Conversations: Intelligent Design?


Helena
Here is what we know. We know that the universe is far older than the Bible suggests. We know that all complex organisms on earth, including ourselves, evolved from earlier organisms over the course of billions of years. The evidence for this is utterly overwhelming.

Sappho
For example, there is no question that the diverse life we see around us is the expression of a genetic code written in the molecule DNA, that DNA undergoes chance mutations, and that some mutations increase an organism’s odds of surviving and reproducing in a given environment. This process of mutation and natural selection has allowed isolated populations of individuals to interbreed and, over vast stretches of time, form new species.

Helena
There is no question that human beings evolved from nonhuman ancestors in this way. We know, from genetic evidence, that we share an ancestor with apes and monkeys, and that this ancestor in turn shared an ancestor with the bats and the flying lemurs. There is a widely branching tree of life whose basic shape and character is now very well understood.

Helena
Consequently, there is no reason whatsoever to believe that individual species were created in their present forms. How the process of evolution got started is still a mystery, but that does not in the least suggest that a deity is likely to be lurking at the bottom of it all.

Sappho
Any honest reading of the biblical account of creation suggests that God created all animals and plants as we now see them. There is no question that the Bible is wrong about this. Many Christians who want to cast doubt upon the truth of evolution now advocate something called intelligent design (ID).

Zoe
But what is wrong with the intelligent design hypothesis?

Helena
The problem with ID is that it is nothing more than a program of political and religious advocacy masquerading as science. Since a belief in the biblical God finds no support in our growing scientific understanding of the world, ID theorists invariably stake their claim on the areas of scientific ignorance.

Zoe
Supporters of ID regularly argue that the very fact that the universe exists proves the existence of God, what are your thoughts on that?

Sappho
Well, that argument runs more or less like this: everything that exists has a cause; space and time exist; space and time must, therefore, have been caused by something that stands outside of space and time; and the only thing that transcends space and time, and yet retains the power to create, is God.

Helena
Many Christians like yourself find this argument compelling. And yet, even if we granted its primary claims (each of which requires much more discussion than ID theorists ever acknowledge), the final conclusion does not follow.

Sappho
To borrow a line from Mark Twain, against the assault of reason nothing can stand. – Who is to say that the only thing that could give rise to space and time is a supreme being? Even if we accepted that our universe simply had to be designed by a designer, this would not suggest that this designer is the biblical God, or that He approves of Christianity. If intelligently designed, our universe could be running as a simulation on an alien supercomputer. Or it could be the work of an evil God, or of two such gods playing tug-of-war with a larger cosmos.

(Based on: Harris. S. 2006. Letter To A Christian Nation p. 23-24)

See other: Philosophical Conversations

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