Lau Chong-Fuk, Chinese University of Hong Kong

Science, Religion and Philosophy
A Critique of Intelligent Design Theory

The teleological or design argument for the existence of God is a central doctrine in Judeo-Christian theology. Although Hume offered a penetrating criticism of the teleological argument, arguments such as Paley’s watchmaker analogy were met with widespread acceptance. The complexity of living organisms seems to be inexplicable without appealing to an intelligent designer. Even Kant, who had attempted to refute all traditional proofs of the existence of God, had to concede that “it would be not only discomfiting but also quite pointless to try to remove anything from the reputation of this [teleological] proof” (A 624/B 652). However, Darwin’s theory of evolution offers an alternative explanation, which has been confirmed again and again with overwhelming scientific evidence. Yet, Darwin’s theory is often considered a threat not only to the belief in a creator God, but also to various religious doctrines, resulting in a serious conflict between science and religion. The creation-evolution controversy has attracted a good deal of public attention. In recent years, a watered-down version of creationism called intelligent design (ID) has been particularly influential. ID proponents try to formulate their anti-evolutionary ideas using more scientific-looking terms, thereby pretending to be neutral on the nature and identity of the designer. This paper will give a critical analysis of the concepts and arguments of ID and argue that ID fails to qualify as a scientific theory. It will also examine the conditions of a legitimate design inference, explaining why the design inference used by ID and creationism is illegitimate.

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