Thus it is with a tinge of sadness that I read Virginia Allen's recent letter "Intelligent design charlatans," in which she demonstrated knowing less than myself about this movement, while grossly misrepresenting the scope of its fundamental claims along the way.
The fundamental claim of intelligent design, according to one of its major proponents, is that "There are natural systems that cannot be adequately explained in terms of undirected natural forces and that exhibit features which in any other circumstance we would attribute to intelligence (William A. Dembski. "The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions about Intelligent Design." Downers Grove, Ill.: Intervarsity Press, 2004, p. 27)." Dembski argues that there are methods by which one can differentiate between intelligent causes and undirected natural causes in natural systems, and that these causes are empirically detectable. Intelligent design theorists point to special sciences like forensic science, cryptography, and archaeology as examples of disciplines that already use well-defined methods to make this distinction.
It is with this fundamental claim of intelligent design in mind that we turn to Ms. Allen's critique: "Proposing the existence of an agent (God or divine creator or intelligent designer) to get the process of generation going is no explanation at all if the existence of each necessary being is logically dependent on the prior existence of an infinite number of such beings." It's clear that Ms. Allen is engaging in a bit of her own logically fallacious reasoning: attacking a caricature of a position rather than engaging the position itself, also known as attacking a straw man. Intelligent design makes no claims about getting "the process of generation going," as Ms. Allen asserts, rather, according to Dembski, it inquires into the cause of matter and energy's present arrangements (Dembski, p. 38). As intelligent design is a scientific research program and, contra Ms. Allen, not an ultimate metaphysical theory of origins, it is not vulnerable to her proposed "infinite regress problem." Intelligent design and creation are logically distinct concepts.
Ms. Allen concludes her irrelevant critique, "Very little more need be said about 'intelligent design' as a scientific explanation for the origins of life on this planet. As an argument, it is a non-starter." It seems, rather, that it is Ms. Allen's uninformed critique that is the non-starter.