Does theistic evolution differ from Intelligent Design?

May 20, 2012 • 4:59 am

My answer is that these two brands of bad science elide seamlessly into one another, with no sharp line to demarcate them.  Nevertheless, I don’t call people like Francis Collins advocates of ID simply because that term conflates them with the hard-core, get-in-your-school adherents of ID who populate the Discovery Institute.  But let us remember that this is a quantitative and not a qualitative difference.

Over at EvolutionBlog, Jason Rosenhouse has written a strong piece asserting that theistic evolution (TE) is very different from intelligent design (ID). He cites two reasons for this distinction. First, he sees ID as having an explicitly political agenda: to worm its way into the public schools. In contrast, theistic evolutionists side with evolutionists in that fight.

Jason may be right, but I don’t think this is an absolute criterion for distinguishing ID and TE. Some explicit defenders of ID (in fact, I think many Americans who adhere to it) don’t think it should be taught in public schools, or at least taught as the only theory of origins and diversity (one such person left a comment on Jason’s post). And of course many advocates of TE feel the same way. But remember that although 38% of American accept a form of evolution guided by God, fully 55% of them think that straight-up creationism, ID, and materialistic evolution should all be taught in the public schools. (In contrast, only 4% want ID alone taught in the schools.)  Are 55% of Americans advocates of ID, then? After all, they fit Jason’s definition of an ID adherent: someone who supports “inserting religion into science classes.”

Jason sees a second distinction based on how adherents of ID and TE regard science. As he says:

But for all of that it’s not ID. The hallmark of anti-evolutionism, whether young-Earth creationism or intelligent design, is some implication that scientists are doing it wrong. They are not saying simply that evolution as scientists understand it fits within a larger metaphysical framework that involves God. They are saying that any understanding of natural history that does not make reference to God’s direct activity is just wrong.

In the comments on Jason’s post (here and here) I’ve taken issue with his notion that theistic evolution does not equal ID. I think they shade into each other, depending on how far the theistic evolutionist sees God as having guided evolution.  Those views run all the way from the one-time miracle of inserting a soul into the human lineage, to repeated tinkering with DNA that produces new mutations and species. In other words, there’s a continuum between theistic evolution and ID, and no place to clearly draw a line—except at one end where the purely material begins to give way to the supernatural.

To see this conflation, have a look at what one prominent Catholic—a church that officially endorses evolution (with the caveat that God inserted a soul into the hominin lineage)—says about evolution. Christoph Schönborn, the Catholic Archbishop of Vienna, wrote an op-ed in The New York Times in 2005 called “Finding design in nature.” A few extracts:

But this is not true. The Catholic Church, while leaving to science many details about the history of life on earth, proclaims that by the light of reason the human intellect can readily and clearly discern purpose and design in the natural world, including the world of living things.

Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense – an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection – is not. Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science.

. . . In an unfortunate new twist on this old controversy, neo-Darwinists recently have sought to portray our new pope, Benedict XVI, as a satisfied evolutionist. They have quoted a sentence about common ancestry from a 2004 document of the International Theological Commission, pointed out that Benedict was at the time head of the commission, and concluded that the Catholic Church has no problem with the notion of “evolution” as used by mainstream biologists – that is, synonymous with neo-Darwinism.

The commission’s document, however, reaffirms the perennial teaching of the Catholic Church about the reality of design in nature. Commenting on the widespread abuse of John Paul’s 1996 letter on evolution, the commission cautions that “the letter cannot be read as a blanket approbation of all theories of evolution, including those of a neo-Darwinian provenance which explicitly deny to divine providence any truly causal role in the development of life in the universe.”

. . . Furthermore, according to the commission, “An unguided evolutionary process – one that falls outside the bounds of divine providence – simply cannot exist.”

. . . Now at the beginning of the 21st century, faced with scientific claims like neo-Darwinism and the multiverse hypothesis in cosmology invented to avoid the overwhelming evidence for purpose and design found in modern science, the Catholic Church will again defend human reason by proclaiming that the immanent design evident in nature is real.

Now is that intelligent design or theistic evolution? It quacks pretty much like the first duck, and certainly argues that scientists are doing it wrong.

In a comment responding to mine, Jason said the following:

If you ask a theistic evolutionist where eyes came from, he will reply that eyes evolved gradually by natural selection, just as scientists say. If you ask him what scientists should be doing differently in their professional lives he will reply that they shouldn’t change anything they are doing. If you ask him whether his belief in God results from a straightforward inference from scientific data he will reply that it does not and then look at you funny. And if you ask him what we should be teaching students in biology classes, he will say that we should teach evolution precisely as scientists understand it with no mention of God at all.

Contrast this with how an ID proponent would answer. He would say that natural selection is fundamentally incapable of explaining complex structures and that scientists are terribly deluded to think otherwise. He says naturalistic evolution is a dramatic wrong turn in the history of ideas and can only be corrected by switching to the new scientific paradigm of ID. He will say that the existence of some awesomely powerful intelligent designer can be inferred by entirely scientific methods. And he will say that science standards that teach the consensus view on evolution are tantamount to lying to children and must be stopped immediately.

Well, that may be true of some advocates of ID, but not necessarily all. Take Michael Behe, perhaps the best known of all ID advocates (his egregious Darwin’s Black Box remains a perpetual best seller on Amazon). Behe accepts some evolution and has admitted that creatures have common ancestry.  I believe he’d say that some complex structures evolved via garden-variety natural selection, but others (like the flagellum and blood clotting) were engineered by God. Now tell me: does he really differ in kind from Francis Collins, director of the NIH, who accepts evolution except for two structures that were engineered by God: the human sense of morality and the soul? Collins also accepts the fact that a crucified Jesus came back to life.  As Larry Moran has noted, that, too, is a form of intelligent design.

Here’s Collins arguing that Scientists Are Doing It Wrong when we look at  morality as something that may be a product of culture and/or evolution rather than as a gift of God.

[vodpod id=ExternalVideo.1019064&w=425&h=350&]

I still use the term “theistic evolutionist” for people like Collins and Kenneth Miller, but largely because they’ve gone to court to fight against the incursions of ID into public schools. But I use the term “TEists” aware of the irony that both men, and others like them, accept a limited form of intelligent design: that God did intervene in the process of evolution to create what He wanted.  I deem those views unscientific. (I have heard that Ken Miller has backed off on his view that God intervened in evolution to ensure the appearance of H. sapiens, but I haven’t seen him recant either in public or in writing.)

Now I’d be happy to work with both Miller or Collins to fight ID in court, in hearings, or in articles; and I’ve written against ID many times. I accept those men as my allies in a way that I could never do with IDers like William Dembski or David Berlinski. But that won’t prevent me from arguing that despite their worthwhile efforts in fighting ID, both Miller and Collins adhere to a watered-down of ID themselves (Miller might be exempt if he’s backed off what he wrote in Finding Darwin’s God and no longer accepts the Resurrection).

If you think that an intelligent god intervened in the process of evolution, especially to ensure the appearance of human beings made in that god’s image, then you’re advocating intelligent design.  If you accept even a little bit of divine tinkering in the evolutionary process, you’re not standing on some inclusive middle ground—you are, as P.Z. Myers said, halfway to crazy town.

There can be no compromise with superstition, for superstition is the camel’s nose in the tent of science.

112 thoughts on “Does theistic evolution differ from Intelligent Design?

  1. It seems like the political and purely intellectual definitions of the terms are getting mixed up here. And that’s never a good thing.

    Sure, TE is not ID in the political sense, but it is pretty much the same thing intellectually – I read what Miller and Collins write and it is pure creationism to me; it is masked behind a lot of evolution-friendly language, but it is still in its core a denial of our current understanding of the evolutionary process. I’ve said this before here and I will say it again – once you posit divine intervention and non-randomness of the mutational process (which you absolutely have to do if you are to have a God that cares about humans), through whatever wacky mechanism you can think of, you have rejected evolutionary theory as it is currently understood and well established. And this has to be pointed out every time TE is mentioned, but that’s, unfortunately, rarely done.

    Then, of course, as pointed out in the OP, there is the even more fundamental issue, which is the integrity of science as a whole – evolutionary biology does not exist in some intellectual vacuum and complete isolation of everything else that allow people to do whatever they want outside of it. Science is a unified whole, held together by core inviolable epistemological principles, which you stomp on the moment you believe in the existence of a God of any form.

    1. I think your first paragraph identifies the nub of the issue. It leads to the same misunderstandings as does conflating “atheism” with “gnu atheism”.


    2. It’s almost as if there is a deliberate confusion of terms in the religion that espouses theistic evolution. I teach at a publicly funded Catholic high school in Ontario. There was a recent professional activity day held at a retreat centre surrounded by a beautiful natural Carolinian forest. This day was called “faith day” and there were activities to choose from in the afternoon. Many were personal “reflection” sorts of activities with names like “journaling”, or “social issues” which I get. However, the hike through the beautiful natural grounds wasn’t called “Hike” or “Evolution Walk” or “Theistic Evolution Walk”… was called …. wait for it…. try to guess……….”Creation Walk”

    1. Not meaning to defend TE too much but… I’ll take a stab at answering that (probably rhetorical) question!

      Souls don’t exist. So while straight-up Creationists are attempting to explain something in reality with something phony, those who believe that God’s sole intervention was the ensouling of an ape are explaining something phony with something phony. It’s silly, but it’s harder to classify as true or false. It’s meaningless.

      1. But for many or most religious, souls have causal force in the physical world, producing, for example, consciousness, and/or our moral sense. Souls supposedly impact behaviour, and to that extent, “soul transfusion” is creationism.

  2. From a philosophical perspective, I agree that there is no bright line dividing TE and ID (and my reading of Jason’s piece is that he agrees with this). There do seem — generally — to be important differences in terms of how those who identify with each group put their (bad) philosophy into practice. I think that is Jason’s main point, and I think it’s a fairly plausible one.

    You provide a number of counter-examples here, but I don’t think that necessarily proves Jason wrong — though it perhaps does shift the burden of proof onto him. It still seems to me that the goals of TE and ID adherents follow a general trend along the lines of what Jason describes. But I suppose you’d want to see some evidence for that…

    1. Ah hah! Here is some (admittedly circumstancial) evidence to support Jason’s claim:

      Google search for “intelligent design should be taught as an alternative”: 14,800 results.

      Google search for <a href=";: No results.

      Many (not all — though I do suspect most) self-described ID advocates seek to alter the way evolution is taught in schools, while virtually no (at least none who have a web presence) self-described TE advocates wish to do so.

    2. Bah, formatting fail. Can you delete my last comment and replace with this one please?

      Ah hah! Here is some (admittedly circumstancial) evidence to support Jason’s claim:
      Google search for “intelligent design should be taught as an alternative”: 14,800 results.
      Google search for <a href="“theistic evolution should be taught as an alternative”: No results.
      Many (not all — though I do suspect most) self-described ID advocates seek to alter the way evolution is taught in schools, while virtually no (at least none who have a web presence) self-described TE advocates wish to do so.

    3. Yes, I suppose it depends whether we’re talking about a political movement or a philosophical one. Philosophically, TE and ID are part of the same continuum. I’ve even heard TEs call themselves Creationists because they believe in a creator god, not because they believe in a 6,000 year old universe.

      I do agree with Jason that TE and ID are distinct political movements that are opposed to each other. To that extent, there’s value in not blurring the line. I’m not convinced that the TEs are such great allies of mine since I see the struggle against religion as a bigger issue than merely evolution education so this argument has less sway with me.

      1. I think this sums it up nicely in general.

        And for me personally. Evolutionary creationists are temporary allies in education on the principle that “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”, but they are persistent enemies in science on the principle that they want their beliefs shored up and not criticized.

  3. The way I see it, to a TEist, if you take away God, evolution continues to work, you just may not end up with humans. To an IDist, if you take away God, evolution is vastly different, without any complex structures.

    Part of the problem is that ID is so poorly defined. Someone like Behe may allow for more evolution, but the ID textbook, Of Pandas and People, reads like straight up creationism.

    Besides, what can you expect of a theist? They see God’s intervention in everything, from the weather to diseases to coin tosses. Why would they leave evolution out?

    1. The problem with TE is that if you take away God there is no evolution. It’s just creationism using a more limited box of ‘creation tools’ and longer time scales.

      The reason they’re at war is doctrinal vis the soundness of the ‘whole bible’ aspect of Christianity. TE, essentially, calls BS on Genesis, while ID doesn’t.

    2. I think this is exactly right. Jerry, you cite Behe as being willing to accept aspects of the ToE, but he explicitly denies that natural selection can be “constructive.” That’s pretty much tantamount to denying the entire theory. As an aside, I once saw Behe give a talk where he made this claim and was jumped on by biologist after biologist with counter-examples, and he ended up essentially giving in. But his own intellectual dishonesty aside, Behe is committed to a theory that denies that natural selection is the source of novelty, which is completely different from what people like Miller argue. I’d say that’s a qualitative difference.

      One point on the figures for people who think all of the above should be taught in schools: I’ve taught a class on the history of the “controversy” to students in the south for a number of years, and when we initially discuss this inevitably at least half the class thinks it’s only “fair” to teach all theories. But when the dishonesty of the DI is explained to them, and when they’re confronted with other potential examples of “fairness” in education (like Holocaust denial), most of those students see it’s a slippery slope and change their tune. They do this even if they, personally, remain committed Christians, and most of them articulate some form of TE as a way to compromise. So I think that 55% can be significantly reduced with more education, and I think that we’ll see those numbers drop as demographics change (just like support for gay marriage will rise), even though I don’t think we’ll see religious belief drop proportionately.

    3. So what if the very first Homo species had been wiped out by an asteroid? Would god wait for the chimp lineage to speciate again before handing out souls? Or would god give up on that branch and ensoul whales? Or corvids?

      1. But we weren’t due for an asteroid–God only lobs them at us every 26 million years.

  4. Theistic evolution and ID are as different as night and day. If they look the same, then you are not looking closely enough. Any similarities are purely superficial. There’s a reason that the TEs and ID proponents are at war with one another.

    At its core, TE is scientific evolution, with a fudge factor added to make it sufficiently compatible with religion to not cause severe cognitive dissonance.

    ID, at its core, is a religous apologetice program which is thoroughly anti-science. But it fudged religion just enough to be able to persuade many religious folk that it is compatible with the evidence from science.

    1. No. At it’s heart, TE is creationism with a limited box of tools and using longer time scales. Without God to create the intial life forms and then direct (ie create) evolution, it doesn’t happen.

      They’re both creationism. One is just more ‘sophisticated’ and hides its roots through bait-and-switch and out-right denial.

    2. Citing TE/ID “war with one another” as evidence of them being as different as night and day doesn’t really work as an argument. One has only to look at any of an endless list of sectarian conflicts in history to see the failure of that proposition.

    3. While it’s true that some TEists will fight ID, not all do. TEists need the same get-out-of-scientific-inquiry card that the IDiots need and will argue just as passionately. Yes, there are political differences but are these qualitative differences or just two points on a continuum?

  5. That NYT article Jerry quoted really does help clear up the poistion of the Catholic Church on evolution, lest anyone think they had seen the light. I frankly think this Archbishop’s clarification is more honest than some of the statements floating around saying that the Catholic Church accepts evolution. Humans HAVE TO be special, in their worldview; if not, everything collapses. The Church does not talk about duck or platypus or Tyrannosaur saviors sent from heaven to redeem those species.

  6. Theistic Evolution differs from Intelligent Design as ID differs from Creation Science… as avoidance of the fact that they don’t.

  7. It depends on the definitions used. A version of TE that allows for the directed evolution of an irreducibly complex structure is different to a version of ID that claims the structure was made pretty much as is. The only thing that unites them is lack of evidence to support them

    1. The only difference is which gap their various christian doGs diddle. Its all christian science.

  8. There can be no compromise with superstition, for superstition is the camel’s nose in the tent of science.

    …and Dembski and Berlinski are the snots in the camels nostrils.

      1. Berlinski, who self-describes as an atheist (or sometimes agnostic), is the only one associated with the ID camp without a religious axe to grind. He does not, however, support the pseudo-scientific hypotheses of ID. (ID, nevertheless, supports him — in the form of financial emoluments from the Discovery Institute.) As to the science, Berlinski (who is a mathematician/philosopher) claims that the entire field of biological origins, including especially the fossil record, is “vexed,” and thus beyond scientific comprehension. (Berlinski describes his relationship with ID pseudo-science as being similar to what he has with his numerous ex-wives — which, given his dyspeptic public persona, is probably none too good.) The ID crowd keeps him around as its “house atheist,” a hired gun to lend his ostentatious (but shallow) erudition to their criticism of “Darwinism” (their preferred term for modern evolutionary theory).

  9. Even though there may not be a distinct dividing line, I think they can still be cataloged separately. And I think there is an advantage to treating the groups separately. it makes it easier to illustrate the absurdity of their reasoning. The ID proponent starts with the Bible, makes up stuff about evolution, and ends up with ID. The TE proponent starts with the Bible, makes up stuff about evolution, and ends up with TE. If they are really looking at the evidence, why do they come up with different answers?

  10. You might distinguish between small letters “intelligent design” and caps “Intelligent Design” and put Miller/Collins in the first category. There is !*some*! difference.

    But Micheal Behe is the giveaway that there is a continuity between the two positions. He clearly has one foot in the id camp and one foot in the te camp.

    1. Nonsense. Behe is hard core ID to the extent that he sets out to deliberately mislead with respect to how he understands evolution.

  11. To me the difference is theistic evolution (watered down creationism) is in direct conflict with Genesis, while ID (full-on creationism) is supportive of Genesis. They’re both creationism. They really only differ in time-scales and techniques.

    1. Pretty much. It’s like the difference between a Catholic and a Protestant. Heck, sometimes, it is the difference between a Catholic and a Protestant.

  12. Dembski has more than once vigorously attacked TE as a false idea quite distinct from ID. (I can’t immediately find the articles in the immense morass of results that Google coughs up.) Given his track record, that would constitute a prima facie case that they are in fact exactly the same thing.

    Having said that, ID and TE are both so poorly defined that arguing whether or not they are the same risks becoming a modern-day equivalent of the discussion about counting angels on the point of a pin.

    1. Well, as far as politics and bedfellows, perhaps. But as far as the reasons why a person comes to hold either position, it seems pretty clear that they are the same. Both types feel the need to have their god be a required ingredient for life. The continuum between them is defined by how involved the god is believed to be.

      1. And their need to have a god involved indicates the emotional basis of both beliefs. They want their views to be rational, but also want it to be a matter of “faith”. A bit of cake-and-eat-it-tooism.

  13. //But remember that although 38% of American accept a form of evolution guided by God, fully 55% of them think that straight-up creationism, ID, and materialistic evolution should all be taught in the public schools. (In contrast, only 4% want ID alone taught in the schools.)//

    Well, it makes sense. Americans are very democratic. Once they have committed to “teaching the controversy”, they can’t very well come back and insist that their version be the only one taught. They also may think that because evolution is the “official” position, it should be taught even if it’s wrong! Now what I’m wondering is, how many of them would also agree that Communism should be taught as an alternative form of government?

    1. Their case would be a lot stronger if it included the controversy of Hinduism and Aztec blood sacrifice along with Jesus.

  14. I think that while to an atheist they both involve superstition, I feel they are very different intellectually, and agree with the earlier comment that ID involves denial and corruption of the scientific process on some level whereas TD is more about acceptance of science.

    To me TE is a way station on the road to atheism, whereas ID is a detour to an intellectual dead end. I don’t think TE is a bad thing as the T tends to get smaller and smaller until it just disappears.

    1. Except that Collins’ BioLogos Foundation has “no position” on whether Adam and Eve existed. This is pure anti-science.

  15. It seems pretty clear there is a continuum from ID to TE. It is simply a matter of degree. Of course, in the real world degrees do matter.

    In the passages where Jason describes the different responses by TEists and IDers, the TEist responses he portrays are of an ideal TEist designed specifically to make his point. I seriously doubt that a significant percentage of TEists, of anyone’s picking, would match the responses he portrays. I think he has made some good points, but he should not have included this particular argument. Smacks of hyperbole and taints his other arguments.

    Switching to the catholic church. Schönborn clearly shows in his NYT op-ed how ridiculous the religious methods of determining how reality functions are.

    “. . . Furthermore, according to the commission, ‘An unguided evolutionary process – one that falls outside the bounds of divine providence – simply cannot exist.’”

    It never ceases to amaze me how so many people can take these ignorant spoiled old men seriously. We proclaim that this is the way the world is! And we’re right, because we’re experts on GOD! Disgusting.

    “. . . the Catholic Church will again defend human reason by proclaiming that the immanent design evident in nature is real.”

    What century is this? Who does this guy think he is? How can anyone take that seriously?

    1. Of course, in the real world degrees do matter.


      From a purely philosophical approach, TE is not really any more intellectually respectable than ID. But the way it plays out in the real world is pretty different.

  16. The John Frum Cargo Cult of Vanuatu has a female leader as I understand it so even they are ahead of the Catholic Church, modernity-wise.

    The thing that struck me in reading this post is that ALL science is theistic to theistic minds. Yet no one talks of Theistic Meteorology even though YHVH will certainly send a hurricane to North Carolina this season to punish the 1/3 of the population who voted against Prop 1. No one talks of Theistic Sports Physics, even though it’s clear Jesus decides when one of his namesakes gets to hit a home run.

    There are lots of reasons, spiritual and financial, why godbots focus on evolution, discussed in vivid detail here adn in Squidland. I know from my own experience that it is a bleach that cleans out the germ of magical thinking, so it makes all the sense in the world that evolution is the focus. And the whole game is in the first sentence about the Catholic position …

    “by the light of reason the human intellect can readily and clearly discern purpose and design in the natural world”

    … it’s the OPPOSITE of reason: it’s by imagination, wishful thinking, delusion, and primal mammalian brain pattern-making that we see purpose and design. The religious asset is actual our downfall.

  17. I agree that the distinction is important. ID is deliberately fraudulent, carefully designed to mislead and to undermine science education and public support for scientific research on the evolutionary process. To place ID proponents on a continuum with people who are simply trying to salvage their theism, and who really don’t want to give a lot of attention to evolutionary questions because it might upset them, seems fundamentally misguided to me.

    Believe me, a high school biology teacher would know the difference. (And, yes, I do understand that a depressingly high percentage of these are TE.)

  18. Nevertheless, I don’t call people like Francis Collins advocates of ID simply because that term conflates them with the hard-core, get-in-your school adherents of ID

    I would though, simply to force him to take a real stand. Your reality based beliefs are rational or not, there is no middle ground.

    1. And if that drives him into the opposite camp, what’s gained by that? The loss of someone who, in the past, has been a valuable ally.

      I doubt there’s ever any issue that is truly black-and-white. Just personally, if anybody forces me to choose, I’m likely to choose against them for putting me in that position.



      1. One more time won’t do it. There is nothing to ‘get’. It is just god wishing self delusion.

  20. I think Rosenhouse is misunderstanding Stenger, perhaps willfully for his political cause of retaining as much “allies” that he can see. Stenger points out that evolutionary creationists are creationists (“God-guided”) in some form or other, whether they say that laws were created or genes micromanaged.

    The former makes humanity rare if not exclusive in an infinite universe. The latter makes humanity less rare and so, ironically, even less exclusive. Whether evolutionary creationists are biological or physical creationists, they are still allowing for inanities on the observed biology in some form or other. That is why they are not allies for science, not for that they are “glopping” up theories but because they are rejecting them.

  21. A possibly relevant side note….

    Back about 2002, in the height of the ID foofrah, the Ohio Plain Dealer ran a poll that included a question with categories that seems to fit pretty well to the category distinctions (though not using the labels in the poll).

    ID: “Living things are too complex to have developed by chance. A purposeful force or being that may or may not be God is responsible for designing life as we know it. Evolution may be part of a such a design.”

    Theistic Evolution: “God created the universe and all living things as claimed in the Bible. Creation took millions of years and evolution is the method God used to achieve this result.”

    There’s some shading back and forth, but there seems to be some distinct differences in emphasis. The ID camp think that things look too complex, and thus point to a designer; the theistic evolution camp seem more inclined to think that God merely tilted things to this particular otherwise largely random result. (They also seem to emphasize more the mental than the material attributes.)

    1. A purposeful force or being that may or may not be God …

      This illustrates my point about ID being too poorly defined to have much of a discussion about. Back in 2002 that was indeed the official party line. But it is now clear that for some/most of the Discovery Institute members, and probably most non-DI ID supporters, that purposeful force is unequivocally the Christian God. So which is the “real” ID?

      1. Well, most of the DiscoToot folk unequivocally BELIEVE it’s the Abrahamic God. I don’t think they all claim the evidence points to that God in particular, but I’ve not been following them that closely. There’s also a few outliers, not affiliated with the DiscoToot; particularly, the Raelians, who believe life on earth is the result of an ET-sourced Uplift project.

        I’d say belief that it’s the Abrahamic (or some other) God is the most common form of ID, and the belief the designer is a deity is a common but not necessary trait. I’d consider the notion as anthropologically, but not philosophically, connected.

    2. “. . . the theistic evolution camp seem more inclined to think that God merely tilted things to this particular otherwise largely random result.”

      Well, most TEists seem to believe that the result must include human beings. That is one hell of a tilt, and not very random with respect to human beings.

      What is more incredible? That some entity hands on directly creates life? After all it looks very probable that we will be able to do so ourselves before too much longer. Or some entity sets initial conditions so accurately that after playing out for hundreds of millions of years reality results in human beings just as it planned?

      1. That it’s incredible from that analysis, isn’t all that relevant to whether it’s what people actually believe, nor whether the belief is distinct from intelligent design.

        I admit, I’ve only pretty sparse anecdata on what exactly TE-types individually believe. Much of it looks to me like “Any sufficiently advanced deistic evolution is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.” However, I’ve not studied the problem with any rigor.

        1. True, but the overall discussion here is about how closely, or not, peoples beliefs comport with reality. If people believe as you described, those people are deluding themselves about how compatible their beliefs are with the science.

          Not saying my off the cuff caricatures of TE & ID beliefs were all that good, but the two do have one major component in common. Just as real self professed TE and ID beliefs do. Yes, I agree, distinctions absolutely can be made between the two, but there are prominent congruencies too. And while those distinctions can result in different behavior, the congruencies show that the root cause of the cognitive malfunction that leads to either belief is the same. I think keeping both these things in mind could be an advantage in opposing religious beliefs.

          1. The broader discussion, yes.

            However, the specific question Dr. Coyne was asking this time was do the two varieties differ? I suspect the line is at best a fuzzy one, akin to the demarcation between ring species. However, they do differ, even while having similarities of the genus range.

            The congruencies may have a shared root cause, but I suspect the phenotype differences have significant impact, such carelessly conflating them is disadvantageous.

    3. The ID camp think that things look too complex, and thus point to a designer;

      Unless you’re talking to one or another of their dupes, the ID camp thinks no such thing; they think they might be able to employ scientific language to convince other people that things look too complex. Personally, I think they’re neo-Darwinian at heart; it’s what helps them know what lies to tell.

  22. As I said in the other thread:

    [Sober’s] type B god simply gives you leave to make it up as you go along, with the only discernible reason being to allow people to have their fantasies and eat their science too. And that when any understanding of science stresses that it is a tool for making sure you are not chasing fantasies of your own making. If you don’t understand that, your ostensible ‘support of science’ amounts to nothing more than giving lip-service to certain findings of science.

    To that extent, I’d support Jerry’s distinction between TE and ID as only gradual. The political and sociological aspects (the in-your-school attitude of IDiots that TEists might help fight and the somewhat calming effect of TEists supporting the work that scientists do even if that is only lip-service) are certainly relevant. Still, I’d want to stress that, from a public understanding of science point of view, they are almost indistinguishable as they both fail to understand a central feature of science.

  23. I won’t repeat why an uncreated consciousness when interacting with matter doesn’t need any guidance but I would like to see how paleontologist and jesuit Teillhard de Chardin’s views would be criticized here since his contribution led the catholic church to accept the idea of evolution.

    1. Please, enough of this uncreated consciousness, okay? It’s not relevant to this discussion, and neither is the work of Teilhard.

      1. Don’t worry, as I said above, I won’t repeat the reasons why an uncreated consciousness when interacting with matter doesn’t need any guidance. But if this is true, the simple consequence it implies just make irrelevant so much of the bla bla that is discussed here, while still making true evolution as we know it.

        But I understand that seeking for logical reasons why science and spirituality can meet is not in the agenda of this blog. This blog is worshipping objective knowledge. And that is fine but it would be practical to notice that objective knowledge can only exist because subjective knowledge is possible. It is simple as black and white or left ad right. But it would also be practical to understand why the superjective space that allows objective and subjective knowledge to co-exist has to be uncreated, i.e.: beyond the opposites by which we can grasp the world.

        And it would still be convenient to take note that any theistic conception (or even atheistic when it comes to buddhism, zen, or taoism) equals uncreated consciousness, no matter how you don’t believe in it. It is ok to not believe in it but what is not ok is to do negative anthropomorphism by lending human limited logic to a divine something that doesn’t even exist…

        That the concept of an uncreated consciousness is understood differently through times and cultures is understandable, just like its political recuperation.
        You can shoot as you want the messengers, it doesn’t change anything to the reality that stands beyond our grasping (unless you believe we are not limited in any senses…).

        As for The Chardin, I thought he was an interesting subject because he was nearly considered like an heretic by the catholic church, but at the same time, he gave the scientific and moral authority to that same church (after his death) to espouse the theory of evolution, which is a topic you are constantly addressing…

        You can’t avoid The human phenomenon AND debate about TE….

        Ce n’est pas sérieux…

        1. That’s a hell of a lot of words for something you said you weren’t going to go into again.

    2. As noted in the OP, the Catholic Church does not accept the idea of evolution in the “neo-Darwinian” sense.


  24. What about Theistic Intelligent Design TID ?

    Progressive evolution of design,as evidenced by the theory of Evolution but, by advanced science and not nature over a relatively short period of time. With this idea we can have a new framework of history and a better understanding of the ORIGINAL ‘good measure’ intention behind ALL the world religions.

    This is suggested against a backdrop of this being a very ancient planet, a sort of ‘living machine’ upon which there have been many humanities, which have disappeared for the rather self-evident reasons, which we can understand today.In additon land massed created go back into the mantle over about 30000 years.

    With this idea we can understand that those predictions given to those Prophets were intended for our humanity’s benefit today.So here we can respect the past without living in it.

    This would be amount the demystification of the old understandings and ultimately the spiritualization of science. Maybe this could be described as Evolution II a faster model of Evolution I. However this may require a rapid evolution of thinking, given the parameters we can observe in the world today are fast approaching the point where our humanity is going to be either’born’ or ‘stillborn’

    For those who enjoy numbers
    about 12000 years of progressive evolution of design, slightly overlapping with another 13200 years of our history to Hiroshima in 1945 – oh my God the kids have found the matches!)

    One may ask is this science? Well I believe the criteria for scientific hypothesis would be

    1.Is it observable? Well we can observe that the population has grown some FIVE billions in the last 65 years and we have historical records going back 1000’s of years, where populations was much smaller.
    2.Is their a prediction – yes the first use of nuclear weapons of war marks a nodal point in the development of a humanity. On this timeline for our humanity, this would be equivalent to the breaking of the water, in the birth of a child.
    3.Is it falsifiable – yes just like Evolution Theory Mark I – In the words of a certain famous person ‘if this were science fiction, it would rank alongside the most breathtaking of it’s kind.
    Further if Evolution II were correct , then Evolution I would have proven itself to be falsifiable.
    To be fair to Evolution I, it would appear to have rested on certain false assumptions which Darwin could not have been aware in his days, such as the ability of science today beginning to create artificial life.

    This hypothetical notion is said to be derived from an advanced level of science with an in depth knowledge of the growth and development of a humanity. The notion of God of our ancestors, while to be respected could be elevated to the concept of Infinty, of which we as human beings would be like a tiny piece , growing concious of itself.Those rules given by the prophets in the past were originally intended to enhance one’s ability to be in harmony with Infinity.

    If this hypothesis wer correct, it would require both an understanding of the theory of Evolution AND a knowledge of the world religions.BOTH rather than either or.

  25. Well, I think that theistic evolution is probably a good example of what PZ calls “halfway to Crazy Town.”

    ID, on the other hand, is pretty much smack dab at Broad and Main in downtown Crazy Town.

    Neither place has much to recommend.

    1. In your analogy, it’s more like ID is at the city line; OEC, in the downtown area; and YEC smack dab at Broad and Main.

      Still nothing to recommend any of ’em.

  26. Theistic evolution lies at one (far) end of the spectrum covered by Intelligent Design – contending that God built biological design into the natural world (perhaps even inherent in the universe from the Big Bang itself) or that God tinkers undetectably in evolution (as Elliot Sober asserts science cannot disprove). The other end of the ID spectrum is Special Creation, where God put together the whole ball of wax in six days, with the garden, the naked couple, and the walking-talking snake.

    By comprising such a broad spectrum, ID reveals itself as primarily political (where a “big-tent” approach is prized) rather than scientific (where clarity and concision are preferred). ID’s refusal to specify the “who,” “where,” “when,” and “how” of its pseudo-scientific hypothesis serves its ends in two ways: First, it gives ID the broadest base of potential financial donors (and, especially, protects the large portion of its funding drawn from the Creationist end of the spectrum). Second, it masks that ID simply has no answers to offer as to when, where, and how its “designer” goes about his business. (As to the “who,” ID proponents are happy enough to identify “The Designer” when addressing their own sectarian groups, though always taking pains to point out that this is their personal philosophical opinion, not part of ID (pseudo-)science itself.)

    1. You didn’t think of a much simpler scenario.
      God is just a word for a natural phenomenon. And that phenomenon implies that consciousness is uncreated.
      I know, I know, it is hard to swallow that you would be that special, be keep in mind that you are not that special, your subjectivity would be just a consequence of a natural phenomenon , like the color red for example.

      1. Okay, enough. This uncreated consciousness business is just trolling. I suggest you purvey your wares at another site.

        1. Poor, JF. He lacks uncreated free will, and cannot help but plough the same non-dual furrow here again and again. And again. And …



  27. Some sets of things (for example, 2 concepts in a dichotomy) sit on a spectrum where they “elide seamlessly into one another, with no sharp line to demarcate them”. This does not mean, however, that the two (or more) things are not different.

  28. This Archbishops and Popes must have a huge ego. Witness this sample from the article above (emphasis mine):

    Commenting on the widespread abuse of John Paul’s 1996 letter on evolution, the commission cautions that “the letter cannot be read as a blanket approbation of all theories of evolution, including those of a neo-Darwinian provenance which explicitly deny to divine providence any truly causal role in the development of life in the universe.”

    What makes them believe that any practicing biologist cares two cents whether her theories have the mark of their “approbation” or not? What did they do to get this authority?

  29. I remember reading that Schoenborn piece when it came out. His argument is basically: “because I said so.” And I’m dying to see this “overwhelming evidence for purpose and design”!

  30. Pointless oversimplified analogy time:

    Think of an iron ball bearing rolling over a piece of paper.

    1)The scientific (naturalistic) evolutionist thinks the paper is tilted enough (variation produced by mutation etc.) for the ball to roll by itself, and its destination is due to the various bumps and wrinkles it encounters on the paper (natural selection; you can include bumping into other randomly rolling balls if you want.

    2)The IDer a la Behe believes the ball rolls by itself part of the time, but needs a guiding nudge now and then by the Finger of God to get it over the bumps (irreducible complexity) and ensures it ends up in the right place.

    3)The theistic evolutionist thinks God is a giant magnet that pulls the ball towards itself.

    If, as the theistic evolutionist insists, there is no way of measuring the ‘magnetism'(the active Power of God) is there any way to tell the difference between 1 and 3?

  31. DI ID is religion masquerading as science.

    Roman Catholic ID is religion dismissing science:

    “An unguided evolutionary process – one that falls outside the bounds of divine providence – simply cannot exist.”

    International Theological Commission. (Under the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger – now Pope Benedict XVI.)

  32. It isn’t just whether TE and ID are very similar to the point of potential confusion or not, it is that (many?) TE advocates explicitly deny evolution in certain places.

    For example, in the 1996 discussion by the then pope, he pretty much says that psychological facilities of humans have not evolved and were “inserted” ex nihilo. Whatever one might think of contemporary evolutionary psychology, I’d think one should agree that this papal viewpoint is selectively creationist.

  33. I’ve taken issue with his notion that theistic evolution does not equal ID. I think they shade into each other, depending on how far the theistic evolutionist sees God as having guided evolution.

    And, so what? Different positions along a continuum can be distinct enough from each other to (1) have their own terms, and (2) be treated differently. Not all animal lovers need be PETA members. “Red” and “Blue” photons have enough important differences that they are rightly given different names.

    I think the difference between the Ken Millers and the Ken Hams can be treated like nonionizing vs. ionizing radation: yes, they are just different positions on a continuum. But this purely quantitative difference is so great that it is, for all important respects, qualitative. TE does not ionize science education; it is non-destructive.

    There can be no compromise with superstition, for superstition is the camel’s nose in the tent of science.

    Nice flowery language, but it’s BS. Science appears to be functioning just fine with the inclusion of TE scientists. They do not appear to be ticking time bombs.* They seem to be able to separate their Sunday morning methodologies from their Monday morning methodologies without problem.

    If you’re going to claim to be an empiricist, you must accept the millions of cases of theists being perfectly capable scientists and not breaking the methodological rules. An atheist may find that absurd, but empirically, it appears to be true, so I’d say, get used to it. If you must, think of theistic scientists like a defense lawyer believing a person to be guilty, but does everything in their power to get them acquitted; they trust the system, so they don’t break the rules.

    *Or, at least no more than anyone else. A lot of scientists seem to become more biased and wacky as they get older; there would be no reason to expect any theistic scientist to be any different.

    1. Lay off the “BS” stuff and other insults to the host, okay? You’re urinating on my rug.

      1. Jerry, my sincere apologies.

        In more neutral language: the camel nose under the tent analogy is just the fallacy of the slippery slope. You are arguing a median position is not stable, when empriically, it seems to be.

        But I am sorry I went overboard.

  34. Jerry, I think Jason is correct and the distinction is a useful one.

    For example, here are interviews I had with 10 fairly conservative Christian science and religion leaders, all of whom would be comfortable with the label “theistic evolutionary”, and all of whom voice pretty serious anti Intelligent Design positions.

    Evolutionary Creation:

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