Re: What does ID mean?

Dennis Feucht (
Sat, 11 Apr 1998 00:10:36 -0400

Howard Van Till wrote:

"As I've said many times before, until ID is candidly and publicly defined
by its proponents, there is no use talking about it. You cannot fruitfully
argue about the presence or absence of something that has not been clearly
defined in a way that is uniformly understood by all discussants."

Your point is right on target. While I am not usually considered an IDer
(at least Phil Johnson does not regard me as one), I have attempted to
define this key word in an upcoming paper in _O&D_ (Dec 1997 issue, not out
yet) titled, "Design in Nature and the Nature of Design." The field of
study for which design is the distinctive subject-matter is engineering,
and (being an design engineer) I have approached it from this point of

To define _design_ requires first a distinction among three kinds of
theories of physical systems:

1. structural: what a thing _is_
2. behavioral: what a thing _does_
3. functional: what a thing _is for_

Functional theories are _not_ merely ways of organizing behavior;
understanding how a component of a system contributes to overall function
is not made explicit by its behavioral constraints. Rather, an additional
set of constraints for achieving a goal are essential to the _functional_
aspect of a system.

Design is related to theories of function and has three essential aspects
to its definition:

1. a _representation_ of the domain of the design
2. a _non de facto_ state of affairs to be realized - that is, the _goal_.
3. a method or _plan_ for realizing the goal.

(The rest of the paper goes into more detail.)

"I'm still waiting for a candid and public answer to my question, Precisely
what does it mean to be 'intellinently designed'? Does it require an act of
"mind," or "hand," or both? That is, is it an act of conceptualization or
an act of assembly/form-imposing?"

"Intelligent design" is a redundant expression since design subsumes
intelligence. It requires, at least, the ability to envision some thing or
state-of-affairs that does not exist and devise means to realize it. I
would regard that as a mental act. If you follow M. Polanyi, knowledge from
doing ("hand") is still an intellectual achievement, though not fully
rational. We know more than we can tell. In this sense, it is both, plus
perception, which is also not a fully rational activity.

Related point: The hard part of artificial intelligence (AI) has turned out
to be perception, not cognition. Much of our intelligence consists in
perceiving and acting. Design involves perception, cognition and actuation,
but is driven by a goal and a plan, expressed in the language of the
representation of the domain to which the design pertains. In robotics, we
say it is "model-driven" and not purely "data-driven," though data
certainly affect design activity.

Dennis L. Feucht
Innovatia Laboratories
American Scientific Affiliation Newsletter Editor
Great Lakes Rocket Society
14554 Maplewood Road
Townville, Pennsylvania 16360