Question: "How is Intelligent Design any different from belief in a Flying Spaghetti Monster?"
Answer: In 2005, in protest of the Kansas State Board of Education’s decision to require the teaching of Intelligent Design in addition to Darwinian evolution, Bobby Henderson professed belief in a Flying Spaghetti Monster as the universe’s supernatural creator. Henderson then mockingly demanded that his belief that the Flying Spaghetti Monster (also known as the Spaghedeity) created the universe with a touch from his “noodly appendage.” With the motive of mocking the Intelligent Design Theory, Henderson wrote, “I think we can all look forward to the time when these three theories are given equal time in our science classrooms across the country, and eventually the world—one-third time for Intelligent Design, one-third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, and one-third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence.”
From this beginning, Flying Spaghetti Monsterism has gained a sarcastic “cult” following, with its advocates calling themselves “Pastafarians.” None of the advocates of Pastafarianism genuinely believe in the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Rather, this mock-religion’s only intent is to argue against Intelligent Design being taught in schools as an alternative theory to Darwinian evolution. Pastafarians claim that, if Intelligent Design is taught in schools, then every conceivable theory of origins must be taught as well. This would obviously result in confusion and chaos.
So, do Pastafarians have a point? Does the idea of a Flying Spaghetti Monster illustrate how foolish it is to try to bring religion into the classroom? The answer is a resounding no. The entire concept that gave rise to Flying Spaghetti Monsterism/Pastafarianism is a faulty premise: that Intelligent Design Theory is necessarily the same thing as literal biblical creationism.
However, those who examine the writings of Intelligent Design advocates realize this is not the case. Granted, there are those who use Intelligent Design Theory to attempt to force six-day, young-earth creationism into science classrooms, but that is not what the Intelligent Design theory is at its core.
The Intelligent Design Theory—as the vast majority of its advocates understand and use it and as they are trying to get into the science classrooms—is the idea that biological life exhibits such extraordinary complexity that it could not have come to be entirely in a naturalistic vacuum. The more that science advances, the more obvious it becomes that the universe and the life within it could not be the result of completely random, unguided, and non-designed chance.
This understanding of the Intelligent Design Theory is clearly compatible with literal biblical creationism. However, it is not identical to biblical creationism. Nor does Intelligent Design necessarily lead to biblical creationism. In fact, Intelligent Design is no more an argument for biblical creationism than it is an argument for theistic evolution or directed panspermia or any other non-naturalistic origin theory.
While the advocates of Flying Spaghetti Monsterism are entertaining, creative, and excellent at satire, the system fails in that it is an argument against only an extreme minority within the Intelligent Design movement. Pastafarianism does not apply to or in any way refute the core arguments of the Intelligent Design Theory. The question of which implication of the Intelligent Design Theory is correct is a subject far better suited to philosophy or theology classrooms than science classrooms. The Intelligent Design Theory itself, however, is a valid issue to be raised within the science classroom, due to naturalistic science’s failure to demonstrate how the universe and life within the universe came into existence without the intervention of an Intelligent Designer.