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Darrell Falk’s Misshapen Theology of Evolution

Darrell Falk, one of the key people at Francis Collins’s BioLogos Foundation, has a remarkable piece arguing that Darwinian evolution is the only way to preserve Christian orthodoxy in the face of intelligent design (go here). His line is that a micro-managing designer would be responsible for all the nasty designs we find in biology, so natural selection must have done all the creative work in producing biological complexity and diversity. I’ve seen this line increasingly taken by Christian Darwinists. Until this piece by Falk, Francisco Ayala’s DARWIN’S GIFT TO SCIENCE AND RELIGION was the most extreme form of it. But Falk has taken it to a new level:

Some of the by-products of natural selection are intricate structures that can fashion cellular machines that are able to harm us, just like the machines that we humans make. It happens in the context of freedom–God-granted freedom. However, the notion that irreducibly complex structures are built and put in place by a meticulous detail-driven intelligent designer is not consistent with Christian theology and should not have been embraced by Christians. With all due respect to my friends who hold this view, I would venture to say it borders on the heretical–certainly it is scientifically heretical, but I wonder if it is not theologically so as well. God is not the engineer that built these intricate little terror machines. And the Satan that we know from Christian theology is not a designer of life’s machinery. Those who wish to believe this are free to do so, but they have moved onto an island of scientific fantasy and perhaps even theological heterodoxy. The greatest beauty in the universe emerges through processes that arise through God-ordained freedom. Let us celebrate that beauty, even as we, in the presence of God’s Spirit, grit our teeth, and endure the hardships that come as a by-product.

For Falk and fellow Christian Darwinists ID is bad science and bad theology and Darwinian evolution is the key to reforming the faith. As an antidote to Christian Darwinism, let me suggest reading my book THE END OF CHRISTIANITY: FINDING A GOOD GOD IN AN EVIL WORLD. Here is a relevant passage from ch. 20 (titled “What about Evolution?” — substitute “Falk” for “Ayala” when reading it):

I want next to turn to the charge made by some theistic evolutionists that Christian theism requires God to create indirectly by evolution rather than directly by intervention (as in special creation). Theistic evolutionists worry that a God who creates by direct intervention renders the problem of evil insoluble. Such a God would be responsible for all the botched and malevolent designs we find in nature. By letting Darwinian natural selection serve as a designer substitute, theistic evolutionists can refer all those botched and malevolent designs to evolution. This, in their view, is supposed to resolve the problem of natural evil and thereby help validate Christian theism.

Well-known evolutionist and former Catholic priest Francisco Ayala makes precisely such an argument: “A major burden was removed from the shoulders of believers when convincing evidence was advanced that the design of organisms need not be attributed to the immediate agency of the Creator, but rather is an outcome of natural processes.” According to Ayala, “if we claim that organisms and their parts have been specifically designed by God, we have to account for the incompetent design of the human jaw, the narrowness of the birth canal, and our poorly designed backbone, less than fittingly suited for walking upright.”

In Ayala’s view, right-thinking Christians need to “acknowledge Darwin’s revolution and accept natural selection as the process that accounts for the design of organisms, as well as for the dysfunctions, oddities, cruelties, and sadism that pervade the world of life. Attributing these to specific agency by the Creator amounts to blasphemy.” Charging Christian opponents of evolution with blasphemy may seem unduly harsh. Ayala therefore attempts to soften this charge by granting that those who oppose evolution and support special creation “are surely well-meaning people who do not intend such blasphemy.” Ayala’s concession (and condescension) here is to the intellectual feebleness, as he sees it, of those who cling to the old naive creationist outlook and have yet to wrap their minds around the stark truth of evolution. In any case, he doesn’t retract the charge of blasphemy: “this is how matters appear to a biologist concerned that God not be slandered with the imputation of incompetent design.”

In turning the table on special creation, Ayala has in fact turned it 360 degrees. The table is therefore back to where it was before, and the problem he meant to shift to special creation confronts him still. Ayala worries that a God who creates by direct intervention must be held accountable for all the bad designs in the world. Ayala’s proposed solution is therefore to have God set up a world in which evolution (by natural selection) brings about bad designs. But how does this address the underlying difficulty, which is that a creator God has set up the conditions under which bad designs emerge? In the one case, God acts directly; in the other, indirectly. But a creator God, as the source of all being, is as responsible in the one case as in the other.

We never accept such shifting of responsibility in any other important matter, so why here? What difference does it make if a mugger brutalizes someone with his own hands (i.e., uses direct means) or employs a vicious dog on a leash (i.e., uses indirect means) to do the same? The mugger is equally responsible in both cases. The same holds for a creator God who creates directly by intervening or indirectly by evolution. Creation entails responsibility. The buck always stops with the Creator. That’s why so much of contemporary theology has a problem not just with God intervening in nature but also with the traditional doctrine of creation ex nihilo, which makes God the source of nature.

The rage in theology these days is to diminish the power and ultimacy of God so that God is fundamentally constrained by the world and thus cannot be held responsible for the world’s evil (recall chapter 3). Process theology, which sees God as evolving with the world and the world as having an autonomy beyond God’s reach (thereby enabling God to shed responsibility for evil), is a case in point. As process theologian Robert Mesle elaborates, “[S]ince God cannot control the evolutionary process, there is no reason even to assume that God was aiming that process specifically at us. The history of evolution has been filled with more crucial events than we can dream of, and God could not control them. God and the world have been involved in a continuous dance in which God must continually take the decisions of the creatures and work with them—whatever they may be. For better or worse, each decision of each creature plays some role in the world’s process of becoming. And God works to create something good out of what the world makes possible. Evolution, then, is an ongoing adventure for God, as it is for the world.”

In my view, process theology unleashes a raging pack of new problems and thus is not a suitable replacement for the traditional doctrines of God and creation. But let’s grant, for the sake of argument, that it resolves the problem of dysteleology (bad designs) resulting from natural selection. The problem is that Ayala and fellow theistic evolutionists are not arguing for process theology (or some other diminished deity) but for the compatibility of evolution with classical Christian theism. We are told, “Embrace evolution and you can still be a good Christian.”

Ayala is therefore in no position to require that Christian believers revise their doctrine of God in light of evolution. In particular, he cannot require that believers in divine omnipotence and creation ex nihilo revise these beliefs to suit a more evolution-friendly theology. Christians who hold to a traditional doctrine of creation and accept natural selection as God’s method of creating organisms therefore confront the problem of evil with the same force as believers who hold the identical doctrine of God but reject natural selection and accept special creation. Indeed, for the Christian it does nothing to resolve the problem of evil by passing the buck to a naturalistic evolutionary process (a process, in that case, created by God). A theodicy that passes the buck in this way is inadequate and simplistic. It fills one hole by digging another.

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45 Responses to Darrell Falk’s Misshapen Theology of Evolution

  1. Heck. Millennia ago, Christian missionaries taught my ancestors to stop witching bones.

    Now I read this:

    “God is not the engineer that built these intricate little terror machines. And the Satan that we know from Christian theology is not a designer of life’s machinery. Those who wish to believe this are free to do so, but …”

    So God is not in charge, and Satan may be? So we may as well witch bones?

    Like, if this is orthodox, I better be a heretic, right?

    One traditional Christian view: God allows evil because he is in total control of the whole universe. So he can make it good eventually. And in general, he does.

    Example: The Roman emperors persecuted Christians horribly, but who ended up in control of Rome?

  2. O’Leary,
    Do you believe in a literal Hell?

  3. 3

    Bill,

    It seems that nearly all arguments against design, from “Origin of Species” until today, are of the form “God would not have created things this way” (Darwin used this argument frequently). But these theological arguments, convincing as they may be in some cases, do not justify teaching bad science (Darwinism) as established fact. Why not simply tell science students the truth, that we know virtually nothing about the causes of evolution, and let them draw their own conclusions as to whether eyes, ears, hearts and brains could be the result of unintelligent processes alone.

    I would add that an ID proponent does not have to attribute everything in evolution to a designer, he only has to recognize that there has to be design somewhere in the process. And I can’t think of anything in all of science that is more obvious than this.

  4. Moseph, I hope you are not a materialist atheist wasting my time.

    What do you mean by a “literal” hell?

    If you ask whether I think that a human being with free choice could choose to be completely severed from all eternity from God, well, I suppose so.

    I am instructed that it is possible by persons wiser than me.

    I do not know of an individual case.

  5. Denyse- it is a given that Moseph is a troll.

  6. Sort of off-topic:

    Dawkins on CNN
    http://connecttheworld.blogs.c.....mment-5745

  7. Joseph, a troll by your definition is somebody who asks you to support your bare assertions. You must know many trolls (for a short time anyway).

    O’Leary,

    So God is not in charge, and Satan may be? So we may as well witch bones?

    If you say that you believe Satan exists then I think it’s a legitimate question as to if a literal hell exists.

    If you ask whether I think that a human being with free choice could choose to be completely severed from all eternity from God, well, I suppose so.

    No, this was not quite what I was asking.

    I was more thinking if you believe Hell exists, as described in Dante’s Inferno. Boiling in sulpher for all eternity, that sort of thing.

    Do you?

  8. Moseph,

    Experience says that it is you and your ilk with the bald assertions.

    You’ve got nuthin and your posts prove it.

  9. It truly baffles me that someone would think God is off the hook if evolution is true. That doesn’t make any sense from either a logical or biblical perspective. Just a casual reading of the book of Job would make it obvious that God takes responsibility for what he causes, be it direct or indirect. A former priest should know this. Although really even a layman should know this and I assume that most do or else theodicy wouldn’t be such a big deal today. I suppose however that this response is not really to their opponents but more of a sermon to the choir. Surely no opponent would be comforted by such ignorance.

  10. Can you see God is now separating The Wheat and the Tares, The Foolish virgins and the Wise, the Sheep from the Goats. An example: theistic evolution as more of a means to escape from God (the Biblical One) specifically in terms of His Judgements which are His Word(s) as revealed in Romans 8 for example – the “bad” design can’t be due to a moral fall of man – we are not subject to futility that could give sight to the blind if willing to receive a repentance unto salvation – groaning inwardly I will not! Theistic Evolution: yet another religion = mans escape from God leading to books written replete with such illogic as to not be able to recognize it when writing it…as Bill points out “passing the buck”. Blind men looking at the Son. The Sheep from the Goats (Mt. 25) (Rev. 3:10) Be aware the your religion can be your hope that will keep you blind.

    Daniel 12:12, God speaks of a blessed person who waits and comes to1,335 days. September 26, A.D. 29, announcing the Lamb of God to May 22, A.D. 33, the Day of Pentecost. The time between these two events was exactly 1,335 days inclusive, as Daniel 12:12 had predicted. God will allow you to have your religion which is your reward, but God has His Plan. So be free to be created in the image of darwin – or, and without apology as this applies to all including me, start paying better attention.

  11. Dr Dembski, when you say:

    “I want next to turn to the charge made by some theistic evolutionists that Christian theism requires God to create indirectly by evolution rather than directly by intervention (as in special creation).”

    are you including ID in the second category? I just want to be very clear what your statement should and should not be applied to. :-)

  12. Dr Dembski:

    Where you say:

    “Christians who hold to a traditional doctrine of creation and accept natural selection as God’s method of creating organisms therefore confront the problem of evil with the same force as believers who hold the identical doctrine of God but reject natural selection and accept special creation.”

    Did you intend to say:

    “Christians who hold to a traditional doctrine of God and accept natural selection …” ?

  13. Hi everyone. This is my first post.I’m from Singapore.I’m an agnostic,who in general like to see the science of Intelligent Design flourish.

    I have nothing to say about this post since I’m not a christian.

    However I don’t think Moseph is trying to be funny.I could be wrong.

    I have read many of WIlliam Dembski’s works and found them quite good.

  14. To anyone interested in hate crimes bills: Go here for specifics. In our experience in Canada, it dispatches an army of social workers to invade their fellow citizens’ lives.

    They love it, we don’t. That’s why there is fire all along the northern border, okay?

  15. His line is that a micro-managing designer would be responsible for all the nasty designs we find in biology, so natural selection must have done all the creative work in producing biological complexity and diversity.

    The really stupid thing about this argument is that it cuts both ways. It also destroys the common theistic evolutionist argument that God used the evolutionary process to create humans, and with it the idea that He created humans in His Image.

    TEs like to say that a God who uses an elaborate evolutionary process to achieve His purposes is “bigger” and more wondrous than one that simply makes everything outright. There may be something to this, but the claim hinges on God being in charge of the evolutionary process such that it actually accomplishes His purposes. The TE “theodicy” argument destroys that, and doesn’t really even manage to get God off the hook for evil in the process.

    A “God” who makes an evolutionary process so that it can do… something, anything, He doesn’t really know what, isn’t all that “big” or wondrous at all.

  16. I’ve just been reading Cornelius Hunter’s book “Darwin’s God” which deals mostly with natural theology and the problem of “natural” evil. I don’t understand people like Ayala and Dalk. What is their definition of evil? Evil can only exist by a conscious choice. If you don’t have a conscious choice, you cannot be evil. These guys must be Calvinists. Their objection to natural evil is merely aesthetic and should not be taken seriously.

    In what Christian theology does there exist a God who is not responsible for death? God has decreed that “the wages of sin is death”. In Christianity, God is therefore responsible for the death of every human being who has ever lived. How could the assertion that God created pathogens make it any worse? lol.

    Bill I wonder if you have considered that we do not prosecute firearm companies when someone is killed with a firearm they made. IMO, this does not apply to death since everyone is going to die of old age eventually even if they never get a disease. But it’s still a possible counter argument to your argument here:

    We never accept such shifting of responsibility in any other important matter, so why here?

  17. Another thing, what Bible are these people reading? The Bible I read places upon God the direct responsibility for plagues against Egyptians and even Israelites in the OT. He struck down Ananias and Saphira in the NT. What about Revelations?

    Rev 14:19-20
    “The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath. They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia.”

    Rev 19:11-21

    “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
    KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

    And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great.” Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.”

  18. Exodus 9:1-3
    “Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: “Let my people go, so that they may worship me.” If you refuse to let them go and continue to hold them back, the hand of the LORD will bring a terrible plague on your livestock in the field—on your horses and donkeys and camels and on your cattle and sheep and goats.”

    Exodus 32:35
    “And the LORD struck the people with a plague because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made.”

    Numbers 11:33
    “But while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the LORD burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague.”

    There are also plagues in Numbers 14, 16 and 25 along with dire warnings in the Mosaic covenant of plagues if the people turned away from God. In 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21 God gave king David a choice of punishments and David chose a plague which lasted for three days and killed 70,000 people. God using plagues as a punishment is recorded and predicted in the prophetic books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Habakkuk, Zechariah and Revelations. Again, which Bible are TEs reading?

  19. It just occurred to me that the Calvinist definition of evil is even worse. In hardcore, five-point Calvinism, God determines every action that human beings take and indeed every event that has ever happened. The Calvinist theodicy justifies a God that directly causes evil in humans by suggesting that God causes evil so he may display his grace and mercy in forgiving us and redeeming us to himself. One might rightly wonder what he is trying to prove by displaying his grace and mercy to a bunch of machines. Regardless these TEs cannot be Calvinists because that option is actually worse from their perspective than the free will definition of evil.

  20. Moseph: So what exactly is your problem?

    Its really none of your business whether M. O’Leary believes in a literal hell or not.

    I do. So? What’s your point if you have one?

  21. Moseph,

    I believe in a literal hell and a literal Satan, do you have something to say about that?

  22. Borne

    Its really none of your business whether M. O’Leary believes in a literal hell or not.

    No, perhaps not but M. O’Leary may or may not choose to answer, as she prefers.

    I do. So?

    Why so defensive?

    What’s your point if you have one?

    My point is quite simple. I want to find out more information about what happens when you mix ID and such notions. I’ll clarify in my next response, to Clive.

  23. Clive, Borne,

    Presumably you both believe in an intelligent designer that has intervened in more then one way in life as we know it? And intervened actively.

    The universe is a very large place. If life is unable to (as I understand the claim is here) originate in a naturalistic way then it is a reasonable assumption that the designer has created more life then just us, right? It’s a big universe out there, it’d be used, right?

    So, postulating a designer that has created life in more then one place in the universe then just right here do you suppose “our” hell would also be the other life’s “hell” too?

    Would there be separate Hells for each area or would the different beings all be mixed up into one big Hell? Could that not cause some logistical issues? One creatures boiling blood might be a relaxing afternoon by the beach for another.

    How could the other instances of designed life be saved? Would there have been a “local” savior for each? Or the same one, changing appearance depending on local requirements?

    And the “intelligent designer” that you think edited/created life. What relationship to literal hell and a literal Satan does that entity have? The same? Different?

    Also Clive, where do ghosts and other spirit realm explorations fit on the literal hell and a literal Satan scale? What side of the line do ghosts fall on? Is that a side you want to be on?

  24. Good post.
    This seems to be a common mis-argument… that creationism or ID attributes responsibility for faulty or evil designs to God, and evolution solves the problem.

    Also good point that TE seems to *selectively* attribute control over evolution to God, somehow giving him credit for having humans made in his own image, but not for any “badly designed” creatures.

  25. @Moseph, regarding different worlds of sentient creatures and how soteriology might operate in regard to them, may I suggest C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet is the first book). He tells an interesting and well-thought-out story about sin, Satan, other beings of the spirit realm, sentient races of other planets, and in what ways Earthlings are unique.

    If you’re interested in possible answers to the questions you asked, within the Christian framework, that’s a great place to look.

    I’ve heard others voice similar questions, in an apparent attempt to show that Christian theology is hard to reconcile with the idea of life on other planets; but I’ve never seen a real conflict.

  26. Lars,
    Thanks for the comment, I’ve read some Lewis but not that particular set. Maybe I’ll give it a look.

    Still, I’ll be interested to hear from Clive and everybody on this. They’ve presumably already thought about it as it’s obvious, trival stuff really.

  27. Moseph,

    I would suggest reading C.S. Lewis’s Religion and Rocketry:

    http://books.google.com/books?.....38;f=false

    This should answer your questions.

  28. Moseph: First, I hope you don’t think you’re the first to ask such questions. They have been asked (possibly except for the inane questions in your list) by many, many times over the centuries – or do you also believe that this generation is the first to speculate on life elsewhere and its philosophical and theological implications?

    Second, you could easily be accused of elephant hurling here.

    If life is unable to (as I understand the claim is here) originate in a naturalistic way then it is a reasonable assumption that the designer has created more life then just us, right?

    It is a reasonable assumption, but mere speculation at this time.

    It’s a big universe out there, it’d be used, right?

    Why? Why not? We simply don’t know. I suspect God does not reason so childishly.

    So, postulating a designer that has created life in more then one place in the universe then just right here do you suppose “our” hell would also be the other life’s “hell” too?

    How many penitentiaries does a supreme being need for the morally depraved?

    Could that not cause some logistical issues?

    A very strange and rather inane question! How could a supreme being, that created the universe, have any logistic (or other) problems at all?

    How could the other instances of designed life be saved? Would there have been a “local” savior for each? Or the same one, changing appearance depending on local requirements?

    Why should one suppose this hypothetical ‘they’ would need saving?
    In any case why would more than one satisfaction of public justice be needed?

    Of course you do realize that so much of this nonsense of yours is revealing both your shallowness of reason and your profound ignorance of theology?

    What relationship to literal hell and a literal Satan does that entity have? The same? Different?

    Ok, that’s enough stupidity from you for now.

  29. To me, “literal” means letters – word for word letters in English and Arabic numbers – used here, for example, to establish property rights.

    So far as I know, that is the traditional meaning.

    So it is meaningless to ask if I believe in a literal hell. I assume that a soul cut loose, for whatever reason, from a body could go to an actual hell. No Catholic Christian would doubt this.

    But I have no information about the fate of any specific individual, which is one of the reasons why so many of us begin our day with prayer.

  30. I’d like to continue the conversation but it appears my comments are no longer allowed to appear. If that changes then I’ll be glad to continue.

  31. The ID advocate tries to detect instances of design in nature by elimating chance and necessity (or scientific law). But this seems to imply that one has no warrant to say that the latter two are the result of an intelligence that brought into being a whole universe whose parts, including its laws and those events that are apparently random, seem to work in concert to achieve a variety of ends. Someone could say, in response, that ID advocates that accept a cosmic fine-tuning (CFT) argument do in fact believe that one may have warrant to maintain that change and necessity are the products of intelligence as well, since they function as parts in the Creator’s plan for the universe’s fine-tuning. But then, what happens to irreducible and specified complexity as criteria by which to eliminate non-agent causes of apparently designed effects in nature? So, if the explanatory filter functions to exclude some natural phenomena as “not designed,” then one only has warrant to believe that everything in the universe is not designed except a few things here and there like the bacterial flagellum. On the other hand, if one then appeals to CFT to take care of the “other stuff” that the filter excludes as non-designed but is really part of a grand design, then what is the conceptual framework that reconcile these two understandings of “design”? (I haven’t even brought up “final causes,” which seem consistent with a designed universe but seem to function in accordance with law and randomness).

    Perhaps this is why some ID advocates are reticent to call their “designer” God, since it would mean that God creates everything ex nihilo and then returns now and again to tidy things up a bit when they seem to be going awry.

  32. fbeckwith:
    Boiled down, what I understand is this. By saying that some things results from design, and others from chance or necessity, ID states that chance and necessity are undesigned, and that the designer(s) designed some things and not others.
    And you raise the question of whether the “undesigned” is part of a greater design.

    Those are interesting philosophical questions that have no bearing on ID. In comparison to the depth of those questions, ID is simple. Was a thing designed? Those larger questions are irrelevant to the accuracy of that determination. They are religious questions.

  33. “They are religious questions.”

    Methodological naturalism for me, and not for thee.

  34. You asked them, not me.

  35. You may want to try answering them rather than discarding them by some arbitrary methodological exclusionary rule. For they continue to be real questions about conceptual issues that should be of interest to any thoughtful Christian who seeks to maintain a coherent worldview.

    If one does not believe that one has an obligation to be intellectually virtuous, then one should disregard my query. Or, in the words of Emily Latella, “Never mind.”

  36. For they continue to be real questions about conceptual issues that should be of interest to any thoughtful Christian who seeks to maintain a coherent worldview.

    Agreed, 100%. But I thought you were talking about ID. Are you talking about ID, or about unrelated religious questions?

  37. Prof Beckwith.

    Pardon a brief note or two:

    1 –> The inference to design from signs of design within the operating cosmos is an inference on sources of particular, specific, highly contingent outcomes. [Thus, ther eis a context issue here: we have good empirical grounds to account for phenomena we observe -- across worldviews -- on chance, agency, necessity.]

    2 –> Highly contingent outcomes — as opposed to the sort of regularities of experience described by lawlike patterns rooted in mechanical forces [heavy objects fall when unsupported] — trace to being directed or undirected. [A falling die may be loaded or fair, and the difference is both observable and important.]

    3 –> In the latter case, stochastic patterns dominate the outcome, under one or more models of such phenomena, e.g. we see temperature and heat capacity as emerging from random energy distributions across microscopic degrees of freedom.

    4 –> Intelligently directed contingent outcomes show their presence in particular signs of intelligence, such as complex specified information, or irreducible complexity of functional organisation, or code-based algorithmic functionality expressed in complex specific information or the like.

    5 –> So far, the issue is not whether the underlying cosmos is itself designed, but whether — on the scientific commons — we can detect specific cases of design through empirically reliable signs.

    6 –> And that restricted question/ investigation is highly significant in its own right.

    7 –> When we then take a step back, we may reflect on where such lawlike regularities or patterns that emerge from even chance based systems come form.

    8 –> And there we come to see the anthropic coincidences and the inference that the cosmos as a whole — to be life friendly — is exquisitely fine-tuned for function.

    9 –> From this, we may infer onward to an extra-cosmic intelligence responsible for the observed cosmos. One that has some very familiar properties and attributes.

    10 –> But that is a different order of question from assessing whether specific phenomena or objects show signs of the work of intelligent designers above and beyond the reach of otherwise undirected chance + necessity. (For instance, lengthy text strings in English or a similarly lengthy computer program.)

    11 –> For a clarifying comparison, one would note that the NT’s inference to the resurrection of Jesus — which was not directly observed by any human witness — rests on the direct observation of a man crucified and giving all relevant signs of death (starting with no longer forcing himself up, agonisingly, on his nailed feet to breathe). The same, was then buried. Thereafter, the following Sunday, that man had supper with his circle of closest followers; thence meetings with others up to and including a circle of over 500. (None of the matters, in and of themselves are beyond ordinary observation; the miraculous significance for Christians lies in the time sequence. This SEQUENCE is beyond the reach of the specific patterns of chance and necessity and ordinary agency in our world.)

    __________

    I think the distinction between chance and necessity and agency is meaningful, and makes a contribution to our objective, empirically anchored knowledge base.

    GEM of TKI

  38. So, #37, in other words, even if specified and irreducible complexity inevitably fail as defeaters to materialism, that does not mean that materialism wins?

    #37 writes:

    “8 –> And there we come to see the anthropic coincidences and the inference that the cosmos as a whole — to be life friendly — is exquisitely fine-tuned for function.”

    So, that means that Darwinian processes–outside of the few exceptions in the ID arsenal (e.g., bacterial flagellum)–are part of God’s grand design, part of the fine-tuning if you will?

  39. kairosfocus wrote:

    Pardon a brief note or two:

    :-)

  40. Hi Frank:

    The ID advocate tries to detect instances of design in nature by elimating chance and necessity (or scientific law). But this seems to imply that one has no warrant to say that the latter two are the result of an intelligence that brought into being a whole universe whose parts, including its laws and those events that are apparently random, seem to work in concert to achieve a variety of ends.

    I don’t consider myself an ID advocate (at least not as it’s usually presented), but I’ve seen this charge before, and I think it’s just off-base.

    First, as I understand it, IDers aren’t denying that life could have been brought about by law and “apparently random” events, but rather that it could have been brought about by law and actually random ones.

    If events (due to their complexity) *appear* to be random, but in actuality “work in concert to achieve a variety of ends”, that would appear to me to be a clear instance of precisely the sort of design that ID purports to detect by probabilistic methods. I’ve seen Dembski (and others) insist that ID doesn’t require interventionism so many times that it honestly surprises me when I see someone like you, who is familiar with the arguments, seem imply that it does.

    As for laws, I don’t see how denying that they (alone or combined with chance) are capable of producing humans, flagellums, etc in any way implies that they themselves are not designed.

    I mean, it’s a simple fact that the physical laws we know of don’t logically necessitate the existence of humans. They just don’t. You could have a universe with the same laws and no humans. Therefore, if God wanted to determine the existence of humans, He clearly did more than just create those laws.

    Perhaps that “more” consisted of determining a series of “apparently random” events that would “work in concert to achieve a variety of ends”. But, again, unless I’m misinformed, ID doesn’t deny the possibility that life could have been designed in such a way. Rather, it claims to to be able to detect that design.

  41. Hi Frank,

    The explanatory filter/specified complexity tells us where design is, it doesn’t tell us where design isn’t. So when the filter doesn’t tell us that something is designed, we can’t rightly designate it as undesigned.

    I’ve been saying this till the cows come home, and yet neo-Aristotelians/Thomists never seem to hear me. The criterion of specified complexity allows false negatives, the failure to attribute design even when there is design.

  42. What’s the difference between Specified Complexity, Complex Specified Information and Functional Complex Specified Information? Aren’t they all the same thing?

  43. Professor Beckwith (#31)

    Thank you for your post. You wrote:

    So, if the explanatory filter functions to exclude some natural phenomena as “not designed,” then one only has warrant to believe that everything in the universe is not designed except a few things here and there like the bacterial flagellum. On the other hand, if one then appeals to CFT to take care of the “other stuff” that the filter excludes as non-designed but is really part of a grand design, then what is the conceptual framework that reconcile these two understandings of “design”?

    As I see it, the explanatory filter is a way of identifying those patterns found in objects for which a design inference would be reasonable. Cosmic fine tuning applies not to particular objects but to the universe as a whole.

    The most outstanding example of cosmic fine tuning is that of the cosmological constant. It’s tempting to use a probabilistic argument for its having been designed; however, this invites the question: relative to which background assumptions the probability is being calculated? That’s why I prefer to view the argument from cosmic fine-tuning as an argument from beauty, as Robin Collins does: even if other universes exist, the physics of our universe is beautiful in ways that we’d never expect, if all we knew about the universe was that the constants of nature were compatible with the emergence of intelligent life.

    In thread #38, you ask whether “Darwinian processes – outside of the few exceptions in the ID arsenal (e.g., bacterial flagellum) – are part of God’s grand design.” I’d like to make three comments here.

    First, the number of biological structures requiring intelligent design is likely to be in the millions. The examples that ID theorists cite in their books are simply a few relatively straightforward cases that are: (a) scientifically tractable; and (b) well enough understood for us to say with a high degree of confidence that they are irreducibly complex.

    Second, ID theorists don’t require acts of intervention on God’s part, as Professor Behe’s Edge of Evolution points out: one could always posit a Deity who specified the initial conditions of the cosmos to an extraordinary degree of precision, created its laws, and then just let it rip.

    Third, ID theorists would not be bothered, even if it could be demonstrated that no acts of Divine intervention in the natural world occurred during the four-billion-year history of life. For instance, Intelligent Design: Required by Biological Life? by K. D. Kalinsky is a well-argued essay by a scientist who contends that it is highly likely that intelligent design was required for the emergence of biological life. Interestingly, the author does not argue that natural selection was incapable of producing the first living things; rather, he argues that if it did so, then the “fitness landscapes” which natural selection presupposes must have been designed by some Intelligence.

  44. Dr. Dembski:

    The explanatory filter/specified complexity tells us where design is, it doesn’t tell us where design isn’t. So when the filter doesn’t tell us that something is designed, we can’t rightly designate it as undesigned.

    I’ve been saying this till the cows come home, and yet neo-Aristotelians/Thomists never seem to hear me.

    As the EF flowchart has terminal nodes labeled “law” (or “necessity” or “regularity”), “chance”, and “design”, the impression that the EF can detect law and chance as well as design seems a natural mistake. Perhaps the law and chance nodes should be relabeled “don’t know”.

  45. —William Dembski: “I’ve been saying this till the cows come home, and yet neo-Aristotelians/Thomists never seem to hear me. The criterion of specified complexity allows false negatives, the failure to attribute design even when there is design.”

    The neo-Aristotelians/Thomists who pay attention are hearning you. Father Thomas Dubay ["The Evidential Power of Beauty"] and George Weigel are just a couple of examples.

    The problem is that many current “neo-Aristotelians/Thomists” are not really Aristotelian/Thomists. They are the ones who get the most publicity and are awarded the academic prizes. Ironically, they try to use Aquinas’ theory of Divine causality against intelligent design. What nonsense. Aquinas was “Mr. Design inference.”

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