“What is the difference between Creationism and Intelligent Design” I asked Stephen Meyer in 2009. He answered that what distinguished Creationism from Intelligent Design is that Creationism outlined a chronology whereas ID did not.
I will add my own thoughts on the matter. What I say in this post is my answer to the same question I posed to Dr. Meyer.
As a scholarly discipline Intelligent Design is described elegantly by Bill Dembski:
Intelligent design is the science that studies signs of intelligence.
Frankly, I’ve been mortified that so much theological discussion is to conflated with this simple and elegant description of ID! I’m appalled to hear that some claim “the science that studies signs of intelligence” conflicts with theological ideas and is therefore a futile endeavor.
Theology may proceed from the idea that there is intelligent design in the universe, but at its root, Bill’s definition of ID isn’t inherently theological and would fit well with engineering and the forensic sciences. ID is not theological in itself, but it can serve as bridge a between science and theology.
Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology
Combining the above two ideas, I came up with:
“Intelligent design is the science that studies signs of intelligence” and is “the bridge between science and theology”
Now that ID has been defined, how does ID relate to creationism? To answer that question, consider when one finds an artifact like Stonehenge or a cell phone lying on the ground. We reasonably infer these things are designed. That is rather easy.
The difficulty would be trying to construct a forensic history of the artifacts. For Stonehenge we could try to identify the people and times when the structure was built. For a cell phone we could try to investigate where the parts were made, who made them, and when. But it is obvious the process of discovering patterns that signify intelligence (like recognizing a communication device like a cell phone) is often logically distinct from the discipline of forensically discovering the chronology and other details of the cell phone’s creation. The same holds true for the process of identifying designs in biology (the discipline of ID) and then reconstructing a reasonably detailed forensic history.
We have artifacts in biology that far surpass cell phones in their technology. It is reasonable, by engineering standards, to say these artifacts implement designs. Indeed, as Mike Gene points out, biological reality is most effectively described with terms borrowed from engineering such as: pumps, decoders, sensors, controls, error checks, information, signals, sonar, detectors, redundancy etc.
Relating to an artifact, we may ask these 5 standard questions: “Who, What, Where, When, How?”
We may ask “Who” made the artifact, “What” the artifact is, “Where” it was made, “When” it was made, and “How” it was made. ID answers the question, “What” is made. ID gives artifacts labels by matching the artifact against patterns that signify intelligence. So ID attempts to provide an answer to only one of these standard 5 questions. It attempts to do so apart from any theology but merely through the study of patterns that signify intelligence.
In contrast Christian Creationism (rooted in theology) asserts (not necessarily proves) answers to all 5 questions:
QUESTION: “Who” made the artifacts of biology?
ANSWER: Christ the author of life (Acts 3:15). Perhaps some theistic evolutionists even accept this claim also.
QUESTION: “What” is the artifact
ANSWER: Creationists say The Universe and Life
QUESTION: “Where” was the artifact made
ANSWER: Christian Creationists argue the Universe got its start in the mind of God. Life was made on Earth (not outer space), and Humans made in the Garden of Eden.
QUESTION: “When” was the artifact made
ANSWER: The Young Earth Creationists say about 10,000 years ago. The Old Earth Creationists say over millions of years ago through several miraculous events.
QUESTION: “How” was the artifact made
ANSWER: both Young and Old Earth Creationists (like William Jennings Bryan) argue that life emerged through miraculous events. In contrast, theistic Darwinists argue life emerged by non-miraculous events.
So in sum, ID is:
Intelligent design is the science that studies signs of intelligence
Christian Creationism is:
the belief the Intelligent Designer of Life is Jesus Christ, and that He created life through miraculous acts rather than through evolutionary processes
Christian Creationists believe the Intelligent Designer of life is the same Jesus who suffered and died on Good Friday and was resurrected on Easter Sunday.