I have been asked why I think that ID is problematic. It's a good question so here are my brief and inadequate thoughts on why I find it unhelpful.
The problem with it is its tendency to look for God in the gaps of scientific explanations. Irreducible complexity is seen as evidence of God because science cannot (in principle, we are told) explain it. If future science did actually explain any alleged instances of irreducible complexity then such instances would cease to be evidence of God.
The problem here is that God is pictured as one being among others (albeit a more intelligent and powerful one) acting as a cause in the world in the same manner as other causes act in the world.
The reason that this is a problem is that classical theology did not picture God in this manner — as a being, as one cause among and alongside others. Rather divine Being was of a fundamentally different kind from creaturely being and divine causation acted at a different level altogether. God was the one who imparted be-ing to the whole of created reality and who enabled all of the powers of causation within creation to be. So God was the explanation for the whole but was not to be found in the gaps.
The explanations of the empirical sciences function at the level of secondary causation within the created order and pay no attention to metaphysical questions of primary causation. As such, God does not feature in scientific explanations. This is unproblematic so long as scientists don't imagine that reality can be encompassed within the realm of what science can explain — that road ends up collapsing in on itself. Treating some things in the world (but not others) as the result of God rather than of inner-creational causes is to mix up these different levels of explanation. Setting divine and creational causes up in opposition as some kind of zero sum game is unhelpful.
Furthermore, the MOST that ID could ever demonstrate is that certain things in the world (but not the the world as a whole) were designed by a very intelligent (though not omni-intelligent) and powerful (though not all-powerful) being. But such a being is more like an archangel than God and of such a being we may still ask, "Who designed it?" for it would certainly not be the kind of thing that could explain its own existence. This intelligent designer would be as infinitely removed from God as a flea.
I am not for one moment suggesting that those who believe in God will not look at complex systems within creation that ID proponents look at and marvel at how they manifest God's goodness and power — after all, such complex systems live and move and have their being in God, manifesting the Divine Logos — but that is a very different issue from seeking to find them as evidence of direct divine intervention. There be dragons!
- Robin Parry
- Robin Parry is the husband of but one wife (Carol) and the father of the two most beautiful girls in the universe (Hannah and Jessica). He also has a lovely cat called Monty (who has only three legs). Living in the city of Worcester, UK, he works as an Editor for Wipf and Stock — a US-based theological publisher. Robin was a Sixth Form College teacher for 11 years and has worked in publishing since 2001 (2001–2010 for Paternoster and 2010– for W&S).