Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Intelligent Design: A Two-edged Sword

I sensed the Lord's calling in my life to pastoral ministry while I was completing my last year in college for a degree in physics.  In fact, it was a rather odd time because while I was taking a quantum mechanics class, during my senior year, I was also taking a seminary class on Romans.  In each class I was overwhelmed with the reality of God's glory as revealed in His general revelation (via quantum mechanics) as well as in His special revelation (via Romans).  It was during this time of transition that the Lord began to make it evident to me that He didn't need me to prove to the world, through scientific analysis, that He exists; or that He is the Creator of all things; or that Darwinism is a religion of fools.  What I began to realize is that even if men could be given a mountain of evidence, they would still suppress the truth in unrighteousness until the Lord sovereignly opened their hearts to accept what the Apostle Paul calls self-evident truth (Romans 1:19).  To state the matter empirically - God is - and His existence and attributes are clearly seen through what has been made (Romans 1:20).  Clearly, from day to day the Universe preaches, empirically, the evidence of God (Psalm 19:1-2) whether men recognize that evidence or not.  From quark to quasar - all things are from Him and through Him and to Him - to Him be the glory forever, Amen (Romans 11:36).  

I began to realize, as I transitioned from Physics to pastoral ministry, that the Lord was showing me, through His Word, what is the proper place and use of scientific evidentialism.  The most important thing that was being impressed upon my heart was that the sword of scientific evidentialism was only of secondary importance to the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.   We could say that my methods of apologetics were becoming transformed to such an extent that I began to realize that I had placed too high of a priority to science in my defense of creationism and Christianity.  While it is true that genuine science (the empirical observation of God's creation) does yield wonderful evidences of God's glory and attributes, yet such revelation pales in comparison to the special revelation of God's Word, which alone has the power to save the lost, for the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16).  On the other hand, there are many today who think that scientific evidentialism should be abandoned by Christians altogether - this too is a useless extreme.  It would seem that Christians have accepted the false charge of the secularist who says that science and religion do not mix - therefore real science is the venture of the secularist and no one else.  This false charge has been adopted by many in the church and it has produced a number of errors in the modern day while placing many Christians in a defensive posture regarding the subject of science.  Avoiding these extremes, the Christian must recognize that God's special revelation (Scripture) is the principal weapon that He has given to us in order to wage the needed warfare of truth; and that, secondarily, God's general revelation (creation) is a helpful source of evidence that is designed to point men back to the revelation of God in His Word (Isaiah 40:26).  I am convinced that a right order and balance in these things is needful for genuine Christian apologetics.

I mention my own journey of apologetical discovery in order to point out the value and dangers of what is presently called Intelligent Design (ID).  The concept of Intelligent Design goes back to the late eighties when its advocates sought to include an alternative to biological evolutionism in school textbooks through the concept of Intelligent Design.  In its primitive form, Intelligent Design is a fairly stripped down concept: it argues that naturalism does not account for the presence of order in biology and cosmology.  It is in this absence of evidence through naturalism that Intelligent Design posits the argument for an intelligent designer.  ID has become more visible recently, as in the case of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District in 2005, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III opined that intelligent design is not science and that it "cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents."  By this opinion he concluded that a school district's promotion of ID would violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution (Thus, it was by this judgment that Darwinian Atheism became the formally recognized religion of the United States - so much for the Establishment Clause).

I call Intelligent Design a two edged sword because it can cut both ways, depending on how a person uses it.  Overall, ID is a strange mixture of the good, the bad and the ugly:

The Good:  The greatest benefit of Intelligent Design is the science that it yields.  This is not to say that it is all good, but I would suggest that most of the people in ID are laboring as genuine scientists.  As a science type myself, I am weary of the pseudo-science that has been passed off as the real thing.  Darwinists proudly proclaim their nobility as such, but fail to yield the empiricism which real science demands.  From cosmology to biology, too much of what passes off as science is nothing more than theoretical speculation and hand-waving.  Darwinism has proven itself to be a religious cash-cow of which the scientific community is unwilling to let go.  Truth doesn't make the modern-day world of science go round; research grant money does.  Thus, I would say that the most honest scientists, among secular scientists* today, are those who come from the ID community - plain and simple. (*I refer to ID scientists as secular, not in view of their conclusions, but in view of their methodology:  They approach science, not with the premise of Scripture, but with an entirely non-religious premise of scientific analysis).

The Bad:  ID is not a biblical/theological movement.  It is a scientific movement that is vastly ecumenical.  For example, I recently reviewed Michael Behe's book: Darwin's Black Box and will be reviewing Michael Denton's work - Evolution, A Theory in Crisis soon.  Both of these men come from the ID community.  Behe is a Roman Catholic and Denton is a theist.  If you read these books with the expectation of getting a defense of young-earth creationism, then you'll be sorely disappointed.  What you get is good science - not perfect science, but science that is much better than everything else that is out there in the world of secular-evolutionary cosmology and biology.  My fear concerning ID is that it can be given too high of a regard among Christians.  What these scientists are producing is very good, but it is not without its problems.  I would advise that you consume ID literature like you would eat a roasted chicken: be sure to pick out the bones as you do.

The Ugly:  Though the adherents of ID believe in a creator, of some sort, there is no real convergence regarding the question of who that creator is.  In fact, it would not be beyond some definitions of Intelligent Design to include those who believe that life on earth was somehow planted by aliens from another planet.  Thus the design of our own lives would be attributable to an alien designer - who came into existence by some unknown process.  With such a broad definition as this, even Christopher Hitchens could be included into the ID community - savor the thought:  "My own view is that this planet is used as a penal colony, lunatic asylum and dumping ground by a superior civilization, to get rid of the undesirable and unfit. I can't prove it, but you can't disprove it either."  

Don't let that last meditation ruin your 4th of July holiday! 

As Christians, we do not have the right (I believe) to stick our heads in the sand when it comes to scientific research.  On the contrary, I would argue that it is only the Christian who can ascertain scientific data for its genuine purpose - to disclose the absolute glory and supremacy of the One who created all things for His glory.  Though it may not be evident at this point, I must say that I do encourage brethren to read ID materials - but you need to do so with great caution and balance.  My prayer is that the Lord will call more believers to the fields of science that have been dominated by secularism for too long.  Because of this recent secular domination, the scientific community has become a vast mission field, filled with people who need to be challenged with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Therefore I do pray that the Lord will send forth His laborers in the name of the Word of God incarnate - through Whom all things were made (John 1:3).