Intelligent Design Movement Offers Quirky Social Analysis, Mushy Civil Religion

Darwinian evolutionism is the genesis of the social ills that plague modern Americans. And the intelligent design movement is the shining path of enlightenment toward cultural renewal.

So claims a coalition of academicians with advanced degrees in philosophy, political science, mathematics, engineering and biochemistry.

Writing in Signs of Intelligence, a new book of essays that propagates the intelligent design movement, John G. West fingered Charles Darwin for moral relativism and promised cultural reform based upon the intelligent design agenda.

The intelligent design movement is the feuding cousin of biblical creationism and the nephew of conservative civil religion. It argues that "an intelligent agent" designed our richly complex world, but it does not "speculate about the nature of that designing intelligence."

West, a political scientist, wrote that Darwin made scientific materialism "credible."

"Scientific materialism claims that human beings can be wholly explained as the material products of biology, chemistry, and environment," West wrote.

He contended that this view argues moral beliefs are "products of heredity or environment," undermining traditional morality related to human responsibility and freedom.

From West's perspective, scientific materialism created the modern welfare state in which the poor are "passive victims." Similarly, in the criminal justice system, criminals are really "helpless victims of environment and heredity." In other words, neither the poor nor the criminals are responsible for their state of being, freeing them from responsibility and accountability.

Furthermore, West wrote that scientific materialism has harmed the traditional family, encouraged assisted suicide and advanced extreme forms of feminism.

West and his allies at the Discovery Institute want to replace the paradigm of scientific materialism with the paradigm of intelligent design.

They believe this switch will end the cultural damage of Darwinian evolutionism and fundamentally change how society thinks about human nature.

Five positive consequences will result from this switch, West wrote.

First, intelligent design will "reinvigorate the case for free will and human responsibility." Simply put, human beings will be held accountable for their choices.

Second, traditional morality will be defended.

Third, the sanctity of human life will be encouraged.

Fourth, the integrity of science will be restored.

Fifth, free inquiry will be expanded. 

Add to these claims the thoughts of Jay Wesley Richards, another Discovery Institute member. Richards wrote, "design theory's greatest apologetic value may be its potential to defeat the biggest stumbling block to faith in the contemporary world, namely, scientific materialism."

"For Christians, the most devastating consequence of materialism is its tendency to harden the minds and hearts of modern people to the gospel," Richards said, arguing that the renewal of Christian faith will result from the success of the intelligent design movement.

From its earliest pages, the biblical witness recounts human irresponsibility, the devaluation of human life, sexual immorality and the lack of integrity. Human sinfulness certainly predates the publication of Darwin's On the Origin of the Species. And the Fall happened long before scientific materialism "corrupted" Western culture.

Herein is one of the problems with the intelligent design movement. It blames too much on Darwin. It lacks a genuine appreciation for the timeworn reality of the seven deadly sins as the source of our social ills. Consequently, it offers a utopian promise of reform and renewal.

Moreover, sinfulness hardens the human heart to the Christian gospel, not Darwinian evolutionism--if the biblical witness is believable. Arguing for intelligent design as an evangelistic strategy lacks persuasiveness.

As a scientific theory, evolution has its flaws. As a foundation for a worldview, Darwinism has significant faults, not to mention its role in justifying the U.S. market economy, which the intelligent design proponents apparently and conveniently ignore.

At the very best, this movement's quirky social analysis and mushy civil religion do not deserve serious consideration within the Christian community. In the parlance of East Tennessee, "that's a dawg that don't hunt."

Robert Parham is BCE's executive director.

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