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Someone needs to explain something to me

posted by awelborn

What I don’t understand about the Christian argument against Intelligent Design sort of things (even beyond the "theory" to the whole concept) is this:

Is the Aristotelean/Thomist, etc Argument from Design dead, then? Is that what you’re saying?

I agree with Garvey (below) that the Argument from Design seems to have flaws, flaws which have the power to blow a big hole in one’s faith. If we can see God’s hand in the beauty and design of the universe, what does the child born with Tay-Sachs, born to live a very brief, difficult life, say about that Designer? It’s one of those ultimate questions that leaves us deep in mystery.

Yet, what I hear from the theistic opponents of ID seems to imply that the traditional notion of discerning God’s existence via the beauty and order of His creation is unacceptable…even for theists. Yes, I understand the distinction between philosophical and scientific language  but I’m not sure I understand the value of the former if it has no relationship at all to the latter. Help?



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broed

posted August 16, 2005 at 10:19 am


Um, sin?



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Cranky Lawyer

posted August 16, 2005 at 10:23 am


St Augustine press just re-published Grisez’s “Beyond the New Theism” (under a new title: http://www.staugustine.net/God_.html) that tackles some of the issues at the root of this debate.
It is provocative, and challenges some of the Augustinian/Thomistic arguments in a sympathetic way.
It’s not an easy book, but some of the more technical parts can be skipped over without missing the gist of the argument.



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ajb

posted August 16, 2005 at 10:28 am


Amy:
Philosophical and theology language (as an expression of philosophical and theological thought) has enormous value apart from scientific language and scientific thought.
You don’t need to understand how creation works to recognize a creator or to contemplate our meaning and purpose within creation and vis a vis our creator.
Similarly, when science is confined to its proper sphere, you don’t need to know the meaning of creation to study how it works.



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ajb

posted August 16, 2005 at 10:33 am


I’m also, not so sure the theistic opponents of ID are saying that “the traditional notion of discerning God’s existence via the beauty and order of His creation is unacceptable”.
They’re saying it’s acceptable as theology, not as science. Indeed, I’m not sure they would consider themselves “opponents of ID” (in the sense that the physical world was created by a specific agent), but rather opponents of the mischaracterization of that belief as a matter of science or scientific inquiry.



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amy

posted August 16, 2005 at 10:35 am


But then what’s the relationship of the philosophical language to the natural reality?



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John Lamont

posted August 16, 2005 at 10:43 am


The Aristotelian/Thomist argument from design is totally different from the Intelligent Design stuff (and also from William Paley’s traditional ‘watchmaker’ argument). St. Thomas argues from the existence of order in the universe to the existence of a purposive cause of that order. But the order he has in mind is the fact that things follow scientific laws rather than just behaving randomly. So he differs from the Intelligent Design people in two ways; i) his evidence is everything that exists in the universe and follows scientific laws, rather than just features of biological entities, and ii) the Intelligent Design people argue from things they think have no scientific explanation, whereas St. Thomas argues from the fact that things do have scientific explanations. We can see the difference by considering how scientific opponents of ‘Intelligent Design’ object to it. They say that all the features ‘Intelligent Design’ advocates talk about can in principle be explained by the properties of matter, as described in some very complete periodical table of the elements, and the fact that we have not yet come up with all these explanations is not a reason for thinking that there is no such explanation; absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. St. Thomas could (and probably would) accept this claim, because the foundation of his argument from design is the very existence of a periodical table in the first place. His argument is superior to the Intelligent Design one. For one thing, it cannot be destroyed by discovering scientific explanations for the things that according to Intelligent Design have no scientific explanation. For another, Intelligent Design gives a misleading idea of God’s relation to the universe. By basing itself on things which supposedly have no scientific explanation in order to prove the existence of God, it implies that those things that do have scientific explanations are somehow self-sufficient and in no need of further explanation – which is just what atheists claim, and St. Thomas denies. So it it is really a capitulation to atheist assumptions.



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al

posted August 16, 2005 at 10:43 am


This notion that we cant see design in nature, because there are “two truths” was put to rest in the 13th century.
All one needs do is look at the Pope’s writing on the Subject: Having affirmed that with their intelligence human beings can “know the structure of the world and the activity of the elements… the cycles of the year and the constellations of the stars, the natures of animals and the tempers of wild beasts” (Wis 7:17, 19-20)—in a word, that he can philosophize—the sacred text takes a significant step forward. Making his own the thought of Greek philosophy, to which he seems to refer in the context, the author affirms that, in reasoning about nature, the human being can rise to God: “From the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator” (Wis 13:5). This is to recognize as a first stage of divine Revelation the marvellous “book of nature”, which, when read with the proper tools of human reason, can lead to knowledge of the Creator. If human beings with their intelligence fail to recognize God as Creator of all, it is not because they lack the means to do so, but because their free will and their sinfulness place an impediment in the way.”
And the notion that disease or suffering provides an argument against this is, frankly, not a rational argument. We might like it better if God’s plan for history didn’t include suffering, but its a hysteric who thinks this constitutes an argument



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al

posted August 16, 2005 at 10:49 am

ajb

posted August 16, 2005 at 10:49 am


What John LaMont said.
al, the difference between the citation you quote and the ID position is the difference between saying:
1) how wonderful God is that he created something as marvelously complex as [fill in the blank]; and
2) [fill in the blank] is so marvelously complex that it must have been created by God, because we can’t understand how it got that way otherwise.



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al

posted August 16, 2005 at 10:53 am


AJB,
It is Catholic Doctrine that the complexity and purposefulness of Creation leads us, necessarily, directly to an acknowledgement of God as its Creator, at the level of natural reason.



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ajb

posted August 16, 2005 at 10:56 am


al, to follow-up on my last post, and to respond to your point about disease and suffering,
Scenario #1 in my last post allows us to see God in the beautiful and marvelous things of this world. We explain the horror and sorrow and ugliness usually by reference to Original Sin, our fallen world, our fallen natures, etc.
Under Scenario #2, if you believe that the marvelous complexity and beauty of created things are proof of a good, intelligent creator, then you’ve still got to explain the terribly painful things in this world. Was there a second, less-intelligent designer? Were they the result of an entirely separate process of creation beyond the control of the intelligent designer?
You really can’t believe that falling back on the “it’s all part of God’s plan” answer is actual science.



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ajb

posted August 16, 2005 at 11:00 am


al, when you say:
“It is Catholic Doctrine that the complexity and purposefulness of Creation leads us, necessarily, directly to an acknowledgement of God as its Creator, at the level of natural reason”
I think that’s a bit of an oversimplification, but I obviously agree with the magisterial texts that you’ve quoted.
Nevertheless, there is a difference between complexity and purposefulness of nature teaches us about God the Creator, and saying that some elements of nature are so complex and purposeful that they could not have evolved but were created, ex nihilo, by God (and calling that science).



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Maureen

posted August 16, 2005 at 11:06 am


I was reading the bits in the Corner alleging that science is impossible if you think there are supernatural beings running around doing stuff. *eye roll*
Um…no. See, when we’re babies, we find ourselves in a world full of beings with Strange Powers, in which things happen apparently by magic. And yet somehow, we do manage to sort out cause and effect, and we figure out how to predict what those incomprehensible human beings are likely to do next.
So if there’s just one Being who very occasionally does miraculous stuff — even though He does it on an ongoing basis throughout Time — it scarcely invalidates the meaning of doing science. Sheesh. You’d think trained scientists could outthink babies.



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al

posted August 16, 2005 at 11:07 am


a href=”http://www.nd.edu/Departments/Maritain/etext/gc1_3.htm”>”But things of sense cannot lead our understanding to read in them the essence of the Divine Substance, inasmuch as they are effects inadequate to the power that caused them. Nevertheless our understanding is thereby led to some knowledge of God, namely, of His existence and of other attributes that must necessarily be attributed to the First Cause. There are, therefore, some points of intelligibility in God, accessible to human reason, and other points that altogether transcend the power of human reason.” which results in the Catechism saying “31 Created in God’s image and called to know and love him, the person who seeks God discovers certain ways of coming to know him. These are also called proofs for the existence of God, not in the sense of proofs in the natural sciences, but rather in the sense of “converging and convincing arguments”, which allow us to attain certainty about the truth. These “ways” of approaching God from creation have a twofold point of departure: the physical world, and the human person.
32 The world: starting from movement, becoming, contingency, and the world’s order and beauty, one can come to a knowledge of God as the origin and the end of the universe.
As St. Paul says of the Gentiles: For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made.7
And St. Augustine issues this challenge: Question the beauty of the earth, question the beauty of the sea, question the beauty of the air distending and diffusing itself, question the beauty of the sky. . . question all these realities. All respond: “See, we are beautiful.” Their beauty is a profession [confessio]. These beauties are subject to change. Who made them if not the Beautiful One [Pulcher] who is not subject to change?8
33 The human person: with his openness to truth and beauty, his sense of moral goodness, his freedom and the voice of his conscience, with his longings for the infinite and for happiness, man questions himself about God’s existence. In all this he discerns signs of his spiritual soul. The soul, the “seed of eternity we bear in ourselves, irreducible to the merely material”,9 can have its origin only in God.
34 The world, and man, attest that they contain within themselves neither their first principle nor their final end, but rather that they participate in Being itself, which alone is without origin or end. Thus, in different ways, man can come to know that there exists a reality which is the first cause and final end of all things, a reality “that everyone calls God”.10
35 Man’s faculties make him capable of coming to a knowledge of the existence of a personal God. But for man to be able to enter into real intimacy with him, God willed both to reveal himself to man and to give him the grace of being able to welcome this revelation in faith. The proofs of God’s existence, however, can predispose one to faith and help one to see that faith is not opposed to reason. 36 “Our holy mother, the Church, holds and teaches that God, the first principle and last end of all things, can be known with certainty from the created world by the natural light of human reason.”11 Without this capacity, man would not be able to welcome God’s revelation. Man has this capacity because he is created “in the image of God”.12
37 In the historical conditions in which he finds himself, however, man experiences many difficulties in coming to know God by the light of reason alone:
Though human reason is, strictly speaking, truly capable by its own natural power and light of attaining to a true and certain knowledge of the one personal God, who watches over and controls the world by his providence, and of the natural law written in our hearts by the Creator; yet there are many obstacles which prevent reason from the effective and fruitful use of this inborn faculty. For the truths that concern the relations between God and man wholly transcend the visible order of things, and, if they are translated into human action and influence it, they call for self-surrender and abnegation. The human mind, in its turn, is hampered in the attaining of such truths, not only by the impact of the senses and the imagination, but also by disordered appetites which are the consequences of original sin. So it happens that men in such matters easily persuade themselves that what they would not like to be true is false or at least doubtful.13″39 In defending the ability of human reason to know God, the Church is expressing her confidence in the possibility of speaking about him to all men and with all men, and therefore of dialogue with other religions, with philosophy and science, as well as with unbelievers and atheists.
40 Since our knowledge of God is limited, our language about him is equally so. We can name God only by taking creatures as our starting point, and in accordance with our limited human ways of knowing and thinking.
41 All creatures bear a certain resemblance to God, most especially man, created in the image and likeness of God. The manifold perfections of creatures – their truth, their goodness, their beauty all reflect the infinite perfection of God. Consequently we can name God by taking his creatures” perfections as our starting point, “for from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator”.15



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al

posted August 16, 2005 at 11:11 am


So AJB you can see there, from the Catechism, following St. Thomas’s argument from Design (ie. God as Final Cause) that “These “ways” of approaching God from creation have a twofold point of departure: the physical world, and the human person.
32 The world: starting from movement, becoming, contingency, and the world’s order and beauty, one can come to a knowledge of God as the origin and the end of the universe.



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Ken

posted August 16, 2005 at 11:11 am


“…discerning God’s existence via the beauty and order of His creation…” was called “Natural Theology” in the 18th & 19th Centuries, and current “Intelligent Design” theory is its current form.
However, coming after years of anti-evolution court fights, ID has been glommed onto as a fallback position from Six-Day-Zap Creationism and has become another word for “Stealth Creationism”. (For some reason, the exact time — 4000 BC — and duration — six days — of how the cosmos came to be is more important to a lot of Christians than even the Person of Christ. Apparently Darwin IS greater than God, since any evidence for evolution seems to disprove the existence of God in these Christians’ minds.)
ID is NOT Creation Science — it’s Natural Theology updated with current knowledge — but because of that, it will always bear that reputation.



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Jimmy Huck

posted August 16, 2005 at 11:12 am


“But then what’s the relationship of the philosophical language to the natural reality?”
When it comes to connecting the mysterious or the metaphysical to the natural reality, I would call it “faith.”



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Kevin Jones

posted August 16, 2005 at 11:17 am


What’s really messed up the theological arguments is that both Paley’s and Aquinas’ arguments are called teleological arguments, though only Paley’s relies explicitly on the (rather deistic) idea of design.
Rev. Edward T. Oakes, SJ discusses Aquinas’ argument In this First Things Correspondence section. His quote from Msgr. Knox sums it up, I think:
“I don’t believe that St. Thomas meant to use the argument from design when he gave his fifth proof. I don’t think what impressed St. Thomas was the fact that everything conspires together for a beneficent purpose; what impressed him was the fact that things conspire together at all.”



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al

posted August 16, 2005 at 11:18 am


Once we accept that principle, that relative privations of Beauty and Order–ie. Disease, seeming Chaos–do not constitute an argument against that Order, but rather must be reconciled with that Order as something already demonstrated.
Take disease and suffering, for example–only if physical health and integrity are the highest human good, does disease and suffering constitute an argument against God’s Order and Will being manifested in an environment in which Children suffer. . . But if one has accepted already that man is capable of knowing that order, then one has accepted that the highest human good is not sensible pleasure (ie the absence of all suffering) but rather knowing or something of the like. Thus suffering gains several explanations–as a consequence of Freedom requisite for Man’s status as a being capable of knowing God, as an inducement, or chastisement to remove oneself from an overweening attachment to perishable goods, for the concetration on the true human good–an immaterial one–these are elementary deductions, and if our concern is to be argumentatively precise–which is the measure of cogent argment and demonstration–then these must be at least examined before concluding, as the hysteric does, that their vision of a God couldn’t possible encompass the incoherence of suffering. . . .



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al

posted August 16, 2005 at 11:42 am


And the Catechism cites the First Vatican Council on the formal assent required for this principle: “46 When he listens to the message of creation and to the voice of conscience, man can arrive at certainty about the existence of God, the cause and the end of everything.
47 The Church teaches that the one true God, our Creator and Lord, can be known with certainty from his works, by the natural light of human reason (cf. Vatican Council I, can. 2 § 1: DS 3026),
48 We really can name God, starting from the manifold perfections of his creatures, which are likenesses of the infinitely perfect God, even if our limited language cannot exhaust the mystery.”

Quoting : Vatican I: “1. If anyone says that:
the one, true God, our creator and lord, cannot be known with certainty
from the things that have been made,
by the natural light of human reason:
let him be anathema.”
Concerning which JPII says: ” At this point, the Magisterium of the Church was obliged to be vigilant lest these philosophies developed in ways which were themselves erroneous and negative. The censures were delivered even-handedly: on the one hand, fideism (59) and radical traditionalism,(60) for their distrust of reason’s natural capacities, and, on the other, rationalism (61) and ontologism (62) because they attributed to natural reason a knowledge which only the light of faith could confer. The positive elements of this debate were assembled in the Dogmatic Constitution Dei Filius, in which for the first time an Ecumenical Council—in this case, the First Vatican Council—pronounced solemnly on the relationship between reason and faith. The teaching contained in this document strongly and positively marked the philosophical research of many believers and remains today a standard reference-point for correct and coherent Christian thinking in this regard.”



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Tom Woods

posted August 16, 2005 at 12:01 pm


I’m with Amy on this in not seeing what the problem with ID is. In effect, ID is simply pointing out aspects of the natural world whose creation by random chance is exceedingly unlikely. More than exceedingly unlikely, in fact — the odds against them are so astronomically large as to have zero probability of occurring at random.
This, in turn, suggests that they were not created at random.
This argument in and of itself does not, of course, lead one to the Christian God, but is surely not for this reason to be despised. Like the classical philosophical proofs for God’s existence, it can be a propaedeutic to faith for those who have considered religious faith to be merely wishful thinking.



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Jeff

posted August 16, 2005 at 12:04 pm


I think Amy is right and the distinction is not as clear-cut as some might think. Science has certain philosophical presuppositions.
The Pope’s latest, “On the Way to Jesus Christ” says that the assumption of absolute “objectivity” in scientific approaches leads in the end to subjectivity. In place of leaving room for miracles and wonders, the objectivity principle ends up insisting that God cannot break into the natural order from the outside.
In place of God’s action, the “objective” explanation of things refuses to incorporate things like the obvious purposefulness of life. It excludes what anyone can see and everyone knows because “purposefulness” cannot be an “objective, scientific” concept. It is then left with nonsense like life and it’s purposefulness originate from “noise.”
Application of the “objective” principle to historical analysis leads to the rejection of wonders and the seeking of textual and historical “explanations” for them. This can have a beneficial effect, but when it becomes an absolute, it results in reading the author’s own subjective predilections into the analysis. It opens the way for subjective reinterpretations under the guise of objective textual criticism. Hence, we get Marxists seeing Christ as “liberator of the people,” existentialists understanding Christ as a man confronting the meaning of human existence, etc., and texts reordered and reintepreted, imaginary “sources” from the past “reconstructed” to fit the authors theories.
No: science works as an explanation of material things–UP TO A POINT. It is very successful and we have a lot to learn from its approach. But it gets arrogant and assumes a mantle of materialist philosophy which ultimately is SUBJECTIVE and not objective at all. And it finds things at the edges and in the depths that it CANNOT explain and rejects them on principle.



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Plato's Stepchild

posted August 16, 2005 at 12:07 pm


http://www.ewtn.com/library/THEOLOGY/FR93202.htm
The Dream of Natural Philosophy, by Brian Mullady, OP
Highly recommended and pertinent to the current discussion. As is this link to more papers than you ever thought could be collected in captivity on Thomistic/Aristotelian Natural Philosophy, rightly understood.
http://www.morec.com/natural.htm
Ironically yours,
Plato’s Stepchild



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Jeff

posted August 16, 2005 at 12:16 pm


One more thing:
This is both a defense of and an attack on materialist explanation of evolution as the explanation of all origins, of Life itself and of living forms–
Science by definition excludes all non-material, non-observable explanations of causality. If science hadn’t excluded, say, the idea of “spontaneous” generation of insects, it would never have discovered the real cause. It must, perforce, reject the “Alacazam! Hey, Presto!” idea of God’s creation of life and seek other explanations. Because, how would scientific method “spot” the supernatural action of God? It has to assume that if it doesn’t find an adequate material cause, it just hasn’t been looking in the right place.
BUT, what if something like “Alacazam! Hey, Presto!” is TRUE in a given instance? Do you see the in-built limitations of the scientific method, even in dealing with the material world? One must either have faith that a material explanation will ALWAYS be forthcoming for material things OR one must acknowledge that scientists will sometimes be barking up the wrong tree because “Here they stand and can do no other.”
No, Philosophy is still the Mother of sciences and they still operate under it’s tutelege. It’s just taking a few centuries for us to figure this out! Science is the age-old love of Magical Power fulfilled. And it has all the successes and limitations that such mastery implies. Amy is right. If there is a sealed border, philosophy is meaningless.



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ajb

posted August 16, 2005 at 12:35 pm


al,
I think we’re talking past each other. As I see it, the world isn’t all “great and beautiful”.
Children who die needlessly after suffering excruciatingly painful lives; children born into utter despair and poverty who never have a realistic chance of making out of infancy. These are an afront to our sense of justice and mercy. To call these things “great and beautiful” is to simply fall back on “well God made it that way.”
That can be an article of faith. But it’s not science.



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ajb

posted August 16, 2005 at 12:40 pm


Maureen, when you say:
“Um…no. See, when we’re babies, we find ourselves in a world full of beings with Strange Powers, in which things happen apparently by magic. And yet somehow, we do manage to sort out cause and effect, and we figure out how to predict what those incomprehensible human beings are likely to do next.”
The problem is that the ID approach stops the inquiry at the baby-stage.
If a certain aspect of creation is too complex for science to explain presently, the answer is not to simply find “god in the gaps”, say god created it, and end the discussion. You continue to study, work and advance scientific knowledge to try to find an answer.
There’s a difference between saying: 1) science hasn’t yet explained with certainty xyz, so we’re still looking for an explanation; and 2) science hasn’t yet explained with certainty xyz, therefore it CAN’T explain xyz with certainty, thus xyz proves the existence of God.



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ajb

posted August 16, 2005 at 12:43 pm


Maureen, when you say:
“Um…no. See, when we’re babies, we find ourselves in a world full of beings with Strange Powers, in which things happen apparently by magic. And yet somehow, we do manage to sort out cause and effect, and we figure out how to predict what those incomprehensible human beings are likely to do next.”
The problem is that the ID approach stops the inquiry at the baby-stage.
If a certain aspect of creation is too complex for science to explain presently, the answer is not to simply find “god in the gaps”, say god created it, and end the discussion. You continue to study, work and advance scientific knowledge to try to find an answer.
There’s a difference between saying: 1) science hasn’t yet explained with certainty xyz, so we’re still looking for an explanation; and 2) science hasn’t yet explained with certainty xyz, therefore it CAN’T explain xyz with certainty, thus xyz proves the existence of God.



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John Farrell

posted August 16, 2005 at 12:53 pm


There’s a difference between saying: 1) science hasn’t yet explained with certainty xyz, so we’re still looking for an explanation; and 2) science hasn’t yet explained with certainty xyz, therefore it CAN’T explain xyz with certainty, thus xyz proves the existence of God.
Yes, and well written, ajb.



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alkali

posted August 16, 2005 at 12:54 pm


Tom Woods writes:
In effect, ID is simply pointing out aspects of the natural world whose creation by random chance is exceedingly unlikely. More than exceedingly unlikely, in fact — the odds against them are so astronomically large as to have zero probability of occurring at random.
That would arguably be an interesting research program. The fact of the matter, however, is that no one has identified any way of calculating the probability that something was created by a designer as opposed to coming about by chance. The few ID proponents who have tried to suggest ways of doing that calculation have not been successful.
John Lamont writes:
[T]he Intelligent Design people argue from things they think have no scientific explanation, whereas St. Thomas argues from the fact that things do have scientific explanations. … His argument is superior to the Intelligent Design one. For one thing, it cannot be destroyed by discovering scientific explanations for the things that according to Intelligent Design have no scientific explanation. For another, Intelligent Design gives a misleading idea of God’s relation to the universe. By basing itself on things which supposedly have no scientific explanation in order to prove the existence of God, it implies that those things that do have scientific explanations are somehow self-sufficient and in no need of further explanation – which is just what atheists claim, and St. Thomas denies.
This is very well put.



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frank

posted August 16, 2005 at 1:26 pm


Reading these comments I often come across Grisez references and quotes. Is anyone else concerned about his influence in theological/ethical debates. He always has seemed to me as much more a Kantian than a Thomist. I know this is a bit off topic but am I alone here?



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Sr. Lorraine

posted August 16, 2005 at 1:40 pm


AJB wrote:
“There’s a difference between saying: 1) science hasn’t yet explained with certainty xyz, so we’re still looking for an explanation; and 2) science hasn’t yet explained with certainty xyz, therefore it CAN’T explain xyz with certainty, thus xyz proves the existence of God.”
If there is no design, what is there to explain?
Doesn’t giving an explanation presuppose that there is a design there that can be explained?



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Sr. Lorraine

posted August 16, 2005 at 1:44 pm


St. Thomas’s fifth argument is really about things acting for an end. He says, “things which lack intelligence, such as natural bodies, act for an end… so it is plain that not fortuitously but designedly do they achieve their end. Whatever lacks intelligence cannot move toward an end, unless it be direted by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence.”
It’s like saying you can’t have software without a programmer.



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alkali

posted August 16, 2005 at 1:50 pm


Doesn’t giving an explanation presuppose that there is a design there that can be explained?
I don’t think so, at least not for the scientific sense of “explain.” Example: the gravitational pull of the moon explains the tides.



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DarwinCatholic

posted August 16, 2005 at 1:52 pm


Lamont seems to have hit the nail on the head, as far as describing the difference between Aquinas’ argument from design and that of the ID movement.
Certainly, as one who defends the model of science as a discipline restricted to investigating material phenominon and positting material causes, I would not describe Aquinas’ argument from design as dead. I myself find it quite persuasive, but philosophically so, not scientifically.
Yes, I understand the distinction between philosophical and scientific language but I’m not sure I understand the value of the former if it has no relationship at all to the latter. Help?…
…what’s the relationship of the philosophical language to the natural reality?

I would argue that science is the study of what things appear to be and how they appear to work within the physical realm. Philosophy, on the other hand, is the attempt to discover what things are, at a more essential level.
One may know a great deal about something scientifically, without knowing anything about it philosophically, and one may be on solid ground philosophically without having much scientific grounding.
This particularly strikes me when speaking with a number of the doctors of my aquintance. Modern medical science can tell us a great deal about how the body works — far more that Aristotle or Plato ever knew — and yet a number of doctor’s seem wholly incapable of comprehending basic philosophical questions of what a person is, or how a person should act.



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RP Burke

posted August 16, 2005 at 2:05 pm


1. In effect, ID is simply pointing out aspects of the natural world whose creation by random chance is exceedingly unlikely. More than exceedingly unlikely, in fact — the odds against them are so astronomically large as to have zero probability of occurring at random.
In a universe as large as science says it is — unmeasurably enormous and growing — random chance could easily produce a world as we know it, because this world is just an infinitesimal speck. When your sample size equals one, anything is possible, statistically speaking.
2. What science educators are saying, at least here in Ohio, is that examining “intelligent design” rightly belongs in a philosophy of science curriculum — not in a science curriculum.
They worry, with much justification, that ID is a stalking horse for so-called creation science. Looking at those who are backing ID, I can’t blame them.



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Zippy

posted August 16, 2005 at 2:30 pm


Science by definition excludes all non-material, non-observable explanations of causality.
Untrue. Scientism insists that such causes are random (ref e.g. quantum mechanics, Bell’s Theorem, and the neo-darwinian synthesis). And please don’t try to tell me that quarks have been observed. Science includes all sorts of assumptions about unobserved and unobservable things. Science depends on all sorts of mathematical objects and bits of information the ontic status of which even mathematicians don’t agree about, for example.
Part of the problem is that science is (and has been, for several decades at least) in a demarcation catastrophe. Science is like pornography: nobody can tell you where it stops and starts, but everyone thinks they know it when they see it. Some things are obviously scientific and some things are obviously not scientific, but that only describes the uninteresting cases. And a lot of idealogues who haven’t given the matter much thought tramp around telling you that obviously it is naked pictures.



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Zippy

posted August 16, 2005 at 2:37 pm


I would argue that science is the study of what things appear to be and how they appear to work within the physical realm. Philosophy, on the other hand, is the attempt to discover what things are, at a more essential level.
You have assumed though that it is a straightforward matter to separate appearance from reality, and make sense of appearances in themselves as a separate matter from making sense of eality. People have been assuming as much ever since Kant (who was absolutely brilliant and just as absolutely wrong), but the project is beginning to unravel. The thing that has sustained Darwinism for so long has been metaphysics, or more accurately a particular metaphysic: the very thing that Darwinism has to sweep under the rug as “unscientific” and therefore irrelevant to the practice of science.



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john c

posted August 16, 2005 at 2:41 pm


RP Burke: In a universe as large as science says it is … random chance could easily produce a world as we know it, because this world is just an infinitesimal speck.
The probability calculations would have to take into account all the time AND all the mass in the Universe; and weighed against not the probability of a sequence of DNA being written out of individual quarks all at once, but against the product of the probabilities of all the independent events (many of them simultaneously or in very quick succession) that would have to occur to form any self replicating strand of DNA in an environment (cytoplasm) amenable to its replication. I admit I have very little faith, but I really have a difficult time believing that product to be effectively non-zero. Products of very small probabilities quickly become infinitesimal, while the time and space in the universe remain finite.
Nobody’s saying that proves there’s GOD, just that it appears more like it was meant to happen than not.



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Ian

posted August 16, 2005 at 2:45 pm


Amy,
Science is about the formulation of hypotheses that can be tested, and then testing them. Insofar as “ID” has no testable hypotheses, it is not science.
Many – such as myself – are opposed to “ID” not because of its untestable claims but rather because it purports to be science. I have no problem with people teaching theology or philosophy but don’t call it science.
“IDers” (and/or Creationists) who try to shoot down scientific theories are in some sense participating in the scientific process, since they are testing those hypotheses. Usually they perform “bad tests,” inasmuch as their “experiements” are not testing for the right thing.
However, their next step is to throw up their hands and say that the world is created. Since such a statement cannot be proven “ID” is not science.
ID is indeed a “stalking horse” for Creationists, insofar as it implies by its very name a “designer” who transcends “creation.” Who might that be? “Lord Brahma?” It is here that the disingenuity of the “ID movement” reveals itself.
I am a Christian and I believe that our God is the Creator. I can’t prove it scientifically. I believe it and I believe in Him. Nobody can prove the existence of God – otherwise faith would be meaningless.



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Zippy

posted August 16, 2005 at 2:51 pm


Ian has provided a typical example of a very bad caricature of ID. There are certainly problems with (e.g.) Dembski’s criteria for distinguishing designed objects from non-designed objects, but “ID is just the God-of-the-gaps” is ignorant nonsense.
Also this:
Nobody can prove the existence of God – otherwise faith would be meaningless.
…stands in direct contradiction to the doctrine of the Catholic Church:
“1. If anyone says that: the one, true God, our creator and lord, cannot be known with certainty from the things that have been made, by the natural light of human reason: let him be anathema.”



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DarwinCatholic

posted August 16, 2005 at 3:02 pm


You have assumed though that it is a straightforward matter to separate appearance from reality, and make sense of appearances in themselves as a separate matter from making sense of eality. People have been assuming as much ever since Kant (who was absolutely brilliant and just as absolutely wrong), but the project is beginning to unravel. The thing that has sustained Darwinism for so long has been metaphysics, or more accurately a particular metaphysic: the very thing that Darwinism has to sweep under the rug as “unscientific” and therefore irrelevant to the practice of science.
I would be curious to hear in what sense you think “Darwinism” has been sustained by metaphysicals. (Here I was thinking it was sustained by evidence…)
Let me perhaps clarify a trifly before we launch on warning (which I think we have determined in the atomic thread is not compatible with Catholic doctrine…) When I said that science is the study of appearance, I actually meant to put things on just as shifting a ground as that would suggest. Science has no ability to tell us what thing _are_ or how they work in an essential sense (or even in a physical sense). Rather, science is a method of determining what things appear to be and how they appear to work — and making predictions based upon those determinations.
Thus, science cannot tell us that the law of gravity is true. It can only tell us that up to this point, in all instances we have observed, objects attract one another with a force proptional to their mass and distance. Science thus _assumes_ that this will continue, and makes very useful predictions based upon that. But, science can offer no certainly that this is in fact that case. We could wake up one morning (as Calvin did one morning in the comic strip) and find that gravity has reversed itself.
It is in this sense, I would maintain, that the philosophical argument from design holds more than ever. It is only through faith (in something or other) that we can know that the world actually has understandable laws, rather than their mere appearance. It seems to me an argument for God’s existence that science does, in general, work — that the universe does appear to function on the basis of set laws.



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al

posted August 16, 2005 at 3:07 pm


AJP,
Again this “Children who die needlessly after suffering excruciatingly painful lives; children born into utter despair and poverty who never have a realistic chance of making out of infancy. These are an afront to our sense of justice and mercy. To call these things “great and beautiful” is to simply fall back on “well God made it that way.”
That can be an article of faith. But it’s not science.”
is not an argument. The undisclosed premise of your statement is that no one would be so callous or cold as to not have one’s sense of “justice” or “mercy” violated by poor, sick children, or cat juggling or whatever.
What is a “sense” of “justice” or “mercy”? How does it differ from the actual virtues? How does one’s “sense” of “justice” or “mercy” stand with respect to the expression of these virtues in God? These are the questions you must answer when adducing the emotionally evocative in support of an argument.
High dudgeon does not suffice to make an argument, and if this issue is narrowly, whether Intelligent Design comports with reality, then rational arguement is the standard in play, and not anyones “sense” of “justice” or “mercy.”
I know this sounds cold and clinical, but its important to be cold and clinical when making assessing the cogency of rational arguments



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Matthew

posted August 16, 2005 at 3:23 pm


Alkali writes:
no one has identified any way of calculating the probability that something was created by a designer as opposed to coming about by chance. The few ID proponents who have tried to suggest ways of doing that calculation have not been successful.
There is no need to compare the probability of design with the probability of chance. It is enough to calculate the probability of a naturalistic explanation (as has been done with respect to some proposed theories of abiogenesis). Since naturalistic and miraculous covers the field- we can arrive at a design inference.
And as for other arguments ID proponents put forward- merely because the probabilities are incomputable does not mean that the human mind is incapable of giving weight to it. For example, the anthropic principle points out that there is only a very narrow range of physical constants that are consistent with a universe that could bring forth life- but since there are infinite possibilities for the physical constants, we can’t come up with a probability that the pleasant physical laws arose by chance- but we can recognize them to be extremely low.



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John Farrell

posted August 16, 2005 at 3:34 pm


Also this:
Nobody can prove the existence of God – otherwise faith would be meaningless.
…stands in direct contradiction to the doctrine of the Catholic Church:
“1. If anyone says that: the one, true God, our creator and lord, cannot be known with certainty from the things that have been made, by the natural light of human reason: let him be anathema.”

Knowing something (even with certainty) and proving something are two different things.



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David

posted August 16, 2005 at 3:36 pm


Well, at least one philosopher of religion, Richard Swinburne of Oxford University, accepts the basic evolutionary picture and continues to offer an argument from Design.
Here’s a link to an excerpt:
http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles2/SwinburnDesign.shtml



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Matthew

posted August 16, 2005 at 3:42 pm


RP Burke:
2. What science educators are saying, at least here in Ohio, is that examining “intelligent design” rightly belongs in a philosophy of science curriculum — not in a science curriculum.\
When you exclude ID critiques of evolution, you are, in essence, assuming that there is a materialistic (or naturalistic) explanation to the question of the origins of life. The philosophy is already there, and the exclusion of ID is proof thereof. Needless to say, such a philosophy is hardly amenable to Christian belief.



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Zippy

posted August 16, 2005 at 3:43 pm


When I said that science is the study of appearance, I actually meant to put things on just as shifting a ground as that would suggest. Science has no ability to tell us what thing _are_ or how they work in an essential sense (or even in a physical sense). Rather, science is a method of determining what things appear to be and how they appear to work — and making predictions based upon those determinations.
Right, this is the Kantian metaphysic, to say that we can study and know phenomena but that the noumena, the things-in-themselves, are not something we can ever know. There are obvious problems with this out of the gate. In the first place, if we can’t know anything about the noumena, how is it that we can include it in our philosophy? And in the second place, if the actual thing we are studying is just the phenomenon, then are we studying the phenomenon as it is in itself or just as it appears to be? And if the phenomenon that we study is just what it appears to be, rather than what it (the phenomenon) objectively is, then doesn’t that destroy any claim we might have to objectivity? If we study phenomena-qua-phenomena we are still studying something objective, something real, something out there, with all that that metaphysically implies. We are studying the noumenon of the phenomenon, as it were, unless we are philosophical relativists.
So the Kantian move doesn’t really get you anything other than the illusion that you have avoided metaphysics, when in fact you haven’t avoided metaphysics at all.
Anyway, the point to the brief and sloppy gloss is that Kantian epistemology simply doesn’t work, even on its own terms. It amounts in the end to a refusal to think, and to treat that refusal to think as a virtue.
I do agree though that many view science as a Kantian exercise: that is, as a methodologically Kantian way of acquiring knowledge, the idea being that we can divorce this particular knowledge from the vageuries of metaphysics about the noumenon and thereby arrive at something more certain.
The people who say that this is more about the philosophy of science than science per se are right (although Darwinism as science is an utter failure as a theory, to all appearances, since in its falsifiable forms it has been falsified and in its trite and tautological forms it is, well, trite and tautological). But the idea that you can “do” science without presuming a particular philosophy of science, whether it is made explicit or not, is simply wrong. The idea that the philosophy of science which underlies the science taught in the classroom is sacrosanct, and none of our business, is a bunch of rot.



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Zippy

posted August 16, 2005 at 3:46 pm


Knowing something (even with certainty) and proving something are two different things.
Right. “Proving” is the process by which one comes to have certain knowledge. And if one can come to have certain knowledge of the existence of God through nature and reason – this is Catholic doctrine brooking no dissent – then it is Catholic doctrine that one can prove (come to know with certainty) the existence of God through nature and reason.



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Ian

posted August 16, 2005 at 3:47 pm


The quotation
“1. If anyone says that: the one, true God, our creator and lord, cannot be known with certainty from the things that have been made, by the natural light of human reason: let him be anathema.”
is interesting. It is a Canon of the First Vatican Council, dated 24 April 1870, and is among a variety of Canons pertaining to the subjects of faith and reason.
There is a difference between the “two orders of knowledge” delineated at the beginning of Chapter 4 of Session 3 of V1, to which proclaimants of this quotation would do well to read.
“We walk by faith and not by sight.”
One cannot prove the existence of God from His works. Science is involved with “sight” and the difference between “faith” and “sight” is beautifully delineated by the Dogmatic Constitution of the First Vatican Council.



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Zippy

posted August 16, 2005 at 3:54 pm


“We walk by faith and not by sight.”
Sure. The revealed Christian religion cannot be known as certainly true through nature and reason, although reason confirms its plausibility. But the existence of God, and some basic things about Him – natural religion – can be so known, with certainty, and the Council declares the contrary anathema.



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RP Burke

posted August 16, 2005 at 3:57 pm


Matthew, I don’t quite understand your point. I said that scientists argue that ID critiques of evolution are philosophy, not science, and should be taught as philosophy, not science. A scientific answer to your point challenging “a materialistic (or naturalistic) explanation to the question of the origins of life” is that science is precisely trying to find these naturalistic explanations, it hasn’t found them all yet, and evolution is the best explanation that fits the available data. The theological and scientific explanations are in different realms, intellectually speaking. What philosophy is “already there”?
John C, the probability may be infinitesimal, but it is still something, and so in an infinite universe a single case would not be a statistical anomaly.



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Maureen

posted August 16, 2005 at 4:01 pm


Re: “ID stops science at the baby stage”
Nonsense. Babies explore the world and discover cause and effect, both with things If I touch this, I feel something! If I pick this up, I can make it go up and down! If I drop it, it falls!) and with other beings (If I make noises, someone comes and takes care of me!).
If this is any different from hard science and social science, y’all tell me. Even in the days of the cavemen, nobody assumed that all human actions had no reason behind them except the irrational acts of irrational gods. It would hardly be possible for a human to think such a thing — because a human can think, and assumes the same of others. It was anthromorphizing that ancient humans did; they assumed the animals and the sky could think, too, and had their reasons and processes for doing things. Ancient religion was the science of figuring out what the gods were up to, and how to get them on your side. Ancient magic was the science of figuring out how humans could do the same things gods could do — which is why magic led to science. The absence of science is characterized by more insistence that things happen for obviously logical reasons, not fewer.
(To my mind, theology is at heart as much an observational social science as it is part of philosophy. We observe how God deals with us and how God says He deals with us, and we go from there. Which is part of why mystics get to be Doctors of the Church — the ones who go see God, and then tell us about the how as well as the Who, anyway.)
In general, we tend to see the world as making as much sense as we are able to understand and comprehend what’s going on, and as much sense as what is going on in our personal lives. Science is just as influenced by culture and zeitgeist as the next discipline. The vast majority of scientists of the past, from the Greeks to the Victorians, would have said the idea that the world we know is a made thing was so obvious it scarcely needed saying. It amuses me to see people fight it so hard.
There is absolutely no reason that a scientist shouldn’t simultaneously research why in natural law something works a certain way, while simultaneously rejoicing in his heart at the clever way God set up the universe and said natural laws so that we could come to be. There’s absolutely no reason why the findings of an atheist scientist can’t be a marvelous demonstration of the glory of God to believers. (And there’s no reason why we shouldn’t on occasion complain to Management about the parts of life and the universe that we don’t appreciate.)
I really wonder if ID would get more joy as a scientific movement if it was the theory that intelligent world architect aliens were influencing evolution. (Yeah, I know, we’ve all seen that X-Files episode….)



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Julia

posted August 16, 2005 at 4:04 pm


Science includes all sorts of assumptions about unobserved and unobservable things. Science depends on all sorts of mathematical objects and bits of information the ontic status of which even mathematicians don’t agree about, for example.”
“Part of the problem is that science is (and has been, for several decades at least) in a demarcation catastrophe. Science is like pornography: nobody can tell you where it stops and starts, but everyone thinks they know it when they see it. Some things are obviously scientific and some things are obviously not scientific, but that only describes the uninteresting cases. And a lot of idealogues who haven’t given the matter much thought tramp around telling you that obviously it is naked pictures.”
I never thought I would EVER agree with anything Zippy said, but he’s really right on this one. I have a dear friend who got her PhD in Physics late in life and I visited her a lot while she was doing her lab investigations on ceramics, involving huge magnets and all kinds of weird things she had to build and then use for her experiments. I found out that these type of physicists don’t think much of astrophysicists – who mainly tend to pal around with philosophers. “Real” physicists don’t think much of their musings about strings and quarks, etc. Turns out that mathematics is getting way out there, too. I loved the movie “Pi” – anybody see it.
Problem is that scientism samys that “science” can answer all questions. So they have started taking over areas where they don’t have the proper tools. And kicking the folks who who do have the appropriate tools.
Example: I can’t count the politicians and “scientists” who say the embryonic stem cell debate shouldn’t be happening. A lady this morning on TV said she goes with “science” and not faith on that issue. She is confusing the mechanics of whether something can be done with whether something should be done at all. The debate should have input from scientists, but ethicists and moralists and theologians, etc. should not be shut out.



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Matthew

posted August 16, 2005 at 4:05 pm


RP: The implicit assumption is that there isa naturalistic explanation to be found. Having taken a fair bit of evolution, both in high school & university, I have always found that philosophical assumption to be present.



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Matthew Cowper

posted August 16, 2005 at 4:09 pm


RP: One other thing – the universe is finite, not infinite. An infintesimal chance in each of a very large, but finite number of instances (i.e. Solar Systems) may very well be infinitesimal.



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Zippy

posted August 16, 2005 at 4:10 pm


I really wonder if ID would get more joy as a scientific movement if it was the theory that intelligent world architect aliens were influencing evolution.
Francis Crick, atheist and co-discoverer of the DNA double-helix, came up with that sort of explanation in the seventies as it started to become clear (at least to him) that neo-Darwinism is unworkable. He called it “directed panspermia”: the idea that earth was seeded by intelligent aliens.



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john c

posted August 16, 2005 at 4:12 pm


R P Burke: the probability may be infinitesimal, but it is still something, and so in an infinite universe a single case would not be a statistical anomaly.
The point is that the universe is NOT infinite in time NOR in matter/space, and further that the size and duration of the universe is taken into account in the estimation of probabilities of the independent events. Then, if the product of those probabilities is really small, it is absolutely really small, not just really small relative to our small part of the universe. If the universe really WAS infinitely large or infinitely old, I’d agree with you.



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Zippy

posted August 16, 2005 at 4:21 pm


Hey Julia, sorry for breaking my streak there :-)



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alkali

posted August 16, 2005 at 4:23 pm


Matthew writes:
There is no need to compare the probability of design with the probability of chance. It is enough to calculate the probability of a naturalistic explanation (as has been done with respect to some proposed theories of abiogenesis). Since naturalistic and miraculous covers the field- we can arrive at a design inference.
I think you are misinformed on the issue of whether that hypothetical calculation could reliably be done. But assume for sake of argument that we could calculate the probability of life arising by a particular biochemical pathway over the relevant geological time frame. If that probability is very low, that doesn’t tell us anything about a designer; it might simply mean that life arose from some other biochemical pathway.
And as for other arguments ID proponents put forward- merely because the probabilities are incomputable does not mean that the human mind is incapable of giving weight to it. For example, the anthropic principle points out that there is only a very narrow range of physical constants that are consistent with a universe that could bring forth life- but since there are infinite possibilities for the physical constants, we can’t come up with a probability that the pleasant physical laws arose by chance- but we can recognize them to be extremely low.
It has been argued that this cuts both ways: the fact that the universe is consistent with the existence of human life is not remarkable because if it didn’t we wouldn’t be here to notice it.
In any event, if we can’t actually calculate whether our existence is “probable” or not, it is not scientifically meaningful to speak of that probability as high (as RP Burke suggest) or low (as you suggest).



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DarwinCatholic

posted August 16, 2005 at 4:30 pm


I do agree though that many view science as a Kantian exercise: that is, as a methodologically Kantian way of acquiring knowledge, the idea being that we can divorce this particular knowledge from the vageuries of metaphysics about the noumenon and thereby arrive at something more certain.
The people who say that this is more about the philosophy of science than science per se are right (although Darwinism as science is an utter failure as a theory, to all appearances, since in its falsifiable forms it has been falsified and in its trite and tautological forms it is, well, trite and tautological). But the idea that you can “do” science without presuming a particular philosophy of science, whether it is made explicit or not, is simply wrong. The idea that the philosophy of science which underlies the science taught in the classroom is sacrosanct, and none of our business, is a bunch of rot.

The problem with your first paragraphs is the phrase “thereby arrive at something more certain”. Although there are certainly many scientists who rejoice in their “just the facts” attitudes and think they know all there is to know, it’s because they have blinders on. If science is what it claims to be, it’s products are most certainly not “more certain” because they focus exclusively on appearance rather than essence. Indeed, science’s conclusions are most definately less certain. They are, however, practically useful in many instances.
Let me be clear, I’m not saying that we can never know the essence of a thing. To the contrary, I think one of the great problems of our times is that almost no one studies metaphysics anymore. But science and metaphysics are doing different things. One may learn a great deal about how humans work by studying them scientifically, but one cannot know what a human is unless you look at the question metaphysically. (Thus the problem with the “scientists” Julia mentions — they imagine that because they know what science can tell them of a thing they know all there is to know about the situation.)



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DarwinCatholic

posted August 16, 2005 at 4:35 pm


although Darwinism as science is an utter failure as a theory, to all appearances, since in its falsifiable forms it has been falsified and in its trite and tautological forms it is, well, trite and tautological
Now on this part, I’m trying to figure out if Zippy is simply ignorant or is working under some peculiar personal definition of what would evolutionary theory is and what has and has not been found to support it.



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Julia

posted August 16, 2005 at 4:57 pm


My philosophy minor was nearly 40 years ago now and taught by Jesuits. so the following are raw thoughts on my part and I cannot cite anybody.
1. This debate is suffering from the same linguistic problems that afflict Catholic discussions with Calvinists about being “saved” and with the Orthodox on the relationship of the members of the Trinity to each other.
Example: Laws of Nature are not really “laws” in the vernacular sense. They are observations about things that seem to invariably happen under the described circumstances. They are not rules that have to be obeyed. They should be called “axioms” or something else.
2. “Mother Nature” still is deeply imbedded in our unconscious, in spite of science classes, and she even influences popular science shows. Watch PBS nature shows and the announcer will talk about an animal having certain types of teeth in order to eat meat. This implies a maker somewhere who wants this animal to eat meat. This is totally contrary to Darwin’s theories and is confusing people.
The scientific theory of natural selection is the survival or non-survival of thousands upon thousands of small mutations over eons ending up with a crocodile having the teeth it has because its line survived since the teeth worked so well in dealing with the food that was available. Lots of other minute mutations of teeth died out because they didn’t work so well and the animals couldn’t feed themselves and had no progeny.
That’s not DESIGN; it’s chance; it’s random.
It may be true that “these boots were made for walking”, but the feet that go in them are the result of natural selection.
You might say then why do we have an appendix? Because it’s still in our DNA and doesn’t cause much harm. If 90% of humans ended up with ruptured appendixes, only the 10% who never got it or had it late in life would live on to have progeny. In fact, if the rupturing struck 99%, then probably only those mutant humans who weren’t born with an appendix would have survived, and none of us would have them today.
3. It’s not true that there have been no observable experiments with evolution. Gregor Mendel demonstrated it in his fruit fly studies. What he discovered was like “micro evolution” as apposed to “macro evolution” of humans from an ancestor we have in common with apes.
4. In a class on Hamlet, I learned about the Great Chain of Being from 2 professors brought into the liberal arts class. One was a medieval scholar who talked about how this way of looking at nature colored the world view of many centuries of Christians. The following week an astronomer told us about Keplar and how the prevailing ideas of the Music of Spheres influenced what he was looking for in the universe.
Perhaps all children should study the philosphy and history of science in a separate class. It could also include the Pythagorians and their worship of numbers that led to incredible discoveries in math and geometry. Include how alchemy led to chemistry as we know it. How healers use of herbs and plants led to pharmacology.
Theories of Intelligent Design, and the creation stories of many civilizations could be included.
5. Science should stay out of the meaning of life and how life should be lived; Faith or philosophy or whatever should not be afraid of science or allow its misuse and mischaracterization to weaken faith in God and His mysterious creation of the universe.



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al

posted August 16, 2005 at 5:05 pm


Zippy dispatches Ian with aplomb, but the statement should quickly call into question the “searching” and “questioning” attitudes of many.
Ian’s remarks are contradicted directly by the Council, the Catechism, and Fides et Ratio, yet they are made anyway, perhaps in the hope of throwing enough spaghetti on the wall, hard enough, so that some may stick.
How many other comments in this context are similar?



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chris K

posted August 16, 2005 at 5:05 pm


I like the way Fr. Coyne, the director of the Vatican Observatory, sorta assimilates everything in discussion like this:
Evolution is not only compatible with Catholicism but also “reveals a God who made a universe that has within it a certain dynamism and thus participates in the very creativity of God,” said Father Coyne.
“God is working with the universe. The universe has a certain vitality of its own like a child does,” he said.
God “is not constantly intervening, but rather allows, participates, loves,” he said.
Based on the results of modern science and modern biblical scholarship, “religious believers must move away from the notion of a dictator or designer God, a Newtonian God who made the universe as a watch that ticks along regularly,” he said.
“Perhaps God should be seen more as a parent or as one who speaks encouraging and sustaining words,” he said.
This view is compatible with the Bible, which gives God human characteristics and presents divinity as “a God who gets angry, who disciplines, a God who nurtures the universe, who empties himself in Christ the incarnate word,” he added.

The fact that there may have been an originally intended “perfection” which was allowed to be foiled through the free will of the created by the parallel desire for a loving relationship by the Creator, resulting in original sin which sorta screwed up a lot of things, calls for such a loving parent as described by Fr. Coyne to help guide the wayward and give extra help in grace to those imperfect situations as cited by Amy.



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Julia

posted August 16, 2005 at 5:06 pm


Actually Gregor studied peas. I don’t know if he di fruit flies or not, but later folks did and continue to do so.



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Matthew

posted August 16, 2005 at 5:16 pm


Alkali writes:
[Let’s] assume for sake of argument that we could calculate the probability of life arising by a particular biochemical pathway over the relevant geological time frame. If that probability is very low, that doesn’t tell us anything about a designer; it might simply mean that life arose from some other biochemical pathway.
You are quite right- it could arise from some other biochemical pathway- that possibility can’t be excluded- but the particular case can be (and I have seen thermodynamic calculations based on conservative assumptions). But if we then say that the exclusion of a particular pathway doesn’t undermine abiogenesis merely because there might be other pathways unevaluated, we are adopting a naturalistic assumption that those other pathways will contain the true result. I’d also claim that it’s special pleading if naturalist present their best theories, have them be debunked, and then claim that it doesn’t matter, there are other pathways that have been unexamined.
If we can’t actually calculate whether our existence is “probable” or not, it is not scientifically meaningful to speak of that probability as high (as RP Burke suggest) or low (as you suggest).
Now if you are referring to being unable to judge whether something is probable, I’d agree. But we need not have a arithmetic calculation at hand in order to judge whether things are probable or improbable- I’d submit that the human mind is more supple than that.
It has been argued that this [the anthropic principle] cuts both ways: the fact that the universe is consistent with the existence of human life is not remarkable because if it didn’t we wouldn’t be here to notice it.
This has always seemed to me to be akin to a man who, condemned to death and blindfolded before a firing squad of crack shots, hears the volley of shots, and finding himself still alive and unharmed, assumes they all missed by fluke. After all, if all twenty executioners hadn’t missed he wouldn’t be around to wonder about it.
I think that scenario is an apt analogy (let me know if I’m wrong)- and the acceptance of of our existence as a fluke appears to me to be no more reasonable than the survivor’s assumption that a wild chance resulted in his survival.



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c matt

posted August 16, 2005 at 5:29 pm


objects attract one another with a force proptional to their mass and distance
To be a little more precise – directly proportional to their mass and inversely proportional to their distance (k x q1q2 / r squared or something like that, where k is the gravitational constant, q1 and q2 are the masses of the two objects, and r is the distance (center to center?) between the two objects). Just wanted to see if I remembered correctly from HS physics – please let me know.



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c matt

posted August 16, 2005 at 5:34 pm


I have always viewed ID more of a critique of Evolution than a stand alone explanation in itself. More precisely, a critique of the random, non-purposeful philosophical assumption of genetic mutation.



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Ian

posted August 16, 2005 at 5:36 pm


Zippy writes:
“But the existence of God, and some basic things about Him – natural religion – can be so known, with certainty, and the Council declares the contrary anathema.”
This is something of a sleight of hand. Something may be known with certainty but not scientifically. I am certain that I have a soul but I cannot prove so scientifically.
There is a big distinction between science and reason. “ID” offers no scientific hypotheses, thus it is not science. “ID” may seem “reasonable” to Men who have an intrinsic desire to know their Creator and know that they are created, but it is nevertheless nonscientific.



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al

posted August 16, 2005 at 5:54 pm


Ian makes another false distinction.
The “certainty” which the First Vatican Council and the Catechism assert regarding– that “The Church teaches that the one true God, our Creator and Lord, can be known with certainty from his works, by the natural light of human reason” is the same “certainty” by which anything is known by natural reason, including “scientific truths”.
To assert otherwise, is to fall into the heresy of “two truths”, which John Paul II informs us, still falls under the 13th century condemnations of same.



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Julia

posted August 16, 2005 at 6:02 pm


Random & Chance
I don’t think it’s quite right to say that Natural Selection and Evolution posit that humans are just chance beings – the result of random events.
There are lots and lots of mutations that may be the result of random events and chance juxtapositions of materials. But the surviving line of beings ending up with homo sapiens consists of discrete types of beings whose structure and composition were suited to their environment. We could have ended up with 4 eyes, but 2 eyes at the front of the head turned out to work well for numerous reasons and any 4 eyed mutations did not succeed. There are good reasons we ended up being as we are.
I can’t cite you the article, but there was an article dismantaling the IDers favorite argument about the eye being too complicated to just happen. Actually, there are precursors to eyes – the argument is fatally flawed.



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c matt

posted August 16, 2005 at 6:05 pm


But we need not have a arithmetic calculation at hand in order to judge whether things are probable or improbable- I’d submit that the human mind is more supple than that.
Six to twelve ordinary citizens make such probability determinations every day in our courtrooms throughout the country.



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c matt

posted August 16, 2005 at 6:10 pm


I don’t think it’s quite right to say that Natural Selection and Evolution posit that humans are just chance beings – the result of random events.
Hmm…. that’s news to me.



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Matthew

posted August 16, 2005 at 6:11 pm


Julia:
Dawkin’s “The Blind Watchmaker” has an excellent, and persuasive explanation of how the eye evolved. I personally haven’t seen any serious IDer’s argue the old miraculous eye thing. But you might be interested to know that Michael Behe, in his “Darwin’s Black Box” accepted the development of the eye, but made a very strong argument that the essential biological system that allows for light-sensitiveness is irreducibly complex. I rather think you’ve erected something of a straw man, at least as far as sophisticated ID proponents are concerned.



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c matt

posted August 16, 2005 at 6:12 pm


I mean, that may very well be true that they don’t posit such randomness, but I would then suggest that the proponents of Evolution and Natural Selection have done a very poor job of communicating that they don’t.



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alkali

posted August 16, 2005 at 6:17 pm


Matthew writes:
I’d also claim that it’s special pleading if naturalist present their best theories, have them be debunked, and then claim that it doesn’t matter, there are other pathways that have been unexamined.
Assume for sake of argument that (1) it can be demonstrated that if life came about by chance, it plausibly have done so only by a particular pathway, and (2) it can be demonstrated that the probability of that happening over the relevant time frame is very small. A demonstration of those things would tend to support an inference for design. Actually showing those things is the hard work that the proponents of ID have in front of them. The possibility of making such findings may suggest a research program, but the possibility itself doesn’t meaningfully call evolution into question.
[W]e need not have a arithmetic calculation at hand in order to judge whether things are probable or improbable- I’d submit that the human mind is more supple than that.
If you’re doing science, you need it. Perhaps you can meaningfully talk about those probabilities without knowing how to do the calculation, but it wouldn’t be science.



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Donald R. McClarey

posted August 16, 2005 at 6:23 pm


Leaving all the philosophical arguments aside, the question really is quite simple. What facts support the argument that intelligent design has occurred in nature? This is the question that needs to be addressed. I believe that on this point the advocates of Intelligent Design have the burden of proof, just as proponents of Darwinian Evolution have the burden of proof as to the occurrence of evolution in nature. These questions should be resolved based on facts, and not on philosophical musings, political muscle, institutional muscle or wishful thinking by proponents.



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Zippy

posted August 16, 2005 at 7:15 pm


I believe that on this point the advocates of Intelligent Design have the burden of proof, just as proponents of Darwinian Evolution have the burden of proof as to the occurrence of evolution in nature.
Stop the presses. Donald and I are in perfect agreement.
I would add that “all present proposals range from untenable to ludicrous, so we don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable position, assuming that that is in fact the state of the evidence.
DarwinCatholic:
It is a big topic, so I can only give a smattering of observations in a comment box.
I had the privilege of sitting with Freeman Dyson at lunch several years ago. At the time, and perhaps even still, his “RNA self-replicators arose from a more primitive mud-based self-replicator” was all the rage. To his credit he was humble and soft spoken about it. As with all OOL stories, from a scientific standpoint that is all it is: a just-so story. There isn’t any evidence at all, for any of them. Not. One. Bit. Of. Evidence. At. All. Don’t even think about bringing up Stanley Miller’s little charade.
As far as “speciation” goes, well, observing that the software at times makes use of random inputs doesn’t explain it any more than “you press the key and the letter appears on the screen” explains Microsoft Word running on a Dell. It isn’t so much that the theory of evolution has explanatory gaps that need to be filled; it is that our understanding is pretty much all gaps. And even the supposed “fact” of speciation is just an assumption at this point, one we can’t explain without making some rather enormous inferential leaps.
One of the metaphysical flaws in Darwinism is in the idea that the OOL and the speciation problems are -separable-. But for them to be separable we have to have assumed at the outset that life was not designed: that “random mutation and natural selection” describes the entire history of DNA replication. No fair assuming the conclusion now. Just because the software takes random inputs that doesn’t mean that it didn’t originally come from a primal EPROM. In fact (Stuart Kaufmann’s early career conceits aside) we have no more concept of how a self-generated piece of functioning software could come about without prodding from a designer than we have how a self-generating piece of hardware could come about without prodding from a designer.
Richard Dawkins has written some neat simulation software that is designed to take random inputs and construct the works of Shakespeare; his software works as designed, and he concludes that therefore the hardware and software of life must not be designed. Forgive me if I am unimpressed. If he worked for me as a software engineer he would join the ranks of software engineers I have fired for incompetence.
Mind you, I think “descent with modification” is the most probable (though still tentative) account (not explanation) of the variety of life on earth. But Darwinism understood as something more specific than “descent with modification” is in deep doo-doo intellectually, even if Darwinists have not yet gotten the memo.



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RP Burke

posted August 16, 2005 at 7:45 pm


Matthew and John,
I disagree. As a statistical matter, an immeasurably large universe is the functional equivalent of an infinite universe. The central limit theorem, for example, posits only 30 cases as a sufficiently large sample to deal with random error.
As a matter of probability, our world may just be part of the statistical “noise.” So talk of probability is irrelevant to the question of the existence of a designer.



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Ivan

posted August 16, 2005 at 9:02 pm


On a pragmatic level believers in a Creator would do well to avoid getting on the ID train, since its going nowhere very fast.
So far what I’ve seen is simply a plan of action with hardly any science. I appreciate the ends that Dembski desires, but there isn’t any science there that can’t be explained (with a lot of handwaving) by the Darwinians.
In the end we’ll be reduced to hawking the irreducible complexity of the flagellum and the bombadier beetle with the Darwinians laughing it off in their high castle.



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Matthew

posted August 16, 2005 at 9:06 pm


RP: The universe is not immeasureably large- cosmologists have a pretty strong idea of just how large it is; and we can make pretty good estimates of how many stars exist, have existed and will exist. The current number is on the order of 10^22, and given the age & future of the universe, I doubt you’d increase that by more than a few orders of magnitude.
Abiogenesis is an all-or-nothing proposition, so a probability curve is inappropriate- you just have to add up the individual probabilities. And if the chances of life arising naturally in a star system are one in 10^30, you are left with effectively a zero chance.



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John Farrell

posted August 16, 2005 at 9:12 pm


The “certainty” which the First Vatican Council and the Catechism assert regarding– that “The Church teaches that the one true God, our Creator and Lord, can be known with certainty from his works, by the natural light of human reason” is the same “certainty” by which anything is known by natural reason, including “scientific truths”.
Al, where does it say that what can be known with certainty by scientific truths (data) is identical to the “certainty” that the First Vatican Council asserts regarding what we can know about the existence of the Creator?
I’m not trying to be flip here. I suspect you’ve just made an explicit connection that doesn’t exist.
I would have to assume, for example, that you believe this means that we can “test” God’s existence in a lab? Repeatedly? The way, for example, we can test for the trace of a pi-meson? And that the results can be duplicated by anyone else who follows the ‘recipe’ of the test?
If so, what then is the distinction Aquinas posited between faith and reason?



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Maclin Horton

posted August 16, 2005 at 9:30 pm


I perceive that Zippy knows something about software. So do I, from the perhaps more mundane perspective of a journeyman programmer. I don’t know much abstract computer theory, but I agree completely about the evolution simulators which people like Dawkins have designed and/or built. Show me the simulator that coded itself and I’ll be more impressed.
My experience as a programmer is also part of the reason why I am gut-level skeptical about the premise that purely random events eventuated in the world we know. I never took any physics past high school or math past calculus but I know what would most likely happen if I changed the state of a random bit in any program: something bad.
The interesting mathematician and novelist David Berlinski suggested, in a Commentary piece on this subject five or ten years ago, that the most honest scientific answer we can give to the question of origins is “we don’t know.” And as I’ve said here before, I think Catholics have given away far too much of this game to the materialists. Al’s admonitions about the impermissibility of the “two truths” approach are correct, I think.



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Maclin Horton

posted August 16, 2005 at 9:34 pm


And surely, if ID has any value at all, which I suspect will eventually be recognized as the case, it is as a negative: a strong argument (if not a proof) against the plausiblity of purely chance-driven evolution.



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Zippy

posted August 16, 2005 at 9:34 pm


John, lets put it this way: the existence of God is at least as repeatably testable as the proposition “life started on earth through abiogenesis”.
More so, actually.
If so, what then is the distinction Aquinas posited between faith and reason?
Big topic. But in a nutshell, once you know that God exists through reason, if you trust Him you will have faith. You could know that God exists through reason and reject Him, refuse to trust Him, nonetheless. You can know me and yet not have faith in me.
The idea that because we know that God exists through nature and reason – this is doctrine – that there is no role left for faith rests on a misunderstanding of faith. Faith is not blind: faith has its eyes very wide open, actually.



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Ian

posted August 16, 2005 at 9:43 pm


John Farrell’s comment is fantastic!
Here’s an idea to discuss: just because Thomas Aquinas said something, need it be true? And if so, why?
Here’s a great quote for the Aquinas worshippers (OF THE QUALITY OF THOSE WHO RISE AGAIN, SUMMA THEOLOGICA)
“Now the female sex is produced beside the intention of nature, through a fault in the formative power of the seed, which is unable to bring the matter of the fetus to the male form: wherefore the Philosopher says (De Anima xvi, i.e. De Generat. Animal. ii) that “the female is a misbegotten male.” Therefore the female sex will not rise again.”
Do you deny the molecular processes of genetic recombination on account of Aquinas’ conjectures?



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Zippy

posted August 16, 2005 at 9:54 pm


Nice try Ian, but fundamentally we aren’t talking about esoterica of the Summa here. We are talking about an anathema declared in Vatican Council I.



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DarwinCatholic

posted August 16, 2005 at 10:03 pm


Zippy,
Oh dear, oh dear. Two things in intellectual life are dangerous: a programmer who thinks he’s a scientist and a programmer who thinks he’s a philosopher. Should someone prove to be both…
One of the metaphysical flaws in Darwinism is in the idea that the OOL and the speciation problems are -separable-. But for them to be separable we have to have assumed at the outset that life was not designed: that “random mutation and natural selection” describes the entire history of DNA replication. No fair assuming the conclusion now.
Do I take “OOL” to be the origin of life? I’m not sure why you feel that evolution must explain the origin of life before it can be useful in understanding devepment within existing species and speciation. Perhaps with your penchant for looking at it as a philosophical system rather than a scientific theory this seems necessary, but from a scientific point of view if evolutionary theory can successfuly explain what has gone on for the past three billion year or so that life has been in existance, that certainly gets us farther than we would be without it. (Frankly, as a believer, it certainly wouldn’t bother me if we weren’t able to some up with a scientifically satisfying explanation for the physical origin of life — though it’s certainly possible it will happen.) Evolution deals with how natural selection drives change in reproducing populations. We don’t need to know anything about the origin of life to see that since that time we seem to be observing evolution by natural selection.
Richard Dawkins has written some neat simulation software that is designed to take random inputs and construct the works of Shakespeare; his software works as designed, and he concludes that therefore the hardware and software of life must not be designed. Forgive me if I am unimpressed. If he worked for me as a software engineer he would join the ranks of software engineers I have fired for incompetence.
I don’t know if your misunderstanding is accidental or intentional, but you don’t seem to follow Dawkin’s purpose in writing the software. The goal was to answer the objections of those (such as Matthew has pointed to) who maintain that the statistical likelihood of a given set of mutations taking place is so astronomical that it must be impossible. The software was designed (and successfully did) demonstrate that placing a directional filter on a random input allows the development of a complex system in a relatively short period of time. Certainly, Dawkins was aware that his software was designed. But the point was to show that a selection factor made things that previously appeared statistically impossible quite possible indeed.



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brendon

posted August 16, 2005 at 10:13 pm


It is a good idea, if one wants to show that not everything Saint Thomas said was true, to pick as an example something he actually argued for rather than an objection that he refutes.



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DarwinCatholic

posted August 16, 2005 at 10:14 pm


The “certainty” which the First Vatican Council and the Catechism assert regarding– that “The Church teaches that the one true God, our Creator and Lord, can be known with certainty from his works, by the natural light of human reason” is the same “certainty” by which anything is known by natural reason, including “scientific truths”.
There is but one human reason, and one reality, but there are different ways to use reason to examine reality depending on what you’re trying to achieve. Mathematics is a use of human reason, but I don’t think anyone would insist that mathematics is false if you can’t use it to mathematically prove that God exists. Scientific inquiry (like mathematics) is a limited discipline which is only capable of examining certain things in certain ways.
The Vatican council did not proclaim that every method of human inquiry was able on its own to discern God’s existence, merely that humans, by means of human reas can.



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Patrick Sweeney

posted August 16, 2005 at 10:28 pm


Neo-Darwinism explains that all life arose and developed from two principles: random mutation and natural selection. Skepticism – that there may not be enough time for this to happen in the evolutionary clock, and that cellular functions are highly, even improbably, complex – is something that’s being suppressed now in elementary and high school texts.
Yet, in graduate school, the challenge to random mutation and natural selection is being taken very seriously. But if you want any employability, never align yourself with “ID”.
Why should it be a crime to teach a student what “specified complexity” means?



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DS

posted August 16, 2005 at 11:16 pm


Can someone succinctly summarize what the “two truths” heresy is? (it is a heresy, right?)
For I am, once again, confused.
Thanks.



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Zippy

posted August 16, 2005 at 11:39 pm


Two things in intellectual life are dangerous: a programmer who thinks he’s a scientist and a programmer who thinks he’s a philosopher.
I appreciate the random speculations about my background. You’ll have to adjust your aim though if you intend to hit an actual target with your ad hominem.
…but from a scientific point of view if evolutionary theory can successfuly explain what has gone on for the past three billion year or so that life has been in existance, that certainly gets us farther than we would be without it.
Um, yeah. But it can’t, or more accurately doesn’t. (Not that it would be terrifically troubling theologically if it did, mind you). It doesn’t even give an account of what happened, much less an explanation.
But the point was to show that a selection factor made things that previously appeared statistically impossible quite possible indeed.
Um, as long as what you mean by “selection factor” is “intentional filter designed by an agent”, sure.



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Mark Shea

posted August 17, 2005 at 12:25 am


Ian:
You really should learn a bit about St. Thomas before ripping quotes bleeding from their context. The passage you cite is one which Thomas cites *in order to refute it*. You might as well “quote” Christopher Hitchens saying “I believe in God” without mentioning that the original passage from Hitchens was, “Only a complete jackass says, ‘I believe in God.'”
Learn to read.



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DarwinCatholic

posted August 17, 2005 at 12:42 am


I appreciate the random speculations about my background. You’ll have to adjust your aim though if you intend to hit an actual target with your ad hominem.
Regardless of whether it fits you, it does reflect my experience with a number of programmers of my acquintance. But I suppose it was self indulgent to slip it in…
“…but from a scientific point of view if evolutionary theory can successfuly explain what has gone on for the past three billion year or so that life has been in existance, that certainly gets us farther than we would be without it.”
Um, yeah. But it can’t, or more accurately doesn’t. (Not that it would be terrifically troubling theologically if it did, mind you). It doesn’t even give an account of what happened, much less an explanation.

I suppose the question here is what you would consider a sufficient explanation of the process of speciation. Clearly the standard you are looking for is pretty high. I take it that given the fossil record that we do have, which certainly appears to suggest descent along the lines of what evolution by natural selection might cause, you would describe evolution as the “just so story” rather than the best mechanism currently put forward?
It’s certainly all very well to have one’s own levels of desired proof. It’s not going to make any profound difference in the lives of anyone here whether the theory of evolution is correct or not. However, at the least one must accept that the theory of evolution fits the currently known fossil record and has allowed biologists to make a number of predictions which proved true. (Such as the degrees of relatedness found in examining the DNA of different species.)
We have also seen both natural and artificial selection act successfully on a “micro evolutionary” scale, and evidence pointing in the direction that extending such an effect our over sufficient time would indeed result in speciation.
If I withdraw the programmer comment can we perhaps get an explanation of why evolution must explain the origin of life in order to accurately describe the effects of natural selection on a breeding population?



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Mark Shea

posted August 17, 2005 at 12:48 am


Zippy:
Bravo to you. One thing that’s getting overlooked here is the distinction between “specified complexity” and “irreducible complexity”. IC can be credibly complained of as a “god of the gaps” scenario (to a degree). But SC can’t.
SC information theory simply points out that in every single situation where we find specified complexity we always (and infallibly) infer design. Every time.
Yes, it’s possible for eager beavers to leap at inferences of design too early when confronted with ambiguous data. So, for instance, a SETI enthusiast might hear a couple of SOS signals in a massive amount of static and conclude “The aliens are calling for help!” He’d be wrong to infer design on the basis of such a limited sample. But when we run across a bunch of stone that forms the shape of the Louvre, we don’t spend a lot of time speculating on the geologic processes that produces that freak of nature. We infer design and rightly so.
The problem that the anti-ID guys are facing is the gigantic “Emperor Has No Clothes” problem they face when they have to look ordinary people in the eye and, without smiling or laughing, command them, under pain of being labeled a Fundamentalist pinhead, to stop noticing the colossal amount of specified complexity that constitutes even the simplest living system. It’s why they are inexorably losing the argument with the ID guys and why they are starting to shriek and call names and inflict draconian punishments on the Unorthodox wherever possible. It’s a losing strategy and it’s ultimately and Atheism of the Gaps argument.
The simple fact is, when we see *enormously* specified complexity, we always–rightly–infer design. It an uphill ideologically driven battle for the Dawkins and Cricks of the world to try to get people to not see it. And the fact that they themselves have to labor so hard to remind themselves that living things are not designed strongly suggests that even they known they are selling themselves a crock. From where I sit, it appears to be a classic illustration of sin making people stupid.



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DarwinCatholic

posted August 17, 2005 at 1:22 am


Mark,
Statistical probability isn’t my strongest point, but reading over the Wikipedia discussion of specified complexity http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Specified_complexity it looks like the math behind Dembski’s specified complexity calculations assumes that Behe’s theory of irreducible complexity is correct, and thus biological systems such as the flagellum must have spontaneously generated in one single mutuation. This, of course, is mathematically impossible. However, it’s not what any evolutionary biologist suggests happened.
Here’s the relevant paragraph:
These methods assume that all of the constituent parts of the flagellum must have been generated completely at random, a scenario that biologists do not seriously consider. He justifies this approach by appealing to Michael Behe’s concept of “irreducible complexity” (IC), which leads him to assume that the flagellum could not come about by any gradual or step-wise process. The validity of Dembski’s particular calculation is thus wholly dependent on Behe’s IC concept, and therefore susceptible to its criticisms.
I certainly have no interest in carrying water for atheism, but Behe and Dembski’s work often seems to rely on disproving things that most evolutionary biologists don’t actually suggest happened.



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Unapologetic Catholic

posted August 17, 2005 at 1:32 am


Crisis magazine addresses the Aquinas question very well, and incidentally demonstrates why Mr. Shea is so wrong.
http://www.crisismagazine.com/february2004/letters.htm



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Mark Shea

posted August 17, 2005 at 1:36 am


I’m no expert, but from what I’ve heard of Dembski, I’m skeptical that his arguments are dependent on irreducible complexity. What I’ve heard of him is simply his pointing out that in *every single case*–except one–when we see specified complexity, we always infer design. Always. But for purely ideological reasons, we are forbidden to make that inference when it comes to living systems.
As a prima facie argument, that’s got a huge amount of power. And the explanations of “Shut up, you fundmentalist creationist!” that come from The Establishment look an awful lot like the way people talk when their religion is threatened.
Dembski’s argument, from what I can tell, needs make no appeal to long periods of time or instantaneous mutations. He basically is saying that, “However it get there and however long it takes, the simple fact is that when we encounter specified complexity *anywhere* outside of living systems, we *always* infer design and we are always right to do so.”
I find that awfully hard to argue with and I find the attempts to do so to be about as persuasive as “Pay no attention to the man behind the Curtain!”



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DarwinCatholic

posted August 17, 2005 at 1:58 am


Okay, leaving the math aside (though Dembski’s argument is primarily a mathematical statement of what sorts of things are sufficiently “specified” that they couldn’t have formed by “chance”), there are a whole lot of other things that are true of living organisms but aren’t true of anything else. Only organisms reproduce. Only organisms self locomote. Etc. So if we only find specified complexity in living things and in designed objects, the question becomes: Is that because living creatures are designed or is it because there is something about living creatures (such as reproduction with variation) that allows them to develop specified complexity on their own?
I know it may look from the outside like scientists are a bunch of godless jerks shouting down “the believers”, but there are honestly an awful lot of scientists, and even evolutionary biologists who believe in God. (My father taught in the Earth Science department, as an astronomer, so growing up I had the chance to both know a bunch of science types socially and learn both faith and science from the same very devout man.) While there are certainly militant atheists among the evolutionary biology community, most of the frustration that is directed at creationists and ID proponents isn’t with their religious beliefs, it’s with their “science”.



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Mark Shea

posted August 17, 2005 at 2:38 am


My quarrel is not with scientists per se. It’s not even with evolution. It’s simply with those who insist that we have to believe that there is not only no God but not even any evidence of God to be found in creation. This, as Zippy points, out is not only bunk but directly contrary to Church teaching. And the fact is, science is taught, at a popular level as upholding precisely this sort of bogus philosophizing. ID seems to me to make rather modest claims. It makes no appeal to the Bible. It doesn’t try to prove that the Intelligent Designer is the God of Israel. It simply says that, all things considered, specified complexity always points to intelligence and so we should consider the possibility that living systems do the same thing. And for that, they are routinely called names, mischaracterized and lampooned (see, for instance, this week’s Onion piece on “Intelligent Falling” replacing the theory of Gravity).



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RP Burke

posted August 17, 2005 at 5:15 am


Matthew, I guess you’re seeking certainty and I’m trying to deal with uncertainty. Small wonder that we disagree.



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John Farrell

posted August 17, 2005 at 5:35 am


Mark, these are wonderful posts, and indeed, for a while I looked toward Dembski’s arguments, rather than Behe’s, as more convincing, until I read critiques of specified complexity by H. Allen Orr and Paul Gross (in his recent book). And indeed, like Behe’s approach, it can be explained in natural terms. These are critiques which, to my dismay, he has not directly responded to. Not a good sign for a scientific theory. And he has admitted as such that ID has no research program.
I’m all for going after the teaching of science as a crutch for godless materialism. But I think we as concerned Christians should do just that straightforwardly–and not come up with rhetorical ploys to hide our intention. And my fear is that –for whatever reason–the ID movement has insisted that the theory is just scientific and nothing else. That’s not going to work–and in the long run, it may work to the detriment of the Faith.



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John Farrell

posted August 17, 2005 at 5:41 am


I guess I’m just thinking how powerful the argument would be if, from the get-go, the ID people were insisting that schools should be having a class on the meaning and implications of science–which is just as important for our children’s education as the plain science itself.
Heck, they’d be getting support from left, right, center, theists, atheists, socialists, Monty Python anarcho-syndicalists, you name it….



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Dorian Speed

posted August 17, 2005 at 6:00 am


I agree, John.



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Mark Shea

posted August 17, 2005 at 7:07 am


John:
For what it’s worth, my own suspicion is that we are working toward a Big Paradigm Shift in how science is situated with respect to the teaching of philosophy and theology. Newman argued in Idea of the University that when you lose Theology as Queen of the Sciences then some other, lesser, science attempts to fill the vacuum. I think we’ve been living with the results of that failed experiment for a century or so. The Scientific Method is not the exhaustive way to arrive at understanding of the world. But it tends to want to claim to be anyway. And so ID gets dismissed as “unscientific” in tone of voice that suggests “unscientific”=”false”. Nonetheless, ID goes on being excellent common sense with a power that is hard to argue with over the long haul.
I think the Materialist Consensus is disintegrating. I’m not a prophet and so I don’t know what will take its place.



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al

posted August 17, 2005 at 7:10 am


John Farrell,
There is no other criterion for “certainty”
Certain is certain. In fact, St. Thomas will say that metaphysical certitude is actually more certain than empirical scientific observation, because it concerns things less subject to change.
But certainty is said in both cases in the same way. To propose some other kind of “certainty” special to philosophy, or the like, is simply to invent something to try and get away from the Edict that the Vatican has solemnly proposed–that God’s existence and certain of His Attributes can be know with certainty from the natural world.
If you are Catholic, then that issue is closed for you. Period. If it is not closed, you are not fully Catholic, because you don’t accept the doctrine of the Church. End of Story.
If you are talking about the difference between Faith and Natural Reason, that is not what The Vatican Council and the Catechism are talking about. In fact, both are specifically pointing out what Natural Reason can know, with certainty in contradistinction to what God infuses in it, via the Supernatural Gift of Faith.



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al

posted August 17, 2005 at 7:15 am


As for the authority of St. Thomas, the magisterial endorsements of it are too numerous to cite here. If you want a 40 page accumulation of them, drop me a line and I’ll send it along.
But I wonder, why questioning St. Thomas’s authority is always among the last resorts of those who’ve been demonstrated to hold positions at variance with Catholic Doctrine, rather than coming up with some authorities or some descent argumentation of their own? Petulance substituting for intellectual rigor. . .



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austin

posted August 17, 2005 at 9:09 am


There are two excellent videos, produced by the Discovery Institute which explain intelligent design: The Mystery of Life and the Priviledged Planet.



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DarwinCatholic

posted August 17, 2005 at 9:39 am


Al,
The question, though, is what is meant by “natural reason”. It would certainly not be in the tradition of Aquinas and the rest of Church thought to say “natural reason = unaided scientific inquiry”. The evidence produced by scientific inquiry may well provide some of the fodder for one’s natural reason in discerning God’s existence from the created world. But that does not mean that scientific inquiry itself and discern God’s hand.
As a believer and someone with a certain degree of familiarity with science, I always feel in these debates that too many well intentioned and intelligent Christians are barking up the wrong tree with ID. As Mark points out, the problem is not with science per se, it is with imagining that science is capable of answering all life’s questions. Moreover, although a few hard-core cranks like Dawkins insist on sitting in their corners and repeating endlessly “I don’t believe in anything but matter, I don’t believe in anything but matter…” the vast majority of scientists, even non-Christian scientists, would agree that the scientific method (which great at analyzing and modeling physical systems) is totally incapable of answering questions like “Who am I? Why do I exist? Is there a God? How do I live a moral life?” Even in the lives of scientists, these are much more important questions than “How closely are humans and chimps related?”
I think we stand a much better chance of changing the culture and winning hearts and minds by insisting that people study ethics and philosophy as disciplines in an of themselves than we do of passing off semi-deistic assumptions under the guise of “scientific inquiry”.
My worry when Christians insist that science find conclusive empiracle evidence for God is that we are entering a donkey in a horse race instead of standing up and telling people, “Hey! Guess what? There is a world outside the arena. If you step outside you’ll see that horse racing is just a small part of life.”



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Zippy

posted August 17, 2005 at 9:42 am


For what it is worth DC, perhaps my most relevant personal background here is not my technical education but my MBA. An MBA is essentially a homeopathic remedy for bullshit: it trains the student to deal with bullshit by subjecting him to a great variety and quantity of it.
But knowing advanced math and science, and having experience doing a variety of scientific and techincal work, does help too. (Where “help” means “makes me less likely to fall for bullshit, even really popular bullshit”).
I suppose the question here is what you would consider a sufficient explanation of the process of speciation. Clearly the standard you are looking for is pretty high.
Well yes: “if I knew this one was about to be definitively proved or disproved, would I bet my own considerable fortune and the fortunes of my investors on the outcome” is the typical standard I hold people and institutions to when they are giving me “explanations”.
There is a difference between a just-so story that is somewhat consistent with the data (though with major problems) and an explanation, yes. The former is speculative hypothesis, the latter is a theory the particulars of which are backed by solid evidence.
I take it that given the fossil record that we do have,…
Stop. It is deceptive to call it “the fossil record”. “The fossil record” is a marketing statement, like “pro-choice” is a marketing statement. It is not a recording by eyewitnesses, the sort of thing historians use. It is a bunch of scattered and broken bones in the ground, bones with a number of interesting testable properties. So already we are on shakier ground than in the science of history, where we have written records (and yet still great ambiguity about many particulars, the less we have written records the more so), and if we are objective we will acknowledge that from the outset.
…which certainly appears to suggest descent along the lines of what evolution by natural selection might cause, …
Stop. The fossils we have are suggestive of descent with modification. The common software mechanisms (DNA/RNA) are highly suggestive of common origin.
That’s it. Change over time and common origin.
The rest is just-so stories.
…you would describe evolution as the “just so story” rather than the best mechanism currently put forward?
If I knew that the truth was about to be revealed, I wouldn’t even bet your fortune on it. ‘Cause that is the kind of guy I am.
I do think there is validity in some of the critiques of ID (and there are issues with Dembski’s criteria in particular), and that most of its value at this point is as a critique rather than as a positive programme.
But the critique is devastating. The emperor has no clothes.



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Zippy

posted August 17, 2005 at 9:44 am


DarwinCatholic:
I would certainly agree not to teach ID as science, as long as Darwinists would agree not to teach Darwinism as science.



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Zippy

posted August 17, 2005 at 10:21 am


And my fear is that –for whatever reason–the ID movement has insisted that the theory is just scientific and nothing else. That’s not going to work–and in the long run, it may work to the detriment of the Faith.
The issue though is that Darwinism generally isn’t science either. I don’t know how to resolve the issue, other than to point out that from a demarcation standpoint either both ID and Darwinism are science or neither are science.
But conceding scientific status to Darwinism while confining ourselves to an isolated and materially irrelevant philosophy – which is how some of what has been suggested here would pan out, despite the good intentions behind them – is a tacit affirmation of the “two truths” heresy.



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DarwinCatholic

posted August 17, 2005 at 11:15 am


Somehow resisting the temptation to open with a comment on MBAs…
You’re certainly welcome to create your own definition of what level of evidence is necessary to elevate something from “just so story” to “scientific theory”, but when one does these things one does gradually divorce one’s own vocabulary from the rest of the world’s. It sounds like you’re basically only comfortable with the labratory sciences, and reject most of the observational sciences (astronomy, geology, meteorology, evolutionary biology, paleontology, etc.) as too uncertain. Like humpty dumpty, you are welcome to use words how you wish, so long as you make sure to pay them extra. When critiqing scientists, however, it might do well to use the same definition of science that they do…
What troubles me more, however, is your statement:
But conceding scientific status to Darwinism while confining ourselves to an isolated and materially irrelevant philosophy – which is how some of what has been suggested here would pan out, despite the good intentions behind them – is a tacit affirmation of the “two truths” heresy.
Call me old fashioned (classical education does these things to one) but I don’t see why you think that the conclusions of metaphysics/philosophy are “isolated and materially irrelevant”. I’m not conceding Darwinism high ground by according it “scientific status” I am saying that it is a scientific theory that is currently our best explanation of how certain parts of the physical world work. I would argue that this means granting it a significantly lower status than, say, Aquinas’ five arguments for the existence of God, or Plato’s argument for the existence of The Good.
The problem is not that we can’t prove God’s existence via science, any more than it is that we can’t prove His existence via mathematics. The problem is the idea that only those things which science can prove the existence of are worthy of belief. Because, as you have pointed out when discussing Kant, science gives us no real surity of anything. If all we know is what science tells us, than we don’t really know anything.



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Zippy

posted August 17, 2005 at 11:52 am


It sounds like you’re basically only comfortable with the labratory sciences, and reject most of the observational sciences (astronomy, geology, meteorology, evolutionary biology, paleontology, etc.) as too uncertain.
Not so. I am perfectly comfortable with uncertainty (perhaps more than most, in fact); and I take no position on the demarcation problem, other than a conditional one: if Darwinism is science, then so is ID. If ID is not science, then neither is Darwinism.
When critiqing scientists, however, it might do well to use the same definition of science that they do…
You have assumed here (incorrectly) that there exists a consistent understanding of what is and is not science, with clear categorical boundaries. In effect, you have assumed away the demarcation problem. Might I suggest some reading of Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn, Larry Laudan, and Huston Smith? (The latter two being a couple of my personal favorites). Materialists and positivists in particular, and scientists in general, have been practicing a “see no evil” approach to the demarcation problem for many decades now. But major structural cracks are starting to form in the facade.
I don’t see why you think that the conclusions of metaphysics/philosophy are “isolated and materially irrelevant”.
Oh, they are certainly not. But positivists, materialists, and their unwitting enablers have been successfully treating them as functionally irrelevant for more than a century. If we label ID “philosophy” and Darwinism “science” we will be enabling them to continue to engage in this false epistemic dualism.
If all we know is what science tells us, than we don’t really know anything.
That depends, of course, upon what is meant by “science”. Clearly your understanding is not the same as that of Richard Dawkins, for example, or even Paul Davies (those two having quite different understandings between them). Most of what you have posted I am sure reflects your honest view, but underneath lies an assumption that there is no demarcation problem. But there are even demarcation problems in mathematics, let alone science in general. Until the last century or so logic was not considered a part of mathematics. Is linguistics a part of mathematics?
Anyway, as I said, I don’t mind you teaching Darwinism as science as long as you also teach ID as science. And if you relegate one of them to a different domain, then the other goes with it.



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DarwinCatholic

posted August 17, 2005 at 12:40 pm


I suppose it’s past time to wind this up, but just one more round on my side:
Oh, they are certainly not. But positivists, materialists, and their unwitting enablers have been successfully treating them as functionally irrelevant for more than a century. If we label ID “philosophy” and Darwinism “science” we will be enabling them to continue to engage in this false epistemic dualism.
Actually, I would tend to label ID as “bunk” and philosophy as “philosophy” but as you will… But as you have identified, the problem with materialists that they are materialists, not that science is only in the business of investigating material causes. Very, very few people, if offered a fair description of where materialism can and cannot get you will insist upon a wholly materialist method of looking at the world. Thus, our tactic should not be “how about if we shoehorn some of the supernatural into science” but rather “have you really thought about where are will be if you only accept as true that which can be scientifically determined?”
You have assumed here (incorrectly) that there exists a consistent understanding of what is and is not science, with clear categorical boundaries. In effect, you have assumed away the demarcation problem.
Just to be clear, I haven’t assumed that no one is disputing what the boundaries of science are. I have rather assumed that my understanding of those boundaries is correct. Further, I find it encouraging that a whole range of scientists from atheists like Stephen Jay Gould to Catholics like Kenneth Miller share a similar understanding of what modern science, as a method, is and is not capable of discussing.



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Zippy

posted August 17, 2005 at 12:48 pm


Thus, our tactic should not be “how about if we shoehorn some of the supernatural into science” but rather “have you really thought about where are will be if you only accept as true that which can be scientifically determined?”
If you think that that is the argument, then you clearly have not understood it.
I have rather assumed that my understanding of those boundaries is correct.
Right. You have assumed that not only is there no longer any demarcation problem, but that you have personally solved it; without exhibiting any evidence that you have even the most rudimentary understanding of it. You will perhaps forgive my scepticism.



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Julia

posted August 17, 2005 at 1:55 pm


“The issue though is that Darwinism generally isn’t science either”
Does this mean that evolution and natural selection are not “science”?
OR do you mean that what some people extrapolate from evolution and natural selection is not “science”? Specifically, that God doesn’t exist?
I don’t know any “Darwinists” (assuming you mean scientists who say evolution proves there is no God) and I never ran into any in my zoology, organic chemistry, parasitology, bacteriology and other life sciences.
Is your argument against those few prominent materialistic atheists who write popular books and appear on TV?
Why invent a dubious counter to evolution and natural selection? Just ignore those guys.
I’m all for a separate class where the history and meaning of scientific inquiry is presented.
Public universities should not allow – in the classroom – any wandering off the reservation to tell students their metaphpysical deductions from scientific evidence. Outside the classroom, have away.
Problem is universities are not enforcing their own rules – my son tells me of a MATH professor who showed Michael Moore’s anti-Bush movie in his class. Innoculate your kids. Don’t try feed thim stories they will interpret as desperation to maintain a belief in God in the face of attacks from goofy profs.



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Gerry O' Neil

posted August 17, 2005 at 2:13 pm


I sympathise Zippy. Many of these last ditch Darwinists seem unable to grapple with basic scientific method and reasoning.
Hence, their tendency to arbitrarily define what constitutes “science”.
Nevertheless, they’re on the losing side; ergo the hysterical denunciations which characterise their reponses to the fundamentally unanswerable case presented by the proponents of ID.
It’s so very human…



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DarwinCatholic

posted August 17, 2005 at 3:16 pm


Right. You have assumed that not only is there no longer any demarcation problem, but that you have personally solved it; without exhibiting any evidence that you have even the most rudimentary understanding of it. You will perhaps forgive my scepticism.
Um… Okay. You seem to have done roughly the same thing, except you’ve come to different conclusions. You say you have taken Larry Laudan and Huston Smith as guides on the limits of science. I say that I have taken Stephen Jay Gould and Kenneth Miller (and, incidentally, John Paul II).
Now, if you want to actually lay out where you believe the demarkation is between what science can investigate with competancy and what it can’t, I suppose we could discuss that. But if you’re simply going to state that there is a controversy and that I don’t know anything about it, there’s really no where to go.
So far, however, all I keep hearing from you is that if we allow that science is in the business of investigating the material causes of and workings of material things, then we somehow cede the intellectual debate to the godless. I’ve explained why I don’t think that is so, but I can’t really do more than that till you put something on the table.



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al

posted August 17, 2005 at 4:22 pm


Darwin,
I’m sure there are many different ID theories, and each of them have their relative merits and demerits. That’s a different issue that the univocity of “certainty” and “natural reason” as predicated in philosophy and science, and the Church’s dogma on the knowledge of God available to unaided reason.



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Zippy

posted August 17, 2005 at 4:29 pm


Does this mean that evolution and natural selection are not “science”?
They are science (or are not science) to the same extent that specified complexity implying a design inference is science. (Both of them have some fundamental epistemic problems, in fact).
“Natural selection” just means that living things adapt to their environment. “Random mutation” is postulated as the (or a) major cause of living things adapting to their environment. The latter is a just-so story. Random mutation is either some kind of input to the software or, in many cases, it is an error for which the software corrects. But the assertion that it is explanatorily the major cause is founded on an assumption of the conclusion: that is, a just-so story.



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Zippy

posted August 17, 2005 at 4:37 pm


You say you have taken Larry Laudan and Huston Smith as guides on the limits of science.
No indeed. What I say is that if you want to get a beginning picture of the demarcation problem and its difficulties, some good authors to read include Popper, Kuhn, Laudan, and Smith. My recommending them as reading material does not imply that any of them present an actual demarcation criteria (though Popper does attempt to do so) nor does it imply that I agree with everything they all say, nor that they agree with each other. I simply recommend them as good reading material in order to help one begin to get a grasp of the problem.
Now, if you want to actually lay out where you believe the demarkation is between what science can investigate with competancy and what it can’t, I suppose we could discuss that.
And again, you have assumed that such a demarcation exists. I rather think the contrary, although that isn’t something to which I am dogmatically committed. Given that philosophers of science have been trying to find a workable demarcation criteria for at least a century or two, and for the most part have thrown up their hands and decided that it is not possible to construct one, you might forgive me for not immediately accepting yours – whatever it is, since you haven’t said, you’ve merely gratuitously asserted that Darwinism is science and ID is not – as authoritative.



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Zippy

posted August 17, 2005 at 4:44 pm


This, by the way:
So far, however, all I keep hearing from you is that if we allow that science is in the business of investigating the material causes of and workings of material things, then we somehow cede the intellectual debate to the godless.
…bears no resemblance to any position that I actually hold, as far as I can tell.
Assume for the sake of argument that there really is no workable demarcation criteria that can tell us as a definite matter in all cases (especially the interesting and controversial ones) whether a theory is “scientific” or “unscientific”. No really, assume that: not just that we don’t have a workable demarcation criteria, but that having one literally isn’t possible.
Then interpret what I have said in the light of that assumption, since at this point it is my working assumption, though again I am not dogmatically committed to it. That will help you to understand me better on this particular topic.



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John Farrell

posted August 17, 2005 at 5:23 pm


Zippy, I’m enjoying your posts, but, seriously, can you think about a new name. Maybe your own God given name?
Every time I see “Zippy” all I can think of is a pint-size chu-hua-hua with a buzz cut.
Don’t take it personally. :)



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john c

posted August 17, 2005 at 5:42 pm


Not a chihuahua, Zippy is this guy:
http://toonopedia.com/zippy.htm



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Zippy

posted August 17, 2005 at 8:39 pm


Funny thing is, I don’t read the comic, I just needed a quick throw-away handle to spout a few nonsequiturs the first time I used it. But it kind of stuck: I never got around to throwing it away. It makes it easy to spot my own posts and replies to them, unlike my fairly generic first name. It serves as a warning to any interlocutor to do your own diligence: don’t just rely on the clown with five o’clock shadow. And I confess that I do get a sort of perverse kick out of the dissonance.



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DarwinCatholic

posted August 17, 2005 at 9:22 pm


Assume for the sake of argument that there really is no workable demarcation criteria that can tell us as a definite matter in all cases (especially the interesting and controversial ones) whether a theory is “scientific” or “unscientific”. No really, assume that: not just that we don’t have a workable demarcation criteria, but that having one literally isn’t possible.
Okay, I can certainly see the possibility that there will always be “hard cases” that are hard to place on one side of the demarcation or the other. (String theory is notorious as such, though I can’t say I’ve read enough about it to know if it fits its reputation.) Hard cases make bad law and all that.
I can’t say that darwinism vs. ID looks like a case nearly that hard — unless we’re working with very different definitions of “Darwinism”, which would hardly surprise me. In my experience, most people who dislike “Darwinism” (or indeed insist on using the term at all) are working with a rather more philosophical definition of it than I.
The main thing that strikes me as clearly ruling out ID is that it does not make testable predictions. The pieces I’ve read go something like this: “Biological systems that XYZ characteristics could not have evolved because they are [specified complexity/irreducibly complex] therefore they must have been designed.” What way me expect based on that? Well, that some things will appear to exhibit specified complexity/irreducible complexity. That’s it. Dead end.
Evolutionary biology, on the other hand, throws out numerous predictions, some of which prove accurate, others don’t, and others still have yet to be shown one way or the other. Theories are then modified based on those observations. That is why evolutionary biologists tend to feel (quite rightly I believe) that ID “researches” are, as the saying goes, not playing the game.



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Zippy

posted August 17, 2005 at 9:44 pm


The main thing that strikes me as clearly ruling out ID is that it does not make testable predictions.
Nor does Darwinism. Both are forensic in nature: they claim to explain what happened and why. You claimed yourself in the thread above that Darwinism explains the last 3 billion years of life’s development. That isn’t a prediction, it is a forensic claim about a matter of historical fact.
Evolutionary biology, on the other hand, throws out numerous predictions, some of which prove accurate, others don’t, and others still have yet to be shown one way or the other. Theories are then modified based on those observations.
Labeling the process of characterizing how adaptive systems respond “evolutionary biology” is just an obvious marketing ploy. Everyone knows that the software of life adapts to its environment. At issue is fundamentally how and why. At issue is where the vital force (the software) came from, how it as a matter of history got into its present form, not how its present forms respond when you push the buttons.
Equivocating between forensic claims and physiological claims may fool a lot of people, but it doesn’t fool me.



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Unapologetic Catholic

posted August 18, 2005 at 1:25 am


“No indeed. What I say is that if you want to get a beginning picture of the demarcation problem and its difficulties, some good authors to read include Popper, Kuhn, Laudan, and Smith.”
These people all essentially say that the line between science and protoscience may be fuzzy and difficult to define at times.
None of them thatI am aware of have any problem putting Intelligent Design on the “fantasy” side of the demarcation zone. Laudan, for one, laughs at ID.



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Unapologetic Catholic

posted August 18, 2005 at 1:44 am


To answer Amy’s original question, “Is the Aristotelean/Thomist, etc Argument from Design dead, then? Is that what you’re saying?”
directy…In a word. No.
Or at least not necessarily. Here’s at least one theologian explaining why:
When St. Thomas concludes on the basis of the first three ways that the universe must have a First Cause, he does not have in mind “first” in the temporal sense. St. Thomas argues that no finite being has the power either to move itself independently to act or even to sustain its existence from one moment to the next. Thus, reality cannot be exhausted even by an infinitely large collection of interdependent finite beings. Notice that St. Thomas does not appeal to a temporal regress; his is the more profound point that finite beings cannot ultimately explain their existence and activity. Therefore there must be a necessarily existing being with ample power to create and sustain the entire universe. This being is the First Cause in terms of priority or importance; it is the being on which all others constantly depend.
These remarks may seem like philosophical pedantry, but there is a serious theological issue at stake. The “temporal chain” argument leaves us with a picture of a deity who is merely the creator and not the sustainer of the universe. Such an argument lends itself to deism, a heretical position in which the First Cause is taken to have very little to do with the universe following a single creative act. However, if we follow St. Thomas more closely, we come to see that each creature and all that happens depends on God’s constant creative activity.

http://www.crisismagazine.com/february2004/letters.htm
Those of us Catholics who oppose Intelligent Design do not do so becasue we are fans of Richard Dawkins, who draws the wrong conclusion from good science. As Madden himself observes, “Nevertheless, there are intellectually honest individuals who remain unconvinced by the case from specified complexity. Some of these thinkers, myself included, are committed Roman Catholics and active critics of materialism.”
An orthodox Catholic is entitled to hold the position that Dembski is intellectually dishonest as is the entire Intelligent Design movement. Those of us who hold that opinion do so after careful study, reading all of Dembski’s books, and theire rebuttals, Behe’s one book, and its rebuttals, and the many solid writings explaining evolution both scientifically and theologically. It is a subvertion of truth to offer the argument from design as proof of the existence of God when so many othodox Catholics, from John Henry Newman to James Madden in the present day, recognize the argument, so far, is unconvincing.



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Zippy

posted August 18, 2005 at 7:35 am


None of them that I am aware of have any problem putting Intelligent Design on the “fantasy” side of the demarcation zone.
And again, I recommended them as good reading on the demarcation problem, not as (1) supporters of ID, (2) people I agree with in every particular, or (3) people who agree with each other. I am somewhat curious as to how you polled the deceased ones though.
An orthodox Catholic is entitled to hold the position that Dembski is intellectually dishonest as is the entire Intelligent Design movement.
Indeed. And an orthodox Catholic is entitled to hold the position that Darwinism and all of its vehement supporters are intellectually dishonest.
It is a subvertion of truth to offer the argument from design as proof of the existence of God when so many othodox Catholics, from John Henry Newman to James Madden in the present day, recognize the argument, so far, is unconvincing.
It depends on what you mean by “the argument from design”. I will repeat the quote from Vatican Council I:
“1. If anyone says that: the one, true God, our creator and lord, cannot be known with certainty from the things that have been made, by the natural light of human reason: let him be anathema.”



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Zippy

posted August 18, 2005 at 7:42 am


There are several possible positions, it seems to me:
(1) Pro-Darwinism, anti-ID;
(2) Pro-ID, anti-Darwinism;
(3) Anti-ID, Anti-Darwinism;
(4) Amused at the similarities between ID and forensic Darwinism, and of the opinion that forensic Darwinism’s pretensions to superiority to ID are intellectually dishonest and just plain false.
Put me in box #4.



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DarwinCatholic

posted August 18, 2005 at 8:58 am


I know that you say your MBA work has provided you with a powerful BS-o-meter, but honestly your own insistence on redefining terms in order to reach the conclusions that you would like is heading deep into BS territory…
“The main thing that strikes me as clearly ruling out ID is that it does not make testable predictions.”
Nor does Darwinism. Both are forensic in nature: they claim to explain what happened and why. You claimed yourself in the thread above that Darwinism explains the last 3 billion years of life’s development. That isn’t a prediction, it is a forensic claim about a matter of historical fact.

Unless you are maintainting that predictions made by evolutionary biology (I hate to break it to you, but “Darwinism” really is not the generally used name for the scientific discipline in question — it’s the label used by those who are trying to tag it as a philosophical “ism”.) don’t count because they suggest: “If this is correct, we should observe X” rather than “To test this we can do X and see Y result”
The distinction between lab and observational sciences (which is what you appear to mean by “forensic”) is generally not one of those grey areas that confounds people as to whether or not it is science. Astrophysics is one of those areas which some people label as speculation divorced from reality, but it does make predictions that are testable. For instance, black holes were long considered strictly theoretical, but those who had theorized about black holes had made the prediction that they would produce x-ray busts which (some decades after the original prediction was made) were in fact observed by radio astronomers.
Evolutionary biologists have both done successful tests at the micro level (placing selection factors on bacteria, fruit flies, or other rapidly reproducing organisms in a population to see if mutations will occur and be selected for) and made successful predictions at the macro level (DNA sequencing has provided supporting evidence for a lot of predictions made by paleontologists and evolutionary biologists). ID researches don’t do this because ID is not a predictive model except to say, “If we are right and specified complexity is an indication of design, then therefore we will see that things that were designed may exibit specified complexity.” You see why this doesn’t get anyone anywhere…
Labeling the process of characterizing how adaptive systems respond “evolutionary biology” is just an obvious marketing ploy. Everyone knows that the software of life adapts to its environment. At issue is fundamentally how and why. At issue is where the vital force (the software) came from, how it as a matter of history got into its present form, not how its present forms respond when you push the buttons.
The reason, of course, why evolutionary biologists play around with bacteria and fruit flies and such in the present day is because (working from the assumption that the same basic processes, or “software” as you might say, held force in the past as now) seeing how current populations respond to pressure gives us an idea of how populations might have responded to pressure in the past.
Paleontologists, on the other hand, study fossils. And there is, of course, muct traffic in between as evolutionary biologists suggest explanations of the evidence found by paleontologists and make predictions as to what they might find in the future.
As for where life came from in the first place, this is obviously a very difficult question for evolution to answer (just as “why did the Big Bang happen is a very difficult question for astophysicists to answer) because it involves investigating the transition from when the currently observable processes were not yet in play to when they came into play.
So while there’s a lot of speculation on the origins of life, evolutionary biologists don’t tend to spend a whole lot of time on it. (Just as very little time is spent on what happened before the big bang.) If it is answerable at all, it’s very difficult to answer, and so most work is put into looking into the history of life since it began.
One can certainly sit back and insist that evolution and ID are both equally silly, but you should not be surprised if people consider this as unstudied a statement as you would someone who announced that the principle of double effect and consequentialism were in fact the same thing.



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Unapologetic Catholic

posted August 18, 2005 at 10:04 am


There are four possible situations:
1. Catholic and anti-Da Vinci Code
2. Da Vinci Code and anti Catholic
3. anti Catholic and anti Da Vinci Code
4. Amused at the similarities between Catholic dogmatism and Dan Brown’s and of Catholicism’s pretention of superiority and defensiveness when the well researched Da Vinci Code is accepted by as truth by so many people. Catholic rejection of teaching Da Vinci code as alternative history is particularly amusing.
If you’re in box 4, well, have a nice day.



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Zippy

posted August 18, 2005 at 10:36 am


I’ve got to run. I may get to respond to DC’s substantive points later today or tomorrow.
I am #1 on Unapologetic’s list and #4 on mine. Why he would think that someone would have to pick the same number for both lists is a bit of a mystery, but it does track with the peculiar presumptiveness observable in the species Darwinus Forensicus Dogmaticus.



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DarwinCatholic

posted August 18, 2005 at 3:05 pm


I’m #1 on upapologetic’s list, and don’t want to commit to Zippy’s list since I don’t think what he means by “Darwinism” is the same thing as the scientific theory that I hold to be correct…
For what it’s worth, though, Zippy, I don’t think he was saying that someone would pick four on both lists, but rather that if someone picked four on his list he wouldn’t be worth talking to, because his characterizations of both positions would be so silly.
Since this is getting down to something like a two way discussion, if we’re going to continue it much longer I suppose we should move it to one of our respective blogs…



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Zippy

posted August 19, 2005 at 11:33 am


I know that you say your MBA work has provided you with a powerful BS-o-meter…
Yes, but as I said, mainly in a prophylactic sense, by providing me with vast and varied quantities of it with which to deal. A few decades of experience in dealing with BS in technically complex environments also helps.
…but honestly your own insistence on redefining terms…
When dealing with dialectical BS (e.g. “pro-choice”, “same sex marriage”, “evolutionary biology”, etc) is it your recommendation that we should be good nominalists and concede the linguistic field to whomever claims a consensus? Or does it make more sense to examine categorical foundations when a particular dispute in fact rests on categorical foundations?
Unless you are maintainting that predictions made by evolutionary biology […] don’t count because they suggest: “If this is correct, we should observe X” rather than “To test this we can do X and see Y result”
The relation of the former and the latter to an inference of causality are indeed quite different, to be sure, but I think this is a bit of a straw man.
The distinction between lab and observational sciences (which is what you appear to mean by “forensic”) is generally not one of those grey areas that confounds people as to whether or not it is science.
Certainly predictive models demonstrated in the laboratory are helpful in making forensic claims, but they are not both epistemically the same sort of thing. (Whether both are “science” are not I see as largely irrelevant, since that term has become as ideologically charged and equivocal as, for example, the term “equality”).
Also I think your comparison to the Big Bang is inapt. Random mutation may (or may not) be a software trigger in speciation, causing a prokaryote to change into frogs and humans. We’ve never observed such a thing happen, of course, though it is speculatively possible.
But once that has been stipulated, treating a software trigger as though it were a universal physical law like gravity, and one that comprehensively (or nearly so) explains everything other than the details about the development of life over 3 billion years, requires more than a little epistemic sleight of hand.



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Unapologetic Catholic

posted August 20, 2005 at 12:29 pm


Somebody who has repeatedly cited the First Vatican Council in support of his position calls people who reject intelligent design theory “dogmatic.”
Oh, too rich.
Then, when called on his his claim that that there is some “demarcation issue with ID,” he responds:
“And again, I recommended them as good reading on the demarcation problem, not as (1) supporters of ID, (2) people I agree with in every particular, or (3) people who agree with each other.”
I’m beginning to detect a pattern here…
and when he finally completely distorts evolutionary claims thus:
“Random mutation may (or may not) be a software trigger in speciation, causing a prokaryote to change into frogs and humans. We’ve never observed such a thing happen, of course, though it is speculatively possible.”
I think I’ve figured out who’s who’s practicing the sleight of hand.



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Zippy

posted August 20, 2005 at 5:58 pm


Somebody who has repeatedly cited the First Vatican Council in support of his position calls people who reject intelligent design theory “dogmatic.”
You seem to think that I view “dogmatic” as an epithet. Not so at all.
There is nothing in general wrong with dogmatism. I am dogmatically Catholic, which I happily, nay enthusiastically, admit.
What there is something wrong with is being wrong. I suppose I should repeat once again (since it hasn’t sunk in, clearly) that it isn’t rejecting ID that I consider to be wrong (indeed I think there are a number of problems with ID as presently constituted myself). I am by no means dogmatically pro-ID, where ID refers to the specific theories of Behe and Dembski. I don’t have to be dogmatically pro-ID in order to have come to the conclusion that the neo-Darwinian synthesis is on no better epistemic grounds than ID. Mayer being wrong doesn’t necessarily make Dembski right.
Tell me you reject Dembski’s specific approach, and without knowing anything else I can’t say whether the position is reasonable or nutty in my view. But tell me that you think Dembski is intellectually dishonest and that Mayer has explained the last three billion years with just the mopping up left to do and I’ll conclude that you’ve been snookered by a religion masquerading as natural science.
Being able to, with certainty, infer the existence of God through the natural world and natural reason isn’t up for debate though. I don’t know how to talk to Catholics when they consider quoting anathemas from Vatican Council I to be sleight of hand.



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Webmaster

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