Leading science and theology scholars reject 'intelligent design'

By staff writers
7 Feb 2008

A group of leading scientifically and theologically qualified scholars has issued a clear rebuttal of the 'intelligent design' ideology that has gained ground among conservative religious believers, especially in the USA, in recent years.

The International Society for Science and Religion (ISSR) in Cambridge notes that "there has been much interest in the view that our current scientific understanding of evolution is incoherent. According to this view, certain biological features, because they appear to be 'irreducibly complex', could not have evolved by natural selection and therefore must have been created by the intervention of an 'intelligent designer'."

ISSR adds: "This view has been challenged, not only by atheists such a Richard Dawkins, but also by religious believers. Among these are many members of the International Society for Science and Religion (ISSR), the world’s foremost scholarly organization devoted to the dialogue between science and religion."

ISSR’s Executive Committee has commissioned, and is now making public, a report on the issue by seven of the Society’s members, each of whom is an expert in science, theology, philosophy or history. The report was finalized only after consultation with ISSR’s members, who come from many countries and from many different religious traditions and academic disciplines.

The concept of intelligent design is, says the report, “neither sound science nor good theology.” The authors do not attempt to specify precisely how they believe the religious believer can speak of God’s action as creator – a question on which they may differ among themselves. They are united, however, in resisting what they call “the insistence of intelligent-design advocates that their enterprise be taken as genuine science – just as we oppose the efforts of others to elevate science into a comprehensive world view (so-called scientism).”

Sir Brian Heap, the President of ISSR, who is both a distinguished endocrine physiologist and a practicing Christian, says “here is a succinct critique with a valuable bibliography, though no doubt not the last word on the subject”.

The ISSR Statement on the Concept of “Intelligent Design” and its signatories may be found on the ISSR website: http://www.issr.org.uk/id-statement.asp

After exchanges with a number of concerned groups, including the religious think-tank Ekklesia and the British Humanist Association, the British government issued a statement last year making it clear that ID should not be part of science teaching in schools, in spite of attempts by creationist lobby groups to get it recognised.

The UK Department of Children, Schools, and Families said that "Creationism and intelligent design are not part of the National Curriculum for science", and described "intelligent design" as "a creationist belief" that "is sometimes erroneously advanced as scientific theory but has no underpinning scientific principles or explanations supporting it and it is not accepted by the international scientific community."

Ekklesia co-director Simon Barrow today welcomed the statement on ID from the International Society for Science and Religion (ISSR) as "a very important development".

"Intelligent design is a serious category mistake in both theological and scientific discourses," he said. "It brings the proper engagement of religion and science into disrepute, and benefits those who wish to pursue dubious ideological agendas at the expense of a common search for truth and wisdom."

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See also: Theology, science and the problem of ID - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/6707

The International Society for Science and Religion at Bene't House, St Edmund's College, Cambridge: http://www.issr.org.uk/index.asp

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