Intelligent Design Creationism

Intelligent design creationism is the view that God created the world by “designing” certain structures within it, either at the beginning, or at multiple points in its development. Properly speaking, the theory of intelligent design is not a theory of creation, and does not presuppose a divine creator. It is rather a scientific, or pseudo-scientific, theory that the structure of the world or of living beings shows the working of an intelligent designer. Yet while this designer could theoretically be some finite intelligent agent, such as intelligent extraterrestrials, most adherents of the theory of intelligent design understand God to be the designer. Consequently, intelligent design theory is often associated with creationism.

The popular origins of the term “intelligent design” also demonstrate a link with creationism. The biology textbook Of Pandas and People has been said to be the first to use the phrase “intelligent design” in its present sense,1 and was certainly the first to use the phrase extensively. Early drafts of this book spoke frequently of creation, defining it as meaning that “the various forms of life began abruptly through the agency of an intelligent creator with their distinctive features already intact. Fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, and wings, etc.” It followed what we have called progressive creationism, though allowing for the possibility of a more rapid creation, such as creation in six days. After the USA Supreme Court in Edwards v. Aguillard ruled it unconstitutional to teach creation science in public schools, the book’s authors systematically replaced terms such as “creator” with “intelligent designer.” The previous definition of “creation” was preserved, but was now used as a definition of “intelligent design”!2

1John C. Avise, Adaption and Complex Design (Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2007), 298, citing Buell’s preface to the third edition of Of Pandas and People.

2Ibid., 299–300.

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