The logic of intelligent design consists, as I illustrated before, of two sets of two alternatives. The first set of alternatives states that either this complex structure developed naturally, or else it was designed. The second states: If this structure developed naturally, then either all elements developed at once (highly improbable), or some elements developed in anticipation of the final structure (implicating that genes have purpose – impossible). Since we can rule out both of these natural cause possibilities, then the structure must have been intelligently designed, as the following illustration indicates.
These two sets of alternatives which seem to lead inescapably to Intelligent Design are misleading for the following reasons:
1. The second choice suggests that our current knowledge of evolutionary mechanisms and genetics is complete – clearly it is not. But even in our current state of knowledge we can see other ways for parts of a complex structure to arise in sequence. This can happen because early steps in the process add survival value. It can happen because existing pathways can be duplicated, providing parallel pathways that can then vary through mutation as I explored in previous posts. Neither of these explanations needs to invoke blind anticipation of the final structure. We therefore already know more alternatives than the two given.
The second set of choices is then starting to look like this:
The scope for further increasing the alternatives at the second set of choices means that ID is a ‘Designer-of-the-gaps’ theory, and the Intelligent Designer of ID is destined to lose ground as genetics advances. This has always been an issue with trying to use every unexplained phenomenon in science as an argument for God’s existence and intervention.
2. The first pair of alternatives – the choice between Intelligent Design and natural causes – implies that either one or the other are at work, but not both. Natural causes therefore do not involve Intelligent Design. This, I believe, makes God and Nature co-workers in designing creation – Nature does most of the the donkey work of microevolution, and God provides a spark of new design here and there where it is needed. This provides a very distorted view of God’s action, in my view.
Instead, the kind of intelligent design (without the capitals) I believe is more in keeping with the God of all creation would look a bit like the following illustration. God is not an alternative to natural causes but rather is the intelligent designer of the whole deal, complete with all its natural mechanisms and processes.
In the next and final post on Intelligent Design I will summarize what I see are the fundamental objections to the concept.