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On Why ID Matters

June 14th, 2005 | 2 min read

By Matthew Lee Anderson

Reading my brother's latest comment, I realized why ID matters for our broader worldviews.

The Discovery Center's website (the Discovery Center is the hub of ID activity) states:

The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and
of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected
process such as natural selection.

This entails two things about the universe: (1) There is intentionality in the universe. The physical world is the way it is because it was originally intended to be that way. (2) There is a rational structure to the universe. This is closely linked to (1), but it makes all the difference in the world. Fundamentally, ID posits that a intelligent agent caused things to be the way they are, and not some other way. That means that when we ask "Why is the world the way it is?", there is the possibility of an reason beyond "It just happened that way."

Nietsche characterized the history of the West as a war between Homer and Plato, and we have returned to that war. Homer's Iliad depicts gods who act capriciously, who are fundamentally irrational. The most basic fact of the universe is power, not rationality, and consequently there is only war. Plato, even if you disagree with his metaphysics, is the first major philosopher to argue that fundamentally reason must be at the center of the universe, not unreasoning power.

This is the fundamental disagreement between ID and neo-Darwinianism. If there is an intelligent design to the universe, then the universe is rational, not a-rational (which always reduces to irrationality). If there is no intelligent design, then power becomes the chief virtue.

My brother's comment referenced this page from talkorigins. Included on it is this statement about the history of theories of the cosmos pre-Darwin:

"Anti-evolutionary ideas have been around for millennia and have not yet contributed anything with any practical application."

Homer and Plato are yet at war, though they have chosen a new field of battle.

Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is an Associate Professor of Ethics and Theology in Baylor University's Honors College. He has a D.Phil. in Christian Ethics from Oxford University, and is a Perpetual Member of Biola University's Torrey Honors College. In 2005, he founded Mere Orthodoxy.

Topics:

Philosophy