Intelligent Design: Philo vs. Ken Ham

One can trace the origins of intelligent design’s type of argument back into the ancient world. Naturally, before there were scientific explanations for various phenomena, there was a tendency to identify all sorts of “natural phenomena” (in our terms) as literally “acts of God” or acts of the gods.

What is intriguing in these early examples of the “failure of imagination” argument (i.e. “I cannot conceive how this could possibly have arisen, so God must have done it miraculously) is that they include human technology. Whether we think of fire in the myth of Prometheus, or weapons and jewelry-making taught by the “sons of God” in the subsequent elaborations of the Genesis narrative in 1 Enoch, those technologies whose origins were forgotten in the mists of history were often attributed to divine or angelic revelation. We see echoes of this in the modern UFO mythology that attributes some technological advancements that seem too wondrous to crashed alien spacecraft or other interactions with aliens (e.g. velcro, in both the movie Men in Black and in an episode of Star Trek: Enterprise).

On the other hand, some ancient authors were remarkably sophisticated (I remember in particular being impressed with Philo of Alexandria’s understanding of rainbows in Questions and Answers on Genesis II, 64). Awe before the accomplishments of nature, including living things, is not inappopriate, but giving overly-facile explanations that fail to properly investigate matters thoroughly certainly is. And so I leave readers with this thought, that it is interesting to contrast the thoughtful insight of Philo’s “Answers in Genesis” from almost 2,000 years ago, with Ken Ham’s version of “Answers in Genesis” in our time.


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