He sure made it sound that way. I’m guessing he actually doesn’t. It may be just a bluff or a semantic game. And then, given Paul Nelson seems to be a man who enjoys good jokes, we’ll laugh together and return to the ‘other’ conversation that respectfully doesn’t accept double-talking between these terms.
Gladly and thankfully, I’m open and ready for Paul to prove me wrong and to show us (people on the internet) his great balancing act. I really don’t think he teaches what I’m talking about when he professes ‘Intelligent Design’ theory. I would willingly admit and concede to being wrong, if he were to outline more clearly his views showing how he teaches ‘design theory’, ‘design thinking’, ‘design thinkers’ & ‘design studies,’ and not actually just IDism (which he calls IDT), which is what I suspect.
Full disclosure at the start: I am an Abrahamic monotheist who rejects the ideology of (clumsily worded, but most accurate) Intelligent Designism (IDism) currently being promoted by the Discovery Institute & its politico-educational allies. The ‘theory’ of ID is built on ideological premises that cannot be removed from any ‘scholarly’ view of it from outside of the IDM, though the DI rejects this obvious truth. I would simply like the DI & IDM to ‘come clean’ regarding their double-talk about ‘design/Design’ and ‘intelligence/Intelligence’ once and for all, as their way of honouring the conversation & those in it who disagree with their ideology, even while we share many similarities in terms of theology/worldview.
Paul Nelson defends and promotes ideological IDism, though he doesn’t and most likely won’t anytime soon call ‘it’ (ID, IDT or IDism) an ideology. To me, IDism includes the belief that ‘ID’ is a ‘strictly (natural) scientific’ theory, rather than an important but secondary concept of some minor utility, in a broader science, philosophy, theology/worldview conversation. However, Paul might not realize what he did in another thread here recently by accepting a distinction that many Abrahamic thinkers have already reached, and that safely protects us in a responsible and important way from the DI’s ideology. Nelson has just opened a new door, the first time I’ve seen it among the DI’s leadership to do so in over 15 years of observing the IDM. What will happen next? That’s up to Paul.
I had asked him: “Do you not see any problem with the way you assume to speak for ‘design theorists’ when really you are only addressing ‘Intelligent Design theorists’?“
Paul Nelson responded: “Note to Gregory: I use what you call ‘intelligent design’ (small i, small d) all the time in teaching and in public engagement about these issues. I have heard your complaints on this head, and (partly) agree with you. But I’m not going to give up the big I, big D, project, because you don’t like it. So please stop badgering me that it’s a mistake …. I’m not going to give up ID until I am myself satisfied that it’s a dead end. And that is a LONG WAY off.” (http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/the-demise-of-intelligent-design/comment-page-2/#comment-261505)
This comes across to me as an effort to shed some light on the truth. This truth involves how IDists at the DI communicate, what they mean & don’t mean. It would be wrong of non-IDists to intentionally misunderstand IDists. If Paul is willing, then I’d like to pursue common understanding in this thread, knowing that this is boring & obvious stuff to many people, and recalling that most people, i.e. including skeptics, atheists & agnostics at this site TSZ, already side with me (distinguishing properly) as well as with those majority Abrahamic theists who reject IDism, rather than with Paul & the DI (& EricMH here, improperly & unclearly distinguishing). Nevertheless, let us see what he will do now that the seal has been broken with his suggestion that he teaches & speaks about non-IDist ‘intelligent design’ in public, by which I mean ‘design thinking’. Does he really teach that, or is he just involved in dangerous relabeling?
Paul, after all, did say: “I … (partly) agree with you.” Great! It sounds like we’re almost half-way there, to what would satisfy him that IDism is a dead end. But does he really agree? Or is his agreement just conditional on returning to his chosen set of backwards-looking terms? And would he even know what it means if he really does (partly) agree with me about the no-capitalization double-talk crisis in IDism, since he obviously hasn’t been there yet?
I would really like to know what you meant, Paul, when you said, “all the time in teaching and in public engagement”. Did you mean speaking & teaching that involves design theory, design thinking, design thinkers & design studies, i.e. ideas and expertise which do NOT come from IDists & that have nothing to do with ID, IDT or IDism? If so, please say how you use this example of human designers involved in designing processes as part of your pro-ID argument, since the DI inherently refuses to identify any designer(s)/Designer(s)? Are you now proposing, Paul, some kind of a merger between id & ID beyond what John West was attempting prior to 2009?
I ask this because, as most people here know, I attended the DI’s summer program in 2008. There not a single positive non-IDT ‘design theory’ was presented. And I asked specifically for this, both during the Humanities & Social Sciences sessions & in the combined general sessions. Someone might have mentioned Buckminster Fuller. Otherwise, nobody had an answer & people first felt offended that one would even bring this obvious & related field of study into the conversation. John West’s rhetorical attempts were almost entirely anti-Darwinism in social sciences & humanities. That’s why the presumption that there was such a thing as ‘ID in HSS’ had to be nipped at the bud & shut off at the DI’s Summer Program.
This revealed significant ideological bias, since it showed either, 1) the DI was either avoiding or unaware of a rather significant amount of (at least conceptually) relevant literature, not a good sign for ID scholarship, 2) they were conveniently omitting the ‘real design theory’ & theorists, cherry picking their ideology, and instead continuing to speak of their own members as ‘design theorists’, just as Nelson phrased it & which led to this post, i.e. implied as ‘nice good kind people’ being persecuted and suffering in the academy for their ‘design theory’, or 3) they just couldn’t figure out a way to bridge what is too divergent between real design theory, thinking, studies, etc. & ‘Intelligent Design’ theory, so they quietly ignored it for a while & put that divergence, as well as the charge of ‘category error’, as far away from their minds & memories as possible, hoping it would never again come up. However, this doesn’t really make the problem go away, but just glosses over it. So, here we are now with the same IDist problem.
This leaves me wondering again a basic question: Why hasn’t there been a sustained attempt by the DI to distinguish it’s comparatively new ‘design theory’ from the older & already established & burgeoning, real ‘design theory’, y’know, the normal, common, non-persecuted, far less ideological kind? This would give everyone involved or on the sidelines a more accurate and precise understanding of what the DI actually means, instead of regularly, constantly, almost consistently equivocating between ‘Design’ (God-made, though not merely ‘creationism’) and ‘design’ (human-made, or possibly other creatures too, the latter which for some is a high priority issue) topics and themes. Phillip Johnson, so-called ‘father of the IDM’, made his views on this quite clear. Is it simply a question of not publicly (only privately) identifying the supposed ‘Designer’ in ‘Intelligent Design’ theory, as an apologetics strategy in order to try to get into schools or individual minds & hearts? Is it mainly an educational supplement or openly apologetics-oriented when framed that way?
Whatever the case, the DI & IDM, including Paul Nelson, continues to push a kind of ambitiously ambiguous, disembodied (or maybe embodied, they waffle on this) ‘intelligence’, by which they really seem to mean ‘use theological language as much as possible in biology & all the while protest that the language actually arose first in biology’. That’s IDism to a T; the DI’s ideology in a nutshell. The problem here is that IDists don’t seem to notice when or even that they are equivocating. Rather, they simply conduct virtue signalling & self-victimization in the face of valid criticisms, while at the same time hyper-inflating the term ‘design’ as if it were ‘above all others’, screaming “LOOK AT ME” on the front of our eyeballs for ‘any true Scots’.
Thus, the IDM that Paul Nelson operates his life’s work in is actually causing affront to many serious, thoughtful and scholarly religious theists who, after having looked it over either more or less carefully, came to reject IDism. This can be seen at least partly as a result of this absurd enforced undignified equivocation mentioned above. Does Paul care a lick about this? It is this rather sordid feature of IDism that Paul Nelson is invited here to respectfully address.
It would appear that ‘IDT’ is, for Paul as with most IDists, actually framed as an intentional mixture of both ‘intelligent design’ and ‘Intelligent Design’. Is this what Nelson means by “I use ‘intelligent design’ (small i, small d) all the time in teaching and public engagement”? Otherwise, it may be that Nelson, a ‘philosopher of biology’, just doesn’t know much about these ‘other fields of thought’, which indeed may hold much more value and importance in the conversation about ‘intelligence’, ‘agency’, ‘choice’ and ‘telos’ than does his trained field of study. My appeal, again and again, is to request clear expression from Paul & other IDists, rather than further obstruction of clarity.
What then do you (partly) agree with me about regarding the distinction between ‘intelligent design’ and ‘Intelligent Design’, Paul? Is it first the importance of openly making a distinction between the two different signifiers when writing & speaking? If so, I would agree. That making the distinction is important, and even more so for those outside of the IDM, than it is for people inside the IDM, should not be surprising. This is what I am asking you to acknowledge, Paul. Will you respect that important distinction or not?
One thing that has been frustrating for me over the years is that IDists simply have not shown either the integrity or capacity to openly address this crucial topic. They are now in a position, however, where it seems they cannot with dignity provide an answer to this dilemma of their own creation. While at the same time it seems to me (a sociologist of science and observer of ‘invisible colleges’) that the entire ‘Intelligent Design movement’ (IDM) itself hinges on it. This is why EricMH has each and every time avoided answering, or done so only in a light, skirting, ideologically aloof, or school-boyish pretentious way. Again, a better option is available that Paul Nelson & the IDM haven’t seen or won’t admit exists; only this way embracing ignorance as their bliss can they maintain an ID-hype narrative as if it were the only way forward.
My aim here, Paul, is to show what others see that apparently you do not. By that I mean deep thinking and reflecting Abrahamic monotheism that rejects the ideology presupposed by the entire IDM. Neither you nor any IDist has yet taken time to faithfully address the double-talking, as you should have already done. It’s these kinds of things that reveal why it’s necessary to address the fact that there are no atheist IDists, only atheist anti-Darwinists working for the DI. Yet your movement continues to pretend atheists can also be IDists! Why do you think, in this light, people don’t trust the DI’s IDT?
“I’m not going to give up the big I, big D, project, because you don’t like it.” – Paul Nelson
Yes, of course not. That is already rather obvious & needn’t be said. Perhaps though, might you not lean the ear of your heart more carefully in an attempt to hear & listen differently? Can you not change your ideology too, Paul?
First, please don’t allude to what I ‘like’ or not, ok? I’m assessing the ideas and people using them on their merits the best I can and with the tools in which I’ve been trained as a sociologist. My current position regarding IDism/IDM has nothing to do with whether I ‘like’ it/them or not. Please get that straight. It has been fascinating for me studying it & folks in the IDM, as well as those they interact with in public & on forums. But I’m no fanboy on either ‘side’ as you folks like to frame it.
Second, I’m not asking you to give up your belief in God, the divine Creator. Please understand that clearly, because it seems like, as many other IDists mistakenly do, you take it (believe) that simply by rejecting “the big I, big D, project”, which is what I call ideological IDism (while you haven’t yet acknowledged there could be such an ideology, even in theory!), automatically means turning away from a person’s ancient, traditional, modern or post-modern Abrahamic theology. I just don’t believe that to be true or necessary, yet this fatalistic view has arisen among IDists before. I’ve met more than a few ‘survivors’ of the IDM, whose testimony of gratitude should also be valued & given space for recognition in any balanced sociological assessment of this political-cultural-educational, and ultimately ideological-wannabe-science ‘movement’. I see little reason why Paul Nelson would wish to block this from peoples’ vision.
To close & again reiterate, I reject Paul Nelson’s & the IDM’s ‘IDT’ for a variety of reasons and believe it’s best for both ‘religious’ and ‘spiritual’ people to avoid it as an unnecessary ideology that distracts from God, family, theology and doing good science. What atheists do with it doesn’t really matter because it quite obviously wasn’t made for them, if only apologetically. With agnostics, it’s more complicated & often unclear what they know & what they don’t or won’t allow discussed. In short, IDT can now be seen as a brilliantly flashy & alluring red herring that has served for 25 years to distract people from potentially much more important conversations involving science, philosophy, theology/worldview. Rather than illuminate, the IDM, DI & IDism have led to a more polarizing experience among people in conversation, now conditioned as much more anxious to fight than ‘find peace’. Swamidass’ inclusion of “artists & designers” will serve as yet another example that would push the DI to finally face this lingering dilemma sooner than later, though he’ll likely do it in a human-clumsier, biologist-techie sort of ‘beast charming’ way than what I’m offering here. Of course, my imperfection is glaring too! = P Maybe they simply need a fellow USAmerican evangelical like Swamidass speaking against IDT and about non-IDT ‘designers’ in order to finally listen & pay attention, instead of a non-evangelical, non-USAmerican ‘outsider’. If so, fine. Good wishes. Either way, catch up.
My suggestion is simple: Paul Nelson would be best to push away from the DI & IDism, the sooner the better. However, notably that would be difficult to do without making himself clear on several key topics in the conversation like the one in this OP. He should thus openly distinguish between real ‘design theory’, design thinking, and design studies, and the quite different ‘Intelligent Design’ theory, rather than avoiding the important distinction as most IDists do, perhaps sensing it as a major conceptual & practical threat to their quasi-scientific ideology.
Let me again clarify: I am not advocating for or being dismissive in predicting “the demise of Intelligent Design”. That’s instead the kind of thing ‘skeptics’ & ‘apatheists’ seem to like to wish on good thinking people who happen to believe in divine Creation and a divine Creator are looking for ways to express themselves about this nicely, calmly, thoughtfully & peacefully (very difficult to do online) with others. Theories about IDism feigning as ‘scientific’, striving for scientificity, etc. will likely always have a social niche, and not for many years fade entirely away, just as the same idea of ‘natural theology’ has been expressed for centuries before the wily ‘Discovery Institute’ came along, appropriating & proceeding to soil the term ‘design/Design’ for others in science, philosophy, theology/worldview conversations, with sometimes goofy enthusiasm, unrealistic temptations as intellectual icons, & sci-fi ‘wedgies’ that they openly flaunted in front of us. We really didn’t need Dembski to come out of retirement with his ‘ID mathematics’ & Waterloo woo. He’s psyching the DI out for most of us!
What I believe should happen in the near future is for this movement of 25 years to significantly shrink in membership & the central pieces fade out of view. The catalyzing moment for that may begin with Paul Nelson’s answer here, should he choose to go further with his “(partly) agree”. Answering how would open more potential than the DI & entire IDM has yet found.
Prediction: get ready for Paul to echo the DI’s new human+ AI pitch as his ‘answer’. Also expect not to hear Paul write about this topic & important distinction in his upcoming series at Evolution News. Will it be EricMH instead to the rescue? Or another return to ideological IDism’s self-censoring silence? May God help us, whatever they decide.