Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


The Case for Liberal Evangelicals 4

posted by xscot mcknight

Evolution or intelligent design, science or faith? Those are the questions that shape chp 4 of Randall Balmer’s Thy Kingdom Come. Once again, his points sharpen the debate as they create controversy. Here are his central claims:
First, evangelicals “resisted Darwin’s evolutionary theory, first by asserting the literal, historical accuracy of Genesis, then through legislation, next by trying to discredit evolution itself, and, most recently, by trying to advance something called ‘intelligent design’ ” (110).
Second, intelligent design is a conclusion/theory that the facts of science are so ordered that their best explanation is an intelligent design/designer.
Third, “faith” has never been enough for the advocates of ID (intelligent design); they want to prove their claims, garner academic respectability, and wedge their view into textbooks and institutions of higher learning.
Fourth, Balmer’s conclusion: “The attempt to ‘baptize’ creationism or intelligent design as science, moreover, demeans both religion and science by confusing the categories. Paradoxically, when the Religious Right asserts that intelligent design is science, it implies that faith in God or in the reliability of scriptures is inadequate, that it needs the imprimatur of the scientific method” (133-34).
Fifth, the goal is academic respectability for ID so that “America’s institutions of higher education could once again serve to propagate the faith” (135). He goes after George Marsden in this section of the chapter. Balmer contends faith belongs in the home and church and that institutions of higher education are platforms where all operate at the same level.
But, sixth, ID “is religion, not science, and the proper venue for the propagation of faith is the home or the church, not the university” (138).
Here’s his confession: “As a believer, I have no problem accepting that God, in some way that I cannot fully explain, is responsible for the created order, but that is an assertion of faith, not a conclusion vindicated by scientific inquiry, for I know of no experiment to test empirically for the presence of God” (139).



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Susan

posted July 31, 2006 at 6:59 am


It is so unfortunate that ID has become a religious issue. If it is good science, it will prevail, without the help of the religious promoters who, for the most part, have never even studied in the disciplines required to understand the issues. Most of them are authors, former lawyers, or philosophers. Truth is truth whether any body – religious, political, or scientific – is happy about it. But every time Christians rally around something outside their general expertise and promote it as “the Truth” (I think right away of Y2K) we bring shame to the name of Christ, and everyone looks like idiots. This is why it is imperative that believers infuse every area of culture – the sciences, politics, and so on, so that we truly have experts in these fields who can carry on work that is done from the framework of a biblical, redemptive worldview. Work done in this fashion will find no contradiction in its field of study, for this is God’s world.



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Randy

posted July 31, 2006 at 7:57 am


I agree with the post and the comment. But I think there has to be room for questioning the assumptions of evolution. It is touted as “science” but it in many ways is a matter of faith as is any other theory. You can’t prove evolution, according to the scientific method. You can only infer it, but there are huge holes in the theory. Instead of propping up one theory, we ought to be questioning and challenging evolution, and pushing for a better theory.
My theology prof in seminary, Dr. Bob Pyne, made a very important comment about ID. He said those in the evolution camp are not going to all of the sudden give up on evolution and jump on a 7 day creation view.
Whatever comes next after evolution will be different, but I think we can guarantee it won’t be Christian.



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Ted Gossard

posted July 31, 2006 at 8:29 am


I don’t think we should hold science on an equal footing (or, maybe better, as inhabiting the same territory) with God’s revelation in Scripture, in Jesus, and even in creation. Faith understands according to God’s revelation, not according to whatever the current scientific thought happens to be.
Having said that, I do think conclusions drawn from good scientic observation and study, are subjected to a scientist’s interpretation of scientific theories and what-not. Theory is a big part of science.
Maybe I still have alot of modernism in me, but I think scientists do well to keep to the physical, and avoid the metaphysical, in their thinking. Darwinian evolution is an attempt to do that, albeit very flawed. Intelligent Design can’t be made to be the end-all of all theories. It is, after all, a science, based on data and interpretation of it. In avoiding the metaphysical, I’m not at all thinking that scientists should avoid faith. In fact some of the greatest scientists have been men who were in awe of God and his creation (today, also).
In the end, science can’t answer questions apart from faith. Faith in God’s revelation found in Scripture, in Jesus, and in creation. Bringing a knowledge that ONLY this faith can bring (Heb 11).
Just my thought for now….



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Susan

posted July 31, 2006 at 9:00 am


Ted,
I respectfully disagree with you on this. Science and Scripture are able to seamlessly inform one another when both are engaged with minds submitted to God, who is, after all, the Author of both Scripture and science! One’s metaphysical presuppositions definitely bear on one’s approach to science, and “setting aside” metaphysics is a metaphysical approach in itself! It is the same error as claiming we can “leave our religion out” of politics, or some other aspect of our daily lives and employments. It simply cannot be done. Our relationship to God (or whatever we worship as god) is integral to our being, whether we acknowledge it or not.
But I do agree with your conclusion that science cannot answer questions of faith. It was never meant to do that. In the same way, faith cannot do science for us. Having said that though, I believe we err when we separate the two in such a way as one cannot inform the other.
I may be wrong on this – I look forward to reading more commentary throughout the day!



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RJS

posted July 31, 2006 at 9:45 am


ID is not science and is full of holes – logical and otherwise. If you want a good discussion of this read Francis Collins new book – he is very conservative theologically in general – but actually knows the science (even better than I do).
This is a hot issue and from your summary Balmer sheds no light on it.



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Scot McKnight

posted July 31, 2006 at 10:04 am


RJS,
Any kind of quick summary of Collins for us?



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Hunter Beaumont

posted July 31, 2006 at 10:24 am


The idea that religion is only for the home and the church is an over-accommodation. You’ve just told most people that Christianity applies to about 50% of their life. When they head out the door to work or school or the PTA meeting, Christianity has nothing to say. This to me sounds like a faith that is trying not to ruffle too many feathers in a pluralistic world and so it retreats to the private sphere.



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Michael Kruse

posted July 31, 2006 at 11:22 am


Balmerâ??s quote from George Will quote summed up my position the best. â??The problems with intelligent-design theory is not that it is false but that it is not falsifiable. Not being susceptible to contradicting evidence, it is not a testable hypothesis. Hence it is not scientific but a creedal test â?? matter of faith, unsuited to a public schoolâ??s science curriculum.â? (139)
For a theory to have scientific merit it has to make falsifiable claims and it has to have predictive value. How do we falsify the claim â??God did itâ? using observations of natural events only? As to predictability I have heard the task of documenting the origin of species like trying to construct a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle with only 250 of the pieces present. However by assembling a good number of those pieces together gives you enough clarity to tell you that the approximate shape character of some of the missing pieces. Scientists then go back into the field, to the right environments and right sediment levels and lo and behold they find another piece that fits with 250 they have so. That new piece may show how some of the as yet unattached 250 pieces fit leading to new insight about what missing pieces might look like. Evolution has predictive value and ID does not.
Switching to physics for a moment, we know that the mathematics that explains how physics work down to the atomic level works one way. We know that the mathematics that explains how things work at the subatomic level work another way. Furthermore, the two mathematics cannot be reconciled with one another. What to do? Conclude that â??God did itâ? or conclude that our knowledge is incomplete and keep plodding away at developing an understanding until a breakthrough occurs, just like every other major scientific development over the past few hundred years. Likewise, irreducible complexity is an unscientific â??God did itâ? end to investigation in the face of a difficult problem.
Therefore, I agree with Balmerâ??s thesis that the ID imposition into science classes is seriously misguided. But Balmer is also only giving part of the story. To his credit, he at least does not perpetuate the â??Inherit the Windâ? caricature of William Jennings Bryan that so many anti-ID types do. (Bryan is one of the most complex and fascinating people of the 1890-1925 period.) A big motivating factor in Bryanâ??s concern for defending the Bible was his concern about the rise of â??Social Darwinism.â? He feared that losing the idea of each person created in the image of God would lead to lead to a â??survival of the fittestâ? worldview that would give way to the total devaluation of individuals and give rise of totalitarian evils. Just eight years after his death in 1925, Adolf Hitler came to power and built the greatest human nightmare based on precisely the philosophy Bryan feared. As you will require German culture was thrown into chaos in 1918 with the end of WWI. Where did German scientists get their eugenic science from? The United States scientific community which had been leading they from the early twentieth century up to the 1930s. In fact, the US scientific organizations were among the very last to publicly condemn Nazi Germany. This was a big piece of what Bryan was reacting to.
My bottom line is that I agree with Balmer that the issues are more political than scientific when it comes to Creation Science and ID. However, I think there are also a lot of William Jennings Bryan types today who are clinging to bad theology for noble reasons. There ARE naturalist who want to extend the appropriate use of scientific naturalism inappropriately to spheres outside of science. As the saying goes, â??Just because I am paranoid doesnâ??t mean they arenâ??t out to get me.â? I think Balmer gives an incomplete context to the forces driving the issues here. What I find particularly ironic is that he is critical of the Religious Right for abusing science toward political ends and yet he is about to turn around and do the very same thing with anthropogenic (human caused) global warming in the next chapter.



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Bill

posted July 31, 2006 at 11:28 am


I think our theology can affect the way we approach science or anything in life, but that’s much different from expecting the Bible to teach us something scientific.



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RJS

posted July 31, 2006 at 11:28 am


Scot,
I will try later today or this evening. I am at a conference in CA this week – with web access but a very full schedule. (The kind of meeting with sessions from 8:30 am until 10 pm). Currently it is coffee break.



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Timbo

posted July 31, 2006 at 11:55 am


The caricatures of ID being spouted here are tiresome. The central thesis of ID is not that ‘God did it’ but that certain features of the world have a degree of complexity that cannot be explained by purely physical causes and points to the intentional activity of an intelligent agent as the best explanation for its origin.



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Scot McKnight

posted July 31, 2006 at 12:09 pm


Timbo,
Well, if you are going to accuse people, one of whom is a scientist at a major American university, you might offer evidence what you mean by “caricatures” and then refrain from language like “spout”. And, I don’t think anyone disagrees with your definition — I know that is how I understood it.
Your tone is not the tone of this blog. You’re welcome, however, to enter the conversation.



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Susan

posted July 31, 2006 at 12:33 pm


Michael,
I have thought, upon reading a bit of the Intelligent Design material, that it would be better, provided such a thing as “irreducible complexity” can be itself proven, to apply this discovery to the falsification of evolutionary theory (not to discredit it as “godless” but merely to move scientific theory in the direction of accurate explanation). There is no need at this point to posit “God” or even “intelligence”… if all that can be certainly said, at this point, is “Not an evolutionary process” as we’ve understood or defined those processes up to this point. Am I off base in this regard? I’m no scientist so this is really just gut-reaction, admittedly.



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Timbo

posted July 31, 2006 at 12:54 pm


First of all, I apologize for my tone. I was under the impression that it was acceptable to use strong descriptive language to express one’s opinion on this blog. I will try to keep my tone on par with how I would be speaking.
As for caricatures, Balmer says this:
â??I know of no experiment to test empirically for the presence of God.”
Michael Kruse characterizes ID as concluding “God did it” in the absence of some naturalistic explanation.
Compare that with the definition I offered: “certain features of the world have a degree of complexity that cannot be explained by purely physical causes and points to the intentional activity of an intelligent agent as the best explanation for its origin.”
Note that the definition I offer says nothing about God but only mentions “certain features of the world.” Balmer’s characterization of ID as involving an “experiment to test empirically for the presence of God” caricatures ID, which is about testing empirically for the presence of *design* (where the identify of the designer is a separate, theological question). Similarly, in Michael Kruse’s characterization, the conclusion of ID is that “God did it” rather than simply that “this feature exhibits the hallmarks of intelligent activity,” which is the central thesis of ID about which nobody disagrees.



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Nancy

posted July 31, 2006 at 1:00 pm


The scientific method is based on philosophical underpinnings. We live in a world that is ordered thus experiments should be repeatible and peer review ensures honesty. Philosophy of science is a discipline.
As such, in the public school we best serve our students by teaching them the science and the philosophy which drives it. Teach evolution. Teach it’s strengths and weaknesses. Demonstrate it’s contributions to microbiology and also inform the students about mistakes made by evolution’s proponents (as documented in Nancy Pearcy’s “Total Truth” and else where). But also teach ID and teach the students that ID makes very limited claims. Teach about irreducible complexity. But also teach about the issues raised in George Will’s comment. Do our current definitions of science artifically exclude interesting new lines of investigation because the new theories (ID) don’t fit our neat tidy box of what is and is not science?
Science does not operate in a vacuum. Every scientist has a worldview and that worldview will inform the lines of inquirly that she will pursue in her career of investigation and experiementation.
Moreover, does ID really invoke the “God of the gaps” that would halt scientific investigation or do the ID scientists want to investigate how the designer did it? Hasn’t the evolutionist minimized scientific investigation by assuming that some things in nature are just a mistake or mutation of chance (ie junk DNA).
This is one debate that requires a significant investment of time and a dose of humility so we can be informed adults. Both sides have erred in oversimplifying the issues surrounding this debate. Our kids deserve more information on these topics not less. Teach it all and acknowledge what we know to be true (to the best of our ability) and what still (though not necessarily forever) lands in the realm of theory.



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Scot McKnight

posted July 31, 2006 at 1:02 pm


Timbo,
Thanks for writing back. First, “strong descriptive language” is one thing, and we’ve had it here; bombast and insult is not the same.
Have you read Balmer’s chp on this?
How may ID adherents don’t believe that ID ultimately shows that there is a God who is the Agent of ID? Personally, I think nearly all believe that. Just as those who believe in theistic evolution come to the conclusion that there is a God behind it all. That, so far as I can tell, is the issue: that those who believe in ID nearly always conclude the ID Agent is God. The second one enters “God” into a scientific theory, scientist protest that “God can’t be theorized.”
This, at any rate, is how I understand the response to ID. (I read about this some time back in Commentary magazine, which is clearly not a Christian magazine.)



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T

posted July 31, 2006 at 1:14 pm


As for Balmer’s first few points as you have summarized them, I don’t disagree with his history. What I am disappointed by is to hear a Christian of influence so deeply buy into, even defend, the supposed “clear” distinction between faith and science in any matter, including issues of origins of the physical universe and of life in this world.
Further, he seems to imply, if not state outright, that it is Evangelicals who are responsible for “confusing the categories” on this issue. We are all swimming in one universe. We are all trying to make accurate conclusions about it so as to better navigate our lives in the world and skin we’re in. Faith and science have this search for truth and understanding in common, but they have some differing assumptions (a type of faith) and methods. It bothers me that Balmer or any Christian would so easily accept the “distinction” of faith and science as if it isn’t in many important respects a relatively shallow distinction of method for understanding our one universe–as if conclusions about the material world are ever just that, without any implications at all about the metaphysical, and, most importantly, as if ‘scientists’ in universities, grade schools, companies and government bodies aren’t equating the limits of the scientific method (when it suits them) as limits on what is knowable or true at all. It is not just Christians who are confusing faith and science.
As Michael pointed out above, Bryan was right to predict that ethics are simply plans to navigate (perceived) reality. A Nazi ethic does not make sense (is unwise) in the universe that Jesus, ro the Bible as a whole, describes. Nazism or Hedonism for that matter is not crazy at all if the current ‘scientific’ epistimology is correct–we are sophisticated animals. How then should we (or better, I) live? The appropriate ethic arises from perceptions about what’s real. (This is part of why we have the ‘ethics’ that are currently dominating our public schools–the kids are merely trying to navigate the darwinian reality that they see and find confirmed by their teachers of ‘science’.)
As for this line: “the proper venue for the propagation of faith is the home or the church, not the university”–this is trustworthy if either faith or the university has nothing to do with knowing and actually understanding the truth about our world. If they have this in common, though, how can either fulfill it’s goal without the other?



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Scot McKnight

posted July 31, 2006 at 1:26 pm


T,
I think you’re on to something extremely important. We want to know the truth — all of it that we can know. Let’s agree on that.
And, you’re right, Balmer does distinguish in some way between a faith-perception of truth and a scientific-perception of truth. From what I’ve read in this book, I’m not sure Balmer would say that science is not true and that faith is true. What I think he’s talking about is the reality of living in a First Amendment society in which there is a separation of Church and State, Thomas Jefferson’s “wall of separation” being a reality you and I have to live with.
Now, if we live in that kind of society, which protects us in our own faith and which prevents the State from telling us what to believe and which we as Christians have both fought for and profited from, what do we teach in a publicly funded school that must obey the First Amendment. It is not that one can’t believe science doesn’t tell the whole story, but it does force the question of what is legal to establish as knowledge in a school that must follow the law?
So, what I think you are saying is that you think Balmer falls too much for the privatization of faith. The question that I would have to face then is how to construct a public curriculum that respects faith but does not inculcate or favor any one faith. Isn’t this the real issue?
For a long time I think I would have agreed with you. The issue then becomes how to implement something that is consistent with science and within the law.



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Nancy

posted July 31, 2006 at 1:41 pm


Scot,
On “how to construct a public curriculum that respects faith but does not inculcate or favor any one faith.”
This seems to be an impossibility and once that impossibility is acknowledged then we can make progress. I do not think we can craft a neutral ground. If we can begin to educate kids on philosophy and worldview thinking then it becomes clear that our religious views (public or private and subconscious or conscious) affect all areas of our lives and inevitably influence others. Rather than sweep our differences under the table isn’t it better to identify religious differences and how different religious systems impact how we view the world?



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Michael Kruse

posted July 31, 2006 at 1:48 pm


My point in my epistle was that whether we say “irreducible complexity” or “God did it,” we come out in the same place. We close the door on further â??scientificâ? investigation of the matter because that is beyond naturalistic science. As long as evolution can predict what you will find in such-and-such a place and it continues to do so with some accuracy, why would we abandon it? What predictive value does ID have?
Science requires a kind of “methodological atheism.” The whole point of science is to study the â??naturalâ? world. It is NOT the only or even the paramount way of â??knowing.â? There are many ways of knowing about our existence. What I think many IDers rightly resent is the attempt by several scientists to extend methodological atheism into a kind of functional atheism (secularism) for matters beyond science. However, the answer is not to inject unscientific ways of knowing into science. It is to affirm the role and calling of science while calling into account those scientists who over reach with their own agendas.



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Nancy

posted July 31, 2006 at 2:36 pm


Michael – could you elaborate on paragraph 1 #20 with regards to closing the door on further investigation. Can you site specific instances where a scientist (not the religious promoters re comment #1) who supports ID has used the “God did it” excuse to stop investigation of a matter or to encourage another scientist to stop investigation. Further, doesn’t the ID theory relate more to causes and force one to look at a problem differently than the individual who is committed to a purely naturalistic explaination?
Yes – with regards to your comments on “knowing.” I may teach a Sunday school class on this topic in the spring and I genuinely want to understand all of the nuances of the debate. Thanks in advance for your response.



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T

posted July 31, 2006 at 2:42 pm


Scot,
First, let me express my appreciation for the dialog. Honestly, these are issues I care a lot about, and have thought a lot about, but rarely have the opportunity to discuss.
You are so right about ‘the issue’. You may not agree with what I see as the best alternative (I’m sure Balmer wouldn’t!) but I will give it nonetheless. For several reasons, I think the States ought to generously subsidize costs of education at least through highschool. But it should be treated as a subsidization of the parents’ expenditures (or as ‘scholarships’ to every child), rather than the state owning and running tons of schools. Having agents/employees of the state serve as choosers and teachers of content and as disciplinarians of pseudo-citizens (minors) is an absolute due process disaster and will only become more so as the legal cases come and go. (Content and discipline are both highly problematic for state actors to provide under our Constitution, and are both central to K-12 education.) The state needs to get out of the education/indoctrination business (especially now that they’re subject to the First Amendment) and get into something it does very well and efficiently–subsidization of certain expenditures made by private citizens.
Would all schools be Christian, Jewish, etc.? Would even those be identical? Clearly not. Most schools would be of a flavor similar to most universities, I imagine, but they would be charities and/or privately owned, not agents of the state.
I don’t have time to get into why this wouldn’t offend the US Constitution, but the bottom line is that the government would 1) be giving a tax benefit/subsidy to parents, and 2) have no say as to whether there were 20, 0, or 2 schools of faith in a given district, of any variety (not to mention the disciplinary and content choices that the government wouldn’t be making). The parents, rightfully so, would make a choice of school considering all kinds of factors, worldview of the school (and it’s breadth) being one of them. By the way, getting some ‘free’ oversight by parents, press, and others would be far better and cheaper than the current political oversight of schooling issues. It would also give parents a sense of empowerment and ownership about their child’s education, which my teacher-friends say is a little lacking. It would also lead to some much faster innovations, and rewards for educators who make them. The lines of accountability would be so much shorter (parent to school) than whatever they are now.
There are more reasons, but that’s my view. The fearful reactions to it are usually directly related to how much indoctrination we think schools are currently doing (that we may like), or or from a difficulty in imagining something outside of what we know. Thanks again.
BTW, doesn’t your understanding of the ‘descent’ described in Romans (they didn’t think it worthwhile to keep God in their knowledge . . .) give you a check in your stomach when you see mandated secularism growing in scope? To me, that would be a very ironic result of the First Amendment.



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BeckyR

posted July 31, 2006 at 3:31 pm


http://www.reasons.org Hugh Ross. Went to hear him speak a couple years ago. Most of it whizzed right by my head, but enough to spark an interest to understand what he’s saying. An excerpt from what’s at his site today :
Continuous Cosmic Expansion Confirmed
by Jeff Zweerink, Ph.D., Hugh Ross, Ph.D.
Big bang opponents are a diverse lot. Some promote an infinitely (or near infinitely) old universe to avoid a creation event in the relatively recent (roughly 14-billion-year) past. So, they argue that the universe is static or semi-static-no general cosmic expansion. Others promote a very young creation (6,000-10,000 years old) to fit a particular interpretation of Genesis 1. They need the expansion to occur much more rapidly than a few billion years. Nestled in between is the established scientific-and biblical-model saying that expansion has occurred continuously over the past 13.7 billion years.
Recent measurements of Type Ia supernova eruptions, however, rule out all options except those fitting the latter model.1 To understand how, a little background is useful……….



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Brian

posted July 31, 2006 at 3:36 pm


Scot,
I agree with Nancy that constructing a public school curriculum is a real problem. To shed light from another angle, can you imagine trying to incorporate something like the Book of Mormon into a history class?



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JACK

posted July 31, 2006 at 3:53 pm


Neither evolution or ID are pure science. They are both theories of data interpretation that mostly reflect philosophical biases, at best. I wish everyone on both sides would just admit that instead of the bothersome rhetoric that has dominated th ID/Evolution debate.
And in the end, I say a big “who cares?” to it all from a philosophical perspective. How something became something else is a yawn. How nothing became something. Now that’s interesting.
There is so much difficulty all around on this subject. I’ve seen some of the criticism of ID that’s been offered up by respectable scientists (see, Coyne’s, for example). It’s laughable and belies their claims of being critics of ID on a scientific level. Alternatively, I’ve seen ID folks press the smallest nuggets into more than what they are.
Also, the notion that “God did it” ends scientific inquiry is one that just doesn’t ring true for me. Not in the slightest. That it would, to me, is a presupposition and one that sheds much light on what is all wrong with this debate.
As



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Michael Kruse

posted July 31, 2006 at 4:21 pm


Nancy you wrote:
“Can you site specific instances where a scientist (not the religious promoters re comment #1) who supports ID has used the â??God did itâ? excuse to stop investigation of a matter or to encourage another scientist to stop investigation. Further, doesnâ??t the ID theory relate more to causes and force one to look at a problem differently than the individual who is committed to a purely naturalistic explaination?”
I’ll try.
By examining the scientific record we might say “Holy cow! This is thing is way more complex than we anticipated. This is going to require considerably more research than we anticipated.â? The difference is between saying â??complexity beyond our present knowledgeâ? and saying â??irreducible complexityâ? and then postulating an intelligent designer. How do we falsify or confirm an intelligent designer who apparently is operating outside of and behind the natural order, when the scientific method is restricted only to observable natural phenomena and inference from those phenomena? For ID to be science he/she canâ??t just assert an intelligent designer. A theory of the process the designer used that can be tested and falsified has to be offered as well.
So no I canâ??t point to a case of what one scientist using this to stop investigation, but I can point to a host of political efforts to discourage students from embracing an evolutionary understanding of species without offering any alternative theory that can be tested using the â??scientific method.â?
â??Further, doesnâ??t the ID theory relate more to causes and force one to look at a problem differently than the individual who is committed to a purely naturalistic explaination?â?
This question highlights the confusion in my estimation. (I hope I am not sounding like I am picking on you here.) It presumes that science is incomplete as a system of knowledge, so what we need to do is to interject some other kinds of knowledge into to it so we can come up with a more comprehensive understanding our existence. What I am saying is that science is a subset of the types of knowledge available to us and is one contributor to our comprehensive knowledge of our existence. Science by design (*grin*) is limited to naturalistic explanation! If anything else is introduced it ceases to be science. That, in and of itself, is not depreciation of other truths. It is merely a statement about the limited mission of science.
This is the disaster that the hubris of the modern era has brought on us. The astonishing achievements of science led many to elevate science to the pinnacle of all knowledge and final arbiter of all truth. It is now seen that â??the Emperor has no clothes.â? The corrective measure is to push science back into its appropriate mission of analyzing and understanding our material existence. ID mistakenly interprets the corrective to be the interjection supernatural (not â??purely naturalistic explanationsâ? as you wrote) causalities into science. That well seriously damage scientific investigation.
I donâ??t know. Am I coming across any clearer?



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Michael Kruse

posted July 31, 2006 at 4:52 pm


“Also, the notion that â??God did itâ? ends scientific inquiry is one that just doesnâ??t ring true for me. Not in the slightest. That it would, to me, is a presupposition and one that sheds much light on what is all wrong with this debate.”
Jack I hope will read the post I just made in response to Nancy. You are misreading what my posts say. Science is not a source of comprehensive knowledge. It studies ONLY the material universe. The exclusion of supernatural causes form science is not based on a presupposition about the nature of the universe (although some scientist in their hubris have made this leap) it is a methodological strategy. Science, by definition requires observation in the material world and God is not of the material world. The â??God did itâ? assertion categorically closes off scientific inquiry and catapults us into some other type of inquiry that is other than science. That doesnâ??t mean it is wrong; it just means it isnâ??t science.
â??How something became something else is a yawn.â?
Maybe for you, my friend, but you definitely need to hang out around some more scientists. My dad was a research chemist and I have been around science all my life. There is an MIT trained astronomer who is the head of a local state university science department who attends our church. Some of the most mystical and awestruck people I know are scientists. BeckyR mentioned Hugh Ross who clearly falls into this camp. You might also visit Science and Faith website.



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Michael Kruse

posted July 31, 2006 at 5:03 pm


Nancy, I forgot to mention one resource that I find particularly helpful with getting a handle on all the various nuances of approaching these is issues: Evolution from Creation to New Creation by Ted Peters and Martinez Hewlett.
They lay out four general views on a continuum with scientific creationism one end and ontological materialism on the other.
Scientific Creationism â?? Advocates believe the world to be only a few thousand years old. A worldwide flood occurred that altered the face of the planet. Divine creation brought new species into existence, not macro-evolution.
Intelligent Design â?? Accepts most of what scientists say about the age of the universe, the operations of physics, and so on, but believes that only an intelligent being could have brought about life and new species. Macro-evolution by natural selection is, mathematically improbable, if not impossible.
Theistic Evolution â?? Believes that God was the creator of all that is and has superintended the development of creation. Believes that macro-evolution has occurred and is the process by which God brought life to where it is today. God is present and at work in the world today.
Ontological Materialism â?? Rejects the idea that anything other than natural forces are at work in the universe. Evolution has been a product of natural selection and there is no super intelligence impinging on the natural world.
There are gradations within these four categories and the book gives contemporary examples of people who are examples of each of the gradations. I would place myself in the Theistic Evolution near the border of with Intelligent design.



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Scot McKnight

posted July 31, 2006 at 6:11 pm


T,
As I hear you, you are saying free market education theory. Is that right? That’s about as libertarian as it gets. I like to think of myself as an anabaptist, even a bit utopian at times, but even I can’t bring myself to this point since I guess I’ve got too much realism in me.



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Ted Gossard

posted July 31, 2006 at 7:12 pm


Michael,
Much good education for me on your comments. Thanks.
I’m not so sure that one would have to come down in one of the four general views you share from the book. I don’t know enough to really know where I come down. Except to say that I have no special draw to Intelligent Design (at this point), since I don’t see it as purely science. And I have doubts about macro-evolution as a science.
I too see the scientist’s work as limited. And your thought helps clarify this for me. It is a subcategory within our total knowledge of things- an important one, but not able, by nature, to ask and answer questions that only special revelation from God can do.
Creation does reveal the Creator, and God has given us a built in sense of his law. But somehow science has to be studied for itself, and what each human does with it in reference to it being truth from God, seems to me to be a separate issue.



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Ted Gossard

posted July 31, 2006 at 7:16 pm


….I should say, the claims for macro evolution being good science, or scientifically sound.



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Ted Gossard

posted July 31, 2006 at 7:24 pm


one other thing: I’m suspicious on both the scientific creationism and intelligent design side as well as on the ontological materialism (and perh theistic evolution unduly influenced by it???) other side- that these positions are influenced by that outside of science.
But I guess that is where we have to decide what is science and what isn’t. Observation and study for sure. And interpretation, conjecture, theory, continued study. I suppose….



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T

posted July 31, 2006 at 7:51 pm


It’s true, the chances of any state actually implementing such a system are slim. But I imagine that Civil Rights seemed equally if not more impossible, as well as other major reforms that are now history. Plus, at least this idea is a ‘political’ impossibility, while the hope of finding “a public curriculum that respects faith but does not inculcate or favor any one faith” seems more like an impossibility in fact. ;) And even if you did find such a curriculum, too many kids in my county still couldn’t read. (It doesn’t solve the larger problems, in my view.)
And, on a different note, I don’t think this idea is as much liberterian as our current education system is socialist–it’s just the one socialist system that we’re used to. (I’m not equating ‘socialist’ to ‘evil’ either.) Unfortunately, it has all the typical problems of a socialist system, including lack of accountability, politicalization of policy decisions, efficiency, and run-ins with due process and the first amendment. Which is another reason I think Balmer is wrong and misses the larger issues. If true liberterians had their way, the government wouldn’t be subsidizing anything, let alone running it. The idea of changing how we as a society guarantee a free education from a socialist method to vouchers is much more typically American (we love proping up industries) than liberterian, we’re just used to a socialist system in this rare instance.
We’ll see how desperate things become. It’s amazing what people will try in a county or two when things get bad enough. In the mean time, I pray for good things, and I support ministries with tutoring programs for inner city youth. I might die a dreamer on this one. Thanks again for your thoughts.



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Scot McKnight

posted July 31, 2006 at 8:01 pm


T,
I’m sitting here thinking about your ideas, and I have to admit that you’ve got my wheels rolling. I think we can agree that the Constitution can’t be violated. More thinking for me.



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Michael Kruse

posted July 31, 2006 at 9:11 pm


T,
I think you are sharing some helpful persepectives. I appreciate your thoughts here. My general philosophy is that the default position on most issues like these is for competition and market choice. There can and will be instances where this is not the case but the burden of proof is to show why there should be such control, not why there should not be.
I have read all of Balmer’s book now and it appears to me that for him words like “entrepreneur,” “capitalist,” and “business” are swear words. Anything that can be shown to dovetail with business’ interests is discreditied as a conspiracy of evil greedy people.
When I think of conservatives I often think of Mark Twain’s (sexist) quote, “Every man needs a wife. You can’t blame everything on the government.” The left’s could just as easily be “Every man needs a wife. You can’t blame everything on business.” As Christians we need a sound philosophy of the role of government and business, both of which are gifts from God and high callings.
Thanks for some innovative thinking.



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Anonymous

posted July 31, 2006 at 9:35 pm


Jesus and Politics at Rock, Paper, Dynamite

[...] One of McKnight’s current themes, which he mentions in the aforementioned post, is an examination of Randall Balmer’s Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America. He is for posts into a two week MWF series. They can be found here. The Case for Liberal Evangelicals 1 The Case for Liberal Evangelicals 2 The Case for Liberal Evangelicals 3 The Case for Liberal Evangelicals 4 [...]



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RJS

posted July 31, 2006 at 11:02 pm


Scot and All,
I am late into this discussion, but wanted to get my two cents in anyway. Obviously one cannot be a Christian without in a sense believing in both creationism and ID. When I say the Apostleâ??s Creed or the Nicene creed I do mean with my whole heart that I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth etc. However, like Michael Kruse I will come down pretty much in the Theistic evolution end of the spectrum, although I certainly canâ??t rule out a more active involvement in the creation process. On the other hand a young earth position leads to the necessary corollary that God created the world in a fashion so as to confuse and blind mankind – those he created in his own image. Frankly I think that this is inconsistent with Christian and Jewish theology – inconsistent with the picture of the nature of God revealed in scripture.
There are a lot of misconceptions here. First of all, while evolution is inferred, not proven, as Randy pointed out (#2) it is a very strong theory. You canâ??t prove evolution, according to the scientific method. You can only infer it. But contrary to what Randy says, the holes are not huge, they are getting steadily smaller, and the indirect evidence is compelling. This is especially true as we decode more and more of the genetic “Language of God”, a phrase I borrow from the title of Francis Collins’ new book. However, ID as it is posed is a “God of the gaps” theory – and the gaps are getting smaller and smaller. The irreducible complexity idea will fall in each and every example given so far, probably within the next 50 years. I personally could poke holes in the vision examples. My faith in God isnâ??t based on these supposed gaps in the efficacy of natural processes. If you want an expert opinion on this read Collins’ book. He is a Christian, and a fairly conservative evangelical Christian at that, and was head of the Human Genome project.
Ted in #3 says that conclusions drawn from good scientific observation and study are subjected to a scientistâ??s interpretation. Which is true – but this is a big self correcting enterprise. A statement in any active area of study will have a dozen competeing groups in the same area scrutinizing it immediately. (A group consists of a professor (or several professors), research scientists, postdocs, graduate students and technicians). We are an extremely critical lot – this business takes a thick skin and a lot of self confidence, and the ability to take criticism and setbacks in stride. Sometimes correction is fast, sometimes slower, but if the claim was important it will happen.
I like what Susan says about science and Scripture seamlessly informing one another when both are engaged with minds submitted to God.
What bothers me about much discussion these days is the hype given by evolutionists – Science cannot and does not disprove the existence of God. Richard Dawkins and others like him are dogmatically wrong – preaching their “faith” as scientific fact. There was a recent NY Times article a week or so ago that gave a good balanced view of recent books discussing these issues from both the “pro-God” and the “anti-God” sides.
I am out of time – but these are my current thoughts.
P.S. By the way Michael, you say: “Switching to physics for a moment, we know that the mathematics that explains how physics work down to the atomic level works one way. We know that the mathematics that explains how things work at the subatomic level work another way. Furthermore, the two mathematics cannot be reconciled with one another.” What do you mean by this? – I donâ??t think that it is true. They can be reconciled with the atomic and above a limit of the subatomic.



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Von

posted July 31, 2006 at 11:05 pm


If you navigate to http://www.baen.com, you will find (after a bit of looking) a perfectly wonderful book (free for the download) called â??Pandoraâ??s Planetâ??. (No, I donâ??t work, nor am I in any way affiliated with Baen Booksâ?¦ unless you call reading a lot of them â??affiliatedâ??.)
The last couple of chapters of the book are kind of a separate story from the ones that went before. In them, you have an Earth psychologist visiting an alien psychologist. The Earth psychologist is in awe of the alien, since his methods actually *work*! They are discussing the basis of psychology, and the Earthman insists that psychology is a â??scienceâ??. The alien, in rebuttal, answers:
“Observe what has happened. Science came into existence to solve purely physical problems. To solve these problems it was necessary to exclude emotional considerations. The forces operative in this physical world are different from the forces operative in the emotional world. It is as if one were land and the other sea. The seafarer who goes ashore has little need for nets, lines and a knowledge of the tides, winds, and currents. But when he has built up his structure on solid land, is he then automatically fitted to go back to sea, relying exclusively on land methods? It won’t work, Dr. Garvin, except where, so to speak, the emotional sea has been frozen over, turned to ice on the surface. In the emotional world, to say, ‘My methods are entirely scientific,’ is similar to saying, ‘I have made an entirely scientific proposal of marriage.’ It is a cause for alarm, not confidence.”
How refreshing to see someone actually acknowledge that science has limitsâ?¦ and that one of its principle limits is in understanding people.
It was said:
“My point in my epistle was that whether we say â??irreducible complexityâ? or â??God did it,â? we come out in the same place. We close the door on further â??scientificâ? investigation of the matter because that is beyond naturalistic science.”
So what? Lots of things are beyond ‘naturalistic science’. Historically many of our most famous scientists have not been ‘naturalistic science’ doers. They were people attempting to ‘think Gods thots after Him.”
Phillipians 4:8 says:8Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
How may of those things are thinkable through ‘naturalistic science’?
Alan Keyes said:
“Science can tell you that the guy is dead. Science can tell you that he died by
poison. Science can tell you that that poison was probably administered in the
cognac.
Science can’t tell you that murder is wrong and ought to be a
crime.”
I am a ‘philosophical creationist’, not a ‘scientific creationist’. With all apologies to people I respect, I think that starting with ‘science’ in a discussion is an error, altho not as big an error as ending there. We must start with looking at our presuppositions, and how they logically hang together.



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John

posted August 1, 2006 at 1:36 am


Thanks for the article – that is interesting, although I don’t know if I agree with Balmer, because on the flip side of what he is criticizing, he says ID “is religion, not science, and the proper venue for the propagation of faith is the home or the church, not the university” – hmmmm, somehow that doesn’t click for me. Faith should work itself out in all areas of life, including our academic learning and study of nature, history, biology, etc. So if there’s a theory in biology that basically proposes atheism – in other words, things evolved by random versus being created, it makes sense for me as a Christian to inspect it scientifically – if I’m a scientist, my faith must be lived out in the labaratory as well as on the church pew and at home.
I would agree that many Evangelicals are taking ID too far, especially when they do it so that “America’s institutions of higher education could once again serve to propagate the faith”. But I get the impression Balmer is going to the other extreme which I think is just as silly.



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John

posted August 1, 2006 at 1:37 am


Thanks for the article – that is interesting, although I don’t know if I agree with Balmer, because on the flip side of what he is criticizing, he says ID “is religion, not science, and the proper venue for the propagation of faith is the home or the church, not the university” – hmmmm, somehow that doesn’t click for me. Faith should work itself out in all areas of life, including our academic learning and study of nature, history, biology, etc. So if there’s a theory in biology that basically proposes atheism – in other words, things evolved by random versus being created, it makes sense for me as a Christian to inspect it scientifically – if I’m a scientist, my faith must be lived out in the labaratory as well as on the church pew and at home.
I would agree that many Evangelicals are taking ID too far, especially when they do it so that “America’s institutions of higher education could once again serve to propagate the faith”. But I get the impression Balmer is going to the other extreme which I think is just as silly…



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T

posted August 1, 2006 at 10:30 am


On a related note of what currently counts as “knowledge”– Dallas Willard, who is, of course, an extremely thoughtful Christian and a professor of philosophy at USC, has some interesting thoughts on his website (it may be in one of his books) about issues of morality and ethics no longer being considered within the realm of “knowledge” in our society, particularly our universities. He doesn’t mention it as a “Christian” problem, but rather a problem that the leadership of Harvard and other respected universities have noted for their students. I thought that this was related enough to note in this conversation. I actually don’t think that ethics has passed outside of the realm of knowledge in our current “scientific” and now official understanding of reality, I just think we don’t like the only ethics that make sense within that understanding. But this is the bed we’re making and lying in right now. We’ll see how long it lasts.



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T

posted August 1, 2006 at 10:46 am


To add to #40, you can see why, as a Christian, I have no loyalty to a system that, by force of law, perpetuates on all but a handful of our youth, an understanding of themselves and the world around them that leaves little reason, I dare say no reason based in ‘fact’, for an ethic, a plan for living, beyond a darwinian one.



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Nancy

posted August 1, 2006 at 12:49 pm


Michael – thanks for engaging my quesions here. Peter’s book is now in the queue.
Let me try to summarize what you have said. When a scientist posits the work of a designer to explain something that has irreducible complexity, he is in effect saying “I can’t explain this. The designer must have done this therefore I don’t need to continue to study that which I, by definition, have stated will not ever be explained.”
I think I understand what you are saying, but I think that your point will be stronger if there are examples of scientist themselves halting a line of inquiry. Yes I concur that political foolishness abounds on this issue.
So, if I were a scientist would I look at a problem differently if I were looking for the mechanism introduced by a Designer then a menchanism that arose by chance? Yes, you are right that the ID theorists have not posited a falsifialbe theory of how the designer crafted some biological machine. But isn’t that theory something that could arrise after more research? And have the evolutionists proposed a valid testable theory? (I’m going out on a limb here so bear with me). Isn’t ID still relatively new? Couldn’t this potentially be a facinating time of watching a theory progress to the point where it does have the traditional marks of a science?
Perhaps ID exceeds the narrow bounds of science. These individuals have made a metaphysical inference based on scientific observations in the laboratory. I think there is value is listening to their conclusions and how they came to these conclusions. But since ID does not fit into the neat little box called science, should it be abandoned all together? (I don’t think that you espouse this). So what is the way out of this morass?
But with regards to education, one should teach the entire controversy and the philosophical aspects.
No need to answer all my questions. Thinking through the nuances of this issue is fun for me and your comments have been very helpful!



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RJS

posted August 1, 2006 at 1:19 pm


Nancy,
You addressed this question, but let me answer a piece of it anyway.
In education we should not allow teachers to present an “anti-God” picture of evolution, that is the philosophical position that science disproves God – because it doesn’t. When teachers say this, and many do, they overstep the realm of science. Unfortunately many school teachers believe that science does disprove God – and teach accordingly. Students often come to the University believing that science and faith are incompatible because they have been taught this in the schools.
However, on evolution there is no controversy to teach. ID as it is being posed is a weak theory, it leads to a “God of the gaps” theology. Every example of irreducible complexity put forth has been or will have plausible, even likely alternatives – that is scientific explanations. God created the world – but it will not be proven or even perpetually inferred from scientific arguments.
We have to move beyond this – accept that God created the world. This is a matter of faith not science. We do not have to and should not try to define how he did it on the micro or macro level.
RJS



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Michael Kruse

posted August 1, 2006 at 1:31 pm


RJS wrote: “What do you mean by this? – I donâ??t think that it is true. They can be reconciled with the atomic and above a limit of the subatomic.”
RJS, I am neither a physicist nor mathematician. I have a physicist friend who reads up on this stuff and I use her as one of (unpaid) consultants on such matters. *grin* Here is an excerpt of what she wrote to me several months ago
â??An example from physics – you may have read some about this in the popular literature, that general relativity (which is Einstein’s theory of gravitation, which extends Newton’s theory to more massive objects) and quantum mechanics (the theory of how atomic and subatomic particles work) are incompatible. And they are. But no one rejects either or both because of that. It’s a *mathematics* problem. We don’t know yet how to make the mathematics for each of them work together. We know they both work in nature, because the universe exists. The necessity for a mathematics where they work together is most crucial in some special cases such as inside a black hole, or at the moment of the Big Bang.â?
If this is not the best example, then there are hosts of others. My point is that inconsistencies and conundrums have existed in the past that seemed on the surface irreconcilable. But persistent research and experimentation led to the development of refined or new paradigms of understanding.



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Michael Kruse

posted August 1, 2006 at 2:28 pm


Von Wrote:
[It was said:
â??My point in my epistle was that whether we say â??irreducible complexityâ? or â??God did it,â? we come out in the same place. We close the door on further â??scientificâ? investigation of the matter because that is beyond naturalistic science.â?
So what? Lots of things are beyond â??naturalistic scienceâ??. Historically many of our most famous scientists have not been â??naturalistic scienceâ?? doers. They were people attempting to â??think Gods thots after Him.â?]
Von, you have missed the point I was making. I am distinguishing be methodological materialism and ontological materialism.
Science is the study of the material world, not the supernatural world. It has limited its focus. It is a mission statement about what activity a scientist is going to do. Thus, to interject â??God did it,â? â??intelligent design,â? or â??God of the gapsâ? is not science. This says nothing one way or the other about other ways of knowing.
You wrote: “So what? Lots of things are beyond â??naturalistic scienceâ??.” Yes. I couldn’t agree more. There are other ways of knowing that are beyond scienceâ??s limited focus. There are realities that exist beyond our material existence but examination and reflection on those issues is not science! Science is one very useful but limited way of knowing.
What has happened in our culture is that some scientists have taken their appropriate and necessary perspective of methodological materialism (â??We are going to study the material world only.â?) and inappropriately championed ontological materialism (â??All that exists is the material world. Therefore, that is all there is to study.â?) It is conceit and hubris that attempts to set science up as the final arbiter of all truth.
We have two equally unhealthy dynamics at work.
1. Ontological materialists want to foist an utterly secularized view that makes all others acknowledge science (and scientists) as Lord and King.
2. IDers and Creationists introduce supernatural factors into a discipline that has as its mission the study of the material world only.
Both of these are wrong. What both they are both assuming is that science is an enterprise in uncovering ultimate truth. It isnâ??t. One group wants to enthrone it and the other wants to subjugate it to other interests. The answer is for everyone to respect the boundaries of what science is and is not.



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Michael Kruse

posted August 1, 2006 at 7:01 pm


Nancy wrote:
â??When a scientist posits the work of a designer to explain something that has irreducible complexity, he is in effect saying â??I canâ??t explain this. The designer must have done this therefore I donâ??t need to continue to study that which I, by definition, have stated will not ever be explained.â?â?
That is pretty close. I would say â??I canâ??t explain this. The designer must have done this therefore I might continue to study this but I don’t need to offer a falsifiable scientific theory and should not be expected by my colleagues to present one.”
Scientists operate according to paradigms. At any given moment scientists have a set of practices, assumptions, and theories about how their particular discipline works. This paradigm informs what questions they ask and how research should be interpreted. EVERY paradigm has anomalies and paradoxes. The day to day work scientists is spent refining what they think they already know as well as dreaming up ways to get a handle on those pesky anomalies.
Periodically, a scientist, or small group of scientists, has a burst of insight. A new way of seeing the interrelationships of data springs to life. The picture is incomplete but it is sufficient enough for them to go back and re-examine past data through a new lens. Suddenly, all the previous data is seen to connect in new and in different ways, and the some of the major anomalies are accounted for. A new paradigm is born.
However, old paradigms donâ??t die easily. Proponents of the new paradigm begin to slug it out with proponents of the old paradigm by experimenting and publishing replicatable research. Eventually one paradigm emerges as better to account for the real world observations than others. Whichever paradigm prevails will then periodically take on new challengers and the battle will ensue again. But I reiterate my point that EVERY paradigm has anomalies and paradoxes. The presence of them does not discredit a theory. The only thing that can discredit a paradigm is a new paradigm.
Balmer says that the Genesis stories never claimed to be history and that is not entirely true. A substantial distinctive of Genesis Chapter 1 is its chronological and sequential articulation of an unfolding creation. It lays the out the preamble to a linear view of time. It is also true that it uses poetry and metaphor to tell its story, but it is important that its peculiar historical approach (compared to other creation narratives) should not be overlooked.
Genesis uses the word â??baraâ? only three times in Genesis 1, which means â??to createâ? in the absolute sense of the word. It is used in v. 1 about the â??heavens and the earth,â? the creation of matter. It is used in v. 21 to talk about the creation of critters. It is used in v. 25 to talk about the creation of humanity. Everything else appears to have the sense of being manufactured or formed. Yet even the Chatper 2 creation account says Adam was formed out of the ground. (Did God form some being â??out of the groundâ? over eons and then one day breathe His breath into him?)
Let us assume for a moment that God didnâ??t evolve cats, but instead formed them into existence at some particular point in history. If we had a team of scientists with equipment to record and measure the event down to the atomic level, we can presume that they would be able to give us a â??naturalâ? explanation of what happened to bring cats into existence. After all, this is matter transforming from one state to another.
However, if God created the first cat out of nothing, then we would simply see matter where none existed before. Most likely the best scientists would ever be able to tell us is that they have no plausible theory (yet) about how cats came to be. That is the most they could say.
Now if I want to leave the realm of science for another form of knowledge (revelation) I could say that this irreducible complexity dovetails perfectly with what I think God has revealed. Or I could conjecture that some other type of intelligent designer created the kitty. That may be perfectly true, but you have to leave science to get there! Science and the scientific method have no way to evaluate such a claim.
â??I think I understand what you are saying, but I think that your point will be stronger if there are examples of scientist themselves halting a line of inquiry.â?
I am unclear what you are getting at here. Is it possible to do science and believe that cats were formed in and instant or created out of nothing? Sure. But you will have to suspend that belief while you do science using the scientific method (hypothesis, experiments, observation, publication, etc.) There is no way (that I have ever seen) to falsify a claim that an intelligent designer did it. The best you can do is demonstrate that all other explanations donâ??t work. Philosophically you can make the leap that this directly implicates an intelligent designer if you wish, but you can not get their scientifically. Science has come to the end of itself (Although any scientist will assume that the inexplicable is possibly due to our present state of limited knowledge and the dead end may one day reopen.)
The danger of inserting an intelligent designer into science has problems not only for science but for religion. We build up a theory that says no scientific explanations can resolve â??irreducible complexityâ? and this is clear evidence of intelligent design or God. Then 25 years from now a new paradigm emerges that resolves the irreducible complexity. Our faith has become wedded to this now a discredited notion and the credibility of our faith goes down with it. There is saying that says a marriage of science and religion soon makes religion a widow.
I feel like I am rambling. I hope I am getting clearer.



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RJS

posted August 1, 2006 at 8:09 pm


Michael,
Integrating gravitation with everything else is an active area of research. There are not a host of others – and it is not an atomic/subatomic issue.
You also say “There are other ways of knowing that are beyond scienceâ??s limited focus. There are realities that exist beyond our material existence but examination and reflection on those issues is not science! Science is one very useful but limited way of knowing.”
This is of course the crux of the whole argument – many would say that there are in fact no other ways of truly knowing anything.
To make the statement that there are other ways of knowing or understanding is to state your opening hypothesis or postulate defining the nature of the world. The existence of a greater reality beyond the material world is a hypothesis, assumed on faith. It is incapable of proof or disproof. You state it as a fact – but it is only a hypothesis. Science is limited if and only if your hypothesis is correct.
Of course, the belief that the material world is the sum total of reality is also a hypothesis incapable of proof or disproof. But it leads to the claim that religion is superstition that is entirely explainable by natural means. The need for “religion” and the need for “meaning” etc. can be reduced to chemistry, physics and biology (chemistry and physics being applications of physics).
You hit the nail on the head saying that there are two equally unhealthy dynamics at work.
“1. Ontological materialists want to foist an utterly secularized view that makes all others acknowledge science (and scientists) as Lord and King”
Except – strike the statement (and scientists). That is an uncalled for ad hominum attack and should not be introduced into the argument
This is the point of view against which we, as Christians, should fight.
“2. IDers and Creationists introduce supernatural factors into a discipline that has as its mission the study of the material world only.”
I donâ??t think that this is quite the right way to put it -the IDers introduce supernatural factors into a discipline that has as its mission the study of the material world only. On the other hand, the creationists want to match â??
“reality” to their interpretation of the Bible. Science is irrelevant.
All discussions should begin with the initial hypothesis – is there or is there not a reality greater than the material world. The discussion should not begin with creationism or ID.
RJS



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Michael Kruse

posted August 1, 2006 at 11:14 pm


Thanks for the comments, RJS.
“Integrating gravitation with everything else is an active area of research. There are not a host of others – and it is not an atomic/subatomic issue.”
I think you are getting hung up on a specific example I gave with which you disagree. If you are stumbling over that, then forget what I wrote. The â??host of othersâ? I am referring to is meant to indicate that there are a host of other examples over the history of science. There are countless examples of scientist confronting seemingly irreconcilable anomalies. Scientists donâ??t just throw up their hands and say God must have done it. They decide they need to do more investigation.
My point is that the scientific answer to anomalies is not to postulate an influence outside the material world. It is to assume an as yet uncovered natural explanation, and then go seek it. So if my example is inadequate hopefully we can at least agree on the point it was intended to illustrate.
â??To make the statement that there are other ways of knowing or understanding is to state your opening hypothesis or postulate defining the nature of the world. The existence of a greater reality beyond the material world is a hypothesis, assumed on faith. It is incapable of proof or disproof. You state it as a fact – but it is only a hypothesis. Science is limited if and only if your hypothesis is correct.â?
It is not purely assumed on faith. Reason, revelation, and personal experience play a big role. Yes, I believe what I said to be fact. I am unclear why you take issue with me stating the facts as I see them, just as everyone else is. My writing it and putting my name to it indicated these are MY views.
â??I donâ??t think that this is quite the right way to put it -the IDers introduce supernatural factors into a discipline that has as its mission the study of the material world only. On the other hand, the creationists want to match â??realityâ? to their interpretation of the Bible. Science is irrelevant.â?
Good qualification. Iâ??ll buy that.
â??All discussions should begin with the initial hypothesis – is there or is there not a reality greater than the material world. The discussion should not begin with creationism or ID.â?
The context of this discussion is Balmerâ??s book about how Christianâ??s should respond to evolution, ID, science, etc., versus the way Balmer perceives the way the Religious Right responds to these topics. The subject of the discussion is Christians, who by definition, believe in a greater reality. That is a given. The manifest issue in this blog post is not about whether or not there is a reality greater than the material world. It is how people who already believe there is greater reality should relate to science.
Peace!



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RJS

posted August 2, 2006 at 10:29 am


Michael,
My point, is I think, the same as yours. In the context of this discussion the battle that Christians must be making is between the acceptance of a greater reality or the denial of the greater reality. This is the real battle line.
We should not be fighting in the schools for ID or even worse creationism. Both are indefensible as I have said in previous posts. But we should not allow as an unchallenged statement of fact that science, evolution, etc. has as its corollary no greater reality.
And – contrary to public perception – many eminent scientist (physicists, chemists, and biologists) believe in a greater reality.
RJS



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Anders

posted August 2, 2006 at 2:10 pm


T,
You wrote (in #22) on state “subsidization of the parentsâ?? expenditures… rather than the state owning and running tons of schools.” This has actually been partly implemented in Sweden (of all countries) in the years 1991-94, when for a short period the Social Democrats were out of power.
Of course not much changed in that brief period, but the system has not been totally reversed. Today, if the parents choose a private school the state has to pay 75% of the costs.
This is not a libertarian idea, but a new kind of welfare state solution, where the state pays the bill but the individuals make the choice. The center-right opposition in Sweden has similar propositions for child care and health care on their agenda. And according to today’s gallups they will come to power in September.



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Von

posted August 2, 2006 at 5:26 pm


Today, the word â??scienceâ?? implies either metaphysical or methodological Naturalism. Naturalism implies a deliberate limiting of the inquiry to â??naturalâ?? causes; which the Christians knows to be a false assumption.
Suppose your car is parked under a tree. Further suppose that when you go to leave for work the tree is now on top of your car. So you call a policeman. And our policeman is committed to methodological Naturalism. In his way of investigating, only â??non-humanâ?? actors are considered.
So he comes to see your car. And (surprise, surprise) he determines that â??the tree fellâ?? due to natural causes: In vain do you point out saw marks; fruitlessly you show him footprints in the dirt around the stump. None of this makes any difference. His very method requires that a natural (i.e. Non-human) cause be found for the fallen tree.
Chuck Colson had an interesting breakpoint on the ‘assumptions’ of philosophical naturalists which I found at:http://freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/1286965/posts



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T

posted August 2, 2006 at 8:49 pm


Anders,
Thanks for this information. I wasn’t it had been tried, even partially, anywhere . . . yet.



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dlw

posted August 5, 2006 at 1:18 pm


I think Balmer may miss the point that the real debate here is more of a pedagogical one. Shd High School science classes only teach the latest bonified scientific facts and theories, or might not teaching the historic debate about evolution and creation(or intelligent design) be of value as it illuminates what is science in part by an explanation of how the lack of falsifiability in ID arguments prevent them from being categorized as “scientific”.
This is the key argument made by nontheist evolutionist John Angus Cambell.
Balmer may understand the problem well, but his answers are fallible and quite a bit overstated in their vehemence. I met him at a conference about Ron Sider’s “The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience” a year ago and got this impression of him.
dlw



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Bill Samuel

posted August 5, 2006 at 3:59 pm


The adherents of both science and religion tend to want to make it seem they know more than they really do. They want certainty where there is mystery and uncertainty, and too often pretend they have found it.
Public schools should not be teaching scientism or a particular religious view. They should be teaching about the critics of theories as well as the theories. There is no such thing as perfect objectivity, but they should be striving for some balance.



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Dave

posted August 7, 2006 at 3:56 pm


“Of course, the belief that the material world is the sum total of reality is also a hypothesis incapable of proof or disproof. But it leads to the claim that religion is superstition that is entirely explainable by natural means. The need for â??religionâ? and the need for â??meaningâ? etc. can be reduced to chemistry, physics and biology (chemistry and physics being applications of physics).”
As I look into evolution and faith, among the various things I’m thinking about is the claim that science and evolutionary theory can/will explain all human behavior, including why humans love, sin, have faith in God, and so on. RJS? Others? Do you think this is inevitable and/or problematic?
I probably need to keep reading, but the above quote referenced this reductionism.
Thanks,
Dave



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JACK

posted August 8, 2006 at 6:28 pm


Michael,
First, I think you read a little too much in my presentation of my point versus the substance of what I meant.
I am fascinated by how something becomes something else. I ultimately pursued a different path, but my initial educational attraction was to physics and in some ways still is. I know many scientists (some atheists and some believers) and I appreciate greatly what they love of their work.
My point, though, was about the limits of what science can truly tell me. Much the same, I think, as your methodological one. You are right — one can’t scientifically test the supernatural. What I lament, though, is the undertone that science’s assertion of that fact usually carries. Too often, it isn’t “this is beyond what the tools of science can examine”. Instead, it comes with an implicit twist, namely, that somehow the supernatural cannot be reasonable. (Reducing reason and rationality to what can be proven through the scientific method, which just defies the lessons of daily experience that we all have.) Similarly, I’ve seen scientists who, with all the confidence that they tell me that science can’t test the supernatural explanation, nonetheless suggest to me that it can rule it out. I think you would agree that that is problematic, too. The whole assuming an unknown natural explanation exists for methodological purposes morphing into assuming that the truth of the matter is that there in fact is a natural explanation.
And at the end, for all my love of science, I see the philosophical questions as bigger because they have a greater importance to me, my “I”, my “being”, my “person”. As fascinating as evolutionary theory is, it still can’t answer the question, “Why do I exist?” with anything more (if it’s honest) than: “Not sure, but it was a long and complicated process.”. That was my point. Science can’t truly address this question for precisely the reasons you pointed out.
That’s why I described both ID and the naturalistic (i.e., atheistic) evolution, that are often promoted, as theories of how to interpret the scientific data that exists about the historical evidence for the actual occurrence of evolution and the experimental evidence for the technical feasibility of evolution.
I think we are very much on the same page.



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Michael Kruse

posted August 8, 2006 at 9:25 pm


“Similarly, Iâ??ve seen scientists who, with all the confidence that they tell me that science canâ??t test the supernatural explanation, nonetheless suggest to me that it can rule it out. I think you would agree that that is problematic, too. The whole assuming an unknown natural explanation exists for methodological purposes morphing into assuming that the truth of the matter is that there in fact is a natural explanation.”
Amen!
I remember reading a book by astronomer Robert Jastrow years ago where he wrote about the nature of science at the end of the twentieth century. He said it is as if scientists have been climbing a mountain for centuries, inching their way to the top. The finally get to the top, place their fingers on the edge, and pull themselves over the edge, only to find the philosophers and theologians there having a discussion. I have always liked that image.



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Anonymous

posted August 9, 2006 at 5:44 am


“Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America: An Evangelical Lament” at Bene Diction Blogs On

[...] Part Four: Evolution or intelligent design, science or faith? 58 comments. Interesting to see what chapters in Balmers book generate wider input. [...]



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