Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Promoting a Comment on Science: Evolution and I.D.

I'm going to do something I think will make our blog even more interesting. We had a commenter on the thread about evolution and intelligent design that Jay started who put in some serious effort to moving the conversation forward. So, I'm moving the comment up to the main page for the edification of any who would like to read it.

The identity of the commenter is a secret. We know him only as . . . Bubba.

Here it is:

Ok, since I WAS a Science major, not a Literature or a PolySci major as it appears most of those who post are, please let me ramble on for a minute.

The "Scientific Method" starts with a hypothesis, and tries to systematically go about to prove or disprove the hypothesis. “Science” is publishing your conclusions, along with your methods and materials, so that other “scientists” may review and prove or disprove your work with their own work, thus creating an open debate.

“Science” relies upon “laws” (e.g., Gravity, Thermodynamics, Motion) which have come to be relied upon as fact after multitudes of experiments and an innumerable number of blackboards of mathematical equations seem to be able to describe and predict the outcome of experiments relative to these “laws”.

OK, where am I headed? The statement was made “Scientifically there is no debate about evolution”. Balderdash. Go read some scientific journals. Open up a “Chemistry (or Physics) For Dummies” book. Use some intellectual integrity to subject your beliefs and theories to serious scrutiny.

Evolution is a theory that has been propounded, promulgated, and legislated without the accompaniment of hard scientific experimentation and data. In fact, the theory of Evolution is believable only after one has blinded one’s self to laws of Science which have been overwhelmingly proven and been accepted as fact for hundreds of years, such as Newton’s laws of thermodynamics, and the definitions of Entropy and Enthalpy.

Alternatively, there is no debate about the veracity of Evolution only if debate has been outlawed in the public forum, or the debaters are shouted down or called “religious extremists” by those who are afraid that open, honest SCIENTIFIC debate would not substantiate their pet theory.

Q: Where did the large molecules come from?

A: They were put together from small molecules after having been zapped with solar radiation.

Q: Where did the small molecules come from?

A: Energy fused micro-molecules together.

Q: Where did the micro-molecules come from?

A: Nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms.

Q: Where did the Nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms come from (since “Matter is neither created nor destroyed”)?

A: (no answer)

Q: Where did the solar radiation or the energy required to overcome the laws of Entropy come from?

A: (no answer)

The statement was made: “…I have no problem debating it and even reconciling it, but as tbm says, ID is not science, it's religion…”

It is clear that to believe in the theory of Evolution as though it had been proven factually has become such a matter of complete 'faith', and is no less 'a religion' for its believers than the Evolutionists accuse those who believe in Intelligent Design, or “Heaven” forbid, those who believe in the Bibical account of Creation of having.

71 comments:

Kathy Hutchins said...

“Science” is publishing your conclusions, along with your methods and materials, so that other “scientists” may review and prove or disprove your work with their own work, thus creating an open debate.

You mean like this?

Now that's a debate we need to have in this country.

Hunter Baker said...

Oh, Kathy, you'll derail the flood of ardent Church of Darwin the Secular Messiah believers who are surely planning to flood the board. Give 'em a chance!

They will want to say:

"Religion is not science. The two words share no more than three letters in common."

"Any ideas about the development of species or the origin of man that differ from the Darwinian account (except the many differences from the Darwinian account made by those who still hold the "right" attitude about said account) cannot be science."

"Lots of guys named Steve think I.D. is a crock and a debate over the merits is ridiculous because they are prejudged to be so."

James Elliott said...

They will want to say:

"Religion is not science. The two words share no more than three letters in common."

"Any ideas about the development of species or the origin of man that differ from the Darwinian account (except the many differences from the Darwinian account made by those who still hold the "right" attitude about said account) cannot be science."


Wow, way to set up a straw man there, Hunter, and therefore assure that no such debate can occur. Bravo.

JC said...

"Science is a systematic method of continuing investigation that uses observations, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena."

Is this a good or poor definition of science? Try looking up "science" at Dictionary.com.

The definition above is the one that the Kansas school board voted to use. Is it really so awful?

Here is the problem. Both ID and Evolution supporters want science to study "natural phenomena," but many Evolutionists want to restrict it to "natural explanations" as well. (This is what caused the controversy in Kansas: The definition given above does not contain this phrase.)

So my question is, what is a natural explanation? Would that even rule out intelligent design?
ID only refers to an intelligent agent, which could include "natural" agents like aliens. Whether aliens or God or anyone else created life is completely irrelevant regarding the question of whether or not it was designed. ID deliberately ignores who or what the hypothetical agent is; presently, science cannot tell us. Yet science can suggest whether "something" was designed or not.

Consider an image found on a cave wall in a remote area. Some scientists might try to show how the image could appear through "natural events" (without human interaction). Others might observe certain aspects of the image that significantly decrease the probability that it "naturally" appeared, and then they might hypothesize that an intelligent person (a cave man, a hiker, or someone else) drew on the cave wall. The first group might say the area is uninhabitable and offer other arguments, but no one would accuse the second group of being "unscientific" for offering an "unnatural" explanation. Proposing that something is an artifact of an intelligent agent (and supporting this proposition by eliminating alternate possibilities) is not necessarily unscientific. Such a proposition would be weakened by Occam's Razor if an equally consistent hypothesis is available that does not require an intelligent agent.

Thus, ID proponents might be wrong, but the theories of ID and macroevolution are as legitimate as any archaeological theory.

James Elliott said...

Nonsense. The "theory" of ID is untestable and unverifiable. It cannot be peer reviewed because it exists solely as a thought experiment. In ID, there is no rigorous methododology to be peer reviewed, merely philosophical/theological thought to be critiqued.

As has been pointed out elsewhere: It is one thing to look at things science cannot explain (yet) and to contend that it will perhaps prove a fatal flaw in a scientific theory. It is quite another to claim that it completely invalidates the theory (evolution in this case) and yet another erroneous thought entirely to argue that such a lack of explanation proves your alternative theory. That's just poor logic.

ID isn't science, and it's barely passable philosophy. It could be interesting theology, and has some implications for Christianity that haven't been fully explored - and if they were, enthusiasm might just wane.

The idea that ID proponents are not pushing a certain Judeo-Christian entity as the designer is bunk. To claim otherwise rings hollow and dishonest. It is only among uniquely American Christians that science is held in such poor esteem. You don't see Hindus arguing that ID proves the existence of Vishnu.

"Evolutionists" don't want science to be limited to natural causes, jc; all scientists must limit their explanations to natural causes because they can only observe, measure, and document natural evidence. Your "archaeological" argument is flawed: We can observe or uncover correlary evidence that allows us to infer the designer of the cave drawing. ID offers no such ability to observe or uncover correlary evidence of a biological designer.

JC said...

Your "archaeological" argument is flawed: We can observe or uncover correlary evidence that allows us to infer the designer of the cave drawing.
What if the archaeologists do not uncover corroborating evidence? Suppose only attributes of the image itself suggest the existence of an artist. We might still infer an artist.

The "theory" of ID is untestable and unverifiable.
ID and macroevolution are both theories about the past; in a sense, they are more "history" than "science." Scientists can find indirect evidence by searching for processes by which things might have evolved or by attempting to show that logically such a process cannot exist. Either type of argument is valid.

[...] yet another erroneous thought entirely to argue that such a lack of explanation proves your alternative theory. That's just poor logic.
I disagree. Suppose something valuable disappears from a vault, and there is no evidence of a forced entry. Lawyers might try to eliminate (from the list of people who knew the combination) people with alibis, and then the jury might conclude that the remaining person must have stolen the item.

The idea that ID proponents are not pushing a certain Judeo-Christian entity as the designer is bunk.
They are not pushing such an "entity" in the scientific forum, though they are in a philosophical and religious sense. Scientifically, the hypothetical designer might not be the Judeo-Christian God; ID does not address the question of "who." (Consider the many theorems in Mathematics that show existence of an object without identifying the object.) Be careful to avoid an ad hominem attack on ID.

Hunter Baker said...

James, let's take an example. Michael Behe isolates different mechanisms in very simple lifeforms that appear to be nonfunctional at any simpler stage. Sort of like if you remove the spark plugs from an engine, the engine is dead. He concludes that the notion this mechanism evolved via random selection doesn't make any sense.

What exactly about that is religious or philosophical? It sounds to me like he is making an argument via scientific reason.

James Elliott said...

What if the archaeologists do not uncover corroborating evidence? Suppose only attributes of the image itself suggest the existence of an artist. We might still infer an artist.

This is the same argument that leads people to "Well, if science can't recreate the conditions for something, it mustn't exist." That doesn't even make sense. That's like an IDer saying: Oh, but the Roman Arch requires man to build it - without all of the structures working together, the arch fails to function. Only problem: Arches occur in nature, too. It requires the acceptance of the conclusion - that there is an intelligent designer - as the initial premise to support all the other reasoning.

ID and macroevolution are both theories about the past; in a sense, they are more "history" than "science."

That's sheer sophistry.

Scientifically, the hypothetical designer might not be the Judeo-Christian God; ID does not address the question of "who."

So's this.

Hunter, you are referring to Behe's oft-refuted "irreduceable complexity." For Behe's logic to follow, neurotransmitter/receptor or DNA activation/deactivation sites also would never occur without "intelligent design." Essentially, he ignores the idea of systems developing together or of tandem evolution. Behe's argument reduces to "I can't think of any evolutionary mechanism that explains it, and we can't observe it now, so it must not exist." Balderdash. Not only is the argument logically unsound, it's been biologically refuted many times, including in studies BEFORE Behe wrote "Darwin's Black Box."

connie deady said...

I'm going to tread warily here I guess. But I don't understand why people feel the need to dispute Darwin.

My Catholic husband was very upset when he found my daughter was learning evolution in biology in Catholic school. I remember our bitter arguments on this subject. It never occurred to me that the theory of evolution repudiated God and the bible. Maybe my Presbyterian upbringing was lacking but when I studied Darwin in high school I don't remember getting this huge revolution that there was no God.

I don't get why people want to repudiate Darwin. Personally it seems like they must have some insecurity in their own faith. Science proved that the earth revolved around the sun and all sorts of other stuff never conceived of when biblical stories were written and told. That didn't make God or faith unreal or invalid to those who believed.

Is it a need to take the bible literally?

From what I have read, scientists overwhelming reject intelligent design as a science. Of course as a philosopher, I rejected empiricism as a means of explaining the nature of the world. So we're even. However, I wouldn't attempt to claim philosophy was science. I'd want to integrate the two. Same with religion and science. They both serve their purposes, why do people want to blur the lines?

Hunter Baker said...

James, Behe as an actual biochemist (in good standing with the union for many years until he came out of the closet) would have a better idea of what the literature provides. In Black Box, he claims that no satisfactory explanation has been given and that the one's that claim to be satisfactory are easily shown not to be.

Hunter Baker said...

Kathy, I honestly don't care whether the theory of evolution is an accurate description of reality or not. I really don't. I basically have always felt similarly to the way you describe yourself feeling.

What frosts me is the the attitude I see from the hardcore Darwin group. I think it is appalling that you can have a perfectly brilliant scientist (and there have been many, though they don't usually come out until retirement like Fred Hoyle) and that person becomes instantly anathema if they doubt the theory at all. That's utter B.S. There's no other way to see it. The theory is being protected from critique and I think that is largely where the religious issues emerge.

James Elliott said...

Okay, so he "refutes" the studies from before, like A. Graham Smith's. Not having read the book, I'll give the benefit of the doubt and hope that his argument is really more involved than yours.

That said, how does he contend with the people who refute him after? It's easy to say that his theory stands up. But does it? We've got scientists like Matzke, Thornhill, Dawkins, and Schneider who have convincingly refuted his thesis. Oh yeah, and tens of thousands more who remain unconvinced.

You're right. It's all a scientific "faith" conspiracy. That makes loads of sense.

Jay D. Homnick said...

Connie mentioned as a tangent that the earth revolving around the sun was not conceived of in ancient times. This is based apparently on some history occurring between the Catholic Church and Galileo.

However, students of the Talmud (published 1500 years ago) know that it specifically refers to this matter. It mentions that the Greek scholars believed that the earth revolved around the sun while Jewish scholars believed that the sun revolved around the earth - and that the Jewish scholars backed down after a debate.

The great Jewish thinker, Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (1707-1746), explains in an essay that certainly the Jewish sages knew all along that the Greeks were right as a matter of physical science. They only argued from a spiritual standpoint that if God created the visual sensation for us that it is the sun that moves, then the spiritual reality is that the sun is rising in the morning and setting in the evening. Even if the physical mechanism to arrange that perception works on an inverse system to create a mirror image.

Another thing that the Talmud had right well before popular science did was the fact that the world is round.

Hunter Baker said...

James, I'll say it again to help you understand the reasoning. Read Thomas Kuhn, read Thomas Kuhn, read Thomas Kuhn.

He'll make it perfectly clear why scientific establishments resist new approaches for far too long.

Hint: There are careers, research dollars, reputations, relationships, etc. at stake.

Francis J. Beckwith said...

Why is everyone so obsessed with the label "science," unless the label carries with it some cultural power? At the end of the day, either one's arguments work or not. If they work, and they defeat what you call "science," so much the worse for "science" since such a view of science excludes possible defeaters to its deliverances by some epistemological litmus test. But why would anyone who thinks the truth is important want to engage such an intellectually depraved practice?

Let me highly recommend Ernst Mayer's book ONE LONG ARGUMENT: CHARLES DARWIN AND THE GENESIS (Harvard University Press, 1993). It's a wonderful and clearly written presentation of Darwin's research project. Mayer, one of the leading Darwinists of the 20th century, notes in this book that Darwin's engine for biological change--natural selection--made the design inference superfluous. All of Darwin's teachers invoked design, and Darwin understood his non-teleological theory as a better account than, and thus a defeater to, the position held by his instructors. Consequently, Mr. Elliot is wrong about design's testability. For Darwin's theory implies that one its rivals--design theory--has been tested and shown to be wanting in comparison to natural selection. Darwinism's correctness depends on the inadequacy of a design inference. This seemed obvious to Darwin, as it did to Mayer.

Amy & Jordan said...

It is clear that to believe in the theory of Evolution as though it had been proven factually has become such a matter of complete 'faith', and is no less 'a religion' for its believers than the Evolutionists accuse those who believe in Intelligent Design, or “Heaven” forbid, those who believe in the Bibical account of Creation of having.

You may find it interesting to read what Herman Bavinck has to say on the fundamental place of "faith" with respect to knowledge:

Believing in general is a very common way in which people gain knowledge and certainty. In all areas of life we start by believing. Our natural inclination is to believe. It is only acquired knowledge and experience that teach us skepticism. Faith is the foundation of society and the basis of science. Ultimately all certainty is rooted in faith.

A little later he writes:

Clement of Alexandria in many places uses πιστις to denote all immediate knowledge and certainty and then says that there is no science without belief, that the first principles, including, for example, the existence of God, are believed, not proven. Especially Augustine highlighted the significance of belief for society and science. Those who do not believe, he says, never arrive at knowledge: “Unless you have believed you will not understand.” Belief is the foundation and bond uniting the whole of human society.

This of course makes sense when you parse the definition of knowledge as justified (or warranted) true belief. But it also impacts the importance of being explicit about our principia, or first principles, which natural scientists no less than theologians possess, those things we belief completely without evidentialist or foundationalist proof.

connie deady said...

ames, I'll say it again to help you understand the reasoning. Read Thomas Kuhn, read Thomas Kuhn, read Thomas Kuhn.

I read Kuhn back in graduate school an excellent book. As I said, I have no love for empiricists when it comes to philosophy and it's an excellent attack on them.

Nobody has yet answered my question of why it matters that intelligent design be taught in a science class. Why does Darwin bother people?

FWIW, I don't see that there is an inherent conflict between what science teaches and what faith believes. There are scientists who are strong people of faith that don't reject evolution.

Matt Huisman said...

Connie, I think Darwin bothers people because of statements such as the following:

"'[Evolution is] a theory in a special philosophical sense of science, but in terms of ordinary laymen's use of language, it's a fact,' said Richard Dawkins, a biologist from Oxford University, in a recent radio interview. 'Evolution is a fact in the same sense that it's a fact that the Earth is round and not flat, [that] the Earth goes round the Sun. Both those are also theories, but they're theories that have never been disproved and never will be disproved.'

These theories are hardly on the same evidential playing field. We actually have evidence that the earth is round and revolves around the sun; we can 'see' it. Macro-evolution is a really good guess that works with some assumptions about what we know happens on a small scale with materials we are familiar with. But it still has some 'issues', and the reason no one wants to speak of them is because there is an underlying worldview behind the theory that is just as (if not more) important to its purveyors than being candid.

Macro-evolution is not usually taught as a work-in-progress, with some uncertainties here or there...it is a 'fact'...it explains the origins of the universe...and therefore anyone can see that there is no longer any need to believe that there must have been a creator.

To the extent that scientists do not recognize the promulgation of their worldview in the teaching of evolution, creationists have grounds for opposing it.

Amy Chai said...

Cathy,
The reasons for taking offense at Darwinian eucation are several. Some, in my estimation, are valid and some are not.

The simplest reason for argument is the literalist interpretation of scripture. This interpretation depends on ancient Hebrew calculations of the age of the world. The "young earth" proponents believe that the earth is no more than about 6,000 years old after estimating time spans from geneology in the Pentateuch and adding seven 24 hour days for creation. The young earth theory is at odds not only with Darwin, but also with astronomy, physics, geology, and various other scientific disciplines that appear to contradict the idea of a young earth. While it is indeed possible for the young earth theory to be true, (metaphysically speaking, we may have all been created with our fossils and memories a scant five minutes ago) it is not reasonable to teach this theory in a non-theological setting. I personally have a problem with parents who so indoctrinate their children with this theory that their Christian or Orthodox faith is utterly shattered when they leave the protective intellectual environment of their own homes.

A second argument is the "special" creation of humankind. If humans have a soul in the image of God, how is it possible that they evolved from lower life forms? Theologically speaking, I could argue either side. However, that is not the debate. This argument is firmly within the realm of ID. As a physician with research experience, I can tell you that there are things "taken as a given" in the scientific community that yes, are matters of what some might describe as, "faith". I'm old enough to have seen huge chunks of what I once knew to be "fact" utterly discounted. That is why I am discouraged by the disingenuous unwillingness of scientists in general to consider other paradigms. Yes, as Thomas Kuhn said, we are slow to embrace a "paradigm shift." Just as slow, I might add, as the Church in Galileo's day. And yes, there is a sort of "excommunication" for heretical thought.

The third reason for antipathy towards Darwinism has nothing at all to do with science. This is really where I stand at this point in time. I am not intellectually threatened by challenges to my belief system. In fact, I welcome challenge and debate. Unfortunately, many within the educational system do not. I think that "scientists" are more open minded than "educators" and that is what disturbs me the most. Educators are using science (just take a look at editorial cartoons to see what I am getting at...) to ridicule and discredit the worldviews of people of faith. I am speaking of social Darwinism, humanism, eugenics, and all the socio-political ramifications of the above. Christians are bright enough to perceive this hostility and a very big part of the ID issue is a backlash against this subtle to not-so-subtle intellectual discrimination. The recent rant by Pat Robertson is a rather over-the-top expression of that pent up frustration. When you couple this with the re-writing of history texts to show Christians in a bad light (I won't go there, but I could give example after example) and sex education texts that say you are a "hateful bigot" if you think gay sex is immoral, you just have this huge blow up ready to happen. ID is simply the flashpoint.

My solution? Yank the children from the hands of the bigoted educational system and do it better at home. I teach my kids "traditional" science, including evolutionary concepts. I present it in a way that respects our belief system. I teach "traditional" history books, but I deconstruct them, unspin them, and point out biases. I also encourage evaluating primary sources to refute the outright fallacies. Most parents can't do that. Most parents don't have the resources. They are simply angry, and they are losing their children. More power to them in the fight.

JC said...

From way up there...
That's like an IDer saying: Oh, but the Roman Arch requires man to build it - without all of the structures working together, the arch fails to function. Only problem: Arches occur in nature, too. It requires the acceptance of the conclusion - that there is an intelligent designer - as the initial premise to support all the other reasoning.
This example appears to support my argument more than yours?! Arches occur in nature, yes, but not "Roman Arches." Roman Arches are far more complex and intricately crafted than "natural" arches---a difference that is easily seen even by the untrained eye. With some structures it may be less clear whether they are man-made or natural. However, if we found a "Roman Arch" (or similar structure, in tact) in the middle of a desert, we would infer that a designer, not nature, put it there. It does not require us to assume the existence of the designer; rather, it requires us to show that the arch is to complex to have appeared spontaneously, and to assume that design is at least possible. This is not something I am making up: archaeologists do this very thing all the time; some structures and objects we conclude are man-made, some are natural, and others we cannot tell. The more improbable a "natural" (geological) explanation is, the more probable an "intelligent designer" (i.e. human) created it. It is a valid scientific question.

And incidentally Amy---yay for homeschooling :) I agree with much of what you said.

connie deady said...

Hey, I believe in diversity. If Amy wants her children to be educated in her belief system, take them away from public schools.

It's preferable to people trying to impose their religion on my child.

I'm glad you believe in the scriptures. I don't. Educate your children anyway you want. I however want my children educated, not indoctrinated. Why are religious people so threatened these days. It appears to be fearmongering to me. You guys are the overwhelming majority. I'm the one in the minority not wanting to be trampled based upon our beloved constitution and bill of rights.

Amy & Jordan said...

connie, you just articuled in nuce the reason that government is uniquely unqualified to provide education. It is never "value-free." You don't believe in the Scriptures, you should be free to send your child to a school that teaches naturalism. But I should be free to send mine to a Christian school. And neither of us should receive government subsidies or be forced to pay for the other.

Either you agree that we should have a system of real educational choice, or you just want the government to indoctrinate people into what you admit is a "minority" position.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

I however want my children educated, not indoctrinated.

Connie ... you can do better than that. With my apologies to the thread police ...

You are implying many things, none of which are proven to be true:

1) the public school system does an adequate job of educating our children;

2) the public school system does not indoctrinate;

3) home-schooling (or private religous schools) do indoctrinate.

You're 0 fer 3 ...

Matt Huisman said...

From a recent Phyllis Schlafly column (I don't know if I necessarily agree with her take on the case):

The appeals court decision stated that "there is no fundamental right of parents to be the exclusive provider of information regarding sexual matters to their children" and that "parents have no due process or privacy right to override the determinations of public schools as to the information to which their children will be exposed."

Say what you want about whether the school went overboard or not, but you can't deny that the court here (in the Fields v. Palmdale School District case) recognizes the right of the school district to indoctrinate as it sees fit.

tbmbuzz said...

I see lots of flawed arguments on this thread, not the least of which are presented in the opening "promoted" comment at the top of the thread. I have cited Ker Than before as a quite eloquent writer from the science point of view. I hope no one minds if I post three of his articles here (separately). The web link is:
http://www.livescience.com/humanbiology/050922_ID_main.html

(Excuse me, I still don't know how to post a linkable link here. :) Can anyone give instructions?)

Article #1:

Intelligent Design: An Ambiguous Assault on Evolution
By Ker Than
LiveScience Staff Writer
posted: 22 September 2005
Science can sometimes be a devil's bargain: a discovery is made, some new aspect of nature is revealed, but the knowledge gained can cause mental anguish if it contradicts a deeply cherished belief or value.

Copernicus' declaration in 1543 that the Sun and the heavens were not, in fact, revolving around the Earth and its human inhabitants was one such painful enlightenment. The publication in 1859 of Charles Darwin's book, "The Origin of Species," set the stage for another.

Darwin's truth can be a hard one to accept. His theory of evolution tells us that humans evolved from non-human life as the result of a natural process, one that was both gradual, happening over billions of years, and random. It tells us that new life forms arise from the splitting of a single species into two or more species, and that all life on Earth can trace its origins back to a single common ancestor.

Perhaps most troubling of all, Darwin's theory of evolution tells us that life existed for billions of years before us, that humans are not the products of special creation and that life has no inherent meaning or purpose.

For Americans who view evolution as inconsistent with their intuitions or beliefs about life and how it began, Creationism has always been a seductive alternative.

Creationism's latest embodiment is intelligent design (ID), a conjecture that certain features of the natural world are so intricate and so perfectly tuned for life that they could only have been designed by a Supreme Being.
Real or apparent design?
"The question that we're facing in biology is that when we look at nature, we see design," said Scott Minnich, a microbiologist at the University of Idaho and an ID proponent. "But is it real design or apparent design? There are two answers to the question and both are profound in terms of their metaphysical implications."
In an August interview with National Public Radio, Republican Senator and ID supporter Rick Santorum stated exactly what he believed those implications were for evolution. Asked why he, a politician, felt compelled to weigh in on what was essentially a scientific debate, Santorum replied:
"It has huge consequences for society. It's where we come from. Does man have a purpose? Is there a purpose for our lives? Or are we just simply the result of chance? If we are the result of chance, if we're simply a mistake of nature, then that puts a different moral demand on us. In fact, it doesn't put a moral demand on us."
By adding morality to the equation, Santorum is giving the scientific theory of evolution a religious message, one that does not come on its own, said Kenneth Miller, a biologist at the University of Colorado.
Like Santorum, Miller is a devout Roman Catholic, but he believes evolution can only explain how life arose and how it diversified. Why there is life at all is another question entirely, one that Miller believes is outside the realm of science.
Lawrence Krauss, a physicist at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, expressed a similar sentiment. "The questions of purpose are not part of science," Krauss said. "How you interpret the results of science is up to you, and it's based on your theological and philosophical inclinations."
The ID nerve center
The ID movement is orchestrated by the Center for Science and Culture (CSC), a subdivision of the Discovery Institute, a conservative Christian think tank based in Seattle.
The CSC strategy for countering evolution is twofold: challenge its soundness as a scientific theory, then replace it with ID.
The CSC is using a campaign called "Teach the Controversy" to carry out the first part of the strategy. The campaign is aimed at public schools and teachers are urged to expose students to the "scientific arguments for and against Darwinian theory." It exploits disagreements among biologists, pointing out gaps in their understanding of evolution in order to portray evolution as a "theory in crisis."
Selling ID as a viable alternative to evolution, however, is proving more difficult. In modern science, a theory must first undergo the gauntlet of peer-review in a reputable scientific journal before it is widely accepted.
Measured by this standard, ID fails miserably. According to the National Center for Science Education, only one ID article by Stephen Meyers (Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, 2004) has passed this test and even then, the journal that published the article promptly retracted it. The journal also put out a statement that said "there is no credible scientific evidence supporting ID as a testable hypothesis to explain the origin of organic diversity."
Straddling the fence
The ID movement's greatest strength lies in its ambiguity. It makes no claims about who the designer is or the steps taken to create life. ID does not say whether the designer intervened in the history of life only once or multiple times or even whether the designer is still actively guiding the destiny of life on Earth.
The ambiguity is intentional and part of what Phillip Johnson, a retired law professor from the University of California, Berkeley and one of the ID movement's lead strategists, calls his "big tent" strategy.
By paring the origins debate down to its most essential question—"Do you need a Creator to do the creating, or can nature do it on its own?"—Johnson has managed to create a tenuous alliance between various groups of skeptics and conservative Christians, including Young Earth Creationists—those who believe that the Earth is only a few thousand years old—and Old Earth Creationists.
In front of mainstream audiences, ID proponents refuse to speculate about the precise nature of the designer. Regarding this crucial point, ID proponents are agnostic. It could be God, they say, but it could also be a superior alien race.
Even if an ID version of science were to prevail, the designer's true identity may still never be revealed, Minnich said.
"I think it's outside of the realm of science," Minnich said in a telephone interview. "You can infer design but the science isn't going to tell you who the designer is. It has theistic implications, and then its up to the individual to pursue that out of interest if they want."
When speaking or writing for Christian audiences, however, ID proponents are more candid. Some have openly speculated about who they think the wizard behind the curtain really is.
"The objective is to convince people that Darwinism is inherently atheistic, thus shifting the debate from creationism vs. evolution to the existence of God vs. the nonexistence of God," Johnson wrote in a 1999 article for Church and State magazine. "From there, people are introduced to 'the truth' of the Bible and then 'the question of sin' and finally 'introduced to Jesus.'"
The 'Wedge'
Also in 1999, a fund raising document used by the Discovery Institute to promote the CSC was leaked to the public. Informally known as the "Wedge Document," it stated that the center's long-term goals were nothing less than the "overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies," and the replacement of "materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God."
The means for achieving these goals was explained using a simple metaphor: "If we view the predominant materialistic science as a giant tree, our strategy is intended to function as a 'wedge' that, while relatively small, can split the trunk when applied at its weakest points."
In a 1999 interview with Insight Magazine, Johnson explained why he singled out evolution when his real target was all of modern science: "Evolution is a creation story and as a creation story, it's the main prop of the materialist explanation for our existence."
After watching and analyzing the CSC's strategy for years, Barbara Forrest, a philosopher at Southeastern Louisiana University, was reminded of another metaphor, one she used for the title of her book, "Creationism's Trojan Horse."
Like the hollow wooden horse the Greeks used to enter the city of Troy, ID is being used as a vehicle to sneak Creationism into public schools.
"They know that if you can get [ID] into a school, you're going to have some teacher who's going to present it as religious creationism," Forrest told LiveScience. "They know that, but they can't admit that until they get their foot in the door of the classroom."
The writers of the Wedge Document laid out a comprehensive roadmap for the CSC that included 5- and 20-year goals and strategies to achieve them. To date, nearly all of those goals—including the publication of books, engaging evolutionary scientists in public debates and getting media coverage—have been achieved. All except for one.
"It was supposed to be their first goal and the foundation of the whole strategy and that's doing science," Forrest said. "They haven't done any because you can't do science in such a way as to test for the supernatural."
Although their arguments have been flatly rejected by the majority of mainstream scientists, ID proponents have managed to successfully pitch their idea to the public.
"They're really exploiting their own audience," Forrest said. "They're taking advantage of the fact that Americans like to be fair, but its really grossly unfair. They haven't done any science, and you don't have the right to argue that anything you've done should find its way into a classroom unless you've done the hard work that other scientists are required to do."
The Darwinist religion
While denying that ID is religiously motivated, ID proponents often portray evolution as its own kind of religion, one that is atheistic and materialistic, whose converts no longer cast their eyes towards heaven but who rather seek to build heaven here on Earth using their scientific knowledge.
The implication is that by destroying the idea that Man is the paragon of God's creation, evolution robs life of meaning and worth. And by limiting God's role in creation, evolution opens up the terrifying possibility for some that there is no God and no universal moral standard that humans must follow.
Forrest thinks this is just silly. "Where did immorality come from before Darwin figured out natural selection?" she asked.
Far from robbing life of meaning, Forrest believes that it is because of evolution that we are capable of living meaningful lives.
"It's evolution that gives us the advanced nervous system we have so that we can interact with our environments at a highly conscious level," Forrest said.
Miller thinks such claims are also self-fulfilling. "You have essentially told people that if that Darwin guy is right, there is no God, there is no morality, there is no law you are obliged to obey," Miller told LiveScience. "I don't know of any evolutionary biologists who would say that, but I do hear a lot of people on the other side saying it."
What's at stake
On its website, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) stated that allowing ID into public schools will "undermine scientific credibility and the ability of young people to distinguish science from non-science."
Miller thinks the stakes are much higher than that.
In addition to sowing confusion about what constitutes proper science, ID has the potential to drive people away from science. If classrooms are allowed to become theological battlegrounds, then schoolchildren will basically be told that science is hostile to new ideas and that scientists believe in a ludicrous theory that negates the very existence of God.
"Evolution is not opposed to religion unless people make it so," Miller said. "The message of evolution is that we are just as Genesis told us, we are made out of the dust of the Earth and that we are united in this web of life with every other living creature on the planet, and I think that's a fairly grand notion."

tbmbuzz said...

Article #2:

Intelligent Design: 'The Death of Science'
Ker Than
LiveScience Staff Writer
LiveScience.comFri Sep 23,10:00 AM ET

In his highly influential book "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions," science philosopher Thomas Kuhn presented the idea that science is not a gradual progression toward truth, but a series of insurgencies, with scientific theories constantly usurping one another.

That is sometimes true. And proponents of intelligent design love Kuhn's argument.
They see intelligent design (often called ID) as a revolutionary new science and themselves as revolutionaries. They envision toppling Darwinian evolution – once a revolutionary idea itself – and erecting in its place a theory about life that allows for supernatural explanations, a theory that makes God, or some entity very much like him, not just possible but necessary.

But in order to attract converts and win over critics, a new scientific theory must be enticing. It must offer something that its competitors lack. That something may be simplicity, which was one of the main reasons the Sun-centered model of the solar system was adopted over the Earth-centered one centuries. Or it could be sheer explanatory power, which was what allowed evolution to become a widely accepted theory with no serious detractors among reputable scientists.

So what does ID offer? What can it explain that evolution can't?

To answer this, it is necessary to examine the two main arguments—irreducible complexity and specified complexity—that ID proponents use to support their claim that a Supreme Being is responsible for many or all aspects of life.

Irreducible complexity

Irreducible complexity asserts that certain biochemical systems in nature contain parts that are too well matched to be products of evolution.

Every part of an irreducibly complex system is necessary: take away even one, and the entire system will no longer work. Because their parts are so intricate and so interdependent, such systems could not possibly have been the result of evolution, ID supporters argue.

Irreducible complexity's main proponent is Michael Behe, a biochemist at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. Among the systems that Behe claims are irreducibly complex are the bacterial flagellum, a microscopic whip-like structure that some bacteria use to swim, and the cascade of proteins that make up the human blood-clotting system.
Darwin himself admitted that if an example of irreducible complexity were ever found, his theory of natural selection would crumble.

"If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down," Darwin wrote.

Yet no true examples of irreducible complexity have ever been found. The concept is rejected by the majority of the scientific community.

To understand why, it is important to remember that Behe's main argument is that in an irreducibly complex system, every part is vital to the system's overall operation.
A necessary—and often unstated—flipside to this is that if an irreducibly complex system contains within it a smaller set of parts that could be used for some other function, then the system was never really irreducibly complex to begin with.

It's like saying in physics that atoms are the fundamental building blocks of matter only to discover, as physicists have, that atoms are themselves made up of even smaller and more fundamental components.

This flipside makes the concept of irreducible complexity testable, giving it a scientific virtue that other aspects of ID lack.

"The logic of their argument is you have these multipart systems, and that the parts within them are useless on their own," said Kenneth Miller, a biologist at Brown University in Rhode Island. "The instant that I or anybody else finds a subset of parts that has a function, that argument is destroyed."

Viewed this way, all of the systems that Behe claims to be irreducibly complex really aren't.

A subset of the bacterial flagellum proteins, for example, are used by other bacteria to inject toxins into other cells and several of the proteins in the human blood-clotting system are believed to be modified forms of proteins found in the digestive system.
Evolution takes pieces and parts and re-uses them.

Specified complexity

The second major argument for intelligent design comes from William Dembski, a mathematician and philosopher affiliated with the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based Christian think tank that serves as the nerve center for the ID movement.


Dembski argues that nature is rife with examples of non-random patterns of information that he calls "complex specified information," or CSI for short.
To qualify as CSI, the information must be both complex and specified. The letter "A," for example, is specific but not complex. A string of random letters such as "slfkjwer," on the other hand, is complex but not necessarily specific. A Shakespearean sonnet, however, is both complex and specific.

An example of CSI from nature is DNA, the molecule found in all cells that contains the genetic instructions for life. DNA is made up of four repeating chemical bases arranged into complimentary pairs. The bases can be thought of as "letters" in a four-letter alphabet and can be strung together to form genes, which can be thought of as the "words" that tell the cell what proteins to make.

The human genome is made up of some 3 billion DNA base pairs and contains about 25,000 genes. DNA is obviously complex. The fact that humans always give birth to humans and not chimpanzees or naked mole rats shows that DNA is also specific.

The fact that CSI exists in nature is evidence for design because intelligence is necessary to produce CSI, Dembski says. This is the part of Dembski's argument that many scientists have trouble with.

The nylon problem

There is a way to settle this, however, because like Behe's irreducible complexity, the concept of specified complexity can also be tested.

"If Dembski were right, then a new gene with new information conferring a brand new function on an organism could never come into existence without a designer because a new function requires complex specified information," Miller said.

In 1975, Japanese scientists reported the discovery of bacteria that could break down nylon, the material used to make pantyhose and parachutes. Bacteria are known to ingest all sorts of things, everything from crude oil to sulfur, so the discovery of one that could eat nylon would not have been very remarkable if not for one small detail: nylon is synthetic; it didn't exist anywhere in nature until 1935, when it was invented by an organic chemist at the chemical company Dupont.

The discovery of nylon-eating bacteria poses a problem for ID proponents. Where did the CSI for nylonase—the actual protein that the bacteria use to break down the nylon—come from?

There are three possibilities:
The nylonase gene was present in the bacterial genome all along. The CSI for nylonase was inserted into the bacteria by a Supreme Being. The ability to digest nylon arose spontaneously as a result of mutation. Because it allowed the bacteria to take advantage of a new resource, the ability stuck and was eventually passed on to future generations.

Apart from simply being the most reasonable explanation, there are two other reasons that most scientists prefer the last option, which is an example of Darwinian natural selection.

First, hauling around a nylonase gene before the invention of nylon is at best useless to the bacteria; at worst, it could be harmful or lethal. Secondly, the nylonase enzyme is less efficient than the precursor protein it's believed to have developed from. Thus, if nylonase really was designed by a Supreme Being, it wasn't done very intelligently.

‘Death of science'

After examining ID's two main arguments, the answers to the original questions—what does ID offer? And what can ID explain that evolution can't?—is not much and nothing, leading scientists say.

"The most basic problem [with ID] is that it's utterly boring," said William Provine, a science historian at Cornell University in New York. "Everything that's complicated or interesting about biology has a very simple explanation: ID did it."

Evolution was and still is the only scientific theory for life that can explain how we get complexity from simplicity and diversity from uniformity.

ID offers nothing comparable. It begins with complexity—a Supreme Being—and also ends there. The explanations offered by ID are not really explanations at all, scientists say. They're more like last resorts. And, scientists argue, there is a danger in pretending that ID belongs next to evolution in textbooks.

"It doesn't add anything to science to introduce the idea that God did it," Provine told LiveScience. Intelligent design "would become the death of science if it became a part of science."

tbmbuzz said...

Article #3:

Intelligent Design: Belief Posing as Theory
By Ker Than
LiveScience Staff Writer
posted: 26 September 2005
12:01 am ET
A major source of public confusion in the escalating debate between intelligent design and evolution is the question of what a scientific theory actually is.
It is a question that will be at the heart of the Pennsylvania court case beginning today that tests the legality of teaching intelligent design, or ID, in public schools.
ID proponents argue that life is too complex to be explained by evolution. Instead, some being or entity must have designed it all.
Evolution states that all organisms are descended from a single primordial ancestor and that organisms expanded and diversified by acquiring and passing on new traits by means of several mechanisms, one of which is natural selection. Evolution is a theory supported by evidence from such disparate fields as paleontology, geology, genetics, and astronomy.
One of the things that will be decided in the Pennsylvania hearing is whether ID should be regarded as a valid scientific theory, or whether, as its critics maintain, it is just creationism's latest guise.
The question of whether ID is a theory is also central to a spate of antievolution legislation cropping up across the country, some of which argue that students should be exposed to different theories about the origins of life.
What is a theory?
But what exactly is a scientific theory? Is ID a theory? Isn't evolution only a theory? If both ID and evolution are scientific theories, why should one be taught and not the other?
A large part of the confusion stems from the fact that there is a big difference between how the word "theory" is used in science and how it is used in ordinary conversation. A hunch, conjecture or an educated guess can become a hypothesis. But a theory is much more.
In science, a theory is an explanation that binds together various experimentally tested hypotheses to explain some fundamental aspect of nature. For an idea to qualify as a scientific theory, it must be established on the basis of a wide variety of scientific evidence. Its claims must be testable and it must propose experiments that can be replicated by other scientists.
"[Evolution is] a theory in a special philosophical sense of science, but in terms of ordinary laymen's use of language, it's a fact," said Richard Dawkins, a biologist from Oxford University, in a recent radio interview. "Evolution is a fact in the same sense that it's a fact that the Earth is round and not flat, [that] the Earth goes round the Sun. Both those are also theories, but they're theories that have never been disproved and never will be disproved."
It is about as sensible to doubt that evolution occurs as it is to doubt that gravity exists, scientists say.
On Earth, release an apple and it will fall towards the planet. This is a fact, and the theory that explains this phenomenon is the current theory of gravity. Similarly, all living organisms share a common ancestry. This is a fact, supported not only by the visible similarities in body structures among organisms, but more powerfully, by evidence from genetics. The theory that best explains these similarities is evolution.
ID, on the other hand, is not a theory. It is a hypothesis, but it is not even a scientific hypothesis because there is no way to experimentally verify its central claim that a Supreme Being intervened in the creation of life on Earth.
Like religion, ID is a belief. And while many people take their religion as fact, science would go nowhere if it operated that way. Many of the great discoveries—from disease cures to advanced technologies and trips to the Moon—would never have been possible without the rigorous scientific process that carefully distinguishes between belief and testable fact.
Double meaning
"Evolution is an organizing principle and when we call it a theory, we mean it's a theory, we don't mean that it's a belief that someone holds," said Alan Leshner, the CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and executive publisher of the journal Science, in a teleconference last week with reporters organized to discuss the Pennsylvania court case.
ID proponents have exploited the dual meanings of the word "theory" to boost ID's status in the eyes of the public, critics say.
"They're trying to cut in line and not go through the normal steps to merit wearing the cloak of science," Leshner said. "They just want to take on the cloak of science because they like the credibility that comes with it."
One way to determine whether ID should be taken seriously as a theory is to examine the central arguments ID proponents use to support their claim. Journalists often neglect to do this and instead make the mistake of giving equal coverage to both sides without exploring the science, said Lawrence Krauss, a physicist at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio.
"In science there often aren't two sides," Krauss said. "You know, gravity works."

Amy & Jordan said...

tbmbuzz, it's simple HTML. You can look it up.

Matt Huisman said...

tbmbuzz...easy there pal...here's a link...look at the second row.

Matt Huisman said...

Article #1 recap:

Mr. Than starts out by assuring us that Darwinism is strictly materialist science, and makes no claims regarding morals or worldview. Then he slips in the following:

Perhaps most troubling of all, Darwin's theory of evolution tells us that life existed for billions of years before us, that humans are not the products of special creation and that life has no inherent meaning or purpose.

This sounds an awful lot like a worldview to me.

Mr. Than then goes on to attack the motives/schemes of the ID crowd. This reminds me of when we used to play cards in college. The first thing we'd do is accuse the other side of cheating, so that they'd spend all of their time defending themselves while we cheated (never for money).

I'm not that enthusiastic about the whole ID approach, but it seems a bit odd to me that those promoting one worldview under cover of science would accuse others of doing the same.

James Elliott said...

Amy Chai,

Thank you for such a thoughtful comment. I will endeavor to respond as thoughtfully and politely as you.

The third reason for antipathy towards Darwinism has nothing at all to do with science. This is really where I stand at this point in time. I am not intellectually threatened by challenges to my belief system. In fact, I welcome challenge and debate. Unfortunately, many within the educational system do not. I think that "scientists" are more open minded than "educators" and that is what disturbs me the most. Educators are using science (just take a look at editorial cartoons to see what I am getting at...) to ridicule and discredit the worldviews of people of faith. I am speaking of social Darwinism, humanism, eugenics, and all the socio-political ramifications of the above. Christians are bright enough to perceive this hostility and a very big part of the ID issue is a backlash against this subtle to not-so-subtle intellectual discrimination.

I must respectfully disagree. Polls and studies consistently demonstrate that nearly 92% of Americans either do not believe in Darwinian evolution or believe that a Creator had a hand in it. This is consistent across social, ethnic, and educational strata, with a slight dip for scientists. Social Darwinism is a uniquely Western creation with deep roots in Protestantism, especially Calvinism, nor is it an aspect of education today, except in the results-oriented sense of today’s American culture. Eugenics, likewise, is a long-discredited theory once practiced by great numbers of this country – i.e. miscegenation laws – unless one is referring to the practice of investigating genetic variation among certain ethnicities (such as the African-American’s propensity for hypertension perhaps being due to an innate hyper-sensitivity to salt retention; a propensity that was the result of natural selection during the slave trade). Why religionists feel the need to reject humanism, I’ll never comprehend, except in that it removes a focus from the Creator. Again, education does not exactly focus on humanism, but is returning to a recognition of the importance of communitarian activity and behaviors. Religionists view - erroneously - secularism as the attack. I believe a pastor in Pennsylvania said it best when he said, “We are under attack from the intelligent, educated portion of this country.” Indeed. If being a humanist, intelligent, and educated means I’m at odds with people I have no real animosity towards, so be it.

The recent rant by Pat Robertson is a rather over-the-top expression of that pent up frustration. When you couple this with the re-writing of history texts to show Christians in a bad light (I won't go there, but I could give example after example) and sex education texts that say you are a "hateful bigot" if you think gay sex is immoral, you just have this huge blow up ready to happen. ID is simply the flashpoint.

Now, I don’t know where you live, but as someone who is involved with education policy in California and especially the “ultra-liberal” Bay Area, I’d be really shocked if you lived anywhere where this was the actual case rather than a reactionary perception. To point out the negative, along with the positives, of Christianity – or to hold a commitment to secular, non-religious education – is not an attack on Christianity. I would be shocked to find the words “hateful bigot” in a text that must pass a school board review – demographically speaking that school board should be packed with Christians - for inclusion into the curriculum. The difference between viewing gay sex as immoral and prohibiting people to make that decision for themselves (which is what secular education is addressing) is beyond night and day, and any reasonable person should be able to see that. I suspect that you do.

My solution? Yank the children from the hands of the bigoted educational system and do it better at home. I teach my kids "traditional" science, including evolutionary concepts. I present it in a way that respects our belief system. I teach "traditional" history books, but I deconstruct them, unspin them, and point out biases. I also encourage evaluating primary sources to refute the outright fallacies. Most parents can't do that. Most parents don't have the resources. They are simply angry, and they are losing their children. More power to them in the fight.

And herein we see the crux of the matter: Parents are frightened that their children are receiving contradictory information. Basically, parents don’t want to take the responsibility to discuss and reconcile their worldview with the other points of view their children will receive. Instead of being parents themselves, they demand that society as a whole validate their world view and their world view only, something that is impossible in a secular society (regardless of what that view is). Obviously, this doesn’t apply to yourself, since you have clearly taken up that responsibility. Unfortunately, you are in the minority.

There is a really interesting article in The Atlantic for December on the subject of religion in the brain. A very smart psychologist from Yale, Paul Bloom, is doing research into the Cartesian duality (the mind/body “split”). Basically, he believes that we are hard-wired to be dualists, not just socially conditioned. This makes us, in the words of Pascal Boyer, prone to a "hypertrophy of social cognition." We are conditioned to perceive purpose, intention, and design even - perhaps especially – when there isn't any. Stewart Guthrie of Fordham University conducted a series of experiments to show that humans are hypersensitive to signs of agency, seeing intention where there is only artifice and accident.

This explains why something like 92% of Americans don't believe in evolution without God. Even Richard Dawkins wrote, "Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” He also said "...it's almost as if the human brain is specifically designed to misunderstand Darwinism."

Basically, Darwin is hard for these people to grasp because it isn't intuitive. It all comes back to "the gut." People don't like Darwinism because it feels wrong. We don't like the way its randomness makes us feel small and insignificant. So we zealously guard our perception of design, of specialty, of intent in our existence. We prefer the Creator because the Creator prevents us from facing the finiteness of our own mortality. We can imagine Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell. We can imagine ghosts, separate dimensions, and an afterlife. We can’t imagine oblivion. We can’t imagine the brain being the source of the conscious mind rather than another agent of it, like our fingers, hearts, and tongues. People fear evolution because evolution brings up the possibility of ceasing to exist in more than fond memories.

Evolution feels wrong because it implies the possibility that there is no design agent at work, and so the fearful lash out against it, they deride it as a theory or an orthodoxy despite the fact that we can both see and model it in action. Even if you ignore evidence such as the oft-replicated Galapagos finches experiment, ask a scientist specializing in infectious diseases whether or not evolution is easily observable – our exponentially increasing Cold War against them is a frightening example of Darwin’s insight.

Think intelligent design through to its logical conclusion: If it is true, then our Creator is either all-knowing or all-moral. S/He cannot be both. In order to reconcile the Judeo-Christian faiths to intelligent design, you will need, as Tom Junod wrote, to create the Cult of the Really, Really Smart God. But s/he can’t be infallible. If science is not ready for intelligent design, an even better question might be: Is religion?

Matt Huisman said...

Nice post James...lots of material to wade through.

Think intelligent design through to its logical conclusion: If it is true, then our Creator is either all-knowing or all-moral. S/He cannot be both.

(I'm not sure why you make this claim. Maybe you could develop this a little further or provide a link.)

I wonder what happens, though, if you think Darwinism all the way to its logical conclusion. Don't you end up with a determinist (or probablist) position in which none of us has free will?

tbmbuzz said...

Matt Huisman said...
Article #1 recap:

Mr. Than starts out by assuring us that Darwinism is strictly materialist science, and makes no claims regarding morals or worldview. Then he slips in the following:

Perhaps most troubling of all, Darwin's theory of evolution tells us that life existed for billions of years before us, that humans are not the products of special creation and that life has no inherent meaning or purpose.

This sounds an awful lot like a worldview to me.


I agree that Mr. Than overstepped here. Neither science in general nor evolution theory in particular make claims one way or the other about the purpose of existence or the purpose of the Universe. Science is merely the study of physical phenomena confined to this known Universe.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Mr. Huisman writes:

...goes on to attack the motives/schemes of the ID crowd. This reminds me of when we used to play cards in college. The first thing we'd do is accuse the other side of cheating, so that they'd spend all of their time defending themselves while we cheated...


Ah. The president's critics on Iraq must have gone to the same school.

Matt Huisman said...

tbmbuzz, I agree that ID has some really significant issues to overcome. But while picking on ID, it's important to recognize that Darwinism (while still the only naturalistic game in town) has a few leaks itself AND that it is not uncommon for the leading Darwinian proponents to stray a little further than the facts take them without letting the viewer/reader know that they've done so.

The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.

--Richard Dawkins


It's 'science' like this that cause Christians to bang their spoons on their high chairs shouting "Indoctrination! Indoctrination!"

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

I wonder what happens, though, if you think Darwinism all the way to its logical conclusion. Don't you end up with a determinist (or probablist) position in which none of us has free will?

Excellent question Matt. How could any concept of morality get any traction under this paradigm? What about justice?

James Elliott said...

Matt, thanks for the kind words and the TCS link. They usually have some good food for thought.

I'll elaborate. The line of thought has its roots in the writings of Tom Junod (a devout Christian) and Leon Weiseltier (a devout Jew). I included it because I hear lots of whining about a scientific orthodoxy not meeting its own standards (creating “epistemological litmus tests”) while the religionists clearly fail to practice what they preach, so to speak. If the ID-proponents would insert what is essentially a philosophical thought experiment into scientific curriculum, they should carry that thought experiment to its logical philosophical and theological conclusions as well.

It’s a non sequitur, but it’s my favorite Junod quote on the matter: “Religion can't change science because it can't change the terms of creation, and science is creation's handmaiden. Can science change religion? Of course it can; everything can change religion, which is one of the reasons religion is so pissed off.”

One of the many philosophical sticking points of Judeo-Christian philosophy is how could God have created such an incredibly messed up world? How can nature be so fickle, so avaricious, so downright hostile and evil if God is all-good and all-moral? Why is man so sinful? Because He installed the gift of consciousness in man – a beast capable of both virtue and predation. How is it He designed a creature in his own image – man – that is capable of such evil and exists in a natural world dependent upon sins such as avarice and violence for its very existence?

Man’s fall from Eden has always been the apologists’ answer: The world is bad to punish man for his sins. Yet God is innocent of creating such a malicious entity because it is our punishment; it’s not God’s fault, it’s ours. Evolution gives God a pass in this sense: It’s not God’s fault the world sucks, it’s just the nature of the randomness of natural selection. God is unsullied because the world just is the way it is. The untold suffering of billions of creatures is the result of mutation and natural selection, not God’s will.

Intelligent design calls Genesis into question in a way Darwin never did by seeking to reconcile the mechanisms of evolution with creationism. It doesn’t seek to explain anything – rather, it seeks to excuse that which we cannot yet explain by saying we never will be able to. Its adherents seek out “evidence” of intelligence in all places and then, rather circularly, contend that only intelligence can explain their existence. They then sophistically dance around just who this Creator is supposed to be. By doing so, however, they define the Creator solely by means of its intelligence, and only its intelligence. The Creator is unknowable scientifically – that’s how we know He’s there (an argument a freshman philosophy student should be able to poke holes in!).

Unfortunately, and here’s the crux of the matter that both Junod and Wieseltier have pointed to, this means that the Creator must be morally limited. He can either be super-intelligent in how he designed this world, or he can be innocent of the brutality of mutation and natural selection. He cannot be both.

In particular, intelligent design calls Christianity’s very hallmark into question: Without Man’s fall from Eden, there is absolutely no need for God to put his Son on the cross. Evolution and intelligent design destroy the internal consistency of Judeo-Christianity’s death-instinct (the sci-fi camp ending that is the Apocalypse, an apotheosis (I’d call it a nadir) of the human bloodlust). The real problem, as Junod says, isn’t that we’re descended from monkeys; it’s that we might not be descended from Adam. Without Adam, there is no need for Christ. Without Adam and Christ, there is no Calvary.

If man has been designed, what does he need to be redeemed from? The only answer is, as Junod says, that Christ’s crucifixion was God’s apology for (and to) his flawed creation. But if God is omnipotent – all-intelligent and all-moral – what does he need to apologize for?

Darwinism leads to agnosticism. Intelligent design really leads to something different – a repudiation of Paul’s cult, the roots of modern Christianity – and the requirement for Jews to reconcile the rift between intelligent design and Genesis. All they have in common is that they say there is a Creator. Belief must be supplanted by something else entirely – the acknowledgment that faith has no physical, rational basis. The faithful will have rely upon their feeling of God’s love, not the fervent belief of God as fact. In the end, intelligent design leads to Gnosticism, not a confirmation of religion.

Design is not new, but rather an old, old philosophical line of thought. As Wieseltier wrote, “The "argument from design," the view that the evidence for the existence of God may be found in the organization of the natural world, is an ancient argument, but philosophers have grasped, at least since the sixth section of the third chapter of the second book of the Critique of Pure Reason, that it may establish only the wisdom of a creator, and not the existence of one.” Or, as he says elsewhere, it is “…a psalm, not a proof.”

As Junod says, and I agree, “Should intelligent design be taught in schools? Hell yes, but not as science, because it's not science. It's theology, and should be taught as such—as an attempt to fashion a new understanding of God from the persuasive challenge of evolutionary theory. Evolution not only creates; it keeps creating.”

Matt Huisman said...
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James Elliott said...

Matt, I think that Max Borders (The TCS writer) is well-refuted by Paul Bloom's article in the latest Atlantic, which I referenced in a post above. Cartesian duality, it appears, is not so easily dismissed as a mere thought experiment, but may exist, hard-wired, into our brains. It is a conundrum that I do not believe science is up to addressing quite yet.

I do not believe that evolution leads to determinism: Mutation enters a constant variable into the physical realm, and neuronal elasticity and the subjectivity of consciousness and perception would seem, to me, to inhibit such a conculsion. It is entirely possible to have agency while still being bound to the physical limits of nature.

CLA, let us assume, for the moment, that determinism is so. Perhaps then what we call morality and justice are simply nature's ways of reconciling conscious human action with homeostasis - a return to equilibrium? I don't pretend to know, I'm just engaging in a thought experiment.

Kathy Hutchins said...

James,

If you have correctly characterized Junod's arguments, then I can only conclude that he is either the worst-educated "devout Christian" of the past four centuries, or he is not a Christian at all. The theology he proposes is a complete and utter hash. "The world is bad to punish man for his sins" is the most asinine account of The Fall I have ever heard.

If you are sincerely interested in the Christian explanation of pain, you might try any number of actual Christian writers, including the current Pope, in lieu of a shallow Esquire journalist.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Ditto Kathy above. The Christian narrative is one of mercy, not of justice, which is insufficient for man's needs. If man actually got what was coming to him...

Better to read St. Anselm on Divine Attributes than Mr. Junod if you do seek an understanding of Christian thought. (Anselm is called "the second Augustine," or so the internet tells me.)

You offered a nicely crafted essay, though, JE, and I did want to thank you for it.

Matt Huisman said...

It is entirely possible to have agency while still being bound to the physical limits of nature.

Really? Where does agency come from? What is the mind? How do we become conscious? If all we are is a collection of particles bouncing around according to probabilistic natural laws (brain neurons and all), where does the control enter in? Where do I end and the rest of the unvierse begin?

I still don't see any good explanations here, but I'll have to look up Bloom. If you have a link, I'd appreciate it.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

Perhaps then what we call morality and justice are simply nature's ways of reconciling conscious human action with homeostasis - a return to equilibrium? I don't pretend to know, I'm just engaging in a thought experiment.

Why the need to reconcile? Why the need to explain? Why argue (or discuss)?

Do each of us have a little box, and we want everything to fit nicely inside? Do we simply lop off the stuff that won't fit and move along our merry way?

James Elliott said...

Kathy, in the interest of intellectual curiosity, any chance of a link where I don't have to send the man in the big pointy hat some of my money to read what he says?

Matt, unless you're a subscriber to The Atlantic, I think you're SOL on Bloom. If you happen to be in a local bookstore, you can find the article I reference in the latest issue. It's about eight pages or so, but well worth the read.

James Elliott said...

It would appear that the Christian answer to suffering is to revive the old "absolute versus relative morals" debate. In the end, we return to the same circular logic problem as with intelligent design. We must accept the conclusion - the premise that God is there and all-powerful (all knowing, all moral) - in order to start along the path that reaches that very conclusion. The answering articles that I can find available all seem to point to the same direction - that human sin is the origin of pain - and this still raises the thorny issues I reiterated above.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

James, in your worldview, can there be good without the existence of evil? Could we experience pleasure without understanding pain?

The idea of suffering seems to rely upon the absence of suffering.

I can see how one would come to the conclusion that God cannot allow suffering. However, what would be the point of a creation that does not allow pleasure, good, etc?

Forgive me if this is obvious, calling me a neophyte philosopher would do a disservice to the word neophyte!

connie deady said...

Oh, Kathy, you'll derail the flood of ardent Church of Darwin the Secular Messiah believers who are surely planning to flood the board. Give 'em a chance!

I would be curious to know why some people think religion in America is under attack from secularists or that teachers are somehow the instrument of this attack.

Where I live it is impossible to get elected without being Catholic and opposed to abortion. Can't go three blocks without seeing a Catholic Church.

My daughter was taught evolution in private Catholic School. She also had all her religious indoctrination as well. I think most public school teachers that I know are Christians in some form.

From what my scientific friends tell me when I asked them about science and Darwin, people are all missing the point of science. Science takes the scientist where the facts lead him. Theories constantly change and evolve. When scientific tests disprove evolution, the theory will be changed. As new facts come to light, theories change.

Somehow the supposition is that scientists are somehow Godless doctrinaires. Their only doctrine is scientific method

All sorts of scientific theories are taught from theory of gravity, theory of relativity, theory of evolution. I have a problem with teaching children intelligent design in a scientific context.

I would, however, welcome changes to high school curricula to teach philosophy classes in some manner which introduce students into critical thinking about the nature of the world and its origins.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Connie Deady writes:

"I would, however, welcome changes to high school curricula to teach philosophy classes in some manner which introduce students into critical thinking about the nature of the world and its origins."

Eureka.

James Elliott said...

I can see how one would come to the conclusion that God cannot allow suffering. However, what would be the point of a creation that does not allow pleasure, good, etc?

You'll pardon me if I don't see why you need a Creator for these things to exist at all. Their existence does not a Creator imply.

Clearly my contention is not understood - willingly or unwillingly I dare not guess. The problem is not that suffering exists. The problem is that God logically cannot create a world in which good and evil, pain and suffering and pleasure and joy exist and remain universally moral. He cannot be all-knowing and create a mechanism such as mutation and natural selection - a mechanism reliant upon avarice and ruthlessness and reckless abandon - and remain innocent of that creation. That is the quandary raised by intelligent design.

Matt Huisman said...
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Matt Huisman said...

Their existence does not a Creator imply.

I don't think CLA said they did...he's just responding to your earlier post saying that a good God couldn't allow pain.

Matt Huisman said...

One of the many philosophical sticking points of Judeo-Christian philosophy is how could God have created such an incredibly messed up world? How can nature be so fickle, so avaricious, so downright hostile and evil if God is all-good and all-moral? Why is man so sinful? Because He installed the gift of consciousness in man – a beast capable of both virtue and predation. How is it He designed a creature in his own image – man – that is capable of such evil and exists in a natural world dependent upon sins such as avarice and violence for its very existence?

Man’s fall from Eden has always been the apologists’ answer: The world is bad to punish man for his sins. Yet God is innocent of creating such a malicious entity because it is our punishment; it’s not God’s fault, it’s ours. Evolution gives God a pass in this sense: It’s not God’s fault the world sucks, it’s just the nature of the randomness of natural selection. God is unsullied because the world just is the way it is. The untold suffering of billions of creatures is the result of mutation and natural selection, not God’s will.


It’s hard for me to see how evolution gives God a pass. Either God created and allowed the evolutionary process (which puts us back to your original questions) or it is beyond God’s control, and he is therefore not omnipotent. Christians, Junod excluded, state that God is responsible (regardless of mechanism), and deal with the consequences of this understanding.

Which brings us back to the problem of how could God allow so much pain. I’ll leave you with two thoughts, and then refer you to C.S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain. The first thought has to do with the purpose of pain. Pain lets us know that something is wrong, and it does so in a way that makes it hard to ignore. The second concept is the difference between kindness and love. Kindness is satisfied with pacifying someone’s immediate concerns; love is a complete care for someone that seeks to enable the beloved to reach their full potential and is willing to suffer to see it.

What if ‘sin’ is more than isolated disobedience…what if it’s a rebellion from the way things should be (assuming your best interest in mind)? Would you prefer blissfull contentment or pain, kindness or love? Christianity says that pain has a specific purpose that is for our benefit, not merely to satisfy some notion of justice.

(Side Note: It also says that gifts and talents, pain and trials will not be distributed equally, but that we will all be judged according to that which we have been given.)

tbmbuzz said...

Tom Van Dyke said...


Eureka.



Yeah, well, you don't smell so good yourself.



I've been waiting to use that 3 Stooges line for years now! I'm still waiting for a "live" opportunity! LOL!

Sorry, guys, back to seriousness now.

James Elliott said...

I don't think CLA said they did...he's just responding to your earlier post saying that a good God couldn't allow pain.

But that's not what I said at all. I said an innocent God, an all-moral God, cannot. It's not the same thing. God can still be good; after all, intent and responsibility are two far different things. Intelligent design, taken to its logical conclusion, means God takes responsibility for both the good and the bad in his Creation, something both Judeo-Christianity and Darwinism have given Him a pass on.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...
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The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

With all due respect James, you opened a bodily orifice, reached in, and pulled out:

an innocent God, an all-moral God, cannot [allow pain]

This requires you to make an assumption about the nature of pain.

I don't get it...

Matt Huisman said...

Just looking to clarify here James…

You are saying that God cannot be innocent or moral because:
1) He set up a system that allowed the possibility for suffering
2) He set up a system knowing that the possibility for suffering would be triggered
3) The suffering mechanism is too severe
4) The suffering mechanism is too randomly (unfairly) distributed

Are any of these on track?

James Elliott said...

Let's try this, for the sake of argument:

To be innocent of the cause of suffering - and again, you're reducing my contention rather simplistically, but it works for now - one (i.e. God) must not know that suffering (a broad, catch-all term, not merely physical pain) will result from your actions, thus absolving responsibility for those consequences.

The act of creating a system (i.e. natural selection and its accompanying mechanisms (predation, etc.)) or a creature (and its accompanying abilities such as free will, predation, etc)is an action.

According to intelligent design, the Creator designed the creatures and their mechanism for survival and adaptation: natural selection.

Natural selection mechanically relies upon acts of predation, suffering, bloodlust, etc. to complete its designed function.

According to Judeo-Christianity (and most ID-adherents), God is all-knowing, all-intelligent and all-moral (this is where some IDers will have to part ways).

If God is all-knowing, he must have had foreknowledge of the mechanisms he was putting in place and their concomitant results and consequences.

If God knew what he was doing, then he cannot have failed to know that consequences like suffering (i.e. predation, bloodlust, etc) would result.

If he knew this, then he cannot remain innocent (i.e. shed responsibility) of such results.

If he is not innocent, he is not all-moral.

Suffering in this context does not mean merely a physical sensation - the reductionist argument of C.S. Lewis et al. does not work here. Neither am I arguing (in this case) against the existence of God. I am pointing out that for adherents of intelligent design who also wish to remain faithful Judeo-Christians, they will have to reconcile the logical conclusions with their faith, which will result in the end of the assumption that God is omnipotent (hence Junod's Really, Really Smart God) in order for God to retain the greater part of his moral standing. Whether God is "good" or not is a question of intent, and has no bearing on his innocence in this regards.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

James ... I *think* I understand your point, but aren't you implicitly stating that suffering is a negative consequence?

In other words, God's innocence is tied directly to your definition of suffering.

Perhaps God's definition of suffering has nothing to do with yours; might he be more concerned about one's soul?

James Elliott said...

So then you're saying that it all comes down to semantics and therefore subjectivity?

It's rather refreshing to hear a religionist argue for relativity.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

James ... as usual semantics has nothing to do with it.

You make a presumption of what God would be like, then draw conclusions.

Christians believe that God made man in his image, not the other way around.

If you want to claim that there is "relativity" in that God thinks different than humans, I agree.

James Elliott said...

You make a presumption of what God would be like, then draw conclusions.

Poppycock. I use the very same reason and rationality that Christians are so "famous" for and prove a point. So far the refutations have consisted of nothing more than endless parsing, misinterpreting, and circular reasoning.

If you want to claim that there is "relativity" in that God thinks different than humans, I agree.

That's the ultimate cop out. "God is wholly other therefore we cannot understand Him." If that's the case, the entire Judeo-Christian tradition of claiming it is rational and reasoned is merely pretention. You can't have it both ways without tacitly admitting that there is no basis, merely faith. The entire response to my logic has been a Clintonian "That depends on what your definition of 'is' is."

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

James ... you are using Universal Morality to make your argument when you make the assumption that God would not create bad.

Are you claiming that for me to refute your argument I would have to refute Universal Morality?

I really am trying to iunderstand your logic.

Matt Huisman said...

If God is all-knowing, he must have had foreknowledge of the mechanisms he was putting in place and their concomitant results and consequences.

If God knew what he was doing, then he cannot have failed to know that consequences like suffering (i.e. predation, bloodlust, etc) would result.

If he knew this, then he cannot remain innocent (i.e. shed responsibility) of such results.

If he is not innocent, he is not all-moral.


I think we’re going to have some trouble here. The problem with arguing with (most) Christians about the origins is that we believe that creation was morally perfect until Adam and The Fall. We believe in an omnipotent God, that has ‘presto’ abilities, and so while the topic is interesting, our faith does not require that we have a workable creation model beyond that. [This is not as lame of an answer as it may seem; materialistic origin explanations have their own ‘presto’ issues.] To me, ID and evolution are only possible tools in the hand of God, and they cannot overrule the pre-Fall story.

The story of The Fall puts the blame on Adam, and the offer of Christ is a redemptive act of love from the creator. It is not an apology born of moral guilt. Any reading of the concept of atonement in the Old Testament makes this perfectly clear. Junod’s faith may be sincere, but it’s well outside the bounds of orthodoxy, and should be treated accordingly.

If you want to argue with a Christian about how a good God could allow the kind of suffering we see in the world, you have to do it on a post-Fall basis, because we don’t believe it existed prior to then.

Suffering in this context does not mean merely a physical sensation - the reductionist argument of C.S. Lewis et al. does not work here.

Where do you get the idea that Lewis regards suffering as only physical pain?

James Elliott said...

I really am trying to iunderstand your logic.

No, CLA, you're playing a gigantic semantic game in order to avoid cognitive dissonance. My logic is very clear and straightforward. You are very, very clearly deliberately misunderstanding a very clear argument vis a vis innocence and responsibility, not good and bad.

James Elliott said...

The problem with arguing with (most) Christians about the origins is that we believe that creation was morally perfect until Adam and The Fall. We believe in an omnipotent God, that has ‘presto’ abilities, and so while the topic is interesting, our faith does not require that we have a workable creation model beyond that...

...The story of The Fall puts the blame on Adam, and the offer of Christ is a redemptive act of love from the creator.


Yes, this is my point. ID calls all that into question. Again, the logic is pretty straightforward here. You're putting the cart before the horse in order to avoid it. And to be frank, I'm done with your idiot semantic games.

Matt Huisman said...

James, I'm sorry that this conversation went on too long. There were a couple of instances where I thought you were extending your argument to address naturalistic conditions and suffering post-Fall, and I wanted to pursue those thoughts.

As for 'idiot semantic games', that wasn't my intent. I was assuming you understood my side's limitations (we believe things were good until The Fall), not realizing that Tom Junod exists, and that he might now be perceived as having mainline/orthodox Christian thoughts.

James Elliott said...

(we believe things were good until The Fall),

Yes, Matt, I did get that. I got it a long time ago. The whole point is that intelligent design, taken to its logical conclusion, is wholly and completely incongrous with that line of thought because it never questions the mechanisms of natural selection and random genetic mutation. I apologize if my irritation makes me snappish, but I really feel like it's a basic, simple point (not making it correct - I mean, who can really say?) in a logical thought experiment.

tbmbuzz said...

A terrific article today from a legitimate conservative who happens to be a doctor.

We're Not in Kansas Anymore

James Elliott said...

From the article: "Newton's religiosity was traditional. He was a staunch believer in Christianity and member of the Church of England"

He was also a homosexual and all messed up on mercury poisoning most of the time, but hey, those are just details.

Hunter Baker said...

My understanding is that Newton was not classically orthodox, but that he would be classifiable as a Christian. He had a great interest in the Bible and was a serious student of Bible prophecy.

I haven't heard the stuff about having a chemical problem. That's probably in the area of disputed stuff, but has gained a lot of currency like the Thomas Jefferson - Sally Hemmings love story.