This is a blog to discuss philosophy, chess, politics,
C. S. Lewis, or whatever it is that I'm in the mood to discuss.
Friday, March 18, 2016
From Lennox's God's Undertaker: Intelligent Design, Creationism, and Conceptual Confusions
At least some of the heat results from the fact that the term ‘intelligent
design’ appears to convey to many people a
relatively recent, crypto-creationist, anti-scientific attitude that is chiefly
focussed on attacking evolutionary biology. This means that the term
‘intelligent design’ has subtly changed its meaning, bringing with it the
danger that serious debate will be hijacked as a result.
Now ‘intelligent design’ strikes some as a
curious expression, since usually we think of design as the result of
intelligence – the adjective is therefore redundant. If we therefore
simply replace the phrase with ‘design’ or ‘intelligent causation’ then we are speaking of a very respectable notion in the history of thought. For the
notion that there is an intelligent cause behind the universe, far from
being recent, is as ancient as philosophy and religion themselves. Secondly,
before we address the question whether intelligent design is crypto-creationism
we need to avoid another potential misunderstanding by considering the meaning
of the term ‘creationism’ itself. For its meaning has changed as well.
‘Creationism’ used to denote simply the belief that there was a Creator.
However, it has now come to mean not only belief in a Creator but also a
commitment to a whole additional raft of ideas by far the most dominant of
which is a particular interpretation of Genesis which holds that the earth is
only a few thousand years old. This mutation in the meaning of ‘creationism’
or ‘creationist’ has had three very unfortunate effects. First of all it
polarizes the discussion and gives an apparently soft target to those who
reject out of hand any notion of intelligent causation in the universe.
Secondly, it fails to do justice to the fact that there is a wide divergence of
opinion on the interpretation of the Genesis account even among those
Christian thinkers who ascribe final authority to the biblical record. Finally, it obscures the(original) purpose of using the term ‘intelligent
design’, which is to make a very important distinction between the recognition
of design and the identification of the designer. These are different
questions. The second of them is essentially theological and agreed by
most to be outside the provenance of science. The point of making the
distinction is to clear the way to asking whether there is any way in
which science can help us with the answer to the first question. It is
therefore unfortunate that this distinction between two radically different
questions is constantly obscured by the accusation that intelligent design’ is shorthand for