Is Intelligent Design "Scientific"?

by Loren Haarsma,
Assistant Professor of Physics,
Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI

Invited talk for symposium, organized by John Bloom,
Models for Creation: Intelligent Design and Evolution,
Annual Conference of American Scientific Affiliation,
August 5-8, 2005;  Messiah College, Grantham, PA.
Later it was published in Perspectives on Science
& Christian Faith
(journal of ASA), March 2007.

      A central activity of science is the construction and testing of empirical models, utilizing known natural mechanisms, of parts of the natural world.  Occasionally, some scientists tentatively conclude that some particular phenomenon is unexplainable in terms of any known natural mechanisms.  I discuss some historical examples which have been resolved (e.g., the energy source of the sun) and some modern examples still under discussion (e.g., the Big Bang, first life) where at least some scientists have concluded that a phenomenon is unexplainable in terms of known natural mechanisms.  In such circumstances, individual scientists have advocated a range of scientific and philosophical conclusions (e.g., unknown natural mechanisms, multiple universes, divine intervention).
      The modern Intelligent Design (ID) movement can be understood as one particular instance of this.  Some activities of ID are clearly “scientific” even under narrow definitions of that term, including modeling of evolutionary population dynamics, investigating the adequacy of known evolutionary mechanisms to account for specific instances of biological complexity, and investigating the general conditions under which self-organized complexity is possible.  Other activities of ID clearly go beyond science into philosophy and theology;  however, this fact does not render the scientific activities of ID any less scientific.  Rather than debating the demarcation of science, the real questions we should be asking are:  Are the scientific arguments of ID good science?  Are the philosophical arguments of ID good philosophy?  Are the theological arguments of ID good theology?

Published Version (2007)
In Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, March 2007, the paper (Is Intelligent Design "Scientific"?) — which I suggest that you read by opening both it and the overview-outline (from 2005) in "less than full-width view" so you can move back and forth easily, and when the full page refers back to an idea (A1, A2,..., H5, H6) you can see what the idea is by looking at the outlineis followed by responses from Michael Behe (The Positive Side of Intelligent Design), Loren Haarsma (The Filter Aspect of Intelligent Design), and John Bloom (Intelligent Design and Evolution: Do We Know Yet?).

Original Version (2005)
The paper is available in two versions: overview-outline (11 k) and full-length (35 k).

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