ID in A Thousand Words
ID proponent Mark Hartwig offers up this explanation of ID “thoery.” It's posted at the website The Reality Check. With a name like that, you just know you're dealing with right-wing cranks.
Anyway, here's an excerpt:
In contrast to what is called creation science, which parallels Biblical theology, ID rests on two basic assumptions: namely, that intelligent agents exist and that their effects are empirically detectable.
Its chief tool is specified complexity. That's a mouthful, and the math behind it is forbidding, but the basic idea is simple: An object displays specified complexity when it has lots of parts (is complex) arranged in a recognizable, delimited pattern (is specified).
For example, the article you're now reading has thousands of characters, which could have been arranged in zillions of ways. Yet it fits a recognizable pattern: It's not just a jumble of letters (which is also complex), but a magazine article written in English. Any rational person would conclude that it was designed.
The effectiveness of such thinking is confirmed by massive experience. As Dembski points out, “In every instance where we find specified complexity, and where [its] history is known, it turns out that design actually is present.” (Emphasis in Original).
From here Hartwig goes on to hit the standard talking points about the flagellum and all the rest.
Actually, Hartwig makes a serious blunder when he says that Dembski's notion of “complexity” has to do with the number of parts a system possesses. In reality, Dembski uses the term “complex” to indicate that the system has a low probability of forming by “chance” (whatever that means). Dembski is quite explicit in his writing that standard Darwinian mechanism can, in principle, craft multi-part systems. Hartwig is confusing Dembski's specified complexity with Behe's irreducible complexity.
This is not a small error, either, since one of the chief problems with Dembski's method is that, as a practical matter, we never have enough information to do a meanignful probability calculation regarding the formation of a complex system. But that is a subject for a different post.
Actually, it was something else that really struck me. Hartwig's essay weighs in at 1048 words. In that tiny amount of space he has managed to explain ID theory in its entirety.
You can read Dembski's collected works and learn nothing about specified complexity beyond what Hartwig describes. The math in Dembski's books is forbidding only because he is careful to make it so. If he explained his ideas clearly it would be obvious to everyone that his arguments are not correct. You can read Behe if you like, but after reading the sentence about how irreducibly complex structures can't evolve gradually you will have absorbed everything he has to offer.
Try to imagine giving a coherent summary of modern evolutionary biology in just over a thousand words. It couldn't be done. Evolution is so rich, rests on so many different pillars, makes contributions to so many different areas of science, relies on so many different methods, and has so much evidence supporting it that you could do no more than give the vaguest outline of what it is all about in so short an essay.
ID proponents have been clamoring for equal time for well over a decade. In all those years their scientific thinking has not progressed beyond what can be explained to laymen in a thousand words. Surely that says everything you need to know about the scientific potential of Intelligent Design.