Some Objections to Intelligent Design
This page contains some of my objections to the theory of intelligent design (ID for short). My objections are primarily theological, since I am not a biologist. Nor am I a professional theologian. I am a Christian practitioner, meaning that I put my Christian beliefs into daily practice. These are questions that have come to me while reading about intelligent design and pondering its implications for Christianity. Some of the implications of Intelligent Design are not compatible with the Biblical view of God.
Intelligent Design is the assertion that biological life on earth could not have come about except by the direct acts of some intelligent designer. Organisms were custom-designed for certain functions, and were put together that way from scratch. ID stands in obvious contrast to Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, which proposes descent with modification from previous forms. Some current proponents of intelligent design are Phillip Johnson, Michael Behe, William Dembski, Jonathan Wells, and the Discovery Institute. The similarities between different species are thought to be evidence of a common designer, not evidence of common descent from a biological ancestor.
Intelligent design theory asserts that certain biological features found in living organism could not have evolved naturally through incremental, useful steps. Dr. Michael Behe has proposed the term "irreducible complexity" to describe these features. A system is irreducibly complex if the removal of one of its parts would render the entire system useless.
In general, advocates of ID accept an old age for the earth, on the order of 4 billion years. Young-earth creationists often borrow arguments from intelligent design without mentioning that the originator believes the earth is far older than 6,000 years. In the early part of 2002 the Ohio State Board of Education held some public hearings to determine if intelligent design should be taught in schools in addition to evolution. Dr. Jonathan Wells spoke in favor of ID, and Christian biologist Dr. Kenneth Miller of Brown University spoke against including intelligent design in the curriculum.
Some proponents of Intelligent Design accept a form of common descent. For example, Dr. Michael Behe accepts the idea that humans and apes have a common biological ancestor.
The "Design Argument" can also include the design of the universe itself, not just biological life forms. This viewpoint asserts that the fundamental constants such as the strength of gravity and the speed of light were carefully chosen to permit life to arise somewhere. Christian astronomer Dr. Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe advocates this view. The term "design" can be understood in several ways, and theists can understand the term "intelligent design" in several more ways. I plan to address only direct biological engineering in this page.
Intelligent design theory is curiously silent on the obvious question of Who is this Intelligent Designer? Young-earth creationists are not shy about saying that it was God who created everything, and theistic evolutionists are also eager to point toward God and His son Jesus Christ. The reasons that ID is comparatively quiet on this question will be discussed below.
The theory of intelligent design is appealing on a superficial level. When I hold up my hand and look at it, I marvel at how all the parts work together, and how it can fix itself when I get a cut. Intelligent design is compelling on the surface, and it has been compelling since William Paley first proposed something like it in 1802 with his "natural theology". However, when we look deeper at the theory it breaks down, on scientific and theological grounds.
Charles Darwin suggested in Origin of Species that biological life forms arose via descent with modification. Each new structure had to be an incremental and useful improvement on an earlier structure. In Chapter 6 ("Difficulties on Theory") he recognized that his theory of evolution was falsifiable if a counter-example could be found, saying: "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find out no such case." (This quotation appears about halfway through chapter 6.)
Creationists and advocates of ID are fond of quoting only the first sentence above, and then suggesting a complex organ or mechanism that they claim could not have evolved through incremental, useful steps. Michael Behe has suggested in his book Darwin's Black Box (1996) that the blood clotting mechanism in humans could not have evolved, because if one protein is removed then the entire sequence is broken. Christian biologist Dr. Kenneth Miller demonstrates in his book Finding Darwin's God (1999) that this is not true. Of course Miller is a good scientist and does not simply talk his way through the demonstration; in chapter 5 ("God the Mechanic") he cites existing animals such as starfish and sea cucumbers that have a simpler blood-clotting mechanism, and contends that they prove the viability of intermediate forms. This is the same line of reasoning that Darwin the naturalist used in other cases, and the one that led him to conclude that "I can find out no such case." The existing simpler forms do not prove or require that the blood coagulation mechanism in humans evolved along that pathway. Such a proof could come from fossils somehow, but no one has yet figured out how to determine such blood-clotting information from fossils because usually only the hard parts are preserved. Nevertheless, these living animals prove the notion that a simpler clotting mechanism is indeed viable and advantageous.
Darwin also wrote at length on the human eye in chapter 6, and marveled at its complexity.
Organs of extreme perfection and complication. To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree. Yet reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a perfect and complex eye to one very imperfect and simple, each grade being useful to its possessor, can be shown to exist; if further, the eye does vary ever so slightly, and the variations be inherited, which is certainly the case; and if any variation or modification in the organ be ever useful to an animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, can hardly be considered real.
In other words: The human eye is truly amazing, but could indeed have been formed by evolution. (Charles Darwin kind of gets himself lost in Victorian verbiage there.)
Creationists often ask the question, "What good is half an eye?" I hope they are asking "What good is an eye lacking half its components?", because asking "What good is the left half of the eye without the right half?" would show gross ignorance about the process of evolution. Behe's use of the term "removal" contributes unintentionally to this misunderstanding, because some readers may understand that the removal involves chopping something out with a knife, instead of a slower and natural removal by projecting the "evolutionary tape" backwards in history.
The answer to the question "What good is half an eye?" is "Plenty!" Here's how you can demonstrate this yourself. Take a friend and go outside on a sunny day. Close your eyes. Now you have a very crummy eye. Your vision is a small fraction of what you had with your eyes open, as if you had some components "removed". However, your eyelids are not perfect blockers of light, and they still let some light pass through to your optic nerve. Turn your face toward the sun. If you can do this without your friend's help, you have already demonstrated the use of half an eye. On a sunny day you could navigate to some extent with your eyes closed, or at least walk in a straight line without going in circles. That's useful.
Keep your face turned toward the sun, and keep your eyes closed. Now ask your friend to wave a hand in front of your face, so that your closed eyes will be alternately in sunlight and in shadow. Can you determine verbally when your friend's hand is blocking the sunlight? If so, you have further demonstrated the use of "half an eye." Now imagine that your friend's hand is a hawk darting down from the sky to snatch you in its claws. See if you can duck in time to avoid the hawk, with your eyes closed. That ability might help you survive!
Kenneth Miller has posted a reasonable sequence for the evolution of the human eye on his web site. The link below contains the 1994 article "Life's Grand Design".http://www.millerandlevine.com/km/evol/lgd/index.html
PBS expanded the same topic here:http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/change/grand/index.html
Young-earth creationist Gary Parker talks about the complexity of the bombardier beetle, which shoots a stream of harmful chemicals in the direction of threatening predators. He argues that the storage and ejection organs of the beetle could not have evolved through useful, incremental steps. In 1997 Mark Isaak suggested a plausible sequence for the evolution of the bombardier beetle and posted it here in the article "Bombardier Beetles and the Argument of Design":http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/bombardier.html
Gary Parker also discusses the woodpecker, and seems to suggest in the "Answers in Genesis" videotape series (with Ken Ham) that the woodpecker's strong beak and skull could not have evolved, because it's too unlikely for both mutations to occur at once: a strong beak and a strong skull. What good is one without the other? A strong beak would crush a weak skull, and a weak beak would get smashed against a strong skull.
Parker's argument about the woodpecker is easy to refute. Of course the woodpecker's beak and skull gradually grew stronger together over the course of time. One body part did not suddenly get stronger and then the other. The growth of those two parts is analogous to the human skull; our chin emerged at the same time that the rest of the near-human skull was getting larger, because the growth hormones and proteins applied to the entire skull. Although the human chin seems to have only a limited function, the woodpecker has made good use of the stronger beak.
In about 1998 Michael Behe began to use the common mousetrap as an example of an "irreducibly complex" system. Remove one of the parts, he says, and the system becomes completely useless. However, as of 2000 biologist John McDonald at the University of Delaware has indeed reduced the mousetrap, showing at the web site below how to add parts to a bent wire and gradually build better and better mousetraps:http://udel.edu/~mcdonald/mousetrap.html
Michael Behe has written a rebuttal to McDonald's demonstration, entitled "A Mousetrap Defended", and has posted it on the Discovery Institute's web site:http://www.discovery.org/viewDB/
Dr. Behe states as a crucial point in his rebuttal: "the involvement of intelligence at any other point along the way invalidates the entire exercise", pointing out that McDonald used intelligence to decide which part should be added next. However, this point is wrong because evolution does not need intelligence to proceed. Evolution is a random search algorithm that rewards viable configurations. Evolution will generate a number of next possible "mousetraps" through mutation, and natural selection will winnow the field down to the best design(s). No intelligence is required. Although Michael Behe's mousetrap is perhaps not a good model for evolution, the episode demonstrates again that claims of irreducible complexity often do not hold up to further scrutiny.
This is not a complete list of the suggestions for irreducible complexity and their corresponding rebuttals. If you encounter a claim of irreducible complexity, go to your favorite search engine and see if someone has posted a rebuttal to that claim. Then it will be up to you to evaluate the merits of the two opposing viewpoints, as usual. For example, here are some links to the rotating flagellum in the bacteria Pseudomonas:
"Publish or Perish - Some Published works on Biochemical Evolution", edited by John Catalano, last updated on October 16, 2001. Go to the section on Flagella and Cilium.
"The Evolution of Improved Fitness - Responses to critiques by Ross Olson", by Edward E. Max, last updated on December 31, 2001. Max writes "To contradict the notion that a naturalistic evolutionary path to the flagellum cannot be conceived, I would like to describe such a path, even though it cannot be any more than a speculation, so it is vulnerable to the 'just-so' criticism." Dr. Max is referring to the difficulty of determining the actual historic path, given the fact that fossils don't preserve the necessary physiology of bacteria. He goes on to describe a plausible sequence.
Michael Behe's reaction to John McDonald's mousetrap sequence was not to be glad that the puzzle had been solved, but to insist that it had not been solved. This tip of the iceberg indicates that there is some bigger issue involved here in the debate over intelligent design and evolution, something beyond mere scientific inquiry. But we already knew that.
A pure scientist might ask, Why is Scripture relevant as an objection to Intelligent Design? Shouldn't ID stand or fall on scientific grounds alone? Well quite frankly, the Bible is relevant here because most creationists say it is. Evolution has always been evaluated with respect to the Bible. Christians who object to Darwinian evolution on Biblical grounds should also view ID through the eyes of faith. Furthermore, intelligent design makes theological claims, despite the best efforts of its advocates to deny those implications. Allusions to a Higher Power constitute a theological claim. I base my theology on the Bible.
Psalm 8:3-4 can possibly be construed as support for intelligent design (New International Version):
3 When I consider the heavens, the work of Your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which You have set in place,
4 what is man that You are mindful of him,
the son of man that You care for him?
Psalm 19:1-2 can be construed as support for ID (New International Version):
1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of His hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
So can Romans 1:20 (New International Version):
For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - His eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
The idea expressed here is awe at God's creation. It's marvelous and wonderful, and mankind seems insignificant in comparison with the universe. However, the concept is pure awe and wonder, not the certainty of how intelligently everything was constructed by the direct action of God. Any theist can feel awe and wonder at God's creation, without specifying exactly how God designed and created the universe. Furthermore, Psalms 8, 19, and Romans 1 speak about the glory and majesty of the heavens, not biological organisms that were investigated only recently. As noted earlier, I am addressing the intelligent design of biological organisms. Although Psalms 8, 19, and Romans 1 are compatible with intelligent design, they do not favor ID over other creation theories.
Psalm 139:13-15 can be construed as support for intelligent design. I will provide three translations because we are going to grind through it verse by verse.
Psalm 139, King James Version:
Psalm 139, New International Version:
Psalm 139, New Living Translation:
(As an aside, the Hebrew word used here for 'earth' is 'Eretz', the same 'Eretz' that got Flooded in the time of Noah. Nobody claims today that human babies are formed underground and then placed in their mother's womb. Instead, we are interpreting Scripture in the light of science, the science of human embryology.)
Again, the idea expressed here is an emotional feeling of awe and wonder at how human beings come forth into the world! But even an atheist who believes in strictly materialistic evolution can agree whole-heartedly that we are "fearfully and wonderfully made." Of course this Psalm gives the credit to God as the Ultimate Cause of each baby, and any theist would agree. Psalm 139 supports intelligent design, but does not favor ID over other theistic creation theories. ID makes the very specific claim that organisms are custom-designed and could not have evolved. Intelligent design asserts that body design is direct, while theistic evolution asserts that body design is indirect, although somehow guided by God under His authority. I believe that the universe has a very specific Intelligent Designer who fashioned the physical laws, but I do not believe that every species in history was directly assembled. Does Psalm 139 provide us a way to distinguish between direct and indirect design?
If we focus in on verse 14, the case for intelligent design looks good at first. The handiwork of God is amazing! Probably King David is referring to the design of the human body in a general sense, not to the design of a single individual (himself). But is the design direct or indirect? Let's look at the immediate context, the two verses that surround verse 14.
Verse 13 has to refer to indirect formation. Nobody claims that God physically reaches into a mother's womb and connects her baby's bones together. We know from the science of embryology that a baby forms when the cells of the fertilized egg multiply and differentiate, when the placenta forms and connects to the wall of the uterus, when the umbilical cord delivers nutrients to the developing fetus, and so on. The view of theistic embryology is that God is spiritually present, and surrounds the baby with His love. Embryology does not take anything away from that blessed assurance, nor does a fuzzy picture on an ultrasound monitor remove any of thankfulness felt in the hearts of excited Christian parents! But the physical action of God here is indirect.
Verse 15 seems to suggest that God is physically apart from the developing baby, although our omniscient God is keenly interested and can see quite well what is going on! Again, the physical role that God plays here is indirect. So if verse 14 is surrounded before and after by two verses that refer to indirect action, then it's reasonable to assume that verse 14 refers to indirect action as well. We have not proven the case for indirect design, because the Psalmist could be switching between modes of action in those three verses. Nevertheless, the entire context of Psalm 139:13-15 sounds more like the design action is indirect. Psalm 139 does not favor intelligent design over any other viewpoint that feels awe and wonder over God's handiwork in creating the human form.
Besides, I have this uneasy feeling that King David would chastise me for digging word-by-word through his beautiful poetry. Psalm 139 is not meant to be a scientific account. Any scientific details that we can glean from the text are incidental to the Psalmist's main message.
The above discussion is why I say that the Scriptural support for intelligent design is weak. The Bible verses express awe at God's handiwork, but they do not allow us to distinguish between intelligent design and other theistic viewpoints. Put another way, these verses support intelligent design all right; but they support any other God-based creation theory just as well: literal day, appearance of age, young-earth, old-earth, theistic evolution, special creation, progressive creation, days of proclamation, gap, days of revelation, one more animal, day-age, symbolic, numerological, and so on.
On the positive side, weak Scriptural support is better than no Scriptural support at all. Let us proceed.
It's common within the intelligent design movement to avoid actually identifying the Intelligent Designer who is behind it all. Here is a quotation from an Associated Press article on CNN.com, from February 13, 2002. The title of the article is "Evolution debate heats up in Ohio":
The intelligent design movement, which includes creationists who have lost court challenges to evolution and who now support other concepts linked to divine creation, argue the theory offers an alternative for students.
"It's totally different then [sic] creation science. Intelligent design says nothing about religion or about the designer. All it makes is the inference," said Robert Lattimer, a scientist on Ohio's writing team and a member of the nonprofit group Science Excellence for All Ohioans.
Those supporting intelligent design theory accept the idea that life has changed over millions of years, but they reject Darwin's suggestion that life happened gradually through natural selection.
Lattimer's denial of the religious nature of intelligent design is part of a strategy. He knows that various courts have prevented the teaching of creationism in public schools on the grounds that it violates the First Amendment's directive that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof". The strategy here is to downplay the religious nature of ID, and let someone else identify the Designer if they choose to do so.
It's hard to say if anyone is fooled by this strategy. The AP reporter who wrote the above story was not fooled - in the first paragraph above he or she mentions the link to "divine creation", despite Lattimer's statement to the contrary in the second paragraph. It remains to be seen whether the courts will take the view that ID is secular, or if they will decide that intelligent design is inherently faith-based.
To be fair, it could be true that some advocates of intelligent design actually want their theories to be evaluated on the basis of science alone. Only God knows their hearts and minds. If this is the case, the reader should refer back to the first objection listed at the top of this page.
It could also be true that ID scientists realize that Intelligent Design is not very good evidence for God. Dr. Michael Behe stated the following in a lecture in the Duane Physics Building at the University of Colorado at Boulder on April 11, 2003: "Intelligent Design does not point very strongly to God. The designer could be some god, or an alien, or the Life Force, or some malevolent being." "ID doesn't take you all the way to God. You need a lot more." As a Roman Catholic, Dr. Behe believes in the Christian God; but he asserts that his scientific evidence could be explained by a variety of intelligent designers, many of whom are not God.
In any case, in the intelligent design movement we have the specter of a group of Christians refusing to say who created life on earth. I believe that's wrong for a Christian to do. The situation reminds me too much of Peter denying Jesus before the rooster crowed (Matthew 26:69-75). 1 Peter 3:15 instructs Christians to "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." My hope is in the Lord God of Abraham, in His Son Jesus Christ who rose from the dead, and in the Holy Spirit who calls, enlightens, and sanctifies believers in the present day. I'm not interested in some anonymous Designer who is reluctant to make himself known.
I don't expect theistic evolution to be taught in public schools. It's my duty, privilege, and honor to tell people about Jesus. I would appreciate a short chat about the limits of science with regard to faith, such as the one presented by Mr. Reed in my eighth grade. One year later I remember my history teacher Mr. MacMillan claiming that "If Jesus were to appear in a public park today, hardly anyone would come to see him. Very few people would be interested." He was an atheist. I would be horrified if Mr. MacMillan were given the responsibility to teach high school students about God.
Dr. Jonathan Wells is a member of the Unification Church, headed by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon. The reader may judge if the theology of the Unification Church is Christian or not. It's relevant because this page deals primarily with the theology of intelligent design. Dr. Wells' theology certainly does not disqualify him to speak as a scientist as he did before the Ohio state board of education, but readers who espouse his religious views should be aware of their source.
Intelligent design asserts that biological organisms are carefully designed for purpose and function. If we assume that the intelligent designer suggested by ID is the deity Yahweh, then we would expect the design to be perfect. Human bodies should have no obvious mistakes. However, I could think up some corrections for the human body right off the top of my head:
A. Get rid of toenails. They serve no functional purpose.
B. Enlarge the vertebrae of the lower back. Sacrifice some flexibility for better support of the upper body.
C. Make knees stronger and less subject to chronic injury.
D. Many people need to wear corrective lenses to improve their eyesight, often at young ages. Improve the eye for better visual acuity.
E. Fix the appendix so it doesn't rupture and suddenly put people in mortal danger. Preserve the immune and endocrine functions.
F. Make spinal chord injuries recoverable. The natural reaction makes things worse by preventing regrowth.
I'm not asking to be invincible. I understand that mankind has been banished from the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:22-24). I'm pointing out areas of trouble and physical pain for humans that occur chronically across large segments of the population. If common areas of trouble occur in a model of automobile, the designers of that component go back to the drawing board. We would expect the same of an intelligent designer, especially one capable of putting together the world and all life in it. It's reasonable to assume that the supposed intelligent designer who made us would have a higher quality standard than our Detroit automakers. Yet this is not what we observe. Thus, ID suggests or implies that God is not perfect. That implication is unacceptable to me, and it's a good theological reason to reject Intelligent Design.
Young-earth creationists may claim that these bodily afflictions are the direct result of Sin and the Fall, but I know of no Scriptural basis for this conjecture. The curse of Genesis 3:17-19 refers to agriculture and livelihood, not to the breaking of our physical bodies.
There are many organisms that appear to be specifically designed to cause pain and suffering in other creatures. The Ebola virus is very good at liquefying human organs. It causes massive bleeding and death. The tapeworm has hooks that allow it to attach to the walls of the intestine and remain there as a parasite. The Plasmodium vivax protozoan lives in the Anopheles mosquito for a while before transferring by a mosquito bite to a human. There it causes malaria, a recurring disease that produces fever and sometimes death. There are many other examples.
Why were these organisms designed to cause suffering? (Again, God's curse of Adam does not include sending creatures to torment him.) We can see from only a few cases that the intelligent designer portrayed by ID is not always benevolent, and therefore does not match the Biblical view of God.
One could make the same objection to evolution. Many young-earth creationists do. However, evolution fits under the overall framework of Free Will. Some animals have evolved into carnivores and parasites, but they are the consequences of natural free will and God letting His world system develop naturally on its own to a certain extent. Under intelligent design, malicious animals are God's direct, intentional, and deliberate creation. Instead of letting bad things happen, God now causes bad things to happen. This makes us wonder if the designer is Yahweh or someone else.
There is plenty of evil happening in the world today, regardless of what happened during the millions and billions of years of natural history. Our perception of evil is not confined to biological evolution. I believe that most of the evil on earth is the result of human sin, but not all of it (John 9:1-3). Whatever the cause, God is glorified whenever Christians work to overcome that evil and replace it with good. When a Christian sees evil, right there is an opportunity for God to be glorified!
The smallpox virus was the result of evolution. It killed millions of people throughout human history. Nations and organizations worked together on a worldwide basis to eradicate the virus in 1980, even though some of those nations were in conflict with each other. They put aside their political differences and cooperated to end human suffering and death. I believe God was pleased with that work. Does God deliberately create evil in order to give us the opportunity to do good? No! The book of Job ascribes the evil to satan, and God allowed that to happen within certain limits. There is enough evil in the world already without God needing to add to it. Yet we do not blame Him for the evil, but pray instead for the power to overcome it. In the Second Inaugural Address Abraham Lincoln, even in the midst of a terrible civil war, could still declare with Psalm 19:9, "The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether." I heartily agree.
The fact is, there is evil in the world. We won't get a fully satisfactory explanation for why God permits it until we get to heaven. Until then, our job is to do what Jesus would have done, and overcome evil with good (Romans 12:20-21).
If creationists think that evolution is cruel, then perhaps they should explain why God created the ferocious predators that the bombardier beetle needs to defend itself against. Or why God converted a lot of formerly peaceful animals into vicious carnivores after the Fall or the Flood.
The intelligent designer suggested by ID has misled us by creating transitional human fossils. Click here to see some of them. If we are so different from (higher than) the other animals, why not create a bigger gap? Why give us reason to think that we are descended from some kind of bipedal primate?
Proponents of ID contend that the 98.4% similarity in the DNA of humans and bonobos (a species of chimpanzee) is evidence of a common designer, not common biological ancestry. In this case, the similarity works against them because we would expect an intelligent designer to create a larger difference between the crowning glory of his creation and mere animals. I'm not quite sure how much difference would be enough, but 1.6% is not it; I would draw the line between monkeys (okay) and apes (too close). Apes are evidence of either biological evolution, or an Intelligent Designer who is trying to make it look like we evolved.
Paleontologists tell us that there have been five major extinction events in the natural history of the earth. The dates given below are approximate, and the causes for events 1-4 are uncertain.
1. 440 million years ago. End of the Ordovician period.
2. 370 million years ago. Near the end of the Devonian period.
3. 245 million years ago. End of Permian.
4. 210 million years ago. End of Triassic.
5. 65 million years ago. End of Cretaceous.
You can read more about these extinction events in this June 2001 article entitled "The Sixth Extinction" by Dr. Niles Eldredge:
Lots of other individual extinctions occurred apart from these global events. Even if one disputes the dates and causes of these events, it is clear from the fossil record that there have been many plants and animals in the earth's past history that are no longer around today. Any trip through a natural history museum will tell you that. There are fossil bones that belong to no living creature. Tyrannosaurus rex no longer walks the earth, nor does my personal favorite, Triceratops.
Why would an intelligent designer construct so many creatures that later died out? Were they not designed well enough to survive? Or did the designer create them and then decide later to wipe them out, for reasons unknown?
Intelligent design seems to have fairly good explanatory value; in fact, it appears to have supremely good explanatory value because we can simply say that the designer saw fit to design things that way. But that's trivial, and the "explanation" doesn't buy us anything. ID does not have very good predictive value, because it's difficult to tell what an intelligent designer would do.
For example, we would think that the designer would design similar plants and animals to live in similar habitats. An arid tropical island should have similar organisms living on it around the globe. The same design would work just as well in all similar cases. Yet this is not what we find, as Charles Darwin pointed out in Chapter 12 ("Geographical Distribution - continued") of The Origin of Species:
On the other hand, there is a considerable degree of resemblance in the volcanic nature of the soil, in climate, height, and size of the islands, between the Galapagos and Cape de Verde Archipelagos: but what an entire and absolute difference in their inhabitants! The inhabitants of the Cape de Verde Islands are related to those of Africa, like those of the Galapagos to America. I believe this grand fact can receive no sort of explanation on the ordinary view of independent creation;
The patterns of similarity follow geographical boundaries instead. This is what we would expect from evolution, as plants and animals migrate from one ecological zone to another neighboring zone. Does the intelligent designer have some greater plan going on here? Who knows?
It's fair (and Scripturally humble) to say, "I don't know." in response to the "Why did God . . . ?" questions in objections 5-7 above. But those questions continue to nag at us, and nag at non-believers who are seeking God. Too many of those unanswered "Why?" questions start to weaken the theory. In the end, the explanatory value of intelligent design is not very good, either.
A "God of the Gaps" viewpoint suggests that we can look for God in the gaps in our scientific knowledge, by assuming that God has worked a miracle where we can find no scientific explanation. The link below points to an article from February 13, 2002 on the MSN on-line journal Slate. This article is entitled "Unintelligible Redesign", and the author is William Saletan. The article quotes John Calvert of the Intelligent Design Network as follows:
In summary, if a highly improbable pattern of events or object exhibits purpose, structure or function and can not be reasonably and rationally explained by the operation of the laws of physics and chemistry or some other regularity or law, then it is reasonable to infer that the pattern was designed. - the product of a mind.
This quotation is at http://slate.msn.com/?id=2062009 .
It's rare to find a clearer statement of the "God of the Gaps" theology than the one provided here by John Calvert. According to intelligent design, if we can't explain something, then it must be God. The obvious third possibility is that we just haven't figured it out yet! It's only the year 2002. We're not at the end of science or history until Jesus comes back.
The "God of the Gaps" viewpoint is a valid logical argument; it's just not a very smart one. Are those gaps a theological necessity for intelligent design? Does a scientific understanding automatically exclude God from the picture? The obvious danger here is that if we eventually find a reasonable scientific explanation for the problem, do we then conclude that God doesn't exist? Or that He has merely gotten smaller, that we have decreased His domain? Salvation is at stake here, not just another scientific theory. The ancient Greeks believed that Zeus threw lightning bolts down from his throne on Mt. Olympus. Now we believe that lightning is caused by the buildup and discharge of static electricity in storm clouds. Very few people worship Zeus anymore. During the Middle Ages most people believed that demons and evil spirits caused disease. Now we believe that diseases are caused by bacteria and viruses. Very few people fear disease-causing demons and evil spirits anymore (in the same sense that those entities were understood in the Middle Ages).
Allan Harvey has posted his discussion of the "God of the Gaps" viewpoint here:
An advocate of the "God of the Gaps" viewpoint could argue that science opens up new questions. For example, the Hubble Space Telescope answered a lot of questions about astronomy, but it raised a whole lot more. There will always be gaps in scientific knowledge. My response is: So what? Christian witness is not a matter of running from one unanswered question to another. You told me that I could find God right here, and now I can't. I don't trust your "evidence" any more. God of the Gaps is a house built on shifting sand.
Theistic evolution rejects the "God of the Gaps" viewpoint completely. A scientific explanation allows us to see the marvelous way in which God has set up His creation. God can work His will through "natural" processes in ages past and in the present time. The lack of a scientific explanation is certainly a miracle when the Bible says it is; such as the Virgin Birth, or when Jesus turned water into wine. If the Bible is silent on a certain unsolved scientific problem, then the theistic evolutionist has found an interesting puzzle! It might be a divine miracle all right, but this theistic evolutionist does not give Christian witness on the basis of unsolved scientific problems. Not when there's a risen Savior to talk about instead!
I think that intelligent design is an attempt to find evidence for God in the world of biology, to find the fingerprints of the Almighty in nature. Fred Heeren has even written a book entitled, "Show Me God." It's a yearning of the heart that Job expresses in 19:26-27 (NIV): "And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him with my own eyes - I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!" Is it possible to see God in the cosmos, in the universe, in the way our world is put together? To some extent, yes. Certainly we can see God in the glories of creation, along with King David who wrote Psalm 8. But . . . 3,000 years after Job and King David, there is now a better place to look.
If you really want to see God, look here:
There. That's God. That's Jesus Christ of Nazareth, suffering and dying on the cross for the sins of all mankind. That's God shedding His blood so that we might be free from sin and death. "Sorrow and love flow mingled down." That's God Almighty, the King of the Universe, taking our punishment upon Himself. That's God demonstrating His great love for you and me. The title over His head is correct, but it doesn't go far enough - Jesus is indeed the King of the Jews, but He is also King of Kings and Lord of Lords. That's the God who redeemed us that we might live forever with Him in heaven.
I'm not tired of telling the story of how Jesus died on the cross. It's the greatest story ever told.
Tell me the story of Jesus, write on my heart every word.
Tell me the story most precious, sweetest that ever was heard.
Tell how the angels in chorus, sang as they welcomed His birth.
"Glory to God in the highest! Peace and good tidings to earth."
Fasting alone in the desert, tell of the days that are past.
How for our sins He was tempted, yet was triumphant at last.
Tell of the years of His labor, tell of the sorrow He bore.
He was despised and afflicted, homeless, rejected and poor.
Tell of the cross where they nailed Him, writhing in anguish and pain.
Tell of the grave where they laid Him, tell how He liveth again!
Love in that story so tender, clearer than ever I see.
Stay, let me weep while you whisper, Love paid the ransom for me.
Tell me the story of Jesus, write on my heart every word.
Tell me the story most precious, sweetest that ever was heard.
"Tell Me the Story of Jesus", by Fanny Crosby and John Sweney, 1880.
May 3, 2002
Special thanks to Allan Harvey for his review, comments, and suggestions.
This page accessed
hit counter html code
times since August 1, 2010.