Religion in America: Intelligent design on trial
Does the case for ID really strengthen the case of biblical creationism? Many defenders of ID don't think so. And many savvy Christian fundamentalists have also grasped that ID is a weak idea on which to pin their hopes. For one thing, proponents of ID go along with much that traditional Darwinists say. They agree that complex organisms evolved from simpler ones. They agree that natural selection is the process that determines which traits will give individuals who possess them a better chance to survive and propagate. The ID hypothesis, furthermore, gives no support to the biblical creationists' beliefs about the age of the Earth and its creatures. ID proponents agree with Darwinians that both are hundreds of millions of years old. ID does not make the confident claim that the intelligent designer is God, much less the God of the Bible. (In this respect, ID proponents sound very much like 18th century Deists, who posited a clockwork-maker god who set the universe in motion and then sat back to enjoy the unfolding of his work.)
Are hardcore Darwinians being a little too dogmatic when they assert that all genetic mutations are random? Is it wholly reasonable to claim there cannot be any design or intention behind what appears to be random? In other words, are some scientists unwilling to acknowledge that certain aspects of Darwinian evolutionary theory might rest as much on metaphysical assumptions as do the core assertions of the ID hypothesis?
Doing so would not undercut the validity of Darwin's great theory. It would merely be an admission that certain parts of the theory are not yet demonstrably proven. Behind the elaborate mechanism of life there may indeed be a designing hand or mind. Or there may not be.
What we think, either way, is a matter of conjecture, a metaphysical assumptionor what some call a matter of faith.
Religion in America, a regular feature of usnews.com, probes issues of faith in the United States.