Back in 2007, I predicted that the idea of “Intelligent Design” would soon fade into obscurity. I wrote:
My initial assessment of ID in my earliest encounter with an ID proponent* was that ID would be forgotten within five years, and that now looks to me an over-generous estimate.
I was wrong. Whilst the interest in “Intelligent Design” (ID) as a fruitful line of scientific enquiry has declined from the heady days of 2005 (or perhaps was never really there) there remain diehard enthusiasts who maintain the claim that ID has merit and is simply being held back by the dark forces of scientism. William Dembski; the “high priest” of ID has largely withdrawn from the fray but his ideas have been promoted and developed by Robert Marks and Winston Ewert. In 2017 (with Dembski as a co-author) they published Introduction to Evolutionary Informatics, which was heralded as a new development in the ID blogosphere. However, the claim that this represents progress has been met with scepticism.
But the issue of whether ID was ever really scientific has remained as the major complaint of those who dismiss it. Even ID proponents have admitted this to be a problem. Paul Nelson, a prominent (among ID proponents) advocate of ID famously declared in 2004:
Easily the biggest challenge facing the ID community is to develop a full-fledged theory of biological design. We don’t have such a theory right now, and that’s a problem. Without a theory, it’s very hard to know where to direct your research focus. Right now, we’ve got a bag of powerful intuitions, and a handful of notions such as ‘irreducible complexity’ and ‘specified complexity’ – but, as yet, no general theory of biological design.
Whilst some ID proponents – Ann Gauger, Douglas Axe are perhaps most prominent among them – have tried to develop ID as science, the general scientific community and the wider world have remained unimpressed.
Then a new young vigorous player appears on the field. Step forward, Eric Holloway! Dr Holloway has produced a number of articles published at Mind Matters – a blog sponsored by the Discovery Institute (the paymasters of ID) on artificial and “natural” intelligence. He has also been quite active here and elsewhere defending ID and I have had to admire his persistence in arguing his case for ID, especially as the whole concept is, in my view, indefensible.
But! Do I see cracks appearing? I happened to glance at the blog site formerly run by William Dembski, Uncommon Descent, and noticed an exchange of comments on a thread entitled Once More from the Top on “Mechanism” The post author is Barry Arrington, current owner of UD and a lawyer by trade, usually too busy to produce a thoughtful or incisive piece (and this is no different). However, the comments get interesting when Dr Holloway joins in at comment 48. He writes:
If we can never be sure we account for all chance hypotheses, then how can we be sure we do not err when making the design inference? And even if absolute certainty is not our goal, but only probability, how can we be confident in the probability we derive?
Eric continues with a few more remarks that seem to raise concern among the remaining regulars. ( ” Geeze you are one confused little pup EricMH.” “Has a troll taken over Eric’s account?) and later comments:
But since then, ID has lost its way and become enamored of creationism vs evolution, apologetics and the culture wars, and lost the actual scientific aspect it originally had. So, ID has failed to follow through, and is riding on the cultural momentum of the original claims without making progress.
Dr Holloway continues to deliver home truths:
I would most like to be wrong, and believe that I am, but the ID movement, with one or two notable exceptions, has not generated much positive science. It seems to have turned into an anti-Darwin and culture war/apologetics movement. If that’s what the Discovery Institute wants to be, that is fine, but they should not promote themselves as providing a new scientific paradigm.
I invite those still following the fortunes of ID to read on, though I recommend scrolling past comments by ET and BA77. Has Dr Holloway had a road-to-Damascus moment? Is the jig finally up for ID? I report – you decide!