Answering Objections to Intelligent Design (ID)


1. There is good evidence that life has existed on Earth for billions of years.

The ID thesis does not dispute this. 

2. There is good evidence that animals evolved from a common ancestor.

The ID thesis does not dispute this. 

3. Any theory that invokes God is outside the realm of science.

The ID thesis does not invoke God. The thesis is simply that certain features of biological life are best explained as the result of intelligent design and not blind chance. ID makes no claim about the identity of the designer(s). Of course, such a thesis has obvious theistic implications, but so do other scientific theories. For example, the theory that the universe came into existence at a finite time in the past has obvious theistic implications, but it does not thereby cease to be a scientific theory. Furthermore, the theory that the physical laws governing the universe are finely tuned to permit life has obvious theistic implications, but once again, it does not thereby cease to be a scientific theory. 

4. From a theological standpoint, the notion of a universe which unfolds from one creative act is far more elegant than the notion of a universe which results from multiple creative acts interspersed over billions of years.

This assertion is questionable. (After all, an artist can hardly be faulted for using more than one stroke to create her masterpiece.) Nevertheless, ID does not involve a commitment to multiple acts of creation. Take for example the origin of life. Michael Behe, arguably the most prominent ID advocate, argues that the chain of natural causation which resulted in the formation of the first DNA might stretch all the way back to the Big Bang. In other words, the universe might have been finely tuned from the beginning to unfold in such a way that at just the right moment in time, just the right particles would come together on planet Earth to form life. This event is so highly improbable that it should not be attributed to blind chance, and yet one need not posit any miraculous intervention after the initial creative act. 

5. ID invokes a “God of the gaps,” that is, a God who functions merely to fill the gaps in current scientific knowledge (“I don’t know how it happened, so God must have done it”). As scientific knowledge grows more and more comprehensive, such a God becomes increasingly irrelevant. 

As Oxford mathematician John Lennox notes, there are gaps which science closes and there are gaps which science widens. Early evolutionists imagined that the origin of life posed no problem to a purely naturalistic description of reality only because they assumed that living cells were about as complex as Jell-O. We know today that these scientists were quite mistaken. ID advocates do not posit design as the most probable explanation for the origin of life because they lack scientific knowledge; rather, advances in scientific knowledge lead them to adopt this thesis. 

Consider further that mainstream science insists that life originated through chance processes, even though no description of these processes can be offered. In other words, chance is invoked to fill a gap in scientific knowledge (“I don’t know how it happened, so chance must have done it”). Perhaps the real “God of the gaps” is not Yahweh but Fortuna.