“Intelligent Design”, or the theory that there is just too much “specified complexity”, or what you and I might call “design” in the universe for there not to be a big God-shaped Designer out there too, is sometimes dismissed as creationism-lite, on the basis that Creationists believe in God too. We creationists, especially we full-fat creationists who don’t have anything “lite” if we can avoid it, are not overly keen on the title, but the non-creationist ID types get a little hot under the collar about it.
I instead argue that there is a significant danger that “Intelligent Design” will change into Evolution-lite, and that anyone fair minded out there might want to consider that belief in God used to be labeled “God of the Gaps”. Here’s why.
Creationists agree with ID-ers that, when you think about it, God is obvious. Being obvious, technically, you wouldn’t even have to think about it, but they accept the whole ‘design=designer’ thing, and are very happy about all the work the ID people are doing. But they both run up against what I shall call the John Blanchard Problem, after his book- “Does God Believe in Atheists?”. If God is obvious, and pretty much undeniable, why are there so many people denying him, and claiming he’s not obvious at all? When push comes to shove, they have to say that it comes down to a fairly fundamental point on which anyone who has ever taken any side in any argument might agree with – that people tend to believe what they want to believe, regardless of whether it is right or wrong. Or as a creationist might put it – a sinner searches for God in the same way that a thief searches for a police officer.
So, as Intelligent Design marches on, and as more and more people get queezy with the whole idea that if you leave a big dead rock for long enough that it will eventually sprout civilisation, they will need to find something they can believe in. You won’t find a Christian God, with all his demanding rules on their wish-list – and so they are likely to go for some other more malleable sort – a God they’d like to believe in – one they can create in their own image, so to speak. And they won’t want the embarrassment of walking up to the creationists and saying “Aw shucks, it turns out you were right”. So there’s every chance that, instead, more people will begin to believe in directed evolution. Evolution, with a helping hand from God to get past the inconvenient, improbable and impossible bits – but a God who is happy to use millions of years of death and suffering for things to get slowly better, rather than one who made the world perfect, only for us to introduce death and suffering when we decided to ignore him.
Evolutionists once claimed that God was only invoked by people to explain the gaps in their knowledge, and that as time went on, and knowledge increased, there were no gaps for God to hide in any more. Intelligent Design threatens to give people an evolution they can and want to believe in – but this time using their own made-to-measure God as a glue to fill growing gaps in evolutionary theory, rather than abandoning the discredited theory once and for all.