Does Intelligent Design Theory = Faith-Based Evolution Denial? No, Actually.

It no longer surprises me that so many bloggers and media outlets get their facts wrong about intelligent design theory. Their working definitions and their logic are usually horribly botched—and that’s giving them the benefit of the doubt by assuming they aren’t simply liars. You’d think they’d have improved the accuracy of their material by now, which leaves me to wonder whether or not any of these men and women care about truth above the materialist agenda. I hope so; I want to have this little bit of faith in humanity, but it may be just wishful thinking on my part.

At any rate, I never run out of commentary fodder.

failThis past weekend, I was a breakout session speaker for REASONS: Conversations on Science and Faith. It was a phenomenal event, headlined by Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, Dr. William A. Dembski, and Dr. John G. West.  Nancy Pearcey, Dr. Holly Ordway, and Dr. Bruce Gordon (all colleagues of mine at Houston Baptist University) taught a range of excellent breakout sessions as well. The local atheist watchdog blogs (including the notorious Huffington Post) went a bit nuts leading up to the weekend, dragging out their favorite genetic fallacy: “See! See?! Intelligent Design is being presented at a CHURCH!! We told you it’s all religiously motivated!!” The articles repeatedly used the label “evolution deniers” for proponents of intelligent design. These are two major reasoning errors I’d like to correct.

1. There is a huge difference between an idea being inherently religious and an idea having positive implications for religion. Intelligent Design (ID) theory isn’t religion-based. In fact, it uses Charles Darwin’s approach to science: determining the cause, now in operation, that is known from our experience to be a cause of the effect you’re trying to explain. Using this method, ID theorists have demonstrated, quite powerfully, that cosmology, astrophysics, biology, and genetics all point to a designing intelligence. 

2. ID theory does not constitute evolution denial; it only denies one main tenet of the materialist neo-Darwinian paradigm: namely, that all of nature originated through blind, purposeless processes. This is not an automatic rejection of common descent, a theory many scientists believe is supported by paleontology and genetics. ID itself is totally unconcerned with that particular definition of “evolution”. To be sure, some ID proponents are skeptical about the so-called “tree of life” that theoretically connects all living things, present and past, to a common ancestor. But, some ID proponents have no problem whatsoever with the idea of common descent. It is the materialist philosophical claims ID proponents are rejecting –the assertion that there is no designer behind it all and blind processes are a sufficient explanation of nature. In other words, guided or intelligently planned common descent is totally compatible with ID theory.

ID uses evidence from nature, not any religious text, to make a minimal but fundamental claim about the natural world. Yes, it turns out that these claims have metaphysical implications that lend epistemic support to a tenet of monotheistic religions (the teaching that there is a mind behind the cosmos). This is what makes ID a valuable tool in the broader project of Christian apologetics, even though it isn’t a faith-based theory.

Another day, another chance to get it right, ladies and gentlemen.