Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Atheism of Intelligent Design Theory

In much of the journalistic coverage of "intelligent design theory" as an alternative to Darwinian science, it is assumed that ID is on the side of Biblical religion, while Darwinism is not. But this is not correct.

The proponents of ID stress the fact that they do not accept the Bible as a guide for science. Specifically, they do not take a literal reading of the Genesis story of six days of creation as superior to the Darwinian theory of evolution. They assume that the Intelligent Designer could have taken millions or billions of years to do his work. And they speak of the Intelligent Designer as a disembodied intelligence with none of the traits of the Biblical God.

The proponents of "young Earth Creationism"--such as Ken Ham of "Answers in Genesis"--scorn ID as an attack on the Bible. A recent article in Christianity Today surveys this controversy and quotes Ham as saying: "What good is it if people believe in intelligence? That's no different than atheism in that if it's not the God of the Bible, it's not Jesus Christ, it's not salvation."

This article also reports that ID proponent William Dembski has been replaced by creationist Kurt Wise as director of the program in science and theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Apparently, the Southern Baptists have found that Dembski's ID is not an orthodox Biblical doctrine.

Christian conservatives who support ID should recognize that they are rejecting the literal reading of the Bible as a guide for science. Having taken that step, I ask, why not consider the possibility of a theistic evolution that would make Biblical religion and Darwinian science compatible?

2 comments:

Matthew Heaney said...

Larry said:

Christian conservatives who support ID should recognize that they are rejecting the literal reading of the Bible as a guide for science. Having taken that step, I ask, why not consider the possibility of a theistic evolution that would make Biblical religion and Darwinian science compatible?

But this is naive. Supporters of ID certainly do not reject a literal reading of the Bible. (For example, DI Fellow Paul Nelson is a young earth creationist.) They all believe that the "intelligent designer" is the God of Abraham, and that's what they want their acolytes to believe. The difference between the neo-creationists and the paleo-creationists is that the latter say explicitly that the designer is God. The ID movement is all about using equivocation to sneak in God below the Establishment Clause radar, since their ultimate goal is to create a theocracy (or at least to dismantle the separation of church and state, and establish Christianity as the state religion).

It should be clear that the debate is theological: is God an ultimate or a proximate cause? If the former, then this is Theistic Evolution (or worse, Deism!), but ID advocate William Dembski rejects this as a "theological waystation," stating bluntly that "ID is no friend of theistic evolution." Dembski, Johnson and friends advocate the position that God is a proximate cause ("objectively real" as Johnson puts it), in opposition to "naturalistic" and "materialistic" explanations. (But if God is a proximate cause, then what does "supernatural" entity even mean?) Remember that Dembski is an apologist, and for him ID is an argument for the existence of God. Which is just to what John Haught testified in Dover.

Larry Arnhart said...

You're right.

But my point is that the public rhetoric of ID--particularly as coming from the Discovery Institute--requires that they reject the Bible as a guide for science. That provokes the opposition of Biblical proponents like Ken Ham and Kurt Wise.