Re: X is intelligently designed means ...

Loren Haarsma (
Mon, 5 Apr 1999 20:17:23 -0400 (EDT)

Thanks to Bill Dembski for replying to this thread.

> What design theorists offer is an
> intuitively well-understood notion of "intelligent design" together with
> bridge concepts and criteria (like specified complexity) that render
> intelligent design empirically detectable and scientifically tractable.

Bill, I'm all in favor of this project as you describe it. But there
is another very important point which I think you must explicitly
address -- a point which is at the core of all these arguments amongst
Christians regarding ID. The point is this:
Not ALL "mindfully intended" objects necessarily meet the
criteria and bridge concepts which you have specified for
"intelligent design."

Here is an example: As a Christian, I consider stars and atoms to be
objects mindfully intended by the Creator. (I would prefer to say
that stars and atoms are "intelligently designed." However, since
that is the very term under discussion, I would not object for now to
restricting the term "intelligently designed" to a sub-class of
"mindfully intended" objects, IF you explicitly state that this is
what you are doing.) As a scientist, I see that the scientific
community now has detailed quantitative models -- well-matched to
empirical data -- for how these atoms and stars self-assembled from
simpler components through an evolutionary process. As a Christian
who is a scientist, I synthesize these two concepts (mindful intention
and self-assembly) by saying that the basic constituents and
fundamental laws of creation are intelligently designed by the Creator
in order to make self-assembly of stars and atoms possible.

However, while stars and atoms are mindfully intended, they do not
meet the Dembski criteria for "intelligently design." That's OK.
Your criteria and bridge principles can be a valid way of recognizing
SOME mindfully intended objects. Those criteria can be very useful
without having to cover ALL objects which we, as Christians, think are
mindfully intended. But please do explicitly acknowledge this fact in
your writing and speaking.

You and others in the "ID community" believe that biological
complexity meet the criteria of "specified small probability." I and
other Christians who are scientists believe that biological complexity
-- even irreducible complexity -- has a high probability of self-
assembling via evolutionary processes.

We disagree with each other about the probability, but we agree that
the biological complexity was mindfully intended. That is a message
which both sides of this debate should be making. But that is
precisely the message which is missing from nearly all of the recent
writing and speaking of the ID community. Instead, this is the
message we are hearing and reading: "Biological complexity MUST meet
the criteria of 'specified small probability' or else it was NOT
'mindfully intended' by a Creator in any meaningful sense of the term.
If scientists ultimately develop detailed quantitative models, well-
matched to empirical data, for how biological complexity could self-
assemble through evolutionary processes, then biological complexity
was NOT 'mindfully intended' by a Creator in any meaningful sense of
the term."

Whether you intend it or not, that is the message which your audiences
are hearing. That is the message which worries me.

So I make this plea to all ID-advocates: Please, do argue forcefully
that objects which meet the "specified small probability" criteria (or
similar criteria) are intelligently designed. And do present your
reasons for believing that biological complexity meets that criteria.
But please please PLEASE also explicitly acknowledge (a sentence or
two would suffice) that this criteria only specifies a sub-class of
mindfully intended objects.

Loren Haarsma