Intelligent Design


am critical of Neodarwinism and support Intelligent Design theory for purely scientific and metaphysical (but not religious) reasons. I embrace Intelligent Design theory as a valid scientific research paradigm that has decisively refuted Neodarwinism, which was the only conceivable option for a purely mechanistic explanation for the origin of biological complexity. As intelligent agency is the only known source for specified information, the infusion of information by an intelligent agent outside of the system is the best explanation for biological complexity and diversity. Because of independent arguments for the truth of Christian theism, I am convinced that the intelligent designer is the God of the Bible. Even though, Intelligent Design theory is in principle compatible with universal common descent and guided evolution, I personally have come to reject universal common descent in favor of a sophisticated version of progressive (Old Earth) special creation in terms of non-random adaptive macromutations in the "womb" of parental organisms (analogous to Schindewolf's and Goldschmidt's "hopeful monsters") combined with the special creation of a new substantial form ("special transformism" sensu Chaberek 2017), but I do affirm that every organism (apart from the first living cell) was produced / born from a biological mother organism and thus did not pop into being ex nihilo. I see neither any scientific nor compelling theological reasons to dispute the conventional dating of the age of the universe and Earth, or the conventional explanations for the origin of the geological column and the fossil record.

 

As a scientist, who should follow the evidence wherever it leads, I came to doubt and finally reject the naturalistic Neodarwinian paradigm of unguided evolution via a purely mechanistic process of chance (random mutation, sexual recombination, genetic drift) and necessity (natural and sexual selection), even when supplemented with more modern concepts like symbiogenesis, multilevel (group) selection, epigenetic inheritance, evolvability, natural genetic engineering, phenotypic plasticity, and niche construction, as suggested by the proponents of an Extended Evolutionary Synthesis (Third Way, Evolution 2.0).  None of these phenomena can explain the origin of complex biological novelty, and some (e.g., natural genetic engineering and evolvability)   require intelligent design themselves. Therefore, I signed the "Scientific Dissent from Darwinism" list.

 

Even before my conversion to Christian theism, I became convinced that only a goal-directed (teleological) process, either with laws of biological form (structuralism) or with non-random adaptive macro-mutations, can explain the evidence. This assumption is also compatible with and supported by the discontinuous fossil record, which suggests saltational change. Therefore, I totally  agree with the views in Stephen C. Meyer's book "Darwin's Doubt".

 

My rejection of unguided evolution was originally not at all motivated by religion, but by some very convincing and unrefuted scientific arguments from Intelligent Design proponents, based on population genetics (Richard Sternberg), microbiology (Michael Behe), and molecular biology (Douglas Axe). These arguments emphasize the waiting time for coordinated mutations, or the isolated islands of functionality in a vast search space, which strongly limit the capability of a Neodarwinian process.

 

Concerning the origin of life and the first replicator I consider all naturalistic explanations as wanting and inadequate, and strongly support the conclusions in favor of design presented by Stephen C. Meyer in his excellent book "Signature in the Cell".

Is Intelligent Design Creationism?

No, Intelligent Design theory is not creationism in a cheap tuxedo, but purely an empirical scientific method to detect the traces of intelligent agency in biological organisms. I concur with the atheist philosopher Bradley Monton that Intelligent Design is not religion but a valid scientific approach.

 
Intelligent Design theory does neither identify the designer (it is equally compatible with naturalistic designers like space aliens, who  are even acceptable for skeptics like Richard Dawkins), nor does it imply any commitment to special creation rather than common descent. Thus, Intelligent Design by itself makes no claim to supernatural explanations for empirical data, even though it is open to theistic interpretations. The derogative term "ID creationism" is therefore completely inappropriate.
 
On the other hand, Creationism (esp. Biblical Young Earth Creationism) is based on the assumed authority and inerrancy of revealed scripture and postulates the direct special creation of all natural kinds of organisms by supernatural divine intervention. Creationism is a faith-based religious position, contrary to the scientific theory and methodology of Intelligent Design. The latter has no necessary connection to Biblical creationism at all, but it is compatible with theism and can indirectly support a theistic world view by refuting the only possible naturalistic explanation for biological origins.
 
I despise the dogmatic and sometimes even fanatical stance of some evolutionist scientists like P.Z. Myers (Pharyngula blog), Larry Moran (Sandwalk blog), Jeffrey Shallit (Recursivity blog), Jerry Coyne (Why Evolution is True blog), the anonymous coward behind The Sensuous Curmudgeon blog, and other infamous web activists against Intelligent Design and religion. Such anti-ID zealots and "evangelical" New Atheists have become an embarrassment and disgrace for the scientific community with their ill-bred behavior, e.g. regularly insulting scientists, who endorse Intelligent Design as "IDiots", or the ID think tank Discovery Institute as "Dishonesty Institute" or "Disco'Tute", or William Dembski as "Bill Dumbski". I feel personally offended by this, as I know all of the guys from Discovery Institute and the Intelligent Design community as very open-minded and tolerant, highly cultured and competent, sincere, and incredibly warm-hearted people, whom I am proud to rank among my dearest friends.

What about Theistic Evolution?

The term Theistic Evolution is not clearly defined, and often rather represents an euphemism for Neodarwinism with a gratuitous God, implying a kind of Deistic Evolution, in which God creates the diversity of life by establishing an unguided process. I consider this as scientifically and theologically problematic, and incompatible with scripture.

 
The BioLogos Foundation also promotes a version of theistic evolution, which they call Evolutionary Creationism, and explicitly distances itself from the Intelligent Design movement. However, their list of beliefs is mostly compatible with Intelligent Design. The affirmation of common descent cannot be a distinguishing feature, as several eminent Intelligent Design proponents either explicitly affirm common descent (e.g., Michael Behe, Richard Sternberg, Michael Denton), or remain agnostic about it (e.g., William Lane Craig), or at least affirm that there is substantial evidence for common descent (e.g., Walter Bradley, Vincent Torley, myself, and even a few YECs like Todd Wood and Kurt Wise). I am therefore at a loss, what is the actual point of theistic evolution sensu BioLogos, and their official statements do not really help either.

DISCLAIMER:

I strictly separated all my activities in favor of Intelligent Design and Christian apologetics from my professional work as paleontologist when I still worked as a museum scientist at SMNS.

My endorsement of Intelligent Design and Christian theism is exclusively my private point of view and is neither shared by my former colleagues at SMNS nor by the co-authors of my paleontological publications, who to my best knowledge generally subscribe to the mainstream evolutionary paradigm of Neodarwinism or the New Synthesis!

After resigning from my job at SMNS in December 2016 I am still actively working as a paleontologist and publish my research in peer-reviewed scientific journals. My ID-related work is published in appropriate journals and books that are open to design conclusions.