Dr. Moran, Misplaced Confidence, and Capricious Arguments
|March 28, 2011||Posted by StephenB under Intelligent Design|
On a recent thread, ID critic Larry Moran seemed to take great joy in mischaracterizing the science of design detection as ID/Creationism. That’s no surprise, of course, but I was amused by his rather strange proclivity to swagger in with a sneer and stumble out with a gaffe.
If you are going to write this: “I have no respect for hypocrites, liars, and people who don’t take the time to learn about the subject they are attacking.”
You don’t want to follow with this: “Intelligent Design Creationism grew out of Scientific Creationism when its leaders decided they needed a new word to try and disguise the religious basis of their agenda.”
It just isn’t good form to complain about ignorant people while making manifestly ignorant statements. Naturally, I warned him about following in the footsteps of the intellectually challenged Barbara Forrest, who prides herself as the mother of this fairy tale. In keeping with that point, I felt a moral obligation to apprise him of the facts.
Creationism moves forward: that is, it assumes, asserts or accepts something about what God or the Bible has to say about origins; then interprets nature in that context.
Intelligent design moves backward: that is, it observes something interesting in nature (design patterns) and then theorizes and tests possible ways how they might have come to be. Creationism is faith-based; Intelligent Design is empirically-based.
Each approach has a pedigree that goes back over two thousand years. We find the “forward” approach in Tertullian, Pascal, Kierkegaard, and Anselm. Augustine described it best with the phrase, “faith seeking understanding.” With these thinkers, the investigation was faith-based.
By contrast, we discover the “backward” orientation in Justin Martyr, Aristotle, Aquinas, and Paley. Aristotle’s argument, which begins with “motion in nature” and reasons BACK to a “prime mover” — i.e. from effect to its “best” causal explanation — is obviously empirically based.
Contrary to Dr. Moran’s whimsical scenarios, neither formulation “came out of the other.” This is simply a fact. It is not something that it may be true, or something that is it probably true—it is obviously true, at least for anyone who knows anything about the subject.
Normally, I would leave it at that, but Moran, who says he likes to “pull our chains,” displays an uncanny talent for placing those same chains around his own neck with his intemperate remarks. Undeterred by my refutations or others’ superior knowledge of history, Moran takes another leap into fantasyland and informs us that Philip Johnson himself, father of the ID movement, admitted that ID is just another form of Biblical creationism. To support this incredible claim, Moran offers this out-of-context quote:
“The essential point of creation has nothing to do with the timing or the mechanisms the Creator chose to employ, but with the element of design or purpose. In the broadest sense, a “creationist” is simply a person who believes that the world (and especially mankind) was designed, and exists for a purpose.”
Now it should be clear to everyone except unthinking, anti-ID partisans that Johnson is speaking here of a belief system, not a scientific methodology. Indeed, Johnson has already addressed the question about the differences between creationism and ID, directly and in context:
“When people ask me whether this [ID] is creationism relabeled, one thing that always occurs to me is that the real creationist organizations are highly critical of intelligent design, because they say it doesn’t do the job that is the very essence of creationism. It doesn’t defend the Bible from the very first verse. It doesn’t defend the Bible at all, and it doesn’t even defend Christianity.”
“It’s saying that there’s an intelligence, but the intelligence could be natural as well as supernatural. And that if you assume it’s supernatural, what the God is—well, we have nothing to say about what kind of God it is. It isn’t limited to one particular kind of religion, to Christianity or to a particular kind of Christianity. If you want, it can be the Muslim god.”
Did you get that Dr. Moran? “The intelligence could be natural.” This is your main witness Philip Johnson speaking. Unlike Creationism, ID “doesn’t defend the Bible or Christianity.” In other words, Creationism is faith based; ID is empirically based. Sound familiar? I wonder why Moran would think he can get away with this kind of nonsense on an ID website.
So, what is it exactly that prompts Darwinists and Neo-Darwinists (Moran insists that he is not a mainstream Darwinist) to embrace this strange combination of cockiness and cluelessness? Why do they so consistently mangle context, ignore intellectual distinctions, and resort to motive mongering? One reason may be that they cannot conceive of any other paradigm other than their own monistic world view.
A few years ago, a well read Cosmologist suggested that the Big Bang Theory may be science’s account of the same historical event described in the Book of Genesis when God said, “Let there be light.” The scientist’s point was this: Truth is unified, but it often manifests itself in many ways and in multiple disciplines. It can, therefore, be discovered in more than one context, in different forms, and with different degrees of certainty.
In a similar fashion, William Dembski once spoke publicly about the “religious implications” of intelligent design. In effect, he considered the possible connection between the designer, who is the object of science’s design inference, and “Logos theory, which is the rational principle expressed in the St. John’s Gospel. Perhaps, he reasoned, the latter could be the Theological equivalent of the former.
Barbara Forrest, noticing that the words “intelligent design” and “Logos Theory” were present in the same speech, disregarded the significance of the term “religious implications,” and drew the mindless conclusion that Dembski was, in effect, admitting that ID science is faith based. Not one to be inhibited by undue scrupulosity, Forrest institutionalized her error under oath at the Dover trial.
Judge John Jones, a fellow Darwinist, covered for Forrest’s egregious conceptual error as only a judge can. During his testimony, Michael Behe had made the eminently reasonable point that ID is “consistent with religion.” That is a far cry from saying, as Forrest’s friends at the ACLU claimed, that ID “depends on religion.” Jones, determined to craft a Darwinist friendly interpretation, simply put the ACLU’s words in Behe’s mouth in his final written decision. Mission accomplished. On the one hand, his outrageous misrepresentation was subtle enough to escape the notice of most observers; on the other hand, it was devastating enough to harm ID’s reputation as a scientific enterprise.
In effect, Darwinists who characterize ID as Creationism are either too intellectually dishonest or too intellectually challenged to differentiate between methods and motives. Was Philip Johnson “motivated” to help liberate a culture that has been suffocated by the tenets of materialist Darwinism? Of course. Was Ben Stein motivated to expose Darwinist tyrants in the academy? Most definitely. Are Christians motivated to teach pagans that God’s universe is rational? Without a doubt. Is Barbara Forrest motivated to promote her Atheist agenda as a board member of the New Orleans Secular Humanist Association? Absolutely. What does any of this have to do with ID’s methods for detecting design? Nothing. Can the God of the Bible be extracted from or found in “specified complexity” or “irreducible complexity” Obviously not. Do any of these facts matter to Darwinists? Not a chance.
Moran is playing the same game as his Darwinist friends. It requires no creative sensibility or intellectual exertion to repeat their talking points and pepper them with a few insults.