The Failure of "Intelligent Design"

Dinesh D'Souza

4/7/2008 12:00:00 AM - Dinesh D'Souza

As a Christian, I believe that the universe and its living creatures are the products of intelligent design. This belief is not merely derived from theology but is also supported by rational considerations. There is enormous intelligence embedded in the laws of nature. The greatest scientists over the past few centuries have worked to decode the intelligence mysteriously imprinted in the workings of nature. Scientific laws, as spelled out by Kepler, Newton, Einstein and others, reveal nature as exquisitely orderly. So who encoded this intelligence in nature?

Since the universe had a beginning, how did it get here? There is no natural explanation, since the universe includes all of nature. It is more than absurd to posit that the universe caused itself. The most reasonable explanation is that our rational universe is the product of some super-rational or omniscient intelligence. An intelligent designer is not the only explanation, but it certainly is the best explanation.

How the creator went about His business of making the universe and its life forms is another question, and this is a question for science to answer to the degree that it can be answered. Darwin's theory of evolution posits that chance, mutation and natural selection largely account for the transitions between one life form and another. Man, as an animal, is also the product of evolution, having descended from the same evolutionary "tree" that produced gorillas and chimpanzees.

Did God order things this way? Certainly if you read the Bible you would never predict Darwin's theory of evolution. But neither from the Scriptural accounts could one predict that the earth goes around the sun. The Bible is not and does not purport to be a science textbook. It takes no position, for example, on the heliocentric theory. Unfortunately, in past centuries, many Christians interpreted a few casual references to the sun "rising" to mean that the earth must be stationary and the sun must revolve around the earth. These interpretations were hasty, to say the least: the Bible is describing sunrise from a human or experiential perspective. Still, these narrow-minded Christians opposed Copernicus and Galileo until they were forced to admit that they were wrong. It wasn't the Bible that was mistaken; it was the foolish certainty of its interpreters that was exposed and discredited.

Today some Christians may be heading down the same path with their embrace of "intelligent design" or ID. This movement is based on the idea that Darwinian evolution is not only flawed but basically fraudulent. ID should not, however, be confused with bible-thumping six-day creationism. It does not regard the earth as 6,000 years old. Its leading advocates are legal scholar Phillip Johnson, biochemist Michael Behe, mathematician David Berlinski, and science journalist Jonathan Wells. Berlinski has a new book out The Devil's Advocate that makes the remarkable claim that "Darwin's theory of evolution has little to contribute to the content of the sciences." Ben Stein's movie "Expelled" provides horror stories to show that the case for ID as well as critiques of evolution from an ID perspective are routinely excluded or censored in the halls of academe.

ID advocates have sought to convince courts to require that their work be taught alongside Darwinian evolution, yet such efforts have been resoundingly defeated. Why has the ID legal strategy proven to be such a failure, even at the hands of conservative judges? Imagine that a group of advocates challenged Einstein's theories of general and special relativity. Let's say that this group, made up of a law professor, a couple of physicists, several journalists, as well as some divinity school graduates, flatly denies Einstein's proposition that e=mc2.

How would a judge, who is not a physicist, resolve the group's demand for inclusion in the physics classroom? He would summon a wide cross-section of leading physicists. They would inform him that despite unresolved debates about relativity--for example, its unexplained relationship to quantum theory--Einstein's theories are supported by a wide body of data. They enjoy near-unanimous support in the physics community worldwide. There is no alternative scientific theory that comes close to explaining the facts at hand. In such a situation any judge would promptly show the dissenters the door and deny their demand for equal time in the classroom. This is precisely the predicament of the ID movement.

The problem with evolution is not that it is unscientific but that it is routinely taught in textbooks and in the classroom in an atheist way. Textbooks frequently go beyond the scientific evidence to make metaphysical claims about how evolution renders the idea of a Creator superfluous. my book What's So Great About Christianity provides several examples of this.

Most Christians don't care whether the eye evolved by natural selection or whether Darwin's theories can account for macroevolution or only microevolution. What they care about is that evolution is being used to deny God as the creator. For those who are concerned about this atheism masquerading as science, there is a better way. Instead of trying to get unscientific ID theories included in the classroom, a better strategy would be to get the unscientific atheist propaganda out.