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A Convergence Between Biologos and the Intelligent Design Movement

In a recent post on Biologos, Kathryn Applegate concluded her criticism of Michael Behe. Interesting, though, was this statement:

Many scientists agree with Behe that evolution may have been guided in some mysterious way by a Mind.

This is very interesting, precisely because the core of ID is whether or not the origins of life (including evolution) have been guided by a mind (or a designer, or an agent, depending on your terminology). It is interesting that Biologos and the Intelligent Design movement converge at this point, precisely because it is really the only point of ID that matters.

Applegate has several criticisms of Behe and his methods. I don’t care to get into whether or not they are legitimate on this post. What I want to focus on, however, is that the idea that evolution was guided by a mind appears to now be a shared idea of both Biologos and the Intelligent Design Movement. The difference, for what its worth, appears in her next statement:

But whether or not the methods of science could ever rigorously detect teleology—mindful purpose—by studying the physical world is hotly debated. Most working scientists I know do not believe science is equipped for such a task.

What Applegate is saying is that, yes, many scientists think that evolution was guided by a mind, but, no, science is not up to this task.

Whether or not you agree with the current stream of thought from Behe, Dembski, Marks, or many others in this field, it is good to keep in mind what is being done – expanding the purview of science. If you think that the current methods of science aren’t up to the task of detecting the guidance of a mind, why stand in the way of those who think that it might be detected? Friendly criticism is always welcome, but why throw stones? Why not, instead, take the time to ask the necessary questions, probe the limits of what is possible, and develop new methodologies? This seems to be a much more constructive approach than simply tossing stones from the sidelines.

Since Biologos is on record saying that it is okay for a scientist to think that a mind guided evolution, why not also allow that scientist to investigate that thought? Certainly, the first steps in such an investigation will be rocky – many false paths will be trodden, and many wrong turns taken – but if it is true that it is guided by a mind, isn’t this a worthy subject for a scientist to pursue?

Since Biologos no longer has any philosophical disagreement with Intelligent Design (only a practical one), why don’t we then join together to see what is possible? Why don’t we join together to see if we can correct our errant methodologies and come up with better, more reliable ones? This seems like a worthy goal to pursue together, doesn’t it? What could be better than learning more about the teleological forces behind evolution?

Let’s work with each other, not against each other. If we do, we shall learn wonderful things together.

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115 Responses to A Convergence Between Biologos and the Intelligent Design Movement

  1. “But whether or not the methods of science could ever rigorously detect teleology—mindful purpose—by studying the physical world is hotly debated. Most working scientists I know do not believe science is equipped for such a task.”

    This seems so silly as to be absurd. What do archaeologists do?

  2. 2

    Phaedros,

    This seems so silly as to be absurd. What do archaeologists do?

    And forensic scientists, and the folks at SETI, and anthropologists.

  3. The problem for most TE’s is not so much that, for them, science is not up to the task. If that were the only thing between us, the disagreements would not be nearly so heated. Their skepticism goes deeper than that, reflecting the idea that life’s design patterns cannot be detected at all, formally or informally. Put another way, they don’t just doubt that the design of life can be measured, they don’t think it can be apprehended at all–as if God revealed himself in cosmology and then turned around and hid himself in biology.

  4. I very much like the sound of this post. Just some of the points that strike a chord with me:

    What I want to focus on, however, is that the idea that evolution was guided by a mind appears to now be a shared idea of both Biologos and the Intelligent Design Movement.

    Why not, instead, take the time to ask the necessary questions, probe the limits of what is possible, and develop new methodologies?

    Since Biologos no longer has any philosophical disagreement with Intelligent Design (only a practical one), why don’t we then join together to see what is possible?

    Let’s work with each other, not against each other. If we do, we shall learn wonderful things together.

    But perhaps I’m just hoping for too much and Biologos and UD will be back to slugging it again next week; or perhaps even tomorrow.

  5. Timothy -

    Sadly you are possibly right. My hope is that we can at least voice our disagreements as friends who share a common cause, not as enemies crusading, one against the other.

    But who knows! There is no limit to God’s healing power. He has healed marriages with deeper divides. I do not think our two communities are too far gone so as to give up hope.

  6. There are few things that we would like more than this. Johnnyb is right. We are almost on the same page in so many respects. Many of the leaders in evolutionary creation have been tangentially associated with the ID movement. Bill Dembksi asked me to be an ISCID Fellow and I accepted almost 10 years ago. About 4 years ago, I asked to have my name removed.

    I recently attended a meeting with a small group of leaders of the TE/EC perspective. Someone asked for a show of hands of those who attended the “Mere Christianity” conference in 1996 at Biola. Several raised their hands.

    So why did we become disillusioned? That’s the question I’ll leave unanswered right now. However, my prayer would be that John 17 will yet become a reality given that we have so much in common.

  7. For the Christian especially there should be a right and salutary respect to the difference between science and theology.

    No scientist has ever come close to bridging this gap successfully. The only philosopher who did was Aristotle with his notion of “the good” as a golden mean of intellectual and material causes.

    Two problems with this conception. First of all, we no longer see the sensuous universe as a literal combination of intellect and matter. The naturalism of modern science makes Aristotle’s conception of “the good” quite impossible.

    Second, Aristotle himself maintained a stout distinction between science and philosophy. Science per se was nothing more than the study of the physical universe, according to him, while philosophy was the study of “the good,” a far more exalted topic. He was careful not to mix the two, lest he be accused by the Platonists of materialism.

    This business of using science itself in an attempt to illuminate God was started in the modern era by Descartes. The highbrow view of science as a second-class citizen disappears. Instead, science is exalted above both philosophy and theology as the true means of knowing the mind of the transcendent being.

    Descartes thought this was possible because he made the same assumption as the Greeks—that the good is intellect. Unfortunately, intellect in men is divided between their resistance to their own unhappiness and the goodness of present being; or between pure mind and synthetic concepts of being, as shown in the difference between Descartes’ own highly idealized analytical geometry and Newton’s synthetic geometry.

    In short, intellect and its concepts of value are divided between immanence and transcendence. The state of pure intellect desired by Descartes can only be obtained through the capacity of intellect for resistance, which, when totalized, leads to the annihilation of present existence. Meanwhile synthetic concepts of being have the unintended effect of drawing “the good” into existence and depriving it of its transcendent qualities.

    Basic science is making us aware of the goodness of God. What the Bible has to say about creation becomes clearer every day with each new discovery—it is “very good.” Not only is nature beautiful and highly pleasurable, as we know in the summer months by plucking a ripe peach from the tree and eating it on the spot, but it exhibits an astonishing degree of engineering excellence.

    Basic science can indicate that God is a good artificer, an incomparable engineer. It cannot go beyond this simple but important deduction and reveal either the purpose of creation (teleology) or the nature of God or the good (theology).

    Basic science is now performing an invaluable service as the handmaiden of theology. We agree with Gould. Let it know its rightful place and be content to serve.

  8. I am afraid that Biologos is a crypto-darwinian venue and nothing else. They think that Natural selection is the driving force behind evolution and they ban IDists from their bizarre discussions. Ridiculing design an worshipping and advertising hard-core darwinists like Ayala doesn’t help either.
    Ayala wrote at Biologos among other speculations this pearl:

    “But humans are chock-full of design defects… The birth canal is too narrow for the head of the newborn to pass easily through it, so that millions of innocent babies—and their mothers—have died in childbirth throughout human history.”

    http://www.biologos.org/blog/o.....-signature

    Actually the same argument was used against natural selection by Swiss zoologist and anhtropologist professor Adolf Portmann. Because natural selection should have given advantage to woman with wider canals. You know: more offsprings, survival advantage – all that darwinian mantras.

    We can also compare the precise and deep thinking of great scholars and the neodarwinian ravings of Ayala about “bad design”.

    Not to speak about Ayala’s 2% genome difference between human and the chimp. The number was proposed many years ago when scientists estimated 100.000 genes in human. Nowadays the number has been reduced to 20-30.000, but the percentage has remained the same. One uses for such constants proposed by Ayala at Biologos the name “Hausnumero”.

  9. 9
    Thomas Cudworth

    Dr. Falk:

    May I ask you a question? If it is true that you and your colleagues at Biologos are really interested in working together with ID people (as you seem to be saying here), can you explain why, after I made a very positive gesture to Karl Giberson along this line (in gratitude for his conciliatory *Through a Glass Darkly* post), the following things happened:

    1. Dr. Giberson made no response to my gesture, either on Biologos, or as a guest commenter here, or anywhere else;

    2. Dr. Giberson (a) wrote a column, “Would You Like Fries with that Theory?” which basically argued that no one other than the experts (i.e., those committed to neo-Darwinism themselves) had any right to criticize neo-Darwinism, and (b) refused to engage with the overwhelming majority of the well-thought-out criticisms of his position, posted both here and on Biologos?

    3. Biologos began posting a series against Michael Behe – the ID proponent closest to TE in his general position, and who in fact has even been called a TE by some, including TE George Murphy – with the title “Behe’s B-Cell Bravado”, a title which is (a) manifestly unjust, as Behe does not display “bravado”, and (b) is clearly gauntlet-throwing rather than co-operative?

    4. Biologos columnists have been unable to resist throwing in digs against ID, even when they are off-topic, as, e.g., the theological dig against ID by Dennis Venema in his Biologos review of Rachel Held Evans’s book (which book was not even about ID, but about YEC)?

    I don’t think any impartial observer comes away from Biologos with the impression that Biologos finds much common ground with ID; indeed, it appears to be almost as much against ID (maybe more so) than it is against YEC, if the number of remarks against each are tallied up.

    Dr. Falk, how does all this square with your desire expressed here, and Karl Giberson’s earlier expressed desire, to build more bridges between ID and TE? All the evidence suggests the opposite, i.e., that most people at Biologos regard ID as one of their two main enemies, the other being YEC (with the New Atheists, it seems, as a distant third concern).

  10. I agree with Thomas about the current tone at Biologos. It frequently reads like Pharyngula sans the cussing. There are also frequent comments like this by Headless Unicorn Guy:

    Or Intelligent Design (nudge nudge wink wink know what I mean know what I mean), the latest coat of camouflage paint for Young Earth Creationism Uber Alles?

    There is a constant relation of ID to YEC, again just like Pharyngula. I will say that there are also some harsh tones over here towards TE, especially from O’Leary and Hunter. Let’s just admit that there needs to be some revision on both sides if we’re to pursue some type of common ground. I still think there are many TE’s who actually are IDists and don’t realize it.

  11. Messed up the blockquote…

  12. One of the answers is that ‘BioLogos’ thus far does not openly promote a position that distinguishes itself from TE or EC. Giberson says he wants to distance himself from ‘evolution’ because it is a loaded term. Falk thinks BioLogos is basically synonymous with TE and EC. So there is also a type of ‘Big Tent’ at BioLogos which allows people to hold different views.

    As I see it, one of the main differences btw BioLogos Foundation and DI or Uncommon Descent is that BioLogos absolutely refuses to consider ‘young Earth’ as a legitimate possibility, whereas by not speaking definitively about the age of the Earth and allowing folks such as Paul Nelson to speak on behalf of ‘intelligent design theory’, the IDM is still closely linked with YEC and its promotional channels with American evangelical Christians.

    Dembski’s admission (2003) that ID mainly appeals to American evangelical Protestant Christians, and that in order for ID to ‘progress’ it must broaden its appeal, has apparently not yielded much fruit.

    BioLogos says: “No, the Earth is not ‘young,’ and it is irresponsible to suggest otherwise or even to leave the door open to this anti-scientific view.” Intelligent Design says, “we don’t know how old the Earth is (e.g. P. Johnson)” or “that’s not our topic” or “you can believe in a young Earth if you want to, even if the evidence goes strongly against it.”

    There are 3 or 4 ID sympathizers or advocates posting at BioLogos. From what I’ve heard, there are several TEs or ECs or BioLogos people posting here. Would it make sense to include parallel or mirror posts at UD and BioLogos, such that more interaction or shared dialogue can take place?

    I noticed the book lists here differed considerably from those at BioLogos, the latter which seem to be more broadly about science, philosophy and religion, rather than particularly about ‘intelligent design’.

    To responses 1. and 2. it is clear that we are dealing with various scientific fields where the term ‘teleology’ has different roles. Archaeology, anthropology, and ‘forensics’ are not ‘natural sciences,’ and they involve human-made things. Otoh, in physics, chemistry or biology, teleology takes on a different meaning b/c except wrt ‘artificial selection’ there is no ‘human-making’ that can be identified.

    Identifying ‘how God guides biological (or natural-physical) evolution’ would likely be welcome both at UD and BioLogos. Up to now, not much progress has been made by TEs or ECs on this topic, but neither has it been made by the IDM. Mike Gene, a non-IDM pro-ID person, has perhaps made the most progress on this and he is posting at BioLogos.

  13. I would love to see some cooperation between Biologos and ID on points they have in common. It’s not as if accepting evolution is a barrier to being an ID proponent.

    But frankly, Biologos right now not only spends quite a lot of time attacking YEC and ID views, but they really seem to have time for little else. And when the time comes to actually talk about the atheists or anti-religious types who actively abuse science to advance their worldviews, the Biologos response has been to either turn a blind eye or lavish praise on the practitioners.

    And I do mean lavish praise – look at the response to Dawkins’ broadside the moment a TE actually stood up and said that evolution is compatible with Christianity and with Genesis. The response was ass-kissing. Oh, but that was just Dawkins. When it came to Michael Ruse, they didn’t just ass-kiss. They let him write a few columns.

    Again, I’d love to see more cooperation and common ground between ID proponents and TEs. But not so long as their writers try to curry favor with, of all people, Dawkins. Not so long as they continue to promote the lie that ID proponents are attempting to abuse science by injecting philosophy and metaphysics into the practice, while ignoring the far-more-common, far-more-tolerated injections made by atheists and those hostile to Christianity.

    It’s not enough for an organization, on paper and in the abstract, to have many points in common. There also has to be a show of actual sincerity, ie, proof that one isn’t dealing with a bunch of (for lack of a better word) quislings.

  14. Gregory:

    First of all, I am absolutely convinced of the old age of earth.

    Still, if intelligent and competent people like Paul Giem or Sal Cordova want to discuss the ID theory, which they understand very well, without in any way introducing the age of the earth in the discussion, why should I, or anybody else, object?

    It’s a simple question of respect. The ID theory does not belong to anyone, and is in no way the same thing as the ID movement. The ID theory is a very important cognitive paradigm, which will change the intellectual approach to scientific knowledge. All are welcome to discuss it.

    And it is absolutely true that ID theory in itself is not directly dependent on the age of earth.

    The fact is, religious people all over the world (and non religious people too, indeed) entertain specific religious (or non religious) beliefs which are very important to some group, while they may appear bizarre to another one. We have to learn to accept that, and to be more tolerant.

    But that has nothing to do with scientific discussion. I do believe that scientific discussion must stay independent from the specific beliefs of those who take part in it.

    While in a sense that means that no one should introduce his non scientific personal beliefs in a scientific discussion, in the other sense it means that no one should be banned from a scientific discussion because of his non scientific personal beliefs.

    That is an important point, to me. Excluding anybody from the scientific debate only because of what he believes about other subjects is a serious form of intolerance, of discrimination and of lack of respect for personal choices and commitments.

  15. Dr. Falk –

    It is great to have you here! Thanks for coming by. I had not known you were a part of ISCID. If I may ask – did you become disillusioned with (a) the *idea* of ID (b) the *people* working on ID, (c) the *methodology* of ID, or (d) something else I’m not thinking of.

    One thing I’ve found is that most conflicts result from the simple fact that the parties don’t know what the argument is really about. The overt argument is in one area, but the true area of disagreement is somewhere else. Pinpointing where our differences lie is the first step towards a productive partnership.

  16. 16
    Thomas Cudworth

    Dr. Falk:

    While we have your attention, may I ask you to explain why, on the “Leading Figures” page of Biologos, we can find this statement concerning Intelligent Design:

    “Intelligent design (ID) proponents believe that much of modern science is wrong and must be rejected because of its naturalism…. ID proponents highlight mysteries within science, arguing that science will never explain mysteries like what caused the Big Bang, or how life originated. They then argue that we must use non-scientific explanations like “Intelligent Design.” Favorite topics include the Cambrian explosion, complex structures, and the origin of biological information. BioLogos rejects such “god of the gaps” reasoning.”

    Dr. Falk, this paragraph is filled with falsehoods about the ID position, and it mingles editorial statements about ID with a description of ID in such a way that the boundary between description and criticism is blurred.

    You say that you seek to build upon common ground with us. Then why you do you allow, on the web site of the organization which you lead, a definition of our position which we would vehemently reject? To set up a straw man for what we believe, and then make digs at the straw man, on a page which is allegedly informational, is not an act of someone who is interested in good faith dialogue.

    Will you undertake, *within the next month*, to remove this false and misleading description of ID, and replace it with a definition of ID as ID is understood by its proponents? And to separate that definition clearly, in a distinct paragraph, from any editorial comments Biologos wishes to make about ID?

    I think this is the absolute minimum you would have to do convince us that you are sincerely interested in rapprochement. If you are not willing to do even that much, then it will be very difficult for any of us here to take your above overture seriously.

  17. Alanius makes the statement

    “Basic science can indicate that God is a good artificer, an incomparable engineer. It cannot go beyond this simple but important deduction and reveal either the purpose of creation (teleology) or the nature of God or the good (theology).”

    I do not see teleology as about “the purpose of creation” but rather the presence of “purpose in creation”. We need to look to theology to find the purpose of creation.

    Science can detect when something happens that requires intellectual input, over and above the play of simple natural forces. The results indicate purposeful action, but they do not necessarily elucidate the final intent or purpose of that action.

    “Jane loves Tom” written in the sand demonstrates teleology. It may well be that it was written with the intention of spreading a false rumour that Jane is being unfaithful to Peter. The detection of teleology does not detect the ultimate purpose of the intellectual actor.

  18. 18

    Thomas,

    Please feel free to suggest alternative wording and send it to me at [email protected]. Please write a definition that you think pretty much defines ID. As you know though, we think the science that has been done to date has not been strong…so I would ask you not to imply otherwise. However, I’ll bet there’s a pretty good chance that we’ll be able to come up with a mutually satisfactory definition of ID that will be helpful to the Church and that we both will feel is much better than what we have up at this time.

    Johnny B: I asked to be removed as an ISCID Fellow after Michael Behe wrote the Afterword to the second edition of Darwin’s Black Box and in the aftermath of the Dover trial. I did not see that the ID movement leaders were taking scientific data seriously. I was also disappointed that in my six years as an ISCID Fellow I had never been asked to review a paper or contribute to discussion in the manner the Bill Dembski had told me I would be able to do.

  19. johnnyb,

    As a frequenter of BioLogos I would like to see a rapprochement between DI and BL but see some significant hurdles.

    I agree that a good first step would be for BL to post a definition of ID that is fair and factual. Perhaps it’s mostly the tone of the definition, not the substance, you take exception to. I assume you agree with this short definition taken from the DI website:

    Intelligent design is the assertion that “certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.

    Providing a slightly more detailed definition is, I think, what BL was trying to do.

    I’m wondering if ID considers itself a scientific or a metaphysical movement. For it seems to me that at its core, ID is trying to rewrite the rules of science (specifically science investigating origins and the development of life) to include teleological causes one could call intelligent. Is this correct?

    So then, what part of the following do you take exception to? Could you clean it up with a few minor changes?

    Intelligent design (ID) proponents believe that much of modern science is wrong and must be rejected because of its naturalism.

    To justify changing the kind of explanations that science allows, ID proponents claim there is scientific evidence that proves (or is that too strong a word) that such a change is necessary. Is this not correct?

    What part of the following do you take exception to?

    ID proponents highlight mysteries within science, arguing that science will never explain mysteries like what caused the Big Bang, or how life originated.

    Finally, ID claims that the intelligent cause proposed need not be specified in a theory for that theory to be valid. That is,an explanation that proposes design without hypothesizing either a designer or the mechanism by which it designed should b considered scientific. Is this correct?

    Considering that such explanations are currently considered non-scientific by most scientists, how would you correct the following?

    They then argue that we must use non-scientific explanations like “Intelligent Design.”

  20. Let me clarify one of my paragraphs above:

    ID claims that the intelligent designing agent need not be specified in a theory for that theory to be valid. That is, an explanation that proposes design without hypothesizing either who the designer might be or the mechanism by which he/she/it designed should be considered scientific.

    Thanks, I hope to hear from you.

  21. 21
    Thomas Cudworth

    Dr. Falk:

    I am not the person to ask for the official definition of intelligent design. I could give a pretty good one, actually, but you should be getting it from the people who have long been trying to articulate it: people like Michael Behe, Bill Dembski, Steve Meyer, John West, Casey Luskin, and all the others at the Discovery Institute. There are dozens of places on the Discovery web site, and elsewhere, where ID is defined, distinguished from creationism, etc. You might start with:

    http://www.faithandevolution.o.....nt-design/

    Which has many links to articles containing definitions of ID.

    If you want my own, idealized notion of ID, which has no official status within “the ID movement”, but which in my view captures the best (most scientifically and philosophically sustainable) notions of Behe, Dembski, et al., you might look at my reply to Beckwith (still unanswered) here on UD:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....d-critics/

    The best way to proceed, I would suggest, would be to write to Casey Luskin and John West at the Discovery Institute, telling them that you would like a definition of “intelligent design” that currently finds wide favor among ID proponents, one which you could use on your “Leading Figures” page. You wouldn’t have to promise not to criticize ID, of course. You’d merely be asking for a definition you could use so that your criticisms would be focused on what ID asserts, rather than all kinds of things that it doesn’t assert. I am sure that John West, Casey Luskin, Steve Meyer or any of the others would bend over backwards to give you the best definitions of ID they could find, and ones that they would not find unacceptable if reproduced on your Leading Figures page.

  22. Maybe Biologos could put this video on there description of ID page

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

  23. Dr. Falk –

    Thanks for the explanation! I want to piggyback on Thomas’s issue with the definition of ID real quick. I’ll also email them to the address you specified, but I thought posting it publicly would allow for some criticism first.

    Taking BioLogos’s definition of ID line-by-line:

    (1) Intelligent design (ID) proponents believe that much of modern science is wrong and must be rejected because of its naturalism.

    I think most ID people would disagree with this. There is only a small part of modern science that is wrong, and that is the part that assumes that *all* causes are naturalistic. In other words, as long as science is studying natural causes, but not claiming that natural causes are the only ones available, I don’t see that any ID’er would have a direct disagreement. They might have a different approach, but I don’t see them having a direct disagreement. I can’t think of a single thing that ID’ers would philosophically disagree with in the experimental sciences. It is only in the non-experimental sciences – where conclusions require some injection of philosophy – where ID’ers disagree, because we disagree with the philosophy of naturalism. As Hawking said, “we are not able to make cosmological models without some admixture of ideology” (Hawking and Ellis, The Large-Scale Structure of Space-Time, 134)

    (2) The term Intelligent Design, although appropriated by these science critics, is used in many ways and is embraced by the first 5 groups on this list.

    I don’t have any problem with this statement, although I think it should state “first 2 groups”, unless I am miscounting.

    (3) ID proponents highlight mysteries within science, arguing that science will never explain mysteries like what caused the Big Bang, or how life originated.

    This is untrue. ID does not say, “science will never explain”. ID says that we need to look somewhere else for explanation. The goal of ID is explaining these sorts of things. The difference is that, sometimes, our terms of explanation are not what others want to have as explanations. The point of ID is that design is a legitimate cause, and that science can detect it. Thus, science should be able to explain such things, provided it is willing to expand its borders outside of naturalism. ID tries to come up with methodologies, models, and concepts that are compatible with such expansion of science.

    As an example, Behe thinks that the origin of life was naturalistic. However, he believes that it was based on pre-coded information that was inserted in the big bang. He would believe even so far as a material cause for the origin of life. However, where he would disagree with modern origin-of-life researchers is that they are searching for the origin of life that occurs without any help from existing information. It is that assumption – that there was no existing information at the time of the origin of life – that Dr. Behe would disagree with.

    (4) They then argue that we must use non-scientific explanations like “Intelligent Design.”

    Whether or not others agree, ID proponents see their explanations as scientific. A better phrasing should be “non-naturalistic”. This would make the sentence true. If you wanted to include your own critique of us, you might say, “They then argue that we must use non-naturalistic explanations (such as design) in their scientific framework. We do not believe that non-naturalistic explanations count as science.”

    (5) Favorite topics include the Cambrian explosion, complex structures, and the origin of biological information.

    This is true.

    (6) BioLogos rejects such “god of the gaps” reasoning.

    The problem with this statement is that you haven’t connected it with any of the previous sentences. Many ID’ers don’t see themselves as using “god of the gaps” reasoning, so if you’re going to accuse us of such, you at least need some justification for your claim.

    For instance, I do some work in Intelligent Design regarding human causation. This is causation that is non-naturalistic, but has nothing at all to do with “god of the gaps” reasoning. The goal is to develop a rigorous model of human cognition that is non-reductionist and non-naturalistic.

    As to the origin of life and its evolution, if you are saying that any notion that a mind is required to guide evolution, your own Applegate, as mentioned in this thread, seems supportive of the idea. If this is “god of the gaps reasoning”, you would have to reject this, instead of being supportive of it. If evolution requires a guiding mind, why would it be “god of the gaps” for us to say so rigorously, but not “god of the gaps” for Applegate to say so non-rigorously? In addition, how would “gaps” apply to figures such as Behe, who believe that the origin and evolution of life is materialistic, but that it is based on information pre-coded into the universe at the big bang?

    Since (at least according to my understanding) BioLogos believes that the laws of physics were designed by God, and most physicists think that the laws of physics came into being during the Big Bang, why is it such a stretch to say that the configuration of matter was also specified during the big bang? If this is legitimate, then why is it not legitimate to be rigorous about it, and show, as Behe has, what sorts of things needed to have informational precursors for their origins?

    In addition, on your “questions” page, you cite the fault of “God-of-the-gaps” reasoning as being problematic because it can be overturned with new scientific knowledge. While I disagree with the characterization, I at least understand the criticism. However, there isn’t *any* part of science that isn’t open to revision. Therefore, I fail to see the issue. Why should we rule out explanations because they may be overturned? If that was our criteria, we couldn’t do science!

    Some other postings I have done that might help clarify the thoughts of the ID movement related to BioLogos:

    ID and Common Descent
    Does ID Contribute to Knowledge
    An analysis of your and Ayala’s theodicy in relationship to Intelligent Design – showing that your theodicy *requires* intelligent design

    Here’s my question to BioLogos -

    Are there causes that are non-material? Can human causation be explained in entirely material terms? If no, then how does BioLogos differ from Intelligent Design, other than ID want so rigorously pursue the idea as an academic subject, and BioLogos does not?

  24. Thomas, I just looked at their description of ID in the Questions section. It is completely missing the absolute heart of ID (in my opinion), which is the statement that law and chance are incapable of producing the fSCI found throughout biology within the probablistic resources of this universe. Irreducible complexity, IMO, is not critical to ID. It is more like circumstantial evidence. Yes Darwinism can offer possible explanations, but looked at through the lens of intelligence, it makes much more sense that things like the flagellum and immune system were developed with the end products in mind.

  25. johnnyb, I agree with everything you said. And I don’t think any of it stretches the truthfulness of what ID claims (i.e. there are no “it is proven” statements).

  26. I would also be very interested to this:

    Here’s my question to BioLogos -

    Are there causes that are non-material? Can human causation be explained in entirely material terms?

    I am still trying to honestly grasp the concept of the core beliefs of BioLogos, which is that all of creation is perfectly explicable scientifically, yet God is the creator. I am still at the point that I see this as the equivalent of saying “I designed that patch of sand which is indistinguishable from the rest of the desert in which it is contained!” I am really, honestly trying to grasp it but I am not there. I understand the core of new atheism, I understand the core of YEC, but BioLogos & TE still don’t make sense to me.

    I am also utterly perplexed by BioLogos’ page Is there room in Biologos to believe in miracles. I’m guessing followers of BioLogos would disagree severely with Dembski’s explanatory filter (Law – Chance – Design).

  27. johnnyb, it has been requested (or rather accused) at BioLogos already that the def’n of ‘intelligent design’ be changed. Already there has been progress made since a few months ago the ID people were under the title ‘anti-science,’ not ‘intelligent design.’ Perhaps this will encourage some of your colleagues to go over to BioLogos and ask about what ‘BioLogos’ and ‘evolutionary creation’ actually mean because several posters here have expressed they are unclear about it.

    But ID has work to do about how it should *not* be perceived as being anti-science, in so far as it proposes a different ‘philosophy of science’ than what is currently accepted in the natural sciences.

    I say ‘natural sciences’ specifically because in natural sciences one looks for natural causes. In cultural sciences one looks for cultural causes and not just for natural causes. So it is already true that ‘natural causes,’ which you say are not “the only ones available,” do not hold a monopoly in the social or cultural sciences.

    The problem is that ID theory is not proposed in social or cultural sciences because it is, for pun with words, a no-brainer. ID is being proposed in natural sciences and wants to include extra-natural causes. This seems backwards and nonsensical to me now, but then again, I was attracted at first to the grand claims of P. Johnson against ‘naturalism’ and for ‘cultural renewal.’

    You say, johnnyb, that “design is a legitimate cause” and “science can detect it.” The first question a student of science studies (or a PhD, like myself) would ask is: Which science? Whose science? This is because few people would argue that cultural sciences can study ‘designing’ or ‘constructing’ or ‘building’ or ‘composing’ or ‘making’ and other related verbs. Human beings simply do these things and it is not arguable as a generality. The fact that ID wants to insert ‘design’ that is supposedly ‘intelligent’ (i’ve not seen anyone quantify ‘intelligence’ yet) *into biology,* however, and that it does not (i.e. refuses to) speak of ‘designing’ as a process that can be studied (i.e. who, when, where and how), there will surely be resistance because it doesn’t sound like *what natural science does*.

    However, you say:
    “I do some work in Intelligent Design regarding human causation.”

    Please do tell more about this because I didn’t think this existed. John West and the few other human scholars at the DI are focussed more on anti-Darwinism and anti-neo-Darwinism than they are on pro-Human-ID. Of course, first of all if I were to construct a human-social theory of ‘intelligent design’ I would surely not capitalize those two terms. Humans are not gods (despite what the ‘idol’ t.v. shows might suggest)! But isn’t almost *all* human action (or, as you say, causation) in some way or another ‘intelligent’? How would one distinguish between ‘intelligent’ and ‘unintelligent’ human causation?

    E.g. we could have a discussion about whether or not Germany’s strategy in the WC semi-final was ‘intelligently designed’ or not. Germany lost, but their strategy could still have been ‘intelligent,’ just not intelligent enough! But there are many other *variables* that would need to be included to say, e.g. Spain’s strategy was ‘more intelligent’ because they won. Do you see how difficult in cultural sciences this discussion is when restricted to ‘design’ that is ‘intelligent’? Other terms are already in use, such as agency, intention, path dependency, disenchantment and re-enchantment, etc. that might better serve your needs.

    Also, though Darrel Falk is a representative of BioLogos, which this thread is focussed on, I wonder why noone has addressed my observation yet about BioLogos and ID. I read and post at BioLogos, which has a different mission than UD. One of BioLogos’ aims is to show mainly American evangelical Christians that it is a responsible and reasonable and faithful position to accept openly and without guilt or shame that the planet Earth is millions of years and not merely a few thousand years old. The Bible does *not* require its readers to argue apologetically for a stationary Earth or a young Earth. Most theologians in the Catholic and Orthodox Christian Churches accept an ‘old’ Earth, but Protestants and especially evangelical Christians are slow to catch wind of this. BioLogos says the Earth has been scientifically proven to be old; what does ID say?

    Why does ID not take a stand on the age of the Earth? It proposes a ‘new model’ of science that includes ‘intelligent’ causes, but should nevertheless still be expected to either support/validate or deny/invalidate the *vast* majority of both religious and non-religious geologists, cosmologists, astronomers, etc. *around the world* who have learned that the Earth is old and *not* young.

    Sure, there is little need for a computer scientist, politician, culturologist (actually, they must really know ‘origins stories’ to have any depth of knowledge of a given culture), engineer or even medical doctor to pronounce on the age of the Earth in order to do his or her work. But for a biologist, physicist, or anyone dealing with the ‘natural’ world to avoid this topic casts a negative light on their scientific competency and/or care for the reliability of scientific discoveries. In other words, not speaking about the age of the Earth makes ID look anti-science by implication and there is little that ID can do about this if it is unwilling to make a statement, e.g. by those in the IDM closest to the fields relevant to studying the age of the Earth.

    As for your question to BioLogos, I’ll have a go:
    “Can human causation be explained in entirely material terms? If no, then how does BioLogos differ from Intelligent Design, other than ID want so rigorously pursue the idea as an academic subject, and BioLogos does not?” – johnnyb

    No, human causation cannot be explained in entirely material terms. There are cultural anthropologists, such as S. Sanderson, who write about cultural materialism. And then of course the shadow of K. Marx still remains in the North American Academy. However, it doesn’t seem to be the mission of either BioLogos or ID to study ‘non-material (or immaterial) human causation’. If you can direct me to an ID text by (a) social scientist(s) that seeks to unfold a theory of Human-ID, I’d be pleased to read it.

    So, let this message be an example that people who read and post at BioLogos are not all close-minded about intelligent design. Actually, many at BioLogos are comparatively quite well-read about ID and have read books or articles or Blog posts by IDists too. They just remain unconvinved, as do I, that ID’s scientific renewal mission, i.e. to include extra-natural causes into natural sciences (in contrast to promoting ID in social or cultural sciences), has met with much success.

    Pattern recognition and specification-ing, fine. But without taking a STAND on age of Earth and being more powerfully integrative or synthetic of science with philosophy *and* theology (BioLogos is much more theologically active and productive than UD or the DI), the IDM and most other ID ‘theories’ will fail in the long-run. Perhaps UD working together with BioLogos, the ‘intelligently designed’ Foundation of America’s most famous scientist, Francis Collins, will help both ID and BioLogos.

  28. Gregory-

    Why does the age of the Earth matter so much to you that you think ID proponents should take a serious stand on it? The age of the Earth is not specifically a concern of ID. Is this for political reasons that you want to push this? Science is not politics for one and again ID is not about the age of the Earth it’s about being able to detect the work of intelligence in nature.

    “The first question a student of science studies (or a PhD, like myself) would ask is: Which science? Whose science? This is because few people would argue that cultural sciences can study ‘designing’ or ‘constructing’ or ‘building’ or ‘composing’ or ‘making’ and other related verbs. Human beings simply do these things and it is not arguable as a generality. The fact that ID wants to insert ‘design’ that is supposedly ‘intelligent’ (i’ve not seen anyone quantify ‘intelligence’ yet) *into biology,* however, and that it does not (i.e. refuses to) speak of ‘designing’ as a process that can be studied (i.e. who, when, where and how), there will surely be resistance because it doesn’t sound like *what natural science does*.”

    IQ quantifies intelligence does it not? Does someone who finds an arrowhead in the desert have to quantify the intelligence of the person that made it in order to conclude that it was made by an intelligent agent? ID isn’t about how design was implemented in biology, at least not yet (it might be like asking how the big bang was implemented though). It is about whether or not you can attribute biology, or things found in organisms (the organisms themselves as well) to design or in other words to the products of some entity using means to attain an end. Now here is the ironic part, the people at BioLogos hold that God guided evolution correct? Well, if that’s true wouldn’t evolution’s products exhibit that guiding intelligence?

    You go on to attempt to say what it is that “natural sciences” do, but you intentionally define as to rule out ID a priori. Why? Natural sciences can be applied in many different ways and to answer different types of questions. It seems to me you want ID to answer questions it isn’t working to answer, at least not yet. This to me is the fundamental problem with evoluion as it is currently formulated and how it, in fact, is unscientific. Let’s see if I can express this the way I would like to. It seems to me that ID is working from the ground up, i.e. Working on a limited question in order to answer it completely and adequately, whereas evolutionary theory seeks to explain too wide a range with too little evidence. In others words straining at gnats and swallowing camels.

    Lastly, what is nature? What are the causes and effects that we can, or are allowed to by darwinist fundamentalists, formulate in conducting science and in what areas are some causes not allowed and why aren’t they allowed in those cases but are in others? How do we know what is possible in nature? Is it by dogma? By logic? By the way we wantto define what scence can and cannot answer? Or is it by observing nature and applying logic and reason to those observations and then finding the best explanations for them? I think the latter is the best way to start and if you do start there i thnk you’ll find that Stephen Meyer’s argument for Intelligent Design found in Signature in the Cell, i.e. that intelligence best explains the presence of a code and coding and decoding mechanisms found in the cell based on the facthat we know that intelligence is known as an adequate cause, and the only, for the creation and use of information, is the one that holds the day right now.

  29. Gregory -

    What the social sciences usually do is investigate human communal activity – it usually, as far as I’m aware, doesn’t touch on whether or not these activities are entirely material or not. In a similar way, classical physics works despite the fact that the particles it studies are themselves made up of lower-level particles which do not behave classically, but does not require this.

    As for human-ID, Dembski’s original book, The Design Inference, is focused almost entirely on human causation. Dembski and Marks’ papers on Active Information focus on human causation. My own paper on irreducible complexity, though aimed at biology, also has a section which applies the concepts to Avida, and shows how to use the same principles to detect the designed portions of Avida digital organisms.

    As for my human-oriented ID work, I just did a presentation for a private ID conference (some graduate students with an interest in ID) which showed engineering applications of Intelligent Design. I blogged on one of them here.

    For a more expansive view of ID, naturalism, and mental causation, my senior paper in seminary covers how one could construct a non-material, non-reductionist cognitive framework. It also shows the deficiencies of philosophies (such as Nancey Murphy’s Nonreductive Physicalism) which leave out non-material causation and opt only for physicalism. if you would like to read it,send me an email ( [email protected] ) and I’ll send it to you. I’m presenting part of it this summer at the BSG conference.

    As for the age of the earth, why is it ID’s problem what the age of the earth is? Are you also encouraging people to not use MRIs for medical testing just because it was invented by someone who thought the earth was young?

  30. As far as I can tell, and my background is in anthropology, the basis for the social sciences is that methodological naturalism must be supplemented by methodological cognitivism, if I may coin a term. That is, social sciences recognize consciousness or the mind as a real non-material causal agent.

    There is of course debate between reductionists and non-reductionists if that is really true or not, but from a practical stand point, you need to assume that to do social science.

    (SETI falls into that category since it is the search for ETs. But because not have ever been found it is on the fringes of science. Animal cognition is also somewhat on the fringes, though for the higher level animals there is evidence for true causal intelligence.)

    So the social sciences clearly use teleology, and design arguments in their dealings with human agents. You should not expect the physical sciences to do the same where human agency is not proposed or suspected i.e. prehuman physical evolution.

    BTW if ID is a scientific program then I believe it should take a stand on the age of the earth. The fact that it does not, indicates to me that its primary mission is not scientific but metaphysical—to change the way science is practiced.

  31. 31

    HornSpiel,

    BTW if ID is a scientific program then I believe it should take a stand on the age of the earth. The fact that it does not, indicates to me that its primary mission is not scientific but metaphysical—to change the way science is practiced.

    Should ID also take a stand on music theory in order to be scientific? Should biology take a stand on acoustical theory in order to be scientific? I don’t see the necessity for ID taking a stand on the age of the earth in order to be scientific in its own right of design detection.

  32. Hornspiel-

    So everyone from engineers to chemists should “take a stand” on the age of the earth? Frankly, I don’t care what the age of the earth is, but I find the kind of political rhetoric you and Gregory employ when talking about this “stand” that you want ID to take to be only political and not scientific. Leave the age of the Earth to geology and paleontology, etc.

  33. Hornspiel.

    I for one am convinced that the data points to an old universe and earth. I have read and listened to Falk and Collins. I have also read and talked with ID proponents. Aside from any disagreement on the age question,

    ID is a program that has at its core the detection and analysis, using accepted scientific method, of paterns that confom to what is known of, and what would be expected from, the action of intelligent agency, rather than the simple laws of physics, chemistry, undirected mutation and natural selection acting over any period of time, no matter how long.

  34. Just so I understand this before replying to johnnyb and Hornspiel’s longer posts:

    There is no and will be no ID theory in geology, paleontology, astronomy or cosmology.

    Is this what Phaedros is suggesting?

    Because if there *is* or *will be* such an ID theory, then it will simply have to confront what natural scientists across a wide range of locations, ethnicities and religions have concluded; that the Earth is most probably ‘old.’

    This is *not* a political, but rather a simple scientific question.

    - Gregory

    p.s. johnnyb, this isn’t anyone in particular’s ‘problem’ (except for YECs who make it their defining mainstay), but rather if one expects others to give them credit, don’t ignore the elephant in the room!

    p.p.s. Thanks idnet.com.au for being forthright about your views.

  35. Gregory-

    There is already some ID theory as it pertains to cosmology. I think it’s quite obvious that any theory and any science has to conform to what the evidence says. However, the age of the Earth, I believe, is still up for grabs as it’s assessment is based on assumptions that may or may not always be constant over time. Again, I don’t think the age of the Earth is central to ID at this time. Your concern with it as it pertains to ID is not a scientific concern but a political one as is made obvious by your rhetoric. No matter the age of the Earth, why is it this one point that you want to focus on so much?

  36. Gregory -

    “There is no and will be no ID theory in geology, paleontology, astronomy or cosmology.”

    I think I understand what you are saying as being, “if someone applies ID to one of these fields, then the YEC question then matters”. In this I agree with you – or at least agree that it could possibly matter.

    On the other hand, I once had the opportunity to talk briefly with Walter ReMine. In that brief chat, he mentioned that his “message theory” shows design in the fossil record. At that point, I asked him whether he viewed that design as being part of flood geology or a progressive creation. He said that it was compatible with either. I haven’t yet read ReMine’s The Biotic Message (it is sitting in a stack of books next to my bed), so I can’t go into any more details than that.

    In addition, I’ve mentioned here a way that ID could be useful in interpreting the fossil record. This isn’t the same thing as *applying* ID to the fossil record (it isn’t an ID theory of geology), but nonetheless it applies ID to paleontology, and, interestingly enough, is applicable whether the earth is old or young.

    So I agree that whether you are YEC or not will probably matter a lot more if someone developed an ID theory of these subjects, but not necessarily as much as you might think.

    As a side note, there is a lot more diversity of thought in YEC circles than you might expect. For instance, seventh-day adventists are 99.9% in agreement with YECs on flood geology, but believe that the earth and the universe are very old (it is the geologic column that they believe is young). Some YECs (using a mechanism of understanding that I have still not yet grasped), such as Robert Hermann, believe that the Big Bang theory, even as currently conceived, is perfectly compatible with YEC. Hartnett’s model, on the other hand, while being at variance with the current Big Bang theory, has actually been published in secular physics and astrophysics journals.

  37. Gregory @ 12:

    “Identifying ‘how God guides biological (or natural-physical) evolution’ would likely be welcome both at UD and BioLogos.”

    Agreed. One would think it would be a topic that would be of common interest.

    Of course, there are some ID proponents who don’t think evolution happened at all, so “how God guided evolution” would be a pointless discussion for them. But for those ID proponents who believe that evolution happened, or might have happened, it should be a topic of interest. And I think TE/EC people would very much like to see ID people being more forthright about their theology, and this topic would help to evoke ID theology.

    However, there are problems on the TE/EC side as well. For some TE/EC people, “how God guided evolution” is an unacceptable phrase, which carries with it notions of “intervention”, or, as they put it disparagingly, “tinkering” with the natural order. Denis Lamoureux, for example, has repudiated the term “guidance”. The commitment of some TE/EC people to an almost Deistic form of naturalism (they would angrily deny being Deistic in theology, but in fact their conception of nature is often Deistic) makes it very difficult for them to allow any notion of God as guiding, steering, adjusting, coaxing, nudging, pulling, or otherwise influencing the course of nature.

    Of course, there are exceptions. For example, I think that Ted Davis, George Murphy, and R. J. Russell are all open to the view that God might guide or steer evolution in extremely subtle ways, perhaps hidden by quantum indeterminacy, so that nothing “supernatural” was observable to the eye or instruments of the scientist. Thus, new information could be subtly input through changes which would appear as “random” mutations. ID theorists like Behe and Dembski would not automatically reject such a conception of God’s action, so it might seem that this conception could be a focus of some “peace talks” between the camps. But many TE/EC people would resist the idea that God performs any *special* action in evolution, and would argue that in evolution God always acts only through general laws of nature. As some of them put it, God no more needs to do something special to create the Cambrian explosion than he needs to do something special to keep Mars in its orbit.

    In short, I think TE/EC is such a mixed bag, and ID is such a mixed bag, that you couldn’t really get a productive overall discussion between “the ID position” and “the TE position” on how God interacts with nature in evolution; rather, you could have some productive discussions between particular configurations of ID and TE people.

    I’m just pointing out some of the difficulties. I don’t say that such discussions shouldn’t be held. In fact, I think it would be wonderful if someone put together a conference based on your question. The thematic question of the gathering might be: “Does God guide evolution, and if so, how? And if God *doesn’t* guide evolution, why do we maintain that he has anything to do with it?”

    I suspect that such a conference would have to be organized by a neutral third party, who would then invite selected ID and TE people to come and read papers. I don’t think that the current leadership of ID is focused enough on theology to push that question to the forefront, and I don’t think that the current leadership of Biologos really wants to raise the question of “guidance”, there being such a strong prejudice in favor of pure naturalism over there. Some persuasive thinkers would have to coax people on both sides to participate.

    T.

  38. idnet @ 17:

    Excellent distinctions. Many TEs get badly confused over “purpose”. I wish they would read your post.

    T.

  39. Gregory:

    I agree with the others that you are getting too exercised over the “age of the earth” question. Not all science needs to be concerned with the age of the earth. When a coroner is being hired, no one asks him for his opinion on the age of the earth. No one argues that, if he doesn’t accept an ancient earth, he can’t possibly be a good scientist. They just want to know if he is good at telling the difference between murder and death by natural causes. So why should the science of ID, which is a science of design detection, have to answer questions about something which has nothing to do with design detection?

    TEs press this question on ID people is as a test of intellectual orthodoxy, not as a serious criticism of the information theory of Meyer or the explanatory filter of Dembski. They want the ID people who accept an old earth to either force the dissenters into line, or jettison them from the ID movement. But from ID’s point of view, that is an unreasonable demand. If YECs share ID’s views on the scientific character of design detection, why shouldn’t ID people work with them — *on design detection*? Should vegetarians refuse to work for environmental protection legislation alongside environmentalists who are not vegetarian? Why should someone have to agree with someone else on *everything* in order to work productively with the other person in some areas of common belief?

    It’s almost as if TE is saying to Mike Behe and Bill Dembski and Steve Meyer: “Ditch that Nelson guy, and then we’ll treat you better.” But in fact if Behe etc. *did* ditch Nelson, TEs would then make further demands. They would say to Behe: “Either get a clear statement from Meyer and Dembski that macroevolution actually happened, or ditch them; then we’ll treat you better.” And if Behe did then ditch Meyer and Dembski, and asked for his due reward for betraying his friends and colleagues, TEs would then say: “Sorry, Mike, but we’ve decided that we can’t accept you as a Christian scientist with intellectual integrity unless you repudiate this nonsense about design detection being scientific rather than a matter of faith, and unless you drop all your ridiculous opposition to Darwinian mechanisms, which are as certain as the laws of gravity.”

    So the question arises: why should ID people worry in the slightest about pleasing TE people? As things stand, they could not please TE people without completely capitulating to the TE position. If TEs, in particular the TEs at Biologos, really want to build bridges with ID, they need to be more dialogical and less condescending, and they need cease speaking as if they are the arbiters of good science and good Christian theology.

    T.

  40. Timaeus,

    The thematic question of the gathering might be: Does God guide evolution, and if so, how? And if God *doesn’t* guide evolution, why do we maintain that he has anything to do with it?

    I think a third possible question could be, “And could science tell if God guides or guided evolution?” I actually suppose that there are more than a few TEs who would argue that God’s intervention (direct or ‘front-loaded’) would/could be entirely invisible to science alone. I recall Stanley Salthe (an atheist, apparently, but who signed on the Dissent from Darwinism) once writing that just about any point where a person could argue “chance”, another person could argue “design”, with science being in no position to tell the difference.

  41. I would add that, for those who take the position that science is for the most part flat out unable to tell the difference between “chance” and “design”, or to detect design in nature – and who truly take this position, rather than only apply it to those who find design – then those who are “anti-science”, or corrupting science, would include quite a number of supposed science defenders. Which could be one hell of an interesting fight to start.

  42. Excellent debate between ID, TE and YEC positions was published under title “Three views on Creation and Evoltion”, Editors J.P. Moreland & John Mark Reynolds.

    Each view is presented in essay form and than critiqued by various scholars.

  43. Gregory.

    You claim that “ID is being proposed in natural sciences and wants to include extra-natural causes. ”

    Would you care to substantiate this claim?

  44. I think the foundation of bridge building in this regards would be to analyse and debate design detection as part of science in general. There are nothing to be gained when you ONLY argue metaphysical implications.

    A very good thing to take into account is that, science always study effects to infer the properties of possible causes. It is impossible to infer a complete set of descriptive properties of a specific cause.

    I am convinced ID only claim that, for certain effects in nature the best inference would be a cause with the property of intelligence or mind. This claim should be the focus of bridge building efforts and not the metaphysical consequences of finding causes with properties of mind.

    Looking at this as an interested bystander it does seem to me that there are certainly overtones of deist vs. theist views clouding the arguments. I can understand that if the current science establishment feels threatened by a revolution launched against their deistic and atheistic manipulations.

    Science should break free of this kind of manipulation and ID has shown real effort to regain metaphysical neutrality. It is TE’s task to proof their neutrality from deist and atheist manipulations. Accusing ID of forcing theist views into science is not helping, it is just causing the focus to turn to metaphysics and not design detection.

    P.S. All scientists and the public at large have the right to conclude any metaphysical position. It is not the task of science to do that.

  45. Again, will get back to the main issues, but I simply must first confirm if I understand people’s positions here.

    johnnyb and Phaedros believe that the Earth is a few thousand years old and not milliions of years old. Is this correct?

    I don’t wish to put words in anyone’s mouth or to misrepresent people. But that is what I’m hearing and johnnyb’s connections with the Creation Research Society make this assumption much easier.

    Don’t worry, folks, there is no person-evaluation here, just questions about scientific positions. I’ve been doing some research on ID’s ‘position’ about the age of the Earth and will show that quite soon. Again, the power of this line of discussion in comparing UD or DI and BioLogos is as I said above: “BioLogos absolutely refuses to consider ‘young Earth’ as a legitimate possibility”. The historicity of the first humans (in the monotheistic traditions, they are known, of course, as ‘Adam’ and ‘Eve’) is left an open question.

    So you won’t find *any* young Earth creationists, Biblical literalists or a.k.a. fundamentalists at BioLogos, whereas they are not excluded from UD or DI and are instead perhaps welcomed for the connections they have with a huge book-buying market of evangelical Protestant Christians in America.

  46. Timaeus -

    “there are some ID proponents who don’t think evolution happened at all”

    I don’t think that’s true. Especially when defined as “change over time”. As far as I’m aware, all people’s children look different from their parents.

    Gregory -

    “johnnyb and Phaedros believe that the Earth is a few thousand years old and not milliions of years old. Is this correct?”

    I don’t know Phaedros’ position, but it is basically true for myself (more specifically, I believe that the phanerozoic layers are a few thousand years old – I have no opinion on the deeper layers).

    Interestingly, though, is that BioLogos (or at least its individual members) have on many occasions been more open to Young-Earth Creationists than ID’ers. Note that most of their direct criticisms are aimed specifically at ID, and not at YEC.

  47. Hi inunison,

    Is ‘intelligence’ something ‘extra-natural’ in your opinion or not?

    Sure, if the un-named ‘designer(s)’ is/are aliens, then it/they can be called ‘natural.’ But if the ‘designer/Designer’ of biotic information is Allah, God, or Yahweh, then you have an ‘entity’ that is ‘extra-natural’ and not just ‘natural’. Wouldn’t you agree?

    I don’t see ID being proposed in human-social sciences, only in natural-physical sciences or (by analogy in) applied sciences. Please show me otherwise if I am wrong.

    Thanks,
    Gregory

  48. Gregory,

    Are you saying that OEC should be on the membership card for UD and ID?

    The only thing you assert is to expose yourself as a person supporting thought policing and you implied BioLogos to do the same. If you are really interested in building bridges then you have to tone down on this gestapo stuff.

    In my previous post I urged science to assert its neutrality, why can’t you focus on the science of ID? If you are uncertain about what scientific neutrality is, then let us talk about that.

    P.S.
    My experience is that the concept “fundamentalist” is a loaded concept and a veil for covering up manipulating or policing views under the banner of moderation. A recent example I experienced of this hypocrisy was when the French were also accused of being fundamentalist for outlawing the wearing of burkas in France. Who exactly decide what the moderate position is?

  49. Gregory-

    I would say I’m open to whatever the evidence actually says, whatever that may be. I think that ostracizing fellow Christians is a bad thing, what about you?

  50. Hi Gregory,

    ID has nothing to say about designer and/or nature of his intelligence. I assumed that is made quite clear in numerous ID publications and that you are aware of it.

    It simply asks the question: Are there any natural systems that are displaying signs (effects) that we can reliably attribute to intelligence (mind).

    I think that is valid question that properly belongs in domain of natural sciences. Now, I accept that answer could be negative, if these natural information rich systems could be shown to “happen” by interaction of known natural laws and chance within probabilistic resources.

    Therefore in search for the answer(s), I see no need to invoke extra-natural or super-natural reasoning and methodology.

    So, I still don’t understand where are you coming from when you state: “ID is being proposed in natural sciences and wants to include extra-natural causes.”

  51. Hello again Timaeus!

    The last time it seems we met you were provoking my interest about Henri Bergson and suggesting, if I remember correctly, that a neo-Bergsonian approach might be possible in our time. I thought you did a great job in taking on almost the entire ASA list, many of whom are TEs or ECs and who were sometimes misinformed about the meaning and mission of ‘intelligent design’. As you might remember from that time, I have many challenges for TEs and ECs and realize that there are, as you say, problems with such an approach.

    You write: “many TE/EC people would resist the idea that God performs any *special* action in evolution, and would argue that in evolution God always acts only through general laws of nature.”

    Yes, this is a significant hesitation for TE/EC people, i.e. they cringe at the word ‘intervention’ because they think ‘violate laws of nature’ is not how God acts in the universe. In my view, they have knitted their theologies too tightly with evolutionism, as an ideology (i.e. not only as a natural-physical science), and thus it biases their ability to ‘limit evolution.’ Iow, TE/ECs are least likely to give examples of ‘things that don’t evolve’ among Jews, Christians or Muslims.

    Let me be clear and up front here that I am neither a TE/EC nor an Idist. If anything, I could be called a neo-Idist or a post-TE/EC, though none here have likely yet encountered these terms. The terms ‘intelligent’ and ‘design’ do *not* belong in natural-physical sciences in my view. Instead, they belong (if anywhere), i.e. supplemented by other related terms, in human-social sciences where ‘making,’ ‘constructing,’ ‘building,’ etc. is a field welcome and legitimate for scientific study. But ‘design’ in natural-physical sciences is a violation of the commonly-held meaning of ‘natural science’ and worse, it does what most Idists in principle don’t wish to do, it puts God (the ‘Designer’) to the test.

    I realize that Idists want to change (not ‘evolve’) the commonly-held meaning of ‘natural science’ to include ‘intelligent causes’ but it is quite obvious to non-Idists that this attempt to change people’s grammar is a lost cause that flies in the face of the general public and also Christian scientists and scholars who study nature, culture, society, politics, economics, language, religion, etc.

    “Is the Dow Jones ‘intelligently designed’?” What a silly question!

    Gregory

    p.s. I am glad that you agree, “Identifying ‘how God guides biological (or natural-physical) evolution’ would likely be welcome both at UD and BioLogos,” with good and balanced qualifications.

  52. Now to the research on ID leaders’ position on the age of the Earth:
    Of the 36 Fellows of the DI (dated July 2007), 16 have academic degrees in one or more of the following areas: physics, chemistry, biology, geology, astronomy.

    The 16 names are: Meyer, Behe, Berlinski, Chien, Gonzalez, Wells, Bohlin, Hunter, Kaita, Kenyon, Minnich, Moreland, Pun, Schaeffer, Simmons and Thaxton.

    Of these all but two (Bohlin – who is not sure, i.e. agnostic – and Thaxton, the latter who might well accept an ‘old’ Earth – I didn’t find out exactly) believe the Earth is ‘old’ and *not* ‘young.’ Nelson is not counted as his degree from Chicago is in philosophy of biology and not in biology itself. Still, he would make 1 (possibly 2 or 3) out of 17 if he was counted, among DI Fellows who believe the Earth is ‘young.’ Thus, a *vast* majority of ID Leaders, almost everyone, who are active in the natural-physical sciences believe in an ‘old’ Earth.

    This research was conducted simply by typing in the name of the DI Fellow along with “million years” and texts were read carefully to confirm that the Fellow was not just describing someone else’s view but expressing their own view. Indeed, 14 (and quite possibly 15) out of 16, with one ‘not sure’ gives an overwhelming majority of ID leaders who believe in an ‘old’ Earth. Why then does the DI not make a position statement on this topic?

    “ID theorists generally accept the universe is 14 billion years old and began in the “Big Bang.” They accept that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old, that single-cell life — bacteria, plankton and algae – began 3.8 billion years ago” – Joe Woodward (http://www.discovery.org/a/2919)

    Why then let ID be tainted with ‘anti-science’ types who believe the Earth is ‘young’ in the face of an abundance of contrary evidence? Doesn’t this just make ID look bad by association?

    The reason this is important is because, as HornSpiel (sorry for wrong spelling the first time) says, if ID is presented as a ‘scientific program’ then it should come forward openly about its views of the age of the Earth. Especially natural-physical scientists, whose realm of study is based to some degree on accepting the knowledge produced/generated at lower levels about the natural-physical world, cannot escape the fact that if they disagree with geology, astronomy, cosmology, etc. based on their methods, then their own scientific results will inevitably also be called into question. This is simply unavoidable and IDs welcome to YECs has badly damaged its public image (except for among evangelical Christians, who are oftentimes Biblical literalists, and who relish the ‘righteous underdog’ role).

    The DI, trusting in good science and following the evidence where it leads, should have no problem in stating that the Earth is probably old and *not* young. This should be simple and easy and not such a controversial topic. What makes it controversial is that the DI gets its money and support from American evangelical Christians (AeCs) who are the most under-educated about natural-physical sciences among the Christian population and thus the most easily duped into accepting a Biblical literalist, young Earth scenario, not knowing that the evidence collected by their fellow Christians is easily available to consult. In other words, DI doesn’t want to upset its funding sources, some of whom are YECs, so it avoids the age of the Earth question, thus compromising its scientific integrity.

    Many AeCs believe that to be a Christian and to accept an ‘old’ Earth is a contradiction and that to convert away from a ‘young’ Earth perspective is tantamount to embracing atheism. This is a sad story and brings shame on evangelicals in the USA. This is what BioLogos is trying to overcome, given that many BioLogos leaders are evangelicals themselves and also educated in the sciences and not just passive observers.

    “Ignoring the age of the earth while attempting to teach students natural history makes about as much sense as trying to teach American history without telling students that the American revolution began in 1775, which is to say, no sense at all.” – American education organization

    Why is this important in the discussion of ‘convergence’ between BioLogos and the intelligent design movement? Because BioLogos is going to the root of the differences whereas intelligent design, in trying to appear ‘natural scientific’, is ignoring the reality that the most significant problem people have with ‘evolution’ and with ‘natural selection’ is to be found in the way they read their Bible(s). BioLogos is offering help to anti-evolutionists, including YECs and IDists, on their Biblical exegesis and hermeneutics. Intelligent design is not offering such help. This is what makes BioLogos a more ‘balanced’ site for ‘science, philosophy and theology’ discourse.

    Timaeus said it himself: “TE/EC people would very much like to see ID people being more forthright about their theology, and this topic would help to evoke ID theology.”

    The topic of ID theology is almost absent from ID publications because ID desires to be ‘natural scientific’. It wants to change the definition of natural sciences to include extra-natural causality, i.e. the cause of ‘intelligence.’ But what it fails to understand, probably because it is lean on human-social scholars, is that ‘intelligence’ is *already accepted* as a cause in the Academy. Human intelligence or human decision-making is a ‘cause’ of human-social action; but this is not a ‘natural-physical science’ approach to the world.

    In other words, as some people are fighting for ‘justice’ between ‘science and religion,’ in fact an often forgotten and equally as important topic for conversation is the relationship between natural-physical and human-social sciences, along with applied sciences, and the inclusion rather than exclusion of philosophy from the discussion table/internet forums such as this.

    Gregory

  53. Hello mullerpr,

    You asked: “Are you saying that OEC should be on the membership card for UD and ID?”

    Well, I’m not sure what a ‘membership card’ means. UD and ID are not a political party or a WallMart Club.

    What I’m suggesting is that UD and ID should make it absolutely clear that persons believing in a ‘young’ Earth are giving UD and ID a bad reputation among scientists and that the evidence points to an ‘old’ earth. It is a question of ‘credibility,’ which is as important in science as it is in other realms. People simply aren’t going to believe used car salespersons peddling them a ‘new view of natural science.’ They want to deal with credible spokespersons and YEC is not credible in a broad sense scientifically and is predominantly dismissed outside of evangelical Protestant churches.

    In other words, one cannot be a ‘good scientist’ in natural-physical sciences and also accept a ‘young earth’ at the same time. Note please: I did not say that one cannot be a good doctor, engineer or computer scientist and be a biblical literalist or even fundamentalist who believes in a ‘young’ earth for religious reasons. But the fact is that believing in a ‘young’ Earth is similar to believing the Earth is flat and/or that the Sun revolves around it. Holding such a view is tantamount to being discredible whenever such a person brings up ‘intelligent design,’ no matter what Id’s merits are (which I personally think there are) in other fields.

    It is strange that people have brought up musicologists, coroners, and engineers, when I am specifically saying that biologists, chemists, physicists and other natural-physical scientists cannot appear credible if they don’t take a position on the age of the Earth, which the ‘lower’ sciences of geology, astronomy and cosmology all confirm: the Earth is ‘old’ and *not* ‘young’ and it brings no hono(u)r to Christians who ignore the evidence or feign righteous rebellion to protect their biblical literalism. It would help their religious maturity to accept the natural scientific evidence and rebuild their Christian worldview upon it and together with it. Faith is a higher category than biology; but truth cannot contradict truth either and an ‘old’ Earth is no more a threat to Christendom than was heliocentrism.

    - –
    Phaedros,

    You say you’re “open to whatever the evidence actually says.” Well, ‘the evidence,’ studied by geologists, astronomers, cosmologists and many other natural-physical scientists, many of them religious believers, who spent/d their lives trying to understand the facts of the natural world, says the Earth is ‘old.’ Do you thus accept this?

    No, I am not for ostracizing. But if Christians want to come in and play heavies *in science* based not on scientific knowledge, but rather on their own personal (i.e. not Catholic or Orthodox) interpretation of Holy Scripture, then yes, they do need to be censured (not censored!). Most Catholics and Orthodox accept an ‘old’ Earth. It is mainly evangelical Protestants who don’t and this is partly because they are the most individualistic (and thus, the most widely divergent) in their Biblical exegesis and hermeneutics.

    Again, UD folks, the reason I am writing this is because BioLogos takes a stand on age of Earth, while the IDM doesn’t. This is an important source of misunderstanding and tension between the two perspectives. And it is not BioLogos that can fix this problem, it is only the IDM that can do it.

    Gregory

  54. Meyer, Behe, and Berlinski believe the Earth is old so you’re count is off by at least one.

  55. Again the age of the earth is not a central focus of ID as it is about detecting design in biology. What the personal opinions are of its proponents are thus not a huge concern for me and they shouldn’t be for you.

  56. Gregory-

    “This is an important source of misunderstanding and tension between the two perspectives. And it is not BioLogos that can fix this problem, it is only the IDM that can do it.”

    No, it is BioLoogos that has the problem with this and not ID. If this is the only thing that is stopping them from getting along then I say just drop it and get on with conducting good biology.

  57. Gregory,

    I am just saying that you convolute the contribution of science to human knowledge with gestapo like thought policing. Thats not what science is supposed to do. My experience is that ID focus on what science can contribute to human knowledge and not on any form of thought policing.

    Hope you get that.

    A true neutral scientist would not insist that anyone must submit to any majority view. Scientific consensus is not a social dogma. Scientific consensus just constitute the body of knowledge that has to be considered by any new evidence. We expect the new evidence to either support or contradict the consensus.

    Why would you expect scientific consensus to be a social dogma, that anyone needs to submit to? Does it have to do with your inability to distinguish between religious/metaphysical views and science.

  58. Gregory-

    “You say you’re “open to whatever the evidence actually says.” Well, ‘the evidence,’ studied by geologists, astronomers, cosmologists and many other natural-physical scientists, many of them religious believers, who spent/d their lives trying to understand the facts of the natural world, says the Earth is ‘old.’ Do you thus accept this?”

    I’ve seen evidence for both viewpoints. Point me to what you believe is the best evidence for an old Earth. If I said that I thought the Earth 4.3526575634524534656355245346456467383673672456562562456246 billion years old does that make my views more valid to you? Or does it have to be more exact? Older? Younger?

  59. Phaedros: “Point me to what you believe is the best evidence for an old Earth.”

    That would be too long for this blog.

  60. Just one piece. Not the entire litany of it. I’m sure there’s some right?

  61. Commonsense observation and direct geological evidence. Take a look at the Grand Canyon, a record of a billion years of slow deposition of sediments. Take a look at the huge fossil record. The age of the earth, of the various geological eras, and of the embedded fossils are established by very many correlating radiometric rock and meteorite datings by isotopic decay measurements. The only way this could be wrong is if they were deliberately created to deceive.

  62. “Commonsense observation”

    Ok that won’t give you exact dates.

    “Take a look at the Grand Canyon, a record of a billion years of slow deposition of sediments. ”

    Based on the assumption that it always occurred at the same rate, that there wasn’t a huge flood or multiple flooding periods, etc etc.

    “The age of the earth, of the various geological eras, and of the embedded fossils are established by very many correlating radiometric rock and meteorite datings by isotopic decay measurements.”

    I think that there are many problems with isotopic decay as a dating mechanism not least of which are uniformitarian assumptions and the issue of whether or not the sample was contaminated at some point or many points.

  63. This is a debate that has already been hashed out endlessly. There are no legitimate scientific challenges to the data as summarized.

  64. Phaedros: If I said that I thought the Earth 4.3526575634524534656355245346456467383673672456562562456246 billion years old does that make my views more valid to you?

    If you said that it would indicate that you have litle familiarity with the workings of science particularly the concept of significant figures seems to not concern you in the least.

  65. magnan,

    You need to choose evidences for Old Earth more carefully. Neither Grand Canyon nor “huge fossil record” are particularly good ones.

    In any case, Old Earth or Young Earth have no bearing on the scientific validity of ID.

    It is very unfortunate that some hold this question to be a test for ID acceptance (for political reasons?)

  66. 66

    This is a debate that has already been hashed out endlessly. There are no legitimate scientific challenges to the data as summarized.

    Now where have I heard that before?

  67. johnnyb @ 46:

    By “evolution” I meant macroevolution. And there certainly are ID proponents who deny that macroevolution happened — including some major ID proponents. And there are some other well-known ID proponents who, while not outrightly denying that macroevolution happened, give strong signals that they don’t believe it happened.

    I wouldn’t say that Biologos is “more open” to YEC than to ID. Rather, I’d say that Biologos is “more polite” to YEC than to ID. This makes sense, since they are trying to convert YECs to belief in Darwinian evolution, and you have to be polite to people you are trying to persuade of something. But no one at Biologos is “open” to YEC in the sense of seriously entertaining the possibility that YEC might be true. The falsehood of YEC is presumed by every columnist at Biologos, and the effort is directed to finding the right form of delicate intra-Christian rhetoric to get YECs to see the wrongness of their position.

    T.

  68. Acipenser-

    “If you said that it would indicate that you have litle familiarity with the workings of science particularly the concept of significant figures seems to not concern you in the least.”

    Lol I guess that went right over your head.

  69. Gregory -

    I would like to point out – there are a great number of things which I believe for theological reasons, and a great number of things which I believe for a combination of theological and scientific reasons, and a great number of things I believe because they have intuitive appeal.

    I can say that, of these, I disagree with evolution on the basis of a theology/science combination, but I disagree with natural selection simply because it is bad science combined with bad reasoning. I’ve heard many good arguments for evolution (i.e. common descent + naturalism). I’ve never heard a good argument for natural selection as the engine of evolution.

  70. Gregory has ably articulated my view on why DI should take a position on the age of the earth. the fact that they won’t is evidence that theirs is a crusade to change the way science works.

    The DI definition of ID contrasts “intelligent cause” with “undirected process such as natural selection.” In may other places we hear of the inadequacy of Darwinian or Neo-Darwinian evolution. The launching pad of ID was arguably Darwin on trial. I say this to defend my assertion that ID is primarily about changing how evolutionary science is practiced. (No surprise then that most ID scientists accept the finding of other branches of science regarding the age of the earth.)

    Again as Gregory has already pointed out, “intelligent cause” is already allowed in the social sciences, where it is applied to human agents and on the fringes, to possible ET intelligence and animal intelligence.

    The commitment in the natural sciences to natural causes and explanations is a presupposition, that is, it is axiomatic. It’s logically inconsistent to use science to assert that it’s axiomatic foundation is inadequate. If naturalistic science can’t explain something then all it can say is “we don’t know” or “it is highly improbable.”

    If you change the foundation to include an unspecified designer with unspecified (i.e. unlimited) abilities, you no longer have science. What you have for all intents and purposes is theistic science. I say theistic because the designer can do any kind of design ant any time any where which pretty much describes the powers of a deity.

    The results of such a science would, I submit, not be useful explanation of how the world works, rather something more akin to Just So stories.

    No, the problem is not evolutionary science, or even Darwinian evolution, but philosophies that use scientific inquiries into origins to destroy theism and people’s faith.

    I wonder if ID and BL can agree on that.

    The kind of research ID fellows are doing can be useful to challenge science. For instance I do not think evolutionary scientists have paid enough attention to the question of information accumulation in the genome. If there is intelligent intervention in the development of life Science will surly hit a road block and finally have to admit ignorance. ID does not help anyone if it tries to short circuit that process. Scientists need to come to that conclusion themselves. And you can be sure that will not be any time soon.

  71. 71

    I’m gavelling the discussion pertaining to the age of the earth.

  72. I’m glad to see the topic changed from the age of the earth, which has nothing to do with ID.

    Regarding the possible co-operation between Biologos and ID, I think that in the final analysis it boils down to this: if Biologos is intellectually committed not only to “evolution” but to the specifically neo-Darwinian model of evolution, or to any model of evolution which depends fundamentally on chance to generate novel forms, then there is no hope of any co-operation between the two. ID’s whole raison d’etre is to show the massive implausibility of an evolutionary process that proceeds in this way. ID could not surrender its Darwin-skepticism without ceasing to be itself.

    So if Biologos is going to make acceptance of neo-Darwinism the condition of being considered a competent scientist (and of being a competent discussion partner in the area of religion and science), then Darrel Falk’s claims of common ground here are vacuous. It would be like Calvin saying to the Jews: “We have so much in common with you that we would really like to put aside all unnecessary differences and work together. And to show our sincerity in this matter, we’ll accept you as theologically competent discussion partners if you first accept Jesus Christ as the only means of salvation. After that, we’ll be *glad* to listen to the opinions of your rabbis on the interpretation of Isaiah 53.”

    So I’d say to Falk, Giberson, etc.: the ball is in your court. Show a willingness to budge on the *mechanisms* of evolution, show a willingness to budge on the possibility of design detection, and then we’ll talk. But nothing that has been posted on Biologos for the past year indicates the slightest willingness to budge, and the frequency of explicitly anti-ID columns and snide side-comments against ID makes it extremely unlikely that Falk’s overture can be sincere – even if he himself isn’t consciously aware of being insincere.

    Biologos has to make up its mind whether it is an organization devoted to *exploring possibilities* about the relationship between biology and theology, or whether it is an organization dedicated to the defense of certain forms of TE/EC, to the exclusion of ID and of all forms of theistic evolution which don’t sufficiently kowtow to neo-Darwinism. Its diplomatic rhetoric is that it is first type of organization; its deeds strongly suggest that it is the second.

    T.

  73. Timaeus @72. Thank you for an excellent summary.

  74. Timaeus,

    So I’d say to Falk, Giberson, etc.: the ball is in your court. Show a willingness to budge on the *mechanisms* of evolution, show a willingness to budge on the possibility of design detection, and then we’ll talk.

    Let me ask you this. What if Falk, Giberson and company gave the following reply to you:

    “While we are tremendously skeptical about the possibility of detecting design in biology and nature, are also just as skeptical about the possibility of ruling it out. Science, as we see it, is incapable both of determining “This biological structure came about without any guidance or foresight” or “This biological structure came about with some kind of guidance or foresight”. Thus, for any who thinks Darwinism must entail a a commitment to a view such that divine guidance and/or teleology must be denied, we can say: We reject that view, and if that view were what Darwinism was, we would reject Darwinism.”

    Would this, to you, be progress?

    What about the following:

    “While we believe science, even the science of evolution, is incapable of ruling in or out design, we do believe that there are extra-scientific arguments which can be made in favor of design. While these may refer to the science, the arguments themselves may be philosophy, metaphysical, or theological, and can themselves have some or much intellectual force. We at Biologos are open to this manner of “design detection”, but we stipulate that such detection is not itself science. It is a different form of reasoning and knowledge, though a valid one.”

    Again, I ask: Would this be progress?

    I am also curious of the responses of other ID proponents/advocates here, including StephenB. And keep in mind, I’m skeptical that Biologos would make these moves – my low opinion here is obvious. But these seem to me like moves Biologos could make if they wanted to honestly find some common ground with ID.

    Otherwise, as Timaeus might say, no one is really seeking common ground here. Just capitulation.

  75. There’s no reason design detection should be thought of as “unscientific” or purely philosophical and metaphysical.

  76. I second StephenB’s praise of Timaeus’ comment @72.

    There is little in common between Theistic Evolution (or theistic Darwinism if you prefer) and ID in regards to neo-Darwinian evolution. And attempts toward bridge building are not constructive in developing ID as a scientific endeavor — these can only weaken ID scientifically in attempts to strengthen it politically.

    Time, along with ongoing research are the ally of ID at this point, provided Intelligent Design proponents don’t acquiesce to temptations of being popular and well-perceived by mainstream elites.

    There is no difference between TE and philosophical materialism where NDE is concerned. The assertion that blind processes (material laws) can create life and the diversity thereof, is the commonality paramount to both philosophies. That TE has a patina of theism does nothing to change this.

    While individuals in both the TE and ID camps may share certain theological beliefs, their perceptions about design in the natural world are not held in common. Theistic Evolutionists are holding out for purely material explanations of biological mechanisms, rejecting the notion that design is objectively quantifiable. ID is attempting to demonstrate that design is an artifact of agency — and that not only is design intuitively obvious, but that its a scientifically valid pursuit to establish the presence thereof.

    As it stands, there is no verifiable mechanism for the origin of life and no plausible scenario for its development de novo via material causes; nor is there a verifiable mechanism for the development of novel, functionally specified, biological nano-machines or their supporting code from the ostensible Universal Common Ancestor. That such mechanisms exist is the product of faith, giving birth to conjecture.

    Insisting that material causes are the only allowable explanations for observed effects is the last refuge of a desolate philosophy.

  77. nullasalus @74,

    Why should ID proponents, or anyone for that matter, accept a definition of science that rules out the objective detection of design features in nature? Would this be a theological consideration, a political, or a scientific one?

    What benefit would there be to ID or to science in general if biological origins causes were dispossessed from scientific investigation?

    I suppose my questions are somewhat rhetorical (to accept your conditions is to accept the dissolution of ID as a scientific endeavor, at least in part) but I’d be interested in your thoughts, or your clarification if I’ve misunderstood.

  78. Apollos-

    “ID is attempting to demonstrate that design is an artifact of agency — and that not only is design intuitively obvious, but that its a scientifically valid pursuit to establish the presence thereof.”

    I think this is a very important point here. The presence of purpose, and therefore design, in nature is readily apparent and therefore it makes much more scientific sense to pursue that observation as actual design rather than the appearance of design, which is a metaphysical approach.

  79. Apollos,

    I think I may be misunderstood here, so let me try to clarify.

    I am not saying that ID proponents would or should themselves affirm the contents of those two “possible responses” I outlined. Obviously, I think there would be a gulf between those positions and the ID position, which of course views ID as scientific, etc.

    But, Timaeus (And of course others – originally johnnyb) was discussing possible common ground between ID and Biologos, and ways that progress could be had in the discussion between both sides. I took Timaeus to be saying that if Biologos is committed to the idea that all of nature (particularly biological nature) came about utterly blind and by chance – that God *in no way* foresaw, planned, or guided the results of evolution – that there is nothing for ID and Biologos to talk about. They are fundamentally opposed.

    At the same time, there are ID proponents who accept evolution, even macroevolution, and who see evidence for design through and within evolution. And there are TEs who both affirm evolution (again, even macroevolution) yet who see the entire process as ultimately guided and itself designed. In which case God used evolution as a tool, speaking loosely, to achieve certain ends.

    So again, I wonder if these things would constitute progress. The statements as they were would entail A) The rejection that science or evolution ‘proves’ life in general, and man in particular, was accidental, “made by chance”, unintended, etc, B) An openness to design arguments being made about evolution and natural science, even if these are considered to be a different kind of argument and reasoning from the purely scientific, and C) The rejection of Darwinism, insofar as Darwin’s theory required the affirmation that man came about by chance, utterly without guidance or intention by God, etc.

    Hopefully the angle I’m coming from here is clearer now.

  80. 80

    “nullasalus” (#79) wrote: “…the ID position, which of course views ID as scientific…”

    Is that present or future tense?

    Phillip Johnson said (as quoted by Jay Grelen, “Witnesses for the Prosecution,” World magazine, November 30, 1996): “This isn’t really, and never has been, a debate about science … It’s about religion and philosophy.

    Ten years later, Johnson is quoted as saying: “I also don’t think that there is really a theory of intelligent design at the present time to propose as a comparable alternative to the Darwinian theory, which is, whatever errors it might contain, a fully worked out scheme. There is no intelligent design theory that’s comparable. Working out a positive theory is the job of the scientific people that we have affiliated with the movement. Some of them are quite convinced that it’s doable, but that’s for them to prove… No product is ready for competition in the educational world.” – quoted by Michelangelo D’Agostino in an article, “In the matter of Berkeley v. Berkeley,” Berkeley Science Research, 10, Spring 2006 (http://sciencereview.berkeley......=evolution).

    My understanding, based on the above, is that the ID position views ID as hopefully being scientific some day, but that day has not yet arrived.

    If anyone disagrees with that, please tell us when (after 2006, obviously) ID became “scientific.”

  81. “Again as Gregory has already pointed out, “intelligent cause” is already allowed in the social sciences, where it is applied to human agents and on the fringes, to possible ET intelligence and animal intelligence.”

    Having spent my career in programming some of the results I saw could not be described as intelligently designed as the programs produced embodied the height of stupidity and lack of design. Thus I wonder about Gregory’s intelligent cause in the social sciences. Maybe pseudo random causation by human or animal agents would often be a better description.
    Dave W

  82. Phaedros, I agree. The assumption that design is an illusion is metaphysical to its core, and requires a prior commitment to materialist philosophy. To pursue apparent design as actual design is free from this bias, as long as material causes are allowed as a possibility and not a requirement. The provisionality of our interpretation of data is resolute.

    ———————

    nullasalus, thanks for the clarification. For the record I didn’t interpret your comments as hostile or derogatory. However by gleaning from your posts over the last couple of years, I gather your position on ID is roughly (to sum up and paraphrase): that if detecting design is off limits, so should be ruling it out. This is at the core of both scenarios you provide. While I see your position as consummately fair (as is your role as a friendly ID critic) I haven’t yet perceived the utility of accepting those terms, at least by ID proponents (and I understand now that you didn’t intend to suggest that).

    As I see it, when TE declares the non-science of ID creates artificially and superficially a domain of investigation that is off limits to science — and presents as an attempt to protect God, or theology in general, or science, about which I don’t see a need. If there truly is a domain that is off limits, I believe it will present itself forcefully; such may be the case with the event horizon of a black hole. If we aren’t allowed to look, we will not be able to see. This is my own view.

    There are no good theological reasons that I can see for here speaking on behalf of God and declaring as sacrilege the investigation of a specific domain of causes, especially since this means accepting a faulty premise, i.e., strictly material causes alone. (But perhaps I’m reading in too much.) There are also no good ethical or scientific reasons that I’ve encountered for rejecting ID. If material causes are indeed sufficient as an explanation for life then proponents promoting that hypothesis should be free to promote their theory along the lines of evidence, and dispense with schoolyard politics and territorial disputes.

    I think we can agree that there is no valid scientific reason to believe without question that material causes are sufficient to explain the biological singularity; however an honest investigation would leave all possible causes on the table and allow evidence to provide a sorting mechanism to retain those that are plausible, leading to that which is most likely.

    For my part, your scenarios would represent progress only in that such admissions (or concessions) would potentially establish a reasonable disagreement. As it stands, it seems most ID critics benefit rhetorically from mischaracterizations of ID, and so avoid solid, scientific and methodological reasons for a difference, and thus grounds for a reasonable debate. By its opponents, Intelligent Design is effectively labeled as scientific and theological heresy; it’s labeled and ridiculed; its proponents are demonized and intellectually demoted; and ID remains unchallenged on its own definition of itself — which, in my opinion, is because Biologos can’t meet that challenge.

    Forgive my rambling response. In short, in my opinion there can only be common ground with ID by those willing to accept the validity (or at least the testability) of design detection on scientific grounds; theological moorings will not suffice.

  83. A bit late to the party . . .

    I see Gregory, 27:

    The problem is that ID theory is not proposed in social or cultural sciences because it is, for pun with words, a no-brainer. ID is being proposed in natural sciences and wants to include extra-natural causes. This seems backwards and nonsensical to me now . . .

    And, HornSpiel in 70:

    If there is intelligent intervention in the development of life Science will surly hit a road block and finally have to admit ignorance. ID does not help anyone if it tries to short circuit that process. Scientists need to come to that conclusion themselves. And you can be sure that will not be any time soon.

    Both of these remarks are inadvertently deeply revealing:

    1 –> Science at its best is/should be an unfettered (but ethically and intellectually responsible) progressive pursuit of the truth about our world, based on observation, experiment, theorising, logico-mathematical analysis and reasoned discussion among the informed.

    2 –> Once unfettered truth-seeking is explicitly or implicitly abandoned, science in our day easily degenerates into thinly veiled evolutionary materialist ideology, which traffics under false colours of knowledge and truth.

    3 –> And, unfortunately, that is what has implicitly, subtly happened in the two cites. In the first, “extra-natural” is little more than a thinly veiled allusion to the untenable dichotomy natural/supernatural.

    4 –> But in fact, we routinely and consistently observe many objects in our world that trace to artificial/ intelligent and purposeful causes, as opposed to natural ones tracing to chance circumstances or patterns and blind mechanical necessity. And, we can routinely observe that where complex, specified (especially functionally specific) information is present, the directly obse4rvfed cause is just as routinely art not nature.

    5 –> The classic relevant examples are discrete state information-bearing entities, especially where there is algorithmic process, or coded meaningful expression. (Text in posts in this tread are an obvious example in point.)

    6 –> This also explodes the rhetorical framing of “social science” vs “natural science.” For, information theory is a specifically and widely recognised scientific discipline in which the really important things are intelligently caused. (Just think about the key metric signal to noise ratio and related concepts such as noise factor or noise temperature.)

    7 –> it is also quite simple to show on configuration space grounds that once digital symbol strings get long enough, functional ones are beyond the reach of chance and blind mechanical necessity on the gamut of our observed cosmos.

    8 –> Just 1,000 bits of such dFSCI specifies 1.07 * 10^301 states, far more than our observed cosmos [~10^80 atoms] can access in its thermodynamically credible lifespan. That is a random-walk based search that starts from an arbitrary initial configuration will be unable to scratch the surface of the haystack and is not a plausible mechanism to get to the needle.

    9 –> But intelligences routinely produce such dFSCI.

    10 –> And, of course, in those self-replicating automata we call cells, such algorithmic coded information plays a central role. So, we have good empirical grounds for inducing the conclusion that the best explanation for such dFSCI in the cell is: art. Even where, as a matter of course, we were not around to observe it.

    11 –> Which brings us to the actual scientific project in design thought: the empirically based investigation of observable (and often measurable) signs of intelligence.

    12 –> Similarly, in the second case, the implicit assumption is that design thinkers are “as opposed to” scientists. In short, the implicit assumption is that evolutionary materialism is quietly imposed as a methodological [or, often, outright worldview level] constraint, censoring out the very possibility of seeking an alternative to material explanations tracing to chance plus blind mechanical necessity acting on matter and energy.

    13 –> But when such a constraint is imposed a priori, it becomes a controlling assumption, and here also an ideological one as it is being used to automatically dismiss anyone who will not play by materialistic rules regardless of the first casualty of such imposition: science as a truth seeking endeavour.

    14 –> When that sort of imposition happens and is institutionally embedded like we are plainly seeing, only the outright breakdown of the institution mediated by scandals will suffice to break the power of that control.

    _______________

    Given the importance of science, we cannot afford such a discrediting breakdown. So, instead, we need to critically examine the imposed assumptions, and reform the praxis of science.

    Before it is too late.

    GEM of TKII

  84. PS: Apollos, perhaps we can start with 1,000 bit strings of functional symbolic information. We can readily measure number of bits, and we can observe symbolic function. We can even assign it a bit value: 1/0 for the simplest case. How many observed algorithmically or linguistically functional strings of that length do we observe being produced by accident or mechanical necessity without intelligent direction? Does anyone seriously believe that MS Office 2010 was produced by an army of monkeys banging away at keyboards at random over in Redmond? Or, that the machine it runs on was the result of a tornado hitting Austin Texas? So, why do we believe that the more intricate and complex, far more sophisticated software and hardware in say a bacterium was the product of chance and blind necessity? Worse, if you were to see a self-replicating robot, would you infer that it was produced by a hurricane hitting an aerospace junkyard? (And that is a fairly direct comparison with the complexity of a living, self-replicating cell.)

  85. Apollos,

    Thanks for the reply, and I’m glad my position was made clearer. I would only add that it’s not only the case that I believe it’s an all or nothing situation (Put short: If ID is ruled out as science, no-ID is ruled out as well. If no-ID is not ruled out, ID is not ruled out either.), but I think “science” as science rarely shows what people think it does. What many ID proponents would happily chalk up to “nature” or “unguided material causes”, I would say is wildly unsettled. Even Bill Dembski notes that ID can give off false negatives and that everything can be ‘designed’ – a point I think is often overlooked.

    Anyway, more on topic: Sure, I don’t think ID is going to be reconciled with Biologos fully anytime soon, nor does that seem to be what Timaeus or johnnyb is gunning for, unless I misread them. But I think the sort of common ground I’m talking about is important to establish. Put it this way: If Biologos can’t even agree to that much – if the Biologos position is ‘Evolution is utterly unguided, man appeared by chance alone, God neither directed nor foresaw the arrival of man – but we’re still Christians who believe in God!’, then that’s that. There’s no common ground, no dialogue to speak of. A person with such position doesn’t just reject ID, they reject design, period, and the only thing that could come from discussion is capitulation from one party.

    But if the Biologos position is something closer to what I outlined? Then, at least, there is some common ground. There are beliefs in common to be discussed, without requiring ID proponents to give up their positions on design, etc. Even if rapt across the board agreement couldn’t happen, some sort of fruitful cooperation and mutual respect could be possible.

    I fail to see why this development would be a bad thing, even if Biologos continues to disagree with ID on ID’s core commitments. And even there, wouldn’t it be nice for them to actually disagree with ID’s actual core commitments, rather than some cheap rhetorical imitation of such?

    But what can I say – I value cooperation when possible, even if such is imperfect. And I admit I’d like to see Biologos and ID, without ID capitulating on its core positions, staking out a qualified shared view in opposition to science abusing New Atheists and other such. And I think ID in particular is keenly capable of this – look at the Big Tent. Look at how major ID proponents have been dedicated in explaining the intellectual limits of ID, arguing that it’s not limited to Christianity alone.

    (* God, with the usual caveat that ID only speaks of design or designers. But with Biologos, they’re expressly talking about God as designer, so…)

  86. Now to take my tongue out of my cheek from my last post, I like both what Timaeus and nullasalus have said although I do not think there is much likelihood of the heavies at BioLogos accepting much compromise except in two possible areas.

    Many ECs who affirm neo Darwinism would also affirm that God foresaw the results of evolution, especially those who hold a reformed theology. For many reformed God’s foreknowledge is not causation as God is not within time but stands apart.

    Many ECs who affirm neo Darwinism would also affirm that God planned at least to some extent the results of evolution in creating the universe with the fine tuning that we see, likely in form of the laws, values of the constants and initial conditions.

    However, let me remind people that about a year ago over on the defunct ASA email list that all (as best I remember) of the EC/TEs on the list expected that somewhere between an earth with no life and what we now see, that God had in some fashion “intervened” and likely more than once.

    Neither do I see the heavies at the DI or UcD agreeing to any compromise but I do remember that with God miracles are possible.

    As I have said on BioLogos I personally do not find neo Darwinism convincing in terms of the development of complex biological features, nor do I find anything in ID convincing (unless one includes the fine tuning arguments). While I am open to Mike G’s front loading arguments I do not see how it could be done at the mechanism level, but in fairness I need to read more of his material. Similarly occasional intervention does not trouble me in the least although I would find intervention at every Planck interval for every state transition troubling since I think God created a real universe out there, not just a simulation of some kind. Some have also suggested that God choose to create the precise instance of the universe that would result in mankind and every individual who has ever lived, I wonder if such is possible even for God as IMO omnipotence wrt God covers more than we can imagine but may not cover anything that we can imagine. I tend to think that this is the best possible world that was possible to be created, given the kind of creatures that God ultimately intends and consistent with his attributes such as love and truthfulness…

    Frankly I am getting weary of both BioLogos and UcD (and ASA) as both seem entrenched in their positions. I think both would be happier if those of us who say a plague on both your houses simply went away. My preference would be to read semi popular works on math, physics and quantum mechanics rather than struggling through evolution and ID tomes. Already I rarely post on the ASA blogs as I do not view their orthodoxy wrt anthropic global warming consensus as being convincing. Although, I did think that Randy Isaac did a good job in his critique of Meyer’s SItC. Unfortunately as far as I saw, he never dealt with the issue about whether the OOL seemed probable given the laws of physics and chemistry, which I personally doubt. I was very disappointed that Meyer in his rebuttal of his critics, totally ignored Randy’s respectful and IMO thoughtful criticisms. In general I find consensus in science meaningless unless one’s definition of consensus is that almost no active significant scientist is arguing about the issue except to add say one more significant figure to the age of the earth or to the mass of the some subatomic particle. I’d say that we have reached consensus on Newton’s laws at none relativistic velocities or on Maxwell’s equations and other such well established science.

    I would really like to see ID and BioLogos become if not allies at least co-belligerents in some limited areas and stop anathematizing each other wrt science and theology. Where, by co-belligerents I mean something like the relationship between Churchill and Stalin in WWII when Germany was defeated. But with people like Ayala writing for BioLogos, with their approval and support, I see little hope of that. IMO Ayala’s response to Meyer was less than Christian and lacked intellectual integrity. This site has some similar authors of the main posts but I will refrain from naming them for politeness sake, after all, this is an ID site and you can say whatever you want about science or EC/TEs.

    Much as I dislike to agree with Gregory IMO ID would be more acceptable to people knowledgeable in science if the young earth position was repudiated. I gave up believing in a young earth 55 years ago, as a young teenager living in the great rift valley of Africa not far from where the Lucy was discovered, in fact we crossed the Awash river on the way home from boarding school, at least twice a year. An earth of less than 10,000 years just did not seem reasonable with what I observed about me, even with only grade 9 science. I agree that an old earth is a separate issue from design detection but condoning a young earth does make ID hard to swallow for many, although that was not a factor for me when I read Behe, Meyer and Dembski and ultimately came to disagree with their thesis.
    Dave W

  87. nullasalus,

    …but I think “science” as science rarely shows what people think it does. What many ID proponents would happily chalk up to “nature” or “unguided material causes”, I would say is wildly unsettled.

    This is an interesting perspective, and one I’ve seen dealt with here at UD although I couldn’t say for certain when/where/whom. It’s a matter of philosophy, because whether or not one is a theist, material laws are the same for everyone.

    He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Mat 5:45b)

    Nature is a tricky word, to be certain. In my own estimation, “nature” could be defined as everything which can be perceived with the five senses, or inferred/deduced with the provided tools of logic and reason. It could also be defined as all that objectively exists — that which constitutes reality; this definition is broad, but perhaps more appropriate, and a little less tricky.

    The problem with “natural” however is that it’s subject to equivocation, intentional or otherwise (KF mentions the inappropriate natural/supernatural dichotomy above). I’ve been trying to use the word material in reference to matter, energy, and the physical laws. This is convenient in that it represents all of reality to the materialist; and to the theist it represents that which is ordered by God to predictable regularity, e.g., the earth orbiting the sun, and the moon orbiting the earth, and the quantifiable “rules” by which we can make predictions regarding those things, and count on them from day to day, everyday.

    To the theist, material reality is a temporal promise of God. Because he cannot contradict his nature, material reality is a glimpse of his glory.

    The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
    Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they display knowledge.(Psalm 19:1,2)

    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… (Rom 1:20a)

    To the non-theist, material reality is all there is. Predictable regularity in the universe is so, because it is. The laws that we ascribe to providence are taken by them for granted, but they are laws just the same — predictable and repeatable and decipherable, regardless of one’s philosophical predisposition. And whether or not God is exhaustively involved in the orbit of every electron around every atom’s nucleus, guiding its arc with unshakable care and perfection, or whether the rules themselves are so resolute and steadfast, and so well crafted that he need not give it an instance of regular effort, reality functions as intended for everyone; and the order therein can be searched, deciphered, and recorded.

    Place a theist and a non-theist on a beach together and both will discern sand. To one it is designed, although he cannot tell you how; and to the other it just is, and he cannot tell you how it ultimately came about. But to both, the sand castle — objectively recognizable and representative — is designed. It was formed by agency from the sand on the beach. It once was not, and then it was; and soon it will not be again (but the archetype will persist, regardless of one’s philosophy).

    The same pair might admire a painting. In this case, both understand that the canvas was made, but both also understand that a canvas is a neutral backdrop upon which the signal of artistic creation is poured forth. Both can recognize (I suspect because there is no philosophical discomfort in doing so) that the painting is conceptually separate from the canvas — although a backdrop is quite necessary — and that the canvas could be anything from dirt to a rock face to a glacier.

    the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground… (Gen 2:7a)

    To the theist, man was drawn upon the canvas of the dust; to the non-theist, he is the stuff of stars. In both cases, there is an intuitive recognition of the difference between the material, and that which is formed from it — regardless of whether the “stuff” itself was also a product of creation. Even the materialist, when corralled into doing so, will confess that life is unique and special, and that an ordered set of rare circumstances were required to bring it about.

    With human design, we readily perceive the difference between the subject and the stuff. We understand that the canvas is only a necessity, it is not itself the artistic expression. Take a thousand paintings from a thousand different artists and intersect the features. What falls away is everything that gives it substance — the individual expression, purpose, and intent; what remains is canvas, paint, and a shell of representative material reality.

    A theist has no need of being confused between that which is created, and that which is communicated. If I wish to write a message in the sand, I smooth away rough features or prior communications, and I inscribe my announcement, “Johnny loves Alice.” The expression is necessarily separate from the medium, and about that there can be no misunderstanding nor equivocation. The “dust” is a prerequisite material reality upon which the message can be imbued (no medium, no message).

    the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground…

    I don’t perceive any issue in detecting design because one might believe that both the medium and the message were designed. It’s ironic that materialists should potentially be liberated from this confusion, while a theist would stumble over it.

    I understand your discomfort with the phrase “unguided material cause,” because to the theist every aspect of reality from nanosecond to nanosecond may indeed be guided with painstaking detail. However it’s the promise of material reality’s regularity that leads to the euphemism “unguided.” I suppose you could substitute “guaranteed.”

    He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Col 1:17)

    But why should we insist that every aspect of creation is driven by God at every moment, while at the same time insisting that He has somehow hidden Himself behind predictable regularity (material laws), and made the detection of His signature written upon His most beloved handiwork, the stuff of heresy?

    I don’t mean to be overbearing with my mildly hypomanic soliloquy; but UD is a canvas, and I felt compelled to paint. I hope you’ll excuse the length of this post, and not feel obliged to respond.

    Best!

  88. KF, I responed to your #84 but it appears either stuck in moderation, or consigned to oblivion.

  89. Apollos,

    It’s a matter of philosophy, because whether or not one is a theist, material laws are the same for everyone.

    I agree and disagree. Laws are the same for everyone. But material laws? An idealist can agree to the laws science uncovers. So can a panpsychist. So can a panentheist, or a theist, or a hylozoist, or someone buying the simulation argument or, etc, etc. Even what “laws” really are is open to debate, from mere humean regularities to islamic occasionalist direct decrees of God to, etc, etc.

    When you slice away all the assumed or smuggled philosophy from science, what’s left is tremendously useful but shockingly bare bones. That was the original point of science – skipping past all the argument about what was metaphysically the case, and just seeking out models that performed well.

    I don’t mean to be overbearing with my mildly hypomanic soliloquy; but UD is a canvas, and I felt compelled to paint. I hope you’ll excuse the length of this post, and not feel obliged to respond.

    I don’t mind at all, thank you for writing something with such spirit! And I hope you don’t mind my sparse comment in turn – I agree with much of what you say in fact. As I said, right here I’m just focusing on forging some possible common ground between two groups it may be possible to forge it with. I’m certainly not questioning here whether ID can do what proponents say it can, or whether it really is or isn’t science or, etc.

  90. nullasalus,

    Your compliment is held by me in high regard. I’ll close with some brief comments on the rest of your post #85.

    If Biologos can’t even agree to that much – if the Biologos position is ‘Evolution is utterly unguided, man appeared by chance alone, God neither directed nor foresaw the arrival of man – but we’re still Christians who believe in God!’, then that’s that.

    My suspicion is that we’ll see them attempt to have it both ways: foresaw but not directed; God is express but evolution is unguided; etc..

    But if the Biologos position is something closer to what I outlined? Then, at least, there is some common ground. There are beliefs in common to be discussed, without requiring ID proponents to give up their positions on design, etc. Even if rapt across the board agreement couldn’t happen, some sort of fruitful cooperation and mutual respect could be possible.

    I would be happy to see either of your scenarios be closer to the reality of the general TE attitude toward ID. This I would welcome unquestionably. However I perceive the general goal of Biologos to be the reconciliation of Christian faith with Darwinism. This goal is so radically different from ID that it’s hard to imagine what benefit ID could gain by joint efforts. I don’t suspect Biologos has as much disdain for materialist dogma or New Atheist philosophy than it does for Intelligent Design.

    And even there, wouldn’t it be nice for them to actually disagree with ID’s actual core commitments, rather than some cheap rhetorical imitation of such?

    I couldn’t agree more. Intellectual honesty is not overrated. I would think that this is prerequisite to any sort of relationship. Otherwise it’s the frog and the scorpion all over again.

    But what can I say – I value cooperation when possible, even if such is imperfect. And I admit I’d like to see Biologos and ID, without ID capitulating on its core positions, staking out a qualified shared view in opposition to science abusing New Atheists and other such. And I think ID in particular is keenly capable of this – look at the Big Tent. Look at how major ID proponents have been dedicated in explaining the intellectual limits of ID, arguing that it’s not limited to Christianity alone.

    I agree with everything you’ve said here excepting one thing. ID’s opposition to New Atheist thinking will come about by promoting the truth that apparent design is actual design, and it will establish this with the quantification of design detection. Biologos is in agreement with the New Atheists: design is not detectable; life is explicable entirely in material terms. They just have differing reasons for their position. Right now the two make a good match for opposition to ID, and that goal is manifest.

    I suppose I’ll refrain from further Biologos bashing. It takes energy and I’m all out.

    Peace and grace.

  91. Apollos,

    My suspicion is that we’ll see them attempt to have it both ways: foresaw but not directed; God is express but evolution is unguided; etc..

    I suppose that’s the other side of this conversation. If it comes back that Biologos’ members are committed to the positive claim that evolution really IS wholly unguided (Remember, even Eugenie Scott was willing to back down on ‘impersonal and unsupervised’ re: evolution, during that NABT dust up years ago), then that’s it. There really is nothing more to say or discuss. Even I would have nothing to do with Biologos at that point. Even while having serious reservations about ID, even while accepting evolution.

    My opinion of Biologos, I freely admit, is low. But I also admit to having hopes that they can agree to at least what I mentioned. Kathryn Applegate seems to be open to that idea. Daniel Harrell’s piece on Genesis and Evolution showed promise (and then was ruined by Biologos’ response, kissing up to a petulant, irrational Dawkins.)

    I honestly worry that a central problem is this: Biologos wants to proclaim Christianity’s compatibility with science and evolution while taking as close to 0 heat from atheists (!)as possible. If that’s truly the case, then frankly, Biologos is sunk. Again, Daniel Harrell’s piece showed as much – suggest that evolution can be or was guided (even with the express caveat that science is silent on the matter), suggest that design is real (again, with the same caveat), and hell will be caught from Dawkins and company. And they have to be willing to face that hell and tell Dawkins & company to get bent. And that even includes some sweet-talking, strategic-minded “compromising” atheists, who will say nice things about Biologos – but only as long as they deny all (not just scientific, but all) design possibilities and largely function as ID- and YEC-bashing Christians-in-name.

    Either way, thanks again for the exchange, and here’s hoping Biologos is at least willing to go as far as I say. And that, if they do, ID proponents see that as at least some common ground to stand and discuss on.

  92. “Either way, thanks again for the exchange, and here’s hoping Biologos is at least willing to go as far as I say. And that, if they do, ID proponents see that as at least some common ground to stand and discuss on.”

    I can raise a glass to that. Cheers, nullasalus!

  93. nullasalus:

    Actually, some ASA-TEs have in the past argued something like the first position you mentioned.

    The problem is, what would this “neutral” position leave of neo-Darwinism? Something like this: “Mutations, perhaps truly random or perhaps carefully guided [that's a metaphysical question we scientists don't get into], plus natural selection, have generated all forms of complex life.”

    Wouldn’t be much of a scientific theory, would it? The mechanism would then be vague. It would be unclear whether or not “unguided” mutations could have done just as well as “guided” ones.

    If the mutations could do the job just as well whether they were guided or not, then God is, from an explanatory point of view, redundant; and if the mutations *couldn’t* do the job without at least a tiny bit of God’s guidance, then God is explanatorily necessary. These two options — explanatorily redundant and explanatorily necessary — are so different that it’s obscure beyond measure to combine them.

    It would be much clearer to say either that mutations plus natural selection, completely unguided by God, can produce all species, or that unguided mutations could almost certainly not produce all species, because random searches for useful sequences don’t have the probablistic resources to do that.

    The former would be the Dawkins-Darwinist position; the latter would be the ID position; the unclear combination would be the proposed TE/EC position.

    A comparison with another scientific theory might help. TEs would never accept a theory of gravitation which says, “Maybe the planets are moved wholly by Newton’s laws, or maybe they are moved by Newton’s laws plus a little push from God now and then, and science can’t be sure which, because that’s a metaphysical question”. They would be very confident that natural causes can explain the motion of the planets without any conception of “guidance”. And they wouldn’t think that it was engaging in “metaphysics” to exclude “guidance” in that case. So why the caveat about “guidance” regarding the mutations that are crucial to neo-Darwinism? Why not just say outrightly what Darwin consistently stated or implied, i.e., that the mutations are not in any way guided, and don’t need to be, in order to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse?

    Another way of looking at it would be from the teaching point of view. If the TE/EC people were sincere in offering the “neutral” view you’re proposing, then surely they would agree that when evolution is taught in ninth-grade biology, either (i) the word “random” should be entirely dropped, or (ii) it should be explained that “random” is a technical term, used for methodological reasons, and doesn’t imply “sheer dumb luck”, and doesn’t imply anything one way or the other about whether the process is guided. Either way, this would amount to teaching ninth-grade biology students *that science is not capable of saying whether or not evolution can be explained entirely naturalistically*.

    I could go for that position, if the above inference regarding the limitation of “origins science” were explicitly drawn in front of the students; but I can’t believe that most TE/EC people would support it. After all, they wouldn’t support teaching that the motion of the planets might not be able to be explained naturalistically, or that chemical bonding might not be able to be explained naturalistically; and given that they are dead set against any distinction between experimental sciences and historical sciences, they wouldn’t want the same admission made regarding evolution. So I don’t believe that they would allow their “neutral” position to have any effect on science pedagogy. I think they would join with the atheist Darwinists to prevent the insertion of any qualification of “random” which could cause doubt about the sufficiency of natural explanations of evolution. At least, that’s their track record — always to side with the atheist Darwinists on every aspect of the evolutionary question pertaining to either science practice or science pedagogy.

    T.

  94. Ah Apollos:

    Cyberspace is never a certainty!

    (On another front Tiki yields slowly but surely, and Kaltura is now in the cross hairs . . . )

    My basic thought on the dust-up above is that at the heart of the matter is our understanding of what science is and should be.

    I have come to champion the understanding I again put up yesterday in 83, which has deep roots in the actual history and values of science:

    Science at its best is/should be an unfettered (but ethically and intellectually responsible) progressive pursuit of the truth about our world, based on observation, experiment, theorising, logico-mathematical analysis and reasoned discussion among the informed.

    Once truth-seeking is compromised, a priori, implicitly or explicitly, science’s credibility and legitimacy are slowly but surely lost. And, the evolutionary materialistic a priorism of Lewontin, NAS, NCSE, NSTA et al is a definite case in point.

    (SIDEBAR: Notice the link to the Blogger form of the in-progress IOSE, UD community. Observe as well the onward discussion of societal implications — including especially education policy and praxis, as well as the challenge of nihilism ever since Plato — here. In short, the long contemplated critical survey on origins science from hydrogen to humans is materially complete as a beta. In my considered opinion, this is the level on which the battle for our civilisation (and IMO, for our souls) will be decided. And, that includes the family quarrel that is going on between design thinkers of [mono-]theistic bent — by no means all design thinkers! — and theistic darwinists.)

    Using a key passage from Newton’s Opticks discovered during the development of IOSE (cf appendix on research methods etc), let us consider his understanding of science:

    _____________

    >> As in Mathematicks, so in Natural Philosophy, the Investigation of difficult Things by the Method of Analysis, ought ever to precede the Method of Composition. This Analysis consists in making Experiments and Observations, and in drawing general Conclusions from them by Induction, and admitting of no Objections against the Conclusions, but such as are taken from Experiments, or other certain Truths. For Hypotheses [i.e. speculative metaphysics . . . which would include a priori evolutionary materialism] are not to be regarded in experimental Philosophy. And although the arguing from Experiments and Observations by Induction be no Demonstration [i.e. certain, logical proof and knowledge] of general Conclusions; yet it is the best way of arguing which the Nature of Things admits of, and may be looked upon as so much the stronger, by how much the Induction is more general. And if no Exception occur from Phaenomena, the Conclusion may be pronounced generally. But if at any time afterwards any Exception shall occur from Experiments, it may then begin to be pronounced with such Exceptions as occur. [i.e. we see the principle of provisionality] By this way of Analysis we may proceed from Compounds to Ingredients, and from Motions to the Forces producing them; and in general, from Effects to their Causes, and from particular Causes to more general ones, till the Argument end in the most general. This is the Method of Analysis: And the Synthesis consists in assuming the Causes discover’d, and establish’d as Principles, and by them explaining the Phaenomena proceeding from them, and proving the Explanations [i.e. he foreshadows inference to best explanation, with an emphasis on mathematical postulates and mathematical inferences therefrom to cover the set of observations]. [Opticks, Query 31, 1705] >>
    _______________

    Further to this, in the same Query, Newton underscored the same design-centred, creation based view of science that we find in the General Scholium to Principia:

    Now by the help of [the laws of motion], all material Things seem to have been composed of the hard and solid Particles above-mention’d, variously associated in the first Creation by the Counsel of an intelligent Agent. For it became him who created them to set them in order. And if he did so, it’s unphilosophical to seek for any other Origin of the World, or to pretend that it might arise out of a Chaos by the mere Laws of Nature; though being once form’d, it may continue by those Laws for many Ages . . . .

    And if natural Philosophy in all its Parts, by pursuing this Method, shall at length be perfected, the Bounds of Moral Philosophy will be also enlarged. For so far as we can know by natural Philosophy what is the first Cause, what Power he has over us, and what Benefits we receive from him, so far our Duty towards him, as well as that towards one another, will appear to us by the Light of Nature.”

    With that sort of intellectual horsepower and pedigree so explicitly in my corner, I can see the utter puerility and cynical party-line-ism of the sort of assertions made variously by the Dawkinses, Lewontins, Scotts and mandarins of the US NAS of today’s science establishment for what they are.

    As well pretend that a flashlight out-shines the sun!

    And, when such, by contrast with the giant of science for the past 400 years then resort to playing at being a secular Magisterium that expels those who dare differ or simply question their orthodoxy, all it tells me is that institutional science in our day is dying of corruption induced by intoxication with evolutionary materialism, and its radically relativist moral implication that might makes right. Something that Plato pointed out and corrected in his The Laws Bk X, 2,300 years ago (the first recorded presentation of a design theory framework)!

    So, it is time to fling down the gauntlet, in the even older taunt and indictment on sterile, metaphysically loaded speculation on origins in Job 38:

    1 . . . the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said:
    2 “Who is this that darkens my counsel
    with words without knowledge?
    3 Brace yourself like a man;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.

    4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.
    5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
    Who stretched a measuring line across it?
    6 On what were its footings set,
    or who laid its cornerstone-
    7 while the morning stars sang together
    and all the angels shouted for joy? . . .

    In short, it is high time we learned to be humble in our attempts to build theoretical explanations of the deep, unobserved past of origins.

    We were not there, and we cannot know beyond reasonable doubt — including on the timelines and cosmology, much less origin of life, of body plan level diversity of life or of mind and moralising man.

    So, we ought not to teach as [practically] certain that which is inherently and inescapably highly speculative and uncertain.

    So, dialogue in a spirit of cooperation and honest humility about the limits of human knowledge would be a good place to start afresh. Which I think is a good part of what Mr Bartlett is calling for in the original post.

    GEM of TKI

  95. 95

    “kairosfocus” (#94) wrote: “So, it is time to fling down the gauntlet, in the even older taunt and indictment on sterile, metaphysically loaded speculation on origins in Job 38.

    Speaking of origins, I don’t suppose now would be a good time to mention that the “Ludlul bel nemeqi,” the standard Babylonian poem of the Righteous Sufferer, long considered to be the much earlier Akkadian source of the 4th Century BC’s Book of Job, has the god Marduk laying down the foundations of the earth.

    And Isaac Newton, who was the Last Alchemist as well as the First Scientist, is well known to have written more on religion than he did on science and mathematics. It should be no surprise that a bit of his dominant leaning toward religious mysticism would from time to time creep into his more technical writing, but one should not ascribe too much to such “leakage.”

  96. Timaeus,

    Actually, some ASA-TEs have in the past argued something like the first position you mentioned.

    I recall that somewhat, which is another reason I suspect those at Biologos might be willing to accept it. If I read you right, it sounds like you think this would be progress (I agree), but would still put them far from ID (I agree)?

    Wouldn’t be much of a scientific theory, would it? The mechanism would then be vague. It would be unclear whether or not “unguided” mutations could have done just as well as “guided” ones.

    It wouldn’t be, though I suppose that’s the point – that to talk of “unguided” or “guided” mutations, in this ultimate sense, is to talk about something other than a scientific theory. We can still talk plenty about mechanisms, about mutations, about models.

    A comparison with another scientific theory might help. TEs would never accept a theory of gravitation which says, “Maybe the planets are moved wholly by Newton’s laws, or maybe they are moved by Newton’s laws plus a little push from God now and then, and science can’t be sure which, because that’s a metaphysical question”.

    I don’t think this example maps well as stated. First because the status of “laws” is itself a philosophical question, even if scientists are used to talking in certain ways as shorthand. But more importantly, because A) It implies ‘God doing stuff’ is part of a scientific theory (Which in my limited “possibly Biologos can accept this” example, it isn’t), B) It implies that God could only guide through a direct intervention, which even some ID proponents dispute, and C) Implies guidance or its lack is something science can discern.

    I’d restate the example as follows: “Science studies and creates models of fundamental forces and interactions which describe and predict the motions of planets. Do the motions we see and uncover come about utterly without foresight, guidance or planning? Were they, along with the laws and forces that interact, planned or guided in some way? That goes beyond science.” I do think some TEs could and would accept that. Heck, I think some ID proponents could and would accept that.

    I want to stress, I’m not taking a position on ID itself here. I’m just trying to point out a ground TEs/ECs could commit to that, while falling short of ID, would establish some common ground. Of course, if it falls short of ID, then ID will still have some disagreements. But again, I’m an optimist – I think there’s such a thing as progress.

    “Why not just say outrightly what Darwin consistently stated or implied, i.e., that the mutations are not in any way guided, and don’t need to be, in order to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse?”

    Because if it’s correct that science can’t tell whether God guides or guided evolution – either through direct intervention, or Denton-style ‘natural unfolding’, or front-loaded evolution, etc – then Darwin’s personal thoughts on the matter mean diddly. Which, I admit, is a kind of elephant in the room. Me, I don’t care if Darwin’s personal metaphysics are discarded. What, *you* care?

    Either way, this would amount to teaching ninth-grade biology students *that science is not capable of saying whether or not evolution can be explained entirely naturalistically*.

    I could go for that position, if the above inference regarding the limitation of “origins science” were explicitly drawn in front of the students; but I can’t believe that most TE/EC people would support it.

    I think getting into what should be taught in science classes, especially as some ground level demand, is a mistake.

    But that said: Isn’t “science is not capable of saying whether or not evolution can be explained entirely naturalistically” exactly the claim most ‘evolutionists’, even those who aren’t TEs, stuck with anyway given that “methodological naturalism”* v “philosophical naturalism” schtick? If science truly proceeds according to a method that does not itself require commitment to philosophy, then that very qualification of random you mention, that lack of implication, is built right in. Otherwise it’s a lie, and the whole MN facade falls – it’s just another name for PN. And if philosophy/metaphysics can be introduced into science, all bets are off.

    (*Caveat for those reading: I used to accept ‘methodological naturalism’, and argued for it until as recently as last year or so. I’ve since changed my mind, and while my thoughts on it are complicated, I regard MN as a major mistake to judge science by.)

  97. kairofocus@ 94

    “My basic thought on the dust-up above is that at the heart of the matter is our understanding of what science is and should be.”

    I think that is only a piece of the issue although an important piece. IMO the other piece is whether or not the ID work as of today is convincing.

    “Science at its best is/should be an unfettered (but ethically and intellectually responsible) progressive pursuit of the truth about our world, based on observation, experiment, theorising, logico-mathematical analysis and reasoned discussion among the informed.”

    Do you have any preference for material causes vrs either human causes or divine causes? IMO such a preference is essential or too much gets attributed to the Gods and science disappears.
    Dave W

  98. gingoro

    Basic problem is, guess what strongly shapes what we see as convincing or not? ANS: Our worldview core presuppositions.

    So, it is all too easy to end up reasoning and living in an evolutionary materialistic circle until things crash so loud and hard that we cannot deny it. And as the demise of Marxism showed, that then leads on to trying to repackage the dead ideology.

    If you were to follow the links I gave, starting with the first, you would see clearly enough just where the design inference comes out: it privileges law and chance, unless a threshold of sufficient complexity and specificity is passed.

    So, pardon some direct remarks: your question just above does not come across to me as serious. Can we do better than this?

    GEM of TKI

  99. Apollos,

    I think we can agree that there is no valid scientific reason to believe without question that material causes are sufficient to explain the biological singularity;

    “believe without question”? There are a zillion things or more that there is no valid scientific reason to believe, but to me, it looks like a more productive position to say

    “There is no scientific reason to believe that natural causes are insufficient to explain the world.”

    Although there may be plenty of reasons founded on religious or superstitious modes of thought. But that is quite a different piece of cake.

    Out of curiosity, what is the/a biological singularity?

  100. Good points, nullasalus. Let me restate.

    I think that the fundamental problem in assessing Darwinian claims lies in the very nature of science, and what it can do. Science can discover general laws. It cannot deal with particular hypothetical past events, except when they can be directly inferred (as in forensic science) from the operation of general laws.

    Darwinian evolution, in all its variations, depends upon the assertion that particular sequences of past events happened, sequences which even in principle can’t be deduced from natural laws, not even “natural selection”, but which are, ex hypothesi, radically contingent. Science does not deal with the contingent; it deals with the necessary.

    The *best* that science can do with an alleged sequence of past contingent events is to estimate the probability of the given sequence’s occurring. But Darwinians won’t specify even a hypothetical chain of mutations for *any* major macroevolutionary change, which makes it impossible to calculate the probability of the sequence. Therefore, confronted with the statement: “A series of mutations, culled by natural selection, turned an insectivore into a bat within X million years”, the scientific critic has no specific proposal to work with.

    Of course, morphological and genomic similarities can be trotted out (which is pretty well what every scientific column at Biologos is about), but they don’t reveal causal dependency (except for those biologists who are philosophically challenged). What is needed for a causally adequate account of neo-Darwinian evolution is a proposal for a specific series of mutations to produce a particular organ, system, body plan, etc.

    Despite the differences I am pointing out between sciences concerned with natural laws and sciences based on contingent events, TEs keep insisting on the parallel with Darwinian theory and Newton’s theory. Thus, they invite us to compare them. That was what I was doing. Thus, I note that they like to compare Darwin and Newton when it serves their turn, but *don’t* use the parallel when it doesn’t.

    They all believe that the inference of the validity of Newton’s laws is perfectly scientific and non-metaphysical, and they don’t add any qualifier about “maybe or maybe not specific divine actions are a causal factor in moving the planets”. And rightly so, in my opinion. Why, then, in saying that mutations plus natural selection are adequate to explain macroevolution, would they have to add any qualifier about “We don’t do metaphysics, so we won’t enter into the discussion about whether the mutations are caused by blind natural forces or by specific divine actions”? Why should they have to add that caveat, if the science is of the same type as Newton’s?

    In classic neo-Darwinism, the mutations must be random, if not in the sense of utterly without a rational cause, at least in the sense of “random with respect to evolutionary fitness”. And it’s this that ID challenges. If the TEs want to avoid metaphysics and religion and just do “science”, then why don’t they take up ID’s challenge and simply show that random mutations (in that limited sense, which has nothing to do with metaphysics or divine guidance) can do the job? Why don’t they proceed *by isolating a hypothetical sequence for a given transformation, and doing the compound probability calculations*? If the probability comes out high, Darwinism looks pretty good. If it comes out very low, Darwinism looks like a desperate last-ditch attempt to stave off the interpretation of design.

    ID people are willing to lay their theory on the line, by putting Darwinism to the test of calculation. If the Darwinians can prove that the probability of insectivores evolving into bats by their mechanisms is as high as, say, 50%, ID is dead in the water.

    Thus, it seems to me that this whole TE thing about “We believe in Darwinian mechanisms, but say nothing metaphysical or theological about whether the mutations are random in the sense of being unguided”, is a red herring. It seems to me that the *important* sense of randomness here (from a scientific point of view, that is, not from a religious point of view) is “random with respect to evolutionary fitness”. And it seems to me that the TEs assume, without even bothering to do the calculations, that mutations that are “random” in that sense can work creative miracles. And it seems to me that they do this for the same reason that Darwin did it, and for the same reason that Gaylord Simpson and Sagan did it, and the same reason that Dawkins and Coyne do it: they want to ban telic processes from evolutionary theory. But why would one have that motive? If scientists are truly neutral on metaphysical questions, they should be completely open to the existence of telic processes in evolution. They should be open to evidence that random mutations aren’t nearly enough, and that the whole process is biased towards certain kinds of development. So it’s a metaphysical dislike of telic processes in biology that’s driving the TEs.

    So what I’m saying is, if the TEs were to offer the sort of olive branch you are suggesting, and say that they are just as much against randomness as against guidance, (a) I wouldn’t trust them, because I believe they deep down *do* have metaphysical prejudices in favor of randomness and against guidance, seeing randomness as compatible with their naturalism and guidance as incompatible with it; and (b) I’d say “So what?”, because the “concession” would be irrelevant from the scientific point of view. Darwinian theory makes no sense at all unless the mutations are “random” in the narrow sense specified; but that’s the randomness we can’t, at our present state of knowledge, put to the test.

    So if the TEs really want to be non-metaphysical and scientific, I’d rather hear them say: “Science cannot currently prove that mutations *random with respect to evolutionary fitness* are capable of producing major macroevolutionary change.” If they would say that, then yes, that would be an olive branch that could bring ID and Biologos together on some issues. But what are the chances that anyone at Biologos will ever utter those words?

    T.

  101. Cabal:

    That of course pivots on your substitution of a materialistic, loaded redefinition of science a la Lewontin et al and the NAS et al.

    And the main biological singularity is the obvious one: origin of life.

    GEM of TKI

  102. nullasalus, thank you for your thoughtful comments. In many ways, you stand like a giant colossus between the ID and TE movements, weighing and sifting the arguments from both sides without muddling or misrepresenting either. You are probably the only TE I know who could actually play the role of arbitrator.

    Inasmuch as Timaeus has covered the metaphysical/scientific issue and kairosfocus has addressed the epistomelogical/scientific component, I have nothing to add to their accounts but praise and gratitude. It falls on me, then, to approach the intersection of theology and science as best I can, albeit in abbreviated fashion.

    TEs in the biologos tradition [and ASA tradition] do, for the most part, insist that they have managed to reconcile their scientifc convictions with their theological beliefs. I question that claim. On the contrary, it seems to me that they reconciled their faith and its rational foundations to a failed paradigm known as Darwinistic science.

    As you well know, the Christian religion is based on reason and holds that truth is unified. According to that belief system, God does not ask truth seekers to believe in propositions that cannot be scrutinized by reason’s searchlight. That is why Christian apologetics typically begin with arguments for the existence of God and proceed forward with historical arguments about prophecies made in Old Testament theology and fulfilled in New Testament history.

    A God who leaves clues about himself in nature and predicts his own arrival in space/time/history is a God who has earned the right to be believed. Unlike other religions, Christianity does not ask for an irrational leap of faith based on the questionable claims from those who have not really produced their credentials as spokesmen for God. Unlike other major religious leaders, Christ did not just show up unannounced and ask us to trust him. Christianity points back to the the prophecies and assures us that nature itself gives evidence of God’s handiwork. The point of Romans 1:20 and Psalm 19 is to identify Christianity’s faith system with its reasonable foundations–to create a link between that which we can know through reason or conclude via empirical observation and that to which we believe and commit our lives– to assure us that if we are called on to die for our faith that we are not dying for, as St. Peter calls it, some “cunningly devised tale.”

    In a general sense, I hold that most TEs militate against this rational framework and reduce the Christian religion to one which is almost solely faith-based, using Darwins failed theory to justify their dubious departure from orthodoxy. To begin with, we are asked to believe that God revealed himself in the cosmological realm and then went back into hiding in the biological realm. With Darwin, they hold that naturalistic forces brought life to its current status, and even that information itself came out of theses processes. We may think we perceive evidence of design in a DNA molecule, or we can even daydream about the miraculous parallels and similarities between micro marvels [biology] and macro marvels [cosmology] but, in truth, those perceptions are, we are told, misguided.

    Did the same God that designed electrons to make an elliptical journery around neutrons also design the way planets make an elliptical journey around our sun? It’s a fair question is it not? Theistic evolutionits tell us that we may not even consider the matter because Darwin and Richard Dawkins tell us biological design is an illusion, and if that is what Darwin and Dawkins say is true in the name of science, then TEs must also accept it in the name of science.

    In keeping with that point, is it not reasonable to argue that the same designer that fine-tuned the perceptible physical constants that make life possible in our universe also fine tuned the perceptible informational processing that occurs in the DNA” factory.” Is it not reasonable to hold that the same designer who arranged for the measurable quantities found in the periodic table of elements that chemists study also arranged for the Geometrical marvels that the mathematicians admire? It seems reasonable to me to answer in the affirmative, yet TE’s typically struggle with these points.

    According to the testimony of reason and the tenets of the, Christian religion nature speaks coherently and with a unified voice. So much so, that we can detect problems that apparently should not be there, as in the case of human suffering. For TEs [in the biologos tradition] nature speaks out of both sides of its mouth, revealing the truth of God’s handiwork with one utterance and and withholding it with another. I affirm [and the Bible affirms] that design is nature is perceptible. ID advocates and TE proponents can reasonably debate the point about whether that same design is provable and testable through scientific means. I believe that it can be, but I respect those who disagree with the point. I am less sympathetic to the idea that the Christian belief system can be reconciled with the idea that biololgical design is an illusion, especially from those who have not a shred of scientific evidence to support that view.

  103. Hi Cabal,

    If you can accept without question that material causes are sufficient to explain life, then you are relying on something metaphysical. Nothing we know about physical reality provides requisite evidence that life can come about by purely material causes (the interaction of law and chance).

    On the contrary. I believe that design is apparent in nature, and that the analogues of code storage and information processing in biology to our own technological achievements provide reasonable evidence that intelligence is required to produce life.

    Information may very well be a primary pillar of reality — the interactions that occur in known physical processes have not been shown to be capable of generating it; information must be infused into a system in order to be present in one. No physical system alone can produce it. In other words: information must be imposed upon a medium, it is not created from within one.

    We are unlikely to agree on this. Both our views require metaphysical assumptions. But I believe that what we observe in nature better justifies my beliefs than yours (unless you just happen to be a theist who accepts evidence for design in nature). ;-)

    However you appear to be a staunch materialist, who has decided that belief in God is akin to belief in faeries and unicorns. I cannot help you there other than to inform you that, if you ever reach the end of yourself, a sincere appeal to the living God to reveal the Truth may very well yield surprising results.

    If you are a committed materialist, then it is practically impossible for you to consider both logical possibilities for the existence of life and the universe. You are only capable of perceiving one of these: that life is the result of blind necessity born of matter and energy; and that time, space, matter, and energy are born of something unknown. The other is taboo: that life and the universe is the result of a creative act by an omnipotent deity.

    If I’m being to presumptuous, I’ll welcome correction regarding your views and philosophy.

    The term “biological singularity” is merely colorful language I chose on the fly, based on concepts I’ve gleaned by various writers here, all more clever than myself (I didn’t coin the phrase, it’s been used elsewhere probably with differing connotations). In short, life’s origin as we know it is a singular, unique event obscured by a veil of history. This is true for both the theist and the atheist. If the theist is correct, life is the result of a historic act of creation, unknowable except in revelation; for the atheist, life evolved from the universal common ancestor, whose nature and genesis are equally obscured, unknowable except by speculation.

    Thanks much for your questions.

  104. T:

    On a run, but before locking up. As a physicist, we routinely see chance based or effectively chance based circumstances and processes that are subjects of scientific investigation. Kinetic theory and Statistical Mechanics as well as Quantum theory spring readily to mind.

    Insofar as sciences as conventionally labelled address mechanical necessity, chance circumstances and processes, as well, we look tot he focus of finding out the truth, so far as we can.

    And, as noted, in Information theory especially, intelligence and artifacts thereof are specific subjects of scientific study of great economic import.

    The point of the design inference is that it is extending and applying these principles. (My previously linked at 83 I think it is will give more.)

    Cheers

    GEM of TKI

  105. 105

    Timaeus,

    I’m going to try and focus on a few things here, so forgive me if I leave a few of your points out, or don’t address them thoroughly enough.

    First and foremost, this seems like the heart of the problem:

    So what I’m saying is, if the TEs were to offer the sort of olive branch you are suggesting, and say that they are just as much against randomness as against guidance, (a) I wouldn’t trust them, because I believe they deep down *do* have metaphysical prejudices in favor of randomness and against guidance, seeing randomness as compatible with their naturalism and guidance as incompatible with it;

    Here’s the problem: If you don’t trust TEs/Biologos, then any talk of finding common ground is dead in the water immediately, isn’t it? If they can’t be trusted, that’s that. Let them out and out endorse ID and it won’t matter – in principle it could be some kind of trick, so why seek even that from them?

    And that’s where I’d have to say I differ. If Biologos and TEs copped to the views I said, I admit I would be impressed and find that as common ground to share and celebrate. Would I never regard anything they say with some skepticism or hesitation thereafter? No, but I don’t do that for anyone. Either way, if you see things differently, then that’s that.

    I’m hesitant to even discuss the other points you bring up here, only because what initially drew me into this conversation was the idea of finding some common ground with Biologos, even while recognizing that there were differences between the two ‘camps’. Still, I’ll give some select replies.

    In classic neo-Darwinism, the mutations must be random, if not in the sense of utterly without a rational cause, at least in the sense of “random with respect to evolutionary fitness”. And it’s this that ID challenges.

    What about Michael Denton’s approach? What about Mike Gene’s approach? What about Behe’s talk of front-loading? What about Simon Conway Morris’ views? The first two, if I recall right, have ID-friendly views which don’t dispute ‘random with respect to evolutionary fitness’. Behe seems open to such. Simon Conway Morris is not an ID proponent, but I’ve seen ID proponents such as Benjamin Wiker speak positively about Morris. So on this point, I suspect you’ve narrowed ID’s claims down too far.

    (Incidentally, while trying to recall his name I hopped over to To The Source. I see he has an article up about Biologos and evolution – worth reading.)

    ID people are willing to lay their theory on the line, by putting Darwinism to the test of calculation. If the Darwinians can prove that the probability of insectivores evolving into bats by their mechanisms is as high as, say, 50%, ID is dead in the water.

    I agree that ‘Darwinians’ do not have this. I suspect that they may never have it, and some may suggest it’s unfair to require that they do have it (for any of those large macroevolutionary changes you speak of). I share some of your views here.

    But this seems like a Catch-22. What about Gould’s ideas of contingency in evolution (Which, I would add, is thoroughly tainted with metaphysics) such that any particular outcome of evolution is wildly improbable? If I understand that correctly, that view practically demands that “the probability of insectivores evolving into bats”, lacking some tremendously fortuitous fine-tuning, must be far below 50%. Otherwise we’re coming close to Simon Conway Morris’ view.

    Further, those mechanisms would still be context-sensitive, wouldn’t they? You couldn’t just drop insectivores into any environment. “Fine-tuning” would be required to even have a chance at predicting the result. But what are the odds the environment would be tuned so? Again, it sounds to me like any non-ID explanation that could be produced would run alongside an ID explanation.

    Am I missing something?

    Darwinian theory makes no sense at all unless the mutations are “random” in the narrow sense specified; but that’s the randomness we can’t, at our present state of knowledge, put to the test.

    I think Darwinian theory requires a lot more than that, to be true to Darwin. It requires no guidance, period, doesn’t it? Otherwise the entire theory can just, as Asa Gray seemed to have regarded it, simply be subsumed under a theistic interpretation easily such that all that really exists is ‘artificial selection’. And we’re back to the compatibility with ID evolutionary theories.

    Anyway, again I want to say that I only jumped in here to discuss the potential common ground between Biologos and ID, so forgive me if I’m focusing on that over anything else.

  106. 106

    StephenB,

    That is tremendously high praise, and all I can do is thank you for it. I’ve enjoyed your arguments for the ID side (and against irrationality re: causality), so thank your for your time and effort here as well.

    A few select comments:

    With Darwin, they hold that naturalistic forces brought life to its current status, and even that information itself came out of theses processes. We may think we perceive evidence of design in a DNA molecule, or we can even daydream about the miraculous parallels and similarities between micro marvels [biology] and macro marvels [cosmology] but, in truth, those perceptions are, we are told, misguided.

    And I would agree that anyone saying we are ‘misguided’ to regard DNA, life itself, the wonders of the cell, etc as “design” is deluded. The only possible difference here is that the material origin story of the cell, of DNA, of life, etc doesn’t really have a role in my seeing that design – except as another instance of design.

    To give an example: If I’m inspecting a CPU processor, I don’t really care if said processor was made by hand, made by a machine, made by harnessed evolutionary processes, etc. I’m looking at design. Differentiating between those processes is like differentiating between which tools were used in the manufacture.

    Is it not reasonable to hold that the same designer who arranged for the measurable quantities found in the periodic table of elements that chemists study also arranged for the Geometrical marvels that the mathematicians admire? It seems reasonable to me to answer in the affirmative, yet TE’s typically struggle with these points.

    I suspect some, perhaps many, TEs would affirm that yes, all these things are designed. They may question whether this design can be established by the scientific method, or whether they even need said method to establish it.

    I affirm [and the Bible affirms] that design is nature is perceptible. ID advocates and TE proponents can reasonably debate the point about whether that same design is provable and testable through scientific means. I believe that it can be, but I respect those who disagree with the point. I am less sympathetic to the idea that the Christian belief system can be reconciled with the idea that biololgical design is an illusion, especially from those who have not a shred of scientific evidence to support that view.

    I agree with all points here, and that sort of common ground (and, if primarily implied, the rejection of “illusion” re: design in biology/nature) was really what I was driving at as possible to come out of the Biologos camp. I still maintain that this would be a good thing, even though some major divisions would remain between the two outlooks. Perhaps we will see it.

  107. nullasalus:

    The distrust I spoke of was not an “in principle” distrust. It was based on the analysis provided in the rest of my post, which in turn was based on other statements made by TE/EC which don’t fit with the proposal of neutrality that you are speaking of. If TE/EC people were to make the statement you suggest, *and* repudiate dozens of other statements they have made indicating an inflexible commitment to pure naturalism in origins and indicating emotional hostility to the detectability of design, then I would extend the trust you are asking for.

    As I pointed out, some TEs on the ASA list did make statements very similar to the one you’ve proposed (i.e., true randomness is just as much out of bounds as divine guidance) but, as you may remember, *despite* those statements, they were still manifestly committed to naturalism in the historical sciences and manifestly against employing teleological conceptions in science, and entirely against design detection for both methodological and theological reasons. In other words, their concession didn’t bring them one whit closer to ID.

    What I am saying is that the proposal you have given, while reasonable and trustworthy coming from your lips, is not so reasonable and trustworthy coming from the lips of certain others, given their track record. Thus, I’d require *more* from them than I would from you. Just as Ronald Reagan could say to the Soviets, if you’re really interested in peace and not imperialism, get out of Afghanistan, I’m saying to the TEs, if you are really interested in separating metaphysics from science, don’t *assume* (even for methodological purposes) that designed events and processes didn’t play a role in origins, and don’t *assume* that design can’t be detected by science.

    I can’t comment on Conway Morris whom I know only by hearsay, or Mike Gene whose notions are still only partly clear to me. As for Denton, he grants the existence of mutations random with respect to the outcome, but thinks that such things do not play nearly as important a role in the evolutionary process as designed features, whereas in neo-Darwinism they are the main driver of evolutionary transformation. So I think my point still holds, since ID doubts that such mutations could be the main drivers.

    You are right that I understated the Darwinian position. I was giving minimum requirements, because, you know, there are always sticklers who will object, saying, “Darwin doesn’t directly say that variations are really random”. I think Darwin’s whole structure of thought implies that, but even if it doesn’t, it certainly implies “random with respect to fitness”, and that’s all ID really needs to show that Darwinism is questionable science. Of course, if we take the more extreme (and I believe justified) interpretation of randomness in Darwin, then Darwin would fall afoul not only of science but of orthodox Christian theology.

    T.

  108. 108

    Timaeus,

    If TE/EC people were to make the statement you suggest, *and* repudiate dozens of other statements they have made indicating an inflexible commitment to pure naturalism in origins and indicating emotional hostility to the detectability of design, then I would extend the trust you are asking for.

    Fair enough, and now I can see where you’re coming from. What you’ve provided here is a kind of ‘roadmap to cooperation’, and it makes sense to me. My own view of Biologos’ record, as you’ve seen, isn’t one of unqualified praise. In fact it’s largely negative, with some bright points. But again, I’m an optimistic sort.

    As I pointed out, some TEs on the ASA list did make statements very similar to the one you’ve proposed

    I remember some ASA members who took that tack, yes. I also remember a few who did not, and who took a more reasonable/consistent stance.

    In other words, their concession didn’t bring them one whit closer to ID.

    Again, we may be seeing things differently here. I’m not thinking about bringing Biologos “closer to ID” at this point. I’m hoping to find some points about design and Designers that even ID and Biologos may be able to agree upon, even while maintaining their differences of views on ID. But you did say above why there are problems even on that front, and I agree with where you’re coming from there.

    I’ll put aside the ID/evolution talk now, except to say again that I think ‘random’, purged of unwarranted metaphysical claims, is ID-neutral to ID-friendly. Of course, to purge that is to purge Darwinism. As ever, I’m not too worried about that.

  109. StephenB @101:

    “Did the same God that designed electrons to make an elliptical journery (sic) around neutrons also design the way planets make an elliptical journey around our sun? It’s a fair question is it not?”

    It has been a while since I took Chemistry and Physics, but I am pretty sure that the elliptical orbits of electrons are strictly artistic license.

  110. Muramasa @109:

    I, too, was using a little artistic license. The parallel analysis is far from perfect since the path of the electron is not so well understood, though it was once thought to be elliptical. Still, it seems pretty amazing to me that the micro relationship between electron/nucleus bears a strong resemblance to the macro relationship between planet/star.

  111. Stephen, I assume you are engaging in more artistic license.

    I don’t think that the gravity relationship between star and planet is directly comparable to the electrical charge between an electron and nucleus (proton).

  112. —Muramasa”I don’t think that the gravity relationship between star and planet is directly comparable to the electrical charge between an electron and nucleus (proton).”

    I disagree with you. I think that a micro marvel that involves pathways around a nucleus is comparable to a macro marvel that involves pathways around a star.

    In any case, it was only one of many examples that I could have used. How do you explain measurable quantities found in the periodic table of elements, the qualities of geometric proportions, and the fine tuning constants of the univerwse?

    In keeping with that point, how do you explain the comprehensible nature of those proportions and their perfect correspondence with the mathematical laws that allow us to comprehend them?

  113. Not to flog a dead horse here, Stephen, but the two are not really comparable at all.

    Planets move around the Sun in a continuous, predictable fashion, which lets us send landers and rovers to Mars.

    Electrons, if I recall correctly, “jump” around the nucleus. The term “electron cloud” is a more apt descriptor. If Mars jumped around like an electron, I wouldn’t want to be the astronaut trying to land there.

    Also, what do you mean by “measurable quantities” in the periodic table? Are you referring to the arrangement of elements by atomic number?

    And what are “geometric proportions”?

    And by “fine tuning” do you mean to say that the puddle is amazed to find that its hole is tailored to fit it exactly?

  114. Muramasa, since you appear to be straining at gnats and swallowing camels in your effort to avoid the context of my argument, I will simplify it once more with the relevant question:

    How do you explain the fact that a comprehensible and ordered universe is perfectly syncronized with the mathematical laws that allow us to comprehend it?

  115. StephenB: “a comprehensible and ordered universe is perfectly syncronized with the mathematical laws that allow us to comprehend it”

    As far as I am aware, we derived those mathematical laws by observation of the world around us. Were we not here to make the observations, then the mathematical laws would not exist.

    I must be thick, but I fail to comprehend your point. Are you making a “privileged planet” argument?

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