News Media Icon News Media

Who Owns the Term Intelligent Design? No One

Stephen Heller has an article at the Design Forum looking at semantics and asking who it is that owns the term intelligent design. It’s an issue that has a lot of relevance for Heller’s audience since they are all graphic designers. Design Forum is a part of the website of the AIGA, — American Institute of Graphic Arts. In Heller’s world “intelligent design” has a much different meaning than in my world. His concern seems to be that the phrase has different meaning for some people than it does for him and his colleagues.

When I hear a graphic designer comment on intelligent design I know that most likely he’s talking about a graphic image of some sort. Or, these days, making a bad play on words. Of course, this is why we have context.

Heller is mistaken on many levels. Of course no one owns the phrase intelligent design. One might ask: Who owns left-wing? Democrats or hockey players?

No one has ever tried to claim ownership of the phrase ‘intelligent design.’ It is simply the best way to explain the concept, which Heller actually does better than most reporters I deal with, explaining it as the idea “that life developed from deliberate natural design (perhaps from a higher being) rather than from random natural selection.”

Heller’s first mistake is within the realm of his own supposed area of expertise, marketing. He attributes the slogan “capitalist tool” to Fortune magazine, when in reality it was Steve Forbes (whom Fortune exists to compete with) who championed the term as a marketing slogan and personal catch phrase. I know because he gave me a nice, silk tie with the phrase printed all over it when he spoke at a Discovery event in 1996. I should wear it more often.

Still, as a product of today’s MSM misinformation juggernaut Heller might be excused for his second mistake: being wrong about where the term ‘intelligent design’ came from. The term was not a reaction to court cases of the 1980s, anymore than the scientific theory it labels is simply a reaction to such legal rulings. It’s absurd to think so, but Darwinists employ a clever PR scheme to convince the media, and ultimately the public, otherwise.

Jonathan Witt has an excellent essay, “On the Origins of Intelligent Design” which clearly explains the term and how it came to its present day usage. Witt writes,

“In reality, the idea of intelligent design reaches back to Socrates and Plato, and the term “intelligent design” as an alternative to blind evolution was used as early as 1897.”

Heller’s branding expert isn’t wrong though:

“‘Intelligent Design, if separated from any right-wing agenda,’ says branding expert Brian Collins, ‘could be a straightforward term for anyone who seeks proof that the unifying patterns of existence may be connected to a broader intelligence at work in the universe. Fair enough.’

Discovery spends a fair amount of time trying to keep intelligent design away from any so-called right-wing agenda. It’s a scientific issue, albeit one that has become embroiled in policy debates. But, we take great pains to explain it as straightforward as Collins did. It is the Darwin-only lobby that is trying to make this a political, rather than a scientific debate.

But of course, there is no scientific debate. My bad.

Robert Crowther, II

Robert Crowther holds a BA in Journalism with an emphasis in public affairs and 20 years experience as a journalist, publisher, and brand marketing and media relations specialist. From 1994-2000 he was the Director of Public and Media Relations for Discovery Institute overseeing most aspects of communications for each of the Institute's major programs. In addition to handling public and media relations he managed the Institute's first three books to press, Justice Matters by Roberta Katz, Speaking of George Gilder edited by Frank Gregorsky, and The End of Money by Richard Rahn.