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Dembski: Design offers biblical alternative to evolution
April 04, 2005
By David Roach
William Dembski (right) answers questions at a Henry Institute forum March 23 as Institute director Russell D. Moore looks on. Dembski talked about the Intelligent Design movement. Photo by David Merrifield
The Intelligent Design movement has generated controversy because it deals with issues at the core of the current debate between secularists and those who hold a Christian worldview, said scientist and author William Dembski at a forum held at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary March 23.
The forum, entitled "Darwinism and the Church: A Conversation on Intelligent Design and Cultural Engagement," was moderated by Russell D. Moore, Southern's senior vice president for academic administration, dean of the School of Theology and director of the event's sponsor, the Carl F.H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement.
Dembski, who serves as associate research professor in the conceptual foundations of science at Baylor University, will join the Southern Seminary faculty in June as Carl F.H. Henry Professor of Science and Theology. He is known as a leading proponent of Intelligent Design, a theory arguing that some features of the natural world are best explained as the products of an intelligent cause rather than naturalistic evolution.
"These issues of Intelligent Design and creation really cut to the heart of worldviews, what we are about, how we're putting life together and what's ultimately meaningful, what morality is based on," he said.
Dembski said he looks forward to serving at Southern because of the seminary's willingness to sponsor Intelligent Design research as a legitimate scientific enterprise — an attitude that some Christian colleges and universities do not share because they believe embracing Intelligent Design will compromise their status in the academic world.
"Even many Christians who have been raised and indoctrinated in a secular mindset … will say, 'Look, we're just going to have to accept the science of the day and try to make our peace with it theologically,'" he said. "And there is no peace theologically … ultimately with this view [Darwinian evolution]. But they accept it, and so this idea of Intelligent Design becomes very threatening."
Intelligent Design's first goal is to demonstrate the inadequacy of Darwinian evolution as an explanation of the origin of the universe, Dembski said. One of the chief methods of accomplishing this is to demonstrate the weakness of the scientific evidence that is presented in support of Darwinian evolution in many school classrooms, he said.
"Evolutionary theory is in such a weak position that it shouldn't be taught at all … in this grand global sense," Dembski said. "If you want to say natural selection operates in accounting for antibiotic resistance in bacteria you can make a case there. But if you are going to try to say that's how you get bacteria, insects, all this in the first place, that's a huge extrapolation. The theory doesn't support that."
After offering a critique of Darwinian evolution, Intelligent Design proposes alternative theories about the origin of the universe, according to Dembski. These alternative theories argue that a designer must have fashioned the complex biological and physical mechanisms humans observe in the world, he said.
As the data supporting Intelligent Design increases, some members of the secular scientific community have changed their minds and considered the possibility of an intelligent designer for the first time, he said. Dembski noted that several researchers from major universities have contacted him and expressed a desire to conduct Intelligent Design research.
"I think the other side is worried," he said. "And they are right to be worried because I think the ideas are on our side. I think the arguments are on our side."
Although much of the scientific community views Intelligent Design with disdain, Dembski said that in popular culture as many as 90 percent of Americans "are favorably disposed" to the idea. Because naturalism has influenced a variety of fields such as science, philosophy, business and economics, Christians must be prepared to combat the naturalistic worldview in every arena of life, Dembski said.
One of the most effective ways to battle naturalism is to use Intelligent Design to challenge the basic assumptions of Darwinian evolution, he said.
"I like to get back to the axioms, to the basics. If you can get at the taproot, at the thing that's really fundamental, then I think all these superstructures, the whole house of cards will come down," Dembski said.