What is Intelligent Design and what does it imply?

In its current reincarnation, intelligent design is either:
  1. A debate between a community of devout and knowledgeable Christians and a small group of atheistic scientists, inspired only by personal greed and power seeking, who are trying to push their godless agenda on an unsuspecting public.
  2.      -or-
  3. A debate between a small group of reactionaries who are seeing their power base erode and are fighting with any means they can think of to recover it and a  slow cultural shift in humanity away from meaningless superstition an towards reality and justice.  It is spearheaded if not led by those who are better educated and more knowledgeable about the real world.
Intelligent Design looks at a single animal (seldom a plant or bacteria) and sees the hand of a designer.  Scientists look at the whole sweep of history, all 4.5 billion years on earth, and see evolution.  Lets take something a little simpler.  How about an airplane, say a 747 or the Wright flier, or perhaps the whole group of airplanes.  Did they evolve starting with Icarus or were they all designed by (? - call him X or perhaps Orville and Wilbur)?  Not a very helpful question - we need to follow the whole design process, learning how the "design" originated and change, by whom, and how was it done.

If you look at a single 747 it is truly an amazing thing.  Tens of thousands of parts, all doing their own thing but all working together to carry hundreds of people thousands of miles.  It truly took an amazing designer to build such a thing.  However if you look at the whole history of flight, from the dreams of people throughout the centuries as typified by Icarus, to the builders of the first hot air balloons, to the early attempts at heavier than air machines, to the first planes of the Wright brothers, and then to the rapid advancement in aircraft during the 20th century - it all starts making a lot more sense.  I still find a 747 an amazing piece of machinery and it is very real to me, I traveled across the Pacific in one.  However when I look at the hundreds of years and the hundreds of thousands of individuals and companies who have worked on and dreamed of flight it begins to make sense.  What strikes me is all of the failures, all of the attempts that didn't work.  Every advance was preceded by numerous trials that didn't work or didn't work that well.  Sometimes whole systems were borrowed from completely different areas.  The Wright Brothers didn't invent the internal combustion engine, they just modified  the existing ones and used them in a different way.  This is exactly how evolution occurred.

When I was in college I took a course on the Philosophy of Religion.  Many early peoples were thought to believe in animism - power, spirituality, God - resided in natural objects like unusual rock formations, rivers, springs, mountains, etc.  Later the Gods become more human, they were a group of people who had supernatural powers, Zeus with his lightning bolts, Mercury with his winged feet, etc.  Other than that they were just like humans with loves, fights, affairs, etc.  Then later on, primarily in the Middle East came the original Jews, the followers of Zoroaster, and others who believed in a single God who was all-knowing, all-seeing, and all-powerful instead of the split and limited powers of the previous Gods.

To me, a God who could sit down and design a 747, or perhaps a horse or bacterium, is very similar to the Gods of the Greeks.  Maybe I couldn't design a 747, but there are people who could - perhaps not all by themselves but a whole group of people could and did.  Humans still can't sit down and design a horse, change them a little bit yes, but not design.  It's not quite so clear on bacteria or viruses.  I personally wouldn't be placing any long term bets right now.

To me, a truly all-knowing, all-powerful, all-seeing God could have sat down about 13 billion years ago and specified a number of physical laws that would have resulted in a Big Bang which in turn created early stars which exploded and created heavy elements like oxygen, carbon, iron, gold, etc.  Some of these elements, especially carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur, hydrogen, and others to a lesser degree have the capability of forming very complex compounds.  A true all-seeing, all-knowing God could have looked at these physical laws and seen a bacterium, a 747, a horse, and a human.  He wouldn't be limited to designing them one at a time.  Such a God could imagine life and envision higher feelings like love, ethics, and morality.  Even though the concept of "love" is pretty much lost on a plant, a recently discovered dinosaur has been given the common name of "good mother dinosaur" because of the nests that they built for their eggs and the obvious implications of maternal care.

Inherent in such a 13 billion year old design would be the result that when a species like humans became populous and civilized enough that there would arise leaders like Abraham, Jesus, Zoroaster, Buddha, and many others who would point to a better future for all humans if we base our societies on love and nurturance instead of power and control.