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Jaffa on Intelligent Design

By: Harry V. Jaffa
January 3, 2006

To the Editor of the Wall Street Journal:

My friend Jim Wilson ("Faith in Theory" WSJ 12/24/05) is behind the curve of controversy in his flat endorsement of the decision of a Pennsylvania federal judge who "struck down efforts of a local school board to teach 'intelligent design'" as part of the curriculum, along with Darwinian evolution. "What schools should do" Wilson writes, "is teach evolution emphasizing both its successes and its still unexplained limitations. Evolution, like almost every scientific theory, has some problems. But they are not the kinds of problems that can be solved by assuming that an intelligent designer (whom advocates will tell you privately is God) created life. There is not a shred of evidence to support this theory, one that has been around since the critics of Darwin began writing in the 19th century."

But intelligent design does not necessarily imply a designer. Aristotle says that whatever can come to be by art—i.e. by intelligent design—can come to be by chance—i.e. without a designer. There is, incidentally, nothing in the Darwinian theory of evolution, that excludes the possibility that this is the way that God created. Evolutionary theory is itself neutral towards the different possible answers to the question, Why is there evolution? Is not the discovery of the evolutionary process itself an achievement of evolution? Is not the movement of the evolutionary process from the lower to the higher, e.g. from single celled organisms to the higher primates, and, eventually, to man, a purposeful process? Are not the intermediate stages instrumental to the final stages? Is this not a definition of intelligent design?

We are reminded that, in the Creation story in Genesis, after God had finished, he said that the work he had done was "very good." But no one, not even God, can look upon a work as good, without having had a previous idea of what constituted goodness. The idea of goodness—what Plato would call the idea of the good—must pre-exist any work called good. To call a work good, whether that accomplished by God in Genesis, or that accomplished by Darwin in the Origin of Species, implies a pre-existing design. It does not of itself however imply a designer. Evolution, if true, was as true before discovered by Darwin, as afterwards. The goodness God discovered in his handiwork must have been good before he created, or he could not have called it good afterwards. Unless the theory of evolution itself is the account of an intelligent design, culminating in a being capable of discovering the theory of evolution, it would be meaningless. Whether this intelligent design is the result of chance, or of an intelligent designer, is an entirely different question. Whether or not one regards the inquiry into this question as scientific, such an inquiry must form part of any education worthy of man's being, whether as a being created in the image of God, or as the being that emerges as the final fruit of the evolutionary process.

Harry V. Jaffa
The Claremont Institute
December 25, 2005