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Prepared Remarks for the Dembski-Hitchens Debate

Below are my prepared remarks from the 18 November 2010 debate at Prestonwood Christian Academy with Christopher Hitchens. The full debate may be viewed here.

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Does a Good God Exist? – A Debate with Christopher Hitchens

William A. Dembski

The Existence of God

Good morning and thanks for this opportunity to debate the existence and goodness of God. I’ll start by addressing God’s existence and then turn to God’s goodness. God’s existence is the weightier question – once that’s settled, God’s goodness follows straightforwardly.

Although I could rehearse standard arguments for God’s existence, I want in this debate to take a different tack. Christopher Hitchens disbelieves in God’s existence. Why? Lack of evidence and evils perpetrated in the name of religion, he says. Yet his book God Is Not Great reveals a more basic reason. Hitchens, as a scientific reductionist, believes science has given us new knowledge that destroys religious faith. What is this new knowledge? According to Hitchens, it is Darwinian evolution.

You may ask what a chapter on evolution is doing in a book defending atheism. At the end of that chapter, Hitchens explains: “We no longer have any need of a god to explain what is no longer mysterious.” Let this sink in. Religion, according to Hitchens, renders biological origins mysterious. But now that Darwin has come and shown how natural selection explains biological origins, all is clear. Fellow atheist Richard Dawkins puts it more memorably: “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.”

It’s no coincidence that Richard Dawkins, the world’s best known atheist, is also an evolutionary biologist. Atheists, like everyone else, need a creation story. Without God in the picture, something like Darwinian evolution has to be true. And so Hitchens, though a humanities guy, lectures his readers on proofs of evolution. Let’s look at a few of these proofs as he gives them.

(1) “Junk DNA.” If Darwin got it right, then our genes are cobbled together over a long evolutionary history, accumulating lots of useless DNA (junk) because it’s easier for natural selection to keep copying such junk rather than edit it out. This sounds plausible, but it is subject to experimental test. In fact, recent findings show that much of this so-called junk DNA regulates gene expression. This is true even of repetitive DNA, the quintessential DNA junk. A forthcoming book titled The Myth of Junk DNA details these findings.

(2) “The Cambrian explosion.” This refers to a narrow slice of the fossil record in which all the main animal body plans appear suddenly without precursors. The Cambrian explosion was a mystery in Darwin’s day and remains a mystery to this day. Paleontologist Peter Ward writes about the Cambrian explosion:

“The seemingly sudden appearance of skeletonized life has been one of the most perplexing puzzles of the fossil record. How is it that animals as complex as trilobites and brachiopods could spring forth so suddenly, completely formed, without a trace of their ancestors in the underlying strata? If ever there was evidence suggesting Divine Creation, surely the Precambrian and Cambrian transition, known from numerous localities across the face of the earth, is it.”

Ward, like Hitchens, is an atheist, so he tries to soften this statement later. But the mystery remains. For more on the Cambrian explosion, see my book The Design of Life.

(3) “The inverted retina.” Vertebrate eyes have nerve cells in front of the light-sensitive retinal cells. This means that light first has to pass through a barrier before being detected. This seems counterintuitive, but there are good functional reasons for it. A visual system needs three things: speed, resolution, and above all sensitivity – if the eye isn’t sensing light, it’s useless. Now, it turns out that light-sensitive cells are the most oxygen-greedy cells, and they get their oxygen from blood. The sensitivity here is truly astounding – some frog eyes can sense the smallest unit of light (the photon). Positioning the nerves in front of the light-sensitive retinal cells ensures maximal blood supply to the retina and thus maximal sensitivity.

But the story gets better. In 2007 it was reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that Müller glial cells act as optical fibers conveying light to the retina. As the abstract to this article notes,

“Their parallel array in the retina is reminiscent of fiberoptic plates used for low-distortion image transfer. Thus, Müller cells seem to mediate the image transfer through the vertebrate retina with minimal distortion and low loss. This finding elucidates a fundamental feature of the inverted retina as an optical system and ascribes a new function to glial cells.”

So the vertebrate eye is much more sophisticated than Darwinists, on their low view of design, suspected. And thanks to these Müller glial cells, the eye’s resolution is magnificent.

The problems with Hitchens’ proofs of evolution don’t end here. All his proofs are easily deconstructed (I’m happy to do so during the Q&A – I have his book with me). Hitchens is obsessed with the human eye (the same eye that has allowed him to read and educate himself as an atheist). Observing different types of eyes in nature, he repeats the chestnut that natural selection gradually turned a light-sensitive spot into a full-fledged camera eye. No mention that eyes have to be built in embryological development or that eyes are only as good as their associated neural processing. No details about the genetic changes that would be needed to effect such a transformation.

To really make the case, Hitchens cites Dan Nilsson and Susanne Pelger’s mathematical model of eye evolution, which he claims shows that eyes could evolve in a geological instant. Let me tell you a secret about mathematical models and computer simulations – unless you tether them to real observable processes, you can use them to prove anything, in which case they prove nothing. The model of Nilsson and Pelger, which Hitchens praises loudly, is of this sort. I can write a computer simulation that evolves Richard Nixon into Christopher Hitchens (that’s a scary thought). Such simulations prove nothing.

I know what you’re all thinking. Since the evidence for evolution is so underwhelming and since Hitchens has hitched his wagon to evolution, shouldn’t he now be ready to abandon evolution and reconsider theism? Yet this is precisely what he will not do. His atheism demands a materialistic form of evolution, and there’s only one going theory of it, namely Darwinism. The alternative, which places us here as the result of design, is for him unthinkable.

In regarding design as unthinkable, Hitchens puts himself in an atheist straitjacket. For the atheist, we must be here as the result of a blind, purposeless evolutionary process – there are no other options. Atheism demands evolution. For the theist, on the other hand, it’s possible that God used an evolutionary process to deposit us here; but it’s also possible that God deposited us here in ways that make his design evident. Either of these are live options for the theist, and the theist can consider them fairly. Atheism, however, cannot live without Darwin.

Hitchens needs evolution to be true. His treatment of it is therefore calm and deferential (albeit mistaken). By contrast, his treatment of theology and biblical studies is boorish and obtuse. For instance, Hitchens dismisses Israel’s time in Egypt and Sinai as myths lacking all archeological evidence. Yet that evidence is readily available. Take, for instance, James Hoffmeier’s books on the topic, published by that flaming fundamentalist publisher … Oxford University Press. Or consider Hitchens’ view of Jesus. There is, according to him, “little or no evidence for the life of Jesus.” Come again? It’s one thing to deny the miracles attributed to Jesus. But to say, as Hitchens does, that Jesus is “not a historical figure” is contrarian silliness.

For all his talk about freedom of inquiry and Enlightenment rationality, Hitchens exhibits a very selective concern for truth. What seems to matter most to him is not whether a claim is true but whether it makes a good stick to beat religion. Deny that Jesus was real? If it helps advance the atheist agenda, go for it, especially since it’s easy to get away with in an age of theological illiteracy.

Whenever Hitchens invokes science against religion, one gets the impression that a juggernaut is rushing forward, crushing everything in its path. Science advances, religion retreats. This is wishful thinking. The fact is, as any historian of science understands, science is not a cumulative enterprise, so reversals, retractions, and revolutions play as much a role in science as insights, illuminations, and intellectual breakthroughs. Thus, new scientific advances, far from undercutting religion, can in fact overturn antitheistic conclusions derived from prior scientific mistakes.

Chemical evolution is a case in point. Chemical evolution attempts to describe how non-living chemicals arranged themselves into first life. Atheism requires that chemicals have this ability. Darwin attempted to strengthen the atheists’ hand by arguing that first life was so simple that it required no designer. Darwin’s argument (made in a letter to Joseph Hooker) has since shown itself to be a failed argument from ignorance. Precisely because of what Darwin didn’t know about the complexity of the cell, microscopy being quite limited in the mid 1800s, he thought the cell was so simple that it could easily self-assemble from ordinary non-living matter.

The revolution in molecular biology of the last fifty years has given the lie to this misconception. We now know that every cell (and all life is composed of cells) is a vastly complicated assembly of interconnected technologies that argue for intelligent design. We need to be engineers to understand what’s inside the cell, and the level of engineering we find there far exceeds anything humans have invented. If you want to see what I’m talking about, call up YouTube on your PDA and punch in “inner life of the cell.”

I just mentioned what for Hitchens is a dirty word – “intelligent design.” For Hitchens, intelligent design, or ID, is just rebranded creationism. It is religion and not science. But in fact, intelligent design covers a broad range of special sciences, including forensic science, archeology, and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (or SETI). Intelligent design, by definition, is the study of patterns in nature best explained as the product of intelligence. It is a basic feature of human rationality to identify the products of intelligence and distinguish them from the products of natural forces. Many special sciences capitalize on this distinction.

In 1998, I published a statistical monograph with Cambridge University Press titled The Design Inference. In it I laid out a probabilistic method for drawing this distinction between design and accident. Essentially, this method triangulates on design by identifying independently given patterns, known as specifications, that are complex in the sense of being hard to reproduce by chance. Accordingly, the method identifies what has come to be called specified complexity. In The Design Inference I showed how this method applies outside biology. In subsequent work, when my colleagues and I started applying this method of design detection specifically to biology, we found that Darwinian evolution came up short and that ample evidence supported design. For a nice summary, see Stephen Meyer’s Signature in the Cell.

Just as getting from Darwinian evolution to atheism is not a big stretch, so getting from design in biology to theism is not a big stretch. Are we therefore ready to agree that God exists now that we’ve seen Hitchens’ proofs of evolution fail, the intelligent design alternative succeeds, that his critiques of theology are self-serving? By itself, my argument establishes a designer behind the universe (a Kantian architect, if you will). For the purposes of this debate, however, I think we’re ready to close escrow.

Note that the full positive case for God’s existence can and should be fleshed out. Typically, such a case flows from critical reflection on the big questions of life: Why is there something rather than nothing? Where did we come from? Where are we going? Why should we take morality seriously? Why is the world comprehensible to our minds? Why does mathematics, presumably a human invention, have such a precise purchase on physical reality? Each of these questions can, in my view, be answered better within a theistic than atheistic worldview. And if time permitted, I would address them. But for now let’s leave it here.

The Goodness of God

Last time up, I argued that God exists. The next order of business is to establish God’s goodness. It’s here that Hitchens mounts his loudest attack against religious people and against God himself. His motto in such attacks is heads-I-win-tails-you-lose. Thus, if religious people behave badly, that counts against God. On the other hand, if they behave well, that means nothing because non-religious people can also behave well.

In establishing God’s goodness, let’s therefore first level the playing field. The sixth century Christian philosopher Boethius helps us here. In his Consolation of Philosophy, Boethius states the following paradox: “If God exists, whence evil? But whence good, if God does not exist?” Boethius contrasts the problem that evil poses for  theism with the problem that good poses for atheism. The problem of good does not receive nearly as much attention as the problem evil, but it is the more basic problem. That’s because evil always presupposes a good that has been subverted. All our words for evil make this plain: the New Testament word for sin (Greek hamartia) presupposes a target that’s been missed; deviation presupposes a way (Latin via) from which we’ve departed; injustice presupposes justice; etc.

So let’s ask, who’s got the worse problem, the theist or the atheist? Start with the theist. God is the source of all being and purpose. Given God’s existence, what sense does it make to deny God’s goodness? None. Indeed, denying God’s goodness is logically and rationally incoherent – it’s absurd. To see this, consider what it would mean to assert that God is not good. Presumably this would mean that God violated some moral standard. Whose moral standard? One devised by Christopher Hitchens? God owes Hitchens nothing.

To say that God is not good must therefore mean that God has violated an objective moral standard. But since God is the source of all being and purpose, any such objective moral standard cannot reside outside God. If it did, how could it be objective, much less command God’s obedience? Such a standard must therefore derive from God himself. But in that case, how can God violate it? God is the standard.

God’s goodness follows as a matter of definition once God’s existence is taken for granted. This may seem like a cheat, but it’s not. The problem of evil still confronts theists, though not as a logical or philosophical problem, but instead as a psychological and existential one. The problem of evil can therefore be reformulated as the following argument:

Premise 1: Since God is good, he wants to destroy evil.

Premise 2: Since God is all-powerful, he can destroy evil.

Premise 3: Evil is not yet destroyed.

Conclusion: Therefore God will eventually destroy evil.

As time-bound creatures, our problem here is with the word “eventually.” We want to see evil destroyed right now. And because we don’t see it destroyed right now, and thus experience the suffering that evil invariably inflicts, we are tempted to doubt God’s existence and goodness. Our challenge, therefore, is to continue trusting God until evil is destroyed. Hitchens’ long litany of evils, especially those committed in the name of religion, is designed to derail our trust in God’s goodness by getting us to think that if God were really good, he would have taken care of evil by now.

God’s goodness in face of the world’s evil is, as Boethius noted, a problem. It’s not an insuperable problem, but neither is it a trivial one. By contrast, the problem of good in the face of God’s non-existence (the other half of Boethius’s paradox) is, I submit, insuperable. 

The problem of good as it faces the atheist is this: nature, which is nuts-and-bolts reality for the atheist, has no values and thus can offer no grounding for good and evil. As nineteenth century freethinker Robert Green Ingersoll used to say, “In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments. There are consequences.” More recently, Richard Dawkins made the same point: “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.”

Values, on the atheist view, are subjective and contingent. They reflect inclinations to behave and feel in certain ways given the conditions of survival and reproduction under which our ancestors evolved and the social conditions under which we’ve been reared. Hitchens speaks of moral values as being innate and waxes indignant when they are violated.  But on atheist principles, what is the force of morality and what justifies such indignation?

Hitchens, for instance, is incensed with religious communities that practice female genital mutilation. So am I.  But without an objective moral standard, which atheism cannot deliver, Hitchens himself is at bottom a complicated piece of matter that evolutionary and social conditioning have inclined to react in certain ways to certain behaviors – in particular, he reacts quite negatively to female genital mutilation.

The religious communities that engage in this practice, however, are quite content to continue it. Moreover, on atheistic principles, they have the better argument, for they are surviving and reproducing quite nicely, indeed, outreproducing the secular West. On atheist principles, morality is, as Michael Ruse and E. O. Wilson note, “an illusion fobbed off by our genes to get us to cooperate.” This statement by Ruse and Wilson is very widely quoted, but too often the punch line gets omitted, which is this: “[Morality] is illusory inasmuch as it persuades us that it has an objective reference.”

That’s the kicker. Christopher Hitchens is morally earnest. So is the female genital mutilation community. Try to convince either that they’re wrong, and get into the fight of your life. But their passionate moral convictions, on atheist principles, merely show that they’ve fooled themselves into thinking that morality is objective and thus universally binding. No, on atheist principles, all that’s going on is one group of material objects (Enlightenment rationalists like Christopher Hitchens) inclined to one set of behaviors, and another group of material objects (female genital mutilators) inclined to another set of behaviors.

Just to be clear, I’m not saying that atheists can’t act morally or have moral knowledge. But when I ascribe virtue to an atheist, it’s as a theist who sees the atheist as conforming to objective moral values. The atheist, by contrast, has no such basis for morality. And yet all moral judgments require a basis for morality, some standard of right and wrong. So the atheist is cheating whenever he makes a moral judgment, acting as though it has an objective reference, when in fact none exists.

But perhaps such cheating is inconsequential. The American pragmatist philosopher C. S. Peirce held that for a difference to be a difference it has to make a difference. Christopher Hitchens claims that atheists can behave just as morally as theists (in fact, he claims they will behave better than theists because religion poisons everything). At the end of his book, he therefore poses the following question: “Name an ethical statement or action, made or performed by a person of faith, that could not have been made or performed by a nonbeliever. I have since asked this question at every stop and haven’t had a reply yet.”  

But Hitchens has posed the wrong question. Since God exists and has created us, we all have moral knowledge built into us by God and thus are capable of performing the same ethical actions. Hitchens’ question therefore answers itself. A far more interesting question would have been this: “Given a moral action, what is the profile of those who engage or refrain from engaging in it, and do religious as well as anti-religious factors play a significant role?”

Consider eugenics, euthanasia, and abortion. Those who oppose these actions are largely people of faith. They see humanity as made in God’s image and therefore human life as sacred. Accordingly, it would be a profanation for them to engage in eugenics, euthanasia, or abortion. Conversely, those who embrace these actions are largely anti-religious secularists. They see humans as evolved mammals, pieces of complicated matter in motion, with no transcendent value. Obviously, then, theism and atheism have profoundly different moral consequences. Here is a difference that makes a difference. At the heart of this difference is the existence and goodness of God.

Conclusion

In Alexander Schmemann’s critique of secularism, he remarked, “It is not the immorality of the crimes of man that reveal him as a fallen being; it is his ‘positive ideal’—religious or secular—and his satisfaction with this ideal.” A common criminal knows that he is a criminal and doesn’t try to rationalize his crimes or cast himself as a benefactor of humanity. But an ideologue, who knows what’s best for humanity and cannot find satisfaction until everyone is on board with his “positive ideal” – with his ideology – such a man can rationalize anything and is truly dangerous.

Schmemann’s insight captures what’s right and what’s wrong with Christopher Hitchens’ case against religion. Religion can be a problem, yes. Religious people, confident that theirs is the only way to build a better world, have felt it their moral duty to coerce, torture, and kill others. Hitchens sees this clearly. But secularism can be as guilty as religion in this respect. Secularists, confident that theirs is the only way to build a better world, have likewise felt it their moral duty to coerce, torture, and kill others.

Nevertheless, Hitchens refuses to admit any parity between religious and secular evil. Recount atrocities committed by religious people, and Hitchens is delighted – yet another nail in the coffin of religion. But mention a person, community, or movement whose atrocities flow from their secular ideals, and Hitchens changes the subject. And to what subject does he change it? Why to religion, of course.

For instance, mention Stalin and the millions he killed, and Hitchens will tell you how Stalin started out as a seminarian for the Orthodox priesthood and how Russian Orthodox believers presently make icons of Stalin (complete with halo). Mention the Nazis, the holocaust, and Hitler (Hitler, by the way, likened Christianity to small pox), and Hitchens will regale you with how many SS were churchgoers. Mention North Korea and its crazy communist dictators, and Hitchens will inform you that North Korea is the closest thing he can imagine to the Christian heaven, complete with a holy trinity comprising Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il, and Kim Jong-un.

Changing the subject in this way, however, doesn’t change the fact that secularism can be just as ideologically driven as religion. The irony is that Hitchens’ own atheist crusade is itself ideologically driven. The subtitle of Hitchens’ book reads How Religion Poisons Everything. Gripped by the idea that religion poisons everything, he cannot allow that religious people, precisely because of their religion, might do good. Hitchens takes this idea to ridiculous extremes in his attack on Mother Teresa. In his 1994 BBC documentary Hell’s Angel, in his 1995 book The Missionary Position, and briefly in God Is Not Great, Hitchens portrays her as a self-serving hypocrite.

In the audience today is my good friend Mary Poplin, a professor at Claremont. She was in Calcutta with Mother Teresa when Hitchens came out with his book against her. Recently, Poplin published Finding Calcutta, in which she recounts her time with Mother Teresa. Poplin writes:

“Hitchens also accused Mother [Teresa] of receiving the best in health care when it was not available to the poor. However, I took an offer to her from a colleague’s brother, who was involved in developing a new pacemaker, to replace her old pacemaker with the new and improved one. She said she could not accept it, but she would accept it for the poor. She [also] refused another medical offer … When I called and repeated these offers upon her becoming more ill a few months after I left, she again refused and asked for prayers instead. My impression is that she mostly received good health care when she was too ill to fight it.”

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90 Responses to Prepared Remarks for the Dembski-Hitchens Debate

  1. Hello Dr. Dembski

    I think you’ve made great arguments in this debate, and your analysis of Hitchens arguments & way of thinking was spot on for the most part.

    It is interesting how Hitchens recycles the same arguments in every debate. As if all the rebuttals he received so far are meaningless.

    His arguments basically fall under two categories: the argument from evil which is more emotional than logical, and the argument from bad design which is more subjective than objective. Take these two arguments, coupled with a pessimistic view on life and the universe and how bad it is and how cruel is the creator, and you get Hitchens’ atheistic world view in a nutshell.

    But most importantly, both arguments are one-sided. For every example of evil act there are thousands of unreported acts of goodness, charity, love & care in this world. So “statistically” there is more goodness than evil. Let alone the fact that we are all born good and the evil ones are a result of taking wrong decisions later on in life. So this speaks volumes about the goodness of the creator who created us good from the start and what he expects of us.

    Also for every example that Darwinists think is a bad design, there are many more examples of marvels of designs & nanotechnology in living cells that leave Darwinists speechless. Save for few hand-waving stories & empty speculations. Let alone the fact that their examples of “bad design” are mostly misunderstood designs as the example of the inverted retina mentioned above.

    I think that the biggest flaw in both arguments (evil & bad design) is that they do not logically necessitate the absence of a creator in and of themselves. To prove a positive case for atheism (or absence of God) they need to demonstrate how the universe with its extraordinary fine tuning can be the result of pure chances or a lack of intelligent causation. They have to show empirical evidence for their favorite multi-verse fantasy which follows nothing but “ABG” logic (Anything But God). They also have to demonstrate how purely chemical and undirected processes can create life, or at least a simple cell, a protein, or DNA information. They have to prove the adequacy of random mutations & natural selection in creating complex organs and molecular machines. Then & only then can they claim that invoking an intelligent creator is unnecessary.

    Once again I like to congratulate you Dr. Dembski on this great debate and your remarkable performance.

  2. Well thought, well researched, well said.

    Well done.

  3. Dr. Dembski did a fantastic job.

  4. Bill did a good job, although I think he should have had the last word.

    The most novel thing I think Dembski said here was this:

    “For the atheist, we must be here as the result of a blind, purposeless evolutionary process – there are no other options. Atheism demands evolution. For the theist, on the other hand, it’s possible that God used an evolutionary process to deposit us here; but it’s also possible that God deposited us here in ways that make his design evident. Either of these are live options for the theist, and the theist can consider them fairly. Atheism, however, cannot live without Darwin.”

  5. Shogun

    For every example of evil act there are thousands of unreported acts of goodness, charity, love & care in this world. So “statistically” there is more goodness than evil.

    How on earth do you know this or even begin to count the balance?

  6. Well argued Dr. Dembski,

    especially this point as Polanyi illustrated:

    “For the atheist, we must be here as the result of a blind, purposeless evolutionary process – there are no other options. Atheism demands evolution. For the theist, on the other hand, it’s possible that God used an evolutionary process to deposit us here; but it’s also possible that God deposited us here in ways that make his design evident. Either of these are live options for the theist, and the theist can consider them fairly. Atheism, however, cannot live without Darwin.”

    And of course the Atheist also sees no problem in defining science in such a way as to only give answers that he a-priori sees fit to be proper answers for ‘science’ i.e. atheistic ones:

    as you point out here Dr. Dembski:

    ‘We need to realize that methodological naturalism is the functional equivalent of a full blown metaphysical naturalism. Metaphysical naturalism asserts that the material world is all there is (in the words of Carl Sagan, “the cosmos is all there ever was, is, or will be”). Methodological naturalism asks us for the sake of science to pretend that the material world is all there is. But once science comes to be taken as the only universally valid form of knowledge within a culture, it follows at once that methodological and metaphysical naturalism become for all intents and purposes indistinguishable. They are functionally equivalent. What needs to be done, therefore, is to break the grip of naturalism in both guises, methodological and metaphysical. And this happens once we realize that it was not empirical evidence, but the power of a metaphysical world view that was all along urging us to adopt methodological naturalism in the first place.’ – Dembski
    http://creationwiki.org/Evolut.....k.Origins)

    Further notes: —————————-

    Many ‘scientists’ believe that science is the be all and end all yet that opinion is not true:

    Classical Theism compared to the New Atheism – What I Really Believe – Michael Egnor – October 2010
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....39671.html

    Dr. William Lane Craig humiliates Dr. Peter Atkins – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....re=related

    Materialism – The Hijacking Of Science By Methodological Naturalism – Dr. Thomas Kindell – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4168423
    Entire video:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MV3WWDfGsX4

    Is Undirected Naturalism Sufficient? – Dr. Don Johnson – video
    http://vimeo.com/11827337

    Is Intelligent Design Science? – Stephen Meyer – Video
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....36521.html

    Materialism compared to Theism within the scientific method:
    http://docs.google.com/Doc?doc....._5fwz42dg9

  7. Professor Dembski,

    Thank you for engaging with Christopher Hitchens in a very vigorous but polite debate. I was especially impressed with the section on the goodness of God. Thank you.

  8. It’s becoming crystal clear that what drives the atheist isn’t reason as they claim but complete blinding emotion.

  9. Could not agree more tribune7. Blind emotion is what is at the core of the atheist belief system…so evident when listening to Hitchens. Great job Dr. Dembski.

  10. markf

    I thought it is obvious without question, don’t you think there are more good people in this world than evil ones. Look at the people you see in your daily life, how often do you see individuals killing and hurting others? And comparatively how often do you see good people who are helpful and caring? Even ordinary people are considered good, unless you’re excepting to see saints in order to recognize them as good. Will you also ignore the fact that humans are born good? Do you see humans born evil and ready to kill since childhood?

    Even if I was wrong on the balance, this does not eliminate the biased one-sidedness of the argument from evil that ignores all the goodness and blessings in this world, and only focuses on negative aspects of life that feed the pessimistic atheist world view.

    By the way, what exactly are you trying to prove by your question? Are you arguing in favor of atheism?

  11. #10 Shogun

    Working backwards …

    Although I am an atheist, materialist, evolutionist etc I was not trying to prove anything. I just felt your assertion was rather meaningless.

    The argument from evil does not require a majority of evil in the world (whatever that means). It just requires one genuinely evil act or even bad event (such as the tsunami) which a good God could have prevented.

    Why do you look for killing as an example of evil. That is quite extreme. What about turning up late for dinner parties, jumping queues, lying on your CV? These seem quite numerous to me and I would not care to decide whether they outnumber the acts of kindness I also see.

  12. “It just requires one genuinely evil act or even bad event (such as the tsunami) which a good God could have prevented”

    Naive, sophmoric.

  13. tribune7–

    It’s becoming crystal clear that what drives the atheist isn’t reason as they claim but complete blinding emotion.

    Would you please explain this? I’m curious as to what specifically shows you that “complete blinding emotion” drives the atheist.

  14. My guess is that if shogun said the reverse, markf would have no objection.

  15. markf,

    I think it is self evidence that for every evil thing or occurence, there must be at least one, if not two good things.

    For ever divorce, there was a marriage. For every death, there was a life. For every loss of function, there had to have been a creation of the function. For every loss of a loved one, there had to be the existence of that loved one. I cannot think of any evil thing that does not involve the loss of some good thing that already exists.

  16. “self-evident”

  17. Lar Tanner — I’m curious as to what specifically shows you that “complete blinding emotion” drives the atheist.

    An inability to see incompleteness in one’s belief system is an indication of being driven by emotion. A willingness to defend flaws, fallacies and contradiction in one’s belief system is an indication of being blinded by emotion.

    If you think I”m painting atheists with too broad a brush I’ll grant the point. There is a difference between saying “I don’t believe in God” and “THERE IS NO GOD, DAMMIT!!!”

    OTOH, when one starts defending their atheism with the insistence that it’s the most reasonable and evidence-based belief then one can be confident that one is dealing with an emotionally driven person and a reason-based rebuttal will not work.

  18. tribue7 and ftK think only Atheists are driven by emotion? I think both of you are made of the same flesh and blood as all humans and I am sure you have your sentimental attachment to Christianity through family and your provincial lives. The Bible is quite an emotional book and it says God so loved the world it did not say God thought it reasonable to kill his Son. You Christian apologists lack the humility of your suffering servant.

  19. #15

    “I cannot think of any evil thing that does not involve the loss of some good thing that already exists.”

    Torture

    Depression

    Cystic fibrosis

    Of course you could always phrase these as

    “the loss of not being tortured”

    but that seems like cheating.

    Loss of a baby

  20. Can someone, perhaps markf explain the current atheist answer to the problem of good?

    If there is no God, there is no absolute measurement of good or evil. Stuff just happens.

    However, we all have a built in feeling about things that are morally good, like helping a blind man go across the road, instead of robbing him, even if nobody sees me. Or like plants make chemicals that they do not really need but heal us. Or a dog raising a baby lamb.

    How did we invent abstract terms like the term “good” and “evil” if in reality there are no such things and there never will be. And why are they so extremely important for us?

    In the answer try not to overcomplicate what is good, keep it at the level what a 5-year-old kid would agree with and understand.

  21. tribune7,

    Thank you for the response, but you are speaking in generalities and abstractions: “an inability,” “a willingness.”

    Are these the “complete blinding” emotions you were referring to? You said it was “crystal clear” that this emotion was driving the atheist.

    Yet, when you admit to “painting atheists with too broad a brush” and provide no specifics on either the above abstractions, it leads me to think that perhaps you are the one with the blinding emotion.

    In any case, you bring up two different claims: one, whether gods exist or not; two, whether atheism is more reasonable than deism or theism. I don’t see that the second argument affects the first, since a very “reasonable” argument could nevertheless be factually incorrect.

    On the other hand, you seem to acknowledge that there is such a thing as a reasonable atheist position. That is, one can review the available evidence and reasonably conclude that no religion or sect makes an overwhelming case for the existence of its god(s). One can also conclude, with no less reasonableness, that there is no need to assume that any gods do or have ever existed.

  22. Clearly, in #12 I spoke to soon.

    After #18, I can only add the word “deliriously” to my previous comment.

  23. LarTanner — but you are speaking in generalities and abstractions: “an inability,” “a willingness.”

    But I gave you more words than those. What I said was An inability to see incompleteness in one’s belief system is an indication of being driven by emotion. A willingness to defend flaws, fallacies and contradiction in one’s belief system is an indication of being blinded by emotion.

    Would you grant that having a willingness to defend flaws, fallacies and contradictions in one’s belief system is an indication of being blinded by emotion?

  24. I find myself torn here. In my view, all signs point to a good God. But markf is correct, I think, in claiming that it’s a fool’s errand to attempt to “weigh” the effects of good and evil against each other.

  25. QuiteID,

    Clearly evil is the absence of Good and nothing more: i.e. it is not even possible to ‘measure’ evil without a ultimate standard of good to measure from. For a atheist to even claim evil exists so to disprove God defeats his purpose from the foundation of his presupposition in the first place. A atheist must deny the existence of evil to stay logically consistent within his materialistic framework.

    Does God Exist? – Finding a Good God in an Evil World – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4007708/

    Theodicy Without God?
    What Ive never understood about theodicy is this: why do atheists ponder the Problem of Evil?
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2......html#more

    Little do most atheists realize that the existence of evil itself necessitates the existence of Good. i.e. you cannot disprove God by pointing to evil. All a atheist does when he points to evil in this world is to point out the fact that this world is not perfectly good, Yet Christianity never claimed we were in heaven in the first place. i.e. by pointing to evil (the absence of good), the atheist actually affirms the Christian belief that we are in a fallen world.

  26. bornagain77,

    I wasn’t speaking of evil in that sense but in the sense that Shogun used it originally, as evil acts. Here’s what Shogun said:

    For every example of evil act there are thousands of unreported acts of goodness, charity, love & care in this world. So “statistically” there is more goodness than evil.

    It’s that kind of measurement that I find silly and impossible.

    Further, Shogun clearly doesn’t understand the nature of evil when he writes “Let alone the fact that we are all born good and the evil ones are a result of taking wrong decisions later on in life.” This is false, and it’s important to get it right. None of us is born good: we are all born into sin, depraved from the start. In fact, the overwhelming fact of human depravity suggests that, were we to put human activity in competing columns, evil would win. However, that is, as I said, silly. Further, our evil nature is not an argument against God but a reason we need Him.

  27. markf

    What gives you or anyone the authority to claim there is no God just because there is evil? Who even set up this condition? Why do atheists always make up their own conditions, that if not met, they confidently claim there is no God.

    As someone already pointed out, before you even make any argument regarding evil, you have to define what evil is. I mean by what moral standard do you judge something to be evil. Is it your illusion of a subjective morality that you (complex material entity with no transcendent purpose) created to make yourself feel better?

    Notice that if we are to come to a consensus about evil we must admit there is an objective basis for morality. And by objective basis I don’t mean a large group of people coming together to decide for everyone what is right and wrong. Afterall, the killing of Jews in Nazi Germany was approved by a social and political consensus. So how do you convince them that their acts are evil when they can argue that eliminating the handicapped and “inferior” people is the right thing in their version of moral standards since they are doing the evolution of humanity a great favor.

    It is a simple and logical concept that has been explained many times. It is extraordinary that atheists still use the argument from evil despite its many flaws.

    And like I already said in my #1 post, such an argument does not logically necessitate the absence of a creator in & of itself. The only evidence that an atheist could come up with should be as follows:

    1) Demonstrate how the universe with its extraordinary fine tuning can be the result of pure chances or a lack of intelligent causation.

    2) Show empirical evidence for their favorite multi-verse fantasy which follows nothing but “ABG” logic (Anything But God).

    3) Demonstrate how purely chemical and undirected processes can create life, or at least a simple cell, a protein, or DNA information.

    4) Prove the adequacy of random mutations & natural selection in creating complex organs and molecular machines.

    Once such proofs are accomplished, then & only then can atheists claim that invoking an intelligent creator is unnecessary.

    If you still like to follow the same line of flawed arguments and claim there is no God then feel free, you will not be ridiculed or insulted the same way atheists/Darwinists treat creationists, IDists, and any other critics in their forums and discussions. But you have to admit that such a claim is metaphysical and not purely scientific.

  28. sorry for my misunderstanding QuiteID

  29. QuiteID,

    I agree with you that our “evil” nature is all the more reason for humans to need God. But what exactly is your definition of the evil nature? You are mixing up “evil” with “sin”. In terms of sin we are all sinners, so does this mean we are all evil? Absolutely not.

    Wouldn’t you agree that there is more goodness and care for others in our nature than there is will to harm others?

    You can notice that our definition of evil is qualitative. But if you are willing to define evil in terms of the amount of sins then that is totally different.

  30. bornagain77,

    What is your thought on this issue? If QuiteID says I don’t understand the nature of evil so what then is evil? Would you define it in terms of sins?

    I’m just asking for your thought since you got caught up in this discussion.

  31. actually shogun I believe this video does a far better job of ‘defining’ evil than I could:

    Does God Exist? – Finding a Good God in an Evil World – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4007708/

  32. Thanks for the link bornagain77, I guess I also asked you since you seem to keep a nice collections of videos, lol.

  33. And I totally agree with what is said in the video: Evil is only the result that happens when people don’t have the love of God in their hearts.

    I guess yea, Evil is the absence of good, this might be the best definition.

  34. Shogun and I guess the best we can hope to do is learn to love well:

    MercyMe – Beautiful [Official Music Video] – Music Videos
    http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=7GGY7LNX

  35. Shogun, I’m not prepared to draw a line between evil and sin. Was the first sin an evil act? Yes, because it rebelled against God. All sin is a rebellion against God, and all sin is therefore evil. That doesn’t make sinners evil people: it just means they all commit evil acts, more or less continually, without even knowing it.

    I think the depravity of man explains a common misunderstanding about ID. Though not all ID leaders are Christians, most are. What does this mean? The evolutionist says it means ID is religiously motivated. The non-Christian ID supporter knows this is not true, and might say that evolutionists are stupid, or misled, or blinded by their own interests. The Christian ID supporter does not need such explanations, because he knows that unredeemed people are incapable of understanding the truth. He knows that the facts are on his side but knows, as well, that the unredeemed person cannot see the facts as they are.

    (For some reason, some non-Christians, such as David Berlinski, have also supported ID. I don’t know how to explain this lack of distortion on their part, but I’m happy for it.)

  36. Shogun, the questions you’re asking were addressed by Plato in Euthyphro. See Euthyphro Dilemma for an exploration of the question.

  37. markf said:

    The argument from evil does not require a majority of evil in the world (whatever that means). It just requires one genuinely evil act or even bad event (such as the tsunami) which a good God could have prevented

    a good Creator could have prevented *any* negativity, even a hangnail, paper cut; so where do you draw the line? Who gets to set the limit?

    At the other extreme, this Creator could have caused, infinite, ever increasing, and unending pleasure, and given us the capacity to endure and appreciate it as well.

    to me, it seems clear that the intent of this Creator was to have challenges to overcome whereby we can achieve growth;

    there must be a value to doing so that is beyond just being given a free handout;

    if the free will didn’t exist to allow people to follow their own drives, good or bad, to the maximum extent possible, the system would appear obviously rigged.

    If everytime someone had a bad thought, a flower pot fell of the window above onto his head, we’d all be good, but not by choice.

  38. I’ve been on both sides of the divide. I was a Dawkins/Hitchens-style atheist until age 43, but have been one of those dreadful, mindless, born-again Christians for almost the last 17 years.

    Both worldviews require faith, but I eventually recognized that I could no longer muster enough faith to remain an atheist. ID was a major factor in my conversion, and I believe that this is what many in the secular humanist community fear.

    They are evangelists for their religion (it is a religion), and have insinuated themselves into some of the most powerful institutions in our country (public education, especially the universities, mainstream media, the judiciary).

    Darwinism is bunk. It explains the trivially obvious and the trivial, but it is transparently powerless to produce what is claimed for it. But it must be true if all that exists is material. This is the definition of an anti-scientific approach to the pursuit of truth.

    Another observation: “Good” atheists in Western Judeo-Christian civilization are parasitic on Judeo-Christian values. They don’t realize that their sense of morality and goodness comes from a 5,000-year-old tradition which they absorbed by osmosis.

    And yet, they seek to destroy that which made modern Western civilization possible.

  39. #19

    Alex73 – the problem of good.

    First – I should note that a number of eminent philosophers – many of them Christians – believed there was an objective basis for morality independent of religion. Kant is probably the most famous.

    However, my I position is that morality is at heart subjective but there is a core of moral opinions which are widely and passionately held. Humanity has commonly shared feelings about what is good or bad (there is also considerably diversity – but the vast majority of people share a large number of moral opinions – this is a matter of social research and has been done). It does not require an objective standard. It is a shared subjective standard.

    A common response is something on the lines of “So you are saying Hitler/Stalin/whatever’s crimes were not objectively evil”. The idea being that the crimes were so obviously and horrificly wrong that my position is absurd. But actually “subjective” does not entail “trivial”. This comes up so often I wrote a small essay on it – just for my own satisfaction.

  40. QuiteID (#34)

    I was rather perplexed by your remark:

    The Christian ID supporter … knows that unredeemed people are incapable of understanding the truth. He knows that the facts are on his side but knows, as well, that the unredeemed person cannot see the facts as they are.

    If you really think this, then why bother debating non-Christians who oppose Intelligent Design? For that matter, why bother debating the existence of God with atheists, as Professor Dembski did?

    And what do you make of Romans 1:20?

    For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

    You also write:

    That doesn’t make sinners evil people: it just means they all commit evil acts, more or less continually, without even knowing it.

    Methinks you overstate the doctrine of human depravity. Where I am, it’s now 4:40 p.m. Looking back over the events of the day, I certainly can’t say that my thoughts have been sinless; but I can honestly say that I haven’t committed any bad acts today. On the other hand, I’ve committed a few small acts of kindness. I suspect that many atheists could say the same thing, at times. People are not as wicked as you appear to think.

  41. Alex73 –

    How did we invent abstract terms like the term “good” and “evil” if in reality there are no such things and there never will be. And why are they so extremely important for us?

    I don’t know if there’s a consensus amongst those that study such things, but I certainly don’t see any problems with humans declaring something “good” on subjective grounds (modern art springs to mind). In that sense, there is good simply because society has decided that it’s good.

    I think there is more than this, though. If what was good was purely because society had decided, then different cultures would have very different ideas about “good”. But there are commonalities, and I suspect too many for it to be due to common descent from a single culture. But a lot of “good” acts are about social cohesion, doing things that help us get on with each other. To take a trivial example, driving on the same side of the road as everyone else is “good”, for obvious reasons.

  42. tribune7 (#23)–

    Would you grant that having a willingness to defend flaws, fallacies and contradictions in one’s belief system is an indication of being blinded by emotion?

    No, I would not grant this. To me, such willingness appears more the product of bias than emotion.

    But the point in my original comment was to ask where the specifics were. It seemed to me that you had some specific examples of statements by Hitchins or others that illustrated blindness due to emotion. This now seems not to be the case.

    I consider myself an atheist. Also, I am generally not persuaded by the ID arguments that I read and see/hear through video. The original post here is a case in point.

    One example to illustrate: Dembski characterizes every cell as “a vastly complicated assembly of interconnected technologies that argue for intelligent design.”

    As a person trying to reason along with Dembski, my initial and immediate problem here is whether we are speaking about metaphorical ‘technologies’ or not.

    If yes, then I have no rational obligation to assume a thinking, designing agent lies behind the cell. Why? Because ‘technologies’ is just a figure of speech that gives me a good approximation of what the cell is like.

    If no, and we mean ‘technologies’ in a literal sense, then I think this application of the term needs more justification and more context. I’m aware of some of the work that attempts to provide the support, but at the end of the day, there is no hard requirement for a full-fledged, rational, intending agent for any of these ‘technologies.’

    It would help the ID case if we identified a specific ‘technology’ in the cell and demonstrated why it cannot be anything but the result of one or more intending agents designing and introducing it at some point in time. But then other questions follow. What does this demonstration tell us about the agents? Does it tell us whether they are deities? Does it tell us how many there were/are? Does it tell us about the relationship of the agents to the cell, and so too to the larger organism containing the cell?

    So, tribune7, I don’t have much to say about “complete blinding emotion” for myself or other atheists. But I can say that I have not yet seen an ID case that very straightforwardly answers or addresses the direct questions about “design” and “technologies” that ought to arise in any reasonable consideration of the ID argument. What’s more, I don’t find this case to be the same on the other side of the debate.

  43. Dr. Torley,

    I think it’s hard to overstate the depravity of man. In my Calvinist faith, the first of five central points is Total Depravity.

    When you discuss your own thoughts and deeds, you are speaking as one of those whom God has chosen. Comparing such a person to an unredeemed person is apples and oranges. The unredeemed person does not know he’s totally depraved; the redeemed person is one the way to being perfected.

    As for why to debate Hitchens publicly, the first answer is to strengthen the faith of the audience. Can a person come to grace through arguments? Yes, if God has willed it. See J.I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, for an explanation of this seeming conundrum.

  44. What drives the god-hating Darwinist is the potent combination of vanity and unhappiness.

    Only vanity has the power to make facts go away. It is a simple fact, confirmed by hard science, that the body is made up of many systems that are, at least in their present state, irreducibly complex. It is a simple fact that nature is fine-tuned for life. It is a simple fact that the probability of life coming from that which is not life is vanishingly small.

    The Darwinists do not dispute these facts, and yet they believe. They cling to Darwinism in an attempt to preserve an identity they cherish—an identity that furnishes them, at least for the moment, with power and prominence in the world; an identity that seems to justify their existence.

    Unfortunately the tide has turned. The zeitgeist is rooted in ego and identity, which is why it changes from age to age. Eventually we tire of any identity we manufacture for ourselves. We begin to see its shortcomings, at which point it loses its power to bewitch us. We begin to long for something new.

    The zeitgeist known as Modernism is an expression of the Unhappy Temperament. Darwin lived at the end of an age that venerated nature, but he found the identity of Romanticism unsatisfying. Nature seemed to him to be a cruel beast, not the handiwork of a benevolent God, and he built his theory on the rock of this unhappiness.

    Natural Selection, built on unhappiness, became the foundation myth of Modernism. Unhappiness produces cultural identities that devalue nature and exalt pure reason and theory. The first known example of such an identity was Idealism and Plato’s insistence that there is nothing good in nature. Darwin and Nietzsche were both in this same mold.

    Modernism used the power of unhappiness to overthrow the Transcendental Aesthetic and its poetic faith in the goodness of Nature. But Modernism is time-limited, too. Darwinism reached a peak where doubt was unthinkable; but the people are fickle, and the zeitgeist begins to wane as soon as they see that it does not have the power to satisfy their need for identity.

    This is what is happening today. The same unhappiness that made Darwinism powerful—the unhappiness on display in Hitchens and Dawkins as they focus their debating energies on the supposed depravity of nature—has now begun to undermine it. Microbiology has uncovered a natural world that is not only “good” but dazzling.

    Darwin justified his resistance to the goodness of nature on the notion that nature was not very valuable and in fact could easily create itself. God was not needed to invest it with goodness because there was no great goodness in it. But Darwinism begins to seem more and more like a tall tale as the unseen world is revealed. Nature is not simple in its smallest scales. It is almost unimaginably complex.

    Microbiology reveals that nature is “very good.” It is not the simple nothing that Darwin made it out to be. This is why the nothingness or nihilism of the Modern age is beginning to lose its stranglehold over the human mind and spirit. Not only did it fail to lead to the happiness promised by its prophets, but it runs counter to the simple facts of science.
    Unhappiness, it seems, is now all that the Darwinists have left to feed on. It was always the hidden cause of their antipathy to God, but it has come out into the open now that science itself has betrayed them. The more science suggests that nature is “very good,” the more they cling to unhappiness—and the more we see the limitations of Darwinism and its resistance to the goodness of nature.

    Unhappiness had the power to make the Darwinists strong when they were resisting the limitations of Romanticism with its faux optimism, but now it has begun to work against them.

  45. Two recent comments. Here’s the first:

    I think it’s hard to overstate the depravity of man. In my Calvinist faith, the first of five central points is Total Depravity.

    Here’s the second:

    What drives the god-hating Darwinist is the potent combination of vanity and unhappiness.

    These comments reveal a profound (and self-interested) dislike of people and an equally profound love of sweeping and grand-sounding statements.

    In the two concrete examples above, statements made right here publicly, I see “complete blinding emotion.”

  46. Lars – are you happy? I’m happy.

  47. LarsTanner (#41)

    Thank you for your interesting post. You write:

    It would help the ID case if we identified a specific ‘technology’ in the cell and demonstrated why it cannot be anything but the result of one or more intending agents designing and introducing it at some point in time.

    The keyword here is “technology.” Exactly what do you mean by this word?

    Wikipedia defines the term as follows:

    Technology is the usage and knowledge of tools, techniques, crafts, systems or methods of organization. The word technology comes from the Greek technología — techne, an “art”, “skill” or “craft” and -logia, the study of something, or the branch of knowledge of a discipline.

    (I’ve omitted the Greek characters in the Wikipedia article, because I can’t reproduce them here.)

    It seems to me that your question is a request for the Designer’s modus operandi. You want to know how the Designer makes things – i.e. what techniques He uses. (I’m using the word “He” here for conventional reasons.)

    Two quick points in reply. (1) If the Designer is an infinitely Intelligent Being, then He doesn’t need to have a “how” (or modus operandi) when making things, as He is not constrained to create according to any particular technique. (2) If the Designer is finite but far more advanced than we are, then He would have some sort of technique, but it would be one that we would be unable to grasp. All we would be able to grasp, as beings far inferior in understanding, is the mere fact that the objects made by this Designer were indeed designed.

    A propos “blinding emotion,” I have to say that I have never encountered it in the writings of Professor Dembski, or for that matter Professor Michael Behe.

  48. LarTanner, a few points.

    1. Bias is emotion.

    2. One quick example regarding Hitchens being driven by blind emotion is his instance that a belief in God leads to violence. Reason shows this not to be the case since those who don’t believe in God commit acts of violence.

    3. Regarding your objections to ID, you seem to be rejecting arguments ID doesn’t make. ID is not about metaphorical technologies but observations of nature — namely that aspects of biology have characteristics shared only by objects of known design.

    Now, since ID is science these observations are refutable and it quite appropriate for you to attempt to do so. The attempt you made in post 41, however, is basically an expression of opinion and a statement of semantics which is an indication of a emotion-driven approach to the question.

    4. All human beings, unless totally mad, have accepted some explanation for dealing with existence. What is yours?

  49. markf (#39)

    I’ve just had a look at your short essay, and I’d like to offer a couple of comments, if I may.

    You write that “morality is at heart subjective but there is a core of moral opinions which are widely and passionately held,” and you add: “Humanity has commonly shared feelings about what is good or bad…” I believe that there is indeed a core of commonly held moral opinions, but I would be leery of using this empirical fact as a foundation for my moral reasoning. For one thing, the core may change considerably over time. Think of how people’s opinions about the nature of marriage have changed over the last 50 years. The modern understanding of the word “marriage” has almost nothing in common with the way in which the word was used in tribal societies until relatively recently. If the core of moral opinion changes over time, then moral beliefs are only valid for a period of thousands of years, at most. Will people still believe in the Golden Rule in 100 years, by which time (according to some sci-fi writers) they’ll have cyber-implants for brains? You tell me.

    In your essay, you use the example of animal experimentation to show (successfully, in my opinion) that (1) shared subjective judgments are not trivial, that (2) people who hold these judgments may reasonably try to “convert” others with different subjective judgments, and that (3) they may legitimately employ reason in order to “convert” others, by attempting to show that there is some inconsistency in contrary judgments – that is, if one reasons on the basis of certain shared moral premises. All very well and good; but your contention #(4), that people who hold these judgments believe that if only other people were reasonable and knew all the facts, then they would agree in their moral judgments, does not follow.

    First, there may be contrary moral opinions which are both equally consistent with the set of shared moral premises and the known – or even knowable – facts. (The uniqueness problem.) Perhaps our set of shared moral judgments leaves undetermined the question of how we are supposed to feel about the morality of performing experiments on frogs – or rats, for that matter.

    Second, even if there were a unique solution for every moral question (something which I’m sure you would not wish to claim), it would only be convincing for people who happened to share the set of core moral premises that most humans do. People like Hitler and Stalin would not be convinced. We may call these people depraved; but I fail to see how on your view of morality, you could call them unreasonable.

    Third, any set of moral judgments can only be made relative to some set of background assumptions about human nature. However, it cannot answer the higher-level “meta” question of whether, and to what extent, we should transform human nature – as scientists are learning how to do, with greater and greater skill, for better or worse.

  50. vjtorley (#47),

    My use of the word ‘technology’ is, a match for how Dembski uses the term in his statement: “We now know that every cell (and all life is composed of cells) is a vastly complicated assembly of interconnected technologies that argue for intelligent design.” My comment essentially tries to explore what Dembski means here. As I say, I’m not sure what he means. I wish he would clarify.

    You say:

    It seems to me that your question is a request for the Designer’s modus operandi. You want to know how the Designer makes things – i.e. what techniques He uses. (I’m using the word “He” here for conventional reasons.)

    No, I do not think that this is what my request is. My question is not how the Designer makes things but how we know that this specific thing is made by a designer. So, I am looking for an example of one of Dembski’s “technologies”–the name of a thing in the cell–and the explanation for why it clearly must be the result of a rational being’s intentional activity. I’m asking a very ID 101 question, I think. I really don’t know the answer.

    My reply to your “two quick points”: (1) That’s a rather large if, don’t you think? To me, it’s rather like saying that if the designer was Superman, he could have shrunk himself in one of the machines of the Hall of Justice, and then super-sped into the cell to build the “technology.” I’m not trying to be flippant, but I think that if calls for assuming too much, too soon. (2) I have no problem with the second point, but let me ask you a question:

    Do you believe we have a clear understanding of which “objects made by this Designer were indeed designed”?

    If so, what are these objects and how do we know? It’s the same question I had earlier. Apparently, there are some cellular “technologies” about we can say “this was clearly designed and built by an independent, intending agent.” I want to know the names of these technologies. Nothing less, nothing more.

  51. tribune7 (#48),

    If you think bias is an emotion, then I’m afraid we’re on different wavelengths and cannot hope to find common ground.

    Regarding your #2 point, I don’t know what Hitchins quote you are referring to. I am willing to stipulate that theists, deists, pantheists, and atheists all have committed acts of violence.

    Regarding your #3 point. I hope that by quoting the source I have avoided building straw man arguments. But Dembski used the word “technologies,” and I think it’s important to understand in what sense(s) this word is being applied. Don’t you think so, too?

    Yes, I try to be clear about my personal opinions. I also think semantics matters. This approach, I hope, is a reasonable one. But you seem to think its “emotion-driven.” Perhaps you can enlighten me on how to avoid emotion-driven approaches.

    Regarding #4: I really don’t know what you are asking or why it’s relevant. Perhaps if you gave me your answer to the question, it would help me out.

  52. Dr. Dembski, you are a smart guy and very clever writer. Like Richard Feynman, you just cut through the nonsense and get to the facts!

    Someone commented:

    “It’s becoming crystal clear that what drives the atheist isn’t reason as they claim but complete blinding emotion.”

    This is true, and also direct from Scripture. The problem for the atheist is not the head, but the heart. The proverb does not say: “The fool says in his HEAD there is no God” but in his “heart”. That is where the commitment is for Hitchens — ultimately it is his heart-hatred of God that we all have before being converted and given a new heart.

  53. Tribune7 @ 48,

    Hitchens point is that the bible actually commands violence. He accepts that all humans can be violent – as he puts it we are imperfectly formed primates but the bible actually exhorts violence (he usually refers here to an occasion in the bible where God commanded that all the men and children of a tribe be killed and their women taken as prostitutes – can’t remember the name of the tribe). But there are a number of other areas where people are commanded by God to be violent.

    Heinrich – what do you mean by your question about happiness? Do you think that is the only worthwhile emotion? The only worthwhile state of being?

    QuiteID; I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but I feel sorry for you. Your first point is the total depravity of man? That is how you start out viewing humanity? That must be a terribly unfulfilling way to live your life.

  54. #49

    VJ #49
    I’ve just had a look at your short essay, and I’d like to offer a couple of comments, if I may.

    I am honoured.

    My purpose was to establish two things:

    1) Subjective does not entail trivial or unfounded

    2) Why moral debate often gives the impression of appealing to an objective standard

    I am happy to concede that moral feelings have changed a lot over the years. We could debate how much, but this is irrelevant to my argument. I am not suggesting that it is sound to argue “most people feel this is wrong therefore it is wrong”. Hardly anyone will be convinced of that. Only that most people believe (consciously or subconsciously) that others share enough feelings about what is right or wrong that they can find common ground and if they are rational they can come to an agreed solution. That is why we have the impression of objective morality.

    People may be, and often are, wrong in this belief. I suspect you and I share so little common ground with a psychopath or religious terrorist that we could never have a rational argument with them about right and wrong. But most people act an on this assumption most of the time and this works pretty well at least for people we deal with most of the time.

    So I accept that:

    * Our set of shared moral judgments leaves undetermined the question of how we are supposed to feel about the morality of performing experiments on frogs – or rats, for that matter.

    * Hitler and Stalin may be both depraved and reasonable.

    I think your last paragraph contains a common logical error. It confuses the causes of our moral attitudes and the justifications. They are different. My genes and upbringing might cause me to find Chaplin funny and Keaton less so (not true as it happens). However, I will not justify my opinion by pointing to my upbringing. I will justify it by pointing out certain aspects of the two artists under the assumption/hope that others will share my point of view.

    I am not saying that studying human nature provides the answer as to what is right or wrong. I am just saying that it enables and causes our moral feelings. There is no ultimate answer. In the end I believe morality is subjective. And you and I may perfectly well have different opinions about how human nature should develop. These opinions are caused by our own natures, but they are not justified by our natures.

  55. Upright BiPed

    While I agree completely with your laconic responses, I know you are more than capable of expanding on them. Please indulge me :)

  56. zeroseven,

    So what if God did command violence? It could very well be the result of proper and moral divine judgment. Any moral standard we would use to say that anything God did is immoral, we borrow from God, or we make it up ourselves as a convention, like driving on the right side of the road. If we make it up, we cannot really go on being indignant. If we say that what God did was really or objectively wrong, we’re borrowing the standard of right and wrong from Him to be used against Him. But this is a contradiction, for if He were really evil or morally corrupt, then all of His standards should be rejected as well. But this is impossible, which is why it is illogical to make the charge that God is evil. Also evil is a privation of the good, something good gone wrong, and only in light of an ultimate good can evil even be compared and judged to be evil in the first place. And, we might not see the whole situation and its inherent goodness from our limited vantage point (given that we’re inside time, not in Heaven and earth simultaneously, we’re not omniscient nor omnipresent, etc.), so we can only make a tentative judgment of any kind when making declarations about a being who is all of these things. You don’t see the whole story, but rather a glimpse. These reasons are but a few of why it is incoherent to make such moral judgments against God. The problem of evil is only a problem if there is really an objective good, that is, if there is actually a God. You take God out of the equation and there is no problem of evil because there is no ultimate standard of good.

  57. LarTanner–

    Bias is certainly emotion i.e something guided by feelings rather than reason. The appropriate definition from Merriam Webster is particular tendency or inclination, esp. one that prevents unprejudiced consideration of a question; prejudice.

    Regarding your #2 point, I don’t know what Hitchins quote you are referring to.

    It’s chapter 2 of his book. And I likewise would grant it would be blindly emotional on my part if I were to insist that religious people don’t kill as well.

    But Dembski used the word “technologies,”

    Dembski uses a lot of words as do the other leaders of the ID movement. And again I’ll grant something, namely that if all Dembski used to propound ID was the phrase “technologies” it would be quite reasonable to dismiss it.

    OTOH, assuming that the word “technologies” is all that’s being offered to explain ID would be, well, emotion-driven :-)

    Regarding #4: I really don’t know what you are asking or why it’s relevant.

    You’ve said you’ve come to a reasoned conclusion that God is not the answer. Why?

  58. To Clive: So god sits on his hands while innocent people suffer at the hands of others. Does that make sense to you ?

    And suffering is suffering. You can blather about it being ‘objective’ etc, but its still suffering. pain is pain, whats complicated about that ? Do people not feel pain because theologians have explained it away ?

  59. Graham,

    When you make an argument and not an emotion appeal let me know. I don’t “blather” about anything, by the way.

  60. Hello Graham,

    Before you complain about suffering, you must first demonstrate why suffering matters in a meaningless universe. If everything is reducible to subatomic particles, then who cares whether people suffer or not? Who cares about anything?

  61. … and why do Dawkins / Hitchens care so much about sorting out the world’s problems if at rock bottom there is no ultimate meaning…?

    There is probably no meaning, so go forth and enjoy your life…

  62. Graham some choose to be bitter about suffering, some choose to grow through the suffering. The suffering that each of us must bear in this life to some extent or other:

    No Arms No Legs No Worries
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ciYk-UwqFKA

    Bowen on World News
    “A friend told me that I’ve seen too much, but I’m realizing that I might not see enough. Everything I’ve watched happen in this hospital, all the pain I’ve felt, is deepening my faith, strengthening my marriage, and molding my character. As I lovingly stared into Bowen’s eyes just before midnight, my face only inches from his chest, I thought, ‘This love is an awesome mess.’ I know I’m not the first person to think or to say something like that. Many great works of art have titles that are reminiscent of those words. I believe it’s because tension is the place where the worst of life and the best of true hope meet to unveil our eyes to God’s artistic work of redemption. What a mighty and creatively loving God we serve. He allows us to know great pain, so that we can know the greater pleasure of trading it in for purpose.”
    http://bowensheart.com/

  63. NZer:

    Please point me to one example where either Dawkins or Hitchens say their lives have no meaning. (And I don’t mean a reference to the universe having no meaning or being pitiless and uncaring).

    Clive;

    I’m not saying God is evil or good. That would be a strange thing to say as I don’t believe such a thing as God exists.

    I am saying that passages in the bible exhort followers to violence in God’s name. This simply to show that a belief in God can lead one to commit violence, which was the point I was making to Tribune7.

  64. By the way, it would be great if I could get taken off the moderation list now.

  65. Chris Doyle: Cut a heathen and he bleeds, just like you.

  66. Hello Berceuse,

    I am traveling so I only have a keyboard the size of a credit card in which to type. It doesn’t make for long-winded comments.

    In any case, Mark Frank deserves more respect than I sometimes give him. There is no doubt he is an intelligent and gifted person, I just find his low notes rather thoughtless. The village atheist schtick is outdated in a modern world.

    - – - – -

    Happy Thanksgiving to All

  67. zeroseven @53 –

    Heinrich – what do you mean by your question about happiness? Do you think that is the only worthwhile emotion? The only worthwhile state of being?

    I was responding to allanius’ comment that what drives atheists is unhappiness. Clearly if Lars and I (and other atheists) aren’t unhappy, allanius’ argument breaks down.

  68. zeroseven, I’m sorry I missed you’re post 53.

    If you read the Bible and conclude that what God wants is for us to act violently to our neighbor all that can be said is that a blind, emotional desire to disbelieve in our Creator has led you to come to a delusional conclusion as to what the Book says and what God wants.

    And regarding Hitchens’ conclusion that religion leads to violence for which he cites as evidence Old Testament commands for slaughter, he strangely discounts the contemporaneous behavior of the neighbors of the children of Israel who did not accept Yahweh.

    Were they who did not have the Bible less violent than the Hebrews? No. Were they more so? Well, they famously burned their children to death to appease graven idols. And unlike the Jews, the Babylonians, Persians, Hitties, Egyptians & Greeks actually did make attempts to conquer the known world putting in practice the same types of slaughter to which Hitchens cites as an example as to how religion leads to violence.

    Of course, those peoples did not have the Bible.

    Hitchens, btw, also cites the New Testament as an inspiration for violence, and not a command to violence can be found in it.

  69. zeroseven,

    It all goes back to the problem of objective vs subjective morality, and how it is absurd to judge an objective source of morality by reference to a subjective source. I think Clive already done a nice job explaining this.

    But suppose what’s in the Bible is not objective moral basis, that means it is a subjective basis that commands violence under some circumstances as you say. But as a neutral observer I would be confused by now, should I follow your subjective morality or the “subjective” morality of the Bible? And which one is better? Or should I make up my own version and claim that you’re both wrong? So Why is your version better than theirs? What if their version is misunderstood by yours? And Clive has already pointed out that you are only getting a glimpse of the story and not the big picture. Especially since it is common for most atheists to approach religion with a narrow “tunnel vision”.

    My point is that it is absurd and problematic to judge one subjective source by another subjective source. If subjective morality is all there is, then naturally you should expect differences and tolerate that. Otherwise what gives you the authority to claim that the moral basis of other people is wrong while looking at them from your own moral window.

    Yes it is true we all bleed the same blood and most of us have a shared sense of good and bad, and that is all the more reason for humanity to subscribe to one unifying objective moral basis and solve all these issues, which is impossible to achieve without a belief in God as our transcendent moral anchor.

  70. Tribune7, that’s ok, it happens when one is moderated.

    My point is not that all God wants is for people to be violent. Or that people who don’t follow the bible are less violent (although I actually do think an argument can be made for that).

    I was simply pointing out that there are passages in the bible that exhort people to violence.

    Regarding the NT, it has provisions regarding the conduct of slaves and when it is ok to beat them. You don’t consider slavery violent?

    Shogun, I agree with most of what you say, except I don’t see it as necessary to have God as the moral anchor. There are certainly differences in morality and I don’t impose mine on others (although I may argue for them). But yes, because we have the same blood and share a common bond as a species, there are certain things we all (other than sociopaths and other disordered people) ascribe to. These are things that arise within us as individuals and members of communities and ultimately as members of the same species.

  71. zeroseven,

    I understand that not everybody accepts God as their moral anchor. But I was not talking about any personal moral anchor, my focus was on an transcendent OBJECTIVE moral anchor which is the best solution to settle the majority of humanity’s moral issues and is impossible to achieve without accepting God.

    I also know that you are not trying to impose your moral standards on others or judge theirs by reference to yours. But by claiming that the Bible exhorts violence you’re committing the error of viewing the moral standards of Christianity within your own subjective moral window. The majority of Christians do not view the Bible as inciting violence or immorality. On the contrary, they see at as a source of teaching humanity goodness, love, and care.

    By the way, I’m not Christian. But I can see that the majority of atheists accusations towards holly scriptures are biased and unfair. In other words they only read the scripture to prove their own points against it, not to try to fully understand it. This is why they pick and choose which parts that seem violent and immoral, and emphasize them for the purpose of bashing the entire religion. This is why I described the atheist approach to religion as a narrow tunnel vision that misses the main point about religion, or in other words, misses the big picture.

    Yes there are parts in scriptures (Bible, Quran, Torah) that an atheist may interpret as violent. But the context of such verses needs to be fully understood before such a premature judgment is made. The scriptures primarily promote peace, justice, and freedom. But they also recognize that there are circumstances that require the use of force or banishment to establish discipline or to fight a war for a righteous purpose for the betterment of humanity. And it just happened that the atheist viewing the scripture, has a subjective moral reference that might be more pacifistic. But just because the atheist’s moral standard is more pacifistic and more tolerant to the problems recognized as sins by scripture, does not mean that his subjective moral standard is right, or is better than that of the scriptures.

  72. zeroseven

    Regarding the NT, it has provisions regarding the conduct of slaves and when it is ok to beat them. You don’t consider slavery violent?

    Christianity didn’t have any secular power in NT times and slavery was a long-extant Roman, Jewish and everybody else institution.

    But where does it give allowance to beat slaves?

    Even Wiki concludes the NT to have a basically anti-slavery tilt.

  73. I understand that not everybody accepts God as their moral anchor. But I was not talking about any personal moral anchor, my focus was on an transcendent OBJECTIVE moral anchor which is the best solution to settle the majority of humanity’s moral issues and is impossible to achieve without accepting God.

    Ah, but which God? Or even, which interpretation of the same God?

    If one God exists (or one pantheon), and we can be sure which is the real God, then the answer is easy. But if not, how does one objectively decide which God to follow? Even amongst the Abrahamic religions, there are many interpretations of this one God and what He wants. Indeed, this is true even amongst the different religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam all have groups with very different views on what their God thinks they should do.

  74. markf @39

    Thanks for the reply. I will try to look into the matter a bit more later. The difficulty is, of course, to spot if the authors borrow something from a religious text, or derive an “ought” from an “is”.

  75. Heinrich –Ah, but which God? Or even, which interpretation of the same God?

    You are looking at this wrong. It’s not an interpretation of God or theology but an observation of reality.

    You start with the recognition that truth is objective and existence (the universe) has a point and you work back from there.

    Once you do that the “which God” question becomes more clear.

  76. Heinrich,

    The question of “which god” is a 2nd order question. As an atheist you first have to put religion aside and then ask yourself objectively “is there a creator?”, instead of looking at some ignorant interpretations of religion/scripture that might seem like a “turn off” to you, and then prematurely concluding that there is no God just because you disliked how some superstitious groups practice genital mutilations for instance.

    And if you want, you can look at religions this way: which one is the closest to science? For example, intellectual and scientific members of the Abrahamic religions present a storng compelling case for God, the one and only God whom they may refer to as Allah or Yehwah. And I don’t see that “very different” interpretations among them. At their heart, the Abrahamic religions share the same God and have significantly more common ground than there are differences. I encourage you to look at examples of moderate dialog among members of these religions rather than watching extremists bashing each other.

    Also ask yourself, did the followers of Zeus, Osiris, Thor, Shiva or any other pagan/mythical deity (ancient or modern) have followers that presented a compelling scientific case for their existence, as is the case in Abrahamic religions? NO they didn’t, all they had is a collection of mythologies & stories.

    Now back to the question of the creator. If we put all subjective theories and ignorant beliefs aside and by looking at it objectively, the existence of God is the best explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe, the origin of life, the information that runs the show in cells, the origin of nanotechnology in cells that left Darwinists speechless, and many other objective empirical observations that inevitably point to one conclusion: God.

    On the other hand, the atheist rejects the obvious implications of such facts in favor of rather subjective hypothetical explanations: abiogenesis, “creative” mutations, multiverse…etc. All of which are subjective, hypothetical, and flawed theories that lack a solid empirical evidence and are driven by the “ABG” logic (Anything But God).

  77. tribune7 (#57)

    Bias is certainly emotion i.e something guided by feelings rather than reason. The appropriate definition from Merriam Webster is particular tendency or inclination, esp. one that prevents unprejudiced consideration of a question; prejudice.

    I see the point you are trying to make, but it doesn’t work. Even if bias is “guided” by emotions, it is not itself an emotion. It is, primarily, a flaw of reasoning, a failure to account for significant information.

    Now, why were we discussing it? Oh yes, because you want to define atheists as fundamentally emotion-driven in their atheism.

    Look, to close off this discussion, perhaps we can agree on a few things:
    (1) I don’t think your argument is as self-evident as you seem to think. I’m happy you brought in, at last, a specific to use as evidence of your claim–that specific being the entirety of a chapter in Hitchens’s book–but I think you need a few more examples before the argument can be considered strong at all.
    (2) The argument “they are so EMOTIONAL”–the argument you are making–seems to be like the claims of “I don’t like their tone” or “They use straw men arguments, for they are not criticizing my religion” or “They are not sophisticated in philosophy or theology.” That is, I find this tactic to be evasive, dismissive, and anti-intellectual. I am not saying you are any of these things, only that I despise this kind of argument for wasting mind-share.
    (3) The word “technology” is critical in ID, no? I realize that Dembski and other ID proponents use lots of words, but as I have tried to ask–and no one has answered me–the word “technology” carries quite a bit of semantic freight. It’s a word that represents almost the entire worldview of ID. By seeing life as a “technology” ID promotes the idea that life has been purposely and systematically built–”technology,” in other words, is a biased and prejudicial word. I’ve merely asked for the backing behind the use of the word. The silence in response to this request has signified volumes.

  78. LarTanner, way back in post 48 I said “bias is emotion” which is not the same as saying it is “an emotion”.

    Would it be clearer if I had said “bias is an emotionally driven type of reasoning”? :-)

    And the word “technology” is not at all critical. “Intelligence” yes, and “design” of course, but “technology” would be most likely used, if used at all, to make an off-hand analogy well after the discussion got underway.

    And even then the analogy is more likely going to be to something not generally considered technological such as a sentence or paragraph.

  79. Sorry Graham, I lost this thread originally. Anyway, I’ve just seen your response: “cut a heathen and he bleeds”.

    Not good enough I’m afraid Graham. In a meaningless universe what does it matter if the entire history of mankind suffers endlessly or not at all. In the end, it is all for nothing anyway.

    So, if you’re bringing that worldview to the discussion, you need to explain why suffering (or anything) really matters in the first place.

  80. LarTanner,

    I just wanted to comment on your objection to the use of the term “technology”.

    Describing the complex & amazing molecular machines in cells as nanotechnology is more intuitive than it is subjective. We can recognize design when we see it. Even Darwinists admit there is design in living things but they just BELIEVE it to be an “illusion”. But it is part of human rationality to recognize signs of intelligence & design, and their detection methods are being used for detecting intelligence in SETI research and other fields. But when it comes to biology, we have to discard our intuitive interpretation of biological designs just so we do not upset Darwinism!!

    By the way, even if we drop the word “technology”, that will not reduce the formidable challenge that molecular machines pose to Darwinism. Over 150 years after Darwin and his theory still failed to yield an adequate explanation for a single complex organ or molecular machine through the alleged processes of RM + NS.

    Your objection to the word “technology” actually demonstrates a typical materialistic disdain towards the use of words that have theological package to them, no matter how intuitive they may be. For example, throughout the ages scientists intuitively recognized the rules and principles that govern the universe as laws, the blueprint of cells to be information, the structures of biological systems to be design, and the workhorse of cells to be molecular machines. But, recently materialists want us to drop such words because a law implies a law-giver, a design implies a designer, a molecular machine implies an engineer, and information implies intelligence. In other word, this opposition to the usage of such words is more counter-intuitive and ideological than it is scientific.

  81. tribune7 (#78),

    The problem is that you are wrong, not that you are being unclear. You say this:

    Would it be clearer if I had said “bias is an emotionally driven type of reasoning”?

    This is an incorrect statement, or rather an incomplete statement. Bias can be driven by several things other than emotion; bias can result from factors apart from emotion. For example, in a survey, one can take too small or too homogeneous a sample. For another example, one can inadvertently adopt an anthropic bias. Your repeated insistence on tethering bias to emotion is itself a bias.

    I have to laugh when I read you saying that the term “technology” is not so important as I suggest. Well, let’s look again at what Dembski says:

    We now know that every cell (and all life is composed of cells) is a vastly complicated assembly of interconnected technologies that argue for intelligent design. We need to be engineers to understand what’s inside the cell, and the level of engineering we find there far exceeds anything humans have invented. If you want to see what I’m talking about, call up YouTube on your PDA and punch in “inner life of the cell.”

    The word “technologies” is essential in the argument that Dembski is making. It conveys the ideas of complexity, systematization, and intent. Don’t tell me it’s not a critical term because that’s a lie. What’s more, it’s an objectionable term because if we are trying to determine whether design is inherent in a cell or cellular structure, then the word “technology” poisons the discussion by smuggling in the design idea in advance.

    Shogun (#80): Your apology fails completely, I’m afraid. How did you come up with this?

    We can recognize design when we see it. Even Darwinists admit there is design in living things but they just BELIEVE it to be an “illusion”.

    No, we cannot recognize design when we see it, at least not in all cases. Whether design is actual or apparent is one of the central questions that ID is supposed to be addressing. To my knowledge, that question is far from being answered (and perhaps answerable).

    This statement of yours is childish:

    Your objection to the word “technology” actually demonstrates a typical materialistic disdain towards the use of words that have theological package to them, no matter how intuitive they may be.

    My objection to the term is that it is a biased term and an intellectual shortcut. I did not realize the word “technology” had a “theological package.” That’s a new one. Frankly, I don’t care about the theology. But I do care about words and word use. People try to fool others with words, and the use of “technology” by ID is a case in point. So, yes, you are correct that my objection has an ideological dimension, and that ideology is one that values the effort to use words honestly and with neutral intent as we try to figure out the facts. You apparently have a different ideology in mind, evidently one in which you “know” the truth in advance and so use words and select “facts” that seem to support that truth.

  82. LarTanner — Bias can be driven by several things other than emotion;

    OK Lar, IOW bias can be emotion. So I’ll be more clear. The bias that drives the atheist is emotion.

    Or do you want to make the claim that the bias that drives the atheist is experiential-based ignorance?

    It some cases that might actually be true. Anthony Flew comes to mind. In the case of Hitchens and PZ Myers and others of that type, however, it is emotion.

    Regardless, bias is the tendency to come to conclusions despite the evidence. This means it is irrational, which means regardless of whatever bias motivates the atheist it is an indication of delusion in their thinking.

    Don’t tell me it’s not a critical term because that’s a lie.

    And that is seriously emotionally driven statement.

  83. tribune7,

    You seem very comfortable making these armchair psychological profiles of the (big, bad) atheist. And I see you cannot resist but go back to that security blanket of “you’re emotion-driven.”

    The only thing to point out is that you have referred several times to “the evidence.” One reason I and others focus on language is that too often ID proponents refer to “the evidence” but don’t actually have any evidence. The evidence will be the “technologies of the cell” which are evidence of the “technologies of the cell”–and, hence, we get nowhere. It all convinces me that ID is more the science of advertising than the science of actual living things.

    Thanks for the discussion.

  84. tribune7 @75 –

    You start with the recognition that truth is objective and existence (the universe) has a point and you work back from there.

    That reminds me of Deep Thought, who started from ‘I think, therefore I am’, and had got as far as deducing the existence of rice pudding and income tax before anyone plugged in his memory.

    More seriously, I’m intrigued to see how you make this inference. I’m sceptical that you can do it without making more assumptions (e.g. about the point of the universe).

    Shogun @76 – For those claiming that the only way to an objective reality is through a god, then saying which god is surely a first order argument.

    Also ask yourself, did the followers of Zeus, Osiris, Thor, Shiva or any other pagan/mythical deity (ancient or modern) have followers that presented a compelling scientific case for their existence, as is the case in Abrahamic religions? NO they didn’t, all they had is a collection of mythologies & stories.

    For me, there’s not much difference between Genesis and the other creation myths: they’re all just mythologies & stories.

    Now back to the question of the creator. If we put all subjective theories and ignorant beliefs aside and by looking at it objectively, the existence of God is the best explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe, the origin of life, the information that runs the show in cells, the origin of nanotechnology in cells that left Darwinists speechless, and many other objective empirical observations that inevitably point to one conclusion: God.

    I guess it’s clear that I’m not convinced by this: for example the origin of life stories in Genesis don’t match what science tells us. it may be that evidence can be found to show that a god is needed to explain the universe, but why should this be the Abrahamic god?

    More importantly, the scientific evidence says nothing about an objective morality. I agree that there is a lot of common ground between the mainstream Abrahamic religions (but don’t tell certain strands of the Religious Right in the US: they’ll blow a gasket if they find out they have a lot in common with Islam). But there are still important differences (e.g. on the status of women, or on whether killing is permissible). And that’s before we get onto how they conduct themselves in practice!

  85. LarTanner — One reason I and others focus on language is that too often ID proponents refer to “the evidence” but don’t actually have any evidence. The evidence will be the “technologies of the cell” which are evidence of the “technologies of the cell”–and, hence, we get nowhere.

    Then you haven’t followed the issue.

    ID at its simplest is that designed objects have quantifiable traits and that if an object has these traits we can infer the object is designed. Since biological objects have these traits we can infer they are designed.

    Behe’s best known argument as to a quantifiable trait of designed objects is irreducible complexity – namely that if an object loses a single part that should cause it to be unable to function, design would be proved since such a part could not have occurred via gradual series of random events i.e. evolutionary path.

    Dembski’s best known argument is complex specified information — which is that if an item contains specific information of a particular complexity, it can’t be anything but designed.

    See, didn’t even use the word “technology”.

    BTW, neither Dembski nor Behe’s claim is dogmatic and both are subject to falsification.

    The only thing to point out is that you have referred several times to “the evidence.”

    The problem with drawing emotionally driven conclusions is that one finds oneself making assumptions on what he thought he read rather than what was actually before him. :-)

    I’ve used the phrase “the evidence” just one in Post 82 in what was basically an allusion to the definition of bias.

    In fact I use the word “evidence” in only two other posts — 17 & 68 — and, again, neither is a reference to ID.

  86. LarTanner.

    As tribune already pointed out, the concepts of irreducible complexity and specified information point to design. Both concepts are rife in cells. In addition, ID brings a quantifiable approach to understanding design, as well as another quantifiable approach for analyzing the adequacy of RM + NS in producing new functions, which is what Darwinists failed to demonstrate.

    Let me remind you again, it is not Creationists who referred to the universal rules as laws, or biological systems as designs. It is not Creationist who came up with the term “information” to describe DNA, nor did they come up with “molecular machines” to describe what we see in cells. It was scientists who came up with such word because they are INTUITIVE not subjective as you would like us to believe.

    The problem is that you think that we are fooled into thinking that what we see in living things is “design”, and hence we are “deluded & biased” when we call it “technology”. But you fail to realize that irreducible complexity & specified information are observable empirical facts. In other words, inferring design is based on positive evidence based on what we know, not your typical “God of the gaps”. But Darwinists stubbornly reject this based on purely ideological motives.

    Faced with this evidence for design, what do the Darwinists have to say regarding irreducible complexity? All they did is that they invented (not discovered) the concept of co-option which adds more theoretical package to Darwinism but is not an empirical evidence in & of itself. It is just an expansion to their story-telling skills. They somehow think that simply mentioning co-option would “magically” solve the problem of irreducible complexity.

    By the way, all the fuzz you’re making about the word “technology” is trivial. Whether we call it “technology” or “random creation” or whatever you will, such word games do not solve the main problem facing Darwinism. Let me repeat it again:

    Over 150 years after Darwin and his theory still failed to yield an adequate explanation for a single complex organ or molecular machine through the alleged processes of RM + NS.

    For example, when it comes to proteins, it is a known fact (and another successful ID prediction) that the ratio of functional to non-functional arrangements is astronomically small. So you could have DNA mutating indefinitely searching for “islands of function” in an astronomical sea. And somehow we are supposed to believe that mutations could come up with all the new body plans in such a brief time period as in the Cambrian explosion!! I think that those who blindly believe in the “creative” powers of mutations are the ones who are truly deluded, not those who refer to molecular machines as technology.

  87. Heinrich @84 –

    Yes, it is first order for those who believe in objective reality. But not for the atheist who denies the basic notion of a creator to the universe, let alone the objective reality. And that is exactly why I said for an atheist the first order question is “is there a creator?”. So logically the “which God” question becomes a 2nd order for the atheist.

    Let me draw an important distinction here; the questions of “is life designed”, “is there a creator to the universe”, and “which god” each requires a separate long discussion on its own right with regard to the topics of biology, cosmology, philosophy and theology. You are frog-leaping from one question to another thinking that an absence of answer from the opponent to one of these questions would spell defeat for his/her arguments regarding the other two questions. But this is not how it works.

    And let’s be honest, when you ask “which god is it” is that for the purpose of knowledge or confusion? Or do you expect a lack of convincing answer from the opponent that would make you believe that you “won” the argument and somehow proven that there is no creator to the universe?

    Heinrich –

    But you missed my main point, I was arguing for an objective scientific case for the existence of a creator to the universe. I did not make a mention of Genesis. All I said is that only God of the Abrahamic faiths holds scientific credibility, and if all they had is myths and stories I don’t think we would be finding intellectuals and scientists today presenting a compelling scientific case for God.

    Anyways, let me repeat my old paragraph from #76:

    “Now back to the question of the creator. If we put all subjective theories and ignorant beliefs aside and by looking at it objectively, the existence of God is the best explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe, the origin of life, the information that runs the show in cells, the origin of nanotechnology in cells that left Darwinists speechless, and many other objective empirical observations that inevitably point to one conclusion: God.”

    To which you replied as such:

    They don’t match with what part of science exactly? Darwinism? Are we talking about the theory that failed to explain the origin of life, or of any complex molecular machine, through the speculated & undirected natural causes of RM + NS?

    And I fail to understand you logic here, how is your subjective disagreement with Genesis supposed to refute the objective evidence from the fine-tuning of the universe, the nanotechnology in cells, and the massive information content that runs the show in biology? I dare say that these are all objectively observed facts that strongly appeal to our intellectual honesty to conclude that the universe has a creator.

    Heinrich –

    I commend you for showing some open mind to the possibility of God needed to explain the universe. But if the Abrahamic God doesn’t suit you, would you then be more comfortable with Zeus, Osiris, Shiva or a statue of some pagan deity in your living room?

  88. I’m sorry but I notice that Heinrich’s quotes were missing from the previous post. So I will repost it again.

  89. >>This is the better version of #87

    Heinrich @84 – “For those claiming that the only way to an objective reality is through a god, then saying which god is surely a first order argument”

    Yes, it is first order for those who believe in objective reality. But not for the atheist who denies the basic notion of a creator to the universe, let alone the objective reality. And that is exactly why I said for an atheist the first order question is “is there a creator?”. So logically the “which God” question becomes a 2nd order for the atheist.

    Let me draw an important distinction here; the questions of “is life designed”, “is there a creator to the universe”, and “which god” each requires a separate long discussion on its own right with regard to the topics of biology, cosmology, philosophy and theology. You are frog-leaping from one question to another thinking that an absence of answer from the opponent to one of these questions would spell defeat for his/her arguments regarding the other two questions. But this is not how it works.

    And let’s be honest, when you ask “which god is it” is that for the purpose of knowledge or confusion? Or do you expect a lack of convincing answer from the opponent that would make you believe that you “won” the argument and somehow proven that there is no creator to the universe?

    Heinrich – “For me, there’s not much difference between Genesis and the other creation myths: they’re all just mythologies & stories”

    But you missed my main point, I was arguing for an objective scientific case for the existence of a creator to the universe. I did not make a mention of Genesis. All I said is that only God of the Abrahamic faiths holds scientific credibility, and if all they had is myths and stories I don’t think we would be finding intellectuals and scientists today presenting a compelling scientific case for God.

    Anyways, let me repeat my old paragraph from #76:

    “Now back to the question of the creator. If we put all subjective theories and ignorant beliefs aside and by looking at it objectively, the existence of God is the best explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe, the origin of life, the information that runs the show in cells, the origin of nanotechnology in cells that left Darwinists speechless, and many other objective empirical observations that inevitably point to one conclusion: God.”

    To which you replied as such:

    Heinrich – “I guess it’s clear that I’m not convinced by this: for example the origin of life stories in Genesis don’t match what science tells us”

    They don’t match with what part of science exactly? Darwinism? Are we talking about the theory that failed to explain the origin of life, or of any complex molecular machine, through the speculated & undirected natural causes of RM + NS?

    And I fail to understand you logic here, how is your subjective disagreement with Genesis supposed to refute the objective evidence from the fine-tuning of the universe, the nanotechnology in cells, and the massive information content that runs the show in biology? I dare say that these are all objectively observed facts that strongly appeal to our intellectual honesty to conclude that the universe has a creator.

    Heinrich – “it may be that evidence can be found to show that a god is needed to explain the universe, but why should this be the Abrahamic god?”

    I commend you for showing some open mind to the possibility of God needed to explain the universe. But if the Abrahamic God doesn’t suit you, would you then be more comfortable with Zeus, Osiris, Shiva or a statue of some pagan deity in your living room?

  90. The concept of Good and Evil is not just restricted to humans. The following questions equally apply to a theist and an atheist. Conceding for a moment that a Creator of life exists, we must further examine the Creator’s intent with respect to good and evil.

    1. What is the reason to create carnivores and herbivores? Why should carnivores cruelly attack otherwise innocent herbivores?

    2. To extend the above question, can there be a genuine theistic argument on origins of life by an any individual who is a non-vegetarian? Are we not doing evil to innocent animals?

    The answer to the first question can be modelled by the concept of reincarnation. The answer to the second question is based on lifestyle and personal choice. But being a vegetarian cannot be considered as evil.
    Good gets its value only when there is evil. If we were to be created by a superior entity, it then follows that our capacity to understand is much limited. What is obvious though, is that the purpose of life is to realize it.

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