Are advocates of Intelligent Design biased by their religious commitments?
Intelligent Design (ID) theory is the view that biological life has all the marks of design because it is in fact designed by an intelligent mind. Exactly who this “mind” is, is something that ID is neutral about. The “mind” could be the Christian God, or the Muslim God, or even an extraterrestrial.
One of the most common criticisms of ID is that it supports a theistic worldview and therefore its advocates must be biased. But there are numerous responses that could be made to this claim. First, ID advocates include a variety of people holding to different religious viewpoints. Its advocates even include Dr. David Berlinksi who describes himself as an agnostic. Second, certain scientific theories, such as the Big Bang theory, also compliment a theistic worldview, yet they are not considered suspect simply on that basis. Third, surveys reveal that a majority of biologists are atheists, which suggests that they could be biased against ID. And lastly, the history of science reveals a great number of scientists who were explicitly motivated by their religious beliefs. But far from being a detriment, this motivation produced a great deal of very fruitful and important scientific work. If this has happened in the past, there’s no reason why it can’t happen again in the present.
Philip Kitcher, an atheist professor at Colombia University and an opponent of ID, points out the religious nature of science in the past:
“…for much of the history of inquiry great scientists have advanced specifically religious hypotheses and theories… Intelligent design has deep roots in the history of cosmology, and of the earth and life sciences. Generations of brilliant and devout investigators firmly believed that their researches were supplements to the word of the Creator as revealed in sacred scripture, that they were disclosing that word by deciphering the Book of Nature. From Newton’s speculations about the meaning of his “system of the world” to the country parsons who wrote about the fauna and flora in the parish precincts,… If intelligent design is no longer science, it once was, and many scientific achievements we acknowledge build upon work that it inspired.”