C4ID: “Intelligent Design is definitely NOT Creationism” (but who is the “designer”?)

The Centre for Intelligent Design claim “empirical evidence for design”

Alastair Noble and David Galloway (two of the governing triumvirate of the Centre for Intelligent Design) have penned a rather indignant response to the recent article in The Herald (Would you Adam and Eve it). This rather odd riposte makes a few claims.

They are upset that many equate Intelligent Design with Creationism. Well, I’m afraid I do just that. Noble and Galloway claim that the distinction between ID and Creationism is that the former is “an inference drawn from evidence in nature” as opposed to creationism, which is based on interpretation of religious texts. I would argue that ID may well be inferred from natural evidence (or rather a misinterpretation of natural evidence), but is shares with creationism the requirement for a supernatural entity (a god in the case of creationism, a “designer” in the case of ID).  Essentially, Intelligent Design is an argument from incredulity – in the absence of an understanding of the natural processes that give rise to the diversity and complexity of life, ID proponents fall back on superstition as an “explanation”.  It’s also worth noting the religious background of C4ID triumvirate.

Noble and Galloway then repeat a series mis-statements often used as the support for ID.

Fine tuning of natural laws – a hoary old claim much-abused by ID proponents and creationists alike. Unfortunately this assertion fails at the mere observation that we’re only here to make an observation of the universe because the natural laws are what they are.

Noble and Galloway assert that cells are so complex that design must be inferred. Cells and organisms are indeed complex. But those of us acquainted with modern evolutionary biology can see the combination of variation and natural selection coupled with long time periods as a perfectly acceptable and natural (rather than supernatural) solution. This leads on to another old chestnut; the claim that biological information is an enduring problem of modern biology.

The trouble for Noble and Galloway is that the scientific consensus disagrees with them that there is something particular about the information held in DNA that needs a supernatural designer as explanation. To say that “all human experience suggests that information arises only from intelligent mind” is to ignore decades of research in genetics and molecular biology, coupled with advances in evolutionary biology which clearly show how genetic information accumulates and changes through evolutionary history.

To suggest that the existence of a designer is in some way the most parsimonious explanation of biological facts, and one that merits equal treatment, is plainly ridiculous.

Noble and Galloway are disingenuous when they say “C4ID is not specifically targeting schools”, particularly when they go on to say “However, it is unlikely that school students will fail to notice the debate and it is bound to be raised in schools. That teachers should simply ignore it or ban its discussion hardly reflects the best traditions of education”.

Those affiliated to C4ID are of course entitled to their views, no matter how misguided they may be on scientific grounds. What must not be allowed to happen is that the vacuous and superstitious proposal represented by Intelligent Design be permitted in Science classes. Instead, this should be dealt with in the appropriate place: the same classes which deal with other supernatural entities – religious education classes.

As a final note, the backers of C4ID should note the existence of the Wedge Strategy as promoted by their colleagues in the Discovery Institute.

One thought on “C4ID: “Intelligent Design is definitely NOT Creationism” (but who is the “designer”?)

  1. The proponents of ID in the US certainly have an ample record of disingenuousness, so these people have work to do to establish credibility. To me, the doubts are heightened by the claim that ID represents only a "minimal commitment to intelligent causation". This seems at variance with their requirement (see training material on their site) to ditch the whole of macro-evolution! The links to Behe, who is one of these dodgy US ID people, and the references to Premier Radio (full title actually Premier Christian Radio), also suggest that a familiar axe is being ground, but not acknowledged.

    ID seems to me to be a new label for the old "God of the Gaps" argument for a creator. I've read it was Cardinal Newman himself who pointed out, at the time the Origin of Species was originally being debated, what a shallow basis for Christian faith this is, as it leads to a faith that is easily destroyed by advances in science. It's worth keeping in mind that (pace Dawkins and other militant atheists) most Christians avoid this trap and see no conflict with evolution or any other part of science. Those few that see a conflict are the fundamentalists for whom every word in the Bible must be taken literally. But I would submit that fundamentalism, whether in religion, politics or elsewhere, is generally for idiots.

    Actually this ID movement seems to be precisely the phenomenon Newman predicted: the desperate thrashings of people trying to turn back the clock of scientific progress, because they have built their faith on the shaky foundation of the God of the Gaps, and the gaps are getting smaller as science fills in the jigsaw.

    But we scientists, regardless of our views on religion, do need to be clear this stuff is for RE classes only. Invoking supernatural causes for what you can't (yet) explain is an intellectual cop-out that leads, first, to no testable hypotheses (hence cannot be scientific) and second, and even worse, closes down enquiry. As such, it is the very antithesis of natural science.

    In short, Science is NOT metaphysics.

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