Intelligent Design or Intelligent Designer?

By Laurence M. Vance, Ph.D.

The statements are not identical. In fact, although one cannot consistently hold to the Darwinian theory of evolution and at the same time accept the Christian doctrine of Creation, it is possible to advocate at the same time both evolution and intelligent design. Although the brouhaha over a federal district court ruling late last year against the mere mention (not the teaching) of intelligent design in a public school classroom has apparently subsided, some lingering questions yet remain. The most important of these questions is simply this: Can you have intelligent design without an intelligent designer?
The case in question is Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al. Ms. Kitzmiller was one of eleven parents who objected to the plan of the Dover Area School District (near Harrisburg, PA), by a vote of six to three, to have the following statement read to students in the ninth-grade biology class at Dover High School:
The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin’s theory of evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part.
Because Darwin’s Theory is a theory, it is still being tested as new evidence is discovered. The Theory is not a fact. Gaps in the Theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.
Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin’s view. The reference book, Of Pandas and People is available for students to see if they would like to explore this view in an effort to gain an understanding of what intelligent design actually involves.
As is true with any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the origins of life to individual students and their families. As a standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on standards-based assessments.
The Dover school board should have known that they were going to have a problem when the biology teachers refused to read the statement, leaving it to administrators to carry out the new policy of the school board. After a lawsuit was filed in federal court on November 14, 2004, the board was given the opportunity (which it declined) to rescind its policy, and thus avoid paying legal fees (which eventually came to $1 million). The plaintiffs contended that the school board’s intelligent design policy constituted "an establishment of religion prohibited by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which is made applicable to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment, as well as the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania."
A trial was held from September 26, 2005, through November 4, 2005, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Judge John E. Jones III (appointed by President Bush) issued a 139-page ruling on December 20, 2005, in which he began by saying:
For the reasons that follow, we hold that the ID Policy is unconstitutional pursuant to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and Art. I, § 3 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.
And ended by saying:
Defendants’ ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and Art. I, § 3 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Because he sought "to preserve the separation of church and state mandated by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and Art. I, § 3 of the Pennsylvania Constitution," Judge Jones permanently enjoined the "Defendants from maintaining the ID Policy in any school within the Dover Area School District, from requiring teachers to denigrate or disparage the scientific theory of evolution, and from requiring teachers to refer to a religious, alternative theory known as ID."
One of the most well-known proponents of intelligent design is the Discovery Institute in Seattle, Washington, a non-profit educational foundation that "discovers and promotes ideas in the common sense tradition of representative government, the free market and individual liberty." Not only did the Discovery Institute not support the intelligent design policy adopted by the Dover school board, it "repeatedly urged the school board to withdraw it, beginning long before the district had been sued."
The Discovery Institute has nevertheless recently issued "a critique of Judge John E. Jones III’s controversial decision in Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School Board (2005)." The book is called Traipsing into Evolution: Intelligent Design and the Kitzmiller v. Dover Decision (Discovery Institute Press, 2006). The authors are David DeWolf, a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute and professor of law at Gonzaga Law School; John West, a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute and chair of the Department of Political Science and Geography at Seattle Pacific University; Casey Luskin, an attorney; and Jonathan Witt, a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute.
The title of the book is based on a statement of Judge Jones in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case: "The Court is confident that no other tribunal in the United States is in a better position than are we to traipse into this controversial area." The authors believe that Judge Jones "repeatedly misrepresented both the facts and the law in his opinion, sometimes egregiously." He "decided to act as though it was the ‘intelligent design movement,’ not the Dover school board, that was on trial." Jones was an activist judge who "had no small estimate of his own importance" and "relished the idea that he could be the first judge to issue a definitive pronouncement on ID, and he apparently was unwilling to forego that opportunity."
This is not a book against evolution or even a defense of intelligent design. It is strictly a critique of the Kitzmiller v. Dover case. The authors make it clear in the introduction why this case is "wholly unsuited" to serve as a "test case" for intelligent design. First, the leading proponents of intelligent design were opposed to the policy of the Dover school board. Second, the board members who adopted the intelligent design policy knew little if anything about the subject. And third, the case had nothing to do with the teaching of intelligent design, only the bare mention of it. The authors believe there are four reasons why this case "has little to contribute to the on-going dialogue about how to teach biological evolution in the public schools" and "deserves no deference either from other jurists or from government officials." They are:
Kitzmiller’s Partisan History of Intelligent Design
Kitzmiller’s Unpersuasive Case against the Scientific Status of Intelligent Design
Kitzmiller’s Failure to Treat Religion in a Neutral Manner
Kitzmiller’s Limited Value as Precedent
Each of these four reasons is briefly summarized in the introduction and then discussed in detail in the four chapters that make up the book. These chapters are followed by a brief conclusion, "The Need to Protect Academic Freedom," and then three appendixes. The first appendix was written by Michael Behe, the author of Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, and the "lead witness for the defense." He seeks to answer the Court’s ruling that intelligent design is not science. The next appendix is an annotated bibliography of peer-reviewed publications that support the theory of intelligent design. The last appendix is a brief of amici curiae biologists and other scientists in support of the defendants in the case. There are eighty-five names listed.
Although Traipsing into Evolution is certainly a valuable resource about what is wrong with the ruling in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case, this is a ruling that should never have been made.
As mentioned above, the plaintiffs’ contention was:
The ID Policy constitutes an establishment of religion prohibited by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which is made applicable to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment, as well as the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Judge Jones made this statement near the beginning of his ruling:
We initially observe that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution provides that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." U.S. Const. amend. I. The prohibition against the establishment of religion applies to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment.
The ruling is bogus, and for two reasons.
First, the applicability of the First Amendment to the states via the Fourteenth Amendment (the incorporation doctrine) is a myth that can only be sustained by a perversion of the Constitution, as I have previously written about.
Second, reading a statement in a public school about intelligent design, or even teaching it, is neither establishing a religion nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof. Not when Congress and the military have paid chaplains. Not when the Supreme Court’s sessions are opened with the Court’s Marshal saying "God save the United States and this honorable court." Not when the National Motto inscribed on our coins is "In God We Trust." Not when the oath of office for members of Congress ends with "So help me God." As R. Cort Kirkwood wrote about the case in a recent issue of Chronicles:
"The decision was based on the palpably absurd and well-worn notion that teaching something, anything, about religion in a public school is "unconstitutional" and violates the "wall of separation between Church and State." Of course, it isn’t the Constitution or the First Amendment that prohibits teaching religion in schools. The real prohibitive agent in these cases is the steamer trunk of erroneous case law cited by the judge and hoked up by anti-Christian, leftist courts that would have no power if the locals refused to abide them."
But as I said, this is a ruling that should never have been made.
The decision of a local school board in the state of Pennsylvania is the business of the state of Pennsylvania, not the federal government. It is the states that have language in their constitutions authorizing public education, not the federal government. The federal government, whether through its Goals 2000: Educate America Act or its No Child Left Behind Act or its Elementary and Secondary Education Act, should have nothing to do with local public schools. Whatever happened to the Republican calls for abolishing the federal department of education?
In a truly free market, educational services would be no different than any other services. Parents concerned about the issues of creation and evolution could shop around for the school of their choice. Atheists could have a school in which evolution is presented as the truth and all other explanations for the origin of life a lie. Bible-believing Christians could have a school in which the Genesis account of Creation is presented as the truth and all other explanations for the origin of life a lie. Intelligent design proponents could have a school in which their viewpoint is presented as the truth, regarding either evolution or creation as the means how a designer brought things about. Some schools might offer parents to choose from among three different biology courses, each presenting one of the three perspectives under discussion. Other schools may wish to present all three views as possibilities, or simply skirt the issue altogether.
But since we don’t have a truly free market in education, what should advocates of intelligent design do? They have several options, but one thing is for sure, as, again, R. Cort Kirkwood writes:
The evangelicals and supporters of intelligent design must give up this fight and every other one as well, from contraceptives and school prayer to dress codes and homosexuals at the prom. The only intelligent course is to pull their kids out of the public schools. Private Christian academies are everywhere. Parochial schools abound. Better yet, there is homeschooling. Indeed, any serious Christian knows that putting a child in public school is a grave sin, given the crippling, lowbrow academics and anti-Christian cultural toxins to which such children are exposed.
Until Christian parents learn that their future lies outside the public schools, they will only strengthen the anti-Christian leftists they want to dethrone. To defeat them, parents must deprive schools of the malleable minds required to propagate their anti-American, anti-Christian ideology.
As constitutional attorney John Eidsmoe concluded in his article about the Kitzmiller case for The New American: "To ensure that our children are taught properly, we should consider the form of education our Founding Fathers believed in and practiced—private and home schools."
The government has officially recognized evolution as the answer for the origin of life, and it tolerates no dissent. In Traipsing into Evolution, the authors recount the case of Richard Sternberg, an evolutionary biologist with Ph.D.’s in molecular evolution and theoretical biology, whose career as a researcher at the Smithsonian Institution was recently destroyed, even though he held to neither Creation nor intelligent design. Dr. Sternberg’s grave sin was, as editor of a scientific journal affiliated with the Smithsonian (Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington), overseeing the publication of an article by a Cambridge-educated philosopher of science in which it was argued that intelligent design was the best explanation for the rapid appearance of higher life-forms since evolutionary theory couldn’t account for the vast profusion of multi-cellular species.
So not only is this a ruling that should never have been made, it is a case that should have never materialized in the first place.
Regardless of what Christian proponents of intelligent design say about science and academic freedom, we know that the reason they call for the mention or the teaching of intelligent design in the classroom is because it is the closest thing that Christians can get to the teaching of Creationism in public schools.
We also know that evolutionists are against intelligent design, not because it is unscientific, but because it dares to question the established religion of evolution. Evolutionists are nervous because they see the introduction of intelligent design into the classroom as a first step on the road to Creationism, which is a dogma they abhor.
The Dover school board contained six members who were sympathetic to the biblical account of Creation. They couldn’t get away with mandating the teaching of biblical Creation or prohibiting the teaching of evolution. They couldn’t even get away with requiring the presentation of both views. In the case of Edwards v. Aguillard (1987), the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law (the Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science in Public School Instruction Act) which mandated that if either topic were addressed, teachers were required to discuss the opposing view as well. The school board members tried a backdoor approach—they would require a statement to be read (not a principle to be taught) that there were gaps in evolutionary theory, and that intelligent design was an alternative explanation of the origin of life.
So let’s return now to where we began: Can you have intelligent design without an intelligent designer? Proponents of intelligent design think so. The authors of Traipsing into Evolution have certainly said so:
As a scientific theory, ID only claims that there is empirical evidence that key features of the universe and living things are the products of an intelligent cause. Whether the intelligent cause involved is inside or outside of nature cannot be decided by empirical evidence alone.
ID proponents from the beginning have repeatedly argued that design theory does not rely on supernatural causation, and they have consistently maintained this position whether writing for religious or secular audiences.
Thus, the theory of intelligent design does not investigate whether the designing intelligent agent was natural or supernatural because it assumes that things designed by an intelligence may possess certain perceptible properties regardless of whether that intelligent agent is a natural entity, or in some way supernatural.
We are also told in Traipsing into Evolution that two of the most prominent scientists who believe in intelligent design, and who also testified in the Kitzmiller case, Michael Behe and Scott Minnich, do not believe "in a literal reading of Genesis."
Is intelligent design biblical? Yes and no. The term itself was apparently first used as an alternative to evolution by an Oxford scholar named Schiller in an 1897 essay published in the Contemporary Review. Intelligent design is simply a modern form of the teleological argument for the existence of God. From the Greek word telos, "end," the teleological argument is based on the obvious evidences of order and design in nature and man. One of the most famous explanations of what has been called the argument from design is that of the Anglican scholar William Paley (1763-1805) in his 1802 book Natural Theology:
In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone, and were asked how the stone came to be there. I might possibly answer that, for anything I knew to the contrary, it had lain there for ever; nor would it, perhaps, be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. But supposed I found a watch upon the ground, and it should be enquired how the watch happened to be in that place, I should hardly think of the answer which I had before given—that, for anything I knew, the watch might always have been there. Yet why should not this answer serve for the watch as well as for the stone? Why is it not as admissible in the second case as in the first? For this reason, and for no other, viz., that, when we come to inspect the watch, we perceive (what we could not discover in the stone) that its several parts are framed and put together for a purpose, e.g. that they are so formed and adjusted as to produce motion so regulated as to point out the hour of the day; that, if the different parts had been differently shaped form what they are, if a different size from what they are, or placed after any other manner, or in any other order than that in which they are placed, either no motion at all would have been carried on in the machine, or none which would have answered to the use that is now served by it.
Evolutionists typically respond with no response, like Richard Dawkins, author of The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design: "The world looks as though it had been designed by a master craftsman—but it hasn’t."
The teleological argument, like all the arguments for the existence of God, has a major problem. Aside from what is revealed in the Bible, we don’t know anything about the god of the teleological argument. Is he finite or infinite? Is he good or evil? Is he one god or many? Is he even a "he"?
?Intelligent design is no threat to evolution. Scientists that recognize the flaws in Darwinian evolution, but refuse to believe the Genesis account of Creation, see intelligent design as a way to have the best of both worlds. This is unacceptable for the Christian.
According to the Creation account in Genesis chapter one:
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day. And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good. And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the third day. And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day. And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. And the evening and the morning were the fifth day. And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
There is really only one group of people that has a problem with the Genesis account of Creation—modern conservative Christians. The atheist, agnostic, unbeliever, and the theological modernist or liberal has no problem with the Genesis account—he knows that Creation is taught in Genesis chapter one but sees no problem because he believes the book of Genesis or even the whole Bible is either not historically accurate or just a myth. The traditional or Bible-believing Christian has no problem with the Genesis account—he knows that Creation is taught in Genesis chapter one but sees no problem because he believes what it says. There are Christians—conservative Christians—that claim to believe the Bible but are embarrassed by the simple Creation account given in Genesis chapter one because they feel that it cannot be reconciled with archeology, geology, the fossil record, scientific discoveries, or the latest scientific scholarship.
Getting rid of the book of Genesis does not alleviate the problem. Creation is not just mentioned in the Old Testament book of Genesis:
When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou has made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour (Psalm 8:3-5).

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork (Psalm 14:1).

By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth (Psalm 33:6).

Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands (Psalm 102:25).

Hast thou not know? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding (Isaiah 40:28).

Mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spanned the heavens: when I call unto them, they stand up together (Isaiah 48:13).

To get rid of the doctrine of Creation, the rest of the Old Testament will have to be gotten rid of as well. The New Testament will have to go also, since it contains statements like this:
Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear (Hebrews 11:3)
We also see in the New Testament that Jesus Christ confirmed the Creation account:
And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female (Mark 10:5-6).

And was himself active in the Creation:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made (John 1:1-3).

For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him (Colossians 1:16)

Although God could have created everything instantaneously, he chose to do it in six days—six literal days. The word "day" in Genesis 1 is qualified by "evening and morning." The word "day" in conjunction with a numerical adjective never means, throughout the writings of Moses, anything other than a literal day. The language included as part of the Fourth Commandment patterns man’s workweek after the days of Creation:
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it (Exodus 20:8-11).

The importance of the doctrine of Creation to the Christian faith cannot be emphasized enough. Without Creation, there is no Adam. Without Adam, there is no Fall. Without the Fall, there is no need for Redemption. Without the need for Redemption, there is no need for the Atonement. Without the need for the Atonement, there is no need for the Incarnation. Without the biblical doctrine of Creation, Christ is not the "last Adam" (1 Corinthians 15:45) or the "second man" (1 Corinthians 15:47) or the "Saviour" (Luke 2:11), and Christianity is a farce just like Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and every other "ism."
I have thus far not personally said anything about evolution. I will say now that I believe it to be a false theory, a pseudo-science, and an impossibility.
On evolution being false, I can recommend, among other things, Jonathan Wells’s Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth? Why Much of What We Teach About Evolution is Wrong. On the Genesis account of Creation being true, I can recommend James Jordan’s Creation in Six Days: A Defense of the Traditional Reading of Genesis One.
On evolution being a pseudo-science, I can give you the word of LRC writer Fred Reed, not known as an advocate of the Genesis account of Creation, who has succinctly stated what distinguishes evolution from other science:

Plausibility is accepted as being equivalent to evidence.
Evolution seems more a metaphysics or ideology than a science.
Evolutionists are obsessed by Christianity and Creationism.
On evolution being an impossibility, I can say this: To believe in evolution one must first believe in the eternity of matter or in spontaneous generation. These are both utter impossibilities because everything has not always been here and something can’t come from nothing.

If you think the Bible is not historically accurate or just a myth then go ahead and believe in evolution. I have no argument with you and will not fault you for it. But if you claim to be a Christian who believes the Bible, whether you are a layman or a scientist, and you have doubts about the Genesis Creation account, then you need to reevaluate your position—especially if you claim to believe in intelligent design.
I began this article with the quotation of Genesis 1:1: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." I now conclude with this: If the first verse in the Bible is wrong, then all of its other 31,101 verses could be erroneous. If the first verse in the Bible cannot be trusted, then the whole book is suspect.
Laurence M. Vance, Ph.D., is a teacher, an author, a publisher, a freelance writer, the editor of the Classic Reprints series, and the director of the Francis Wayland Institute. He holds degrees in history, theology, accounting, and economics. The author of seven books and two collections of essays, he regularly contributes articles and book reviews to both secular and religious periodicals. Dr. Vance's writing interests include free market economics, government spending and corruption, the socialism and statism of conservative pundits and Republican politicians, Baptist theology, English Bible history, Greek grammar, and the folly of war. He is a regular columnist for, and blogs for,, and Dr. Vance is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature, the Grace Evangelical Society, the Society of Dispensational Theology, the International Society of Bible Collectors, and the Ludwig von Mises Institute.