The Intelligent Designer’s God

By Anthony | February 21st, 2006 | 12:47 am

The root of the conflict between believers in Intelligent Design and proponents of Evolution is philosophical. The idea that humans and apes branched off from a common ancestor – that biologically speaking we are but a twig on the tree of life – is unacceptable to IDers and Creationists. The notion that seemingly unguided processes dependent upon random influences were responsible for the variety of life around us robs God of his glory. Infinite in power, God would never use naturalistic processes, running over hundreds of millions of years to sculpt his creation – would he?

Kenneth Miller – a biologist, author, believer in evolution and in God – thinks he would have, according to his book Finding Darwin’s God.

In obvious ways, the various objections to evolution take a narrow view of the capabilities of life – but they take an even narrower view of the capabilities of the Creator. They hobble his genius by demanding that the material of His creation ought not to be capable of generating complexity. They demean the breadth of His vision by ridiculing the notion that the materials of His world could have evolved into beings with intelligence and self-awareness. And they compel Him to descend from heaven onto the factory floor by conscripting His labor into the design of each detail of each organism that graces the surface of our living planet.

Sadly, none of this is necessary. If we can accept that the day-to-day actions of living organisms are direct consequences of the molecules that make them up, why should it be any more difficult to see that similar principles are behind the evolution of those organisms. If the Creator uses physics and chemistry to run the universe of life, why wouldn’t He have used physics and chemistry to produce it, too?

Most people would not argue with the idea that the universe runs according to physical principles, without constant, direct intervention from God. We understand many of the processes responsible for the growth and reproduction of life, right down to the chemical reactions within cells and between the very molecules making up living things. If these processes are sufficient to sustain life and allow it to continue, why should they not be sufficient to have been used to create the variety of life that we see?

As Miller says, by demanding that God directly intervene in his creation to design each new species, tinkering with life for every new form of animal that appears in the fossil record, those who would glorify God are actually demeaning his ability. Which is more magnificent: A clock that needs to have its hands manually advanced every minute to keep accurate time, or a clock that ticks away, advancing on its own, minute-by-minute? The philosophy behind Intelligent Design says God can’t make a clock that keeps time on its own – divine intervention is needed to keep things on track.

Or imagine a simple computer circuit that has the ability to reconfigure itself according to feedback it receives from the world around it. As problems are fed into it, it grows more complex. It optimizes its programming on its own. It evolves according to the demands placed on it, never needing a programmer to tinker with its code to make a bug fix or a security patch, because it can do those things by itself. That would certainly be a more amazing creation than a computer circuit that needs a technician to rebuild it, or a programmer to patch it. Yet the thinking behind Intelligent Design says that God can’t make a circuit like that. Intelligent Design says the programmer needs to step in and make major changes by hand.

Which view gives more credit to God’s abilities?

(Note: The clock and computer analogies are mine, so please don’t hold Miller responsible for any shortcomings they may have. I recommend reading the entire book. It does a great job of laying out the evidence for evolution, refuting ID’s claims, and showing why there need not be a conflict to begin with.)

3 Responses to “The Intelligent Designer’s God”

  1. Joel Gillespie Says:

    PotatoStew,

    I think will read the book. It sounds fascinating. As biology major, a Christian, a lover of Genesis, and an ongoing lover of the science of biology and all things which touch on it, it is a matter that interests me greatly. My concern about ID as such is that it produces a “God of the gaps,” a God who shows up when things seem to complicated to explain otherwise. My problem with evolution or natural selection is that as a mechanism it simply does not satisfy me scientifically speaking as sufficient to explain the level of complexity that we see even in the simplest bacterium, which is one reason so many serious scientists are looking so seriously for life forms outside of the earth or our solar system. They believe that the short time required to produce the complexities of bacteria is just not realistically explainable by natural selection. My guess is that in a hundred years there will be a new model which has not yet presented itself now. I don’t know if it will be more or less kind to the ID folks. Of course I affirm intelligent design in an ultimate sense, just not posited as you have put it above, and to tell you the truth, as of today, I have no clue how God made all things, or how quickly, but it’s great fun learning more and more about creation, and continuing to study the Scriptures like Genesis which are mysterious and complex in their own way, and trying to have an open mind and sense of awe and wonder at the beauty and complexity of it all, and believing that eventually the two will merge somehow.

  2. PotatoStew Says:

    “My concern about ID as such is that it produces a ‘God of the gaps,’ a God who shows up when things seem to complicated to explain otherwise.”

    That’s a very good point, and one that Miller talks about in the book. He points out that the gaps are closing rapidly, which doesn’t bode well for anyone who is trying to wedge God into them. Another point that he makes is that if this really is God’s creation, then the more we know about it, the more we know about him. He’s in the light of knowledge, not the darkness of the gaps.

  3. Joel Gillespie Says:

    PotatoStew,

    Although specific cases of “irreducible complexity” as have been raised will be explained as time goes on, I still believe that there is a problem with natural selection as a mechanism in general providing explanatory power for the complexity of biological/biochemical life. This is especially problematic as we see such biochemical complexity in bacteria already in existence so early in the formation of the earth. So for me the problem isn’t that I am looking for God to fill in the gaps, nor is it that I have a problem with the notion of God using a process of time and randomness (my own existence, which I believe to be due to God’s creative act, was also due to the random nature of sperm meeting egg, etc. I believe that the doctrine of God’s providence takes care of that dilemna), rather, I simply have never seen natural selection displayed effectively as a mechanism for explaining significant changes in biological life. It all sounds so good. It sounds powerful. But at the nuts and bolts level of the biochemical changes that would create the anatomical changes etc, I just do not find natural selection and its variations compelling. I don’t think some special creation theory will replace it. Rather I think we’ll stumble across a different mechanism not previously understood, maybe something more Lamarkian or like Pangenesis afterall, or some new improved version of Punctuated Equilibrium – I don’t know – or something never before yet considered. That’s just what I think. I think in fifty years or so natural selection will have been selected out. Could be wrong. We’ll see.