At the visually striking Triple Canopy, Nathan Schneider discourses on the devolution of theology into—and, some might say, its eventual eclipse by—a pure science or order, or “planning.” While Schneider attends to topics ranging from ancient Greek city planning to contemporary computer modelling—all the while tracing the changing place of the divine in relation to worldly order and disorder—the crux of his argument is perhaps best summed up in the following passage on Intelligent Design advocacy:

IT HAS BECOME COMMON to speak of divine planning in terms of “intelligent design,” which some religious apologists take to represent a corrective to Darwinian evolution. The Seattle-based Discovery Institute, whose objective is to find evidence of divine intervention in nature, is the most prominent proponent of this concept. The Institute’s website explains:

Intelligent-design theory is simply an effort to empirically detect whether the “apparent design” in nature acknowledged by virtually all biologists is genuine design (the product of an intelligent cause) or is simply the product of an undirected process such as natural selection acting on random variations.

This formulation is particular to a culture paranoid about its own atheism. It assumes that God has no relationship whatsoever to the “undirected” and “random” processes of nature, that God is responsible only for order, and that order can only come about through God.

The lesson of the cellular automata, however, shows that order doesn’t have to depend on obsessive intervention; it can emerge through burgeoning iteration. Planning can give rise to a semblance of order without minutely prescribing it, without intelligent-design theory’s autocratic tinkerer. In earlier times, when the existence of a cosmic principle named God was generally accepted and theologians could focus their energies on His essence and meaning, the Discovery Institute’s assumptions would have seemed awfully impoverished.

Thus, the spontaneity, complexity, and disorder of nature are not ipso facto antithetical to the divine; man’s zealous concern, however, for what Hume called the “governance of futurity” has managed to gradually stifle any questioning directed towards the “essence and meaning” of existence. Whether such questioning in fact requires an avowed theism remains an open question itself.

Read the entire essay at Triple Canopy.