Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Friday is for Friends: Logan Paul Gage

posted by Scot McKnight

This is a two-part series by Logan Paul Gage, of the Discovery Institute, about Intelligent Design. We posted part one last week — this is part two, and today’s post covers two themes: God and beauty.

Intelligent design and the deity

DiscInst.jpgIn the predominant
narrative, Charles Darwin was a humble scientist who proposed a
strictly scientific theory.  Upon publication of The Origin of Species
in 1859, religious folks like Bishop Wilberforce voiced theological
objections to it; and thus began the most salient episode in the ‘war
between science and religion.’  Many Christians adopt a similar
narrative, but suggest this was all a misunderstanding; Darwin’s theory
simply has nothing to do with religious or philosophical questions.

If
I may be so bold, I’d like to suggest that both narratives are wrong. 
(For a good, short critique of the “conflict thesis” of science and
religion, see God’s Undertaker by Oxford’s John Lennox.)  If one reads
The Origin, the fact that Darwin is presupposing certain views of God
and creation fashionable in Victorian England is striking.  This theory
involved more than strictly scientific questions from the beginning.


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One
such theological conception common in this debate (touched upon by RJS
in a recent post) involves whether God is a “tinkerer.”  Kenneth
Miller, Catholic Darwinist of Brown University, sums up this view
well.  He thinks that neo-Darwinism’s view of God is better than ID’s:

“The
God of the intelligent design movement is way too small….  In their
view, he designed everything in the world and yet he repeatedly
intervenes and violates the laws of his own creation.  Their God is
like a kid who is not a very good mechanic and has to keep lifting the
hood and tinkering with the engine.”

As C.S. Lewis was fond of
pointing out, divine action does not require the breaking of laws of
nature.  So let’s set that aside and make two other observations.

First,
if ID is only the proposition that an intelligent cause explains some
features of nature better than mere material causes, then the ID
advocate is not necessarily committed to intervention in the process of
creation.  God could (intelligently) set up nature to unfold a certain
way.  He need not intervene in “gaps.”  All ID requires is that
intelligent design was involved and that the effects of this design are
empirically discernable.

Michael Behe, for example, thinks there
were probably not any interventions by God in creation.  Other ID
theorists think otherwise.    

Second, and more to our point, as
post-modern philosophers of science often point out, even the questions
we ask are from a certain frame of reference.  Miller seems to ask,
‘Why would God create a world which he has to tinker with?’  But
wouldn’t it be equally valid to ask, ‘Why would God design a process in
which he isn’t going to be involved?’

Is “tinkering” really the
only way to look at it?  Tinkering is a rather loaded term.  Did Monet
“tinker” or did he add detail, richness, and complexity?  Would Monet
have been a better artist if instead of tinkering with paintings he
created a machine which relied upon a random number generator to
manufacture them without his involvement?  It might have saved him some
work, but it wouldn’t have let him be an artist.  (And one supposes God
isn’t too concerned with saving work.)  

St. Thomas often relied
upon the principle that effects cannot be greater than their causes. 
In this regard, wouldn’t it be odd if the creator of artists should not
also be an artist?

The origin of beauty

This is the third in a series of three posts, Intelligent Design and the Artist’s Soul.

Benjamin
Wiker and Jonathan Witt’s masterful book A Meaningful World:  How the
Arts and Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature gives the following
illustration of how modern scientific reductionists treat nature and
the arts:

Imagine hearing the following
account of one of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s symphonies:  ‘We have been
able to prove that this particular symphony is actually reducible to a
series of notes that happen to be played both at the same time in
chords and one after another, creating a string of disturbances in the
air caused by different frequencies.  We realize, of course, that these
disturbances cause further disturbances in the audience, due in part to
the presence of Earth’s particular atmosphere and in part to the effect
such disturbances have on the apparatus of the ear as transmitted by
neurons to the brain–so disturbing, in fact, that some break into
voluntary tears, remarking that they seemed to be hearing the very
harmonies of heaven.  Happily, we now know that there is nothing more
to Mozart’s work in particular and to music in general than mere notes,
themselves reducible to waves disturbing air.’

When
Christian intellectuals hear such things, their general response is to
think that they can have their Darwinian cake and merely scrape off the
reductionist icing.  But Darwinism, if I may continue the strained
metaphor, is, it turns out, a layered cake with icing all throughout.

Continue Wiker and Witt:

“Such
reductionism displays the kind of bluntness of soul we found in Sigmund
Freud, which could reduce the glory of Hamlet to the irrational
gurglings of sexual desire.  It is the precise bluntness of soul that
led Charles Darwin to reduce the origin of music to mating calls and,
hence, to the sexual desire that drives sexual selection.”

The
authors refer here, of course, to Darwin’s reductionist account of
music in The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex.  Many
Christians think science determines the ‘how’ and religion determines
the ‘why.’  But we see here that in the strange case of Darwinism, this
simply won’t do.  Natural selection swallows up other causal chains. 
The ‘why’ of natural phenomena reduces to ‘because it enhanced
reproductive success.’  And beauty–to the artist’s great horror–is no
exception.

As University of Chicago biologist Jerry Coyne
writes, “any injection of teleology into evolutionary biology violates
precisely the great advance of Darwin’s theory: to explain the
appearance of design by a purely materialistic process–no deity
required.”

In chapter six of The Origin, Darwin further destroys
the beauty of beauty, demoting it to an illusion which, once again,
enhances reproductive fitness.  Darwin there writes that if his theory
is truth, nothing in nature was created for the beauty of man.  Nor is
beauty of any real substance, but completely arbitrary.

The
Darwinian, at least in his philosophical commitments, is tone deaf.  As
A.N. Wilson (the great biographer of C.S. Lewis) recently wrote of
philosophical materialists in explanation of his re-conversion to
Christianity, “they seem to me like people who have no ear for music,
or who have never been in love.  It is not that (as they believe) they
have rumbled the tremendous fraud of religion–prophets do that in
every generation.  Rather, these unbelievers are simply missing out on
something that is not difficult to grasp.  Perhaps it is too obvious to
understand; obvious, as lovers feel it was obvious that they should
have come together, or obvious as the final resolution of a fugue.”

Nature’s
design is just like this.  Too obvious to grasp.  (As Lewis said, fish
don’t feel wet.)  But this is why we need the artist.  For the artist
senses the transcendent and eternal in the mundane and temporal.  She
makes plain what should be plain; stirs in us what is simmering
unconsciously.  Conveys the immaterial through the material.

So
why have so many of the best artists of our generation, even rather
secular ones–the Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.s, the Tom Wolfes, etc.–been
unable to shake their skepticism of Darwinian fairytales?  Because
Darwin’s view strikes at the heart of the artist’s soul, reducing all
purposes, all agency actually, to survival.  The Darwinian world is no
longer a shadowland, for it is without Sun.  To the artist, however,
such reductionism will ever echo falsely in the quiet hour, when
another world whispers.



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T

posted June 5, 2009 at 9:34 am


Thanks for posting this. I totally concur. This is the dark, soul-destroying metanarrative that we have now forced upon our youth for decades and continue to do so. It is the only metanarrative with the respect of our educational institutions.
I wonder how much this very dynamic is part of the distancing of the arts from our ideas of “education” proper. The metanarrative of the sciences has pulled the Rug from beneath the feet of the arts, making them into just a more sophisticated type of diversion from ‘reality,’ no longer a particularly appropriate work within it.



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Rick

posted June 5, 2009 at 9:38 am


“First, if ID is only the proposition that an intelligent cause explains some features of nature better than mere material causes, then the ID advocate is not necessarily committed to intervention in the process of creation. God could (intelligently) set up nature to unfold a certain way. He need not intervene in “gaps.” All ID requires is that intelligent design was involved and that the effects of this design are empirically discernable.”
I thought this was interesting, since ID is sometime portrayed in the “gaps” term.
Is this a mistake by the critics of assuming all or nothing, or do the critics have some other reason for stressing this? (RJS- thoughts?????)



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pds

posted June 5, 2009 at 9:40 am


peelingdragonskin.wordpress.com
Interesting thoughts, but I think you are preaching to the entire choir here. Both ID proponents and theistic evolutionists disagree with materialistic reductionism.
The key difference is in how well Darwinism explains the data. Darwinian skeptics would say it explains some of the data well (microevolution), but other parts not well at all. ID proponents would say design is detectable in biological nature.
Theistic evolutionists say that Darwinism explains everything quite well, or that it will eventually, and that God’s design is not detectable by the scientific study of biological nature.
By the way, Catholic Ken Miller testified in Dover that “if nearly all original species are extinct, the intelligent-design creator was not very intelligent.” Miller does not really explain why extinction makes the ID designer stupid, but not his Catholic God.
More problems with Ken Miller, with interesting links about changes he made to his textbook, are discussed here:
http://telicthoughts.com/ken-miller-the-man-in-the-muddle/



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RJS

posted June 5, 2009 at 9:51 am


Rick,
If you have followed what I’ve said over many posts – I believe God designed the world and designed it intelligently. I also think that we need to fight against the rampant ontological naturalism found in much (but not all) of academic science.
First: Here is the gap: All ID requires is that intelligent design was involved and that the effects of this design are empirically discernable. (emphasis mine)
What most if not all ID advocates propose is that this design can be discovered and that we can build a scientific case for design. I think that this is useful to think about, but scientifically worthless. Behe’s proposal of irreducible complexity is absolutely a gap theory. Arguments from probability also carry with them serious assumptions in the estimates – we do not know enough to make secure estimates.
Second if you go explore the Discovery Institute web site, you will see that Logan here is giving the most generic and harmless form of ID – one that many if not all Christians would support on one level. Most of the efforts and writings are far more extreme and inflammatory.



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dopderbeck

posted June 5, 2009 at 9:58 am


Logan, I think you’re making some good points here, but also some important language and theological mistakes.
First, the good points: I concur, as does every Christian I know who accepts the scientific explanation of biological origins, that the human experience of “beauty” requires more than a biological explanation. No Christian I know of who accepts biological evolution would reduce all aesthetics to biology. For an excellent example, see Alister McGrath’s two recent books on natural theology, both of which heavily emphasize theological aesthetics as a source of natural theology.
Now, the language mistake: “Darwinian” does not mean what you say it means, at least not to any of the Christian scientists, theologians and philosophers I know who accept biological evolution. Of course “Darwinian” as a complete philosophical explanation of everything is wrong: that is what theistic evolutionists call “scientism.” And of course Darwin was a product of his times — aren’t we all? But most participants in serious faith-science discussions don’t use the term “Darwinian” in the sense of an all-encompassing explanation. For the basic facts of biology, they use scientific terms such as “natural selection” and “genetic drift.” You are unfairly prejudicing the debate by introducing a culturally-loaded term that is not the real subject of the faith-science conversation.
Now the theological mistake: you say ID is the proposition that “an intelligent cause explains some features of nature better than mere material causes.” The mistake here is that you purport to separate “intelligent” and “material” causes. In Christian theology, there is no such distinction. Everything in the universe except God is “creation.” Everything that exists, except for the self-existent God, was and is “caused” to exist by God. From a Christian perspective, “material causes” themselves cannot be “explained” apart from God. That “explanation” might not come from the empirical sciences, but it is a necessary and “real” explanation nonetheless.
So, again, I have to reject what you’re proposing here as — it seems to me — inconsistent with a Christian understanding of creation. It almost seems that you’re proposing a sort of Gnostic cosmology, in which “god” (the “Demiurge?”) isn’t really the creator of everything. I know the response is that you’re not proposing anything about “God” insofar as the “Designer” could be any intelligent agent — but perhaps that is precisely the problem. The “Designer” is the Triune God who has graciously revealed Himself to us. That is where we must start in constructing natural theology, or else we always seem to end up back with the old Greek heresies.



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pds

posted June 5, 2009 at 9:58 am


RJS (4)-
“Most of the efforts and writings are far more extreme and inflammatory.”
That is strong language, and I think it is inaccurate. Can you give examples?



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DML

posted June 5, 2009 at 10:10 am


I disagree entirely with the content above. Just because one believes in evolution, natural selection does not destroy the meaningfulness of artistic expression. Romantic themes abound in the arts where reproductive issues are at the heart of the matter.
While it is interesting to assess the history of thought regarding evolution, the evidence for natural selection and evolution is overwhelming. It is something that we need to get used to. Art will also be just fine.



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Rick

posted June 5, 2009 at 10:13 am


RJS-
Thanks. I hope you did not take my question as some kind of criticism towards you. I was just curious about your take on the ID = “gaps” issue.
I have found your posts on the topic interesting and helpful.



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RJS

posted June 5, 2009 at 10:23 am


pds,
I am sure you have perused their site – and perhaps even the new Faith and Evolution website. The impression I get is that they spend as much “ink” (as many bits?) fighting Francis Collins as fighting Richard Dawkins. As far as they are concerned it seems as though Christian scientists like Collins, like me, are the enemy – no less so than Dawkins, and perhaps worse.
If the Discovery Institute were interested first and foremost in fighting the ontological naturalism that is growing in our society I’d be all for it.
If they allowed all voices a place at the table – including Collins and others it would be great.
But that is not the agenda – the agenda appears to be to fight against ontological naturalism by vilifying evolution and natural selection as a mechanism used in God’s creation. Behe is actually among the most moderate voices in the mix.
Now you can tell me where you think I am wrong.



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Travis Greene

posted June 5, 2009 at 10:26 am


Yeah, I would agree with most of this, but it’s a philosophical argument against philosophical naturalism, not a scientific argument against evolution as such.



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pds

posted June 5, 2009 at 10:43 am


dopderbeck (#5),
You are right that “Darwinian” has different meanings. But Logan’s use is entirely consistent with what it means to many, many scientists.
While we are at it, we can note that “evolution” and “intelligent design” have multiple meanings as well. We cannot have a civil discussion until we are clear in how we are using these terms, and then use them consistently and fairly.
Logan, as a proponent of ID, is talking about one “intelligent design.” Many here (and in previous posts and comments) would rather talk about a straw “intelligent design” that is easier to attack.



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dopderbeck

posted June 5, 2009 at 10:54 am


Pds (#11) — no, I think Logan is not accurately representing what most proponents of “Intelligent Design” mean by that term. RJS is right. They do not mean something as basic as the appreciation of beauty. For example, here is how the Discovery Institute defines “Intelligent Design” on its website (http://www.intelligentdesign.org/whatisid.php)

The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection. Through the study and analysis of a system’s components, a design theorist is able to determine whether various natural structures are the product of chance, natural law, intelligent design, or some combination thereof. Such research is conducted by observing the types of information produced when intelligent agents act. Scientists then seek to find objects which have those same types of informational properties which we commonly know come from intelligence. Intelligent design has applied these scientific methods to detect design in irreducibly complex biological structures, the complex and specified information content in DNA, the life-sustaining physical architecture of the universe, and the geologically rapid origin of biological diversity in the fossil record during the Cambrian explosion approximately 530 million years ago.

This is a far more tendentious definition than the more moderate one Logan offers here.
And, in my experience, RJS unfortunately is right about the level of discourse. I personally was banned from the “Uncommon Dissent” blog a couple of years ago, so I have personally experienced the irrationality and vitriol that often prevails there. True, that is only one forum, but it is one of the most visible, and is hosted by one of ID’s most visible advocates. Sorry, “irrationality and vitriol” is strong language, but there’s no other way to describe it, IMHO.



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pds

posted June 5, 2009 at 10:59 am


RJS,
I have reviewed the sites and I don’t see anything “inflammatory.” You made the harsh accusation that:
“Most of the efforts and writings are far more extreme and inflammatory.”
Now you can’t point me to a single example of something that is “extreme and inflammatory”?



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pds

posted June 5, 2009 at 11:12 am


dopderbeck (#12)
Logan’s definition: “ID is only the proposition that an intelligent cause explains some features of nature better than mere material causes . . .”
DI definition: “The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.”
Then both go on to give examples.
Are you really saying these definitions of ID are different?
What you really mean is that Logan’s examples are different. But that only reflects the stated topic of his post.
I think you are being unfair by confusing the definition with the examples provided. I think you know the difference between a definition and an example.



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RJS

posted June 5, 2009 at 11:45 am


pds,
I will back down on inflammatory – this term is primarily appropriate for forums like the blog that dopderbeck refers to, not the DI site itself.
The views on the DI site however are much more extreme than the view given here – through and through.



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Ken

posted June 5, 2009 at 11:46 am


As some have written above, all Christians probably agree with many of Logan’s comments about art and beauty.
I, however, would like to see a list of peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals that verify that ID is “empirically discernible”



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AHH

posted June 5, 2009 at 11:47 am


pds asks for an example of something inflammatory.
While the link to the original article no longer works, here is a couple of paragraphs from typical rhetoric by Phil Johnson, godfather of the ID movement:
http://www.asa3.org/archive/ASA/200201/0164.html
Vitriolic toward those of us in science who believe God used evolution to do his creating (“dupes” and “prevarication” — another of his favorite characterizations is “accommodationists”).
The movie “Expelled” and the hijacking of the Kansas school board provide two more examples of the uglier side of the ID movement, and dopderbeck has already mentioned the Uncommon Dissent blog.
Johnson’s quote also provides an example of what dopderbeck pointed out — how the ID movement uses the word “Darwinism” to mean something different than what it means in the biological sciences, distorting the conversation. In biology, “Darwinian” simply means something like “genetic variation without apparent direction, acted upon by natural selection”. The ID movement adds additional baggage to that term, making it entail metaphysical lack of purpose. Certainly many biologists don’t believe in metaphysical purpose, but that is not a part of the science any more than it is for unbelieving astronomers who find no purpose in the natural processes of star formation (which most of the ID movement, inconsistently, has no problem with). Both the ID movement and people like Richard Dawkins tend to conflate scientific questions with metaphysical questions, much to the detriment of the conversation.
Side note: RJS mentioned the new site by the Discovery Institute on the compatibility (or lack thereof in their view) of Christian faith and evolution. Did anybody notice the irony that the featured article on the front page of this site is written by a Moonie?



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T

posted June 5, 2009 at 12:01 pm


I don’t think any side of this debate has a corner on the “inflammatory” market. For every civil participant there are 5 or 6 standing along side him or her cursing the other side. And neither side (theology/faith, nor physical science) likes the other making conclusions about its purported area of expertise. But, of course, the rub is that the enlightenment’s false walls of separation cannot and will not hold. The ID debate is just one major fault line buckling under the unstoppable pressure. The study of God, if it is to be of any use, will inevitably lead to, even necessitate, conclusions about the physical world. And if there is an all powerful Actor at work in the physical world of his making which he sustains and works in for his own ends, can we truly understand that world if we assume his absence a priori when we study? Or better, as we attempt to apply the understandings science gives to us, do we go into the applications with the same assumptions that we used in the discovery, namely that God is not. Logan argues that as humans we don’t switch our assumptions so easily from study to application, to living, and I would agree. If the scientific assumptions are good enough for accurate discovery, they are good enough for accurate application, and just like that we become practitioners and missionaries of secular society. Those religious questions were so infuriating anyway. Thank heaven we have an understanding of the world good enough to govern with, build societies upon and do anything that matters without having to deal with such questions anymore. They are finally irrelevant. That is the implicit and sometimes explicit gospel of the modern, scientific, world.
As a theist, I don’t think that Logan is “unfairly prejudicing the debate by introducing a culturally-loaded term that is not the real subject of the faith-science conversation.” His point is that such a mixing of the hows and whys has been a real subject of the faith-science conversation from the beginning (as they must be, based on the false dichotomies and assumptions that the Enlightenment introduced), as Darwin’s and other’s writings clearly show. Perhaps it would be better for us to drop the illusion entirely that either theology or science can be “purely” done without making implicit or explicit statements about the other. We can be civil and humble in our statements, but not ever limited in scope to “purely” physical or “purely” theological matters. We don’t have a “spiritual world” and a cleanly separated “physical world” each available for individual study. We just have the world.



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dopderbeck

posted June 5, 2009 at 12:06 pm


pds (#14) — I don’t think the definition on the DI site is just giving examples. The DI definition intentionally defines ID as a particular research program using the tools of mathematical information theory. This is what is meant by the use of the terms “systems,” “informational properties,” and “scientific methods” in that definition.
As I understand what Gage proposes in the post here, he is suggesting that the intuitive human experience of beauty captures the essence of ID theory. If that’s his point (perhaps I’ve misunderstood), it isn’t accurate. As the DI site makes clear, ID theory is about the application of the scientific methods of mathematical information theory to empirically verify such intuition.
Many, if not most, Christians who accept biological evolution agree that the experience of beauty, or what C.S. Lewis called the “numinous,” is properly understood as a pointer “beyond” the material universe. Francis Collins and Alister McGrath, for example, have specifically written on this. It is a huge step from there, however, to suggest that mathematical information theory can be used to “filter” (this is Bill Dembski’s term — “explanatory filter”) empirical evidence of “design” from the statistical background “noise” of the rest of creation.



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dopderbeck

posted June 5, 2009 at 12:12 pm


T said: Perhaps it would be better for us to drop the illusion entirely that either theology or science can be “purely” done without making implicit or explicit statements about the other.
I respond: I don’t suggest that either can be “purely” done. However, each discipline (or “science” if you will) has its own foci and methodologies. What we need to seek is interdisciplinarity. In my view, ID fails on this count, particularly insofar as it denies any a priori Christian understanding of “creation” — for ID, the “designer,” remember, can just as easily be a space alien as the Triune God. Again, Alister McGrath, IMHO, is excellent on the notion of interdisciplinarity (in his “Scientific Theology” series), as is Thomas Torrance.



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T

posted June 5, 2009 at 12:35 pm


dopderbeck,
I agree we need interdisciplinarity. ID seems to be an attempt, however flawed, toward that in principle; it seems to be a child of it, in fact. Unfortunately, it is meeting resistance, in my opinion, precisely because it threatens the ‘peace’ brought by the secular gospel I outlined above, as any significant movement toward interdisciplinarity would, no matter how it was framed. Acknowledging the need for any voice in policy other than that of science is seen by the modern mind as opening pandora’s box. (“No, not those questions again!)
You seem to be arguing that ID is not Christian enough, and should therefore be rejected. Certainly a movement arguing for an interdisciplinary approach to the origins question that contained more specifically Christian content re: the creation would invite even greater resistance than ID has generated.



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pds

posted June 5, 2009 at 12:47 pm


AHH,
“Prevarication”? He is talking about the PBS special. Hardly vitriolic.
The whole article is, in fact, available:
http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/print.php?id=14-10-011-c
The whole article is fairly whimsical and hardly a vitriolic attack on theistic evolutionists. It was written about his stay in the hospital after suffering a serious stroke.
He closes with this:
If you?ll excuse me, I have to go to a clan gathering in the country. My in-laws call it the ?Nutting,? because we used to use the occasion to glean the walnuts that remained on the ground after the picking machine had gone through the orchard. Does that sound corny? Well, that?s how we are in Mitford.
It closes with an editor’s note:
“The author?s stroke was more serious than previously reported, but he continues to recover very well at home, in a community that is more wholesome than its reputation would suggest.”
Do you really find the whole article “inflammatory”?
You used words like “hijacking,” “ugly,” “distorting” and “Moonie.” And you complain about “accomodationist”?
And once again, I find you are seriously misrepresenting the views of ID proponents, which I find very disturbing.
What exactly is wrong with “Expelled” (which was done by Ben Stein, a Jewish writer for the New York Times)? Lots of inflammatory stuff in that, but it mainly came from evolutionary scientists who were interviewed.



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RJS

posted June 5, 2009 at 12:59 pm


pds,
The article does quote Johnson as saying:
Besides, my strategy requires driving a wedge between the atheistical Darwinists and their dupes in the religious world.
This is really where we go over the edge – Collins is a dupe who has “sold-out” as am I. Actually we are devout thinking Christians with something valuable to contribute to the discussion. This is the point that I was trying to make above. From the Christian side we should be fighting the ontological naturalism that many in the secular world wish to push – but we should not do it by vilifying those of us who are serious scientists trying to wrestle with all of the data.



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RJS

posted June 5, 2009 at 1:01 pm


And by the way – on the last sentence, I also think that Behe is a serious scientist who is trying to wrestle with all of the data. I disagree with his conclusions and welcome the conversation.



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pds

posted June 5, 2009 at 1:40 pm


RJS (#23),
Who are the “dupes in the religious world”? He does not say. I think of you and Collins as scientists, not leaders in the “religious world.”
Nevertheless, Collins misrepresented ID in the Language of God, which I found truly painful to read. Did he say that ID proponents have “something valuable to contribute to the discussion”? He did not.
Check out this nasty, shameful attack by Karl Giberson, Collin’s colleague at Biologos, which basically calls Behe et al liars (“But this is completely false, and these confident spokesmen know it. Here is how they know it.”)
http://scienceandreligiontoday.blogspot.com/2009/06/rhetoric-vs-science.html
and the reply by John West:
http://www.evolutionnews.org/2009/06/wheres_the_dialogue_alas_colle.html
ID folks get bashed and bashed and bashed in the media and elsewhere, and then they see Christian brothers and sisters piling on. How would that make you feel?



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AHH

posted June 5, 2009 at 1:42 pm


pds asks about Expelled (which was not done by the Discovery Institute but certainly had ties with the ID movement).
A thorough and insightful review (without vitriol) of Expelled has been provided by Jeffrey Schloss, biology Prof at Westmont College (who I believe was affiliated with the Discovery Institute earlier in his career). I cannot recommend it highly enough:
http://www.asa3.org/ASA/resources/Schloss200805.pdf
One of Schloss’ points is that Expelled promotes “warfare” as the paradigm for the relationship between science and faith. I commend Gage in today’s essay for rejecting the warfare model (“conflict thesis” as he puts it) — but then the question becomes whether the ID movement (and any of us) is constructive or fans the harmful warfare. Of course it is a mixed bag, but at least RJS and I (the only 2 scientists posting on this thread as far as I know) perceive it leaning toward the negative in its overall impact in the church and in our witness to the scientifically literate.
With regard to the Johnson quote, it seems as though he is saying that asserting compatibility of evolution with orthodox Christianity requires “prevarication”. But I’ll try to make time to read the whole essay.
Perhaps some of my language here has been too strong — hard not to feel some resentment against a movement that paints me as a “dupe”. But it certainly does “distort” the conversation to attach different meanings to words (like Darwinism) than their normal use, or to fail to make distinctions between scientific and metaphysical questions (which of course are not totally separable as has been pointed out).
And if I had used “member of the Unification Church” instead of “Moonie” with regard to the DI’s Dr. Wells, I think the point would have been the same.



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dopderbeck

posted June 5, 2009 at 2:21 pm


T (#21) — I don’t really see ID as interdisciplinary, because it is confusing the tools and methods of science and theology by seeking empirical proof of the designer. It imposes one discipline improperly onto another. Interdisciplinary says: here are some conclusions of the natural sciences using methods xyz; here are some findings of theology using methods abc; taking all this together, how does this help us obtain a fuller picture of reality? (I would step back from this just a tad and say that for a Christian, IMHO, theology ought to have a certain epistemic priority. I’m not sure I’m totally comfortable with, say, Van Huysteen’s notion of interdisciplinarity; I think I like the way McGrath draws on Reformed epistemology).



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pds

posted June 5, 2009 at 2:32 pm


AHH (#26)
Let’s all agree, there is strong rhetoric all around on both sides. My plea is that we do not judge the science and the arguments based on the most strident voices on any side.
I don’t think Expelled promoted the warfare paradigm completely. It showed ID scientists who saw no warfare between genuine science and their faith. One valuable aspect is that it showed the public how much of the “scientific establishment” is driven by philosophical preconceptions and hostility, and not by evidence.
It helped to break down the pernicious stereotype that the only reason to doubt Darwinian theory is because of religion.
But don’t believe me. Go watch it.



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RJS

posted June 5, 2009 at 3:06 pm


pds (#25),
There are Christians on all sides of this discussion who resort to unfortunate rhetoric and ad hominem attack. This is no different than the discussion of the NPP and justification or the discussion of the nature of the OT, say Pete Enns’s book. This is one of the real problems in our church today and we would all do well to consider Scot’s posts on James – say A Brother’s Wisdom 62 and 63.
Here is the real problem I have with the Discovery Institute and much of the ID movement as it exists today:
The Discovery Institute is not an explicitly Christian organization, but it has strong Christian roots and is dominated, as far as I can tell, by Christians. Logan Gage is Christian as is Phillip Johnson and the vast majority of persons I can identify on the site. These people seem to feel that the way to fight against secularism and ontological naturalism in our culture is to team with non-Christians of all sorts, including Wells who is a member of the Unification Church, including Stein, against outspoken Christians like Collins. They spend a great deal of effort fighting theistic evolution, evolutionary creationism, biologos, whatever you want to call it. Refuting Collins seems to be as important as refuting Dawkins.
There is something oh so wrong here. As Christians, taking a stand for the faith is far more important than these debates on the method of creation and it is certainly more important than defending the hypothesis that that the effects of design are empirically discernible. We can disagree, we can discuss, we can present and defend a variety of positions, but please – let us keep our priorities Christ centered.



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pds

posted June 5, 2009 at 4:35 pm


peelingdragonskin.wordpress.com
RJS-
Thanks for your comments. They make your position more understandable.
I hope to give a longer response soon . . .



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H.H.

posted June 5, 2009 at 4:57 pm


Second, and more to our point, as post-modern philosophers of science often point out, even the questions we ask are from a certain frame of reference. Miller seems to ask, ‘Why would God create a world which he has to tinker with?’ But wouldn’t it be equally valid to ask, ‘Why would God design a process in which he isn’t going to be involved?’
Is “tinkering” really the only way to look at it? Tinkering is a rather loaded term. Did Monet “tinker” or did he add detail, richness, and complexity? Would Monet have been a better artist if instead of tinkering with paintings he created a machine which relied upon a random number generator to manufacture them without his involvement? It might have saved him some work, but it wouldn’t have let him be an artist. (And one supposes God isn’t too concerned with saving work.)

But Monet was neither omniscience nor omnipotent. Yes, the creative act implies tinkering with something until it is “just right,” but that’s because we humans are necessarily limited–limitations which presumably should not apply to God. If God has the power to not only perfectly envision the final goal, but the means to create and implement it immediately, then one wonders why he would need to tinker. Tinkering is what limited beings must do because they lack the means to instantaneously express their will. If God had to tinker with his creation, then that indicates that creation wasn’t “just right” the first time. This premise has serious theological implications that Gage has not adequately addressed.



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pds

posted June 5, 2009 at 5:32 pm


HH
The whole salvation story is one of God’s involvement with his people. He answers prayer, he effects miracles, he came to earth to live among us. He is the all powerful God of the universe and can create the world any darn way he pleases. I don’t see any theological problems with God’s constant care and blessing of his creation, especially after I read Job 38 ff.
Theistic evolution (depending how your frame it) with no Divine involvement presents many more theological problems in my opinion.



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H.H.

posted June 5, 2009 at 5:58 pm


PDS, if God “is the all powerful God of the universe and can create the world any darn way he pleases,” then why would theistic evolution “present many more theological problems?” You’re contradicting yourself.



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Kenny Johnson

posted June 5, 2009 at 6:17 pm


I agree that there is a lot of nasty rhetoric on the side of many IDist. I think Dembski is one of the worst in that regard. However, I consider myself a pretty strong proponent of ID. I often tell people, that I support the theory, but not the politics. And though, I haven’t read Collin’s book, I’ve heard he wasn’t exactly nice to ID either. I actually want to read it though — they have it at my library.
I’m not scientist, but I have a real hard time believing in a purely naturalistic origins story — and not because I’m stuck on making it fit with Gen 1-2. Cause.. I’m not really. I actually have no problem with theistic evolution — I just don’t subscribe to it.



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Kenny Johnson

posted June 5, 2009 at 6:20 pm


H.H.,
I don’t want to speak for pds, but one of the problems I have with TE from a theological perspective is that it seems awfully close to deism (at how some TE’s describe it).



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H.H.

posted June 5, 2009 at 6:41 pm


Kenny Johnson, as ID is overtly non-denominational, it is compatible with deism as well…or Hinduism, or Islam, or any religion that posits that a creative supernatural force played a role in the formation of our Universe and life on our planet. Yet you said you consider yourself “a pretty strong proponent of ID.” If your theology is flexible enough to allow for different points of view under one hypothesis, then certainly the fact that TE is compatible with both deism and Christianity should not be troubling in the least.



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Kenny Johnson

posted June 5, 2009 at 7:04 pm


H.H.,
I don’t see “being able to detect design” as being deistic. However, I do see “God started it all and then everything arose from purely naturalistic means” very close to deism. I’m not saying it’s not compatible with Christianity — but I’m saying its a concern I have.



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J. May

posted June 5, 2009 at 11:16 pm


And then there is the third option that God did break the laws of nature and create a number of original kinds which later through diversification or microevolution as somw would call it, all the great variety of living things came into existence. This view does require belief in a miracle, but either view requires the intervention of God. Why are we afraid of allowing God to create an unkown number perfect original kinds from which all other animals descended? Behe’s Edge of Evolution shows that plain old evolutionary forces cannot adequately explain the variety and complexity of the living creatures that we see. So between the other two ideas, ID, where God “tinkers with living creatures along the way”(which doesn’t fit with Scripture very well), why not just believe the Bible and allow the intervention of God to come in the beginning with ex-nihilo creation and then leave it to microevolution to create the variety that we see? Because it is not science? I see. The Bible is subject to the laws of science. Tell that to God and see what He says. I think the latter idea fits the evidence and the Biblical description of the Creator better than ID.



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AHH

posted June 5, 2009 at 11:56 pm


J. May #38,
The reason not to take the approach you advocate (and call “believing the Bible” although “believing one interpretation of the Bible” would be more accurate) of a bunch of independent creations of “kinds” is that the evidence in God’s creation is against it. I strongly recommend the book “Coming to Peace with Science” by Darrel Falk (biology Prof. at Point Loma Nazarene) on the overwhelming evidence for “common descent.” By the way, Behe, whom you cite, also believes in common descent.
Despite my dislike of many aspects of the ID movement, arguments like Behe’s that some extra-natural input has driven the evolution of life are not totally ridiculous. But to deny common descent, like denying an old Earth, basically requires that God placed phony evidence in his creation to testify to history that never happened. And our God is not a deceiver.



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pds

posted June 6, 2009 at 9:33 am


peelingdragonskin.wordpress.com
J May (#38)-
You said,
“I think the latter idea fits the evidence and the Biblical description of the Creator better than ID.”
Your idea is completely consistent with ID. Why do you think it is not? Many ID proponents believe something very much like what you describe. ID only says that nature contains evidence of design. ID does not present any rigid historical story that it forces on anyone.
AHH and RJS-
AHH’s reply (#39) is why there is conflict between theists on this issue. I think that AHH gives a very false impression of the fossil evidence. The fossil record provides some evidence of LIMITED common descent. It does not support universal common descent. Even Darwin admitted that the Cambrian Explosion posed a serious problem for his theory: (“The case must at present remain inexplicable; and may be truely urged as a valid argument against the views here entertained.”) The situation is even worse for his theory now, because we have now found soft bodied animals from before the Cambrian that show no indication of being ancestors of the Cambrian animals. They are not what he predicted we would find.
So we can turn the question back to AHH- If God wanted us to accept Darwin’s theory as explaining the whole history of life on earth, why would he have planted the Cambrian fossils to make us doubt that theory?
RJS- I think AHH’s reply is tragic. Here is a Christian scientist telling another believer that there is no evidence for what J May suggests in #38. This is just plain wrong. AHH may be a scientist, but he/she does not seem to be a paleontologist.
AHH also misrepresents what Behe believes about common descent. Behe does not accept universal common descent by random mutation and natural selection. He believes the limits of Darwinian mechanisms (the “edge of evolution”) are somewhere between species and order. This is consistent with what J May said in #38.
Do you understand why this makes ID proponents angry and frustrated? My expectations of AHH are higher than my expectations of Richard Dawkins.



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RJS

posted June 6, 2009 at 10:52 am


pds,
First, Darwin knew only an infinitesimal fraction of what is now known of the fossil record. So what he thought or didn’t here is irrelevant in my opinion.
Second, AHH didn’t say that the fossil record proved common descent – he said that there was overwhelming evidence for common descent, something I agree with and something Behe agrees with in what I’ve read. The evidence I consider conclusive is not fossil (although this is powerful) it is genetic, in the genomes. To argue against this is to apply hundreds (thousands) of “patch” explanations. When the fossil and genetic information is combined it is overwhelming.
Third, AHH said that Behe proposes that extra-natural input has driven the evolution of life. AHH also says that this is not totally ridiculous. Even Logan Gage in the original post says that Michael Behe, for example, thinks there were probably not any interventions by God in creation.
How is this a misrepresentation?



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AHH

posted June 6, 2009 at 11:40 am


Since I have been accused of misconduct by pds #40 above, I will say a couple of things and then abandon this thread which has grown to be un-edifying. Prefaced by admitting that some of my language in #39 was probably too blunt for this forum (it was late, and my hackles get raised when I see the suggestion that only a “creationist” interpretation counts as “believing the Bible”). But I stand by the substance of all I said.
1) The so-called Cambrian Explosion in recent years has become less “explosive” as fossils have been found stretching the period of rapid diversification over many more millions of years. I am no expert in this field, but based on what experts (including Christian experts) have told me the “How real was the explosion?” subsection of the “Cambrian explosion” article on Wikipedia seems to summarize that aspect well.
2) The so-called Cambrian explosion poses some interesting questions for paleontology, but does little to challenge the overall picture of common descent, especially now that DNA technology has provided independent extremely strong evidence for common descent. As RJS mentioned, it is the genetic evidence (which Darwin had no access to) that is most overwhelming.
3) pds misrepresents what I said in saying:
AHH also misrepresents what Behe believes about common descent. Behe does not accept universal common descent by random mutation and natural selection.
All I said was that Behe accepts common descent, not that he accepts neodarwinian mechanisms as sufficient for said descent. Also please not that I was NOT arguing that the evidence for neodarwinian common descent was overwhelming, just that the evidence for the bare fact of common descent (whatever the mechanism(s)) is overwhelming.
3a) It is really important to distinguish separate questions when discussing “evolution”, and I think many of our problems come from failure to do so. Separate things often lumped under the word “evolution” include:
— Common descent, relatedness of life descending from other life (saying nothing about the mechanism). This is very well established and to reject it is not too different from saying the earth is flat.
— Neo-Darwinian mechanisms for evolution (genetic variation acted upon by natural selection). Again, it is extremely well established that these mechanisms work at least *at some scales*.
— The hypothesis that these neo-Darwinian mechanisms fully account (at a physical level) for the common descent. Here there is some room for debate, and I do not mind if people like Behe want to question this, as long as they do so with good science and scientific integrity (and good theology if they are Christians), and as long as they do not imply (as unfortunately often happens with ID) that the viability of theism depends on their being right about this issue.



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pds

posted June 6, 2009 at 1:09 pm


peelingdragonskin.wordpress.com
RJS and AHH,
I may reply further later, but I wanted to post at least a quick comment. My comment (#40) was addressing AHH (#39) commenting as a Christian scientist replying to J May (#38) commenting as a Christian non-scientist. My reply was also addressing the criticisms of RJS (#29).
AHH was basically telling J May he was wrong, and he was doing so without a solid personal knowledge of the fossil record. You can try to explain away the Cambrian problem to your hearts’ content, but the reality is that, taken at face value, it lends support to J May’s position. Thus, the “phony evidence plant by God” assertion was way out of line. AHH, I seems to me that you have not begun to grasp the enormity of the problem posed by the fossil record generally and the Cambrian and Ediacara fauna specifically.
AHH used the phrase “common descent” in a way that purported to prove J May wrong.
AHH was dismissing J May’s position using what I found to be a condescending tone and misleading assertions. (“But to deny common descent, like denying an old Earth, basically requires that God placed phony evidence in his creation to testify to history that never happened.”)
To conclude that genetics provides “overwhelming evidence” of univeral common descent is absurd. It is simply bad logic. You don’t have to be a scientist to identify bad logic. Similar genetic makeup of current life supports the idea of a common designer just as much as it supports the idea of common descent. DNA works brilliantly. Why wouldn’t God use it again and again? Genetics do not tell us where genes came from and how it happened. The fossil record is the best evidence of what actually happened.
RJS, I would love for TE folks like you and Collins to be able to dialogue civilly with ID folks like Behe, and others like me. (I consider myself to be sympathetic to ID, but hardly a proponent.) But AHH’s comment is part of the problem that has to be addressed. In my opinion, it reflects an overconfidence in what the evidence tells us that is very misguided.



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pds

posted June 6, 2009 at 2:58 pm


Stephen Jay Gould on the Cambrian Explosion:
“Clearly, the Burgess pattern of stunning disparity in anatomical design is not characteristic of well-preserved fossil faunas in general. Rather, good preservation has permitted us to identify a particular and immensely puzzling aspect of the Cambrian explosion and its immediate aftermath. In a geological moment near the beginning of the Cambrian, nearly all modern phyla made their first appearance, along with an even greater array of anatomical experiments that did not survive very long thereafter. The 500 million subsequent years have produced no new phyla, only twists and turns upon established designs–even if some variations, like human consciousness, manage to impact the world in curious ways. What established the Burgess motor? What turned it off so quickly? What, if anything, favored the small set of surviving designs over other possibilities that flourished in the Burgess Shale? What is this pattern of decimation and stabilization trying to tell us about history and evolution?”
From his book Wonderful Life. I can think of about 50 more questions I have about this amazing episode in the history of life on earth as it relates to Darwin’s theory.



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Unapologetic Catholic

posted June 6, 2009 at 7:27 pm


“AHH was dismissing J May’s position using what I found to be a condescending tone and misleading assertions. (“But to deny common descent, like denying an old Earth, basically requires that God placed phony evidence in his creation to testify to history that never happened.”)
I inderstand yoru feelings here. But is AHH’s langauge any differnt than Miachel Behe’s language on the same subject?
In The Edege of Evolution, Behe argues strongly for common descent of all lifeforms on earth, including conceding that humans and chimpanzees have a common ancestor. He states that there is such overwhelming evidence for common ancestry that it should not only be obvious, but “trivial”.
“Trivial”in this sense is the equivalent of a belief that the earth was created less than 10,000 years ago.



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pds

posted June 7, 2009 at 10:29 pm


RJS (#41)
As to Darwin, the point was not *his* opinion, but the fact the evidence is worse for his theory now than it was in his day.
You said, “The evidence I consider conclusive is not fossil (although this is powerful) it is genetic, in the genomes.”
How exactly do genetics prove common descent?
UC (#45),
What do you think “trivial” means? I do not read him the same way.



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Unapologetic Catholic

posted June 8, 2009 at 12:59 pm


Well, how do you read Behe? Do you read Behe to say he does not believe in univesal common descent? He plainly says he does.
He states that the evidece for universal common descent is pretty much overwheleming. Page 72 of his Edge of Evolution contains a diagram showing just one fact from genetics that demostates common ancestry between humasn and chuipnazees, and for that he state that Darwein had it right. he says, “The strogn evideence from the pseudogene points well bebond the ancestry of humans. Despite some remainign puzzles, there’s no reason to doubt that Darwin had this point right, that all creatures on earht are bilogical relatives.”
I think you are incorrect to say that the evidence is worse for Darwin’s theory today than it was then.
Some very significant discoveries have strongly reinforced the theoryof evolution sice it was forst developed by Darwin and independently by Wallace. (If Darwin had not existed, the theory would be in about the same place it is today.)
Darwin knew that evolution woudl take a very long. His problem wasn’t the biblical 6,000 years. Evolution needed so much time that it exceeded the best 19 century evidence for the age of the sun. He needed billions of years for evolution to work and there was no known mechanism that allowed the sun to “burn” for many millions of years let alone billions of years. Darwin’s thwory would have been considerably more doubltful in the absence of fusion.
He also knew that natual selection can only work on inheritable characteristics. He had no explanation for the mechanism of inheritable characteristics until Mendel discovered genes.
His theoy also reuqires a way for bilogical ognaisms to replicate, and that mechanism must be very accurate but not perfectly acurate. When dna was discovered that riddle was solved.
Genetics also discovered that non-coding dna mutates relatvely rapidly at consistently measured rates. These are so called “molecular clocks” and there are several of them. The time calcualtions shuould be about the same regardless of the clocks chosen. And it turns out they are about the same.
The molecular clocks genetically tell us the time of the last common ancestor between two species alive today. There is another check–if the molecular clocks predict that last common ancestor lived at a certain time, the fossil record will also match. Any fossils found at theat time that are ancenstors of two species today will bear resemblances to both and be otherwise consistent withthe fossil record.
In short, Behe accepts common decssnt and common ancestry and considers the evidence so overwhelming that to re-prove the fact is a “trivial” execrcise, like re-proving that the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the squares of the sums of the sides of a right triangle.
It is not accurate to say that subsequent evente have weakened evolution. It’s quite opposite. Subsequent discoveries have greatly strengthened it.



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Unapologetic Catholic

posted June 8, 2009 at 1:18 pm


One example of of the power of genetics is the discovery of Tikaalik.
Gentics and the molecular clocks showed that the common ancestors between fish and tetrapods (four leggged animals) would have existed about 350 million years ago. Such a common ancestor woudl look a lot like a fish. It would also have characteristics of hands and feet and show some signs of a neck and other unmistakable similarities to a four legged animal.
Wheree would you look for such a fossil if it existed?
You would find some rocks now on the surface fo the earth that are in the 300-400 million year old range that were probably part of shallow seas or swamps in those days, the so-called Fram Formation.
And where are such rocks located today? Well, there are some on Ellesmere Island in Canada.
A seven year expedition was organized to go Ellesemere Island to go fossil hunting for the predicted fish-tetrapod trasnistional fossils.
The expedition turned up a number of examples of a fossil that exhibited characteristisc of fish–gills and scales and a generally “finnish” appearance–but also characteristics of four legged animals such as tetrapod style ribcage neck and head. The fins are similar to hands. This is Tikaalik.
It is not the only fish to tetrapod transitional fossil, but it is one of the best and it was found by using genetics and molecular clocks to predict where on earth to look and to generally predict the characteristics of what we should find.
The whole story is in “Your Inner Fish” by Neil Shubin. I cannot recommend the book highly enough. Please read it when you get a chance.



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pds

posted June 8, 2009 at 2:27 pm


UC (#47)-
I said- “Behe does not accept universal common descent by random mutation and natural selection.” I think that is correct. Not sure about his position generally, or how he understands “common descent.” He talks as if it only means all things are “related” or have “commonalities.” He says it is in a profound sense trivial, because it “does not even begin to say where those commonalities came from.”
Again, I was addressing how AHH was responding to J May.
I said the evidence regarding the Cambrian Explosion is worse for evo. theory than in Darwin’s day. He thought we would eventually find the Cambrian ancestors. Instead, we found the Ediacara fauna which are not direct ancestors of the Cambrian animals.
I have already said that there is lots of evidence for “evolution” of some kind. The question is whether random variation and natural selection can account for all the variety of life on earth. There is much evidence that would say no.
Both TE people like Collins and RJS, and ID people like Behe agree on 2 things:
1. God was the ultimate creator.
2. Evolution explains some of the variety of life on earth.
There is disagreement on how much evolution can explain.
I think it’s too bad that the TE folks are so dismissive of the ID folks.



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