In their own words, part 2


Evolution News & Views

I previously pointed out that Casey Luskin’s “false, straw-man [version] of ID” bears a striking resemblance to intelligent design advocate Michael Behe’s actual definition:

Let me get this straight:

life is so complex, it could not have evolved” is a “false, straw-man version” of

Cells are simply too complex to have evolved.

I promised that I would get to the second part of Luskin’s “straw-man version,”

…therefore it was designed by a supernatural intelligence,

and that’s what I mean to address in this post. Maybe Luskin wasn’t claiming that ID critics mischaracterize the logic that leads ID advocates to reject evolution, but rather that they mistakenly (or deceitfully) portray ID advocates as inferring supernatural causation. If so, he’s not alone. Advocates of intelligent design frequently deny that their theory has anything to do with the supernatural, and they imply that efforts to portray it as such are deceitful or, at best, misinformed.

For example, David Klinghoffer says,

ID doesn’t assume the supernatural or, as [author Charles] Mudede says, the “transcendental.” It merely weighs evidence of purpose in nature, which could be wholly in nature and not outside.

Jonathan M.:

Another important problem with my friend’s [Jamie Franklin’s] comparison is that ID does NOT invoke a supernatural force to explain biological phenomena.

Luskin himself:

[Kitzmiller v. Dover Judge] Jones’s errors include: Adopting a false definition of ID by claiming that ID requires supernatural (i.e., divine) causation…

Luskin again:

…the ID project never claimed to infer a “supernatural creator” from the data.

So the idea that intelligent design invokes the supernatural is at best ill-informed, at worst an intentional straw-man. Right? Let’s see. Here’s Douglas Axe:

The knower who made life is not just some disembodied intelligence. This knower has to be a personal creator.

Michael Behe (in Darwin’s Black Box):

By “intelligent design” I mean to imply design beyond the laws of nature.

Guillermo Gonzalez, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute:

We do not only believe in intelligent design in the universe; we believe such a design manifests itself across the sciences and pervades economics and culture. Not only is God the creator; but human beings are creative in his image, in the image of the creator…[skipping a lot here]

This attitude of aspiration and creative discovery — vertical ambition for creative meaning rather than horizontal submission to random reductionism — is the heart of the program at Discovery Institute: finding the image of the creator in nature and in us.

Look, I get it. Intelligent design is a big tent; not everyone in it believes the same thing, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But it is disingenuous to claim that the way critics describe intelligent design constitutes a “false, straw-man version” when they’re repeating exactly what some prominent ID advocates have said. Luskin’s alleged straw-man,

Intelligent design claims that life is so complex, it could not have evolved, therefore it was designed by a supernatural intelligence,

is actually a pretty good summary of what at least some intelligent design advocates have said they believe. “[L]ife is so complex, it could not have evolved” is not substantively different from Michael Behe’s “Cells are simply too complex to have evolved randomly.” “[T]herefore it was designed by a supernatural intelligence” is a fair summary of the quotes above from Drs. Axe, Behe, and Gonzalez, all of which were taken from Evolution News & Views (now Evolution News & Science Today), the very same blog on which Casey Luskin made his “false, straw-man version” claim. So where is the straw man?

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