FAQ: Is there a difference between “intelligent design” and “creationism”?

Over at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub, there’s discussion of the theism-in-science issue. Among the questions, one popped up that lots of intelligent design creationism cheerleaders just don’t get.

HannahJ Says:
August 13, 2008 at 7:13 pm

Ed, the unstated assumption I see you making is that ID is religion. Please demonstrate that more thoroughly to me; from what I’ve read about both ID and creationism, there appears a distinction.

And I replied there:

The principle is simple enough: two things with the same content are the same thing, no matter if their labels differ. A person using an alias is not another person. And intelligent design creationism is a proper subset of the argumentation used by previous forms of creationism. The things left out of the IDC subset are simply those calculated to confuse the legal system into falsely inferring that there is some difference from the creationism that went before. It is what the SCOTUS in 1987 perceptively called a sham. The 2005 Kitzmiller decision correctly cited the 1987 decision on exactly that issue.

Would “Hannah J.” be Hannah Maxson, Casey Luskin Award winner and IDC cheerleader?

Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.

19 thoughts on “FAQ: Is there a difference between “intelligent design” and “creationism”?

  • 2008/08/15 at 8:25 pm
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    Both intelligent design creationism and Bible creationism invoke supernatural magic. Both versions of creationism are childish and idiotic beliefs in MAGIC. Both versions are the opposite of science.

    There is one minor difference between the proponents of Bible creationism and intelligent design creationism. Both kinds of creationists are gullible uneducated morons, but at least the Bible creationists are honest. They admit the Magical Designer is God. Many intelligent design creationists pretend it doesn’t matter who the Magic Man is, but of course everyone knows the designer is Mr. God. Both the honest Bible creationists and the dishonest intelligent design creationists deserve nothing but contempt for their breathtaking stupidity. The ID creationists also deserve to be called compulsive liars.

  • 2008/08/16 at 6:02 am
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    There are flavors of Creationists, but at their core they are all Creationists. Or Cdesign Proponentsists.

  • 2008/08/16 at 6:41 am
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    Would “Hannah J.” be Hannah Maxson, Casey Luskin Award winner and IDC cheerleader?

    That was my first thought, but the last we heard of Hannah Maxson, Allen MacNeill reported she was on mission in Mongolia. Further, the blog of “HannahJ” offers no clues regarding either attendance at Cornell or travelling to Mongolia. So, I would call it unproven that they are one and the same, at this point.

  • 2008/08/17 at 9:19 am
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    My usual 2c:

    To most people “creationism” means “honest belief in a 6-day, ~6000 year ago creation.” That excludes ID. To critics of anti-evolution it means “any strategy that promotes unreasonable doubt of evolution and proposes a design-based (non)explanation.” That includes ID. IDers exploit the different definitions and their critics often take the bait and wind up with egg on their face. To avoid the confusion that IDers love, I use the word “classic creationism” (CC) for those varieties other than ID and the “don’t ask, don’t tell” creationism that immediately preceded “cdesign proponentsists.”

    The most important “speciation event” is one that produced “don’t ask, don’t tell what the designer did, when or how.” That was necessary not because of any *legal* failure, but of the *scientific* failure of CC, not the least of which is the mutual contradictions between YEC and several OECs.

    Sigh…maybe some day.

  • 2008/08/17 at 10:13 am
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    Frank J,

    If you load your conclusions into your premises, as illustrated in your comment, argumentation is so much easier. IDC advocates are very good at exploiting ignorance of what is going on. I don’t see “classic creationism” as depriving them of opportunities for obfuscation; “you’ve obviously already admitted a difference” would be their likely response.

    No, Frank J, the deception began directly in response to the SCOTUS decision in Epperson v. Arkansas. The response was to promote “scientific creationism”, which was re-labeled “creation science” in the mid to late 1970s. This was because of a legal failure, and not because of any perceived lack of scientific perspicacity by the theistic antievolutionists. They sincerely believe that science — or “true science” — supports them, and they have believed that since well before the Epperson decision.

    I’d suggest Eugenie Scott’s “Evolution vs. Creationism” book for getting the basics of the discussion straight. Forrest and Gross’s “Creationism’s Trojan Horse“, Pennock’s “Tower of Babel“, Young and Edis’ “Why Intelligent Design Fails“, and Petto and Godfrey’s “Scientists Confront Intelligent Design and Creationism” should then bring you up to speed.

  • 2008/08/17 at 10:58 am
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    I read “Tower of Babel” and “Why Intelligent Design Fails” and plan to read the others. As I said before, I don’t disagree with any of their conclusions of the origin of ID or the significance of “Edwards.” If anything, I’m just adding that at least some groups apparently realized that the “true science” by definition could support at most one of the alterntives, and only supported their own (if it indeed did) based on “weaknesses” of “Darwininsm.” So rather than take the Morris approach and try to support one at the expense of the others, they found it better to leave it to the audience to infer their own, while they could concentrate of the “weaknesses” of “Darwinism.”

    Sure, whatever language we use will give experienced IDers “opportunities for obfuscation” but that’s the catch-22 of any science-pseudoscience debate.

    Looks like I still need to find a better way to say it.

  • 2008/08/17 at 11:14 am
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    Frank J,

    The deception began following the Epperson decision. The Edwards v. Aguillard decision was a huge deal, but you made much of the “speciation event” that brought deception on board the antievolution movement as a full-blown strategy, and I’m telling you that was Epperson, not Edwards, and it was, indeed, a problem with a legal issue. At the time, there was no issue of “alternatives”, and it seems to me that you are inventing a rationalization for your previous argument instead of looking at the facts on the ground.

    Unless your name is Hutton, getting the argument right should prove to resolve most of the issues you are having in expressing it.

  • 2008/08/17 at 11:59 am
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    Epperson was 1968. I have not read much anti-evolution writing from that time, but would not at all be surprised to see some changes in strategy even then. AIUI, though it was still predominantly based on young-Earth arguments until the early “Panda’s” drafts. So why not just “sanitize” the language? If anything, those arguments about radiometric dating, etc. sound at least more scientific to most people, and might have convinced some judges that they are appropriate for public schools, as long as they stay away from equating young Earth with “impossibility of evolution” with design and/or creation.

    Yet it went exactly the opposite way. Instead of sticking to cold, dry evidence of a young Earth, or even conceding an old Earth (& old life) and just cold, dry evidence that humans and other apes originated independently (what Biblical literalists desire most) they kept only the “design” part that, to me at least, screams “religion.” Of course they abandoned that too with the “teach the controversy” replacement scam.

  • 2008/08/17 at 5:09 pm
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    Creationism as a US anti-evolution offshoot of the early 20th century fundamentalists was originally old earth creationism, and became more commonly YEC with the 1960s revival of flood geology. That went along with the introduction of “creation science” in response to the pro-science reaction to the 1957 Sputnik, and the reintroduction of evolution into science classes. The reaction led to the 1968 Epperson v. Arkensas ruling.

    The redefinition of creation science to omit all biblical references is set out fully in Dean Kenyon’s 1984 affidavit for what becomes Edwards v. Aguillard, and even ID proponents seem to see that as a pivotal argument.

  • 2008/08/17 at 7:51 pm
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    Morris and Parker’s “Scientific Creationism” textbook fully laid out the strategy of separating “biblical creationism” and “scientific creationism” in the 1970s. They went so far as to produce two editions in simultaneous production, one for Christian schools, and the other for public schools. The public school edition had all biblical references expunged from it.

    Dean Kenyon’s affidavit only passed on what was already long-settled policy among “creation scientists”. It was not an expression of a new strategy.

  • 2008/08/18 at 5:29 am
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    I must also read the earlier material, especially since Kenyon is an author of OPAP, and thus a key figure in the “speciation.” At some point even the “sanitized” YE arguments were abandoned. If the fact that they are easily refuted, plus the fact that OECs were willing to refute them, had no part in the motivation to abandon them, then I stand corrected.

    Another item I’ll correct if necessary: Am I wrong to assume (based on my own discussions with those who don’t follow the “debate,” which may not be representative of the general public) that when most people hear “creationism” they think YEC, not even “scientific” YEC, and not anything like ID?

  • 2008/08/18 at 6:21 am
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    This is quite trying. “Frank J”‘s dichotomizing is dependent on separating the “honest” antievolution (so-called despite its reliance on contrafactuals and inclusion of any number of falsehoods about the state of the scientific research) from ‘deceptive’ antievolution, and his placement of this “speciation event” he asserts occurs in the re-labeling of creation science as intelligent design. Yet it is quite clear that ‘deceptive’ antievolution (based on the strategy of obscuring links to underlying religious entanglements) dates back to shortly after the Epperson v. Arkansas decision and has nothing to do with any alternatives to YEC. It has everything to do with evading a legal outcome in Epperson and nothing to do with perceived lack of scientific acumen by the antievolutionists making the change in strategy. Repeating the same incorrect assertions with different words doesn’t improve the argument.

    The re-labeling of “creation science” as “intelligent design” is no “speciation event”. It is at best an analogue of evolution of cryptic camouflage if one wishes to extend the biological metaphor. The “camouflage” strategy began, as indicated before, in the wake of the Epperson decision, and the extent of the “camouflage” was extended following the Edwards decision, but the same strategy continued to be the guiding principle of the movement. Nor has the IDC movement “abandoned” YEC arguments; there has been no repudiation, and people within the IDC movement have been punished for explicitly repudiating YEC claims. At best, IDC de-emphasizes certain YEC arguments and steadfastly defers discussion of validity of YEC claims. As the post mentions, IDC arguments, though, are a subset of those made by explicit “creation science” advocates before them (and, in fact, a not-inconsequential fraction of IDC advocates are simply “creation scientists” who moved along with the “camouflage” program). The de-emphasis of certain arguments is easily explained by the need to obscure religious doctrinal underpinnings of the movement. The fact that the claims are not repudiated — and, in fact, are assiduously protected from internal criticism — is a point against the conjecture that an assessment of scientific invalidity was part of the decision to de-emphasize them.

  • 2008/08/18 at 7:25 am
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    OK, I’ll give up that line of argument. It won’t be the first, as I keep learning the fascinating but disturbing history of the movement. To be clear, by “YE argument” I meant arguments specifically for a young earth. I never doubted that IDers have retained a subset of YEC (and OEC) arguments.

    Am I wrong on the second paragraph?

  • 2008/08/18 at 10:16 am
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    From Kenyon’s 1984 affidavit:

    “Creation-science does not include as essential parts the concepts of catastrophism, a world-wide flood, a recent inception of the earth or life, from nothingness (ex nihilo), the concept of kinds, or any concepts from Genesis or other religious texts.”

    That sounds like an admission that “creation-science” includes what would become ID as we know it. Unless he has since changed his mind, that’s quite a contrast from the claim of today’s IDers. Yes I know they usually say that ID is not “creationism,” but think that they equate the latter, not ID, with “creation science.”

  • 2008/08/18 at 12:02 pm
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    We see yet another morphing as a result of the Dover decision. The so called ‘academic feedom’ legislations arose directly as a result of the total defeat of Intelligent Design at Dover. Now the Creationists are merely asking for ‘academic freedom’, to teach ‘critiques’ of evolution, while trying mightily not to say what those critiques are. They do this because they are in fact nothing more than the exact same arguments, back again with another label slapped on to evade the courts. Or at least, for the ID advocates to evade the courts. Individual teachers and school boards won’t be so lucky.

  • 2008/08/18 at 3:41 pm
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    Frank J,

    I’m not sure what a poll would say people thought “creationism” was. I also think it is pretty orthogonal to discussing what meanings people who haven’t studied the matter attach to terms, just as one wouldn’t try to dictate the content of particle physics by a poll of hot dog stand customers.

    Dave S.,

    Yes, exactly. The same strategy applies: obscure the connections that led to legal defeat. At each step so far, the antievolutionists have simply underestimated how much obscuring needed to be done.

  • 2012/10/07 at 9:53 pm
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    Austringer, you can’t logically say that ID and creationism are the same, then talk about “things left out”. If there are things left out, then they are different. If they took out the parts that were objectionable, then that would be wise and logical. If you still disagree, then oppose what they are currently saying, if you can, without rehashing the past.

    I doubt you can really know who “they” are, anyway. Few who believe in intelligent causes of life have ever heard of Epperson, Dover or the Discovery Institute. The masses simply believe that claiming that intelligent beings were formed by chance is foolhardy and see intelligence in life as common sense.

    Your uphill task is to prove them wrong, not to regret the fact that they have dropped the unconstitutional parts. Show us all how you know a lucky mix of chemicals causes moving, reproducing, thinking organisms – then you win.

    Good luck with that.

  • 2012/10/08 at 7:03 am
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    Long-debunked arguments are still objectionable, even if not explicitly found to be unconstitutional. It’s like when teaching a course and one gets homework turned in from different students who nonetheless make the same weird set of errors. One can be confident that they worked together rather than independently making that set of errors. That they might each make an additional, independent error doesn’t erase the evidence of matching errors.

    You seem not to be getting the set/subset relationship. Your argument is the equivalent of a claim that what the Gideons have been leaving in hotel rooms is a qualitatively different book than a full bible.

    Plus, we know that the roster of IDC advocates is replete with folks carried over from earlier religious antievolution advocacy. Yeah, pull the other one.

  • 2013/08/08 at 2:58 pm
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    I have been a creationist for 30 of my 40 years on earth and the last 10 years, I have been trying to teach myself evolution.I am wondering if any one can recommend some great books to help further my education into the real world of science and evolution I have watched a lot of videos and read all the pages on the Smithsonian website also watched lectures from the evolution course from Yale University.All sorts of things but always looking for more. email me subject Book Titles thanks
    gate420@gmail.com

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