Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Friday is for Friends: Logan Paul Gage

posted by Scot McKnight

This two-part series on Intelligent Design, in part a response to our ongoing discussions about evolution, is by Logan Paul Gage, a policy analyst at the Discovery Institute and who has written extensively on evolution.

Intelligent Design and the Artist’s Soul, in Three Acts

DiscInst.jpgIn his
article “Five Streams of the Emerging Church,” Scot McKnight identifies
with Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger’s description of emerging Christians. 
One of the nine hallmarks of such Christians, according to the authors,
is that they “create as created beings.”  And it is this theme I would
like to explore with reference to Darwinian evolution and intelligent
design (ID) in a series of two posts.  We will consider how to
consider ID, assess conceptions of God in this debate, and we will reflect upon aesthetics and Darwinian theory.

What to make of intelligent design?

Questions for our readers: What do you make of intelligent design? How do you define it? Do you think we have too often used sloppy definitions of it?


Years ago, before I had heard of Neil Postman, before I had given much thought to the role pictures play in our mental life, I read Edward Larson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Summer for the Gods.  Upon putting it down, I was struck by one simple fact:  Everything I thought I knew about The Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925 ‘just ain’t so.’

With reflection, the disturbing fact emerged that I had absorbed the black-and-white images of “Inherit the Wind.”  Sure, I knew it was a play.  Yet apparently the part of my brain overseeing history is not divorced from the part processing art.  Plato was right.  Art can be dangerous, for it provides a window into the soul.

The same cautionary tale applies to the Christian in the case of ID.  We had better be careful that we assess facts, evidence, and narrative carefully rather than absorbing the assessments of our secular peers by osmosis.  

It is impossible for the thinking Christian to put down all the invisible cultural baggage he or she  carries–both Christian and secular narratives–in order to consider ID’s claims on their own terms.  But we can try to clear confusion.  So let’s start with what ID is and is not.  Contrary to popular assumptions, ID is not Biblical creationism.  It does not get into the recesses of Old Testament exegesis, nor is it meant to reveal the full nature of God.

ID is more modest, asking a simple question:  When all of the scientific (not religious) evidence is put on the table, are certain features of nature better explained by an intelligent cause or by unintelligent causes like natural selection?

Now where does the artist fit in?  Well, let’s put down our culture war armor for a moment.  Let’s drop the usual visuals.  We are not dealing with men in white lab coats versus backwoods basement Bible-thumpers.  My friends in the ID movement have doctorates from Cambridge, The University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, CalTech, etc.  They’ve done post-docs at Columbia, Harvard, and other major institutions.  So let us re-imagine the narrative for a minute, wipe away the horizion, you and me.

Let us see the ID theorist the way we see an art historian at The Smithsonian who has just received a heretofore lost and unsigned Renaissance masterpiece.  She must do some detective work.  Are there not systematic and scientific ways for the art historian to learn about the cause(s) of this painting?  

I propose that this is the way we should view the ID theorist.  Returning to nature, in this view we see the ID theorist looking for positive signs of intelligent design and running tests to see if mere material causes are adequate to explain the artifact.  In the case of the painting, material causes will never be adequate.  Perhaps nature is like this, too.  We should not judge this a priori.  This is not a question of proving God’s existence or of Biblical fundamentalism.  This is about what sorts of causes are necessary to explain certain features of nature.  The emerging Christian knows God is the ultimate author of nature, so perhaps this will be scientifically detectable, or perhaps it will not.  We should encourage scientists to find out.

The sensitive-souled Christian will not let the Scopes narrative–and the charge that consideration of design in nature is somehow anti-intellectual–get in the way this legitimate pursuit for the causes of natural phenomena.

Next week we will look at God and Beauty in light of Intelligent Design. 



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Scott Morizot

posted May 29, 2009 at 7:31 am


Personally, I’ve been aware of the difference between “biblical creationism” and intelligent design. Although there is a spectrum in both categories, I tend to reject the former because of what it attempts to say about the created reality. I tend to reject the latter because of what it says about God.
I do not believe that creation in any way stands apart from God or has any sort of independent existence. God is shaping, filling, and sustaining all things. Thus, as we discover and learn more about the “natural” processes, we are discovering the very active and ongoing work of a God so intimately tied to his creation. It’s a world that we understand is in some way damaged or other than it should be (and likely has always been so) because those in the creation whom God has imbued with will have, at least in part, set that will against God. (We know that angels and humans have that capacity.)
So I don’t perceive that God as a God you can prove or disprove from anything in the created realm. It’s a God of whom you find echos everywhere. It’s a God you might glimpse in anything you study. But it’s not the sort of God you can prove or disprove through scientific analysis.
I tend to find that the God debated in intelligent design often looks a lot more like some version of the Deist God than the Christian God. And personally, I don’t find that particularly interesting or compelling.



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Peter

posted May 29, 2009 at 7:52 am


Scott (#1): as stated above, ID’s claims or hypotheses are considerably more modest than you imply. When one studies the world (physics, chemistry, biology, but particularly biology and where these disciplines overlap), is it reasonable (based only on what is seen and measured) to believe that what is seen came about as a product of random acts or chance? Sometimes with the help of mathematical formulae (which I don’t come close to understanding) proponents of ID have concluded that their evidence suggests a role of an Intelligent Designer because of the very unlikely possibility that what is studied could come about as a product of chance. Is this a “God of the gaps” approach to science? I don’t believe so, because science must be willing to re-think and re-consider constantly with the gathering of new evidence and this does not change that. It does give one pause to consider the emotional rhetorical responses from scientists unwilling to give ID consideration when one carefully keeps in mind the simplicity of the questions being asked.



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paul

posted May 29, 2009 at 7:58 am


“ID is more modest, asking a simple question: When all of the scientific (not religious) evidence is put on the table, are certain features of nature better explained by an intelligent cause or by unintelligent causes like natural selection?”
What happens if (when?) in the future we discover other ways of explaining the evidence that would be considered “unintelligent”? I’m in no way saying that God wasn’t behind it, just that there is another way to explain the evidence.
What would this do to our views of God when God is seemingly pushed out of the explanation?



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John Pieret

posted May 29, 2009 at 8:15 am


If ID is not at least based in Biblical interpretation or meant to reveal the nature of God, why does the new Discovery Institute site, “faith + evolution,” object to theistic evolution on the grounds that it requires believers to “jettison traditional theism” and “to deny traditional Christian doctrines” (see, “Is Darwinian Evolution Compatible with Religion?”)? Shouldn’t they just be examining how well the scientific evidence is explained by the kind of intelligent cause described by TE?



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Travis Greene

posted May 29, 2009 at 9:53 am


Hmm…is RJS not weighing in out of politeness?



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RJS

posted May 29, 2009 at 9:59 am


Actually Travis, I’ll weigh in perhaps – but want to hear what others have to say.
Regular readers should know that I think (1) that God designed the world and that he designed it intelligently; (2) that the search for scientific evidence for design in biology is misguided; and (3) that evolution is the basic method of God’s creation of varied lifeforms on earth.



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bobxxxx

posted May 29, 2009 at 10:45 am


The Discovery Institute, a Christian creationist organization, is very quick to censor the truth. My comments were deleted only 10 minutes after I wrote them.



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RJS

posted May 29, 2009 at 10:47 am


bobxxx,
DI didn’t delete your comment I did. We hold conversations here – we don’t call people names and belittle them – both features of your original comment.



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dopderbeck

posted May 29, 2009 at 11:12 am


I think there’s an important problem with the “artist” analogy. In the case of forensic analysis of a painting, we already know the characteristics of a true Renaissance Master. The same is true for any sort of forensic analysis concerning whether an artifact was designed by humans (another common ID example is of stones that may or may not be either ancient spear points or naturally eroded). But ID claims that it does not know who the designer, if any, might be. All ID can say is “this looks analogous to human design.” It follows, then, or so it seems to me, that any “designer” identified by ID’s methods must be analogous to a human designer in some important ways.
But here we run into one major theological problem if ID is supposed to serve as a precis to the Christian claim that God is the “designer”: the analogia entis (“analogy of being”). A Christian who accepts ID must also, it seems to me, accept a very strong version of the analogia entis — the notion that the “image of God” in man represents some sort of true ontological analogy between God and creation. That is a very debateable proposition — one that Karl Barth, for example, utterly rejected.
Another very serious theological problem with ID, I think, is that it seems to suggest that some aspects of creation were “designed” in a more observable way than others. Bill Dembski’s “explanatory filter” specifically tries to tease out statistical evidence of “design” from the background noise of the rest of nature. But the Biblical witness is clear that all of creation “declares the Glory of God.” If all of creation is revelatory in this sense, a natural theology that depends on identifying particular instances of “design” apart from “creation” as a whole seems to me deeply flawed.
So, I reject the “strong” ID program not only for political / culture war reasons (though, if you read the ID blogs and literature, you simply can’t escape that unfortunate emphasis), but also for theological reasons. I think there are much more productive ways to think about natural theology, particularly as elucidated by Alister McGrath in a number of his recent books.



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Matt K

posted May 29, 2009 at 11:20 am


This is a helpful post. I’m instantly finding some of my stereotypes about ID challenged. Still not certain I’d subscribe to it entirely, but this is helpful.



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Eric

posted May 29, 2009 at 11:31 am


My view of the ID folks is that we shouldn’t rule out a priori the claims they make. But I am very, very skeptical of what they are doing.
We humans have a long, long history (thousands of years) in assuming there must be a direct supernatural hand in things we can’t explain yet. Cavemen attributed weather patterns to the intervention of various gods. In the time of Christ (and later) people attributed psychiatric disorders to paranormal intervention. People used to suggest that evolution couldn’t be true; the intervention of God was required. ID’ers have in the past 20 years proposed numerous ideas, and it turns out that there is a scientific explanation for many of them. As time goes on, science explains more and more, and the gaps in scientific understanding, which used to be occupied by supernatural explanations, grow less and less. The gap-fillers have always been proven wrong, given time, time and time again. So whatever the latest ID fad is today, I suspect that science will likely explain it thoroughly in time, just as it always has in the past. So I don’t have patience for indulging in the ID fads of today. If one of their ideas turns out to be correct (after being tested thoroughly based on falsifiable tests), great. But I put no faith in it before then, and have little patience for it; it is a distraction.
When the gap gets filled, people lose faith, because they put their faith in the debunked supernatural explanations. But in reality, their faith shouldn’t depend on this stuff. Scott Morizot (#1) is 100% correct: ID’ers seem to assume that God is wholly separate and apart from nature. But as Scott says, “God is shaping, filling, and sustaining all things.” We don’t need to suppose supernatural interventions for everything, because in a sense the creation and sustenance of the natural world itself is itself “supernatural.”



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MatthewS

posted May 29, 2009 at 1:49 pm


Eric,
I recognize that God of the gaps arguments for any specific gap are shown to be faulty as soon as a natural explanation for the gap is found. And such explanations are constantly being found, which means God of the gaps arguments are constantly being eroded or shot down.
However, I have a question about the set of all gaps. You assert: “As time goes on, science explains more and more, and the gaps in scientific understanding, which used to be occupied by supernatural explanations, grow less and less.” This gives me the impression that the set of gaps is closed set and in a finite amount of time we are likely to discover all of them and answer all of them. Perhaps this is a dumb question, but what if the set of all gaps is an infinite set? What if it just keeps going? How do we know how many gaps there are and how many will be discovered? If one generation after another continues to find gaps and to answer them, yet the process keeps continuing, is it possible that the entire, ever-continuing host of gaps together would point to a designer?
Obviously for any particular gap, to say “Aha! we don’t know how this happened, therefore God did it” is faulty. But it seems perhaps slightly arrogant to me to say “We will eventually answer all the gaps.” How do we know how many gaps there will be to answer? Not that this creates a compelling argument but it would seem to me to call for a chastened epistemology with regards to scientific discovery. Does that make sense?



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dopderbeck

posted May 29, 2009 at 2:10 pm


Matthew (#12) — I think what you’re saying makes perfect sense. And, in fact, I’d venture to say that 200 years from now, if the Lord hasn’t yet returned, scientists will (a) have closed many things that now seem to be “gaps”; and yet (b) have discovered “gaps” that no one has even thought of yet.
Think about this: less than 100 years ago, nobody had any sense at all of quantum physics or of the big bang and consequent constant expansion of the universe. Some of the biggest “gaps” in science today are the singularity “before” the big bang, the harmonization of quantum and classical physics (the “unified theory”), and the existence and nature of the “dark matter” or “negative gravity” or whatever it is that constitutes most of the mass in the expanding universe. The progress of science revealed these enormous gaps. I have little doubt that further progress will reveal even greater gaps in our understanding. The more we learn, it seems, the curiouser things get. (Note that this not an excuse for writing off the contemporary scientific consensus; but it ought to be epistemically humbling).



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Jjoe

posted May 29, 2009 at 2:21 pm


I’m not sure why it matters except to those who are trying to prove there’s not a God (who will never be convinced by human logic) and to those who seemingly have to have material proof to believe in God (why I’m not sure).
The Father, Son and Holy Spirit would still exist without the Bible and its story of how we came about. Now, if the Bible never existed, the Holy Trinity would still find a way to reveal themselves to us, because that’s how they roll — but we might never hear the story of Adam and Eve. We might exist blissfully unaware, believing in evolution because that’s all we know.
So, the debate is not about evolution vs. ID. It’s not about science, or sin, or scholarship. It’s fundamentally about the Bible and its story of creation.
Unfortunately, really the only time-tested way to resolve these kind of differences is for those who have the most power (and thus orthodoxy) to burn those who have the least (and thus become the heretics).
I came across a statue of Bruno in Rome, in the piazza where he was burned at the stake for refusing to believe that the sun revolved around the earth per scripture, and it made a very large impression on me.



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pds

posted May 29, 2009 at 2:22 pm


peelingdragonskin.wordpress.com
Interesting post. Thanks!
Since God of the Gaps criticisms keep coming, I am posting my previous comment again (from an RJS thread).
Is it “God of Gaps” reasoning? As I mentioned before, it is how you put the argument. If you say “Science can’t explain “x”, so God must have done it,” then I think you have some logical problems. That is classic God of the Gaps reasoning.
But if you observe aspects of the natural world and ask, “Which is more probable based on what we know now: 1. that this happened by chance and known natural mechanisms or 2. that this was designed?” To conclude that design is the more probable inference is not a logical error.
If you add lots of design inferences together, you have some pretty strong “clues,” as Tim Keller would put it.
If ID is God of the Gaps reasoning, then Paul must be guilty too:
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities?his eternal power and divine nature?have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1)
If you look at the history of science, new discoveries generally have not defeated the design arguments. They have just led to different design inferences. In the case of the fine-tuning discoveries, they have made the design argument much, much stronger.



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Newfie

posted May 29, 2009 at 2:31 pm


Science and Faith are incompatible, sorry. If you are gonna have faith in a designer of life, it’s just as well to have faith that unicorns control gravity, as there is equal evidence for both. Where is this designer? What evidence is there of a designer? I can have have faith that baking soda and vinegar will not produce a chemical reaction, but I can’t produce the evidence for it.
That said, religious indoctrination is a tough one to break free from, but the view on the other side is more rewarding.. good luck.



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pds

posted May 29, 2009 at 2:36 pm


A longer explanation of why ID does not suffer from the God of the Gaps problem is here:
http://www.ideacenter.org/contentmgr/showdetails.php/id/1159
By the way, I don’t know anyone whose entire faith is resting on Michael Behe’s analysis of the bacterial flagellum. Do you?
I have also posted what Dallas Willard says about design arguments (with a mention of Intelligent Design) here:
http://peelingdragonskin.wordpress.com/2009/05/14/dallas-willard-on-design-arguments/



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Eric

posted May 29, 2009 at 3:43 pm


MathewS,
I think we need to keep in mind how this issue comes up: Humans throughout time (including the ID folks) keep propounding specific ideas about gaps, and making assertions about God based on those gaps. In other words, it is the ID’ers trying to prove something with their gaps — not me. I’m not trying to prove that all gaps will eventually be resolved; I’m just saying their specific “proof” will eventually be disproved (and in fact has been disproved before). Each time they point to a gap, an explanation eventually comes about. If it is their intent to prove God with this stuff, it isn’t enough to say “but there will be more gaps in the future, even if you prove me wrong on this one!” Sure there will be later gaps in understanding, because science is always developing, but that doesn’t prove their point.
PDS,
I’m sorry, but the distinction you draw doesn’t make sense to me. ID’ers are in fact pointing to gaps. You say that the question is this: “Which is more probable based on what we know now: 1. that this happened by chance and known natural mechanisms or 2. that this was designed?”
Note that you make specific reference to “what we know” now — you are implictly invoking gaps in knowledge. Science develops, and shows these sorts of probabilistic arguments to be wrong.
Take cosmological fine tuning, for example — the ID argument is “based on what we know, God is a better explanation (or at least os good).” But as things have developed, the scientific consensus is coming around to Guth’s inflation theory, which suggests cosmologicial fine tuning arguments are wrong (as we discussed in detail on the last post on this topic). So the closing in the gap in our understanding resolves the “impropabilities” ID’ers had relied on. Its the same sort of gap filling that has been going on for thousands of years before now.
Now, if ID’ers come up with a falsifiable theory, and it is tested to be correct, then I’ll be glad to eat my hat! But I don’t think its going to happen, based on the history of this stuff.



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pds

posted May 29, 2009 at 5:25 pm


Eric,
The way you characterize design arguments is way to simplistic. Design arguments are based primarily on what we know.
Of course they are based on what we “know now.” All science is tentative. Science is constantly being revised based on new knowledge. Many Darwinists are extremely dogmatic in their confidence about what we know about origins, despite the fact that they are constantly revising what we “know.” Some call it a Darwin of the Gaps fallacy- an unfounded presumption that Darwinism will solve every problem. Both sides need appropriate humility.
You can take the position that we should never make design inferences because we may learn more. I think that is a rather strange position to take.
I think design arguments have only gotten stronger over the last 50 years because of new things we have learned.
How do you apply Romans 1:20?



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RJS

posted May 29, 2009 at 5:51 pm


PDS,
Everyone would benefit from a dose of epistemological humility – because it is dead certain that some of what we now “know” to be true will be demonstrably wrong – in need of serious revision. Egos and overstatement abound.
But I don’t really think that this is relevant to the discussion of Intelligent Design.
We can all marvel at the wonder of the world God has made – in the sunset, the newborn, the structure of the nucleus, the mechanism of evolution, nonlocality, and quantum coherence. We can also ponder the moral conviction. I have no problem with Romans 1:20-21 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
But this doesn’t mean that I would postulate intelligent design instead of “natural” mechanisms. Rather I think that it means that we should assume intelligent design through “natural” mechanisms.



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Sarah

posted May 29, 2009 at 5:53 pm


This is a topic near and dear to my heart. While I’m not an expert by any means, I’ve spent time in the company of those who are and have tried to keep up with some of the major issues. I’ve noticed that representatives of various groups (creationist, id, evo) tend to have serious misconceptions about where the others are actually coming from. Straw men abound. Re: Bruno and geocentrism – it was Aristotle, not Genesis that caused his troubles (unless every astronomer who admires a “sunset” falls to the same charge). The Church adapted its theology to the best secular science of the day and was burned when it fell. Maybe we are learning the wrong lesson from history here. While we should be wary when directly applying the Bible to scientific questions, is it wise to grant modern science unquestioned authority in defining reality? Science is hardly without bias (exploring natural causes is one thing; presuming them is another). The gaps id’ers are accused of exploiting have sunk grand theories in the past.



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Eric

posted May 29, 2009 at 6:09 pm


PDS,
My assessment of ID is not at all overly simplistic. I’ve read their books; I know their arguments. Irreducible complexity and comsmological fine tuning, for example, are of the form “science does not explain X, therefore God exists to explain it.” The problem is that this sort of argument is precisely a gap argument. You can try to characterize the statement “science does not explain X” as something we “know,” but the problem is that embedded within it is gap-reasoning — the assumption that science doesn’t explain something yet. Science has been disproving precisely that sort of thinking for hundreds of years, including many of the ID arguments that have been made. Again, I would point to cosmological fine tuning as a very good example — its based on the assumption that the gap in understanding can’t be explained, when in fact the scientific consensus is beginning to emerge that it can be explained by Guth’s inflationary model.
Not sure how you can compare this sort of ID gap-based thinking to evolution; instead of relying on arguments such as “science doesn’t explain . . . .” evolution relies on actual evidence — very, very strong genetics evidence. Yes, some aspects of science changes, but certain things don’t — the earth is indeed not flat, the sun doesn’t revolve around it, and we clearly evolved. These facts are not something that will change.
And my problem with design inferences is that they repeatedly get knocked down. That’s been the answer every time in human history. They are batting 1000, if you look at this sort of thing throughout history.



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pds

posted May 29, 2009 at 6:27 pm


RJS-
Was God necessary for the creation of all these things, or could it all have happened without him? I.e. only through natural mechanisms?
“His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”
What would Paul say to the person who says, “Yes, but science has figured most of it out, and will eventually figure the rest out, so His eternal power is no longer clearly seen”?



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pds

posted May 29, 2009 at 6:34 pm


Eric,
I can’t add much except to restate that your portrayal of ID is a straw man.
If you think the evidence that evolution explains the Cambrian Explosion is strong, that is your right. I marvel at your faith.



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Glen

posted May 29, 2009 at 6:45 pm


PDS (#24), to the person who says, “Yes, but science has figured most of it out, and will eventually figure the rest out, so His eternal power is no longer clearly seen”, I (and I think Paul) would say that science having figured something out doesn’t stop God’s eternal power from being visible in it. Understand how something works doesn’t prevent us from being in awe that it works.
While some in science use their knowledge to attempt to explain away the need for God, many others find that their growing understand only deepens their wonder and appreciation of the Creator.



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RJS

posted May 29, 2009 at 7:06 pm


PDS
You asked me Was God necessary for the creation of all these things, or could it all have happened without him? I.e. only through natural mechanisms?
I think that this question misses the point. There is no “natural mechanism” without God – because there is no creation without God. He made and sustains all.
We won’t be able to prove that his “natural” mechanisms are insufficient – science works. And if people choose to assume “ontological materialism” – science won’t prove them wrong. This is not a scientific question.



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Eric

posted May 29, 2009 at 9:28 pm


PDS (#24),
Its one thing to assert that my description of ID is a straw man; it is another to actually show it. I am very familiar with the ID arguments, having followed them for 20 years (and even argued in favor of them for part of that time!). I explained why I believe they are precisely gap arguments, and I gave examples (and, FWIW, now that you mention it, the Cambrian point is another very good example of such an argument).
Why I care is that people get sucked into these sorts of arguments, only to see them debunked over time. I’ve seen it happen to friends, and it has happened to me. So when the ID’ers come up with something new, and its only a matter of time before its disproved, I tend not to get excited about it. Except that I wish folks would stop going down this path. Its been done before and the end result is not good for anyone.
I also just don’t get the motivation. I assume it is to try to come up with some sort of scientific basis for faith. I’d be surprised, however, if we ever come to a point that God’s existence is proven (or even demonstrated scientifically as more probable than not); that’s why it takes faith! And I think that Scott’s #1 post above, and RJS’s explanations of the same point, provide a very powerful explanation for why the motivation behind ID is based on a false assumption about the connection between God and nature.



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Sarah Bellem

posted May 29, 2009 at 9:52 pm


Please readers do your homework. Intelligent Design as we know it today is clearly the offspring of Creationist parents. In its present form it emerged to get around the growing numbers of legal defeats for creationists like Edwards v Aguillard. Its origins have all been well examined Just read about “Cdesign propnentsists” and Kitzmiller v Dover and you will have all the information you need to determine the true motivations of the ID movement. It is now championed by primarily the Discovery Institute. So anyone who attributes artistic imagery to this is clearly misinformed.
Also the comments about the Cambrian explosion are typical creationist babble. The Cambrian radiation ocurred over tens of millions of years. There is now good evidence for the many forms that prededed this epoc. Also at the end of this period we still had no flowering plants lizards snakes bony fishes or birds so this was not much a creation event of biblical proportions.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted May 29, 2009 at 10:09 pm


“When all of the scientific (not religious) evidence is put on the table, are certain features of nature better explained by an intelligent cause or by unintelligent causes like natural selection?”
This is an interesting and valid question. But it is not a scientific question. Here is how I see it.
Science is a self-limited form of knowledge. Methodological materialism (as opposed to philosophical materialism) is paramount. Science explores “hows,” not “whos.” If there is a intelligent designer … a “who” … then that designer used a “how.” ID gives us an anonymous “who” (irrelevant to science) but no answer to our “how” question. If there truly is a designer that used a “how” that we cannot penetrate, then the most science can say to the “how” question is we don’t know how.
Now if we want to step outside of science and its self-imposed limitations to include other ways of knowing, then we are legitimately in the realm of “who” questions. But ID is not science.



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Percival

posted May 29, 2009 at 11:14 pm


I recently saw an article about an archeologist who hypothesized that humans lived in North America much earlier than was previously thought. His evidence was bits of chipped and flaked rock. The bits looked to me as if they were naturally occurring, but I’m no expert. He insists they were intelligently designed by humans. Is what he is doing “science” or something else?
It seems our definitions of what qualifies as science are all over the map! Some people claim that sociology is science. Others say no. What about psychology, economics and linguistics? Personally, I don’t think that any of them are “science” – they are “studies.” That doesn’t make them less legitimate, but in the world today, the highest validation we can imagine is to call something science. Is it possible that ID is not science, strictly speaking, but still a legitimate area of study more akin to mathematics?



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Eric

posted May 30, 2009 at 12:00 am


Percival — as a (former) mathematician, I can’t agree with the comparison of ID to mathematics, which is more rigorous than most science. If you agree with Sarah Bellem above, propagana is a more valid comparison for ID. Personally, I think there are more appropriate comparisons (e.g., other forms of gap filling through history).



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Percival

posted May 30, 2009 at 12:18 am


Eric,
Yes, certainly mathematics is more rigorous than most science and is the basic language for all science. I should have found a better comparison. Perhaps SETI, for example.
So is what the archeologist trying to do in the example above propaganda too? Are those the only categories we are left with? Either something is science or it’s propaganda? If I find a rock, it is legitimate to ask whether it was formed by someone or by erosion? I don’t think it’s a scientific question, but we can still study the issue without dismissing it as propaganda.
By the way, what’s wrong with propaganda anyway? Don’t we all want to propagate our ideas as we are doing now in this forum? I think scientists like to propagate their ideas too – and legitimately so.



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pds

posted May 30, 2009 at 7:54 am


Eric (#27),
You said that ID is just a gap argument. In #17 I provided a link that I think clearly shows that it is much more than that. Your failure to address the positive evidence of design is why I think you are putting forth a straw man.
Sarah (#28),
You are saying that the draft revisions of one small publisher tell us all we need to know about the motives of hundreds of thoughtful scholars? That is nothing but guilt by distant association (if any association). It is bad, bad logic, and not very charitable. It also ignores the entire history of the ID movement.
As to the Cambrian Explosion, the Ediacara fauna that preceded it were nothing like the Cambrian animals. The Ediacara fauna were not at all what Darwin expected us to find, and they make the Cambrian explosion a bigger problem than it was in Darwin’s day. Which Ediacara animal do you think is the ancestor of Opabinia Regalis?



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AHH

posted May 30, 2009 at 11:46 am


As another scientist who weighs in on this blog sometimes, I particularly endorse the comments about detecting design that dopderbeck made in #9.
I also find it ironic that somebody affiliated with the Discovery Institute would say “let’s put down our culture war armor”
I am one who thinks it is not *necessarily* bad to look for evidence of design in nature, as long as scientifically detectable design is viewed as a *possibility* rather than a *theological necessity*. Unfortunately, on the ground most people favoring ID seem to make finding such “gaps” central to the faith (lack of gaps meaning lack of god), which is the essence of the “god of the gaps” fallacy. It is instructive to ask the question “What if these purported evidences of ‘design’ turn out to have good natural explanations?” If an ID person answers “OK, God is sovereign over nature and can create without leaving scientifically detectable ‘fingerprints’ if He wants,” that’s fine. If, as is often the case, these “gaps” are advocated as though the viability of theism depends on them, that is the awful “god of the gaps” theology.
I would also say that, in order to be a *constructive* contribution, the ID movement needs to do 2 things they so far seem unwilling to do:
1) Distance themselves from the “culture wars”, from sleazy propaganda, and from demonizing Christians who disagree with them (those of us who believe God used evolution as a means of creation). As long as prominent places are given to people like Jonathan Wells and Denyse O’Leary and “Expelled” and the Uncommon Descent blog, the ID movement will be a net negative, especially for those of us aiming for a “third way”.
2) Admit that the scientific evidence for an old Earth and for common descent are overwhelming. “Evolution needed some active input from a designer” is not a totally ridiculous position, but “Evolution didn’t happen” is about as indefensible as “the Earth is flat”. Unfortunately, on the ground, the ID movement is largely an anti-evolution movement; too often ID is used (mis-used?) as an excuse to deny the fact of common descent (and of an old Earth, even though that is an independent question) which might otherwise call into question some interpretations of Genesis.



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AHH

posted May 30, 2009 at 12:14 pm


Having said some negative things above about the post, I also want to endorse the comments about how “Inherit the Wind” distorts the Scopes trial and its surroundings.
And in particular I endorse Ed Larsen’s wonderful book “Summer for the Gods” about the Scopes trial, which busts some myths (for example, William Jennings Bryan believed in an old Earth and was open to at least some evolution) and sets the history in context.



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Percival

posted May 30, 2009 at 12:20 pm


I like what AHH said about what the ID movement needs to do in order to be taken more seriously. I think they are unwilling to do these two things because their money comes from Christians highly invested in the culture wars. They are not willing to antagonize the young-earthers and anti-evolution crowd.
I went to the Discovery website not knowing anything about the organization behind it. I was a bit taken aback by the cultural war emphasis. I had supposed I would find discussion centered on the scientific questions. I have seen other ID sites that seem to do a better job, but none of them have embraced these 2 necessary steps that AHH advocates. It would also be nice if naturalistic non-theists could admit that their theory has some difficulties too – philosophical, spiritual, and moral difficulties. I’m not holding my breath.
I think that I am like a lot of non-scientist laymen out there. I think evolution is valid but natural selection as the only mechanism for development seems hard to believe. The weak form of ID is attractive and interesting, but I’m not really invested in it. I could possibly be persuaded either way, but the debate often seems too childish and strident in tone.



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RJS

posted May 30, 2009 at 12:54 pm


AHH’s two steps are excellent but I am certainly not holding my breath for it either. The ID movement as it stands is a net negative because the culture war tactics take an already difficult situation and ratchet it up several notches making it that much harder to take a stand from within the academy and the scientific community. My reflex reaction to DI and ID is visceral because it makes my life harder.



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Ryan

posted May 30, 2009 at 1:16 pm


I responded to your post on my blog:
http://thegourd.blogspot.com/2009/05/intelligent-design-as-antiques-roadshow.html
Thanks for writing!
Ryan



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AHH

posted May 30, 2009 at 2:00 pm


Regarding Percival #36 and my #34, there are a few ID advocates (one might say “id” to designate the concept as distinguished from the “movement”) who do better at such things, eschewing the culture wars, being gracious and humble, avoiding “god of the gaps” theology, and acknowledging well-established science. Michael Behe on a good day might be in that category, and there is a guy named Mike Gene:
http://designmatrix.wordpress.com/
It is right to acknowledge that such people exist, even while lamenting that such reasonable voices (the post by Gage above is also not unreasonable) are usually drowned out by the culture-war propaganda and the movement’s “creationist” allies.



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Eric

posted May 30, 2009 at 2:47 pm


Agreed, the culture war aspects are also what annoys me most about ID. Our good news is the crucified and risen Christ. Our method is to display his love. It shouldn’t be to wage culture wars in the courts or school boards; that isn’t doing anybody any good, and its in fact very counter-productive.
And AHH, I agree that its fine if folks want to try to find actual evidence of design (actual evidence, meaning more than just “science does not yet explain . . . .” types of analysis) And if they actually find it, great! I’d be the first to celebrate! You go on to say “If, as is often the case, these ‘gaps’ are advocated as though the viability of theism depends on them, that is the awful ‘god of the gaps’ theology.” I would go further — my default view is to not accept a proposition that God is proven (or more likely proven than not) based on current gaps in scientific understanding, for all the reasons I’ve suggested above. Those sorts of gap assumptions (and that is exactly what they are) have been disproven time and time again, given time. Why indulge them? The harm is more than just the culture wars; its getting people to trust a lie, which is very dangerous. But perhaps you have more patience with this stuff than I do!
And PDS, the I.D.E.A. link in your post is precisely what I am talking about. Its gap reasoning dressed up in pseudo-science language. I realize that may sound harsh, but I think we do a disservice to the importance of this issue if we mince words. It proposes 4 tests. Tests 2-4 (“sudden” fossil changes, re-using of genes, genetic code not containing “much” discarded genetic baggage) are all explained by science; it can’t be evidence for ID if it supports both (i.e., its not a true test). The first one, irreducible complexity, is somewhat different, but is entirely gap-type analysis, as I described in posts above.



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pds

posted May 30, 2009 at 4:00 pm


http://peelingdragonskin.wordpress.com/
I find it a little ironic that ID proponents are getting bashed here for engaging in “culture wars” when culture war rhetoric is taking place right here in these comments. There are quite a few ad hominem comments above. The ID movement is made up of a lot of very different people just like the “Evolution Movement.” Shall we paint all evolutionary scientists with the motives, attitude and philosophy of Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers?
Eric, you can try to spin any argument as a gap argument if you twist it enough. If you think all design arguments are gap arguments, my take is you just don’t understand them. You may not find the positive evidence convincing, but I find it hard to see how you can deny that there is an assertion of positive evidence. Dallas Willard, Peter Kreeft and William Lane Craig, among many others disagree with you. I am happy to keep company with them and disagree with you too.
AHH (#39), so Michael Behe only fits your criteria “on a good day”? Can you show me one of his “bad days”? From what I can see, he fits your criteria all the time, despite the fact that he has been utterly vilified, misrepresented, ridiculed by the media, the scientific community and his own faculty.
Guillermo Gonzalez was naive enough to believe that he could rely on academic freedom before he got tenure.
Is Logan Paul Gage one of the bad culture war guys since he works for the Discovery Institute? Why did Scot invite a DI person to post here if it is such a pernicious organization?
Two things about this debate that really disappoint me: 1. attacking a weak form of your opponent’s argument; 2. ad hominem and guilt by association arguments. Sadly, both are very prevalent in the last few comments.



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RJS

posted May 30, 2009 at 4:37 pm


pds,
No one denies that the culture war has two sides. The ID movement is certainly composed of of a wide variety of people. I know several of the people who signed the DI statement a few years ago and they are reasonable people. In fact the first signer is one who had a profound positive impact on me.
I still don’t think Intelligent Design has anything useful to add to the discussion for the scientific and theological reasons given in comments above and elsewhere. I am open to listening to arguments, but this works both ways; my counter arguments need to be considered as well.
With respect to Eric’s comments on your arguments. Why don’t you take one of them and try to show us why it isn’t a gap argument? But expect some pushback requiring refinement of everyone’s thinking. That is how we all learn. I love a good conversation because I always learn something new – especially from those who disagree with me.
Just remember, most of us conversing here are Christians who have or are working through ideas (although there are a few like Sarah Bellum = cerebellum who think they are educating us unenlightened folk).



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Eric

posted May 31, 2009 at 11:39 am


PDS,
From my perspective, this series of posts feels like a one-way conversation. I explained why the ID arguments are gap arguments, even based on your own description of ID. You responded by giving the conclusion that I was setting up a “straw man,” but without explaining. After I pointed that out, instead of explaining, you referred me to that I.D.E.A. link. I took the time to read it, and explained the reasons why I don’t find it helpful. You responded by saying that I don’t “understand,” but again you didn’t explain. I believe I understand the ID arguments fairly well, but unless you tell me what you think I’m missing how can I evaluate your position?
As for attacks, I don’t perceive that I have attacked you personally. Disagreeing with your conclusions is not the same as attacking you.



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pds

posted May 31, 2009 at 12:42 pm


RJS,
I would love to talk about science, not culture wars or “movements.” I would love to hear your reply to my reply to your comments (why IC has been successfully defeated) at #78 here:
http://blog.beliefnet.com/jesuscreed/2009/05/the-heavens-declare-rjs_comments.html
Eric,
I think I pointed you to positive evidence of design, but you still claim there is none. Not sure what more I can do. We disagree.
I did not say that you attacked me personally.
You said:
Irreducible complexity and comsmological fine tuning, for example, are of the form “science does not explain X, therefore God exists to explain it.”
I think that grossly mischaracterizes the argument. I consider that “attacking a weak form of your opponent’s argument,” or attacking a straw man.



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Eric

posted May 31, 2009 at 3:22 pm


PDS,
You again say it is a straw man, but you don’t explain why. Take the reference to cosmological fine tuning, for example. It claims that for a number of constants in our universe, there are only narrow range of values that could lead to life as we know it; the probabilities of getting the constants we’ve got are incredly low. It must be design! QED.
This is gap reasoning. It assumes, based on a lack of current scientific explanation, that there can be no other naturalistic explanation, and that the only explanation must be supernatural intervention or design. We humans have been using the exact same reasoning throughout the ages. And, given enough time, every time we’ve been wrong.
And on this particular example, it looks like science is now beginning to explain the fine tuning argument, filling the gap. In particular, inflation theory, which has been around a long time and predicts many universes (undercutting a key assumption of fine tuning) has made predictions which fit very, very well with the WMAP data 3 years ago. Alan Guth’s paper from 2 years ago argues that multiple universes are a necessary implication of any version of the inflation theory. String theory within the last couple of years has suggested that there are numerous possible values for the cosmological constant (one of the allegedly “fined tuned” constants) within these multiple universes. So there is not yet proof, but there is a strong theory that has support, which is headed in the direction of answering the gap that ID is trying to fill with their god-of-the-gaps fine-tuning argument. (Not to mention that some of the fine-tuning arguments with respect to various constants are based on incorrect assumptions).
Meanwhile, ID folks are parading the fine tuning argument as if they’ve now got proof of God. Lay folks are putting their trust in the argument. Culture wars are being waged with it. So what happens if Guth’s view is proven within the next 30 years, just like evolution has now been conclusively proven with genetics evidence? As with evolution, people will lose their faith, because they based it on a gaps argument, rather than in faith in the death and resurrection of Christ. Its not where we should be going, IMO.



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RJS

posted May 31, 2009 at 4:18 pm


pds,
What would you consider to be scientific evidence or reasoning capable of refuting intelligent design – and more specifically irreducible complexity – in a specific example?
As I see it Behe and Dembski are arguing that the pieces of an irreducibly complex system – say the bacterial flagellum – are useless until full assembled and that the probability of the assembly of these pieces by random chance is so low as to be not just improbable but functionally impossible.
So if I wished to test this hypothesis I would begin to attack the problem by proposing mechanisms for creation of the individual pieces in a form where they can be recruited into use in the flagellum and looking for homologous proteins with other functions.
Does this sound reasonable or have we parted ways already?



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Sarah (not sarah bellum!)

posted May 31, 2009 at 4:40 pm


Ok, more of my perspective here. First, id is not creationism reborn. While traditional creationists will use id arguments and resources, they can be very hostile to the movement as a whole. Creationists openly and vigorously use the Bible as their starting point in scientific interpretation; id states that after examining the evidence, using the same established criteria used in scientific research to determine whether or not a given phenomenon is naturally occurring or deliberately created, certain fundamental aspects of our universe better fit the latter criteria. It is important to note that not all who subscribe to id are Christian, or even especially theistic. Nor are they denying common descent, positing instantaneous creation, a young earth, or even a specific intelligent designer.



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RJS

posted May 31, 2009 at 4:51 pm


Sarah,
What you say is true of part of the ID movement. I would ask two questions – what constitutes evidence of a designer and what would you think if a “natural” explanation was proposed for that evidence?



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Sarah (not sarah bellum!)

posted May 31, 2009 at 5:31 pm


Having said that, id proponents may have religious views consistent with their scientific views and for some the lines may blur (this isn’t unique to Christians – funny how some who mock believers for lacking objectivity embrace Dawkins et al without reservation). Re: the Dover case. I have spoken extensively with someone deeply connected to an id group involved in the suit. He was dismayed by the tactics they used, apparently counselling against the suit and predicting the defeat as well as the ensuing backlash. He eventually separated from them, disillusioned, believing the organization had fallen to religious and political agendas. He had had no such qualms when they concentrated on education and advocacy for the philosophy itself.



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Sarah (not sarah bellum!)

posted May 31, 2009 at 6:16 pm


A side note: with id being criticized as unscientific, how “scientific” is mainstream science itself? Sometimes it seems that proponents pull a bait-and-switch when it comes to the term. On one hand science is claimed to be properly limited to those disciplines dealing with observable natural phenomena in as objective a manner as possible. But another definition is often interposed on the first without distinction: that of the overarching philosophy used to frame research and interpret results. This “science” views the world through a well-defined lens. All questions must/will have a naturalistic answer. Evidence to the contrary can’t exist. Those who dare say otherwise aren’t just guilty of error – they’re heretics, violating the very essence of science. I don’t see how the first definition necessarily leads to the second. And research can’t test the philosophy setting its own parameters. Non-falsifiable philosophy setting preconditions on research…doesn’t sound like science to me ;-)



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Sarah

posted May 31, 2009 at 6:43 pm


RJS, sorry so long-winded. Lots of thoughts – hope some are worth something. First, what criteria would determine design? Before I answer, I want to be clear that my goal in this was not to make a case for id per se, but to clarify what their distinctives are as opposed to what the perception might be. While I have sympathy for their position, I’m basically withholding judgement for now (so a naturalistic explanation wouldn’t rattle me – answer to your next question :-)). You know their criteria as well as I: irreducible complexity, informational complexity and specificity, numerical odds against various phenomena occurring at random. A question in return: other than the fact that current cosmological/biological theory precludes it, what specifically gives you pause when considering id? Would it be possible to discover evidence of design should it exist? Thanks



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RJS

posted May 31, 2009 at 7:35 pm


Sarah,
Consider your criteria for Intelligent Design.
irreducible complexity,
informational complexity and specificity,
numerical odds against various phenomena occurring at random
All of these appear to be arguments from ignorance. Pursuing them may uncover gaps and failures in the current theory of evolution, but I don’t see how they can lead unequivocally to “designer.”
Irreducible complexity requires the absence of any natural mechanism for formation of the complex construct to demonstrate design. Even if one could demonstrate that some specific definition of Darwinian evolution (random single point mutations) couldn’t produce such structures that doesn’t prove the absence of a natural explanation. Such a demonstration would lead to a proposal for a modification to our current understanding of evolutionary mechanisms.
Informational complexity is not an argument that I have thought through much yet – in what little I know it also appears to make tenuous assumptions.
Arguments from probability only work if we truly understand the nature of the entire natural landscape. We don’t know this yet. Eric brings up the cosmological arguments in some of the comments above and we discussed it in an earlier post The Heavens Declare. I find the cosmological arguments intriguing – but I don’t hang faith on them. It is quite possible that new information and understanding will be forthcoming that changes the probabilities.



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Sarah

posted May 31, 2009 at 9:45 pm


RJS, thanks for the insights. One thing I note is a difference in paradigm between where you’re coming from and id thesis. For example, I’ve heard id’ers point to genetic code and its specific complexity as positive evidence for design on the grounds that those criteria would suffice to indicate intelligence and intent in the case ofother information (an id astrophysicist told of meeting with colleagues working on the SETI project, discussing their criteria for determining whether a signal came from an intelligent source, when they realized dna already held such information. “maybe the aliens are trying to tell us something…”). Further, the irreducible complexity argument is seen as putting random mutation on the defensive as a sufficient explanation for evolution, not as exploiting a gap. I noticed you put id in the position of having to prove a negative – that no nat. explanations are possible. Id asks science to demonstrate that its proposals are possible in the face of specific challenges. Thoughts?



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RJS

posted June 1, 2009 at 4:21 am


Sarah,
Pointing out shortcomings in the current paradigm – possible conflicts needing explanation is no problem, in either biology or physics. This is the way the scientific process works and advances. I have no doubt that we will find that many of our current proposals are in need of revision – perhaps revolutionary revision.
But ID doesn’t stop with pointing out problems – it proposes the “solution” that these shortcomings are indications of a designer outside of nature. For this to be true means that there are no natural solutions to the problems. Isn’t this really the basic premise of ID?



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pds

posted June 1, 2009 at 11:25 am


RJS (#46)
That sounds just right, and we have not parted ways. We are on the same page.
Here’s rub as I see it: you said in the comments to the Heavans Declare post:
“Irreducible complexity is best attacked by demonstrating that the supposed irreducibly complex systems are in fact not irreducibly complex. I think that this is rapidly being done. What more do you want me to say?”
I would like you to point to where specifically “this is rapidly being done.” If you are comfortable making this assertion, surely there must be a summary of this somewhere on the web.
I even helped you by linking to Ken Miller’s critique. Many in the scientific community think Miller has done that (link below). Do you think he has? I think the logical flaws in his conclusions are obvious. Is there a better critique?
For convenience, I pasted below the line my comment from that thread with the relevant links. It also contains my statement of what I think you have to show to defeat arguments based on irreducibly complexity.
***********************************************************
RJS- We have a lot of common ground. I agree with much of your comment.
I agree that no one should bet their faith on a single design inference in nature. But taken together, they can provide helpful clues or pointers.
We disagree about whether the assumption of a natural explanation is a part of MN. I think it is not. MN involves looking for a natural explanation using natural methods.
I think the assumption is part of PN, or ontological naturalism, if you prefer that term.
You said:
“Irreducible complexity is best attacked by demonstrating that the supposed irreducibly complex systems are in fact not irreducibly complex. I think that this is rapidly being done. What more do you want me to say? I can try to structure some future posts around specific examples and we can discuss it in more detail.”
That would be great. I am curious to know why you think it is rapidly being done.
As a starting point, this seems to be a key point/counter-point:
Miller attacking IC:
http://www.millerandlevine.com/km/evol/design2/article.html
Dembski defending IC:
http://www.designinference.com/documents/2003.02.Miller_Response.htm
I see serious logical errors in Miller. For example, he concludes:
“The existence of the TTSS in a wide variety of bacteria demonstrates that a small portion of the “irreducibly complex” flagellum can indeed carry out an important biological function. Since such a function is clearly favored by natural selection, the contention that the flagellum must be fully-assembled before any of its component parts can be useful is obviously incorrect. What this means is that the argument for intelligent design of the flagellum has failed.”
Showing independent functionality of a component does not defeat IC. Miller still has to show that the assembly of the rotary propulsion machine could have been accomplished by Darwinian mechanisms: step by step assembly with each step providing a survival advantage. He also has to show that each step does not involve too much survival disadvantage in the loss of the previous functionality of the components.
He seems to think that speculation as to a “possible” pathway is enough. He has to show that it is plausible.
His claim that the functionality of the TTSS defeats IC is so obviously wrong. I wonder who is convinced by bad logic like this?
Do you know of a better argument than Miller’s?



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Sarah

posted June 1, 2009 at 6:22 pm


Rjs – rather than “proving” that there is no natural explanation for a given phenomenon, perhaps id does in fact show that design is a better explanation for at least some phenomena :-). Perhaps the framing of the question indicates some of the paradigm difference I think I see. Id posits that it is possible to detect design, should it exist, by observation within the bounds of methodologically naturalistic science. Does your objection to the id “solution” stem from a belief that its thesis is fundamentally invalid or simply that it fails to supply adequate evidence to support its conclusion to a legitimate question? Thanks



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Sarah

posted June 1, 2009 at 7:20 pm


One of the reasons I’ve jumped in here is that I’m just finishing Behe’s 2007 book “The Edge of Evolution,” in which he moves from his “mousetrap” arguments in “Black Box” to discussing specific observed genetic mutation limits, such as those he finds in evolutionary “trench warfare” (his alternative to evolutionary “arms race” metaphor) in the battle between humanity and the malaria parasite, as well as the hiv virus. He also ramps up the ic argument, moving beyond cellular structures to the complex processes by which those structures are created. Calculating the odds of cumulative random beneficial mutations, (based on total #of organisms existing through various time frames, #of potential mutations poss.per genome, and the blindness of random selection) he concludes that the case against evolution by random selection alone is even stronger. Anyone read Behe’s recent work, or are we still in “Black Box?”Also, @ Rjs – what would be considered sufficient to overturn current scientific paradigms?



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RJS

posted June 1, 2009 at 9:45 pm


pds,
Is your problem with Miller’s argument that TTSS is only one component and thus doesn’t refute the principle or is it more substantial than this?
The survival disadvantage in the loss of the previous functionality of the components is a non-issue. No one suggests abrupt loss of previous functionality.



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RJS

posted June 1, 2009 at 9:54 pm


Sarah,
With respect to Edge of Evolution – I haven’t read it. But if it makes a probability argument I have serious reservations – because as I said above, we simply do not know enough to make valid predictions of probabilities.
All of this comes down to purpose – what is the purpose of a design hypothesis? What is the purpose of suggesting design as a better explanation?
If the purpose is to think creatively – great.
If the purpose is as an apologetic for the faith it is flawed.
If the purpose is to combat ontological materialism and atheism – there are far better approaches. Lets attack the weaknesses rather than the strengths of secular naturalism.



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Sarah

posted June 2, 2009 at 12:44 am


Rjs – I sometimes cringe at the “apologetics” and “evangelism” that fellow evangelicals shout at the world (I’m sure I’ve raised an eyebrow or two as well). There can be a lot of disconnect between what we offer and what people need, not to mention the occasional disconnect from sound logic and reality. We’ve jumped on a bunch of bandwagons to nowhere in the past, and I’m very concerned about several of our current sacred cows. However, it seems that past errors came from those who adapted their theology too quickly to whatever their culture’s best and brightest deemed respectable as well as from those who clung to old traditions and biblical misconceptions. I’ve also seen too many Christians misrepresent other believers. Conservatives accuse others of compromise, progressive evangelicals blast conservatives for anti-intellectualism. We tend to believe the worst of each other and jump to conclusions way too often.



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Sarah

posted June 2, 2009 at 1:38 am


Regarding id, I’ve seen evangelicals embrace it with varying degrees of success, comprehension, and propriety. I’ve also seen it misrepresented by those both to its right and left, and some of its adherents have returned the favor.In my understanding, while some id’ers are actively using id to buttress the faith, others have no such agenda. I have to believe when they say the evidence led them to their conclusions, not the other way around. As to Behe’s probability calc’s, he used the #of potential mutations given the known makeup of genomes, observed and (apparently) accepted estimates of mutation rate and population, and accepted evolutionary time scales. Seemed like adequately controlled variables to me – but then, I was an art major. It also seems his point is that he is illustrating a weakness, not a strength, in current thinking. Absent clear evidence to the contrary, I can’t say he’s wrong. He’s not claiming no random adaptation, just that there are specific limits to its power.



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Sarah

posted June 2, 2009 at 3:06 am


Thanks for engaging this topic with me, rjs. I’ve been trying to avoid firm conclusions in this area until I have a basic grasp of the various positions “on their own terms,” as Gage said. I have some knowledge of creationism and id; you are adding to my understanding of th.evo. To that end, what would be sufficient to fundamentally challenge the current paradigm? It’s one thing if it has real, testable explanatory power; it’s another if it amorphously absorbs every challenge by pointing to invulnerable axioms and discoveries just over the next hill (epicycles upon epicycles come to mind). What could warn a scientist if her guiding evolutionary framework is inaccurate? I’ve heard this criticism more than once (eg: Phillip Johnson – a theory that describes everything describes nothing). I find this ? pertinent as evo’s have given falsifability as a criterion for legit science. Thoughts? And thanks. We do need to use the best means if we want to counter ont.naturalism. I’m trying to learn what those are.



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pds

posted June 2, 2009 at 10:31 am


RJS (#58)
Yes, that is my main problem with Miller. Do you not agree that it is an enormous logical fallacy in his reasoning?
You said:
“Irreducible complexity is best attacked by demonstrating that the supposed irreducibly complex systems are in fact not irreducibly complex. I think that this is rapidly being done. What more do you want me to say?”
Still waiting for my answer- how, where is this “rapidly being done”?
Do you think Miller is doing this?
You have not given any back up to your assertion.



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pds

posted June 2, 2009 at 11:02 am


peelingdragonskin.wordpress.com
Sarah and RJS,
RJS, Curious that you do not like probability arguments (#59). What else do we have? Shall we just assume evolution explains everything and ignore the details? That is what a lot of scientists seem to be doing.
Behe is asking the hard questions and dealing with what we know, dealing with the actual facts and the realities of variation and mutation rates. And then he gets hit with ad hominem attacks and character assassination. Lots of people don’t want to deal with the details. They just like assuming that evolution can do anything.
In my opinion, the ID folks are asking the cutting edge questions, and their opponents are resting on weak logic and wishful thinking.



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RJS

posted June 2, 2009 at 11:22 am


pds,
Behe has posed some interesting questions – and he has certainly been attacked. Ad hominem attacks and character assassination are real problems.
But I don’t think “they just like assuming that evolution can do anything” is a fair assessment of the process. The way science works is to look for natural mechanism. The proposal of “irreducible complexity” gives additional impetus to investigations and efforts studying how such a construct can arise. The leap from proposed ic to designer assumes no such explanation exists does it not?



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pds

posted June 2, 2009 at 4:01 pm


RJS,
I said,
“Lots of people don’t want to deal with the details. They just like assuming that evolution can do anything.”
I said lots of people, not everyone or that that is the process. I think many make an extrapolation error.
ID does not require an assumption. It is an evidence-based inference. Since it is science, it is tentative.
Am I not going to get any back up from you as to your assertion regarding the critiques of ID? (“Irreducible complexity is best attacked by demonstrating that the supposed irreducibly complex systems are in fact not irreducibly complex. I think that this is rapidly being done. What more do you want me to say?”)
Do you still stick with that assertion?



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RJS

posted June 2, 2009 at 4:13 pm


If ID is an evidence-based inference it requires something that looks like design – and the absence of a “natural” mechanism for the evidence.
Doesn’t this make it a gap-theory?
But don’t answer here – I’d rather move the conversation along to the current or future posts. We will have more opportunity. This coming Friday for sure.



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Sarah

posted June 2, 2009 at 5:00 pm


See you in the future, rjs (and pds, and everyone else as well). I shall ponder what has been said and await further enlightenment (I’m still curious as to how to distinguish a gap that can be reasonably expected to be bridged from an insurmountable obstacle, as this seems to be a crucial point of contention. But I can wait…at least I think I can….). Blessings, all.



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pds

posted June 3, 2009 at 9:44 am


Sarah,
I appreciated your comments here.
You said:
“I’m still curious as to how to distinguish a gap that can be reasonably expected to be bridged from an insurmountable obstacle, as this seems to be a crucial point of contention.”
There is no clear distinction between them. In looking for it, we also need to remember to avoid the reverse God of the Gaps fallacy, which is to say that no reasonable inferences can ever be drawn from an absence of evidence.
Cheers.



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pds

posted June 3, 2009 at 9:47 am


RJS,
Are you not going to provide any support for your assertion regarding the critiques of ID? (“Irreducible complexity is best attacked by demonstrating that the supposed irreducibly complex systems are in fact not irreducibly complex. I think that this is rapidly being done. What more do you want me to say?”)
Do you still stick with that assertion?



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RJS

posted June 3, 2009 at 10:13 am


pds (#70),
In a comment here – no I am not going to provide support. But I am working on structuring some posts to give my position with support and start a discussion, so stick around.
And yes, I stick with that assertion. Irreducible complexity is a seriously, I would say fatally, flawed proposal.



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pds

posted June 3, 2009 at 2:15 pm


RJS (#71),
Ok, thanks for addressing it. I do find it remarkable that you would make such strong statements, and then not support them with anything. Not a link, not an article? Surely, if it is “rapidly being done,” someone has discussed it somewhere on the web.
I will keep my eye open for future posts, including the promised follow up by Logan Paul Gage.



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Lucas Cato

posted June 6, 2009 at 11:51 am


Dear friends–
I join the discussion late, and will no doubt suffer the usual problems associated with doing so. I’ve read the original post and the comments with interest. Before adding my own, let me say that I’m pleased to see that the discussion hereon is to a quite impressive extent amicable, reasonable, and intelligent, without more than the occasional tiny hint of unpleasantness.
First, my own present view of things, to get that out of the way, includes the following:
1. The Darwinian model of evolution by natural selection, with some tweaks coming from science Darwin could not have predicted, remains a very strong and capable explanation of how living things on this planet have arrived at their current nexus, and of how they will continue to change over time in response to the changing world in which they live. There is copious evidence in support of this model, from widely variable fields.
2. As one extends thought about evolution by natural selection deeper into the crevices of the universe, or out into realms other than the biological, its grounding is less firm. For instance, although it seems that the basic principles could have supported the development of life de novo from the proper original conditions, there are problematic issues that must be dealt with there. First, the difficulty in knowing what the originating conditions must have been. Second, and here we start to see glimmers of the intelligent design argument, the chances that life would arise spontaneously without any outside help seem incalculable and, to some at least, insurmountable. Third, the chances of the universe existing in such a way, with such laws and constants as would be necessary, such as to support both the origination of life and its continuation, are truly incalculable and unknowable. Fourth, as one stretches further and further into the nooks and crannies, eventually one will want to ask, “Why?” That is a question that evolution and natural selection simply cannot address, as Darwin well recognized.
3. I believe that there is a reason for my existence beyond any explanation relying entirely upon chance associations of material bits.
4. I believe, through the grace of God bestowed upon me by the Holy Spirit, that God called me–all of us–into being through methods and mechanisms I cannot either completely understand or identify.
Now, a comment meant to politely challenge my ID friends:
From a post above by PDS (#15):
“Which is more probable based on what we know now: 1. that this happened by chance and known natural mechanisms or 2. that this was designed?” To conclude that design is the more probable inference is not a logical error.
I humbly submit that such a conclusion is, indeed, a logical error. The reasoning is thus: In order to determine which of two events is more probable, the chances of each must reasonably be determined. As is often noted, the chances of all the events necessary to give rise to [fill in the blank with one’s favorite example] occurring are impressively infinitesimal. But what are the chances that such occurred by ID? The ID proponent suggests that because we see things that are known to be designed displaying significant reductions of the entropy contained within those systems or objects, anything having too great a reduction in entropy relative to what might be expected should reasonably be concluded to have been designed–this is the “irreducible complexity” argument. (And I apologize if my wording here is awkward or confusing.) But nowhere in that suggestion/argument by the ID proponent is a quantification of that likelihood.
What are, in fact, the mathematically expressed chances that ID had a role? Since that cannot be expressed–or at least has never been determined and expressed, as far as I know–it is impossible to rationally compare the probabilities of the two alternate theories and arrive at the conclusion that either is more likely than the other. Thus, it is, indeed, illogical to conclude that design is the more probable.
This may have been addressed hereon, and I apologize if I’m unknowingly re-plowing old ground. However, since in my review of the discussion, with its admitted patchiness in spots (my review, that is), I’ve not seen this point made nor addressed, I thought I’d enter the list.
Thank you all.



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