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AiG VII – What about Intelligent Design is Religious?

On the message boards, I have been discussing the merits of Intelligent Design with advocates of various stripes.  I am amazed at how many supporters ID has, and how they will debate even the most basic of facts.  Fact numero uno being the religious nature of Intelligent Design theory.  I have yet to find an ID advocate out there that admits to the religious content of Intelligent Design.  Here’s what I say:

1) ID is Exclusively Supported by Religious Institutions. 

Where is the money?  While we cannot judge the scientific merits of Intelligent Design based on the quality of those who support it, it’s a perfectly human thing to do, and it still directly applies to the intelligent design MOVEMENT, if not the theory.

The earliest example of the modern Intelligent Design movement came after the case Edwards v. Aguillard, which rules that Creationism could not be required in public schools because it advances a particular religion.  So the term “Creationism” was out, and they needed a new term.  

The group Foundation for Thought and Ethics had a creationist book all prepped for the public schools.  In between versions of this book, “creationism” and “creationist” were changed to refer to “intelligent design” instead, leading to this amusing cut and paste error:

The basic metabolic pathways (reaction chains) of nearly all organisms are the same. Is this because of descent from a common ancestor, or because only these pathways (and their variations) can sustain life? Evolutionists think the former is correct, cdesign proponentsists accept the latter view.

This proved to be rather damaging in a later court case,  Kitzmiller Vs Dover, whose judge clearly and eloquently categorized intelligent design as creationism.  

The Discovery Institute is the other major think-tank devoted to spreading intelligent design.  Like the FTE, the Discovery Institute likes to keep its religious foundation on the down-low, but their leaked manifesto made it very clear what their agenda is:

“To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural, and political legacies”

“To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God”

If you dig, this is where you end up.  Every ID supporter I have talked to or read feels that it is wrong to disallow non-materialistic (IE: “supernatural”) scientific explanations.   They all believe we were created by God.  They feel this as a direct result of their religious convictions, or might even say this conviction LED them to religion in the first place.   Religion is the very foundation of the Intelligent Design movement, which would not exist without it.

2) ID is the teleological argument.

The actual philosophy of intelligent design can be reduced to the teleological argument for the existence of a Creator.  The philosophy of intelligent design is religious in nature, because the teleological argument is religious in nature; it makes specific claims about God.  The intelligent design form is subtly different than the standard formulation, though:

  1. Complexity implies a designer.
  2. The universe is highly complex.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a designer

“So one elephant having a trunk was odd; but all elephants having trunks looked like a plot.” 

G. K. Chesterton

I’m no philosophy major, but even I can see that this formulation has some serious problems, even more problems than the original argument!  It’s because of this:

  1. Complexity implies a designer.
  2. The designer is highly complex.
  3. Therefore, the designer has a designer.

The fault lies with the implication that complexity requires design, design, of course.  IE: the assumption is; something complex requires something even more complex to create it.  For this reason, “complexity implies a designer”.  Conversely, if it is assumed that complex systems can come from SIMPLER systems, then complexity no longer implies a designer…there would be other possibilities. 

So it’s inescapable; the designer must be more complex than the designed in order for complexity to imply a designer.  But the problem is, this means the existence of a designer implies that the DESIGNER has a DESIGNER, which needs a DESIGNER, which doesn’t actually answer the fundamental question…where did the complexity of life come from?  

PS: evolution doesn’t answer the origin of life issue either, so ID shouldn’t feel to bad.  Stuart Kauffman’s into something, though…and it’s DEEP.  Engravings on the Stone Table deep.  

3) Obfuscation of language.

One of the traits of any movement is the modification of language that happens among it’s followers.  Religious movements are no exception to this rule, and neither is Intelligent Design.  But in order to see the stamp of religion on ID, it’s important to look at how two words are being redefined:

Creationism: 1) the doctrine that matter and all things were created, substantially as they now exist, by an omnipotent Creator, and not gradually evolved or developed. 2) (sometimes initial capital letterthe doctrine that the true story of the creation of the universe is as it is recounted in the Bible, esp. in the first chapter of Genesis.

Go onto any Intelligent Design website and search for the word “Creationism“.  You will find tons of comments about how ID is NOT creationism.  It’s important to realize, though; what they mean is that ID is not Young Earth Creationism.  Nevertheless, ID IS A FORM OF CREATIONISM.  It very specifically states that the creator designed life MUCH AS IT IS NOW, that the present day universe did not come about randomly.  

So while they pedantically argue that they’ve updated their science to avoid such embarassments as talking animals, a literal flood and a viable genetic population of two, it’s important to realize that the general definition of creationism certainly applies to intelligent design. 

Darwinism: “the Darwinian theory that species originate by descent, with variation, from parent forms, through the natural selection of those individuals best adapted for the reproductive success of their kind.”

Your average ID proponent will NEVER use the term “the modern synthesis”.  They will OCCASIONALLY call it “evolutionism” (NOT “evolution”), but will virtually always refer to the modern synthesis as “Darwinism”.  Furthermore, they will vigorously attack fundamentals of darwin’s theory like descent with modification and natural selection.  

However, they will pretty much ignore the advances in evolution since the time of Darwin.  This serves a very important purpose; to make evolution an “ism” instead of a science.  Into a personality cult, if you will.

This completely ignores that evolution is THE foundational cornerstone of modern genetics and biology.  It it is easy to compare Darwin to Newton and Einstein; his theory was revolutionary and helped create entire fields of science.  Make no mistake; evolution IS science, NOT “The cult of Darwinism”.  It is so widely accepted because it explains so much.

Here’s what is being done with the language: Creation theory is scientific, Darwinism is a personality cult that doesn’t deserve the title of science.  But if you look under the hood at both intelligent design and evolution you’ll find the exact opposite of this.  The advocates of intelligent design ARE Creationists.  Evolutionary theory IS science, just as much as physics, geology, and astronomy are science!  

The very nature of the vocabulary points back to the religious aspects of Intelligent Design.  The only explanation for the world is that an intelligent designer made complex life MUCH AS IT NOW IS.  OR…the best explanation is that simpler processes developed into more complex processes through descent with modification and survival of the more optimal genes.   Decide what you wish, but do no buy into the obfuscation, the former option is basically rebranded creationism and the later option is a wonderfully fecund scientific theory.

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