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Good Friday Thoughts: Intelligent Design and Christian Creationism

“What is the difference between Creationism and Intelligent Design” I asked Stephen Meyer in 2009. He answered that what distinguished Creationism from Intelligent Design is that Creationism outlined a chronology whereas ID did not.

I will add my own thoughts on the matter. What I say in this post is my answer to the same question I posed to Dr. Meyer.

As a scholarly discipline Intelligent Design is described elegantly by Bill Dembski:

Intelligent design is the science that studies signs of intelligence.

Bill Dembski
10 Questions

Frankly, I’ve been mortified that so much theological discussion is to conflated with this simple and elegant description of ID! I’m appalled to hear that some claim “the science that studies signs of intelligence” conflicts with theological ideas and is therefore a futile endeavor.

Theology may proceed from the idea that there is intelligent design in the universe, but at its root, Bill’s definition of ID isn’t inherently theological and would fit well with engineering and the forensic sciences. ID is not theological in itself, but it can serve as bridge a between science and theology.

Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology
Bill Dembski

Combining the above two ideas, I came up with:

“Intelligent design is the science that studies signs of intelligence” and is “the bridge between science and theology”

Now that ID has been defined, how does ID relate to creationism? To answer that question, consider when one finds an artifact like Stonehenge or a cell phone lying on the ground. We reasonably infer these things are designed. That is rather easy.

The difficulty would be trying to construct a forensic history of the artifacts. For Stonehenge we could try to identify the people and times when the structure was built. For a cell phone we could try to investigate where the parts were made, who made them, and when. But it is obvious the process of discovering patterns that signify intelligence (like recognizing a communication device like a cell phone) is often logically distinct from the discipline of forensically discovering the chronology and other details of the cell phone’s creation. The same holds true for the process of identifying designs in biology (the discipline of ID) and then reconstructing a reasonably detailed forensic history.

We have artifacts in biology that far surpass cell phones in their technology. It is reasonable, by engineering standards, to say these artifacts implement designs. Indeed, as Mike Gene points out, biological reality is most effectively described with terms borrowed from engineering such as: pumps, decoders, sensors, controls, error checks, information, signals, sonar, detectors, redundancy etc.

Relating to an artifact, we may ask these 5 standard questions: “Who, What, Where, When, How?”

We may ask “Who” made the artifact, “What” the artifact is, “Where” it was made, “When” it was made, and “How” it was made. ID answers the question, “What” is made. ID gives artifacts labels by matching the artifact against patterns that signify intelligence. So ID attempts to provide an answer to only one of these standard 5 questions. It attempts to do so apart from any theology but merely through the study of patterns that signify intelligence.

In contrast Christian Creationism (rooted in theology) asserts (not necessarily proves) answers to all 5 questions:

QUESTION: “Who” made the artifacts of biology?
ANSWER: Christ the author of life (Acts 3:15). Perhaps some theistic evolutionists even accept this claim also.

QUESTION: “What” is the artifact
ANSWER: Creationists say The Universe and Life

QUESTION: “Where” was the artifact made
ANSWER: Christian Creationists argue the Universe got its start in the mind of God. Life was made on Earth (not outer space), and Humans made in the Garden of Eden.

QUESTION: “When” was the artifact made
ANSWER: The Young Earth Creationists say about 10,000 years ago. The Old Earth Creationists say over millions of years ago through several miraculous events.

QUESTION: “How” was the artifact made
ANSWER: both Young and Old Earth Creationists (like William Jennings Bryan) argue that life emerged through miraculous events. In contrast, theistic Darwinists argue life emerged by non-miraculous events.

So in sum, ID is:

Intelligent design is the science that studies signs of intelligence

Christian Creationism is:

the belief the Intelligent Designer of Life is Jesus Christ, and that He created life through miraculous acts rather than through evolutionary processes

Christian Creationists believe the Intelligent Designer of life is the same Jesus who suffered and died on Good Friday and was resurrected on Easter Sunday.

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28 Responses to Good Friday Thoughts: Intelligent Design and Christian Creationism

  1. …the belief the Intelligent Designer of Life is Jesus Christ, and that He created life through miraculous acts rather than through evolutionary processes

    The evolutionary process is miraculous! Just ask any Darwinist.

    But what I don’t understand about Creationism is how do we get to the current diversity of life from the creatures that exited from the ark?

    Miraculous acts?

    Evolutionary processes?

  2. #Mung

    “But what I don’t understand about Creationism is how do we get to the current diversity of life from the creatures that exited from the ark?”

    This article may help:

    http://creation.com/speciation.....eationists

    & here is one paper.

    http://www.icr.org/i/pdf/techn.....ersity.pdf

  3. OT; An appropriate song for Good Friday;

    Celtic Woman – When You Believe – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4-rBF1UM3o

  4. I have the following question for the ID crowd:

    Can intelligence evolve from chaos?

    I am pondering whether it is a reasonable philosophical or scientific position to believe that human intelligence developed according to evolutionary principles of mutation and natural selection and that no original laws of creation (physical or metaphysical) were required to provide the foundation and direction for intelligence to evolve?

    I am wondering, from a systems design perspective, if the intelligence of an individual element of a system can possibly exceed the sum total intelligence of the system or environment “itself?”

    Can a human being really represent the tip of the arrow of evolution in a vacuous universe void of intelligence? This seems to be how materialist or physicalists see our condition.

  5. Please keep theology out of and away from Intelligent Design. Thank you.

    But anyway- the bunny man gave us:

    Intelligent Design and Creationism

  6. Joseph, I would keep theology out of ID, and indeed the staggering levels of deign speak for themselves, but it turns out that science is impossible without God in the first place,,,

    John Lennox – Science Is Impossible Without God – Quotes – video remix
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/6287271/

    ,,,and indeed Joseph, you demanding that we keep Theology out of ID turns out to be a double standard, for as Cornelius Hunter has pointed out many times before, the majority of arguments used by neo-Darwinists themselves are Theological in there basis, i.e. They pronounce on how God would or would not have done something in biology, or the universe, in order to try to make their case for neo-Darwinism!

  7. correction; and indeed the staggering levels of design speak for themselves

  8. bornagain77,

    I wasn’t demanding I am requesting. And there isn’t any reason why IDists have to stoop to the level of anti-IDists. Let them use theological arguments. That just exposes their agenda.

  9. I agree with joseph’s sentiments.

    The more we get caught up in theological debates the less ID looks like science and the more it looks like religion.

    Let’s leave bringing theology into the equation up to Charles Darwin and his offspring.

    T. Ilise

    Thanks for the links. I think I’ll just concentrate on the first as it seems more relevant to the question I asked.

    Are you familiar with the concept of “the cost of substitution?”

    Roughly, call it what it takes to increase the frequency of a new allele in the population.

    Say some new feature pops up and gets passed on to future generations. By how much do the carriers of that new feature need to out-reproduce the competition to see their feature spread?

    Cost is used as an argument against evolutionary scenarios.

    It applies to Darwinist evolutionary scenarios and Creationist evolutionary scenarios equally.

    As near as I can tell, the first link doesn’t even address it.

  10. Joseph wrote:

    Please keep theology out of and away from Intelligent Design. Thank you.

    I pointed out:

    Intelligent Design is the study of patterns of that signify intelligence.

    Where in this definition of ID (which I provided by quotation) is theology inserted into ID? That’s your insinuation, not what I said.

    As far as keeping discussion of ID out of theological circles, are you demanding churchgoers not have the freedom to assess the relevance of ID to their theological beliefs? I don’t think so.

    If I talk about the Big Bang and its relevance to Christian faith, does that somehow invalidate the Big Bang? I don’t think so. So neither does discussing ID and its relevance to Christian Creationism invalidate ID.

  11. scordova,

    I think what Joseph was getting at was that in regards to discussing ID in forums such as this, it’s the scientific merits of ID that need to be the focus here, the theology only distracts and can be discussed elsewhere. Perhaps Joe feels that churchgoers ARE free to discuss ID’s relation to their beliefs, but it’s a personal, not scientific, discussion. Joseph, if you feel i’ve put words in your mouth that you dont support, i apologize, just trying to clarify.

  12. I’ve got to say, I’d normally agree that ID should not be mingled with creationism or religion. And I agree that this is a pretty common occurrence with ID.

    But I do have to say, I think this is the wrong post to really make the complaint. Sal’s explaining how he sees ID and creationism are distinct. That seems a valid enough topic.

  13. I asked this earlier, but didn’t get an answer so I’ll ask again.

    If I hold that ID has the most powerful explanatory power, but don’t think any real agency exists, am I still an IDer?

    By this I mean in the context of an atomic model that – while not accurate to scale – still gives us a better understanding of how the whole thing works.

  14. Hey JH,

    You ask:

    -”If I hold that ID has the most powerful explanatory power, but don’t think any real agency exists, am I still an IDer?”

    *shrug*

    I guess. It sounds more like you’re an ID sympathizer like that Atheist Philosopher dude from a couple of posts back to be honest though.

    Anyway, that’s my take. I hope I was helpful.

    - Sonfaro

  15. Intelligent Design is the study of patterns that signify intelligence. ~ Bill Dembski

    Is this a published quote? I appreciate the simplicity but I have not been able to find it accept in posts made by you. Do you have a citation for it?

  16. Sal posted:

    “the study of patterns of that signify intelligence” is “the bridge between science and theology”

    MY thinking is what if theology is nonsense, then that would make ID a bridge between science and nonsense.

    That said:

    If ID is true then science IS the study of patterns of that signify intelligence.

    And if God is the Creator then theology IS science.

    Also I wouldn’t doubt that at least some, if not most, people think the positive case for ID reinforces their personal beliefs.

    That is fine. Blind faith can’t be a good thing.

    My apologies Sal, I made much ado about nada…

  17. It sounds like pure William A. Dembski to me.

    Patterns
    Intelligence
    Signify

    But maybe I’m confusing it with:

    Specification: The Pattern That Signifies Intelligence

  18. Bevets:

    Here, as clipped in my online note as its main def’n:

    intelligent design begins with a seemingly innocuous question: Can objects, even if nothing is known about how they arose, exhibit features that reliably signal the action of an intelligent cause? . . . Proponents of intelligent design, known as design theorists, purport to study such signs formally, rigorously, and scientifically. Intelligent design may therefore be defined as the science that studies signs of intelligence.

    The other phrasing is familiar, though.

    GEM of TKI

  19. Wouldnt you have to have more “evidence” to go on if you are going to equate the intelligent designer as evidenced by ID with the God of classical theism? What if the “designer” is not worthy of worship? Do we worship the designer until proven unworthy? Is intelligence enough of a hallmark to link the source of design to God?

  20. scordova

    Intelligent Design is the study of patterns that signify intelligence. ~ Bill Dembski

    Mung @ 17

    Specification: The Pattern That Signifies Intelligence

    In fact, it arises directly from the patterns in the world that signal intelligence, to wit, from specifications. p.29

    Imagine that space travelers show up on Earth loaded with unbelievably advanced technology… Moreover, they demonstrate to us that with this technology they can, atom by atom and molecule by molecule, assemble the most complex organisms. Suppose we have good reason to think that these aliens were here at key moments in life’s history (e.g., at the origin of life, the origin of eukaryotes, and the origin of the animalphyla in the Cambrian)… Would design, in that case, become a better explanation than materialistic evolution simply because we now have independent knowledge of designers with the capacity to produce biological systems? p.30

    In the presence of viable chance alternatives, design is an explanation of last resort. Yet, once specified complexity has
    rendered all relevant chance alternatives inviable, chance as such is eliminated and design can no longer be denied. p.31

    kairosfocus @ 18

    Can objects, even if nothing is known about how they arose, exhibit features that reliably signal the action of an intelligent cause? … Designed objects like Mount Rushmore exhibit characteristic features or patterns that point to an intelligence. Such features or patterns constitute signs of intelligence… Intelligent design may therefore be defined as the science that studies signs of intelligence.

    Intelligence leaves behind a characteristic trademark or signature—what within the intelligent design community is now called specified complexity. An event exhibits specified complexity if it is contingent and therefore not necessary; if it is complex and therefore not readily repeatable by chance; and if it is specified in the sense of exhibiting an independently given pattern.

    I still find the first quote to be the most elegant formulation.

  21. What if the “designer” is not worthy of worship?

    In that case, I would not worship he/she/it.

    Do we have a scientific measure yet of “worthy of worship”?

  22. Bevets,

    There are a couple of quotes:

    http://www.arn.org/idfaq/What%.....design.htm

    Intelligent Design is the study of patterns in nature that are best explained as the result of intelligence.

    and

    What is intelligent design? Intelligent design is the science that studies signs of intelligence. So defined, intelligent design seems innocuous enough, and includes such fields as archeology, cryptography, and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI).

    I made the correction in the OP.

    Thanks.

    Sal

  23. From the link:

    Intelligent design, as the science that studies signs of intelligence, is about arrangements of preexisting materials that point to a designing intelligence. Creation and intelligent design are therefore quite different. One can have creation without intelligent design and intelligent design without creation. For instance, one can have a doctrine of creation in which God creates the world in such a way that nothing about the world points to design. The evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins wrote a book titled The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design. Even if Dawkins is right about the universe revealing no evidence of design, it would not logically follow that it was not created. It is logically possible that God created a world that provides no evidence of design. On the other hand, it is logically possible that the world is full of signs of intelligence but was not created. This was the ancient Stoic view, in which the world was eternal and uncreated, and yet a rational principle pervaded the world and produced marks of intelligence in it.

    The implications of intelligent design for religious belief are profound.

    By showing that design is indispensable to the scientific understanding of the natural world, intelligent design is reinvigorating the design argument and at the same time overturning the widespread misconception that the only tenable form of religious belief is one that treats purpose, intelligence, and wisdom as byproducts of unintelligent material processes.

  24. Null wrote:

    Sal’s explaining how he sees ID and creationism are distinct. That seems a valid enough topic.

    Several readers have asked what is the difference between ID and creationism? This thread attempted to distinquish the two concepts.

    For completeness there are other forms of creationism that are not Christian:

    1. Muslim Creationism
    2. Jewsih Creationism (see the works of Spetner, Schroeder, and various Rabbinical writings)

    Creationism has deep theological roots. Creation Science is a body of thought that attempts to support theological Creationism with scientific theory and observation. ID literature has helped bolster creation science.

    ID cannot be equated with creation science. Creation science draws upon ideas from ID, thermodynamics, geology, population biology, etc.

  25. Creation science, through Henry Morris and friends, was using ID-type arguments in the 1980s before a separate ID movement got going, although as far back as the 1960s Morris saw creationism as being presuppositonal apologetics as opposed to evidential apologetics.

    The problem with evidential apologetics is that it doesn’t address the error of the Enlightenment that aserts that reason and observation of the five senses are sufficient to understand the world.

    The question I want to raise then is whether there is benefit for ID in addressing theological questions in dialogue with creationism to overcome the Enlightenment error that ID doesn’t presently address.

  26. Steno:

    My observation is that Creationism was much more focussed on evolution critique than inference to design on empirically warranted inductive signs. It has also on the whole been wedded to specific scriptural traditions.

    While there is a worldview right involved, it means that the two movements are indeed materially distinct. That forwards vs backwards theme from the UD WACs.

    I remember the revolutionary impact of Denton’s different critique, and of Thaxton et al’s TMLO.

    As to presupp vs evident, my thought is that we have people who are wedded to a worldview.

    Unless they see that that a priori materialistic, empirical evidence oriented worldview — oddly, they do not see the contradiction involved in that a priorism usually headlined as methodological naturalism lands them in epistemological hot water they are most likely going to brush aside what cuts across it as obviously fallacious.

    Schaeffer spoke of taking the roof off of a worldview . . .

    Philip Johnson is right.

    Biblical literalism is not he issue.

    The issue is the a priori materialism imposed on science.

    Until that question-begging is exposed, nothing will change.

    Never mind that we here see censorship that biases science away from what would otherwise be a viable candidate to explain key features of the natural world on reliable inductive signs: design.

    Then, there is the issue that the work of examining hyps and testing against empirical evidence has to be done.

    Right now, the frontline here at UD has been the Dembski Chi-metric.

    Turns out, it reduces to:

    Chi = Ip – 500 bits beyond a threshold of specific complexity.

    Further turns out that the Schneider ev that was being headlined as the answer on how “natural selection” wins the horse race, is actually a case in point of how searches that significantly outperform infinite monkey trial and error, are doing so in intelligently injected active information.

    Which happens to be where Marks and Dembski et al are currently doing research, building on insights in NFL ch 4.

    GEM of TKI

  27. OT; but appropriate to a post that has Good Friday in its heading;

    Rob Bell – tries to defend his unorthodox view that hell does not exist, which he wrote about in his popular book ‘Love Wins’, on this week’s Unbelievable Christian Radio;
    http://www.premier.org.uk/unbelievable

  28. The problem with evidential apologetics is that it doesn’t address the error of the Enlightenment that aserts that reason and observation of the five senses are sufficient to understand the world.

    I accept evidential apologetics. Observation is sufficient to believe if that is what God intended. Even an empty tomb can inspire belief. :-)

    Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.

    John 20:8

    It might be argued the account is a fabrication, but that is hard to just explain away because many details of Christianity seem to have historical credebility.

    My mother was paralyzed in a car accident. The minister came to her hospital room, prayed, and she got movement in her leg a few hours later and from there recovered. I’ve witnessed other things that seemed in answer to prayer. I can’t just dismiss them.

    As far as atheism, what hope does it offer? The thoughtful atheists will confess they wished there was a God to give them eternal life and hope.

    ID has made it possible to believe that miracles can happen. That is personal belief, not a formal one, nor is it a statement that proceeds formally from ID. But ID helps make a circumstantial case that miracles might be possible. I say this on behalf of myself, not the ID comminity.

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