Home » Intelligent Design » If you can’t beat ‘em… recruit ‘em.

If you can’t beat ‘em… recruit ‘em.

I’ts hard to imagine a more exciting time to be participating in this discussion. Just the past 24 hours have brought some incredibly exciting exchanges and inside information, see here and here. But most entertaining of all is Eugenie Scott recruiting churches to defend Darwinism:

Check this out.

And this.

So, Eugenie Scott wants to join forces with religious groups to defeat… what? Defeat a scientific theory? Aren’t scientists supposed to do that?

Ever heard of a Trojan Horse?

I can see the strategy now. Somewhere in the dank, dark caverns of Oxford U….

Richardo: Hey, we obviously can’t beat these religious fanatics into submission with our profoundly brilliant diatribe – but only because they have weak minds or are just plain stupid and evil. So instead of trying to outwit them, since they have no wit (ha ha ha, I’m so brilliantly funny…) let’s just trick them into joining us! Yes, that’s the ticket. Hey, I bet I can even wear my favorite god-hating t-shirt and they’re so damn stupid they’ll think I’ve been bread again (or is it born again? Oh my, even my enemies must realize how great I am!).

Euginie: I just can’t believe we’re still even talking about this. But since we are I’d like to point out that it was MY idea to recruit the church so we can defeat those sickening ID religious fanatics.

Richardo: Yes, Eugie, but it was I who inspired your idea through proactive display of my brilliantly humorous and insightful parody of those poor idiotic knuckle-dragging droolers we’re trying to get on our side.

Eugi: OK, but I just can’t believe we’re still talking about this. I do like this picture of you in that wonderfully witty t-shirt though.

Is Richard recruiting American Christians?

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49 Responses to If you can’t beat ‘em… recruit ‘em.

  1. Well Doug,

    That so many people are unconvinced of the neo-Darwinian explanation for all life simply HAS to follow from the fact that they are all Bible thumpin’ Christian fundies who believe in a 6,000 year old universe! I mean the evidence is just so incredibly overwhelming! Why you might as well be rejecting gravity itself!!! I mean seriously!

    Take the bacterial flagellum, for example. I mean you have the type three secretory system as a functional subsystem of the bf. What more evidence do you need to show that neo-Darwinian mechanisms made it? It’s just so obvious. It has to be Christian creationists. It just HAS to be! :)

  2. But most entertaining of all is Eugenie Scott recruiting churches to defend Darwinism:

    Desperate times call for desperate measures. :-)

  3. Where does my church sign up? I belong to the First Fundamentalist Church of Darwinia, a church that believes that Darwin was divinely inspired to come up with his theory. We’re going to make a holy Book of Darwin and sell it in the universities to unsuspecting undergrads.

  4. Poor Richard! Andropause is a terrible thing. Modern medicine can help him with that.

  5. Crandaddy:
    You hit the nail on the head.

    “Any fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius-and a lot of courage-to move in the opposite direction.”
    -Albert Einstein

  6. Richard’s wife there in the picture isn’t as attractive as I was led to believe.

  7. DS – brutal. :)

  8. DS – Now now, beauty is in the (designed) eye of the beholder.

  9. Their eyes were built on a mindless trial and error process, so I don’t know about that…

  10. jasonng:
    For the FFCD holy book, just print out about 1.41 million random characters. DS can probably provide a great seed number. That should help them discern right from wrong, or at least keep them busy for a while re-scrambling the text until something meaningful comes out. “42″ ?

  11. 1.41 million? There’s bound to be something meaning in there. If they spend the night looking at all the possible combinations they might come across the word “the” and discover that inside that inconspicuous three-letter word holds the meaning of all Darwinian-evolved life.

  12. 12

    Nice try, Josh. -ds

  13. Just say NO to fanny-packs.

  14. most of the I.D. speaking engagements I’ve seen have been hosted by churches and many times the theological implications of the debate are discussed. Isn’t it a bit hypocritical to suggest that people on the other side of the debate can’t do the same? For example, my Dad, a couple of cousins and an aunt of mine are all very devout Christians who are very involved in their churches, but they also work in the field of biology and accept evolution. Shouldn’t they be able to discuss (in a Ken Miller sort of way) how Christianity is compatible with science?

    I think there are two areas of this debate. One is the science aspect. The other one, that definitely has more heat is the social debate. If I.D. or Darwinism is true, then how does that merge with theological beliefs.

    Or maybe it’s Eugenie Scott being one of the people to spearhead this that is causing concern. It’s possible that we may find a “Wedge of Cheese” strategy that involves getting Churches to accept evolution as part of a 10 year plan to change America into a Socialist, Atheist society. ;)

  15. the argument from religious people that they are committed christians ( or whichever faith) and also completely believe Darwinism is completely empty. It is fine to say that one “accepts evolution” because evolution just means change through time in this usage. I think that everything hinges on the concept of RANDOMNESS leading to complex life. If it is possible to believe in creation and random accidental evolution at the same time, I would like to hear this view clearly stated. I have had many discussions with people who claim to hold this view, and when you get into the meat of the issue with them, they invariably end up by admitting that they just overlook the randomness aspect and focus on the obvious (and far less controversial) change through time part. Does anyone here have Ken Milleresque beliefs and could you clarify or elucidate this for me?

  16. Sure Fross, let ‘em bring their theology to the table, lay it out and let’s go at it! Only problem I can see is that right off the bat they will be saying things like “There are no reputable theologians who don’t accept theistic evolution, because if they do, they’re not real theologians.”

  17. Tinabrewer,

    Variation in traits is an integral part of heredity. Descent with modification involves selection for traits that permit greater survivorship. This is not random. Those individuals that are better able to feed, grow and reproduce consequentially leave a greater number of offspring that share beneficial traits. Thus natural selection is a directed process. Also, I think you may be drawing a false dichotomy between what you define as randomness and “change through time”,

    Best wishes

    Chris

    P.S. Apologies to DS for posting under what he considered to be an offensive name (holy_chimp) on another thread. I did not intend to cause offense. I was stating an opinion that we are so genetically and cladistically similar to chimpanzees that one of the few things that separates us is the fact that we have appear to have a soul. However, I realise that this may have been offensive and I am sorry.

    What exactly is the appearance of a soul and what makes you think a chimp is lacking in that department? Not that I disagree I just want to know how you arrive at these conclusions. As far as I’m concerned there are a lot of humans that have no soul. None whatsoever. Zilch. As cruel and heartless as any animal. Worse, because the human ostensibly has the capacity to know right from wrong. What other animals besides humans get any joy out of causing pain to other creatures? As far as animals resembling people in the soul category elephants might have us beat which I blogged about here. -ds

  18. Chris: The question of randomness has less to do with selection aspect of Darwinism that it has to do with the MUTATIONS aspect: RANDOM MUTATION plus NATURAL SELECTION. Saltational views of evolution, even those which are held by essentially orthodox Darwinists like the late Gould, still hold that the macroevolutionary changes are a result of RANDOMLY OCCURING mutational events within individual members of a species. The hopeful monster. This is the key area in which randomness is controversial. Lets say that by some unknown means a guiding intelligence could involve itself in the production of useful mutations in order to guide the development of a species in a particular direction. Then this would no longer be random. It would still be mutations plus natural selection, but not random. This seems to be somewhere in the neighborhood of the thoughts of most theistic evolutionists, if I am not mistaken, and is not at all Darwinian.

  19. Hi Tina,

    You asked, “If it is possible to believe in creation and random accidental evolution at the same time, I would like to hear this view clearly stated.”

    I hope I can answer this question without this post being moderated for being too religious. I believe in creation and accept random mutation and natural selection leading to the common descent of living things. I don’t think evolution is accidental, yet parts of it are random.

    To explain, I should point out that I also believe God was behind the divvying up of Israel, even though a random process was used (Numbers 26:52-56; Joshua 14:2; Joshua 15-19; Ezekiel 45:1). God used a random process to expose Achan’s sin (Joshua 7:13-23). Saul was chosen as king by lot, but I think it was also God’s will that Saul be king (1 Samuel 10:19-24). I think God also planned for Zechariah to be in the temple at a certain time, even though he was chosen by lot (Luke 1:5-9). And, I don’t doubt that God answered the apostle’s prayer by showing the right replacement for Judas when they cast lots (Acts 1:23-26).

    I don’t think random processes pose an impediment to God. Setting up chance as an opposing force that foils God’s will seems to me to be very bad theology. This is why I do not see the random components of evolution (or the weather or any other natural processes) as an impediment to God’s will being done through these processes. God created and sustains these processes, and he will accomplish his purposes through them.

  20. Mercury: thank you for attempting to answer the question I put out. I guess for me it is just illogical to say that “God created and sustains these processes, and he will accomplish his purposes through them” and to call a thing at the same time really random. Maybe I just fundamentally misunderstand what randomness is. But according to my understanding, it most certainly is not a “process” which anyone sustains. As soon as you have someone exerting will and manipulating things, it is my understanding that by definition this makes the thing non-random. To me, that is bad theology…whatever that phrase means. why does my view seem like bad theology to you? It seems like very reasonable theology to say that accident and randomness oppose plan and purpose. It sounds like good logic too. It is one thing to have a faith in a religious principle which is “God can do anything he wishes, and is not rebuffed even by randomness” but this begs the question “what, then, is randomness” it sounds like to me, when you get right down to it, you don’t really think there is such a thing as truly random, only things which have the appearance of randomness but are actually subtly manipulated. that is not what Darwinism claims with regard to the accidents which result in intricate designs. Also, your religious perspective seems far more constraining to God than the view I expressed. In my view, I only say that a process probably isn’t random because it has such evidence of intent and design. This leaves great room for a designing intelligence to have essentially structured the entire creation in such a way as to play out His purpose quite intentionally. Your view seems to treat God as some outside tinkerer who happened upon the material world and somehow decided He would use it for his purposes. Well, who made the material universe, with all of its constraints of randomness and bad weather for your God to come upon and try to manipulate? Which God is more constrained?

  21. Tina,

    There is an expression “It is impossible to know the mind of God” which I believe is probably correct. Religion is one attempt to get at It and uses revealed texts such as the Bible and the Koran as a basis for trying to understand God’s purpose, But the human interpretation of these books could fill a large wing of the library of Congress. Then there are individual thoughts starting in ancient Mesopotamia on what they think a god should be and before you know it there are a couple more wings of the Library of Congress. When we get into the motives of the “D” in ID we can really go astray.

    Every time someone prays they are essentially asking God to manipulate the world some how. How God has interfered in the world could be an endless discussion and the objective at this moment is to get rid of the dogma in our schools that says “there never was an instance where He interfered” and with it the strong implication that He does not exists at all.

    After that the real food fight begins again. Witness the Reformation which did not have the advantage of the internet for communications.

  22. Jerry: I agree that the real “food fight” begins AFTER the darwinian dogmatism fails-you have put it in far more amusing terms than I ever would. But I don’t think we have any disagreement about “knowing the mind of God”. I would agree that such a thing is impossible. But what we can know are some of the effects of the mind of the designer referred to in ID. While it is critical to keep the actual thrust of the design argument as narrow as possible, I am still unimpressed by beliefs which require us to violate one of the basic modes of understanding presumably given to us by said designer, namely logic. I still fail to see how a thing can be both random and an aspect of an unfolding plan, as Mercury claims in above post. I guess I am really not trying to have a discussion about what God might or might not do, but rather a discussion of the logic of believing in both randomness and design, something which is at the core of the ID movement.

  23. Chris said,
    “Variation in traits is an integral part of heredity. Descent with modification involves selection for traits that permit greater survivorship. This is not random. Those individuals that are better able to feed, grow and reproduce consequentially leave a greater number of offspring that share beneficial traits. Thus natural selection is a directed process. Also, I think you may be drawing a false dichotomy between what you define as randomness and “change through time.”

    I must respectfully disagree with you, Chris. If any part of an equation is random the result is, by definition, random. Thus the product of RM&S is unguided and random. I might also point out that the conditions that dictate survivorship are random to the time and location where the mutation occurs. Indeed, those conditions can randomly change over the course of time, leading to a random de-selection of the mutation. Another aspect of randomness is the fact that the mutation’s host must survive long enough for the new survivor-enhancing trait to be of benefit. To use another example, gravity will “guide” the direction rain water flows when it reaches the earth; however, the contours of the land at the random point where the rain drop reaches the lands dictate the exact path it takes from that point and its final destination. Still, I prefer the definition of neo-Darwinian evolution that includes the work “un-directed” as well as “random.” This more clearly implies no intelligence was involved.

  24. Randomness is simply another way of saying that soooo many factors were involved (like weather) that we humans simply can’t fathom knowing all of those factors. Randomness is completely subjective term. (Excuse the religious speak here, but this thread seems to allow for it since it involves churches discussing how evolution fits with their religion) I think an all knowing God knows the state of every atom, quark, molecule, etc. To us, weather seems random, but to an all knowing God, everything is following the path of what God already knew. I don’t think “randomness” is mutually exclusive to an all knowing God’s plan. As someone said above, I don’t think God has to work against randomness, since to an all knowing God, there is no such thing. God has never been surprised by a hurricane. ;)

    I think the miscommunication starts with the premise that common descent via natural selection means God had no part in the process. One side is expecting the other side to have the same premise. Meanwhile, someone like my Dad feels that the entire system itself was designed by God and doesn’t deviate from God’s plan. Someone brought up computer simulations that mimic Darwinian mechanisms to produce a complex fine tuned end result, but they also pointed out that these designed simulations are always built with an end product in mind. Speaking for the Christians I know who accept Darwinian evolution, they have a similiar view. God setup the process with an end result in mind.

  25. Tina,

    This may have some relevance to ID but it meant more as a possible answer to your question and not an attempt to move the thread in a new direction.

    Several years ago I was a college professor and shared an office one semester with an elderly Jewish man who was an adjunct professor. We talked about a lot of things and a little about religion. One time we discussed the concept of faith. He said that faith only exists when there is doubt. For example, we do not have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow. That is a belief based on fact not something of faith. Thus, he said faith only has meaning when there is the possibility that what we have faith in may not be true.

    We discussed specifically whether there was a God or not and he said there will always be the possibility that there is no God because to know for certain that He exists like the sun rising each day would make life meaningless. We would be just automatons. Continuing he said that God would make sure that was true could be found and that God would also give us enough evidence to find him. Now that was his definition of faith and for him it meant that the world must appear essentially the result of random events to have meaning.

    I am not actually sure but someone said Ken Miller has made the comment that God has not left a “smoking gun.” This would be consistent with this view of the world.

    I am reluctant to leave a comment like this here because it will get people off on a tangent of God, faith, meaning of life when the mission at hand is to bring the truth about Darwin to the general public and the educational curriculum. All these diversions are interesting but are counter productive on this forum. So please no one start discussing defintions of faith since I did not say this is my definition or tried to make a case for it but only used it to show why some may believe the world has to appear random as an answer to Tina’s question.

    Of course the Darwinists will say the reason the world appears random, is because it is random and we come back and say that the reason some of it appears desinged is because it is designed. We have the easier task. All we need is one incontrovertable instance.

  26. Jerry, I appreciate your comments. They do clarify for me the religious view held by some people, and make it quite clear that for many, the conflicts with logic are perfectly acceptable when one moves outside of the scientific realm. I understand that this forum is not meant to be a discussion of religion, but it feels rather inevitable if someone is going to say “oh, yeah, there’s no problem with Darwinism because randomness is the mechanism used by the designer” This argument essentially stills the voice of ID because it eviscerates any capacity to detect design by ascribing untold, immesurable powers to randomness. It was my understanding that design detection depends upon probabalistic inferences about specified complexity. If we can just go ‘that might seem like evidence of design, but its not because any designer could achieve that by opportunistically utilizing chance events toward some end” then we are truly without a basis. This is, in my view, just using rhetoric to avoid the obvious: design is not achieved by the use of randomness but instead by the most rigorous exertion of intellect/mind within the framework of lawful principles. Further, the more complex the design, the less likely it is to be the result of purposeless indirection, even if a theistic evolutionist could believe in an incredibly opportunistic designer, who for some bizarre reason seeks to obscure his conscious creatures’ ability to percieve him. Anyway, thanks so much for input which has helped me get my mind around Miller’s type of thinking.

  27. Tina,

    Two things:

    First, when you get down to the nitty gritty where the tire hits the road, to use a couple of clichés, God seems so less of an omnificent entity postulated in most theologies as maybe a super engineer. We are actually asking why did God put this nucleotide here instead of that one. When we do this, somehow our view of God changes. So I can understand how someone would think a grand view of evolution that is set in motion from the beginning is much more worthy of their God as opposed to the constant tinkerer. I told some of my Darwinist friends that ID does not necessarily point to the Judeo Christian God but it definitely shoots down Darwin.

    Second, my office mate didn’t think it was very bizarre for God to make himself obscure. In fact he said the obvious thing is that God would have to do it. You can argue that the world would be a completely different experience if God was obvious. If God was obvious it might very well be a dull world or possibly a meaningless world. My wife has often made the comment that heaven seems kind of boring. She said that uncertainty is what makes this life interesting. Ask yourself what would you do in a world if there were certainty about God and His plans for us. One thing for sure, we would not be on this forum having a debate.

    Again interesting questions but not related to ID, I am just reacting to your use of the word “bizarre” for what some others thought may be a necessity.

  28. Hi Tina,

    You wrote: “It seems like very reasonable theology to say that accident and randomness oppose plan and purpose.”

    The trouble is that God works, throughout the Bible, in what appears to be accident and randomness. We would not know that Israel’s defeat and captivity was the hand of God unless he revealed that to authors of Scripture. The same is true of many other natural or random means that God uses to accomplish his will. I don’t think it’s a leap to believe that what appears to be accident or random could be something that either God ordained, or God will use for his purposes. We can’t tell always the difference, nor should we expect to be able to.

    “it sounds like to me, when you get right down to it, you don’t really think there is such a thing as truly random, only things which have the appearance of randomness but are actually subtly manipulated.”

    There is nothing random that we can be absolutely certain God has not influenced. There is no scientific technique for excluding God from an experiment.

    “Your view seems to treat God as some outside tinkerer who happened upon the material world and somehow decided He would use it for his purposes.”

    I have no idea where you got that idea from, but it bears no resemblance to what I’ve stated or to what TEs believe in general. God [i]made[/i] the material world — he did not happen upon it. Our universe is the way it is, including all its natural processes, because that’s the way God made it.

    I do not believe God is limited to working in random or natural processes, nor do I believe God is limited to work in supernatural intervention. I accept both God’s providence and miracles.

    “Which God is more constrained?”

    A moot question, since the view of God you applied to me bears no resemblance to the God I believe in.

  29. To Fross: The way you describe the beliefs of those who accept that God controls everything and also that RM+NS are the basis of evolution goes back to a post I wrote earlier on. to me, this in essence means that the process is non-random. This usage of the word random is a fair one, since it is certainly what is intented by the proponents of Darwinism who are deeply offended by the idea of design detection. Maybe randomness is just a subjective assessment which results from there being so many factors at play that we cannot account for them all, so we call them random. I looked it up in the dictionary, though, and here is what it says: “without aim or purpose:haphazard” also “a roving motion or course without direction…without careful choice, aim, plan, etc.” This is the ACTUAL meaning of the word in the English language. This is the meaning used by Darwinists. Life developed haphazardly and without aim. There is simply no getting around this. I think perhaps the debate would be clarified if theistic evolutionists like Ken Miller would develop a terminology which referred to this process they believe in whereby apparently random processes are actually lawful and predetermined processes of such inherent complexity that we cannot fully know or elucidate them. Whatever word exists in the language for this concept would be far more precise than “random”.
    To Mercury: I can sense from the tone of your post that you took offense at my previous reply. I apologize if the tone of MY post was genuinely offensive, but I sincerely did not mean it as such. I think it is possible to strongly disagree without it being personal, and I didn’t mean my comment as an attack. What I was trying to say was that you appear to believe that the physical universe operates in such a way that randomness and even chaos reign. God “uses” these conditions to achieve his ends. That is where I got the idea that the god you describe “happened upon” this world and decided to use it. It was more of an attempt to draw a picture of such a situation than a literal description. If God, in whom you quite sincerely believe, is capable of creating a universe, it makes little sense that he would create one in which haphazardness and chance rule the day, and somehow, he manages to insert his will. In your reply you admitted as much by saying, in essence, that many a thing might appear to be random, but we have no way ofknowing that these things REALLY are random. They could just as easily be under God’s influence. Hopefully this is what you were saying, and if I understand this correctly, based upon the Webster’s definition of “random”, such things would, in fact, be non-random. I do not continue these posts to nitpick about definitions. Language is an incredibly useful and formative tool which we use to shape our world. I think it is important to be as precise as possible in its use so as to avoid needless misunderstandings, and with regard to the ID debate, the question of RM+NS is completely central. If we are going to propose ID we MUST MUST MUST agree upon the definitions of words which are central to this debate. Randomness is one such word.

  30. Hi Tina,

    You wrote: “What I was trying to say was that you appear to believe that the physical universe operates in such a way that randomness and even chaos reign.”

    Could you point out where I said anything about chaos or randomness reigning? My whole point was that randomness should not be elevated to the level of God by making it a competitor to God. Somehow you thought I meant that randomness reigned over God? You seem to be so intent on disagreeing with me that you’re not reading what I’m saying. Either that, or you’re just using extremely charged language (“randomness and even chaos reign”) to bolster your arguments, even though you realize it is not accurate.

    “God ‘uses’ these conditions to achieve his ends.”

    No. Once more, God created the universe. He made it ex nihilo. Nothing exists apart from God. I don’t know how I can be more clear.

    “If God, in whom you quite sincerely believe, is capable of creating a universe, it makes little sense that he would create one in which haphazardness and chance rule the day, and somehow, he manages to insert his will.”

    God rules, not chance. There are many things that appear to be haphazard and random. The weather, for instance. The apparent randomness of the weather (or mutations or anything else in nature) does not mean it rules over God. I don’t see why you continue to separate God from things that appear to be random to us.

    “In your reply you admitted as much by saying, in essence, that many a thing might appear to be random, but we have no way ofknowing that these things REALLY are random. … Hopefully this is what you were saying, and if I understand this correctly, based upon the Webster’s definition of ‘random’, such things would, in fact, be non-random.”

    If you want to call the weather and mutations and everything else non-random because we can’t conclusively prove that no outside agent, such as God, is affecting these things, I have no argument. When I use the word “random”, I mean that to us, with finite knowledge, these things appear random. I do not claim that all things that appear random are really guided, but rather that God can work through everything, including what appears random to us.

    For an IDist, it seems that God may work in nature, but if he does so, one must be able to scientifically detect his interventions. For a TE, God does work in nature, and it’s not necessary for him to break the rules he set in place for him to do so. God can work within nature or above nature. His actions can be detectable or not. No limits.

  31. I see that due to how I separated my responses, my last post could be misleading. I disagreed with Tina’s statement that “God ‘uses’ these conditions to achieve his ends.” My disagreement is because the “these conditions” she was referring to were conditions that “reign” apart from God. God does not use any natural processes that he did not create. But, I certainly believe that God does use the conditions and processes he created to achieve his ends.

  32. To Tinabrewer: yes, the way I describe random, it would mean that randomness is meaningless to an all knowing God. Everything would be in control, but how could we humans know? We could only have faith that God has a plan and this is it. (even with the pimples and warts). I also feel God doesn’t control by a tinkering kind of control, like fighting a steering wheel that pulls to the left, but a preknown control, like prelaid tracks for a train. (this being fromt the vantage point of God)

    To humans, random is real, and the dictionary definition you gave is correct from our perspective.

    Another example of a random series of events is any family tree. The series of meetings, courting, mating, sperm competition, egg fertilization etc. spanning back over 100′s of generations was unguided by any observable process other than what we’d consider at most random or by the very least “natural”.

    For instance, by a seemingly random encounter I met my future wife in line at an amusement park. Another random event made it so that we each had no riding partner and rode together. We got married years later and once we decided to have a child, we tried and on our first try we had our son. Now I don’t consider my son a cosmological accident simply because he was the end result of a bunch of unplanned occurances. If my wife and I decide on a different night to “try” then I would currently have a different child. If the natural process of sperm competition came out slightly different, then I’d have a different child. If my friend had his way, we would have skipped that ride at the amusement park, and I would have never met my wife. If just one tiny slight difference occured anywhere down the line of my family tree, then my son wouldn’t exist today. This still doesn’t conflict with any Christian worldview I can think of. Any Christian can rightly say that my son was part of God’s plan, and me meeting my wife was part of God’s plan. However, in these cases God’s involvement wasn’t by some supernatural intervention that was needed to counter some “random” force.

    I think theistic evolutionists just don’t buy into the concept that God’s plan is in conflict with nature. As if nature left to its own would deviate from God’s plan.

  33. Hi Mercury. You ask if I could point to anywhere where you wrote or implied that randomness and chaos reign. First of all, “chaos reigns” is a commonly used figure of speech, and in using it I had no intent to imply that it “ruled” over God in the more political sense of the word. So no, of course you did not say that chaos and randomness reign. You said the opposite: you believe that since God originates everything, then even those things which to us appear like random processes are nevertheless firmly within God’s all-knowing control. Far from trying to disagree for the sake of disagreement, I am just trying to get at the logical ramifications of using the word RANDOM as Darwinians use it. THey DO NOT USE IT in the sense in which you use it! YOu write “God created and sustains these processes, and he will accomplish his purposes through them” What I am trying to say is that this use of the word defies simple logic. The english language word “random” is the only word which is available to us to use which expresses that pure concept of something which is inherently unguided, haphazard and without direction. By definition. It is no longer random if there is anything about it which is subject to direction, purpose, guidance, will, etc. no matter how subtle or undetected. So that when you say that God sustains certain processes and accomplishes his purposes through them you are, by definition, talking about a non-random process. This is what I am getting at when I say that the view of theistic evolutionists who claim to believe in RM+NS do not hold water. THey hold water ONLY if it is acceptable to use the most controversial word in the entire lexicon of evolutionary theory, namely random, in a way which essentially undercuts its traditional meaning. In spite of your obvious irritation with me for not agreeing with you, I am sincerely trying to unearth the correct use of this term, and I also sincerely believe that this misuse of terminology is responsible for HUGE disastrous effects, both materially and intellectually, since language, in my view, is a gift of God which distinguishes the spiritual nature of man from the animal…language has formative power, and as such must be used with responsibility and precision. If random means, as Webster’s claims “unguided and without direction, will, haphazard”, then it is not acceptable, especially in debate, to say that , and I quote you here “I don’t think its a leap to believe that what appears to be accident or random could be something that either God ordained, or God will use for his purposes.” The two potential definitions of randomness expressed by you here are problematic. The first ‘that God ordained’ violates the definition quite simply. random processes are not ordained. If something is ordained itis non-random. The second part ‘God will use for his purposes’ is sticky because it does imply that if the process TRULY IS RANDOM, then God, who created everything, is dependent upon chance events onto which he superimposes his will. It is no disrespect to God to say this. It is simply a matter of definitions. In a coin toss, where chance ‘reigns’ in the sense in which I spoke it, you have independent, randomly-occurring results. So lets pretend that God was going to craft intelligent life on this planet, and yet he depended upon chance mutations to occur which he could then creatively utilize. What if the right ones just wouldn’t happen? The vanishing unlikelihood of them happening is one of the most powerful ID arguments. Then, if God truly creates through using chance events to his advantage, it could equally well have occurred that life would not develop, or would fizzle out, etc. since, in the framework of this definition, God is not guiding these events, but they are truly random, and he is simply using them for his purposes. Anyway, I am saddened that there has been acrimony in our exchange because I didn’t intend it. I appreciate your attempts to make your view more clear. Like jerry says, the real foodfight begins after the death of Darwinism.

  34. Hi again Tina,

    You wrote, “I am just trying to get at the logical ramifications of using the word RANDOM as Darwinians use it. THey DO NOT USE IT in the sense in which you use it!”

    If you mean materialists, then I agree. I’m not sure what you mean by the term “Darwinians”, since people seem to mean quite different things by it. I’ll use the term “scientists” instead. When scientists speak of mutation being random, they are speaking within the context of methodological naturalism. They do not qualify every statement with “unless a supernatural power, or some as-yet-undiscovered force, intervened”, but that is the assumption in all of science. God cannot be placed into a test tube or removed from a test tube.

    “In a coin toss, where chance ‘reigns’ in the sense in which I spoke it, you have independent, randomly-occurring results.”

    Why are you willing to use the terms “chance” and “random” to describe a coin toss? Do you think it is impossible for God to affect the outcome? Was it impossible for God’s will to be done through the casting of lots described in the Bible? I think you’re being inconsistent by taking issue with my rather pragmatic use of the word (random as far as we can tell) while apparently using it the same way yourself. (Of course, I’ll withdraw this charge if you truly believe that the outcome of coin tosses cannot be influenced by God. But, I’ve been assuming that we have common ground here.)

    “The english language word ‘random’ is the only word which is available to us to use which expresses that pure concept of something which is inherently unguided, haphazard and without direction. By definition.”

    I’m being pragmatic. Just because God can bring about his chosen outcome in any coin toss does not mean I’m going to avoid calling coin tosses random. I qualified my usage of the term two posts ago when I noticed this was bothering you. I have generally used the word “apparent” or “appears” with it instead of saying “random” without qualifier. Since we don’t have any word I’m aware of that describes something that appears to be random, without comment on whether a supernatural force is influencing it, I’m doing the best I can. Using the word “guided” would be even more misleading. I am not claiming that any particular supposedly random event is guided or unguided — I’m saying we can’t tell.

    “The two potential definitions of randomness expressed by you here are problematic. The first ‘that God ordained’ violates the definition quite simply. random processes are not ordained.”

    If I had said that God ordained all mutations, you would be absolutely correct. But, as you noted, this is only one half of what I said. Your response to both halves of my statement temporarily ignored the other half and treated the remaining half as the whole. God may ordain an outcome, or God may accomplish his purposes through an outcome that was not ordained. God can alter the outcome (with the alteration taking place anywhere in time, not necessarily directly before the outcome) or use the random outcome for his purposes. In most cases — especially when we’re dealing with mutations — we can’t tell the difference between the two.

    From this last paragraph, you may wonder if I’m proposing that God has a fixed idea for each random event, and then alters the outcome if it doesn’t match this. That would be a way that both halves I outlined could be used, but for all intents the result would still be completely controlled with no room for freedom. That’s not what I mean. Instead, since I believe God was responsible for making the universe in the first place, I think God did so in such a way that it was endowed with what was necessary to bring about what he wanted. While I certainly believe God could intervene whenever he wanted, I doubt it was necessary that often. I suspect that most of God’s interventions have been with people, but of course I can’t really say either way.

    “So lets pretend that God was going to craft intelligent life on this planet, and yet he depended upon chance mutations to occur which he could then creatively utilize. What if the right ones just wouldn’t happen?”

    Let’s pretend that God was going to build a kingdom on this planet, yet he chose to depend on human individuals with free will who would choose to follow his will. What if the right people just didn’t come along?

    Basically, I believe that God gave his creation a level of freedom, just as he gives human beings a level of freedom. God is big enough to accomplish his purposes without having the universe be entirely deterministic. He can intervene when he wants to, including overriding some of this freedom, but that is not the norm.

  35. Thank you Mercury for your careful response to my last post. Last night I had some greater clarity as I was lying in bed trying to go to sleep after finishing my last post (#33) What came to me in this moment was the realization that the reason the word random has such significance is because of its broader philosophical implications. It would be one thing to simply agree with the strict Darwinian view of “RM+NS” but then privately hold your religious belief that God controls all of this in some way or the other, IF, and this is a BIG if, there were no further ramifications than simply a semantic disagreement. However, when one observes the developments in society and culture which have emanated from the widespread acceptance of Darwinian evolution, one can not be quite so nonchalant: Evolutionary psychology, medicine, ethics, art, literature, ALL are pervaded with the logical corollary of the Darwinian use of the term “random”: human consciousness is seen as being just an epiphenomenon of the brain, which itself was not intended, but accidental. love, faith, hope, charity, in short EVERY SINGLE THING which distinguishes consciousness and appears to give it a higher meaning is given the “wink wink nudge” approach by those who “get” that these things are essentially delusions: nice if you want to take them seriously, but ultimately just by-products of this purposeless process. It cannot have escaped your conscious awareness that the Darwinian evolutionary view has had these effects. Have you read some of the books of evolutionary psychology? I wonder about a second thing: why, in your view,is it not possible to detect design and infer design?

  36. Hi Tina,

    I just saw Fross’ post above (#32), and I think he explained the interaction between God and randomness far better than I did.

    Anyway, in your latest post, you seem to be arguing against evolutionary philosophy and other baggage people attach to science, and not against the actual science of evolution, which is what I accept. Just as I can accept Einstein’s theory of relativity without accepting moral relativism, I can also accept biological evolution without accepting materialism.

    You said, “It cannot have escaped your conscious awareness that the Darwinian evolutionary view has had these effects.”

    The strange thing is that evolution and science at large is having that effect more now than in the past. I think a main reason is that many Christians have bought into the lie popularized by atheists that what science explains must be separate from God. So, some Christians wager God on there being unexplained gaps in our knowledge. We’ll always have gaps, so to a certain degree it’s a safe bet, but it means that every discovery shrinks God. It’s all well and good to say that God designed the tails on bacteria, but the implication many get from this is that we have to look at things this obscure in order to find any role for God. Since I believe God is the author and sustainer of nature, I don’t think it’s reasonable to limit his involvement to what defies natural explanation.

    I like the way Aubrey Moore put it: “The one absolutely impossible conception of God, in the present day, is that which represents him as an occasional visitor. Science has pushed the deist’s God further and further away, and at the moment when it seemed as if He would be thrust out all together, Darwinism appeared, and, under the disguise of a foe, did the work of a friend. … Either God is everywhere present in nature, or He is nowhere.”

    “Have you read some of the books of evolutionary psychology?”

    No. I don’t really have an interest in psychology, evolutionary or otherwise.

    I wonder about a second thing: why, in your view,is it not possible to detect design and infer design?

    That isn’t my view. As I said, “For a TE, God does work in nature, and it’s not necessary for him to break the rules he set in place for him to do so. God can work within nature or above nature. His actions can be detectable or not. No limits.”

    If you’re wondering why I’m not onboard with the popular ID movement, it’s because I think they’re looking for design in the wrong places. In spite of that, if they got results that convinced scientists not already convinced, I might find it more compelling. If they could at least convince a sizeable chunk of theistic scientists, who would be more open to such a result, I might think there’s a chance they’re on to something. But, they’ve done neither. Another problem is that when people see that ID has failed to detect design where it is looking for design, many come to the conclusion that there is no design and no transcendent Designer. As such, I think the popular ID movement is hurting Christianity more than it is helping.

    I do think the universe as a whole shows signs of design. I agree with the fine-tuning argument, though I would classify it as a philosophical or logical rather than scientific argument. But, since I certainly don’t think that all truth is found through science, I am not trying to diminish the argument by saying that.

    Also, to clarify one statement from last post, I said that “I suspect that most of God’s interventions have been with people”. By this, I meant interactions with people like Abraham, Moses and Paul. I was not speaking about tweaking human evolution. Though I don’t rule that out, I doubt it was necessary.

  37. Hi Mercury. I am especially intrigued by two aspects of your above comments, but am unable to get around our earlier back-and-forth over randomness yet. First, what you are saying is “God made everything including nature. God intended humans to exist, along with other plants, animals etc. God’s creative ability/activity is such that in his creative act and ongoing interactions with the universe and nature, his ends are achieved. From our limited perspective, we see events as ‘random’ because we are unable to measure or percieve the profound subtle background activity which ultimately controls and influences events toward God’s ends. This so-called randomness is the randomness of the Darwinian story which is acceptable to Christians.” If there is any error in my statement of your view, please correct me. IF this is a reasonable statement of your beliefs, it nevertheless makes the use of the term ‘random’ in the scientific work incorrect. The reason I point to the non or quasi-scientific outgrowths of Darwinism as illustrations is to bring into strong relief the fact that when one truly means “random”, as Darwinian scientist mainly do, this theory of everything is nihilistic. It is, as Dennett says, the acid which corrodes everything. I think this is Dennett. He is overjoyed by the implications of Darwinism, because unlike you he seems able to recognize the real implications of ascribing life to accident, in the strict use of the word. This is where the sticking point remains, and it is interesting to me that you ascribe greater responsibility for these corrosive effects to Christians who have bought into a lie about God and science as separate. Why are people who believe in God, believe his activity is recognizable in nature, and believe that human culture should reflect this recognition MORE RESPONSIBLE for the corrosive effects of Darwin-inspired atheism than the scientists, 90% of whom are avowed atheists, who enthusiastically claim that their discoveries of ‘natural explanations’ for everything undermine the necessity of God, making it possible, in the words of Dawkins, to be an “intellectually fulfilled atheist”? This doesn’t make sense to me. You have been much more open than me about your own personal beliefs, and I feel an inequity in that: i have tried to avoid too much talk about beliefs, because my main interest was to figure out whether people who claim to believe in Darwinian evolution and God at the same time really really believe in the random aspect of RM+NS. I have to conclude, after our long interchange, that you do not really believe in this randomness, but use your own personal definition of this word to facilitate your ability to remain fully ‘scientific’. But there seems to be much more to this discussion as well. With regard to the design detection issue, why do you say that ID people are looking in the wrong place? Is this not the place, or one of them, that was created? why, in your view has ID failed to detect design? It seems like your view, that yes, we were designed, but you could never tell from the evidence of nature, is strictly a modern scientific view. In the past, namely before Darwin, scientists regularly percieved the patterns and lawfulnesses they uncovered as being evidence of a designing intelligence. They didn’t do this in a “God of the gaps” kind of way. They understood perfectly well that the signs of extreme order, regularity, complexity, etc. were recognizable to our consciousness as aspects of a greater activity than science could fully measure or understand. But they were evidences nonetheless. ID, in its current incarnation, simply takes this ancient intuition/sensibility and applies modern insights into complexity/probability to these new evidences. In the end, you feel that it is correct to stand before God and say “I successfully defeated those who claim to recognize your activity in the world, for it is not recognizable, and I successfully defended atheistic science from incorrect encroachment by misguided people who thought they could recognize your activity with scientific rigor” Maybe you are unaware of the reigning significance which science claims for itself in the world. You want to accept completely the reductionist claims of science, and just as completely every claim of your religion. When there is a genuine conflict, as in the question of the origin and development of life, you want it both ways: science explains it purely naturalistically, but God did it all. I guess we will just have to agree to disagree. I really appreciate your input and all the time you have taken to clarify your view for me.

  38. Tina, a few comments:

    1) Paragraph breaks make long posts much easier to read.

    2) You continue to rail on my usage of the word “random” in spite of my detailed explanations and clarifications, yet you have no problem referring to coin tosses as random yourself. You did not comment on whether or not you accept that God could intervene in the outcome of a coin toss. You simply ignored your apparent inconsistency and continue to hold me to a higher standard.

    3) While caring very much about the proper definition of “random”, you have not defined what you mean by “Darwinian” scientists. You continue to use the term without clarification, even after I said I didn’t know what you mean by it. If you value clear communication, you need to define terms that are confusing. How is a “Darwinian” different than a mainstream scientist? Are all “Darwinians” materialists? Are they all atheists? Or, do they simply accept modern evolutionary theory, which was based on Darwin’s work, along with the work of Mendel and many others? If you are unwilling to define what you mean by the term, it would aid communication if you used a less ambiguous term, such as “biologist” or “materialist”, that is easily understood.

    You summarized my view as follows: “First, what you are saying is ‘God made everything including nature. God intended humans to exist, along with other plants, animals etc. God’s creative ability/activity is such that in his creative act and ongoing interactions with the universe and nature, his ends are achieved. From our limited perspective, we see events as ‘random’ because we are unable to measure or percieve the profound subtle background activity which ultimately controls and influences events toward God’s ends. This so-called randomness is the randomness of the Darwinian story which is acceptable to Christians.’ “

    That’s pretty much right, up to the last two sentences. The second-last sentence is not the way I’d word it, but the core idea is accurate. The last sentence I don’t understand at all. Maybe a good replacement would be, “Things that appear random to us can work out God’s purposes, and this is basic Christian theology.” Post #32 by Fross gives more detail about that.

    “IF this is a reasonable statement of your beliefs, it nevertheless makes the use of the term ‘random’ in the scientific work incorrect.”

    No, I already explained this. “When scientists speak of mutation being random, they are speaking within the context of methodological naturalism. They do not qualify every statement with ‘unless a supernatural power, or some as-yet-undiscovered force, intervened’, but that is the assumption in all of science.” If you disagree with this, please interact with it instead of simply restating your original objection.

    “when one truly means “random”, as Darwinian scientist mainly do, this theory of everything is nihilistic”

    If you mean “as materialist scientists do”, then yes, that would seem to lead to nihilism. I’m not a materialist, and evolution is not a theory of everything. It explains the diversity of life. It no more needs to lead to nihilism or materialism than a natural theory for gravity or electromagnetism.

    “unlike you he seems able to recognize the real implications of ascribing life to accident, in the strict use of the word”

    I never ascribed life to accident. Earlier, you stated that the word random is “the only word which is available to us to use which expresses that pure concept of something which is inherently unguided, haphazard and without direction.” It appears you’ve now found a better word: accident. Accident implies there was no purpose, while random can mean that we cannot detect a purpose. In the Bible, drawing lots was designed to be a random process, but at least sometimes, the result was no accident. Isn’t it interesting that one way God chose to reveal his will was through a process set up to be random?

    “the scientists, 90% of whom are avowed atheists”

    More scientists are atheists than the general population, but it is not anywhere near 90% unless you limit the sample to very specific groups of scientists, and include both disbelief and doubt about God’s existence in the category of “avowed atheist” (which would be another very loose usage of the English language). On average, with a wider sample, close to half of US scientists are theists or deists, and a majority of those are Christian. Yet, only 5% or less do not accept evolution (and the percentage drops further when limited to those in fields related to evolution).

    “Why are people who believe in God, believe his activity is recognizable in nature, and believe that human culture should reflect this recognition MORE RESPONSIBLE for the corrosive effects of Darwin-inspired atheism than the scientists, 90% of whom are avowed atheists, who enthusiastically claim that their discoveries of ‘natural explanations’ for everything undermine the necessity of God, making it possible, in the words of Dawkins, to be an ‘intellectually fulfilled atheist’?”

    Well, it is true that atheists like Dawkins have had great success in creating the dichotomy between science and faith that many Christians have swallowed. Unfortunately, those who swallow this idea frequently perpetuate it.

    “why, in your view has ID failed to detect design?”

    Because it’s the equivalent of fish trying to detect wetness underwater. I believe the whole universe is designed, so isolating a component of it and attempting to show how it is more designed than the rest seems to me to miss the point. At best, it can detect proximate causes of design, such as natural forces or intelligent beings like humans. I don’t think it can isolate design injections from the One who made everything.

    “In the past, namely before Darwin, scientists regularly percieved the patterns and lawfulnesses they uncovered as being evidence of a designing intelligence.”

    Exactly. They thought that planetary orbits, for instance, must be due to supernatural decree because before the sun-centric model of the solar system was developed, the orbits seemed to have a pattern but not one that was naturally explainable. I actually think they were right, in a way. I think God does decree that the planets orbit as they do, and that’s why he made natural forces such as gravity to see that they do so. But, to those who only saw God in what defied natural explanation, the new concept of the solar system was quite a disappointment. God was eliminated from one more job. Those who followed that reasoning were in for further disappointments through the work of scientists like Newton and Darwin. For those who see nature as God’s work, though, each discovery illuminated more grandeur in God’s masterpiece.

    “Maybe you are unaware of the reigning significance which science claims for itself in the world. You want to accept completely the reductionist claims of science”

    I’m quite aware of scientism and the dangers of it. That’s partly why I don’t feel the need to scientifically justify everything I believe. I do not accept reductionism. There is more to truth than science, and more to reality than what scientists can experiment on.

  39. Mercury. first let me apologize for any sloppiness in the way I am presenting my paragraphs. Im completely ignorant of the simplest manipulations of computers, and I don’t know how you insert all of these quotes from my post so neatly…when I quote you, I do so by handwriting the section I want, scrolling back down and then typing it…very inefficient and all that. I will try to be more thorough and careful.
    First point: You say that I didn’t comment on whether God could intervene in the outcome of a coin toss. I forgot. Upon considering it further, I guess I would have to say ‘I don’t know” My growing suspicion, from reading more deeply your thoughts on the theology you hold is that we have much more in common than we think. I too believe in a lawful universe created by God. I believe that universe is imbued with information at every level which expresses God’s will. The laws which we see acting physically ARE the material expression’s of God’s will. The question of will comes in here. Could God will that a coin toss, which simply obeys the physical laws, come out in some pre-ordained way? Maybe.
    Two: what do I mean by Darwinian: By this term I mean those scientists who accept the teaching of the neo-Darwinian synthesis which holds that life came about as a result of unguided and purposeless entirely natural processes, namely RANDOMLY OCCURING mutations within individual members of a species, sculpted by natural selection. This is why so much hinges upon the word random. I haven’t been railing against your use of the word random for fun or pleasure, but because it is the central controversial aspect of Darwinism. I have absolutely no problem with the evolutionary idea of ‘change through time’ or even common descent. The only philosophical problem is the idea, contained within the term random that these mutational changes were unguided, undirected and without purpose. The use of the word accident is an excellent second option and conveys the very same idea. In other words life, in my view, did not come about by accident. It came about as a result of guided directed purpose, which is everywhere evident. ID does not seek to pick out individual things which are MORE designed than others. It simply presents a counterpoint to the weakening theory which claims that there WAS no design or intent. While all Darwinians are obviously not materialists, the implications and explicit statement of their theory IS. If it weren’t, it would never have been capable of spawning the likes of Dennett, DAwkins, etc. It is not by some freak coincidence that such thinkers are so violently defensive of any encroachments on their favorite theory. It is because they understand very well that this theory, in its explicit use of the concept of randomness, strongly justifies their atheism. ‘
    Three: You say that evolution is not a theory of everything. That sounds nice. I agree with you in principle that science should be far more limited in the powers it claims for itself. Nevertheless, it is entirely naive and shows an almost unbelievable degree of willful ignorance of the “side-effects” of Darwin’s theory in such areas as psychology, philosophy, etc. Do you really not percieve the implications of saying “Everything we are is a result of a really amazing series of accidental occurrences” Of course you do, but you choose to avoid looking at these things saying “I am not interested in psychology…” or whatever. Meanwhile, my children are being raised in schools where their textbooks teach them that their deepest inner feelings of charity, kindness, love altruism are all side-effects of their big brains which arose as a result of selective pressures at one time long ago yadayada. This type of explanation about everything in life ABOUNDS in every nook and cranny of our society. How can you not see these effects as being the natural outgrowths of a belief, which is explicitly a part of the neo-Darwinian theory, that everything there is is there by chance?
    Fourth: as I said earlier, randomness and accident actually express the selfsame type of concept. It is not true that random can mean ‘we cannot detect a purpose’ It simply doesn’t mean that. It means THERE IS NO PURPOSE. That is why people like Gould aver quite passionately that if it were all to happen again, we probably wouldn’t be here, nor would most of the stuff we see around us, since a whole new bunch of accidents would produce a whole new bunch of results.
    Fifth; Please accept my sincere apologies for the misuse of the 90% figure on scientists. It was sloppy and incorrect, a result of careless hurry. The figure was in my mind from a previous post on another thread and was far more specific than this. I retract the statement without qualification. However, I would like to point out that one of the basic creation laws ( in my belief system) is ‘attraction of similars’ or what might be termed ‘resonance’ This absolutely predicts that when things are similar in theri essential nature, they will be drawn together and strengthen each other through their mutual activity. This is true spritually as well as physically. The theory of Darwinian evolution is deeply attractive to atheists and materialists for a very very good reason. The coincidence is not.
    Sixth: I agree with you that too many so-called religious people reject everything scientific to their detriment. However, I ascribe this to the fact that their intuition tells them that science has made itself the enemy of their most deeply held notions about life and meaning. Sensing this, they react defensively and, in many cases, ignorantly, throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I see the human qualities of ignorance and superficiality at work here, both on the part of scientists and laymen.
    Seventh: I don’t know what ‘design injections’ are. I think that you make a mistake if you think that the goal of ID is to argue “Here, look, this thing was designed. Here, look, here is another one” No. the proponents share your conception ( actually I have no right to speak for them. I speak only from my own conception) that THE WHOLE THING was designed. THey are simply picking out individual examples like the bacterial flagellum, or the eye, or whatever, because these individual examples most clearly meet the criteria for design detection based on probability and irreducible complexity. That is not the same as saying that ONLY those things were designed, or that the less complex or compelling examples were not designed but came about as a result of chance. In an attempt to remain strictly within the bounds of what can be objectively measured and scientifically discussed, they must focus on individual examples.
    Eighth: I think you are correct in your analysis of the erosion of spiritual faith which occurred historically as a result of people having held supernaturalistic views of the physical world which were then consistently damaged by each new discovery within science. God kept getting pushed back. I think this development is extremely complex, and its significance requires and entirely different thread of discussion. However, I will say that it has never been my impression that proponents of ID and certainly not myself, only see God in things which defy natural explanation. That is way too narrow a view of the philosophical thought behind ID. I read a great deal in the thinking of the movement, and never have that impression.
    Ninth: You may not feel the need to scientifically justify everything you believe ( I don’t either) but as someone who believes in TRUTH, you must feel some inner need to have the science you ascribe to and contribute to not fundamentally violate or contradict what you believe(?) This is aside from the question of ID which should not depend on belief. It should only work from the evidence. Either we can detect design, or we cannot. Anti-ID people hold that no, we cannot. they hold that view for many different reasons. If they are hard-line atheists, they hold it because they must. I am somewhat confused by your comparison of design detection to a fish detecting wetness. Consciousness, specifically human consciousness, has capabilities and limits. The limits are actually quite severe. However, one of the things our brains are capable of is noticing patterns, calculating probabilities, etc. Why can’t those capabilities be assigned to life? You surely do not object to design detection in every field, right? Archaeology, etc. where it is commonly used? Why only in the biological science which labors under the delusion of RM+NS?
    Finally: thank you once again for your exhaustive responses. I truly appreciate them.

  40. Hi Tina,

    I think we’ve established that I view the randomness of mutations the same way you view the randomness of coin tosses. Random to us, but without precluding God’s activity. If nothing else, that’s been some progress.

    Your points from two to five seem to be an extended rant: an attempt to conflate the theory of evolution with every evil in existence, and to argue that it’s impossible to accept a scientist’s science without also accepting their philosophy, which may include materialism. I don’t think it would be productive for me to respond to that in detail.

    “I think that you make a mistake if you think that the goal of ID is to argue ‘Here, look, this thing was designed. Here, look, here is another one’ No.”

    I’ll be surprised if I am mistaken on that.

    “THey are simply picking out individual examples like the bacterial flagellum, or the eye, or whatever, because these individual examples most clearly meet the criteria for design detection based on probability and irreducible complexity.”

    And yet even those examples fail to convince most scientists — it isn’t even convincing to most Christian scientists. If the best example we have of God’s design of the universe is the bacterial flagellum, then the case is hopelessly poor. That’s the trouble with looking for evidence of God in the wrong way and in the wrong places. Mainstream ID misses the forest for the trees — or the universe for the flagella. For Christians at least, it’s predicated on buying into scientism which says that natural science is the only way to discern truth, flatly contradicting what we read in Hebrews 11:1-3.

    “you must feel some inner need to have the science you ascribe to and contribute to not fundamentally violate or contradict what you believe(?)”

    It doesn’t. You’ve mistaken my acceptance of consensus science with my acceptance of some scientists’ philosophical views. It is those views that would contradict, not the science.

    “However, one of the things our brains are capable of is noticing patterns, calculating probabilities, etc. Why can’t those capabilities be assigned to life? You surely do not object to design detection in every field, right? Archaeology, etc. where it is commonly used?”

    As I said, “I believe the whole universe is designed, so isolating a component of it and attempting to show how it is more designed than the rest seems to me to miss the point. At best, it can detect proximate causes of design, such as natural forces or intelligent beings like humans.” So yes, I do think we can detect the patterns caused by natural forces and natural agents, such as humans. Trying to detect something that works within the whole is different than trying to detect the work of the One who made the whole. I believe that creation is cohesive enough that there’s no seams showing.

  41. Mercury: I certainly do not conflate science with every evil. I see the current state of some of the sciences as being a development from out of a oartucular type of evil in the human heart, namely materialism. The reverse is not true. Original sin IS the human arrogant desire to “know better” : in other words the intellectual search for knowledge overriding the spiritual connection to truth. Science PER SE is no problem . wonderful. I will never know how a person who views the creation as completely a product of God’s will can make statements like “if the best example we have of God’s design of the universe is the bacterial flagellum, then the case is hopelessly poor” You believe God designed it, don’t you? Even if that design takes the form of some ancient pre-ordination of future events through laws, or the opportunistic use of apparently chance events: it doesn’t matter. You think that God intended it. So why is it ‘hopelessly poor’ to see intent in such complexity? Also, you seem to imply that the majority of scientists would be convinced if the evidence were strong enough. That is also naive. It is the same kind of reasoning that atheistic Darwinists like Dawkins apply to the people who don’t ‘get it’ like they do. They constantly say things like ‘if they really understood science they wouldn’t believe in fairy tales like God’. You are saying the same thing : if they were real scientists, they would understand that you can’t detect design.

  42. Hi Tina,

    You asked: “I will never know how a person who views the creation as completely a product of God’s will can make statements like ‘if the best example we have of God’s design of the universe is the bacterial flagellum, then the case is hopelessly poor’ You believe God designed it, don’t you? … So why is it ‘hopelessly poor’ to see intent in such complexity?”

    I believe God designed all natural processes, including evolution. ID only sees design in the flagellum or other entities if they cannot be explained by natural processes, such as natural selection. It is “hopelessly poor” to limit God’s design to aspects of God’s design that defy God’s design.

    “Also, you seem to imply that the majority of scientists would be convinced if the evidence were strong enough.”

    Yes, and if not that, at least a majority of the Christian scientists would be. Neither has happened. Your Dawkins red herring doesn’t explain why most Christian scientists continue to stay away from ID.

    I think the reason is obvious, and this gets back to the opening post. There’s already a far more satisfying alternative for theists. Even Michael Behe admitted as much when he took the stand at Dover. During his testimony, he was presented with this quote from the National Academy of Sciences:

    “Many religious persons, including many scientists, hold that God created the universe and the various processes driving the physical and biological evolution, and that these processes then resulted in the creation of galaxies, our solar system, and life on Earth. This belief, which sometimes is termed ‘theistic evolution,’ is not in disagreement with scientific explanations of evolution.”

    Dr. Behe contrasted this view with his own view. “As a matter of fact I’m claiming quite less than what the National Academy says is consistent with scientific explanations of evolution, that is that God created, the universe, and the various processes driving physical and biological evolution. In this section I’m actually contrasting my view to those who argue for design saying that they think that the universe and its laws were designed. I’m saying that in fact a design that I’m proposing actually is a, is something that would require perhaps less of an ability of a designer.”

    It’s page 82 of his October 19 PM testimony, if you want to check it out.

    Anyway, on this I agree with him wholeheartedly. Intelligent design, as Dr. Behe sees it, requires quite a bit less of the unnamed designer than theistic evolution attributes to God. It’s “quite less than what the National Academy says is consistent with scientific explanations”. ID looks for a very modest designer, while TE affirms that God made the whole universe, endowing it with the properties necessary to bring forth what God desires. As a Christian, choosing between the two views is no contest.

  43. Hello Mercury. Interesting. It sounds to me like when Behe says he is talking about something that would require less of a designer, he means that if even this lesser thing were obviously designed, then so much more the greater and more fundamental things, such as the basic laws which set everything in motion, etc. I have read Darwin’s Black Box , and know from this that Behe holds an essentially theistic evolutionary position. He believes in a God very much like the one you describe: not that a lesser designer is overall responsible or implied by ID theory. I suppose in the end I would have to consider myself somewhat in agreement with the national academy statement. i certainly do not view the designer who is posited in ID as an engineer-like tinkerer. I think in theistic terms of a creator of all things, including the laws. But in your first paragraph you state “ID only sees design in the flagellum…if they cannot be explained by natural processes, such as natural selection.” I am not sure this is true. This would be a ‘god of the gaps’ and a silly view. I have never read such a view expressed in this form in any literature I have read within the ID movement. What is stated is that the creative intelligence responsible for the origin and development of life, (you call it God, some call them gods, others aliens) created in such a way that the creation bears witness to him/her/them/it. That is really all. they use the word designing intelligence, of course, because it is not possible to specify the nature of this intelligence in any kind of a scientific way. They freely admit that any such speculations belong in the realm of philosophy and religion. This is widely seen as a ploy or a dishonest dodging of the issue, but I see it as sincere. I can tell intuitively that while I might be able to detect from my study of nature that some sort of plan or intelligence is at work, I certainly would not be able to say much about this intelligence’s ultimate nature. I strongly agree with your final summation in which you say “…God made the whole universe, endowing it with the properties necessary to bring forth what God desires” I just disagree that ID does what you are saying it does: looking for a rather small tinkering designer. While Dembski is himself reticent about giving a lot of detail about his personal views, I just finished reading and article which was very anti-ID, in which Dembski’s view of creation was extraordinarily similar to the above definition you gave for theistic evolution. If not precisely the same vision. The only distinguishing thing is his conviction that it is possible to infer or detect in objective ways, this design or intent. THat sounds like the only difference. What is becoming clearer to me now, more than it was before our discussion, is the degree to which the TE scientists who are religious, oppose ID because they feel that it denigrates or limits God to claim that we can detect his work. This is really astounding to me, because my whole being cries out that the work of some purposeful process brought life into being. It sounds like a far greater denigration to me to claim that no matter where you look, you will never be able to detect this work, because everything you see can be explained as a result of chance. This is what darwinian evolution holds, and it just really seems to me that the TE who think in a way similar to you, are able to harmonize with this view through the trick of saying you believe in chance, but then saying “its not really chance”. This feels sticky to me. If its chance its chance. If not, then not.

  44. Hello Mercury. The internet must not be as small a place as it looks–I keep running into you! ;) I don’t want to interject in your dialogue with Tina too much, but said something a few posts back I wanted to comment on.

    You said, “For an IDist, it seems that God may work in nature, but if he does so, one must be able to scientifically detect his interventions. For a TE, God does work in nature, and it’s not necessary for him to break the rules he set in place for him to do so. God can work within nature or above nature.”

    The first statement is subtly false. It is not that the IDist believes that if God intervenes in nature, one must be able to scientifically detect his interventions. It is that the IDist (if he interprets the designer in question as God) believes that–in a specific case–God has intervened in nature and moreover we can detect it.

    Here’s an analogy. Consider the movie The Lion King. The story and the world it takes place in were created by writers, producers, and artists at Disney. It is impossible to separate the design of the characters and the story and the world from each other–is Simba the way he is because of how the story goes, or does the story go how it does because of who Simba is? Neither, really; the whole thing was conceived by some writer, and all of it goes exactly as he wants it to. He created the whole, and it is what it is, and all of the pieces are what he wanted them to be.

    But…

    There’s this one frame–well known because it caused quite a kerfuffle–in which Simba flops down and some dust flies up, and in the dust, for a single frame, you can make out the word SEX (or maybe SFX…). (See here – http://www.snopes.com/disney/films/lionking.htm ). Now, the world of the Lion King is supposed to resemble ours, and it hasn’t been particularly revealed to be one in which clouds of dust form letters. And when we look at that cloud of dust, we say to ourselves, “Someone did that.” What do we mean someone did it? Design **pervades** the film–the whole world was conceived by someone! Yes, but above and beyond that, someone specially inserted that part. The Special Effects team perhaps wanted to declare their existence in the film.

    So, too, we both know that the world (like the film), with all its laws, all its initial conditions, all of its characters and complex stories were conceived by God to do exactly what he wanted them to do. He created it, and it all serves him. But we also know (have recorded) that he sometimes directly intervenes, above and beyond those laws, making himself known (like the special effects department).

    The distinguishing characteristic of the theist-ID-ist is that he believes, above and beyond God’s use of the laws, his direct and conspicuous intervention *has* *detectibly* *occured*. Not that it theologically must, nor that it cannot occur undedectibly, nor that it could not have not occured. Only that it has. This is a scientific, historical position.

    Incidentally, the example addresses another of your objections–that of a fish trying to detect wetness in water. The fact that design pervades The Lion King does not prevent us from detecting specific design in part of one frame. Nor does the fact that design pervades the universe prevent us from detecting specific design in parts of it. I once created a video game–its physics, its bad guys, its powerups, all had their origins in my mind. And once, while playing that game, I controlled the avatar in such a way that I made (design!) several of the bad guys line up so I could shoot them all at once. And once I modified a level so that six of the guys showed up in a perfect hexagon. I took delight in designing the system, in designing within the freedom the laws of the system allowed, and in designing miraculously, in spite of the laws I originally designed. All for different reasons. (All, incidentally, modes of design I believe God enjoys with the universe.)

    True, it may be have been the hardest design and most worthy of praise, had God designed the universe to run from scratch. But this is as narrowminded as saying it would have been the hardest design to have created a video game that ran from the get-go to accomplish what I wanted, without my intervention and tinkering. I suppose I could have done that, but I wasn’t trying to solve a hard problem. Yes, I was party trying to solve a hard problem and showcase my abilities as a designer, but I also wanted a system I could interact with (a fun game to play!!), and I wanted to interact–as the designer–with those who would eventually play it!

    Is the universe made to challenge and demonstrate God’s abilities as a designer, or is it to showcase his nature to mankind? That is, of course, a complex question–it can (and almost certainly does) have many purposes. But undoubtably one of them is to cause us to know and praise him–and to praise what he has done, we must first be able to detect that he has done it. It is therefore entirely reasonable that God would–in some cases–choose revealing his nature to us as a higher priority than designing a system that is merely harder to design.

    That’s what miracles are.

    Jesus didn’t *have* to turn five loaves and two fishes into enough food to feed five thousand. In fact, that’s a much less demanding solution as a designer than if he had engineered the universe so that the five thousand who followed him all happened to have food on hand (and bring it) when they left to follow him. Doing the math to get that into the fundamental characteristics of the universe at the big bang would have put to *shame* simply creating the bread on the spot. It would have been a much more impressive feat, indicitave of a much greater mind. It would also have gone completely unnoticed by the crowd, and would of course have taught them (and us) nothing about Jesus as the son of God, let alone about Jesus as the giver of bread.

    I am convinced–as you are–that God can and does act through the natural laws he has created. The universe’s laws are not things that supercede his power, but things that serve him, and were created by him to accomplish what he intended. I am also convinced–as are you–that God can and does act outside those laws in miraculous, conspicuous ways. I am also convinced–unlike you (I think)–that in creation, God *has* acted in miraculous, conspicuous detectable ways. This last point is scientifically driven, not theologically driven, and what differentiates me as an ID-ist from you as a TE-ist.

    Simply put, in certain cases–such as the origin of life–I am convinced that design (and I interpret it to be God’s, but it doesn’t have to be) is conspicuously, rigorously, and demonstrably non-naturally present. That is what it means to make a design inference in such a case.

  45. We went, what, seven rounds over “random”. I’m not going another seven over “chance”. lol

    Take care, Tina. I enjoyed the conversation.

  46. Hi Darrow. Where have we met before?

    You wrote: “It is not that the IDist believes that if God intervenes in nature, one must be able to scientifically detect his interventions. It is that the IDist (if he interprets the designer in question as God) believes that–in a specific case–God has intervened in nature and moreover we can detect it.”

    Okay, that makes sense. One difference is that TE is a theological position built upon acceptance of consensus science, while an ID proponent would describe ID as an alternate scientific view. So, ID does not really make any claims about God (or the Designer) outside of the few cases where they argue that the design is detectable. Certainly an ID proponent can have a more robust theological outlook that goes beyond ID. Hopefully they do, because ID in and of itself is quite vacuous as far as what it claims of the Creator (erm, Designer).

    As for your Lion King analogy, I think it’s quite useful, but I’m sure I still see it dramatically different than you do. To me, what it demonstrates is that places where the Designer goofs or chooses to “break the fourth wall” — where a seam is showing — is all that ID can detect. Such instances may show up in an animated movie, but I doubt they’re present in the creation of various aspects of our universe. I think the chances are virtually nil that they’re present where the popular ID movement seems focused on looking.

    “But we also know (have recorded) that he sometimes directly intervenes, above and beyond those laws, making himself known (like the special effects department).”

    But ID does not look for design where God has revealed that he directly intervened. I think that’s a crucial difference.

    “The distinguishing characteristic of the theist-ID-ist is that he believes, above and beyond God’s use of the laws, his direct and conspicuous intervention *has* *detectibly* *occured*.”

    Yes, and I’d say that the incarnation was one of those events, while the emergence of tails on bacteria was not.

    “True, it may be have been the hardest design and most worthy of praise, had God designed the universe to run from scratch. But this is as narrowminded as saying it would have been the hardest design to have created a video game that ran from the get-go to accomplish what I wanted, without my intervention and tinkering.”

    I understand your point. As I’ve said consistently in this thread, I don’t rule out God’s intervention anywhere, though I think it’s more likely some places than others. I’m not confident that the ID movement has detected moments of God’s intervention, because if they had, and if God wanted it to be detectable, I think the evidence would be far more compelling to those not already convinced (including to TEs like myself).

    “It is therefore entirely reasonable that God would–in some cases–choose revealing his nature to us as a higher priority than designing a system that is merely harder to design.”

    I don’t expect that it was a priority for God to reveal his nature in ways that would only be discernable come the 21st century. All those years of requiring faith, and suddenly here’s the proof? Possible, but I doubt it.

  47. A final word to Mercury: Thanks again for the dialogue. It was interesting to read Darrow’s post after all of our discussion because he ended up affirming some of your original criticisms of ID, such as the idea that instances of design really ARE particular places in which God or the designer directly intervenes to “tweak” things. I am not in agreement with this view, and I do not think it is by any means a consensus. I do see that as being a kind of engineer/tinkerer vision of God, one which doesn’t really make sense because the flagellum and other extremely complex biological subsystems are really just stand-outs which have been chosen for their illustrative power, while Behe is quite specific about insisting that even a single cell of any organism, is so vastly complex that it bears witness to having come about as a result of intent and design. My sense is that the narrower view expressed by Darrow, which sounds just like the mocking description I used in a previous post “Here is something that is designed. Here is another one” is not consensus or intrinsic to ID. I keep thinking of an analogy when it comes to this whole debate which might clarify my support of the ID movement. If you picture a church, say a Catholic church, and all these people are sitting in the pews praying the prayers, etc. Maybe you learned about Catholicism in a book and when you look out over the congregation, you feel you have some sense about what all of these worshippers believe. What they are supposed to believe anyway! But I suspect that if you were to interview them individually, you might find some startling differences inthe ways in which they interpret their faith, giving emphasis to different aspects, even believing unorthodoxies if it suits them, but doing so quietly and without disturbing the harmony of the church…I know this from experience because I used to be a CAtholic! Anyway, I think the situation is an apt analogy to the differences in both ID and TE and materialistic Darwinism. There is the set of things which the movement is “officially” about. Then there is the individual thinking on all of the subtlties. That is why I quoted another poster earlier when he said humorously “the real food fight begins after Darwinism is defeated” All of the things we have been discussing are really stretching into the realm of theology and philosophy which from my perspective is great, but from the perspective of both ID and the neo-Darwinian synthesis, is unnecessary and unscientific. I have a far greater appreciation for your view of the world, which I now understand as being motivated by the ‘seamlessness’ of the whole work of creation and an aversion to picking out bits and parts as this is diminishing of God. I guess in the end, when stated this way, I share such an aversion as well, ascribing to a far different view than Darrow. But to return to my analogy, like the Catholic who continues to go to church even though he doesn’t personally believe that contraception is wrong ( or whatever) but holds firmly to much of the church’s teachings, I support ID because although the substance of what many co-supporters actually believe may be wrong in my view, I think the core, explicitly stated view that it is possible to detect design in nature, is absolutely correct and more in accord with my intuition and my faith. This does not amount to a rejection of science. It has been an enjoyable discussion. Thanks.

  48. I posted a comment (17) a couple of days ago and forgot to check back so I’ll respond now, if anybody’s still watching this thread…:

    Tina,

    I agree that there is a random component in evolution. At each genetic locus there is a probability of an error in transcription or translation. That probability can be affect by a variety of factors. The distinction between macroevolution and microevolution is subjective. The same stochastic element is present in each, as is the directed selection on the product of such a random process. I am not sure why you state that the random element is controversial…

    The point I was making was that the process as a whole is non-random due to mainly directional selection. The stochastic mutation rate is an assumed background process which is secondary (although essential) to selection. However, I am curious as to where the evidence for a designer’s role in mutations comes from, since it does not seem to me to be either religious or scientific. I am interested to see that you refer to an evolutionary viewpoint as “darwinian”. This kind of idea is certainly not mainstream science (which may be implied by the term “darwinian”), but since Darwin knew nothing of genetics, it is possible that he may have considered this kind of mechanism for the generation of novel phenotypes.

    …and now another response…

    DS,

    Actually, the opinion about the soul was expressed by a friend of mine on the topic of continuity between man and the rest of nature. I don’t personally believe in souls. I think that the observed behaviours which most people equate with the possession of a soul can be explained as an emergent property of cognitive phylogeny. In fact, I am curious as to your reasons for believing that some humans do not have souls. If one were to suppose that the presence of a soul could be determined by observation of an animal’s behaviour (including humans) then one opens oneself up to the same potential pitfall as the author of the elephant emotion article you highlighted. My quote below makes a very relevant point on this subject.

    As for the elephants, I’m afraid that, although I find the concept intriguing, there is little evidence beyond the anthropomorphism of a long-term researcher. The memory of elephants is well substantiated and relatively well understood (they have a large neopallium). However, evidence of theory of mind is still very inconclusive (Nissani, (2004) in “Comparative Vertebrate Cognition: Are Primates Superior to Non-Primates?” Edited by Lesley J. Rogers and Gisela Kaplan. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, January 2004). Irwin Bernstein, a primatologist, authored a paper on the study of behaviour in which he was far more realistic than Sheldrick about the limitations of observational deductions. His abstract reads like this:

    “Tinbergen defined structure as the momentary condition of an organism. Inference, interpretation, and theory were reserved for answering the “why” questions. Mason, however, observed that the study of behavior is incorrigibly mentalistic. Description seems barren compared to the richness supplied by creative intelligence. Exciting intervening variables such as learning, intention, and selective pressures can only be examined using inference, logic, and powerful deductive theories. For more than 100 years people have argued the two extremes: should science be restricted to the directly observable, or expanded to include what professional judgment could provide? I have devoted my life to the study of aggression and dominance, yet I have directly observed neither. I point to some behavior as an example of aggression, but I cannot provide an operational definition of what I mean. I will never know if another intends harm. I will never know if another is aware of the functions that behavior serves, and the outcomes that I confuse with past selective pressures and motivation. In a world where our subjects face extinction, perhaps it is wise to use computer simulations, to ask colleagues to rate their impressions, and to use logic to deduce behavior. The new “data” may be very useful. Still, I will miss actually watching what animals really do, even if I always describe it in terms of what I infer.” (Bernstein I.S. (1998) The study of things I have never seen, Am J Primatol, 60 (3): 77-84)

    My personal view is probably closer to the former extreme that Bernstein mentions: that subjective inferences should be at least a lower class of data, if not entirely disregarded. Perhaps you disagree… However, there is perhaps more use in protraying elephants as being emotional in that human beings are more likely to contribute to the welfare of a creature with whom they have more in common. This is likely the purpose of the publication of the article. It seems less about conveying facts and more about evoking a response,

    Best wishes,

    Chris

  49. Sabre,

    I’m not sure if anybody is still following the post, but I missed a comment by Sabre during my responses. Your analogy of rainfall is interesting and has relevance. Rain can fall randomly on a hillside (mutations), but those drops will be channeled by imperfections on the surface of the hill (selective pressures). Thus, rather than each rain drop having the potential to strike the foot of the hill at any point (as would be the case in an entirely random system), there are only a limited number of points which can be predicted from the location of the drop on the hill and the contours of the slope. The process is, therefore, not entirely random.

    Chris

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