The Intelligent Design Movement: Revolution or Repatriation?

This post consists of Chapter 2 from my masters thesis at the Free University of Amsterdam, “Evolution, Extension and Intelligent Design: A 21st Century Tri-Fecta,” completed and defended in 2004. It is therefore outdated, given that we are already 9 years removed and the IDM has morphed since then. Nevertheless, it is posted here to provide some background to my work on human extension as an alternative to evolutionism, creationism and Intelligent Design Theory. Notably, since then I’ve accepted the distinction that Owen Gingerich and others make between Uppercase Intelligent Design Theory and lowercase ‘intelligent design’ or ‘design arguments.’


The Intelligent Design Movement: Revolution or Repatriation?



“Molecular machines appear to look designed because they really are designed.”

– Michael Behe

This chapter analyzes the (post-)modern social movement that has begun[1] with the concept-duo of intelligent design (ID). In the most ambitious words of one of the intelligent design movement’s (IDM’s) leaders, William Dembski, ID is named as ‘The Bridge’ between Science and Theology: “If you’re going to reject a reigning paradigm,” he explains, “you have to have a new improved paradigm with which to replace it. Naturalistic evolution is the reigning paradigm.” (Intelligent Design: The Bridge, 1999, 119) Needless to say, Dembski believes the concepts of intelligent design represent an academic replacement for naturalistic evolution compatible with both science and theology. Given these outspoken relative sentiments about ID theory, can and should we believe that the IDM’s scientific revolutionary[2] declaration is practically possible? In this section we will make a brief inquiry on this topic.

In writing this paper, philosophy has been added as a third category to the scientific and theological discussion proposed, which several of the leading ID theorists and social-philosophical commentators on design theories effectively use[3]. Does ID theory really expect to affect a ‘revolution’ across a wide range of disciplines in the academy today, including the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities[4]? It is said even to influence theology, however it is not my aim to focus on the successes or failures of the religious design argument[5][6], whether ID is for or against God’s existence. Rather, I hope to contribute to understanding how the social movement[7] of ID relates to the other two concepts in our triad; Evolution and Extension. If everything really just is designed, then people should know about it. Unfortunately, the argument does not go that easily and evolutionary theory still persists to contend with IDists.


My theme in this chapter is to ask whether we should (normatively speaking) consider the IDM and its flagship duo of ID as a ‘revolution’ or as ‘repatriation’, in the sense of starting something radically new somewhere or of returning to old roots. On the positive side, the IDM has served a vital role in bringing a community of scientists, scholars and public interest together upon this topic of an ‘evolution controversy,’ a concept indicated above as central to communication between science, philosophy and theology and which also appears ready to explode. On the negative side, the IDM has focused too much on Darwin and Darwinism and not enough on evolution-ism as a positive pro-scientific, anti-theistic force. Also, ID has brought curiosity and wonder to the ‘origin(s) of life’ field once again, in a new guise as saying, ‘it was intelligently designed.’ And this gives us reason to re-balance the triad of our discussion by placing the focus on science and philosophy[8], acknowledging that evolution theory formerly suffered the cost of theological neglect. What role the IDM will play in a process that may shift the balance of the paradigmatic evolution discourse in these three categories (science, philosophy, theology) is the main question of this chapter.


The introductory quotation by Michael Behe is a clear example of 1. the ontological argument set forth by the IDM, predominant in ID theory, which it aspires to apply to several other disciplines. There is intelligent design because we can infer design probabilistically[9] and intrinsically; this appears as an almost-universalistic claim by the IDM. If only we could then focus the conversation more accurately to say that ID is about origins and not about processes, we might open up a new chapter of discourse about evolution. In addition, there also is, 2. an axiomatic (cf. axiological) ID argument which claims ‘irreducible complexity’ (IC[10][11]) is the decisive bane through which evolution and particularly Darwinian naturalism would be defeated. Irreducibly complex things are supposedly un-evolvable (cf. evolvability) based on functionality. Thus the concept of irreducibility ultimately defeats evolutionary reductionism[12]. And also, ID presents 3. a methodological, in this case an eliminative[13][14] argument that says when regularity and chance are ruled out then an event[15] can be attributed to design[16]. This three part strategy constitutes the triadic factor through which the IDM is making a bid for its supposed ‘scientific and theological revolution[17].’ Alongside these core beliefs is the claim that ‘intelligent agency indicates an intelligent cause[18],’ which opens a contemporary conversation about human agents and networks of association. We could then also identify a fourth dimension, 4. the epistemological argument of evolution. However this has already been shown[19] to identify falsifiable knowledge in and about scientific theories in a complex theoretical world. These arguments provide four philosophical tools that can be formally applied to the IDM and to ID theories across a range of scientific and theological cases.

Two scenarios present themselves currently to us about the IDM. On one hand, when Dr. Dembski speaks expectantly from BaylorUniversity about The Design Revolution (2004), we cannot help but detect something overly partial or just unrealistic in his dissent-full confidence. That is, we must take into account Dembski’s self-situated though well-connected interdisciplinarian approach from within his American scholarly community[20][21][22]. On the other hand the international appeal of ID theories is apparent in its messages of promotion for non-evolutionary global humanism and for the promulgation of greater triadic balance. Its key proponents are not afraid to take amazing measures in their cause and in search for promotional effects. For example, recently Dembski (“Darwin’s Meltdown”) combined with J. Wells, J. Schwartz and P. Johnson (“The demise of naturalism: Intelligent Design”) to write science-fiction articles about intelligent design for World Magazine (Apr. 2004), reminiscing from 2025 on the successes (i.e. brief history) of the IDM. One can’t help notice that Dembski most out of the group clearly displays his science fiction roots, especially in leading the call for a ‘revolution’ with unflinching unilateralist pronouncements. We will await his further bids to make revolutionary public contributions to knowledge with interest.

Against these proclamations and great expectations for ID theories, sometimes the words of ID critics ring quite sharply and directly with demands for testable, scientific standards, upon which their own particular political and social-educational platforms can be built. Oftentimes it is secular naturalists, even atheists who raise these concerns. Their challenges to ID can seem quite reasonable in a general approach,

“Science only has tools for explaining things in terms of natural causation. That’s what Darwin did, and that’s what we’re trying to do today.” – Eugenie Scott (“The Nature of Change” in Intelligent Design? A special report, Natural History magazine ed. Richard Milner & Vittorio Maestro)

The claim that people are ‘just doing science’ has long since been over-used, and now science has been exposed for its dependencies upon non-scientific assumptions and presuppositions. Eugenie Scott plainly defends evolution as a public good to protect her worldview which is predominantly materialistic; not on the basis of the scientific evidence that is being discovered around her. ID theorists simply would ask, ‘why not follow the evidence where it leads?’ with the belief that this would reveal a world that is intelligently designed[23] rather than un-planned, impersonal and irrational. But in general the ID side regrettably has its own present and historical figures of exaggerative, theological evangelism in the names of science and philosophy.

In another facet of this discussion, it is refreshing to discover that those closer to the theological sphere of our triadic conversation have occasionally opened-up their scientific imaginations. Several scientists who are also trained theologians have tried to cooperatively apply their faith together with their science and have investigated the influence of contemporary scientific models and claims to knowledge on their wider beliefs. The bridges are indeed being crossed in some cases with a widening number of discourses going on between the scientific, theological and philosophical realms. It is no longer possible to say that scientists cannot be theologians and vice versa, and that people are not willing to tackle or at least to face some of the historically overlapping questions between secularism and religiosity.

Nancy Murphy expresses this overlap or lack thereof, quite clearly, when she notes that,

“Many theologians evaded this materialist conclusion by granting that the human body is a product of biological evolution but maintaining that God creates a soul for each individual at conception…Contemporary biologists now offer a very complex account of human origins in which there is no clear distinction between animals and humans.” (“Human Nature: Historical, Scientific, and Religious Issues,” 1998, 11)

Murphy tries to connect materialism with biological evolution in the paradigm of post-modern science, but also moves quickly and shifts her compatibility factor as is necessary to embrace the rapid scientific advances of today with her theology. In doing so, she brings us somehow ironically to another issue that dominates the ID agenda, the curiosity surrounding human origins[24], which will be addressed again below.

We can remember some of S.J. Gould’s deliberate expressions on human origins, saying for example, that “humans evolved from apelike ancestors whether they did so by Darwin’s proposed mechanism or by some other, yet to be discovered.” (“Evolution as Fact or Theory,” 1997) On the other hand, we may consider a more pluralistic orientation to question of origins, including both special creation and natural selection[25], which leaves open the theological sphere instead of closing the door on it. Notice it is the evolutionists now who are asking for mechanisms to describe what are perceived as gaps in their naturalistic theory. Theists are open to the possibility that design theories may have some merit in certain respective disciplines.

In many cases these days, other than those guarded by strict anti-theistic naturalists[26], religious discourses are regaining respectability for their contributions to order, public authority and community accountability. Religion still provides meaning and hope in the public consciousness. Not only for those in scientific positions, but also for people in everyday life. In the words of Ian Barbour,

“The argument for the specific design of every creature in its present form was undermined by Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection. Darwin himself, however, accepted a revised version of the argument, holding that the long process by which evolution had occurred was itself designed by God.” (Nature, Human Nature, and God, 2002)

Such a view makes us wonder if there is any such competition between evolutionary theories and theological views after all. With such a perspective, however, then we would not gain much insight into the events going on around us in several disciplines, which the IDM has targeted in its pursuit of ending the reign of naturalistic philosophy and its accompanying worldview(s). Thus we may now turn to consider the history of Intelligent Design as a potentially valid scientific theory, social and theological movement


4. The Hedge to the Wedge to the Poof: a brief history of the IDM

This section presents yet another triad of symbolic concepts, which in this case represent time zones, or stages of development in the history of the intelligent design movement (IDM); what I call the Hedge, the Wedge and the Poof. Thus, since part of the (visual) inspiration for my counter-concept to ID comes from Stephen Hawking’s theory of time and space, I thought it appropriate that we acknowledge him at the start for the help he has given to popularizing science for the public. In this case we consider several people, books and events which have shaped the IDM into what it is today.

a. The Hedge (1984-1993)

Some people attribute the beginning of the IDM to the publication of a book, The Mystery of Life’s Origins (1984[27]), by Thaxton Bradley and Olsen[28]. This was a distinct switch from the earlier Social Gospel or Creation Science-style strategies which tried to derive scientific principles directly from biblical scripture[29][30]. The new style of ID neo-creationism began with a negative (or apophatic[31]) approach that removed the appearance of absolutism and intolerant dogmatics[32], which had plagued the earlier pro-theistic evolution dissenters. However, a book from a computer scientist, The Collapse of Evolution by Scott Huse also appeared in 1984, supporting Young Earth Creationism (YEC), and showed that biblical literalism, at least in the United States, was not going away anytime soon. This produced what I call a more friendly ‘hedge[33]’ between scientific proofs, creationist postulates, religious (in)tolerance and further cooperative investigation(s) into the mysterious non-scientific meaning(s) and origin(s) of human life. These authors were theists who held a scientific theory and the public received them well for saying so.

Michael Denton, a biologist from Australia, answered two years later with Evolution: A Theory in Crisis (1986) and the late-twentieth century battle over origins, which included Darwin’s theoretical and practical contributions, was officially re-engaged. Groups began to form and debates were held to determine distinctive ‘sides.’ And yet it was entirely unlike the fervour and expectations surrounding the earlier Scopes Trial in America. This was a nation in educational confusion and a legal crisis by the 1920’s and it appears this legacy continues on in some ways to this day. There was no central event between 1984 and 1993 with which to spin the media unchecked, but many new media[34] have been spun in different ways ever since. Likewise, there is no single ID publication or event which determines the character of this period until the early ‘90’s.

The zoologist and now popular science writer, Richard Dawkins also came up with The Blind Watchmaker in 1986, positioned[35] strongly against the design theoretic of William Paley[36]and Paley’s cosmological tradition. This effectively cancelled out any excessive momentum that the ‘design’ camp had gained in their initial foray. Dawkins’ position ever since has been as one of the strongest neo-Darwinians, with his practical authority in ethology and animal science and an eloquent speaking and composition style used to defend the naturalists, including materialist and secularist worldview(s). It then became much a matter of disciplinary allegiances in the intervening years, with strong philosophical statements held on two (or more) sides by theists and by naturalists respectively.


In 1987, the precedent-setting decision by the U.S. Supreme Court came down against ‘creation science’ in the Edwards vs. Aguillard case. This also quieted the Intelligent Design movement as their brothers and sisters in struggle, who were believers in teaching a literal Genesis interpretation to public school children on the topic of origin(s) of life science, were defeated. This setback for American religious scientists, however, would prepare a stage for greater battles on the academic and educational-legal fronts and in terms of public ideas for the social and political landscape as well.

In 1991, Phillip Johnson published his acclaimed book Darwin on Trial as a direct attack on Darwinian principles and against the slippery slope that leads to full-out beliefs in naturalism, materialistic humanism and even anti-theism. The key was to attack the Darwinian version of evolution and in particular ‘chance evolution,’ as a theory that operates by definition without design or purpose. This was obviously thought more effective than confronting the more recent ‘modern synthesis,’ which had provided a much needed and previously maligned link from biology to culture and into the realm of psycho-social views of humanity. However, Johnson’s overemphasis on Darwin’s points of weakness rather than on Darwin’s points of strength seems to set Darwinism[37] up as a near perfect target.

“For Darwinists, the only admissible theories are naturalistic ones,” Johnson says. “Darwinian theory finds its basis in the philosophy of scientific naturalism rather than in an unprejudiced examination of the evidence. In other words, the theory that is itself the most important supporting pillar for the modernist system is itself supported by that very system, in a classic example of circular reasoning.” – Phillip Johnson (First Things, “Nihilism and the End of the Law,” 1993)

Johnson must not be speaking about Darwin here though, since Darwin’s careful methods and scientific collections and observations are indisputable. Perhaps by equating Darwin with naturalism Johnson meant to refer to some greater symbol than the case in front of him presently allowed. In almost all of the pro-ID cases[38], the conclusions of the scientist or scholar must be considered the same: intelligent design (ontologically) is a reality and we should attempt to further articulate that axiom in our sciences, philosophies and theologies together as human beings. So went the first stage of intelligent theory’s cultural growth and scientific experimentation.

At the end of this period of initial development, Phillip Johnson has recalled a 1992 symposium as the beginning of the intelligent design movement, that is, as “an effort to challenge that basic underlying naturalistic ethos of the university world[39].” Thus, we see that the actual ‘beginning’ of the IDM does not itself have a singular origin story, except in the minds of individual ID theorists. The godfather of ID believes the IDM began nine years after The Mystery of Life’s Origins.

b. The Wedge (1993-2000)

The year 1993 is marked by a fortuitous gathering of scientists and scholars, under the invitation, selection and direction of Phillip Johnson, at Pajaro Dunes, California (1993). In bringing together a variety of talented academics from several disciplines, the leaders of a new movement declared their official name (IDM) and set themselves up as an interdisciplinary alternative to Darwinian Evolution. This network of ID theorists branched out from California, across the United States (esp. Colorado, Texas and New Jersey), and even to places in Europe and around the world.

The Wedge strategy formulated at the conference, which aimed at splitting opponents into divided camps, has proven quite effective in accomplishing the early goals of the IDM. The Wedge split its opponents by taking a two pronged approach: first, with a scientific and philosophical critique of naturalism, Darwinism and Evolution-ism and second, with a positive scientific research program[40] in the name of ID theories. The latter of these two strategies is more questionable than the former, but it is clear that ID serves as a formidable critique. The success of this strategy has been accompanied by and reflected in the growth of provocative debates, heated discussions, academic disputes and even dissent against (neo)-Darwinism and the historical evolution vs. creation problematic relevant since Darwin’s day.

Daniel Dennett’s popular science book Darwin’s Dangerous Idea (1995) is a good example of the renewed academic vigor. Here he refers to Darwinism as a ‘universal acid,’ while at the same time promoting evolutionary theories of consciousness and the mind in his subsequent professional writings. Counter to the spirit of Dennett’s contribution, P. Johnson publishes Reason in the Balance (1995) to allay fears that religious theorists who believed in design theory needed to check their intelligences at the door and refuse reasonable explanations in science other than ‘God did it.’ In one sense, recognition that Darwin’s theory has dangerous potential and could lead to ideologies like nihilism or to secular materialist views made various religious believers feel pressed to defend against this perceived evolutionary darkness. While on the other hand, armed with unevolvabilities[41] and things-that-can’t-be-explained-by-mere-chance, ID theorists were attempting to turn around a negative argument about evolution into a positive argument, by weighing the concept of design with academic integrity on the ‘balance of reason’.

In 1996, the dream of a founding ID enterprise became reality as The Centre for the Renewal of Science and Culture (CRSC[42]) opened in cooperation with the Discovery Institute (DI, a.k.a. ID Headquarters). On the website are found major articles, speeches, reviews and reply articles from ID theorists and supporters[43]. Discovery Institute fellow, David Berlinski published “The Deniable Darwin” in this year, which has been published in ID anthologies ever since. And the Mere Creation conference became a beacon both for C.S. Lewis followers and for post-Creation Science associates. ID had officially become a flag-carrying matter for Christian apologists, public intellectuals and religious research scientists alike. Not long afterwards, a human and physical geographer from Ireland, David Livingstone replied with Darwin’s Forgotten Defenders, providing a more European flavour to the conversation. The air of renewed partisanship over Darwin and the evolution problematic in the early and mid- 1990’s could not be far away from many scientists’ and academicians’ minds and hearts. Where do we come from? Why are we here? Where are we headed? In the face of a near-universalistic ontology in the academic natural and psychological sciences (i.e. everything evolves, Dennett above) these questions still required confrontation, even by evolutionary believers as they do for all human beings.

Several key books were presented in this period by ID advocates: Darwin’s Black Box (1996) by Michael Behe, The Design Inference[44] (1998), Mere Creation Science, Faith & Intelligent Design (1998) and Intelligent Design: The Bridge between Science and Theology (1999) by William Dembski. As a result of such well-read publications[45] the IDM has drawn in new recruits[46], especially from the information sciences, philosophy of science and studies in technology, as well as their beloved ID information engineers. And now in its present state ID represents an interdisciplinary mix of scientists, philosophical theorists as well as trained and lay theologians under its ‘science and culture’ ideological banner. At the same time that the public is reading about it, however, the so-called second track of ID must consist of actual accredited scientists doing practical work in their scientific fields. And yet during this period scientific advancement was something we are still waiting to see.

The basic mathematical-logical equation put forth in W. Dembski’s long-awaited and well-funded University of Chicago product, The Design Inference was,

“We may therefore think of design and chance as competing modes of explanation for which design prevails once chance is exhausted. … These two moves – ruling out regularity, and then ruling out chance – constitute the design inference. The conception of design that emerges from the design inference is therefore eliminative, asserting of an event what it is not, not what it is. To attribute an event to design is to say that regularity and chance have been ruled out.” (1998, 19, my italics)

In this way the origins of the universe and of life itself are attributable to intelligent design since they admit no evidence of regularity and since the chances of life happening from non-life are infinitesimal. This was the great invention of making an ‘inference to design’ which shifted the burden of probability calculation onto the evolutionary naturalist.

The return-to-roots type of reasoning and conspicuous, no nonsense writing style immediately assured Dembski a place in the scientific leadership of the IDM, as well as the youthful, mathematical-logical dimension he provides for analytical philosophy in the U.S.A.. That is, Dembski is the conceptual innovator of the Explanatory Filter (EF) used in The Design Inference. How much this approach and others in the name of ID may affect biology is the curiosity for many people both in the IDM, against the IDM, and on the sidelines. How it impacts society and social theories is what I am more interested in for this paper.

Other noteworthy writings for the ID movement at the end of the ‘90’s; in brief, Whatever Happened to the Soul? (1998) by Murphy, Brown and Maloney[47], the publication of the Johnson-Lamoureux debate on biological origins, titled Darwinism Defeated? (Regent College, 1999), and an article titled “The Wedge of Truth: Splitting the Foundations of Naturalism” by Phillip Johnson (2000). The first offers a religious-compatibalist argument in “Human Nature: Historical, Scientific, and Religious Issues” by Nancy Murphy. Though not an ID advocate, Murphy is a neuroscientist and theologian arguing for a non-reductive physicalism whereby we need not entirely forfeit the spiritual dimension in our conversation, but rather we may redefine it using new and old terms. The second comes from a debate between D. Lamoureux, an Alberta biologist, dentist, theologian and evolutionary creationist and P. Johnson the undisputed California father figure of ID, speaker and legal advisor for the IDM. And the third is a document by P. Johnson, on the main strategy that ID theorists have been using for the past several years, trying to further their scientific, philosophical and theological cause(s). These are several examples of a growing dispute and claims to territory made by a movement of scientists and scholars around ID terminology.

c. The Poof (2000-2004)

Since the start of the 21st century the flow of ID literature and counter-literature has increased substantially. Only a few texts and events can be mentioned here in selective summary. The idea is that the IDM is indeed at the center of some kind of controversy (scientific, educational, legal, etc.) over evolutionary theory and the place of Charles Darwin in social history. The discussion is most acute in the United   States bearing on origin(s) of life, human origins, and the non-universalism of naturalism. Spiritualism has not (yet) been suggested by any leading ID proponents, however, the best analogy for ID put forward thus far (rumoured to be by Behe, 2003) is that at the center of this recent social movement there is nothing more than a mere ‘poof.’ Again, however, such speculation should be weighed by the reader and left up to them to decide. The Poof could symbolize a greater theoretical victory than anything the IDM has thus far commanded.

To continue this brief history of ID, in 2000 molecular biologist Jonathan Wells published his controversial book, Icons of Evolution (, where he unmasks several falsely supposed truths and proofs of Darwin’s theory. But in general the attack against ‘evolution’ still does not hold much weight in pro-ID circles. The focus is put more on Darwin himself, while the indeterminate icons persist in the textbooks at the public school next door. Recently, I’ve read some ID advocates claiming publicly that they have no problems with evolution[48] and one of the leading three, Dr. Behe has no difficulty with one of evolution’s two pillars, common descent. So we need wonder how much impact Wells’ book has made philosophically speaking even within the IDM faithful.

According to official Roman Catholic science views, there is nothing wrong with concluding human beings are descended from apes or from other four-legged beings. It is the Holy Spirit which loses dignity and accountability in the evolutionary scenarios built upon theoretical agnosticism. This is true regardless of what Dr. Richard Swinburne says on the matter of a human soul evolving into existence[49], whose analytical attempt falls far short of its supra-continentally provocative title. The irony is that ID critics generally seem intent on protesting against ID as if it really is in staunch opposition to evolution, like they think they have at least one major defensive weapon in their arsenal against ID’ists. Evolution is still therefore seemingly impregnable; some have even suggested that the theory of evolution is as indispensable as gravity. My own discovery of clarification, however, during this period was that the concept of Evolution[50] is by itself a great weapon and a danger to faith-based social science, even larger than the phenomenon called neo-Darwinism or gradualism. And that is why evolution is (read: should be) one of the greatest opponents of ID theorists. As is often the case, the Roman Catholic Church is both years ahead and years behind[51] on this important scientific, philosophical and theological topic.

In 2001, Del Ratzsch, philosopher of science[52] at Calvin College came out with Nature, Design, and Science: The Status of Design in Natural Science (2001), where he both reaffirms the possibility of supernatural design theories[53] and protests against the prohibition of design theories in science generally. And yet he is confidently critical of ID’s scientific, philosophical and theological formulation(s) at the same time. Cornelius Hunter Darwin’s God: Evolution and the Problem of Evil (2001) revealed the religious assumptions of the evolution movement, which countered the common accusation that ID theorists are neo-creationists in a different guise. This was also the year that PBS produced their $14million project on Evolution, which first aired September 24-27, 2001. The addition of a television component to the American debate ensured that many more people and voices would join various pro- and anti-evolution campaigns. It meant that no end is in sight for ‘the controversy’ over evolution and what the IDM seeks to do with their scientific, philosophical and theological management and steering is anyone’s guess.

The primary tool of the IDM is based on a ‘Teach the Controversy’ campaign, which is orchestrated throughout the educational-legal spheres of ID-loyal territory. Members of the IDM, often from the DI, have pressed curriculum makers across America to adopt a policy of either teaching intelligent design or at least of teaching ‘the controversy’ over evolution theory instead. This has gone on under a provision by Senator Rick Santorum within the No Child Left Behind policy (2002). J.A. Campbell and Stephen Meyer deal with this theme in Darwinism, Design, and Public Education (2003), as does Francis Beckwith in Law, Darwinism, and Public Education (2003). These new (triad-like) books indicate a raging debate in the United   States that does not appear to have any signs of lessening[54]. In continental Europe, however, these arguments are not taken quite so seriously. Or at least the news comes from affiliates of associates of apprentices of ID vs. Evolution practitioners. European views about ID are imported; the philosophical rumours now include a concept of information at the heart of ID currency.

In 2002, the Discovery Institute put out a video, DVD called “Unlocking the Mystery of Life” to supplement its drive to enter the public arena via culture and opinion-making. The production features animated models of their flagship biological topic, the bacterial flagellum, as well as video from the Galapagos Islands on the coast of South America. This project was a bid to further solidify the philosophical and scientific foundations of ID. Also it helped to gain credibility from other religious pro-creation activists, such as Carl Wieland, who called ID theory, “A helpful new strategy to crack the foundation of evolution, which undergirds most of the world’s cultures and schools.” (“AiG’s views on the Intelligent Design Movement,” Answers in Genesis, 2002) So we see room for cooperation between newer anti-naturalist and older anti-naturalist advocates, beyond disagreement over how to unite the schools of interpretation for biblical scripture.

To conclude this brief history, we may notice that ID theories have promoted two main dualities: 1. naturalism and theism, and 2. design and evolution (or design and Darwin, more about these below). These dualities have been used to promote a message that the IDM wishes to project; a wedge that can be used to spread a Christian mission that ‘proves’ the existence of a Creator (i.e. the argument from design). But IDM supporters from across the United States and even around the world are now waiting, it seems, for a Poof or an X that marks-the-spot to send them in another direction. While IDists continue with the ground-breaking or hegemony-shaking work they’ve already done.

5. Intelligent Design Movement (IDM): Revolution or Repatriation?

Let us consider some of the grammar of the intelligent design (ID) conversation, in order to quickly orient ourselves to the vocabulary which the IDM chooses in their scientific, philosophical and theological communication. This will help us to assess central terms instead of getting distracted by what this author believes are peripheral issues in the contemporary ID discourse.

We see both triads and dualities. First the threesomes: necessity, chance, design – these are Dembski’s three (1998); Design, evolution, chance – these three are now used by several academics and popular writers; Darwinism, naturalism, ID – these are the recent triad compared in Touchstone Magazine (2004); Evolution, Creation, ID – these are the original triad of the ID movement once it stepped onto the academic stage and into public discourse (1984, 1993). The record above briefly maps out where the IDM has been, including several dualities and triads, and where it is today polemically speaking or otherwise. Now with these triads in mind I’m set to deliver the story of the second component in this additional Evolution, Extension, Intelligent Design trio. The banner rises now to fall on Intelligent Design.

When it comes to yet another dualistic approach, after the title to this section, we will consider the IDM as if it is either a revolution or repatriation[55]. Not a scientific revolution vs. a religious revolution, or a scientific repatriation vs. a religious repatriation, as this division often makes people simply dig in or entrench their positions rather than opening up for constructive conversation. Instead, we observe positive and negative theories of evolution, extension and ID. And we critically discuss those theories which are eliminative and those which are predictive in scope.

Evolution is specifically not predictive[56]; ID and Extension generally are predictive. Other dualisms that apply in this wide-reaching discourse are: Science and Faith, Science and Spirit, Nature and Nurture, Mechanic and Organic (addressed above), and the now popular IDM specialty[57], Chance and Design (2003, 2004). Also enlisted is the ever-present-since-Darwin controversy over those views which are naturalistic and those which are theistic. Natural versus Social is a more mainstream dualism in several disciplines[58] of the social sciences or even Natural vs. Cultural. However, Naturalistic Evolution vs. Intelligent Design is the elective duality proposed by the IDM and what makes it a close, relative topic for ‘Evolution or Extension’ later in this paper.

So we realize that if the IDM is truly to influence everyone (all human people) in the scientific world and beyond, it must somehow account for or answer to these other areas of philosophical discourse as well. How do human decisions influence the evolutionary schematic? Will the ‘design-revolutionary’ label still work for academic thinkers over against the evolution juggernaut? Is there really a revolution now happening in (post)-modern science, led by ID? And are there other areas of the academy (outside of the current IDM’s reach-ability) which need overhauling as well, according to theistic science principles?

“Naturalism is the disease. Intelligent Design is the cure.” – W. Dembski (Intelligent Design: The Bridge, 1999, 120)

Even with the help of more moderate voices in the IDM, who are less radical with their words, Dembski’s incite-ful language serves to symbolically stain the discourse with analogical blood. To be sure, Dembski has played his part in raising several key issues. But he also runs the risk that if ID is not a cure then it’s a virus. Either way, Dr. Dembski’s overtures to revolution leave him in the unpleasant position of being a marked man until he finds a way to resolution, synthesis or into some kind of counter-position for post-revolution peace. The post-dualistic[59] 21st century dragon races await him. And this is why we will now look to one of his favorite comparisons, design versus evolution, and making inferences to design based on probabilities and eliminations to voice the message.

a. The (False) Separation of Design and Evolution

To acknowledge the presence of theoretical separation between ‘design’ and ‘evolution,’ we recall that C. Darwin did not put much stock in the concept of ‘design[60][61],’ or in ideas of ‘purpose[62]’ or ‘teleology[63]’. Darwin is the flag bearer of evolution, so there it is. The reader is left to decide if the separation between design and evolution is true or not.

This fact at least is disputable about Darwin after reading what he wrote in his private correspondence:

“I own I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us…I cannot honestly go as far as you do about Design” – Charles Darwin (letter to Asa Gray, 1860, in Autobiography and Selected Letters)

Clearly, thoughts about design were entertained by Darwin throughout his life[64] and in his later years he still did not equate a non-design theoretic scenario necessarily with anti-theism[65]. Evolution in this sense has been misappropriated in pitting design and evolution against one another, when they could rather be complimentary than ideologically combative.

Such lessons need not lead us automatically to a conclusion that another duality is the appropriate solution – ‘Darwin vs. Design’ or ‘Design vs. Evolution’ – or remedy for the so-called disease of naturalism. Darwin didn’t use the design metaphor in his science, but still others in his society did and even now must use a ‘design theoretic’ in their working lives[66]. And yet this is the separation of spheres that the IDM brings into conversation on this topic by pitting Design and Chance as opponents.

The truth may be that non-religious biologists often deny some kind of extra-scientific reference, which could make itself available to apply or to invite into their practical work. And religious scientists have made errors in the past of attributing scientific results to fit their particular religious agendas. So the trust factor between several sides is not exactly well-kept. However, we may say in summary that what I consider the false separation of design and evolution pertains primarily to bio-chemistry,  and to other related natural science disciplines. Those are just the facts.

“Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed but rather evolved.” – Francis Crick

“Why?” asks Leo at the Access Research Network’s intelligent design (ID) Forum.


This type of exclusivist thinking is exactly what we’re trying to avoid in this tolerant academic setting toward design, evolution and extension. Denise O’Leary is a recent journalist who demonstrates that design theories are reaching the cultural centers of North American academia[67]. However, her approach continues in the tradition already labeled as divisive into Darwinian or anti-Darwinian terms, i.e. Design or Chance, which results partly from the focused pro-ID investigations and imaginings.

O’Leary tells us, 

“Darwinism became the orthodoxy because it ruled out design. But it is not the only way of understanding evolution.” “Darwinists view ID as heresy because they are committed to a ‘no design model’ and would prefer to continue looking for solutions to the mystery of life via law and chance.” (By Design or By Chance? 2004, 10)

Though I do agree with her that Darwinism is not the only way to understand evolution, as already said above, still her thoughts seem a bit over-anxious about those ‘mysteries of life.’ One drawback, however, to taking this design vs. chance approach, however, is that it places much focus on probability theory, philosophy of mathematics and quantification estimates. Also, it ironically places a tremendous focus on Darwin himself, as opposed to the broader situation of discourse in which Darwin played a prominent role. Without taking such historical context into account, it may press an unsuspecting reader into a corner where they can’t help but find justification in anti-Darwinism or in evolution-bashing. And that Design[68] is simply anything that is not evolution[69], which runs according to Hoyle.

The second inference is of course that Darwinism and evolution are distinct and should be separated by ideological and theoretical boundaries. This could be described by S.J. Gould’s non-overlapping magisteria theory, except for both Darwinism and evolution may be said to have stayed within the same original fold. Thus, I do not wish to take a dualistic, boundary-making approach to the topic, and rather will refer to the discussions previously help by Abraham Kuyper, with his ‘souvereiniteit in Eigen Kring’ to help distinguish the spheres in which ID terminology seems an appropriate fit.

Proponents of ID often feel pressed to confront radical atheists who seek to solidify the connection between evolution and non-theism; that they still rely on qualitative, naturalistic explanations[70]. So how could anyone honestly believe this (design vs. evolution) is not an appropriate duality? This can be done simply by noting that we do not have to always use the words of our enemy to fight him or her on their own grounds. The option is always there for ID to play back into the trap that social and political thinkers laid for pre-creationist design theories. But they needn’t choose that particular route. I think it would be better to stay the course, however, than to listen to fools.

Richard Dawkins, for example, writes,

“The essence of life is statistical improbability on a colossal scale. Whatever is the explanation for life, therefore, it cannot be chance. The true explanation for the existence of life must embody the very antithesis of chance. The antithesis of chance is nonrandom survival…” (in Carter, The Defective Image, 128)

Dembski enjoys confronting the probabilitists[71] on their own terms, and conveniently many evolutionists are enthralled by the idea of specifying biological and other types of physical and non-physical information. Many stalwart evolutionists (in this case called ID critics), whether they consider themselves (neo)-Darwinian[72] or otherwise, feel challenged and even threatened (in an academic sense) for the right to their hard fought historical positions regarding evolutionary theory. It is quite clear that relatively new (especially the younger[73]) voices in the so-called ID movement (IDM) are in several ways unlike the anti-evolution-ism of decades past. Some ID theorists are even supporters of evolutionary theory, in their own particular and sometimes peculiar[74] ways, and they present a pseudo-united scientific approach to evolutionary theory, especially in regard to biological information theory and probabilistic specifications[75]. This is just a brief glimpse at the current state of discourse on the IDM and its relationship with theories of evolution.


The Intelligent Design Movement (IDM) instead sets itself up as ‘the bridge[76]’ between Science and Theology; we may notice the two-dimensional rather than the three-dimensional triad that we’ve applied throughout this paper. The most basic criticism to level at ID is the charge of philosophical arrogance and absolutism, for example, in the proclamations made to the public about ID”s supposed scientific and theological uprising. The downside is that one sometimes finds them-self arguing against the very people who they might otherwise wish to support in another sphere; and yet they can’t support their colleague or peer in this particular sphere on the origin(s) of life. Science, philosophy and theology together at least spread the conversation in three ways, creating new networks of resonance for shared information and consciousness.

Design clearly does not translate into all languages and all disciplines as synonymous with anti-evolution, though it is often accused of transmitting such a message. Some design theorists though, accept evolution and have chosen instead to specifically target ‘chance evolution.’ Our general inability to scientifically calculate ‘design in nature’ should not defer people or be seen as the only (negative) reason why Darwin’s theory has been successfully promoted, and widely disseminated over a period of almost 145 years. From another perspective, we could instead notice that “naturalism was there long before Darwinism and led directly to its dominance,” as Carl Wieland says at his website called Answers in Genesis.

This way, the mobilized anti-Darwinists could focus their interests and attention beyond the controversy over evolution and naturalism, to also consider positivism, nihilism and other non-theistic or anti-theistic ideologies that speak through scientists and scholars to people young and old today. At least the suggestion seems preferable than to reverting into a position of being called neo-creationist scientists who would otherwise[77] echo the thoughts of Dr. G. Morton, who writes, “design is not enough” (2002). The IDM separation of Evolution and Design in my opinion is false and not even consistently held across the range of IDM faithful. An alternate dualistic scenario is thought necessary.

b. A Watch Maker meets an Information Engineer

Here is how I have approached the Intelligent Design Movement thus far: I do not revere Charles Darwin, the English Naturalist of the 19th century. But I believe from what I observe around me that Evolution has profound academic currency. I prefer the terms ‘miscellaneous,’ ‘cause-undiscovered’ or ‘effects unknown’ and even some 21st century notions of ‘random’ compared to the alternative view of 19th century ‘randomness’ which allied itself with nihilism[78] and turned into a chaotic worldview. I do not like the word chance[79], though I admit to its situated usages and helpful modeling in certain spheres. I protect myself from the over-stretching of evolutionary and design theories into domains where both of their terminologies seem awkward. I keep myself plugged-in to await contact from people and their information that comes in around the clock, instantaneously, from the global village that has become our X-post regeneration’s little electronic world.

I am not a biologist, a zoologist, a health scientist, a geologist, or a nuclear physician[80] and also not an environmental or a bio-chemical engineer. I am not a natural scientist of any variety. I am not a mathematician, though I think mathematically on a daily basis and have studied basic and higher level mathematics. I am not a statistician, though I have experienced statistics classes. But do any of these things invalidate me from understanding the intelligent design discourse or evolutionary theory, even as a generalist rather than a specialist? Or is this whole conversation instead about something much less objective, much more scientific-subjective in regard to origins and human ends? Indeed, we can be considered reflexively-philosophical[81] in our sincerity both to question the evidence and to involve the questioner him or her-self, the interpreter or interlocutor in the situation.

Therefore, when the question is asked whether or not one thinks the world is ‘designed’ or whether it happened ‘by chance,’ the question should also be asked whether or not they think they them-self were ‘designed’ or whether they happened ‘by chance.’ It’s not too difficult to admit yourself into the discourse at all, and then the attention in a scientific discussion inevitably must turn to the scientific evidence itself.

“The argument from design, as it is known, prevailed as an explanation of the natural world until the publication of the Origin of Species in 1859. The weight of the evidence that Darwin had patiently gathered swiftly convinced scientists that evolution by natural selection better explained life’s complexity and diversity.” – Richard Milner & Vittorio Maestro, eds. (Intelligent Design? A special report, Natural History magazine)

The ‘design prevailed until Darwin in 1859’ approach to evolution has been shown to be more myth than reality, since design theories and practises are still used today in various forms. On the topic of complexity[82] and diversity, however, evidence is handled in a rather different way from within the IDM than from others outside of it. The burden and intellectually integrity of gathered evidence is another thing altogether.

Leave it to A.N. Whitehead to remind us that, “The complexity of nature is inexhaustible” (Process and Reality, 1919, 149). We should keep that in mind and briefly think of both maximal complexity and minimal complexity before possibly giving the stage to W. Dembski’s informational theory. There are limits to which any concept-metaphor may be used to describe or explain any scientific, philosophical or theological idea. Dembski’s writing on specification[83] in recent years, and in coining the term ‘Complex Specified Information’ (CSI) serves to compliment the helpful conceptualization laid down by Behe[84] in biology that organic (molecular) machines could be called irreducibly complex. But he spurns credibility by claiming to actually ‘eliminate chance,’ a concept comparable to complexity in its theoretical difficulty to comprehend or pin down, and thus he sets himself up for near-impossibility in his quest.

By joining forces in an interdisciplinary arena, the IDM now fills the role of a general theory of pattern recognition[85][86] to analyze or compare (quantitatively) the increasing diversity of our post-modern world. Otherwise, theories of ID still do not claim to explain the diversity of intelligent agency[87], as it originates and develops through a particular scientific, philosophical or theological process. These are some current limitations of the design argument (i.e. which spheres go where?), and which suggest such a different relationship between people and information as the jump between the age of a watch-maker and the age of an information engineer. If we were dealing with an information engineer rather than a watchmaker, there would be many more variables, units or packages to consider and with exponentially more possibilities to encounter in our computational investigation(s). The information engineer represents the post-modern age while the watchmaker is reminiscent of the modern age and its science built upon Sir I. Newton. Today’s figure and book to remember in the areas of information, media and communication, are Marshall McLuhan and Understanding Media.

6. Intelligent Design as a Theory for Specifying Information

Now that Dr. P. Johnson is retired from UC Berkeley and on a more leisurely scientific, legal and religious speaking schedule, Dr. W. Dembski assumes central command of the IDM. He does this by formulating a set of demands which reveal a disciplined research program to help lift ID into the public mindset and ultimately into U.S. public education. He writes that, “Intelligent design is the scientific discipline that systematically investigates the effects of intelligent causes…intelligent design constitutes a scientific discipline.” (“Becoming a Disciplined Science,” 2003, 120) We gather from his writings that Dembski is asking for recognition from mainstream scientists and scholars that ID can and should be a disciplined science. Thus he makes inferences to design, elaborates on the mathematical foundations of intelligent design[88] and deduces unevolvability in various ways for the public to imagine.

The reader may wonder at some point, however, about the definition of intelligence. Is intelligence, likewise for information, a physical or non-physical property or attribute? The simple suggestion here is that intelligence extends from what we know and how we come to know it. The epistemological split between material and immaterial intelligence or material and immaterial information, is equally enigmatic. For example, intelligence is said to have a quota not a quantity. It can be mental or emotional or both. Likewise, information can be based on a bit or a byte, or a tip or a quip, but it can’t reveal the ‘essence’ of humanity itself. In this way we may wonder how much we could learn about ourselves through learning from “Intelligent Design as a Theory of Information.” However, in this approach the human agencies involved in science and theology are both given due attention by the IDM.


When it comes to ideas which ‘specify’ information, the mathematical-biological theories of Dembski have arrived just in time. This is where Michael Behe’s crucial contribution, in his award-winning Darwin’s Black Box, made so much sense to people. “Any irreducibly complex system cannot be produced directly by numerous, successive, slight modifications of a precursor system,” he says, “because any precursor to an irreducibly complex system that is missing a part is by definition non-functional.” (1996) For Behe’s updated version of Irreducible Complexity: “An irreducibly complex evolutionary pathway is one that contains one or more unselected steps (that is, one or more necessary-but-unselected mutations). The degree of irreducible complexity is the number of unselected steps in the pathway.” (2003) Combined, the definition now includes the following variables: modifications, precursor systems, functionality/non-functionality, selected/unselected steps (or mutations), degrees of irreducible complexity and pathways. And though not yet applied comprehensively to biological information, or to other types of information in other areas, Behe’s formulation poses a direct attack on evolutionary scenarios and situations.

One may wonder (i.e. as a non-specialist) at some point how meaningful these new terms[89] are or how relevant probability calculations may be for the topic of origin(s) of life. It seems to have become a condition of post-modernity to say ‘so what,’ when one is given statistics, or numerical proofs to justify a worldview perspective that is hidden inside ambiguous concept assumptions and methodological postulates. Still, with such a reductionism-defeating definition brought forth by Behe, the search for a priori or posteriori mechanisms of evolution appears to be little more than chasing after invisible or non-calculable things. Some people are finally now admitting: some things don’t evolve, and some mechanisms need not (or perhaps cannot) be found…and that’s o.k..


In Stephen Wolfram’s forward-and-backward looking recent work in complexity studies, “The outcome of the evolution finally becomes clear after 8262 steps, when the pattern resolves into 31 simple repetitive structures.” (A New Kind of Science, 2002) Here we witness what I have called ‘the extension of evolution[90]’ referred to as ‘steps’ resulting in or from simple repetitive structures. But as to how far these structures can be resolved, and of what their actual origins and directions are or may be is quite another mystery still in the natural and social sciences alike. With the help of an information engineer in this wired digital age we can imagine the vast networks of complex information systems and structures. So with a simple mechanical watch from two centuries ago, we can observe it being disassembled and reduced into several parts that function only after receiving the coordinated skill of their maker. In both cases the pieces as they are put together are often amazing, but the whole when it comes together is a beautiful mystery.

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He [sic] to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed” – Albert Einstein (“Strange is Our Situation Here Upon Earth”)

A word of warning is therefore necessary to prevent such explanatory models as Wolfram’s from reducing or trying to automate individual humans and their pattern making and breaking capabilities into simplified equivalents of non-human factoring, i.e. like computing systems. The geographer Trevor Barnes cautions us that, “under this scheme [of methodological individualism], explanations of any social and economic phenomena are reducible to the properties and relations of individuals and only individuals.” (Logics of Dislocation, 1996) Such a danger for our approach to the social sciences in regard to ID and Evolution is certainly worth paying attention to. In the case of intelligent design theories, the difference between individual ID and universal ID is like the difference between reflecting an image or of being reflected in an image.

The interplay of diverse individuals and groups with a variety of contrasting, competing or conflicting social, natural and cultural theories of human life obviously complicates the discourse. However it also makes the discussion on evolution and extension more potent as fuel for a post-prefixed problem intervention or outright solution on the topic of origins, meaning, purpose and teleology. This is what the intelligent design movement is attempting to provide in its scientific, philosophical and theological appeal, which is also the type of collaborative dialogue that I hope to generate in this paper.


Closing Remarks:

The basic feature of this approach to Intelligent Design has been to detach many of the conventional definitions from evolution and intelligent design theories and to re-offer them in viewpoint on social scientific grounds. The contention is that social sciences have been virtually ignored by ID theorists, while leaders of the IDM claim future potentiality for their theories in those very domains. This detachment tactic therefore serves to directly involve the personal beliefs, values and viewpoints of the investigator them-self into the socially-relative investigation and thus introduces or re-attaches reflexivity or social relativity to our method. Are the reader’s own thoughts about evolution in this paper ‘evolving’ as they read, or have they discovered the intelligent design (or lack thereof) in this paper? My own declarative critical position at this time is that the IDM cannot and will not affect a ‘revolution’ (if, on such a broadly labeled topic, it ever could be expected to) without first discovering something like an X-mark to lead the way; a grand theoretical formulation beyond the mere elimination of competing alternatives. That X-mark consists partly of the participatory relevance of the reader, armed with a new theory to challenge naturalistic evolution. It begins when origins and directions of life are considered alongside origins and directions of oneself. These are a few reasons why I consider ID theories more accurately as a repatriation of previous ideas (cf. Paley’s Watchmaker apologetic), with several helpers added for conceptual supplementation, than as a new kind of science that could take up beyond the so-called ‘creationist’ camp. 


It is history and time, chance and circumstance that have led us collectively to deal with Evolutionary Theory, Charles Darwin, Common Descent and Human or Social Sciences as indicators of the post-modern mindset. In this sense, the general thrust of the ID movement is quite brilliant to confront Darwinism at its most vulnerable yet mature stage of development. As well, the anti-secular light that comes from ID has not yet been seen by numerous people who could benefit from its articulation in their own lives. However, several key questions remain which hinder theories of ID from gaining mainstream scientific legitimacy, international appeal and approval. These questions refer to issues and concerns that I have pointed to in this chapter or which form the body of thoughts included in the Appendix on the Intelligent Design Movement.

In several ways I am impressed by the approach to Darwinism and Intelligent Design taken by Ben M. Carter. His approach is first to verify intelligent design in nature, but then to take an alternative pathway from the IDM by focusing on features of communication. He then articulates the limited relevance of evolution to this non-natural science topic. “Having described communication as an example of irreducible complexity,” he writes, “we have attempted to distinguish between simple communication and human language and have stressed the teleological implications in the origins of human language.” (The Defective Image, 2001, 114) In this case the argument against evolution (particularly the ideological kind) is strong yet not forceful as a portent for new views about human communication. Yet Carter also stresses origins and directedness through human language, i.e., that dreaded alignment with teleological meaning which biologists have been generally unwilling to make in their academic discipline(s).

Carter continues his commentary about the world, in which Darwinism operates,

“It is a world made more intelligible by essentialism than by inheritance, and a world which appears far more likely to have been fashioned by a purposeful creator than to have evolved randomly out of chaos. Finally as the artifact of a creator, it is a world which reveals things about its creator. I believe that communication as an example of irreducible complexity is revelatory.” (The Defective Image, 2001, 114)

It is noteworthy that at the present time, two of the IDM leaders have focused on the topic of human origins. W. Dembski recently came out with an article On Human Origins (2004), which he didn’t publish but posted on his website. Dembski is an undeclared[91] Old Earth Creationist (OEC) who believes in uncommon descent, i.e. human and life origins from a Creation story and not according to Evolution theory. In another case, Paul Nelson, who has a forthcoming book titled On Common Descent is a Young Earth Creationist (YEC) and likewise believes in an uncommon descent for human mammals. A third leader of the IDM, Michael Behe believes in an old earth and in common descent with modification; in regard to humans it is possible (and even likely) that we evolved from lower animal natures. God intervenes in reality, however, which Christians and other religious believers should be still allowed to call ‘the Creation.’ And so with just three examples we witness a variety of views within the IDM that prevent a unified theory of ID on the topic of origins.

“I do not think that Darwinism can explain the origin of life. I think it quite possible that life is so extremely improbable that nothing can ‘explain’ why it originated; for statistical explanation must operate, in the last instance, with very high probabilities. But if our high probabilities are merely low probabilities which have become high because of the immensity of the available time, then we must not forget that in this way it is possible to ‘explain’ almost everything. Even so, we have little enough reason to conjecture that any explanation of this sort is applicable to the origin of life.” – Karl Popper (Unended Quest, 1974, 169)


So what are we to make of the anti-Darwinian orthodoxy that has emerged in recent years? D. Lamoureux, mentioned above, takes an entirely different approach to the IDM. “According to Darwin,” he confirms, “not recognizing God’s ‘sublime power’ and the ‘inevitable consequences’ of the ‘magnificent laws’ of evolution was to ‘profane’ the Creator. Clearly, evolutionary theory, as first formulated, was not atheistic.” (“Theological Insights from Charles Darwin,” 2004, 4) To compliment Lamoureux’s position in this theoretical dilemma, I wish to introduce the voice of Marshall McLuhan who also believed in evolution but did not let it overly influence his professional work or his personal beliefs.

McLuhan delivers one of his aphorims, saying, “there is absolutely no inevitability as long as there is a willingness to contemplate what is happening.” (The Medium is the Massage, 1967, 25) Along with his ‘laws of media,’ McLuhan’s approach opens us to the prospect of analyzing, comparing and even systematizing features of human life, including both causes and effects of human existence. Of course, media and communication can both be said to be ‘intelligently designed.’ And his statement above connects quite easily with certain contentions argued repeatedly for by ID advocates. If we ‘follow the evidence where it leads,’ they believe our understanding of Darwin and Evolution may shift dramatically and instead provide the possibility to rediscover the life-giver amidst the dispiriting trends of naturalistic science. But then again we can only make this discovery if it is ‘designed’ for us to do so. And the IDM thus rolls on in a hermeneutic circle this way.

[1] Or been revived, if one counts the design theoretics put forth in earlier times as precursors of ID and the IDM.

[2] ‘Revolution’ is perhaps an overused word now following the Kuhnian interpretation of paradigm shifts and scientific revolutions (in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s). Dr. Dembski’s participation in the ‘scientific revolution’ of chaos theory in the 1980’s may or may not adequately prepare him for this very different interdisciplinary discourse about theories of evolution and intelligent design…and in this paper, of extension theory.

[3] ID vs. Evolution Philosophers: Stephen Meyer, Paul Nelson, J.A. Campbell, Nancy Pearcey, William Dembski, Tom Woodward, Del Ratzsch, et al.

[4] “Dembski invented the tools, but he has not taken all the fun. The best is yet to come. The real excitement will be in applying design theory to a range of subjects. Intelligent design theory has implications for virtually all humane studies, including philosophy, theology, literary criticism, history and more. It promises to be a clarifying lens through which to view issues of interest to the public in general and to Christians in particular, as this book itself demonstrates.” – Michael Behe (Foreword to Intelligent Design: The Bridge by W. Dembski, 1999, 10, my bold)

[5] God and Design ed. Neil Manson (2003)

[6] “The theory of intelligent design is not contingent on biblical fundamentalism or religious dogmatism. Many of Behe´s opponents regard Behe´s theory as the articulation of a new creationism. This is mistaken if by creationism is meant a position based on biblical fundamentalism, for Behe’s theory is not based on the Bible but on empirical data. His book is not a contribution to the discussion between creationism and Darwinism; it is a contribution to a classical philosophical problem, which we are still trying to solve.” – Jakob Wolf (“Two Kinds of Causality,” ISCID, 2003, 9)

[7] “And it is there that Darwinism can justly be accused of destroying faith and morality—not Darwin and his book, but the entire movement from which he sprang and to which he supplied impetus and a name. The genetic fallacy dating back to Comte is at the root of the trouble—the fallacy of reducing all experiences to one condition of their origin and so killing meanings by explanations.” – J. Barzun (Darwin, Marx, Wagner, 1941, 91)

[8] “Darwinism: Science or Philosophy?” asked Phillip Johnson (in “The Storyteller and the Scientist”, First Things, Oct 1996)

[9]  “Do the probability calculation!” – W. Dembski (The Design Inference, 1998, 228)

[10] The most important sub-concept(s) in the IDM’s theoretical vocabulary, in my opinion, IC is acclaimed as a legitimate challenge to Darwinian gradualism, or the exclusive step-by-step process of evolution as opposed to punk eek or some other accelerated development models.

We mustn’t forget the qualifying words of Darwin himself on this topic to realize the full effects of M. Behe’s formulation or discovery: “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.” (On the Origin of Species, Chp. 6) Does Behe’s logical category of irreducible complexity sound the death knoll for evolutionary theory? That is for the reader to encounter on their own.

[11] “The Challenge of Irreducible Complexity: Every living cell contains many ultrasophisticated molecular machines.” – Richard Milner & Vittorio Maestro (in Intelligent Design? A special report, Natural History magazine ed. Richard Milner & Vittorio Maestro)

[12] Cf. Steven Wolfram’s notion of ‘irreducible computation’: “For if the evolution of a system corresponds to an irreducible computation then this means that the only way to work out how the system will behave is essentially to perform this computation.” (A New Kind of Science, 2002)

[13] “The logic of the Explanatory Filter is eliminative – to infer design is to eliminate regularity and chance. Yet in practice, to infer design is not simply to eliminate regularity and chance, but to detect the activity of an intelligent agent.” – W. Dembski (The Design Inference, 1998, 62)

[14] “The design inference…eliminates chance entirely” (Ibid, 7)

[15] That is, not a person or a place

[16] Voila!

[17] “the notion of intelligent cause has disappeared from natural science today” – Charles Thaxton (“A New Design Argument,” ARN, 1998)

[18] “When confronted with irreducibly complex systems in nature, we are prompted to compare them to human artefacts in which human intelligence has been invested. This comparison affords us some grasp of the system, but we do not acquire the same sort of knowledge as we do when we identify the concrete cause of something. We gain only analogical understanding.” – Jakob Wolf (“Two Kinds of Causality,” ISCID, 2003, 5)

[19] E.g. Karl Popper, Evolutionary Epistemology (1973, opening lines): “I now turn to progress in science. I will be looking at progress in science from a biological or evolutionary point of view. I am far from suggesting that this is the most important point of view for examining progress in science. But the biological approach offers a convenient way of introducing the two leading ideas of the first half of my talk…”

[20] “The conservative Christians of the United States respond not by banishing science but by seeking a different science, one that can accommodate what they know from experience to be true. The conflict between the fundamentalist and the metaphysical naturalist on a subject like this cannot be settled by judgments in law courts or statements from mainstream science bodies. It is hard to see how it can be settled at all.” – Denyse O’Leary (By Design or By Chance, 2004, 162)

[21]  “In some respects the United States during the last three decades of the nineteenth and at the beginning of the twentieth century was the Darwinian country.” … “Spencer…was far more popular in the United States than he was in his native country.” – Richard Hofstadter (Social Darwinism in American Thought, 1944, 1955, 4, 5)

[22] “The discovery [of intelligent design] rivals those of Newton and Einstein, Lavoisier and Schroedinger, Pasteur and Darwin.” – M. Behe (Darwin’s Black Box: 15)

Question: Who discovered it? Who discovered intelligent design?

[23] “Is evolutionary theory compatible with the idea that God acts in nature? Through most of Western history it had been assumed that all creatures were designed and created by God in their present forms, but Charles Darwin claimed that they are the product of a long process of natural selection. His theory of evolution not only undermined the traditional version of the argument from design; it also explained the history of nature by scientific laws that seemed to offer no opportunity for God’s providential guidance. Several themes in the biological sciences, however, offer promising new ways of conceiving of divine action in evolutionary history without intervention in violation of the laws of nature.” – Ian Barbour (Nature, Human Nature, and God, 2002, 10)

[24] “I write books in order to educate people about how we came to exist.” – Richard Dawkins (Debate with Jaron Lanier, 2002 –

[25] “The idea that divine creation and science are incompatible is not an idea entertained by Darwin. It is an idea that came into ascendancy only in the twentieth century as a consequence of the perceived necessity of science qua science to construe natural phenomena solely in terms of material secondary causality.” – Ben M. Carter (The Defective Image, 2001, 176)

[26] “From an evolutionary point of view, religion appears to be a ubiquitous penchant for somersaults of the most elaborate sort, and as such it demands an explanation.” – Daniel Dennett (Freedom Evolves, 2003, 183)

[27] Context: Los Angeles Olympics, Apple Computer, George Orwell, etc.

[28] “Rather than search for a means by which complex information would somehow organize itself by chance, Thaxton, Bradley, and their colleagues decided to assume that the information was not organized by chance, but by a designing intelligence.” – Denyse O’Leary (By Design or By Chance, 2004, 172)

[29] “The social-gospel movement arose during the years when evolution was making converts among the progressive clergy, and since ministers who were liberal in social outlook were almost invariably liberal in theology also, the social theory of the movement was deeply affected by the impact of naturalism upon social thought.” – Richard Hofstadter (Social Darwinism in America, 1944, 1955, 107)

[30] “a theorist who does not rely on the Bible or other religious authority, and accepts gradual development of organisms over long periods of time, but who sees the need for some guiding (i.e., designing) intelligence.” – P. Johnson on Behe (in By Design or By Chance, 2004, 182)

[31] For an ID antagonist, thesis vs. pagan discussion that includes this theme, see:

[32] “If evolution is taught in public schools, creation also should be taught.” – Ronald Reagan (1980 – as Presidential Candidate)

[33] This was a time when walls in some places were coming down, while hedges were built up behind them

[34] E.g. books, journal articles, private correspondence and departmental debates

[35] “Natural selection, the blind, unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life, has no purpose in mind. It has no mind and no mind’s eye. It does not plan for the future. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all. If it can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker.” – Richard Dawkins (The Blind Watchmaker)

[36] “The question is not simply, How came the first watch into existence? which question, it may be pretended, is done away by supposing the series of watches thus produced from one another to have been infinite, and consequently to have had no-such first, for which it was necessary to provide a cause. This, perhaps, would have been nearly the state of the question, if no thing had been before us but an unorganized, unmechanized substance, without mark or indication of contrivance. It might be difficult to show that such substance could not have existed from eternity, either in succession (if it were possible, which I think it is not, for unorganized bodies to spring from one another), or by individual perpetuity. But that is not the question now. To suppose it to be so, is to suppose that it made no difference whether we had found a watch or a stone. As it is, the metaphysics of that question have no place; for, in the watch which we are examining, are seen contrivance, design; an end, a purpose; means for the end, adaptation to the purpose. And the question which irresistibly presses upon our thoughts, is, whence this contrivance and design? The thing required is the intending mind, the adapting hand, the intelligence by which that hand was directed. This question, this demand, is not shaken off, by increasing a number or succession of substances, destitute of these properties; nor the more, by increasing that number to infinity. If it be said, that, upon the supposition of one watch being produced from another in the course of that other’s movements, and by means of the mechanism within it, we have a cause for the watch in my hand, viz. the watch from which it proceeded. I deny, that for the design, the contrivance, the suitableness of means to an end, the adaptation of instruments to a use (all which we discover in the watch), we have any cause whatever. It is in vain, therefore, to assign a series of such causes, or to allege that a series may be carried back to infinity; for I do not admit that we have yet any cause at all of the phænomena, still less any series of causes either finite or infinite. Here is contrivance, but no contriver; proofs of design, but no designer.” – William Paley (from Natural theology, 1802, my bolding)

[37] “In the distant future I see open fields for far more important researches. Psychology will be based on a new foundation, that of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation. Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history.” – C. Darwin (On the Origin of Species…, 1859)

[38] I.e. those cases that I am familiar with through the literature, ID networks and viewing many discussions about ID on-line

[40] “I have come to the conclusion that Darwinism is not a testable scientific theory, but a metaphysical research programme—a possible framework for testable scientific theories.” – Karl Popper (Unended Quest, 1974, 168)

[41] E.g. “Great birthday parties don’t just happen, they evolve” – by Richard Macey (February 12, 2003, Sydney Times?)

[42] Later, it changed its name (2002) to the Centre for Science and Culture (CSC)

[43] Discovery Institute fellows include: S. Meyer, J. West. M. Behe, D. Berlinski, Paul Chien, William Dembski, M.N. Keas, N. Pearcey, B. Wiker, J. Wells, W.L. Craig, P. Nelson, Forrest Mims, R. Weikart, H Schaefer, et al.

[44]  “How can we identify events due to intelligent causes and distinguish them from events due to undirected natural causes? If we lack a causal theory, how can we determine whether an intelligent cause acted? This book presents a reliable method for detecting intelligent causes: the design inference.” – David Berlinski (foreword)

[45] Behe’s Black Box is a top science bestseller, with international appeal for his critique of Darwin’s theory and of evolution based on a freshly coined term, Irreducible Complexity and its associated meanings.

[46] Noteworthy at ISCID are Micah Sparacio (Philosophy of Mind) and John Bracht

[47] Though this publication is not ID-specific or pro-ID, it gives fresh support to the ID vs. Evolution or Darwinism problematic

[48] often qualified, as with micro-/macro-, or a chance vs. directed (design)

[49] I.e. The Evolution of the Soul (1982, 1999)

[50] And its derivatives and associates; evolvere, evolu, to evolve, evolved, evolving; devolve, devolution, etc.

[51] Behind, as in accepting evolution theory over one hundred and thirty years after initial conception

[52] “Ratzsch points out how recent philosophy of science emphasizes that science is not a purely empirical procedure. It also relies on human perception and understanding and non-empiriacal values like simplicity.” – Patrick Richmond (“Review: Nature, Design and Science: Status of deign in Natural Sciences, in Faith and Philosophy, 2002, 391)

[53] “Not all design theories can be said to have failed. Darwinian evolution may have undermined some gap theories of design but not theories claiming that fundamental natural laws or initial conditions are designed.” (Ibid, 392)

[54] Cf. Mark Perakh’s Unintelligent Design (Prometheus Books, 2003)

[55] Cf. ‘retrieval’ in McLuhan’s Four Effects. The act of repatriation suggests in addition, a reclaiming of or return to territory, as when the IDM speaks about taking back what Darwin claimed, as against the concept/theory of ‘design’

[56] At least, Darwin’s evolutionary model is not predictive, though more recent evolutionists have incorporated versions of directionality and teleology attempting to speak more predictive

[57] Hint: not only to do with the species question

[58] Anthropology, cultural studies, economics, political science, psychology, sociology, etc.

[59] I.e. Design or Chance

[60] “One word more on ‘designed laws’ and ‘undesigned results.’ I see a bird which I want for food, take my gun, and kill it, I do this designedly. An innocent and good man stands under a tree and is killed by a flash of lightning. Do you believe (and I really should like to hear) that God designedly killed this man? Many or most persons do believe this; I can’t and don’t.” – C. Darwin to Asa Gray, July 1860 (in Autobiography of Charles Darwin, 67)

[61] “I am bewildered. I had no intention to write atheistically. But I won that I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us.” – C. Darwin (Autobiography, 1860, 249)

[62] “The view that each variation has been  providentially arranged seems to me to make Natural Selection entirely superfluous, and indeed take the whole case of the appearance of new species out of the range of science…It seems to me that variations in the domestic and wild conditions are due to unknown causes, and are without purpose, and in so far accidental; and that they become purposeful only when they are selected by man for his [sic] pleasure, or by what we call Natural Selection in the struggle for life, and under changing conditions. I do not wish to say that God did not foresee everything which would ensue; but here comes very nearly the same sort of wretched imbroglio as between free-will and preordained necessity.” (letter to Charles Lyell, 1861)

[63] However, that being said, other perspectives note that, “Darwin’s view of evolution in the famed 1859 work was teleological.” – D. Lamoureux (“Theological Insights from Charles Darwin,” 2004, 5) So the teleological contention, rather than Darwin’s views of ‘design’ or ‘purpose’ is more controversial and requires elaborating elsewhere

[64] “Asa Gray labored tirelessly to show that natural selection had no ultimate bearing on the argument from design, and that Darwin himself was explicitly theistic.” – Richard Hofstadter (Social Darwinism in American Thought, 1944, 1955, 18)

[65] “Darwin was loathe to accept an atheistic universe produced by ‘blind chance,’ because the revelatory impact of nature upon him was too powerful. Yet, his design categories were thoroughly Paleyan since intelligent design was understood to be in each and every variation in nature. Darwin was forever trapped in a false dichotomy.” – Denis Lamoureux (“Charles Darwin & Intelligent Design” in Journal for Interdisciplinary Studies, March 2003)

[66] Engineering design, architectural design, interior design, graphic design, fashion design, etc.; none of these categories of design until William Paley’s Natural Theology (1802), and now the Intelligent Design Movement (1984, 1993), attributed to Design the inference of Divine Design and thus an (indirect) ontological proof of the Designers existence; i.e. of the (Christian) Creator God

[67] D. O’Leary is not a scientist, philosopher or theologian, but a writer on, among other things, issues of science and faith in the metropolitan Toronto area

[68] “Design is a real feature of the universe, one that cannot be duplicated by the effects of natural law and chance. Design may well be frontloaded into the universe, so that no miracles are necessary—the concept of intelligent design includes that possibility.” – Denyse O’Leary (By Design or By Chance? 2004, 185)

[69] “If one has miracle, one has no need of evolution.” – Ben M. Carter (The Defective Image, 2001, 178)

[70] Where does this determination of number come from? What I’m really asking is, where does this gradual, quantifiable notion of ID come from, and how is it not simply another card from the deck of evolution’s methodology?

[71] “Natural selection is a mechanism for generating an exceedingly high degree of improbability.” – R.A. Fisher (via Julian Huxley, Evolution in Action, 40)

[72] Read: the ‘modern synthesis’

[73] E.g. Paul Nelson, Steven Meyer, Nancy Pearcey, Denyse O’Leary, William Dembski and others (well, at least they’re not Boomers)

[74] E.g. allowing the possibility of alien intervention

[75] “The design inference constitutes the most exciting application of the Law of Small Probability.” – W. Dembski (The Design Inference, 1998,  9)

[76] In the 2001 subtitle by William Debski, and supported by M. Behe in the Foreword

[77] without the banner of a Movement to back some of them

[78] “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.” – R. Dawkins (River Out of Eden)

[79] “I do not believe in chance.” – Morpheus (The Matrix I: Reloaded, 2003)

[80] Though surely almost no one would say that ‘the bomb’ evolved into existence!?

[81]  “The physics of today force the physicist to consideration of himself as subject.” – Oswald Spengler (The Decline of the West, 1918. 1926, 220)

[82] “We do seem to perceive a ‘time’s arrow’ in evolution, certainly toward complexity and control systems, more hesitantly toward awareness, consciousness, and something hard to put a name on that perhaps we dare call intelligence.” – Kenneth Boulding (Evolutionary Economics, 1981, 45)

[83] “No evolutionist or creationist I know denies that LIFE is specified.” – William Dembski (The Design Inference, 1998, 57)

[84] “natural selection remains incapable of answering the key question concerning the emergence of irreducibly complex systems.” – Jakob Wolf (“Two Kinds of Causality,” 2)

[85] “As a pattern of inference the design inference is not tied to any doctrine of intelligent agency.” … “Taken in its most fundamental sense, the word design denotes a pattern or blueprint.” – William Dembski (The Design Inference, 1998, 8)

[86] “In other words, it is not just the sheer improbability of an event, but also the conformity of the event to a pattern, that leads us to look beyond chance to explain the event.” (Ibid 3)

[87] “From the perspective of the natural sciences, design, as the action of an intelligent agent, is not a fundamental creative force in nature.” – William Dembski (“Detecting Design in the Natural Sciences” in Intelligent Design? A special report, Natural History magazine ed. Richard Milner & Vittorio Maestro)

[88] The Mathematical Foundations of Intelligent Desgin (2004)

[89] E.g. IC, CSI, SC, EF, UPB, Wedge, etc.

[90] See above Ch. I and below Ch. III

[91] I.e. prefers to remain undecided or publicly undisclosed


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