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Monday, July 17, 2006

Young Earth Creationism vs. Intelligent Design

Many people believe that all Christians are united in their beliefs about origins, or believe that Young-Earth Creationism (YEC) and Intelligent Design (ID) are two different ways of expressing the same beliefs. (In a previous post, I charted some of the different beliefs about origins.) I include, in this post, quotes from the pillars of ID, and from the most important YEC organizations, indicating that there are important differences between the YEC movement and the ID movement. Sincere Christians do have different beliefs about origins. They do, of course, agree that we are not here as a result of purposeless chance.

Statements by important figures in the ID movement, showing that they do not believe that the earth is only a few thousand years old, or that they otherwise reject the main beliefs of YEC:

For the record, I have no particular opinion about the age of the earth and accept for purposes of argument the currently orthodox figure of 4.6 billion years. I guess I would say that the current evidence is most consistent with some continuous or intermittent creation process over a long period of time, with new genetic information appearing from some source unknown to science.
Phillip E. Johnson, in "Should Evolution Be Taught in Schools?," on-line dialogue between Johnson and Philip Kitcher, Slate, August 18, 1999. Johnson is the author of several books on Intelligent Design, and one of its founding architects.
The irreducibly complex biochemical systems that I have discussed in this book did not have to be produced recently. It is entirely possible, based simply on an examination of the systems themselves, that they were designed billions of years ago and that they have been passed down to the present by the normal processes of cellular reproduction. Michael J. Behe, Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. New York: The Free Press, 1996, p. 227. Behe is also one of the founding architects of Intelligent Design.

This is another statement by Behe:
. . . the message "evolution or design, one or the other," is a flawed choice. To the extent that the public has gotten that impression, it is regrettable. There is nothing in the idea of intelligent design that precludes the design being unfolded over time, and I myself judge that scenario to be the most consistent with all of the data we currently have. What's more, I am mostly happy with [Loren Haarsma's] statement, "suppose the laws of nature are fine-tuned not only for the self-assembly of molecules and stars and planets, but also for the self-assembly of biological life and biological complexity." Michael J. Behe, "The Positive Side of Intelligent Design: A Response to Loren Haarsma," Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 59:63, March 2007.

Although acceptance of intelligent design has now gone international and includes scholars of many different religious faiths and philosophical worldviews, among Christian proponents of intelligent design, the majority hold to a non-literal interpretation of Genesis 1. I’m one of them. William Dembski, "Why President Bush Got It Right about Intelligent Design," BeliefNet, Aug 4, 2005. Dembski is perhaps the current leading theoretician of Intelligent Design.

Here's another statement by Dembski: ". . . I accept standard astrophysical and geological dating (12 billion years for the universe, 4.5 billion years for the Earth) . . ."
Note that this is out of context, not even being a complete sentence, but the meaning is clear, namely that he rejects the central claim of YEC. The material in parenthesis is from the original. Dembski does indicate considerable sympathy for the Young-Earth view in this 54-page essay, which is on theodicy. (the quote is found on page 18) If there is any doubt in your mind that Young-Earth creationists are not universally happy with Dembski, read this critique of that essay, here.

*  *  *  *
Note added to the above on October 21, 2010: Yesterday, The Panda's Thumb Blog (Which, although it is no friend to the ID movement, usually seems get its facts right, and in this case, it is using quotations of Dembski and other sources.) reported that Dembski now says that he is a Young-Earth Creationist. This seems to be a recent development. The same post quotes Dembski as believing that the scientific evidence ruled out YEC, as recently as 2009.

The article indicates that it is possible that Dembski changed his mind on the subject to retain his position at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. It doesn't strongly put that forth, and offers no evidence for that possibility.

There doesn't have to be any shame in changing one's mind. I've done it myself, on origins, and a lot of other things. It is possible that Dembski has changed his simply because he now believes that the Biblical evidence for YEC is overwhelming. He seems to believe that Biblical evidence is more important than scientific evidence.

* * * *

Jonathan Wells is an important member of the ID movement. (For his relationship to the Discovery Institute, see here.) He is the author of Icons of Evolution. Wells has written:
Many people have been given the impression that the chronology of Genesis is the root of the conflict between Christianity and Darwinism. Surprisingly, however, biblical chronology played almost no role in the initial opposition to Darwin's theory, because most Christians in the nineteenth century accepted geological evidence for the age of the earth. Nor was chronology an issue at the 1925 Scopes trial, because creationist William Jennings Bryan accepted the old-earth view. Historically and theologically speaking, the basic conflict between Christianity and Darwinism is not chronology, but design.

Stephen C. Meyer is an important ID theorist. He is one of the main experts consulted by Lee Strobel, in his Case for a Creator. He is a Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute. On Jan 29th, the Dallas Morning News published an op-ed piece by Meyer, in which he said, among other things:
The theory [ID] does not challenge the idea of evolution defined as change over time, or even common ancestry, but it does dispute Darwin's idea that the cause of biological change is wholly blind and undirected.

From the FAQ of the Center for Science and Culture, a part of the Discovery Institute, an important supporter of ID:
4. Is intelligent design theory the same as creationism?

No. Intelligent design theory is simply an effort to empirically detect whether the "apparent design" in nature acknowledged by virtually all biologists is genuine design (the product of an intelligent cause) or is simply the product of an undirected process such as natural selection acting on random variations. Creationism is focused on defending a literal reading of the Genesis account, usually including the creation of the earth by the Biblical God a few thousand years ago. Unlike creationism, the scientific theory of intelligent design is agnostic regarding the source of design and has no commitment to defending Genesis, the Bible or any other sacred text. Honest critics of intelligent design acknowledge the difference between intelligent design and creationism. University of Wisconsin historian of science Ronald Numbers is critical of intelligent design, yet according to the Associated Press, he "agrees the creationist label is inaccurate when it comes to the ID [intelligent design] movement." Why, then, do some Darwinists keep trying to conflate intelligent design with creationism? According to Dr. Numbers, it is because they think such claims are "the easiest way to discredit intelligent design." In other words, the charge that intelligent design is "creationism" is a rhetorical strategy on the part of Darwinists who wish to delegitimize design theory without actually addressing the merits of its case. For more information read Center Director Stephen Meyer's piece "
Intelligent Design is not Creationism" that appeared in The Daily Telegraph (London) or Center Associate Director's piece "Intelligent Design and Creationism Just Aren't the Same"in Research News & Opportunities.

Numbers (a widely recognized scholar of the history of science) is a critic of Intelligent Design. 

Statements by important YEC organizations, showing that they are deeply critical of the ID approach:
Our concern with the intelligent design approach probably devolves upon two main factors. First, it is ineffective, no more convincing to evolutionists than is young-earth creationism; second, it is not really a new approach, using basically the same evidence and arguments used for years by scientific creationists but made to appear more sophisticated with complex nomenclature and argumentation. . . .
The intelligent design movement has been quite successful in one aspect, however. Many Christians now seem to think that it has freed them from having to confront the Genesis record of a young earth and global flood. All they need to do, they have decided, is to believe in intelligent design. This result was surely not what Dembski and others intended, but that is what's happening.
Our other hesitation to get on this bandwagon is their use of the same arguments and evidences we Biblical creationists have used for years, while simultaneously trying to distance themselves from us. Our adherence to Biblical literalism is ridiculed by evolutionists, and the ID advocates would be embarrassed to be tarred with the same brush. In fact, Dembski goes so far as to say belief in evolution itself is okay, as long as it's not naturalistic.
Henry Morris, "The Design Revelation," review of William Dembski's The Design Revolution. Morris was the co-author of The Genesis Flood, (1960) among many other accomplishments, and founder of the Institute for Creation Research.

Morris also wrote this:
The most serious deficiency in the ID movement, however, is its neglect of the most important of the alleged evidences for evolution—that is, the problem of the fossils. These are the remains of billions and billions of once-living plants and animals now preserved in the sedimentary crust of the earth. These all give abundant evidence of suffering and death during all the supposed geological ages which they are supposed to depict.
Did the Designer do that? If so, just how and why? The only adequate answer is in the Bible, in its record of man's sin, the resulting global Curse and eventual Deluge. But the very purpose of the ID movement is to argue for intelligent design without reference to the Bible and the God of the Bible. Without those factors, however, it would seem that the only alternative would be to assume the Designer to be a sadistic producer of global evil as well as the intelligent producer of irreducible complexity.
The .PDF version of the file gives the copyright date as 2006. (The .HTML version is here.) The entire article is a discussion of ID versus young-earth creationism, and apparently it is meant as the ICR's current word on the subject.

Answers in Genesis (AiG) is another important YEC organization.

See "AiG’s views on the Intelligent Design Movement," by Carl Wieland, 30 August 2002. To summarize, Wieland says that the ID movement has serious philosophical weaknesses.
There is an article posted by Answers in Genesis, which is critical of ID: ". . . the central problem with the ID movement is a divorce of the Creator from creation. The Creator and His creation cannot be separated; they reflect on each other. All other problems within the movement stem from this one."

The Creation Research Society is another important young-earth creationism organization. They do not have as many problems with ID as the ICR does. Their view is that ID is an ally, that, if successful, will make wide acceptance of young-earth creationism possible. See here for an article on the subject, published by this organization in 2000.

Here's a later article in a publication of the Creation Research Society, which calls on the ID movement to publicly embrace a young earth and the importance of Noah's flood. The article states that: "They sometimes say that they hope to discuss such issues in private later on." (emphasis in original)

The Creation Research Society seems to be a society of scientists, loosely organized, and their publications seldom, if ever, have articles that speak officially for the Society. (This is commonly true of other scientific societies.) Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research are more centrally organized, and many of their publications appear to speak officially for the organization.

It is true that at least some of the conflation of ID and young-earth creationism by opponents of both is a strategy to discredit ID. However, it is also true that some of those who wish to require the teaching of ID in public school classrooms have encouraged, and obtained, the support of young-earth creationists. Many people, mostly evangelical or fundamentalist Christians, not well informed, or maybe even deceived, would identify themselves as believing both Intelligent Design and young-earth creationism.

This post was significantly re-worked on August 15, 2007, from the original post date.

In a previous post, I charted some of the different beliefs about origins. There are sincere Christians who believe neither YEC or ID.

I fixed one typo, and edited the last two sentences in the last full paragraph, on October 4, 2007.

On April 18, 2008, I added a link to another post of mine, which summarizes my problems with the Intelligent Design movement, but emphasizes my belief that the universe, and humans, were designed by an Intelligence. I am by no means alone in having such problems, or in believing that there is an Intelligent Designer.

I also added a link to the source of the second quotation of Michael Behe, because the article is now available freely on-line.

On February 3, 2009, I added a quotation from Jonathan Wells.

On August 8, 2009, I am adding a link to a post from the Panda's Thumb, which post claims, without documentation, unfortunately -- I'm not disputing their claim, but can't back it up -- that three new additions to the staff of one of the branches of the Discovery Institute are Young-Earth Creationists.

On September 7, 2009, I made a few editorial corrections in my own writing -- quotations or source citations were not changed.

On July 30, 2010, I am adding a link to an attempt to define ID, by the BioLogos Forum.

On September 17, 2010, I checked most of the links in this post, and corrected some, and made some minor editorial changes.

On October 21, 2010, I inserted material on a change of belief by William Dembski. That material is clearly marked in the above post.

I have indicated some of my own problems with the Intelligent Design movement here, and with Young-Earth Creationism here

On March 3, 2012, I became aware of a post, entitled "Intelligent Design is NOT Anti-Evolution," that covers much of the same ground as the post you are reading.

Thanks for reading.


MDB said...

This link to Alan Newble's F.W.Grant literature page gives a reasonable perspective on the age of the earth arguement.

Grant believed that both sides of the age/day debate could be true. That is, that there could as easily have been seven distinct aions preceeding the seven days creation account.

Genesis does not begin thus: "God created the heaven and the earth and God said 'Let there be light' and the evening and morning were the first day."

A whole lot transpired between Genesis 1:1 and 1:3. But we are left in the dark of Genesis 1:2 concerning this.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for the link!

elbogz said...

I have always wondered how this argument came into the church. I see more and more, good Christain men saying....If you don't believe the earth is 6000 years old then you can't believe in anything. I'm beginning to feel like the red headed step-child when I say things like, gee, you know the earth looks really old, and oh, btw, i can't see how you can put all the dinosaurs in the Ark.

The biblical account of Genesis does not say that God sat at the drafting table, pulled out his trusty HP 41CV calculator, and designed the Universe.

God Spoke the universe into existence.

It seems similar to the analogy that Jesus healed because he was a good Pharmacist. To give God human characteristics and think the Universe must follow how our little brain would “design” DNA, or a watch, is to limit who God is.


I'm glad you provided a voice of reason in my clicks though cyberspace

Blessings on your journey

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks! There is no view of origins without its weaknesses, and Christians should recognize that their view may not be the correct one. Some people don't seem to be willing to consider that at all. I hope I do.

IndyChristian said...

In this case, even hindsight is less than 20/20. LOL. And problem is, all our sight is severely limited.

I enjoyed coming across your blog and the great links -- thanks so much.

I also liked the decision-tree in your other post. I might only have amended it by asking the first question in a converse fashion... ie, "Is my perception of truth all there is? That is, am I the ultimate determiner of Truth? (Y/N)"...

...And if 'No', then "Collectively, does humanity have more than a minute grasp of all the potential for knowledge in the universe? Y/N...

...And if 'No'... then your God-question... especially if described as 'super-natural', ie, operating outside the apparent laws of 'nature'.

Even all nature points to a cause/effect origin... which paradoxically cannot be answered without the admission of ex nihlo spark.

Once man humbles himself enough to admit that there is indeed so much that we don't know, then surely it is much easier to readily conclude the obvious... we're obliged to our First Cause.

Reaching these conclusions, I'm surprised that few YEC, if anyone, make the reasoned case that ANY first-created-object MUST BY DEFINITION APPEAR to be measurably older than it truly is.

Once anyone concedes that obvious starting-point, it seems more palatable to accept the textual evidence left at the scene by early man. Its veracity as the Word of God, albeit with many more wildly-miraculous accounts therein (such as a loving Creator God personally humbling Himself to redeem mankind) seems to be well borne out via prophesies, martyrdom, etc.

Thus as I read Jesus talking about early-man, it's realy easy for me to simply accept His POV rather than try to contrive one of my own.

Btw, do you know of anywhere on the net that attempts to arrange notable scientists/philosophers/theologians according to where they all fall on the wide spectrum, from plain-hermeneutic creationists, theistic volutionists, etc... all the way to evolutionists at the atheist extreme?

And wouldn't clickably-linking them to their position paper(s) be a great educational tool?

Martin LaBar said...

Thank you for your comment.

I don't know of any web page that does what you suggest, but there's a lot I don't know.

SteveG said...

Wow, creationists have some core beliefs in common and yet in other areas have beliefs that vary. Who knew?

Old earth creationists are not young earth creationists, but they're certainly still creationists. IDists are simply another variety of creationists, and ID is another thread of rhetorical propaganda used by creationists. IDists are doing what they're doing on the basis of their religious beliefs, not on the basis of science.

The common thread of creationists in the U.S. is (1) their evangelical stance on the Bible, and (2) their anti-evolution stance as derived from their evangelical stance on the Bible.

Burying your head in the sand and pretending that ID isn't part of creationism simply isn't going to fly. You ignore the facts that were brought out in the Kitzmiller v. Dover School Board trial in Pennsylvania in 2005. *Of Pandas and People* is clearly a young earth creationist text that advocated what creationists now call "Intelligent Design" - right along with other aspects of creationist rhetoric that have been around for decades. The book was written and published by young earth creationists. Paul Nelson is a young earth creationist. Oh, yeah, he's also a fellow of the Discovery Institute.

After court rulings adverse to creationist propagandists, they deceitfully went through the book playing their typical word games and merely changed "creationism" references to "intelligent design." We should definitely be keeping such hucksters away from our kids. Playing word games for the sole purpose of trying to get away with violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment is precisely why we have courts taking expert testimony from scientists doing genuine research in relevant fields to discuss the facts about these religious ideologists. Oh, yeah, Discover Institute people such as William Dembski (who previously had been publicly crowing his attitude of 'When we get these evolutionists in court we're going to rip them up') were called on to testify in the Kitzmiller trial to defend their notion that ID is science, BUT THEY RAN AWAY. Knew they'd lose in the real world in a heartbeat. The ONLY one who stepped up to the plate was Michael Behe, and, yep, he lost in the real world. Admitted that saying 'ID is science' is the same thing as saying 'astrology is science.' Not exactly a glowing endorsement of ID being science.

In terms of basic science (astronomy and geology), young earth creationism is pure poppycock, yet ask an IDist to comment on the abysmally unscientific nature of young earth creationism and suddenly they can't make even one little critical comment about certain religious ideologues who spit in the face of science and who promote pseudoscience nonsense like water flows over Niagra Falls. Utter hypocrisy. This alone proves that IDists aren't doing what they're doing out of any genuine concerns about science. They're motivated by their religious beliefs, and they even have young earth creationists on their staff! If they really thought they had some genuine professional science research to offer, they'd be doing it, rather than merely playing rhetorical and political games.

ID rhetoric is just another form of creationism, having evolved in the environment of a society that in its primary political Constitution restricts religious people from using government to promote their sectarian religious beliefs.

Martin LaBar said...

Well, that was quite a sermon, SteveG.

Let's put it this way:
There is no scientific way to prove (or disprove) the existence of a creator God, who used, and is using, processes that He built into the universe to bring about the phenomena that we see, or are, including the ability to concern ourselves with questions of origins.

I agree that religious beliefs shouldn't be promoted by governmental entities. Atheism is also such a belief, and should also not be promoted by government.

Hebrews 11:3 tells us that we understand ultimate origins by faith.

Harold W Miller said...

As someone who does label himself as a intelligent design advocate, my take on this is that the proponents of ID can fall into two camps: people who believe that the physical evidence points to a “creator” or “designer” that may or may not be the Christian God and YEC proponents who simply are trying to put a popular face on Biblical creationism. I don’t think these proponents are that many and I certainly don’t think that most YEC devotees would go that route. The simple issue isn’t whether God created the Universe or not, it is whether or not it was done 6,012 years in October and was entirely done in a supernatural manner. YEC advocates are profoundly anti-intellectual and anti-science. But they are also very straightforward. I do think they see ID as a bigger threat to their position than atheists do. It is their insistence on their position that has made it difficult for much intellectual examination to be made on the subject because of the fear that proponents would be lumped in with YECers.
I would also say that ID isn’t necessarily advocating a “God-in-the-gaps” position. I think it could be stated that the Designer or God could have used still-to-be-discovered natural means to pull off evolution. Of course, it doesn’t mean that these things happened randomly and by chance, it does mean that ultimately the Designer’s methods could be discoverable and reproducible. This is the biggest threat to supernaturalism. Not that God did the designing but he had to do in a “miraculous” manner.

Martin LaBar said...

July 12, 2008: Thank you, Harold W. Miller.

You may be right about belief in the physical evidence being a motivating factor, but the leaders if the ID movement (with the possible exception of Behe) are on record as pushing it because of their religious belief (mostly Christian, but there's also one follower of Sun Y. Moon among the leadership), not because of the scientific evidence.

When you start talking about God using "natural means to pull off evolution," again, you don't sound like the leaders of the ID movement, who argue (Behe and Dembski, especially) specifically that natural selection couldn't have pulled off some of the biological phenomena that now exist.

You sound (as I hope I do) as someone who believes in an Intelligent Designer, but who is not a member of the ID movement.

Harold W Miller said...

Good point, Mr.. Labar. I think the Intelligent Design movement is a widely diverse group. You can categorize them as: 1) YEC types who are simply substituting some terminology to make the Designer into the God of the first twelve chapters of Genesis more appealing. To them, all creation is a matter of miracles. 2) Creationists who do hold to a non-literal interpretation of the creation story. In this formulation, God quietly and imperceptibly uses supernatural means to effect the creation by filling in some blanks where observation and science have no explanation, yet. Everything else we observe is true is consistent with physical observation and in accordance with physical laws. This is God-of-the-Gaps. 3) Creationists, like in myself, that think that God or some supreme being created everything using understandable laws that are consistent with what we observe. Finally, 4) Everything was designed by a Supreme Being which could be considered an advanced being, maybe a scientists, that exists is some other dimension. This or these intelligences can, in some way, be classified as real beings with all their flaws not supernatural at all. I probably fall under category 3.
I would also point out that a natural explanation of physical phenomena might never be able to duplicated in any laboratory. I would suggest in considering how gravity works, it is theorized that there is a hidden; fourth dimension is responsible for what we observe. There is another plane of existence that hides mass that causes galaxies to clump together, at least in the very early stages of existence. This can be observed but there would be no way to duplicate it—even theoretically. Yet it would still be a natural occurring phenomena and not a miracle. I’m reminded of classic Flatland, A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin Abbott where the 2-dimentional inhabitants of Flatland could not visualize let alone comprehend the three-dimensional beings that were interacting with them. This is probably where we stand with the Intelligent Designer(s).

Martin LaBar said...

If I had to choose between your four alternatives, I'd also choose #3.


Travis Stockelman said...

Just a note, especially for SteveG: The primary difference between ID and YEC (or OEC for that matter) is one of philosophy. ID is compatible with theistic, deistic, and atheistic worldviews, depending on how you interpret the evidence as a whole. YEC and OEC are only compatible with a theistic worldview, particularly a monotheistic one.

Several things cannot be explained purely by science. In fact, the statement that "science can explain everything" cannot itself be explained by science. Neither can metaphysical questions, such as the question of God's existence. This is a metaphysical question that requires a philosophical answer. Since science presupposes the principles of philosophy, to argue over the existence of God in purely scientific terms would be arguing in a circle.

It would be a mistake to say that ID proponents are simply religious people who are pushing a religious agenda.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Travis Stockelman.

I think what you said is right on target, except I am convinced that some of the proponents of ID are principally religiously motivated.