Humanism Amidst Our Machines   /   Summer 2011   /    Essays And Short Takes

The Secularity of Intelligent Design

Finbarr Curtis

FEW ENDEAvORS  WOuLD  APPEAR TO  BE as anti-secular as Intelligent Design’s (ID) chal- lenge to modern science. As the heir to scientific creationism’s attempt to develop an alternative to secular biology, ID is a collection of theories that hope to show the inadequacy of purely naturalist attempts to explain the origins of life. To this end, ID rejects mainstream secular scientific authority. But while ID advocates acknowledge religious motives for their work, they insist on the scientific quality of their research and theo- ries. This claim to be doing science is a crucial part of convincing courts that teaching ID in public schools does not violate the separation of church and state. To meet legal criteria for a religiously neutral science, both creationism and ID rely on empirical evidence and produce text- books that avoid references to God, the Bible, or christianity. The stated goal of this work is not to replace evolution but to provide an alternative that would be given “equal time” in the schools. The courts, however, have rejected equal time laws at least partly on the grounds that creationism is too closely tied to fundamentalist christianity. In the wake of legal decisions against creationism, ID has arisen to offer a minimal theory that asserts only that some kind of intelligence was necessary for the creation of life, but refrains from devel- oping constructive theories that would support any one religious viewpoint. However, these chal- lenges have failed as well, as ID has been taken to be an updated version of creationism.

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