From: David Campbell <>
Date: Wed Jun 06 2007 - 11:45:25 EDT

What is ID? It stands for "Intelligent Design", of course, but what
exactly constitutes "Intelligent Design" is thoroughly unclear. There
are some definitions produced by the ID movement, but they are

If one accepts a definition along the lines of detection of an
intelligent agent, then forensics, SETI, archaeology, etc. have many
examples of intelligent design. As Keith pointed out, however, these
exercises in detection are based on knowledge (or assumption) of what
the designers in question are likely to do. Human-made objects are
not distinguished from "natural" objects by their complexity, but by
whether there are (a) plausible reasons for a human to make the object
and (b) a low probability of other known causes giving the result.
E.g., take chunks of a carcasse and see what the bones look like after
you get meat off with stone tools versus letting a lion chew them or
animals trample them or letting them wash around in a river for a
while. Similarly, an early cause for doubt about the genuineness of
Piltdown man was the presence of a fossil elephant bone carved into
something that looked more like a cricket bat than a credible
prehistoric tool.

Thus, it is perfectly true that the search for evidence of
intelligence is a legitimate scientific endeavor. It is even true
that a search for evidence of supernatural intelligent action can be a
legitmate scientific exercise. For example, I can easily compile data
and analyze it to demonstrate that the newspaper horoscope is false,
not providing a better match for people born in a particular time
(whether the time listed in the newspaper or the slightly over two
months correction needed if the constellation-date links were brought
up to date). However, a Biblical understanding of God's working leads
us to not expect such magic-style patterns of action (e.g., God
extensively works through non-miracluous methods, God works freely and
isn't constrained to do X just because we do some ritual, and God
frustrates the wisdom of the wise-revealing Himself through Scripture,
not through scientific research or philosophizing). The problems with
popular antievolutionary ID are in areas such as incorrect criteria
for detecting intelligence, poor fact-checking, and excessive claims
(e.g., claiming to have disproved evolution as opposed to simply
claiming to have raised problems or found an exception). It is common
for opponents of ID to be charged with rejecting the search for
intelligence or even the possibility of supernatural action. This is
true of some, but it's also possible to accept those as possibilities
while asserting that the Discovery Institute is totally off base in
its search methods.

Dr. David Campbell
425 Scientific Collections
University of Alabama
"I think of my happy condition, surrounded by acres of clams"
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Received on Wed Jun 6 11:45:56 2007

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