Introduction to the Controversy. Part 1
Contributed by Howard TaylorThe present day argument, considered here, is between those who hold to so-called Intelligent Design and those who accept the prevailing opinion that natural processes alone can account for two things (a) biogenesis - the origin of life (before the alleged processes of evolution could get started) and (b) the subsequent development of life.
At the outset I should say that personally I prefer the term ‘Mind’ to ‘Intelligent Design’ because there is a history of thought going back thousands of years linking non-material mind with matter in various relationships. For example in our own time Roger Penrose FRS, formally professor of Maths at Oxford, believes that a non-material transcendent reality is the source of all truth, beauty and goodness. The term intelligent designer is probably included in this view of the transcendent world but the source of matter and life is much greater than this. However, for the purposes of this paper, I will be referring to the modern term ‘Intelligent Design’ (ID).
Opponents of ID includes many Jews and Christians - even evangelical Christians - who believe that natural processes for the origin of life and evolution can be reconciled with Genesis 1. They usually hold that the matter of the universe including the natural laws of nature (such as gravity) were created by God and finally tuned to allow, stars, galaxies, planets like earth, and then life to form. In this view God endowed His creation with a 'fruitful potentiality' to produce all that we see around us today. (For short we refer to this view as TE meaning Theistic Evolution or Theistic Evolutionist.)The first group says that life is so so complex and information-rich, that an Intelligent Design is needed to explain it.
An important part of the argument is that the complexity of the simplest form of life contains information in the form of 'code' or 'words' or 'language' (DNA and RNA for example). It is contended that the origin of any code has to be Mind. If one is examining ancient markings on a rock, which are not just complex patterns but a language, one will conclude that they are the products of an intelligent mind. A detailed support for this view comes from the mathematician Bill Dembski who has written extensively on mathematics and information.Advocates of ID are not proposing a belief in a young earth or a particular religion, even though some of them may hold also to a young earth view that the earth is less than 10,000 years old. They simply are saying that life requires Mind for its origin and also its development as the amount of its information content increases. (There is more information in the DNA of an elephant than of a bacterium.)Against this view is the view of evolutionists and theistic evolutionists that the ID people are invoking the 'god of the gaps'. It is true, they say, that there in no viable theory of the origin of life - but one should not put any 'god' in that gap to explain it. Science is about finding physical causes for physical phenomena, not invoking God every time science is faced with a mystery.Those holding to TE say that to invoke God to explain part of creation is to attempt to introduce Him as part of the data of natural science and that is unacceptable. The Jewish/Christian doctrine of Creation says creation is separate from God and therefore one must not look for God in Creation.To summarise so far: whereas naturalistic science says science is defined as that study, which always looks for physical explanations, ID says 'no', science means 'follow the evidence' and the evidence leads to ID.
It might be wiser for ID to argue like this: As Einstein recognised science examines the rational structure of the material world but it can't explain why it is rational- or has the fundamental properties that it does. (He said: The only thing incomprehensible about the universe is that it is comprehensible.) The intelligent (Einstein's word) non-material source of matter's rational structure, he called The Old One or The Dear Lord.
It seems to me that ID is just taking this one step further. It is saying that the properties of the living world cannot be reduced to the properties (rational structure) of the non-living material world but it has a rational structure of its own.
 Written from a Christian Standpoint an impressive book criticising ID is Rebuilding the Matrix, by Denis Alexander, published 2005.