Deceitful Intelligent Design

Deceitful Intelligent Design August 17, 2018

I thought I would share on the blog what I wrote on Facebook when sharing my recent post about Deceitful Design:

It is possible to be both intelligent and malicious, and Designer posited by so-called “Intelligent Design” really deserves to bear a different label that highlights its key distinctive belief. Religious believers of many stripes who accept mainstream science also believe in a Creator who is intelligent, and see that reflected in the world that science describes. And so let’s start referring to “Intelligent Design” using language that reflects what is actually distinctive of their viewpoint, namely that they believe the Designer has created in such a way as to mislead those who study the world regarding its history and its workings.

From now on, let’s refer to it as “Deceitful Design.” Those who hold this view do not deserve to be allowed to snatch the terms “intelligent” and “design” away from more mainstream theological and scientific positions, any more than young-earth creationists should be allowed to claim a corner on the language of “creation” or even “creationism” from others who believe in creation and yet accept the results of scientific investigation of the world around them.

Do you agree? I think language matters, and sometimes fringe ideologies are harder to combat when we grant them labels that they have no legitimate claim to.

I should also add that when I shared my post, I received comments from someone who seemed not to have bothered to read it and clearly couldn’t have cared less about the evidence. Dismissing the expertise of scientists is so much easier if one doesn’t have to provide an alternative explanation of why telomeres are found as “centromeres” on the enlarged human chromosome that has a genetic sequence matching that of two chromosomes found in other primates.

Maybe that is the crux of the issue? As long as one is willing to pretend that research and conclusion-drawing in any field isn’t hard, and consensus among those who do it not hard won, then one can simply believe whatever one wishes, or pick and choose authorities to listen to who say what one wishes to hear.

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  • Phil Ledgerwood

    I am really sympathetic to this.

    If I were pushing an Intelligent Design paradigm, I would probably respond that the Designer isn’t deceitful, but that we’re misappropriating or misinterpreting the world around us. With the exception of a small fringe who actually believes Satan “planted” evidence, virtually all YECers disagree that we are interpreting the evidence correctly, and many of them have issues with the data itself. We all know ID is is a facade for Creationism (although in theory it doesn’t have to be), so many proponents also believe God has clearly stated in the Bible how and when He created everything and evidence needs to be evaluated in light of those direct claims.

    So, you and I might see their Designer as deceitful, but they certainly wouldn’t understand It that way, so I’m reluctant to apply that label in good faith as a way to describe Intelligent Design’s proposals, although I might use it for rhetorical effect. From their standpoint, the Designer has been very forthright about what happened (either by way of revelation or teleological argument), and we’re the ones being obtuse.

    Because I think this is so wrong and inconsistent, I have no qualms with criticizing ID on the grounds that it depends on a Deceitful Designer, but I just personally feel weird about referring to their views in this way as a common matter of course. Maybe I’m becoming oversensitive because of the rise of Islamaphobia or because of certain academic cranks’ propensity to refer to everyone who disagrees with them or they believe is wrong as “liars,” or maybe since I’m not an educator I don’t fully apprehend the damage ID is doing.

    • Thanks for making this point. I wonder whether the proponents of ID are a religious minority whose safety from bullying and threats we need to worry about. Satire against an influential group seems fundamentally different to me from caricaturing a persecuted minority, for instance. But I appreciate your sensitivity about this, and your asking me to take a second look at my own practice. It is certainly because I am a Christian and an educator, I used to hold related antievolution views, and I have indeed seen the harm done to both science and Christianity by these beliefs, that I feel the need to challenge them. Thank you for insisting that, if I do so, I do so in a manner that is appropriate!

      • Phil Ledgerwood

        Once again, I am -totally- sympathetic to what you’re getting at, here.

      • John MacDonald

        I think the service you provide here and for your students more than atones for any early fundamentalism.

    • John MacDonald

      This makes me think of the way the New Testament writers “fudged” sometimes when portraying Jesus’ suffering. Mark seems to be exaggerating a bit to show that Jesus went through the worst suffering possible to serve God’s plan. A Jesus who merely died wasn’t enough, and this is understandable – the more excessive the suffering, the more noble the act. Analogously, Is it more an expression of love (a) to come home after a hard day of work and clean the house, cook dinner, and do the dishes so your wife doesn’t have to, or (b) just come home, kiss your wife, and plop on the couch and put on the T.V? Mark’s Jesus was portrayed as terrified of the suffering he was about to endure, but he pressed on anyway to serve God’s plan (Mark 14:36).

      Paul also sees Jesus’ death as part of God’s plan. Ehrman comments that:

      The word Paul uses in the passage is PARADIDOMI. It is the word that literally means “handed over.” So the passage says “In the night in which he was handed over, the Lord Jesus took bread….” What does that mean though? Traditionally it has been thought that it means “the night Judas betrayed him.” The problem is that there is a different, and related, word that means “betrayed.” That is the word PRODIDOMI. If Paul wanted to refer to Judas’s betrayal, he would have used that word. Instead he uses PARADIDOMI…. Paul uses PARADIDOMI on other occasions, and when he uses it in reference to Jesus, it is *not* to an act of Judas, but to an act of God. Paul talks about God “handing Jesus over” to his fate. As an example, see Romans 8:32: God did not spare his son but “handed him over” for us. That appears to be what Paul is referring to in 1 Cor. 11:23 as well. It is a mistranslation, then, to translate PARADIDOMI as if it were, instead, PRODIDOMI. Paul is saying that the last supper happened the night in which God handed Jesus over to fulfill his destiny.

      Mark also alters Jesus’ personality to convey the Messianic Secret idea, etc.

      • Phil Ledgerwood

        Hey John, is my comment the comment you meant to reply to? I mean, I was interested to read it, but I wonder if it might have been intended as a contribution to a different comment thread.

        • John MacDonald

          Oops – brain freeze on my part / lol.