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Debating Darwin and Design: Science or Creationism? (2)

Some readers here may be aware of an online debate I’m taking part in with a neo-Darwinist (and friend), Francis Smallwood. Francis blogs at Musings of a Scientific Nature. We are currently discussing the issue of whether intelligent design is just a recent strain of creationism, and whether it is a legitimate scientific theory. What follows is our second round of responses. You can read Francis’ response by following the link at the bottom of this post. Feel free to criticise what I have written, and interact with Francis on his blog. Enjoy!

‘Is Intelligent Design science or ‘creationism in a cheap tuxedo?’

Joshua Gidney-2nd response

In my opening remarks I attempted to argue that intelligent design is in no way synonymous with biblical young earth creationism. I also make the stronger claim that scientifically it isn’t even a form of creationism in any theistic sense. In his first response Francis ceded the former point but argues against the latter. He writes that ‘equation of ID with biblical creationism…is illegitimate,…’1 and recognises that within the ID camp there is a wide range of views, pointing out that leading theorist Michael Behe emphatically rejects young earth creationism and is convinced by the evidence for common descent. Although both ID theorists, Francis compares Behe’s view with Paul Nelson’s view to illustrate the different positions within the ID tent. Nelson is quite a prominent ID theorist but is significantly more critical of Darwinian theory, however, it is incorrect to say that Nelson’s view is base ‘history denial’ and doesn’t in fact hold explicitly to a young earth view. Responding to this accusation in a recent interview Nelson says ‘…I don’t believe in a six thousand year old or ten thousand year old earth; I actually don’t know how old the earth is. Professionally, in my work with my discovery colleagues, I take their date: 4.6 billion, but in my own thinking I don’t restrict myself to the assumptions being made by historical geology and cosmology.’2

Francis singles out Michael Behe, William Dembski, and Phillip Johnson as being the three fathers of ID. The temptation he feels to call them ‘stooges’ reveals his low opinion of them and their work and I feel that it is an unwarranted denigration. This discussion will hopefully tell us whether or not they are indeed stooges. The three academics mentioned are indeed among the most prominent ID defenders but this by no means exhausts the long and growing list of significant contributors to the ID argument. I would add that Philosopher of science Stephen C. Meyer should be counted as being one of the ‘fathers’ of ID due to his ground breaking argument for design from the origin of biological information in various articles and his book Signature In The Cell: DNA and the Evidence For Intelligent Design.

In his response Francis points out that Behe, amongst the three mentioned is the only qualified biological scientist. This is true but so what?  Johnson is a retired UC Berkeley lawyer and is often credited as the founder of the ID movement which is in many ways true. He was instrumental in providing ID theorists with a public voice and creating ground for the movement to develop. Johnson put forward ‘The Wedge Strategy’ and described his aim thus ‘My colleges and I want to separate the real science from the materialist philosophy.’3 He greatly helped getting  the ID movement going but did not invent ID as a theory and has not been responsible for the detailed scientific arguments because that is not in his area of expertise. Dembski’s expertise are entirely appropriate for the ideas that he has been advancing in support of design. As a highly qualified mathematician and philosopher, he has developed a theoretical framework for ID, formalising a design detection criteria to assess whether something is designed or not. As a Bio-chemist Michael Behe has provided much of the meat on an empirical level within his own field along with many other appropriately qualified scientists such as biologists Douglas Axe4, Jonathan Wells5, Scott Minich6, Dean Kenyon7, and Philosopher of Science Stephen C. Meyer8.

Francis asks the question ‘…how is it that ID just simply can’t seem to rid itself of creationist associations?’9 This is an easy question to address because ID’s creationist associations only exist in the mind of its critics and not in reality. It is interesting to note that the two major young earth creationist organisations in America, Answers in Genesis and The Institute for Creation Research, both openly frown upon ID. Philosopher Peter S. Williams urges that ‘perhaps reporters in the media who refuse to take ID theorists at their word when they assert that ID is not creationism will take creationists…at their word when they make the same point!’10 ID’s alleged creationist associations exist largely because the media often disseminate often absurd misunderstandings and misrepresentations of what ID theorists are saying and these myths are often perpetuated by critics within the scientific community who also misunderstand the theory and are too stuck in their Darwinian box.  I think the main reason it is so difficult for ID to jettison its creationist associations is that Neo-Darwinism for many is very much an ideology and criticism of it is often unwelcome within academia. Given this fact it is clear that the most effective rhetorical tactic to use is to associate ID with right-wing Christian fundamentalists in an attempt to superficially disarm ID theorist’s arguments and make it easy for everyone else to view them as ‘a well-organised and well-financed group of nutters’.11

Although I don’t see a legitimate connection between evolution and atheism it is tempting to turn the original question around and ask: How is it that evolution just simply can’t seem to get rid of its atheistic associations? It is true to say that more often than not evolution is viewed to be in direct opposition to belief in creator but just because it can’t seem to get rid of a certain philosophical view doesn’t discredit the theory or imply that it is a form of atheism.

Bringing up the infamous Dover Trial, Francis cites a brief exchange between Behe and Eric Rothschild. He points out that the most Rothschild got out of Behe in terms of an explanation was that an intelligence was involved in the process but this is not surprising because that is all the theory claims. Behe was right to hesitate because the word ‘cause’ is a very broad term as he mentions. William Dembski offers a clarification on this point: ‘intelligent design is…not the study of intelligent causes per se but of informational pathways induced by intelligent causes. As a result intelligent design presupposes neither a creator nor miracles. . . it detects intelligence without speculating about the nature of the intelligence. .. ’12 Along with Kenneth Miller, Francis may wish to put the word ‘creator’ into ID theorist’s mouths but to do so would be to immediately step outside of science. Many theorists unashamedly admit that they believe the most plausible metaphysical interpretation of ID to be a theistic one but the key point is that this interpretation is not part of the theory itself. The implications of ID, whatever they are, do not disqualify the theory as being unscientific just as the Big Bang model was not labelled as being unscientific because many scientists thought it had strong theistic implications.

It is claimed that ‘Proponents of ID are desperate to distance themselves from creationism-if they don’t they can’t get into the school science class…’13 but this is false. Proponents of ID may well be desperate to get as far away from creationism as possible but as I have already argued, it is because it has nothing to do with creationism. It is the Darwinists who seem desperate to keep creationism closer to ID to damage its credibility. The main proponents of the theory do not want it in the school science class. This is another myth often perpetuated by critics. In his review of the BBC’s Horizon: The War on Science programme on ID, Peter S. Williams points out that ‘the Discovery Institute (which is a secular think tank which opposes efforts to mandate teaching creationism or religion in American schools) does not want ID taught in schools, preferring instead that students should simply be given access to scientific evidence both for and against Darwin’s theory as it appears in the peer-reviewed scientific literature…’14

Francis attaches unwarranted significance to the Dover trial in deciding ID’s validity. It may have been a ‘roaring triumph for evolution in its grand battle with creationism’15, but not Neo-Darwinism’s grand battle with ID. The members of the school board were indeed creationists but they tried to use ID ‘as the next best thing to the outlawed advocacy of “creation science”…’16 Unfortunately Judge Jones ended up making highly mistaken decisions with regard to ID. In his review of the Court’s ruling on the scientific status of ID, Michael Behe concludes:

‘The Court’s reasoning…is premised on: a cramped view of science; the conflation of intelligent design with creationism; an incapacity to distinguish the implications of a theory from the theory itself; a failure to differentiate evolution from Darwinism; and strawman arguments against ID. The Court has accepted the most tendentious and shop-worn excuses for Darwinism with great charity and impatiently dismissed evidence-based arguments for design. All of that is regrettable, but in the end does not impact the realities of biology, with are not amenable to adjudication.’17

Space has not permitted me to address every point in Francis’ first response but will hope to examine any significant criticism Francis raised that I did not address, in my next response.

References

  1. Francis Smallwood. Debating Darwin and Design: Science or Creationism? (1): Francis Smallwood-First response. http://musingsofscience.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/debating-darwin-and-design-science-or-creationism-1/
  2. Paul Nelson. David Berlinski, Claire Berlinski. Movie recording 28. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8kPOri3quQ&feature=related
  3. Phillip E. Johnson, The Firing Line Creation-Evolution Debate (1997).
  4. Douglas Axe. Biologic Institute. http://biologicinstitute.org/people/
  5. Jonathan Wells. http://www.jonathanwells.org/
  6. Scott Minnich. http://www.iscid.org/scott-minnich.php
  7. Dean Kenyon. http://www.veritas-ucsb.org/video/BIOLOGY/KENYON/Kenyon.html
  8. Stephen C. Meyer. http://www.stephencmeyer.org/biography.ph
  9. Francis Smallwood. Debating Darwin and Design: Science or Creationism? (1): Francis Smallwood-First response. op cit.
  10. Peter S. Williams. ‘Evolution vs. Intelligent Design’ Radio Debate. http://www.arn.org/docs/williams/pw_radiodebate.htm
  11. Mary Wakefield. The Mystery of the Missing Links. http://www.arn.org/docs2/news/missinglinkmystery102803.htm
  12. William A. Dembski. Mere Creation. (Downers Grove: IVP. 1996). p.17.
  13. Francis Smallwood. Debating Darwin and Design: Science or Creationism? (1): Francis Smallwood-First response. op cit.
  14. Peter S. Williams. The War on Science: How Horizon Got Intelligent Design Wrong. http://www.arn.org/docs/williams/pw_horizonreview.htm
  15. Francis Smallwood. Debating Darwin and Design: Science or Creationism? (1): Francis Smallwood-First response. op cit.
  16. Peter S. Williams. The War on Science: How Horizon Got Intelligent Design Wrong. op cit.
  17. Michael J. Behe. Whether Intelligent Design is Science: A Response to the Opinion of the Court in Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District. http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/filesDB-download.php?command=download&id=697

 

Francis has responded to me here.

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35 Responses to Debating Darwin and Design: Science or Creationism? (2)

  1. I marvel that you can have the hunmility and patience to argue with a neo-Darwinist.

    Do you not see that a resolution is impossible, for as long as your empirical evidence is one of your cardinal premises, while his would be just-so stories. If you don’t share such a primordial premise, you will be arguing past each other all the time – with no connection.

  2. Hi Axel,

    I don’t think it’s fair to assume that debating with a neo-Darwinist will always be entirely fruitless. Certainly, there are many neo-Darwinists who have no interest in rational argument and evidence, and when confronted with such individuals it would be pointless to even start a measured discussion. However, I know Francis personally and although I think he’s profoundly mistaken on this issue, I think he is serious about the issues being discussed and is largely open-minded.

    We are intending to debate in a respectful and substantive manner and if you read some of our previous exchanges you will see that we are not merely talking past each other and we are coming to understand our fundamental differences. I am open to the possibility that I’m wrong. Although I think Francis holds to Darwinism in a slightly uncompromising, firm, and perhaps dogmatic manner (though that word is a little strong), I think he is not immune to evidence and is open to the possibility of being wrong.

    Realistically I doubt that this long exchange will serve to change our minds, but that isn’t why we started this discussion. The main aim is to help us both come to a better understanding of the opposing views and to get closer to the truth. It may also prove to be helpful to some other readers and if some follow this discussion it may clarify their own thinking.

    Best,

    Joshua

  3. Joshua

    Although both ID theorists, Francis compares Behe’s view with Paul Nelson’s view to illustrate the different positions within the ID tent.

    As you seem to understand, there is a big difference Creationism and ID, an incontestable fact that your friend has yet to grasp. Here is something from our FAQ:

    “Creationism moves forward: that is, it assumes, asserts or accepts something about God and what he has to say about origins; then interprets nature in that context.

    Intelligent design moves backward: that is, it observes something interesting in nature (complex, specified information) and then theorises and tests possible ways how that might have come to be. Creationism is faith-based; Intelligent Design is empirically-based.

    Each approach has a pedigree that goes back over two thousand years. We notice the “forward” approach in Tertullian, Augustine, Bonaventure, and Anselm. Augustine described it best with the phrase, “faith seeking understanding.” With these thinkers, the investigation was faith-based. By contrast, we discover the “backward” orientation in Aristotle, Aquinas, and Paley. Aristotle’s argument, which begins with “motion in nature” and reasons BACK to a “prime mover” — i.e. from effect to its “best” causal explanation — is obviously empirically based.

    To say then, that Tertullian, Augustine, Anselm (Creationism) is similar to Aristotle, Aquinas, Paley (ID) is equivalent to saying forward equals backward. What could be more illogical?”

    In his response Francis points out that Behe, amongst the three mentioned is the only qualified biological scientist.

    It is not solely or even primarily a scientific problem. A fair analysis requires knowledge of the philosophy of science, historical science, and sound philosophical reasoning. Many biological scientists are not even acquainted with the first rules of right reason, interpreting evidence as if the law of causation (nothing can begin to exist without a cause) is negotiable or can be selectively applied.

    Francis asks the question ‘…how is it that ID just simply can’t seem to rid itself of creationist associations?’

    Since when are we obliged to denigrate the opinions of Young Earth Creationists in order to legitimize our own position? It is not our job to change our associations to please Darwinists; it is their job to understand the difference between faith-based creationism and empirically-based ID.

    Although I don’t see a legitimate connection between evolution and atheism it is tempting to turn the original question around and ask: How is it that evolution just simply can’t seem to get rid of its atheistic associations?

    That’s the spirit.

    Francis attaches unwarranted significance to the Dover trial in deciding ID’s validity.

    There is no reason to take seriously the decision of a judge who doesn’t understand the difference between a faith-based analysis and an empirically based analysis, or one who would, in his final decision, put words in the mouths of witnesses in order to reconcile their testimony with forgone conclusions provided by the ACLU.

    To be more specific, Judge Jones, in his final decision, ignored Behe’s carefully worded statement that ID is “consistent with religion,” which is clearly true, and put in its place the words “dependent on religion,” which clearly is false–a highly dishonest substitution calculated to leave the impression that Behe had finally, and to everyone’s surprise, acknowledged an inextricable link between ID and religion. This is judicial misconduct at its worst.

  4. 1- If we are the product of descent with modification from the originally Created Kinds then Creationsim is science as science only cares about reality

    2- If the Bible were totally refuted Intelligent Design would be OK but YEC would be finished

    3- Intelligent Design could be true without Biblical Creation being true

    4- If Biblical Creation is true then ID is true- perhaps that is the confusion that causes conflating the two.

    Justice Lewis Powell wrote in his concurrence to Edwards v. Aguillard, “(A) decision respecting the subject matter to be taught in public schools does not violate the Establishment Clause simply because the material to be taught ‘happens to coincide or harmonize with the tenets of some or all religions’.”

    And if you think about it if the religion is right there should be supporting evidence, and THAT is ALL science cares about.

  5. Very well thought through, if I may say so, Stephen and Joe. Alas, the palpable concordance of a seemingly infinite intelligence and theism is just too terrifying for our paranoid atheist friends to countenance.

    And now the event-horizon attested by the Holy Shroud of Turin has rendered them completely loopy. Which is not to say that I don’t admire your decency, Joshua, or the way in which this thread has elicited cogent explanatory posts by Stephen and Joe.

  6. StephenB and Joe,

    Thanks for your helpful comments and for supplementing my arguments. The quote from the UD FAQ outlines an important point that is often missed with regard to the complete differences in how ID theorists and creationists reason.

    “It is not solely or even primarily a scientific problem. A fair analysis requires knowledge of the philosophy of science, historical science, and sound philosophical reasoning. Many biological scientists are not even acquainted with the first rules of right reason, interpreting evidence as if the law of causation (nothing can begin to exist without a cause) is negotiable or can be selectively applied.”

    This is an interesting point. Yes, when discussing this issue we need to recognise the importance of philosophy and history. Also ID and neo-Darwinian theory are interdisciplinary fields of study and thus require scholars qualified in many different, yet related fields. Objecting that ‘he’s not a qualified biologist’, is a trivial concern.

    “Since when are we obliged to denigrate the opinions of Young Earth Creationists in order to legitimize our own position? It is not our job to change our associations to please Darwinists; it is their job to understand the difference between faith-based creationism and empirically-based ID.”

    This is very true. Personally, I think the YEC position is entirely false but you are right in that we are not obligated to denigrate creationism in order to divorce it from ID. They are entirely seperate and Darwinists need to recognize that. It’s not hard. Even though my views on YEC are largely negative, I was not intending to denigrate it merely to lend credibility to ID. I am merely trying to show how they are seperate.

    With respect to the Dover trial, it is not really worth discussing. It’s failures have been exposed over and over again and the decision is of no significance to ID’s validity.

    Joe,

    I like your succinct points. I’d agree that the fallacy lies in the failure of critics to comprehend the fact that ID could be true if biblical creationism is false. And ID is only consistent with biblical creationism.

    Regards,

    Joshua

  7. Joshua, I think you are performing a very worthwhile function by entering into dialogue with with your neo-Darwinist friend. Again, you seem to recognize the difference between (1) a reasonable disagreement over probability-based arguments and the way we interpret evidence (could neo-Darwimism possibly be true) as opposed to (2) an unreasonble disagreement over an incontestable fact (a precisely-defimed methodology).

    The false claim that ID is faith-based falls into the second category, meaning that there is no room for disagreement. One is either informed about or ignorant of the subject matter, which means that it calls for a different kind of response than disagreements of the first kind. There is a time to debate and a time to instruct.
    Keep up the good work.

  8. Yes, I’d understood the superficial vulnerablility of ID to the atheist polemicist, with their paranoia regarding the divine, which in a general sense ID certainly points to, but was completely unaware of the polemical nitty-gritty provided by Stephen and Joe.

    The manifest truth of ID would, imo, seem so obvious to a lost tribe in New Guinea or the Amazon Jungle, that seeing it in terms of the distinction between the forward-looking, religious perspective and the scientific, backward-looking perspective hadn’t occurred to me, or some of the other cogent points relating to the controversy.

    Having said all that, I still admire your humility and patience, Joshua. St Paul was like that with some of his congregations. I’m just prone to get as ugly as a junk-yard dog, when even contemplating arguing with our abiogeneticist friends.

    As I may have quoted elsewhere – and this resonates with me all too powerfully:

    “It is absurd for the Evolutionist to complain that it is unthinkable for an admittedly unthinkable God to make everything out of nothing, and then pretend that it is more thinkable that nothing should turn itself into everything.” -G K Chesterton

  9. Critics of iD are just trying to say its been proven No god need be invoked for nature and invoking a God behind the creation of nature is false investigation/science. A intellectual fraud.

    They are telling mankind and Christendom at some threshold point in recent history god ceased to even be a option as a creator.
    doesn’t matter what everyone else thinks about evidence of a creator.
    Science proved him none existent for all intents and purposes.
    ID/YEC therefore are enemies of science.

    Small circles of people did what centuries of religious strife failed to do.
    Prove wrong your religion.
    people saying investigation of nature (science) shows evidence/proof of a God?!
    All stations on RED alert.
    Creationism will prevail as a option for thoughtful people.

  10. Axel @8, you make a good point about the virtue of humility in public discourse. To be sure, it becomes increasingly difficult to contain our lower nature when our adversaries habitually fail to reason properly, deny facts in evidence, or use evasive tactics to avoid refutation. On the other hand, it is exactly that kind of control that the virtue of patience is supposed to provide. The best among us will try to cultivate that virtue and learn from those times that we failed to practice it.

  11. Stephen, thanks for your encouragement. It’s vital to keep in mind that distinction-between black and white facts and probabilistic debates and interpretation of evidence.

    Axel, I guess it’s easy in this context to remain patient and cordial, as me and Francis are close friends and both Christians. We also attend the same church. I do my best to remain respectful and measured, but I have been known to become slightly polemical at times and don’t always succeed in keeping my cool. But I’m only human. It’s always easier to lay into someone you’ve never met (like a rabid Darwinist blogger) or anonymous trolls. But, if the individual I am debating with displays humility and politeness I will do the same.

  12. David, I don’t think it is true to say that ‘Critics of iD are just trying to say its been proven No god need be invoked for nature…’. These blanket terms are not accurate as many ID critics are religious and indeed Christian. Francis, the neo-Darwinist who I am dialoguing with, is a commited Christian. I would certainly agree, however, that SOME ID critics ‘are just trying to say its been proven No god need be invoked for nature…’, but that statement needs to be qualified.

    Creaionism may be a live option for some people, but it is completely seperate from the theory of intelligent design.

    Joshua

  13. What’s with all the fuzz from neo-Darwinists about ID being supportive of God, so what if ID is pro-theism? As long as it operates within scientific and rational philosophical grounds then what’s the big deal?

    I find it curious when Atheist Darwinists always ask “Where is the evidence for God?” because no matter what shape and form this evidence may take they’ll still oppose it just because of its theistic implications. But wasn’t it them that asked for evidence for such theistic implications in the first place? I mean if they reject the non-theistic ID inference just because of what they perceive to be theistic implications then I doubt that they’d welcome any other form of evidence for God & creation (which they demanded) even if it is within a scientific and rational framework.

    But what I find even more curious is that this anti-theistic attitude could come from a “committed Christian” as you described Francis.

  14. Hi everyone, I have looked through some of the comments, noting some of the issues raised, and so I just thought I would try and respond to a few points.

    Firstly, I would just like to say that I consider these early responses of mine to be rather weak and insubstantial. Whilst issues surrounding the Dover trial or ID theorists’ credentials may be interesting, they do not engage the central issues which really matter. I suppose that such regrets are an inevitability in dialoguing, as one does not amend comments but tidies them up and returns to them as the discussion progresses, and so I hope to make such rectifications in future responses.

    The question of whether ID is some form of creationism is one of the most prominent in discussions such as these, and whilst I do think that ID is some form of creationism—in my second response I argued that the invocation of a natural (as opposed to supernatural) Intelligent Designer would entail an infinite regress, which would not be scientifically acceptable, as science is inherently naturalistic—I do not think that such an acknowledgment would necessarily invalidate it. As I have maintained throughout, I consider the equation of ID with biblical creationism to be illegitimate. Biblical creationism is not a ‘live option’ for anybody—it is scientifically indefensible, tantamount to history denial, and unwarrantably literalist. What matters is not whether ID is creationism or science, but whether it adequately accounts for the observed data, and it is my contention that it doesn’t. On the other hand, Darwinism (shorthand for the modern theory of evolution) does. Despite Dembski’s recent fierce denial that there is ‘overwhelming evidence’ for evolution, there is. Darwinism accounts for an enormous amount of the observed data, wielding extraordinary explanatory power. This fact is appreciated by many ID proponents. Look to the fossil record, biogeography, systematics, anatomy, genetics and what you find is confirmation of evolution. Of course, there are problems for evolutionary theory, as there are in any thriving science. There would be serious cause for concern if there were no problems.

    So, then, I reject ID because it is not good science. That is, if it is science at all. Scientific theories must be testable, and I fail to see how ID is testable if we know nothing about the attributes of the Intelligent Designer. Arguments from analogy cannot suffice. And without knowledge of the attributes of the Designer, what predictions can be derived from the hypothesis?

    Shogun, regarding your point about the relationship between religion and ID/Darwinism, I consider Darwinism to be far more consonant with a Christian worldview than ID. (Just to be clear, I am not talking science here.) For the Christian, God is the author of Creation. Whatever the Intelligent Designer is, it isn’t God—of that much I’m pretty sure. I am also curious to know where I have expressed an ‘anti-theistic attitude’.

    I look forward to continuing the discussion with Joshua, and I hope that I have been able to make a couple of matters clearer.

    Francis

  15. Welcome Francis.

  16. 16

    What matters is not whether ID is creationism or science, but whether it adequately accounts for the observed data, and it is my contention that it doesn’t. On the other hand, Darwinism (shorthand for the modern theory of evolution) does.

    No, it doesn’t.

    Dariwinian evolution requires the transfer of recorded information in order to function. This is both a (universal) empirical observation as well as a logical necessity. The fact of the matter is that during Darwinian evolution, it is the recorded information itself which does the evolving. But that recorded information (and the system of representations that contains it) requires very specific material conditions in order to function, and those material conditions did not exist on Earth until they first appeared in the record as the basis of Life.

    So as a matter of perfectly valid logic, if the Darwinian mechanism of evolution requires recorded information (and by extension, the material conditions of that recorded information) then it could not have been the source of those material conditions. Something else (some other mechanism) would have to have been the source of those material conditions. To say otherwise, is to say that a thing that does not yet exist (Darwinian evolution) can cause something to happen (establish the material conditions of recorded information). Which is surely as impossible as it is illogical.

  17. FrancisS:

    I argued that the invocation of a natural (as opposed to supernatural) Intelligent Designer would entail an infinite regress.

    How so? Would an eternally existing cosmos entail in infinite regress? Would it be scientifically unacceptable? I think not.

    Likewise, a fully natural designer could be self existent. Eternal. If not, why not?

    If so, your argument against natural designers requiring an infinite regress fails.

  18. FraincisS:

    Scientific theories must be testable, and I fail to see how ID is testable if we know nothing about the attributes of the Intelligent Designer.

    We learn about the attributes of intelligent designers by observing their effects, just like any other causes in science.

    We don’t attribute modern weapons technology to designers who lived thousands of years ago who have shown themselves capable of making weapons only of stone, for example.

  19. FrancisS-

    Darwinism/ the MET can’t even be tested, so 1) it isn’t scientific and 2) cannot account for the observed data.

    The fossil record shows fish-> tetrapods-> fish-a-pods. How does that support Darwinism?

  20. ‘But, if the individual I am debating with displays humility and politeness I will do the same.’

    Johua, a person I knew, now deceased, was a terrible ‘back-biter’ – the very serious sin of detraction I’ve been prone to in my time – but she had many qualities, not least, a big heart, and certainly a good sense of humour.

    That quote from your post reminded me of an occasion, when she was going on about someone, and I remembered something I’d either heard or read, and said to her, ‘He speaks very highly of you.’ She realised it was a joke, but how completely it wrong-foots and undercuts the detractor, and doubled up with laughter.

    I perhaps gave the impression that I believe in discoursing with a measure of humility and civility. I didn’t mean to, as I don’t normally. But I can admire such patience, in another person.

    Jesus’ diatribes against the hypocritical religious oppressors of the people, in his day, were, it seems to me, almost certainly the most incandescently vitriolic in the English language, although never addressed, I believe, to an individual. The closest he came to detraction, though well short of it, I believe, was to call Herod, ‘that old fox.’

    I believe there is a Latin expression, ‘odium theologicum’, bearing on the measure of equanimity or on the lack of it in disputes. It seems to me that when the subject matter is of extreme importance to the common weal, then a person seeking to protect it, rather than one seeking to protect his own interests – which is clearly another ostensibly kindred motivation – then it is likely to be well-founded, and possibly, in some cases, divinely inspired. All truth of any moment will be prophetic in nature, and hence divinely inspired in substantial measure, anyway.

    I used to be a generalist translator, and I well remember translating a letter from a woman who felt she had been very badly let-down by her lawyer, and in this letter, was giving him (curry and) rice! She was incandescent, particularly being a woman, their reactions seeming to have a much greater immediacy and to be less measured, when they really ‘lose it’.

    Although increasingly amused I found my ‘blood was up’ just translating it, and it was great fun to do, the lawyer being a kind of ersatz punch-bag. Well, if I set out to justify my own transports of fury, Im not sure this was the best way to go about it!

  21. I meant to provide this link, for convenience, for anyone unacquainted with the term, ‘odium theoligicum’, or feeling the need to brush up on its meaning or know more about it, as I did just now:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odium_theologicum

  22. Didn’t Elijah personally ‘demise’ a hundred or more prophets of Baal, who enjoyed the patronage of Jezebel. I think that might seem a little excessive to us, even for theologians and scientific-paradigm apologists.

    Mind you, harsher sanctions were called for in those days, when God showed his hand so unmistakably with signs and wonders; so I’m not.. I wouldn’t dare, impugn God’s providence.

  23. From the Wikipedia article @21:

    The skeptic philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell argued that the antidote to odium theologicum is science, which he characterized as dealing purely with fact, devoid of any personal commitment.

    Now that is funny.

  24. I shall try and respond to a few points raised by different people here.

    Upright Biped, you say,

    ‘Dariwinian evolution requires the transfer of recorded information in order to function.’

    I dislike this phraseology. And, before I respond to this, I would like to know what you mean by ‘information’. Whilst you claim that it ‘is both a (universal) empirical observation as well as a logical necessity,’ I would like to know exactly what is.

    Mung, you say,

    ‘Would an eternally existing cosmos entail in infinite regress? Would it be scientifically unacceptable? I think not.

    Likewise, a fully natural designer could be self existent. Eternal. If not, why not?

    If so, your argument against natural designers requiring an infinite regress fails.’

    I am not talking about universes; I am talking about designers within universes. We know that a natural designer could not be eternal because we know that the universe is not eternal.

    My argument against natural designers is that a natural designer would have to be the product of some (probably Darwinian) evolutionary process. The designer, being responsible for the designed elements of our biosphere, would have to be significantly more complex than any life-form within our biosphere. This being so, the existence of the natural designer necessitates the postulation of another natural designer to account for the designed elements of the first designer, and so on, ad infinitum, ad absurdum.

    Mung, you also say that

    ‘We learn about the attributes of intelligent designers by observing their effects, just like any other causes in science.’

    However, in the natural sciences we do not infer from effects agential causes. As I said, arguments from analogy cannot suffice. An inference of agency necessarily requires assumptions about intentions and motivations, assumptions which are not required in inferences to material causes.

    Joe, you say,

    ‘Darwinism/ the MET can’t even be tested, so 1) it isn’t scientific and 2) cannot account for the observed data.’

    Unfortunately you did not substantiate these brazen assertions. Darwinism can be tested. If a rabbit were discovered in the Ordovician, whilst it would not lead us to reject Darwinism completely (as the theory is attested by a number of areas and not just palaeontology, e.g. biogeography, systematics, molecular genetics, etc.), such a discovery would falsify certain elements of the theory.

    Joe, you then say that

    ‘The fossil record shows fish-> tetrapods-> fish-a-pods. How does that support Darwinism?’

    Whilst we had long known about lobe-finned fish and tetrapods such as Icthyostega, there was a discomfiting gap in the fossil record. In 2006, with the discovery of the illustrious Tiktaalik roseae by Neil Shubin and his colleagues, this gap was filled, providing a transitional sequence from the lobe-finned fish through to the fishapods through to the tetrapods. As with all other transitions, the fossil record has revealed the predictions of evolutionary theory. When the even more illustrious feathered dinosaur Archaeopteryx lithographica was discovered in 1861, Darwin included it in the fourth edition of the Origin (1866) because this was just the kind of evidence expected from his theory. The transitional sequence from non-avian theropod dinosaurs through to feathered dinosaurs through to modern feathered birds is laid down in the strata.

    Francis

  25. ‘Darwinism/ the MET can’t even be tested, so 1) it isn’t scientific and 2) cannot account for the observed data.’

    Unfortunately you did not substantiate these brazen assertions. Darwinism can be tested.

    Alrighty then, please tell us how to test the claim that any bacterial flagellum evoved via darwinian processes.

    If a rabbit were discovered in the Ordovician, whilst it would not lead us to reject Darwinism completely (as the theory is attested by a number of areas and not just palaeontology, e.g. biogeography, systematics, molecular genetics, etc.), such a discovery would falsify certain elements of the theory.

    You have no clue as to what science is, and it shows. That is NOT a valid research program and it has nothing to do with darwinism.

    ‘The fossil record shows fish-> tetrapods-> fish-a-pods. How does that support Darwinism?’

    Whilst we had long known about lobe-finned fish and tetrapods such as Icthyostega, there was a discomfiting gap in the fossil record. In 2006, with the discovery of the illustrious Tiktaalik roseae by Neil Shubin and his colleagues, this gap was filled, providing a transitional sequence from the lobe-finned fish through to the fishapods through to the tetrapods.

    Umm Tiktallik was found AFTER tetrapods already existed. As I said, thanks to Shubin we have fish-> tetrapods-> fish-a-pods.

    Obvioulsy you are going to believe what you want despite the evidence.

  26. FrancisS,

    I’m trying to understand your “infinite regress” argument.

    I have a few problems with it.

    The way I see it you are claiming that an entity (such as a designer, or a universe) is ‘natural’ if and only if it came into existence as a result of a ‘natural’ process. God, not having come to exist by any natural process, is not a natural entity. Is that a fair statement of your view?

    If it is the case that an intelligent designer must be natural, defined as having come into existence via a natural process, where is the infinite regress?

    I did not see you address my argument that God, a being which cannot not exist, is the most natural being of all. Do you have a counter-argument, other than to say God does not meet your definition of a natural being?

    Do you at least see the differences in our arguments? You are attempting to define God out of the category of natural things by defining what is and is not a natural entity. Why isn’t your definition of ‘natural’ just an ad-hoc rationalization to keep God out of it?

    Also, by your logic, a natural process is a process that came into existence by a natural process. Do you see no difficulty with that view? Are you not the one with the infinite regress problem, not I?

    regards

  27. Hi Joe,

    ‘Alrighty then, please tell us how to test the claim that any bacterial flagellum evoved via darwinian processes.’

    In order to test the claim that a bacterial flagellum evolved by Darwinian processes, you would have to see if you can construct a plausible account of the evolution of a bacterial flagellum by Darwinian processes. In the Origin (1859, p.189), Darwin wrote that ‘If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.’ If it could be demonstrated that a bacterial flagellum could not have evolved through a series of mutational steps, then Darwinism would be falsified and some other inference (such as a design inference) would be required.

    ‘You have no clue as to what science is, and it shows. That is NOT a valid research program and it has nothing to do with darwinism.’

    I was not presenting a research program; I was presenting an answer to your question of how might Darwinism be falsified. I take Darwinism (the modern theory of evolution) to claim that all life descended and diverged from a common ancestor over a period of ~3.8 By, the primal (though not sole) cause of which was natural selection. If Darwinism were true, one of the expectations of the fossil record would be that older rocks should contain earlier life-forms and that younger rocks should contain later life-forms. If Darwinism were true we would not expect to find a rabbit in Ordovician rocks (~488-443 Mya). Such an anachronism, if sufficiently established, would contravene Darwinian theory.

    ‘Umm Tiktallik was found AFTER tetrapods already existed. As I said, thanks to Shubin we have fish-> tetrapods-> fish-a-pods.’

    I’m sorry, but you are mistaken if you think Titktaalik presents a problem for evolution. The evolution of tetrapods from sarcopterygians is well established. Tiktaalik predates the earliest tetrapods by ~12 My. Here’s a link to the Nature paper published in April 2006 by Daeschler et al.:

    http://www.nature.com/nature/j.....04639.html

    Note the description of the fossil as ‘an intermediate between fish with fins and tetrapods with limbs’ (p.757), and note, too, the conclusion of the paper (p.762):

    ‘Major elements of the tetrapod body plan originated as a succession of intermediate morphologies that evolved mosaically and in parallel among sarcopterygians closely related to tetrapods, allowing them to exploit diverse habitats in the Devonian… New discoveries of transitional fossils such as Tiktaalik make the distinction between fish and the earliest tetrapods increasingly difficult to draw.’

    The evidence is there; it must only be acknowledged.

    With best wishes,

    Francis

  28. “I’m sorry, but you are mistaken if you think Titktaalik presents a problem for evolution.”

    Likewise, a rabbit in the Cambrian would pose no problem.

    That’s what you get with ad-hoc theories.

  29. 29
    Kantian Naturalist

    In point of fact — if I’m not mistaken — Tiktaalik does predate the earliest known tetrapod fossils, but there are fossilized tracks older than Tiktaalik which could have been made by tetrapods. I don’t know enough about the fossilized footprints, or about tetrapod anatomy, to know if it’s been determined that a creature like Tiktaalik could not have made those prints.

  30. Mung, you say,

    Likewise, a rabbit in the Cambrian would pose no problem.

    That’s what you get with ad-hoc theories.

    The theory of evolution is not ad hoc. A rabbit in the Cambrian would pose as great a problem as a rabbit in the Ordovician – in fact, it may even pose a greater problem, as the Cambrian is even earlier than the Ordovician!

    I hope to have replied to your other comment by tomorrow as well.

    Take care,

    Francis

  31. “The theory of evolution is not ad hoc.”

    True. But it is a compilation of ad hoc theories.

  32. FrancisS:

    In order to test the claim that a bacterial flagellum evolved by Darwinian processes, you would have to see if you can construct a plausible account of the evolution of a bacterial flagellum by Darwinian processes.

    How are you defining “plausible” and what makes it a “plausible account”?

    In the Origin (1859, p.189), Darwin wrote that ‘If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.’ If it could be demonstrated that a bacterial flagellum could not have evolved through a series of mutational steps, then Darwinism would be falsified and some other inference (such as a design inference) would be required.

    And such things have been found and to date no one can put together a realistic account for the origin of many biological systems and subsystems.

    I was not presenting a research program; I was presenting an answer to your question of how might Darwinism be falsified.

    Right, by finding a needle in a haystack that could be explained away.


    Umm Tiktallik was found AFTER tetrapods already existed. As I said, thanks to Shubin we have fish-> tetrapods-> fish-a-pods.’

    I’m sorry, but you are mistaken if you think Titktaalik presents a problem for evolution.

    I am finding out that nothing presents a problem for your type of evolution. However Tiktaalik was found in strata younger than the earliest tetrapod-> tetrapods already existed, ie tetrapods are older than the Tiktaalik specimens Shubin found:

    Tetrapod trackways from the early Middle Devonian period of Poland

    (thanks for the support Kantian Naturalist)

    Tiktaalik = 375 myo; tetrapods = 390+ myo

  33. Francis S.

    Sorry I’m late to the party. I actually just found this website.

    A few quick questions.

    Can you quickly define ‘biblical creationsim’ – is that simply synonymous with young earth creationism as you are using it or is that implying something broader? For example, some have argued a proper reading of the hebrew and interpretation of the geneologies presented in Genesis (to allow for gaps where less heralded members of the line are omitted) allow for much longer creation timelines. Would this old-earth creationist stance be included in the phrase ‘biblical creationism’ as you used it?

    So, then, I reject ID because it is not good science. That is, if it is science at all. Scientific theories must be testable, and I fail to see how ID is testable if we know nothing about the attributes of the Intelligent Designer. Arguments from analogy cannot suffice. And without knowledge of the attributes of the Designer, what predictions can be derived from the hypothesis?

    I was also wondering if you could expand on this quote “I consider Darwinism to be far more consonant with a Christian worldview than ID. (Just to be clear, I am not talking science here.) For the Christian, God is the author of Creation. Whatever the Intelligent Designer is, it isn’t God—of that much I’m pretty sure.”

    In what ways is Darwinism more consonant with a Christian worldview than ID. Are you expressing here support for theistic evolution?

    What is the basis for the assumption that the Intelligent Designer isn’t God? I’m not sure I follow that line of logic, unless I’m missing a link of the argument.

  34. Moderators – in my previous comment, I accidentally forgot to cut a paragraph that I had pasted into my post to possibly quote.

    The entire paragraph starting with “so, then” should be cut.

  35. Hi FrancisS,

    I hope you can find some time this weekend to answer my charge that your view requires an infinite regress of appeals to natural processes while mine has no need to appeal to an infinite regress of intelligent designers.

    cheers

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