Intelligent Design - An idea whose time has come
‘From the far reaches of the universe to the depths of the cell, separate branches of modern science have all discovered astonishing, unexpected fine-tuning – design’
Michael Behe, in ‘The Edge of Evolution’, Free Press, 2007, p219
Stated simply, ‘Intelligent Design’ (ID) claims that the natural and living worlds show clear evidence of being designed and are not the result of blind, purposeless forces. That evidence comes from areas such as ‘cosmic fine-tuning’, irreducibly-complex biological machines and the extensive genetic information carried by DNA. These areas are explored in subsequent articles in this section.
Most people who are aware of ID assume, wrongly, it is a variant of creationism or a form of religious fundamentalism. But when they take time to examine it, many are immediately impressed. In fact, they discover a powerful and self-evident idea. Intuitively, ID feels correct.
But Intelligent Design is not a new idea. For as long as observers of the natural world have wondered how it all came about, there have been those who concluded that the universe is designed. Some ancient Greek philosophers held the view that the world was the result of a creative mind. Intelligent design in one form another is, actually, as old as history itself.
Closer to our time, the great architects of modern science like Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Faraday, Kelvin and Pasteur regarded their work in science as exploring the works of an Almighty Creator whose ways were discernible in the natural and living world. And Einstein, whose work on time and space pushed human knowledge to its outer boundaries, acknowledged some kind of mathematical mind behind the universe. ‘I want to know God’s thoughts’, he once said, adding, ‘the rest are details’.
It is only relatively recently, and largely as a result of the work of Charles Darwin in the nineteenth century, that the idea of an evolving or self-organising universe has gained acceptance. It is now the dominant explanation of origins in the West and an evolutionary framework has become integral to much of Western culture.
In its current form, Intelligent Design poses a formidable challenge to the accepted theories of origins. Drawing on the work of an increasing number of scientists around the world, Intelligent Design questions the current insistence that the origin of life and the universe is a purposeless and undirected process.
ID argues from empirical evidence that is easily detected by scientific enquiry. Its distinguishing characteristic is that it appeals to scientific data alone and not to any religious authority. This is what distinguishes ID from various religious explanations of origins.
Dr Alastair Noble
Director of the Centre for Intelligent Design
Revised August 2016
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