Intelligent Design? Yes!  Intelligent Defense? Not Really!

by Tim Chaffey

     The Intelligent Design Movement (ID) is picking up momentum and gaining popularity rapidly in this country.  In case you are not familiar with ID let me briefly define it.  ID is based on the teleological proof for God's existence.  That is, the intricate designs in nature could not have arisen by chance, therefore there must be a designer (or Designer, for some).  For example, we know that if a building exists, there must have been a builder.  If a painting exists, there must have been a painter.  In the same manner, if something exists (i.e. a creation), there must have been a creator. 

     Phillip Johnson is generally considered to be at the forefront of this movement.  He has authored numerous books describing the many shortcomings of evolution, including Darwin on Trial.  Other key figures are Michael Behe, William Dembski, Charles Thaxton, Jonathan Wells, Stephen Meyer and Thomas Woodward.  The Discovery Institute is perhaps the leading organization in ID.  Many believe that ID will be the vehicle to reintroducing the creator into the science classroom since most of the people in the movement claim to be motivated by science, rather than their religious faith.

     The ID movement has focused much of its energy on attacking the concept of biological evolution.  Michael Behe's popular book, Darwin's Black Box, demolished Darwinian evolution on the microscopic level by demonstrating that all living organisms are irreducibly complex.  This means that a particular organism needs to have all its parts in order for it to function thus ruling out the possibility of a slow and gradual evolution. 

     A relatively new development in ID is the stress on extreme fine-tuning of the universe (especially our solar system).  Earth just happens to be in the only place in our solar system in which life could exist.  If it were further from the sun we would freeze.  If it were closer we would burn up.  Thousands, if not millions, of these parameters happen to be "just right."  It goes beyond credulity to believe this all happened by chance.  Someone must have designed it this way.

     On these two points we wholeheartedly concur but we must take issue with some positions of ID.  Most ID adherents that I have read or listened to have no trouble believing in billions of years.  They fail to realize that the uniformitarian assumptions underlying biological evolution are the same assumptions behind geological and cosmic evolution as well.  I believe that if they put the same amount of effort into studying geology and astronomy as they have biology, "ID'ers" would quickly realize this error.  The Bible does not allow for billions of years (see Other Views) no matter how badly one may wish to insert them.  Many Christians are jumping on the ID bandwagon failing to realize that the Christian branch of the movement is destroying its own foundation.

     The other major problem we have with ID is its generic version of God.  According to ID, God is the Supreme Designer, which we would agree.  The difficulty is that Muslims would also agree, as would Jews.  The ID movement fails to tell us who this Designer is.  If ID adherents cannot direct their followers to Jesus Christ then they have failed because that is the Christian's mission.  Ultimately, it does no good to convince someone that this world was designed if they do not realize that Jesus Christ is the Designer.  The person convinced of Intelligent Design (without an understanding of the Gospel) will end up being a person who believed in a designer that is suffering for all eternity.

     As mentioned above, there are some good things about the ID movement.  There is a lot of great scientific research being conducted by ID'ers.  However, we cannot fully endorse this movement because of the two objections listed above.  As such, apologists must exercise caution when utilizing ID.  God's Word is still the best evidence for a Designer and it is still (and always will be) the most powerful weapon in the apologist's arsenal.   


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