Is this the new ID?

Howard J. Van Till (
Wed, 7 Apr 1999 14:01:30 -0400

To Bill Dembski (and other proponents of "intelligent design":

The recent exchange on this listserve was initiated by my expression of
hope that the Dembski and Nelson lectures at MIT and Tufts would include a
clear and candid answer to the question, "What does it mean to be (or have
been) 'intelligently designed'?"

Bill, from your posting of April 6, I take it that the following would now
be considered (by you, at least) to be an acceptable answer: (I will
itemize the several components of the statement for the purpose of
continuing analysis and commentary.)

1. To be (or have been) 'intelligently designed' means to be (or have been)
thoughtfully conceptualized by a mind (or Mind) for the accomplishment of a

2. Applying this definition to questions regarding the character of
particular physical structures, life forms, or biotic subsystems, the
criteria for recognizing something as having been 'intelligently designed'
would not entail any conclusions regarding the manner (mode) by which these
structures, organisms, or subsystems came to be assembled (or otherwise
produced) in the course of time.

3. Supposing that adequate criteria could be developed, and supposing that
particular structures, organisms, or biotic subsystems would be found to
meet these criteria, questions regarding the mode of historical assembly
(or production) of these structures or forms would have to be answered on
the basis of additional and substantive criteria (perhaps including both
scientific and theological/philosophical considerations).

4. For example, the presence of evidence for 'intelligent design,' as
defined above, would *not* by itself be sufficient to establish whether the
mode of assembly (or production) either, a) necessarily *included* episodes
of assembly by the form-imposing action of an extranatural agent, or b)
necessarily *excluded* historical actualization by 'natural means,' that
is, by the exercise of the creaturely capabilities characteristic of a
'fully gifted Creation' that was from the outset equipped by its Creator
with a 'robust formational economy.'

Bill, Paul, Phil, Mike, and the rest of the ID proponents, I suppose I
could add more items to this list but let's stop here and take stock. Would
you agree to these four statements above? If not, how would you modify


Howard Van Till