intent can be convicted without evidence). According to various adherents, ID does not claim that design must be optimal; something may be intelligently designed even if it is flawed (as are many objects made by humans).

ID may be considered to consist only of the minimal assertion that it is possible to infer from empirical evidence that some features of the natural world are best explained by an intelligent agent. It conflicts with views claiming that there is no real design in the cosmos (e.g., materialistic philosophy) or in living things (e.g., Darwinian evolution) or that design, though real, is undetectable (e.g., some forms of theistic evolution).

Even, my favourite quick word reference, The Free Dictionary, gives the following from The American Heritage Dictionary, which is not as good, but at least tries to be objective:

intelligent design


The assertion or belief that physical and biological systems observed in the universe result from purposeful design by an intelligent being rather than from chance or undirected natural processes.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Thirdly, UD is one of the leading Intelligent Design blogs and sites on the Internet, and is affiliated with the two leading ID scientists, Drs Dembski and Behe.  Every page here, top right, has a Quick Reference Resources section, which is HEADED by a definition of ID, which reads in entirety:

ID Defined

The theory of intelligent design (ID) holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection. ID is thus a scientific disagreement with the core claim of evolutionary theory that the apparent design of living systems is an illusion.

In a broader sense, Intelligent Design is simply the science of design detection — how to recognize patterns arranged by an intelligent cause for a purpose. Design detection is used in a number of scientific fields, including anthropology, forensic sciences that seek to explain the cause of events such as a death or fire, cryptanalysis and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). An inference that certain biological information may be the product of an intelligent cause can be tested or evaluated in the same manner as scientists daily test for design in other sciences.

ID is controversial because of the implications of its evidence, rather than the significant weight of its evidence. ID proponents believe science should be conducted objectively, without regard to the implications of its findings. This is particularly necessary in origins science because of its historical (and thus very subjective) nature, and because it is a science that unavoidably impacts religion.

Positive evidence of design in living systems consists of the semantic, meaningful or functional nature of biological information, the lack of any known law that can explain the sequence of symbols that carry the “messages,” and statistical and experimental evidence that tends to rule out chance as a plausible explanation. Other evidence challenges the adequacy of natural or material causes to explain both the origin and diversity of life.

By utterly sharp contrast, the article on ID in Wikipedia, begins with a loaded declaration:

Intelligent design is the proposition that “certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.”[1][2] It is neo-creationism, a form of creationism restated in non-religious terms. [3][4] It is also a contemporary adaptation of the traditional teleological argument for the existence of God, but one that deliberately avoids specifying the nature or identity of the intelligent designer.[5] Its leading proponents—all of whom are associated with the Discovery Institute, a politically conservative think tank[n 1][6]—believe the designer to be the Christian God.[n 2][n 3]

It seeks to redefine science in a fundamental way that would invoke supernatural explanations, a viewpoint known as theistic science. It puts forward a number of arguments, the most prominent of which are irreducible complexity and specified complexity, in support of the existence of a designer.[7] The scientific community rejects the extension of science to include supernatural explanations in favor of continued acceptance of methodological naturalism,[n 4][n 5][8][9] and has rejected both irreducible complexity and specified complexity for a wide range of conceptual and factual flaws.[10][11][12][13][14][15]

In short, CNN’s reporters and editors knew, or should have known better than they did, just as those responsible for the Wikipedia article.

Yet, they both chose to make an inaccurate, strawman definition of ID, which sets up the mis-framing of ID as an unjustifiable injection of “religion”  and “the supernatural”on science and science education.


(F/N: NB, Wikipedia’s turnabout tactic  on the documented imposition of Lewontinian-Saganian a priori, censoring materialism on origins science is particularly revealing. [Cf. also the artfully manipulative and rhetorically loaded declarations by the US NAS and NSTA . BTW, last I checked, Discovery Institute was Libertarian-leaning, and its leading members and fellows have come from a fairly wide array of religious affiliations, from Jewish to Moonie and agnostic.])

Why is there such a consistently willfully deceptive, violation of plain duties of care to truth, accuracy and fairness on questions like ID?

Fundamentally, it seems that a great many reporters, editors, leading educational policy makers and scientists who are adherents of evolutionary materialist secular humanism, or who are fellow-travellers with such, do not seem to think they are bound by duties of care to check that what they say on controversial matters like this is fair and accurate.

And yet, here is Wikipedia in its article on Journalism Ethics and Standards, citing the preamble to the code of ethics of the US Society of Professional Journalists:

…public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist’s credibility.

Do these lofty words mean anything, or are they merely manipulative window-dressing to better beguile we the sheeple, mentally enslaved shadow-show indoctrinated denizens of Plato’s C21 cave?







Fig. A: Plato’s Cave, cf. video (Source: University of Fort Hare, SA, Phil. Dept.)

We have some serious thinking to do.

As a first step, here is my grid for grading the  media and related institutions responsible for shaping public opinion:


>>We may begin by giving a description of what news at its best “should” be like if it is to be a “rough, first draft of History”:

. . . a well-informed, easily readable report on a noticeable and significant current event; presented in an accurate, fair, balanced, factually based fashion; and, with enough background context to give the viewer a basis to make up his or her own mind.

In that light, I believe the following analytical “straight or spin” grid will be helpful in assessing the quality of news, commentary and education we are exposed to in our region:

(a) Headline & Lead
(b) Story &/or Views presented
(c) Characterisation of People &/or Institutions
(d) Context: underlying Issues, Alternatives and Historical Setting
(1) Factually Accurate?
(2) Fair, or Just?
(3) Kind or Gracious?
(4) Balanced, or provides a Counter – balance?

Fig. 1: News, Education and Views: “Straight or Spin?” [Key: Y, “yes” = 1; N, “no” = 0]

As can be seen, the straight or spin grid gives four main facets of a typical item of news or commentary, or a lesson/lecture (or even a textbook chapter): (a) the head and lead, (b) the story proper, (c) characterisation, and (d) context. It then asks a basic question:

Is the presented information: (1) accurate, (2) fair, (3) kind and (4) balanced?

It is a reasonable expectation that, consistently, the answer should be YES, for all components of a news, educational or commentary item, or a presentation or even a sermon. However, to err is human, so there might be an occasional slip that requires minor correction. So, we can now grade the quality of our news, education and commentary services:

B to A: Consistent Score 13 – 16: a reasonably good to excellent service, but if errors keep on cropping up in any one square (e.g. cells 1a, 2c, 3b or 4d), there is a systematic problem (e.g.; 1a: inaccurate headings and leads, 2c: unfair or unjust characterisations of people or institutions, 3b: unkind (say, through sensationalism that exploits people’s pain) presentation of stories, 4d: biased context), and corrective action is obviously needed. [The examples make the “structured common-sense” approach plain: do you wish to consume information from sources that are consistently inaccurate in how they headline and lead stories on issues and news? Or, from one that often slanders people or institutions it does not like? Or, tries to make money off sensationalising the suffering of others? Or, tells only half the story through suppressing materially relevant context? Etc.?

D to C: Consistent Score 8 – 12: This source has a major, systematic problem with at least one of the four requirements of sound, straight information, and is probably pushing an agenda counter to the interests of the people of God and the wider community. The source and the editorial policy require major reformation.

F: Consistent Score 7 or less: Do not trust this source, period. Warn others about the evident distortion, bias, deception and agenda. If the source has significant institutional power and is unwilling to be corrected, make the creation of an alternative that will consistently correct and expose the errors and agenda a top priority.

Unfortunately, for far too many local, regional and international sources of news, entertainment, commentary and even education available in [today’s heavily indoctrinated world], the proper assessment in this post-modern relativistic age is: F.>>


It is time to wake up, wise up, and act up.  END

Hi EndoplasmicMessenger, Thanks for the response. Yes, I guess I am fairly new around here. I have been "lurking" on this site for a while and this is the first post I've ever commented on. I was not aware of the many past attempts to edit the article. I will have to do some research on how to update Wikipedia. If I find out anything that might help, I'll report back here. datawhisperer
datawhisperer, You must be new around here :) Yes, MANY MANY MANY attempts have been made to correct wikipedia. Those changes are very short lived, and are soon reverted back to their original, biased form. Even the leading ID proponents have been unable to correct the wikipedia pages ABOUT THEMSELVES! But maybe things have changed. If you have a moment, please try to correct the ID entry at wikipedia. Let us know how it goes and I hope the changes stick this time. However, I'm not going to hold my breath. EndoplasmicMessenger
Wikipedia can be edited by anyone. Has anyone in the ID community attempted to edit the Wikipedia article on Intelligent Design? If not, then you can't point the finger at Wikipedia without sharing the blame. Disclosure: I myself have never edited a Wikipedia article, so I am guilty as well. datawhisperer
F/N: Another UD thread raised the following useful definition and discussion of ID over at ENV, based on Wells' Politically incorrect Guide to ID: __________________ >> Intelligent design maintains that it is possible to infer from empirical evidence that some features of the natural world are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than unguided natural processes. Since ID relies on evidence rather than on scripture or religious doctrines, it is not creationism or a form of religion. ID restricts itself to a simple question: does the evidence point to design in nature? ID does not deny the reality of variation and natural selection; it just denies that those phenomena can accomplish all that Darwinists claim they can accomplish. ID does not maintain that all species were created in their present form; indeed, some ID advocates have no quarrel with the idea that all living things are descended from a common ancestor. ID challenges only the sufficiency of unguided natural processes and the Darwinian claim that design in living things is an illusion rather than a reality. >> __________________ kairosfocus
Quite correct. kairosfocus
ID does not claim to provide a complete account of the history of the universe or of living things. ID is not an alternative theory to evolution. Mung

Leave a Reply