Balancing Intelligent Design and Philosophy

by Alan Anderson

I recently came across a couple of unique insights on how some (even classical Christian theists) object to Intelligent Design (ID) as being a “God of the Gaps” or “argument from ignorance” fallacy while reading The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism by Edward Feser. Feser effortlessly demolishes the gross philosophical ignorance of the New Atheists, and mainly does so by artful implementation of Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophical reasoning. Make no mistake, Feser pulls no punches. While in the process of dismantling atheism and its most hostile horsemen, William Paley’s argument from design becomes collateral damage. Sadly enough, for me anyway because I rather enjoy the design argument, Feser provides sound philosophical objections for why ID may not be the most effective approach when delivering an apologetic for the existence of the Christian God.

Personally, I sense that Feser is not charitable enough to ID and the valuable critiques it has persuasively marshaled against Darwinism. However, Feser rightly states,

““But ID arguments raise serious questions about Darwinism!” Maybe so, and that is not unimportant. But my interest here is in the question of what sorts of arguments establish the existence of the God of classical theism. And to challenge Darwinism, even to refute Darwinism, would not be to establish classical theism. Indeed, it would not even be to refute naturalism.”

Feser has an excellent point. If ID can keep the scientific elite in check, even while sometimes being the controversial minority, that’s great but does it advance the apologetic for classical Christian theism? However, on the other side of that coin, does ID allege to make any claims towards any single religion? Here is what prominent ID advocate Stephen Meyer writes in Signature in the Cell concerning the claims that ID makes,

“The theory of intelligent design does not claim to detect a supernatural intelligence possessing unlimited powers. Though the designing agent responsible for life may well have been an omnipotent deity, the theory of intelligent design does not claim to be able to determine that. Because the inference to design depends upon our uniform experience of cause and effect in this world, the theory cannot determine whether or not the designing intelligence putatively responsible for life has powers beyond those on display in our experience. Nor can the theory of intelligent design determine whether the intelligent agent responsible for information life acted from the natural or the “supernatural” realm. Instead, the theory of intelligent design merely claims to detect the action of some intelligent cause (with power, at least, equivalent to those we know from experience) and affirms this because we know from experience that only conscious, intelligent agents produce large amounts of specified information. The theory of intelligent design does not claim to be able to determine the identity or any other attributes of that intelligence, even if philosophical deliberation or additional evidence from other disciplines may provide reasons to consider, for example, a specifically theistic design hypothesis.” (pp. 428-429)

Both Feser, who seems to be largely critical of the ID approach, and Meyer seem to agree that the claims of ID are limited

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Balancing Intelligent Design and Philosophy | Worldview of Jesus