Commentary on the Intelligent Design Movement

Appendix D

There are some positive things about the Intelligent Design Movement but also some things that a Christian should consider carefully.

The Intelligent Design Movement (IDM) is an informal collaboration dedicated to exposing the problems with naturalistic evolution. As a movement, IDM challenges Darwinian evolution in schools, textbooks, and politics. There are some positive things about IDM but also some things that a Christian should consider carefully.

Intelligent Design Arguments

First, we must make an important distinction. The term “intelligent design” does not always refer to the Intelligent Design Movement. There are also, for example, intelligent design arguments. These arguments are used by IDM, but are also used by creationists not affiliated with IDM. Before we get into the details of IDM, it is instructive to briefly discuss intelligent design arguments, and their strengths and weaknesses.

Intelligent design arguments are those that confirm the existence of the Creator God (or at least a creator—not necessarily the biblical God). These arguments are based on the teleological argument for the existence of God. That is, living things appear to be designed for a function and with purpose and thus require a designer. Moreover, the universe and the earth appear to be “fine-tuned” so that life can exist. Often, intelligent design arguments draw on analogies with other things that are known to have been created by an intelligent source. Examples of intelligent design arguments would be irreducible complexity in living systems and information science arguments.

Irreducible complexity is a specific kind of order in which all the components must be in existence in order for the whole to work. A watch is the classic example. If even one of its essential parts is missing or out of place, the watch does not function properly. It is an “all-or-nothing” kind of machine. Irreducibly complex machines cannot have been generated by a gradual Darwinian process because none of the parts can work properly without all the other parts. Likewise, a living cell has many complicated parts that are interdependent; one cannot operate without all the others. Therefore, a cell cannot be the result of an evolutionary process in which parts are added one at a time. An intelligent creator is required.

These kinds of arguments . . . can be very devastating to naturalistic particles-to-people evolution.

Information arguments make use of the fact that, in all observed cases, creative information always comes from an intelligent source. As an example, when we read a book, we suppose that the book had an author even if we have never seen him or her. No one would assume that it was produced by a series of typos that gradually improved the quality over vast ages. Likewise, the DNA of living organisms has encoded instructions that dictate the function of every cell. Since information never comes about by chance, the reasonable deduction is that an intelligent agent created life.

These kinds of arguments (when used properly) can be very devastating to naturalistic particles-to-people evolution. However, they only indicate that life requires a creator.

They do not necessarily require the Creator—the God of Scripture. Intelligent design arguments would work equally well for the god of Islam or any other god. For that matter, they might lead some to believe that extraterrestrial beings are responsible for life on earth.

Intelligent design arguments, therefore, cannot be used to prove the existence of the biblical God. However, evidence of design is certainly consistent with the biblical God. Design is what we would expect when we accept the Bible as our starting point. Therefore, we encourage biblical creationists to use intelligent design arguments, when appropriate, as evidence that confirms the biblical God. Irreducible complexity and DNA packed full of information are exactly the kinds of things we would expect from biblical creation.

Both IDM supporters and young-earth creationists use intelligent design arguments. The difference is in the way these arguments are used. The IDM tends to use intelligent design arguments as their primary case against naturalistic evolution. However, we advise young-earth creationists to use the Bible as their primary source of information (Prov. 1:7), and then show how science confirms this. Logically, if the Bible is our ultimate authority (as it should be for the Christian), then it cannot be proved from something else because there is nothing more foundational.

The Intelligent Design Movement Strategy

IDM has approached the origins debate by limiting the scope of the argument to a single question: is something designed? They hope to avoid the common anti-religious bias of our culture by framing the question in a way that can be tested purely scientifically. Can we scientifically tell if something is designed by intelligence? If so, what are the characteristics we look for (such as irreducible complexity or creative information)? Whereas most public schools would never allow the Bible to be used as a source of information in a science classroom, challenges to Darwinism might be permitted on strictly scientific grounds. Those within IDM see their strategy as a way to challenge naturalistic evolution that avoids any “separation of church and state” issues.

Since IDM has limited its scope to the single question of whether something is designed, it does not endorse any particular religious view. Any person who believes in any god who created the universe or life in any way could be a member of IDM. This wedge strategy essentially divides belief about origins into two classes: naturalism and super-naturalism. By placing all super-naturalistic philosophies under the same “umbrella,” IDM hopes to present a more unified front than could be done by any single religiously motivated movement.

IDM is not a Christian movement, although there are many Christians within the movement. Recall that IDM exists primarily to refute Darwinian evolution. It does not exist to promote Christianity or biblical creation. Those Christians within the movement may see this as a clever strategy: perhaps they think that one must first remove the stumbling block of evolution before a person will even consider the merits of biblical Christianity. On the surface, this certainly sounds reasonable. After all, evolution certainly can be a stumbling block to Christianity. But there are some difficulties in attempting to refute a worldview in such a piecemeal fashion.

One problem with attempting to remove evolution by scientific evidence before exposing a person to the Bible (as IDM does) is this: without the Bible, a person cannot properly interpret the scientific evidence. We saw in chapter 7 that the scientific method presupposes the truth of the Bible (i.e., those who employ the scientific method but deny the Bible [such as evolutionists] are being inconsistent). The real battle is not over specific scientific facts but rather how those facts should be interpreted. So, when we attempt to argue against evolution without presenting the biblical worldview, we have done nothing to address the real issue: the faulty (unbiblical) interpretive framework used by evolutionists. Attacking the evolution worldview before presenting an alternative is problematic.

Instead, we suggest that these two tasks can be done simultaneously. We can both argue for the Bible, and simultaneously argue against evolution. Remember, people think in terms of an integrated worldview, not in terms of isolated facts. Therefore, we contrast our worldview (biblical Christianity) with all its implications (creation, young earth, salvation by grace through faith, and so on) against the evolution worldview with all its implications. We show that our worldview makes sense, but that the evolution worldview is arbitrary and inconsistent with its own axioms. When we argue this way, we are using the biblical “Don’t Answer, Answer” strategy indicated in Proverbs 26:4–5.

The Intelligent Design Movement does not employ this biblical strategy. The evolutionist insists that the Bible is not a reliable source of information. Those in IDM accept this standard (even if they don’t actually believe that way) and attempt to argue by the evolutionists’ criteria. However, we must not “answer the fool according to his folly”1 lest we be like him. Instead, the consistent Christian stands on the authority of the Bible. We would only stand on another authority in principle for the sake of argument to show how ridiculous it is.

We understand that there are certain times and places where it may not be appropriate to explicitly mention the Bible. For example, in a public high school, a teacher may be forbidden to teach students about the Bible in a biology class. (This just shows how far our society has gone “downhill.” After all, the Bible is the basis for biology, and all science as we saw in chapter 7.) Still, even when we cannot explicitly mention the Bible, we never stand on any other authority in practice. Instead we challenge other (false) authorities by showing that when one stands on them (in principle) it leads to nonsense—thus “answering the fool according to his folly lest he be wise in his own eyes.” We can, for example, show that old-earth assumptions (such as naturalism and uniformitarianism) lead to conclusions that refute an old earth. This approach is commonly used in young-earth arguments as shown in chapter 7.

The Unknown God

Since IDM is not a Christian movement, we would not expect that its goals and methods would always match with those of a Christian (though there may be some overlap). IDM seeks to persuade our culture that there is a creator. This is true, of course, but the Christian must not be content to end there. As Christians, our desire is to think and act in accordance with God’s will. It is our wish that none “should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). So, we don’t simply want to persuade people that there is a god who created life. We want to see people brought to saving faith in Christ, our Creator and Savior.

In Acts 17:22–31, Paul observed that the men of Athens were very religious. But they did not have a saving knowledge of Christ. They had erected an altar to “the unknown god.” Paul was not content to leave them to their belief in a god. Instead, He declared to them who God is. He began in Genesis, declaring that God is the Creator of all things. By quoting many of their sayings, Paul pointed out that they knew God already2 and had been borrowing from the Christian worldview. Paul did not end his sermon on creation until he told them about the resurrection of Christ—the culmination of the gospel. Although some mocked Paul (Acts 17:32), others wanted to hear more, and some believed (Acts 17:34). Paul’s sermon was very successful considering that he was speaking to an “evolutionized” culture that rejected the Bible. Paul followed the “Don’t Answer, Answer” strategy; he simultaneously refuted the unbelieving worldview while defending the Christian worldview.

The Pretended Neutrality Fallacy

It is quite common these days for evolutionists to demand that we argue on their terms. In particular, we are told that we must “leave the Bible out of it.” After all, the evolutionist does not believe the Bible (at least not Genesis 1), so he claims that it would not be fair to use the Bible. We must meet on “neutral ground.” On the surface this seems reasonable, and many Christians are therefore inclined to leave the Bible out of the discussion. But is this really meeting on neutral ground?

The idea that the Bible is not reliable when talking about origins is a secular idea.

The idea that the Bible is not reliable when talking about origins is a secular idea. After all, the consistent Christian believes the Bible is indeed reliable. The notion that the Bible should not be used when discussing origins is not a “neutral” idea. It is a secular idea. Too many Christians have been duped into arguing on secular terms.

We must always remember that the Bible is our ultimate authority. Since the Bible has demonstrated itself to be accurate on all matters upon which it touches, it is not the Christian who is “foolish” for standing on the Word but rather the non-Christian who is foolish for abandoning it. If an evolutionist insists that he will not start from the Bible—that’s his problem. Don’t make it yours! He is the one who is arbitrarily rejecting well-established recorded history in favor of guesswork.

Biblically, there is no such thing as “neutral ground” when it comes to one’s ultimate authority. In Luke 11:23, Jesus says, “He who is not with Me is against Me” and in Mark 9:40For he who is not against us is on our side.” Therefore, the claim that there is a neutral ground between the believer and unbeliever is itself unbiblical. By saying that there is such a thing as neutral ground, the unbeliever has already taken the position that the Bible is wrong—at least on that point. Thus, the unbeliever is really only pretending to be neutral, and so this is called the “pretended neutrality fallacy.”3 If the Christian agrees to these terms, he has already lost, because he has agreed that the Bible is wrong. By “answering the fool according to his folly,” the believer has become like him in the sense that he rejects Scripture as his starting point.

The Intelligent Design Movement as a strategy agrees to secular terms for debating. It leaves the Bible out of the discussion, avoids appealing to the biblical God, and avoids any reference to biblical history or the biblical time scale. We have seen the problems with this approach. Instead, we encourage Christians to follow the biblical strategy outlined in Proverbs 26:4–5. Do not stand on any authority other than the Bible, except for the sake of argument to show how foolish it would be.

No World History

Since IDM does not use the Bible in any way, it has no history to account for the present world. The evolution model at least has a history (albeit an incorrect one) that allegedly accounts for the present world. Evolutionists claim that they can explain the fossil record, rock formations, mountains, and canyons with their model. Moreover, biblical (i.e., young-earth) creationists also have a historical model that can account for these things. The ability of a model to explain various features of the world is a powerful asset. But IDM has no specific history (as a movement) and therefore does not even attempt to explain many features of the present world.

IDM has been criticized for this. But it cannot have a history because it doesn’t represent any specific worldview. Some evolutionists have argued that IDM is deceptive because the Christians within it are not upfront about their worldview. Critics of IDM have argued that it is a “backdoor” method of attempting to get the Bible into schools.

Since IDM has no history, it is perfectly compatible with old-earth creationism. Indeed, many individuals within IDM are old-earth creationists. They have accepted the secular view of history such as the big bang and the secular view of the geologic column and as a result have inherited the many problems and inconsistencies addressed in this book. Of course, some members of IDM are young-earth creationists, but they see IDM as a better strategy than being upfront about their worldview in its entirety.

Designed for Pain

There is a common argument for evolution that deserves mention here because it is very effective against IDM. This is a variation of the “problem of pain.” Namely, there are certain features of living organisms that appear to be designed to cause pain. Examples of this are thorns, bee stings, parasitic organisms, and carnivorous activity. Evolutionists argue that a good God would not have designed such things. Such features make more sense in an evolutionary world “red in tooth and claw.” This argument is particularly effective against Christians within the IDM because Christians argue that their Creator is a God of love.

Biblical creationists are able to answer this objection quite easily. God is good and He did originally make a perfect world without any pain or bloodshed. But today, the world is cursed because of man’s sin. God no longer upholds the universe in a perfect fashion (Rom. 8:20–22) as He did in the beginning. Therefore, many things in the present world have deteriorated from what they once were. Mutations (mistakes in the genome) can cause disease and suffering. But not all of the bad things in the world today are the result of mere gradual deterioration; God actively judged the world in response to Adam’s rebellion. Thorns in particular are specifically mentioned as being a result of the curse (Gen. 3:18). Since God instituted the curse, we would expect that some things in today’s world are designed to be painful. We would expect that other things cause pain due to deterioration. But since IDM does not appeal to biblical history, its supporters cannot answer the objection of pain.

Biblical Authority

So, despite the positive aspects of IDM, there are clearly many difficulties with it as well. All these problems directly or indirectly come back to the issue of ultimate authority. Each of us must either start with the Bible as our ultimate authority, or autonomous human reasoning. But since all knowledge is in Christ (Col. 2:3), autonomous reasoning does not lead to truth (Prov. 1:7, 14:12, 16:25). In fact, the only reason that unbelievers are able to know anything is because they are not completely consistent in their rejection of biblical authority. We could not reason in a completely autonomous fashion even if we tried—we would still have to borrow God’s laws of logic in order to deduce anything.

Relying on God’s Word as our foundation for reasoning does not mean that we need to accept things on “blind faith.” God certainly expects us to think and reason. But our thinking must have a foundation—we have to start somewhere. Without the foundation of the Bible, we would have no place to even begin our reasoning. We must learn to build our worldview on the rock of God’s Word, not the shifting sands of human opinions (Matt. 7:24–27).

The Intelligent Design Movement does not rely on the Bible as its ultimate authority. But then again, IDM is not a Christian movement, so this isn’t surprising. We certainly commend those in IDM for challenging Darwinian evolution and naturalism in general. We would encourage those Christians with ties to IDM to think carefully about the points that have been raised in this section, and to consider the biblical strategy of Proverbs 26:4–5. We encourage all Christians to be biblically minded about all things, placing their confidence not in man’s autonomy, but in God’s Word.

Old-Earth Creationism on Trial

Opting to skirt the controversy of Genesis as literal history, the biblical authority of the Holy Word is called into question and reduced to a collection of mere stories.

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  1. Here we are not referring to any specific person as a fool. Rather we are using biblical language to describe a biblical strategy. See chapters 7 and 8 for a more complete discussion of Proverbs 26:4–5.
  2. Romans 1:18–20 indicates that God has made himself known to everyone. So, there is no excuse for those who suppress the truth about God.
  3. This kind of fallacy has been addressed by Dr. Greg Bahnsen. Dr. Bahnsen had a tremendous gift for being able to articulate biblical truths particularly in matters of logical argumentation. These concepts are addressed in Dr. Bahnsen’s book Always Ready (Nacogdoches, TX: Covenant Media Press, 1996).


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