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.

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

5 Comments

  1. The Discovery Institute defines neo-Darwinism in terms designed to make evolutionary theory look like an enemy of Christianity. This is part of their strategy of monopolistic creationism, an attempt to use slander, innuendo, and other underhanded techniques to eliminate any theory they perceive as competing with a creationist worldview.

    How accurate would it be to define Christianity in terms of the Westboro Baptist Church (owners of godhatesfags.com)? There are some people who believe in neo-Darwinian theory who believe that life on earth arose entirely through random, undirected natural processes. There are also many people–systematically ignored by the Discovery Institute–who are theistic evolutionists, and who have been proclaiming for centuries their perception of a marvelous design and purpose in Creation.

    Theistic evolutionists have been around for as long as there has been a theory of evolution. Well educated, well respected, they have done their jobs without bias against God or against the supernatural, and they have expressed their support for the principles of intelligent design without compromising their professional integrity or scientific objectivity. However, because they do not share the Discovery Institute’s a priori anti-evolution agenda, the DI shuts them out completely, not acknowledging their work or their success in promoting ID principles over the centuries.

    Intelligent Design has been around a lot longer than the Discovery Institute. What DI is doing, that they call “intelligent design,” is really anti-evolution, monopolistic creationism. It’s not so much “We love God” as it is “We hate Darwin.” I believe in ID, but I don’t think what DI is doing is genuine. I support ID, but I distance myself from DI.

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  2. Mark said:
    “How accurate would it be to define Christianity in terms of the Westboro Baptist Church (owners of godhatesfags.com)? There are some people who believe in neo-Darwinian theory who believe that life on earth arose entirely through random, undirected natural processes. There are also many people–systematically ignored by the Discovery Institute–who are theistic evolutionists, and who have been proclaiming for centuries their perception of a marvelous design and purpose in Creation.”

    If you see my most recent post on the topic (and I don’t post much on it), you’ll see that I affirm that ID may be compatible with much of evolutionary theory (depending, of course, on what we mean by that).

    “Theistic evolutionists have been around for as long as there has been a theory of evolution. Well educated, well respected, they have done their jobs without bias against God or against the supernatural, and they have expressed their support for the principles of intelligent design without compromising their professional integrity or scientific objectivity. However, because they do not share the Discovery Institute’s a priori anti-evolution agenda, the DI shuts them out completely, not acknowledging their work or their success in promoting ID principles over the centuries.”
    I’d love to hear you name some names for this claim. I’m fairly familiar with church history, and no names immediately spring to mind for this.

    “Intelligent Design has been around a lot longer than the Discovery Institute. What DI is doing, that they call “intelligent design,” is really anti-evolution, monopolistic creationism. It’s not so much “We love God” as it is “We hate Darwin.” I believe in ID, but I don’t think what DI is doing is genuine. I support ID, but I distance myself from DI.”
    Again, if by ‘anti-evolution’ you mean ‘anti-undirected and random mutations,’ then yes, I should suppose that DI and ID are against it. That doctrine doesn’t seem to be very compatible with Christianity at all.

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  3. Theistic evolutionists are not terribly famous, more’s the pity, but there are several: Asa Gray and Henry Drummond, from Darwin’s era, and Howard Van Till and Kenneth Miller in our own time.

    As for evolution being “undirected and random mutations,” bear in mind that within the scope of science, only natural causes are in view, so the term “undirected” means “not directed by any verifiable natural cause.” The larger, metaphysical/theological question of whether random events are guided and controlled by a higher power is outside the scope of scientific inquiry, so the term “undirected” should not be taken to mean that science is denying that God plays any role in the course of evolution.

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  4. Theistic evolutionists? There have been many: Darwin, Wallace, Asa Gray, Theodosius Dobzhansky, Kenneth Miller, Francis Collins. Especially note the distemper from ID advocates directed at Miller and Collins.

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  5. Now, many days later, I am reminded of one of the things that first put me off of intelligent design. Were it a good and useful tool of science, would it corrupt those who use it?

    Why is it that an argument for intelligent design cannot be maintained for more than a few minutes without the ID advocate resorting to bizarre distortions of science, or denigration of science and scientists, or crude attacks on those who do science, or all three?

    Can ID be Godly if it so easily leads astray otherwise good people?

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