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Letter from Darrel Falk

Below is a letter to me by Darrel Falk, a biologist on the faculty at Point Loma Nazarene University. Darrel and I have known each other for several years, and even though our views on ID diverge, we respect each other. The letter here is in response to my recent blog entry at UD on Ken Miller and Francis Collins’s possible openness to ID at the origin of life (go here). Note that Francis Collins wrote the foreword to Darrel’s book Coming to Faith with Science: Bridging the Worlds Between Faith and Biology, a book for which I also wrote an endorsement (although I have my differences with the book, I think it is one we need to engage).

In giving me permission to post this letter, Darrel remarked, “I have always greatly admired your sincerity. I have sensed a number of times how much you really want ID to be a true scientific force and not just a political force. Most recently this was clearly (and sincerely) evident in your statements in the Phillip Johnson Festschrift [i.e., Darwin’s Nemesis]. I believe you really have a vision that Intelligent Design should be of the highest quality biology. It is with that in mind that I hope you (and those who read your blog) will take my comments in the form of constructive criticism. I hope that people within the movement don’t become defensive, but will simply ask the question, ‘Does Falk have a point worth considering?’” To this he added, “I personally hope that Intelligent Design will evolve into a force that partners with science rather than a force which opposes it. If it would do that, I believe its influence would live on in ways that extend beyond the positive things it has already done.”

Here, then, is the letter (unedited; the ellipses were there in the original). I’ve interspersed comments in backets using boldface.

======================

Hi Bill,

I am responding to your blog entry of last evening in which you ask the question of whether people like Francis Collins and Ken Miller are ID as it relates to origin of life. The same question could be asked of many people who take the theistic evolution stance and who extend God’s involvement to all of creation: including myself, in Coming to Peace with Science, and the position espoused so eloquently by Ted Peters and Martinez Hewlett in Evolution from Creation to New Creation. There are many people who believe that God is not ever removed from creation, and thereby believe that the history of the creation of life is a manifestation of God’s design. Those people believe in intelligent design, but have significant concerns about elements of Intelligent Design.

[I’m not convinced that having two versions of ID, one writ small and the other writ large with initial letters underscored is all that helpful. It seems that ID has now staked out a clear position, being defined as the study of patterns in nature, and especially in biology, that are best explained as the result of intelligence. Detectability of design is therefore built into this definition. The writ large version is now the standard version of ID. To write it in this peculiar way suggests that it is a strange or marginal version, which it is not. This way of writing it seems to me no different from putting scare quotes around the term. As for intelligent design writ small, it obviously conveys that there is some purpose behind any thing to which the term “intelligent design” is applied. As a theological or metaphysical predicate, this usage is meaningful. But it seems to me no different from any number of other predicates that bespeak purpose. How is “X is intelligently design” in the writ-small sense, any different from “X was intended,” or “X was conceived by a mind” or “X is the product of a wise God” or “X is the result of a telic process”? Until intelligent design in the writ-small sense is given some definite scientific content, it seems to me that this alternate use of the term confuses rather than clarifies.]

Intelligent Design has had an important influence on science. Increasingly, I believe, the world of science has come to see that it reached outside of its bounds in a way that is espoused most clearly, I believe, by Michael Ruse (e.g. “My analysis is that we have no simple clash between religion and science but between two religions.” The Evolution Creation Struggle, 2005). From this day onward, the scientific establishment is going to be much more careful about statements regarding life arising by “blind chance.” Increasingly, thanks to Intelligent Design, the scientific establishment is becoming aware that many of its leading spokespersons moved from beyond science into a form of religion. This has been a most important correction to how the normal science (in the sense articulated by Thomas Kuhn) is done. Consider, for example, the closing words of The Plausibility of Life by Marc Kirschner and John Gerhart: “The question of faith remains…” Were it not for the ID movement, these leading scientists, writing one of the most important mainstream biology books of the past twenty-five years, would never have closed their book with such an admission. That shift in how normal science is done in evolutionary biology needed to occur and for that we who are believers (regardless of our perspective regarding the ID movement), all have you to thank.

[Thanks, Darrel, for highlighting ID’s role in keeping science honest. As for the Kirschner and Gerhart book, I don’t hold it in quite as high regard as you do. See the following UD blog entry where the book was briefly addressed: http://www.uncommondescent.com/index.php/archives/415. Their theory of facilitated variation depends on various modules of genes working in concert to radically change organisms. But whence organisms with such modules that facilitate their evolution? And what is the evidence that such modules, when appropriately modified, will induce macroevolutionary changes? It seems to me that Kirschner and Gerhart leave too many vital questions unanswered for their book to be a real contender as the key to a new general evolutionary biology.]

However, Intelligent Design does not stop there. It calls into question the basic rules by which science has operated for the last 150 years. It calls upon science to include in its hypotheses the existence of the supernatural. This is a call to redefine science and to make it into a discipline that includes not just a study of the natural, but the supernatural as well. It calls not just for a correction in how normal science is done…what it calls for is a paradigm shift (a la Thomas Kuhn) that would now include the search for divine activity using the tools of science. This makes belief in Intelligent Design a whole different ballgame than belief in intelligent design.

[I would agree that intelligent design writ large is a different ballgame from intelligent design writ small, but not because it fundamentally violates science. Rather, it is a different ball game because it genuinely is trying to make design a part of the natural sciences whereas intelligent design writ small is content to reside in the realm of theology and metaphysics. The conflation of ID with supernaturalism is inappropriate. What’s at issue is the nature of nature. Is nature the sort of place where telic organizing principles can operate? That’s all ID requires. It does not require supernatural designers who operate outside nature. Intelligence can be a PERFECTLY NATURAL aspect of the physical world. Where ID runs into problems is with a materialistic and reductionist understanding of science. Such an understanding was never written in stone. It is historically contingent, and the ID community argues that there is no reason to retain it. I’ve addressed the fact that ID is not a supernaturalist theory in my book THE DESIGN REVOLUTION, devoting a chapter to it. You can also read about this in my expert witness rebuttal report to the Dover case here, section 2.3 on “methodological materialism.”]

Now I come to my most important point. Intelligent Design makes the claim that irreducibly complex structures in biology lead to “the resulting realization that life was designed by an intelligence.” (Darwin’s Black Box). At this point the movement begins to address the field of biology on its own terms. It searches the scientific literature and concludes, for example: “We can look high or we can look low, in books or in journals, but the result is the same. The scientific literature has no answers to the question of the origin of the immune system.” (Darwin’s Black Box). Whether this was true ten years ago is certainly up for debate. However, a recent review of the origin of the immune system lists 160 articles in its bibliography (see Reconstructing Immune Phylogeny: New Perspectives, Nature Reviews/ Immunology 5:866-879, 2005). Despite this the Afterword of the tenth anniversary edition of Darwin’s Black Box concludes: “The papers I cite here on the cilium, flagellum, blood clotting and immune systems are the best work by Darwinists on the origin of complex molecular machinery available since 1996 in the science literature.”

Only one paper on the immune system was cited and none of the 160 papers discussed in the above review of the origin of the immune system were cited. Bill, that is not the way that good science has ever proceeded. In science, we give very careful analysis to the arguments of the other side. We discuss the papers, explaining what we agree with about them and what we think is still lacking… and we do so in detail. However, we don’t ignore them. ID is simply not proceeding a manner that is consistent with how good science is done.

[Darrel, good science also does not proceed by data dumping, simply citing lots and lots of papers, as though sheer numbers can establish an otherwise unsupported claim. Behe’s addressed your point in his response to the Dover trial (go here). At the trial, in parallel with your 160 journal articles, the ACLU attorney dumped in front of Behe 58 peer-reviewed publications, 9 books and several immunology textbook chapters on the evolution of the immune system. Behe’s main point in response was this: “The Court here speaks of ‘evidence for evolution.’ Throughout the trial I carefully distinguished between the various meanings of the word ‘evolution,’ and I made it abundantly clear that I was challenging Darwin’s proposed mechanism of random mutation coupled to natural selection. Unfortunately, the Court here, as in many other places in its opinion, ignores the distinction between evolution and Darwinism. I said in my testimony that the studies may have been fine as far as they went, but that they certainly did not present detailed, rigorous explanations for the evolution of the immune system by random mutation and natural selection -- if they had, that knowledge would be reflected in more recent studies that I had had a chance to read.” Darrel, it’s a question or relevance and what these studies prove. Yes, there seems good evidence that the immune system evolved. But did it happen through an unguided materialistic process (e.g., the Darwinian mechanism)? Or is there evidence of design working through this evolutionary process?]

So do people like Francis Collins, Ken Miller and Simon Conway Morris… some of the leading scientists in the world today (and they are believers!!) subscribe to intelligent design? Absolutely. However, Intelligent Design goes well beyond a belief in intelligent design. It has come to be synonymous with a call for the upheaval of science…. for a divorce between Christianity and science. I’m all for a divorce if the call was coming from carefully laid out biological arguments from people who really understand biology. However, that is not the case.

[Darrel, the divorce we are talking about is between Christianity and an ideologically charged materialistic conception of science that stunts inquiry into the full range of causal powers that may be operating in nature. It’s a divorce between science falsely so-called and Christianity. Science without the metaphysical baggage of materialism is not being challenged. Nor is ID guaranteed to succeed once this baggage is jettisoned. It may be, once design is allowed on the playing field of science, that the evidence of biology will not demonsrate design -- the methods of design detection that ID theorists have proposed do not guarantee that design will be found. As for your charge that ID proponents are not carefully laying out biological arguments and do not really understand the biology, this seems to me unfair and mistaken. Steve Meyer’s 2004 article titled “The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories” in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington was peer-reviewed. You can find it here. Meyer understands as well as anyone the application of information theory to genetics. His piece, it seems to me, is a counteraxample to your claim. And there are many such counterexamples.]

I wish that the Movement could shift gears now … that it would stop its anti-scientific rhetoric until (or unless) it has real scientific data to support its cause. Truth wins out in the end and I am absolutely convinced that mainstream science is simply discovering how God has worked in creation. The Plausibility of Life is a magnificent book for a believer to read, as is Endless Forms Most Beautiful by Sean Carroll. I wish we could celebrate and worship in the light of what they reveal about God’s creation … recognizing nonetheless that God has likely worked through processes so subtle that we’ll never be able to pull out that which God has done, independent of God’s own natural laws, and be able to prove this supernatural activity to the world at large.

[No, the rhetoric, rather, is against a certain materialistic construal of science -- see the last comment. It seems that you are happy for God to work undetected through material processes that give no evidence and exhibit no need of his activity. That may be the way God acts, but how could we know it? And how could be know whether God or some designing intelligence has acted detectably? You have your own predilections here, preferring a God a who works so subtlely that “we’ll never be able to pull out that which God has done.” In place of your wish, let me therefore offer another: I wish theistic evolutionists like you and Ken Miller and Francis Collins would shift gears now and stop dismissing the evidence of design in biology because you prefer a designer God who acts undetectably.]

Again, I want to thank you for the fact that you really have impacted the world of science in a way that will live on long after we have both moved on to a better place.

In Friendship,

Darrel

P.S. I recently expressed some of this in some talks I have given in Australia. If word gets back to you that I’ve been hard on the ID movement, please know that my concerns are no different than those which I outline above.

[Yes, a contact in Australia informed of the hard line on ID that you took there -- it’s a small world after all. Thanks for your letter and for being willing to share it.]

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47 Responses to Letter from Darrel Falk

  1. “Only one paper on the immune system was cited and none of the 160 papers discussed in the above review of the origin of the immune system were cited. Bill, that is not the way that good science has ever proceeded.”

    Break…. OK. Personally, I feel Dr. Behe could reference a FEW. But, where does this lead from in the past?

    “In science, we give very careful analysis to the arguments of the other side.”

    Where!?! Pardon me I do not know Dr. Falk. He approached this issue in a civil manner from what I see in this letter. However, why do Editors allow criticism of ID in their journals yet will not allow a paper on it? Thus Dr. Falk bypasses this feature of “fair play” among scientist. How is this not yellow journalism from a scientific publication? Allow Behe, Dembski, others to publish with peer review, then “give very careful analysis…” Unforunately, these sacred science mags only allow one view.

    “We discuss the papers, explaining what we agree with about them and what we think is still lacking… and we do so in detail. However, we don’t ignore them. ID is simply not proceeding a manner that is consistent with how good science is done.”

    And you think Nature, Science, and all the others are “proceeding (in) a manner that is consistent with how good science is done?” They rudely condemn ID in their journals with cutting remarks and putdowns, only contempt. Then, they do not allow a paper to be published. At once they can proclaim it not science because of failure to publish, and at second, they can criticize within a safe foothold on top of the hill.

    Papers have been published for ID – at the hardest, but not due to lack of credibility on the authors part. Instead, the Editors in their bias refuse legitimate work to be reviewed. Thus creating a false reality to a larger public, and much maligned and ignorant media today, misleading instead of informing, debating and critiqueing openly the merits of what such a paper would highlight and propose.

    Nature, Science and SciAm take pokes and allow satirical comments by scientist against ID proponents – YET WILL NOT ID papers to appear. I might have “some” sympathy for such statements by the professional scientist who preen feathers of jovial brotherhood like Dr. Falk if he were equally magnanimous with such critism of said journals..

    It is amazing how one simply states “they’re a believer too” and yet be blind to the mistreatment of scientist like Behe, et al., who are ridiculed openly without any opportuntiy in the same magazines.

    The “good science” that I’ve seen is the continued abuse of power by current magazines to oppress any peer review paper into their journals on such subjects, YET THEY ALLOW critical commentary of same.

    This is tantamount to the NYT keeping records of their reporters internet connectivity, invading their privacy, not telling them, and then crying foul against all others who practice the same management of resources.

    The day Dr. Falk will write such a concerned letter to these “esteemed” editors – purveyors of truth, question their morals in allowing such unbalanced behavior, then and only then will I be impressed with his balanced views and claims of kinship in faith.

    It takes much more courage to lift up a brother in faith against such abuse, than joining the onslaught of tomato throwers from the peanut gallery.

    Not only has ID put in check obvious overstatements of evolutionary science, its forging ahead with a new revolution. The kaboose lags behind in the valley as usual while the little engine that could, is rounding the bend, moving up the mountain.

    I would point Dr. Falk to the study by MicroSoft for the year 2020 on medicine, biology, etc., in how science will proceed in the use of computers, engineering and physics to unlock the code of life.

  2. I’ve always been of the position that theistic evolutionists believe in ID. How could they not? They believe either that God stacked the deck and evolution played out according to a plan or that God intervened along the way to bring about a plan. This is totally consistent with ID. ID merely claims that there’s detectable evidence of planning. Only intelligent agency plans ahead and some things, some patterns, which are easy for an intelligence to conceptualize then realize are virtually impossible without conceptualization and planning before execution. As near as I can tell the theistic evolutionists are just afraid to admit that ID is compatible with their beliefs because they’ll be looked down upon by their peers as supporing something that’s bad for science. The irony is that if ID is correct then working against its acceptance is what’s really bad for science.

  3. I have a lot of trouble even understanding the devotion of theistic evolutionists to the notion that the designer’s handiwork is undetectable. I can fully understand materialism (although I have no sympathy for it) and I can understand creationism (although I have little sympathy for it). But I just can’t get my mind around this sacred devotion to undetectability. In my interactions with certain highly educated and intelligent people, I have noticed that there is a frank kind of embarassment or shame which they feel whenever they are confronted with sincere, uncompromising religiosity. Its the same type of horror we would (appropriately) feel if we were in a social group and someone used an offensive racist epithet. Its like “Oh no. this person is backward. They don’t get it.” Tragically, the people working so diligently to conjoin ID with creationism in the public mind have succeeded in provoking this response in many people. What confounds me is the fact that openly religious people, like the theistic evolutionists, should not have this response at all. Its almost like they have it, but then bury it deep inside, where no one can see, and are able to maintain this dissonance through devotion to undetectability.

  4. Bill Dembski writes:

    “It seems that ID has now staked out a clear position, being defined as the study of patterns in nature, and especially in biology, that are best explained as the result of intelligence. Detectability of design is therefore built into this definition. The writ large version is now the standard version of ID.”

    DaveScot responds:
    “I’ve always been of the position that theistic evolutionists believe in ID.”

    This strikes me as somehow confused. On Bill’s construal of ID, its defining characteristic is detectability, i.e., whether patterns of nature evidence intelligent agency (whether conceived as fully natural or not). By detectability, I gather, Bill means detectable by means of observational (scientific) data. So, if you don’t think that these observed patterns are in fact best explained as resulting from intelligence, then you do not subscribe to ID. One may, on Bill’s construal of intelligent design, conclude on grounds other than science (derived, say, from classic natural theology or from a Biblical theology) that there is intelligent agency directing the course of natural development. In that case, you should not be considered a proponent of ID. Right? So, ID entails id, but id does not commit one to ID. ID is not quite so bit a tent as DaveScot supposes.

    I’m puzzled by one other comment Bill makes. We can grant that intelligence may be a natural phenomenon — ID leaves this an open question. But, I wonder whether it makes sense to speak of telic organizing principles that do not have their origins in an intelligent agent. Your comment suggests that ID has room for a non-agential “intelligence,” a telic organizing principle of nature (as the best explanation for these patterns).

    Thanks for engaging this.

  5. I’ve never quite understood (and it sounds like Dr. Falk has the same problem) how it is that ID advocates move from saying something like “The conflation of ID with supernaturalism is inappropriate. What’s at issue is the nature of nature. Is nature the sort of place where telic organizing principles can operate? That’s all ID requires. It does not require supernatural designers who operate outside nature. Intelligence can be a PERFECTLY NATURAL aspect of the physical world.” to saying “I wish theistic evolutionists like you and Ken Miller and Francis Collins would shift gears now and stop dismissing the evidence of design in biology because you prefer a designer God who acts undetectably.”

    Clearly, even if it is theoretically acceptible that life on earth were the result of intelligent design by some physical, alien species not unlike ourselves except for their advanced state of technology 3.5 billion years ago, that would do nothing to solve the ‘origins’ debate. Unless one is to assert that it is ‘turtles all the way down’ to use Hawking’s phrase.

    Clearly, at some point, whether directly or indirectly, life finds its origin either in creation by an eternal being or in spontaneous generation by the universe itself. And if it was created by some sort of being, than either it was done is such a way as to leave scientifically detectible proof of that creation, or it wasn’t.

    So why the insistance ID does not bring the supernatural in, when it at some point must?

    Clearly, even if it is theoretically acceptible that life on earth were the result of intelligent design by some physical, alien species not unlike ourselves except for their advanced state of technology 3.5 billion years ago, that would do nothing to solve the ‘origins’ debate. Unless one is to assert that it is ‘turtles all the way down’ to use Hawking’s phrase.

    There’s no guarantee the debate *CAN* be resolved. Enough evidence to determine our origins may simply not exist. One follows the evidence wherever it leads. Sometimes it leads to a dead end. For instance, it appears there’s no way of knowing where or how a gravitational singularity from which the big bang started came to exist. Similarly, we don’t know how big the universe is – we only know the size of the portion of it we can see and there doesn’t appear to be any way to see beyond that. We don’t discount our best cosmological theories because they lead to unanswerable questions. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles. Your objection is basically the “who designed the designer” question and it does nothing to argue against the possibility that the designer of our form of life might not be a first cause for its own existence – it can be the cause of our existence. This is talked about in the moderation policy, by the way. It’s a no-no here to bring up the tired old “who designed the designer” argument. Maybe you better go read that policy all the way through before you get banned for failing to heed it. -ds

  6. Tinabrewer,

    It’s probably important to make a distinction between asserting complete undetectability (i.e. “we have no rational reason for believing God to exist, but we have faith that he does”) versus asserting that while the ‘thumbprint’ of a creator may not be scientifically detectable in individual objects or systems, his hand is clearly visible in the overall structure of the universe. The latter is more a philosophical/metaphysical judgement than a scientific one — and in some ways it is more in keeping with the proofs for the existence of God made throughout the first 1500 years of Christianity.

    Stephen M Barr wrote an article taking this position in First Things back in February, which is very much worth reading.

  7. tinabrewer writes (comment #3):

    “I have a lot of trouble even understanding the devotion of theistic evolutionists to the notion that the designer’s handiwork is undetectable.”

    Out of an interest in clarity: Does belief that intelligent agency is detectable (in principle, given the right sort of evidence) at the heart of ID, or does ID require belief that intelligent agency has been (pretty decisively) detected? The comment above suggests that those who look at the evidence cited by Dembski, et. al., but find it wanting, do so because they ascribe to the (in principle) undetectability of intelligent agency. One could (I do) regard intelligent agency as detectable (set aside the questions of whether or not this counts as science), and indeed believe that there are cases where intelligent agency constitutes the best explanation for particular phenomena or events (say throughout salvation history), while remaining unconvinced by the evidence cited in the ID literature. This does not strike me as quite so pathological as tinabrewer suggests.

  8. Thank you, WmAD! How thankful I am for ID in all its unappeasable Capital Letter Glory! Should we stray into the nether realms of philosophy and theology I’m sure we’d all find much on which we could disagree. But how can anyone fault anything with the trunk of the ID tree (as just outlined above)? Far from posing a threat to science, ID is the antidote that will save science from the postmodernist malaise now seeping in on all sides.

    I am thankful that all the leading proponents of ID, whatever their theological differences, are so beautifully perceptive of the science. They refuse to water down or compromise or entwine the central thesis with peripheral issues (such as the age of the cosmos or the secularist credentials of theistic elites).

    Yes, ours is a political battle. But if the science is flawed, if ID gets entangled in sectarian food fights, or if as Darrel recommends it capitulates to a claim that claims nothing, then ID is finished. Why? Because intellectuals WANT to believe in Darwin and ID wins only if it’s honest and the world doesn’t become totally incorrigible.

    Tina rightly exclaims: “But I just can’t get my mind around this sacred devotion to undetectability.” Me thinks it smells to high heaven of cowardice and compromise.

    And Michaels7 perceptively notes: “It is amazing how one simply states ‘they’re a believer too’ and yet be blind to the mistreatment of scientist like Behe, et al., who are ridiculed openly without any opportuntiy [to respond] in the same magazines.” If the science were all on their side, why would they not welcome the challenge?

  9. On Undetectability (from Darrel Falk)

    Please understand that it is not that I am “devoted to undetectability.” Rather, as a biologist, the arguments that I have seen put forward by ID biologists are not strong biological arguments. At least that’s how I see it, although I am aware, respectfully, that most readers will disagree with that statement.

    It is also important to emphasize that “undetectable” becomes very detectable once we put on Calvin’s “faith spectacles.” As a believer, God’s hand in creation in marvelously detectable, and all believers fall facedown in worship in the detectable Presence of God. The question is how do we come to detect that Presence? Can the Presence be detected through the tools of science? With that, I have two questions in my mind:

    1. Have the ID biologists been successful at demonstrating where God’s hand must be at work using scientific reasoning, and
    2. Should I necessarily expect to be able to detect that hand through scientific tools, especially given scriptures like “How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord?” (Rom 11:33b, 34) or “Jews demand miraculous signs, and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified…” (I Corinthians 1:22)

    I appreciate the fact that most of the readers of this blog see this differently, but I respectfully wanted to clarify my thinking.

    In Christ,
    Darrel

  10. DaveScot: “As near as I can tell the theistic evolutionists are just afraid to admit that ID is compatible with their beliefs because they’ll be looked down upon by their peers as supporting something that’s bad for science.”

    I believe that this is an accurate assessment.

    tinabrewer : “I have a lot of trouble even understanding the devotion of theistic evolutionists to the notion that the designer’s handiwork is undetectable.”

    This is especially difficult to understand in the case of Christian theistic evolutionists, since the “undetectable” part is antithetical to basic Christian theology, which asserts “…His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made…” In other words, design is easily detected!

  11. You may be assured that I’ve read the whole thing, DS. Nor was I making such a simple-minded argument. However, unless I am very much mistaken about the temperature of the water around here, the conclusions that everyone draws from ID do not seem to be consistent with an expectation that it was done by anyone other than God. It’s routinely stated that atheism and immorality are the results of people accepting Darwinism over ID — and yet why should the knowledge that life on Earth was engineered by hyper-intelligent beings in 3.5 billion BC prevent atheism or reinforce morality?

    Why do questions as to why theistic evolutionists are ‘ashamed’ of their faith constantly brought up if nearly everyone is not, at least implicitly, assuming that at one level or another God is the designer?

    I warned you not to embellish the definition of ID on the sideboard. You did. Go now and find a different blog to bother. -ds

  12. Darrel Falk: “1. Have the ID biologists been successful at demonstrating where God’s hand must be at work using scientific reasoning, and”

    I can’t recall anyone in ID reasoning—scientifically or otherwise—that God’s hand MUST be at work anywhere. Did you read WmAD above?

    WmAD: “Science without the metaphysical baggage of materialism is not being challenged. Nor is ID guaranteed to succeed once this baggage is jettisoned. It may be, once design is allowed on the playing field of science, that the evidence of biology will not demonsrate design — the methods of design detection that ID theorists have proposed do not guarantee that design will be found.”

    As to whether ID has had any success as yet in detecting design–it’s hard to imagine all the anger, the constant ridicule and name calling, all the obfuscation, if ID has been such an abysmal failure.

    What blows my mind is how someone critical of ID and impressed with the Darwinian blind watchmaker mechanism could claim to “fall facedown in worship in the detectable Presence of God.”

  13. Why is it that when God does everythign it is little i little d intelligent design? Is that newspeak for Darwinian unintelligent design by an Intelligent Designer?

  14. Intelligence can be a PERFECTLY NATURAL aspect of the physical world.

    Or so argues Seth Lloyd in his essay “How Smart is the Universe?” in Intelligent Thought: Science Versus the Intelligent Design Movement.

  15. I personally hope that Intelligent Design will evolve into a force that partners with science rather than a force which opposes it

    Sigh. Remind me again why ID is anti-science?

  16. Darrel Falk asks “Have the ID biologists been successful at demonstrating where God’s hand must be at work using scientific reasoning…” The challenge of ID is that it is an inference from available evidence: it says “these systems are BEST EXPLAINED as being the result of intelligent agency, and here is why…” and then goes on to describe why this is a better explanation than the explanation offered by RM+NS. It is unlikely that it will ever be possible for it to do more than speak in terms of the probability of one over the other. But similarly, the neo-Darwinian explanation makes claims about a mechanism which has never been observed to occur: it extrapolates from small observations to general claims about life processes which become more and more improbable as our knowledge of the amount of complexity and information within those systems grows.

    I would like to ask Darrel Falk a couple of questions in return:
    1. By what definition of science is it necessary, helpful or fruitful to maintain the working separation between our capacity to detect design and our naturalistic forays into that designed environment?

    2. As a theistic evolutionist, how do you personally feel about the sociological and psychological extrapolations from Darwinism which fill our cultural airwaves (there is no such thing as ‘mind’ but only brains and the delusion of consciousness, ‘love’ is just a rosy-tinted trick played on us to get us to reproduce, God is something ‘made up’ by creatures who finally got enough brain cells in one place to wonder what the hell was going on around them, etc.) I would be interested in your response particularly, because every other TE I have had discussions with on this insists that these phenomena are of little interest or concern. Thanks

  17. R.Oconnor: ID is a scientific idea, not a belief system. It is simply the active pursuit, using objective means, of design detection in nature. THerefore, it is certainly possible that in any given instance, on could say “no. In this particular case, the objective means available to us do not clearly demonstrate design.” while holding firmly to the idea that such detection is nevertheless a fruitful enterprise. Does this help?

    Why are you personally unconvinced by the examples you have read about in the ID literature? Why are you convinced (and here I make the assumption that you are, correct me if I am wrong) that purposeless and unguided processes could lead to information and the complexity of life in nature?

  18. 18

    Tina Brewer: “By what definition of science is it necessary, helpful or fruitful to maintain the working separation between our capacity to detect design and our naturalistic forays into that designed environment?

    Words are defined by their usage. Over the past 150 years science has involved the study of natural laws. (God’s natural laws, I might add.) Were it to also to include the study of the supernatural, it would be–based upon the definition of what the word, science, has come to mean—something other than science. This most certainly does not imply that God does not intervene in the natural world by supernatural means. It is only that the study of this is something other than what science has meant over a very long period of time. I realize that many Christians would like to redefine the word “science,” to include a study of the supernatural. There are reasons to question whether God’s supernatural activity is amenable to such study.

    Tina Brewer: “As a theistic evolutionist, how do you personally feel about the sociological and psychological extrapolations from Darwinism which fill our cultural airwaves …”

    All of creation, is God’s creation—however God chose to bring it into being. Any expressed views that put culture into the context of blind watchmaker or pure chance have no place in Christian thinking. For example, with respect to love, God alone is love and “whoever lives in love lives in God” (I John 4:17.) We become aware of God for one reason alone…and that is that God chooses to reveal God’s Spirit to us. Having said this, I believe that books such as Darwin’s Cathedral by David Sloan Wilson may without knowing it be describing the very way in which God has worked in human history to make us aware of God’s Presence in the world. We should always remember that the Presence of the God of the Bible was often (not always, admittedly!) manifest through a subtle guiding process.

    Finally in response to a third question from Tina Brewer, most theistic evolutionists do not believe that “purposeless and unguided processes could lead to information and the complexity of life in nature.” Rather they believe that all of this happens because of God and God’s ongoing Presence in creation. See “Evolution from Creation to New Creation” for an excellent discussion of this. The issue that separates people like myself from Intelligent Design is our level of optimism for whether that Presence has been or will be demonstrable through the tools of science.

  19. tinabrewer,
    I have no quibbles with your characterization of ID as a scientific idea. There are certainly many theists (for instance) who would affirm the detectability of design (as you describe), but remain unconvinced by the arguments in support of design detection in any particular case of natural phenomena.

    Here’s where you miss with your assumption: suppose for the moment we have reason to think that material processes are sufficient to explain the sort of patterns that Bill studies. Then we might say that, even though the process is not intrinsically intentional, even though it has no internal guide, it does not follow that its product is purposeless. That the dumb process was not used for a specific purpose. There is still ground for the theist to rejoice. The point of Aquinas’ arrow analogy is just this: that the arrow has hit the target implies an intelligent archer precisely because arrows are dumb — intrinsically purposeless and lacking intrinsic guided guidance capacities. I think Bill would agree to this characterization of material processes — they’re intrinsically dumb. But dumb processes may be used by intelligent agents. If so, then rejecting ID is not incompatible with affirming classical theism. ID says that we have reason to think that these material processes have hit a target it would (could?) not have hit but for the guidance of an intentional agent, then agency provides the best explanation. This may be; its a matter of evidence. It’s this about which I’m not convinced.

  20. We have had this same discussion a couple of times before and I once made this comment, which I think applies here.

    “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 a constant tinkerer.” ID has reduced God to the “Man Behind the Curtain” instead of the Magnificent and All Powerful Oz.

    So those who deny ID and believe in God are probably doing so because their view of God has been challenged and are looking for an explanation that is worthy of their God. For example, I know that this idea of the Super Tinkerer is not consistent with the image of God I had all my life but I also know that any materialist view of evolution that is coupled to the omnificent God is a Devil’s bargain.

    Also, the evidence does not point to Darwinism or any of the other naturalistic mechanisms proposed so we are left with this plebeian way our God has managed life. I would much prefer a more elegant way but like CSI I can only follow the evidence.

    But there is an old concept that it is impossible to “Know the Mind of God.” But here we are, trying.

    Cosmological ID postulates a creator of universes. This would be the creator of Einstein and deists in general. A creator that set the universe in motion in the beginning like a giant clockwork knowing how it would turn out and not needing to do anything more. That seems pretty omnipotent to me. Of course it doesn’t align with the Judeo-Christian belief in a God that sends floods and plagues, turns people into pillars of salt, parts the sea, and things like that so I suppose they can’t use that. But as far as God’s work not being detectable – do these theistic evolutionists deny all the miraculous and quite visible interventions described in the bible? There sure are plenty of them. -ds

  21. R.Oconnor: I am confused. You say “But dumb processes may be used by intelligent agents. If so, then rejecting ID is not incompatible with affirming classical theism.” This sounds like my personal ID position, namely that there are ‘dumb’ LAWS, which are like the background mechanisms in creation, and there are intelligent agents who direct and guide the effects of these laws within the matter available in order to bring about increasing orders of complexity. By the way, I think this subtle manipulation of laws and their effect (which does not count as violation of the laws) is also how the apparent miracles to which you refer are brought about.

    How does the recognition of laws in all of their brute, mechanistic determinism, undermine ID? Find me an IDist who doesn’t believe the physical world is lawful…then I’ll start to get really nervous about all the time I have wasted here!! i have often gotten the impression from the theistic evolutionists with whom I have discussed ID that for them it seems to be a matter of Law vs. intelligent agency: if we accept intelligent design, we undermine law. This would be devastating indeed. A ‘soft’ version of this might go simply ‘what we see as deterministic is in fact manipulable by sufficiently powerful agents’. No conundrum for me, hopefully none for ID.

  22. DS,

    I certainly cannot speak for theistic evolutionists. I only heard the term for the first time when I started reading this site. Also I was only commenting upon life and not cosmology. I agree that that the design of the universe certainly meets with my image of an omnificent creator. I assume the obvious design in the universe is also in agreement with the theology of most of those who believe in God. Are there some who believe in God who deny this? That would be interesting to hear their reasons. Also most who believed in God also accepted an obvious design in the world long before they knew about the anthropic principle, but I doubt any survey was ever taken on this.

    The obvious design in life has to be fought by those who postulate 1) infinite universes and 2) that we just happen to be the lucky one where the laws make sense. If life were not possible by chance then it would undermine this whole multi-verse hypothesis even if their mathematics supported it.

    I am not interested in getting into a discussion of the specifics of a particular religious belief such as miracles. I understood this was supposed to be off limits since the new ruling came down.

  23. tinabrewer,

    The trick is this, as Bill Dembski insists: if we suppose these dumb laws, once set in motion (that is, once initially directed by an intelligent agent) are conjointly sufficient to fully account for these phenomena, then intelligent agency can not be detected in their effects. ID requires what I think you are suggesting (to which Bill would agree): these dumb laws (processes) are guided dynamically by an intelligent agent, not just set in motion, but complemented synchronically. So recognizing mechanistic processes in itself cannot undermine ID. Supposing that they are, of their own, sufficient to account for the “patterns” in question does undermine the detectability claim of ID. According to Bill’ s definintions above, detectability is the heart of ID. So, unless there is detectable intervention, infusion of information, or somekind of contribution that makes a detectable difference to how these processes naturally function, then ID fail. So, if you think such evidence exists, then your safe.

  24. darrel falk: “We should always remember that the Presence of the God of the Bible was often (not always, admittedly!) manifest through a subtle guiding process…most theistic evolutionists do not believe that ‘purposeless and unguided processes could lead to information and the complexity of life in nature.’ Rather they believe that all of this happens because of God and God’s ongoing Presence in creation.”

    Does any process in evolution require a teleological explanation? The answer to this an emphatic “No.” In earlier periods many authors thought that a perfection-giving process was involved in evolution. Before the discovery of the principle of natural selection, one could not imagine any other principle than teleology that would lead to such seemingly perfect organs as the eye, annual migrations, certain kinds of disease resistance, and other properties of organisms. However, orthogenesis and other teleological explanations of evolution have been thoroughly refuted, and it has been shown that indeed natural selection is capable of producing all the adaptations that were formerly attributed to orthogenesis. — Ernst Mayr, What Evolution Is In My Not So Humble Opinion, p. 275.

    Sorry, but the “true scientific” understanding is that information and the complexity of life in nature is all simply the result of accident, hunger, and lust. God (or any other intelligence) had nothing to do with it. Better get with the program. ;-)

    P.S. Mayr, for everyone’s edification, is “the Darwin of the 20th century” according to the NYT, and “one of the great shining figures of evolutionary biology” according to John Maynard Smith.

    [Question: If teleology has been "thoroughly refuted" and natural selection is so powerful, why are nonteleological evolutionary computer programs employing natural selection unable to generate complex specified information?]

  25. Darrell,

    Thank you for taking time to read our weblog. I hope you will visit again.

    The pradigm shift that is evident is being driven by theoretical advances and empirical evidences, and only partially by other factors.

    I can appreciate you may feel Behe glossed over papers. I do not think he did, and in any case, I do know someone personally who studied the immune system most of her professional life before deciding ID was a more adequate explanation. She had investigated the issue of immune system evolution, and found the explanations wanting.

    She was a professor of cellular biology at my university. 6 years ago, based on the science, she concluded the naturalistic account was inadequate, and likely wrong, and that her years of former acceptance of Darwinism were theoretically and empirically unjustified. She had concluded the scientific paradigm of Darwinian evolution was only deserving of the status of an unproven hypothesis, not fact. Her story is related here: An insurgency that ultimately aims to topple Darwin. She paid the price however for stepping forward and speaking her scientific conscience.

    I also point you to the research of other professors who changed positions on the issues, Cornell Professor John Sanford and Binghamtom Professor Stanley Salthe.

    Salvador

  26. God’s natural laws, I might add.

    Doesn’t that, by definition, make them supernatural, not natural?

    There are reasons to question whether God’s supernatural activity is amenable to such study.

    You’re putting forth a self-refuting argument. God’s laws are amenable to to such study, as you admit above.

  27. Of course it doesn’t align with the Judeo-Christian belief in a God that sends floods and plagues, turns people into pillars of salt, parts the sea, and things like that so I suppose they can’t use that.

    And here I thought we were leaving religious arguments behind. But since you offered, I’ll accept.

    How many people were turned into salt?

    Do you think it was the loving God or the vengeful God who decided to rescue Lot and his family?

    Do you think it was the loving God or the vengeful God who decided to rescue Noah and his family?

    Do you think it was the loving God or the vengeful God who decided to rescue the Israelites from Egypt?

    Don’t be so defensive. I was only giving biblical examples of God intervening in modern times to show that Jews, Christians, and Muslims can’t reconcile their belief with a God that created life then didn’t interfere with the course of events from there. Those just happened to be the first that came to mind. And the parting of the Red Sea *was* part of rescuing the Israelites from Egypt. So there. And it wasn’t gratuitous. What I don’t understand is how theistic evolutionists who somehow think God acts in undetectable ways explains all the quite detectable ways God acted in the bible. -ds

  28. R.OConnor: The example I always think of when I consider the relationship between the laws of nature and the design in nature is an analogy that goes like this; a human designer (an engineer) wants to build a bridge. This increase in the complexity of the materials at hand by their careful manipulation and ordering does not ignore or violate the ever-present laws (gravity, materials strength, etc.) In fact, the engineer must be fully aware of at least the observable ramifications of these laws if he is to build a bridge which lasts and doesn’t kill anyone. So you have the laws, which are brute, purposeless and unchanging, and you have the intelligent manipulation of materials within the context of those laws. I am having a hard time understanding why it is not possible objectively to detect that the highly complex artifact of this activity (the bridge) was IN ALL PROBABILITY designed. Law and agency working in tandem. Help me understand this from your perspective.

  29. ID recognizes three fundamental modes of explanation: chance, necessity, and design (with varying combinations thereof). Jacques Monod (Chance and Necessity: A Philosophy for a Universe without Causality, 1971) scolds even the Marxists for still harboring vestiges of “the old animist covenant with nature”—meaning any notion of cosmic purpose or design (page 44): “We would like to think ourselves necessary, inevitable, ordained from all eternity. All religions, nearly all philosophies, and even a part of science testify to the unwearying, heroic effort of mankind desperately denying its own contingency.” This should cease, he says, reminding his readers that science now admits only to “chance and necessity”.

    A Darwinist friend recently gave me a copy of Monod’s book—I read and recommend it. Monod very clearly lays out what ID is up against. It’s just as Phil Johnson told us: Darwinism is true by definition within the new covenant of naturalistic science.

    ID, however, begins with a richer philosophy. Nothing that is logically possible is ruled out a priori. ID accepts that the laws of physics are mere descriptions best explained as necessity and chance (quantum uncertainty). But were those laws themselves created? Well, there is a growing sense that the laws are themselves contingent and in light of certain “anthropic” phenomena they do appear designed. If so then is there a higher level of necessity? The mathematical realists (Platonists) would say yes. As Paul Davies put it in one of his books (citing from my fallible memory), there is a level of logic that even God cannot defy.

    Now I realize that there are Darwin doubters out there who think that the Creator “front loaded” the cosmos with laws such that evolution would occur as it has. Others, however, strongly suspect that the unfolding of life in our world could not have been accomplished via a set of algorithms programmed in at the beginning.

    Anyway whatever the case let me suggest that for all necessity (logical, esthetic, ethical a la Pierce) the buck stops at some higher Platonic level, and that this is not the same thing as mind. Animacy/soul—whatever you call it—is also a primitive as Angus Menuge has recently argued. And so if it’s there—why the great desire to hamstring it except at the very beginning of time?

  30. If a man were to rise from the dead after 3 days.

    If the death had been confirmed by blood clotting, lung piercing, cesation of respiration and cardiac function and totally flat EEG and EEG, then, if the body were monitored by temperature sensors, video cameras, EKG and EEG. Could science detect a ressurection if it occurred?

    What “natural” explanation would be used for this? Would it not represent, in theory, a case of science verifying a supernatural process, which is supposed to be excluded by the definition of science?

    My sentiments exactly. A theistic evolutionist who purports that God is undetectable by science must, to be logically consistent, deny the existence of witnessed miracles. Such a denial must necessarily discount many things described in the both the old and new testaments or fabricate out of whole cloth the excuse that God let man witness his work in the past but hides his work today – what a convenient story that is, eh? As long as we’re making up excuses why not presuppose that God isn’t totally hiding his handiwork today but is just making it more difficult to see? -ds

  31. 31

    To idnet: “Would it not represent, in theory, a case of science verifying a supernatural process, which is supposed to be excluded by the definition of science?”

    Yes. But don’t forget, that science would stop there.

    Furthermore, what I have tried to say is that there is no a priori reason to expect that the God of the Bible, our Creator, has worked (or currently works)in a manner that will be detectable and provable by the tools of science. Probably the example that you use is a case in point.

    Ironically, the example that you use is that which brings new life to each of us. We owe our existence to our own resurrection as new creations…but even that precious as it is, is probably not amenable to scientific proof.

    All I’m saying is that I’m not optimistic…and so far all that I as a biologist have seen put forward by ID folk, has other natural explanations, just as the new life you and I enjoy in Christ has other explanations to the unbeliever. You and I both know that it happened (and happens!!) because of Christ. So also you and I both know that “in him all things were created…and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1). But should we be optimistic that this is provable through the tools of science? Probably not, in my opinion…and certainly, in my opinion, the issues raised by ID are not standing up to scientific scrutiny so far. There are natural explanations to go along with that which you and I believe to be true, which is: “In the beginning was the Word…through him all things were made, without him nothing was made that has been made.”

    Could it be that God wants to keep it a little mysterious? Could it be that Christ wants there to be an element of faith involved in our following him? After the storm struck on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 8), Jesus asked the disciples, in essence: Where is your faith? Perhaps faith and respect for the mysterious are a desired quality in followers of Jesus. Perhaps when Jesus says “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear,” he is saying that it will always require careful listening, the kind that isn’t amenable to scientific proof.

    Enough preaching, sorry.

    Darrel, do you think the parting of the Red Sea would have been scientifically detectable? Or how about Jesus feeding 5000 from 5 loaves and fishes? Or his death & resurrection? Your assertions that the God of the bible is undetectable by science seems to be denying the possibility of witnessed miracles. Is that right or if not right how do you reconcile all the recorded miracles with a God that works behind a cloak of indetectability? -ds

  32. Darel Falk,

    I said above this discussion has taken place before on other threads. I made the comment above on the nature of God and the implications of ID which had taken place before. There was another comment from the same thread that is relevant to parts of your last comment and it has to do with faith.

    “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 definitions 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.

    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 designed is because it is designed. We have the easier task. All we need is one incontrovertible instance.”

    I assumed the point the Jewish gentleman was trying to make was that if life become too certain than we will lose our ability to use our free will and everything will become prescribed and life’s actions will lose meaning.

    I personally am not anxious to get ID as the accepted part of our education science curriculum as I am to get Darwinism out of it. I think design is a far better explanation than randomness for some aspects of our world but that neither should be part of the science curriculum in grammar and high schools.

    Also as I said above when religion couples itself with Darwinism or any other naturalistic explanation it is a Devil’s bargain.

  33. 33

    Jerry,

    It appears from your comment that the purpose of this forum is simply to spread the truth as you (and others) see it and not to explore the nature of truth further. For example, how could the question of whether the designer purposely desires to foster a sense of mystery, be a tangent that needs no further discussion in a forum like this?

    This illustrates my concern as to whether ID is really science as opposed to politics. Science involves a search for truth. Politics pushes an agenda. If ID is really science, it will explore issues like this. If it is a political movement, it will attempt to squelch discussions related to a search for understanding. With all due respect, I felt I was raising an important scientific question. I was taking Bill D. at his word when he said that ID’ers need to engage the issues I raise in “Coming to Peace with Biology.” If you and others feel that the issue I raised is not in keeping with the purpose of this forum, I’ll bother you no further.

    In Him and with respect,

    ID has both scientific and political aspects. So does global warming, stem cell research, experimenting with animal subjects, construction/operation of telescopes & particle accelerators, fusion energy research, and God only knows how many other lines of scientific inquiry. Why do you think it has to be either/or? That appears to be a very naive assertion but I’ll give you a chance to show me it how it isn’t naive. -ds

  34. Darel Falk,

    How many books are in the Library of Congress that attempt to deal with the nature of truth? How many different opinions might there be on a forum such as this? If we actually did a serious discussion of this here we might as well close down the thread since we will get a major subset of those opinions expressed and they won’t be short. So I am not sure that this is the proper place. Now that is just my opinion and I also know that my beliefs differ substantially from others here so when I express a reluctance to discuss such topics, it is not from a desire to suppress anything but just that it is unlikely it will get anywhere and be contentious. With all those books in the Library of Congress and no consensus in today’s world what are the odds that anything would come out of such a discussion here.

    I did find something else interesting in your reply. Namely, that the implication of my comment meant that we seem to be interested in squelching discussion. First of all, it is my comment and not anyone else’s. I have given my reasons for not discussing this topic. It has nothing to do with lack of interest or the suppression of anyone’s opinion. Certainly this thread could be continued to discuss such a thing and I have no problems with that but a recent thread got into some very personal religious discussions and it was decided to stop that type of discussion. The nature of truth could also lead to many very personal opinions.

    I would like to close with a slight paraphrase of your second paragraph.

    “This illustrates my concern as to whether Darwinism is really science as opposed to politics. Science involves a search for truth. Politics pushes an agenda. If Darwinism is really science, it will explore issues like this. If it is a political movement, it will attempt to squelch discussions related to a search for understanding.”

    I happen to think my paraphrase is closer to the truth than the original. It is one of the main reasons we are gathered here. To spread the truth. Maybe “as we see it” but let others judge. At the moment ID is being squelched by a very organized movement who call themselves scientists.

  35. DS,

    You have raised two very good points:

    1.What about all of the recorded miracles, how does that jive with a God who desires his activity to be undetectable?

    First of all, I want to acknowledge that you have a point well taken. The miracles that you outline would have been obvious to all, and indeed they were performed so that the faith of the people would have been enhanced. God does speak to us, the resurrection did occur, people are healed, all of these things are commonly held tenets of most Christians, including myself. However, does it carry over from there that God would have created in ways that would be detectable through scientific tools all these years later? We cannot prove scientifically that the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand took place, because it was a singularity. Even today, is there scientific proof for our present miracles and current answers to prayer? I am not saying that by definition, God will be undetectable. I’m just saying that I suspect that it will always be enveloped in mystery and perhaps that’s the way that God prefers it to be. For sure, however, a tenet of my faith is that God communicates with each of us as individuals, or as small groups (the nation of Israel in the case of the Red Sea crossing; the 5,000 in the case of the miraculous feeding) in ways that strengthen our faith. Scientific proof of a universal nature? That’s another matter.

    2. Don’t most scientific fields include political as well as scientific components?

    Absolutely. I guess I had raised a point that I felt was fairly central, and as a newcomer I felt I was being told that the most important thing about this ID forum was to get Darwinism out of the science classroom…not to explore questions of the sort that I have posed.

    Dave, this is a personal response to you. You should not feel it necessary to post this unless you feel it adds something to the discussion. Thank you for all of your work in moderating the forum and for raising key points. Both of the ones you have raised of me are outstanding, and I have appreciated many other aspects of what you have done as I’ve looked over this blog in recent days.

    Given that you were an invited writer you haven’t been subject to any moderation at all. Who told you the most important thing about this forum was to get Darwinism out of the classroom? I certainly want no such thing. I want the possibility of intelligent design and the rationale behind it IN the classroom alongside “Darwinism” so the student knows neither hypothesis (I consider RM+NS in macroevolution to fall far short of being a theory) is written in granite and perhaps might be tempted inquire into the matter in greater depth in university or perhaps even become a researcher into the question. Teaching that evolution and origin of life is nothing but chance & necessity working over deep time, and teaching it in a vacuum as if it’s settled science like basic physics and chemistry, inhibits more in depth study. Not teaching anything at all about chance & necessity similarly discourages further study – one isn’t inclined to further study things that one doesn’t know even exists. -ds

  36. Yes. But don’t forget, that science would stop there.

    This seems to me to be patently untrue. If scientists were to witness a resurrection, science would look for natural explanations for how a dead man could return to life. If they were to witness the phenomenon, then isn’t it by definition a natural event? If it is a natural event, does it not by definition have natural causes? If it is a natural event with natural causes, is it not, by definition, amenable to scientific investigation?

  37. DS,

    I am not sure I agree with you on putting ID and Darwinism head to head in the classroom. I am pretty sure who would get the most votes if there was an honest comparison but the obstacles to get that comparison are rather large at the moment. ID has become a lightning rod and the ACLU, the scientists, the press will use it immediately to bring up the bogus religious issues which will then dominate the discussion. Look at the travesty in Dover. However, if Darwin could be stripped from the science curriculum except for the trivial areas it has relevance, it would be just as great a victory.

    To equate Darwin with trivial would be a fantastic achievement. And the best part about it, is that it is the truth.

    It will be interesting to see what happens during the Cornell course this summer where they are going head to head. We are allowed to contribute as kibitzers to make sure the presentation is not one sided. I am not sure anyone has done that yet.

  38. Darrel,

    Thanks for spending time patiently answering questions on this blog: I have a couple more questions if you are happy to answer:

    Firstly, is there any empirical difference between the ‘theistic evolution’ view of evolution and the view of say, Richard Dawkins? ie are there any differences besides the metaphysical conclusions drawn from it? If not, then surely the ‘theistic’ part of theistic evolution is superfluous? If so, for example humans are the ‘inevitable outcome’ of evolution (as Simon Conway Morris has suggested) then surely this is teleological and therefore in the same broad tent as ID?

    Secondly, you indicate that you are not persuaded by the arguments of Michael Behe. If we take the well known example of the bacterial flagellum, do you think that pointing to the existence of the Type III Secretory System is sufficient to establish that flagella evolved in a Darwinian manner? Given that as yet there is no clear evolutionary history of these structures, what makes you confident that in future it will be shown that cellular structures like these have evolved in a gradual, Darwininan manner?

    Thanks,
    antg

  39. PS in my second question, I am not suggesting an argument from ignorance, that is, I am not suggesting if it is not Darwinian it is therefore ‘design’.

  40. Antg: “Firstly, is there any empirical difference between the ‘theistic evolution’ view of evolution and the view of say, Richard Dawkins? ie are there any differences besides the metaphysical conclusions drawn from it? If not, then surely the ‘theistic’ part of theistic evolution is superfluous?”

    Thank you, antg, for your comment and for the spirit with which you ask it. I am not quite sure I know what you mean by “the theistic part of theistic evolution” being superfluous if there is no testable (emphasis on testable) difference between what Dawkins sees in the history of life and what I as a Christian biologist sees. I believe that God worked through influencing natural selection whenever and however God wanted (and wants) to do so. So since I believe this is the way that God works, not only do I think it is hardly superfluous, it is the very place where I as a Christian biologist feel that I am on holy ground…in the very Presence of God. However, perhaps I misunderstood your question. If so, sorry about that.

    Antg: “What makes you confident that in future it will be shown that cellular structures like these have evolved in a gradual, Darwinian manner?”

    I have not done much work or reading on the biology of the bacterial flagellum. On the other hand, I have done more reading on the origin of the immune system, an area that “Darwin’s Black Box” indicated was full of unanswered “origins questions” that biologists have not addressed. Although it is technical and leads into even more technical literature, I would highly recommend ID biologists consult the review: Litman, Gary W., John P. Cannon, and Larry J. Dishaw, (2005), Reconstructing Immune Phylogeny: New Perspectives, Nature Reviews/ Immunology 5:866-879. This paper does a tremendous job of showing what has happened over the past 15 years and refers to the over 150 papers that explore many of the questions that Michael said had not yet been broached in 1996. They have been now, and the data that has come in is truly amazing. Michael still says, of course, that they haven’t shown Darwinian evolution, something that will surprise none of the readers of this forum. But for those who really follow this kind of literature carefully, the evidence, many of us who are Christian biologists believe, is that God has created even the immune system in a step-by-step manner over hundreds of millions years and, based on the data, there is no reason at this point to believe that God did not use natural selection as his tool.

    Again, antg and others, thank you for your patience in reading an opinion that is likely different than your own.

  41. Darrel,

    I guess what I was trying to get at was is that I have never understood when a theistic evolutionist says ‘God influences natural selection’, whether that statement based on empirical data or is it based on a theological view. The question to me is whether scientifically there is a difference between ‘God influences natural selection’ and ‘God does not influence natural selection’.

    Anyway, I speak as someone who has no theological stake in how evolution happened and would agree that God can work any way he pleases. However, for me these things, among others, suggest that teleology is real and detectable in biology:
    - the semantic information present in DNA, that is not reducible to chance and necessity
    - massive evolutionary convergence at many levels, suggesting high-level patterns
    - the presence of Hox genes suggesting a pre-ordained system architecture
    - the difficulties of abiogenesis research in getting a plausible story of the origin of the first cellular life, suggesting that we will have to take life itsself as an axiom.

    To me, all these threads are just waiting to be tied together. I am sceptical that ‘blind’ natural selection can produce this. It seems to me that evolution is a purposeful unfolding of life, similar in the way that, say, a human develops from a single fertilised egg (as others in this blog have suggested). I think it would be incredibly exciting if theistic evolutionists would begin to consider evolution in this way.

    If, however, Dawrwinian natural selection is a good explantion for all this, as you suggest it is for the evolution of the immune system, then so be it…!

  42. Dr. Falk,

    Thanks for fielding questions here. Like antg, I also am confused by your remarks. Now you say, “I believe that God worked through influencing natural selection whenever and however God wanted (and wants) to do so.” Would this include not influencing natural selection at all? However, earlier, you said,

    …most theistic evolutionists do not believe that ‘purposeless and unguided processes could lead to information and the complexity of life in nature.’ Rather they believe that all of this happens because of God and God’s ongoing Presence in creation.

    It seems to me that all the first sentence of that quote means that is that theistic evolutionists believe that the ‘information and complexity of life in nature’ cannot occur without intelligence. And that is essentially in accordance with Dr. Dembski’s “fundamental claim of ID”: “there are natural systems that cannot be adequately explained in terms of undirected natural forces and that exhibit features which in any other circumstance we would attribute to intelligence.” (However, that the intelligence is God does not necessarily follow, and the question of whether there must be an ongoing presence of intelligence is a separate issue, dependent on the evidence. )

    Let me point out that the claim is falsifiable. All that must be shown is that such features can, indeed, be generated by undirected natural forces. If it weren’t falsifiable, than neither would it’s converse be falsifiable.

    Do theistic evolutionists believe that life requires intelligence, or not?

  43. But for those who really follow this kind of literature carefully, the evidence, many of us who are Christian biologists believe, is that God has created even the immune system in a step-by-step manner over hundreds of millions years and, based on the data, there is no reason at this point to believe that God did not use natural selection as his tool.

    From this I take it that Darrel believss that God used natural selection as his creative tool. From this I suppose we can deduce that natural selection is a creative force. Can someone please explain to me in what sense natural selection is a creative force, either guided or unguided? What does natural selection create, and how?

    Does God also use genetic drift as a creative tool?

  44. Dr Falk,

    Thank you for visiting Australia it was good to hear and meet you. You are a credit to the faith you profess. Thanks for visiting this blog, and for your patience with us.

    I have read your excellent book and have a selection of your blog statements with comments.

    “Could it be that God wants to keep it a little mysterious? Could it be that Christ wants there to be an element of faith involved in our following him?”

    You will gather from other posts that ID is not the exclusive property of Christians. Should ID be established as scientific orthodoxy, there will be no less need for faith. There is no likelihood that Christian churches will suddenly fill up. (which sub brand should be building extensions?)It will simply mean that the loud “brights” of this world will look somewhat dimmer.

    “The Darwinists will say the reason the world appears random, is because it is random …

    we come back and say that the reason some of it appears designed is because it is designed. We have the easier task. All we need is one incontrovertible instance.”

    The Bacterial Flagellum remains one piece of, as yet, incontroverted evidence. Yet you say.

    “I have not done much work or reading on the biology of the bacterial flagellum.”

    There is nothing at all central to ID that says over what period of time the Designer enacted the design process.

    “God worked through influencing natural selection whenever and however God wanted”

    We would consider this a form of small i small d. You seem to feel that this will always require your spectacles of faith to perceive.

    As you have rightly assessed, big I big D as a scientific enterprise is about whether it is in principle, possible to detect design using the tools of science.

    You seem to have a clear philosophical predisposition to the opinion that the God of the Bible would not make His designs detectable. You may be right, you may be wrong.

    ID is putting evidence on the table. ID is standing back and looking at the birth of things like systems biology and design biomimicry and asking questions that a child would ask.

  45. I have to wonder if Darrell Falk believes in miracles. I have to wonder if Darrel Falk believes in answered prayer.

    I have to wonder, if God prefers or chooses to remain hidden, why did he appear in the person of his son, Jesus Christ?

    I have to wonder…at the handiwork of God.

  46. 46

    I have been enjoying God’s creation in Sequoia National Park for the past five days, hence my lack of reply to several comments. So even, though I don’t imagine anyone is still checking this thread, I’ll try to address the comments that followed my last one, just in case.

    First of all, “antg” (comment 41) and I are on almost exactly the same page. I like how (s)he indicates that it is faith in God that ties the various mysteries of God’s creation together (e.g. information content, Hox genes, etc.). The heart of the issue, however, is antg’s statement:

    “The question to me is whether scientifically there is a difference between ‘God influences natural selection’ and ‘God does not influence natural selection’.”

    The answer (as I see it) is that so far there is not scientific data to lead one to conclude that God influences natural selection. In other words, I can’t put together a set of scientific facts which prove by the same criteria that are used for other scientific theories that “God influences natural selection.” If I could I would not just be a person who believes in intelligent design, but I would believe in Intelligent Design (i.e. be a supporter of the ID movement.

    I believe that the above paragraph also addresses the question by “j” in comment #42. I do believe that life requires and originates because of an intelligence: “In the beginning was the Word…” There is nothing more central to my life than that.

    Thirdly, Mung has asked in what sense natural selection (guided or unguided) is a creative force. I guess I’m not sure what Mung means by this question. To me, the story of life (i.e. biology) is a manifestation of unparalleled creativity. Since life is a product of natural selection working within the context of God’s Presence…it is the ultimate example of what happens as a result of this “creative force.” I must have misunderstood Mung’s question because the answer seems so obvious to me as a person who has been privileged to spend the past 30 years teaching about God’s creativity as manifest in biology.

    I appreciate the comments from ID Net Australia. Again as ID net has said the key question is what he thinks to be my predisposition to undetectability. I appreciate why he (and others) would think that I am predisposed in this manner. However, I don’t think it’s true. Its just that if I scrutinize the data raised by ID proponents with the same stringent criteria I (like other scientists) have used all of my career…I don’t agree that there is strong scientific data that proves (in a scientific sense) an external designer….not of the same sort that points to the fact that DNA is the hereditary material, that DNA is replicated semi-conservatively, or that protein molecules are manufactured on ribosomes.

    Finally, Mung (Comment 45), chose to question my belief in a God who works in supernatural ways. I believe in the God of the Bible, that God does work in supernatural ways and that God does answer prayer. I really wish he would read my personal account in Coming to Peace with Science, before he would judge the quality of my faith. I’m not sure he has been fair by calling that into question here.

    Thank you to all of you who have taken the time to read all of over the past 10 days. May John 17 remain central in our lives as it was in the mind of Christ in the moments preceding the most sacred time in the history of the universe: “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one…so that the world might believe that you have sent me.” Jesus was praying for us. May we be sure that we are living out the answer to his prayer. God bless each one of you.

  47. Finally, Mung (Comment 45), chose to question my belief in a God who works in supernatural ways.

    Hopefully some are still reading this thread. My apologies to Darrel Falk. I was employing a rhetorical device, perhaps one of my own making, perhaps one known to people who track such things. I did not meant to question in the sense of asserting that you did not accept these things to be true. The intent was to bring them forward for consideration to see if, accepting them as true, as you do, they are consistent with your doubts about ID. I in no way meant to judge the quality of your faith.

    As far as the creative capabilities of natural selection, it is my understanding that all that natural selection does is “cause” the retention and spread of some traits and the decrease and disappearance of other traits. So in what way is it a “creative” force? It doesn’t create anything. The traits it spreads come from somewhere or something else.

    Here’s one of my favorites from John, along the same lines:

    NAU John 17:22 “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one;

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