I recently noted that a visitor named Brian raised a number of challenges to the idea of intelligent design. Because of the large number of questions that he asked, I felt it better to respond by means of this new blog rather than add to the comments section of an older post.
Before beginning, however, I think it is important to note the general rule that it always easier to ask the hard question than to give even a simplified answer to it. Thus, when he asks his first question, it is a very complex question in and of itself which will require a great deal more time to answer fully than I have in a blog format. Thus, if some of the answers seem incomplete, it is because they are only intended to give rough answers to his inquiries.
Brian’s first question:
If the universe was created by an intelligent designer, where did the intelligent designer come from?
This is not an uncommon objection to both Intelligent Design (“ID”) and to the Argument from Design for the Existence of God (the “Design Argument”) generally. However, since Brian is asking this question in the context of ID, then that is the context to which I will limit my answer. The answer is: we don’t know, nor does ID seek to answer that question. You see, Brian is mixing up ID with the Design Argument. Whereas the Design Argument says that there must be a god who designed the universe, ID merely looks at nature and points out evidence of design. ID does not take a position on who or what designed or the designer’s nature (beyond noting that he/she/it must have an advanced intellect to be able to design what we see in nature).
Brian’s second question is more of an observation than a question:
You are right, intelligent design does not stipulate one or many gods... after all, as the Raelians point out, life on earth could have been created by extraterrestials. The point is meaningless.
I guess it is meaningless only if you are taking the position that the Christian God is the creator and that the only purpose of Intelligent Design is to lead people to a belief in the Christian God. Again, this exposes a misunderstanding of the nature of ID. ID is not about leading people to Christianity. It is about looking at nature and noting that the appearance of design that is recognized by many scientists may not simply be an appearance, but may actually be designed. The identity and nature of the designer is not directly knowable from science. It could be extraterrestials, but ID itself does not speculate on the issue of “who” so much as “there is evidence of design.”
Brian describes his third question as the “more important question.”
If a supreme being (beings) created the universe, how did they (he/she/it) do it? What processes did they use? Maybe we could use SCIENCE, the study of NATURE, as a way of determining how the universe was created? Oh wait, we are... evolution and the big bang!
Because of his obviously flippant attitude, Brian doesn’t see that he is very close to being right. Let me make this clear: ID does not stand in the way of science. For centuries, scientists have studied nature not to prove how nature worked absent a god, but to find out how God used the processes of nature in the creation of the world around us. So, to the extent Brian is trying to set up a false conflict between Christianity and science, he is missing the point that they are not seen by most Christian philosophers as actually being in conflict.
But again, Brian is reading Christianity into ID, and it isn’t there. ID is science based. ID starts with the scientific study of nature but merely refuses to unnecessarily expand natural processes beyond their natural boundaries in order to support a naturalistic world view. If the evidence shows that something evolved, then it evolved! But if the evidence leads a scientist to infer that evolution or other natural processes cannot account for a thing, should a scientist merely accept the reigning paradigm or should he argue that the evidence points in another direction? ID says no. Many scientists apparently think that these theorists should keep their mouths shut and support the reigning paradigm which the scientist is questioning.
This is about integrity in science. This is about looking at the evidence without unwarranted presuppositions. This is about not restricting scientific research to purely naturalistic answers if the evidence points in that direction.
Oh, and by the way, the present scientific viewpoint that there was a Big Bang actually supports the idea of an outside designer because one must ask what caused the Big Bang to bang, where the singularity which banged came from, and why the bang ended up banging in a way that made a universe that supports life (when it didn’t need to).
After a side comment, Brian continues:
It is ridiculous to use your argument that no atheist has disproven the existence of a god! How many times do logicians need to make the statement,
"You CANNOT prove a negative!"
You can't prove that God doesn't exist. Likewise, you cannot prove that vampires, wumpuses, or mermaids do not exist!
Okay, I agree. So why are there so many atheists? If it is impossible to prove that God doesn’t exist, then the best that they should say is that they are strongly agnostic. But that is not what they say, and I take them at their word. If you think that they are being ridiculous, then I accept your word without further comment.
How do you prove that a god exists? How do you separate a god from naturally occurring forces?
For the answer to the first question, I cannot “prove” that God exists because I cannot “prove” anything to someone who doesn’t want to believe it. If you don’t want to believe I exist, I cannot prove it to you. But if you want evidence, I can point you to much evidence for the existence of God. Try looking over our website which links to many many sources that will provide both arguments and evidence for the existence of God. I encourage you to have an open mind on this subject.
With respect to the question of how to determine God from a naturally occurring force, I urge you to read some of the literature of the ID movement which spends a great deal of time explaining what criteria is used to try to make that distinction. You can agree or disagree, but if you read it carefully and fairly, you will admit that it isn’t pseudo-science.
If a god materialized in front of you, how do you prove that it is a god and not a highly intelligent extraterrestial (or time-traveler) pulling your leg?
Good question. Answering from a Christian perspective, I suggest that since God has said he will not make a second coming to earth until the second coming referenced in Revelations, I would be inclined to seriously doubt anyone suddenly appearing and claiming to be God. Of course, this is not the least bit relevant to ID which would simply say that the extraterrestrial may be the designer. I suspect ID would say that if it claims to be a god, it is your call as to whether you treat him that way or whether you treat him as simply a rather advanced fellow being.
Category: Intelligent Design