I know that many will disagree with the title. I hear you screaming: “Intelligent Design doesn’t need upgrades, it must disappear because it is plain nonsense!”
But, as I’m going to explain, while I’m not a supporter of the ID movement, I’m for a vision of Nature and evolution that is teleological. Let me unpack this.
What was once creationism evolved into what nowadays goes under the name of “Intelligent Design” (ID). If you are not familiar with the ID movement you can check some of their websites here, here, here, or here.
Some belittle ID as being just creationism in disguise. It is yet another pseudo-scientific belief system based on an untenable literal interpretation of the Bible, so the story goes.
I disagree with such a simplistic understanding of this cultural phenomenon.
First of all, in order to clear the way from any misunderstanding, let me tell you that my scientific mind is light years away from embracing any form of naive biblical creationist’s understanding of the world, life, and the cosmos. Creationism, in its original form, was a religious ideology that, for example, rejected evolution as a whole, believed that the Earth has been created about ten thousand years ago (so-called “young-earth creationists”) or that humans have been created by God directly – that is, literally as described in the Book of Genesis. In my view, this is only another form of denialism, such as climate change denial, covid denial, or flat-earth theories.
However, having said that, if one accepts evolution as a real process, the fact that humans descend from primates, the Big Bang Theory, and all the modern scientific findings in biology and cosmology, this does not necessarily force me to become a materialist and atheist who must embrace a concept of unguided evolution. Neo-Darwinism, with its too narrow view that reduces basically everything to natural selection and random mutations (with other processes as well, but I won’t digress…), when it comes to philosophical issues, such as the question of an intelligent design in the cosmos, posits its ideological axioms as well. Not only can I reconcile science with the belief that behind this Creation stands a higher Consciousness as the ultimate cause of all that exists, but could even point to several scientific findings that should question the purely materialistic and mechanistic view.
To some degree, this was also the aim of the ID movement. I would not label them as “creationists” in the sense described above. Most supporters of ID accept the existence of an evolutionary process, do not appeal to sacred scriptures, and have given up the idea that Eve has come into existence because someone removed a rib from Adam’s side. ID accepts the findings of modern science and argues from there. Those who equate the ID movement with old-fashioned creationism have obviously never made an effort to inform themselves. In this sense, I regard the ID intellectual movement as a step further and something that can be taken a bit more seriously than the young Earth creationists.
Nevertheless, unfortunately, it was not bold enough to go all the way long. It stopped in the middle of an evolutionary transition itself and got stuck in an anthropocentric (mainly Christian) worldview. Humans remain the ultimate aim of the evolutionary process (what they call ‘human’s exceptionalism’), the only possible God standing behind it is that of the Bible and only Western philosophical and metaphysical hypotheses are admitted, the Eastern philosophies simply do not exist. Moreover, and that’s even worse, on their websites one finds articles with clearly political right-wing nuances that are totally unrelated to evolution topics. Officially, they claim to be non-partisan and beyond religious and political affiliations. But the facts on the ground speak for themselves. One has only to follow for a while their websites and podcasts.
So, yes, unfortunately, ID is still a political and religious movement that can not be considered something one can promote to the status of a scientific organization.
That’s a pity. Because at the end of the story, all that plays in the hands of a mechanistic orthodox neo-Darwinian culture that portrays an unguided evolution as a scientific fact, something which it is not, but can easily belittle ID as another form of conservative creationism, and which it is not either.
To become credible, ID still needs a further upgrade. Because, our society needs something that balances a still all-pervading and all-conditioning mechanistic, reductionist, and soul-less vision of Nature and Life. Not to impose yet another dogmatic ultimate truth (we had enough of these and don’t need another one), but to build a cultural counterbalance that shows that another way of thinking and seeing the world and Nature is possible and perfectly in line with the modern scientific findings. ID (or its outgrowth) should open itself to other cultures and philosophies. And, while the spiritual and psychological function of religion for the individual will continue to play its role, I’m skeptical of whatever religion’s contribution to science. Especially when it comes to questions of teleological nature. Much more valuable could be the insights into the mystic traditions of ALL civilizations, not just that of Christian tradition. And, while I have no issues with the fact that most of the ID supporters lean towards right-wing political views, please, for the Designer’s sake, the political affinities should remain a personal choice that must not be proclaimed on the official websites of a movement that pretends to be recognized as “scientific.”
This, with tons of scientific evidence supported by articles from peer-reviewed mainstream journals, is the approach that I followed in my book “Spirit calls Nature”. If such a kind approach to science and spirituality is embraced, then ID could definitely make a leap in quality and, I believe, also credibility, potentially becoming one of the most influential contemporary metaphysical cultural movements.