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Professional Life Investments and Objectivity in Evaluating ID’s Logic and Evidence

A bunch of people are mad at me for my “wasted life” comment, and I confess to an injudicious choice of words. Of course I don’t believe that Ken Miller’s, or anyone else’s life is a total waste just because one’s professional career might be invested in something that turns out to be wrong. But I do think there is a valid point concerning one’s professional life investment and objectivity in evaluating evidence, and I think that Darwinism has caused countless people to invest their careers in a pursuit that will turn out to have been a waste of time and effort.

What paleontologist would want to admit that he invested his life’s work in looking for transitional intermediates that never existed? If it turns out that life is not the product of selfish genes, or that the blind-watchmaker really didn’t do all that marvelous creating, or that Mount Improbable really doesn’t have a gradual slope up the back side, then Dawkins’ effort in writing books with these titles was an exercise in futility and storytelling about stuff that never happened.

The notion that one might be spending, or might have already spent, his professional life chasing a rainbow is a powerful incentive to make the evidence fit the theory, and to lose all objectivity in evaluating the challenges of skeptics.

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13 Responses to Professional Life Investments and Objectivity in Evaluating ID’s Logic and Evidence

  1. There is always a risk in being emotionally tied to the results of ones inquiries, especially when one has committed a career to supporting an ideology. Emotions all too often blind us to truth that may undermine our sacred beliefs. Darwinists are quick to discount, misrepresent and cast aspersions on anyone offering contrary evidence that contradicts their materialist religion.

    However, is this so different than the many other religious sects around the world, including Christians? Other than the details of ones conclusions, how does the religion of Darwinian evolution differ from any other religious belief system which is based in passion rather than direct observation? As any fair minded investigator knows, conclusions are exceedingly vulnerable to influence from passionate belief.

    There are two primary philosophies of life:

    1. Creative Intelligence exists prior to and beyond the universe as we know it, and was/is instrumental in its formation.

    2. The universe has no fundamental intelligent cause and exists as a purely mechanical phenomenon.

    Religions based on Deity are just as dangerous to the exploration of truth as are the religions base on atheism. What is primary? Ones belief in some favored version of God (or no God), or ones determination to know truth? And please, let’s avoid the cliché that God “is” truth. God may, or may not, exist; but truth most certainly exists. Good science seeks to reveal rather than prove. Proof, after all, is more often a judgment on facts than an absolute certainty.

  2. It seems to me that the term “wasted life” implies some moral content.

    If Dawkins is correct then all our lives, including his and Millers are a waste. When the universe finally peters out we will not even be a memory.

    It is easy to see how an atheist world view will bring us all meaning, hope, love and peace. Who needs God?

  3. Webwanderer you said.

    “religious belief systems are based in passion rather than direct observation”

    Monotheistic religion is usually based on the observation and interpretation of revelation by the Deity, not on passion.

    “truth most certainly exists”

    The existence of objective truth is not a certainty for most philosophers.

  4. Idnet, you are attributing a quote to me that I did not make.

    “religious belief systems are based in passion rather than direct observation”

    My actual statement was:

    “Other than the details of ones conclusions, how does the religion of Darwinian evolution differ from any other religious belief system which is based in passion rather than direct observation?”

    A couple of words can make a big difference. My post did not paint “all” religious belief systems as being based in passion. My statement is not referring to institutional religions so much as individual application of religious beliefs. Everyone is different but there is plenty of passionate fervor.

    On your second point, here too you add an assumed word, “objective”. My intent is more fundamental. There is either an intelligent creative force beyond that which is created, or there is not. Personally I see ID as the science that is genuinely looking for truth as it relates to the origins of life. I become concerned however, when I see too much religious/Christian attempts at ownership of the science.

  5. I don’t think there is one right or wrong answer to the question of what causes evolution. A person’s career is not wasted if they spend it making careful observations and collecting data. If their original hypothesis turns out not to be entirely correct, they still have learned something about nature.

    Darwin’s theory and his observations had a great impact on science, not all of it bad or misleading. You can’t expect one person to get everything right.

    I strongly disagree with atheists like Dawkins, but I don’t think he’s wasting his life. If nothing else, he makes us analyze our faith more carefully, and not believe things simply because we were taught them as children.

    Some religions have been extremely intolerant and dogmatic, and that is changing thanks to angry atheists like Dawkins.

    I am religious and I think scientific materialism is an error. But I also think it’s an understandable error. I am sorry that science is completely dominated by materialism. On the other hand, when someone comes up with undeniable evidence for the supernatural, science will eventually accept it, and materialism will die out gradually.

    There is so much animosity between Darwinists and IDists, and I really don’t think it has to be that way. Both sides are partly right and partly wrong, both sides are human and fallible and limited.

  6. Personally I don’t believe the “wasted life” question was in any way out of line, but rather a completely valid line of reasoning regarding the value of a person’s life’s work.

    Unless we are willing to abandon all questions of purpose, each and every one of us must examine our own lives and the lives of others, and make judgments on the value of the goals and achievements therein.

    While the phrase, “…Ken’s life will have been a wasted effort…” might have been better stated, “…Ken’s life’s work will have been a wasted effort…” I believe that most readers of the blog understood the meaning.

    If we compare Billy Graham with Richard Dawkins: one is an evangelist for “theism” and one is an evangelist for “atheism.” I believe there is value in trying to understand if each, or either, of these pursuits is worthwhile, or an utterly wasted effort.

    Assuming some philosophical latitude: one of these men is presenting truth and the other one is not. Each of us should be able to see the value of knowing which is which, regardless of our theistic suppositions.

    A life’s work spent trying to refute the “round earthers” would rightly be viewed as a life of wasted effort.

    “Religions based on Deity are just as dangerous to the exploration of truth as are the religions base on atheism.”

    From philosophically neutral territory, neither of these are “dangerous,” and neither assaults the “facts.” Both theism and atheism are conclusions reached by individuals based on facts, or the lack thereof. The danger arises when one philosophy over another obtains a monopoly on the conclusions that can be reached, and is able to define the damnable heresies.

    Obviously enough, it is not the theists that are attempting to quash the debate by defining theistic conclusions of scientific observations as heresy. I suggest that it is the atheists who are doing that very thing, and Ken Miller is going along for the ride. If he is spending his life arguing for a flat earth, his life’s work is indeed being wasted.

    As to the caliber of reasoning currently being demonstrated by the materialists: it sounds a lot like, “If it floats, it’s a witch.”

  7. Did Pharoah live his life in vain?

    Reading Scripture one has to conclude that God appreciates bad examples. If there had been no Nazism, no Soviet Union, just think of all the hard lessons that might never have been learned. But our elites haven’t learned those lessons, you say. But oh don’t forget the tens of millions now in their graves who did learn, and the eloquent witness they could provide in the world to come.

    God says to Moses (Exodus 14:4), “And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honoured upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD. And they did so.” Pharaoh was set to choose wrong but evidently he did not have the will to carry it through. God wanted the lesson learned, honor from Egypt, and the establishment of his nation by great signs and wonders. The dictators of Iraq seem to have been endowed with stronger will, for where does it say that God hardened Nebuchadnezzar’s heart? The same goes for the king of Assyria (Isaiah 10:7): “Howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so; but it is in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few.”

    Now just imagine the wrath of the Darwinists should they think that we think the deity has hardened their hearts for a purpose. But what if the Darwinian Pharoahs lacked the hardness of heart for the great deliverance from the materialism of Egypt that God has in mind—would God harden their hearts? Stark raving mad, am I? Well the fathers of our nation talked like this—much more eloquently of course—just ask David Gelernter.

    Bleeding heart Christians worry about the justice of it all—all those souls writhing in hell—but Paul deals with the problem in Romans 9—verse 17, for example: “For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.” Maybe the present cosmos isn’t a soul saving factory—but rather a school with exams and graduation in the future when, as Jesus said (Luke 10:12), “But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city [which knowingly rejects the truth].”

  8. Gil, I don’t think anybody’s mad about your “wasted life” post.

    However, many ID proponents like me are seeing an unpleasant abrasiveness here at Uncommon Descent. This is the web log of Dr. William Dembski who we have respected as a gentleman, and highly degreed scholar. His doctoral dissertation and books are for me the formalized foundation of Intelligent Design and it’s sad to see him and other posters making comments regarding Ken Miller as being “wasted” or “collapsed”, or “not a real Christian”. There are many other recent examples of this trend at UD in comments aimed at other people.

    I’ll repeat what I said in a previous reply: it’s time for Dr. Dembski and friends to get back to the business of basic research and serious publication.

  9. I’m sure Ken Miller has done many other things with his life other than preach Darwin. Surely he teaches much more than that, has friends and family, pays taxes, and much more. To say his life is wasted is 1) a judgement call and 2) ill-considered given the above. Saying he’s wasted much time and energy preaching Darwin would be more apt but not a whole life.

  10. “t’s time for Dr. Dembski and friends to get back to the business of basic research and serious publication.”

    Yes! UD has become mostly politics — self-righteous, angry and predictable.

    Some of us come here because we care about ID and want to follow its progress. We are not all global warming deniers or fundamentalist Christians. We are non-mainstream scientists who care about truth, not political bickering.

  11. Stu Harris wrote:

    “I’ll repeat what I said in a previous reply: it’s time for Dr. Dembski and friends to get back to the business of basic research and serious publication.”

    Sage words indeed. I would be keen to read some of the previous basic research and serious publication. In which journals has it been published? Can I find it online? It is my understanding that witnesses at the Dover trial were unable to point to any such work, and that Philip Johnson has stated that there isn’t really a clearly worked out theory of ID. Have I been misinformed? Please advise.

    Thanks in advance,

    Ken P

  12. As one who accepts common ancestry, I would actually expect that the intermediates searched for by the paleontologists existed. However, an ID model of evolution would likely leave a very light footprint of intermediates. Hey, that seems to be consistent with the data. How ’bout that.

  13. Saying he’s wasted much time and energy preaching Darwin would be more apt but not a whole life.

    I made this clarification in this post and here, and that’s why I confessed to an injudicious choice of words.

    Back to the topic of this thread. Of course, in science, mathematics and engineering, dead ends and failed hypotheses are a necessary part of discovery, and are not a waste of time and effort. What is at issue is what has happened in the field of Darwinian evolution. As Michael Egnor comments (I paraphrase):

    How can random processes and selection pressure generate meaning, a code, a language? Those are the sorts of questions Darwinists should have asked immediately in the 1950s when the genetic code was revealed, if they had been objective about their work. It’s the kind of thing that should have stopped Darwinism in its tracks. Instead, all they did was make the same kinds of facile assumptions they had been making about all kinds of evolution, and simply applied the same kinds of just-so stories to molecular evolution.

    It is at this point that wasted effort rears its ugly head, and objectivity in evaluating evidence goes out the window in favor of defending one’s professional life investment.

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