Questions About Intelligent Design, Evolution and Creation

Hi all,
I’ve always struggled with trying to understand the topics of evolution, creation, design, origins of life, and so forth. I’m a Christian, and these areas have been one of the most challenging for me, as I’m sure they have for others. I have come to certain conclusions after many years of unease and wrestling, for example I do not and cannot reconcile human evolution with the Biblical narrative, for various reasons. So I do not accept human evolution. I am not very knowledgeable on that topic, however the fact that there are intelligent scientists out there who hold this view also gives me a certain permission to do so. I’ve also seen that there is increased debate surrounding Darwinism, which pleases me.

Anyway, the purpose of this thread is that I strongly desire to know more and find answers to questions that have always bothered me. Primarily I seek answers from Intelligent Design adherents, as this is the theory that feels closest to my own views. Creationism I see as unscientific (I don’t mean to offend creationists, I just feel it begins with certain Biblical assumptions that should be left outside science. And obviously things like a young earth seem irreconcilable with scientific evidence).

I do not desire input from Darwinists, atheistic evolutionists or evolutionary creationists who believe in human evolution. I don’t mean that to sound rude or exclusionary, its just that at this moment the point of view I want to learn more about is Intelligent Design. I’m not smart enough for huge amounts of input at one time! :slight_smile: I may begin researching those other schools of thought at another time. :slight_smile:

If there are no Intelligent Design adherents in this forum then apologies, I’m in the wrong place!

So my first question (and I apologise in advance that to the well informed this question might be very simplistic and muddled, I’m not a scientist! Here it is:

  1. One of the arguments against evolution is that a blind, unthinking process cannot effect anything. Evolution is not a mind, it is not conscious, sentient, therefore it does not have the power to plan and create change from one state to another. However, if this is true, how are observable changes over time effected? For example the gallapigos finches’ beaks. If blind unthinking evolution was able to affect this change why not other and more numerous changes? What is the method by which advantageous biological traits are aquired in a species? How does evolution “know” that the bird needs a fatter/thinner/longer beak, and produce that? What is the difference in this and going from, for example, a fish with fins to a reptile with legs?

PS - If there are creationists who accept an ancient earth and most other mainstream scientific opinions, but not human evolution, I’d be interested in your thoughts, too.

I would suggest going to a creationist forum. You are clearly hostile to this forum and have wandered into the wrong place.

I’m not going to say there are none … but I’m not sure how long they linger as this site won’t feel like ‘home’ for them. The hosting organization here, and probably then a clear majority of forum participants are evolutionary thinkers of one sort or another. Those whose mission is to challenge evolution usually only stick around here as a kind of personal mission, probably not because they feel at home here.

I’m tempted to give reply (and could), but am disqualified by your criteria. I think Christy may have suggested some other forums you might find more frequented by ID enthusiasts.

Not hostile at all, just looking for certain perspectives. Thanks for your welcome. :slight_smile:

Ah, I see. My apologies. Someone did say this was a evolutionary creationism forum but I thought there’d be a some ID people too. I’ll see what she said in the other thread. Thanks.
Btw, since there are no ID people to respond, I would genuinely love to hear your responses! :slight_smile:

This forum was founded by a scientist and seeks to support scientists such as myself who believe in Christianity. Here we can explore the impact that discoveries of science have upon Christian theology. Creationism is totally hostile to science and hostile to the honest inquiry of scientists into the origin of both life and the species, preferring to simply dictate the origin of life and the species with rhetoric rather than honest objective inquiry into these questions according to the evidence.

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I hope you don’t regret the flood that might now pour through that tiny opening! Here are a few of my thoughts, such as they are. [and I also am a Christian.]

While I don’t identify as an Intelligent Design enthusiast, that is only because of what that label has now become associated with. There are softer forms of ‘idism’ that I would have no problem with: the attribution to God of the general providence that allows life to unfold and thrive as it has. It is the stronger sort (e.g. Behe or Meyers) where there is a formal attempt to identify a part of creation (e.g. irreducible complexity) as being a uniquely, evolutionarily unexplainable phenomenon that should then be seen as God’s explicit fingerprint, and to be accepted as such under scientifically demonstrable compulsion. That’s the strong form of IDism that most around here are happy to find fault with.

Just a quick reply on a question that warrants so much more …

Most here would agree that phenomena such as natural selection or mutations or any other explicable physical mechanisms are themselves bereft of purpose. But a hammer is also something that has no purpose. You may object … surely not! A hammer was explicitly made to drive nails! Well - yes. But I respond that such purpose does not reside in the hammer itself. It is a purpose given it both by its makers as well as by its users. I.e. a hammer has no mind, no will, … therefore no inherent purpose of its own. It only has the purpose bestowed upon it by those who do have mind and will - and therefore an externally applied purpose. If all humans were to die tomorrow, then all the rusting hammers sitting around would now be purposeless hunks of metal no different from any other objects laying around. So I would say that purpose comes from intelligent agents - and cannot be found in mindless processes such as air pressure differential, gravity, or natural selection. You are correct that those things cannot have a “design toward” any goal. But just like the hammer, they could be used by a divine agent.

[I should have been more careful above whenever I say things like “most here will agree” … and just speak for myself instead. There may be a shortage (or none?) of ID enthusiasts around here, but that said, this is quite the diverse forum in many senses. So who knows what all you’ll hear if you stick around. And for my own part - welcome! Even if you are here only briefly as a stopover on your way elsewhere.]

[Edits added in above … which you can do by clicking the grey pencil icon underneath any of your already existing posts.]

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I frankly think that creationists with their clever designer watchmaker god have looked for God in entirely the wrong place turning both God and his creation into machines. We now know that a computer with an evolutionary or learning algorithm can design things better and play our hardest strategy games better than we ever could. Should we then worship these machines? Instead I think we should come to the realization that reason and design are not such great things after all that they should be thought of as indicating something divine, but rather something so fundamental and basic that it is part of the very structure of the physical universe. Instead of the great machine designer, we need to be looking for God in relationships and to see God reflected more in the work of a farmer, shepherd, teacher, or parent.

Since you loosened your rule, I’ll chime in with a few thoughts. “Darwinists” is a misnomer. There are no “Darwinists” in the modern world because Darwin lived before genetics. His theory relies exclusively on natural selection. You will also hear “Neo-Darwinism” if you read much ID literature. Neo-Darwinism combined Mendelian genetics with natural selection. That term also has fallen by the wayside as population genetics has continued to make progress and refine our understanding of the various mechanisms at play. These days, you’re better off just to say “common descent” or biological evolution and leave it at that. “Darwinism” and “Neo-Darwinism” are old-fashioned terms used by people who think the name “Darwin” is a slur.

You’ve been reading some propaganda. ID theorists have been sounding that alarm since the early 90s. There is no real debate among scientists that evolution has occurred. The evidence is as plentiful and overwhelming as it is for the age of the earth.

A lot of people have the wrong idea about Intelligent Design. The goal of the theory and the movement is to demonstrate scientifically that life (and the whole universe) shows signs of being “designed” by some intelligence. Strictly speaking, ID makes no claims that this “intelligence” was the God of the Bible, and after 30 years they have yet to find any convincing evidence of design.

Since ID is concerned with proving “design,” it accommodates many positions. Within the movement, there are creationists who deny evolution, there are some who affirm evolution on the small scale (microevolution) but deny it on the scale of species (macroevolution), and there are a few who agree evolution has occurred but put their own design “spin” on things.

In short, ID is not a single view of creation. It’s actually more of an apologetic, in my view.

Think of evolution like any other natural phenomenon, such as the weather. Evaporation and condensation are blind, unthinking processes, yet they have the power to create clouds and rain as H20 molecules change from one state to another. As a Christian, I don’t have to deny the “natural” explanation for weather patterns in order to affirm God’s control of the process. The same holds true for evolution.

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Thanks for the replies, I’ll get back to them tomorrow, it’s late here! :slight_smile:

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From this ID sympathizer, I would point out that “programming” a system to be able to adapt to some extent to an environment is a rather intelligent design to start with.

Moreover, nothing about basic intelligent design concepts rule out the idea that some small fortuitous changes to an already carefully constructed design can optimize them to new environments… that is unsurprising. Once we developed nuclear submarine propulsion, for instance, it is not surprising that, by tinkering, by trial and error, by using the system and discovering minute optimizations, we continually discover and stumble upon small improvements that help optimize the system as we use it and learn it, that are discovered not by “forward-thinking intelligent planning” so to speak. But that seems to me a categorical difference from thinking that this trial and error process is how we got from diesel submarines to nuclear ones, by a small trial and error process continually optimizing Diesel/electric-battery engines. It just doesn’t work that way.

@cristero wrote:

“its just that at this moment the point of view I want to learn more about is Intelligent Design.”

If you just mean “thinking God’s thoughts after God”, then that is understandable. We should all want to learn more about that. Not just conceptually, but living & acted. As for me, I don’t call that “Intelligent Design”, for many reasons.

A key problem here is that ID theory people are claiming they are really doing science, producing science, giving scientific answers, asking scientific questions. Some even believe in their minds that they are starting a “scientific revolution”. Grand yet unsubstantiated claims have come out of the ID ‘wide tent’, which has been rather off-putting to many people.

The leaders of Discovery Institute appear to be rather quite “confident” in being able to see God’s “fingerprints” (Phillip Johnson’s terms) scientifically. Thus, they argue for a kind of “supernatural” (Divine Intelligence) variable in “natural” science. Experienced and mature religious thinkers and scientists have repeatedly warned them against doing this. It’s a kind of category error they make right from the start. Do you see what I mean here or have you not seen it happening yet?

@Jay313 wrote:

““Darwinism” and “Neo-Darwinism” are old-fashioned terms used by people who think the name “Darwin” is a slur.”

Yeah, sadly that is appearing to be true for many of the self-proclaimed “anti-Darwinists” (attacking the man, not the argument or evidence). They come across as actual haters of Darwin, and use slurs at his name, almost as if they couldn’t make an effort in their heart possibly to try to love Darwin or Dawkins also as child of God.

“In short, ID is not a single view of creation. It’s actually more of an apologetic, in my view.”

Yes, it does come across as mainly an apologetics tool. The fixation of Discovery Institute people on that one metaphor makes for a very uni-dimensional Creator. But if ID “theory” as a kind of quasi-science or proto-science is used mainly in apologetics environment, as a way of getting people to open a Bible or to pray or to inquire about questions of meaning or purpose or personal calling, then it cannot be thought about as really a “scientific” theory. It would be helpful it they admitted this.

What do you think, is ID theory something you “use for apologetics”, @cristero, even a little bit?

@Daniel_Fisher wrote:

“programming” a system to be able to adapt to some extent to an environment is a rather intelligent design to start with.”

Discovery Institute tries to mimic this, but cannot duplicate or exceed the already-existing science of design theory and design thinking.

The most important update in recent years from Discovery Institute is the Walter Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligences. Yet they continue to blur the meaning of “intelligence”, apparently as part of a polarizing and divisive agenda. If cristero finds the Discovery Institute’s projects somehow “unifying”, I’d be curious “around what” does he/she find ID theory unify people. Personally, I believe that God unites people, but that ID theory divides them.

Wasn’t it the case that all main leaders at BioLogos accept “intelligent design” anyway, that is, if it means “God created the universe and human beings in it,” just not what the Discovery Institute insists is a fully “scientific” theory of Intelligent Design?

Not that anyone here agrees with Jerry Coyne’s atheistic propaganda, but this shows BioLogos leadership views in agreement with “intelligent design” (the original BioLogos link now has Error on the site): https://whyevolutionistrue.com/2012/04/06/guest-post-biologos-embraces-id/

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An excellent ressource on the whole subject is the Youtube channel “is Genesis history” I highly recommend it.

What are the most commons faults that you or others with your perspective find with this kind of ID? Do you not believe irreducible complexity to be a compelling idea? I find it very much so, but then, I’m just a layperson. Would you recommend reading Meyer/Behe or not? Their take on things really clicks with me, and I don’t see any issues with their approach. If there are problems I’d be open to hearing about it.

I kind of understand what you’re saying here, but what it seems to me that you’re saying is that evolution only occurs because God is there, kind of guiding it, like someone would guide a hammer. Yes/no? Is evolution not more of a natural law, that does not need to be guided, it simply works of it’s own accord, according to the rules and laws contained within it?

With regards my question in the OP, could you touch on that, from your perspective? That is, about how exactly does evolution “know” what needs to happen next in the evolutionary timeline?

I’m a lay-person just like you when it comes to this biological world. So whatever comments I share on ID will be heavily shaped by responses I’ve heard from much more knowledgeable people in these areas. I can repeat what I’ve heard them say, though, I won’t be able to plunge very deeply into it, much less defend it beyond saying that I trust those from whom this comes. That said … in a nutshell, I think the gist of the push-back against ID is in the form: “They are presuming, in advance that this ‘difficult-to-explain’ circumstance can be shown to be permanently inexplainable using currently known models or mechanisms. Therefore this must be evidence of input from an external intelligent agent of some kind.” The push-back to this is, "how can one know that something will remain forever unexplainable? Because in fact, in many cases (such as the eye) strides have already been made to significantly close a lot of gaps, making it seem quite plausible that the development could indeed be completely described in physical terms.

As to whether you should read Behe or Meyers - I won’t say ‘no’, though others here will be happy to heap opprobrium on them for this or that which they apparently get wrong. I’ve read both, and found it a rewarding experience (to the extent that I could even follow it all) to get insight into their own thoughts. Then I also found it rewarding to hear rebuttals and responses around here (which you could also find buried in essays or the forum as well.) I think it is always good to get arguments from the people making them, and not merely from the lips of their detractors. It gives them a more fair hearing I think.

I will be happy to say that God guides evolution … just like God guides a raindrop to the ground. Others may balk at that language and prefer more “open theism” or “hands-off deity” kinds of approaches to this. But I’m happy to [will consent to] just bite the bullet and say it’s all happening on God’s watch, whether it be the good stuff we like to praise God for, or the evil stuff that makes so many either hate God or stop believing any god is doing anything at all.

Evolution doesn’t know. How could it … it has no ‘mind’ to know or have purpose at all, any more than a hammer could be said to know whether I’m using it to drive in a nail, break a window, use it as a paperweight. It’s current purpose is 100% in my mind and 0% in the hammer. Evolution, ‘randomness’ (as it appears to us anyway), convergence - or any other mechanisms known or as yet unknown … I suggest are all part of a large tool set in the hands of the Almighty. That’s my take anyway.

These would be the faults I see as an atheist and scientist.

  1. Subjectivity. When someone says that something looks designed that is their subjective opinion. Science needs empirical and objective data.

  2. Limited by imagination. Behe and others claim that something can’t evolve because they can’t imagine it evolving. Reality isn’t limited to what humans can imagine.

  3. Lack of positive evidence. ID is primarily driven by arguments against evolution. By contrast, the arguments for evolution never mention ID and are instead supported by positive evidence that supports the theory. ID does not have positive evidence to support it, and instead relies on rejection of all other theories in order to make ID more attractive, a sort of God of the Gaps argument.

  4. ID is scientifically sterile. There is hardly, if any scientific research being done on ID. I am unaware of any scientific experiments being done now or in the past that directly tests ID. What experiments ID proponents have done try to test evolution, but not ID. Intelligent design just doesn’t lead to scientific research because it starts with the answer and ignores the questions.

Evolution knows as much about what needs to happen as a river knows about what path it needs to follow.

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Okay but let’s say there’s a fish and it wants to get onto land and walk. How does that process occur? A fish can’t will it’s fins to turn into feet, and evolution has no mind, it is not conscious, so how does it happen?

The methods are several, from mutation of genes to duplication of genes to re-use of genes, to suppression and loss of genes, just to name a few. Evolution does not know what is needed, but better function as measured by reproductive success is the determinant of success. Sort of like how does the lottery know how to pick a winner. It always does eventually, but lots of lost causes along the way.

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Focusing on the bird beak thing, which is an observable change over time, could you explain it to me like I’m 5? Because I don’t get it. The thing I can’t get my head around is getting from A to B, fat beak to thin beak, when no consciousness is involved in making that beak change. How does it actually occur?

Evolution doesn’t work that way. Individuals don’t evolve. Populations do … and that only through many, many generations. There is nothing that gives birth to something radically different from itself. Changes that occur from one generation to the next are very small.

You might benefit from reading this essay about evolution fundamentals.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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