Is Intelligent Design a Science Stopper?

Is intelligent design more of a science stopper than the evolutionary paradigm?

I listened to an episode of the Unbelievable! podcast from 2011 that was rebroadcast recently. Stephen C. Meyer was on with Keith R. Fox MA, MPhil, PhD, professor of Biochemistry, Principal Investigator (Nucleic Acids) at University of Southampton in the UK and Associate Director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, Cambridge. The topic was Meyer’s groundbreaking book, Signature in the Cell, and the origin of life.

Keith Fox and Stephen Meyer are both professing Christians. Fox holds dogmatically to the evolutionary paradigm and does not believe intelligent design is an appropriate framework for scientific inquiry. Meyer maintains that intelligent design is a better explanation and is warranted by the science.

I will not attempt to explain everything they discussed, as I would require much more space than a blog article and more time than my schedule might allow at the moment. I encourage you to listen to the whole discussion if this article piques your interest. (You could also read the book.)

I want to focus on one point Steven Fox made about the intelligent design argument. Fox objected that intelligent design is a “science stopper”.

He explained that he believes the promotion of intelligent design as an explanation for the origin of life would stop further scientific inquiry and frustrate science. It will effectively inhibit further inquiry as to how the origin life occurred, says Fox, if we conclude that “intelligence did it”. (A kind of God of the gaps argument)

Meyer didn’t address the point immediately or directly. The discussion went off in a different direction, but I found myself unwilling to let it go.

“Why would intelligent design be a science stopper?” The statement begs for a response.

Fox claims that invoking the intelligent design explanation stops the process of asking questions, but he didn’t explain why. I have heard the statement before, but the statement is conclusory. Does it really follow?

I understand the anecdotal evidence of certain people who have advocated a kind of blind faith approach to Bible and science issues, but that’s only a segment of the population of people who call themselves Christians. It’s not the majority, and they don’t have any influence over people who do science (Christian or non-Christian).

Implicit in that response is, perhaps, the thinking that we have done biological science very well on the evolutionary paradigm for about 150 years. It works. Let’s not mess it up. I can appreciate that.

A person might also observe, correctly, that the focus of science narrowed many years ago purely on natural processes, eliminating divine agency from consideration in science. Let theologians think about God, but the scientists should focus on the science (the “non-overlapping magisterium” approach).

I understand that science is limited to the study of nature and natural processes. Science has nothing to do with theology (though theology was once considered the Queen of the sciences). Science has nothing to do with philosophy (though many scientists don’t appear to know the difference).

I am only speculating that these kinds of thoughts are behind the resistance against considering intelligent design as a competing paradigm to evolution. I understand them, but I would like to push back.

The objection to intelligent design seems to be an extension of the “God of the gaps” argument.

It incorporates the same assumption – that belief in God stifles and stymies science, but I don’t believe it’s a good assumption, and I don’t believe that the evidence warrants that conclusion.


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Is the Darwinian Paradigm Exploding?

The Cambrian Explosion isn’t the only evidence of the sudden appearance of life forms.

Alright, I admit the title of this short article is a bit provocative, but I got your attention. I would actually say the Darwinian paradigm is going through something more like an evolution. The explosions are not in the paradigm, but in the facts that have been slowly uncovered in the fossil record since Darwin championed the evolutionary paradigm.

The short video at the end of this article produced by Science Uprising alludes to a number of “explosions” that elude a Darwinian explanation. Paleontologist Günter Bechly, summarizes,

“The phenomenon of sudden appearances in the fossil record is not just an exceptional case, but actually is a pattern that is found everywhere.”

The obvious example is the Cambrian explosion in which most of the phyla that exist today appeared in the blink of geological time, in a mere five to ten million year window. Charles Darwin, himself, acknowledged the problem the Cambrian Explosion posed for evolutionary theory, but he expressed confidence that future fossil discoveries would fill in the gaps and provide evidence of the precursors to the Cambrian life forms.

Since Darwin’s day, the gaps have not been filled by subsequent discoveries. Rather, the gaps have widened, as Stephen Meyer recounts in his book, Darwin’s Doubt. To make matters worse for the Darwinian paradigm, the Cambrian Explosion isn’t the only evidence of the sudden appearance of life forms. Other examples are numerous, including:

Technical scholarship is replete with the recognition of explosions (radiations or revolutions) of insects, fish, birds, dinosaurs, mammals, and the “big bang theory of human evolution” with no credible transitions in the fossil record. Many scientists, though continue to look for the precursors and clues to plug in the evolutionary gaps.

It seems that the evolutionary paradigm, which arose abruptly and transformed science overnight, is very slow in adapting to new information as it is uncovered. Not that we should be overly critical of the painstakingly slow progress. Science is slow and methodical with intention.

Explosions, though, such as the relatively sudden rise of Darwinian theory, may give way to equally sudden corrections, kind of like the mass extinction events that give way to new “radiations” or “revolutions'” in life forms. For more on the “time crunch” facing evolution, watch the short video that follows.

Sy Garte: From Atheism to Agnosticism to Christianity

The assumptions of materialism he carried with him into the study of science were challenged by the science, itself


Sy Garte grew up in an atheist household. His ancestors for generations were atheists. His lateral relatives were atheists, and the people close to him in his life were atheists. He assumed atheism was normal. He didn’t question atheism or materialism as the basic assumptions of his life.

Sy Garte earned his Ph.D. in biochemistry and BS in Chemistry from the City University of New York. He has been a Professor of Public Health and Environmental Health Sciences at New York University, Rutgers University, and the University of Pittsburgh. He has written over 200 scientific publications in genetics, molecular epidemiology, cancer research and other areas, and he is the author of five books, and numerous articles published in Perspectives in Science and Christian Faith (PSCF) and God and Nature.  He is retired from a senior administrative position at the National Institute of Health. (See his biography at Biologos)

Wait a minute… articles on science and Christian faith?

He was an atheist and a scientist. So, what happened?

Well, Dr. Sy Garte has written a book about “what happened” – The Works of His Hands: A Scientist’s Journey from Atheism to Faith. I recommend the book, though this article more closely follows the interview embedded below, and it’s a pretty interesting story. I also added an interview of Sy Garte hosted by a once professed Christian turned hardcore atheist (the kind who isn’t content to allow other people to remain Christians) for an interesting exchange from two people who switched poles in their beliefs.

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Did the Golden Rule Result from the Evolutionary Process?

The truest expression of the Golden Rule is the expression in which there is no self-interest at all


I have a friend who tells me that the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you) is not unique to Christianity or to religion. He believes that the Golden Rule is a result of the evolutionary process and can be seen in nature. His conclusion is that the Golden doesn’t come from God or religion, but from the evolutionary process.

I don’t subscribe to that (obviously), but I haven’t really set out to test the hypothesis. I have done some thinking on the Golden Rule found in religion. I have compared the Golden Rule that was invoked, encouraged and demonstrated by Jesus in his own life to the expressions of a golden-like rule in other religious traditions.

I am not shocked or surprised to find expressions of an ethic like the Golden Rule in all (or nearly all) world religions. Truth is truth, right? Shouldn’t we expect to find it or expressions of it wherever we look?

I wonder, why wouldn’t we expect to find some expression of the Golden Rule in nature too? If the world was created by God, shouldn’t the world exhibit the character of God that is expressed in the Golden Rule?

Ok, does anyone really think that the world expresses God’s love as summarized in the Golden Rule?

I have heard many atheists say they don’t believe in God precisely because the world doesn’t exhibit God’s love. Christians, of course, find reasons for this reality expressed in the Scripture. I don’t intend to address them here, but I think the point is a good one: that the demonstration of the Golden Rule is difficult to find in nature.

In the end, we can see something of the Golden Rule in nature, but the demonstration of it leaves something to be desired. It doesn’t explain why the Golden Rule exists. It doesn’t prove the evolutionary paradigm, and it doesn’t negate the existence of a creator God in whose nature and character the Golden Rule finds its source.

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A Complex World Suggests a Robust God

As powerful as our telescopes are, we cannot see the end of our ever-expanding universe. Neither can we even see the beginning.


It seems that many people have this idea that God and spiritual things should be simple. They react skeptically to “complicated” responses to hard questions. When I look at the universe, though, I wonder why people think like that.

Some truths about the universe are simple. We don’t have to be rocket scientists to understand gravity. We know it when we feel it and see it. On the other hand, the computations and deeper understanding of gravity and its interrelationship with other cosmological constants is anything but simple.

Some truths about God are simple too. For instance, that God is love seems simple enough. That God created the universe is pretty simple to grasp also. Now ask, “Why is there evil in the world?”

If we take the universe as an example, however, it should be evident to us that a God who might have created the universe would be far from simple. We should not expect (or demand), therefore, that the resolution of hard questions to be simple. God must be, at least, more robust than the world created by such a God.

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