Cryptic Ichthus

Bill Dembski complains of the injustice of being referred to, with his Discovery Institute colleagues, as an “Intelligent Design Creationist.” It’s possible, he writes, to believe in Intelligent Design and to not be a creationist, therefore the term “Intelligent Design Creationist” cannot be accurate. This criticism makes the logically dubious claim that since some ID advocates are not creationists then “Intelligent Design Creationists” don’t exist. However, as long as there is a brand of creationism that is identifiable as being of the “Intelligent Design” flavor, then there is such a thing as “Intelligent Design Creationism.” (It is this flavor of creationism, as creationism, that Rob Pennock and Barbara Forrest address in their criticisms.) The “Intelligent Design” strain of creationism deserves special notice because it is particularly insidious. Unlike its predecessor “Scientific Creationism,” IDC has attempted to present a false public face devoid of any commitment to theological particulars.

The emergence of “Intelligent Design Creationism” from “Scientific Creationism” is not a haphazard conjecture. The connections are very well researched, and many of the players and their tactics are exactly the same. As the current advocates of ID, including Bill “any view of the sciences that leaves Christ out of the picture must be seen as fundamentally deficient” Dembski make clear (when they are speaking to an audience of like-minded believers), Intelligent Design is the bridge between science and theology (see, for example, Dembski, W., 1999, Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science & Theology, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill.).

In his IDtheFuture post Dembski writes:

To see that the creationist label is misleading, consider that one can advocate intelligent design without advocating creationism. Creationism typically denotes a literal interpretation of the first chapters of Genesis as well as an attempt to harmonize science with this interpretation. It can also denote the view common to theists that a personal transcendent God created the world (a view taught by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). In either case, however, creationism presupposes that the world came into being through a creative power separate from the world.

It may be true that “one can advocate intelligent design without advocating creationism.” There are message-board contributors who advocate Intelligent Design ideas that are certainly not “creationist” in the ways that Dembski identifies. But except to provide cover from charges of sectarianism, these theorists make little contribution to the ID program. Rather than asking “can one be an IDist and not a creationist?”, the germane question should be “are the major proponents of ID creationists?”

One doesn’t need to plumb the depths of these advocates’ personal faiths to reach a conclusion. The public writings and pronouncements of an appreciable sample of the ID leadership contain plenty of creationist assertions, that is, that the world’s origin came about via a creative power separate from the world. (The only difference between this claim and ID is that the latter pretends to find empirical and naturalistic evidence for that origin.) There are certainly Intelligent Design advocates who are creationists.

“Intelligent Design Creationism” is a useful term because it recognizes the historical flow of the creationist movement. When it became clear that religion could not be taught in science classrooms, “scientific creationism” was invented to put a veneer of respectability over creationist claims. When that failed in the courts, the opponents of evolutionary biology took a further step into vagueness. They purged their public vocabularies of religious-sounding claims and asserted that there was no religious content at all in their “scientific” endeavors.

Dembski’s claim that ID and Creationism are generally exclusive is especially amusing given the masthead under which he writes.

The science graduate degrees held by the main contributors to “IDtheFuture” are outnumbered by the graduate degrees held in theology. At least one of the contributors is known to be a Young Earth Creationist (and Dembski himself has frequently hedged about his belief that the earth is greater than 6000 years old.) Unless the “Intelligent Design” beliefs of this group are wholly separate from their creationist beliefs, there is demonstrably an overlap between the two concepts.

Finally, the alert reader of IDtheFuture will note that in the blog’s header (reproduced below) there appears to be the not-very-well hidden icon of persecuted early Christianity, the Icthus, complete with pectoral fins and right eye. An extraordinary coincidence, if it accidentally emerged from the design. If put there intentionally, the cryptic icthus makes an eloquent point about the true relationship of Christian theology to Intelligent Design, Dembski’s protestations notwithstanding. Like the icthus on the DI header, the presence of creationism within “Intelligent Design” is hidden in plain sight.