Intelligent Design in Nature
Denis O. Lamoureux
Denis is a Professor of Science & Religion at St. Joseph’s College at the University of Alberta. He holds three earned doctoral degrees – dentistry, theology, and biology – and has written several books on the relationship between the Christian faith and modern science. Denis worships at a Pentecostal church.
Despite differences, Christians stand united in that nature clearly reflects our Creator’s designing intelligence.
To further explain their view of origins, evolutionary creationists are also quick to point out to fellow Bible-believing Christians that their approach offers an expanded and more robust understanding of intelligent design in nature.
This version of the design argument for God’s existence appeals to more physical evidence than that proposed by young-earth creation (divine interventions created the entire world in six literal days six thousand years ago; e.g., Henry Morris, Ken Ham) or progressive creation (divine interventions introduced the origin of living organisms at different times through six geological periods over 4.5 billion years of earth history; e.g., Hugh Ross).
At one level, evolutionary creation is in full agreement with these anti-evolutionary positions. Design is evident in nature’s current structures and operations. For example, consider the most complex structure known – the human brain. This organ is an electrical circuitry marvel with trillions of synaptic connections, and incredibly much of it develops in the womb beginning from only one fertilized egg. The brain’s structure, function, and embryological development offer a breath-taking level of elegant complexity that few deny reflects an Intelligent Designer’s work.
At another level, evolutionary creation moves beyond the anti-evolutionary positions to argue that intelligent design is also expressed in evolution processes and mechanisms. The evolutionary intelligent design argument underlines the majesty, foresight, and rationality mirrored in the natural processes that created the universe and life across the eons of time.
According to this position, the declaration of God’s glory in the creation extends beyond the manifestations seen today to include the natural world’s incredible self-assembling character during the distant past. More specifically, the design is evident in the finely-tuned physical laws and initial conditions necessary for the cosmos’ evolution through the Big Bang.
Design is also apparent in the biological processes necessary for life to evolve, including humans with their incredibly complex brains. Therefore, evolutionary creation offers a broader and stronger design argument than the traditional formulation presented in young-earth creation and progressive creation by having an evolutionary component.
This position also predicts that as the evolutionary sciences advance, research will reveal a Creator with unimaginably more power, planning, and splendor than previously believed in earlier generations. To the surprise of many, evolutionary creationists enjoy a more powerful and more complete intelligent design argument for God’s existence than their anti-evolutionist Christian brothers and sisters.
Many people today find it difficult, if not impossible, to see a relationship between evolution and intelligent design. The leaders of the Intelligent Design Movement/Theory are responsible for this situation. Most of whom are basically progressive creationists, these anti-evolutionists have thrust a large wedge between design and evolution, creating a dichotomy. But this is another false dichotomy.
Let me offer an analogy to explain an evolutionary creationist perspective on the biblical fact that nature reflects the intelligent design and the scientific fact that the universe and life evolved entirely through natural processes.
Imagine that God’s creative action in the origin of the world to be like the stroke of a cue stick in a game of billiards. Divide and label the balls into three groups using the words “heavens,” “earth,” and “living organisms,” and let the 8-ball represent humanity. The young-earth creationist depicts the Creator making single shot after single shot with no miscues until all the balls are off the table. No doubt about it that is remarkable. A progressive creationist sees the opening stroke that breaks the rack of balls as the Big Bang. The inanimate universe evolves by natural processes. All of the billiard balls labeled heavens and earth are sunk by this initial shot. Then God sinks the balls that signify living organisms and humans individually. That is even more impressive.
Evolutionary creationists assert that the God-of-the-individual-shots (like the God-of-the-gaps who intervenes intermittently in creating the world) fails to reveal the power and foresight of the Designer fully. According to this Christian view of evolution, the breaking stroke is so finely tuned and incredibly precise that not only are all the balls sunk, but they drop in order.
It begins with those labeled heavens, then earth, followed by living organisms, and finally the 8-ball – the most critical ball in billiards – representing humans. To complete the analogy, the Lord pulls this last ball out of the pocket and holds it in His hands to depict His involvement with men and women. Is such a God not infinitely more talented than that of the anti-evolutionists? Are His eternal power and divine nature not best illustrated in the last example? Does not the evolutionary creationist portrayal of the Creator provide the most magnificent reflection of intelligent design?
This is how I see design in evolution. Yet, despite differences between Christians on how intelligent design arose in the world, we must never forget that we stand united in affirming that nature clearly reflects our Creator’s designing intelligence.
Part I: What is Evolutionary Creationism?
Part II: The Embryology-Evolution Analogy
Originally published as “Evolutionary Creation: Beyond the Evolution vs. Creation Debate” in Crux (June 2003). Adapted, edited, and updated by Denis Lamoureux and McGahan Publishing House.
Is the Bible a book of science?
More than half of Americans believe science and religion are in conflict.
Theologian and scientist Denis O. Lamoureux suggests that a common assumption of biblical interpretation fuels this struggle. Many Christians think Scripture is supposed to align with science in some sort of way. This idea is known as “scientific concordism” (or simply “concordism”).
But Lamoureux demonstrates that the Bible has an ancient science. During the inspiration of Scripture, the Holy Spirit came down to the level of the biblical writers and allowed them to use the science-of-the-day as a vessel for delivering life-changing, inerrant spiritual truths. Dr. Lamoureux explains how moving beyond concordism leads to a peaceful and God-honoring relationship between modern science and our Christian faith.
To purchase Denis’s latest book, The Bible & Ancient Science: Principles of Interpretation from McGahan Publishing House, click here.