Intelligent Design and the Problem of Evil: A Problem


A while back I mentioned that I no longer support the intelligent design theory (ID). Most of my reasons are simply philosophical (though there are scientific errors within the theory, scientific errors can always be fixed whereas philosophical errors can sometimes require the ejection of an entire system of thinking). One of the biggest ones, however, is that ID is unwittingly problematic when it comes to the problem of evil.

Contrary to most straw-men arguments, ID theorists accept many premises within evolution, but simply deny that natural selection works as an explanation for everything. They believe that across time God has intervened in order to direct evolution or to create irreducibly complex organisms. But by stating that God has directly interjected within creation along the process of evolution means that God has done some pretty nasty things. It would mean that God, not natural selection (which can be attributed to the Fall, even prior to humans) caused multiple natural evils. Even once humans were sentient and in His image, it would mean that He, not natural selection, caused death and suffering in order to help the species evolve as a whole.

Overall, if God interjected along the evolutionary track then He necessarily had to cause evil and take part in evil. Furthermore, it would mean that God’s creation wasn’t up to His standards when it was originally created. Now, one who believes that God sustains creation could easily argue that God allowed creation to exist in a fallen state in preparation of the Fall, but that His standard remained perfect. In fact, this is what William Dembski essentially argues in the previously linked book. But a problem exists when God acts in order to cause an evil rather than simply allowing the evil to occur. Hence, ID poses a serious problem when it comes to the problem of evil. Along with many other reasons, I can no longer consider it a tenable theory for Christians (or theists) to rely upon.

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7 thoughts on “Intelligent Design and the Problem of Evil: A Problem

  1. A good point, Joel. In fact, I think I remember Hitchens (and others?) mentioning something very similar about the ID movement – that it’s a very messy way for God to go about creating.

    In any case, what view have you shifted to? I myself have been stuck between rejecting ID (for reasons much like this) and rejecting any sort of macro-evolutionary hypothesis.I find myself some sort of special-creationist all the way ’round, but don’t know the larger view to which I believe – progressive creationism? I tend to joke that as an atheist, I believe in punctuated equilibrium, initiated by aliens (panspermia)…. God and special creation, for those who’ll do anything to run from God.

  2. Interesting points.

    As a Muslim, I cannot comment on the views of other faiths, but can say that Muslims believe both good and evil (in the natural disaster sense at least) come from God. That may seem an odd view, but we do not view our lives on Earth to be perfect, rather a journey to…
    We believe that calamity and afflictions in this life, help us appreciate what matters most and ultimately work towards a refinement in character.
    Therefore, death is not considered an evil event, rather the bridge between this life and the next. The death of species therefore, would be viewed as part of the harmony of change.

    That is inevitably an opening for a debate on evil acts and the connection with God, but that would distract from your post…

    You stated that (paraphrasing here), if God did bring about humanity through evolution, then that would mean he was unable to create the perfect model first time… I must disagree.
    We (by we I mean Muslims) are advised to ”look to the heavens and the earth and reflect, that we may find signs that lead us to God”. Such a command inevitably infers the use of logic, not blind faith, to arrive at a particular conclusion. One may say a scientific analysis even.
    If God were to command us to such ends, then it would make no sense for Him to create a universe that sat at odds with that logic.
    Logical analysis of evidence indicate that evolutionary theory is nigh on factual. Why would God, charge us to use logic and then just accept His being blindly? It is simply illogical.

    I cannot say where I sit firmly, the idea of evolutionary creationism is something that I do reflect on, I cannot at present see any other answer. I think the key point to note though is that I believe in a soul. And it is in this that I believe we have interjection from on High. And it is this, although an unproven entity, that I believe evolution on its own, has no answer for.

  3. Sorry, I lost my train of thought…
    If God expects us to look and find signs and use logic, and logic dictates that life began in simple organisms that collaborated and became more complex and over time led to us, then God would create such a universe for us.
    He would create us in a manner that would cause us to reflect deeply on our place on this earth.
    To understand the cycles of life and death, to understand our roles as custodians of this planet, to understand the awesomeness of His power, of our little moment here. To then become the best that we could be, that we may be deemed worthy of His Love.

    Oh wow, how hippy do I sound. You catch my drift though right?

  4. I still don’t think I made my point. Forgiveth please, I am fasting and my brain is mush!
    The point I was attempting to make was, that we are not the best of a plethora of attempts at ‘the perfect model of creation’, rather we are the perfect creation as each species is, for it’s task, as a step in getting us here. A backstory maybe. Although that’s not the best description.
    OK I’ll shut up now. Sorry.

  5. Joel – Your post illustrates perfectly one of the most baffling things I find about believers. The Bible is the word of God. The all knowing, all powerful being, yet people such as yourself seem to think they can just pick and choose what to believe, and what to gloss over. Either the Bible is true, or it isn’t. Who/ What gives you the power to choose? Is God not perfect after all? Did the writers of the Bible get some parts wrong? If so, what else is wrong? How can you tell for certainty?
    It’s obvious from this post, and others that you’ve written that you’ve already got ten toes in the water. Why not just take that final plunge, and discover the wonderful and awesome Universe we live in validated by critical thinking, and sound scientific principles? Quit ripping the band-aid off hair by hair, and just give it a yank! It will only sting for a second, and then the air of reason can get to the wound, and it can begin to heal properly.
    Do you think I spend one second of my time reading the drivel from the likes of Ken Ham, Pat Robertson, or Billy Graham? Hell no! They’re sadly delusional people that have nothing to offer the world.
    You, and on other hand, do have something to offer the world, and that’s why I keep bugging you.
    BTW: PZ has a new web server for Pharyngula.
    I put a short video of my new custom t-shirt as a joke to his anti-caturday thread.

  6. The problem with philosophisng (is that a word?) about the origins of the earth and the creatures in it, is that there is so much information that can not possibly be available to us. I’ve heard theories that before the flood the earth would have been almost unrecognizable to us. Air pressure would have been different, the amount of 02 in the air increased and these two factors alone would have rendered most poisoness creatures innefectual at actually doing harm to anything. Who knows how weather patterns would have been affected? Maybe tornados and hurricanes wouldn’t have even existed then? Maybe earthquakes wouldn’t have had an effect? Who knows what a flood of the magnitude that is described in Genesis (and has evidence in the literature of so many other ancient cultures) would be capable of doing. Water is a mighty force.

    There’s no way to know for sure…but logic, in my mind, screams intelligent design just by looking at the inner working of the most minute aspects of life as well as the larger pictures. My theory, God created the everything in 6 days just like scripture says and because of the curse and the flood, some of it morphed into a dangerous mess.

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