Review Of Intelligent Design 101: Leading Experts Explain The Key Issues
The debate over whether or not our universe was designed with a purpose is one that centers not around philosophical questions but over “competing scientific explanations of the data”. That is the central argument expounded by Phillip Johnson in Intelligent Design 101, a book that aims to bring into sharp focus the central tenets of the intelligent design (ID) movement. Contrary to a popular misconception, the modern day controversy over design in biology is not one that arose from some push to force Judeo-Christian beliefs into the science classroom. It is instead one that extends back thousands of years to the time of Plato and Xenophon in ancient Greece.
Today the educational literature defines all aspects of biology in purely naturalistic terms. What is more, evolution has become the “monolithic fact” that we must all embrace. Even though there is incontrovertible evidence that defies such a factual status, evolutionists have bent over backwards to make naturalism fill in the glaring inconsistencies in the data. As a vociferous opponent of the macro-evolutionary aspects of Darwinism, Johnson has attempted a “divide and conquer” approach to break such a stronghold. By separating philosophical naturalists such as Richard Dawkins from scientists with a sound objective outlook, Johnson’s much-publicized Wedge Strategy has sought to prize neo-Darwinism away from its “pedestal of philosophical naturalism”. Attacks on Johnson’s initiative have focused on the religious backgrounds of its supporters rather than on the sound scientific arguments that they put forward. Still, as Johnson remarks those who today maintain that ID is all about religion ignore the counter claim that the theory of evolution is not exactly all about science.
Addressing this point in a later chapter of the book, philosopher J.P Moreland re-emphasizes a long-standing denial- ID makes no theological commitments to Christianity, Hinduism, Islam or any other religion and does not set us on a “slippery slope” of religious interference of science. Instead ID has scientific legitimacy evidenced by the observation that those who argue against it do so by attempting to falsify its scientific claims.
What are the scientific foundations upon which ID stands? Geologist and lawyer Casey Luskin, biochemist Michael Behe and philosopher Jay Richards remind us of the widely-disseminated ID arguments in their respective chapters of Intelligent Design 101. Complex information-rich objects such as those that lead to the inference of intelligent activity in archaeology and forensic science also exist in the molecular world. Behe builds on Luskin’s platform by treating us to an exposition of how irreducible complexity in nano-molecular machines continues to present “a conundrum for Darwinism”. Richards then gives us a comprehensive rebuttal of the materialistic interpretation of the Copernican principle challenging science popularizer and television celebrity Carl Sagan’s assumption that “the universe is all there is” and listing the features that are necessary for a habitable planet such as our earth to exist. Rather than being winners of a “grand cosmic lottery”, our earth’s habitability coupled with its prime ‘real estate’ position for making scientific discoveries argue in favor of design and purpose.
Evolutionary stalwart Julian Huxley famously opened the centennial of the publication of The Origin Of Species with the proclamation that naturalistic evolution explained the totality of life’s existence. Nevertheless the more recent struggles between creationists on whether the universe is thousands or billions of years old have done little to quell the rising tide of scientists who feel uncomfortable with the Darwinian endpoint. In Johnson’s assessment ID has become the umbrella movement that unites “people of many viewpoints who were once divided on side issues”. Today there exists a tremendous dissatisfaction with the Darwinian synthesis amongst reputable scientists who are unconvinced by the supposedly unarguable evidence that Darwinists hold on to. Within such a setting, Johnson equates his volume Darwin On Trial to “a match that lit the tinder beneath a stockpile of logs”.
In his chapter entitled Philosophical Implications Of Neo-Darwinism and Intelligent Design, philosopher Eddie Colanter brings to the reader’s attention the religious undertones of the so-called strong form of Neo-Darwinism which holds that (i) all of life is the product of purely materialistic forces, (ii) any reference to God is superfluous and (iii) any moral values that humans place on their comportment are purely arbitrary and subjective (this latter point has important ramifications for how we view contemporary social issues such as abortion, euthanasia and the definition of personhood).
Intelligent Design 101 then concludes with a broad overview of the historical landscape upon which ID has made its impact. What is made explicit is that ID is not simply a modern extension of the Christian creationism that featured in prominent legal cases such as those surrounding the Tennessee anti-evolution laws of the 1970s. In the words of distinguished theologian H Wayne House, it is a movement that carries with it an “empirical method of argument [and a] lack of allusion to the fundamentalist wing of Christianity and Christian theology”.
As we approach Darwin day with its accompanying festivities and plans to parade his namesake through museum halls across the nation, we cannot ignore the vast body of evidence that today is feeding the ID counter-attack. Intelligent Design 101 is an invaluable resource for those seeking to understand the twisted fables of the anti-ID lobby. If those who oppose ID have nothing to fear, they should be prepared to entertain competing points of view and to let truth and reason become “the final arbiters”.