Robert John Russell : Intelligent Design is Not Science and Does Not Qualify to be Taught in Public School Science Classes

ROBERT JOHN RUSSELL “Intelligent Design is Not Science and Does Not Qualify to be Taught in Public School Science Classes” Theology and Science, Vol. 3, No. 2, 2005

Russell points out correctly that ID provides two alternatives for “agency”: either a natural agent or God.

The theory of ID does not qualify to be taught in public school science classes as an alternative to Darwinian evolution. The reason is straightforward. Even though ID supporters will not specify what they mean by the intelligent agency that supposedly accounts for the origin and evolution of life, there are only two options for what “agency” could possibly mean: either a natural agent or God. The first option ultimately relies on the very theory, Darwinian evolution, that it proposes to challenge and the second option is a theological claim. Thus, ID does not qualify to be taught in public school science classes as an alternative scientific theory to Darwinian evolution.

He ends with a warning to Christians

The lesson to Christians is that we should abandon ID as fools’ gold and accept the challenge of true discipleship and dialogue—to engage contemporary science as it describes the universe by working out a challenging but immanently more honest interpretation of science in light of Christian faith. So where does one start? Check out the CTNS website ( and its links to a world of Christian friends who are ready to offer hope that is worthy of being believed.

Mirroring the concerns by St Augustine [1], Russell remarks

My own view is that God does act within nature and that Darwinian evolution is the result. Note, however, this is a theological claim, not a scientific one. Belief in God can inspire scientists to pursue specific scientific research proposals, but such research cannot include reference to God and remain within science. What this means is that teaching ID in public schools is not a matter of fairness to competing theories since ID is not an alternative biological theory. It is at most a theological claim in disguise. The worst problem is that ID proponents endorse this disguise by not telling us what they mean by agency. This strategy offers an apparent apologetic hope to believing Christians but it fails to deliver on that hope. This makes Christianity seem foolish to agnostic scientists who might otherwise have listened to us, and it promises only eventual disappointment to Christians who believe in it.

Amen brother. ID is scientifically vacuous and theologically risky.

[1] Saint Augustine (A.D. 354-430) in his work The Literal Meaning of Genesis (De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim) provided excellent advice for all Christians who are faced with the task of interpreting Scripture in the light of scientific knowledge. This translation is by J. H. Taylor in Ancient Christian Writers, Newman Press, 1982, volume 41.

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion. \[1 Timothy 1.7\]