Re: Dembski and Nelson at MIT and Tufts

Howard J. Van Till (
Sat, 3 Apr 1999 09:08:06 -0500

On the matter of defining "intelligent design," Bert Massie asks:

>Who owns the definition? Since we can agree that no one does then everyone
>is free to propose their favorate view on these words just like the scale of
>use of the word evolution from micro to macro to actually in disguise,

You are correct to say that no one owns the definition of 'design.'. All the
more important, therefore, that each person who uses the term provide their
particular operative definition for it.

Bert again:

>However, I think you are asking the wrong question. I know what design is;
>it is the result or output of a designer. I, the designer, design a bridge
>and the output is a set of drawings called a design. So, design is the
>blueprint or description.

Right, in contemporary usage, 'design' is an act of the mind--the thoughtful
conceptualization of something for the accomplishment of a purpose. Using this
meaning, all Christians believe the universe to have been 'designed.' Once
again, Bert, I think we're on the same page.

However, in earlier discussions (as in the 18th century, by persons like Wm.
Paley) "design" was a two-fold act of both 1) thoughtful conceptualization for
the accomplishment of a purpose, an act of a mind, and 2) the crafting from
raw materials (or assembly from available parts) of that which was first
conceptualized, an act of the hands. This meaning of 'design' was based on the
artisan metaphor: one person, the artisan, or craftsman, performed *both* the
conceptualization *and* the assembly, or crafting.

My question is, which meaning is intended by the modern proponents of ID? Once
that is established, we can evaluate their position. Until then, there is no
basis for discussion.


Howard Van Till