Saturday, June 27, 2009


Evil Designer

According to this article in The Christian Post, the late Dr. Ralph D. Winter, described as one of the most influential missiologists* of the 20th Century, had a slightly different take on Intelligent Design:

Those Christians who support Intelligent Design, not surprisingly, identify that "intelligent cause" to be God.

But some would argue that such an association would then suggest that God designed viruses, bacteria, parasites and other harmful and destructive organisms that do nothing but bring disease and suffering to God's creation. ...

It's an age-old question on a microscopic level – did God create the "tiny evils" that spread disease and death throughout the world? If so, then isn't He to blame for mankind's suffering?

Winter knew who is responsible:

Dr. Ralph D. Winter, who recently died at the age of 84, had argued that all violent forms of life – including all disease pathogens – are the works of an "intelligent evil power" that seeks to destroy God's creation. ...

"Our theologies – that is, our formalized ways of attempting to think biblically – were hammered out during centuries that were totally blind to the microscopic world," he added. "Our current theological literature, to my knowledge, does not seriously consider disease pathogens from a theological point of view – that is, are they the work of God or Satan?"

As a result, God has for far too long been taking the blame for Satan's destructive works, Winter contended. And even Christians are confused over who is responsible for all the evil in the world, including disease and suffering. Some even claim that God wants diseases in the world.

"This is perhaps due to a theological tradition which does not understand demonic powers to have the ability to distort DNA," he expressed. ...

"[D]estructive viruses, bacteria and especially parasites ... represent incredibly ingenious evil. They represent, I am thinking, the involvement of intelligence. They are not just unguided evolution or, much less, errors in creation."

That lead Winter to something of a strange conclusion:

Therefore, Christians must not only pray for healing as if it is only up to God to cure diseases, Winter said. Instead, they should use scientific knowledge that God has allowed them to understand to actively work toward eradicating diseases by fighting the source of the problem.

But that implies that this "evil intelligence" has equal power with God ... or else, why isn't it only up to God to cure diseases? Dr. Winter was propounding Manichaeism, that holds that there is no omnipotent good power but, instead, two equally powerful opposing forces, one good and one evil. Manichaeism was considered a heresy by the early Christian church, including by St. Augustine.

Note yet again how the faithful have no trouble identifying ID as theology. It also raises a good question. As we all know, some design in nature isn't all that good, a fact that Casey Luskin famously explained by comparing "the Designer" to the people who designed the Pinto.

Now the question is: just who is the inept Designer, the Good Designer or the Evil Designer.

I assume Casey thinks he was designed by the Good Designer. If that's the inept Designer, it would explain a lot.


* Yeah, I had to look it up: "Missiology, or mission science, is the area of practical theology that investigates the mandate, message and work of the Christian missionary."


P.S. Mark Abner of The Divine Afflatus gives another example of ID advocates invoking malevolent design.

It sounds to me not so much like Manichaeanism as it is a form of Gnosticism. The Gnostic view, as I understand it, is that the physical world is the creation of the demiurge, who in some manner rebelled against the true God, who is pure spirit.

The true God and the Creator of the natural world are therefore not the same being. But our souls, as spiritual beings themselves, are therefore at constant odds with our bodies, which are merely parts of the physical world, and not ontologically different from it.

[Thus in the Gnostic cosmology, the only categories are the material and the spiritual -- there is no distinct ontological category for living things.)

Augustine, of course, rejected Gnosticism and created the major alternative to Gnosticism within Christianity -- the doctrine that the freely-chosen Fall of Man caused the fall of the rest of Creation. Thus viruses and parasites are themselves the result of original sin, and not part of God's initial Creation.
I knew Dr. Winter; he was a good friend and colleague of my parents. He tended to think outside the unstated guidelines; this God/Satan dualism is typical of him.

For this, and for all the fulsome praise expressed after his death, he was increasingly sidelined even in the mission he founded. It doesn't do to try to sort things out; the "faith once given to the saints" is not to be challenged by reason.
It doesn't do to try to sort things out; the "faith once given to the saints" is not to be challenged by reason.

That's a sad epitaph.
The theologian Langdon Gilkey when testifying in the Arkansas creationism trial (on the pro-evolution side), brought up the issue of creationism's entanglement with Gnosticism. See his 1985 book, "Creationism on Trial".

When creationists bring up something like the bacterial flagellum as an example of design, they are pointing to an excellent example of this sort of thing.

I'd also mention "the eye" of predator species.

Tom S.
I came across another Design argument for the creation of viruses, parasites, &c. by Robert C. Newman, who claimed these are examples of malevolent design, i.e., design by evil spirits.
This is the correct link to what I had to say about Newman's creative spirits. Unfortunately, his research, published in The Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute, is not available online.
Thanks. That's another good example.
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