Tom Gilson

Intelligent Design’s Atheistic Defender

BreakPoint has just published my review of Bradley Monton’s new book, with the unexpected but highly intriguing theme expressed in its title: Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design. Monton is a philosopher on the University of Colorado faculty, and he is indeed an atheist who defends Intelligent Design.

He has been the subject of considerable pressure from ID opponents like Robert Pennock, and as I said in the review, readers may decide for themselves which of the two, Pennock or Monton has handled the dispute more professionally. I’ve already had a chance to express my own view on that.

The interesting thing will be to watch and see how this book affects the overall ID controversy, and specifically how ID opponents will respond to Monton’s arguments—and to Monton himself.

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8 thoughts on “Intelligent Design’s Atheistic Defender

  1. I have a thought about the pursuit of intelligent design as a scientific endeavor.

    Work on methods of distinguished genetically modified animals, crops and microbes from the natural, unmodified ones. I have no idea if anything of this sort has been so far attempted but it seems a good place for those interested in intelligent design for other than ideological reasons to start.

  2. The problem here is the exact problem I noted in the reason vs. authority thread: the term doesn’t actually explain much. Thus, it’s useless. What good is a term that in one breath can mean young earth creationist and in another mean theistic evolutionist? Of course, the majority of the people who use the term are employing a specific worldview, namely one that is anti-evolution. I mean what do you think most of Dover was about? They say that ID isn’t creationism, but their actions show differently. Anti-evolution rhetoric often goes hand in hand with ID, and even worse, sometimes the two terms have been used interchangeably.

    Furthermore, it doesn’t tell you what’s being designed. Francis Collins wouldn’t say that he’s a proponent of intelligent design. He would say that he’s a Christian and that so and so was designed, and that says everything about a belief in a designer. He doesn’t need to add anything else about intelligent design. There are just too many different belief structures here to exist under one banner. It just sounds like this guy is contemplating the possibility of some kind of designer, which, I mean, isn’t exactly stunning. Even Dawkins will tell you that there’s the possibility of a God. Most tend to be more agnostic about it. So contemplate the existence of a designer, but don’t use the term ID. It just leads to too many issues.

    Anyway, I don’t believe that he’s even the first atheist to write something like this. But the history of the term must also be examined.

  3. From your review:

    Maybe (am I thinking too idealistically?) more ID opponents will take that up as the real question. Maybe they’ll turn their attention away from cultural side issues to what intelligent design really affirms, the positive arguments it presents for its position, and focus their attacks more sharply there.

    I’m afraid you are thinking too idealistically. The opinions of a philosophy prof from Colorado are unlikely to quiet the inflammatory and bigoted rhetoric from the “ID=creationism=ignorant anti-science” crowd. I suspect his book will be met with the same sort of hostility as was David Berlinskis.

    Still, hope springs eternal…

  4. Btw, I read the Monton paper you referenced in your review. “Is Intelligent Design Science? Dissecting the Dover Decision” was a breath of fresh air! How pleasant to read someone willing to debate an issue on the merits instead of the derisive snort heard all too often, from both sides of the aisle.

    That paper led me to examine Monton’s blog. “Bradley Monton’s Blog” joins “Thinking Christian” and a few others on my Daily Reading list.

  5. As Steve Barr has pointed out, Intelligent Design (the modern movement) is different from intelligent design (in the classical sense). The latter was more about conditions and laws intrinsic to nature rather than about external influences intervening in nature.

    Darwinian evolution was the biological consummation of Newton’s mechanization of nature. It’s one of the ironies of the current origins debate that Intelligent Design is just as mechanistic as Darwinism, and in its conception of nature opposed to the classical argument from design.


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