Daily Archives: February 19, 2010

Where is the “I”?

Over at the First Things blog, a standard “ID vs. Evolution” fight broke out involving some major players.  Unfortunately, I arrived late (as usual), but I decided to add my two cents to the kerfuffle anyway:

Over the years I have discovered a primary reason there is so much heated argument about this issue is that people employ numerous personal definitions for the concepts “intelligent design,” “evolution,” and “science.” Thus, I appreciate that Stephen Barr spells out his definition of ID: “The ID claim is that certain biological phenomena lie outside the ordinary course of nature.” If that is ID, then I would disagree. But ID can also mean something more modest, where one simply infers some form of intelligent influence on biological phenomenon, including evolution itself. For example, life itself could have been designed to shape subsequent evolution, thereby imparting some form of direction to evolution. This form of ID would not require evolution to fail or evolutionary mechanisms to be inadequate. On the contrary (!), this form of ID would more likely marvel at the success of evolution and try to develop a deeper understanding of why evolution succeeded.

I also added:

a clever designer could actually recruit and exploit the processes of random mutations and natural selection to carry out some purpose. After all, a common belief shared by both the ID people and their critics is that random mutations and natural selection are antithetical to purpose. I think that common belief is simply an assumption (or reflex response) that has become entrenched for historical and cultural reasons.

And:

design and evolution are not mutually exclusive. There may be ways to make intelligent use of randomness and natural selection such that they can carry out an objective. For example, scientists already make use of randomness when designing new proteins.

In response, someone proposed the following questions to me:

Can you (at least) provide a useful essential hint of how “intelligent use of randomness and natural selection … can carry out an objective”? What would INTELLIGENT mean, in such context?

This person hit on something very important.

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