Home » Intelligent Design » O’Leary’s recent columns of interest : On neuroscience implications/applications of intelligent design

O’Leary’s recent columns of interest : On neuroscience implications/applications of intelligent design

For links to all go here.

1. A recent ChristianWeek column: Faith@Science: The God gene? Spot? Circuit? Okay, maybe a Module?

(Note: This is the column I wrote shortly after finishing my work on The Spiritual Brain, explaining why notions of a God spot, gene, module, or circuit in the brain are completely ridiculous.)

For more go here.

2. Another recent ChristianWeek column:“Made in the image of God”? What does that mean?

Ever hear of a “humanzee”? Some would hail the hybrid of a human and a chimpanzee as a crowning achievement.

Because chimpanzees are our closest genetic relatives, hybrids have been attempted. According to recently unearthed documents, Joseph Stalin hoped to produce half-man, half-ape super-warriors, but the project came to nothing. The disgraced chief scientist died in the vast Soviet prison system.

But just as often, anti-religious motives fuel the wish for a humanzee. Zoologist Richard Dawkins, who promotes atheism from his chair at Oxford University, has proclaimed that such a hybrid would shake up all our value systems. He argues that differences between the human mind and the chimpanzee mind are only a matter of degree, not kind. Indeed, Spain has been considering giving great apes human rights, and some have argued seriously for reclassifying chimpanzees in the same genus as humans.

For more go here.

3. A third recent ChristianWeek columns: Faith as one of the healing arts

According to an article in Jewish World Review (October 3, 2006) hospitals in the United States have finally begun to pay attention to patients’ religious beliefs. “The last thing you want to worry about while somebody is sick is that they might have to transgress on something they believe in,” says Zahava Cohen, Englewood Hospital’s patient care director (New Jersey). Cohen is surely right; and we can only hope that this trend spreads.

[ ... ]

The way in which we receive health care makes a huge difference to its ultimate effect. This reality has long been disguised under the misnamed and misunderstood “placebo” effect. Literally, the word means “I will please.” Originally, it referred to sugar pills given to a patient who believes that they are potent. Over one third of patients get better simply because they think the placebo is a powerful medicine. The placebo effect probably underlies traditional shamanism. The reason so many tribal Christians continue to surreptitiously visit shamans is not that they are deluded into believing that shamanism works but because it so often does work. Unfortunately, the shaman typically attributes the healing to specific bizarre practices rather than to the power of belief to trigger healing processes.

For more go here.

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44 Responses to O’Leary’s recent columns of interest : On neuroscience implications/applications of intelligent design

  1. The most important question facing us today is: Are we designed? For if we are not designed then no moral tradition carries any weight whatsoever because all of them were founded in mythologies which cannot stand up to Dennett’s “universal acid”. The barbarians are at the gate!! “‘I do not think it is always wrong to kill an innocent human being,’ Professor Singer told the rapt audience in Harold Helm Auditorium.”

    So keep up the good fight! I look forward to purchasing and reading your book on “neuroscience implications/applications of intelligent design”.

  2. “So keep up the good fight! I look forward to purchasing and reading your book on “neuroscience implications/applications of intelligent design”. ”

    I second that.
    I had enough of the materialistic rubbish.

    I am waiting also for Behe’s new book , will be available in summer.

  3. My naïve intuition tells me that the brain alone cannot explain two phenomena. First it cannot account for consciousness/free will. And second is the question of logical/mathematical realism: Are there universals of logic that are “out there”?—not just hardwired Darwinian fashion in the brain. Such universals must encompass the Peircean triad of logicethicsesthetics. Anyway for agency and universals I’ve enjoyed Angus Menuge and J. Budziszewski—but I’m sure you’re way ahead of me.

  4. To the list of things the material brain alone cannot account for I would add:
    - Moral sense
    - Humor
    - Music
    - Art

    Also, a thought I’ve had on design in nature; ever notice how the colors, forms, and arrangments all match? No clashing plaids with solids or colors that don’t go together on any critter.

  5. No clashing plaids with solids or colors that don’t go together on any critter.

    A naturalist would say “thats because you don’t live in a plaid world”. If you lived in a plaid world, then that would be normal, and other color combinations would look wrong.

    For moral sense, thats just an illusion, and for humor, are you forgetting the recent study that said that laughter started because one of our ancestors fell off a log, and another one made a clicking sound in response. Eventually, that clicking sound turned into laughter.

  6. There is an alternative to either reductionism or dualism, which is emergence. We could explain the soul as an emergent product of the brain. Once the primate brain passes over a critical threshold of size and complexity, novel properties emerge that could not be explained or predicted by knowledge of the lower levels.

    This would be consistent with the New Testament teaching that the soul depends on the body, so that immortality requires the resurrection of the body, as opposed to ancient Greek dualism of body of soul.

    So why shouldn’t we see Darwinian emergent evolution as the way in which the Intelligent Designer worked?

    After all, there is no obvious reason to believe that the Intelligent Designer was unable or unwilling to employ evolutionary causes to execute His design.

  7. Arnhart,

    So why shouldn’t we see Darwinian emergent evolution as the way in which the Intelligent Designer worked?

    After all, there is no obvious reason to believe that the Intelligent Designer was unable or unwilling to employ evolutionary causes to execute His design.

    I’m looking forward to the day where someone posits design in evolution itself. I think a strong case can be made for it, and I think if such a case is made, some heads will be exploding.

    Theistic evolution is nice – I personally lean towards it – but so far it’s just been a statement of position, rather than (from what I’ve seen) a developed philosophy.

  8. “Not only that, but religion can be traced to defects in the temporal lobe. Paul the Apostle, Joan of Arc, Teresa of Avila, and Th‚rŠse of Lisieux were all epileptics, and that explains their careers.”

    I’ve seen this “epilepsy” thing so many times I’ve lost count. Every time I hear something about “visions” or whatever, I know the epilepsy shtick isn’t far behind. I will be getting your book for sure. I’m very interested in the mind-body connection – more so than the evolution controversy. The way I see it, even if there is a God, it doesn’t matter unless we truly have a soul.

  9. Hello Shaner74,

    The first time I heard about epilepsy/temporal lobe thing, I was explaining to a forum of young collegiates about my own mystical experience of the Holy Spirit. I was assured by one of them that I had had a ‘temporal lobe seizure.’ Now, I have taken care of plenty of epilepsy patients and witnessed a few seizures, and what happened to me is about as opposite to that as you can get. Seizures are destructive, and leave the person fatigued and ennervated.

    I got on the net and found one of the main guys who did this research, and who claimed to have temproal lobe epilepsy, esp. as a child, and he told me that he did not think I had any seizure or epilepsy, and that my experience sounded genuine. He was not a materialist.

    O’Leary says, about her book–
    “Meanwhile, there is good evidence for the independent existence of a mind, apart from the brain. Based on evidence, it is also reasonable to believe that people who have deep religious experiences contact something beyond themselves.”

    I agree wholeheartedly with that. But I do not at all agree that there cannot be a part of the brain (yes, probably in the temporal lobe) which processes and receives spiritual experiences. In fact, considering all the functions of the brain, how could there not be? That would be a real oversight! It might even be that one of humanity’s problems is that this area is poorly functioning, or deactivated.

    It seems to me that although mind is independent of brain, that so long as we are in our bodies, we use our brains for absolutely every activity we ever engage in.

    People seem to think that if there is an area of the brain in use while having a spiritual experience, that this somehow invalidates spiritual experience. Not so. It is possible that some epileptics get a stimulation to that part of the brain as an accidental byproduct of their seizure activity. But that does not mean that a spiritual experience constitutes a seizure or malfunction of any sort.

    That materialists quickly assume that evolution tricks us into absurd and false experiences of reality just shows their bias. For, if I were a theistic evolutionist, I would instead assume that our brains evolved to reveal to us actualities.

  10. Arnhart in 6,

    But “emergence” begs the question by reducing everything to mechanism—I fail to see how it differs from reductionism. Consciousness and free will “supervene” on computational and/or stimulus-response complexity, but there isn’t the foggiest of a theory as to how.

    So why should I be impressed with “emergence”?

    Still you make a good point. In the Bible “immortality requires the resurrection of the body, as opposed to ancient Greek dualism of body of soul.” There is a biblical basis to the teaching that without the body the soul sleeps. And there is also a biblical basis for seeing ourselves as tripartite beings—“spirit and soul and body” as in 1Thessalonians 5:23. In the Torah “bone and flesh” stand in for the body (Genesis 2:23), the soul is the center of desire and will and moral responsibility (Lev 17:11; Deut 12:15; Ezekiel 18:4, 20), and–biblically speaking here–the spirit pretty much corresponds to information and design and understanding (Exodus 31:3; Isaiah 11:2; 1Corinthians 2:9-11). Now the question is this: are soul and spirit reducible to body? The materialists say yes, but others, including Angus Menuge in Agents Under Fire and Denyse, in her forthcoming book I’m sure, say otherwise.

    My sense is that Intelligent Design should not postulate that design emerges from mechanism alone. Rather material and design and soul are all fundamental, and it is the soul that imposes design on material. That way it’s not “turtles all the way down”.

    You say, “So why shouldn’t we see Darwinian emergent evolution as the way in which the Intelligent Designer worked? … After all, there is no obvious reason to believe that the Intelligent Designer was unable or unwilling to employ evolutionary causes to execute His design.”

    But haven’t you been listening?!

    The whole point of Darwin is that what we see is only “the appearance of design” and therefore there is no need for a designer. If an “Intelligent Designer worked” through a process of chance and necessity sans agency, why that’s an oxymoron if there ever was one! The minute you invoke an Intelligent Designer in the evolution of life you are no longer a Darwinist—you are on the side of Intelligent Design.

  11. In regards to comment 6- I don’t see any way of wedding the idea that the soul just “emerged” after the primate brain reached a certain level of complexity to the idea that God created us all with souls. If a soul just emerged, then it wasn’t created, and that means it wasn’t the result of God.

    I don’t think many NT scholars would see this as a possible marriage at all.

    Furthermore- if you’re positing that an intelligent designer worked through darwinian processes to bring about the soul- I’m a bit confused from the start. NDE posits that these things aren’t the result of a purpose or intent by any designer…just the opposite. How would a designer work thru NDE when darwin, in his books, specifically set out to theorize a path to all of this WITHOUT a designer? All throuhout his books, he brings up his theories and stands them in direct opposition to the idea that they were created, that there was ever a creator or designer responsible for it all, etc.

    Sounds like wanting to have your cake and eat it too.

    I agree with Rude- once you posit that a designer was involved in bringing about life or aspects of biology, you’ve left the Darwinian camp and come over to some idea of intelligent design. Tis is why nearly all the major names in NDE posit a process that is opposed to any designer, design, etc…it’s all about “happy accidents”- no point, no purpose, no rhyme or reason to it all…just blind natural processes that got lucky and brought about life and eventually human beings to ponder these issues.

    I see no way of taking that worldview and combining with the idea of a purpose or point or a designer.

    Clearly, in the NT, there is the idea that the soul and spirit can exist outside the body. We’re told we will be resurrected when Christ returns, but that our bodies won’t be the ones we have now- but rather heavenly bodies that never die…which makes the part about our own bodies now being a vital part of the equation. I don’t have a heavenly body now- I assume my soul and spirit- what makes me the unique person I am, will be somehow put into my heavenly body.

  12. JasonTheGreek

    I agree with Rude- once you posit that a designer was involved in bringing about life or aspects of biology, you’ve left the Darwinian camp and come over to some idea of intelligent design. Tis is why nearly all the major names in NDE posit a process that is opposed to any designer, design, etc…it’s all about “happy accidents”- no point, no purpose, no rhyme or reason to it all…just blind natural processes that got lucky and brought about life and eventually human beings to ponder these issues.

    I’d agree with that as well – which is why I don’t understand the hostility sometimes seen between ID and TE camps. In the end, I think the same evidence that a ‘darwinist’ can point at and say, ‘Chance!’ is the exact evidence someone in the ID camp can point at and say ‘Design!’ – or a TE sympathizer can point at and say.. I’m not sure. Ultimate intention?

    Which is one worry I have when it comes to the ID movement. I think a lot of progress and work is ready to be made philosophically – because philosophy is where the bulk of the fight lies anyway. When scientists rule out design and intention in evolution and start throwing around words like chance and ‘illusion of design’, they’re no longer making a scientific claim, or coming to a scientific conclusion. But hey, I’m preaching to the choir here.

  13. “There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

  14. “There is grandeur in this view of life …”

    There is!? To each his own, I guess. I find that view of life dull and dreary and ugly and hopeless.

    In the beginning the purpose of science was to find God. If we now proclaim that he cannot be found then the answer is not what we had hoped.

    Also if you let the Designer in the door—even at the very beginning—then there’s no need for Darwin. If the first cell exhibits real design, then why must all subsequent manifestation of the same be only “the appearance of design”?

    The real question is whether Darwinism is anything other than the pseudoscience that Karl Popper originally thought it was. If it’s just a fairytale, as most of us here believe it is, then why would conservatives want to embrace it?

    Thus it’s good that the conservative community engages in the debate—it’s the central issue, the big question, the foundation for everything else. And so we need folks like Larry Arnhart to put forth the best case for Darwin. If we don’t think about it and talk about it and argue it then we’re vulnerable before those who would lead us further into multiculturalism and on to the island of doctor Moreau. The Left knows instinctively that Darwin was their apostle—hence the extremes in their attack on his detractors.

  15. “Darwinism, materialism, and reductionism are 100% ok with theistic belief, besides, they prove that there is no need for God, and that’s why all intelligent people are atheists you superstitious ignorant creationists”

  16. “There is grandeur in this view of life …” Well if so then—after reading all the physicists who subscribe to the evidential power of beauty—Darwinism should be the right theory. But then here is a case where beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Many of us find Darwinism ugly, immoral, illogical, illegal to challenge—and fattening!

    Darwinists deny any objective standard of beauty, and therefore beauty should be of no evidential consequence. It’s fascinating how that Darwinists and physicists come down on opposing sides of mathematical (logical and esthetic) realism. For the physicist his mathematics is “out there” to be discovered, for the Darwinist it’s been hardwired via natural selection, as George Lakoff argues.

  17. Rude and IDist,

    Agree, plus there is yet another problem with the theistic evolution scheme, in addition to the gaping scientific holes. Now, we all know that the attention span for many of our fellow hominids is about 30 seconds, in which time we take in information and draw conclusions.

    So, we get drowned in the Darwinian evolution tale where everything is about competition, sexual prowess, and victory for the most fit with the most material success. The take away is not the “endless forms most beautiful”, but the nasty process to bring them about.

    And then, in a chronological blink of an eye and the wave of a hand, out pops the soul from inside our thick hunter-and-gatherer skulls. Presto!! Ain’t it sweet??

    Oh yes, and then the divine “creator” (no designer, just a creator , or maybe they aptly call him a “facilitator” or “coordinator”, who knows), abruptly reverses direction, spins us around, and instructs us that we need to elevate the spirit and depress the flesh, the meek will inherit the earth, those who are last shall be first, love thy enemy, etc. Wow, makes one feel a bit dizzy, does it not? Talk about paradigm shift on a dime.

    OK, for those of you who live somewhere other than Amherst or Oxford or other lexus of intellectual elitism, think about your neighbor. Is he or she going to buy any of this?????

  18. “Let no man out of a weak conceit of sobriety, or an ill-applied moderation, think or maintain that a man can search too far or be too well studied in the book of God’s word, or in the book of God’s works; divinity or philosophy; but rather let men endeavour an endless progress or proficiency in both.”

  19. And thusly Darwin quotes Bacon. But it seems that Darwin counsels us to limit the search by removing God from both his word and his works. Some humility is in order on all sides. Let the theist confront his doubts, and the materialist tone down his certainty, and then “let men endeavour an endless progress or proficiency in both.”

  20. For what it’s worth here—I just read today’s column by Dennis Prager. He’s right, of course, but there are really two questions whose answers take us to American conservatism.

    1. Is there a God who inserts himself into the history of our world?

    2. Then Prager’s question: “Does the person believe in the divinity and authority of the Five Books of Moses, the first five books of the Bible, known as the Torah? (‘Divinity’ does not necessarily mean ‘literalism.’)”

    Prager’s question is indeed the deciding question. But to get there you’ve gotta go through ID. For how could the Torah be divine and authoritative if no Divinity exercises his design in this world.

  21. “‘Divinity’ does not necessarily mean ‘literalism’”

    Why not? Wouldn’t Ken Ham (“Answers in Genesis”) say that this is just the problem with ID proponents–that they don’t REALLY believe in the God of Genesis who created everything in 6 days?

    Do we really want to accept the moral authority of the first five books of the Bible? Would that mean accepting slavery, for example? As Mark Noll has indicated in his recent book on the theological controversy in the Civil War, the proslavery advocates were able to rely on the Bible as authority for slavery. Or should we say that the authority of the Bible on such issues is not decisive?

  22. Mr. Arnhart, with all due respect, slavery in the Ancient Near East was a very different concept than American Racist Slavery.

    For example, in the Roman world, some could sell themselves into slavery as a means of possible upward social mobility or as a way out of dire financial situations. (Slaves were sometimes educated as physicians.)

    The biblical conept of “slavery” was actually much closer to what we would call indentured servitude, where people would usually serve for a pre-determined number of years while protected by definite rights. Contrast that with American Chattel slavery.

    So your criticism is without force. One can comfortably and consistently accept the Torah based social teachings, at least in regards to servitude.

  23. 23

    I was going to bring that point up, Adam, but didn’t know how convincing it would be since the comment in question was about perceived morality (slaveowners in the 1800′s rationalized the practice by saying it was moral based on the fact that the Hebrews had slaves, ignoring the context in which the institution existed), which is a stickier mess altogether. There’s also the matter of the degree of punishment for crimes (like dishonoring one’s parents) that get brought up, although I’m not totally convinced that punishment has to do with morality so much as it does justice. But you get my point, I’m sure.

  24. 24

    (Sorry, I meant to type Atom. Unless I’ve inadvertently uncovered your secret identity!)

  25. LOL @thechristiancynic.

    No worries mate. My real name isn’t Adam. But I knew who you were talking to.

    I think it is important to differentiate the two because when asking “Does the Torah condone slavery?” we have to know what we mean by “slavery.” It does condone certains forms of servitude, yes, but only within clearly defined and legally protected bounds.

    Mr. Arnhart is trying to use the American slavery issue to make a point about Torah social teachings and whether or not Torah instruction can lead us astray morally, when Torah “slavery” (and ANE slevery in general) was a different beast altogether. This breaks his argument.

  26. Why might some people’s ‘literalism’ be off the mark? Because the Book is difficult and chock full of allegorical references.

    Whatever some might say about Genesis, just study it for a while and see how difficult it is. Genesis 1 verse 2 has the earth a desert and unproductive, which Pseudo-Jonathan paraphrases with, “solitary of the sons of men, and void of every animal [וּבַהֲייָא צַדְיָא מִבְּנֵי נַשׁ וְרֵיקַנְיָא מִן כָּל בְּעִיר]”. The waters are already there as well, this before the six days even begin. And the earth (הָאָרֶץ) doesn’t mean “the planet”—and there are good exegetical reasons to interpret it here as ‘the land of Israel’. The point isn’t that I have the right interpretation but rather that there’s a lot more there—and a lot more controversy ancient and modern—than some would have us believe.

    Rightly you quote Darwin-Bacon: “…but rather let men endeavour an endless progress or proficiency in both.”

    In the Civil War both sides appealed to the Torah, just as I can imagine them appealing to Darwin. People will see whatever they want in the Book, just like judges will see whatever they want in the Constitution. But that doesn’t make them right.

    Now I suspect that the experts would tell us that not every last aspect of the Torah is intended as legally binding on all the nations at this time. It’s a contract between God and Israel! But the day is coming when, as it says (Isaiah 2:3), “And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.”

    As for the biblical slavery—you have to weigh that over against the complete lack of a prison system in the Torah’s prescriptions. Prisons were there from the beginning (Genesis 39:20), but the Torah makes do with fines, indentured servitude for up to six years, and capital punishment. OK, so we don’t go the whole route—but can we really say that our vast prison system is more humane?

    But we do our best—repairing the world till messiah comes. In this blessed land our shared values happen to be Torah values. There’s room for materialists, of course, even in the camp of the conservatives, but it’s not Darwin that’s the source of those values: It’s the Torah—just as Prager argues, and as David Gelernter ardently affirms.

  27. 27

    Atom,
    I very well might be misunderstanding the argument in question, but it seems to me that it’s an epistemic matter – that is, is the Torah itself reliable as a moral guide? The slavery argument is that the Torah was misused as a moral guide to allow the immoral racial slavery up to the American Civil War, and even though we have good reasons to affirm that this is a misuse rather than the logical extension of the practice as described in the Torah, it requires that sort of reasoning to filter the Torah into a correct interpretation, which history has shown can tend to be problematic. I don’t think this is reason enough to throw out the Law altogether (I try to avoid such ‘baby with the bathwater’ mentalities), but I see the relevance of the point. To me, that just means we need to be promoting critical thinking skills more prominently.

  28. To Atom & Rude,

    I wish that you were correct in your reading of the Old Testament as sanctioning only a mild form of indentured servitude and not the sort of slavery practiced in the American South. But I cannot see that your reading is based on the Biblical text.

    What you have stated is the position first developed by American abolitionists such as Angelina Grimke. But Grimke’s critics–even among the abolitionists–showed the weakness of her arguments.

    The Old Testament does provide some legal protection for slaves. But, then, of course, Southern laws also provided extensive protection for slaves.

    As Deuteronomy 25:35-55 makes clear, the 6-year restriction on indentured servitude applied only to one’s fellow Hebrews. The enslavement of non-Hebrews was not so limited.

    Non-Hebrew slaves were treated as property. God’s law explicitly allowed enslavement of captives taken in war.

    Actually, enslavement of captives was in some respects merciful, because the command of God in the conquest of Canaan was to “kill everything that breathes” (Deuteronomy 20:16).

  29. The Christian Cynic,

    The Torah is the statement of God’s covenant with Israel. Some aspects of it cannot apply elsewhere. No city, for example, can replace Jerusalem, and most of the cultus applies only there. But the Torah is the acknowledged foundation for the law in our land, and–if you believe the prophets–for all the world in the world to come.

    And, as you suggest, all codes of law must be interpreted. And if not interpreted at least applied case specifically.

    I really recommend reading David Gelernter–one of the Unabomber’s victims. He shows how
    much the founding fathers of the United States drew from the Torah–interesting reading for those who like this fact.

  30. No, the Torah cannot properly be “the foundation for the law in our land,” because the Torah sanctions infanticide (Genesis 22, Judges 11:29), genocide (Deuteronomy 20, Numbers 31), and slavery (Deuteronomy 25).

    The American constitutional framers rightly wrote the Constitution so that it never mentions the God of the Bible, and its only reference to religion is the “no religious test” clause. When Alexander Hamilton was asked why the Constitution contained no reference to God, he answered, “We forgot.”

    This is what makes America different from the Islamic regimes under sharia.

    Moreover, this American affirmation of religious liberty and denial of theocracy follows the teaching of the New Testament–particularly, the Christian libertarianism of Paul (I Corinthians 5:12-13) and Roger Williams.

  31. 31

    I wish that you were correct in your reading of the Old Testament as sanctioning only a mild form of indentured servitude and not the sort of slavery practiced in the American South. But I cannot see that your reading is based on the Biblical text.

    This isn’t a reading of the Biblical text; it’s putting the institution in the context of the ANE. It wasn’t (generally) racial; it wasn’t generally forced; it had elements of gaining social mobility; it was a way of allowing the poor to support themselves; and so forth. There are significant differences between slavery in the ANE and slavery in the Americas, and many have correctly noted this.
    Rude – I don’t disagree with what you’re saying (and I hope I didn’t give any indication to that regard). Your point about interpreting law is especially cogent, since the same argument could be made about the Constitution since we have a hard time interpreting it consistently. I was sort of playing devil’s advocate regarding Arnhart’s comments.

  32. Arnhart,

    One needs to read the rabbis and trace the application of the Torah into the Second Temple and beyond.

    One needs also to consider that outside of Israel as once constituted under God, it is advisable that the nations take a moderate stance. A liberal republic or democrcy founded on Torah principles is far safer than some theocratic regime which thinks it has replaced ancient Israel. That is a lesson of Euro-American history and it’s a lesson other parts of the world are now in the process of learning.

    Now the question is not whether there should be a designer–it’s whether there is one. Likewise the question is not whether the Torah is what we would like it to be, the question is whether it really is what it claims to be. God–through the prophet–predicts that we won’t like what he says (Isaiah 55:8): “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.”

    ID takes up proposal of detecting design in the natural world. This is a modest proposal and one where a “scientific” answer is possible. The question of God, however, and of the God of Israel and the validity of the Bible–dealing with this cuts across many disciplines and (this side of the world to come) we can expect that sincere people will come to different conclusions. But it just happens that a large number of Americans do accept the Torah as God’s word–the book that played a significant role in the founding of their nation.

    I can sympathize with those who for whatever reason find that they cannot accept the Torah but still seek common cause with many of its teaching in some other philosophy . I will argue that Darwinism isn’t up to the task, but will welcome those who accept the ethics.

  33. Arnhart- the Bible CANNOT be the foundation of our laws? Odd how that works. I’m sure the founders and their writings would take issue with that statement.

    Also- you claim the Bible’s take on slavery is different from the comments posted here…then you conveniently change the sort of “slavery” you’re talking about and talk about prisoners of war. We DO, in fact, take prisoners of war today! I hope you’re aware of that fact. Prisoners of war can’t choose to be released from their contract after 6 yrs? GASP!! How could a military dare do that? Shall we allow murderers to go free from prison after 6 yrs?

    You can’t claim the Bible supports southern- style slavery, then back that claim up by suddenly jumping to Biblical law pertaining to military prisoners taken during war!!

    The Bible, of course, does not of course condone genocide (the verses you mention are stories of WAR.) War exists- shocking isn’t it? Do you deny that wars exist? Deuteronomy 20 for example is a rallying cry for the people of Israel to fight those who try to steal their land and their resources. I assume you’re a strict pacifist? My morality tells me (and I think most Americans agree) that we have to fight those who hate us and want to destroy us, or we will be overtaken by them!

    This is why, in my opinion, atheists can’t often be trusted to study the Bible and teach it. Arnhart here gets more than a few things completely wrong…why? His goal is to attack the Bible, and when attacking something is your goal, your study of the subject usually isn’t too precise or careful.

  34. Rude,

    ID denies Biblical theology. It assumes a dichotomy such that either living beings naturally evolved or they were intelligently designed.

    Dembski’s “explanatory filter” means that if we can explain something as a product of natural regularities or chance, then we cannot attribute this to design. But the Biblical theology of Creation ex nihilo would say that everything is intelligently designed by God–either through His design of natural laws (including evolution) or through His designing things outside His natural laws. For that reason, many Christian scientists believe that if all living things could be explained as products of Darwinian natural evolution, this would be a wondrous manifestation of God’s power for intelligently designing natural laws to execute His purposes.

    Whether God works through the ordinary laws of nature or through extraordinary miracles, it’s all an expression of His intelligent design.

    From this point of view of Christian theology, Darwinian evolution is intelligent design. (This is suggested by Darwin’s “There is grandeur in this view of life . . . .”)

  35. It should be pointed out that most of what Arnhart wasn’t to go to in the Bible to support his claim is text that pertains to a SPECIFIC nation (Israel). And the law and rules for that particular nation.

    Would I automatically take all the laws for Israel and use them in the US? Not all of them, because we, as Americans, never faced the exact threats the nation of Israel did. We never needed military law that dealt with the type of warfare that would take place in a nation completely surrounded by enemy nations (we’re surrounded by 2 oceans!) We don’t have a temple- so we don’t need certain religious laws that pertain specifically to the temple and behavior in and around the temple.

    Most of these laws aren’t global univerals, they’re specific for a time period and place. Some of the OT laws are univerals- thou shall not murder (it IS murder not “kill”- God makes it clear that the nation of Israel would have to fight battles with their enemies in order to stay on the map) is one of those univerals.

  36. Oh wow. Didn’t someone point out that Darwin, when he spoke of a “creator” never meant God or anything like that? Dawkins talks about the granduer of life and the world, but he’s a strict atheist. So, taking Darwin’s language and attempting (and badly, at that) to give it religious meaning is absurd.

    Furthermore- I don’t think I’ve ever seen any argue that a series of blind unguided accidents over billions of years is in any way intelligent design, let alone a fit for Biblical theology!

    Then again, I’m sort of confused. The first half of his last comment stated that ID cannot fit with the bible, but that natural laws working on sheer dumb luck, with no guidance, no plan, and no purpose accidentally creating humans is somehow Biblical. I think we’re reading from a different Bible, that’s for sure!

    So blind accidents are Biblical and thoughtful guided processes are not? Or is this argument just too confusing for me to grasp?

  37. arnhart

    The American constitutional framers rightly wrote the Constitution so that it never mentions the God of the Bible, and its only reference to religion is the “no religious test” clause.

    One needs to keep in mind America is a federation of largely independent states, particularly independent when the federal constitution was written. The central gov’t didn’t give a nod to God in the constitution but 45 of the states did in their constitutions.

    List of Preambles to US State Constitutions

  38. RE thechristiancynic #31:

    Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  39. In response to Larry Arnhart:

    “ID denies Biblical theology.” Maybe so—but there are those who say that “Biblical” theology isn’t really biblical, i.e., Gerhard May (Creatio Ex Nihilo: The Doctrine of ‘Creation Out of Nothing’ in Early Christian Though).

    “It assumes a dichotomy such that either living beings naturally evolved or they were intelligently designed.” Hmm … what are the logical possibilities? We’ve always been here … David Berlinski’s “sheer dumb luck” in slow Darwinian fashion or suddenly popping into existence … design by a designer?

    “Dembski’s ‘explanatory filter’ means that if we can explain something as a product of natural regularities or chance, then we cannot attribute this to design.” Is there any other way? If the forensic experts can’t show intent then we chalk it up to time and chance.

    “But the Biblical theology of Creation ex nihilo would say that everything is intelligently designed by God–either through His design of natural laws (including evolution) or through His designing things outside His natural laws.

    Dembski’s design filter doesn’t deny design anywhere. If the laws of physics are contingent—David Berlinski reminds us that we may not know enough about mathematics to be sure about this—but if they are contingent then their “fine tuning” points to design. Materialists, however, opt for many worlds (see Martin Rees’ Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape the Universe).

    “For that reason, many Christian scientists believe that if all living things could be explained as products of Darwinian natural evolution, this would be a wondrous manifestation of God’s power for intelligently designing natural laws to execute His purposes.” Except that it would make God unnecessary this side of his designing of the laws—which is Deism—which was favored by the Enlightenment because it freed us from any responsibility to the Hebrew God of history.

    “Whether God works through the ordinary laws of nature or through extraordinary miracles, it’s all an expression of His intelligent design.” Two misconceptions emerge here: 1) If God made matter and then waited for chance and necessity (“sheer dumb luck”) to produce Adam—the laws were designed but Adam wasn’t. If God expresses his agency via the laws then it’s not Darwinism. Richard Dawkins understands this. 2) Intelligent Design does not invoke miracles if by miracle you mean the suspension of the laws of nature. Did the design in the Apollo rocket arise by miracle?

    “From this point of view of Christian theology, Darwinian evolution is intelligent design. (This is suggested by Darwin’s ‘There is grandeur in this view of life . . . .’)” No it isn’t! The materialists understand this. Either you explain with chance and necessity and exclude design (a la Monod), or you admit design (as does Intelligent Design).

    Now invokes less materialist rage the further back in time that he invokes design. Push it back before the Big Bang and the ACLU hardly notices. Extend it to the origin of life and you raise a few eyebrows, but challenge Darwin and you’d better watch your scalp.

    Why do you think this is?

  40. I’d be about as happy having Old Testament law for the law of this land as I would the sharia. They are quite similar. Anyone who makes excuses for the things in the Old Testament either hasn’t read it or isn’t able to be objective. I find it odd that God should be excused for such poor training of his people in what should have been the highest morals on the planet.

    It was OK for a man to strike his slave an kill him, if he didn’t die right away. If he died right away, he got a fine. A man could only take freedom from slavery if he abandoned his wife and children. Wives and children didn’t get freedom at all. If he wouldn’t abandon them, he forever gave up his right to any freedom. The old testament did command that the Hebrews kill women and children – that is, when they didn’t save the virgin girls for the men. There is even one of those war passages in which it glorifies the ripping of babies out of the wombs of the mothers. Even the psalms, usually beautiful, contains one in which the author delights in victory, and that he will “dash their infants against the rocks.”

    How would you like it if America were invaded, and you and your wife and son were killed, but your 12-year-old daughter, after watching this, was kept as booty for a soldier? This is God we’re talking about.

    There is not one entity posing as God in the Old Testament. There are two. The Lord is not Jehovah. If they were the same, why did Isaiah say “I am sick of your fatted calfs”? Why did Jesus quote Hosea thus: “I will have mercy and not sacrifice?”

  41. First- the view of “slavery” is wrong. You’re referring mainly to prisoners who were forced into servitude. We still make prisoners work today- licence plates come to mind…being the stereotypical job for inmates.

    As for dashing children against rocks- Psalm 137:9 does NOT say that the author will do this or that he will enjoy this. He is telling of a FUTURE event that will happen at the hands of two warring factions.

    God, in this verse is talking about the Babylonians and how they had become wicked. They would be defeated in battle by the persians and other factions that fight war against them and that some soldiers in the ranks will kill children and will enjoy it. That’s merely an observation of a sad future event that will take place.

    Like I said before, some people refuse to study the Bible carefully, which results in mistakes like these.

    If I said “one day a nation will rise in the middle east, and they will blow up innocent children and they will revel in it” that’s simply an observation of a sick people…not an acceptance of the act or even a blessing on that act.

    As for slavery- here is a detailed look into the Bible and “servants” (the translation into English isn’t perfect…the Bible, as written, in English, should read servant and servitude not slavery and slave.) As others keep trying to point out- you have to look at the context of HISTORY, the era these events took place, the culture of the ANE, etc.
    http://www.christian-thinktank.com/qnoslave.html

    So…when you actually take the time to truly study the issue and understand it, you see that uou can, in fact (and we do, in fact) use OT law as our moral foundation and legal foundation as well.

  42. Avocationist says,

    “I’d be about as happy having Old Testament law for the law of this land as I would the sharia.”

    But the Torah is the deed to a specific piece of real estate and—unlike that other tradition—there is no Torah injunction to enforce the word beyond the borders of that piece of real estate. The New Testament, which by the way upholds the authority of the Old (John 10:35; 2Timothy 3:16; etc.), condones no such stratagem either. So I shouldn’t worry that today’s Scripture respecting Judeo-Christians are about to enforce a theocracy on the rest of us.

    Also as various here have said—the Torah presupposes divine guidance (urim & tummim, etc.) within Israel, something that it does not presuppose out there in the nations.

    And then there’s the little thing of viewing a culture across time. One can imagine that from the perspective of the far future our own society might look pretty repugnant. It is interesting that our worst tyrants have loathed in particular the Old Testament, whereas the founders of our nation loved it.

    You decry “Anyone who makes excuses for the things in the Old Testament …” Well not for excuses but for some real Torah wisdom let me recommend The Jewish Ethicist. Wonderful refreshing stuff. You do, however, bring up an interesting point. Intelligent Design is not about the book of Scripture, only the book of Nature. Intelligent Design—thankfully!—is not an organized movement embroiled in arguments over both books. Secularists would far rather pick at Genesis and the rest of the Torah than face the falseness of their own creation myth.

    But what happens when elite society decides the book of Nature and the book of Scripture are in serious contradiction? And what do you think might happen when elite society once again decides that the two books are not in contradiction? These are valid questions for the nation. Phillip Johnson who, when wearing his ID hat, councils that we stay out of Genesis, nevertheless says we must decide, “Are we one nation under God? Or are we one nation under Darwin?”

  43. [...] just Hitler: Joseph Stalin hoped to produce half-man, half-ape super-warriors, but the project came to nothing. The disgraced chief scientist died in the vast Soviet prison [...]

  44. [...] just Hitler: Joseph Stalin hoped to produce half-man, half-ape super-warriors, but the project came to nothing. The disgraced chief scientist died in the vast Soviet prison [...]

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