Science and the Bible: Intelligent Design, Part 4

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December 5, 2012 Tags: Design

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

Science and the Bible: Intelligent Design, Part 4
Graphic based on the testimony given by philosopher Barbara Forrest at the Kitzmiller v Dover trial in the autumn of 2005. Source: http://www.newscientist.com/blog/shortsharpscience/uploaded_images/wordplay-736296.jpg

Some important conclusions

(1) ID is both a set of ideas about detecting design within science, coupled with a strong critique of “Darwinism” (here understood as evolution by natural selection, unguided by any detectable agent); and a movement with political and cultural goals, heavily influenced by conservative Christianity and aimed at toppling “Darwinism” (here understood as a broad, anti-religious cultural mindset, not evolution per se). Although the ideas differ significantly from those of “creationism” in the YEC sense, the tone of ID sometimes resembles that of “creationism” so closely that it can be hard to tell the difference.

ID is not “creationism in a cheap tuxedo,” a provocative description attributed to Kansas University paleontologist Leonard Krishtalka. It clearly lacks some distinguishing features of creationism and the specific theological and biblical concerns that drive it. For example, ID takes no stance on “death before the fall,” an issue related to the theological problem of evil (theodicy) that is a crucial factor behind the presence of the word “young” in YEC creationism (for more on this, see my comments in an earlier column). ID does not attempt to “explain” the fossil record by claiming that the Biblical flood accounts for it. ID does not deny the “Big Bang” theory—indeed, some of the most interesting “design” arguments put forth by ID proponents assume the general validity of the Big Bang (see my comments on fine tuning here). Nor does ID oppose the great antiquity of the earth and universe in defense of a “literal” interpretation of early Genesis. Strictly speaking, ID does not even oppose common ancestry, although nearly all ID proponents do oppose it—leading many observers (including me) to view it mainly as a covert form of the OEC view. Precisely because ID refuses to embrace these core tenets of “creationism,” some creationist leaders have been highly critical of it; e.g., see Ken Ham’s attack on William Demski.

Despite these key differences, however, ID does resemble young-earth creationism in tone. For many ID proponents, evolution is not only a false scientific theory, but also a leading cause of moral and spiritual decline in modern America. This combination is highly characteristic of the YEC view, so whenever ID leaders link these two things they can easily come across to people outside of their “big tent” as just another group of “creationists.” Leading ID authors have pushed the cultural piece to such an extent that I do not believe it can be separated from the ideas without distorting what ID actually is.

In 1998, the Discovery Institute circulated privately a document called “The Wedge Strategy,” that was subsequently leaked and is now famous—or infamous in the eyes of many secular critics of ID. The “wedge” metaphor originated with Phillip E. Johnson, who later published a book called The Wedge of Truth: Splitting the Foundations of Naturalism (2000). According to Johnson, “the Wedge … is an informal movement of like-minded thinkers in which I have taken a leading role. Our strategy is to drive the thin edge of our Wedge into the cracks of the log of naturalism by bringing long-neglected questions to the surface and introducing them into public debate.” Johnson identified the real “enemy” of the Wedge not as “those in open and honest opposition to our proposal but rather the obfuscators—those who resist any clear definition of terms or issues, who insist that the ruling scientific organizations be obeyed without question and who are content to paper over logical contradictions with superficial compromises.” (pp. 14 & 17) I have no doubt that at least most (perhaps all) advocates of TE, whom he once called “mushy accommodationists” (I heard him say this at a public event many years ago), were in the front of his mind when he wrote this. “The Wedge Strategy” document explicitly refers to a program of “Cultural Confrontation & Renewal” as the final of three phases in the project. At that point, the author(s) hoped, it would be possible to start addressing “the specific social consequences of materialism and the Darwinist theory that supports it in the sciences.” An ultimate goal was “To see design theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life.”

William Dembski, the leading ID theorist, has likewise linked ID inextricably with culture wars, especially in his preface to Darwin’s Nemesis, a book he edited in Johnson’s honor. “Because of Kitzmiller v. Dover, school boards and state legislators may tread more cautiously, but tread on evolution they will—the culture war demands it!” Rhetoric such as this can only put fuel on the fire of critics of ID who go looking for tuxedos in certain closets.


Advance advertisement for the book, Darwin’s Nemesis. (Source)

In addition, ID proponents have sometimes clearly co-operated with, or even allied themselves with, “creationists” of the YEC variety. The most visible instance involves the textbook, Of Pandas and People, which was at the center of the controversy in the Dover (PA) school district. Some leading ID advocates, including Michael Behe and Stephen Meyer, contributed to certain editions of this book, which has been published in various versions under various titles since the first edition, Creation Biology (1983), which was a genuine YEC book. During the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial, philosopher Barbara Forrest testified about the book’s complicated history, using information obtained from the publisher during the discovery process prior to the trial. The crucial year was 1987, when the Supreme Court ruled against the YEC view in Edwards v. Aguillard. Of Pandas and People was published twice that year—once before the ruling and again afterwards. The graphic at the start of this column shows what took place: in dozens of instances, the word “creationism” was replaced by the term “intelligent design” on a wholesale basis, with no other changes in wording to indicate a difference in meaning was intended. This evidence was a major reason why Judge John Jones ruled in Kitzmiller v. Dover “that ID is nothing less than the progeny of creationism.” I say more about Kitzmiller v. Dover here.

(2) Scientific evidence is highly relevant to belief in design, but nothing specific can be said (for the time being) about the identity of the designer. When it comes to God and religion, ID is a “big tent,” united by opposition to materialism (which is often equated with evolution) and content (for now) to overlook even enormous theological differences among adherents.

ID proponents hold that science can detect the presence of design—if its profound bias against “intelligent” causes is set aside in the name of truth—but science is impotent to identify any specific designer, including the God of the monotheistic religions. Although most ID proponents are theists and many are Christians, ID purports to be about science, not about God.

Consequently, at least a few important ID authors are not Christians. Here the best known example is undoubtedly Jonathan Wells (read more here and here), a follower of the late Rev. Sun Myung Moon. The recipient of earned doctorates in both Molecular and Cell Biology (Berkeley) and Religious Studies (Yale), he also has a degree from the Unification Theological Seminary (Barrytown, NY). This is not an incidental fact, since Wells himself has said that “Father’s [Moon] words, my studies, and my prayers convinced me that I should devote my life to destroying Darwinism, just as many of my fellow Unificationists had already devoted their lives to destroying Marxism.” Nevertheless, his best-known book, Icons of Evolution (2000), is often sold at creationist meetings in churches and at Christian bookstores.

At least a few ID proponents are not even theists. A striking example comes from a debate about ID and God that took place in Texas four years ago. Just one of the four speakers, Cambridge University biologist Denis Alexander, is a Christian—and he spoke against ID on this occasion. Physicist Lawrence Krauss, an atheist, joined Alexander’s side of the debate. The pro-ID side consisted of philosopher David Berlinski, an agnostic Jew, and philosopher Bradley Monton, an atheist who has since written a book called Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design.

To round out this brief analysis, let me mention a recent suggestion from sociologist Steve Fuller, an agnostic who testified for the defense (the Dover school district) in the famous trial and later wrote a book called Dissent Over Descent: Intelligent Design’s Challenge to Darwinism (2008). Fuller is now saying that ID should not avoid theodicy and other parts of theology. He speaks for himself here and in an interesting audio (with a response from Steve Meyer) here. (I obviously have a more positive assessment of TE than Fuller does.) Whether an explicitly theological approach will fly within the ID camp remains to be seen, but I have my doubts. As an historian rather than a prophet, I don’t usually like to prognosticate, but in this case I will: if ID becomes much more open about theology, then it will largely re-define itself as a type of OEC. And the “big tent” will collapse, with a consequent loss of support at the popular level from many of the YECs who’ve been camp followers under that large canopy.


Advertisement for a debate about ID and God held in 2008. (Source)

Looking Ahead

I will return once more in about two weeks with more conclusions and a very brief historical discussion. Since the view is so recent and I don’t know very much about its history myself, I’ll just point readers toward several historical accounts written by authors from diverse perspectives. That will conclude my study of Intelligent Design.


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.

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GJDS - #75120

December 10th 2012

Jon,

I am sympathetic to the attempt at finding a way out of deism, semi-deism, and what I term, a strange ‘God is or is in) nature notion’ that seems to crop up from time to time. I understand why Russel finds himself seeking a ‘semi-deity’ in his discussion, especially since he attempts to wade through the thinking that has plagued the West, in that ‘Nature is an organism-mother type’ and the counter, in that ‘everything is a machine run by laws’.

Yet I suggest that every attempt that seeks to alleviate the difficulties modern (theological?) thinkers have when addressing Nature, by proposing an additional attribute for God, will fail. It is plainly true that the attributes of God are revealed in His word, and the attribute regarding these matters is that of the Creator. We are given some detail, particularly ‘everything came about through the Word’, and ‘everything is sustained by the power of His Word’. I cannot see how we can add to what is given to us – the problem, if I may be so bold, is rooted in the strange creature termed Natural Theology – and by this I mean the thinking and theology that emerged from the days of Boyle and Newton, and not necessarily from Aquinas. The series by Ted Davies has been informative by outlining the history behind this thinking. While I am making suggestions, I would add that one reason why God created Nature to be accessible to human intellect is so that we human beings may exercise that intellect by understanding Nature. But that is an additional subject for further discussion.

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Roger A. Sawtelle - #75121

December 10th 2012

Eddie,

You make the strange mistake of thinking that if you and/or others have responded to what I have written, you have proven my wrong, even though I have refuted those statements point by point. 

If you want a dialogue, fine.  Sadly for you, you do not have the last word in life, so all of those “corrections” are bogus.   

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Eddie - #75139

December 10th 2012

You not only haven’t refuted those statements point by point, you haven’t successfully refuted even one of them.  And you were caught with your pants down on Augustine, talking about him without knowing what he wrote, and when his words were presented to you by Jon, you tried to slide out sideways, to finesse the refutation as not really important to the point you were making.  You weren’t courageous enough to say:  “I spoke without first checking my facts.  I was in error.  I stand corrected, and will not use the name of Augustine to defend that position again.”  But instead, what did you do?  You brought up Augustine again, in the same context, to defend your “egalitarian” model of creation.  You’re incorrigible, and at this point, I no longer care whether it is due to pride, or to lack of reading comprehension, or to lack of theological or general academic training, or to some other cause.  I simply don’t have any more time to instruct you at any length.  So the most you will hear from me, from now on, is very brief corrections of your more egregious errors, so that they don’t mislead the people here.  Best wishes.

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beaglelady - #75149

December 10th 2012

Eddie,

Please DNFTT!

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Roger A. Sawtelle - #75123

December 10th 2012

Jon and GJDS,

Thank you for continuing the dialogue.

Wilcox says that Greek dualism, which is dominate in our culture is the problem with our understanding of evolution.  Dualism separates nature form God. 

Wilcox is correct in stating that this is not Biblical, but his solution is not the right one.  In effect he says that the nature of Reality is not dualistic, but monistic.  If nature is under the complete control of a monothistic God, Reality effectively one or simple. 

A problem with this solution is that it can be stood on its head which is what Physicalists do.  They agree that dualism is wrong, but affirm a physical monism copntrolled by nature as opposed to a spiritual monism controlled by God.  

While we can ponder which view is better, the real question is how can we know which one is true and what difference does it make, because they are both based on determination by a Power over which humans have no control or input.  This I could be  what GJDS is saying.    

My point of view is that monism vs dualism is a false dilemna.  This is why some people think my thinking is confusing, because it does not fit into our conventional ways of thinking, but does not mean that it is wrong. 

If by the process of elimination we reject the two most obivious possible solutions, then there must be a third possible answer.  I think that the Trinity is an obvious clue to this alternative.  Let us not get stuck in OT monism.  Let us go beyond Greek dualism.  Let us consider NT triune thinking.  

      

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Eddie - #75143

December 10th 2012

“Greek dualism” is hardly “dominate” [sic] in our culture.  Our culture has been steadily abandoning not only “Greek dualism” but Greek thought generally for some time now, and has been shaped by various combinations of Baconianism, Kantianism, Hegelianism, positivism, reductionist social science, existentialism, and, more recently, deconstructionism.  And ironically, this process (of casting out the imagined devil of Greek thought, and letting in seven real devils as a result) has been aided and abetted, over the past century, at least in North America, by mainstream Protestant clergymen and seminary professors more than by any other social group.  Would that our culture were once again heavily influenced by Greek thought!  It would be healthier in a number of political and social ways, and of course, if Christian clergy were trained in Greek thought, as they used to be, Christian theology would be more orthodox, because a Classical education teaches one to reason logically and arrive at correct conclusions from premises.  The latter is something which is almost never learned in the touchy-feely ethos of typical mainstream Protestant seminaries, where brains are turned to mush as the young seminarians learn to save the whales, preach global warming, change all their pronouns, and perform same-sex blessings (if not marriages), but couldn’t produce a disciplined exegesis of two pages of Calvin or Aquinas— from English translations of course, since none of them can read Latin anymore—to save their lives. 

In any case, if it is “Greek dualism” to “separate nature from God,” then all of orthodox Judaism and Christianity has been guilty of “Greek dualism,” for the distinction between nature and God is fundamental to Biblical theism.

“Old Testament monism” is a grossly inaccurate term.  “Monism” is the doctrine of the Upanishads, not of the Old Testament.

As for the rest, it exhibits the usual confusion between a triune model of God and a triune model of the world.  And the usual heretical distinction between the two Testaments, as if they taught two incompatible understandings of nature and creation.

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HornSpiel - #75125

December 10th 2012

Eddie,

I posted a response to your comment-75112 in response to Beaglelady, which I would like you to also consider as a response to your comment-75060. However since it is buried on page one, I am reposting it here with some context. You wrote:

If I study Stonehenge, and determine it is designed, it is irrelevant whether it was built 4,000 years ago, or the workmen just cleared away their last equipment 20 minutes ago. Design theory isn’t interested in that question. Of course, individuals who study Stonehenge are doubtless also interested in when it was built, and therefore will offer various arguments for various dates. But if the only goal is prove that the Stonehenge was built by intelligent agents—as opposed to being formed by geological accidents—then the age of the monument is irrelevant.

There is an immense difference between Stonehenge design and the design ID is trying to prove.

When one runs across something like Stonehenge, you know from it’s age and other archeological facts that people existed in the area and that their culture was notable for producing stone monuments of menhirs and dolomens. Although we might wonder at what the mechanism was that allowed them to produce the giant version at Stonehenge, very few people would speculate that an unknown super intelligence was necessary for them to do so. Did God inspire them to do these acts, perhaps. Did God give the builders the intelligence to figure out how to accomplish the feat, from a Christian perspective, absolutely yes.

The analogy to standard evolutionary theory vs. ID speculation is, I think, obvious. You might object that evolutionary mechanisms cannot be compared to human mechanisms, since humans are intelligent and evolution is not. However, the analogy is not about intelligence but about the existence of of a known agent that produces structures of a particular type.

Neo-Darwinian theory describes a known observable agent of genetic (genotypical) and biological (phenotypical) change. Although a super-intelligent agent can be invoked to explain the genetic and biological record, there is no independent evidence that such an agent actually exists apart from the structures that need to be explained.

This is not a denial of God, but a denial that there is any independent evidence that God chose to intervene directly in the evolutionary process. Did God create the evolutionary process, yes. Did God use the evolutionary process to create man, a creature in His image, from a Christian perspective, absolutely yes.

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Eddie - #75133

December 10th 2012

Sorry, Hornspiel, but your argument above makes a slip at the beginning, a slip which invalidates it.

Imagine that we found Stonehenge, not in Britain, but on an uninhabited and previously completely unknown Pacific Island.  Imagine that we found no traces of past habitation, no working tools, etc.  All that we find on the island is Stonehenge.  Question:  Could we infer that Stonehenge was not formed by freak winds and tectonic activity on the island, but was designed by an unknown intelligent agent or agents?  Answer:  Yes, we could. 

This shows that we do not need previous knowledge of the designer, not even of the designer’s existence, in order to infer design and rule out “chance” or “chance plus natural law” combinations.  And that is what ID is about.

So, if we find in nature organic structures which have a level of integrated complexity that makes Stonehenge look like the clumsy first artwork of a preschool child, can we infer that design was required for these structures to come into existence?

Answer:  Yes, we can, unless someone produces proof that “chance plus natural law” can explain the phenomena equally well.  And has anyone proved that the complex integrated structures of life could have been produced by “chance plus natural law” without the aid of intelligence?  No, no one has come even close.  Stephen Meyer’s book shows this for the origin of life, and the work of Behe, Axe, Gauger, Sternberg, etc. is increasingly showing the same for the process of organic evolution.  So design is a logical inference, in fact, the best explanation for both the origin of life and organic evolution—at the moment. 

The identity of the designer, his identification with the God of any particular religion, his motives and purposes in designing, etc. are completely irrelevant as far as design inferences are concerned.  The point is that the most rational inference—at the moment—is that intelligence design was involved, at one or more levels—in the production of the organic world.

Do you also see why the question of the age of the earth, raised by beaglelady, has nothing to do with the design inference?

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HornSpiel - #75140

December 10th 2012

Imagine that we found Stonehenge, not in Britain, but on an uninhabited and previously completely unknown Pacific Island.

Let’s. In that case, yes we would infer it was an unknown intelligent agent or agents. However most people, and probably all scientists, would assume they were clever (probably modern) humans that erased all traces to produce a hoax, which undoubtedly would fool thousands if not millions of gullible people who want to believe in such things as extra-terrestrial visitations and magic.

Now if Stonehenge were found on Mars, all bets are off. You have won. I will change my worldview. There is no way I am going to believe that any human intelligence could have produced that in 2012.

The question here is “Does the molecular evidence point to the Pacific or Mars?” The challenge for ID is to prove the latter. And please note, the hurdle is very high; it is just as high as proving that you have found Stonehenge on Mars. It must be incontrovertible. It must leave no doubt. You need evidence, not statistics.

However, ID is not trying to prove a Stonehenge on Mars, but that there is a Stonehenge in the Pacific. Now if ID were saying, “Listen your ideas about the history of Pacific civilizations is inadequate.” That would be fine. However they are saying, “We have evidence that Earth was visited by an extra-terrestrial non-human super intelligence.

The problem is that the artifact has many characteristics of being made by an ancient civilization—it is rough-hewn and similar artifacts found in other parts of the globe. True the stones look like they came from half way around the world and we have no record of a civilization that could have made this. Still, why would a super-human intelligence have made this? Is there a message in it? And why make it look otherwise so human—with all the inaccuracies and tool marks of humans? I suppose ID might reply that the super intelligence guided the humans to do the work. But if that is the case, wouldn’t it be logical to start with the human element since there is plenty of evidence that humans were involved? Wouldn’t it be more rational to assume the humans who made this were perhaps inspired by God in his ineffable mysterious manner, but look for more evidence of who human agents were and how they did it? 

The problem is that the design of the genome, like the imaginary Stonehenge, has innumerable characteristics of the secondary cause, evolution. It does not have the characteristics of direct design by a super-intelligence. Indeed we can dispense of special creation (spontaneous generation) of species immediately. Life begets life. Common descent is a given. (The origin of life is of course still in play, but that is not in view here.) The insertion of a putative Designer into science explains nothing since His involvement is subtle, inspirational, if anything. But what He has done through evolution is amazing. Like a rainbow or a sunset, it does not matter if you understand the physics, it still inspires. It still points to the Designer of all.

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Eddie - #75146

December 10th 2012

It would be easy, using the normal methods of historical science, to show that the Stonehenge in the Pacific (and it doesn’t have to be Stonehenge specifically; it could be any equivalent contrivance) could not have been built by modern humans; the stones could doubtless be dated by a number of chemical and geological methods.  And once the age of the stone circle was established, the “clever trick by modern humans” hypothesis would be blown away, leaving only the hypothesis of unknown intelligent (and possibly non-human) designers.

Whether the intelligently designed object is on a Pacific island or on Mars, it makes absolutely no difference to the way the design inference would proceed, or to its legitimacy.  In both cases, prior knowledge being absent (as I carefully specified, though you try to sneak prior knowledge in by subtly altering my scenario), we would know of the existence of the designers only through the existence of the design.

You are therefore failing to see the point, which is that we need to know nothing in advance—literally NOTHING—about the purported designers in order to infer their existence in such cases.  And you are not alone in this.  I have seen a roomful (speaking metaphorically) of TEs with Ph.D.s in various sciences incapable of grasping this simple point.  (Which says a lot about the defects of overspecialization of modern education.)

I never denied that biological systems might have come into being partly by means of the combination of chance events and natural laws.  The point is that such combinations of events appear not have been enough.  In any rate, the onus is not on the ID people to prove that that chance plus natural causes could not have done the job; the onus is on the Darwinians (and chemical origin-of-life folks) to prove that they could have done the job, by providing specific, plausible, biochemical or genetic pathways.  And that onus has not been discharged, or even come close to being discharged.  The belief that such causes were sufficient, without design being involved, is at the moment a matter of pure faith.  

There are, of course, ID proponents who meet your demand, and say the equivalent of  “Listen, your ideas about the history of Pacific civilizations is inadequate.”  For example, Behe, Sternberg, and Denton—evolutionists all.  But they are despised or ignored by almost all TE leaders—quite often by TE readers who have not read much of their work.  Have you read Denton’s Nature’s Destiny, HornSpiel?  I think you should.  You might be quite surprised at how firmly an ID proponent can defend evolution.

The origin of life—ah, yes.  Do you see how you almost tripped yourself up on that one when you said, “life begets life”?  How do you think life originated, HornSpiel?  By unguided processes?  Do you have any idea at all what lies inside even the simplest living cell?  Do you have any idea at all even how complicated just one of the processes in the cell—protein synthesis—is?  How many careful feedback and self-corrective mechanisms are involved?  Do you realize that the living cell makes the most complex computers and factories ever designed look positively primitive by comparison?  If you saw even the most primitive abacus or arrowhead, you would be 100% sure that it was designed; yet you think it is the mark of a sophisticated modern scientist to deny that the first living cell was designed?  If that is the case, then in my view, it is you who are the credulous, faith-driven person, and I am the hard-boiled skeptic.

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beaglelady - #75148

December 10th 2012

It would be easy, using the normal methods of historical science, to show that the Stonehenge in the Pacific (and it doesn’t have to be Stonehenge specifically; it could be any equivalent contrivance) could not have been built by modern humans; the stones could doubtless be dated by a number of chemical and geological methods.  And once the age of the stone circle was established, the “clever trick by modern humans” hypothesis would be blown away, leaving only the hypothesis of unknown intelligent (and possibly non-human) designers.


But isn’t age irrelevant?  Can we really establish the age of something?

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Eddie - #75158

December 10th 2012

Beaglelady:

I presume that these questions are meant sarcastically, as if my words quoted above contradicted something I said earlier.  But there is no contradiction.  Questions of age are irrelevant to design inferences.  They aren’t irrelevant to the hypothesis HornSpiel advanced about an elaborate fakery by modern humans.  Where we need to know the age of something, we should use the scientific methods that determine the age of things.  And those aren’t the methods of design detection.

By the way, see my longer reply to you on the previous page, which I don[‘t think you’ve read yet.  I’ll look for any further replies there.

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HornSpiel - #75171

December 11th 2012

It would be easy, using the normal methods of historical science, to show that the Stonehenge in the Pacific… could not have been built by modern humans

Eddie,

Are you saying that is is easy to to show that scientifically describable (naturally occurring) processes could not have produced the organisms we observe (alive today and in the fossil record) through ordinary common descent? Do you think it is easy to “blow away” every other hypothesis “leaving only the hypothesis of unknown intelligent (and possibly non-human) designers”!?

Don’t simplify the problem Eddie. ID is trying to fundamentally reshape our understanding of science and the causal agents that are allowed in scientific descriptions. What they are attempting is very much like proving they have found Stonehenge on Mars, or an alien space base under Antarctica—something no human agency could ever have accomplished. Your point is not as simple as you claim.

I really do not see how they can expect to do this simply by providing statistical evidence. Their calculation’s are from, at best, accurate mathematical models of the current evolutionary models and data of currently known mechanisms of evolutionary change. This is not incontrovertible evidence that will rock our world.  These calculations are based on undoubtedly incomplete understandings of nature—which is always more complex than the best theoretical descriptions. Perhaps this is evidence that current models are faulty and/or the current understanding of evolutionary mechanisms is incomplete. Just as likely, however, is that the mathematical models are not completely accurate either.

ID needs to provide physical evidence of direct design. They don’t need the designer’s name and address, but they do need more than critiques of current models.

By the way, I did not “almost trip” over the origin of life. I did not even stumble. The issue of the origin of life is perhaps one of the most challenging scientific questions and one which may always remain speculative. The issue of life, along with the structure of the universe that seems to be fine tuned to support life, are talking points where science can and does support the “God hypothesis.”

I never denied that biological systems might have come into being partly by means of the combination of chance events and natural laws.  The point is that such combinations of events appear not have been enough. 

Eddie why the reluctance to acknowledge evolution? Evolution is much more than a “combination of chance events and natural laws.” Evolution is both an observational reality and a scientific theory of biological change and development. Evolutionary mechanisms have been observed doing the work of making structural changes to genomes to make the resulting organisms more fit for their environments. There is no evidence, not even ID statistics, to indicate that God ever uses anything other than evolutionary mechanisms in the creation of species.  The onus is on ID to prove that God ever creates organisms otherwise.

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Eddie - #75179

December 11th 2012

HornSpiel:
 
In your newest post you get off on the wrong foot, by misinterpreting my words which you have quoted.
 
When I converse, I try to keep my remarks in some relationship with what my conversation partner has previously said.  What you had previously suggested was that, if we found a Stonehenge on an uncharted Pacific island, that a fraud by recent humans was one probable explanation.  The paragraph of mine from which you quoted was intended only to refute that suggestion, not to refute evolution or even Darwinian mechanisms.  If you read it again in context, you will see that. 
 
To restate:  if we found a circle of stones on a Pacific island, we could date it.  And if the date was 1975, then yes, a modern fraud would be the likely answer.  But if the date was 2000 BC, then a modern fraud is out of the question.  We would have to infer unknown intelligent agents—either an unknown advanced human civilization, or an extraterrestrial intelligence, or some disembodied intelligent being or beings.
 
Your second paragraph shows that you still do not understand the point of the Stonehenge example, or, for that matter, of the Mars extension which you suggested.  So let’s clarify: 
 
Stage 1 of the ID argument is that if we found a truly designed object (whether a circle of rocks that points out planetary phenomena, or a machine of some kind, or something else) on Mars (or in the Pacific or anywhere else), we could, in principle, infer that it was designed, i.e., that it was not exclusively the product of chance and necessity, but required intelligent agency to come into existence; and we could infer this without having any prior knowledge of the nature of the designer, and without even any prior knowledge that any designers other than human beings existed.  I have seen this thesis maintained by many ID people before, and I have seen it disputed by many TEs—including influential ASA-TEs—but in every debate known to me that TE rebuttal has consisted either of sheer undefended assertion—“You have to know something about the designer before your inference is legitimate”—or of obstructionist tactics, e.g., altering the original conditions of the scenario so that there are external sources of information about the designer.  This is not surprising, as the thesis is, upon reflection, evidently true, and so only sheer assertion or obstructionist tactics could ever be asserted against it.
 
Stage 2 of the ID argument is the application of such examples to biological phenomena:  “And if we can do this for a talking doll we find on Mars, we can also do it for the structures of a living cell or organism.”  And there, to be sure, there is some room for argument.  And I would not object if TEs would disagree about Stage 2 while making the concession regarding Stage 1, e.g.:  “I admit you are partly right.  I overspoke when I said you have to know something about the designer.  I admit that one could infer that a Stonehenge on an island or a talking doll on Mars would warrant design inferences, even if we knew nothing about who might have designed the things in question.  However, I still dispute the application of this principle to organic systems, because ...”  But I have never heard a TE make such a concession.  They dig in their heels, repeating “Ya gotta know something about the designer ... Ya gotta know something about the designer ...”  I don’t find this kind of stubbornness admirable, and when I see it in TEs, I lose respect for them.  A true thinker, one who is concerned about the truth rather than winning a partisan battle, is always willing to concede parts of an opponent’s argument where warranted. 
 
This covers the main subject.  I’ll save my other objections to your latest post for separate replies.
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beaglelady - #75181

December 11th 2012

When humans find something that appears designed, they are naturally curious and want to know about the designer!.It’s normal to inquire about when something was made, by whom, and how.  That’s why scientists bring ancient technologies back to life. They don’t simply admire ancient flint tools, cave paintings,  stone-age beads; they actually attempt to make these items just as ancient people did.)    When we see things made by animals, such as nests and devil’s corkscrews, we really want to know what made the object, how, and when.     It’s hard to turn off human curiosity. 

 

 

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Eddie - #75182

December 11th 2012

All true; but what is your point?  I never denied any of these things.  What bearing have they got on the point I was making, i.e., that one doesn’t need to discuss history to make design inferences?  As soon as you grasp that point, you will finally begin to understand ID, and will realize that much of your opposition to it has been groundless.  

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beaglelady - #75194

December 11th 2012

You don’t need to discuss history regarding design? So we’re supposed to approach an object, declare that it was designed…and then what?  Why discourage questioning and curiosity? Shouldn’t designed objects have a context and a history?  

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Eddie - #75197

December 11th 2012

beaglelady:

You aren’t even trying to listen to what I have said.  You’re merely being captious.  Go back and reread the whole exchange from the first time Stonehenge was mentioned.  I’ve already answered your above questions more than adequately.

 

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HornSpiel - #75186

December 11th 2012

Eddie,

What I tried to point out by the hoax comment, is that the most likely explanation will be that some human agency was involved in making a clearly human artifact. It may be a hoax, it may be a previously unknown advanced civilization, or it may be that humans were used by a super intelligence to create the artifacts.

Moreover, I think it extremely unlikely that a super intelligence would create an artifact with so many human features unless one of its purposes was to confuse and deceive (i.e. to perpetrate a hoax). I contend that the data ID is trying to explain as designed, has many characteristics evolutionary mechanisms. Therefore direct Design Intervention is logically ruled out as a likely explanation.

This is the main point to which I hope you respond.

However let me respond to your points above.

Stage 1 of the ID argument is that if we found a truly designed object we could, in principle, infer that it was designed, i.e., that it was not exclusively the product of chance and necessity, but required intelligent agency to come into existence.

I agree. Incontrovertible evidence of intelligent agency design is possible. It simply requires direct evidence. For example, evidence that contradicted common descent would be easy to identify in the genome. However, statistical analysis of admittedly incomplete theoretical models does not measure up to the task.

You expressed amazement that so many TEs  are “incapable of grasping this simple point.” So I do not think I was misunderstanding you when you talked about the simplicity of ruling out human agency. My question still stands:

  • Do you think it is easy to to show that scientifically describable (naturally occurring) processes could not have produced the organisms we observe (alive today and in the fossil record) through ordinary common descent…“leaving only the hypothesis of unknown intelligent (and possibly non-human) designers” as the only possible explanation?

Stage 2 of the ID argument is the application of such examples to biological phenomena

I have already discussed above some obvious issues in applying the ID argument to current evolutionary models and biological data. On the other hand, if naturalistic evolution is true, then evolutionary mechanisms are also capable of what we humans would interpret as design. Given that biological designs have all the hallmarks of evolutionary provenance, is it not surprising that most TE biologists are not convinced that ID design detection algorithms are not detecting anything more than evolutionary pseudo-design? And even if they are detecting ID, they appear to be detecting design mediated exclusively through evolutionary processes.

Let me reiterate what I stated above more strongly: You don’t need the Designer’s name and address, but you do need more than critiques of current models to establish the Design Intervention hypothesis as a scientific necessity.

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Eddie - #75199

December 11th 2012

HornSpiel:

The premise of much of your answer here continues to be flawed.  You continue to use language suggesting that ID is intrinsically opposed to “evolution” understood as the common descent of all species from an original form.  It has been repeatedly pointed out to you here, by me and others—and by Behe, whose book Darwin’s Black Box you say you have read—the ID is not intrinsically opposed to common descent.  What ID rejects is the neo-Darwinian explanation of evolution.  Your refusal to adjust your arguments to take account of this correction makes it very difficult to reply to posts such as the above with showing irritation.  Nevertheless, I shall try to respond to what you have said.

1.  You write: “I agree. Incontrovertible evidence of intelligent agency design is possible.”  Good, but this doesn’t go far enough.  What I want you to admit is that the inferences can, in principle, be incontrovertible even in cases where we have no prior knowledge of any of the characteristics of, or even of the existence of, the designer of the thing in question.

2.  When I spoke of TEs not grasping the point, the point that they do not grasp is the full statement I have just given above, including the words in italics.  For it is in fact that case that many TEs have insisted that one must know something about the designer before the design inference is valid. Their reasoning, which I did not spell out for you, but perhaps should have, in case you are not as familiar with it as I am, goes like this:  “In the case of a human artifact, we know that human beings exist and we know something about what they do, how they think, what their motives are, etc.  We can therefore infer design when we see something that looks like a toy, a clock, a weapon, etc.  But in the case of a biological system, since the supposed designer is not human, and we have no experience of non-human designers, we cannot infer design from the structures that we see.”

The flaw in this reasoning is that even in the case of human artifacts, we do not have to know of the motive of, or even the existence of, the human beings in question, in order to be sure that something was designed.  If we found some sort of contraption, consisting of interacting wood and metal parts, buried under Antarctic ice, in a layer known to be a thousand years old, we could infer that the object was designed, even though we have no idea who could have been living in Antarctica a thousand years ago, and therefore have no idea what the motives of such people might have been.  We might not even know what the contraption was for, yet still infer that it was designed, rather than the produce of hurricanes which accidentally chopped up trees into finely shaped wooden parts and volcanic actions which accidentally refined ore into metal and shaped it into ball and socket joints.  So we don’t always need to know what these TEs say we need to know, even in the human case.  Intelligence in some situations just shines through.  The axiom that we need prior knowledge is simply faulty.

3.  I never said or implied that “it is easy to to show that scientifically describable (naturally occurring) processes could not have produced the organisms we observe (alive today and in the fossil record).”  It is the case, however, that (a) the unguided chemical evolution of life from non-life and (b) neo-Darwinian evolution—evolution via random mutations plus natural selection—are both, based on the best current science, wildly improbable hypotheses, and that the onus is on their promoters to show in great detail (not in broad generalities) how they could have happened.

If you would take the time to read ID writings beyond the few that you have read, you would see that Michael Denton, in his second book, adduces “scientifically describable processes of evolution”—but that they are not Darwinian ones.

4.  Re your last sentence:  design inferences have nothing to say one way or the other regarding “intervention,” so that term is unwarranted in any criticism of ID theory.  There are both “interventionist” (Asa Gray) and non-interventionist (Denton) versions of “designed evolution,” and design theory per se cannot discriminate between them.  Nor does it need to; its job is done when it has refuted the unplanned and unguided evolution of Darwin, Mayr, Monod, Gould, Ayala, and Dawkins.    

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Eddie - #75202

December 11th 2012

Correction:

In my first paragraph, the penultimate sentence should have ended in:   “without showing irritation.”


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HornSpiel - #75205

December 11th 2012

Please see my response comment-75204 below.

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Ted Davis - #75220

December 12th 2012

I reply to this claim of Eddie’s, clearly said partly out of frustration: 

if we found a truly designed object (whether a circle of rocks that points out planetary phenomena, or a machine of some kind, or something else) on Mars (or in the Pacific or anywhere else), we could, in principle, infer that it was designed, i.e., that it was not exclusively the product of chance and necessity, but required intelligent agency to come into existence; and we could infer this without having any prior knowledge of the nature of the designer, and without even any prior knowledge that any designers other than human beings existed.  I have seen this thesis maintained by many ID people before, and I have seen it disputed by many TEs—including influential ASA-TEs—but in every debate known to me that TE rebuttal has consisted either of sheer undefended assertion—“You have to know something about the designer before your inference is legitimate”—or of obstructionist tactics...

I obviously don’t know the specific circumstances in which you’ve heard this “undefended assertion,” Eddie. However, I have myself sometimes referred to Elliot Sober’s defendable assertion that

Design arguments for the existence of human (and humanlike) watchmakers are often unproblematic; it is design arguments for the existence of God that leave us at sea.” (from Sober’s chapter in this http://www.amazon.com/Debating-Design-Darwin-William-Dembski/dp/0521709903, p. 112)

In other words, unless we actually already know something about a specific designer—or type of designer—then a design inference is frought with difficulties.

One can of course disagree with Sober; philosophers disagree with one another all the time, and many have objected to various claims of his concerning various forms of the design argument. He himself admits that certain forms of the design argument (such as Swinburne’s argument from the simplicity of the laws of nature, akin to the type of argument that Robin Collins is presently developing) might perhaps be valid—it all depends on the details.

Nevertheless, I suspect that some TEs give voice to what Eddie calls a “sheer undefended assertion” b/c they are aware in general (not necessarily in all specifics) of the fact that Sober and others have defended such an assertion.

 

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Eddie - #75222

December 12th 2012

Thanks, Ted.

I have not seen any TE on BioLogos or elsewhere—other than yourself—cite Sober in defense of the general and unqualified proposition that “in order to make a valid design inference one has to know something about the nature of the designer.”  If TEs do not feel competent to defend that proposition themselves, but think that Sober (or someone else) has defended it, then it’s their dialogical responsibility to indicate where that defense can be found.  If they fail in that dialogical responsibility, then the natural inference is that they are being dogmatic.  

It is important to note that I am being precise here.  If the TEs I’ve read had said:  “When it comes to artificial objects, I agree that one can sometimes infer design even when one knows nothing about the designer, or even when one has no antecedent knowledge that the designer exists; but when it comes to natural things such as cells and organisms, I think that such inferences are impossible”—that would be quite a different position.  But in the discussions I’m speaking of, the unqualified position has been asserted, and, when challenged with clear examples—e.g.,  a machine found on Mars—which prove the unqualified assertion to be false, the TEs have simply dug in their heels and maintained the unqualified assertion, rather than retreat to the qualified assertion that you impute to Sober.  

One point of detail is important:  in all the examples given—Stonehenge on a Pacific island, machines on Mars, etc.—no inference to God is ever made.  The inference is always to a previously unknown designer.  And that is all that ID as scientific theory —i.e., ID when it is being disciplined and stays away from apologetics—can hope to argue regarding biological systems.  I suspect that Sober would not allow even that limited inference when it comes to biological systems, but whatever Sober would say, it remains important to make the distinction between “We can tell via ID theory that this is designed” and “We can tell via ID theory that God made this.”  And over and over again, in remarks by both columnists and commenters on this site, I see the inability of many TE supporters to make this distinction.  This inability blocks the conversation from proceeding further in a constructive direction.

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Jon Garvey - #75223

December 12th 2012

Just to blow the megaegophone, I started a three-part discussion of Sober’s “no design without knowing the designer” argument here.

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Seenoevo - #75127

December 10th 2012

“Did God use the evolutionary process to create man, a creature in His image, from a Christian perspective, absolutely yes.”

Does the adding of “absolutely yes” make this like an infallible pronouncement?

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HornSpiel - #75131

December 10th 2012

No, it is simply an affirmation of the Christian doctrine of creation. The absolutely applies to the “God did it” part not the “God used evolution” part.

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Eddie - #75132

December 10th 2012

Seenoevo:

I don’t think that HornSpiel traffics in the bogus theological merchandise of infallible pronouncements.

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Roger A. Sawtelle - #75134

December 10th 2012

However, if God did it and humanity was produced by a process that we call evolution, then it follows that God used evolution to produce humanity, whether one agrees with Darwinism or not.

Only if God produced humanity not by a process, but by a singular creative act can we say that God did not create humans by means of evolution.  Unless Charles Darwin has a secret patent on the word Evolution (copy-righted used by permission) and it only means a particular process stipulated in the application for the patent. 

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Seenoevo - #75141

December 10th 2012

“Did God create the evolutionary process, yes. Did God use the evolutionary process to create man, a creature in His image, from a Christian perspective, absolutely yes.”

Given the persecution that happens, even today, around the world for any number of things and beliefs, how many would be willing to give their life rather than deny the above belief?

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HornSpiel - #75144

December 10th 2012

non sequitur

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Eddie - #75147

December 10th 2012

Agreed.  Seenoevo specializes in non sequiturs.

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Roger A. Sawtelle - #75168

December 11th 2012

Eddie,

Thank you for making a positive criticism (#75143) instead of all the negatives.  We finally have something of substance to discuss.

When I spoke of Greek dualism being the problem, I was agreeing with Wilcox’s analysis, which previously you seemed to agree with.  The problem that ID is addressing according to Jon is that God and Nature are inderstood as completely separate, even if God created nature as in Deism.  That is what dualism is, seeing Reality as an interaction of two radically different entities as in Greek dualism and Persian Manichee. 

On the other hand we have monism where Reality is basically Simple or One.  Pantheism and physicalism are prime examples.  Panentheism is a variation which is attractive to some.    

Western thought has bounced between dualism and monism because neither is adequate to express the fullness of Reality as God created it.  Scientists usually have emphasized the oneness of Reality, while theologians and philosophers the duality of Reality.  Still they seem to agree that it is either one or the other, not both.

Dualism and monism both use dualistic either/or thinking.  Something is either one thing or the other.  Are humans natural or divine?  Humans are natural in that they are composed of physical flesh, right?  But can the natural/physical think?  No, but humans and the God can think.  Can the natural/physical love?  But humans and God can love.  

Humans are both natural and divine in form.  This is explained by saying God, the Trinity, created humanity is God’s own Image, but that does not make make humans either dualistic or monistic, but triune, complex/one beings.  If created human beings are triune, might not the whole of Creation be in some sense triune?     

It is not Creation or Evolution, but How does God create through evolution?

To get the full analysis of this undertanding of Reality you must read one of my books.  

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beaglelady - #75180

December 11th 2012

Well, Roger, you haven’t read Farquhar’s book either.  How do you expect to understand anything without doing so?  

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Eddie - #75208

December 12th 2012

I note that you have not retracted a single one of the errors in your post 75123, which I pointed out in 75143.  

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Seenoevo - #75187

December 11th 2012

HornSpiel: “Did God create the evolutionary process, yes. Did God use the evolutionary process to create man, a creature in His image, from a Christian perspective, absolutely yes.”

Does that not sound like a statement of belief, even a particular Christian’s belief about his faith?

Aren’t Christians called to stand for their beliefs no matter what?

So, again, how many would be willing to give their life rather than deny the quoted belief above?

Non sequitur?

“Vulgus ignavum et nihil ultra verba ausurum”?

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HornSpiel - #75190

December 11th 2012

Not all beliefs are worth dying for, much less all statements posted on blogs. Yet…

How may YECs would die for a literal interpretation of Genesis, and why? It would not be for literalistic hermanutics but for foundational truths they felt were based on it.

You may not think that what I wrote sounds like a statement of belief, even a particular Christian’s belief about his faith, but what if I told you it was? Or rather, it reflects more deeply held foundational beliefs, like the goodness of God, that God does not deceive His children, that His children need to listen to both his Word and his Works. What if I told you I felt that many Evangelical American beliefs are contributing to the destruction of the planet’s biosphere, endangering the poor and future generations, and dishonoring God and the Christian faith? What if I told you I would be willing to die if my death could be used by God to reverse endemic blindness in American cultural Christianity, contribute to the world’s peace and safety, and bring honor to God and the Gospel? Would you believe me?

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HornSpiel - #75204

December 11th 2012

You continue to use language suggesting that ID is intrinsically opposed to “evolution” understood as the common descent of all species from an original form.

Eddie,

May I ask how you come to that conclusion? I know that many ID theorists, Behe being the prime example accept common descent. Perhaps you misinterpreted my statement “Incontrovertible evidence of intelligent agency design is possible. It simply requires direct evidence. For example, evidence that contradicted common descent…”  as meaning that ID requires at least some examples of Uncommon Descent to be confirmed. Well…maybe…Isn’t that actually what ID is claiming? 

Hang with me a second though. You claim “design inferences can, in principle, be incontrovertible even in cases where we have no prior knowledge of any of the characteristics of, or even of the existence of, the designer of the thing in question.” I say yes, in principle, BUT that statistical evidence is not enough. I have given several reasons why statistical evidence is not enough. You have not responded to that.

The claim that we don’t need to know the identity of the designer actually goes to the heart of the ID agenda. Yes we can imagine a scenario where design is evident without knowing the identity of the designer. It is Dreamtime to the Aborigines. It is the world of shaman, hexes, and transmogrification in Africa to this day. It is demons being responsible for UFOs—which I heard Hugh Ross talk about on his short-lived TV show about a decade ago. It is also the world of power encounters and even answered prayers. As a Christian, therefore I cannot deny the existence of occult forces. They are after all biblical. However, to my knowledge, none of these things has been scientifically proved. And apart from anthropologically describing them, their study is on the scientific fringes.

So when ID proposes that a super-intelligent molecule-manipulating invisible Design force be incorporated into its theories about the physical universe, it is a big claim. A defining characteristic of modern science is that all such occult/supernatural forces and agents are excluded as explanations. That is why, although in principle you could demonstrate a design inference apart from a known designer, the explanation would not be scientific in the modern sense. It would in fact shatter the the foundations of modern science and necessitate its reformulation as neo-classical science, which is what ID is trying to accomplish.

It is the case, however, that (a) the unguided chemical evolution of life from non-life and (b)neo-Darwinian evolution—evolution via random mutations plus natural selection—are both, based on the best current science, wildly improbable hypotheses, and that the onus is on their promoters to show in great detail (not in broad generalities) how they could have happened.

You say neo-Darwinian evolution must be prove in great detail by its promoters. (Let’s reserve abiogenesis for another day.) This is not true, since neo-Darwinian evolution is the best theory modern science has to offer. ID claims the best neo-Darwinian evolution is wildly improbable. If that is true, then either neo-Darwinianism needs to be  improved, an alternative modern scientific must take its place, or modern science must be overthrown.  However it is far from the case that neo-Darwinian is on the ropes since as you admit may ID theorists accept the basic premise of NDE, common descent. Moreover I dare say some would even admit it is useful for explaining many changes we see in the biosphere such as drug resistance.

Your demand that “promoters” show in great detail how neo-Darwinian evolution could have happened is both an argument from incredulity and an unreasonable demand for a final comprehensive theory of evolution. As I said above, there is a lot of evidence that evolutionary mechanisms are involved in all genotypical change, therefore observing and describing them theoretically is obviously useful. Moreover there is no evidence for direct Design Intervention. God obviously used evolution in creation, but whether or nor we can detect his guidance requires a lot more study and will likely always remain speculative or a question of faith.

By the way how do you know evolutionary mechanisms are incapable of design? A snowflake looks designed to me. Design is apparently woven into the fabric of creation. Design begets design to borrow a phrase. Neo-Darwinian evolution is not a denial of the Creator, nor of His design. Modern science is not an enemy to faith when properly understood. It is an affirmation that Creation, in its natural state, reflects the glory of its creator. Unnatural causation by unidentified super-intelligences is magical thinking and the provenience of demons, not God.
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Eddie - #75206

December 12th 2012

HornSpiel:

You opened your newest reply with:

[Eddie:]  “You continue to use language suggesting that ID is intrinsically opposed to “evolution” understood as the common descent of all species from an original form.”

[HS:]  “May I ask how you come to that conclusion?”

HornSpiel, read what you wrote in 75186.  Throughout, you imply that I and ID theory are attacking “evolution” or “common descent,” and you argue that living systems can be explained by “evolution” or “common descent” instead of by intelligent design, as if intelligent design and “evolution/common descent” were mutually opposed alternatives.  If you can’t see that you’ve done this throughout that post, then you aren’t aware of how your writing reads to others.  I’m not going to go through 75186 paragraph by paragraph showing you all the spots.  I don’t have time.  But note that you have done it again, immediately above.  In your penultimate paragraph you write:  “there is a lot of evidence that evolutionary mechanisms are involved in all genotypical change”—as if I or ID theory have set up ID in opposition to “evolutionary mechanisms.”  I have seen this sort of confused argumentation running througout many of your posts.

You continue to make other false claims about ID:  ”So when ID proposes that a super-intelligent molecule-manipulating invisible Design force be incorporated into its theories about the physical universe ...”  ID proposes no such thing.  You’ve been listening to rumor and hearsay.  You won’t find one sentence in the book of Behe that you read that says any such thing.  Behe’s argument is that intelligent design was necessary.  He does not argue that the design is input in the way that you suggest.  He has many times granted that the design could be “input” in many ways, including non-interventionist front-loading, as suggested by Michael Denton.

Along these lines, you keep using the word “intervention”—which has no place in ID theory.  No do “miracles” or “breaking the laws of nature.”  ID theory is completely compatible with a naturalistic unfolding of design, provided that nature is properly “primed” at the beginning.  You would know this if you would read more widely in ID writing—but apparently you are determined to conduct your arguments as a sort of “improv” act based on what you read years ago and what you can pick up from sites like this, and are unwilling to do any new research or study before making arguments.

Common descent is not peculiar to the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution.  It is found in all theories of evolution.  ID is not attacking evolution, it is attacking neo-Darwinism (and kindred models) of evolution.  So please stop using “evolution” and “common descent” in your posts to me!  I am not arguing against those things; nor does ID, per se, argue against those things, even though many individual ID proponents reject or have grave doubts about them.  And I’m interested in defending only ID per se, not everything that various ID proponents might argue based on personal religious commitments.

You write:  ”As a Christian, therefore I cannot deny the existence of occult forces. They are after all biblical. However, to my knowledge, none of these things has been scientifically proved.”  Well one “occult force” who existence you probably take to be “scientifically proved” is gravity.  Galileo, whose commitment to “methodological naturalism” you could not possibly deny, thought that the idea of a force acting at a distance was a magical idea and that science should have no truck or trade with it.  Thus, he came up with a completely wrong explanation of the tides, because he would not admit the influence of the sun and moon upon the earth.  This shows you that the very meaning of “science” changes over time, even among the methodological naturalists.  And if it can change to admit an occult force like gravity, why can’t it change to admit teleological explanations?  In fact, it always did admit teleological explanations, right up to the time of Newton in physics and astronomy, and later in biology.  See the lecture by Paul Nelson I linked you up to, in my reply on the previous page.  Your conception of science is a narrow, modern positivist one.

I certainly do not think that evolution is incompatible with Christian theology.  I do think that neo-Darwinism is a rancid evolutionary theory which needs to be pitched in the refuse bin.  You might come to the same conclusion if you would actually read ID books and the books of non-ID evolutionary biologists such as I, Jon, and Paul Nelson have mentioned.  But I can only lead you to the trough; I can’t force you to drink.  Best wishes.

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Roger A. Sawtelle - #75211

December 12th 2012

Eddie,

You are not God, though even God, Who has the authority to do so, does not demand that we retract our errors, nor are you the Pope, who does not have the authority to make such a demand, but might think he has.

Please stop pretending to be someone you aren’t.

This is a discussion, not a heresy trial.  This is about solving the problems of our world, not who is right or wrong.  This is not about your ego which seems to be unlimited.

 

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Eddie - #75216

December 12th 2012

“This is ... not a heresy trial.”

Fortunately for you!

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Roger A. Sawtelle - #75213

December 12th 2012

With all due respect this argument reminds me of the beer commercial,

Side A: TASTES GOOD  Side B: LESS FILLING  (Repeat ad infinitum)

The key as I have said before is Natural Selection.  TE is wrong to say that chance plus natural law as Darwinism teaches could produce evolution as we know it.  ID is wrong to say that the only explanation for evolution as we know it is not by natural means, but by direct divine intervention. 

Evolution is not Darwinism, but evolution is a natural process designed and carried out by God.  Ecological evolution is much more than chance plus natural laws and is adequate to explain the evolutionary process as we experience it.  Ecological evolution is also consistent with the was we see God working in the Bible and our world to carry out God Will and advance God’s Kingdom. 

I agree with Eddie, Darwinism is no longer a viable scientific theory.  But the problem is that ID and Eddie have no viable alternative.  You cannot beat something with nothing.  The only result is division between believers.  

 

 

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Eddie - #75219

December 12th 2012

“ID is wrong to say that the only explanation for evolution as we know it is not by natural means, but by direct divine intervention.”

ID does not say this.  Please refrain from criticizing positions that you have not studied and do not understand.

“evolution is a natural process designed and carried out by God.”

How do you know it is a wholly natural process?  It may be wholly natural; and if it is, it is compatible with ID, as the work of Denton shows.  But how do you know that it is wholly natural?  You are making a dogmatic statement, not providing an argument.

There is no need to provide an alternative to a bad scientific theory.  It is logically and epistemologically possible to say:  “Neo-Darwinism is an implausible theory in conflict with much empirical evidence from molecular biology, developmental biology, etc., and therefore should not be accepted.  And at this point we simply do not have an alternate, coherent theory of how evolution occurs.”  A good scientist will suspend theoretical commitment rather than accept a weak theory just for the sake of having a theory.

As for divisions between believers, they are inevitable, once the authority of tradition is given up and Protestants decide that every man has the autodidact’s right to interpret the Bible for himself, outside of the intellectual and spiritual discipline of centuries of tradition.  ID can hardly be blamed for the proud stubbornness of American sectarian Protestantism, which goes back to the days of Plymouth Rock.  And if unity is such a big concern of yours, Roger, you can always return to Rome.  Or at least to the Church of England, from which your Methodist ancestors broke away.

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HornSpiel - #75215

December 12th 2012

Eddie,

I am sorry you have not recognized my attempts at humor for what they are. If ID is not questioning common descent, why is the leading ID website called Uncommon Descent (You did notice that bit of irony didn’t you?)

Please, you admit ID is opposed to neo-Darwinian evolution and I specified that multiple times in my last post. Why do you complain when I try to make a case for it?

Also you ignored the fact that I tried to move the conversation past evolution to the real issue. which is that ID wants to change the nature of science. This is of course consistent with ID explanations which are not scientific in the modern sense.

You wrote

Galileo… thought that the idea of a force acting at a distance was a magical idea… thus, he came up with a completely wrong explanation of [gravity].  This shows you that the very meaning of “science” changes over time, even among the methodological naturalists.  And if it can change to admit an occult force like gravity, why can’t it change to admit teleological explanations?

This is a false analogy. Discovering that gravity is a natural force did not change the nature of science, it allowed gravity to be described scientifically, in the modern sense.  Of course, if a natural “vital force” were described scientifically, it would be a scientific explanation. But ID categorically denies the need to specify, much less describe scientifically any such thing.  But seeking to admit teleological explanations is not the same as the discovery and description of a natural phenomenon. It is a gambit change the nature of science.

I for one do not want to go back to the days of Aristotelian science, which is what you are offering.

Sorry, I won’t drink.

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Eddie - #75218

December 12th 2012

HornSpiel:

No, I must admit, humor is not something I have ever seen in any post of yours on this site!  So either your humor is so subtle that it is over my head, or you suffer from the “Conan O’Brien Syndrome” (imagining that one is funny when one is not).

I never complained when you opposed ID to “neo-Darwinian evolution.”  I complained only about the cases where you explicitly or implicitly opposed ID to “evolution” or to “common descent.”  And you do this very frequently in your posts.  You could easily stop doing it, but for some reason you won’t.

Uncommon Descent is a popular/publicity/discussion website.  It has never been a place for the presentation of ID theory in the formal scientific sense.  ID theory proper is argued for in ID books and articles and in some of the material on the Discovery website.  And many of the regular columnists and commenters at Uncommon Descent (O’Leary, Torley, nullasalus, StephenB, etc.) accept macroevolution.  If UD were dogmatically against macroevolution it would not give such people air time.  You are taking the name of the site too literally; it’s meant as a provocative play on words to get people thinking about the theoretical basis of modern evolutionary theory, not as an out-and-out rejection of evolution in any form.    

When you say “ID wants to change the nature of science,” you should have said, “ID wants to restore the conception of science that was held by people such as Isaac Newton, but which was abolished by the reductionist materialism of the 19th century.”  

No one “discovered” that gravity was a natural force.  Rather, scientists were persuaded to change their previous position (which was held in common by Aristotle and Galileo) and admit that “action at a distance” could sometimes be natural rather than supernatural.  That was an epistemological decision—a decision at the level of the philosophy of nature / philosophy of science—not anything that was “discovered.” And the decision was taken because scientists decided that explanatory value was more important than any arbitrary rule about what should or should not be allowed as a scientific explanation.  And what you continue to fail to see is that postulating design (not the the exclusion of physical causation, but in addition to it) can be of explanatory value in the understanding of biological systems. 

You really should listen to the Paul Nelson lecture I linked you to on the previous page of these comments.  Nelson’s undergraduate major/minor was philosophy of science/biology, and he continued to take biology courses in graduate school while doing a Ph.D. in the philosophy of biology at the University of Chicago.  He knows a great deal about the history of evolutionary theory and about the philosophy of science, and you could learn something from him.

It also wouldn’t hurt if you read some ID scientific writings beyond Behe’s first book.  Behe’s second book, Denton’s second book, and The Design of Life by Dembski and Wells are all good, and, if you have some basic mathematical training, Dembski’s No Free Lunch, while far from an easy read, is comprehensible.  Meyer also has some interesting things to say about the methods of the historical sciences, both in his book and in his article on the Cambrian Explosion (which was published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, and is available on the Discovery site).  

It also would help if you did some reading about evolutionary theory on the scientific side—stuff written not by TEs (almost none of whom are trained evolutionary biologists) but by secular evolutionary biologists—Stuart Newman, James Shapiro, etc.  Neo-Darwinism is a much shakier theory than you imagine, and is under sustained attack in the serious universities of the world, yet it has been made the cornerstone of most TE argument regarding theology and evolution.  Just as it does not make sense to tie Christian theology to the discarded theories of phlogiston, the ether, or alchemy, so it does not make sense to tie Christian theology to the moribund theory of neo-Darwinism.  The sooner it occurs to you that there is something odd about TE’s defensiveness regarding neo-Darwinism, the better.

Best wishes and a very Merry Christmas to you.

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beaglelady - #75232

December 12th 2012

My own point is this:  so what if you can make a design inference without knowing jack squat about the designer?  If questions about the designer are not allowed, you have removed your idea from the realm of science.  There is hardly anywhere to go scientifcally with that line of thinking, and it’s as stillborn as a sheep-goat hybrid.  

 

And another thing—why are questions about the designer not allowed only when the person making a design inference believes the designer was God?

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Eddie - #75235

December 12th 2012

beaglelady:

I never said that anyone was “not allowed” to ask questions about anything.  As far as I am concerned, people can ask all the questions they want about the nature of the designer, and they can ask them whether the designer is human, alien, or divine.  So if anyone is “not allowing” anything, it’s not me.  

My point was not to restrict questions about the designer, but to indicate the limitations of design inferences.  Design inferences can’t give a narrative account of origins, as, say, Dawkins offers.  They can’t say anything about how old the earth is.  And they can’t say anything about the nature of the designer—beyond the fact that the designer was darned clever, and had sufficient power to execute the design.  That doesn’t tell one much.  That’s why ID has only preliminary value for religious apologetics.  To say “the designer was God” you have to bring in premises from outside of ID.

So sure, you can ask all kinds of questions about the designer of life and you can ask all kinds of questions about the designer of human or alien artifacts.  I’m not forbidding or belittling those questions.  I’m just trying to explain to you (and it seems to take a lot of repetitions to get through!) that you can’t expect ID theory to answer those questions.  That would be like asking your dentist to take out your appendix!  Of course, there is nothing wrong with having a surgeon take out your appendix, and if it needs to be taken out, you should go to a surgeon.  What you should not do is rail against the dentist for refusing to help you—which is exactly what you are doing with your incessant complaints that ID doesn’t explain all the things about origins that you want explained.   

As for your main question, the first answer is rather obvious.  The educated lay people of today (doctors, lawyers, schoolteachers, clergy, accountants, politicians, newspaper editors, NOVA TV producers, etc.) have been conditioned for 70 or 80 years now, both by leading scientific spokespersons and by science journalists and science boosters in the popular media, to believe that nothing beyond natural laws and chance events are necessary to explain the full range of biological complexity from molecules to man.  If ID assertions turn out to be correct, that dashes this 20th-century thesis to pieces.  Hardly a small matter!  And there is a second answer:  if ID is right on the general matter, then organisms are designed; and if they are designed, scientific research based on the premise they are designed will be more successful than scientific research based on the false assumption that they were thrown together higgledy-piggledy.  So ID would then be important not just as a refutation of Dawkins etc; it would actually make biological research more productive.  

That’s all the time I have for you on this subject, beaglelady.  I think I’ve explained myself at sufficient length and with sufficient clarity.

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beaglelady - #75286

December 13th 2012

Your analogy about asking a dentist to take out an appendix is not a good one.  If ID theory isn’t willing to talk about designers then it’s an impoverished theory.  Is there another branch of your new science that does talk about designer identification?   Imagine studying the Mesa Verde Cliff dwellings without asking about who built them and how, why they chose that location, when they built, how long they lived there, and why they left!  

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Eddie - #75287

December 13th 2012

You appear to be deaf.  I’ve already answered this objection at great length above, and more than once.

The analogy with the dentist was perfectly good, but if you are the kind of person who needs multiple examples due to a lack of ability to generalize from one, here’s a second example:  you wouldn’t expect a barometer to give you the temperature, amount of rainfall, or wind speed.  All you’d ask it to give is atmospheric pressure.  Intellectual and scientific methods should be applied only to questions they are capable of answering.  That’s why there are many intellectual and scientific methods, suited to different tasks.  ID theory is suited to answer the question:  “Is life designed?”  It is not suited to answer the question:  “Who designed life?”

If you still can’t see the difference between the question:  “Was Stonehenge designed by intelligent agents, or was it carved out of rocks by chance rushes of wind and water?” and the question “Who built Stonehenge, and when, and why?”, and if you can’t see why the answer to the first question doesn’t necessarily tell you anything at all about the answer to the second question, and should not be expected to, then no further explanation on my part could possibly solve your problem.  ‘Bye. 

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beaglelady - #75291

December 14th 2012

You just don’t want me to point out the flaws in ID theory, so you answer with insults.  

I never said I couldn’t see the difference between the question ”“Was Stonehenge designed by intelligent agents, or was it carved out of rocks by chance rushes of wind and water?” and the question “Who built Stonehenge, and when, and why?”  

 I’m pointing out that scientists want to know much, much more.  They just aren’t going to be happy with “This was designed.” It’s  interesting that the latest Mars rover is named “Curiosity.”  

 

 Intellectual and scientific methods should be applied only to questions they are capable of answering.  That’s why there are many intellectual and scientific methods, suited to different tasks.  ID theory is suited to answer the question:  “Is life designed?”  It is not suited to answer the question:  “Who designed life?”

That’s why it’s an impoverished theory and is DOA.  It’s not capable of doing too much of anything.

In the case of the barometer, we know that a barometer gives only atmospheric pressure, but it is only one tool of many in the field of meteorology,  a branch of science with real depth.  


 

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Eddie - #75295

December 14th 2012

Beaglelady:

Yes, you pointed out that scientists want to know much more, and I agreed with you—two or three times!  But you kept pressing the point, as if you hadn’t read, or at least hadn’t paid attention, to my response.  And not acknowledging when someone has agreed with your point, and continuing to talk to them as if they disagreed with it, is the mark of a poor dialogue partner.

If you really understand the distinction between the two statements about Stonehenge, you will see that Bill Dembski’s mathematical methods of design detection could not possibly answer the question of who built Stonehenge, and when, and why.  You will realize that those questions belong to history and archaeology, not information theory and probability theory and so on.  And if you really understand the analogy of the barometer, you will realize that design detection methods can investigate only one facet of things, and should not be expected to investigate other facets.  So there is a non-problem here, that you are turning into a problem.  

As for “not too much of anything”—well, if ID ends up contributing to the falsification of the main biological theory of evolution of the 20th century (neo-Darwinism), that is a rather impressive accomplishment.  If some guy disproved Einstein’s theory, or Hawking’s, or the theory of continental drift, but accomplished nothing else, would you say:  “That’s an impoverished bit of science!  He has to do MORE before I will respect him as a scientist?”  That would be silly.  If ID makes even ONE contribution to the understanding of evolutionary theory, that will be more scientific discovery than you have ever produced in your life.  Don’t let the green-eyed monster of envy cause you to belittle the work of those who have accomplished more than you have.

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beaglelady - #75303

December 14th 2012

I’m afraid this is like Madama Butterfly singing “Un bel dì”

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Eddie - #75306

December 14th 2012

Ah, yes, when all argument fails, drop the highbrow cultural reference to put your dialogue partner in his place.  Oh well, you can have the last word, even if it is in Italian.

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Merv - #75233

December 12th 2012

Eddie, would you say that Christianity was “tied” to an immoveable earth?  Or that it is now tied to a moving earth?  It is indeed an odd concept to think our religion should get tied to any scientific theory, be it evolution or anything else.  I don’t imagine many TEs would phrase it that way would would say rather that Christianity is tied to a relentless pursuit of truth revealed both in Scripture and in creation.  If creation presents convincing evidence of common descent ... follow that wherever it leads.  If it presents convincing evidence of other origins scenarios ... follow that wherever it leads.   Should Christianity be tied to anything less?

-Merv

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Eddie - #75242

December 12th 2012

Merv:

Regarding your opening questions, I think that Christianity shouldn’t be tied to such things.  However, the whole focus of TE is that Christianity, in both its Biblical exegesis and its theological formulations, ought to make adjustments to past Christian views in the light of things that appear to be known by modern science, and those things certainly include the moving earth, the age of the earth, and the common ancestry of all species including man.  I do not know any TE who regards these things as tentative and revisable conclusions; every TE known to me treats them as “facts” about nature and about origins with which theology must deal successfully, if it hopes to be credible in the modern world.  (Hence so many columns here demanding a new way of reading Genesis.)  

I don’t disagree with the principle that you enunciate here:  ”a relentless pursuit of truth revealed both in Scripture and in creation.”  I would, however, add that your principle, applied consistently, would allow for “creation” to “present” not only evidence for common descent but also a strong basis for design inferences.  And many TE leaders are very much averse to the latter possibility.  (Hence the frequent slams here against Paley and against natural theology generally.)

My point was that all scientific theses are provisional, so that if we decide to rewrite theology every time scientific “truth” changes, we will be rewriting theology all the time.  Imagine if Christian scientists had insisted on reinterpreting Genesis in light of the truths of alchemy, or of the ether, or of phlogiston.  They would later have had to eat crow, and revise their theology all over again.  So there is a warning there: don’t tie the fate of eternal truths to theories about the operations of the physical universe.

If it is true—and it looks truer every day, based on what I’m reading in the writings and quoted opinions of the world’s leading evolutionary theorists—that “randomness” has a much, much smaller role in evolution than neo-Darwinism asserts, then playing intellectual Twister to make “randomness” fit with the sovereignty and providence of God will prove to have been a colossal waste of theological time.  Yet look at BioLogos!  How many columns here have been devoted, directly or indirectly, to the praise of “randomness” as God’s mode of creation?  And if turns out, as I suspect it will, that evolution is driven much more by self-organizational properties (Kaufmann, Newman etc.) and/or by the ability of cells to rewrite their own genomes (Shapiro), all the shouting about God and randomness is going to have to be replaced by praise of God for working through mathematical-physical necessity or of God as the genius designer of self-modifying organisms.  So we’ll stop hearing TEs talking about Ahab and the arrow and the lot being cast in the lap, and we’ll start hearing more about the engineering images of the Bible, such as the plumb line and so on, and Psalm 19 and Romans 1 will be given an interpretation much closer to the current ID than the current TE reading, and maybe the subtle depreciation of orthodox Calvinism will become less frequent.  Time will tell.

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GJDS - #75245

December 12th 2012

One aspect of the design/designer argument that may be inferred but I do not think has been addressed directly is the state of mind of the observor. By this I mean, a human being who has understood patterns and artifacts would think a item is obviously designed because it fits in with his/her expereince of such objects. Otherwise, the asme person would consider the object as new (outside of her experience) and may isntead fall back on analogous or similar objects. When we consider creative activities, if the object is original, we would look to the creator for understanding - e.g. an artist may create a chaotic pieve, or a geometric pieace - in both cases we would seek to identify the person who created the object.

Thus design is something human beings identify - this in itself however, does not present a scientific hypothesis. The irony is that Darwins symantic theorising relies on analogous reasoning (simplisitically a farmer can select the fittest species, and can cause these to procriate, etc - thus natural selection may be understood).

For design arguments to be scientifically valid, the objects must be subjected to systematic examination using factors such as symmetry, geographical patterns and so on. Fractal maths shows such patters, but I do not think bio-sciences have made much use of the details of molecular structures and 3-D arrangments, to enable a sound ‘design’ argument to be made. Even if they did, the ‘design’ must conform to the energetic and kinetic principles of chemistry and biochemistry.

Thus I would conclude that both pro-ID and anti-ID arguments are weak on scientific grounds.

This has been typed in a hurry so excuse any typo errors.

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Seenoevo - #75248

December 12th 2012

Merv: “Eddie, would you say that Christianity was “tied” to an immoveable earth? Or that it is now tied to a moving earth?”

Are these questions a reference to the Galileo controversy and Scripture verses such as 1 Chron 16:30 “tremble before him, all the earth; yea, the world stands firm, never to be moved”?

If so, why is the assumption made that “move” means physical movement?

Psalm 15:5 reads “who does not put out his money at interest, and does not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved.” Is this good guy considered to be a statue? Couldn’t “never be moved” be a way of describing integrity or trustworthiness or reliability, whether for man or monde?

And if one insists that “move” does mean physical movement, is that such a big deal?

“But the fact is, the earth has proven itself to be fixed and immovable:

• The earth is fixed and immovable in relation to its orbit around the sun. Have you ever known the earth to “unfix” itself and “move” itself out of its orbit around the sun? It doesn’t happen, because the earth is fixed and immovable in relation to its orbit around the sun.

• The earth also is fixed and immovable in relation to us. There has never been a single day in which we had no place to stand, because the earth unfixed itself and moved itself out from under our feet.”

http://www.aboutbibleprophecy.com/q7.htm

 

How would a man’s daily life be changed whether the earth moves around the sun or vice versa?

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Merv - #75257

December 13th 2012

How would a man’s daily life be changed whether the earth moves around the sun or vice versa?

How would a man’s daily life be changed if the world was 4.5 billion years old instead of 6000 years old?

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Roger A. Sawtelle - #75253

December 13th 2012

Eddie,

My concern for unity within the Church is based on the fact that our real opponent in this debate is Scientism, not each other.

Therefore the critical focus of ID should be focused on Dawkins, Dennett, & Co. rather than TE.  This indeed is the focus my thought and writings.

Therefore I am very critical of neoDarwinism, just as ID is.  However I know that the real problem is not scientific, but philosophical and neither ID nor TE has a solid philosophical basis to criticize Dawkins, neoDarwinism, and Scientism.

A blanket critique of Modernism does not suffice.    

 

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Merv - #75256

December 13th 2012

Eddie wrote:

I don’t disagree with the principle that you enunciate here:  ”a relentless pursuit of truth revealed both in Scripture and in creation.”  I would, however, add that your principle, applied consistently, would allow for “creation” to “present” not only evidence for common descent but also a strong basis for design inferences.  And many TE leaders are very much averse to the latter possibility.  (Hence the frequent slams here against Paley and against natural theology generally.)

Or perhaps it isn’t so much Paley or his conclusions (in his own time) that TEs now object to as it is how Paley’s work has since been used to inject so many (unsupportable as it turns out) conclusions into science from theology and into theology from science.  

My point was that all scientific theses are provisional, so that if we decide to rewrite theology every time scientific “truth” changes, we will be rewriting theology all the time.  

Agreed.  Science (even well-settled science whatever that may be) is no basis for theology.  But I suppose one must work out how their theology is going to *take into account* what we know about our physical world to the extent that theology intersects with conjectures about the physical world.  I.e.  while theology does not have much (if any) stake in whether the world moves or doesn’t move, yet still a theology that demanded as one of its doctrines an immoveable earth would be a dangerous incorporation of a falsehood into one’s theology today.  Wouldn’t you agree with that?  So at some point, theologies which do specialize in making pronouncements about the physical world (e.g. YEC) must take science into account discerning what they can accept as “settled science”.   So either way, science is already “at the table” so to speak.  It’s just that some must be much more highly selective about keeping *most* (my editorial choice of words regarding YEC) science away from that table.  And you would add that TEs also try to keep *some potential science* (again, my editorial choice) away from the table (thinking of ID).  And if so, I agree with you.  I have no problem thinking of science more broadly as our pursuit of any knowledge.  And we should fearlessly pursue it.

If it is true—and it looks truer every day, based on what I’m reading in the writings and quoted opinions of the world’s leading evolutionary theorists—that “randomness” has a much, much smaller role in evolution than neo-Darwinism asserts, then playing intellectual Twister to make “randomness” fit with the sovereignty and providence of God will prove to have been a colossal waste of theological time.  Yet look at BioLogos!  How many columns here have been devoted, directly or indirectly, to the praise of “randomness” as God’s mode of creation?  

Or if not “randomness” in origins, could you at least grant that God largely uses what appears as “randomness” to us in the daily administration of this cosmos today and presumably has for most of all time?  I think what Biologos wants to do is defang the fearsome “randomness = no God” bogey man or that randomness precludes meaning or the possibility of emerging design.  I think I join you in staying open (and even thinking it probable) that randomness does not account for 100% of God’s toolbox used to bring about and sustain creation.  But can’t we agree that randomness (as it appears to us) is *one of* God’s useful tools?  I don’t imagine Biologos writers would find these last statements unreasonable, but if they did—then I would share in your critique of them.

-Merv

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Roger A. Sawtelle - #75259

December 13th 2012

Merv,

Are we talking about randomness or indeterminancy? 

It seems to me that the real issue is not that Nature is random or has some random aspects, but that  Naturalism claims it has no purpose. 

Most conservative Christians, including myself, associate randomness with having purpose, which is the reason that they object to the Darwinian understanding of evolution.  This is because neoDarwinians see Variation as a random, indeterminant process, which it is and overlook the process of Natural Selection which is not.

Thus when ID is attacking neoDarwinism it is attacking indeterminant Variation.  TE needs to defend evolution by pointing that it is not random or indetrminant, because Natural Selection is determinant.  Darwin wrote:

 “Natural selection is daily and hourly scrutinizing, throughout the world, every variation, weven the slightest, rejecting that which is bad, and preserving and adding up that which is good…..“Origin  

Thus according to Darwin Nature actively determines the form of life through natural selection.  Now since we know that Nature is not an agent which can do anything, who is to say that God, the Creator, Logos, and Spirit, is not working actively through Natural Selection to shape life on earth according to God’s own purposes.   

    

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Eddie - #75272

December 13th 2012

Merv:

Let me say that I enjoy your responses.  You genuinely converse—you try to understand the other person’s position before you criticize it, and you aren’t, like some TE supporters on the internet, bristly and defensive when some of your own positions are criticized. 
 
I agree that it makes sense for Christians to try to harmonize theology and Biblical exegesis with what appear to be obvious facts of nature.  It’s only human to want a coherent view of life, in which one’s religious beliefs don’t contradict one’s beliefs about how the world is. 
 
Things get trickier when we move beyond facts to inferences, because inferences are of varying strength and are generally revisable.  Whereas the circulation of the blood and the roundness of the earth are no longer inferences (as they once both were), but facts, common descent is still (in my view) an inference, and hence does not automatically have the right to sue Christian theology for harmonization, as those other claims do.  Common descent is at least in principle debatable.  So even though I have no objection to common descent, and never challenge it (though sometimes I have challenged the metaphysics-loaded reasoning by which some TEs have claimed to prove it), I respect the right of creationists to debate it (with the proviso that all their objections must be intellectually honest).  And once we move beyond common descent to the neo-Darwinism represented on BioLogos, we are into an inference which in my view is even more debatable.

This range of debatability is illustrated by the variety of ID positions.  Whereas the YEC-ID people think that the age of the earth is scientifically debatable, Meyer and Dembski think it’s a pretty sound inference.  Whereas the YEC-ID and OEC-ID people think that common descent is debatable, Behe thinks it’s a pretty sound inference.  (And whereas all ID folks think that neo-Darwinism is debatable, TEs mostly think it’s a pretty sound inference, and most of them treat it as more like a fact than an inference.)

Could “randomness” be a tool of God?  Well, yes.  The number of hydrogen atoms in a cloud of gas, and their velocities and motions, might be initially “random,” i.e., the both the number and the velocities/motions of individual atoms could be different from what they are, but the laws of gravity and nuclear physics would still (if current theory is right) work with those individual “random” facts to turn the gas cloud into a star.  But in neo-Darwinian evolution, the “randomness” is not under that kind of law-bound constraint.  There is open-ended contingency; there is nothing corresponding to gravity or nuclear forces which can guarantee that the mutations will turn a bacterium into a man, or into anything in particular.  The outcomes are radically contingent on very tiny local differences in a way that they are not in the case of stellar formation, meaning that no “initial situation” can guarantee any particular set of outcomes.  For ID-Christians, this is a theological reason (above and beyond ID’s scientific reasons) for rejecting neo-Darwinian mechanisms (or analogous stochastic mechanisms) as the exclusive drivers of evolution.
 
Of course, there is the possibility for ID people of supplementing neo-Darwinian action with intervention, but that is generally considered a gross violation of good science by TEs, and they roundly denounce that as “tinkering.”  There are also purely naturalistic solutions which retain “evolution” while containing or constraining “randomness” so that evolution moves in a preferred direction—apparently Conway Morris argues this as a TE.  But Conway Morris has never written a column for this site—has he never been invited to do so?  And if not, why not?  Is his notion scientifically heretical by neo-Darwinian lights?
 
Some TEs, frequently those of a Calvinist variety, will insist clearly that there is no real randomness in the process, but only apparent randomness.  I just read a passage by Terry Gray to this effect this morning: for him, all the results of evolution are decisively intended by God; there is no “randomness” in the Gouldian sense of “it might have been otherwise, depending on the way the ball bounced.”  Others, including some prominent biologist-TEs on this site, are non-committal when asked whether God intended all the results of the evolutionary process, and speak in this context about the “freedom” God gives nature; in such a theology, “randomness” appears ontologically basic in a way that it is not in Gray’s Calvinism.  ID-Christians can have a dialogue with Gray’s position; they have a hard time establishing anything in common with the other one, which appears to flirt with, if not slyly endorse, open theism.
 
It would help—it would really help—if TEs would sometimes openly debate with each other over the big theological questions—whether there is real randomness, how God controls evolution, etc.  If the theological differences between TEs became more clearly articulated, the world might be surprised to see at least some ID proponents agreeing with at least some TE proponents on some questions.  It might be, for example, that Behe and Russell are closer together than either is to Falk or Venema, or that Conway Morris and Denton are closer together than either is to Ken Miller.  But the apparent unspoken “rule of public non-contradiction”—that TEs may throw throw out theological suggestions to each other, provided that they not try to refute each other’s suggestions when ID or creationist people might be listening or reading— prevents this from being seen.
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HornSpiel - #75263

December 13th 2012

Eddie,

If it is true—and it looks truer every day, based on what I’m reading in the writings and quoted opinions of the world’s leading evolutionary theorists—that “randomness” has a much, much smaller role in evolution than neo-Darwinism asserts, then playing intellectual Twister to make “randomness” fit with the sovereignty and providence of God will prove to have been a colossal waste of theological time.

If randomness is not as important as you say (and I am not disputing that), then what is the point of ID probability calculations? Seems according to you that ID folks are saying the same thing as some mainstream scientists. Neo-Darwinian theorists have said again and again that evolution is not random, it is guided by the environmental context of the organisms, or as Roger would call it, Ecology.

Evolution cannot occur without the interaction between the genotype and the phenotype through the mediation of the genetic decoding and encoding. We do not know how that came about (just like we do not know how intelligence in humans came about) but we observe it. It is a knowable scientifically describable design agent. Moreover scientists do speculate there are other design agents out there, for example, the work being done on epigenetics. We do not know, nor can we ever know if, we have discovered all of the scientifically describable design agents out there.

ID claims it has proof of design that could not be accomplished by neo-Darwinism alone. That is fine. What is the proper scientific response?

  • Critique the calculations to see if there are any errors.
  • Reexamine the currently known design agents to see if there are any likely pathways for specific examples.  For example, what was done for the bacterial flagellum.
  • Look for other scientifically describable design processes that can account for the data.

Where is proposing a preexistent intelligent designer helpful in scientific description? If I understand correctly ID wants science to not only show design, but teleology, and make that part of scientific description. Teleology and randomness are really what are being contrasted. Is that not correct?

Just to be clear, all scientifically describable non-intelligent design agents (we exclude human genetic manipulation) are non-teleological. They are responses to the environment, they are not goal-oriented.

So how is it that ID distinguishes between non-teleological and teleological design, specifically in the genome? What is the data and how is that conclusion arrived at? How is it possible to exclude all known and unknown  non-teleological design agents?

By the way I want to express my appreciation for interacting with so many  on this site. A Merry Christmas to you as well.

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Eddie - #75274

December 13th 2012

Hornspiel:

In answer to your question, the point of the ID probability calculations is to show that if the evolutionary process had to work only through the mechanism proposed by neo-Darwinism, there is not nearly enough time allotted by the geological record for the results we see to have occurred.  

The ID calculations, if correct, lead to two possible conclusions:  (a) evolution did not happen (the position of YEC- and OEC-ID people, though the OEC people allow for “microevolution”); (b) evolution did happen, but not primarily through the process described by the neo-Darwinians (the position of Behe, Sternberg, Denton and others).

You mention the bacterial flagellum.  There is, to my knowledge, no neo-Darwinian explanation for the bacterial flagellum.  At least, none that is not storytelling, lacking empirically testable details.  The suggestion of Matzke and others that the secretory system might have been an intermediate step would, even if correct, account for only one of the many needed such steps, and no one, to my knowledge, has proposed any others.  Thus, the neo-Darwinian explanation for the origin of the flagellum is in the position of an argument that the Pacific Ocean could be swum by a guy who can only do a mile at a time, because we have found one island between Japan and Seattle and might still discover a whole series of unknown islands that are only a mile apart.  That’s speculative fantasy, not science.

Where is proposing intelligent design useful?  I’ve already given the general answer to beaglelady.  You can also break your rule of “I won’t read any more ID books other than the two I’ve read” and look at Wells’s book on junk DNA—which was a notion premised on neo-Darwinism and which ID people, inspired by the alternative of design, predicted would be largely wrong.  Other new data, e.g., uses for the appendix and other supposed “vestigial” organs (classed as “vestigial” on Darwinian presuppositions), fit in more with a design hypothesis than a trial-and-error hypothesis for the origin of organs and systems.  Design is a genuine scientific heuristic, and that—not the desire to find a proof for the existence of God—is what motivates many ID people, including Behe, who said so explicitly in a debate with Barr (which is on the internet but which apparently no on here is interested in talking about).

It does not matter whether or not the “design agent” is “scientifically describable” in order for design inferences to be sound.  We cannot describe God scientifically; but suppose God built Stonehenge by a direct miraculous action.  Our inference that Stonehenge was designed would still be 100% correct, even though we could not describe the agent (God) scientifically, or even be sure who the agent was.

As for your other questions, I don’t feel obliged to answer them.  It’s not my job to save you the hundreds of hours I’ve spent reading ID books, articles, and columns, and listening to podcasts, radio and television debates and so on; if you want to know how ID people answer all these questions, you have to put in the same time I’ve put in.  You seem to want a shortcut, a quick summary of ID, so that you can quickly dispense with it by rejecting its arguments on the basis of the summary.  But there is no “royal road” to understanding these very complex debates about design and chance in biology, any more than there is a “royal road” to geometry.  If you want to know the truth, the way to learn it is not by debating on a blog site.  It’s by study.

I’ll take my leave of you now, until such time as we start in on an entirely fresh topic.  Once again, best wishes and holiday blessings to you.

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Roger A. Sawtelle - #75267

December 13th 2012

HornSpiel wrote:

Neo-Darwinian theorists have said again and again that evolution is not random, it is guided by the environmental context of the organisms, or as Roger would call it, Ecology.

Thank you for the recognition of my position, but it is a mistake to say that this is a neoDarwinist position.  Certainly it not the position of Dawkins, the most prominent neoDarwinist, or any others I am aware of.  If you have information to the contrary I would appreciate knowing the source.     

They are responses to the environment, they are not goal-oriented.

When a life form adapts to the environment, how is it not goal oriented? 

When a strain of e. coli adapted to a difficult environment, how can you say that it was not goal oriented?

When a team or company or person adapts to a competive environment, how is that not goal oriented?

There is evidence that the earth and the universe is life friendly.  That is not an accident.  That is evidence of purpose and design.  The changes that the planet earth has gone through are directly related to changes in the complexity and diversity of life leading to the appearance and development of humanity. 

This does not mean that evolution is automatic or predetermined.  God does not work that way, but it still is the result of God’s creative purpose.     

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HornSpiel - #75268

December 13th 2012

This does not mean that evolution is automatic or predetermined.  God does not work that way, but it still is the result of God’s creative purpose.

Eddie,

Thank you for recognizing with my position. Or, where does our difference really lie?

When I say that evolution is not random but it is neither goal oriented nor random, this is Evolution  101

here: evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/evo101/IIIE6Nonrandom.shtml I find it odd that you would be so critical of standard evolutionary theory when you are not familiar with these concepts.

I assume Dawkins and the Evolution Establishment would have no problem with whatever is said on this site. See: evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/recognition.shtml

I suggest you check out the above site to get a picture of how evolution is currently presented at the high school level. You may indeed find some legitimate bias in the presentation, but over all I find it very measured and balanced.  In particular I would suggest you read the section on misconceptions about evolution. I’d be very interested in your considered critique of any of the things said there.

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HornSpiel - #75269

December 13th 2012

Part of my response was cut off. What I wrote was.

Both issues [non-goal orientation and non-randomness] are addresses here: evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/evo101/IIIE6Nonrandom.shtml

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Eddie - #75275

December 13th 2012

HornSpiel:

You are responding in 75268 to Roger, but you have accidentally addressed me.  I’ll let Roger take it from here.  Again, Merry Christmas.

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