Dr. Keith Lockitch of the Ayn Rand Institute wrote a column for our local paper last Friday critical of Intelligent Design. His essay can be read here. I replied with the following:
Dr. Lockitch writes that ID theorists are being disingenuous when they claim that their theory does not require that the designer be the Judeo-Christian God. He argues to the contrary that:
This is somewhat misleading. Here are four reasons why:
1. ID theorists ask whether biological information such as we find in the DNA, proteins, cellular machinery, and cellular assembly lines of living things can be produced by blind, purposeless, undirected forces or whether they require intelligent input. It may be that we can never learn anything about the designer at all, but we need know nothing about it's characteristics in order to deduce that there must be one.
If it turns out that we are able to identify the designer of earth-bound life then of course we might ask whether or not this designer itself shows evidence of design, but it is hardly a criticism of ID that it seeks a more satisfactory explanation for the complex, information-bearing structures of life than that these are just accidental products of the laws of physics and chemistry.
2. If ID theorists are going beyond the bounds of science by seeking to take the chain of causation as far as our human limitations allow, then so are cosmologists out of bounds for seeking to probe the origin of the universe as far back to the beginning as we are able. What should cosmologists do if their researches lead to the conclusion that the universe had a cause outside of itself? Abandon their quest for causes?
3. An intelligent entity, even a supernatural one, is not necessarily the God most people think of. The God of theism is not merely intelligent but is in fact the greatest possible being. Nothing in ID theory leads to such a being. For all anyone knows the designer of life could be similar to a Platonic demiurge that fashions pre-existing matter into living things. Just because some ID theorists personally believe that the designer is the God of theism, however, should no more discredit ID than the fact that many biologists think that Darwinian evolution justifies atheism should discredit Darwinism.
4. Even if it should turn out that the designer is a being similar to the God of theism that wouldn't make ID religious. The assertion that a Creator exists is no more religious than asserting the existence of other universes. The belief that there is more to reality than matter and energy is not in itself a religious claim and affirming the possibility of its truth is hardly a manifestation of religion. It would only constitute "religion" if the ID theorist were to advocate some sort of human obligation or responsibility to the designer, which, of course, no ID theorist has.
Indeed, what do we mean by the word religion, anyway? How do we recognize it? Not one person in a hundred who voices the objection that ID is religion masquerading as science can give a compelling definition of what "religion" is. The Encyclopedia of Philosophy acknowledges that the term eludes definition. Some religions have a moral code, some don't. Some religions have a god, some don't. Some religions involve worship of their deity, some don't. ID neither entails the existence of the God of any major monotheism nor does it prescribe worship of one. The fact that ID may lead to an intelligence which transcends the universe is hardly grounds for calling it religious.
Doubtless many ID adherents are religious as individuals and would like to see ID used as a means to point others to the Judeo-Christian God, but then many Darwinians are atheistic and see Darwinism as a useful tool for turning people toward materialism or naturalism. Neither the religious motivations of individual scientists on both sides of the debate nor the religious implications of their theories are relevant to the intellectual merits of their ideas.