Editor’s note: We are delighted to present a series by geologist Casey Luskin on “The Positive Case for Intelligent Design.” This is the eighth entry in the series, a modified excerpt from the new book The Comprehensive Guide to Science and Faith: Exploring the Ultimate Questions About Life and the Cosmos. Find the full series so far here.
The positive case for design allows us to answer some of the most common objections to intelligent design — including the claim that ID isn’t science, the charge that ID is only a negative argument against evolution, and “God of the gaps” or “argument from ignorance” accusations.
First, ID’s use of the scientific method in each of the scientific fields elaborated above provides strong evidence that ID is science.
Only a Negative Argument?
Second, critics often claim that ID is merely a negative argument against evolution — that it has no positive content and merely critiques other viewpoints. During the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial, biologist Kenneth Miller from Brown University testified that ID “is always negative, and it basically says, if evolution is incorrect, the answer must be design.”1 In the court’s ruling in that case, a federal judge relied upon Miller’s testimony to similarly claim that “ID proponents primarily argue for design through negative arguments against evolution.”2 The positive case for design outlined in this series forcefully shows that ID is based upon positive evidence and is not merely a negative argument against Darwinian evolution or other material causes.
As for the “God of the gaps” charge, the basic objection is that ID is an argument from ignorance, based upon what we don’t know (gaps in knowledge) rather than what we do know, and that future discoveries will likely close those gaps in our knowledge with material explanations and eliminate the argument for design.
For example, UC Berkeley paleontologist Charles Marshall calls ID “a (sophisticated) ‘god of the gaps’ approach,an approach that is problematic in part because future developments often provide solutions to once apparently difficult problems.”3 University of Alberta biologist and theologian Denis O. Lamoureux similarly charges that ID is a “God-of-the-gaps approach to divine action,” which holds that “there are ‘gaps’ in the continuum of natural processes, and these ‘discontinuities’ in nature indicate places where God has miraculously intervened.” In his view, this approach fails because “these purported gaps have always been gaps in knowledge and not actual gaps in nature.”4 An article from the theistic evolutionist BioLogos Foundation argues that “pragmatically” the argument for design “is in fact an argument from ignorance” because “it seems like you need to test for (lack of) natural explanations to discover irreducible or specified complexity.”5
Little Resemblance to ID
These accusations bear little resemblance to the actual theory of intelligent design as put forth by ID proponents. Indeed, if the positive case for design shows anything, it’s that this objection is incorrect.
ID’s positive arguments are based precisely upon what we have learned from studies of nature about the origin of certain types of information, such as CSI-rich structures. In our experience, high CSI or irreducible complexity derives from a mind. If we did not have these observations, we could not infer intelligent design. We can then go out into nature and empirically test for high CSI or irreducible complexity, and when we find these types of information, we can justifiably infer that an intelligent agent was at work.
Thus, ID is not based upon what we don’t know — an argument from ignorance or gaps in our knowledge — but rather, is based upon what we do know about the origin of information-rich structures, as testified to by the observed information-generative powers of intelligent agents.
Next, “Does Darwinian Theory Make the Same Predictions as Intelligent Design?”
- Kenneth R. Miller, Kitzmiller v. Dover, Day 1 PM Testimony (September 26, 2005).
- Kitzmiller v. Dover, 400 F. Supp. 2d 707, 738 (M.D. Pa. 2005).
- Charles R. Marshall, “When Prior Belief Trumps Scholarship,” Science 341 (September 20, 2013), 1344.
- Denis O. Lamoureux, “Intelligent Design Theory: The God-of-the-Gaps Rooted in Concordism,” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 70 (June 2018), 113-132, emphasis in original.
- Andreas Østergaard Jacobsen, “Uncovering Creation as the Marvelous Symphony,” March 10, 2021, https://biologos.org/personal-stories/uncovering-creation-as-the-marvelous-symphony/ (accessed March 24, 2021).