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Sunday, March 23, 2008

At last: Useful encyclopedia entry on intelligent design theory

Jonathan Wells, author of Icons of Evolution and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Intelligent Design has written an encyclopedia entry on design theory that tells you what it is and isn't:

Intelligent design is not the same as creationism, since ID relies on scientific evidence rather than on Scripture or religious doctrines. ID makes no claims about biblical chronology, and a person does not have to believe in God to infer intelligent design in nature. ID does not tell anyone the identity or nature of the designer, so it is not the same as natural theology, which reasons from nature to the existence and attributes of God. ID is not an argument from ignorance; it cannot be inferred simply because the cause of something is unknown, any more than a person accused of willful intent can be convicted without evidence. ID does not claim that design must be optimal; something may be intelligently designed even if it is flawed (as are many objects made by humans). ID does not claim that all species of living things were created in their present forms, and it does not claim to provide a complete account of the history of the universe or of living things.

ID consists only of the minimal assertion that it is possible to infer from empirical evidence that some features of the natural world are best explained by an intelligent agent. It conflicts with views claiming that there is no real design in the cosmos (e.g., materialistic philosophy) or in living things (e.g., Darwinian evolution) or that design, though real, is undetectable (e.g., some forms of theistic evolution). Because of such conflicts, ID has generated considerable controversy.

This is the best and clearest description of the basis of design theory that I have heard recently.

Wells follows up with an excellent summary of key events in the intelligent design controversy.

Please don't bother writing to tell me that this is a project of the Unification Church (Moonies).

So? Given that Wikipedia articles on intelligent design are so often mere character assassinations, it is refreshing that someone, somewhere focuses on facts for a change.

If Wikipedia can't manage that, so much the worse for Wikipedia.

Also, be warned, I am NOT very sympathetic to attacks based on religious belief as such.

Update note Monday March 24: Some people didn't believe that my last comment was serious and have sent me comments that I did not post. There is enough nastiness out there about religion and I try not to add to it. Whether I agree with Unification doctrines is irrelevant. (Canada is supposed to be a free country and the fact that I am a Catholic in communion with the church by choice can be used to infer what my beliefs are and aren't.) I find significant the fact that one would find more intelligent information on intelligent design at the Unification site than at Wikipedia. But that may have something to do with the fact that Wells knows whereof he speaks. Maybe they wouldn't be so hot on fly fishing.


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