Re: ORIGINS: Definition of Intelligent Design

Bill Hamilton (
Fri, 29 Nov 1996 11:18:36 -0500

Don DeGraaf has asked for a definition of Intelligent design. My initial
reaction was to thank Don for asking what I've asked for on a number of
occasions, sit back and wait for the responses. However, this is probably
a good opportunity to lay out some of my concerns with ID. So here is my
response for what it's worth.

Don wrote

>Understanding of any concept is fostered by a clear, concise definition
>of the concept. Are all the discussers on this listserv using the same
>definition of ID? Is it useful to use different definitions of ID in
>different contexts?
>My questions to each of you:
>Q 1. What is _your_ definition of ID?
> Is ID an _activity_ (of a designer), or the _result_ of such
> activity? I.e., is ID a verb, or a noun?

ID is a claim that certain objects in nature show evidence that they have
been designed. So I would argue that for empirical purposes it should be
defined as the result of the activity of a designer.
>Q 2. When a qualified person forms the opinion that something is (or is
> not) an example of ID, is that a _scientific_ conclusion (based on
> interpretation of scientific evidence), or a _trans-scientific_
> (theological or philosophical) conclusion (based on other grounds)?

Don, I wonder if you aren't proceeding too quickly here. One might
reasonably ask what are the qualifications for recognizing intelligent
design. Mike Behe, a Christian biochemist, sees it. Richard Dawkins, an
atheist zoologist claims that it's only an appearance of design. Is
Dawkins trying to rationalize away something he doesn't want to deal with?
Or is Mike trying to take a shortcut to Christian apologetics? The waters
are further muddied by Terry Gray, a Christian biochemist who would agree I
believe that all of nature is God's design, but would be skeptical that
objective criteria exist for identifying particular objects and processes
in nature as evidence of God's design [Terry: please correct me if I have
misread you]. So what qualifications must one have to identify intelligent
>Q 3. What are the proper criteria for judging that something is (or is not)
> an example of ID?
One criterion might be an arrangement of parts that
a) Must be so arranged to function, and
b) Is extremely improbable if chance alone is the cause.

Of course, as R. C. Sproul points out in his book, "Not a Chance," chance
is nothing. When we say something is the result of chance we mean we don't
know what caused it.

Folks, I noticed a while ago that many of these design-related posts are
going to both the asa and evolution reflectors. Those of us who subscribe
to both are getting double copies of them. Perhaps we could agree to go to
one or the other?

Bill Hamilton
William E. Hamilton, Jr., Ph.D.
1346 W. Fairview Lane
Rochester, MI 48306
(810) 652 4148