Convenient Myths I: Intelligent Design is a form of Creationism

In our modern (or is it post-modern?) times, one often hears several 'scientific' arguments against Christianity. Often, some statements are presented as well known facts, while they are actually incorrect, or an example of extreme over-simplification. Repeating these myths as arguments may be a convienient way of advocating atheism, but shouldn't science be looking for the truth, and have an open mind to all viewpoints?

So, in a series of short texts, I hope to address a few of these myths, which seem convienient backup for atheistic ideas, but are, in fact, not true. Maybe I should add an apology or disclaimer here, as I certainly do not say everything that probably should have been said or written for a treatment of the issue that is not superficial. If you want to react, you are welcome to email me. In your email, please tell me if you allow me to quote you (with your name or anonymously) on my website. My email address is hansb at

So, now 'myth 1':

"Intelligent Design is just Creationism in disguise"

Is Intelligent Design a form of Creationism?

In most of the texts one reads when people attack the Intelligent Design idea, one reads an association of Intelligent Design with Creationism. No, I must correct that. There are also people that tell that Intelligent Design is a form of Evolution Theory. I will explain that later.

In the Creation versus Evolution debate, several authors from the Evolution side attack Intelligent Design in the following way. They first explain what all is wrong with Creationism, e.g., science clearly shows that the earth is billion years old, instead of the less than 8000 that creationists say that the earth is old. In addition, one often reads that Intelligent Design is a 'plot' to get creationism back into science, through a backdoor, through a disguise.

For instance, in a famous ruling by an US judge on a question whether intelligent design could be teached on a high school (here you can read the full text), you see explained in several pages that Intelligent Design should be seen as a form of creationism.

An objective observer would know that ID and teaching about gaps and problems in evolutionary theory are creationist, religious strategies that evolved from earlier forms of creationism. (Quote from judge ruling from Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover School District, et al. case.)

A report at the council of the Europe Parliament (not accepted by the way), stated

Creationism in any of its forms, such as 'intelligent design', is not based on facts, does not use any scientific reasoning and its contents are pathetically inadequate for science classes.

The Assembly calls on education authorities in member States to promote scientific knowledge and the teaching of evolution and to oppose firmly any attempts at teaching creationism as a scientific discipline.

(If you want to read the full text of this report, see here. Fortunately, this document was not accepted. I think the document is a sad example of intolerance. For instance, the maker of the document believes that creationism is a threat to human rights. I think believing and disbelieving creationism and/or evolution are both human rights; stating that an opposing scientific or religious view is a threat to human rights is the threat itself.)

Thus, the (I think) myth is that Intelligent Design is just a strategy by creationists to give fundamental Christian ideas a scientific look. But is it?

Intelligent Design as a form of Evolutionism

In a Dutch Christian newspaper, I read a quote of a Christian on Intelligent Design, which was like this: I thought Intelligent Design was biblical, but I now see that it is another form of evolution theory.

Indeed, you read this more frequently: Christians who oppose to the Intelligent Design ideas, because they see important differences to their own viewpoints. And indeed, they are correct, in the sense that Creationism and ID are different.

Differences from Creationism and Intelligent Design

So, let me point out a few of the key differences between creationism and intelligent design.

Creationism assumes a 'young earth' - an earth that is about 7000 years old. Intelligent design follows 'science' in assuming that the earth is about 7 billion years old.

Creationism assumes the individual creation by God of each of the species. ID assumes that some species were formed as derivations of other species, but tells that the evolution process of mutation and selection is not a sufficient explanation of the formation of the different species. Basically, ID tells us that when we look to the complexity of the universe (and that includes much more than just the different species, e.g., also the mass of the universe, the fact that ice floats, etc.) then we can see traces of design, and assume as a most likely explanation that behind this complexity, there was an intelligent force that designed things.

Creatonism takes as starting point for the ideas and findings the Bible, while ID starts with science. If it looks like that science and the Bible contradict each other, the creationist will believe the Bible, and the ID-supporter science. (To the previous sentence, I must add that it is only partially true - in more than one way. I could write much more here, but this would make the text even longer.)

I think these are quite large differences. I thus think that it is unjustified to identify ID and Intelligent Design. That is about as silly as to identify humanism and communism, as they both are world views based on atheism.

Let me give a typical example. The amount of the mass of the universe is just large enough that planets are formed, but not too large, otherwise the universe would have collapsed directly. The fact that the mass is just of the right amount to make the formation of life possible is one of the arguments of ID to point to a Designer; this is a kind of argument that a creationist would not use.

Good definitions should be the basis of any scientific debate

What seems to lack in the debate are good definitions of the different viewpoins. What is actually Intelligent Design, what is Creationism, and how does a viewpoint like Theistic Evolution fit in? What I see often is that people from the 'atheist camp' in the debate use different definitions, to fit their purpose. But you first attacking Creationism on ideas like a young earth, and then telling that ID is a form of Creationism does not fit with any proper definition. That is not a scientific debate, that is just retorics.

When did Intelligent Design start?

Part of the myth is that Intelligent Design started after Creationism had a few legal defeats in the United States. It may be that the use of the term started like that, but the ideas of Intelligent Design are much older. Actually, the Bible already tells that one can observe that God exists by looking at nature. More concretely, many of the types of arguments were already made by Saint Thomas Aquinas who lived from plm 1225 - 1274.

Let us agree to this

If you are an atheist evolutionist, and want to fight Intelligent Design, please use scientific arguments. And, perhaps, start making sure that you know what are actually the ideas of ID, e.g., by reading texts of people in ID themselves. (There is an excellent book, but it is unfortunately only in Dutch: Schitterend Ongeluk of Sporen van Ontwerp.) Tell where are the flaws in the argumentation, give statistical backup that shows that irreducible complex organisms are actually not irreducible complex, etc. I think that misrepresenting ideas of a movement, and/or ridicularizing it instead of answering its questions is not the way a scientific debate should be done.

Closing word

If you are a supporter of evolution, creationism, or intelligent design, and you think that I misrepresented the ideas you support, I apologize. Perhaps, in such a case, you can send me an email?

Hans Bodlaender,, July 2007
Hans Bodlaender is a Dutch computer scientist, working on the area of algorithms. These views are his personal and private opinions. Hans is member of an evangelist church in his home town, near Utrecht. He is married and has three children. He was born in 1960. More of his texts can be found on this website via this link.