Intelligent Design (ID), according to Jason Rosenhouse (Among the Creationists), is a new form of creationism and is not mainstream science. Before we get to how he draws this conclusion, a few points need to be made:
First, the fundamental problem Christians and creationists have had with evolution is the notion of randomness or chance or undirected, non-teleological development of the universe and especially of humans. Darwin’s “common descent” was not the problem; the problem was “natural selection,” for that has the idea of undirected evolution. In other words, at work from the outset was toleration for common descent and even an old earth — and hence Genesis 1 and young earth were not part of the debate — but what was also at work for Christians was the belief that God had designed this world and that humans were special.
Is Intelligent Design mainline science or a form of creationism?
Charles Hodge, no friend of liberalism, saw evolutionary theory of Darwin as atheism because of the “exclusion of design from nature” (78). The Catholic Church was both quieter and less tolerant, but the result of the 19th and most of the 20th Centuries (until Scopes, until Everson v. Board of Education) was not so much common descent or the age of the earth but non-teleological evolution.
Second, tied to this was the rise of German higher criticism and American fundamentalism’s cultural battle — and evolution got into this mix — and it all became politicized. Evolution vs. creation became, in one generation, culture war (not science, not theology).
This leads Rosenhouse to a consideration of ID. Rosenhouse’s contention is the evolution counts not just on wonderful displays of adaptation but the things that don’t fit — the “senseless signs of history” — like weak lower backs, rupturing appendices, and wisdom teeth.ID folks do not appeal — as do creationists — to Genesis 1, to Noah’s flood, or the age of the earth. They appeal to irreducible complexity and the signs of not just intention or purpose but of some kind of intelligence that alone explains what we encounter in natural history.
Rosenhouse: “My own view is that the similarities between ID and creationism are far more significant than the differences” (84). How so?
1. ID folks dispute YEC, and at times vehemently, but Rosenhouse contends this misunderstands the origins of ID.
2. Creationism attempted to establish itself as a kind of science (Scopes trial, etc), but lost and it was determined by the courts that creation science is not science.
3. ID stepped in after creation science folks lost, and the damning evidence that shows ID was a form of creationism is found in the famous Kitzmiller v. Dover case in which Barbara Forrest showed that the original version of ID (“intelligence” and “designer” etc) had creation and creator. It was in essence another version of the “two-model” (evolution, creation-science) approach to public education.
4. The findings were that ID was not science, that it was motivated by religion and permitted supernatural causation, irreducible complexity had other better explanations, and it was not established through peer-reviewed scientific studies. In other words, “ID was just a legally savvy version of creationism” (90).
Rosenhouse proves his mettle for me with this: Is ID creationism?
A. If this means age of earth, sudden creation of life, reality of Noah’s flood, then ID is not creationism.
B. If you see creationism as a cultural battle against science that demeans religion, then ID joins at the hip with creationism. It is “only superficially different from traditional creationism, while its morally outraged rhetoric is identical to it” (90). (Rosenhouse has a whole chp, chp 16, on the “unsavory rhetorical practices” of ID.)