A Presupper Considers Intelligent Design

Posted: August 9, 2014 in On the Classical Arguments

Something’s been on my mind lately:

As a Calvinist, and more specifically, as a Calvinist in the Van Tillian tradition, I can no longer endorse the “Intelligent Design” argument, most notably, Dr. William Dembski’s “Intelligent Design as a paradigm of information theory”.

To understand this, consider the following illustration:

An archaeologist finds mounds of dirt in the woods and wants to determine if they are the result of natural processes or human involvement (intelligent design). What is the standard by which he will judge the difference?

This is where intelligent design folks (like Dr. Dembski) step in. Calling themselves “design theorists” they want to study the differences between phenomenon that have been created randomly (either by chance, or by natural law), and phenomenon that have been created by intelligent design.

They compare the two, and decide that intelligently designed phenomenon have, what they’re calling “specified complexity” (meaning: the phenomenon has been created according to some improbable, specific, pattern).

All well and good up to this point, right? Even the rabid materialist, who cannot (for the life of him) allow a God to sneak into his explanatory theories, must admit that the Archaeologist, to do his job at all, must be able to distinguish between natural mounds, and man-made burial mounds (or between arrow heads and rocks that simply look like arrow heads). This sort of determination is found in many different fields of study, from archaeology to forensic investigations.

The problem is when the intelligent design advocate looks around him to the universe, and nature at large, to find this “specified complexity” (and thus: proof that nature, itself, was intelligently designed).

At first blush, this sounds exciting for the Christian. But after some initial thought on the matter, I have to reject it.

As a Calvinist, I believe (along with the Westminster Confession of Faith), that God foreordains “whatsoever comes to pass” – including, for instance, the path a particular river will take, or the motion of a leaf as it falls to the ground from a tree.

And no intelligent design advocate that I know of, has found “specified complexity” in the path of a river.

On my view, *EVERYTHING* is intelligently designed, even those phenomena that do not exhibit Dr. Demski’s (somewhat arbitrarily-chosen) characteristics of specified complexity.

So while I respect “intelligent design” as an information theory to inform us about second-order creation events (ie: the building of burial mounds or the making of arrow heads), I don’t think it can be coherently applied to nature at large.


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