t f p g+ YouTube icon

Science and the Bible: Intelligent Design, Part 1

Bookmark and Share

October 24, 2012 Tags: Design
Science and the Bible: Intelligent Design, Part 1
Old French Bible moralisée (c. 1208-15), Codex Vindobonensis 2554, fol. lv ,Österreichische Nationalbibliothek. (Source)

Today's entry was written by Ted Davis. You can read more about what we believe here.

What’s in a name?

According to Merriam Webster, the term “intelligent design” has been used since at least 1847, in reference to “the theory that matter, the various forms of life, and the world were created by a designing intelligence.” That’s a decent definition, also consistent with those offered by today’s proponents of intelligent design (ID). For example, the leading ID think tank, The Discovery Institute (Seattle), has this:

Intelligent design refers to a scientific research program as well as a community of scientists, philosophers and other scholars who seek evidence of design in nature. The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.

And in the opening sentence of a book he edited with philosopher Michael Ruse, ID theorist William Dembski said, “Intelligent Design is the hypothesis that in order to explain life it is necessary to suppose the action of an unevolved intelligence.” (Debating Design, p. 3)

On the other hand, while a recent contest on a prominent intelligent design (ID) website uncovered several other early uses of the term, it is important to note that it does not always mean exactly the same thing in each reference. The term itself has an interesting history, and while ID authors obviously did not invent the term “intelligent design,” they have given it specific content in recent years. Indeed, they have even removed content in some cases: a point I will return to later is that, though it seems the only viable candidate for such an “unevolved intelligence” is God, ID proponents sometimes seem to do cartwheels to avoid saying as much. When a term has such a complicated past, there simply is no substitute for looking at specific references in their own contexts as we move to seeing how ID plays out today as one of the 5 ways of relating science and the Bible.

Interestingly, many Protestant “modernist” scientists and theologians from William Jennings Bryan’s day (see my previous column) unhesitatingly endorsed the idea that a designing intelligence lay behind nature. At least one such person, Nobel prize-winning physicist Arthur Holly Compton, even used the very term “intelligent design” in an address he gave at a Unitarian church in 1940: “The chance of a world such as ours occurring without intelligent design becomes more and more remote as we learn of its wonders.” (Quoting his pamphlet from 1940, The Idea of God as Affected by Modern Knowledge, p. 13. For more about this aspect of Compton’s views, click here.) However, Compton regarded design as a philosophical and theological inference from science, not an explanation within science to be invoked when other explanations fail. He also accepted the common ancestry of humans and other organisms. This is a significant difference from the ID movement today, which offers ID as a scientific alternative to Darwinian evolution and (at least in many cases) seeks to undermine public confidence in common ancestry (even though ID per se is not actually opposed to it).

If any ID proponents are sympathetic to the type of religious modernism that Compton and his friends embraced, I cannot tell you who they are. In a curious, ironic twist, ID is often used by conservative Christian apologists partly to defend a cluster of traditional theological and hermeneutical positions that none of the modernists would have defended. A further irony: the intellectual descendants of the modernists—those scientists and theologians who occupy the left wing of the modern “dialogue” of science and religion—exhibit a studied avoidance of the term “design,” disconnecting them on that score from the modernists of the 1920s.

Many other contemporary writers, including some evangelical TEs, are also reluctant to use the word “design,” precisely because in their view it has been co-opted by ID proponents and they do not want readers to misunderstand their position(s). They may agree with ID proponents that certain features of the universe reflect divine design, but because they do not see design as a scientific explanation they employ other language. (Likewise, the YECs have co-opted the word “creationism” to mean just one specific understanding of God’s creative activity, leading most advocates of other views either to provide their own definitions of the word or else to avoid using it altogether. Politics dogs this conversation at every turn.)

Core Tenets or Assumptions of Intelligent Design

With that bit of historical context for the term “Intelligent Design,” let’s now look at the first of the Core Tenets of this perspective in its current state, and as it is most often used by those associated with the Intelligent Design movement.

(1) The Bible is NOT to be mentioned (at least for now); ditto for “God” and “theology” as far as possible.

This is a deliberate strategy, adopted for political reasons to keep arguments at the level of philosophy and science. Here, “political” refers to the American political system, with its constitutional disestablishment of religion, not to partisan politics. Since the 1980s, federal courts have consistently ruled that “creationism” (which was specifically of the YEC variety in the relevant cases) is sectarian religion, not science, and therefore it cannot be taught in public school science classes. Anxious to avoid a similar fate, proponents of ID always want to ensure that they are not perceived as advocates of “creationism.” The less they mention God and the Bible, the reasoning goes, the less likely they are to fall afoul of those decisions.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, pertaining to the freedom of religion and the freedom of the press.
Source: http://www.rochester.edu/college/psc/images/Courses/Spring2008/FirstAmendment.png

Phillip Johnson, the former law professor who effectively began the ID movement some twenty years ago, has put it bluntly: “To put things on a more rational basis, the first thing that has to be done is to get the Bible out of the discussion.” He quickly adds, “This is not to say that the biblical issues are unimportant; the point is rather that the time to address them will be after we have separated materialist prejudice from scientific fact.” (“The Wedge: Breaking the Modernist Monopoly on Science,” Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, July/August 1999, p. 22.)

If God and the Bible are really to be left out for the time being, then why am I discussing ID in a series on “Science and the Bible”? It’s a fair question. I simply don’t see any way meaningfully to avoid talking about ID apart from the culture wars in which it is embedded (I’ll say more about this in a subsequent column), and the Bible is never far from the surface when the battle being fought involves origins. Conservative Christians sense that ID really is about God—Dembski’s “unevolved intelligence”. As Dembski himself has said, “no intelligent agent who is strictly physical could have presided over the origin of the universe or the origin of life”, and there aren’t a lot of candidates for that job. Many Christians also identify strongly with the ways in which ID seeks to confront the secular establishment, in an explicitly-stated effort to combat what Johnson calls “the modernist scientific and intellectual world, with its materialist assumptions.” (“The Wedge,” p. 23.) They see it as a way of getting traditional theistic perspectives and Christian values back into the academy, once “design” has become an acceptable academic talking point—and it isn’t very far from there to conversations about “science and the Bible.” If this were not so, then why would so much ID literature be published by Christian presses? Indeed, when I tell church audiences with a straight face that ID purports not to be about the Bible at all, I’m usually met with considerable skepticism.

When I’m back in about two weeks, we’ll look at further Core Tenets of ID—the ones that have even less to do with the Bible, explicitly, and more to do with the way we approach the study of the natural world.

Ted Davis is Fellow of the History of Science for the BioLogos Foundation and Professor of the History of Science at Messiah College. At Messiah, Davis teaches courses on historical and contemporary aspects of Christianity and science and directs the Central Pennsylvania Forum for Religion and Science.

< Previous post in series Next post in series >

View the archived discussion of this post

This article is now closed for new comments. The archived comments are shown below.

Page 2 of 2   « 1 2
GJDS - #74068

November 2nd 2012


My main point is this: if thinkers commence with the unshakable belief there is no God, and they believe their human expertise is sufficient to answer all questions regarding humanity and nature, it is impossible for them to conclude that God exists and the Christian faith is true. They would have to entertain an absolute contradiction – and people do not do this. Even Hoyle was persuaded not by faith related matters, but by his understanding of science, as he reached a conclusion regarding the probability of events being what they are.  

Orthodoxy (including the creeds, but also theological contemplations by major figures) enables scholars and scientists to commence with their ‘set position’; in this case, they commence with the unshakable belief that God exists, and their effort is underpinned by God’s commandment that we seek to find the truth, and we avoid error and deceit. Non-believers can make the same criticism of us that we make of them – i.e. what other conclusions can we reach that do not include that God exists and He is the Creator! Such effort will enlarge the content of human knowledge and strengthen faith.

I cannot understand why it is thought scholarly and scientific for someone to say, “I do not believe in God” and the he can expound on what is true or otherwise regarding God, or nature, or humanity, but if one takes the other view it is ‘not scholarly’! It is equally permissible for people to make a choice regarding their belief, and act accordingly.

In the case of scientists and scholars who have affirmed their faith positions, they will present the knowledge they obtain to others with the humility, and explain that many of the tenets of science (and philosophy) contain a great deal of speculation and idealisation. This is because human beings have a limited capacity, and Christian scientists and thinkers should be the first to admit and demonstrate this attribute (and explain it clearly to the public). 

I agree with the point made in this article that within institutions and various groups, socio-political issues may be mixed with religious differences. This is a potent mix, whatever the subject is being debated. However, IMO debates on the truths of the Christian faith will not improve until a clear demarcation has been made between atheists and scientific (and other) knowledge, and theists and scientific (and other) knowledge. Obviously if the theists also argue amongst themselves, the debate would become silly and would damage the theists’ position.

Chip - #74071

November 2nd 2012

Two quick responses to the very interesting discussion—no, three. 

1)   Hope all is well with you and yours Ted. 

2)   Thanks to all for an interesting discussion.  Regardless of where you land on this stuff, the discussions on Biologos  are generally only interesting when folks with ID leanings get involved (As of this writing, numbers of comments for the last several posts are:  5, 0, 1, 0, 0, 2, and 82).  At the very least, the Jons, Eddies and Bilbos of the world are to be thanked for asking the sorts of questions that the mainstream doctrinarians apparently wouldn’t even consider otherwise.   

3)   Finally, of the several excellent points he makes, Eddie hits the nail on the head when he says: 

the neo-Darwinian mechanism is a problem.  A biologist who affirms neo-Darwinism has got to explain how God guarantees any outcomes… Any scientist who is unwilling to live with intellectual schizophrenia (scientific truth over here, theological truth over there, and never the twain shall meet) has to wonder how these two things go together. 

Indeed they do—or they should anyway.  I personally have no problem at all with a creation paradigm that gradually unfolds over millions of years.  But what does require intellectual schitzophrenia is the endorsement of a view in which God specifically intends to create man (among other things), while at the same time advocating for a mechanism of creation which is blind, unthinking and goalless by definition, and whose only source of raw material for any change is periodic random accident. 

Its more than a mere problem—its contradictory.  While I commend Eddie’s  efforts, I’ve asked similar questions in the BL forum many times and have yet to hear a coherent answer.  But hey, maybe this time…

Ted Davis - #74155

November 5th 2012

Thank you for the expression of concern about me (presumably relative to the storm last week), Chip. I’m glad it’s now in the past tense. We came through it safely, and I am very grateful.

I agree with you, incidentally, that “folks with ID leanings” have contributed many interesting ideas here. This is no surprise to mem and I’m glad to have them involved. What surprises me is the very large number of people who never say anything at all. A few people dominate the airwaves, so to speak. Perhaps that’s just the ordinary state of affairs on web sites, with which I don’t yet have that much experience?

From a few emails I’ve gotten, from knowing about how many people read my columns and who some of them are, and from things said about my columns by authors of a few other sites, it’s clear that some of the folks who the most enthusiastic about what I’m saying are just staying in the background—including some people who are better qualified than me in important areas I’ve touched on. I wish that at least a few of them would choose to contribute the occasional comment, but then I don’t comment on most of the things I read on other sites (or other threads here at BL) either, so I am hardly in any position to complain.

Jw Farquhar - #74189

November 6th 2012


I am one of those in the background who has chosen to respond to your invitation to contribute an occasional comment.

Reading some of these lengthy hysterical sounding comments about Intelligent Design almost sounds like panic. Something is missing.

I believe that something is an understanding of the Creation, in particular, the Holy Trifecta—EVEning, Morning, and DAY (image of God), as the God of Time who introduced Himself, not once, but six times in terms of time (past, present, future).

The staggering thing is that this Intelligent Design God has remained hidden from humans for millennia despite being present in a most prominent place; Genesis 1.

Skl - #74079

November 2nd 2012

To Joriss,

Some quotes of yours and my comments:

“it is not by organisation but by spiritual birth that we belong to Christ’s church.”

I’d say both organization and spiritual birth are normatively necessary. Part of spiritual birth is Baptism. You receive Baptism from the Church. The Church is every bit an organization as it is an organism (cf. Acts 1:24-26; Acts 16:4-5). You can’t baptize yourself. (One might ask, “Why not?” He may start a new denomination some day.) One must then be instructed in the faith. Is he instructed by those who teach X is true or by those who teach X is false? (X could be any number of things, including the necessity and nature of Baptism, or whether one can lose his salvation.)

“Of course it would be nice if all christians had stayed together in one “church”, but history has proven it was not possible.”

History has proven no such thing. The rebellion against the Church was not inevitable (but the subsequent and prolific splintering of the rebellion probably was). Likewise, history does not “prove” the inevitability of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945 or the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973. Stuff happens, and sometimes our sinfulness chooses to make “stuff” (bad things) happen. God can ultimately bring good out of bad things. But that doesn’t mean the bad things aren’t bad.

“If I understand you well, you think the members of other churches are unsaved as long as they don’t return to the Catholic Church.”

You don’t understand me well. I never said that. I said, or rather the Church says, that if one knows, or should know, that the Catholic Church is what it says it is, yet chooses to remain outside it, then, he puts his immortal soul in danger. Ignorance can be an excuse. But not vincible ignorance.

I’m a real Catholic. By “real” I mean I believe in and try to follow all of the Catholic Church’s teachings. And as a real Catholic, I don’t presume that I will end up in heaven. I certainly hope I end up in heaven. And the Church teaches how I can have hopeful confidence that I’m saved now (in a state of grace now) and, more importantly, how I can remain saved until the end (cf. Mat 10:22). (Going back to the boat metaphor, “jumping ship”, unfortunately, is not impossible or unprecedented (cf. 1 Cor 9:27 or 1 Tim 1:19).)

beaglelady - #74092

November 2nd 2012


Do you think that heaven will be filled with people like you?  I’d like to know sooner rather than later.

GJDS - #74090

November 2nd 2012

Joriss and Merv,

I have followed your interesting discussion on miracles, and have been looking for one particlular phrase that I am sure you have both agreed on, but I find you are both silent on, or may mention it in passing. The phrase I have in mind is, “You faith has healed you.”

The Gospel is so filled with statements that show miracles were the result of faith in Christ, that I would have thought this preceded all other considerations on historicity and literal readings of the text. Physical details that may apear to the modern reader as essential material for belief (or dis-belief) seem to be added only to the extent that the writer feels may be needed to understand the natuer of the miracle. The real detail is in the teaching of faith in Christ. Regarding the OT, again I think these miracles are also writen for a specific purpose related to the wellfare of Israel.

beaglelady - #74091

November 2nd 2012


Dennis Venema has a new blog post up for today. Have you seen it?  He’ll probably be reading our responses to it for several days at least, so this is an excellent opportunity for you to address him directly about your complaints about TEs, especially since you single him out frequently.  So what do you say?

Eddie - #74093

November 2nd 2012

I feel competent to comment on Dennis Venema’s theological statements; I feel less competent to comment on his statements about genetic mechanisms of evolution.  So I’m happy to let an excellent biological informatics theorist (Kirk Durston) carry on a discussion with Dennis about the mechanisms of evolution, while I sit back and learn what I can from their exchanges.  I trust that you, a science-aware individual, are reading the Venema-Durston exchange with an open mind regarding what Darwinian mechanisms can actually accomplish.  I think it’s a benefit to the Christian scientific community to see two trained Christian biologists square off in a pointed yet polite debate.  Enjoy!

beaglelady - #74103

November 3rd 2012

I thought you’d like to confront him directly, man to man, face to face, instead of thrashing about and railing against him behind his back.  What do you say?

Eddie - #74110

November 3rd 2012


I did nothing “behind his back.”  He can read this column if he wishes, like everyone else.  It’s public.  And in any case, you don’t seem to understand the issue.  I didn’t say Dennis’s biology was false.  I said it rested on the premise of naturalism in origins.  And I didn’t even complain about the premise.  My complaint was that, when asked if he held that premise at various points in the past, he hasn’t given straightforward answers.  And he is far from the only biologist among the TEs who is like that.

But you don’t seem to care much about whether TE theology is clear.  Indeed, you don’t show much interest in TE theology at all.  Your main interest in TE seems to be that it attacks ID.  I, on the other hand, am very interested in TE theology, and in Christian theology in general.  That seems to be a major difference between us.  While I know a lot about what Merv believes, and what Jon believes, and what Ted believes, I know almost nothing about what you believe.  You don’t expound your beliefs, and when asked about them, you go silent, or deflect questions with other questions.  Are you uncomfortable talking about your faith on a science and faith web site?

In the meantime, if we must speak of “confronting,” why don’t you “confront” the arguments of Kirk Durston, someone trained in biological informatics?  He does cutting-edge research on possible molecular mechanisms of evolution.  One would think that an eager-beaver science fan like you would be eager to ask him all kinds of questions and learn from him.  I’ll look for your responses to his replies to Dennis.  In any case, this column is Ted’s, and it’s about ID and theology, not evolutionary mechanisms, so it’s not the place to discuss Dennis’s  other series.  

beaglelady - #74113

November 3rd 2012

Oh no, I’m not interested in TE theology at all. NOT AT ALL!  That’s why I met John Polkinghorne,  read some of his books, heard him speak at church and even had dinner with him.  I’m an online friend of Denis Lamoureux. (He initiated the friendship.)  I’ve read a lot of TE books, met people, attended live events, and so forth. And I live in a top area with opportunities to learn and grow that most people can only dream of. (And I thank God for that.)  So why on earth would I want to listen to the creationist Captain James T. Kirk Durston?  

Also, I can’t understand your compulsive obsession with TEs at all.  It’s very, very, very strange!    

Eddie - #74114

November 3rd 2012

Gee, beaglelady, if you are so interested in Christian theology, maybe you will stop being so guarded about your views on the subject, and speak about it from time to time—by which I mean, indicate what you think on various theological subjects, not jab with one-line comments and questions at the views of others.  I’d like to know your views on the authority of the Bible, the role of God in evolution, etc.  I’d like to know what you think of the view that is attributed to Polkinghorne—open theism.  I’d like to know what you think of Lamoureux’s view that there was never any such person as Adam, and how you square that with whatever your current Church teaches about the Fall and the purpose of the Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection.  By all means, share what you think with us.  

In case you didn’t notice, this is a TE web site, and a sensible person might expect people posting here to have a strong interest in TE!  In my case, I just happen to have advanced academic qualifications in the very area—theology and science—that TE is concerned with.  I’ve studied the subject much longer than all but two or three of world’s leading TEs.  I know the relevant Biblical languages, Christian history, and philosophical conceptions considerably better than most of them.  Therefore it is only natural that I should notice incoherent, inconsistent, or apparently evasive statements about the relationship between God and nature, God and evolution, Christianity and naturalism, miracles, etc.   And only natural that I should question TE biologists when they make apparently arbitrary and unsupported theological statements.

But while we are speaking of obsessions, what about your anti-ID obsession?  Where did that come from?  Did an ID proponent accidentally run over one of your dogs, or something?  The animus is so strong I can feel it over cyberspace.

As for Kirk Durston, the reason that you should want to listen to him is that you claim to be interested in evolutionary theory, and he has Ph.D.-level training in the subject.  Unless you can say the same, it’s a safe bet you would have something to learn from him.  Of course, straining your brain to follow a technical argument at the cutting edge of mathematical research in evolutionary biology may not be as enjoyable as watching a PBS special or hearing a popular lecture for lay people at some museum, but you would learn more from it.  The question is whether you can overcome your prejudices and follow the evidence wherever it leads, rather than simply imbibing the pre-packaged Darwinian narrative.  But let’s take this up over on the Venema thread, shall we?  I’ll read your comments there, and if they have substance, I’ll respond to them.  But no more talk about Venema and Durston here, please.  

beaglelady - #74142

November 4th 2012

You are so hysterical!  Yes, hearing world-class scientists at live events such as the World Science Festival  pales in comparison to the greatest e-ticket attraction on earth: reading a blog exchange between Durston and a mainstream scientist.   WOW!  But, as you imply, it might put too much of a strain on my scrawny brain.  Besides,  how would I know what miracles Durston believes in?

I’ve been posting here from the very beginning, and always under the same name, so my views are pretty well-known.  And you only want to know my views so you can smite me and call my Christian faith into question.  What is worse, eventually you will be booted and come back yet again and start the whole process all over again.  As they say on BattleStar Galactica, “There are many copies”



Eddie - #74143

November 4th 2012

Hysterical?  I write with the calm of the trained academic.  I state my argument, I listen to the arguments of others, I agree where I can (as I agreed with your point in my first sentence of 74095 above), disagree where I must, and ask questions where a person’s writing is unclear.  Your position on God’s role in evolution is unclear; hence my questions.  Make it clear, and the questions will stop.  (By the way, you haven’t finished answering in that sequence:  I’m waiting to hear what you have to say about the moon, so I can satisfy you with my answer on the next point and we can proceed to the next step.)

You are confusing “hysterical” with forceful or persistent.  It is not hysterical to keep pressing someone who is trying to avoid being pinned down.  If TEs don’t like being pressed, they should take some firm stands on some of the key theological questions.  I find that only a handful of them do.  Why this should be, I am not sure, and am left to infer from various clues (among which is the clue that some of the most highly visible TEs won’t give a straight answer to the question whether Jesus walked on the water—a question which your friend Lamoureux, being by his own description Pentecostal, would answer resoundingly in the affirmative).

As for your sarcastic question (a specialty of yours, it seems—do you not know that sarcasm is not a Christian virtue?), if Durston were making statements about science and faith, as Dr. Venema has made on this site, and if Durston implied without saying it that God did not intervene in the evolutionary process, because he isn’t the kind of God to interfere with nature’s freedom, or something to that effect, it would be quite reasonable for you to ask him his view of miracles.  But he’s said nothing about his religious views; he has posted only his biological views.  

You claim to be greatly interested in science, and here you have a young research scientist (Durston) doing cutting-edge research in a field (evolutionary biology) which by all appearances is central to your interests (one might almost, using your word, say that you are “obsessed” by the claims of evolutionary theory), and you aren’t the slightest bit interested in dealing with his arguments, or even asking him any questions which he would doubtless gladly and fully answer.  A cynical person, based on your various past postings (which I’ve now had time to look at in some detail), might think that the reason for this is that you have already made up your mind in advance that his arguments are wrong.  But that, of course, would not be a scientific attitude.

As for BattleStar Galactica, I have never watched that grossly inferior excuse for science fiction.  I was foolish enough to waste my money at the theater for the original movie, and have never looked at any version of the tripe since.

I’ll check above for your answer about the moon, beaglelady; if you haven’t replied in 24 hours, I’ll assume you are uninterested in continuing the discussion, and will draw reasonable conclusions about your position.  I’ll also keep looking for Dennis’s next reply to Durston (six days since Durston’s rebuttal, and counting).  It will be too bad if one of the best technical biological debates ever published on BioLogos doesn’t continue.

Hope you had a happy Halloween, beaglelady.  Say hello to the dogs for me.

Eddie - #74144

November 4th 2012

Correction to last sentence of paragraph 1 above:  “on the next point” should be “on the same point.”

beaglelady - #74156

November 5th 2012

You claim to be greatly interested in science, and here you have a young research scientist (Durston) doing cutting-edge research in a field (evolutionary biology) which by all appearances is central to your interests (one might almost, using your word, say that you are “obsessed” by the claims of evolutionary theory), and you aren’t the slightest bit interested in dealing with his arguments, or even asking him any questions which he would doubtless gladly and fully answer.  A cynical person, based on your various past postings (which I’ve now had time to look at in some detail), might think that the reason for this is that you have already made up your mind in advance that his arguments are wrong.  But that, of course, would not be a scientific attitude.


Okay, but before you get carried away with your Durston Kirk, you should know that he’s been here before.  Stephen Matheson had a discussion with him here:  http://biologos.org/blog/new-limbs-from-old-fins-part-6


He didn’t make much of an impression with Matheson, a Christian believer.


What about the secular world? I asked the NCSE about Durston.  He does have impressive credentials in his education.  My contact looked up on the in Web of Science, a standard (proprietary) database of scientific literature. He has two publications listed there, one from 2005 and one (which he coauthored) from 2007. The 2005 paper has never been cited; the 2007 paper has been cited three times, in each case by one of its coauthors.  Obviously he’s making an impressive name for himself in his cutting-edge research, and  I see multiple Nobel prizes in the not-too-distant future.

What is the moon question you wanted me to answer?

btw, by hysterical I meant funny.




Eddie - #74160

November 5th 2012

“What is the moon question you wanted me to answer?”

You should remember; it was originally your question!  Focus, beaglelady, focus!  74112 above.

Eddie - #74162

November 5th 2012


If Kirk Durston has only two peer-reviewed publications in the last few years, that’s two more (if I’m not misinformed) than the combined total of your NCSE heroes, Ken Miller and Eugenie Scott, over the same time period.  Why are you consulting inactive scientific researchers for their opinion on active scientific researchers? 

Furthermore, it wouldn’t matter how many publications Durston had; you’d be against his conclusions.  Behe has over 35 peer-reviewed papers (more than all the biologist-columnists here put together), and you reject his conclusions.  Reading old comments of yours, I see that you reject Sternberg’s conclusions as well, and he has a number of peer-reviewed publications.  (And his research is actually in evolutionary theory, not cell biology or genetics, as is the case with the overwhelming majority of biologist-TEs.)

All of your comments along these lines are smoke and mirrors.  You’re looking for a purely formal reason for discounting Durston, because you have no argument against the substance of Durston’s conclusions.  (And neither, apparently, does Dr. Venema; it’s now 8 days and counting since Durston’s last rejoinder.) 

If you are so sure that Durston is wrong, challenge him yourself, on the Venema thread.  But don’t quote the opinions of inactive biologists, or fired biologists, or biologists with very few peer-reviewed publications (and almost none of those in evolutionary theory) at him.  He won’t even bother to reply.  If you want him to take you seriously, address his arguments on the basis of your own scientific knowledge.  If you can’t or won’t do that, you lose the argument to him by default.  I’ll look for your scientific arguments under the Venema column, and won’t discuss Durston here again.

beaglelady - #74165

November 5th 2012

If Kirk Durston has only two peer-reviewed publications in the last few years, that’s two more (if I’m not misinformed) than the combined total of your NCSE heroes, Ken Miller and Eugenie Scott, over the same time period.  Why are you consulting inactivescientific researchers for their opinion on active scientific researchers? 

Are you saying that not all of Durston’s papers were counted? Which ones did we miss?   Why shouldn’t I ask a scientific organization about Durston?  True, Eugenie Scott is no longer a researcher as she is the head of NCSE.  So what? What makes you so sure that Ken Miller did no research from 2005 to the present time?

At any rate, it wasn’t Genie or Ken who answered my email.  And it doesn’t take an active researcher to count papers—it just takes access to a proprietary database.    

Also, don’t forget that Stephen Matheson wasn’t impressed with Durston’s arguments either.

Finally, it makes no sense that Durston would be right by default simply because I don’t have the background to challenge him.  I’m sure that Dennis Venema is simply too busy to return. Should I find someone else who can take Durston on?  I think I know of a few who’d be willing to stop by….

Eddie - #74167

November 5th 2012


1.  No, I am not saying the count of Durston’s papers is wrong.  I am saying that two is more than zero.

2.  The NCSE is not a scientific organization.  It is a political advocacy organization whose members happen to be scientists (in some cases, not very active scientists).  What it presents to the world is not peer-reviewed scientific research on evolutionary theory, but popular summaries of evolutionary theory—mostly based on an outdated neo-Darwinian model—and political and legal arguments for outlawing genuine scientific criticisms of neo-Darwinism in the schools.  It is therefore in no position, as an institution, to offer any opinion on the validity of any current research in evolutionary theory, such as Durston’s.  You are looking in the wrong place for an evaluation.  You should be reading responses to Durston in the peer-reviewed technical literature, where competent judges can be found.

3.  I will not swear to it, but am told by someone who monitors these things closely that Miller has not published a peer-reviewed scientific paper since Finding Darwin’s God was published.  I will retract this if documentation is provided.

4.  Counting papers is a ridiculous activity in any case.  It is not the quantity but the quality of the papers that counts.  And to assess quality you have to know something of the science involved.  You are going by quantity, I infer, because you cannot assess the science involved.  But if you cannot assess the science involved, you would do best by offering no opinion at all.

5.  In any case, as I pointed out, even where quantity exists, as in the case of Behe, you brush it aside, so your appeal to it is merely tactical.

6.  Why should I care what Matheson thinks?  What contributions to evolutionary biology has Matheson made?  Link me to a list of his peer-reviewed papers in secular evolutionary biology journals, please.

7.  If a golfer quits a round, even for a good reason, without finishing the 18 holes, he forfeits the game.  Dennis may have good personal reasons for not replying again to Durston.  But as it stands, Durston’s arguments are unanswered, and that makes him the winner—at least for the time being. 

Eddie - #74168

November 5th 2012

Ooops, I forgot—I said I wouldn’t discuss Durston here again.  Well, I slipped.  You can have the last word.  But nothing you can say will change the fact that you have offered no refutation of Durston, and that no one else has stepped in to do so, either.  C’est la vie, beaglelady.  Au revoir.

beaglelady - #74170

November 5th 2012

So if I post some b.s. on quarks on a religion blog, and nobody answers me within x days, and hardly anyone else in the entire world knows about the post, I am right by default! Makes a lot of sense.  A blogging competition wins the day.   I’ll remember that.    

beaglelady - #74174

November 5th 2012

Why must you go around setting timers?  I believe that gravity keeps the moon in orbit.  

Eddie - #74177

November 5th 2012

That wasn’t the question.  In the overall context of the discussion, the question was whether you thought that gravity was the only thing operating, or whether you thought that, in addition, God was doing something special. And not whether you granted that he might also be doing something special, but whether you personally were of the opinion that he was also doing something speical.

The reason I set “timers,” beaglelady, is that life is finite, and I don’t want to waste precious hours arguing with people who make me endlessly repeat my questions, as I strive to extract an answer that they wish to avoid giving.  If you would answer my questions as soon as I ask them, rather than replying with questions of your own, or giving all kinds of lame excuses and subterfuges why you shouldn’t have to answer them, I would consent to continue conversing with you.  But in your stubborn recalcitrance to rational dialogue, you are wasting my time, and my life.  And frankly, you aren’t important enough to me to warrant that.  I would rather invest my time with others here, such as Ted or Jon or Bren, who are here for conversation rather than for culture war gamesmanship. 

beaglelady - #74199

November 6th 2012

Don’t be such a playground bully—you just want to use BioLogos resources to scold TEs.

Anyway, I cannot think of anything special that God needs to do to keep the moon in orbit.  Are you thinking of intelligent falling or some other supernatural actions?  What are some special actions that God might need to do if gravity doesn’t do the trick?  What are ID views on the subject? 

Your question makes me smile, because I take the train into the city for church every Sunday, and walking down 5th Avenue I pass a famous bronze statue of Atlas holding up the sky in of Rockefeller Center.


Eddie - #74204

November 7th 2012

“... you just want to use BioLogos resources to scold TEs.”

This, coming from a person who, since the inception of BioLogos, has used this site to scold (with heaping helpings of sarcasm) every IDer in sight!  The pot and the kettle, beaglelady.

You continue to answer my question with more questions, while such statements as you provide still fail to directly answer the question.  You were not asked whether you could think of anything special that God would need to do; you were asked whether you thought God did anything special.  So it is unclear to me whether your circuitous phrasing is meant to allow for a later “escape hatch” or whether you just expressed yourself imprecisely.

In order to avoid wasting further time, I am going to infer that you expressed yourself imprecisely, and that your view can be fairly stated as follows:

“I do not personally believe that God does anything special to keep the moon in its orbit; gravity and other natural causes are in my opinion fully sufficient.”

If this does not express your thought, then speak now or forever hold your peace, because if I hear nothing to the contrary, I will assume I have your position right.

I will now give you an exactly parallel statement regarding evolution:

“I do not personally believe that God does anything special in order to make the evolutionary process run; random mutations, natural selection, and other natural causes are in my opinion fully sufficient.”

Beagelady, do you subscribe to the above statement?      If you do, I want only a one-word answer:  “Yes.”  If you don’t, you should say “No” and then explain what special thing(s) you believe God does. 

If you find yourself unwilling to cooperate dialogically in the manner I’ve specified, then simply excuse yourself from further answers, and I won’t trouble you further.  But if you do answer, and the answer is evasive, ambiguous, etc., I will simply cease to reply.  The ball’s in your court.

beaglelady - #74205

November 7th 2012

I said that gravity keeps the moon in orbit.  That should have answered your question. How ridiculous is this, anyway?  

You should stop dictating to people how they should converse with you.  Stop smiting me in your self-righteous wrath.  

Eddie - #74207

November 7th 2012

As I expected, you ducked the question about evolution.  Have a nice life, beaglelady.

beaglelady - #74261

November 9th 2012

This, coming from a person who, since the inception of BioLogos, has used this site to scold (with heaping helpings of sarcasm) every IDer in sight!  The pot and the kettle, beaglelady.

I’m not the one who keeps getting kicked off the forum for being nasty, and then signs back on under a different name.

Joriss - #74099

November 3rd 2012

Yes, the phrase “your faith has healed you” is directly related to Christ, it is the faith in Him that saves and heales, not faith in ourselves or another person or our belief in our good deeds or whatever. And I agree that for this reason these miracles are written - not added - as evidence that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that we might have life through his name, John 20:31.
So if God has his people write about miracles, we should be very cautious with these texts, also in the OT; because as you said, also in the OT, these things have been written for the welfare of Israel (and us), showing how far God is prepared to go if people put all their trust in Him, so that HIs name is glorified.
Therefore we should take the great signs in the OT seriously, because God wanted his name glorified and be known to Israel and to the peoples surrounding Israel. The 10 plagues, the splitting of the Red Sea, the mannah, the extra long day of Joshua, the stilling of the storm when Jonah was thrown in the sea testified to everybody in these days that the God of Israel was an awesome God and had to be respected.
So that’s where the discussion started; that we should be very careful with what the bible is saying, and not be too quick to take the figurative sense of these miracles - which they have! - as satisfying while dismissing the reality of it.

GJDS - #74100

November 3rd 2012


Your response is well considered and I am in total agreement with reading the Bible carefully as this is how we can gain a deepr understanding of faith. I just want to ‘twig’ the conversation a bit.

I do this by way of an example: I agree that crossing the red sea is recorded and is a miracle - I cannot claim to have witnessed this, so I read the Bible and my response is, the event is unusual, but I accept it as miraculous becuase I believe God willed it to be so. This is belief not in understanding an event, nor even how I read it.

I than try to ‘live’ this belief, by asking, “Would I be confronted with a sea such as this, and would I ask God to help me cross it?” I may sound naive, but I simply to expand the discussion. Clearly the past miracle is unlikely to be repeated, and less likely in my life. Just how would miracles be understood if they are not part of our everyday existence?

Christ stated, “Your faith has healed you” to show the important event was the faith of the person, more than the miracle. I may add, the greatest miracle was/is that of faith.

So how do we accept the importance of faith? Is it just be reading the bible? Is it by understanding the way miracles are written and understood?

I think this area is worth discussing.

Merv - #74105

November 3rd 2012

Here are more thoughts for GJDS and Joriss on the subject of miracles.  My thoughts are heavily influenced by C.S. Lewis in his book ‘Miracles’.

I agree, GJDS, about the important presence of that phrase ‘your faith has healed you’ in so many gospel passages.  And also revealing is the more rarely mentioned inverse thought about lack of faith.  In Mark we are actually told that Jesus ‘could not’ do many miracles in his hometown because of their (amazing to Jesus) lack of faith!  (Mark 6:5)   Matthew softens this to: ‘He did not do’ many miracles there.  (I heard a visiting pastor once share that he has a special appreciation for Mark because among the gospels Mark is like the child at the dinner table who will say the inappropriate but revealing things the older ones have already been trained not to say in front of the dinner guests.)  Be that as it may—so many will all interpret so as to protect what they need to believe and tune out any troublesome dissenters.  (Now if only they could make Mark behave!)  But on to other thoughts.

If we can’t see at least one obvious lesson from nearly everywhere in Scriptures and echoed in our own lives scientific or othewise, it is that incredulity is a normal state of affairs (even if its persistence is not necessarily).  The Bible is chalk full of amazed people who’ve just been knocked off their feet.  They weren’t thinking it was actually going to happen.  The casual centurion who instructs Jesus to just ‘say the word’ was exceptional enough to amaze even Jesus who was more used to his own disciples with:  ‘This can’t be done!’ on their lips more than anything else.  I suggest that 99% of us (then and today) are more like Jesus twelve disciples (not a compliment here!) than we are like the centurion.  

We think we are somehow more skeptical today because of our well-thought out choice to get born into a ‘scientific’ era, but I think humans have always been generally incredulous about miracles.  The Bible wouldn’t have so many personally colorful stories about people if they hadn’t been just like us.  How many signs did Gideon demand?  (Elizabeth’s husband, poor mute Zacharias seems to have gotten a bum rap!—maybe Gideon was the needier one!)  

All this said, incredulity is the norm for better or worse.  It just is because miracles just don’t happen very often—at least not the large ones designed to get everybody’s corporate attention forcing us to give God the glory.  They are called ‘miracles’ for a reason, after all.


GJDS - #74116

November 3rd 2012


“We think we are somehow more skeptical today because of our well-thought out choice to get born into a ‘scientific’ era, but I think humans have always been generally incredulous about miracles.”

The scientific era makes us skeptical but also gives us a feeling of ‘knowing it all’ - and what we do not know, science will soon provide! My point is to show that faith is more than knowing and not-knowing, and includes how we live and see ourselves and others.

Instead of incredulity regarding miracles, I prefer to see how personal they are - thus in the Gospel, the term ‘your faith has -’ used by Christ, is a direct one-to-one statement between Christ and the person experiencing (and benefiting/living) the miracle.

Within this context, others like you and me, may be startled, amazed, or become more scientific - but we are mearly onlookers.

The faith shown by some in evolution (and linking it to theism) seems to me to exceed any belief/faith (religious) that I have come accross - purely from the fact that a skeptical scientist like myself cannot fathom how intelligent trained people can ‘overcome’ the huge intellectual and scientific obstacles that are so obviously in place. However they too are free to believe, just as I am free to doubt. 

I have little trouble with a scientist saying, ‘evolution and related theories’ are the prevailing views that many have adopted, in the bio-areas, and even in astro-physics. This allows me to treat such claims with complete skepticicm, and come to my own views.

I have trouble (both TE and ID) when this term becomes ‘theistic’. It is now that faith and belief in God enters the discussion (as you have said, the theistic idea encompasses the evolutionary ideas). How do I doubt evolution and yet believe in God?

I come back to your comment on incredulity in a scientific age - is this part of science or part of religion, or do you think it is part of both? Just when do we depart from questioning miracles, yet feel scientifically justified in not doubting scientific speculation?

I find these questions may stimulate more discussion and lead to further questions regarding ourselves.

Joriss - #74135

November 4th 2012


That faith is the greatest miracle and more important than the physical miracles, is sure. Therefore Marc 16 : 20 says:  And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs.
Signs are no goal in itself, but should open our eyes for the glory of the Lord and our ears for his word, so that we might believe and be saved.
That won’t say God will never do miracles in the lives of the ones who already believe. I know people who were miraculously healed, after many years of sickness while being christians all that time.

There is also another spiritual side on for instance the splitting of the Red Sea. I have, just like you, never in my life even seen a small ditch split :-\ and it doesn’t bother me. Because there was never a need to do so.
But circumstances in life can be unsurmountable and seem to us as difficult to go through as a wide red sea, and can be used by God to test our faith. If we succeed and go through it, our faith has become stronger and our spiritual horizon wider. If we fail the test by unbelief or laziness our faith is not stimulated, and we will have to do it over again if we still want to grow in our faith. Just like a test to get a drivers’ license you can fail and succeed after 2 or 3 failures. That I have experienced myself. Not the licence, but standstill proceeding in my faith. Israel needed twice a try to enter Canaan.    
So yes, reading the bible and ofcourse “living” the bible shows that we take God seriously and that we believe Him. And he gives plenty of grace and support to help us if we believe.

Why is faith so important? Why does God ask it from us? I don’t pretend to understand all of it, but I know faith honours Him. God wants to be trusted, because He is trustworthy. Suppose a housewife is preparing a nice meal for her kids and they frequently walk into the kitchen, asking: are you there, mom? Are you still cooking? Are you sure it’s healthy for us?  Guys, we’d better go to Mc. Donalds, suppose mom’s meal is poisonous or she failes and throws it away. So come on, we’ll go to Mc.Donalds, lest we starve of hunger.
That would be very insulting for their mom. She won’t feel “glorified” by her kids.

So I think, although God don’t need our faith, ____ you can see that when He raised the young man of Nain, He didn’t ask his mother: do you believe I can do this or something of the kind. He just raised him by the drive of his compassion.____that He has deliberately chosen to connect his healing power to our faith, because he wants to be glorified, which is the very reason why He has created and chosen us. Eph. 1 : 12

When Achaz fails to trust the God of Israel, he is rebuked by Isaiah…..if you don’t believe, you won’t be confirmed. Isaiah 7 : 1 - 13

Faith glorifies Him and opens the relationship with Him and that is what ii’s all about. And yes, by giving his Son He has given us every reason to believe Him and to take his promises seriously.

Joriss - #74137

November 4th 2012

I meant standstill and proceeding in my faith

GJDS - #74138

November 4th 2012


I am sure that you, I and Merv would agree on these points regarding faith, and I think your comments show how faith and works are important to our lives as Christians. God has been truly glorified in Christ and by Christ, and we regard him as our captain and model.

My initial point was to show that faith in Christ is above and throughout all other matters, including those of science and evolution. Thus my comments may be summarised as - become stronger in the faith, but doubt all things that are derived from science. This is consistent with the teachings of the Faith AND consistent with the practice of good science. It is illogical to reverse these matters, and think that science should confirm or explain faith.

Joriss - #74141

November 4th 2012

Sorry for misunderstanding you. Now I understabd “vincible ignorance”. But I disagree with you in these points:

1. The church of God is not the Roman Catholic Church, but the body of Christ.

2. There doesn’t exist such a thing as vincible or invincible ignorance towards the Roman Catholic Church but only towards the body of Christ. Anybody who wilfully withdraws himself from his place in the body of Christ, whether that place is in the Ronan Catholic Church or in a Protestant Church and refuses to return endangers his immortal soul. He denies Christ and returns to his sinful way of life.
But we have to be very hesitating to consider someone’s decision to do so as wilfully. We don’t know whathappened in such a life. Only God knows. 

3. God has, by also pouring out his Spirit on many believers in the Protestant churches, testified that He also fully accepts these believers, without urging them to return to the Roman Catholic Church.

4. Separating from the original church may be a deed of rebellion and disobedience against God, but on which side? I think Luther and Calvin were no rebels. I think in that time there was rebellion on the side of the Church against things God wanted to put his finger on. So in that sense I meant: separation was inevitable.

I agree with you we have to be careful not to fall from God’a ship, but to stay safely on board!



Chip - #74148

November 5th 2012

It is disappointing that the general response to Eddie’s relevant questions and comments has been limited to silence from those with credentials and sarcastic rants from those without. 

Nice try Eddie.  Keep after the former; the latter probably aren’t worth your time. 

Eddie - #74164

November 5th 2012

Thanks, Chip, for your kind remarks here and elsewhere.

You are right about the allocation of my time.  I think I will have to cease responding to those people who are merely cheerleaders, and haven’t taken the time to acquire the learning necessary to argue the issues directly.

Chip - #74182

November 6th 2012


I am curious, without giving anything away, what is/are your educational background/professional credentials? 


I took the liberty (and your advice) of reposting the question to Dennis in the thread he posted yesterday. No response yet, but we’ll see what happens. 

Eddie - #74191

November 6th 2012

Hi, Chip.

High school and part of undergrad, heavy in natural science/math, with lots of outside reading in natural science, especially cosmology and evolution.  (Believe it or not, one of my heroes was Carl Sagan.)  Had science scholarship.  Undergrad eventually split between science/math, religion/philosophy, and miscellaneous. Grad school, officially theology/philosophy, but research in religion/science area.  Academic books and articles published in science/religion area.  Nonacademic publications in many areas.  Have taught many subjects at university/college level, and much background in pedagogy.  Habitually impatient with specialists (whether in natural sciences or “arts”) who think at the Ph.D. level in one tiny, narrow area of expertise but think like high school sophomores in every other subject.  Habitually impatient with dogmatists of all kinds—scientific, religious, political, economic.  Habitually impatient with intellectual bluff of any kind.  All of which means that most modern academics do not like me, since they generally fall into at least one of the categories just mentioned.  And they’ve made me pay, in various costly ways which I will not describe.

How about you?  Clearly you are someone who thinks independently.  How were you able to resist the propaganda of “consensus science”? 

Chip - #74195

November 6th 2012

The proverbial long and winding road.  Undergrad in Linguistics, grad school in english/applied linguistics.  Some philosophy and religion along the way.  Taught at the university level in the US and Asia for several years until I sold out.  Currently consulting in custom software, but the bad habits established earlier in my life keep me coming back to forums like this one…

Am sympathetic toward your habitual impatience as many academics I have known are capable of amazing degrees of intelligence and interpersonal pettiness all at the same time.  Don’t miss that aspect of academia.  At all. 

Influenced by folks like Dembski and Behe earlier in life, but have become somewhat disillusioned with ID as it seems over the last several years to have abandoned its earlier scientific aspirations and has instead drifted toward carving out a position in the culture wars, which I have no interest in. 

Most mainline evolution advocacy (Coyne, Dawkins, Moran… take your pick) comes down to simple intellectual bullying.  Frankly, I’d like to be persuaded by TE, but for the most part, it’s all E and very little T—all of its promises to reconcile the two notwithstanding.  So I remain an ideological ronin for now. 

Page 2 of 2   « 1 2