Intelligent Design Creationism

Intelligent design creationism (IDC) is the newest manifestation of American creationism, and yet it resembles a much earlier idea. In most ways, IDC is a descendant of William Paley's argument from design (Paley 1802), which argued that God's existence could be proved by examining God's works. Paley used a metaphor: if one found a watch, it was obvious that such a complex object could not have come together by chance; the existence of a watch implied a watchmaker who had designed the watch with a purpose in mind. By analogy, the finding of order, purpose, and design in the world was proof of an omniscient designer.

The vertebrate eye was Paley's classic example of design in nature, well known to educated people in the nineteenth century. Because of its familiarity, Darwin deliberately used the vertebrate eye in On the Origin of Species to demonstrate how complexity and intricate design could indeed come about through a natural process; complexity in nature did not require divine intervention.

Structures and organs that accomplish a purpose for the organism—allowing capture of prey, escape from predators, or attracting a mate—could be designed directly by an omniscient designer, or they could be "designed" by a natural process that produces the same effect. As will be discussed in more detail elsewhere in this book, Darwin's argument that a natural process such as natural selection could explain apparent design was theologically offensive to those who believed that God created directly.

In IDC one is less likely to find references to the vertebrate eye and more likely to find molecular phenomena such as DNA structure or complex cellular mechanisms held up as too complex to have evolved "by chance." The IDC high school biology supplemental textbooks Of Pandas and People (Davis and Kenyon 1993) and Explore Evolution (Meyer, Minnich, Moneymaker, Nelson, and Seelke 2007) both attempt to prove that DNA is too complex to explain through natural causes by weaving allusions to information theory into an exposition of the "linguistics" of the DNA code.

Following creationist tradition, IDC proponents accept natural selection but deny that mutation and natural selection are adequate to explain the evolution of one kind to another, such as chordates from echinoderms or humans and chimps from a common ancestor. The emergence of major anatomical body types and the origin of life, to choose just two examples popular among IDC followers, are phenomena supposedly too complex to be explained naturally; thus, IDC demands that a role be left for the intelligent designer—God. Chapter 7 discusses IDC in more detail.

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