I've heard that many believe that intelligent design is creationism by a different name.

However, if my understanding of intelligent design is correct, it does not deny the the big bang or evolution occurred. It does not even deny that abiogenesis occurred by anything but natural means.

It just means that the universe exists or was created in such a state that allowed for the extra unlikely sequence of events that lead to life existing on earth and eventually humanity.

Is my interpretation of Intelligent Design off base? If not then it hardly seems that it is a form a creationism, although I cannot speak for it being a illegitimate scientific theory or not. Or is this incorrect and why?

  • 6
    Your question assumes that Creationism denies the Big Bang or evolution, which is not accurate. Surely some creationists deny either or both of these, but clearly not all creationists deny both. – Flimzy Aug 24 '11 at 2:12
  • @Flimzy good point, I had assumed all creationist do – aceinthehole Aug 24 '11 at 2:17
  • 5
    ("God spoke, and 'BANG!', it happened..." <- Big Bang Theory) Couldn't help myself. – Nathan Wheeler Aug 24 '11 at 2:43
  • 2
    "Any god that would have to use evolution and a big bang to create the universe is a retarded god and I would not worship him." -Dr. Kent Hovind – The Preacher Sep 2 '11 at 9:26
  • While often associated with Christianity, Intelligent Design is not a Christianity topic. It's certainly interesting but I'm afraid it doesn't belong here. – Waggers Dec 20 '11 at 20:46

There are young earth creationists and old earth creationists. Young earth creationists tend to literally translate the opening chapters of Genesis as a literal 6 day creation cycle and an earth approximately 10,000 years old.

Old earth creationists will generally meld evolutionary theory with with looser interpretation of the opening chapters of Genesis.

Both creationist beliefs state the spiritual source is the God of the Bible.

Intelligent design advocates don't specify where everything started or who started it. They just say there's a point at which matter must have begun and before that there's something non-physical that must be the source. Also, they'll argue that the order we observe in nature speaks to something will intelligence directing evolutionary or creationary forces.

In a way you could say Creationism is a sub-set of Intelligent Design, and Young earth/Old earth creationist are the two primary sub-sets of creationism.

  • 7
    There are also two important subsets of Old-Earth Creationists, those who believe in Theistic Evolution, and those who do not. – Flimzy Aug 24 '11 at 2:25

Intelligent design means different things to different people.

  • Michael Behe is a biochemist whose goal seems to be to use scientific research to uncover problems that can't be explained by science. (Or, his critics would say, can't be explained by Michael Behe.)

  • William Dembski is a philosopher and mathematician who has argued that the complexity of the universe is a reliable marker of design by an intelligent agent.

  • Philip Johnson is a retired law professor who authored a document titled The Wedge (pdf) that set forth a strategy to eliminate "materialistic science" and replace it with intelligent design in educational institutions and scientific research labs.

Behe's approach could be considered an attempt to put intelligent design on a scientific footing. Dembski's approach is more philosophical—not primarily scientific or religious. Johnson's approach is merely packaging creationism under a new name.

  • I might add that I'm not a believer in intelligent design, so if I've mischaracterized anything, I welcome corrections. – Bruce Alderman Aug 24 '11 at 5:16
  • 2
    I'm not sure how to edit it in, but your answer is the best so far to mention that Intelligent Design as an almost trademarked movement is explicitly anti natural selection and promoted entirely by Young Earthers like Behe, Dembski, Discovery Institute, et al. They say ID isn't genesis-creationism, but castigate anyone who believes an intelligent designer used evolution. – djeikyb Aug 31 '11 at 19:12

First a disclaimer: My personal leaning is that God created this universe ex-nihilo (that is, out of nothing) over a period of (most likely) about 14 billion years, precisely as described in the Genesis account. Most importantly mankind was a direct and specific creation of God into which he breathed his Spirit, created in God's image, unique and special among all creatures.

ID is tied to Creationism inasmuch as it's an attempt to provide a theory consistent with historical Christianity (and Judaism and Islam, for that matter) without actually mentioning "God", per se.

However, ID has become strongly associated with "young-earth" creationism, whose scientific merits are disputed by much of the scientific community. A young-earth viewpoint necessarily disputes Big-bang cosmology and the consequent billions of years age of the universe, and anything else that can't fit into an age of about 8,000 to 15,000 years.

Biblical creationism is not limited to a young-earth model and Reasons to Believe has a lot of material offering an alternative creation model within an old-earth framework.

That said, creationism is typically opposed to evolution and so is ID, since the point is that God created the universe and everything in it, including and especially us.

But some argue that Theistic or "directed" evolution occured, whereby God set things in motion and then sits back and observes it all play out (perhaps tinkering occasionally, perhaps not). Certainly there is merit in the idea that a perfect and infinite God could do so and quite simply "get it right from the get go".

My opinion on the evidence...

Personally, I find the evolution viewpoint hard to defend from both Scripture and from scientific evidence. It's not so much that evolution can't have happened, but rather that, in my opinion, the scientific evidence supports creation as the better explanation at this point in our scientific knowledge. At the same time, Scripture is also much better understood as supporting direct and supernatural creation rather than evolution.

I suspect that many people see the debate as being between two poles: (1) Old earth naturalism, and (2) Young earth creationism. I think that possibly most people, scientists included, reject a young earth view and with it creationism, thereby falling by default to what is perceived as only remaining option, Old earth naturalism. I am saying there's a third choice, which IMO is worthy of consideration and better harmonizes science and scripture.

In response to the claim that "98% of all biologists, including many Christians, accept evolution as the better scientific explanation" from Bruce Alderman, and quite apart from the fact that there is no good basis for that statistic...

It may be that a significant portion of those who adhere to evolution do so because their personal philosophy and world-view do not permit them to do otherwise. In other words, naturalism is the only acceptable explanation for someone who fundamentally rejects the possibility of a deity. We humans are funny about our preconceived notions in that way (on both sides of the debate).

Now, personal philosophy is not irrelevant, though we may like to delude ourselves that it is. If one cannot personally accept the possibility of a deity, one cannot accept any explanation for this universe except naturalism, no matter how compelling the evidence one way or the other. So, supposing the evidence supports a divine creator, perhaps even powerfully, ones a priori presupposition excludes the better conclusion and forces a lessor conclusion than would be reached if the evidence was viewed objectively without bias.

My point is not pertaining to the execution of the scientific method, on which point I agree with Bruce. My point is that saying 98% of biologists are naturalists is meaningless if 98% of biologists are also of a philosophical persuasion that cannot accept a non-naturalist conclusion. It simply means that 98% of biologists cannot accept any other conclusion. (Or perhaps 90%, or 80% etc cannot, in which case the statistic is at the least much less meaningful, if at all).

  • 1
    If the scientific evidence, as you say, "supports creation as the better explanation at this point in our scientific knowledge," then why do 98% of all biologists, including many Christians, accept evolution as the better scientific explanation? – Bruce Alderman Aug 25 '11 at 22:01
  • @Bruce: Sorry, I wasn't clear - when introducing the paragraph with "Personally" I was offering my opinion (which I have made more explicit). While I dispute your statistic, I suspect that many people see the debate as being between two poles. – user32 Aug 26 '11 at 0:32
  • OK, thanks for the clarification. I can't find the source now for my 98% statistic, but the talk.origins FAQ counts 700 creationists out of 480,000 scientists working in the life sciences in the U.S. That's less than 1/6 of 1% believing in creationism. – Bruce Alderman Aug 26 '11 at 3:51
  • @BruceAlderman: the 700/480,000 figure gets often referred to, but the methods used to calculate are never spoken of. The original source is a 2-page Newsweek article from 1987, that I have no way of getting my hands on: Larry Martz & Ann McDaniel, "Keeping God Out of Class (Washington and bureau reports)". Newsweek (Newsweek Inc.) 1987-JUN-29, Pages 22 & 23. ISSN 0028-9604 – StackExchange saddens dancek Sep 19 '11 at 12:35
  • Actually, the Newsweek article isn't the original source either, and states it's "one count" with no references: "By one count there are some 700 scientists with respectable academic credentials (out of a total of 480,000 U.S. earth and life scientists) who give credence to creation-science, the general theory that complex life forms did not evolve but appeared 'abruptly'." – StackExchange saddens dancek Sep 19 '11 at 12:39

Intelligent Design allows for creation, but does not presume it. What it says is that for any set of complex designs (one design is not enough, but many designs as a variation on a theme, such as with evolution, can be), you can learn something about their origin — the designer. This is true whether that designer might turn out to be an intelligence or a natural process. ID also hypothesizes that if the the designer is intelligent, rather than the solely the action of natural processes, the designs should bear evidence of that intelligence.

ID has applications outside of the evolution vs creation debate. For example, let's say there's a new bird flu/SARS virus going around. ID research could eventually provide the basis to determine whether the epidemic is natural or engineered by terrorists, and perhaps even where it came from. By examining the virus and comparing traits from known natural and engineered sources, the theory says that you should be able to distinguish it as one or the other with a more exact degree of probability than current methods, and in some cases even which kind of engineered source or technique was used: whether the design of the virus was natural or backed by an intelligence.

There have been extreme reactions to ID on both sides. Evolutionists often see it only as a wedge for allowing creationism in classrooms, and react accordingly. They miss the larger view of the field. In their defense, some (prominent) creationists have tried to use it that way, though I think (my opinion) for the most part creationists are just as wary of it because it also makes allowances for evolution.

  • can you explain the real word application or add some sources? I think that paragraph is more than doubtful – Sven Sep 19 '11 at 14:07
  • Can you explain what your example does have anything todo with ID? – Sven Sep 19 '11 at 14:22
  • @Sven: It seems self-evident; if the virus shows evidence of manufacture by an intelligent agent, it may be a terrorist attack rather than a natural occurrence. That may affect both decisions for counter-attack and assumptions in the pathology and treatment. – user32 Sep 25 '11 at 22:17

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.