The Media, Intelligent Design and Biblical Creation

Last year and this the British media has shown a heightened interest in the arguments against evolution. Much of this arises out of the debate over Intelligent Design taking place in the USA. This article reviews some of these reports and also examines the differences between Intelligent Design and Biblical Creation.

Media Watch

It has been almost impossible not to come across articles in newspapers or programmes on radio and TV recently about the creation / evolution debate. The week I began to write this article saw two spurts of interest in the media. First on Monday 6 March [2006], Channel 4 broadcast a documentary called “The Rise of the New Fundamentalist”. At first glance Rod Liddle (ex. Today Programme producer) seemed to be attacking all evangelicals, but by the end of the programme it was clear that it was Tony Blair’s support for what have been labelled “faith schools” which was the real object of his ridicule. He was quite willing to drag every seriously Bible-believing Christian down in his tirade of ridicule, but his greatest attacks were aimed at the Vardy Foundation and the Academy Schools it sponsors, along with all those who believe in the Biblical testimony of creation. The standard of research and reporting which lay behind the programme is best illustrated by Liddle’s attempt from the outset to portray all Evangelicals as a coherent and strategic group which gets its music and ideas mostly as imports from the States. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at this caricature! The programme was pure propaganda and showed journalism at its worse.

The second burst of interest came on Friday 10 March with the announcement that OCR, one of the English exam boards, was to include creationism in a GCSE science syllabus! This provoked several newspaper reports along with the predictable objections from the secularists, including Richard Dawkins. If such people are expressing their concerns over this change, does this mean it is a good thing? We should be careful not to jump to conclusions. OCR representatives in radio interviews that same day were at pains to point out that creationism was only to be taught to explain the context in which Darwin's theory of evolution originally arose. A statement published on their web site added, “Creationism and ‘intelligent design’ are not regarded by OCR as scientific theories. They are beliefs that do not lie within scientific understanding.” The battle for the truth must continue therefore. The increased interest of the media in this debate has to be recognised, but we need wisdom to interpret properly what is happening.

The Bishop and the Atheist

On a slightly lighter note, many of you will have noticed that Richard Dawkins also teamed up with Channel 4 to fire a broadside at all religions. He has for many years been supported in his aggressive anti-creationism by Richard Harries, the liberal Anglican Bishop of Oxford. In 2002 they jointly convened a group of bishops and scientists to sign a letter to the Prime Minister protesting at his position over faith schools, and Emmanuel College in particular. Last year they wrote a joint letter to the Sunday Times, again criticising the government’s policy in this area and containing a level of vindictive rhetoric against the Vardy foundation which Dawkins repeats at every opportunity. In their letter they agreed, “Literalistic young earth creationism is an insult to God,” even though Dawkins does not believe He exists! It was therefore with some amusement that I watched Richard Dawkins undermine Harries’ liberal views towards the end of the second of his two Channel 4 programmes “The Root of all Evil?”. He questioned how the Bishop could pick and choose which bits of the Bible he wanted to believe and which he didn’t! Clearly this confrontation has changed the two men’s relationship, for when they appeared together on BBC Radio 4’s “Start the Week” (13 March), Harries was far more critical of Dawkins than he had been in the past.

Evolution in a corner

It is now 5 years since The Guardian carried an article entitled, “Scientists sound alarm over advance of creationists”, which focussed on the work of Creation Research. That article was part of the first round of attacks on the government’s policy on “faith schools”, which used Emmanuel College, Gateshead as its pretext. Despite their very best efforts this band of atheists and their well meaning friends have subsequently made no headway at all. In fact it seems that the very reverse is true. In a strikingly similar headline The Guardian announced on 21 Feb. this year, “Academics fight rise of creationism at universities”. It opened with the statement, “A growing number of science students on British campuses and in sixth form colleges are challenging the theory of evolution and arguing that Darwin was wrong.” Good news? Yes, that evolution is not holding the same sway as it once seemed to, but no, because much of the report highlights the activity of Islamic groups in universities. (We should point out however that it did also carry parts of an interview with Dr. David Rosevear, of Creation Science Movement.)

On a similar theme some of you may have also noticed the the results of a MORI Poll commissioned by the BBC in January, which was published in connection with the Horizon programme “A War on Science” on BBC2 (26 Jan.). The good news, which almost certainly meant that the poll was not quoted in the programme, is that of those surveyed, just 48% said evolution best described their view of the origin and development of life. This must be a real kick-in-the-teeth for secularists to discover that after years of indoctrination in British schools and universities, less than 50% of people have accepted their stories. It rather undermines the popular myth which they put around that opposition to evolution all stems from the American “religious right.”

Again we must ask though, is this news to be celebrated as a breakthrough for the Biblical message? Apparently not, for of the remaining 52%, only 22% chose creationism. Now add to that the report from the Guardian, and assume that a true cross section of British society were surveyed, it is difficult to know what percentage of that group believe in the Qur'an’s version of creation, which identifies Allah as creator. Many Christians assume that Allah is just another name for the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. However the Qur’an states several times that Allah has no son. The New Testament teaches in many different places not only that Jesus is the Son of God, but also that He was instrumental in the creation of all things. 1 Corinthians 8:6 explains the work of both Father and Son in creation. “For us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things” and then adds, “and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things,” Here we have the combined work of Father and Son in making everything we can see around us. The Father wills, the Son acts. We see this same relationship at work during the time of Jesus’ ministry on earth. He said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.” (John 5:19). In the most fundamental of ways then, the Qur’an’s record of creation cannot be equated with that of the Bible and those who believe it, whilst standing against the same enemy as we do, are no supporters of the gospel. We should not assume that just because people don’t believe in evolution, or because they say they believe in “a creator”, that they believe in Jesus Christ the Creator of all things.

What is “Intelligent Design”?

The biggest factor in bringing about much of the media interest in creationism over the past year or so has been the rise of Intelligent Design, or as it is commonly known, ID. Of the remaining 30% from the BBC’s poll, 13% said they did not know and 17% selected “Intelligent Design”. Five years ago it is unlikely that most of those people knew what ID was, so as a hypothesis it is certainly making progress. Its progress is so significant that it is now drawing most of the attention of secular evolutionists in both the universities and the media. Their biggest criticism of it is that it is trying to get six-day creation in by the back door. Is this the case? Its chief advocates argue very strongly that it is nothing more than a scientific theory and has nothing at all to do with the Genesis account of creation. However we only have to look at where its support is coming from to wonder if this fact is appreciated by all. In Britain we find that those who are enthusiastic for ID are the supporters of Biblical creation, whilst the greatest opposition to it within the Church is coming from those who are committed to the belief that God used evolution to create mankind. No matter what the leading lights of the ID movement themselves say, it seems that there are those who consider ID as getting “a foot in the door” for Biblical creation. What then is ID and is it, as its opponents claim, creationism in disguise? To answer this question we want to give you some clues to what ID can do and what it cannot.

The history of the ID movement was reasonably well summarised in the Horizon programme mentioned above. Its chief architect was Philip E. Johnson, an American lawyer and a Christian. In the late 1980’s he got to know various scientists who, like him, felt that Darwinism should be challenged on a purely scientific basis. It should be understood that probably the major reason for this approach is that under modern interpretations of the American Constitution, the “separation of church and state” is judged to exclude all issues of faith from public life. This has been applied by the humanist lobby to schools and universities in particular. For an attack on evolution to succeed in that setting, it was agreed that it had to be on a scientific basis with no religious connections. Their chosen battleground was the matter of “irreducible complexity” in living organisms. Very, very simply this is the argument that if something cannot function without all its parts present, then that is the hallmark of an intelligent designer. ID makes no claims as to who that designer is, and people of all faiths and none are welcomed as co-workers. However, what most of its Christian supporters don’t seem to realise is that it is only opposed to Darwin’s naturalism, not to what is commonly considered as evolution - change across species.

The main body which promotes ID around the world is the Discovery Institute in Seattle. Stephen C Meyer is a senior fellow of that Institute and in January he wrote an article for the Daily Telegraph entitled, “Intelligent design is not creationism. In it he made every effort to give a precise definition of ID which included, “The theory does not challenge the idea of evolution defined as change over time, or even common ancestry, but it disputes Darwin's idea that the cause of biological change is wholly blind and undirected.” Even though evolutionists are now trying to describe any change in a plant or animal as an example of evolution, Christians should not be opposed to the reality of change within kinds, although observed change is either due to degeneration (which often does take time) or adaptation which can occur relatively quickly. It is however important to understand that ID does not challenge what Meyer calls “common ancestry” and in this respect it does not contradict what most people see as the major aspect of Darwinism. To the promoters of ID, Darwinism is narrowly defined as the explanation that all biological changes have been “wholly blind and undirected”. ID has been conceived only to argue against this naturalism. In drawing the line where it has, ID has separated itself from the Biblical record and this is illustrated by its agnosticism towards the issues of the origin of kinds and, perhaps more importantly, of a separate creation of man from the animals.

What are the differences?

Consequently there are important areas of difference between the Biblical account and ID. At Creation Research we want to encourage you to think about these, as we hope doing so will help you to understand the facts about the Scriptural creation and appreciate its implications for today. Below is a short list of what the Bible teaches compared with what ID offers as an alternative. We have already mentioned that the Scriptures teach the separate creation of various kinds of plants, of types of sea and land animals as well as flying creatures and of course of humans. ID does not challenge the evolutionary idea that all these have derived from a common biological ancestor.

The Old and New Testament set creation in a historical context that connects the past with today and tomorrow. Life today can only be properly understood within that context. ID offers no historical framework or time-scale for life on earth. It simply argues for a first cause and for this reason some consider it a form of deism. Certainly, it does not exclude deism as we mentioned some time ago when we reported that British philosopher Antony Flew at the age of 81 had turned his back on atheism. Flew had been convinced by the ID argument that there is a designer somewhere “out there”, but he was adamant that it was not a god who reveals himself in any way. There is however another important problem which arises from ID’s lack of a historical context - it cannot respond to questions concerning bad or faulty design. We understand that the question of disease and sickness has already been used effectively in debates against supporters of ID. Many Christians have also struggled to answer this question, but a proper understanding of Biblical history provides the context and reason for presence of bad things in what started out as a very good creation.

The arguments put forward by ID supporters against naturalism reduce the design evidence for The LORD only to that which cannot be explained in any other way. This is the consequence of using irreducible complexity as the central evidence for a designer. There is a Biblical foundation for design as the evidence of a creator, but according to Paul the evidence is everywhere, “since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead.” (Rom 1:20) Biblically, the evidence of a designer is anything that demonstrates design, not just those things which cannot be broken down into parts. Look at everyday life. Modern day cars are far more complex than the Ford Model T, but does anyone say they are not designed because their complexity can be reduced? That would be a silly claim. The Bible’s argument is that all that has been created, simple or complex, declares the invisible character of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The supporters of ID concede far too much when they say that only a very small fraction of creation points to a creator. A car can be broken down and many of its parts put to other uses, but that does not deny that a lot of work has gone into designing the whole vehicle. The evidence for Jesus the Creator is to be found in the whole of what He has made, not just in fragments of it. For many years there has been a tendency to use complexity of design as proof of a creator, but that seems to have arisen as a response to the arguments of science rather than through an understanding of the Scriptures. Such arguments are valid only as long as human understanding is static in that area. What happens when we can reduce the irreducible? Have we disproved God? By contrast there is evidence of design in even the simplest of objects. No one picking up a stick which had been whittled to a point would argue that it had happened by chance. The Biblical argument for design is that simple and it does not need a PhD to understand it.

Design and Worship

There is another very important difference between the Biblical evidence and that being presented by the ID Movement. It arises out of the ID movement’s desire to fight the battle in the schools, universities and court-rooms of the USA. As Paul implied in Romans, God has given mankind sufficient evidence in all that He has made to bring each one of us face to face with Him. ID has adopted an approach which does not preserve The LORD’s copyright on His creation. Why does this matter? We all understand that the designer of something deserves recognition for their work. Most obvious is the price some people will pay for a piece of canvas with oil paint applied to it, or a block of stone which has been carved. But there are many more everyday examples which most of us have paid good money for. In part we pay for the labour which goes into the manufacture of clothes and equipment, but we also pay for the skills of the person who designed them in the first place. At times the identity of the designer increases the value of the item inexplicably - a dress with the right fashion label will have a higher value placed on it than one made of the same material but marketed by a high street chain. In a similar way we all know that blank CD’s can be bought for just a few pence, but many people are willing to pay a hundred pounds or more for one which has the name Microsoft® on it. It is not because it has any extra materials used in its manufacture, but because information has been put on it - information which has nothing at all to do with the materials the CD is made of. We are willing to pay the extra for the design work which has gone into the software. This is why it is always the design work which is copyrighted and not the raw materials. This is true from the simplest object to the most complex.

Every manufactured object, be it hand made or produced by the thousand, has three factors built into its value. The smallest is often the cost of the raw materials. The other two are the value of the design and the value of the labour in turning those materials into the finished product. Where designer and craftsman are the same, we rarely distinguish between the two elements, but we readily pay them what we consider their work to be worth. In English the root of the word “worship” is worth-ship and we are used to paying worth-ship for workmanship. When we worship Christ for all He is, our worship must recognise the sum total of His workmanship as Creator of all things as well as in becoming Saviour of all who believe in Him. In Rom. 1:21, Paul identifies this refusal to worship their Creator as God as being the cause of the people of his day becoming futile in their minds and being handed over to the things which have become prominent in Western societies over the last 50 years. By contrast we read of true worship taking place in heaven when the 24 elders declare, “You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honour and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.” (4:11).

Which Creator?

Christianity is not alone in possessing an account of creation. Most of the world’s cultures contain an account of how the world came into existence and of the creation of humans. Some differ clearly from the Bible’s account. Hinduism, for example, has several different stories, perhaps due to their belief in the cyclical nature of life which places us on the ninth in a series of universes. There is no danger of confusing the gods of such stories with “I AM”, the God of the Bible. It is remarkable though that many of the creation accounts contain significant similarities to parts of the Biblical account. However, they also contain substantial corruptions of the truth. The Qur’an, as we have mentioned, has a creation account. This has a man called Adam and his wife placed in a garden alongside a forbidden tree. Clearly these are ideas borrowed from Genesis, which was well known to Mohammed. However, alongside the similarities, are differences which are so significant they leave us in no doubt that this is not the Biblical Creator. Many older cultures have stories which retain the features of Genesis, but which also have striking differences from it, so we need to recognise those remnants of truth whilst also discerning that the differences result from a wrong knowledge of God. Such accounts promote a false understanding of who the Creator is and this blinds people to the truth.

Whilst in some ways the media attention in Intelligence Design is to be welcomed for the opportunities it offers, in this article we have sought to introduce you to some of the problems which arise from reducing the issue to nothing more than a scientific argument. The creator which is promoted through ID is consequently ill-defined and acceptable to multiple religions. This is not by accident; Philip Johnson openly states his aim, that the uniting factor in the ID movement should be opposition to the naturalism he calls Darwinism. Given this objective, there is no possibility that the god of ID can provide a faithful revelation of Jesus Christ, Creator and Sustainer of all things. Leaders of the ID movement have long argued, as Meyer did in the Telegraph, that “Intelligent design is not creationism”. We agree, and we encourage Christians to take these men at their word - it is not their integrity we question. There is an argument which says that if the ID movement is to achieve anything in its fight against naturalism, then Biblical creationists rallying to its support will only provide an excuse for its opponents to ignore it. However, our greater concern is that many who support Biblical creation fail to convey what the Scriptures are specific about - that the nature and character of God can be seen through all that He has made. If we incorporate into our message arguments which are unclear as to who our Creator is, and what He is like, then we cannot but misrepresent Him. That alone is a good enough reason not to confuse ID with Biblical creation. As Christians we are called not to only preach that there is a God, but to make known the One, “who made the world and everything in it,” and that “He is Lord of heaven and earth.” (Acts 17:24)

We have Good News to make known

A disciples of Jesus Christ our first calling is to preach Him. In the modern, secular world it is very necessary to argue against the myth of evolution if we are to prepare the way for people to believe in Him. Besides preaching the Gospel outside the Church, we are also called to encourage and equip Christians to be faithful in their responsibilities as ambassadors of Christ. Part of that task is to encourage you to test everything, holding on to the good and discarding the bad (1 Thes. 5). Please join me in praying that Christians will be properly equipped to announce the everlasting gospel which calls men and women everywhere to, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgement has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.” (Rev. 14:6 & 7)

© Randall Hardy

This paper was first published as part of the March 2006, Creation Research UK Update.
Further copies are available on my website here.
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© Randall Hardy, 2013