From its inception Darwinism posed a challenge to Christian theology. Darwinism
threatened to undo the Church’s understanding of creation, and therewith her
understanding of the origin of human life. Nor did the challenge of Darwinism
stop here. With human beings the result of a brutal, competitive process that systematically
rooted out the weak and favored only the strong (we might say it is the strong
who constitute the elect within Darwinism), the Church’s understanding of the
fall, redemption, the nature of morality, the veracity of the Scriptures, and the
ultimate end of humankind were all in a fundamental way called into question.
Without exaggeration, no aspect of theology escaped the need for re-evaluation
in the light of Darwinism.
?Well, a lot has happened since the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species.
Theology that is academically respectable has long since made its peace with
Darwinism. Indeed, respectable theologians have long since had their understanding
of the origin of life thoroughly informed by Darwinism and its interpretation
of natural history. Thus when a group of Christian scholars who call themselves
design theorists begin to raise doubts about Darwinism and propose an alternative
paradigm for understanding biological systems, it is the design theorists, and not
Darwin, who end up posing the challenge to theology.
?As a card-carrying design theorist, I want to examine the challenge that design
poses to the contemporary theologian. What continues to intrigue me is that
the group of academicians design theorists have the hardest time engaging is
not the secular scientists, but theologians and cross-disciplinary scientists whose
cross-discipline happens to be theology (e.g., Nancey Murphy and Howard van
Till). Why is this? The short answer is that mainstream theologians perceive
design theorists as theological greenhorns who unfortunately have yet to fathom the
proper relation between theology and science. Of course, design theorists think
it is rather the mainstream theologians who have failed to grasp the proper
relation between theology and science.
?It is ironic that the design theorists have received an even cooler reception
from the theological community than from the Darwinist establishment (which
not surprisingly isn’t well-disposed toward the design theorists either). Yes,
a notable design theorist did speak here at Princeton Seminary last spring, namely,
Phillip Johnson. But his talk was ill-attended (in marked contrast to the large
audiences he attracts at secular universities), with as far as I can recall
only one faculty member from this institution in attendance.
?Because the design theorists’ approach to biological systems is so ill-appreciated
within the theological community, my aim in this talk is to make the design
theorists’ critique of Darwinism intelligible, and I hope even compelling, to
the contemporary theologian. In particular, I wish to show that the design theorists’
critique constitutes a genuine challenge for contemporary theology, and is not
rightly dismissed by a one-liners like, "Design commits the god-of-the-gaps
fallacy" or "Design violates the rules of science."
?To make the design theorists’ critique of Darwinism intelligible to the theological
community, I shall need to outline their critique as they direct it first against
the Darwinist establishment. Once we understand the design theorists’ dialogue
with this group, it will be easier to understand the challenge their critique poses
to the theological community. Before taking up these tasks, however, I wish
to indicate where design fits into the creation-evolution controversy generally.
?Setting the Stage
Because it is all too easy to dismiss a position without genuinely understanding
it, I want to begin by dispensing with a few labels and stereotypes. First off,
design is not young earth creationism. This is not to say that there are no
young earth creationists who are also design theorists (Paul Nelson and Siegfried
Scherer come to mind). But for the sake of argument design theorists are willing
tacitly to accept the standard scientific dates for the origin of the earth
and the origin of the universe (i.e., 4-5 billion years for the earth, 10-20 billion
years for the universe), and reason from there. The point is that design theory
does not stand or fall with what age one assigns to the universe.
?Next, the design theorists’ critique of Darwinism in no way hinges on the Genesis
account of creation. On no occasion do design theorists invoke Genesis 1 and
2 as a scientific text, trying to conform natural history to the Genesis account
of creation or vice versa. Design as a theory holds to neither a day-age, nor
a gap, nor an apparent age interpretation of Genesis. Thus it is illegitimate
to characterize design theorists as old-earth creationists (though there are
old-earth creationists who are design theorists, notably Stephen Meyer and Robert
Newman). Old-earth creationism holds that Genesis, modulo some exegetical maneuvering,
can accurately accommodate natural history. Whether one approaches Genesis in
this way is simply irrelevant to design theory.
?Nor can it be said that design theory endorses progressive creation. Progressive
creation holds that God intervened at various points in natural history, creating
new kinds, as it were, from scratch. Progressive creation can accommodate a
considerable degree of evolutionary change once a given kind is in place. According
to this view the creation of a given kind induces an evolutionary envelope within
which considerable, but not unlimited, variation is possible. For instance,
we might imagine God creating an initial pair of dogs, and all subsequent dogs being
related to this initial pair by common descent–everything from a St. Bernard
to a Chihuahua. Nevertheless, the progressive creationist would be uninclined
to view dogs and amoeba as sharing the same genealogical tree.
?Nor can design theory strictly speaking be said to be anti-evolutionist. This
may sound surprising, especially since design theorists tend to dislike the
term "evolution," viewing it as a weasel word that serves more to obfuscate
than clarify. The reason design theorists dislike the word is not because they repudiate
every possible construal of it, but because they regard it as a Protean term
which, much like the process it describes, adapts itself too readily to any
situation. Although design theorists regard the word "evolution" as assuming
too many distinct meanings that are too easily confused, the notion that organisms
have changed over time hardly upsets them. Design theory places no limits on
the amount of evolutionary change that organisms might have experienced in the
course of natural history. Consistent with classical views of creation, design
allows for the abrupt emergence of new forms of life. At the same time design
is also consistent with the gradual formation of new forms of life from old.
?The design theorists’ beef is not with evolutionary change per se, but with
the claim by Darwinists that all such change is driven by purely naturalistic
processes which are devoid of purpose. Design theorists therefore agree completely
with the following statement by the historian of science Stanley Jaki:
?As to the claim . . . that the Darwinian evolutionary mechanism (the interplay
of chance mutations with environmental p
ressure) has solved all basic problems,
I hold it to be absurd and bordering at times on the unconscionable. While the
mechanism in question provoked much interesting scientific research, it left unanswered
the question of transition among genera, families, orders, classes, and phyla
where the absence of transitional forms is as near-complete as ever. As to the
origin of life and especially of consciousness, they are today no less irreducible
to physics than they were in Darwin’s time.
?Though design theorists believe Darwinism is dead wrong, unlike the creationist
movement of the 1980’s, they do not try to win a place for their views by taking
to the courts. Instead of pressing their case by lobbying for fair treatment
acts in state legislatures (i.e., acts that oblige public schools in a given state
to teach both creation and evolution in their science curricula), design theorists
are much more concerned with bringing about an intellectual revolution starting
from the top down. Their method is debate and persuasion. They aim to convince
the intellectual elite and let the school curricula take care of themselves.
By adopting this approach design theorists have enjoyed far more success in
getting across their views than their creationist counterparts.
?Phillip Johnson, for instance, has debated some of the brightest stars in the
scientific galaxy (including Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg). However much the
Darwinian establishment would like to ignore him, they simply cannot. This is
not to say that the Darwinian establishment is particularly well-disposed toward
Johnson. But Johnson and his fellow design theorists have gained a grudging
respect from at least some quarters of the Darwinian establishment. Thus when
the arch-Darwinist Michael Ruse wants to give the other side a chance in his
journal Biology and Philosophy, he comes to us. I cannot imagine Ruse making
a similar offer to the creationists who opposed him at the Arkansas creation
?From all that I’ve just said, it’s hard to imagine how design theorists could
be identified as narrow fundamentalists. There is nothing in design theory that
requires a narrow hermeneutic for interpreting scripture. Indeed, design theory
makes neither an explicit nor an implicit appeal to scripture. Nonetheless, design
theorists are frequently accused of being, if not fundamentalists, then crypto-fundamentalists.
What lies behind this tendency to lump them with fundamentalism as opposed to
placing them squarely within the mainstream of American evangelicalism? The answer
to this question is quite simple: Design theorists are no friends of theistic
evolution. As far as design theorists are concerned, theistic evolution is American
evangelicalism’s ill-conceived accommodation to Darwinism. What theistic evolution
does is take the Darwinian picture of the biological world and baptize it, identifying
this picture with the way God created life. When boiled down to its scientific
content, theistic evolution is no different from atheistic evolution, accepting
as it does only purposeless, naturalistic, material processes for the origin
and development of life.
?As far as design theorists are concerned, theistic evolution is an oxymoron,
something like "purposeful purposelessness." If God purposely created life through
the means proposed by Darwin, then God’s purpose was to make it seem as though
life was created without any purpose. According to the Darwinian picture, the natural
world provides no clue that a purposeful God created life. For all we can tell,
our appearance on planet earth is an accident. If it were all to happen again,
we wouldn’t be here. No, the heavens do not declare the glory of God, and no,
God’s invisible attributes are not clearly seen from God’s creation. This is
the upshot of theistic evolution as the design theorists construe it.
?Design theorists find the "theism" in theistic evolution superfluous. Theistic
evolution at best includes God as an unnecessary rider in an otherwise purely
naturalistic account of life. As such, theistic evolution violates Occam’s razor.
Occam’s razor is a regulative principle for how scientists are supposed to do
their science. According to this principle, superfluous entities are to be rigorously
excised from science. Thus, since God is an unnecessary rider in our understanding
of the natural world, theistic evolution ought to dispense with all talk of God
outright and get rid of the useless adjective "theistic."
?It’s for failing to take Occam’s razor seriously that the Darwinist establishment
despises (yes I say despises) theistic evolution. They view theistic evolution
as a weak-kneed sycophant, who desperately wants the respectability that comes
with being a full-blooded Darwinist, but refuses to follow the logic of Darwinism
through to the end. It takes courage to give up the comforting belief that life
on earth has a purpose. It takes courage to live without the consolation of
an afterlife. Theistic evolutionists lack the stomach to face the ultimate meaninglessness
of life, and it is this failure of courage that makes them contemptible in the
eyes of full-blooded Darwinists (Richard Dawkins is a case in point).
?Unlike full-blooded Darwinists, however, the design theorists’ preoccupation
with theistic evolution rests not with what the term "theistic" is doing in
the phrase "theistic evolution," but rather with what the term "evolution" is
doing there. The design theorists’ objection to theistic evolution is not in the end
that theistic evolution retains God as an unnecessary rider in an otherwise
perfectly acceptable scientific theory of life’s origins. Rather, the design
theorists’ objection is that the scientific theory which is supposed to undergird theistic
evolution, usually called the neo-Darwinian synthesis, is itself problematic.
?The design theorists’ critique of Darwinism begins with Darwinism’s failure
as an empirically adequate scientific theory, and not with its supposed incompatibility
with some system of religious belief. This point is vital to keep in mind in
assessing the design theorists’ contribution to the creation-evolution controversy.
Critiques of Darwinism by creationists have typically conflated science and
theology. Design theorists will have none of this. Their critique of Darwinism
is not based on any supposed incompatibility between Christian theism and Darwinism.
Rather, they begin their critique by arguing that Darwinism is on its own terms
a failed scientific paradigm–that it does not constitute a well-supported scientific
theory, that it’s explanatory power is severely limited, and that it fails abysmally
when it tries to account for the grand sweep of natural history.
?Michael Denton’s critique of Darwinism is a case in point. In his book Evolution:
A Theory in Crisis, Denton argues at length that the neo-Darwinian synthesis
is a failed scientific paradigm. It bears noting that Denton is an agnostic
in matters of religious faith–thus in criticizing Darwinism he has no religious
ax to grind. The problems facing Darwinism are there, and they are glaring:
the origin of life, the origin of the genetic code, the origin of multicellular
life, the origin of sexuality, the gaps in the fossil record, the biological big
bang that occurred in the Cambrian era, the development of complex organ systems,
and the development of irreducibly complex molecular machines are just a few
the more serious difficulties that confront every theory of evolution that posits
only purposeless, material processes.
?As a post-doctoral instructor in philosophy of science at Northwestern University
I taught an undergraduate course on the creation-evolution controversy. I began
this course by having my students read Peter Bowler’s Evolution: The History
of an Idea (a generally sympathetic historical account of the concept of evolution
as it plays itself out from ancient times to the present-day), and followed
it with Michael Denton’s Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. Within three weeks no
one in the class thought that the fundamental claim of Darwinism, namely common
descent through selection and modification, was self-evident or particularly
?Nor would anyone in my class have agreed with Richard Dawkins that to deny
this central thesis of Darwinism one has to be either stupid or wicked or insane.
No, one can be reasonably well-adjusted, remarkably well-educated (as many design
theorists are), and still think Darwinism is a failed scientific paradigm. Let me
stress that my students represented quite a cross section of opinion. I had
two or three who were conservative Christians actively involved in Campus Crusade.
I also had a few who were staunch Darwinists and came to love Richard Dawkins when
later in the term we read Dawkins’ book The Blind Watchmaker. Yet none of my
students left the course thinking that the debate over Darwinism was like arguing
over whether the earth is flat. Wherever they stood, they realized there were
serious difficulties which needed to be resolved. In short, they realized that
there is a genuine critique of intellectual merit against Darwinism.
?The strength of the design theorists’ critique against Darwinism, however,
rests not in the end in their ability to find holes in the theory. To be sure,
the holes are there and they create serious difficulties for the theory. The
point, however, at which the design theorists’ critique becomes interesting and
novel is when they begin raising the following sorts of questions: Why does
Darwinism, despite being so inadequately supported as a scientific theory, continue
to garner the full support of the academic establishment? What is it that continues
to keep Darwinism afloat despite its many glaring faults? Why are alternative
paradigms that introduce design or teleology ruled out of court by fiat? Why
must science explain solely by recourse to naturalistic, materialistic, purposeless processes?
Who determines the rules of science? Is there a code of scientific correctness
which instead of helping to lead us into truth actively prevents us from asking
certain questions and thereby coming to the truth?
?These questions are not merely hypothetical. Dean Kenyon, a fellow design theorist,
is professor of biology at San Francisco State University. In one of his introductory
biology courses Kenyon presented the standard neo-Darwinian theory and then
pointed to some difficulties in it, stating that he himself holds to a design
hypothesis. Mind you, Dean Kenyon is not a rube or ignoramus. Kenyon received
his Ph.D. in biophysics from Stanford University. In the late 60’s he himself
firmly held to the neo-Darwinian synthesis, even writing a seminal book on the topic of
prebiotic evolution. The book was entitled Biochemical Predestination. Yet by
the late 70’s he began to entertain doubts about his views. When he changed
his position, not for religious but for scientific reasons, he found that research
moneys dried up and that a not-so-subtle persecution had began.
?Thus when not so long ago Kenyon explained his views on design to his introductory
biology course, his department used this as a pretext to remove him from teaching
introductory biology and to relegate him to supervising lab experiments–this
even though he was a senior faculty member. Every review committee confirmed that
Kenyon’s department had violated his academic freedom. It took three meetings
of successively more weighty academic review committees at his institution to
lean on the biology department sufficiently to reinstate Kenyon’s right to teach introductory
biology, and this only after another design theorist, Stephen Meyer, wrote an
op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal detailing Kenyon’s treatment at the
hands of his department.
?To reiterate, What keeps Darwinism alive? Why is it so difficult to debate
its merits fairly? In so pluralistic a society as ours, why don’t alternative
views about life’s origin and development have a legitimate place in academic
discourse? It’s not enough to say that the young earth creationists have left too
bad a taste in the mouth of the academic world about creationism. For Dean Kenyon
has never been associated with the young earth creationists. Indeed, he has
always been a full-fledged member of the scientific establishment.
?When Stephen J. Gould, the dean of American evolutionists, wrote a scathing
review of Phillip Johnson’s book Darwin on Trial for Scientific American, why
did Scientific American refuse to print Johnson’s response to Gould’s review?
Does it serve the furtherance of academic discourse for Nature, the premier science
periodical of Great Britain, to contact David Hull, a philosopher of biology
at Northwestern University, and ask him point blank to write a negative review
of Johnson’s book, as it were commissioning Hull to do a hatchet job (I have this story
from David Hull’s own lips)?
?I myself have written on aspects of the evolution-creation controversy. When
I went on the job market in philosophy a few years back, I was urged to delete
some of my published work from my Curriculum Vitae because, and this is a verbatim
quote from the placement officer at my department, "all the analytic philosophers
are atheists and they don’t want to see that." Most of us who work in the creation-evolution
debate have long since discarded the notion that there is anything like academic
freedom in this affair, nor do we delude ourselves with the thought that a critique
of evolutionary biology will be heard simply because of its inherent intellectual
merit. It’s unfortunate, but warfare is all too often the most appropriate metaphor
for describing this debate.
?Clearly something more than an honest concern for responsible scientific inquiry
is at stake when individuals of Dean Kenyon’s caliber are prevented from even
so much as expressing doubts about a scientific theory, especially when they
are acknowledged experts in the field. We are dealing here with something more
than a straightforward determination of scientific facts or confirmation of
scientific theories. Rather, we are dealing with competing world views and incompatible
metaphysical systems. With the creation-evolution controversy we are dealing with
a naturalistic metaphysic that shapes and controls what theories of biological
origins are permitted on the playing field in advance of any discussion or weighing
of evidence. This metaphysic is so pervasive and powerful that it not only rules
alternative views out of court, but it cannot even permit itself to be criticized.
The fallibilism and tentativeness that are supposed to be part and parcel of
science find no place in the naturalistic metaphysic that undergirds Darwinism.
It is this metaphysic, then, that constitutes the main target of the design
theorists’ critique of Darwinism, and to which we turn next.
?"Creation" and "Ev
The design theorists’ critique of the naturalistic metaphysic that undergirds
Darwinism can be reduced to an analysis of three words. The three words are
creation, evolution, and science. Let us start with the words "creation" and
"evolution." Suppose you are up on a witness stand and required to respond yes
or no to two questions (if you refuse to answer yes or no, you will be taken
out and summarily shot). The questions are these: (1) Do you believe in creation?
(2) Do you believe in evolution? Could you respond to these questions with a simple
yes or no, and still feel satisfied that you had expressed yourself accurately.
Probably not. The problem is that the words "creation" and "evolution" both
have multiple senses.
?For instance, creation can be construed in the narrow sense of a literal six
day creation as presented in Genesis 1 and 2. On the other hand, creation can
also be construed in the broad sense of simply asserting that God has created
the world with a purpose in mind, where the question of how God created the world
is simply set to one side. Similarly, evolution can be construed as a fully
naturalistic, purposeless process which by means of natural selection and mutation
has produced all living things. On the other hand, evolution can mean nothing
more than that organisms have changed over time.
?Depending on how one construes the words "creation" and "evolution," one’s
answer to the question Do you believe in creation? and Do you believe in evolution?
are likely to show quite a bit of variability. For myself, Yes, I believe that
God created the world with a purpose in mind, and No, I don’t believe that God
created the world in six 24-hour day periods. No, I don’t believe in fully naturalistic
evolution controlled solely by purposeless material processes, and Yes, I do
believe that organisms have undergone some change in the course of natural history
(though I believe that this change has occurred within strict limits and that
human beings were specially created).
?Now it is the design theorists’ contention that the Darwinian establishment,
in order to maintain its political, cultural, and intellectual authority, consistently
engages in a fallacy of equivocation when it uses the terms "creation" and "evolution."
The fallacy of equivocation is the fallacy of speaking out of both sides of your
mouth. It is the deliberate confusing of two senses of a term, using the sense
that’s convenient to promote one’s agenda. For instance, when Michael Ruse in
one of his defenses of Darwinism writes, "Evolution is Fact, Fact, Fact!" how is he
using the term "evolution"? Is it a fact that organisms have changed over time?
There is plenty of evidence that appears to confirm that this is the case. Is
it a fact that the panoply of life has evolved through purposeless naturalistic
processes? This might be a fact, but whether it is a fact is very much open
?Suppose you don’t buy the Darwinian picture of natural history, that is, you
don’t believe that the vast panoply of life evolved through purposeless naturalistic
processes. Presumably then you are a creationist. But does this make you a young
earth creationist? Ever since Darwin’s Origin of Species Darwinists have cast the
debate in these terms: either you’re with us, or you’re a creationist, by which
they mean a young earth creationist. Darwin made this move in his Origin of
Species. Philip Kitcher makes this move in his book Abusing Science (publication
date 1982). When I debated scientists from the faculty of SUNY Stonybrook last
April, they refuted not my actual position, but a caricature which they preferred
to attribute to me. It is amazing what you can refute when you deliberately refuse
to understand something.
?But to return to the point at hand, of course it doesn’t follow, logically
or otherwise, that by rejecting fully naturalistic evolution you automatically
embrace a literal reading of Genesis 1 and 2. Rejecting fully naturalistic evolution
does not entail accepting young earth creationism. The only thing one can say for
certain is that to reject fully naturalistic evolution is to accept some form
of creationism broadly construed, i.e., the belief that God or some intelligent
agent has produced life with a purpose in mind. Young earth creationism certainly
falls under such a broad construal of creationism, but is hardly coextensive
with creationism in this broad sense.
?Let us now assume we’ve gotten our terms straight. No more terminological confusions.
No more fallacies of equivocation. No more straw men. From here on in we’re
going to concentrate on the essence of the creation-evolution debate. Henceforth
this debate will be over whether life exhibits nothing more than the outcome of fully
naturalistic purposeless material processes, or whether life exhibits the purposeful
activity of an intelligent agent–usually called a designer–who in creating
life has impressed on it the clear marks of intelligence. Phillip Johnson has dubbed
the first view the Blind Watchmaker Thesis–BWT. We’ll call the second view
the Intelligent Design Thesis–IDT. BWT and IDT are mutually exclusive and exhaust
all possibilities. According to Johnson the key problem to be resolved in the
creation-evolution controversy is deciding which of these theses is correct,
BWT or IDT. How then shall we reach a decision?
?The first thing to notice is that BWT and IDT both make definite assertions
of fact. To see this, let’s get personal. Here you are. You had parents. They
in turn had parents. They too had parents. And so on and so on. If we run the
video camera back in time, generation upon generation, what do we see? Do we
see a continuous chain of natural causes which go from apes to small furry mammals
to reptiles to slugs to slime molds to blue green algae, and finally all the
way back to a pre-biotic soup, with no event in the chain ever signaling the
activity of an intelligent agent? Or as we trace back the genealogy do we find
events that clearly signal the activity of an intelligent agent?
?There is a legitimate distinction here. Whole branches of science presuppose
that features of the world can display unequivocal marks of intelligence and
thereby clearly signal the activity of an intelligent agent (e.g., anthropology,
archeology, and forensic science). Nor need the intelligences inferred in this
way necessarily all be human or even earthbound (consider, for instance, NASA’s
Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence program–SETI for short–in which
certain radio signals from outer space would with full confidence be interpreted
as signaling the presence of an extra-terrestrial intelligence). There are reliable
criteria for inferring the activity of an intelligent agent. Does natural history
display clear marks of intelligence and thereby warrant such a design inference, or
does it not? To answer this question one way is to come down on the side of
IDT, to answer it the other way is to come down on the side of BWT.
?Now Darwinists are very clear in asserting that natural history does not underwrite
a design inference. They are quite explicit in affirming that BWT is correct
and in rejecting IDT as incorrect. George Gaylord Simpson, one of the founders
of the neo-Darwinian synthesis, in his book The Meaning of Evolution leaves us with
no doubts about the matter:
?Although many details remain to be worked out, it is already evident that all
the objective phenomena of the history of life can be explained by purely naturalistic
or, in a proper sense of the sometimes abused word, materialistic factors. They
[that is, the objective phenomena of the history of life] are readily explicable
on the basis of differential reproduction in populations [that’s natural selection],
and the mainly random interplay of the known processes of heredity [that’s random
mutation, the other major element in the Darwinian picture]. Therefore, man is
the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind.
?But Phillip Johnson, Michael Denton, Hubert Yockey, Lecomte du No?y, Freddy
Hoyle, and even Francis Crick have all shown glaring weaknesses in the very
theory to which Simpson is referring. Where then does Simpson get his confidence
that BWT is right and IDT is wrong? How can Simpson so easily elide the glaring
weaknesses in his theory, and then with perfect equanimity assert "it is already
evident that all the objective phenomena of the history of life can be explained
by purely naturalistic factors"? And how does Simpson know that when the "many
details that remain to be worked out" actually do get worked out, that they
won’t overthrow BWT and instead confirm IDT? Science is after all a fallible
enterprise. Whence does Simpson derive such certainty?
To answer this question we need to examine how the third word in our trio gets
employed by the Darwinist establishment, namely, the word "science." Although
design theorists take the question Which is correct, BWT or IDT? as a perfectly
legitimate question concerning certain facts of the natural world, it is not treated
as a legitimate question by the Darwinist establishment. According to the Darwinist
establishment BWT poses a "scientific" question whereas IDT poses a "religious"
question. Thus, as far as the Darwinist establishment is concerned, IDT is a
non-starter. Yes BWT and IDT taken together may be mutually exclusive and exhaustive,
but BWT is the only viable scientific option. IDT must therefore be ruled out
of court from the start.
?Why is this? The answer is really quite simple. Science according to the Darwinist
establishment by definition excludes everything except the material and the
natural. It follows that all talk of purpose, design, and intelligence is barred
entry from the start. To see that I am not making this up one has only to consider
the following remark by the author of Chance and Necessity, Jacques Monod:
?The cornerstone of the scientific method is the postulate that nature is objective.
In other words, the systematic denial that "true" knowledge can be got at by
interpreting phenomena in terms of final causes–that is to say, of "purpose."
?Of course, the only way even to begin to justify a negative principle like
this is to argue that science has uniformly failed to make headway when it has
employed the notion of an intelligent or purposeful cause. And even this sort
of argument cannot preclude the possibility that for all its past failures, a concept
may yet prove useful in the future.
?But back to the point at hand. By defining science as that form of inquiry
restricted solely to what can be explained in terms of naturalistic, purposeless,
material processes, the Darwinist establishment has ruled IDT out of science
from the start. But suppose now that a design theorist comes along, and like
most Americans thinks IDT is correct and BWT is incorrect. (According to a Gallop
poll close to 50% of Americans are creationists of a stricter sort, thinking
that God specially created human beings; another 40% believe in some form of God-guided
evolution; and only 9% are full-blooded Darwinists. It’s this 9%, however, that
controls the academy.) The design theorist’s first inclination might be to say,
"No big deal. IDT is at least as good an answer to the origins question in biology
as BWT. Science just happens to be limited in the questions it can pose and
the answers it can give." Fortunately, design theorists are not so naive.
?The problem is this. As Phillip Johnson has rightly observed, science is the
only universally valid form of knowledge within our culture. This not to say
that scientific knowledge is true or infallible. But within our culture, whatever
is purportedly the best scientific account of a given phenomenon demands our immediate
and unconditional assent. This is regarded as a matter of intellectual honesty.
Thus to consciously resist what is currently the best scientific theory in a
given area is, in the words of Richard Dawkins, to be either stupid, wicked,
or insane. Thankfully, Richard Dawkins is more explicit than most of his colleagues
in making this point, and therefore does us the service of not papering over
the contempt with which the scientific community regards anyone who questions scientific
assertions for other than scientific reasons (theological reasons being of course
the worst offender here).
?It bears repeating: the only universally valid form of knowledge within our
culture is science. Within late 20th century western society neither religion,
nor philosophy, nor literature, nor music, nor art makes any such cognitive
claim. Religion in particular is seen as making no universal claims that are obligatory
across the board. The contrast with science is here blaring. Science has given
us technology–computers that work as much here as they do in the third world.
Science has cured our diseases. Whether we are black, red, yellow, or white,
the same antibiotics cure the same infections. It’s therefore clear why relegating
IDT to any realm other than science (e.g., religion) ensures that BWT will remain
the only intellectually respectable option for the explanation of life.
?But something isn’t quite right here. IDT and BWT both inquire into definite
matters of fact. If each of the cells that make up living things were to have
emblazoned on them in clear script the phrase "made by Yahweh," there would