Re: What does ID mean?

Loren Haarsma (
Mon, 20 Apr 1998 11:23:58 -0400 (EDT)

(Paul, sorry I didn't get a chance to write this earlier. I hope you'll
address these questions when next you find some time for this discussion

Paul Nelson wrote to Allan Harvey:
>> I think you and I understand "evolution" differently.

In order to keep this from going in circles, maybe we need some new

Suppose a theistic scientist is investigating a specific problem --- an
unexpected deflection in an atomic beam, or the pathology and history of
a recent disease outbreak amongst humans, or the unusually high
concentration of a certain isotope in one rock strata in one location,
or a transient surge in 511 keV gamma rays coming from the direction of
the center of the galaxy, or the ways in which nerve cells develop in an
embryo, or the formation of an antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria,
or the high incidence of bipolar disorder in a certain family. Suppose
this scientist hypothesizes that the most probable explanation for this
problem is one or more natural mechanisms (rather than a miracle), and
the most fruitful way to investigate it is to proceed under that
assumption. This scientist believes that "natural" events are in no way
independent of God, but are every bit as much under God's sovereignty
and providence as miracles. The scientist holds the hypothesis, that
the most likely explanation for this problem is in terms of natural
mechanisms, for a combination of empirical, theoretical, experiential,
philosophical, and theological reasons. The hypothesis is held
provisionally, with the belief that God can perform miracles, that God
might have performed a miracle in this case, and that the investigation
might eventually point in that direction. The scientist also knows that
the reasons for holding the "natural mechanisms" hypothesis in this
particular case do not apply universally to all phenomena.

What name would you give to the methodology (and theological
perspective) described above? A number of Christian scientists and
philosophers of science use the term "methodological naturalism" for
what I just described. (That's not my favorite term, but it functions.
That is how the term has usually been used in this group.) Paul, since
you and others consistently use the term MN to mean something quite
different, something which seems to me to be synonymous with
philosophical Naturalism, perhaps you can offer a different term for what
I described above. In order to discuss it, we need a term for it.

Another term with multiple uses is "design." The modern ID movement
consistently uses the term "design" to designate things which are
mindfully intended, fulfill a function, *and* were assembled by an
intelligent agent acting upon component pieces. The third restriction
is an important one. If you want to keep that restriction, I would like
to know what term would you use to designate things which are mindfully
intended, fulfill a function, and self-organized over time out of
component pieces which were themselves designed to bring about this
self-organization. I would like to call such self-organized objects or
systems "designed," but they don't fit the definition of "design" the
way the ID movement is using the term. Should the definition of
"design" be expanded, or would you like to offer another term?

Looking forward to your return to the discussion.

Loren Haarsma