Saturday, July 22, 2017

Creationism, Evolutionism, Intelligent Design

When people say that intelligent design is just creationism, it is hard to see what they mean exactly. Meanings of terms like these have a bad habit of sliding around.

Creationism can mean the belief that God created the world, the belief that God created the world in six days, the belief that science can discover that God created the world, or that science can discover that God created the world in seven days.

Evolution can mean that the earth is old, or that there is common ancestry, or that speciation occurred without design, or that life and speciation occurred without design.

Intelligent design means that at least some life on earth was designed (by a nonhuman designer), or that science can discover that life on earth was designed. It typically means at least the second of these things.

All creators are designers, but some designers are not creators. Plato believed in design but not creation. ID advocates say that science can discover design but not creation. But most believe in creation, and hope that those who come to accept design will come to believe in creation. Is this enough to make them creationists, in the perjorative sense?

With respect to the public school controversy, it is true that ID was used by many creationists to bring as much of what they believed into the public school classroom as they could. Insofar as leading ID advocates took an interest in public education, they aroused the ire of the scientific community. But someone could support the idea that, at the higher education and research level,  researchers should be free to pursue design hypotheses, but until those are further developed, they should not attempt to push theories that contradict the consensus of the scientific community in the public school classroom. This is my position, at least on some days of the week.


3 comments:

Stardusty Psyche said...

"When people say that intelligent design is just creationism, it is hard to see what they mean exactly."
--Right, it could have been space aliens, after all. Perhaps life on Earth was intelligently designed by space aliens who themselves arose naturally and had nothing to do with creating the universe or creating the matter/energy used to realize their design.


"All creators are designers, but some designers are not creators."
--Unless the creator was a bumbling idiot with power but no intelligence for design, sort of like the Sorcerer's Apprentice of Fantasia creating things haphazardly without any design or control capability.


"With respect to the public school controversy, it is true that ID was used by many creationists to bring as much of what they believed into the public school classroom as they could."
--Right, and it was that brand of creationist ID dogma that was identified by the federal court and struck down as a violation of the establishment clause.

" researchers should be free to pursue design hypotheses, "
--They are, but it is such a baseless hypotheses they can only get funding from religious organizations. Accredited secular research organizations do not fund every crackpot who comes in the door with an empty what if story.

It's not like creationism was not held to be the case by scientists and pursued. Newton calculated the age of the universe just about the same as Ussher. The case against ID reached a tipping point with Darwin, who faced stiff opposition from IDers at the time.

The scientific process of examining the evidence for ID or no ID has already happened, but the case against ID became settled science so long ago that IDers are complaining that their idea is somehow not being given its due consideration.

Been there, done that. IDers can get funding from megachurches and do research at Liberty University or the Discovery Institute or wherever they can find a place. Dembski can whine all he likes but his papers don't get published because they are junk, not because of any crackpot conspiracy theories about the poor downtrodden IDers.

Mortal said...

I affirm that God did in fact create everything that exists ("all things visible and invisible"). Does that make me a "creationist"? If so, then so be it. I'll wear the label with pride.

I do not believe that Genesis is a literal account of the creation.
I am not a YEC-ist.

Do I believe in ID? Yes and no, in that I believe that everything is intelligently designed. But I have no opinion on (or interest in) IC.

Victor Reppert said...

The Jones decision absolutely reeks of NOMA, and it only works as an establishment clause case on the assumption of NOMA. Were questions of design refuted by Darwinian biology, or were they set aside as metaphysical issues outside the purview of science per se? Did the methodological assumptions of science change over time to preclude design inferences? Are there weaknesses in the Darwinian story that are constantly being papered over? Is Darwinian theory being protected by leaders in the scientific community, using the phobia of creationism to silence honest, and secular criticism of the standard theory? The guy from China said that while in China you can criticize Darwin but not the government, over here you can criticize the government but not Darwin.

If you go by the Jones decision, then biology textbooks are going to have to be checked to make sure they don't have antireligious content in them. Otherwise they violate the establishment clause in just the same way that the Dover statement violated it. How much do you want to bet that you could find lots of violations in many biology textbooks?

What I believe on the other days of the week is that NOMA is true, biology should be metaphysically neutral, and science textbooks should indicate that questions of intelligent design lie outside the purview of science and cannot be settled one way or the other by science. So, evolution is affirmed because science has to work that way, and you can legitimately ask the question of design, but as an extrascientific question that science, per se, cannot answer.