A Crash Course in Intelligent Design

Alan's monthly letter for September 2009

Dear Friend,

When I think of summer breaks, I think of the sun, the beach, the waves, and drinking fresh lemonade. I like to relax in a chair and think of absolutely nothing.

But this summer I took a slightly different approach: I studied physics, quantum theory, relativity, cosmology, embryology, and genetics – all in ten days. Not necessarily a relaxing summer, but at least I had some lemonade.

The summer study program, hosted by the Discovery Institute in Seattle, brought together a dozen scientists and scholars and 26 students from around the country. To say the program was intense would be an understatement. Class time was from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM every day (with a few moments to breathe…and eat).

The purpose of the program was to teach the evidence for intelligent design (ID) and to encourage college students to pursue post graduate research in ID theory. But what is this theory? ID theory claims that some features of the universe and biology are best explained by an intelligent agent, not an undirected process like evolution.

For example, if you study your DNA, you’ll learn that it contains vast amounts of digitally-coded information that contain the blueprints for designing your body.

It turns out that DNA’s capacity to store information is astonishingly great. According to molecular biologist Dr. Michael Denton, “The information necessary to specify the design of all the species of organisms which have ever existed on the planet…could be held in a teaspoon and there would still be room left for all the information in every book ever written.” [emphasis mine]

Information is never produced by chance, much less that abundant. Blueprints for homes, planes, and computers are always the product of intelligent minds that provide design information. Digitally-coded computer programs are also written by an intelligent mind. In the same way, the blueprints of the human body and every other species on the planet must also have come from an intelligent mind. That’s what ID theory would predict.

In fact, contrary to claims that ID is a science-stopping enterprise, this theory made another important prediction. While evolutionists believed that the majority of DNA was “junk,” useless material left over from evolutionary mutations, ID theorists thought otherwise. They predicted that if an intelligent designer was responsible for the information in DNA, then we wouldn’t expect most of it to be junk. There must be valuable information there that hasn’t been discovered yet.

This ID prediction would encourage scientific work, not stifle it. It would try to discover the yet unknown functions of alleged “junk” DNA. And the prediction was correct. What was thought to be “junk” DNA turned out to contain a massive array of functional information that is essential to life.

This prediction was not foreseen with an evolutionary worldview, but with an ID one. Since evolution presumes that mutations occurred over millions of years, it saw “junk” DNA as consistent with its theory even though it was wrong about it. ID, on the other hand, proved to be a good scientific theory since its prediction proved to be true.

Discovery Institute is trying to create an open academic environment where scientists are free to do research in ID. Unfortunately, most universities – even many Christian ones – oppose ID. Discovery Institute hopes, though, that with a new generation of scientists researching ID, more of academia will come to realize that science and faith are compatible.

Part of my work with Stand to Reason is about that – demonstrating that a love for science is completely consistent with a love for God. In fact, the Friday after I returned from Seattle, I taught on intelligent design at a weekend camp. I was able to integrate what I learned into my teaching material.

Thanks to you, I’ll continue to teach how an intelligent mind (God) is so obviously at work around us.

Thank you for your partnership,

Alan Shlemon

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Alan Shlemon