Intelligent Design (ID): All viewpoints
ID's beliefs, origin, and suporting observations
Beliefs of supporters of of Intelligent Design (ID):
There are many beliefs currently held about basic origins of the earth
itself, its geological features, its life forms, and the rest of
the universe. The three main ones in North America are:
Creation science: This belief is taught by many of the religions of
the world. There are probably about 500 variants in existence. In the
version believed by most Christian, Jewish, and Muslim conservatives, the
earth, its life forms and the rest of the universe are believed to have been
created by God less than 10,000 years ago.
Naturalistic evolution: This is the classical theory of evolution.
In it, the Earth, its life forms, and the rest of
the universe evolved over a period of billions of
years, driven by undirected natural forces without any input from a
super-normal intelligence. Most supporters of ID reject this theory, because
they accept evidence that just such an intelligence exists.
Theistic evolution: They evolved over a period of billions of
years guided by God, who used evolution as a tool to effect change. Most
supporters of ID accept this theory. In fact, ID is all about finding proof
for some super-human intelligence. However, some ID'ers suggest that God may
not be responsible for what we see around us. It may have been a
super-intelligent life form -- some species of extra-terrestrials -- who
visited earth billions of years ago, set evolution in motion, and
injected some of their own designs into various species.
Proponents of Intelligent Design (ID; a.k.a. Intelligent Design
Creationism, IDC; Intelligent Design Theory, IDT,
Neocreationism) assert that there are certain
patterns, designs, and functions in the universe that could not have come into
existence as a result of purely natural forces and processes or chance.
When they come across something that they think might be intelligently
designed. they apply a three-stage explanatory filter:
Does a law of nature account for it? Two examples:
||A perfectly balanced coin is flipped 50 times, and comes up heads
||A person buys a lottery ticket and win a million dollars.
These observations can be explained by the laws of probability. The
probability of "heads" is about one in two. The probability of winning the
lottery is much smaller. But someone has to win. We need not inquire
further to understand how unusual events happen..
Can it be the result of chance? Two examples
||A county clerk who was a Democrat determined the order in
which candidates appeared on election ballots. In 40 times out
of 41, a Democrat was listed first.
The odds of even a small 100 amino acid protein of forming
spontaneously has been calculated at less than 1 in 10125.
Both of these observations seem rather
improbable -- the second much more than the first. So ID supporters
move on to the third and final option:
Can it be designed? If neither a law nor chance can account for
the observation, then they conclude that it was the result of design.
conclude that some
elements in the universe must have been
specifically designed and implemented. In some cases, this leads logically to the
existence of an
intelligent entity with super-human ability and knowledge. By proving this, ID
supporters attempt to refute a basic assumption of naturalistic evolution
-- that the earth, its life forms and the rest of the universe came into
existence as a result of natural forces.
Some critics have pointed out what they feel is a fatal flaw in the logic of
the three-stage filter. A fourth possibility exists: that the observation may be
due to a law of nature that is currently not known or is not fully understood.
For example, if the three-stage filter were applied in the 1st
century CE to the movement of the sun across
the sky, one would conclude neither a law of nature nor chance was involved. It
must have been due to a direct or indirect intervention by God. Thus, the
astronomers of the day believed that God directed angels to push the sun across
The lack of a proof by a present law is not proof that no new law exists to be found in
Origin of ID:
Many Christian theologians have argued that the presence of the
universe proves the existence of God. They include Minucius Felix (3rd
century CE), Basil the Great (4th c.), Moses Maimonides (12th c.), Thomas
Aquinas (13th c.), Thomas Reid (18th c.), and Charles Hodge (19th c.). It
remains one of the classical proofs of the existence of God. 2
The roots of the current Intelligent Design movement are found in the writings of William Paley
(1743-1805). In his 1802 book: "Natural Theology ; Evidences of
the Existence and Attributes of the Deity. Collected from the
Appearances of Nature," he used what is now a very well known analogy to prove the existence of
God. 3 He argued that if a person found a watch, she/he would assume that
it had been made by a watchmaker. In the same way, the internal
complexity of living things proves the existence of a Creator of all
life. The world itself and the rest of the universe
similarly prove that a designer existed. 4
Some 184 years later, Richard Dawkins wrote a book "The Blind
Watchmaker" in which he attempts to prove Paley wrong. He concludes:
"All appearances to the contrary, the only watchmaker in nature is
the blind forces of physics, albeit deployed in a very special way... it
is the blind watchmaker."
The current Intelligent Design movement began "with the work of
Charles Thaxton, Walter Bradley, Michael Denton, Dean Kenyon, and Phillip
Johnson. Without employing the Bible as a scientific text, these scholars
critiqued Darwinism on scientific and philosophical grounds' Among
the first books in ID were:
Charles Thaxton et al., "The Mystery of Life's Origin" (1984)
Michael Denton, "Evolution: A Theory in Crisis" (1986).
More recently, scholars like Michael Behe, Stephen Meyer, Paul
Nelson, Jonathan Wells, and...[William Dembski] have taken the next step,
proposing a positive research program wherein intelligent causes become
the key for understanding the diversity and complexity of life."
Observations supporting ID:
The Center for Renewal of Science and Culture points to the following
phenomena as indicators of intelligent design in the universe:
Most cosmologists accept the "Big Bang" theory -- that the
universe suddenly came into existence in one location, -- "including all matter,
space, time, and energy." 6 That is, at the time
Big Bang, it did not materialize in one corner of the universe;
the Big Bang occupied the totality of the universe at that time. ID promoters feel
that this is what one
would expect from an act of creation by a deity. In contrast, believers in naturalistic
evolution feel that this could also happen from purely natural forces
and processes governed by quantum mechanics.
The universe appears to be "finely-tuned" 6 for
the existence of life. If some of the basic constants of the universe were
different from their present values, then star formation, and the life
itself would have been impossible. This suggests the existence of a tuner --
i.e. a creator. To test this hypothesis, a supporter of
naturalistic evolution, V.J. Stenger, constructed mathematical models
of 100 "toy" universes, using randomly varied physical
constants. He found that:
"... almost all combinations of physical
constants lead to universes, albeit strange ones, that would live long
enough for some type of complexity to form. In well over half the
universes, stars live at least a billion years." 7
cosmologists have developed models of multiple universes continually
appearing. Sooner or later, one of these universes would have been
conducive to the evolution of life; ours is apparently one of them.
"...the presence of complex and functionally integrated machines
has cast doubt on Darwinian mechanisms of self-assembly..."
They suggest that cells, certain organs, and certain functions
(like blood clotting) in animals, could not
have come into existence through many chance intermediate steps, but must have been
fully formed at one time. For example, a human eye requires many sub-systems
to be in place before it can function. This includes a lens, a
transparent medium, a retina, an optic nerve and structures within the
brain to decode images. When all are present, the eye works superbly. If
one were missing, the eye would not work at all. Thus, they reason, the
eye must have suddenly appeared with all its sub-systems fully
developed and functional. According to natural selection -- the foundational principle
of evolution -- a lens would be useless without all of the other
components. It could not have been developed first, followed by the remaining components. To ID
supporters, that implies a design and a designer. Believers in
naturalistic evolution have countered this argument by suggesting a path
by which they believe an eye could have developed through natural
They feel that information "encoded along the DNA molecule has
suggested the activity of a prior designing intelligence."
5 Supporters of naturalistic evolution point out
to the large amount of junk DNA in humans and other animals which points
to random development.
They point to two persistent problems in artificial intelligence (AI)
research which suggest "a fundamental chasm separating machine
intelligence and the human mind." 6 This suggests
that the human mind could not have simply evolved. It must have been
specially created by a super-human intelligence -- perhaps by a God -- and put in place.
Other scientists point out that the science of AI is in its infancy, and
that this "fundamental chasm" will be bridged in time.
William A. Dembski, Ed., "Mere Creation: Science, Faith and Intelligent Design," InterVarsity Press, (1998), Page 94.
William Dembski, "The Intelligent Design Movement," Cosmic Pursuit, 1998-Spring. Online at: http://www.origins.org/
William Paley, "Natural Theology ; Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity. Collected from the Appearances of Nature," This book is occasionally available from the Amazon.com online book store
Creationists hit capitol hill for congressional briefing," at: http://www.atheists.org/
Richard Dawkins, "The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design," Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
"About CRSC: Life after Materialism," at: http://www.discovery.org/
Victor J. Stenger, "Intelligent design: Humans, cockroaches and the laws of physics," at: http://www.talkorigins.org/
Copyright © 2001 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2001-JAN
Latest update: 2013-SEP-19
Author: B.A. Robinson