Just recently, I had occasion to write to a Christian university student who is sympathetic to the idea that the universe shows evidence of intelligent design, but afraid to defend that view for fear of ruining his academic career. So he wants to do Christian evangelism instead, on the theory that evangelism will help in the long run.
Maybe it will. But not if the evangelized people decide to live in a two-tier universe, one of which is materialist and the other is – well, whatever the materialists allow them to indulgeÃ‚Â themselves in.
I do not claim that God guided my words or that I received any special message from heaven when I replied, more or less as follows, with explanatory comments interspersed:
I am a Roman Catholic Christian and appreciate and support your desire to do evangelism. My concern – as I am sure you will understand – is that intelligent design only demonstrates that materialist atheism is not true. It does not provide a basis for the distinctive doctrines of Christianity.
[Christians argue specifically that God became as we are that we may be as He is. That is not a self-evident proposition and in any event it will not become more evident from studying the fine-tuning of the universe or life forms. Fine-tuning only shows is that materialism is obviously not true.]
So there is a good intellectual reason for keeping the two concerns as separate as possible.
To me, determining the identity of a designer is like trying to find out who wrote a disputed book.
[My background is in English literature. Suppose two authors are proposed: “Harry” and “Wayne”:]
If I can show that Harry did not write it (because he was only three years old when the book was first referred to in other works), I have not therefore proven that Wayne DID write it.
Indeed, I had better not be hasty. Further research may turn up the fact that Wayne died two years before events referenced in the book occurred. So we know Wayne didn’t write it either (or else that someone interpolated those passages for some unclear reason).
All I really know is, the book did not write itself. It had one or more authors. But further positive identification requires a new line of evidence.
And so it is with ID and Christianity.
We know that, contrary to the preposterous claims of materialists, the universe did not create itself.
But what follows? It would be absurd to claim a copyright on design, purpose, or intelligence in the universe on behalf of Christianity. No, that realization is the immortal heritage of every human being.
Now, as a traditional Christian, I think (no big surprise here) that Christianity offers the best account of the human condition. But in doing so, I leave theÃ‚Â quarks and neutrons and naked mole rats aside, and ask people to consider what we know of our own lives. What lies between what we are and what we know we should be – and what can possibly bridge the gap?
In matters of this sort, intelligent design is not the answer. It only prevents us from evading the question.