Darwinism = evolution + maximal naturalism
Proponents of ID are not in full agreement in
their evaluation of the basic vision of biological evolution.
Some ID advocates are willing to accept a limited amount of variation and
selection but nonetheless balk at the idea that all life forms are related by common ancestry. Evolution limited to small changes (often
called microevolution) is often tolerated, as it is even among many young-earth
creationists, but the idea of uninterrupted genealogical continuity (or
macroevolution) among all life forms over billions of years of earth-history is
rejected. Phillip Johnson, for instance, sees the common ancestry thesis as the
foundation of Darwinism - the view of lifes
formational history that he vigorously rejects.
When we posit that the discontinuous groups
of the living world were united in the remote past in the bodies of common ancestors, we are implying a great deal about the process by
which the ancestors took on new shapes and developed new organs. ...There may be
arguments about the details, but all the basic elements of Darwinism are
implied in the concept of ancestral descent.
There are other ID advocates, however, who
express a willingness to accept the common ancestry thesis as a real
possibility, but insist that the changes that took place over time required
more than natural processes alone. Michael Behe, for instance, says
I find the idea of common descent (that all organisms share a common
ancestor) fairly convincing, and have no particular reason to doubt it.
mechanism - natural selection working on variation - might explain many things,
however, I do not believe it explains molecular life.
...intelligent design is not a form of anti-evolutionism. [On the
contrary, intelligent design is] fully compatible with large-scale evolution
over the course of natural history, all the way up to what biologists refer to
as common descent.
But - and this is the place where an ID-based curriculum will differ from
how biological evolution is currently taught - intelligent design is not willing
to accept common descent as a consequence of the Darwinian mechanism. The
Darwinian mechanism claims the power to transform a single organism (known as
the last common ancestor) into the full diversity of life that we see both
around us and in the fossil record. If intelligent design is correct, then the
Darwinian mechanism of natural selection and random variation lacks that power.
What all advocates of ID do seem to be agreed
on is their judgment that Darwinism is
impossible because the Darwinian mechanism is
inadequate to accomplish the large-scale transformations envisioned by nearly
every professional biologist today. But a reader of ID literature must pay
careful attention to the varied operative meanings that these key terms convey.
At minimum, Darwinism denotes the concepts of
large-scale biological evolution and common descent as consequences of unguided
natural processes. But there is usually far more meaning packed into the term
as it is employed rhetorically in ID literature. Darwinism is commonly
employed to characterize biological evolution as a way of accounting for the
formational history of life that is both thoroughly naturalistic
and nonteleological. But which form of naturalism does thoroughly
naturalistic entail? If only minimal or methodological naturalism, then a number of theistic
worldviews could accommodate it. But if the term Darwinism is presumed to
entail maximal naturalism (or scientific naturalism, as Johnson uses the term), then
Darwinism effectively becomes a member of the family of atheistic worldviews.
This is, I believe, the rhetorical impact most commonly intended in the
literature of the ID movement, especially when the reader is offered the binary
choice - either Darwinism or
Similar concerns must be raised when
Darwinism is referred to as a nonteleological theory - a concept that excludes
reference to goals, purposes or intentions. If this exclusion refers only to
individual events or to low level natural processes in isolation from the
larger context, that would be consistent with minimal naturalism and open to
various forms of theism. But if the characterization of nonteleological
entails the rejection of purpose or intention at all
levels of consideration, then Darwinism is once again functioning effectively
as a substitute label for maximal naturalism.
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| Contributed by: Dr. Howard Van