Intelligent design/creationism III: The religious agenda

Previous posts have covered the nature of scientific knowledge and the issue of scientific credibility. This covers the links between intelligent design (ID) and both creationism and religion.

Creationist and religious heritage

Supporters of ID often deny its links to creationism and religion in an attempt to obtain scientific credibility. However, few observers are fooled for long. In the 2005 Kitzmiller v Dover case (Kitzmiller_decision) Judge Jones said: “An objective observer would know that ID and teaching about “gaps” and “problems” in evolutionary theory are creationist, religious strategies that evolved from earlier forms of creationism” (p 18). Further: “The evidence …. demonstrates ID is nothing less than the progeny of creationism” (p 31). “ID’s religious nature would be further evident to our objective observer because it directly involves a supernatural designer” (p 31) . “The overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism and not a scientific theory” (p 43).


The evidence also revealed attempted deception to hide IDs true nature. Proponents of ID had altered the text of their documents over time in an attempt to circumvent a 1987 US Supreme Court ruling that teaching creation science was unconstitutional as it violated the separation of church and state. An example is shown by the various drafts of the ID text book Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins aimed at schools as revealed by Barbara Forrest in Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design:

1986 draft: “Creation means that various forms of life began abruptly through the agency of an intelligent creator with their distinctive features already intact – fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, and wings, etc.”

1989 published version: “Intelligent design means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency with their distinctive features already intact – fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, and wings, etc.”

We can conclude that ID is creationism and it is religious – to claim otherwise is disingenuous. The name changes are simply tactics to get around the law.

It didn’t need a court case to illicit the religious nature of ID as this is clearly expressed in many of its documents.

Strategy behind intelligent design

Many ID publications reveal the goal of undermining modern science. Proponents aim to replace scientific methodological naturalism (which they call materialism) with a supernatural or “theistic” science. This strategy was clearly expressed by the Discovery Institute Center for Science and Culture in their document “Wedge Strategy”:

“If we view the predominant materialistic science as a giant tree, our strategy is intended to function as a “wedge” that, while relatively small, can split the trunk when applied at its weakest points. ….We are building on this momentum, broadening the wedge with a positive scientific alternative to materialistic scientific theories, which has come to be called the theory of intelligent design (ID). Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.”

This strategy lists its governing goals as:

“To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies.

To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.”

The document lists among its long term goals:

“To see design theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life.”

This same strategy appears in many statements made by leading ID proponents and in their publications. It represents a broad social and political programme quite uncharacteristic of a normal scientific proposal. The comment of Eugene C. Scott (Creation Science Lite in Scientists Confront Intelligent Design and Creationism) seems appropriate:

“.. given the thinness of the science of ID, if the movement did not have grave consequence for public-school education and church-state separation, ID would languish in academic obscurity. Ironically. perhaps it is the cultural-renewal component of ID that keeps it from fading from the view of the scholarly public.”

Nevertheless, the attempt by ID to integrate science and religion could work to the to the detriment of both. This will be the subject of the fourth part of this series (Intelligent design/creationism IV: The religion – science conflict).

Related Articles:

Useful Web Sites:

Should we teach creationism? Critical Analysis of Intelligent Design
Science, art & pumpkins Evolution, Education and the Law
Can science enrich faith? National Center for Science education
Limits of science or religious “fog”? Pandas Thumb
Putting Dawkins in his place Talk reason
Solution to climate change? The Talk Origins Archive
Debating science and religion
Intelligent design/creationism I: What is scientific knowledge?
Center for the Understanding of Origins Video Library

Intelligent design/creationism II: Is it scientific?  

7 responses to “Intelligent design/creationism III: The religious agenda

  1. Hi Ken,

    Spotted the phrase ‘objective observer’ in this one…


    I’m sure all scientists that even have the slightest regard for anything at all resembling ‘I.D.’ are clearly raving fundamentalist nuts whose brains don’t work at all because they are ‘religious’… And I’m sure that my opinion is objective, too.




  2. Here “objective” is not my view or technical, it is legal – the words of the Judge and seems to involve him deciding how different people in the community would have interpreted the nature of ID as promoted by the school board.

    I recommend the judge’s statement (despite some legal dryness in parts) because it is such a thorough assessment of the situation – based on 6 weeks of evidence and cross-examination. The website Evolution, Education and the Law ( has this and many other documents from similar cases.

    Religious beliefs don’t come into it – many evolutionary scientists have religious beliefs. The issue here is constitutional – separation of Church and state. The court ruled that the actions of the Board were unconstitutional in that sense, and ID was being dishonestly used to do this. The use of science classes to promote atheism in the same manner would have been just as illegal.


  3. You’re going to hate me, but here’s another word I don’t like: ‘religous’… 🙂 (I’m repeating, of course, what I’ve said long ago, but maybe it was forgotten?) It may be helpful for those who want to claim an ‘un-religous’ status, but I find it unhelpful because it lumps people together sloppily, and may exclude some that are more ‘religoius’ than they are willing to admit. Not only that, but the word has a few other connotations – meticulous, methodical, etc.

    I prefer the term ‘worldview’ (a mental framework by which we interpret/’view’ how reality/’the world’ ‘works’). It is more inclusive, because I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t have one. Of course, not everyone has developed/critiqued their worldview as much as (for example) Richard Dawkins has, but they have one none-the-less.

    The frustrating thing (and the very thing that I predict you to take issue with?) is that worldviews affect our interpretation of reality. Theist worldview = more likely to interpret reality as a result of creation; Atheist worldview = more likely to interpret reality as result of natural causes.

    In other words, worldviews DO come into it. This is why methods like the scientific method (and its twins in other disciplines) are so necessary!!!

    On the word ‘objective’, I suggest that the reality of interpretation (and the use of ‘interpreted’ in your paragraph) is at odds with any meaning of the word – legal or otherwise. Interpretations are not objective in any sense.



  4. The frustrating thing (and the very thing that I predict you to take issue with?) is that worldviews affect our interpretation of reality. Theist worldview = more likely to interpret reality as a result of creation; Atheist worldview = more likely to interpret reality as result of natural causes. I agree and, as I have been saying, that is why the methods used in science for testing, verification, statistical analysis and peer-reviewed publication are so essential (as you also say).

    I agree – lets replace religion by worldview or something similar. I am annoyed that people like me are excluded from input to issues like the National Statment of Religious Diversity – we told it’s not our business. Then they go on to discuss school education, etc., all the time excluding other ethical positions held by the non-religious.

    You had better take up the use of “objective” with the Judge.


  5. Well! Two “I agree”s and one referral! This is going well!!??


    I 120% agree that it most certainly IS your business to input into issues like NSRD! But think (as we’ve noted – and agreed) the whole conversation (and perhaps our National Statements as well?) would be better if we avoided the term ‘religon/religious’ and used ‘worldview’ instead.

    I’m pleased that you agree about the ‘worldview’ term. I went to one of the NSRD forums and spoke briefly to a ‘militant athiest’ (according to his shirt), who was ‘less than keen’ on that idea… 🙂

    I’m also pleased that you agree that worldviews affect our interpretation of reality. Very pleased indeed! We (human beings – observers and interpreters of reality – need eachother to make better and better observations and interpretations of reality.

    Now, I’m not trying to ruin this wonderful ‘meeting place’ we’ve found, but when I say ‘we’ need eachother, this (logically?) extends to include not only other humans, but also other disciplines/fields of inquiry/areas of study. Physics alone will only ever be able to inquire into physicality. Does that jive for you?

    (really enjoying the last few exchanges!)



  6. my latest manefesto – inspired by our long raging conversation!




  7. Pingback: Epistemolo-what?!! « Open Parachute

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