Intelligent design vs. natural selection

Don N Page (don@Phys.UAlberta.CA)
Wed, 3 Sep 97 14:32:08 -0600

As a theoretical gravitational physicist and cosmologist, I have
followed with interest the discussion about Phillip Johnson's books and the
idea that intelligent design is distinguished from natural law. (To lay my
cards on the table, I'll say that I believe that God intelligently designed the
universe so that it obeys a fairly simple set of physical laws and boundary
conditions that we partially understand, and it is a good working hypothesis
that biological evolution by natural selection is a consequence of this lawful
way God has created the universe.)

But apparently Phil Johnson has a different idea of intelligent design,
say Intelligent Design with capital letters to attach a definite label to it,
that is supposedly inconsistent with natural laws, such as natural selection in
biology. My question is how this purported difference might be scientifically
testable, as I would assume that it supposedly is from Phil Johnson's response
(posted Aug. 29 by Dennis Feucht) to Terry Gray's review of his book,
_Defeating Darwinism_ (posted Aug. 28, with a correction Aug. 29), including
the statement, "However, the part he [Terry Gray] doesn't agree with is
fundamental; it's the part where intelligent design actually has scientific

So my challenge to Phil Johnson, and to other supporters of a version
of Intelligent Design that is supposedly inconsistent with the complete
applicability of natural laws, is to present a testable difference. Of course,
such a test would have to be realistic; it wouldn't do just to say that
somewhere the natural laws don't hold, because there is certainly no hope of
testing that they always apply everywhere. But if he could make a prediction
of some specific place he does not expect them to apply, then one might be able
to test that.

Also, in the prediction both the Intelligent Design supporters and the
standard biologists who believe in evolution through natural law should agree
on what the predictions are from both the Intelligent Design theory and from
the standard natural law theory, so when the evidence comes in one way or the
other, both will agree which theory it supports and which it opposes. Often I
tend to find in the writings of anti-evolutionists that they make up their own
versions of what they think evolution should predict and then attack those
straw predictions, rather than the predictions of actual evolutionists.

Because Intelligent Design supporters seem to make the mistake (in my
opinion, and presumably in that of many others who have posted messages here,
such as Allan Harvey's message posted Sept. 3) of assuming that theism is only
compatible with their version of Intelligent Design, I suspect that Johnson has
heretofore not proposed any realistic tests because he realizes it would be
very risky to lay his version open to disproof, so that according to his
presuppositions (but not to mine), theism itself would then be proved wrong.
However, since he claims that "intelligent design actually has scientific
content," I am hoping that he or someone else supporting their version of
Intelligent Design will back up that claim by proposing a realistic test of it.

Don N. Page
CIAR Cosmology Fellow and Professor of Physics
University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6H 3W1

Science reveals the intelligibility of the universe;
the Bible reveals the Intelligence behind the universe.