Talk:Intelligent design

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Revision as of 16:29, 23 February 2007 by Ian Ramjohn (Talk | contribs) ("Intelligent design is not the same as creationism")

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Help on contributing to this article

When editing this article please consider the following things which have been generally supported by the contributors to date:

  • The article is filed under science and should not include a theological or religious discussion about intelligent design. Instead, if important religious people or theologians have made comments about the issue, they should be referred to in the article as proponents/opponents and links put to their pages on CZ. Perhaps there should even be a page Intelligent_Design_religious in the religion section to describe the religious debate behind the issue.
  • The article should not make arguments from authority, e.g. imply that all sensible/smart people have rejected ID as being religious (and therefore presumed irrational).
  • The arguments of proponents and opponents of ID should be made with specific attention to conveying the reasoning behind those arguments in a clear and lucid way and the readers should be left to make up their own minds. The article should not seek to provide rebuttals for or dismiss the arguments of either prominent proponents or opponents in the debate. Nor should it seek to present any particular point of view as the accepted factual one at the presumed expense of other points of view.

In short we hope that the article will be pleasant to read, describing the issue in a compelling and accurate way as per CZ guidelines and not seek to enter the debate itself or rebutt every point that is made on either side of the debate. This sort of thing makes encyclopaedia articles extremely unpleasant to read.

Please also see the section below on things to possibly include in the article if you are thinking about contributing.

Intelligent Design : A better intro than WP

I've added an introduction to this subject. The corresponding Wikipedia page has been the cause of bitter disputes and allegations of heavy bias to the point that the article is now protected and can only be edited by regular wikipedians. If Citizendium is to succeed where Wikipedia has failed, I am guessing this will be an interesting test case.

Some suggestions as to why Wikipedia might have had so much trouble with this article:

  • It quotes the opinions of individuals in order to make various points in a narrative style article. This is dangerous since almost anything anyone wants to say has been said by *someone* regarding ID, thus quoting those opinions can be a way of adding legitimacy to a personal argument about the issue. In other words, some of the opinons quoted may be prone to encouraging or entertaining the debate, rather than informing readers.
  • The article errs on the side of conflating creationism and ID, however the article should try to elucidate the distinction between the two concepts.
  • The article conflates the personal beliefs of many of the leading proponents and the actual statements that constitute the theory of intelligent design itself. In general there is a poor distinction in the article between the ID movement as a cultural phenomenon and intelligent design framed as a scientific argument.
  • A number of quotations appear to be used to give the impression that something which is not factual, is true. For example the statement that no scientific evidence supporting ID has been published in peer reviewed literature is very carefully worded, but quite misleading. An important case of an article which passed peer review but was later rejected amidst accusations of editorial misconduct (which the editor denies), does not appear to be mentioned.
  • Statistics are used rather wildly, for example a poorly constructed poll is admitted to evidence, and a statement about 70,000 scientists opposing ID is in fact really about a petition signed by only 9 people who may or may not hold the same views as the members they represent in their respective organisations (not to mention people possibly belonging to more than one of the organisations).
  • The article often uses phrases such as, "it is claimed that" or "proponents say that" or "so and so argues that", which is often used in the article as a literary device for advancing one side of the debate against the other. Instead of presenting the facts, the article is presented as a dialogue between opponents and proponents of the theory (which of course just degenerates into such a debate on the talk page).
  • The debate is entertained by the article rather than being reported in an unempassioned way from the outside of the issue.
  • Many statements in the article would be highly offensive to one side of the debate or the other, prompting more aggravation on the talk page and in edit wars within the article itself.

In summary, I believe that the article is neither neutral, nor encyclopaedic. Of course what I've added to the page on Citizendium is certainly not the latter, and quite possibly not the former either. But every article needs a starting point. In fact I think I have erred on the side of casting ID in a bad light rather than simply reporting what it is. If people agree, perhaps even more could be culled from my intro. In particular, I may not have recognized various connotations of the wording which seem to promote one side of the debate over the other. I welcome any and all changes designed to make the article more neutral. Please be kind. I'm going with the "be bold" slogan of Citizendium. William Hart 09:06, 15 February 2007 (CST)

What is the difference between ID and creationism? I don't ask for my personal information ;-) but because the article should make this clear. Mainstream monotheistic belief has it that God is the creator and therefore virtually all mainstream believers are creationists. But obviously not all of them buy into ID. --Larry Sanger 09:10, 15 February 2007 (CST)
I think that is a good point and I agree, the article should reflect that. Also on the flip side, there are occasional agnostics who support ID. So my guess is that creationism and ID are quite different concepts. I think the main distinction is that ID does not require a *supernatural* designer. The wikipedia article tries to brush this distinction aside by making comments about how an alien race or some other kind of natural designer could not have designed the universe and that the fine tuning of constants, though under the general purview of ID theory, could not have been achieved by a natural designer. The wikipedia article also puts forward the argument that a designer would be so complex as to require an intelligent designer of its own. Since I don't wish to be making a case for either side of the debate here, I won't try to analyse these notions any further, but I think it suffices to say that those arguments look like they have been added to the wikipedia article by those wishing to debunk ID rather than to present an article which simply reports the facts. As a result they dismiss, rather than describe, the major distinction between ID and creationism.
In short, I think that ID is more about detecting design in nature and arguing for it from scientific considerations (e.g. from considerations arising from a study of microbiology) rather than trying to establish the nature of the intelligent designer. In that sense, ID most certainly cannot be characterised as an argument for the existence of God as the wikipedia article begins. In other words, ID theory has nothing to do with the statement "life on earth was created by an intelligent designer" and has much more to do with the statement "design can be *detected* in nature". This is possibly the reason many Christians object to it. Though they believe in a creator God, they perhaps don't believe that the specific considerations that intelligent design theory makes point to intelligent design. Nor do they think there is any reason to expect such considerations to lead to a proof of design. Other Christians object, as I understand it, because intelligent design doesn't go far enough, and identify the designer as God.
OK. I should be adding this to the article, not the talk page. But how to add it!? The specific wording is pretty important, so as to avoid the endless arguments which have accompanied the wikipedia version. William Hart 09:44, 15 February 2007 (CST)
In order to avoid the basking such as this topic often gives rise to, I suggest adding a chapter to the article giving righ to people with different views on the topic, but and I stress but, it may not become a religious talk else this should in totality be placed under religion as being one of its proponents. Robert Tito | Talk 11:37, 15 February 2007 (CST)
I agree, there should be a section on various views on the topic. Probably even before that there should be a section on the actual content of ID theory. At present the article is pretty woolly. But for the section on views: what views should be added? Many of the views represented in the wikipedia article seem to just be personal views of people contributing to the article often supported by articles in the popular press where journalists appear to have had the same thoughts. I think when one begins to enter the debate in this way, one loses objectivity. I'd much prefer to see a section listing the primary *scientific* objections to the concept with references to peer reviewed scientific articles or statements made in reputable scientific sources by scientists opposing the concept. One could also include the primary philosophical and religious objections too. But that is only possible if someone is very familiar with the peer reviewed literature. Just making up arguments and supposing that they must be the ones that theologians or philosophers have advanced against it and then trying to find a quote somewhere, anywhere, where someone has stated that point of view is going to make the article look quite non-authoritative in my opinion. I'm not particularly qualified to make *that* literature search, so I hope some other contributors will add that. William Hart 01:59, 16 February 2007 (CST)
Added in afterthought: the Pope would be such a qualified theologian who has made statements about the topic. BUT, this article is filed under science. Thus, as you suggest Robert, a religious discussion such as this, should not be included in the article, but rather linked to as one of the proponents/opponents of the theory (actually, having read a little of what the Pope has said on the issue, I'm still not sure of what his formal opinion really is). I see now what you are saying, and I agree! This article should include only statements from the scientific community with a short additional section reflecting the other (non-science) opinions that are out there, linking to appropriate articles about such people/ideas.

Things to add to the article

Some things that could be added to the article on the science side:

  • Something about Werner Gitt's writings and his response to ID.
  • Something about Paul Davies' writings.
  • Stephen J Gould's opinion.
  • Simon Conway Morris' opinion.
  • Dembski's explanatory filter.
  • Behe's Irreducible Complexity argument (there's a hint in the WP article that this has been refuted in the scientific literature and that even Behe has backed away from it. But there are so few actual details given that one is hard pressed to see clearly what has happened to this argument. I'd like to see the issue properly exposed if there is something to say.)
  • Dembski's specified complexity and universal probability bound.
  • Guillermo Gonzales' (?) fine tuned universe.
  • The no free lunch theorem and Dembski's evolutionary search spaces and pairwise competitive functions.
  • The opinions of Hubert Yockey, Robert Sauer, Peter Rüst, Paul Erbrich, Siegfried Scherer, and Douglas Axe

I can't think of any more for now, but there are many important things that should be mentioned on both sides of the scientific debate. William Hart 01:59, 16 February 2007 (CST)

Good luck. I'd strongly agree that, having made the distinction between ID and creationism, the article should steer clear of religious issues as best it can, and especially avoid the insidious practice of disparaging opinions by implying that they reflect religious (ie presumed irrational beliefs).
Personally I think the article needs to begin with a clear and simple account of the case for ID, and perhaps Paley's watchmaker analogy is a good and classic way to begin?

I am really nervous about arguments from authority, i.e. to the effect that this is rubbish because all sensible people (or all very clever people) think its rubbish. I think it must be an objective to explain the reasoning behind people's views, and then sensible people can make their own minds up. Gareth Leng 05:20, 16 February 2007 (CST)

Hi Gareth, yes I agree with your sentiments. I notice in your edits that you use the phrase "intelligent creator" a couple of times. I'd be wary of using the precise word "creator". Although I understand the sense in which you have used it, from the context, I'm uncertain whether it is the best word. Having said that, I don't have a recommendation for an alternative. William Hart 07:08, 16 February 2007 (CST)

Some problems to address

I note we have the following problems with the article (for which I don't seem to have a solution at present):
* The overview section makes mention of intelligent design being objected to as unscientific, a point which is made again fairly soon after. Is there a way to rationalize and avoid duplication without affecting the flow of thought of the article.
* The fellows of the Discovery Institute are mentioned before the Discovery Institute is put in context. Is there a way to rearrange the article to avoid this.
* The comment about ID being akin to the teleological argument has disappeared as has the precise distinction between the two. Simon Conway Morris for example believes that design is evident in nature, but rejects intelligent design theory. He would use arguments from evolutionary theory, such as the ubiquity of convergent evolution. I think the watchmaker analogy is a good starting point, but then we need to distinguish the two arguments.
* The summary of the teleological argument should be added to an article on the teleological argument. I think such a summary is also perhaps welcome here in abbreviated form, as a general introduction to intelligent design (or that topic should be expanded in the article on the teleological argument). William Hart 07:08, 16 February 2007 (CST)

Please restore or edit in any way you think is appropriate. I was just trying to present the argument for ID in a simple, clear and rational way at the beginning, rather than assume that the reader already understood what it was.Gareth Leng 07:27, 16 February 2007 (CST)
No your additions are good, since they accord well with the CZ policy of having compelling prose rather than a list of random facts. I don't have a suggestion for how to improve it, only questions about how we can make it better. I'll leave it for now (until I have a brainwave at least or someone (else) has a go at editing it). William Hart 07:31, 16 February 2007 (CST)


Bleh, does someone know how to capitalise Intelligent Design correctly in this article. Should there be a distinction between the movement and the theory? Should it just be capitalised throughout? Also what about the Theory of Evolution by Natural selection. Is that the correct capitalisation? William Hart 04:57, 17 February 2007 (CST)

Some brief comments

At the moment I have no close analysis to offer except a causual reading of the text and an observation the flow is carefully neutral and measured so far. It will be interesting to see the structure of the concluding sections.

The way Popper is quoted seems to amount to arguing from authority, and although I am a personal fan of Popper, the key scientific issues for this are elsewhere. A key issue that comes to mind is whether ID hypotheses survive rigorous scrutiny, not what Popper thinks of other matters. David Tribe 06:49, 17 February 2007 (CST)

I would agree with the comments about Popper. I haven't personally reverted them or tried to change them, but if you feel they should be changed then please do so. William Hart 07:30, 17 February 2007 (CST)
Whilst I have attempted to get the article underway, I believe CZ has a policy of no one person owning or being responsible for an article. So I would have no more right to control the article than any other contributor. Actually, I think Gareth may be responsible for more of it on a word by word basis than myself, and I recall he has relevant credentials. I should mention that I am not personally committed to seeing this article through to a final version. I am merely interested in making a start which I believe is relatively neutral and seeing what happens to it after that, i.e. it is an experiment of sorts. William Hart 07:30, 17 February 2007 (CST)
Oh I see. I understand the direction better. It reads exactly like that. Please forgive my slightly more than gentle probing- but different kind of viewpoints have to meet somewhere. Some person previously (it doesn't matter whom) had mode a remark that "next CZ will have ID articles" and I though well why not. Its a good test of neutrality. By the same token their construction needs to be intensely and fairly scrutinized. Because they will cerataily get criticised by more hostile critivcs than myself if they are approved. We did something "unconventional on Biology and its attracted unfair criticism elsewhere through misunderstanding of our editorial decisions, and there is far more scope for that kind of trouble in ID. Thats on my mind, but I will also defend your neutral treatment of ID. David Tribe 08:14, 17 February 2007 (CST)
That's quite interesting because the final article on biology reads beautifully. I read it yesterday and it certainly raised my hopes for CZ. I wonder if the ID article can ever be substantive enough to be that well-written and interesting. But I hope that gifted contributors will push it towards that ideal. We certainly need a statement of the main arguments of ID and statements of the principal scientific objections to ID. William Hart 09:25, 17 February 2007 (CST)

I think it would be useful to mention genetic algorithms are being used in computing to achieve intelligent solutions, and the merits of selection from variability as a mechanism for providing functional apparent design. Eg the alternative hypothesis can be sensitively presented. The design of the bacterial flagellum of course is a particular ID case study, and EVOwiki is one place to go to find the counter position David Tribe 07:15, 17 February 2007 (CST)

I don't know all that much about (recent) genetic algorithms. Do you have references for genetic algorithms which came up with irreducibly complex designs without unrealistic design constraints being imposed on the system? If so, and if this has been advanced as an argument against ID by its opponents, I think it would be an excellent thing to add to the article. William Hart 07:30, 17 February 2007 (CST)
For the moment I don't think they are applied to "irreducibly complex designs". But the words trigger the idea that they are a tautology. The whole point is are the functional features "irreducibly complex" or not? Thanks for the encouragement to participate David Tribe 08:08, 17 February 2007 (CST)
Ha! Yeah, I should have put designs in inverted commas, or used the phrase "apparently irreducibly complex designs". Naturally that is subjective, but if someone important or qualified has stated that they do have the same appearance of being irreducibly complex as say the flagellum, then that would make them pretty relevant. I suppose one could test whether these designs were irreducibly complex simply by removing each component and checking that it ceases to function. I haven't kept up with the debate for about the last 6 months, so I don't know if such a thing has been done. At any rate I perceive that you are arguing that such "designs" are evidence irrespective of whether they are irreducibly complex. An interesting question: at what point do we consider such algorithms to be intelligently designed as opposed to random and purposeless, and when do we consider the algorithms themselves to be artificially intelligent? I guess that is not an issue the article, as a summary, wants to delve into in detail. William Hart 08:31, 17 February 2007 (CST)


Any idea which workgroups should be added to this article? Chris Day (Talk) 16:22, 18 February 2007 (CST)

Think it should be Biology?Gareth Leng 17:50, 21 February 2007 (CST)

I was thinking in addition to biology. It seems to have more breadth than biology alone, but whther there is a workgroup that caters to this I am not sure? Possibly philosophy too? Chris Day (Talk) 17:57, 21 February 2007 (CST)
Any science and related; any humanities and related. This is just one of those kinds of articles. Stephen Ewen 13:50, 22 February 2007 (CST)
I'm not sure about philosophy. Certainly the teleological argument belongs under that, however, is intelligent design an important issue for philosophers? I don't know, I'm not a philosopher. But I suspect it has far more to do with cosmology, physics, biochemistry, biology, mathematics, religion and current social issues. William Hart 09:55, 23 February 2007 (CST)

It belongs under Religion. It has nothing to do with science. Neville English | Talk 17:28, 22 February 2007 (CST)

What then of scientists who are IDers? Stephen Ewen 18:21, 22 February 2007 (CST)
There's nothing stopping scientists having interests in religeous matters. Neville English | Talk 06:25, 23 February 2007 (CST)
I don't see how a discussion for example of whether the bacterial flagellum reduces via a series of genetic steps to other functional related biological features would be appropriate in an article on religion. That appears to be a wholly biological issue and one which bears directly upon the question of whether irreducibly complex designs exist in biology. Irreducible complexity is a fundamental argument of ID proponents. The other principal arguments seem similarly related to scientific considerations, not religious ones. It has been suggested that a separate article be started to discuss the religious reaction to ID and the religious implications of ID theory and that the current article should be confined wholly to the *scientific* issues/objections. Granted the article does not currently deal with the principal arguments made from scientific considerations, nor the scientific objections to those arguments, but as the discussion above indicates, there are plans to include this information. Basically, you'll observe that it is scientists (biologists and a mathematician) who have been contributing to this article. It should remain under science. Leaving it there does not legitimize the scientific programme of Intelligent Design advocates any more than discussing the Bible in McDonald's makes the Pope a hamburger. William Hart 09:54, 23 February 2007 (CST)

"Intelligent design is not the same as creationism"

This statement, made as a bald fact, is deeply problematic. It's basically stating Discovery Institute propaganda as if it were true. Ruse, Pennock, Forrest and other philosophers of science have clearly called it creationist...enough so that the judge in the Kitzmiller trial ruled that it was religious and could not be taught as science.

ID was specifically designed to circumvent the Edwards ruling (that "creation science" was religious can could not be taught as science). To that end, it has been kept intentionally vague. While not all of its proponents are Young-Earth Creationists (there are even a few non-Christians), it's leading proponents have generally used explicitly religious terminology (like Dembski's characterisation of it as the Logos of John restated in terms on information theory (or something like that)) when addressing "friendly" audiences. In addition, you can be a creationist without specifically identifying the creator.

In the same section, the statement is made that very few ID research papers and monographs have passed peer review and made it to publication, underscoring the contentious nature of the issue amongst mainstream scientists. This is more ID propaganda. Despite having their own "peer reviewed" journal and various other friendly outlets, there is no evidence of research which seeks to support ID. There have been some attempts to point out "flaws" in the modern synthesis (or "Darwinism", as they tend to call it)...apart from the fact that most of these "flaws" are easily explained, the simple fact is that these things can only be taken to "support" of ID if the only options were existing theories or ID. Obviously, if you were to show that something cannot be explained by existing theories (as Behe has tried, and failed, with his anecdotes of "irreducible complexity"), all you are doing is demonstrating "not A", you are not showing that "B" is true. The Templeton Foundation, who provided a lot of early funding to the ID movement, offered grants for research into ID. There were no takers...because ID is not science, it's creationism counched in the language and forms of science. Ian Ramjohn 10:29, 23 February 2007 (CST)