Intelligence Design and Judaism: When Modern Philosophy meets Ancient Faith

Intelligent Design, otherwise known as ID in common circles, presents a more scientific view on the origins of the universe, of life and the creation of man. As man has become more adept in discovering the past and understanding many origins, a relatively new approach called Intelligent Design was formed.

Judaism, as most people know, is an organized religion and one of the oldest forms of organized religions of man. Based on the Old Testament, Judaism is universally considered the first monotheistic religion. Monotheistic is the belief in one God. Both Christianity and Islam share this monotheistic view of one God. All three religions recognize the one God approach and the general moral teachings of a common book. To the followers of Judaism, this book is known as the Hebrew bible, also acknowledged as the Torah. In comparison, the same book is called the Holy Bible in Christianity or the Koran in Islam. Judaism however only recognizes the first part of the book, called the Old Testament or the time of Moses.

In order to understand if there is a possibility of coexistence between the two schools of thought, it is obvious that an establishment of definitions must be in place to lay the groundwork for comparison and exploration.

What is Intelligent Design?

Intelligent Design (ID) refers to the agenda of structured scientific research that seeks evidence of design in nature.   This program includes an exclusive community of specialists, philosophers and scholars who study to achieve this goal. This theory was around for many centuries. The original concept behind the main ideas comprising intelligent design, called the teleological argument, is one of the three basic religious arguments for the existence of God which have been advanced for centuries. The other two religious arguments are the cosmological argument and the ontological argument. In the thirteenth century it was hypothesized that natural things will naturally act in order to achieve the best result, and this is not attainable without intrinsic intelligence, an external intelligent being must exist, setting the purpose and providing direction. This being can then be referred to as a god.

The intelligent design movement itself only became popular a few centuries later in 1984 with the publication of “Ethics of The Mystery of Life’s Origin” by chemist and creationist Charles B. Thaxton and the “Foundation for Thought” by Jon A. Buell.

The assumption of ID is based that definite features of living things and the universe in general are founded by an intelligent cause, or for a more common understanding, it was created by a higher being of intelligence, and not by the evolutionary process known as natural selection. By properly studying and analyzing a system’s components, an ID theorist is able to conclude if a variety of natural combined elements are the product of random chance, natural evolutionary law, an intelligent design or perhaps a combination of all three. Such research is conducted by observing the types of information created when intelligent agents act.

Ardent believers in the theory of ID think that life did not evolve by natural selection. Creationists use intelligent design as an explanation of how life was formed. Many contemporary scientists think ID is not real science because it has inconclusive evidence to support its theory. They believe it is an attempt to mesh science and theology and should not be categorized as scientific.

Darwinism and the Theory of Evolution

The Theory of Evolution is the antithesis of almost every organized religion that is based on a supernatural or higher being. According to the Charles Darwin, who was an English naturalist in 1809, all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors. He then went on to propose the scientific theory of a branching pattern of evolution that resulted in the process the he called natural selection.

So how does the Chachameinu Zichronam Liv’racha of Hebrew teachings view this theory of Intellectual Design?

Since the proponents for ID claim that an intelligent creator is responsible for the origin of life and of mankind, this challenges the Darwinian view of evolution and its modern day amalgamation. Jewish Chazal have maintained that ID is not a valid science but is also a religious concept, albeit a contemporary day concept. Although certain individuals and institutions have their positive view of a theistic construal of evolution, they still have, by and large, rejected the doctrines of the intelligent design movement itself. Even though movement itself is rejected by these institutions, they still see the similarities between the ID and the concept of creation, of a higher being (for the Hebrew believers, they refer to this being as God) that sets the tone for life and humankind or in holistic view, the universe itself. For as long as ID does not become scientism for this to become such a basis will mean the severance of Judaism.

In recent years, Judaism has argued the inclusion of ID teaching in school curriculum under the biology context. This once again refers to the basis that ID is not science but a religious theory based on the search for answers using scientific methods. This goes against the governing rules of subliminally promoting a certain religion or belief over others in a neutral arena of academic discourse. In other words, there is the break of separation of church and state.