Atheist philosopher of science Bradley Monton discusses intelligent design

Philosopher Bradley Monton
Philosopher Bradley Monton

About Bradley Monton:

I’m a philosophy professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder. I work in philosophy of time, philosophy of religion, philosophy of science (especially physics), and probabilistic epistemology.

There’s an interview with Dr. Monton in Salvo magazine’s new issue, which is on science and faith.

The interview has more about his credentials:

Bradley Monton • Associate Professor of the Philosophy of Science at the University of Colorado • BA in Physics and Philosophy from Rice University • PhD in Philosophy from Princeton University • Author of Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design

And here are the interview questions:

  1. What makes you take intelligent design (ID) seriously?
  2. Why do you think some scientists refuse to take intelligent design seriously?
  3. You write in your book that you don’t fully endorse intelligent design. In your opinion, what are some of the weaknesses of ID?
  4. Then why can’t you fully support intelligent design?
  5. So what are the strengths of intelligent design?
  6. What do you think about the multiverse theory—this belief that there are actually an infinite number of universes out there, making the complexity of our own universe more likely and less special?
  7. Do you think intelligent design should be taught in public schools?
  8. Do you teach your own students about intelligent design?
  9. Do you think academic freedom is limited for non-tenured proponents of intelligent design?
  10. How have other academics responded to your writings and statements on intelligent design?
  11. You’ve written that intelligent-design arguments have made you less certain of your atheism. What would it take to make you abandon it altogether?
  12. So what sort of scientific evidence would be compelling enough to change your mind?
  13. Are there other atheist scientists out there who believe that intelligent-design arguments hold some merit?

Here’s my favorite question (#12) and the answer:

So what sort of scientific evidence would be compelling enough to change your mind?

It would be evidence for mind as a fundamental feature of the universe. As far as I’m concerned, God would have to be a purely mental entity, not connected to physical reality in the way that we are through our bodies. So if we could discover some kind of evidence that mind is fundamental, then that would go a long way toward making me a believer. And if we could find evidence that the physical world isn’t causally closed—that not only is mind a fundamental entity, but it likewise plays a causal role in the structure of the world—then that would also be compelling evidence for the existence of God. Now, if it is found that mind plays a role in our brain processes alone, that by itself wouldn’t make me believe in God, though it would certainly make me more open to the idea. But if we were to discover that mind is intervening in other places in the world besides our brain processes, then that would pretty much be the smoking gun.

Yeah, I think there is good evidence for a non-physical mind, both from science and philosophy.

I think a lot of Christians who grew up with young-Earth creationism are startled to find that there are non-theistic, non-Christians scholars who take ID seriously. I think if I were a smart young-Earth creationist like Paul Nelson or Marcus Ross, I would try to create common ground with scholars by discussing intelligent design with them.


5 thoughts on “Atheist philosopher of science Bradley Monton discusses intelligent design”

  1. I will have to read this when I have more time. But wow! I have never, EVER seen an atheist or atheist scientist give ID even a passing nod of reluctant respect, much less actually defend it. And in public!

    Honestly, I did not know such people existed!


  2. WK,

    For what it’s worth, it is those in the ID movement who intentionally distance themselves from young earth creationists and from creationism, in general. Young earth creationists embrace ID, and even promote it – not because ID is creationism in disguise (as skeptics often claim), but because ID is perfectly consistent with creationary theory.

    So I think if you were to ask them, you would find that Nelson and Ross and many other young earth creationists are quite willing to “try to create common ground with [other] scholars by discussing intelligent design with them.” However, we should not ignore other scientific endeavors which (like ID) also support the creationary model.


    1. To Doug’s insightful comment, I might add that when I was an old-earth creationist, I was constantly trying to get the Bible to be reconciled with my (pre-conceived?) old-earth ‘scientific’ model. As a young-earth creationist, I am always interested in reconciling current scientific understanding with what I believe God is truly trying to communicate to me through the Bible.

      While I am open to both earth age positions, and surely do not believe that disagreement on this subject warrants the breaking of fellowship amongst believers (that would be sinful, IMO), I must say that I think that old earth creationism was a stepping-stone for me to leave my previous life of placing ‘science’ (good and bad) above (WAY above!) the Bible. That does not mean, however, that I KNOW with any certainty that I am correct in my current view. I do not. I just think the evidence (Biblical first, current scientific understanding second) leans toward a relatively young earth – not without difficulties.

      I do believe that the earth is not flat. :-) Of course, that was well-known, or should have been, 750 years B.C. [Isaiah 40:22] As for executing heretics, I am open on that issue. Just kidding!


  3. Thanks for this post. I needed to be reminded that there are some intellectualy honest atheists who put their cards on the table. Although I am a Christian (a Catholic at that), evolution is the best explanation of the diversity of life on our planet.
    The main source for what I know about ID as a science was watching the controversial Expelled, No Intelligence Allowed; The ID proponents seem to be more intrigued with how astonishingly complex a living cell is something Darwin never knew, as well as, the role genetics plays.


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