Once again, What is ID?

Howard J. Van Till (110661.1365@compuserve.com)
Tue, 21 Apr 1998 20:52:11 -0400

To all participants in discussions regarding 'Intelligent Design':

For the past few weeks I have been trying, without success, to get the
vocal and highly visible proponents of ID to define their central and
identifying term on this ASA listserve. The need for a carefully crafted
and candidly stated definition should be apparent to all.

In recent postings several different meanings have been employed. As I see
it, misunderstandings and miscommunications are the rule rather than the
exception. Sometimes ID is presumed to be an action of mind. Sometimes it
is presumed to be an action of some form-imposing, artisan-like agent.
Sometimes both elements are presumed essential.

For several years ID proponents have been claiming that there is empirical
evidence that at least some organisms or biotic subsystems are (or have
been) 'intelligently designed.' Mike Behe's book claims to have identified
at least six specific examples.

Before anyone can either defend or criticize such claims, however, the
following question must be answered: What does it mean to be (or have been)
'intelligently designed'?

So far the responses from the proponents of ID fall into either of the
follwoing two categories:

1) Stonewall silence.

2) Smoke screen (a blitz of qualifications or distracting questions or
hypothetical dialogues with "evolutionary scientists" who are allowed to
set the standards of discourse and to extrapolate without limit from a
method of scientific inquiry to a comprehensive atheistic worldview).

Given this state of affairs, we are inevitably led to ask: What's going on
here? Wouldn't the vocal proponents of any substantive concept be the first
persons to demand that it be carefully defined? Why the seeming hesitancy
to do so for ID?

Is there a clear answer to the question, What does it mean to be (or have
been) 'intelligently designed'? If there is, then it should be stated. If
not, then the concept can be neither promoted nor criticized. Discussion of
ID should simply stop until a definition can be supplied.

Some of us have begun to suspect that there is an answer, but that its
proponents would like to keep it out of public view. If so, why? Is the
actual concept substantially different from what most hearers/readers think
it is? Is there some sort of subterranean ball game going on here?

Let me try one more time to get the most vocal and visible proponents of
'Intelligent Design' to define for us what they mean by the term that
identifies their movement.

Phil Johnson, as a vocal proponent of ID, please tell us what it means for
something to be (or have been) 'intelligently designed'? (Note: I am not
asking for argumentation regarding whether or not there is empirical
evidence for it. I just want to know what particular feature(s) of a
thing's formational history must be present in order to qualify it for
being given the label 'intelligently designed.' Given a clear definition
for ID, questions about empirical evidence for it can be pursued later.)

Paul Nelson, same question.

Mike Behe, same question.

Bill Dembski, same question.

Steve Meyer, same question.

Any other proponent of ID, same question.

Persistently yours,

Howard Van Till