Common Questions: 3
Why not Darwin and Design?
I’m often asked this question, usually when we run a seminar on Intelligent Design (ID) and use the eye-catching title, Darwin or Design? Headlines and seminar titles are normally chosen to be memorable and I think this one is. Of course, it is intended to raise a key issue and can’t convey the full story.
This title is a useful because it underlines the fundamental difference between the Neo-Darwinian evolutionary consensus and the position of Intelligent Design. ‘Evolution’ has several meanings, and conveys different things to different people. However, the most common perception is that Darwinian evolution can explain how simple life can mutate over billions of years into complex life forms, without any inherent direction or purpose.
A book like Richard Dawkins’ The Blind Watchmaker (Penguin 1986 and later subtitled Why the evidence of evolution reveals a universe without design), for example, takes the position that the development of life is a blind and purposeless phenomenon. Many people take this proposition for granted, despite it being completely counter-intuitive and lacking convincing evidence. However, a different aspect of ‘evolution’, such as the ability of an existing species to adapt to its environment, is largely uncontroversial, but that is a very different matter from the emergence and development of life without any direction or design.
ID, on the other hand, argues from the scientific data we have that certain features of the universe are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an unguided process such as natural selection. If you browse this website you will find a series of articles about the clear evidence for design.
So, to recap, Darwin or Design? is a shorthand way of highlighting the fundamental issue about whether we live in a designed or an accidental universe.
As I pointed out in the answer to a previous question, it is of course theoretically possible that some form gradual evolution could be part of the design of the universe. However the evidence for that is scant and, in any case, such a position would no longer be the accepted Darwinian view or origins, but something quite different.
In summary, Darwin or Design? raises the fundamental question about whether there is intention and direction in our complex universe. ID argues there most certainly is. Darwin and Design would just confuse the issue and conflate two contradictory propositions.
Composite thumbnail - Watch parts - Michel Villeneuve, this file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic licence.
Darwin or Design? - courtesy of Julie Vatcher
Book cover - 1991 edition of The Blind Wathcmaker: published by W. W. Norton & Company, to whom thanks are due.