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    Jan 2005

    Naturalism vs. Intelligent Design.

    This page will bring together information on the growing scientific field of intelligent design (ID), also known as the Intelligent Design Theory (IDT). It will define IDT and endeavor to help facilitate the formulation of the testable IDT theory/model and the propagation of IDT. A testable model and coherent theory are needed to solidify IDT in science (and the IDT is a scientific theory, unlike many origin theories). This page will provide the framework, definitions, etc. See references at the end and resources on the pages of this site for the details and evidences.


    First an introduction and definition of intelligent design from mathematician William A. Dembski1:

    "Intelligent design is a theory for making sense of intelligent causes. As such, intelligent design formalizes and makes precise something we do all the time. All of us are all the time engaged in a form of rational activity that, without being tendentious, can be described as inferring design. Inferring design is a common and well-accepted human activity...There is no magic, no vitalism, no appeal to occult forces. Inferring design is common, rational and objectifiable."

    The ability to detect intelligence is common to all people. So common in fact, that we use it every day. Whole fields of study are based on it such as forensics, archaeology, cryptography and so forth. Efforts to discover extraterrestrial life (known as SETI: the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) rest on the ability to detect design. Ironically, SETI efforts are driven by naturalists looking for the vindication of their worldview and Neo-Darwinism that a life-filled universe would provide. Detecting design is not some highly complex or miraculous process, it is a simple and very common process inherent to the human race.

    Dembski states that IDT is valid science in the face of common objections by naturalists. Naturalists claim science can't point to a creator or designer. This view has become popular in society: "Science and Religion are separate realms." They make this a priori claim at the onset of their arguments. But this is a logical fallacy because they are artificially limiting science by saying what it may or may not do before any research is done. IDT is a valid path in science that can stand independent of religion and philosophy (whether that belief system is Christianity or naturalism).

    Biochemist Michael J. Behe further drives home the point that IDT is valid science2:

    "To a person who does not feel obliged to restrict his search to unintelligent causes, the straightforward conclusion is that many biochemical systems were designed. They were designed not by the laws of nature, not by chance and necessity; rather, they were planned...

    "The conclusion of intelligent design flows naturally from the data itself - not from sacred books or sectarian beliefs. Inferring that biochemical systems were designed by an intelligent agent is a humdrum process that requires no new principles of logic or science. It comes simply from the hard work that biochemistry has done over the past forty years, combined with consideration of the way in which we reach conclusions of design every day. Nonetheless, saying that biochemical systems were designed will certainly strike many people as strange, so let me try to make it sound less strange.

    "What is 'design'? Design is simply the purposeful arrangement of parts...The scientific problem then becomes, how do we confidently detect design? When is it reasonable to conclude, in the absence of firsthand knowledge or eyewitness accounts, that something has been designed? For discrete physical systems - if there is not a gradual route to their production - design is evident when a number of separate, interacting components are ordered in such a way as to accomplish a function beyond the individual components. The greater the specificity of the interacting components required to produce the function, the greater is our confidence in the conclusion of design.

    "...there must be an identifiable function of the system. One must be careful...A sophisticated computer can be used as a paper weight; is that a function?...No. In considering design, the function of the system we must look at is the one that requires the greatest amount of the system's internal complexity. We can then judge how well the parts fit the function.

    "The function of a system is determined by its internal logic: the function is not necessarily the same thing as the purpose to which the designer wished to apply the system. A person who sees a mousetrap for the first time might not know that the manufacturer expected it to be used for catching mice...but he still knows from observing how the parts interact that it was designed."

    Here are some Key Concepts/Definitions regarding IDT, provided by the Intelligent Design Undergraduate Research Center.


    The following is the framework from which IDT theory and its implications in culture, science and theology are being studied and discussed.3.

    1. A scientific and philosophical critique of naturalism, where the scientific critique identifies the empirical inadequacies of naturalistic evolutionary theories and the philosophical critique demonstrates how naturalism subverts every area of inquiry that it touches.

    2. A positive scientific research program, known as intelligent design, for investigating the effects of intelligent causes.

    3. A cultural movement for systematically rethinking every field of inquiry that has been infected by naturalism and reconceptualizing it in terms of design.

    4. A sustained theological investigation that connects the intelligence inferred by IDT with the God of Scripture and therewith formulates a coherent theology of nature.

    Point #1 has been successfully achieved through critiques by scholars such as Phillip Johnson, Michael Behe, Michael Denton4and others. Point #2 is the testable origins model, or IDT. Point #3 will come from the successes of #1 and #2. Point #4 has been spearheaded by the efforts of astronomer Dr. Hugh Ross5and his Reasons to Believe organization.

    The Model

    The following are the model/theory parts that would (or do) logically point to intelligent design in the universe6,7:

    1. transcendent creation event where all matter, energy, spacetime began (Big Bang)
    2. cosmic fine-tuning
    3. fine-tuning of Earth's, the Solar System's and the Milky Way Galaxy's characteristics
    4. rapidity of life's origin
    5. lack of inorganic kerogen
    6. extreme biomolecular complexity
    7. Cambrian explosion (sudden appearance of most species during same time period)
    8. missing horizontal branches in the fossil record
    9. placement and frequency of "transitional forms" in the fossil record
    10. fossil record reversal
    11. frequency and extent of mass extinctions
    12. rapid recovery from mass extinctions (mainly through appearance of new species)
    13. duration of time windows for different species
    14. frequency, extent, and repetition of symbiosis
    15. frequency, extent, and repetition of altruism
    16. speciation and extinction rates
    17. recent origin of humanity (as opposed to common descent)
    18. huge biodeposits (needed to sustain humanity)
    19. molecular clock rates (which show humanity's recent origin)

    Discoveries and data overwhelmingly support this model. Dr. Ross comments: "This ability to predict is the hallmark of any reliable theory. By contrast, Darwinian evolution, chaos theory, and six-consecutive-24-hour-creation-day creationism fail to predict and instead contradict the growing body of data.6"

    It is important to note here that the "six-consecutive-24-hour-creation-day" which is often referred to as the only literal interpretation, is in fact not that. The days in Genesis can be literally translated more than one way, including 24 hour days, 12 hour days or long periods of time. In fact, Genesis does not explicitly say 24 hour days. So one must consider contextual issues. More info at Creation-Date.

    Admittedly, intelligent design theorists have spent little time on the model part of ID. Their focus has been on showing one can detect design effectively. While that is an important part to the theory, any scientific theory is incomplete without a model.


    Any good scientific theory is subjectable to testing. Theories that cannot be tested are merely speculation or wishful thinking. In testing for design, three things must be established, contingency, complexity and specification. The flow chart below shows how the testing process works. It is called the explanatory filter8:

    1. Is it contingent? If No, then it is produced by necessity. If Yes, go to 2.
    2. Is it complex? If No, then it is produced by chance. If Yes, go to 3.
    3. Is it specified? If No, then it is produced by chance. If Yes, go to 4.
    4. It is designed.

    To understand what all this means, we must define some terms:

    Someone randomly typing on a computer will produce a sequence of letters that constitute complex information (complex in the sense that the letters each form a recognizable pattern). But these letters are unspecified since they have no meaning as they stand alone. If the typist happens to produce the consecutive letters “I” and “S” in their sequence then they have produced a specified piece of information (since it forms the word “IS”), but without the context of other words, it is meaningless noncomplex information. The individual letters still have a complex pattern, but no complex meaning. Realize that they were randomly produced and were required by the random tying, not put there with intentions of design. Information that is both complex and specified (such as the sentences on this page) and not required to exist by virtue of natural laws and is referred to as complex specified information, or CSI.

    A random process produces either complex unspecified information (the random letters) or noncomplex specified information (“IS”), not CSI. It would be better to call these random products patterns, not information. Natural laws or random processes cannot originate information, and our examples are not providing us with any meaningful information, only randomly produced patterns — patterns which can be used to transmit information in a designed context. Natural law and its products can only provide the means to transmit information (such as in DNA discussed next) or produce patterns that are ordered. CSI, however, is only produced by intelligence.

    Another thing to consider is contingency. Contingency means “dependence.” If an object, event or structure is considered contingent, that means they are compatible with underlying natural laws, but not required by them (the object, event or structure does not unavoidably have to happen because of those laws).

    This may be headache inducing, but think about it. If you ran across a message in the sand, you would immediately recognize it as being caused by an intelligence. A cloud that looks like an animal, on the other hand, you relegate to unintelligent wind. The former example is a contingent, complex, specified event. The latter is an uncontingent, necessary, unspecified, complex event. It is not merely compatible with natural laws, it is required by them. One is caused by intelligence, one is not.

    A note on "chance." Many naturalists refer to as "chance" as a guiding force. They have replaced God or a creator with the god of chance. But what is chance? Chance is a nonentity. It does not have any physical or metaphysical reality. Chance is equivalent to nothing. Nothing cannot produce anything.

    Chance does have a place in mathematics when figuring probabilities. Also, in everyday life when we refer to chance in such things as "games of chance". The roll of dice is actually governed by the laws of physics every step of the way, but for practical purposes, it's chance. These two uses of "chance" are valid. Attributing power to chance is not valid.

    Intelligent Design vs. Darwinism (Naturalism) as opposed to the Standard Creation vs. Evolution Debate

    The ability to recognize CSI has profound implications for chance-based evolution because of the contents found in DNA molecules in living organisms. The DNA in a single cell contains volumes and volumes of complex specified information that define every aspect of that organism from its appearance to its resistance to disease. DNA itself is made up of easily identifiable chemicals, but how do such chemicals produce CSI? They cannot originate information, only carry and transfer it. Also consider that DNA has to exist for the complex organism to live and is interconnected to other molecules such as RNA, which must exist at the same time. Evolution is unable to explain how such interdependent complex systems just “appeared” on Earth simultaneously when they cannot survive independent of each other.

    Nor can mutations create information, they virtually always destroy it. Even a mutation that allows bacteria to resist an antibiotic and pass this trait to its descendents does not add new information to the genome. It simply alters the function of particular genes. This is a physical change, not a change in information content. And new information would be necessary for macroevolutionary level The discussion on CSI described how order can exist in nature and whether or not chance can produce information. We concluded nature could never produce complex specified information, only complex unspecified or noncomplex specified information (which are technically not information, but rather patterns that superficially seem like information).

    The irreducible complexity of biochemical systems differs greatly from the general order seen in nature. A snowflake takes on an ordered appearance. That order itself is a result of natural laws and contains no information. On the other hand, if the laws and forces that produce that snowflake were deconstructed, one would find the same precisely fine-tuned laws that govern life’s existence. Any particular biochemical system runs into this wall of complexity far sooner and is much easier to detect. Consider the analogous spacecraft. It is ordered and assembled in such a way that nature could never produce it, even if its parts already existed “as is” in nature. The spacecraft’s specified order and complexity point to intelligence.

    In biology, for example, the complexity of cells becomes apparent under extreme magnification which reveals their structure. Take, for example, the bacterial flagellum. It has parts referred to as the propeller (or filament), rotor, drive shaft (or rod), bushing, universal joint (or hook), etc. These are obviously names from mechanical devices, but they are not used simply because they are convenient analogies. These components are precise biological versions of their human-designed mechanical versions. In fact they are more efficient and precise than anything we could design. Nor could these cells be simply formed from existing “parts” from other cells. Each cell has a unique structure, precisely intended for particular functions, even those that have a few parts common to other cell types. In other words, if you were able to enlarge one of these cells and leave it lying in the woods, someone who found it would recognize it as a designed object.

    It is just such an object that Charles Darwin said would undermine his theory. In Origin of Species he wrote, “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 break down.9”

    Naturalists will try their best to depict Intelligent Design as thinly disguised creationism, and thus a religious belief (their own religion/philosophy of naturalism notwithstanding. Naturalism simply replaces God with Nature.) So it is important to detail further IDT as the scientific theory that it is. William Dembski explains10:

    “The design theorists’ critique of Darwinism begins with Darwinism’s failure as an empirically adequate scientific theory, not with its supposed incompatibility with some system of religious belief…Critics of Darwinism by creationists have tended to conflate science and theology, making it unclear whether Darwinism fails strictly as a scientific theory or whether it must be rejected because it is theologically unacceptable. Design theorists refuse to make this a Bible-science controversy…Instead they begin their critique by arguing that Darwinism is on its own terms a failed scientific research program – that it dies not constitute a well-supported scientific theory, that its explanatory power is severely limited and that it fails abysmally when it tries to account for the grand sweep of natural history.

    “Darwinists will no doubt object to this characterization of their theory…Darwin’s mutation-selection mechanism constitutes a fruitful idea for biology…But Darwinism is more than just this mechanism. Darwinism is the totalizing claim that this mechanism accounts for all the diversity of life. The evidence simply does not support this claim. What evidence there is supports limited variation within fixed boundaries, or what is typically called microevolution. Macroevolution – the unlimited plasticity of organisms to diversify across all boundaries – even if true, cannot legitimately be attributed to the mutation-selection mechanism. To do so is to extrapolate beyond its evidential base.

    ”Indeed the following problems have proven utterly intractable not only the mutation-selection mechanism but also for any other undirected natural process proposed to date: the origin of life, the origin of the genetic code, the origin of multicellular life, the scarcity of transitional forms in the fossil record, the biological big bang that occurred in the Cambrian era, the development of complex molecular systems and the development of irreducibly complex molecular machines…It is just sheer arrogance for Darwinists like Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett to charge design theorists with being stupid or wicked or insane for denying the all-sufficiency of undirected natural processes in biology, or to compare challenging Darwinism with arguing for a flat earth.”

  2. #2
    books555's Avatar
    books555 is offline Senior Member
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    Jan 2005
    Long read. Read in full if you are truly interested in this relatively new theory.

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