Political Philosophy

Why I Don’t Believe In Intelligent Design

John Derbyshire takes a highly critical look at “intelligent design” and leads to an interesting theological argument against it:

The Myers column points up a thing I’ve said before here, and repeated as politely as I could in panel discussions with creationists: they’re not just wrong, they’re shifty. In my opinion, they wandered off the straight and narrow when they started pushing this “intelligent design” stuff. My advice to them — frequently offered but, for reasons that are baffling to me, never taken up — is to drop the i-d b-s and go back to good old Biblical creationism. At least that’s an honest point of view founded in Scripture. I understand why the move to i-d was made: to try to get out from under current church-state jurisprudence (not all of which I agree with). However, the constant strain of keeping a straight face while insisting that theirs is not — no way! absolutely not!! — a religious campaign, and talking about the mysterious-but-definitely-not-supernatural “Designer,” has corrupted them irredeemably.

Now, I don’t believe in intelligent design mainly because there’s no scientific evidence for it, but also because it’s problematic theologically as well. A belief in evolution doesn’t immediately lead one to become an atheist—no matter what the atheists say. It does mean that you can’t take the Bible literally, but with all deference to my Fundamentalist readers (and I use the term “Fundamentalist” in its exact sense, not as a slur), the Bible is not a work designed to be taken literally. To take Intelligent Design seriously one has to predispose a God (or other “Intelligent Designer,” which I presume most ID supporters to not believe is Quetzalcoatl or Zeus) that acts like a cosmic tinkerer, constantly refining His creations over time. To me—and I claim no great understanding of theology—that seems like a rather limited view of God. Why would an omnipotent being free of the constraints of space and time need to constantly refine His Creation? By reducing God to such a role seems to be an effort to diminish the Divine to something humanly understandable. Theologically, that strikes me as incredibly presumptuous.

It’s one thing to see the face of God in the great beauty of the Universe—in everything from the glory of a sunset to the amazing symmetry of subatomic particles. Nothing requires a scientist to surrender all faith to the cold rationalism of science. At the same time, the view of Intelligent Design has a God which constantly guides everything from the structure of the universe to the development of the eye, and argues that God’s Creation was somehow less than what it should have been. At least Creationists can fall back on Biblical literalism to support their views—ID supporters have to find a balance that tends to satisfy neither science nor theology.