I was first exposed to the concept of Intelligent Design [ID], as well as Creationism, during my Junior year of High School. It was at this point that I was taking Biology class, which was beginning to cover the Theory of Evolution. We as a class were shown a video, that I thought might be a propaganda hit piece, which was geared to paint Intelligent Design as “repackaged creationism.” The overall aim in the video was to push the agenda that Intelligent Design doesn’t belong in our schools, and therefore should not be taught in the Science classroom. I recall a statement made by my High School Biology teacher suggesting that Creationism specifically had come about during the 1970’s, and had been refuted. Unless my memory is failing me, I seem to remember my Biology teacher making the connection between Creationism and Intelligent Design.
In spite of the fact that the commentary was entirely negative, I still found the concept of Intelligent Design compelling, and wasn’t entirely swayed by the conclusions of the video. I wanted to know more, and did in fact engage in some limited research. I agreed with the conclusion that life was far too complex to have arisen by what I would later term “naturalistic processes”, and was immediately skeptical of Neo-Darwinian Evolution from the start. Yet in some ways I didn’t fully grasp how to dig into the matter thoroughly, and therefore I did not hear about the concept of “Irreducible Complexity” until after my conversion to Christianity.
During those days of my Junior year, I adopted a position of “Agnosticism.” My brief classification of myself under those beliefs was based largely due to an imperfect understanding of what an Agnostic actually is, derived from a series of conversations between a few perhaps misinformed teenagers during lunch and in-between classes. I was told by a friend that an Agnostic is some one who believes there might be a higher power, but that you are not able to really identify who or what that higher power is. This might be a fairly close definition, but I think still somewhat off. Without really understanding all of the issues involved, I adopted the title merely because I liked the way it sounded in view of the direction the Intelligent Design concept was causing me to swing.
I was slightly discouraged from the concept however when I ran into criticism of ID, particularly using a repackaged variant of the “problem of evil” argument. Nevertheless an awareness of the idea was in the back of my mind, and it opened the door for later research. Fast forward to five years or so after my conversion. A concern about encounters with Atheists has recently motivated me to dig into Apologetics. Somewhere in the midst of all my reading, I stumbled across Intelligent Design again.
I learned that my High School Biology teacher either lied to us or was deceived herself. It was clear that Creationists often criticize Intelligent Design because it doesn’t necessarily land you on the God of the Bible. By contrast, Creationism is geared as a defense of the Bible whereas Intelligent Design takes no stance on the issue. Key Creationist beliefs, such as a 6,000 year old Earth, belief in a Global-Flood, or a literal 24-hour creation week are totally left out of the discussion. In fact, not all of the proponents of Intelligent Design are Christians. Some of them are Agnostics! Some “FAQ” sections of their websites have even stated that you don’t necessarily have to make the deduction that simply because something is intelligently designed, therefore it was supernaturally created.
The Intelligent Design Movement or “IDM” is obviously steering clear from religious questions, focusing instead on scientific investigation. As I devoured scores of Creationist and Intelligent Design Articles, the differences between the two became clear to my mind and I quickly discerned that there was something wrong with what I had been taught in High School. In fact, before I had thought of the possibility that our teacher was deceived herself the thought that they were lying to us crossed my mind. These obvious differences between the two movements were conveniently left out, and we as High School students were indoctrinated to believe that one is a repackaged version of the other. We were spoon-fed what is tantamount to a conspiracy theory that Intelligent Design is a backdoor to get Creationism into Science classrooms, yet my research into the history of the movement showed that it developed independently of Creation Science and well before some of the court rulings banning it from being taught.
I thought that the video shown might be a propaganda hit piece, but I never thought that I would find confirmation! I feel violated, and I even wonder what else in that class was nothing more then an attempt at indoctrination! A friend of mine from Church remarked that the education system is designed to indoctrinate you into naturalism. While I don’t claim to be able to be able to prove such a statement, it certainly makes sense in the light of my own personal experience and the fact that almost all of my friends swung towards Atheism or similar beliefs. I can hardly describe how horrified I actually am!
Yet it’s obvious that their attempts at indoctrination had the exact opposite of the desired effect, because at the time it only triggered me to look into it. Today I know why such a hit piece would be produced. Intelligent Design is powerful and very compelling, and it has convinced me to drop doubts about God’s existence that I at times have struggled with. While it doesn’t necessarily prove the Bible to be true, it certainly falsifies Atheism. In spite of statements by the IDM that you don’t necessarily have to bring in the supernatural, it is something that I personally found very encouraging.
It would seem that the mere fact that I found it encouraging is something which would be used by Intelligent Design’s opponents to make the ridiculous assertion that it is religion and not science. But such an objection would merely be spewed forth on philosophical grounds and not as an evaluation of the actual empirical evidence. In my research thus far, I’ve learned that the “repackaged creationism” label and the “not science” claim are common Darwinian rhetorical strategies and tactics, aimed at maintaining control over the public.
The question then remains, if it doesn’t bring in the supernatural why is it encouraging? How useful is Intelligent Design for the Christian? The work of the ID Movement actually ends up lending Scientific support for one of the classical Apologetics arguments for God’s existence, that being the “Teleological argument” [argument from design.] Thus, it’s research and findings are certainly useful out to a certain point. The fact that it doesn’t bring in the supernatural necessarily or land a person on the God of the Bible definitively means that from here you have more work to do so far as providing evidences in support of Christianity’s truthfulness.
In addition, the IDM has no problem with vast amounts of time for the earth’s age. It’s lack of support for a literal six-day creation week and a global flood means that if you rely on the IDM alone to build your case in support of your beliefs you could end up having more than a few weak spots. This goes back to a previous analogy I gave when addressing Apologetics websites regarding a toolbox. Ultimately this is just one more tool, like a wrench or hammer, to put in your Apologetics toolkit. But it isn’t the sole argument, and it should be remembered that ID Scientists never intended the concept of Intelligent Design to be used as an Apologetic for Christianity.
It should also be noted that thus far Intelligent Design seems to posses the capability of withstanding criticism. In researching some of the arguments raised against it such as the concept of evil design, the panda’s thumb [“sub-optimal” design objection], “who designed the designer” argument, and pre-adaptation/Type-III secretory system arguments I’ve not found them particularly compelling. For instance, “evil design” is a purely theological objection. Somebody merely makes citation of something like viruses or something in nature which appears designed to kill and all of the sudden this simply must refute design.
I find it strange that critics feel as though they must combat Intelligent Design, a strictly empirical approach, with repackaged versions of classical Atheist arguments. Evil design and “who designed the designer” are just dressed-up versions of the “problem of evil” argument and the old schoolyard charge of “who made God”, both of which have been demolished by Christian Apologetics. If such arguments couldn’t stand up to the scrutiny of the Apologetics community, what makes the critics of ID think such strictly theological charges would stand up in this case?
Apparently evil design is only an argument against the goodness of the designer, and therefore doesn’t stand as a convincing case that the life form is not designed. It should also be noted that unless one understands the complete picture of the purpose behind the design, how can one within reason term something “evil”? Spiders for instance are fairly complex creatures, but they also trap and kill insects and are often poisonous. This might seem like evil design on the surface, yet without it perhaps the insect population would explode out of control and become a pretty serious problem. Thus you have something engineered as a population control mechanism, which in this case is not inherently evil. It would more testify to wise planning on the part of the designer rather than wickedness.
Not understanding the full reason of why something was designed can certainly lend to a case of the appearance of evil, but a more complete understanding might perhaps alleviate some of the issues in question. Although not applicable in all cases of apparently evil design, such an argument would theoretically account for some of the problem without bringing theological responses to the table. But even so, there are seemingly evil designs produced by human beings, weapons of warfare [and even mass destruction] being one example. Although designed to kill, they were still designed. Hence “evil” doesn’t really refute the fact that something is the product of design.
It seems more like somebody attempted to throw this charge out in the vain hope that it would present problems for Christians potentially encouraged by Intelligent Design, but in actual fact Christianity is fully-capable of accounting for such things through the fall of man and sin’s impact on the overall creation. Thus a Christian wouldn’t be too discouraged by rehashed Atheist attacks.
Since I linked back to responses to some of the other arguments, I won’t dwell at length on some of the other issues in question. As I personally haven’t found the criticisms compelling, Intelligent Design is therefore something which might be a useful tool in your kit. But it should always be used alongside other arguments and with plenty of research for support. As an article from bethinking notes, you shouldn’t engage in discussions on these issues with those outside the faith armed only with a surface understanding of the issues in question.
Earlier in this article, I noted that my Biology teacher suggested that Creationism came about in the 1970’s and has been refuted. I feel compelled to write about my exploration of creationist articles as well, and so some of the science and reasoning will be addressed in a forthcoming article. But suffice it say I’m not buying into the claims of my Biology teacher in this area either. Making vague references to something being refuted without giving citations or real evidence for support isn’t as convincing of a case as it sounds on the surface.