Intelligent Design Icon Intelligent Design

Intelligent Design explains and unifies data from across the spectrum of scientific fields

Casey Luskin

Previously I noted that BioLogos has created a taxonomy of various viewpoints in the debate over origins that First Things blogger Christopher Benson called “helpful”. Given how badly it misrepresents ID, in my view it is anything but. Previously I showed that ID finds its supporting evidence in the fields of cosmology/physics and biology, thus refuting BioLogos’s mistaken assertion that “Intelligent design (ID) proponents believe that much of modern science is wrong and must be rejected because of its naturalism.” Let me reiterate two more points I made in response Benson’s orginal post:

2. The BioLogos taxonomy states: “The term Intelligent Design, although appropriated by these science critics, is used in many ways and is embraced by the first 5 groups on this list.”
Response: Again, this framing of ID is most unfortunate. BioLogos seems intent on subtly implying that if you disagree with neo-Darwinian evolution then you are a “science critic” — and therefore not part of “science.” BioLogos’s refusal even to acknowledge that ID proponents are promoting a different scientific explanation from neo-Darwinism shows that they wish to frame the terms of the debate so they can win the debate without actually having one.

Also, this statement misses the fact that creationists (such as ICR, and other groups) have been highly critical of ID, largely because it doesn’t endorse their preferred theological positions.

3. The BioLogos taxonomy states: “ID proponents highlight mysteries within science, arguing that science will never explain mysteries like what caused the Big Bang, or how life originated. They then argue that we must use non-scientific explanations like ‘Intelligent Design.'”
Response: This dim description of ID does not recognize the positive arguments for design made by ID proponents. One of ID’s major contributions is the understanding that the 19th-century reductionist, materialist perspective on science is wrong and that science needs to recognize the importance of information in nature. But the argument for ID is a positive one.

What we see in both cosmology and biology is fine-tuning of nature to allow for life. ID argues that at the informational level, this fine-tuning represents exactly the kind of information that we understand, from observation-based experience, comes from intelligence. This argument for design is not based upon unexplained “mysteries” in science. Rather, it is based on finding in nature the type of complexity that we know comes from intelligence. It’s a positive argument.

To summarize this argument, some of the most important discoveries in biology of the 20th century — discoveries that ID wholeheartedly embraces — have found that life is based upon:

  • A vast amount of information encoded in a biochemical language;
  • A computer-like system of commands and codes that processes the information in order to produce…
  • Molecular machines and multi-machine systems.

Where, in our experience, do things like language, information, programming code, or machines come from? They have only one known source: intelligence. As Stephen Meyer writes in Signature in the Cell:

Experience shows that large amounts of specified complexity or information (especially codes and languages) invariably originate from an intelligent source — from a mind or personal agent. … So the discovery of the specified digital information in the DNA molecule provides strong grounds for inferring that intelligence played a role in the origin of DNA. Indeed, whenever we find specified information and we know the causal story of how that information arose, we always find that it arose from an intelligent source.” (pp. 341, 347)

BioLogos goes on to say “BioLogos rejects such ‘god of the gaps’ reasoning.” However Meyer’s reasoning quoted above is most certainly not “gaps”-style reasoning. It’s based upon what we know about the causal powers of intelligent agents, and positively finding signs of intelligent agency in natural systems. Unfortunately, BioLogos misframes ID as a merely negative critique of natural processes.

The reality is that ID uses the scientific method to make its claims. The scientific method is often described as a four-step process involving observations, hypothesis, experiments, and conclusion. ID begins with the observation that intelligent agents produce complex and specified information (CSI). Design theorists hypothesize that if a natural object was designed, it will contain high levels of CSI. Scientists then perform experimental tests upon natural objects to determine if they contain complex and specified information. One form of CSI is irreducible complexity, which can be tested for by experimentally reverse-engineering biological structures through genetic knockout experiments to determine if they require all of their parts to function. When experimental work uncovers irreducible complexity in biology, researchers conclude that such structures were designed.

Using such methods, ID explains and unifies a wide variety of data from a number of scientific fields, including:

  • Biochemistry, where ID encourages scientists to recognize and understand the origin of complex and specified information in proteins and DNA;
  • Genetics, where ID encourages scientists to seek function for so-called “junk” DNA;
  • Systematics, where ID encourages scientists to understand whether similarities between living species, including examples of extreme genetic “convergence,” are best explained by ID rather than Darwinism;
  • Cell biology, where ID encourages scientists to view the cell as having been built from “designed structures rather than accidental by-products of neo-Darwinian evolution,” allowing scientists to better understand molecular machines;
  • Systems biology, where ID encourages biologists to look at various biological systems as integrated components of larger systems that are designed to work together in a top-down, coordinated fashion;
  • Animal biology, where ID encourages scientists to seek function for allegedly “vestigial” structures;
  • Bioinformatics, where ID encourages scientists to look for new layers of information and functional language embedded in the genetic codes, as well as other codes within biology;
  • Information theory, where ID encourages scientists to understand where intelligent causes are superior to natural causes in producing certain types of information;
  • Paleontology, where ID encourages scientists to understand how the irreducibly complex nature of biological systems can predict punctuated change and stasis throughout the history of life;
  • Physics and cosmology, where ID encourages scientists to investigate and discover instances of fine-tuning of the laws of physics, which uniquely allow for the existence of advanced forms of life.

ID is not merely a negative argument against neo-Darwinian evolution or other material causes. Again, whether you agree or disagree with ID, you can’t deny that ID proponents make a positive argument.

By calling ID a “non-scientific” explanation, BioLogos’s taxonomy is not just inaccurate. It moves from being purportedly descriptive to being expressly partisan. They have the right to have whatever viewpoint they wish, but it seems that they cannot even describe ID without leading the reader with biased discussion. Similarly, Mr. Benson innocently asks “Which constituency best describes your view, and why?,” but then who wants to agree with descriptions that are then labeled “unscientific”? In the law, this is called asking a leading question.

Make no mistake: If you’re looking for the dry objective facts about ID, you won’t find them in this BioLogos description.

Discovery Institute, which admittedly has its own bias and perspective, has created a website that discusses the various views on this issue. For a different perspective on theistic evolution, please visit Faith & Evolution.

Casey Luskin

Associate Director, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.



BioLogosThe Positive Case for Designtheistic evolution