Dembski: Intelligent design offers alternative to Darwinism
"These issues of intelligent design and creation really cut to the heart of worldviews, what we are about, how we're putting life together and what's ultimately meaningful, what morality is based on," Dembski said in speaking on "Darwinism and the Church: a Conversation on Design and Cultural Engagement" at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Dembski currently is associate research professor in the conceptual foundations of science at Baylor University in Texas but will join Southern Seminary's faculty in June as the Carl F.H. Henry Professor of Science and Theology. Dembski and other proponents of intelligent design theory contend that some features of the natural world are best explained as the products of an intelligent cause rather than naturalistic evolution.
Addressing a forum sponsored by the seminary's Carl F.H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement, Dembski said he looks forward to serving at the Louisville, Ky., campus because of Southern's willingness to sponsor intelligent design research as a legitimate scientific enterprise -- an attitude that some Christian colleges and universities do not share because they believe embracing intelligent design will compromise their status in the academic world.
"Even many Christians who have been raised and indoctrinated in a secular mindset ... will say, 'Look, we're just going to have to accept the science of the day and try to make our peace with it theologically,'" Dembski said. "And there is no peace theologically ... ultimately with this view [Darwinian evolution]. But they accept it. And so, this idea of intelligent design becomes very threatening."
Intelligent design's first goal is to demonstrate the inadequacy of Darwinian evolution as an explanation of the origin of the universe, Dembski said. One of the chief methods of accomplishing this, he said, is to demonstrate the weakness of the scientific evidence presented in support of Darwinian evolution in many school classrooms.
"Evolutionary theory is in such a weak position that it shouldn't be taught at all ... in this grand global sense," Dembski said. "If you want to say natural selection operates in accounting for antibiotic resistance in bacteria, you can make a case there. But if you are going to try to say that's how you get bacteria, insects, all this in the first place, that's a huge extrapolation. The [Darwinian] theory doesn't support that."
After offering a critique of Darwinian evolution, intelligent design proposes alternative theories about the origin of the universe, Dembski said. These theories argue that a designer must have fashioned the complex biological and physical mechanisms humans observe in the world, he said.
As the data supporting intelligent design increases, some members of the secular scientific community have changed their minds and considered the possibility of an intelligent designer for the first time, Dembski said, noting that several researchers from major universities have contacted him and expressed a desire to conduct intelligent design research.
"I think the other side is worried," Dembski said. "And they are right to be worried because I think the ideas are on our side."
Although much of the scientific community views intelligent design with disdain, Dembski said that in popular culture as many as 90 percent of Americans "are favorably disposed" to the idea.
Because naturalism has influenced a variety of fields such as science, philosophy, business and economics, Christians must be prepared to combat the naturalistic worldview in every arena of life, Dembski said. Especially effective, he said, is using intelligent design to challenge the basic assumptions of naturalism and Darwinian evolution.
"I like to get back to the axioms, to the basics. If you can get at the taproot, at the thing that's really fundamental, then I think all these superstructures, the whole house of cards will come down," Dembski said. "Intelligent design is pressing that you can't get [the design of the universe] without intelligence."