Monday, 24 October 2005

Darwin on Intelligent Design

In a much-quoted letter to Asa Gray on 22 May 1860, Charles Darwin said:

“I had no intention to write atheistically. But I own that I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design.... There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae [parasitic wasps] with the express intention of their [larva] feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars.” (The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, 8:224)

Darwin highlights an important theological point here. There is much in the world that is beautiful and majestic and good—but there are also ugly, horrifying and demonic sides of nature. There are hurricanes and floods and famines and cannibalistic insects and parasitic wasps that insert their larvae into the living bodies of caterpillars.

If there is an Intelligent Designer, then It has to be the Designer of all aspects of the natural world. Might not the Intelligent Designer therefore be a cruel tyrant or an omnipotent demon? Certainly It would not be the God and Father of Jesus Christ. And this means that, strictly speaking, the Intelligent Designer cannot be identified with what Christians mean by “the creator”—for Christians confess that the “Maker of heaven and earth” is “God the Father Almighty,” i.e., the Father of Jesus Christ.

The creator is not an Intelligent Designer; he is the God of the gospel, the God of grace.


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