Is Intelligent Design "Apologetics"?
This week, I came in for criticism from biologists P.Z. Myers and Larry Moran as a result of the above short interview in which I am asked about the difference between intelligent design and creationism. In the interview, I explained that whereas intelligent design could be defined as the study of patterns in nature that bear the hallmarks of intelligent causality, Creationism is an attempt to interpret the world in view of a religious text such as Genesis 1.
Myers and Moran both noted that my comments were in the context of a Christian apologetics video. Their conclusion? Intelligent design must itself be Christian apologetics rather than a disinterested scientific endeavour. Now, it is no secret that I happen to be a Christian theist, and that I have used intelligent design arguments in the context of making the case for a Christian theistic worldview.
So, which is it? Is intelligent design science or apologetics? Myers and Moran's confusion stems from a failure to distinguish the scientific idea of intelligent design itself from its possible larger metaphysical implications. If they were to be consistent, they would also have to call neo-Darwinian evolution "atheist apologetics," since many atheists (e.g., Jerry Coyne, Richard Dawkins) use it as part of their case for atheism. The late Will Provine described Darwinism as "the greatest engine for atheism ever invented." Does that make Darwinism the same thing as atheism? Surely not. Likewise, the Big Bang cosmological model is frequently used by theists (such as William Lane Craig) to support the Kalam cosmological argument for the existence of God. But nobody thinks to say that cosmologists are doing Christian apologetics when they make their case for the Big Bang theory of cosmological origins.
P.Z. Myers also appears to be somewhat confused about the scientific methodology employed by advocates of intelligent design. In the video, I described the field of forensic science as a discipline of design detection. Myers comments,
McLatchie also makes an analogy to forensic science -- here's a crime scene, let's figure out who did it. But sometimes no one did it, and it's an error to try and force a conclusion. If someone is struck by lightning and killed, could I examine the scene and come up with a string of arguments and innuendo that lead to the conclusion that Jonathan McLatchie did it? Sure I could. I could also obsess over it and write long-winded, tenuously logical books that claim that all those natural explanations for lightning are false, and that we need to recognize them as McLatchie-Associated Phenomena.But ID is not in the business of determining "who did it" as such. Instead, ID tells us whether there is reason to think that something was designed rather than being the product of natural stochastic processes. ID, like forensic science, does not start out with the presumption that something is the product of design. Rather, design is the conclusion from the observable evidence.
But that would make me a crank. Just like ID is a crank movement.
Intelligent design in its purest sense is not Christian apologetics, just as Darwinism in its purest sense is not atheist apologetics. But can they be legitimately used in these contexts? Sure they can. Take a look at this short video from the same series (curiously untouched by Myers and Moran) in which I discuss whether ID qualifies as a science.