Religion and Intelligent Design Impede Science and Close Off Inquiry?
by Rich Deem


ID is Anti-Science?

Many members of the anti-intelligent design lobby claim that the goals of intelligent design are to introduce religious teaching into the schools in the guise of science. Accordingly, ID proponents just want to say "God did it," and stifle any future scientific research. However, this claim is just a red herring thrown out to garner support against the "evils" of intelligent design.

Rich Deem

I have read a lot of articles against intelligent design, written by scientists and science education lobbyists. Common to most articles is the claim that intelligent design is just a backdoor approach for religious fundamentalism that is aimed to close off scientific inquiry.1 Are ID proponents really anti-science, religious zealots who want to impede scientific advance?

ID intent

The intelligent design movement is not any one unified group of individuals, but a diverse assortment of religious and non-religious groups that seek to answer the question, "Is there evidence of design in the universe?" Intelligent design, as it is currently defined does not seek to identify the designer. So, technically, I am not an ID proponent, since I am an old earth creationist who used to be an atheist. My studies in the 1970's convinced me that there was a Creator who made the universe and at least the first life forms on earth. Since that time, science has progressed a lot, and the evidence in support of an intelligent Creator has become more solidified.

Different ID proponents have different intentions. Most believe that scientists should be free to follow the evidence wherever it leads, including possible theological implications.

In discussing intelligent design with Phillip Johnson a few years ago, his strategy was to win the public opinion poll. He thought ID people should not fight about the age of the earth (i.e., translate as "not seek the truth"), but should remain united to promote the overall concept. When I suggested that we provide a testable ID model, he said that we should not acquiesce to the methods of the evolutionists. Needless to say, I, and most design proponents, do not believe that truth is irrelevant to the ID question. It is the "big tent" approach of some ID proponents that gives intelligent design a bad name.

Is ID Real or just "God of the gaps"?

The fact is that there is evidence to suggest that there is design in the laws and composition of the universe, and possibly in the biochemical pathways and molecular machines of living beings. Naturalistic materialism2 says that this evidence is really just "appearance of design," and not real design. Accordingly, the appearance of design is just a natural function of the human brain in looking for patterns. According to naturalistic materialism, this appearance of design will disappear as more evidence is revealed. In essence, all design arguments are of the "God of the gaps" variety. However, in several areas of research (e.g., design of the universe, origin of life, and genetics), the "gaps" are increasing as more evidence is uncovered.3 This fact suggests that the "gaps" are not really gaps, but actual evidence of design, since God of the gaps implies that the evidence should decrease the number of gaps as more evidence accumulates.

Is ID anti-science?

It is the increasing evidence for design that encourages ID proponents that they are on the right track. We certainly don't want to stop scientific investigation now that the evidence is accumulating in our favor. Most of us have a science background. In my case, molecular biology research is how I earn my living. We look forward to learn more about how God created the universe and life on earth. We have nothing to fear from science, so bring it on!

The red herring

Flight: The Genius of BirdsThe anti-intelligent design movement is concerned about where intelligent design will lead. The most vocal of their members are avowed atheists, who hate religion and wish to exterminate it altogether. Since the evidence is swinging against them, the are now resorting to emotional arguments to attempt to garner support against intelligent design. Michale Shermer says intelligent design proponents "have no interest in doing science at all."1 John Rennie says that intelligent design "would close off inquiry with nonanswers." Both statements are gross generalizations that do not apply to the vast majority of design proponents. These red herring arguments are designed to do one thing—get the reader to hate the "evil" intelligent design proponents. The anti-intelligent design movement is running scared, since their vision of a God-free world is collapsing all around them.

Conclusion Top of page

Intelligent design proponents are interested in science, and relish the idea of increasing scientific research into areas that address the question of whether there is evidence for design in the universe. For the most part, we are scientists who love our work. However, we don't appreciate the red herring argument suggesting that we want to stifle scientific inquiry and are only interested in the promulgation of religious belief. Jesus said we are to love God with all our heart, soul and mind. More science? Bring it on!

Related Pages Top of page

Intelligent Design 101: Leading Experts Explain the Key IssuesBook Review: Intelligent Design 101: Leading Experts Explain the Key Issues

Intelligent Design 101 is a short, good introduction into the arguments for intelligent design theory from leaders in the field. If you have hesitated to buy one of the more specific books on intelligent design because of fear of getting lost in the technical discourse, this is a good way to get introduced to all the areas of discussion without getting bogged down in too many technical details. Once you have finished this book, you will be ready to take on some of the more detailed aspects of the theory, with an understanding of the basic concepts and issues. More...

Creation As Science: A Testable Model Reasons To Believe's third in a series of books proposing a testable creation model takes on the origin and design of the universe. Previous books, Origins of Life: Biblical and Evolutionary Models Face Off and Who Was Adam?: A Creation Model Approach to the Origin of Man, examined the origin of life on earth and the origin of mankind, respectively. Creation As Science develops a biblical creation model and compares the predictions of this model compared to a naturalistic model, young earth creationism, and theistic evolution. This biblical creation model is divided into four main areas, the origin of the universe, the origin of the Solar System, the history of life on earth, and the origin and history of mankind.

The Edge of EvolutionThe Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism by Michael Behe

Darwin's Black Box author Michael Behe takes on the limits of evolution through an examination of specific genetic examples. Behe finds that mutation and natural selection is capable of generating trivial examples of evolutionary change. Although he concludes that descent with modification has occurred throughout biological history, the molecular devices found throughout nature cannot be accounted for through natural selection and mutation. Behe's book claims to develop a framework for testing intelligent design by defining the principles by which Darwinian evolution can be distinguished from design.

References Top of page

  1. "Intelligent design creationists, by contrast, have no interest in doing science at all." (Michael Shermer. Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed--Ben Stein Launches a Science-free Attack on Darwin. Scientific American April 9, 2008.)
    "It's one of the many ironies of Expelled that Ben Stein says he wants this movie to free people to ask questions about science, but the ID theories he defends would close off inquiry with nonanswers." (John Rennie. Ben Stein's Expelled: No Integrity Displayed. Scientific American April 9, 2008.)
    "A leading science education expert, testifying in a federal trial over the teaching of evolution in a York County school district, said yesterday that introducing intelligent design into the science classroom is "detrimental" to learning." (Amy Worden. Expert: Teaching Intelligent Design Impedes Learning. The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.)
    "Scientists must stop ignoring 'Intelligent Design'�religious prejudice disguised as intellectual freedom" (Pat Shipman. Being Stalked by Intelligent Design. American Scientist.)
  2. Materialism refers to the atheistic belief that only material things exist (e.g., there is no spiritual realm at all), and does not necessarily refer to the desire to acquire material goods.
  3. For specifics, please see God of the Gaps - Do All Christian Apologetics Fall Into This Kind of Argument?

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Last updated April 24, 2008


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