Intelligent design and the threat to Christianity

Intelligent design (ID) is not a scientific discipline. It’s a political, social and religious movement – and this is sometimes admitted by their spokespersons. For example, Phillip Johnson said in 1996: “This isn’t really, and never has been, a debate about science . . . It’s about religion and philosophy.” As such ID/creationism is more of an issue for Christianity than it is for science.

The attacks made by ID/creationism on evolutionary theory are often interpreted as arising from a conflict between religion and science. A conflict arising from a discrepancy between scientific knowledge and religious beliefs. But that is too simpleminded as many Christians don’t see a conflict between their beliefs and scientific knowledge.

These attacks on science are really attacks on pro-science Christianity. The rise of modern science in Europe several hundred years ago was paralleled by the rise of a pro-science theology within Christianity. This was a theological acceptance of a god-created universe which is ordered and “law-abiding.” Further, it accepted that humanity was able to investigate and understand reality. Of course, this conflicted, and still does, with theological ideas which deny a “law-abiding” universe, which uses supernatural explanations and denies the possibility of humanity ever understanding important aspects of reality.

The Wedge strategy

The theological differences are apparent in the evolution – ID/creationism conflict. They include different interpretations of scientific method (see Intelligent design and scientific method) and the possibility of investigating and understanding living organisms. Many ID/creationism documents confirm that the real targets of the ID movement are relgion, philosophy and society. For example, the Wedge Strategy reveals plans of the movement for the “Spiritual and Cultural renewal” of society. The document lists their five year objectives as:

“Mainline renewal movements begin to appropriate insights from design theory, and to repudiate theologies influenced by materialism

Major Christian denomination(s) defend(s) traditional doctrine of creation & repudiate(s)

Darwinism Seminaries increasingly recognize & repudiate naturalistic presuppositions

Positive uptake in public opinion polls on issues such as sexuality, abortion and belief in God.”

The strategy’s twenty-year goals include:

“To see design theory application in specific fields, including . . . . psychology, ethics, politics, theology and philosophy in the humanities; to see its influence in the fine arts.

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

    The Wedge activists make no real secret of their attempts to change the direction of modern Christianity. They are active in Christian seminaries, Christian schools and universities and academic theology generally. Many of the activists see theology as their main interest and their academic training and qualifications are primarily in this discipline. Wedge activists see Christians as their “natural constituency’ and they do have an undeniable influence here.

    Surveys indicate that a bit more than 40% of NZ Christians, and something like 60% of US Christians, reject scientific explanations of evolution. (see New Zealand supports evolution and UMR Research Survey: Morality, Religion and Evolution). This support is unsurprising. After all modern science has undermined so many old religious teachings. And the creationist arguments may seem more intuitive to rank-and-file Christians than the pro-science declarations of their ministers and priests. It’s only natural that many Christians feel their beliefs threatened by science in areas such as origins of life, humanity and the universe. It’s only natural they feel an emotional attachment to creationist ideas.

    But that is the nature of science – even the most beautiful theory must give way to empirical facts. And many Christians have been able to make that adjustment without losing their basic religious beliefs. Many, if not most modern New Zealand Christians have accepted modern scientific knowledge and rejected the opposing literal and fundamentalist beliefs.

    Science is not the enemy

    It’s disturbing, though, that many pro-science Christians still feels some sympathy for the ID/creationist arguments and are influence by Wedge activists. They interpret the issue as a conflict between science and religion, rather than a conflict within Christianity. They too often stand aside as if the conflict is not their problem.

    Christians should be aware that science is not their enemy. Their real enemy is within – those Christians who want to return knowledge to pre-enlightenment times. Who want to replace knowledge based on evidence and reason by supernatural explanations. Who want to replace democratic society (including its religious organisations) by theocratic dictate.

    See also:

    A Christian theologist, Levellers, discusses the evolution-ID/creationism debate at Creation and Evolution 6: The Nature of Scientific Inquiry

    Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution by Ken Miller

    Video of lecture by Ken Miller The Collapse of Intelligent Design (1 hr 57 min)

    Related Articles:
    Intelligent design and scientific method
    Can religion answer the questions science can’t?
    Bringing the supernatural into science
    Intelligent design – a war on science
    New Zealand supports evolution
    Intelligent design at the shopping mall
    Intelligent design attacks on Christianity
    Isaac Newton and intelligent design
    Evolution’s threat to religion?

    9 responses to “Intelligent design and the threat to Christianity

    1. Pingback: Christian » Intelligent design and the threat to Christianity

    2. I agree with your comments and I guess I don’t see why modern christians fear science. I am more of a theological thinker but well versed in areas of science and having close friends in high levels of science. I’ve grown used to the teachings of G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis and they both agree that Christianity shouldn’t be afraid of science. They say, everything greater can include everything lesser and it’s ablity to do so is it’s sign of it’s greatness. As in, Christianity has room for science.
      What God are these people worshipping anyway, that doesn’t want them to find certain things out! “Oh no! You weren’t supposed to figure that out!” As if our Intelligent Designer didn’t think of something. I think it just comes down to a fear of knowledge. They only want to know so much about theology and so much about science, then that’s enough. I guess your article made me think of Lewis’ quote, “I believe in Christianity like I believe in the sun. Not that I can see the sun directly, indeed I can’t look directly at it, but because BY it I can see everything else.” (paraphrased by myself, of course.)
      It’s a shame to see the Wedge strategy try to pull people away from having a clear view of science breakthroughs! It seems that the more we find out, as in the “God of the Gaps” article on this website, the closer we get to understanding Him.
      Anyway, interesting thoughts, thanks.


    3. I appreciate your comments, Brett.


    4. ID movement was born by Richard Dawkins. It born after he had published his book “The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design”. ID movement has been a reaction for Dawkins’ thesis (as Francis Collins and many others have said). If you really want to research and understand the origin and history of ID, you should also think the role of anti-religion movement and its recent history. Perhaps ID is also the movement inside the christianity, but it is also a movement that is reaction to atheism.


    5. Yes, modern ID Wedge activists see themselves as fighting atheism – but also naturalism in science, pluralism in society and culture. They want to impose a theistic society on all of us. As such they represent an attack on many Christians as well as non-Christians.

      If we accept a pluralistic society and modern democracy there is no need to invent a movement like ID. Why can’t we accept our fellow human beings. Non-Christian or liberal Christian views are not a danger to society – whereas pre-enlightenment theism is..


    6. Michael Westmoreland-White

      Thanks to the link to my ongoing series on evolution and ID at Levellers. One correction: “theologist” is not a word in English. I am an academically trained theologian and philosopher.


    7. Thanks for your correction Michael – I was wondering why my spell-checker had problems with the word. I must check my dictionary to find out why this word is different to others.


    8. For me the most fun part of this entire Intelligent Design flummux is watching these Fundamentalist preachers (and people of the Jewish faith like Ben Stein) come out in favor of ID. It amuses me that they are sooooo easy to hoodwink! They don’t seem to see how oppositional and completely incompatible ID is with their fundamentalist faith. Hopefully some day they will realise that ID poses far more profound threats to religion than it will ever do to science.


    9. Well-written. I applaud Regal for mentioning Fundamentalists, because they are the ones who take issue with science. I’m Catholic. I would consider myself to be a “modern Christian,” whatever that is supposed to be, so that’s why mentioning the Fundamentalists is important. I embrace science, and so does my religion, although that doesn’t stop individual Catholics from believing otherwise.

      The fact, for those of us who believe in God, is that we believe that He can do anything, and not always in ways that humans are capable of understanding. After all, He is God. I find that denying scientific laws and theories based solely on the story of Adam and Eve is insulting to God. The point wasn’t how He created, but that He did.



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