At a conference on Intelligent Design (ID) last semester I was sitting in the audience listening to some lively panel discussion when it occurred to me that many of the insights people were offering were confused about their target. They did not seem clear about what they were aiming at. And while I could filter out at least three different, related targets, there was a tendency to treat all the arguments and evidence as if they had the same single conclusion: ID is true.These three targets seem to be: 1) problems with evolution, 2) validation of ID as science, and 3) confirmation of ID as correct. Hitting one does not guarantee the others. Nor need we isolate them from each other. Yet without distinguishing which target one is aiming for, opponents can easily find fault. For example, “You fallaciously assume that you are proving ID when all you’re doing is poking holes in evolution.” Or, “You are arguing about how ID is the best explanation, but you haven’t even shown yet that it’s science!”So I propose three facets in establishing Intelligent Design. This is just a conceptual framework, and I only intend here to helpfully structure the discussion so that the different respective targets can be handled fairly and carefully. But this is not intended as a “proof” for intelligent design, it is only a proposed schema for addressing ID-related arguments.
1) The Negative Case
2) The Qualifying or Neutral Case
3) The Positive Case
1) The Negative case argues against evolution, attacks apparent flaws and inadequacies in evolutionary theory, together with naturalism, materialism, scientism, etc. The negative case aims at instilling discontent with the current paradigms of scientific naturalism and its champion theory of (Darwinian) Evolution. Without the negative case, one may not realize whether there are even alternatives to be considered besides reductive, materialistic, naturalistic, scientistic evolutionary theory. And even if one is aware of theoretical alternatives, they would come off as superfluous–regardless of any truth, validity, or scientific quality they might have.
2) The Qualifying Case–arguing neither for ID nor against evolution, the qualifying case argues simply that ID qualifies as science. This kind of argument targets the Demarcation Problem in Science (ie: how is science defined) and is liable to include heavy doses of ID theory to show how ID seems to satisfy the criteria needed to qualify as science. The qualifying case may also have to dive into issues of the relation between Science and Religion, Faith and Reason, and the definition of Religion (which is just as difficult if not harder to establish than the definition of science).
3) The Positive Case–finally, this brand of argument seeks to show how ID is indeed correct, answering real problems and giving superior explanations than current evolutionary theory can offer. The positive case generally requires some amount of the prior two kinds: negative and neutral case–before the positive evidences even make sense. Unless ID is science then it looks like a merely theological perspective on what science has already explained sufficiently through evolutionary theory. Unless Darwinian evolutionary theory, and scientific naturalism are shown to be inadequate, the ID just looks like a another kid who didn’t make the team. ID then is superfluous, and uninteresting. It is not “superior” to naturalistic approaches to science, unless there has already been shown some weaknesses and inadequacies in naturalism that effectively leave a crack in the levy which ID might be able to fill-in.