Horrid Red Things, Vitamin Theories, and Intelligent Design

A reader gripes:

[N]on-disprovable philosophies … such as “Intelligent design” only serve to make Christians look ignorant. I assure you that if the Catholic Church maintained such nonsense as articles of faith, no scientist with personal integrity could be Catholic.

It would appear to me that the Catholic Church *does* dogmatically teach that God is both the “Creator of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen” and that he is the “Lord, the Giver of life”. So it would appear that your dogmatic insistence that life is not the product of Intelligent Design is bound for some trouble since God is, after all, an Intelligent Designer.

I don’t know that this excludes what mathematicians or physicists would call “randomness” or chance. The archer who fulfilled prophecy by shooting Ahab by chance (1 Kings 22:34) was acting according to Providence too. So I don’t see a huge philosophical problem there. I only see a problem with arrogant dogmatic materialists who insist that chance excludes God’s purpose of Intelligent Design.

Perhaps part of the problem is that saying “I believe in an Intelligent Designer” is not the same as saying “I subscribe to Intelligent Design theory”. The Church requires we believe in the Intelligent Designer. It does not require that we hold to any particular theory of how he does his stuff. C.S. Lewis remarked on two different occasions about the distinction we must make between the thing we believe and how we believe it or image it to ourselves. He spoke in Mere Christianity about different theories of atonement vs. receiving the atonement by faith and baptism. He compared it to vitamin theories. People have eatern their dinners for millions of years and felt better. Now they have vitamin theories to help them understand why. If it’s shown tomorrow that there are no vitamins they will go on eating their dinners and feeling better. Same for our notions of what God is up to in baptism and the other sacraments. We know *that* they work. We don’t know why.

Likewise, Catholics have a relationship with the Intelligent Designer through Christ. We know that by revelation, not by science. Now we’re making some good guesses about how he went about Designing. If we’re shown to be wrong tomorrow, we’ll go on having a relationship with Him and knowing he the Intelligent Designer of heaven and earth, because he told us so.

Conversely, if we have wrong ideas about how he designed things, that does not mean we are wrong that he designed them. A child who has been told by its mother not to eat poison may have all sorts of childish notions that poison has Horrid Red Things in it. We would not be wise to ignore that child if she said, “Don’t eat that. Mother says it’s poison” by consoling ourselves that we don’t share her false childish notions of Horrid Red Things. In the same way, the materialist is a fool if he rejects the revelation of God as the Intelligent Designer simply because some Christians have faulty pictures of how the Intelligent Designer did his work.

Me: I can’t look at living things and not see design. I know my secular catechists like Dawkins will flunk me for that. But so help me, I just don’t have the strength of will to do it. My common sense, a terrible weakness I know, holds me bound forever to seeing the essential sanity of the basic thesis of Intelligent Design: that specified complexity always denotes ID in normal life and that some sort of violence has to be done to ourselves in order to pretend that this specified complexity is simply and solely the product of chance without the hand of God involved.