The Appropriate Place for Religion in the Intelligent Design Debate

By Jason Carlson

This past weekend I was speaking on the Intelligent Design vs. Evolution debate. After my lecture a student approached me and asked, “Mr. Carlson, when I tried to defend Intelligent Design in my public school science class, my teacher asked me, ‘which version of Intelligent Design are you talking about?  Christian?  Native American?  Hindu?’  He went on to say to me, ‘If you want to talk about Intelligent Design, you can’t avoid having to give equal time to everybody’s story of creation. This is why it’s best to leave religion out of the science classes.’  Well, I didn’t know how to respond to this.”

This student was faced with a common response from opponents to Intelligent Design. Many who oppose the Intelligent Design position will argue that as soon as you open the door to supernatural creation, you necessarily open the door to any and every version of supernatural creation ever postulated by humanity. However, this just isn’t the case.

The reality is, in regards to the debate over whether or not Intelligent Design should be considered in our public school science classrooms, we are still dealing with the world of science, observation and experimentation. The fact of the matter is this, all people, no matter what religion or philosophy they adhere to, have access to the very same observable scientific evidence. So, whether you’re coming at it from an Atheistic perspective, Christian perspective, Native American perspective, or Hindu perspective, all of us have the same access to the observable scientific evidence. Now, with this being the case, we must ask two questions, but ask them in their appropriate environments:  1) In our public school science classrooms we should ask, “Does the scientific evidence point towards Naturalistic evolution or Intelligent Design?” And 2) Outside of our public school science classrooms we should ask, “Which religious worldview best explains the scientific evidence?”

The Intelligent Design position can be used by whatever religious worldview that wants to attach itself to it. However, those religious worldviews all have the equal challenge of explaining how their creation story best coincides with the observable scientific evidence. So, if you want to embrace a Native American creation story, you have to explain how it fits with the scientific evidence that we all equally share; the same is true for Christians, Hindus, etc… but this should be done outside of our public school science classrooms.

The point of all of this is that Intelligent Design is not about advocating one religious version of creation over another in our public schools. Intelligent Design is simply a position that points out the scientific evidence forsome Intelligent Designer found throughout the natural world. Science cannot answer the question of who or what that Intelligent Designer is, but science can lead us to the conclusion that an Intelligent Designer must have been involved. It is left to the various religions to demonstrate why their version of the creation story best fits the scientific evidence for Intelligent Design.

So, what should be taught in our public school science classrooms?  We should teach the scientific evidence for and against evolution and the scientific evidence for and against Intelligent Design. However, for those who are persuaded towards Intelligent Design, and who have the further desire to identify the Intelligence behind the Design, this is a pursuit that is rightly taken up outside of our public school science classrooms.