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Distinctions: “God as a Scientific Theory?”

Can genetic information offer us “proof” of an intelligent designer? Our video looks at the efforts of the intelligent design movement to detect God, and whether such a goal is admirable.

To discuss this video, see our blog post.

Video Transcription

Loretta Cooper, The BioLogos Foundation: Beauty is pretty subjective. For example, it would be tough to get a group of people to agree on the most spectacular piece of art in this gallery, but could the same group of people agree on what is good or, perhaps, on what is true? As Christians, we profess that there is only one truth and to quote Augustine, "All truth is God's truth."

The Intelligent Design Movement has been working hard the last few decades attempting to create a parallel science. Just as we in the church have developed Christian music and Christian art, Intelligent Design has given us an evangelical version of science. Stephen Myer of the Discovery Institute is one of the movement's leading lights.

Dr. Stephen Meyer, Discovery Institute: So, we're seeing really similar forms of data processing, data management, data retrieval, and we know in the one case it's definitely the product of intelligence, which leads you to suspect, at least, that these are also the result of intelligent agency.

Cooper: But Meyer's arguments and those of his colleagues in the Intelligent Design Movement have not been well received by the scientific community.

Dr. David Ussery, University of Denmark: I think that Meyer's signature, the cell, he unfortunately doesn't understand what DNA's all about. He thinks DNA is a blueprint, which is a popular cultural misconception. The truth of the matter is the information DNA is a structure, they physical structure, and it's not a pure string of characters that codes for something. What it is, is the letters in the DNA actually specify the shape of the DNA, and the shape of the DNA determines the function. It's the function that's important in DNA, and I think that Meyer really misses this in his book.

Dr. Sean Carroll, Howard Hughes Medical Institute: Put it in the simplest terms, it's not the genes you have, it's how you use them. So, these genes which are involved in building bodies, you can sort of think of them like a carpenter's tool kit. That while everyone may have a hammer, and a nail gun, and a whole set of wrenches, all of these different animals, how you use them over time determines what structure you built. Whether you build a hope chest or a whole house, right? So, it's the genetics which determines the use of those tools, and it's the genetic switches that are evolving that are giving us the great diversity of, for example, the animal kingdom.

Cooper: The critics of Intelligent Design don't just point to the scientific problems with those arguments, there are also philosophical obstacles.

Dr. Thomas Jay Gord, Northwest Navarene University: Really what it Intelligent Design is doing is really critiquing one particular theory in evolution. It doesn't purport to offer a grand scheme of how everything is put together. What it's doing is attacking a particular issue in evolutionary theory. In that sense, it's not offering a total explanation for things. Then, what we have to do then is ask the question is that criticism a valid criticism? Is it valid scientifically? Is it valid theologically? On those grounds, I'm not an Intelligent Design proponent. I think they're not valid for both scientific and theological reasons.

Dr. Ian Hutchinson, Massachusetts of Technology: I think if you strive too hard for scientific proofs of God, you're in danger of accidentally endorsing the scientific position of elevating science to be the supreme arbitrator of what is intellectually convincing. Because you're essentially giving them the deciding control over what is and is not to be believed. So, I personally find more convincing many other of the arguments for God, and I think ultimately you can't know God in an abstract way. You have to get to know him.

Cooper: Although as believers, we might have a preference for Christian music or even Christian art, we should all strongly object to an alternative set of scientific Christian facts. We agree with those in the Intelligent Design community that there is a mind who has established the processes of life and sustains the laws of the Universe. We believe that even though ID has been unsuccessful in its efforts to somehow catch God at work under a microscope. God is at work in his creation, and real science is not a threat to that sovereignty.