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The Intelligent Design Movement

By Les Sherlock

NOTES

At first glance one might expect a creationist to be able to accept the Intelligent Design Movement (IDM) without reservation. However, on closer scrutiny, the reservations start to accumulate. Perhaps I should begin by defining ‘Intelligent Design’. The IDM would put it this way:

“Certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection.”

I know of no creationist who would disagree with this. However, when visiting ‘Intelligent Design’ web sites, it is clear that the IDM goes further than this by trying to distance itself from any kind of religious connotation, for example, and, indeed, denouncing Creationism in so doing. So there is a distinct difference between ‘Intelligent Design’ and the package found in the IDM.


IDM’s Attack on Creationism


In many respects, the attacks on creationists are surprising, since the IDM is much closer to Creationism than it is to Evolution.* This is my first reservation about the movement: it appears to be joining forces with evolutionists in demeaning the scientific credentials and/or sound scientific reasoning of creation-scientists and takes the same condescending tone toward them. It would appear to be taking precisely the same scientific position as creationists toward many aspects of evolutionary theory while simultaneously distancing itself from them in order to try to avoid the slur cast on creationists by the evolutionary-prejudiced scientific community.

Now it is understandable that they would wish to avoid any religious connotations in order to keep on board those who accept the clear, indisputable evidence for design in nature and yet who, for personal reasons, do not want to accept the concept of some kind of Divine Creator. Indeed, it could be argued that there is a place for an organisation that will concentrate 100% on the science and as a matter of policy leave aside the source of the Intelligence behind the design that is so clearly seen all around us. For one thing this might give us a fighting chance of allowing the clear scientific evidence contrary to evolution at least to be given a hearing in schools and universities.

However, I fail to see how such a movement could be possible: just as evolutionists are obliged to answer the question, “So how did it happen without an Intelligent Designer?” the IDM immediately hits the question, “So who or what is the Designer?” It may be inconvenient, but these questions cannot be avoided without leaving an unsatisfactory, logical, open end: rather like leaving a sentence half-finished.

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* The word ‘evolution’ can mean more than one thing. For the sake of brevity, in this article it is used solely in the way Darwin used it in the title of his most well-known book. I.e. that life began by a simple single-celled organism arising from inanimate matter as a result of some random event; and then, by a massive series of gradual, random changes over millions of years, preserved by natural selection, life forms became ever more complex, resulting in all the living things seen on planet Earth. For more detail on this definition of the word see here.

The Big Bang Problem


Another reservation is their apparent uncritical acceptance of theories regarding the Big Bang and the long age of the Universe. This appears to be an inconsistency: while refusing to accept the ‘scientific arguments’ for evolution, they swallow without reservation the ‘scientific arguments’ for the Big Bang, etc. Yet, just as there are very good, sound, scientific reasons for rejecting evolution, equally the same applies to the Big Bang. IDM, however, apparently rejects those out of hand. Presumably their desire to keep the theistic evolutionists on board and at the same time gain acceptance from the evolution-dominated scientific community is greater than their interest in anything else. An illustration perhaps better makes this point.

Mount Rushmore (see below) is used by IDM, and indeed Creationists, as an example of specified complexity. While natural processes can erode rock formations into something resembling human beings, it is glaringly obvious that Mount Rushmore could only have been produced by intelligent design. However, IDM fails to take this example to its logical conclusion.




Image courtesy of Free Stock Photos

If the impossible did happen and erosion, due to weather, etc., produced a Mount Rushmore, how long would this process take? For 450,000 tons of granite * to wear away, at the very least it would almost certainly take hundreds and quite likely thousands of years. Clearly, in reality it could never happen; but where would be the logic of saying that the formation was obviously produced by intelligent design, but it must have taken hundreds, or thousands of years to complete because erosion is so slow? It is a fact of history that Sculptor Gutzon Borglum began the work in 1927 and completed it in fourteen years,* and it would be ridiculous to maintain that Borglum must have undertaken the work by using the natural processes of erosion. In fact 90% of the granite was removed by drilling into the rock and blasting it out with dynamite, the last few inches being removed by pneumatic chisels and fine smoothing tools.

It is obvious from this illustration that mixing two very different things, intelligent design and natural processes, produces nonsense. If the work was due to intelligent design, then the natural rate of erosion is completely irrelevant. If the natural rate of erosion is relevant, then by definition, intelligent design is ruled out. So for IDM to accept that the fine tuning of the universe could only be the result of intelligent design, and yet insist it took the same time to create as that claimed by those who refute the idea of ID, is to contradict themselves. If the intervention of an intelligent designer was necessary to create a ‘fine-tuned universe’, then any natural processes observable today are irrelevant: quite obviously, whatever intervention was used by the Intelligent Designer at the time of the creation will no longer be observable today.

It could be claimed that the Mount Rushmore formation has the appearance of age when judged by natural processes, just as the universe has the appearance of age when considered in this way. It is not because Gutzon Morglum was deliberately trying to deceive people into believing it was older than it is: it is the inevitable result of producing the sculpture. In the same way, when Adam and Eve were created, they were adults from the first second of their lives, just as fruit trees were created fully grown and bearing fruit; both giving the appearance of age. It is not that God was trying to deceive us into believing they were older than they were: there was no alternative way of doing it. The same applies to the age of the Earth and the age of the Universe. Their appearance today is the inevitable result of the way in which they were created.

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* The amount of rock that was removed. See here.


* See here.

Who is the Most Scientific?


Reservation number three relates to the claim I saw on one IDM web site that while they look first and foremost at science and relate their viewpoint purely on what they find, creationists start by looking at the Bible and interpret science in a way that fits with their understanding of it. Therefore IDM is objectively scientific while Creation is subjectively religious. However, there is a contradiction here: evolutionists say precisely the same thing about themselves! So both evolutionists and IDM claim to be basing their view of origins purely on scientific evidence, and yet come to opposite conclusions! Both IDM and evolutionists claim to be 100% objective, with no prior prejudices, while accusing scientists who are creationists of being subjective in their approach to science and therefore incapable of producing any scientific work that can be trusted.

This is simply untrue. There is no such thing as a scientist without any kind of personal viewpoint regarding origins. They all begin from their own particular mind set, as can be seen from the conflicting viewpoints of IDM and evolutionists, both of whom claim to be accepting no consideration other than scientific fact. This is not to say that because everyone has a personal bias therefore no scientist can produce trustworthy work. Of course they can! But with every one there will always be a tendency toward an interpretation of the facts that supports their own prejudice. So IDM, Evolution and Creationism are all identical in this respect.

It is a fact of history that the foundations of science, and many scientific discoveries on which modern science is based, were the work of scientists, a significant number of whom believed in a literal interpretation of the early chapters of Genesis as the truth about the origins of the Universe and life on Earth. Since their ‘religious faith’ did not hinder their scientific work in the past, why should it be any different for scientists who take the same ‘religious’ position today?


Indeed, it can be shown that it is evolutionary theory that has hindered scientific advance, where creationism would not have done. At its heart, for the creationist, science is about investigating the way in which the Creator designed everything to function. This search for scientific truth has resulted in much of our knowledge about the scientific principles and processes on which present-day science is based. See here for a list of creation-scientists of the past who are responsible.

Evolution, on the other hand, assumes that all living things have undergone massive and constant change; so, for example, much human DNA has been ignored on the assumption it is ‘junk’ – vestiges of past existences that are no longer required. It is becoming increasingly clear that this is not the case, and already DNA that was previously considered to be junk is now known to have purpose. A century or so ago many organs in the human body were ignored because they were considered to be vestigial left-overs and therefore redundant and useless, while today we know they do have use. Scientific advance, therefore, was delayed by the evolutionary viewpoint. The IDM accepts this to be the case, and yet still writes off the Creationists’ arguments. I find this inconsistent.

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The Intelligent Designer


A further inconsistency – perhaps the greatest one – relates to the Intelligent Designer. It is very obvious that whoever, or whatever one considers Him/it to be, the amount and quality of intelligence must be phenomenal to have conceived the ‘fine-tuning’ of the universe on the macro scale, and the ‘factory of machines’ within every cell of all living things on the micro scale. Not to mention everything in between those two extremes: the fine-tuning of the Earth’s ecosystem and of our solar system, for example. Even all the combined intelligence of every scientist on Earth would be incapable of designing all of this from scratch: indeed, even after many centuries of observation of everything around us, they are still incapable of doing so.

At the same time, whether one believes the act of creation was undertaken in six days, or over a period of billions of years, the power to be able to bring it all about is also something way beyond human experience and ability.

Yet the IDM seems to believe that the Intelligent Designer had neither the power nor the intelligence to be able accurately to transmit either His method of creation, or His purpose in creating, to the one species on Earth that was clearly designed to have the intelligence to understand.

It is patently obvious that the creation of the universe and life on Earth represents a huge investment of resources, whoever/whatever the Creator may be, and therefore there must be some purpose for it all. It is equally obvious that if a part of the creation is people with intelligence and reasoning powers, there must be some purpose for their existence too. So where, on Earth, is there anything that purports to be communication from the Creator to His created beings, with an account of the creation that does not conflict with the observable laws of science? I know of only one – the Bible, the most widely read book of all time about Intelligent Design and its implications for humans. Now it certainly conflicts with the interpretation of scientific facts held by scientists who subscribe to evolutionary theory. However, in every case, whether in regard to the origin of the universe, or the formation of life on Earth, the raw, observable, scientific facts and principles are capable of a valid interpretation consistent with an Intelligent Designer and a ‘young’ universe.


It is very obvious that if an Intelligent Designer was responsible for life on Earth, then there would be no naturalistic series of events or law of physics that could be found which could explain how it came about. Whatever intervention was required from the Intelligent Designer is bound to be outside any process that can be observed today. So every naturalistic explanation from the evolutionary lobby is bound to run into problems. This is precisely what we see now and what has been the case ever since people have tried to find an alternative theory to God as Creator. Yet the IDM, while refuting some of evolutionists’ theories in their acceptance that life is impossible without some kind of Intelligence designing it, nevertheless seems to be happy to accept the rest of the evolutionary baggage. As previously mentioned, the Big Bang comes with significant problems (and it would be bound to do if instead an Intelligent Designer was responsible for the whole of creation), yet the IDM seems happy to accept it.

Where is the consistency or logic in that? Where is the logic in reinterpreting the early chapters of the Bible to try to make them fit in with the theories of people whose own interpretation of science is either based on their belief that God does not exist, or who have been browbeaten into accepting such theories in the mistaken belief that science has proved that a literal interpretation of the Bible is impossible?

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Conclusion


The choice is clear. Either everything in the universe is the result of chance and has no purpose, or it is the result of Intelligent Design, as described in the Bible. Any middle ground is illogical and a non-starter. Since the scientific evidence presented by IDM (that the complexity of living things is so great it is impossible for them to have arisen as a result of random processes) the validity of the literal truth of the Bible is made clear. There is, quite simply, no other viable alternative.

I welcome the scientific evidence, in such areas as irreducible complexity, presented by those in the IDM, showing, as it does, irrefutable proof that everything we see owes its existence to an Intelligent Designer. However their philosophical and theological reasoning is another matter altogether. Where their interpretation of scientific facts brings them into conflict with the clear explanation of the Intelligent Designer as a result of their beliefs, sadly I have to part company with them!.

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INDEX

IDM’s Attack on Creationism

The Big Bang Problem

Who is the Most Scientific?

The Intelligent Designer

Conclusion