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Rev. VanBaren is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.

“Intelligent Design”—Again

We have earlier reported on the growing movement among some scientists who recognize that there is no way that the universe and living organisms could develop through the process known as evolution. Many are insisting that there is abundant evidence of what they call “intelligent design.” There must be, so they insist, some Supreme Being who designed and sustains all things of our universe. These usually do not name that Being. Apparently that Being could be called “God,” or “Allah,” or simply “The Force.” This Being, however, is conscious, intelligent, and greater than all that which is created.

These scientists usually do not propose eliminating instruction in the theory of evolution, but alongside of that, there ought to be taught the reasoning underlying the concept of “intelligent design.” These two “theories” should be introduced, so they contend, into the science textbooks in the public schools.

Their arguments appear cogent. However, these arguments prove most of all the truthfulness of Romans 1:20, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.” Sadly, these scientists deliberately do not mention the scriptural account of creation. Probably many of those who insist on “intelligent design” do not themselves believe that account of Scripture.

Most evolutionists fiercely deny “intelligent design.” They insist that “intelligent design” is simply an attempt to insert the biblical creation account into textbooks without mentioning the Bible. Although “intelligent design” could as properly be called “theistic evolution,” the worldly evolutionist will have none of this. The Bible with its creation account may be taught under “religion,” but it has nothing in common with science and its theory of evolution. The same reasoning they apply to “intelligent design.”

It is surprising to what extent the evolutionists will go to suppress even the suggestion that a Supreme Being designed all things. It does not even matter what He is called, or in what manner He designed all things. The very thought or suggestion is “unscientific.”

There was a report in Worldmagazine, February 19, 2005, with the title: “Science’s new heresy trial.” The sub-title stated: “A Smithsonian-backed editor is defrocked by the priesthood of science for publishing an article on Intelligent Design.” The report begins thus:

Science is typically praised as open-ended and free, pursuing the evidence wherever it leads. Scientific conclusions are falsifiable, open to further inquiry, and revised as new data emerge. Science is free of dogma, intolerance, censorship, and persecution.

By these standards, Darwinists have become the dogmatists. Scientists at the Smithsonian Institute, supported by American taxpayers, are punishing one of their own simply for publishing an article about Intelligent Design.

Stephen Meyer, who holds a Ph.D. from Cambridge and is a research fellow at the Discovery Institute, wrote an article titled “The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories.” As Mr. Meyer explained it to WORLD, his article deals with the so-called Cambrian explosion, that point in the fossil record in which dozens of distinct animal body forms suddenly spring into existence. Darwinists themselves, he showed through a survey of the literature, admit that they cannot explain this sudden diversity of form in so little time.

Mr. Meyer argued that the need for new proteins, new genetic codes, new cell structures, new organs, and new species requires specific “biological information.” And “information invariably arises from conscious rational activity.” That flies in the face of the Darwinist assumption that biological origins are random.

Mr. Meyer submitted his paper to the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, a scientific journal affiliated with the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of Natural History. The editor, Rick Sternberg, a researcher at the museum with two Ph.D.s in biology, forwarded the article to a panel of three peer reviewers. In scientific and other academic scholarship, submitting research to the judgment of other experts in the field ensures that published articles have genuine merit. Each of the reviewers recommended that, with revisions, the article should be published. Mr. Meyer made the revisions and the article was published last August.

What was the response of the scientific community? Did they scientifically examine the arguments and either agree or disagree? Hardly!!

…major academic publications—Science Nature, Chronicles of Higher Education—expressed outrage. The anger was focused not on the substance of the article, but on the mere fact that a peer-reviewed scientific journal would print such an article.

So the wrath of the Darwinists fell on Mr. Sternberg, the editor. Although he had stepped down from the editorship, his supervisors at the Smithsonian took away his office, made him turn in his keys, and cut him off from access to the collections he needs for his research. He is also being subjected to the sectarian religious discipline of “shunning.” His colleagues are refusing to talk to him or even greet him in the hallways.

…Critics of Mr. Sternberg say that the article should not have been published because the American Association for the advancement of Science has proclaimed that Intelligent Design is “unscientific by definition.” As Mr. Meyer points out: “Rather than critique the paper on its scientific merits, they appeal to a doctrinal statement.”

Historically, said Mr. Meyer, science has sought “the best explanation, period, wherever the evidence leads.” But now the scientific establishment is requiring something else: “the best materialistic explanation for phenomenon.” That rules out non-materialistic explanations from the onset, demanding adherence to the worldview that presumes the material realm is all that exists.

So much for the “scientific method.”

Yet for all that, the “intelligent design” teaching has not been going away. It is claimed that a number of scientists are “closet” supporters of the view. These fear that open espousal of it will result in failure to gain tenure in prestigious universities.

World magazine, May 21, 2005, reports on a controversy in Kansas on this same issue. There the Kansas State board of Education invited scientists to participate in the question whether evolution and intelligent design should both be presented in the science classroom:

On May 5, 6, and 7 the Kansas State Board of Education had three days of testimony about whether schools, along with teaching evolution, should also inform students of the scientific evidence against Darwinism; in other words, whether schools should “teach the debate.” Darwinians boycotted the hearings, insisting that there is no debate.

What was the response of the Darwinists?

“My strategy at this point is the same as it was in 1999,” wrote Liz Craig of Kansas Citizens For Science on the group’s discussion board in February. “Notify the national and local media about what’s going on and portray them in the harshest light possible, as political opportunists, evangelical activists, ignoramuses, breakers of rules, unprincipled bullies, etc…. we can sure make them look like asses as they do what they do.”

Can make them look like asses, that is, if media outlets serve as Ms. Craig’s public relations tools—and her strategy seemed to work on the first day of the hearings. Reporters from NBC, ABC, and as far away as France descended on Topeka, and the scene they described wasn’t flattering. Several reports characterized the fight as a battle over religion, likening the hearings to the 1925 Scopes “Monkey Trial.” They suggested that the revisions would impede Kansas’ efforts to attract biotech companies.

In the Grand Rapids Press, May 16, 2005, there is a clear instance of the response of editorialists to the attempt to introduce ID into the science textbooks. Ellen Goodman, of the Washington Post Writers Group, writes:

…In 1987, The Supreme Court declared that teaching creation in the classroom was teaching religion and unconstitutional.

Now the leading argument is “Intelligent Design,” an intelligent redesign of the old arguments in new clothing. As Ken Miller, coauthor of one of the most respected biology textbooks, says, “So-called Intelligent Design is nothing more than creationism stripped of everything that a court would immediately recognize as religious content.”

Unlike the earlier creationism, ID is agnostic on questions such as the age of the Earth, but not on the rule of an intelligent designer (or Designer) in the creation process. Unlike the earlier creationists who fought to get Darwin out of class, the new generation of intelligent designers ostensibly wants equal time to debunk him and promote their alternative.

Well, so much for scientific inquiry and the “scientific method.”

“The Fourth Day”

In 1986 Dr. Howard VanTill wrote and published the bookThe Fourth Day. Dr. VanTill was professor at Calvin College—and the book created a bit of uproar both within and outside of the Christian Reformed Church. In Christian Renewal, May 11, 2005, John VanDyk presents an article that not only reflects on the original controversy, but also presents information about the current stand of Dr. Van Till. VanDyk first presents a brief background of the controversy:

Raised in the Christian and Calvinistic faith, [VanTill] was taught to see all things through the lens of Scripture. Later as a trained scientist, however, that lens began to blur as his research into science and the cosmos, and the teachings of Scripture, were compared. The Fourth Day was VanTill’s attempt to reconcile, for himself, for his students, and for the Christian community, the two differing views of creation being presented by both disciplines, and to offer an explanation for the place and purposes of both general and special revelation. Yet despite repeated assertions that his desire was to take Scripture “seriously,” what critics came to see in The Fourth Day was VanTill’s capitulation to evolutionary theory as fact and his subsequent interpretation of God’s Word to accommodate his understanding and position.

VanTill introduced the Christian Reformed community to the possibility that evolution was the process God used to create or call into being the heavens and the earth. He dubbed it “the creationomic perspective.”

That is not, however, the end of the story. In 1997 he took early retirement from Calvin College and subsequently left the Christian Reformed Church, whose “official college and bureaucracy stuck with him,” says VanDyk, “through some intense scrutiny and criticism during the 1980s following the publication of The Fourth Day.” VanDyk explains:

Now a member of an independent community church, some would argue that the physics professor emeritus has left the Reformed and Christian faith altogether. The fellowship to which he and his wife now belong is the former congregation of the Reformed Church in America, infamous for its now retired minister, Dr. Richard Rhem. Rhem was ousted from the RCA for his liberal views on the crucial issue of “salvation” as well as for his accommodationist views on homosexuality. His large congregation in Spring Lake, Michigan followed Rhem out of the RCA. The church is now under the pastorate of Ian Lawton, a former Anglican minister who joined the church, leaving Australia to do so. The church through both Rhem’s and now Lawton’s leadership has boarded the “process theology” train. And VanTill himself, instead of battling against creation scientists, has turned his intellectual guns on the Intelligent Design movement.

VanDyk continues by quoting some of VanTill’s own thoughts in his development towards a higher and better understanding of “God”:

In a speech at a conference at Claremont School of Theology in October of 2004, VanTill chronicled his pilgrim’s regress entitling his speech, “From Calvinism to Claremont: Now That’s Evolution! One Scientist’s Evolution from Calvin’s Supernaturalism to Griffin’s Naturalism.”

In the speech, VanTill made the following statement: “I still think the fully-gifted creation perspective could be maintained with integrity, and persons within the evangelical Christian community are welcomed to do so.” He continues, “If a person wishes to maintain both the possibility of supernatural divine action and a respect for what the natural sciences have learned, I think this is the way to go. However, I have found it necessary to explore a dif ferent theological territory, beyond traditional supernaturalism, in my quest to make sense of life’s experiences.”

In online dialogues with his pastor Ian Lawton, Howard VanTill speaks disparagingly of his “upbringing (indoctrination) as a Calvinist.” VanTill then says, “I must admit that the old systematic theology with its independent, omnipotent, omniscient, supernatural Ruler-God-Judge who is radically distinct from the … created world doesn’t hold up to scrutiny today.”

Other excerpts are particularly telling of VanTill’s current thinking: “As I see it, The Sacred is far more intimately present in the world of daily experience than the old system granted. The SUM (Sacred and Universal More) is actively present in all that transpires in the universe and in the human experience. The SUM is not, and CANNOT be, isolated from the physical/material here and now world that we see, touch, smell, hear, taste and interact with every day. Religion for today must ‘re-enchant’ the world with the intimate presence with which the Sacred and Universal More permeates the world of which we are a part…. I’m willing to give up the old system.”

Further, VanTill says, “I find myself avoiding the word ‘God’ because of its tight associations with supernaturalism. I favor other terminology like The Sacred, and play with still other names like The More, or the SUM (Sacred Universal More), or the SUMMA (Sacred Universal More than Matter Alone).”

“If ‘God’ represents some external (other worldly) agent whose character and relationship to the world is of the sort that is presumed by traditional supernaturalism, then ‘God’ is culpable for horrendous failures and caprice. …That’s why I have abandoned supernaturalism’s portrait of ‘God’ and am on a search to find a better portrait of what ‘God’ represents. I seek a ‘God’ who is intimately resident in all that transpires ‘naturally.’

“David Ray Griffin’s articulation of naturalistic theism (in the vocabulary of process theology) is very attractive to me at the moment.”

It should be noted that Griffin, a process theologian, says, among other things, “I think of the doctrine of creation out of nothing—in the sense of absolute nothingness—as the root of all theological evil.” He advocates a “postmodern spirituality” of “redefining the divine,” and calls for “pan-en-theism: the idea that the world is in God—God is something like the soul of the universe—and God is present in all things.”

It is sad indeed. He who insisted once that his deviant views concerning creation were nevertheless Reformed: in harmony with his interpretation of Scripture and within the parameters of the creeds, has evidently now forsaken even this outward claim to being Reformed. He boasts in his “evolution” from “Calvin’s Supernaturalism” to “Griffin’s Naturalism.”

The report indicates that VanTill has forsaken consequently the concept of an infallible, inerrant Scripture. He does not anymore want to use the term “God”—though Scripture is filled with such references. Clearly he questions the sovereignty, the omnipotence, the providence, and the governance of God. He has become, it seems to me, a pantheist—whatever current theological jargon is given to the name. It ought to be a warning again that when one denies or distorts a part of infallible Scripture, inevitably he must deny the whole. There can be no room for atonement—no more assurance of forgiveness of sin. It is no longer a question of “origins,” but ultimately a question of salvation through Christ’s shed blood. One cannot tamper with the infallible Scriptures with impunity.