The writer, philosopher and home-maker Lydia McGrew makes some very sensible points about Intelligent Design arguments in a recent post on her blog, titled, Special agent intention as an explanation (May 12, 2014), which cogently rebuts the claim (made by some critics) that ID rejects the notion of God as the necessary Cause of created things. She writes:
All Christians believe that God made the universe and sustains the universe. All Christians also believe that God sometimes does things that in some sense “go beyond” making and sustaining the universe. We usually call those miracles. Some have argued that, if a particular “going beyond” was “front-loaded” into the initial conditions of the Big Bang, it shouldn’t be considered a miracle. I’m rather against front-loading talk, because I’m inclined to think that it would look like an intervention whenever it came up anyway… But either way, Christians are committed to believing that there are things that God does by special intention that goes beyond, “God continually sustains everything at every moment” or “God made the whole world, somehow.”
Dr. McGrew proceeds to illustrate her point for the benefit of her Christian readers:
This is why all Christians that I know of have some notion of the natural order or of what are usually called secondary causes. There is some sense in which it is true to say that the weather in my town today is probably not the result of special divine intention but rather of the secondary causes according to which God has built the world but that the voice from the sky at Jesus’ baptism was definitely the result of special divine intention.
Intelligent Design, argues Dr. McGrew, is purely concerned with special agent intention, and therefore has nothing to do with God’s act of continually sustaining everything in being:
When someone promoting an ID argument says that it is probable that such-and-such a particular phenomenon (say, the visual biochemical cascade in some animals) was the result of intelligent design, … he is saying … that it is probable that this particular phenomenon (not everything in the universe indiscriminately) was the result of special agent intention…. An ID argument involves postulating that we can examine probabilistically whether some given phenomenon is the result of special agent intention–which, if God is in fact the Agent in question, means special divine intention. What is being treated as merely probable is not God’s relationship to Everything That Is but some agent’s (or Agent’s) special intention, and acting to bring about that special intention, with regard to this particular arrangement or event.
And whatever one believes about God as the Necessary First Cause and so forth, one is completely free to regard it as merely probable that some given phenomenon in the world is a result of God’s special intention and special act to bring about that intention…
…[F]rom a metaphysical point of view, I think it is enlightening to hold that in some sense special agent intention and action constitute the merely probable explanation in ID arguments. This should lay to rest any objection that ID is rejecting a God who necessarily is the Cause of all things.
While acts of Intelligent Design need not be construed as miracles, it is nevertheless true that acts of Intelligent Design, like miracles, are instances of special agent intention. Dr. McGrew maintains that the same kind of probabilistic argumentation that is used by apologists to argue for the likelihood of some miracle having happened in the past can also be used to demonstrate that some pattern in Nature is the result of Intelligent Design:
Our conclusions about whether some animal or aspect of biological life is a result of special divine intention should be drawn on the basis of all available evidence, and in many cases (as discussed in the voice in the sky example in the previous post) that evidence will be similar in kind to the evidence that allows us to conclude special divine intention and action in the case of miracles within human history.
Lydia McGrew’s article is well worth reading in its entirety. Comments are welcome.