Intelligent Design Philosophy Science

Historian Michael Flannery: What Is ID?

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Michael Flannery, writes,

An important point to remember when we talk about ID is what David Klinghoffer mentioned in an extremely insightful ENV article titled, “The Quality of ‘Shyness’ in the Evidence for Intelligent Design.” It bears reading (or re-reading) and reflection.

David Kohn has said, I think accurately, that “for Darwin special creation is the equivalent of creation by the miraculous intervention of a personal God.” Now I happen to believe in both. But is this absolutely the only option when we talk about nature and design? Darwin’s mistake was attacking the notion of God as a wand-waving Wizard, not a real God ,and I think it was a failing of William Paley to leave that impression. It made his brand of natural selection open to easy attack. Jonathan Wells has noted Darwin’s use of a straw God — a caricature–to refute design.

So this leads me to highlight my favorite definition of ID. It comes from Stephen Meyer’s Signature in the Cell:

the theory of intelligent design holds that there are tell-tale features of living systems and the universe that are best explained by an intelligent cause–that is, by the conscious choice of a rational agent–rather than by an undirected process.

There are a few words/phrases here that bear notice:

1) tell-tale. These design features are essentially forensic inferences of the “someone or something has been here” variety

2) conscious choice. This is meant to clarify “intelligent cause” as something akin to a mind and moreover a mind that exhibits free will

3) rational agent. This emphasizes the mind-like nature of the “intelligent cause” as opposed to blind or “undirected” processes. Now there is nothing in this definition that says one way or another whether this is the omniscient and omnipresent entity we call God or some panentheist presence or spiritual entity. Thus the definition encompasses a traditional orthodox conception of the Judeo-Christian God but it is not limited by it. It is a pretty “big tent” concept.

The advantage of this definition, as I see it is, that it clearly points to a teleological view of nature without implying a wand-waving Wizard. I particularly like the use of “tell-tale” in this regard. Our detractors love the word “creationist” and “creationism” because it conjures up that
very simplistic Wizard-like concept of God that is easily demolished. By continually harping on “intelligent design creationism” we are made in Paley’s image.

I must admit its been a brilliant strategy. In the face of our repeated protests the detractors can simply ignore us and keep using the phrase. They understand itis not about truth or accuracy, it’s all about image and perception. Those who don’t read ID literature and just accept uncritically what is said about us naturally assume we are just reincarnations of Darwin’s straw God proponents. That’s why however much we proclaim the science of ID, in then end the basic problem is not science so much as it is the image and perception the culture makes of us. I know no way out and can only advise persistence. We can win hearts only one open-mind at a time I suppose.

Readers? Thoughts?

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5 Replies to “Historian Michael Flannery: What Is ID?

  1. 1
    Dean_from_Ohio says:

    Ravi Zacharias states that the problem of mankind is not the absence of evidence but the suppression of it. It is a moral and spiritual problem, not an informational or cognitive one. And the suppression of truth is like a ratchet. Interlocked with pride, fear and moral guilt, it only tightens, tightens.

    The only deliverance there is to this strangulation of the soul is the only one there ever was: the direct intervention of God. And here, there are not just tell-tale signs; he speaks!

    The story is told best in Paul’s letter to the first-century church at Rome. The two most important words in the whole letter are the ones, “But now” in chapter 3, verse 20. They mark the appearance of the divine knife that cuts through the cords that, like a six-pack plastic top hopelessly and pitifully entangling a wild animal about the throat, have subdued us. Read the whole story, provided conveniently in sixteen one-page sections. The first section is here:

    The irony is that until the human heart is ready to listen and draw near, the only hope for the hopelessly entangled is the collection of tell-tale signs, first in the old creation–the physical world–and then in the new creation–the transformed lives of those that have been freed. When we as entangled animals, as it were, finally overcome our fear and instinct to run or attack, and instead submit to the initially terrifying but then gentle and freeing hand that cuts the cords, we are bonded to the one who delivered us. Do not think the story of Androcles and the Lion was only incidentally set first in the wilderness and then in the Roman coliseum amid the collision of two titanic world views.

    The value of tell-tales is that they draw us near while they simultaneously avoid initiating the moral fight-or-flight response in us. They deftly bypass the trigger that hardens the human heart when prematurely exposed to the full truth before being ready to draw near and trust the Man with the knife. And so it is now: the Deliverer sets out telltales for us to follow until we can bring ourselves to trust him and hear him speak.

    But, as my father used to say, where God works, the devil also works. But that enemy has no subtlety. He understands the world-view-breaking power of tell-tales, but has no patience to use them himself. Time and self-examining thought are his enemies, which is why, incidentally, those in his power have no sense of the ironic. Instead of tell-tales, he employs yell-tales, the strident, shouting, ridiculing rants that suppress, distract and seek to discredit what the tell-tales tell. The evolution blogosphere is chock-full of these yell-tales.

    As Michael Flannery has essentially said, our role is to partner with the Man with the knife in the wilderness, one entangled and humbled but hopeful soul at a time. Our time in the coliseum will come.

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    I must object to the use of the term “tell-tale”.

    adjective: tell-tale

    revealing, indicating, or betraying something.
    “the telltale bulge of a concealed weapon”

    The term “tell-tale” is a term that denotes something that is hidden and is a bit tricky to discern. That term does not fit the inference to Intelligent Design at all. The inference to Intelligent Design, far from being hard to discern, i.e. “tell-tale”, is as obvious as the noon-day sun!

    It’s Really Not Rocket Science – Granville Sewell – November 16, 2015
    Excerpt: “It is not enough to say that design is a more likely scenario to explain a world full of well-designed things. It strikes me as urgent to insist that you not allow your mind to surrender the absolute clarity that all complex and magnificent things were made that way. Once you allow the intellect to consider that an elaborate organism with trillions of microscopic interactive components can be an accident… you have essentially “lost your mind.””
    Jay Homnick – American Spectator 2005

  3. 3
    Dean_from_Ohio says:

    “I must object to the use of the term ‘tell-tale.’”

    Says (and I say this respectfully) the one who already knows the Designer. But to the one whose mind is darkened and deceived, it is not so clear. It is almost invisible. Yes, the mind ought to be able to see the hand of the Designer, and ought to give thanks and give him glory. The defect is in the observer, not in the evidence or in the Designer.

    But for whatever reason, God elected to interact with the fallen world through the tell-tales of creation, and the uniqueness of a chosen people, and then–after the brief shining light of the Son–through the uniqueness of those who follow him. Truth is near enough to those who will seek it, but far enough from those who will not. For the sake of those who will cross over to truth, and whose hearts still have an opportunity to find it before being irretrievably baked into brick, the truth is not yet inescapable.

    The result? “So shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand.”

  4. 4
    Mung says:

    At the heart of this book lie several relatively simple ideas. One is that if there is a God of the kind accepted by Christians, Jews, and Muslims, then it is likely that a ‘natural’ knowledge of God is possible. Another is that this knowledge will have two characteristics: it will be both widely available to humans and yet easy to resist. If these principles are right, a new perspective on many of the classical arguments for God’s existence becomes possible. We understand why these arguments have for many people a continued appeal but also why they do not constitute conclusive ‘proofs’ that settle the debate once and for all.

    Natural Signs and Knowledge of God: A New Look at Theistic Arguments

  5. 5
    Jim Smith says:

    An important point to remember when we talk about ID is what David Klinghoffer mentioned in an extremely insightful ENV article titled, “The Quality of ‘Shyness’ in the Evidence for Intelligent Design.”

    I don’t find anything “shy” in omnipresence. Maybe frogs are a better analogy than deer. When you walk by a pond and hear the plops of frogs jumping into the water, you know they are there but you can’t see them. But you can learn to tread softly and look carefully a learn to see frogs. God is here for those with eyes to see.

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