Pat Robertson may have single-handedly done more to undermine the Intelligent Design (ID) movement than any of its opponents. After Tuesday’s elections, he made the following remarks about a Pennsylvania town that voted their school board out of office for supporting ID:
I’d like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city. And don’t wonder why He hasn’t helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I’m not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that’s the case, don’t ask for His help because he might not be there (source).
These comments have two really negative effects. First and foremost, it says to people that their response to ID somehow determines whether or not God will be favorable to them. Such a notion does not prepare the way very well for a Gospel that makes one’s response to Jesus Christ the critical issue. It is possible to embrace ID without embracing the Gospel of Jesus Christ crucified and raised. It would be a tragedy indeed if people began to think that God would be favorably disposed towards them simply because they supported the place of ID in the local public school curriculum. (This is to say nothing of the fact that Jesus Himself indicated that disasters are great occasions for God-ignoring people to consider their ways and repent. See Luke 13:1-5).
Second, thanks to Robertson’s remarks, we can expect that the detractors of ID will have one more reason to regard ID as marginal and fringe. Robertson gave ammunition to critics of ID who have been charging that ID is more a Fundamentalist theological presupposition than it is a plausible theory of the origin of the universe. Intelligent Design is a scientifically and philosophically robust theory—more credible than its detractors have wanted to admit. I’m afraid that Robertson has only reinforced the critics’ skepticism.