A Comparison:
General Intelligent Design Versus Restricted Design Theory

Robert A. Herrmann Ph. D.
12 NOV 2000. Last revision 20 MAR 2019.

In this article, I contrast the design theory I originated in 1979, with that of the more recent notions of design as championed by members of the Discovery Institute (DI) in Seattle WA. The original 1979 mathematical model for intelligent design, at that time, was called "general design theory" and now is denoted as the General Intelligent Design model (GID-model or simply GID). The DI form of design theory is termed as Restricted Intelligent Design theory (RID) by me and I hope all of humanity. Outside of this website, with but a few exceptions, the symbols ID or term "intelligent design" always applies only to the concept as originally presented, in 1998, and today disseminated by the Discovery Institute. Many other organizations and individuals continue to stress the DI form of ID.

This article discusses intelligent design as it is related to physical entities and their behaviors. The GID-model is an "intelligently designed" or intelligent agency interpretation of the General Grand Unification model (GGU-model), where two types of "intelligence" are investigated. Relative to the GID-model, it is determined, independent from the patterns produced and any so-called physical laws, that the procedures themselves that produce or alter the behavior of a physical-system are intelligently designed and that the production of and alterations in the behavior of a physical-system are intelligently designed via definable deductive procedures. GID-intelligence is scientifically measurable, while RID intelligence is not measurable. It is significant that (GID) intelligence is an "higher" form of deductive reasoning, with additional features, which is mathematically predicted from the standard form of deductive reasoning we employ throughout our daily activities.

RID is a statistical or descriptive approach used in an attempt to establish surmised intelligence, where the word "design" is the nounal form. For RID, intelligence is implied by investigating the "purposefulness" for specific designs. The term RID includes the original design notions of Dembski and Behe. If certain "patterns" are detected by this RID approach, then it is simply asserted as fact that such patterns are intelligently designed because they serve a describable physical purpose. The RID assertion that a pattern (a design) reveals an "intelligent" intent only pertains to a few patterns that correspond to what humans might consider as existing for intelligent "purposes". But, GID-intelligent design is entirely unrelated to the "purpose" notion and is entirely related to measurable modes of logical deduction.

Only the articles that do not appear on this website are listed in the "References." Rather than write an exhaustive study, for this immediate article, only a few of the more significant aspects of the two theories are contrasted. I note that chance is involved with the Dembski and Behe original 1998 RID notions. Before making a tentative RID "design" assertion, one must eliminate any known evolutionary "chance" mechanism as a cause. GID-intelligent design is not dependent upon any actual physical law. But it does satisfy such laws if they are fact. In contrast to this RID notation, probability models yield some of the most powerful evidence for intelligent design by a higher-intelligence.

1. (If needed, a GGU-model glossary of terms can be found at Glossary.) The term "GGU-model," usually signifies the "Complete GGU-model," a combination of the GGU-model schemes and the GID-model. Two significant features of the GGU-model are that it is falsifiable and testable (9, p. 73). Neither of these necessary aspects of the basic scientific method hold for RID.

(I) The mathematical GGU-model operators used to produce a physical universe can be interpreted as force-like or physical-like processes that actually produce physical-system behavior, alter physical-system behavior or characteristics, create physical-systems from more fundamental physical-systems and produce the "patterns" displayed within our physical world.

(II) (GID) A major step in physical science discourse is modeled by GID. GID-intelligence is composed of the rationally generated step-by-step general language "descriptions" for the construction of and step-by-step develop of a universe. For the Complete GGU-model, these descriptions directly correspond to GGU-model processes that produce the corresponding entities being described. The basic GGU-model process that accomplishes this also corresponds to the same intelligently applied deductive actions as that exhibited by GID-intelligence. Further, all of the GGU-model operators used reveal a signature that identifies them as designed by a GID-defined intelligent agent. (It is possible to consider portions of this interpretation as but "apparent intelligence." This notion is part of the "self-reference" universe. ". . . the universe gives birth to consciousness, and consciousness gives meaning to the universe.")

(III) Statement (II) corresponds to a totally separate theological interpretation than that employed by members of the Discovery Institute.

The Complete GGU-model concepts and they corresponding descriptions are scientifically rational in character. Once an individual chooses an interpretation, then the evidence for the scientific acceptance of this interpretation is examined. As always occurs with a "General" theory, in all of these cases, the mathematical structure can be "truncated" in that various predicted results can be asserted as extraneous. However, one GGU-model result unifies all scientific physical theories and gives a specific method to obtain the best possible unification. The GGU-model is the only known solution to the General Grand Unification problem. The GGU-model may be considered as purely physical-like in character.

Relative to the GID-interpreted GGU-model, the basic hypotheses are verified billions of times a day. Further, this model is so highly scientific in character that whenever an individual conducts a scientific experiment and the experiment verifies an inductive or deductive statement, then this also verifies the GID interpreted GGU-model.

2. The Dembski-Behe, etc., Discovery Institute (DI) form of restricted design cannot be interpreted as in (I) and is, if applicable at all, restricted to but a few physical-systems. Dembski's design notion he terms specified-complexity (3). In an answer to criticism of his approach (10), Dembski states in (4) "specified complexity is not just one of several ways for reinstating design in physical sciences - it is the only way." This is an absurd statement if Dembski means "intelligent" design since he has not defined "design" explicitly. Although the GID-model implies RID, where applicable, Dembski's statement does not include the types of intelligence discussed by the GID-model. It is made in a flawed attempt to justify his theory. Further, Dembski's method requires that all known and even any additional physical laws that may be discovered in the future not be considered as "intelligently designed" as he and other members of the DI define RID. For GID, all such laws are intelligently designed.

It is general practice among some members of philosophic or scientific communities, in order to boaster the significance of a theory, to make unfounded assertions in such a way that only their theory applies. This Dembski does, in this case, by asserting "design" and rejecting any "design" notion if RID does not apply. Dembski's portion of RID is applied only to certain patterns of behavior that satisfy his Filter requirements. Thus, for this RID approach, only a very, very few entities within our universe are intelligently designed. Further, his design notion is restricted to the level of human or materialistic intelligence and does not imply the notion of an "higher" intelligence. In GID (9), intelligence refers to agency (actions) and whether the actions are GID-intelligently designed. Any patterns produced by GID agency are, necessarily, GID-intelligently designed patterns. There are many physical-system behavior patterns that are termed as "chaotic" and are not RID designed. However, via mathematical means, they can be produced by human modes of intelligence. They are, of course, GID-intelligently designed. (Note: In various articles I write, when it is clearly understood, GID-intelligent design is simply denoted by the words "intelligent design.")

Dembski states, "The fact is, however, that it takes considerable knowledge on our part to come up with the right patterns (specifications) for eliminating chance and inferring design" (4). The complete facts are, as pointed out in (10), that one needs an infinite amount of knowledge to be convinced, by application of Dembski's Filter, that something is intelligently designed via RID. One most first reject the Chance hypothesis. This requires one to ". . . know what probability distribution(s), if any, were operating to produce the event." (10, p.41) Without this knowledge the Chance hypothesis cannot be rejected. However, there are many such probability distributions that could apply and even many that have a maximum probably of less than Dembski's magic number now placed at about 1/[10120] with variations. Indeed, the RID notion of "chance" requires the notion to capture all probabilistic knowledge, objective or subjective, relevant to the declaration of design by "chance." As shown in (9), major contributors to physics require one to accept that all patterns of physical-system behavior are controlled by such Chance hypotheses even though the exact distributions have not, as yet, been discovered.

3. Throughout modern materialistic science "chance" or "general randomness" is a major feature for all physical-system behavior. If you "eliminate" all relevant behavior that is highly probable and if it is possible to show that the entire "chance" category is highly improbable as a cause (which depends upon complete knowledge), then you can assert, in certain cases, that the pattern is "designed" if the pattern also satisfies within nature an independent humanly comprehensible "purposeful" pattern. Such intelligence is only inferred since the claim, using the RID approach, is that such patterns indicate a type of intelligent "pre-design." But, as shown in 10 below, this conclusion is cosmology dependent. Further, relative to the RID approach, most members of the evolutionary community argue that one cannot assign the "highly improbable" status to biological entities due to the presence of unknown constituents during their evolutionary development and "physical selection" is capable of producing, by mere chance, the same design that serves the exact same describable purpose.

Relative to his approach, Behe himself stated in the book were he presents his major conclusions that he has "no reason to doubt common descent." Notice that the evolutionary community has eliminated a vast amount of uncertainty in biological evolution by establishing redundancy as a common feature of living organisms. They also admit that the few examples of Behe's complexity notion have yet to be satisfactory "explained" by redundancy or by any other mechanism. They also have no doubt that they will be able to explain this "illusion" after appropriate research. Irreducibly complex biological objects within nature can still be viewed probabilistically, but this intuitively seems highly improbable, when our present knowledge is applied. It appears that many known irreducibly complex patterns also satisfy Dembski's notion of specified-complexity. As mentioned, this notion is cosmology dependent.

There is the notion of "general or absolute randomness" used within philosophy. This notion is the stance that there is absolutely no relation, describable in any language, which would "predict explicitly" such behavior although the patterns can be described. Of course, one can often assign a subjective probabilistic measure to such a notion. For those that make this claim, there is a 100% chance that the behavior is "generally random." From the discussion in this section, one should conclude that any RID assertion that something is intelligently designed is tentative. But since intelligence is defined in GID, it has been explicitly or implicitly established by mathematical analysis that any specific "chance" event that is probabilistically predicted to occur, or that satisfies any possible statistical distribution as well as any physical-system perturbation relative to predictive behavior is not only designed by an intelligent agent but each such event is guided in its presentation by an intelligently designed action.

Various intelligent designed signatures are displayed by application of the GGU-model operators. GID results now show that any claimed general random behavior displays a specific a higher-intelligence signature (9a). Further, all such behavior serves a definite purpose. There are thousands of examples where human intelligence is applied to produce designs that serve only one purpose. The design simply "pleases" the designer. The designs may even be judged by some as mere "random" collections of entities. From the viewpoint of GID, if various levels of specifically described "mental" processes are applied to obtain any patterns of behavior for any physical objects, then independent from any individual's assumptions as to the significance of the patterns, they are intelligently produced and, hence, the patterns are intelligently designed.

4. (i) (Physical Law.) Obtaining a statement for a "physical law" whether from observed empirical evidence or by other means requires a human logic-system.

(ii) (Scientific Theories.) A highly intelligent scientist using human mental processes constructs an exceptionally complex theory that predicts a pattern for physical-system behavior. It is verified by laboratory experiment that such a predicted pattern is highly probable.

(iii) (General Applications of physical Laws.) In order to make predictions for the highly probably physical behavior of a physical-system, it is easily shown either through computer simulation or directly that the application of human deductive processes is mimicking the step-by-step application of the physical laws that yield the predicted pattern.

(iv) The vast majority of scientists accept that the behaviors described or predicted by physical laws and accepted physical theories correspond to reality.

GID states that (i), (ii) and (iii) satisfy the requirements for intelligently agency, whereas (i), (ii) and (iii) are rejected as examples of RID intelligent agency. I point out that (i), (ii), (iii) and (iv) yield observable evidence for the GID-model. [A more detailed discussion about the necessity for considering categories (i), (ii), (iii) as indicating intelligent design can be found in this article.]

5. Physical-system behavior or the patterns produced by such behavior that are classified as being RID in character are, as mentioned, also classified as GID-designs. Thus, designs that satisfy the criteria for RID form a proper subset of those that satisfy the Complete GGU-model criteria.

6. GID and RID make no fundamental appeal within their hypotheses to Scripture. Further, it appears rather important to RID theorists, such as Dembski, that their theory does not imply a cause. "Now it's true that simply knowing that an object is complex and specified tells us nothing about its causal history. Even so, it's not clear why this should be regarded as a defect of the concept. It might equally well be regarded as a virtue for enabling us neatly to separate whether something is designed from how it was produced. . . the claim that they provide no causal story is true but hardly relevant - causal stories must always be assessed on a case-by-case basis independently from general statistical considerations" (4).

Via interpretation, The Complete GGU-model identifies specific intelligent "causes" or sources. Unfortunately, many individuals do not know what the word "interpretation" signifies and the fact that additional interpretations need NOT be made. In RID, an intelligent agent that may have produced a design is only surmised externally and characterized by such statements as Behe's relative to his notion of a design being irreducibly complex. He writes, ". . . intelligent agents are the only entities known to be able to construct irreducibly complex systems" (2, p. 156). But this is a human observation and, thus, the intelligent agents being implied by irreducible complexity can be no more intelligent than the human being who makes the observation. Moreover, the phrase "only entities known" is tentative and can be overturned by further investigation.

What constitutes a description for the features of a RID event seems to require a specific language (10). But, future or different languages can invalidate this claim. GID is not dependent upon the language used to describe an event. GID does use language as a foundation, but the language is a general language that represents all of the modes of human perception as such perception can be re-produced through "virtual reality" techniques. As shown in (9), there are generally highly probable and apparently random patterns of behavior that humans intelligently design for specific purposes. Since the general patterns produced are highly probable, the RID community cannot detect that these patterns are designed. But, the GID-model begins with a definable notion of intelligence and shows that one can accept as empirically established the statement that "all such physical-system behavior and the patterns produced are designed by intelligent actions."

Science is usually interested in the "cause and effect" notion. For the GGU-model, the cause and effect notion is used as a means for us to predict future cosmology dependent physical behavior. As pointed out above, there is nothing in the language of specified complexity that allows for a type (I) interpretation. Often, interpretation (III) comprises a combination of (I) and (II). Using type (I), one has a description as to "how" such designs may be produced. Assume that the "nothing" in Dembski's statement "nothing about its causal history" truly means just that, "nothing." Nothing certainly means that a mere change in interpretation would not identify a "cause" or source. Indeed, if one interprets RID in theological terms, then apparently RID applies equally well to any of the numerous "gods" that have "creator" attributes (6). Indeed, Dembski even states that RID applies to "creation" by an intelligent alien life-form.

For the truncated Complete GGU-model, interpretation (I) does not imply a single source. It does not imply that intelligent actions are the general cause. If you remove the truncation, interpretation (I) does yield a single intelligent source H, the theory-creating source. As a theorist, I admit that the Complete GGU-model does tell us a great deal more about an implied single source, when interpretation (I) and (II) are applied. No case-by-case investigation is necessary. Many of my published articles and those that appear on this website show how predicted intelligent actions can, via interpretation, be attributed to a single source. This can lead to a theological interpretation of (II) (i.e. (III)) that models numerously many, strictly understood, Scriptural statements. These describe the creationary attributes of the Scriptural Godhead and, thus, this implies, by such an identification, a single Scriptural source. I will never hide this fact, although it may cause some to reject the secular GGU-model based only upon this Complete GGU-model fact. However, rejecting the secular GGU-model or the GID interpretation based upon such a stance is nonsensical since almost all scientific theories, and especially cosmologies, have theological interpretations.

7. Of course, there remain similarities between RID and the GID-model. In (5), we find that restricted ". . . design is not young earth creationism. . . Design as a theory holds to neither a day-age, nor a gap, nor an apparent age interpretation of Genesis." GID-intelligent design shares these qualities, but only under the (II) interpretation. The Complete GGU-model with its combined interpretation actually upholds the "rationality" of each of these theological interpretations and hundreds of others. However, the mere rationality of a statement does not make it factual.

8. Behe is concerned with his form of design theory being classified as part of creationary science. "Scott refers to me as an intelligent design 'creationist,' even though I clearly write in my book Darwin's Black Box (which Scott cites) that I am not a creationist and have no reason to doubt common descent" (1). Then Dembski fears being considered a fundamentalist. "Nonetheless, design theorists are frequently accused of being, if not fundamentalists, then crypto-fundamentalists." He believes that RID theorists should be placed " . . . squarely within the mainstream of American evangelicalism" (4). (I point out that recently Dembski has removed himself from all DI RID activities.)

dec The methods used to produce the Complete GGU-model and its predictions are those used within the subject termed as Physical Cosmology. Due to the vast differences between GID and RID and the fact that various court decisions have stated that RID conclusions are not obtained by accepted "scientific" means, GID must not be confused with RID. To do this, it is necessary not to associate GID with the RID material presented by any individual associated with the Discovery Institute. Further, almost all Internet discussions relative to ID are actually only relative to RID, but they give the impression that the discussion applies to all forms of ID. This is, of course, a false impression. Most certainly, GID is not mentioned due to its rather strong theological interpretation and that it counters the atheists claims that Biblical creationism is "irrational."

9. Dembski's second book (7) seems intended to popularize his notions on specified complexity and its role relative to one aspect of "information theory." However, as shown in (8), all specific information (11) is actually designed by the same type of operators that are interpreted as in (I), (II), or (III).

10. Using RID to mathematically infer design for "nature," requires exceptionally small probabilities that the design is by chance, assuming all chance behavior is known. But, the validity of such small probability requirements depends upon the cosmology one chooses. Various members of the scientific community are selecting a multiple-universe (multiverse) cosmology that essentially considers a potentially infinite set of distinct "universe-like" objects and we dwell in one of them that has, by absolute chance, been "fine-tuned" to support our type of life-forms. It's even speculated that the multiple-universe cosmology universe-like objects can be controlled by a different set of parameters or even completely different sets of processes. Such collections of universes also satisfy the GGU-model and satisfy GID on various levels.

For multiple-universes, care must be taken when applying probability-models that appear to predict behavior within our universe and appear to be fixed models for particular scenarios. Further, the probability notions presented by these models are consistent with the frequency definition and the actual trials can be performed within each universe. Assume that there is a fixed collection P of such models that apply to each universe and each universe develops under the same type of probabilistic processes that appear to govern our universe. The existence of even infinitely (denumerably) many disjoint universes of this type would have no affect upon probability-models in collection P. The existence of such universes does not affect the frequency interpretation within a universe. These are objective probabilities.

Significantly, there are many probabilities that apply to special physical scenarios, which are not members of P and that are rather subjective in character. This is especially the case with conditional probabilities, where the "conditions" can occur only a few times within one universe. For these special physical scenarios, the conditional probability can be interpreted for the multiple-universe model via the frequency notion of experimental repetition. If the number of universes is exceptional large, then this leads to the conclusion that the physical events being modeled would almost certainly occur within one such universe even if they are highly improbable within a single universe cosmology. Although the actual cause can be attributed to the notion of "random trials and a random cause" some individuals conclude that the occurrences of such special physical events is evidence for the existence of multiple universes and cite a multiple-universe cosmology as an additional physical cause for the events.

A collection of infinitely many disjoint universes (technically, at least, denumerably infinite) each containing a finite amount of material and each developing under the same general parameter-guided probabilistic types of physical laws and physical theories (i.e. libraries) is constructed in (9, p. 161). Indeed, from the viewpoint of properton theory, assigning to each collection of the needed universe-generating propertons a specific "phase" can generate these disjoint universes. In this case, the universes would not interact with each other and each can develop under perceived but distinct "physical laws." Suppose that a specific Q-event behaves, relative to the collection of universes, like a single trial Bernoulli event and the probability is approximately 1/k for each. Assuming the Strong Law of Large Numbers holds, then there is a trial number m such that if X is the number of Q-events that occur, then |X/m -1/k | < 1/k. Hence, the Q-event must occur at least once during the "m" trials. Thus, no matter what the probability will be for a special physical event to occur within a single universe cosmology, the event will occur within, at least, one universe for an infinite collection of universes of this type. Since any finite collection of universes removed from the infinite collection leaves an infinite collection, a simple induction proof shows that there is a potentially infinite set of such universes U. Of course, this result also holds for a finite collection of Q-events occurring within a single universe.

Using this additional information, letting Q = chance, you cannot state that the event will not occur by chance within our universe, since it will occur by chance in a potentially infinite collection U and there can be no physical science information that our universe is not a member of U. Hence, assuming that the RID methods are viable, then physical science cannot know whether the event is or is not a chance event since physical science cannot determine whether or not our universe is a member of such a U. This means that to apply RID a purely philosophic stance must be taken with respect to an accepted cosmology. RID and complexity arguments are not independent from cosmologies.

However, GID-intelligent design is independent from such selected cosmologies. Although not all aspects of the GID-model need apply absolutely, one aspect that does apply completely is that it is rational to state that each multiple-universe cosmology and the behavior of each constituent contained in each of these universes display GID-intelligent designs. [As discussed in (9), there are also arguments that any design inference is only apparent (i.e. physical design) and is based upon the evolution of human consciousness.]

11. One of the most significant differences between the GID and RID is related to interpretation III, a theological interpretation. Any RID claim of intelligent design does not directly imply that the design requires an "higher intelligence." For this reason, RID does not counter most forms of Biblical distortion. Indeed, many distinct theologies will not contradict RID notions. That is, RID does not point to a specific member of a large collection of theologies. It can be accepted as a "universal god" concept.

On the other hand, the GID-model predicts that all universes are intelligently designed by an higher-intelligence. This predicted higher-intelligence satisfies numerously many interpreted Biblical statements. Further, among other results for this interpretation, the GGU-model implies that all physical-systems within our universe are, in all respects, created without the use of any material objects and our universe is created for definite Biblical purposes. This interpretation also counters Biblical distortions and shows, for example, the complete rationality for all of the strictly interpreted creationary statements written in Genesis 1, as well as, the Genesis Flood descriptions.

12. There are many other startling differences between these two notions. One major difference as previously mentioned is the concept of the "purposeful design." Such a design is one that has been "guided by a definite aim." RID requires a description for the "definite aim," the use, etc. for a design or behavior, and then by comparison restricted design theorists claim that such a restricted design could only come about through the means of intelligent agency. However, the "aims" refer to a few materialistic outcomes. All of the identified restricted designs that satisfy such described aims are also GID-designs. But, as shown there are purposeful general GID-designs that do not satisfy restricted design purposes. Often, the many differences depend upon your choice of (I), (II) or (III).

In terms of interpretation (II), you'll find at this URL a summary of many, but not all, of the results obtained from the GID-model. This is a summary relative to the intelligent design of a physical universe. If you have any questions that pertain to this article, you might receive an answer by addressing your question to e-mail, where the "subject" is to be only the one word "GID."

(1) Behe, M. J. Intelligent Design is Not Creationism. Response to "Not (Just) in Kansas Anymore" by Eugenie C. Scott, Science (May 2000), Science online (July 7, 2000), Discovery Institute WWW Site, Under "Articles By Michael J. Behe."

(2) Behe, M. J. Self-Organization and Irreducibly Complex Systems: A Reply to Shanks and Joplin, Philosophy of Science, 67(2000):155-162.

(3) Dembski, W. A. The Design Inference -- Eliminating Chance Through Small Probabilities, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1998).

(4) Dembski, W. A. Another Way To Detect Design? Preliminary reply to review by B. Fitelson, C. Stephens, and Elliott Sober of The Design Inference in the Sept. 1999 issue of Philosophy of Science, "How not to detect design". (June 28, 2000), Discovery Institute WWW Site, Under "Articles By William A. Dembski."

(5) Dembski, W. A. What Every Theologian Should Know about Creation, Evolution, and Design, (April 1, 1996), The Princeton Theological Review, Discovery Institute WWW Site, Under "Articles By William A. Dembski."

(6) Kern, L. In God's Country, (December 14, 2000) Houston Press.

(7) Dembski, W. A. Intelligent Design: The Bridge between Science and Theology Intervarsity Press, (1999).

(8) Herrmann, R. A. Information Theory, Consequence Operators and the Origin of Life, C. R. S. Quarterly, 36(3)(1999):123-132.

(9) Herrmann, R. A. Science Declares Our Universe IS Intelligently Designed Xulon Press, Fairfax VA, 2002.

(9a) Herrmann, R. A. http://arxiv.org/abs/quant-ph/0112037 Probability Models and Ultralogics.

(10) Fitelson, B., C. Stephens, E. Sober, How not to Detect Design (Review of Dembski's The Design Inference - Eliminating Chance Through Small Probabilities.) Philosophy of Science (Sept. 1999).

(11) Gitt, W. Information and Entropie als Bindeglieder diverser Wissenschaftszwiege PTB-Mitt. 91(1981):1-17. (This is the first in a series of articles by Gitt relative to this notion. The need for specific information can be traced to earlier writers such as K. Steinbuch in 1968.)

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