Advocates of intelligent design try to
portray themselves as a modern-day Scopes, victims of a dogmatic
pro-evolution establishment that will not allow their scientific
view into the schools. But the central issue is whether intelligent
design is, in fact, a genuine scientific theory or merely a
disguised form of religious advocacy, creationism in camouflage.
Proponents of intelligent design aggressively market their
viewpoint as real science, insisting it is not religiously
one leading advocate, Michael Behe: “The conclusion of
intelligent design flows naturally from the data itself—not
from sacred books or sectarian beliefs.”
Proponents of intelligent design claim that Darwinian evolution
is a fundamentally flawed theory—that there are certain
complex features of living organisms evolution simply cannot
explain, but which can be explained as the handiwork of an
Their viewpoint is not religiously based, they insist, because
it does not require that the intelligent designer be God. “Design,” writes
another leading proponent, William Dembski, “requires
neither magic nor miracles nor a creator.”
Indeed, design apparently requires surprisingly little of the
designer’s identity: “Inferences to design,” contends
Behe, “do not require that we have a candidate for the
role of designer.” According to its advocates, the designer
responsible for intelligent design in biology could be any
sort of creative intelligence capable of engineering the basic
of life. Some have even seriously nominated advanced space
aliens for the role.
Their premise seems to be that as long as they don’t explicitly
name the designer—as long as they allow that the designer
could be a naturally existing being, a being accessible to scientific
study—that this somehow saves their viewpoint from the
charge of being inherently religious in character.
But does it? Imagine we discovered an alien on Mars with a penchant
for bio-engineering. Could such a natural being fulfill the requirements
of an intelligent designer?
It could not. Such a being would not actually account for the
complexity that “design” proponents seek to explain.
Any natural being capable of “designing” the complex
features of earthly life would, on their premises, require
its own designer. If design can be inferred merely from observed
complexity, then our purported Martian designer would be just
another complex being in nature that supposedly cannot be explained
without positing another designer. One does not explain complexity
by dreaming up a new complexity as its cause.
By the very nature of its approach, intelligent design cannot
be satisfied with a designer who is part of the natural world.
Such a designer would not answer the basic question its advocates
raise: it would not explain biological complexity as such.
The only designer that would stop their quest for a design
of complexity is a designer about whom one cannot ask any questions
or who cannot be subjected to any kind of scientific study—a
designer that transcends nature and its laws—a designer
not susceptible of rational explanation—in short: a supernatural
Its advertising to the contrary notwithstanding, intelligent
design is inherently a quest for the supernatural; only one
candidate for the role of designer need apply. Dembski himself,
trying to deny this implication, concedes that “if there
is design in biology and cosmology, then that design could not
be the work of an evolved intelligence.” It must, he admits,
be that of a transcendent intelligence to whom he euphemistically
refers as “the big G.”
The supposedly nonreligious theory of intelligent design is
nothing more than a crusade to peddle religion by giving it
of science—to pretend, as one commentator put it, that “faith
in God is something that holds up under the microscope.”
The insistence of intelligent design advocates that they are “agnostic
regarding the source of design” is a bait-and-switch.
They dangle out the groundless possibility of a designer who
of scientific study in order to hide their real agenda of promoting
faith in the supernatural. Their scientifically accessible
designer is nothing more than a gateway god, metaphysical marijuana
to draw students away from natural, scientific explanations
and get them hooked on the supernatural.
No matter how fervently its salesmen wish intelligent design
to be viewed as cutting-edge science, there is no disguising
its true character. It is nothing more than a religiously motivated
attack on science, and should be rejected as such.
Keith Lockitch is a Ph.D. in physics and a junior fellow at
the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, CA. The Institute promotes
Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged
and The Fountainhead.