Skip to main content

Intelligent design in theological perspective

Abstract

While “scientism” is typically regarded as a position about the exclusive epistemic authority of science held by a certain class of “cultured despisers” of “religion”, we show that only on the assumption of this sort of view do purportedly “scientific” claims made by proponents of “intelligent design” appear to lend epistemic or apologetic support to claims affirmed about God and God’s action in “creation” by Christians in confessing their “faith”. On the other hand, the hermeneutical strategy that better describes the practice and method of Christian theologians, from the inception of theological reflection in the Christian tradition, acknowledges the epistemic authority of the best available tests for truth in areas of human inquiry such as science and history. But this strategy does not assume that such tests, whose authority must be regarded as provisional, provides authority for the warrant of affirming claims constituting the confessed “faith”. By attributing theological import to claims advanced by appeal to the best available tests for truth in the practice of science, supporters of ID not only confuse the epistemic authority of these tests with the normative authority of a faith community’s confessional identity, but impute to scientific tests for truth a sort of authority that even goes beyond the “methodological naturalism” against which they counterpose their claims.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Alston W.P. (1985) God’s action in the world. In: McMullin E. (eds) Evolution and creation. University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, IN

    Google Scholar 

  • Behe M.J. (1996) Darwin’s black box: The biochemical challenge to evolution. Free Press, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Behe M.J. (2001a) Reply to Shanks and Joplin. Reports of the National Center for Science Education 21(4): 15

    Google Scholar 

  • Behe M.J. (2001b) Darwin’s breakdown: Irreducible complexity and design at the foundations of life. In: Dembski W.A., Kusiner J.M. (eds) Signs of intelligence: Understanding intelligent design. Brazos Press, Grand Rapids, Michigan

    Google Scholar 

  • Benton E. (1981) Scientism. In: Bynum W.E., Browne E.J., Porter R. (eds) Dictionary of the history of science. Princeton University Press, New Jersey

    Google Scholar 

  • Darwin C. (1899) On the origin of species by means of natural selection (Vol. 2). Appleton, New York (Original work published 1859)

    Google Scholar 

  • Darwin, F. (eds) (1888) The life and letters of Charles Darwin (Vol. 2). Appleton, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Dembski W.A. (1999) Intelligent design: The bridge between science and theology. InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois

    Google Scholar 

  • Dembski W.A. (2001) Signs of intelligence: A primer on the discernment of intelligent design. In: Dembski W.A., Kusiner J.M. (eds) Signs of intelligence: Understanding intelligent design. Brazos Press, Grand Rapids, Michigan

    Google Scholar 

  • Dembski, W.A., Kusiner, J.M. (eds) (2001) Signs of intelligence: Understanding intelligent design. Brazos Press, Grand Rapids, Michigan

    Google Scholar 

  • Fitzroy, R. (1989). A very few remarks with reference to the deluge. In E. J. Browne & M. Neve (Eds.), Voyage of the beagle. London: Penguin. (Original work published 1839)

  • Johnson P.E. (2000) The wedge of truth: Splitting the foundations of naturalism. InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois

    Google Scholar 

  • Lyell C. (1868) Principles of geology or the modern changes of the earth and its inhabitants (Vol. 2). John Murray, London

    Google Scholar 

  • Malthus T. (1798) An essay of the principle of population(reproduced by IndyPublish.com). McLean, Virginia

    Google Scholar 

  • Miller J.D., Scott E.C., Okamoto S. (2006) Public acceptance of evolution. Science 313(5788): 765–766

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Musgrave I. (2004) The evolution of the bacterial flagellum. In: Young M., Edis T. (eds) Why intelligent design fails: A scientific critique of the new creationism. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick New Jersey

    Google Scholar 

  • O’Connor R. (2003) The design inference: Old wine in new wineskins. In: Manson N.A. (eds) God and design: The teleological argument and modern science. Routledge, London, pp 1–1

    Google Scholar 

  • Paley W. (1850) Natural theology, or evidence of the existence and attributes of the deity collected from the appearances of nature. American Tract Society, New York (Original work published 1801)

    Google Scholar 

  • Pallen M.J., Matzke N.J. (2006) From the origin of species to the origin of the bacterial flagella. Nature Reviews Microbiology 4: 784–790

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Scott E.C. (2005) Evolution vs. creationism: An introduction. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA

    Google Scholar 

  • Shanks N. (2004) God, the devil, and Darwin: A critique of intelligent design theory. Oxford University Press, England

    Google Scholar 

  • Sylla E.D. (2003) Creation and Nature. In: McGrade A.S. (eds) The Cambridge companion to medieval philosophy. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  • Taylor, J. H. (trans). (1982). Augustine of Hippo, The Literal Meaning of Genesis, (De genesi ad literam) (Vol. 2). NJ: Ramsey.

  • Williams P.S. (2002) The case for angels. Paternoster Press, Carlisle, UK

    Google Scholar 

  • Young M., Edis T. (2004) Why intelligent design fails: A scientific critique of the new creationism. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Keith Green.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Shanks, N., Green, K. Intelligent design in theological perspective. Synthese 178, 307–330 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-009-9541-9

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-009-9541-9

Keywords

  • Intelligent design
  • Theology
  • Scientism
  • Evidentialism
  • “Old” design arguments
  • “New” design arguments
  • Apologetics
  • Darwin
  • Augustine