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An Introduction to Intelligent Design

Posted by: David Carroll

This is the Sunday School Lesson I taught June 28, 2009 in Steve Wherry’s class.
Listen to the mp3 Audio here.

ID is a movement that is both old and new. It is biblical.

These verses speak to God’s general revelation of himself in His creation.

Romans 1:20 (NKJV)
For 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, so that they are without excuse

Psalm 19:1-3 (NIV)
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.

Those are wonderful and familiar verses to most Christians. You probably haven’t seen this next one used in this context.

Job 12:7-10 (NKJV)
But now ask the beasts, and they will teach you; and the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you; and the fish of the sea will explain to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this, in whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind?

Job is supposed to be the oldest book in the Bible, so you can see that the argument for God’s creation has been around for a long time.

Modern ID movement

Its modern form has come about in the past 30 years and has received increasing media attention with the battle over teaching evolution in schools. The media associates the ID movement with Christian fundamentalists who are trying to repackage Biblical Creationism under the guise of Intelligent Design. This is supposedly in response to the 1987 Supreme Court prohibition against teaching Creationism in public schools.

However, the first ID scientists were actually motivated by the inability of modern biology to explain the origin of the digital information encoded in the DNA molecule well prior to the 1987 ruling. And many physicists during the 60’s and 70’s, including Fred Hoyle who coined the famous “Big Bang” quote, had increasingly been persuaded by the evidence of a finely tuned universe ideally suited to support the existence of life.

There is however an interesting tension between the ID movement in science and Christians who believe the Genesis account of creation literally. The ID people do not advocate any particular designer or even refer to God at all. That is not their interest. This tension is not to say that ID is not a friend to Christians who believe the Bible Creation story. Their scientific arguments and rational thinking are a refreshing respite from the bulldog like evolutionists whose primary motivation appears to be to eliminate God.

Richard Dawkins in 1986 said living systems “give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” But he wrote a whole book called “The Blind Watchmaker” to prove that this was only an illusion and that evolution and natural selection could explain all of it.

So the bottom line is that the Christian Creationist can greatly benefit from the ID scientists work.

As a philosophical argument, ID goes back to Plato and Aristotle.

The teleological argument (known as the argument from design) is an argument for the existence of God based on perceived evidence of order, purpose, and design in nature.

Teleology: study of causes

19th Century: Watchmaker analogy

William Paley said that if you were walking through the woods and saw a smooth stone on the ground, no big deal, just a river stone formed by the forces of nature.

But if you saw a watch on the ground, you would immediately know that this was made by a watchmaker because of its complexity. Since a living organism is more complex than that watch, it too must be designed.

Age of Enlightenment, Darwin, Origin of Species (1859)

Up till then, almost everyone believed that God created. Atheists had no plausible creation story, eccentric. During a trip to the Galapagos islands, Darwin developed his theory of evolution by natural selection.

Darwin observed that variations would randomly occur in a species. For example he observed that some birds (finches) had long beaks and other ones had short stout beaks. On some islands one beak style would predominate and on other islands another beak style would predominate.

On one island there were a lot of predators and a short stout beak was good to have because it helped the bird to fight. On another rocky island, a long curved beak was helpful to fetch tiny bugs out of crevasses in the rock.

He proposed that this adaptation was due to a natural process of selection. He observed:

  1. There were heritable variations within the population
  2. Scarcity of food (not all would survive)
  3. Some were better suited than others to survive/reproduce

Competition ensues and you have this idea of “survival of the fittest.” An ill suited critter would not survive to the age of reproductively.

So you have adaptation over many generations. He imagined that eventually these small changes can add up to creating entirely new species. Note the lack of any need for intelligent guidance in this process. This simple idea, a plausible explanation for the complexity of life, has fueled the growth of Naturalism and Atheism ever since.

At bottom, evolution is a purposeless, unintelligent, material cause with no need for God at all.

Further supporting the idea of evolution was the observation of similarities between the species. If you look at an x-ray of the upper limb of a crocodile, a bird and a human, you will notice that all three have five digits for “fingers” and two bones in the forearm. The study of homology says that these sorts of similarities are evidence that we have all descended from some common ancestor.

We should ask what else could explain these adaptations and similarities. Could it be that it was good design, worthy of being duplicated by an intelligent designer for functional response? Could it be that a living organism looks designed because it is designed?

Engine of Change?

Darwin well understood that Natural Selection could accomplish nothing without some sort of engine of variation to produce the new biological structures.

Watson and Crick, 1953, the DNA molecule

Before the discovery of modern genetics, nothing was known about the engine of change.

There is enough information in the gene pool of two medium brown mutts to create through selective breeding in one man’s lifetime everything from a Great Dane to a miniature poodle.

From Small Changes to All Changes

Once you get used to nodding your head in agreement with the idea that evolution explains the drift in populations guided by natural selection, then it is no big deal for these small changes to keep going until a new species occurs.

But there is one problem with that. We have been breeding plants and animals since biblical times. What is our experience however? All breeding hits limitations. You can only get an ear of corn so big. You can never get a dog to be as big as a horse. Furthermore, when you reach these limits, we find that the animals or plants have weaknesses. Why can’t a mule have any offspring? Breeding does not create new information, rather it loses information. You can’t go backwards with a miniature poodle and get back to a medium brown mutt even less so a Great Dane.

Random Mutation

What is the cause of modifications that can create new biological structures? The only known source of is said to be mutation due to radiation. A mutation is the result of a mistake which occurs when a cell makes a copy of its DNA for cell division. Genes specify how a protein is built (long chain folded) function follows form. A mutated gene makes a mutated protein, a broken part. These broken parts can make disease, cancer, organ failure, and even death.

Mutations are either harmful or neutral at best. Supposedly, in rare cases, a mutation can be beneficial. As it turns out, some mutations can be inherited by offspring.

Since we all are supposed to have evolved from a single celled animal. Think about the amount of new biological information necessary to create all these new structures, organs, brains, eyes, flight, circulatory systems, respiratory systems, waste removal systems, and reproductive systems.

All of this had to result from trillions of trillions of tiny beneficial random mutations preserved through their offspring. Furthermore, we don’t see any beneficial mutations occurring today. Mathematicians are increasingly expressing doubts that random mutations could possibly produce this vast amount of new genetic information in the length of time available to the evolutionary process.

How does the first living thing get started?

This is beyond the scope of this article but let me just mention that if there is no reproducing going on, then there is no cell division, hence no engine of change. Without that engine, Natural Selection has nothing to act on. Evolution does not explain the origin of life.

The Simple Cell

And what about that simple cell we started with? How complex is it?

“Although the tiniest bacterial cells are very small, they are actually a microminiaturized factory containing thousands of exquisitely designed pieces of intricate molecular machinery made up of a hundred thousand million atoms far more complicated than any machine made by man and absolutely without parallel in the non-living world.”

Michael Denton, Evolution a Theory in Crisis

Irreducible Complexity

Michael Behe wrote Darwin’s Black Box in which he explains the idea of irreducible complexity with a simple mousetrap which has five parts: hammer, spring, catch, holding bar, and a platform. He asks how many mouse could this trap catch if it were missing one of it’s parts?

In order for the mousetrap to function, it needs all five parts. And if it were to evolve, then each part along the way must be beneficial until the whole thing can come together. He maintains that biological systems are far more complex and are also irreducibly complex.

Non-viability of transitional forms

Two lizards had some little babies. They noticed their scales were a bit fuzzier than normal. Then these fuzzy scaled lizards passed on these traits to their offspring and the scales continued to mutate to more feather like things. You see, these are the pre-cursor to wings. But the feathers are getting so long now, they are getting in the way when they. They can’t yet fly but they can’t run very well either. They can escape predators nor can they compete for food.

What does natural selection do? This is the problem with transitional forms for complex features. Until some primitive if not complete functionality is there, there is advantage. This is known as the non-viability of transitional forms.

Transitional Fossils

“The number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed on the earth, must be truly enormous. Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graded organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory.”

Charles Darwin

Transitional Fossils, 150 years later: have they found them yet? No.

Do you notice any fish today growing little stumps, legs, so they can crawl up on land? Are there any reptiles developing feathers today? We should be able to see this sort of evidence if evolution is occurring today. Why don’t we see half formed organs instead of complete ones?

Stephen Jay Gould knew about the absence of transitional fossils and invented the idea of “punctuated equilibrium” to explain this absence. The basic idea is that there were periods of extreme biological changes that occurred over short periods of time which precluded the build-up of a fossil record due to lack of time.

What is his primary evidence for his theory? The lack of evidence

What do we actually find in the record? We find a sudden appearance of a vast number of highly complex organisms (known as the Cambrian explosion) then stasis. What model does this best fit?

Hebrews 11:3 (NKJV)

By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

Jeremiah 10:12 (NKJV)

He has made the earth by His power, He has established the world by His wisdom, And has stretched out the heavens at His discretion.

Psalm 33:6 (NKJV)

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.

Psalm 111:2 (NKJV)

The works of the Lord are great, Studied by all who have pleasure in them.

Psalm 111:4 (NKJV)

He has made His wonderful works to be remembered; The Lord is gracious and full of compassion.

Psalm 77:12 (NKJV)

I will also meditate on all Your work, And talk of Your deeds.

Psalm 115:16 (NKJV)

The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’s; But the earth He has given to the children of men.

Acts 17:23-25 (NKJV)

Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 24 God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.

Acts 17:28 (NKJV)

for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.


Amazon book list

10 questions to ask your biology teacher

Walt Brown, In The Beginning

Lots of videos


Add New Comment

www.thebeginners.net wrote:
Acts of the Apostles
Once Jesus had gone, the disciples had to come up with a new show. Thomas opened with his demonstration of doubting, Luke did a bit of walking on the water, and Peter, Paul, and Mary finished off with their Palestinian chart-toppers.

Cain and Abel
Double act. Often began with the gag: “Take my brother. No, go on, take my brother…”

Samson and Delilah
Another double act. Popularised the catchphrase: “Keep your hair on!”

Had a jumping act.

Despotic leader who oppressed the Jews by killing the firstborn of union officials, taxing milk and honey, and selling off the camel trains.

…Still doesn’t look right.

Promised Land
Chuck Berry song featured as light relief in the Book of Joshua.

Travelling tonight on a plane. Probably the flight from Egypt.

Man in the cockpit for the flight from Egypt.

Bible Quizzing wrote:
wow this is a great all around lesson on ID for introductory or for understanding the important role ID plays. thanks for posting it.
Fred Noel wrote:
Intelligent Design may work as philosophy, but it's very simply not science.

Not all of evolutionary theory is understood, but - like the theory of gravity - the evidence is visible, obvious, and all around us.
chris holleman wrote:
I'm so glad to find this information. I've been telling others about how information is lost in the gene poole when animals and plants are bred for improvement or to make a special breed. And I have also pointed out to them that "pure breeds" all seem to have health issues that the "mutts" don't have to deal with. The same actually can be seen in people as well. One race can get the Rh factor, another gets the sickle cell just to give a couple of examples. When man interferes with God"s creation, even though it brings about some purpose for good, it still has a flaw. We live in a fallen world and it will remain that way until the Lord comes. He will make all things new. Evoution always falls flat. If you have a large piece of plywood with holes in it, it always falls faster than the piece without holes in it. So if it drops from a high place it will surely bust in pieces. Same goes for the evolution theory.
Bible quizzing wrote:
Fred wrote:

"Not all of evolutionary theory is understood"

Yes, I hear this often. 'We may not know HOW life evolved, we are just SURE that it DID.'

That is a statement of faith, not science.

If you make evolution an unfalsifiable proposition, so that no matter where the evidence leads it is assumed to support evolution, then it is a belief, not a scientific theory.
Patrick O'Malley wrote:
Hello David, I love your blog, I though you did a great job. I believe people would be amazed at the information out there regarding evolution. I used to argue with one of my Uncles in favor of evolution, but now I can't believe in it. It doesn't work out. There is technically no evolutionary design or mechanism within our entire bodies. There is a code and compartment for every type of movement and function but nothing that computes evolution...I used to be more informed on this topic, and I'll have to search your blog for some possible literature on this subject.
By the way, Psalm 111:4 is great verse, I've read it but It just seemed to sink in.
Michal Dodson wrote:
God created space to occupy matter, and time, in the beginning. Out of the chaos, His intelligent design brought together 'matter'. Now how an organism is able to adapt to whatever environment it's in, is also part of God's design, so that, after creation, He could rest...7th day. The bible is not comprehensive. My opinion is that God designed an auto-pilot system to lessen His workload...that's evolution.
David wrote:
I think there is a stronger argument for intelligent design and that is to take everything in the universe and imagine it as just one thing - the universe - not all the bits in it, but the whole one thing itself - and then ask: Is it more likely that it just exists, or is it more likely that there is a creator behind it that is not bound by time or space or limits?

As for a down to earth reflection on the nature of human beings, may I refer you to this article?

Joseph Doud wrote:
Why is intelligent design so difficult for people to accept? Look at virtual realities. If man can create such marvels of internet cinema, imagine how much more our glorious God can create!
M Tozer wrote:
In my opinion, this was an excellent, well-written, and well organized introduction to intelligent design.

One of the very most simple living things in existence on earth today is a single cell. Yet, we are told, that a living cell is far more complex than the rocket sent to the moon! Cells, like human made machines, are designed. Every part of a machine has a purpose. So does every part of a cell. Every machine part needs every other machine part to work. So do cell parts. It is a INTEGRATED whole. If you take one part off of a machine, the machine stops working altogether. A cell is no different. None of it work unless all of it works. For a cell to function at all it needs all of its parts.

How can something evolve into an integrated, INTERDEPENDENT super-complex, intelligent LIVING thing without a designer? The so-called simple cell contains a vast and complex network of hi-tech, integrated, computerized machinery and complex language-based instructions. God created it. God programmed it. By its sheer precision and complexity, the signature of a supreme designer is upon every living thing. Yes. Nature speaks of a supreme being loud and clear. Nature cries out "intelligent design." (Romans 1:20, Psams 19:1-3, Job 12:7-10)

DG wrote:
I'm studying the Bible and its effects on society. It's a gorgeous book--and I'm an atheist.

Not trying to be an ass--we do have 'half formed' animals all the time, just not really with the limbs. There are lots of eye variations that are steps with each other, ranging from light sensitive cells to curved eyes to dark room effects to gel sacs to lenses.
Erica wrote:
I found this commentary -maybe not very scholarly- but from the heart on www.vbvbc.org/bible-verse/genesis1-1

"Genesis is a book about beginnings, the creation of everything. Anybody who wants to know God must first know that He is the Creator, the Maker of everything we see. Although, the first verse was not fully explained in details, it must be absorbed and be taken with Faith and by Faith. Even the writer of this book had not seen the creation, it is by faith also that He wrote it as the Holy Spirit inspired him (Moses). The creation is the physical manifestation of the existence of God, his Power is manifested in his creation. God is introduced here as the Creator of everything, the heaven and earth and everything in it."
Christian Fundraising wrote:
I know, it is so ridiculous that so many people who support evolution simply say that it's the only thing that makes sense "because there is no proof of God". Isn't it stupid?! There is absolutely no proof of evolution, or "the big bang theory" yet they complain about Christian's beliefs in God without "a shred of proof"...
David Bible wrote:
I am interest about your article. Good content. I will read always your post countiniously. Thanks.
Ikedi wrote:
If you read the works of Josephus, the topic of intelligent design was first mentioned by Abraham to the Egyptians of that time
Mobile Minister wrote:
Thought I'd stop by to tell you I found and VERY cool and FREE bible and bible study site and thought I'd share it with you.

Their organization, net.bible.org has the desire to help people develop a stronger walk with God.
They have an AWESOME, extremely comprehensive FREE online bible/bible study tool that let's you search from one place but will search multiple places FOR you...even the internet! Not many (if any) do that! You're even able to take notes right there and it's saved for the very scripture you're reading! That's pretty cool since it can help you remember what your thoughts were as you study the bible.

I did say awesome right?

As if that wasn't enough, there's also over 17,000 articles to help you with research on a variety of different issues!

And did I mention yet...it's FREE! :D

So I hope you'll share this post and tell everyone you know about it and help them spread the word. And even check it out for yourself, you'll be glad you did!

God bless you on your spiritual journey.

- The Mobile Minister
Bible Sister wrote:
Great nugget of truth in showing how Romans touches on Intelligent Design. Thank you for the enlightenment.

Can't wait to share that one.
Online Bible in Basic English wrote:
You have a good Bible study. Great post, and it will help someone else who wants to knowing Bible deeper.
End Times wrote:
Excellent list of points to support ID. I can't believe people really thing evolution is a viable theory. What foolishness. Keep up the good work. :-)
Branded Items wrote:
That was a beautiful verse from Psalm, I can reflect that no matter who you are, your race and language is God is always on our side and listening in every prayer or desires of our heart. :)
scottii wrote:
That's an interesting post. Pretty old stuff too. Speaking of which, my friend told me about his app he made, Forgotten Books of the bible or something. Has a lot of stuff that you don't normally see in the regular bibles.

Check em out here and let me know what you think:

Google Play