INTELLIGENT Design, the idea that God intervened “scientifically” in evolution to create complicated parts of biology such as the human eye, is neither sound science nor good theology, says the International Society for Science and Religion (ISSR).
Intelligent Design theorists did not even have proper research programmes to make their points, the ISSR report says. Instead, what they believed was against science, says the seven leading scientists who prepared the statement for the ISSR, a scholarly body devoted to dialogue between science and world faiths.
The whole of the society’s membership, many of whom are Christian, was involved in consultation about the statement, which was published last week. It says that the society “greatly values modern science, while deploring efforts to drive a wedge between science and religion”. Scientific method allowed scientists from many different religious backgrounds to work together.
“This approach does not deny the existence of a metaphysical realm, but rather opens up the natural world to a range of explorations that have been incredibly productive.” It also says that biology and religion operated “at different and non-competing levels”.
Intelligent Design, by allowing a supernatural explanation to count as science, “undercuts the very purpose of science, which is to explain the workings of nature without recourse to religious language”. Attributing
the complexity of some biological features to “a divine designer” was a “science stopper”. Most research biologists thought that even the most complex examples of biological evolution could be explained by normal scientifically understood processes.
“Students of nature once considered the vertebrate eye to be too complex to explain naturally, but subsequent research has led to the conclusion that this remarkable structure can be readily understood as a product of natural selection.” What was “irreducibly complex” today might be explained naturalistically tomorrow.
The ISSR statement said Darwinian natural history did pre-empt some accounts of creation; “however, in most instances, biology and religion operate at different and non-competing levels”. Intelligent Design was not science, and science should not try to elevate itself into a comprehensive world-view.
Last year, the Revd Jan Ainsworth, the Church of England’s Chief Education Officer, said Intelligent Design could be discussed in school, but not as a scientifically based theory — only the context of the history of science, “in recognition that there are different ways of looking at the evidence”.