The Intelligent Design Movement

Does the identity of the Creator really matter?

The Intelligent Design (ID) movement has gained increasing recognition and publicity over the last several years at both local and national levels. It is especially well-known in educational realms, where it has been heralded as an alternative to Darwinism/naturalism.

The definition of ID can be best summarized as a theory that holds that “certain features” of living and nonliving things were designed by an “intelligent cause” as opposed to being formed through natural causes.1 The ID concept does not name the intelligent cause, nor does it claim that everything is designed, thus allowing for evolution/natural causes to play a role.

The historical roots of the ID movement lie in the natural theology movement of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The current movement, however, uses more than just philosophical arguments for a designer; it uses scientific evidences drawn from biology, chemistry and physics.

ID uses irreducible complexity2 (meaning that for something to function, it still requires a certain number of parts), to infer that living and nonliving things have been designed. Some examples are the biochemistry of vision and the mammalian blood-clotting pathway.3 These biological pathways consist of many factors, and all the factors are necessary for the pathway to function properly. 4 Thus, evolution—which works via the mechanism of small, gradual steps and keeping only that which is immediately functional—could not have formed these pathways. Evolution is goalless and purposeless; therefore, it does not keep the leftovers.

The question of whether or not a feature of a living organism displays irreducible complexity is answered by using what is called an “explanatory filter.” The filter has three modes of explanation:

  1. Necessity: Did it have to happen?
  2. Chance: Did it happen by accident?
  3. Design: Did an intelligent agent cause it to happen?5

This is a very logical, common-sense approach used by individuals every day to deduce cause and effect. A feature of the universe or a living organism must be designed if the first two modes of explanation are answered as no.6

William Dembski states, “ID is three things: a scientific research program that investigates the effects of intelligent causes; an intellectual movement that challenges Darwinism and its naturalistic legacy; and a way of understanding divine action.”7 The ID theory focuses on what is designed rather than answering the questions of who, when, why, and how. Those within the movement believe this promotes scientific endeavor by looking for function and purpose in those things that are designed; whereas an evolutionary mindset presupposes waste and purposelessness and aborts further scientific investigation.

Positives and Problems with ID

The ID movement does have several positives. ID may serve as a useful tool in preliminary discussions about God and creation to gain an audience that might be turned off at the mention of the Bible.8 Since the movement is very careful not to associate itself with Christianity or any formal religion, some think it will stand a better chance of gaining acceptance as an alternative to Darwinism in the schools.9 The movement has produced many resources which support the biblical creationist viewpoint.10 It makes clear that Darwinism/naturalism is based on the presupposition that the supernatural does not exist, thus affecting the way one interprets the scientific evidence.11

However, the major problem with the ID movement is a divorce of the Creator from creation. The Creator and His creation cannot be separated; they reflect on each other.

In today's culture, many are attracted to the ID movement because they can decide for themselves who the creator is—a Great Spirit, Brahman, Allah, God, etc. The current movement focuses more on what is designed, rather than who designed it. Thus, leaders in the movement do not have problems with accepting an old age for the earth or allowing evolution to play a vital role once the designer formed the basics of life.

Proponents of ID fail to understand that a belief in long ages for the earth formed the foundation of Darwinism.12 If God’s Word is not true concerning the age of the earth, then maybe it’s not true concerning other events of the Creation Week; and maybe God was not a necessary part of the equation for life after all.

Without the framework of the Bible and the understanding that evil entered the world through man’s actions (Genesis 3), God appears sloppy and incompetent. People ask why God is unable to prevent evil from thwarting His plans, resulting in such poor design, instead of understanding that because of the Fall there is now a cursed design.

God’s role as Creator is foundational to His role as Redeemer.

In addition, because the ID movement does not acknowledge God as Redeemer, there seems to be no final solution for the evil in this world; and by all appearances it will continue to reign supreme. However, when trusting the Bible as opposed to neglecting it, we read that Jesus clearly conquered death with the Resurrection (Romans 6:3–10) and that one day death will no longer reign (Revelation 21:4). Again, the Creator and the creation reflect on each other.

Romans 1:20 states that all men know about God through His creation. However, recognizing that there is a designer is only the first step. Colossians 1:15–20 and 2 Peter 3:3–6 demonstrate how God’s role as Creator and Redeemer are inexorably intertwined. Again, God’s role as Creator is foundational to His role as Redeemer. Recognizing a designer is not enough to be saved; submitting to the Redeemer is also necessary.

The Creator and His creation cannot be separated; therefore, knowledge of God must come through both general revelation (nature) and special revelation (the Bible). The theologian Louis Berkhof said, “… since the entrance of sin into the world, man can gather true knowledge about God from His general revelation only if he studies it in the light of Scripture.”13 It is only then that the entire truth about God and what is seen around us can be fully understood and used to help people understand the bad news in Genesis and the good news of Jesus Christ.

Blood-clotting shows irreducible complexity using the explanatory filter ...

Blood Clot

Photo courtesy of

  • The blood-clotting pathway is compatible with, but not required by, the natural laws of biology and chemistry; so it is not a necessity.
  • It is complex because it is composed of many factors; thus, it has a smaller probability that it happened by chance.
  • The blood-clotting pathway does show design because it is complex and information-rich. All the factors must be present and interact with each other in a specified manner in order for the pathway to be functional. Thus, the blood-clotting pathway meets all the requirements for irreducible complexity and so it must be designed.

Although she had became a Christian at a young age, Dr. Georgia Purdom didn't always think that believing in a literal Genesis was important. But God used the words of a professor at Ohio State University to motivate her to examine what she believed.

Dr. Georgia Purdom

Photo courtesy of Dr. Georgia Purdom

“I wouldn’t give a Ph.D. to someone who believed in creation, because creationists don't know how to think critically,” the professor told her. Angered by this, she began to search for scientific evidence to support different viewpoints on origins, including the Intelligent Design movement.

Her search brought her to a creation conference where she learned about the Hebrew word yom, which means a literal, 24-hour day as it is used in Genesis 1. This caused her whole mindset to change.

After noticing that there were not very many women engaged in creation research, Dr. Purdom felt that God was moving her to work in creation studies. That dream became reality when she decided to leave her teaching position at Mount Vernon Nazarene University (after serving as a biology professor for six years) and join Answers in Genesis–USA (AiG).

This month (June 2006) Georgia, who has a Ph.D. in molecular genetics from Ohio State University, became AiG’s first full-time, female Ph.D. scientist engaged in research and speaking on the book of Genesis. She and her husband Chris have one daughter, Elizabeth, whom they adopted from China in 2005.

To read more about Dr. Purdom, see

Answers Magazine

July – September 2006

This issue covers topics such as differing worldviews, the Intelligent Design movement, justice, and more.

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  1. Discovery Institute Center for Science and Culture
  2. Behe, Michael, Darwin’s Black Box, p. 39, 1996.
  3. Behe, Michael, Darwin’s Black Box, p. 39, 1996.
  4. Behe, Michael, Darwin’s Black Box, p. 39, 1996.
  5. Dembski, William, Signs of intelligence; in: William Dembski and James Kushiner (Eds.), Signs of Intelligence, Brazos Press, Grand Rapids, p. 171, 2001.
  6. Dembski, William, Signs of intelligence; in: William Dembski and James Kushiner (Eds.), Signs of Intelligence, Brazos Press, Grand Rapids, p. 171, 2001.
  7. Dembski, William, Science and design, First Things 86, October 1, 1998.
  8. Wieland, Carl, AiG’s views on the intelligent design movement.
  9. Wieland, Carl, AiG’s views on the intelligent design movement.
  10. Wieland, Carl, AiG’s views on the intelligent design movement.
  11. Wieland, Carl, AiG’s views on the intelligent design movement.
  12. Wieland, Carl, AiG’s views on the intelligent design movement.
  13. Berkhof, Louis, Introductory Volume to Systematic Theology, Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, p. 60, 1938.


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