Intelligent Design is Frightening
It is not surprising that people like PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins should react the way they do to intelligent design. We must understand that for passionate atheists like them, intelligent design is more than just a scientific theory. It represents a threat to their entire worldview. In the same way that people of passionate religious faith have built their lives around their faith in God, people like Dawkins and Myers have built their lives, their convictions, their purpose, their meaning, and their moral framework around their confidence that there is no God.
Just as belief in God involves a comfort for some of a loving heavenly Father, belief in no God provides the comfort of believing that there is nobody to tell them what to do or to constrain their personal desires in any way. Atheists believe that they can act however they please with no fear of negative consequences in the future or in any spiritual realm. They may develop their own moral framework, but they enjoy the freedom of making exceptions to their self-developed morality whenever it is convenient. And that perception of freedom and convenience is likely extremely attractive and comforting to them. Both theism and atheism provide emotional security for their adherents. The emotional comfort is simply different.
As I have discussed before (also here), both macroevolutionary theory and intelligent design are scientific theories with religious implications. While intelligent design does not say anything about who the designer is, it suggests an obvious philosophical question. Thoughtful people will naturally ask why such evidence of design exists, and what it means for how we live our lives. While many would find such questions fascinating, confirmed atheists are likely to find such questions disturbing and threatening. Because of this, their mean-spirited attacks on intelligent design proponents are understandable.
As I have noted previously, reporters covering these issues who inquire about the religious motivations of the proponents of intelligent design should also consider the ability of confirmed atheists to think honestly and fairly about the evidence for design in nature. In the same way that religious people who insist on a six 24-hour-day creation event and young earth (which does not describe most proponents of intelligent design) cannot entertain the possibility of a multi-million year macroevolutionary scenario, confirmed atheists have great difficulty entertaining even the possibility of an intelligent designer.
How can zealous atheists honestly evaluate the scientific evidence when they believe deep in their hearts that there can be no such design or designer before they even consider the evidence? How can they consider the issues objectively when the mere possibility of a designer is likely so emotionally disturbing to them?
* * *
For another post on how worldviews can affect one's evaluation of the evidence, go here.