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The Legacy of Darwin and Intelligent Design

I attended and participated in this conference in Castle Rock, CO, last night and today. It was superb–a world-class conference in every way, and most gratifying.

Steve Meyer present the essence of his information argument the first night, covering a huge range of material in an approachable, but challenging way. He thus outlined the major argument of his magisterial work, Signature in the Cell. On Saturday morning, Michael Behe winsomely explained the nature of ID and illustrated it with material from Darwin’s Back Box and (to a lesser degree) The Edge of Evolution.  In the question-answer time, an ID critic challenged ID primarily on the basis of the Dover decision and Behe launched into a fifteen-minute rebuttal, complete with PowerPoint slides. I led a round of applause for that performance. Then Steve Meyer interviewed the inimitable David Berlinski on Berlinski’s life and his take on Darwinism. (I was able to give Dr. Berlinski a copy of my book, On Pascal.) John West gave a stellar presentation on the social and political implications of Darwinism. The conference ended with a panel discussion moderated by Craig Smith (Director of Shepherd Project) that included myself, Mike Behe, Steve Meyer, and John West. We discussed how to take the ID message to “the next generation.”

Despite the attacks on the web page and the attempts to jam their phone lines, the conference was very well attended. The Douglas County Events Center was perhaps 70% filled, not counting the bleachers. There were perhaps 1000 people. I was heartened to see many Denver Seminary students. Many books and DVDs were available and seemed to be selling well. The speakers were also available to sign their books and chat with the conferees.

I encourage you all to visit Shepherd Project web page (when it is de-hacked) and pick up these DVDs or audio files. All the presenters did an excellent job. I was honored to play a small part in this and to get to hang out with these folks for two meals and some other informal time. It was a near-heaven experience for me.

Douglas Groothuis, Professor of Philosophy, Denver Seminary

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30 Responses to The Legacy of Darwin and Intelligent Design

  1. Hy Groothuis, van watter deel in Suid Afrika kom jy vandaan?

  2. Oops, sorry, my mistake, I thought Groothuis was a nickname like niwrad.

  3. It was a near-heaven experience for me.

    Is heaven a sort of super conference?

  4. 4
    William J. Murray

    God’s Ipod:

    When a group books a venue, they must adhere to the rules of the venue. Virtually every venue I’ve ever attended any conference or meeting at has a similar restriction. Usually, the facility has a contract with a concessions vendor that includes not allowing attendees to bring in their own food or beverages.

  5. It’s comforting to know that the supply of petty remarks isn’t yet depleted.

  6. Is heaven a sort of super conference?
    That would be the other place.

  7. Douglas Groothuis wrote: “I was heartened to see many Denver Seminary students.

    The Shepherd Project Ministries’ website says they sponsor Christian speakers, conferences and resources bridging the gap between faith and culture.

    How is a Christian conference attended by seminary students supposed to convince anybody that intelligent design is science rather than religion?

  8. I’m afraid someone took my metaphor or hyperbole a little too seriously. Translated: I absolutely loved this conference.

  9. PaulBurnett @ 8

    How is a Christian conference attended by seminary students supposed to convince anybody that intelligent design is science rather than religion?

    It isn’t just committed materialists who are continually bombarded with pro-macroevolutionary propaganda that also paints ID as a form of disguised Biblical creationism. As a result, among the number of people who need to be convinced that ID is science there are many who would consider themselves religious.

  10. I was also able to attend the conference and found it to be interesting and worthwhile, a few comments. . .

    Both Meyer and Behe did a fine job of what were necessarily summarizations of major ideas in their books. Meyer especially is to be congratulated on going from “inference to the best explanation” to “Shannon information” v. “specified information” to “protein folding from amino acid building blocks” to “the DNA enigma (what it was and what it wasn’t)” and more.

    I was initially concerned that it would be difficult to do more than a “sound bite” type of presentation, but Meyer did great. I would hope that if nothing else, the skeptics of ID who were present would have heard enough to choose to buy “Signature in the Cell” and see how the numerous topics Meyer introduced are ably fleshed out and supported.

    Behe focused the majority of his talk on DBB, and had little time to go into any detail on EoE, but that was fine. It was unfortunate that the projectors at the conference had some really bad contrast problems. After his talk on the BF, Behe mentioned how scientists are discovering complex after protein complex within the cell that exhibits IC. (NOTE: this is how I remembered his comment; I did not take notes and am not generally known for my precision in such matters) It would have been cool to see a series of those animations.

    Meyer had a informal interview with David Berlinski that was a riot. Although faced with a bunch of us yayhoos who think Colgate is just toothpaste, Berlinski was incisive, cutting, and expansive during his interview. One gets the sense that Dr. Berlinski has a “view from above” in terms of marking the ebb and flow of rhetoric in science. Despite Berlinski’s occassional barbs “. . .Harris is a twerp . . . “, when it came to science, its overextension, abuse, and of course the “pretense” held by the new atheists, Dr. Berlinski just plain seemed eminently fair.

    Above all, though, Dr. Berlinski was both generous and gracious in his personal interactions with the conference attendees; I took care to notice this in all the presenters, and was pleased to find a patient confidence that I could so easily contrast with the strident tones of ID detractors.

    I should also mention that John West did a nice job of carefully laying out some of the social ramifications of Darwin in America. Following his talk, a question was raised about Peter Singer and his support of donating to Oxfam. I supposed the question was brought forth by an ID skeptic to dispute West’s earlier inclusion of Singer in a tide of thought that extends from Darwin’s thoughts as recorded in the Descent of Man. West paused, and I wondered if he was just going to blurt out, “Well why don’t you ask Singer why he, a professor of ethics, does not even behave according to the very ethics he professes!” A lesser man would have said so; ok, I would have said so. Instead, West patiently reaffirmed the major themes of Singer’s thought concerning value according to ability and so on.

    Such conferences, I believe, give those on the fence reason to pursue what is going on with Darwinism today; for others to “teach the controversy”; for others to notice Darwinism for the trainwreck that it is.

    Addenda:
    I have seen similar food and beverage restrictions and really have no problem with it (as I cached my lunch into my oversized pleated vest), but it did seem odd to have it cover good old WATER.

    I always find the complaint about mixing ID with religion to be just plain humorous. I mean this: there are people who can differentiate the coldest, most remote minutiae of the microscopic world who are at the same time unable to tell the difference between what is posited, what is proved, and what is consonant. This just seems to me to be a matter of will borne out of facing the unpleasant ramifications of materialism. At the conference, we were reminded that “ideas have consequences.”

    Does the skeptic conflate ID with religion because no matter how earnestly they’d like to be viewed as scientific, they insist on ID’s failure for their own religious reasons?

  11. I was going to send this article to a friend, until I saw this at the start of the 2nd paragraph…

    “Steve Meyer present the essence of his information argument the first night…”

    Can we please be more careful about grammar?

    Anyone know if there are MP3s available for download?

  12. In comment #10, Tim asked:

    “Does the skeptic conflate ID with religion because no matter how earnestly they’d like to be viewed as scientific, they insist on ID’s failure for their own religious reasons?”

    No.

    In my case, I tend to conflate ID with religion because that is precisely what the vast majority of the ID supporters with whom I have discussed the subject (including the majority of the commentators at this website) do.

    Furthermore, as a member of a department that is comprised almost entirely of evolutionary biologists, I can confidently say that none of my colleagues “conflate ID with religion because…they insist on ID’s failure for their own religious reasons.” On the contrary, they have had very similar experiences to mine. When discussing evolution or ID with an ID supporter, the conversation usually comes around to religion (almost always Christianity) and assertions based on scriptures (almost always the Bible), rather than to discussions of field or laboratory tests of hypotheses.

    Scientists are usually interested in testing hypotheses using field observations and/or laboratory experiments. Religious believers are usually interested in validating their beliefs by conforming them to scripture. Until ID supporters start testing hypotheses that clearly and unambiguously differentiate between teleological and non-teleological explanations for the origin of the phenomenon under study, and until they stop resorting to Biblical citations or religious principles to make their arguments, they (and ID) will not be taken seriously as empirical scientists.

    As to the question of whether one can be simultaneously a practicing evolutionary biologist and religious, I recommend examining the biographies of the following:
    - Francisco Ayala
    - Edward Drinker Cope
    - Theodosious Dobzhansky
    - Ronald Aylmer Fisher
    - Kenneth Miller
    - Joan Roughgarden
    - G. Ledyard Stebbins
    - Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
    - Sewall Wright
    And, lest there be any question of where I stand on this issue, see:

    http://evolutionlist.blogspot......stion.html

  13. Thank you, Allen, for your forthright response. I do not spend much time in the halls of academia and so will take you at your word even though I find it difficult to fully believe that:
    “When discussing evolution or ID with an ID supporter, the conversation usually comes around to religion (almost always Christianity) and assertions based on scriptures (almost always the Bible). . . ”

    as that is almost never my experience, and frankly, I don’t see that happening here on this site.

    Let me explain.

    I just came from a conference sponsored by an evangelical Christian organization that featured many ID proponents. The conference sessions were opened by a Christian singer-songwriter who sang some songs of praise among some other secular tunes. From that, it would seem that calling ID “creationist” should somehow follow.

    Similarly, BarryA and StephenB write mucho bueno about the social and philosophical repercussions of worldviews borne out of ID and evo/mat constructs. Much of their writing is clearly Christian in its content. Yes, here at this website! Again, it would seem that calling ID “creationist” should somehow follow.

    My argument against such a position is this: during the sessions, neither Meyer, Behe, Berlinski (as if, ha!), nor West ever refered to scripture to support their criticisms of Darwin’s science or advance ID theory. The sponsorship, “warm-up”, and conversations surrounding the session were co-incident to it — not part of it.

    In the same way, BarryA and StephenB have made comments that are consonant with what ramifies out of ID and derives from evo/mat thought. There, they make reference to religious belief. (It is an interesting question as to how much “leeway” scientists might have in responding to their “science” — hence, Dr. MacNeil, your list above.) However, I do not see such statements as having conflated the science of ID with religious statements.

    And, if I may venture a somewhat dubious uninformed criticism, I find it hard to believe that well-educated scientists in the halls of the academy can so often confuse this.

  14. Allen_MacNeill
    In my case, I tend to conflate ID with religion because that is precisely what the vast majority of the ID supporters with whom I have discussed the subject (including the majority of the commentators at this website) do.

    Most people should agree that a person should be able to discuss science and religion without having his science dismissed as religious belief. (Evolutionists are free to discuss their atheism and [almost] no one accuses them of religious bias.)
    However, if he is fighting an uphill battle to establish a science that is often conflated with religion, it might be wise not to exercise that right.
    Besides, while ID may offer vague support for religion in general, it offers none for any one over another (assuming that both include a creator.) On that basis ID seems hardly relevant to any particular religious belief, so there’s not much point in discussing both in one context.

  15. —Allen MacNeill: “In my case, I tend to conflate ID with religion because that is precisely what the vast majority of the ID supporters with whom I have discussed the subject (including the majority of the commentators at this website) do.”

    No one on this site has ever equated ID methodology or ID science with religion because there is no way to connect the two. There is simply no way to extract religious references from concepts such as “irreducible complexity” or “specified complexity,” and of course, you know that. Thus, you are reduced to motive mongering, interpreting all religious comments, regardless of context, as evidence that the science itself is faith based, hoping no one will notice that motives are not methods. So, your reason for dispensing this false information when you know better is………..?

  16. —Tim: “Similarly, BarryA and StephenB write mucho bueno about the social and philosophical repercussions of worldviews borne out of ID and evo/mat constructs. Much of their writing is clearly Christian in its content. Yes, here at this website! Again, it would seem that calling ID “creationist” should somehow follow.”

    Tim, my discussions concerning the social and philosophical repercussions of design thinking is based on the metaphysical foundation for ID science, which is the rational nature of the universe which makes science possible, not ID science itself. There is no way to extract religion from ID methodlogy, and there is no rational way to assert that “creationism,” which is a religious presupposition, is equivalent to ID, which is a design inference.

    Allen’s tactic, which is consistent with all anti-ID partisanship, is to conflate the religious presupposition [creatioinism] with the design inference [ID] in order to [a] discredit the science and [b] chill religious speech. Don’t fall for it.

  17. StephenB,

    So, your reason for dispensing this false information when you know better is………..?

    Because Allen is one of the true believers in Darwin, he is one of the faithful to evolution, and will not allow any real dissent to interfere with his reverence.

  18. In #14 Scott Andrews wrote:

    “Evolutionists are free to discuss their atheism and [almost] no one accuses them of religious bias.”

    Really? How often have you read through the threads at this website? Have you never encountered someone here (including one or more of the contributors/moderators) who has asserted that “Darwinism” is just as religious as, say, Calvinism, and that since all “Darwinists” are atheists, then evolutionary theory is necessarily a religion and therefore should be prohibited from being taught in the public schools?

  19. Re Clive in #17:

    How is your comment not a direct ad hominem attack against me, and therefore directly in violation of the rules for this website which you, as a moderator, are supposedly supposed to uphold? What evidence do you have that I am a “true believer in Darwin” and “one of the faithful to evolution” and that I “will not allow any real dissent to interfere with [my] reverence”? If you are a gentleman and have any sense of common decency, please post it here so that I may respond to it.

  20. Allen,

    I admit it’s a general impression I get, which is, in my opinion, warranted because your every response is steeped in defending it. You think the whole of us as humans are the result of it, including morality and all mental processes, including religion. There is no other explanation for you, please, correct me if I’m wrong. I hope I am wrong, by the way.

  21. Allen MacNeil:
    Really? How often have you read through the threads at this website?

    Yes. That’s why I included the word “almost.”

  22. My responses here are not intended to “defend” evolutionary biology, they are intended to defend the process by which the science of evolutionary biology has been formulated. One does not validate a scientific explanation by undermining an alternative explanation, nor by showing that one’s own hypothesis cannot be shown to be inaccurate.

    On the contrary, the process of doing science involves subjecting one’s own hypotheses to the most rigorous empirical tests one can imagine, in a single-minded attempt to show that they are false. This is what we mean by “falsifiability”: if you can’t come up with some way of showing that your hypothesis can be falsified by empirical observation, your hypothesis is worthless as science.

    Ergo, when you perceive that I am “defending” the findings of evolutionary biology, what I am actually doing is to assert that so far those findings have not yet been shown to be inconsistent with our observations of nature. In no way have I ever asserted that the findings of evolutionary biology are “true” or that the generalizations that evolutionary biologists draw from their observations of nature are “facts”. Direct observations are “facts”; the inferences we draw from them (i.e. theories, laws, etc.) are just that — inferences, not “facts”, and are always subject to revision in the face of disconfirming empirical evidence.

    Furthermore, I have never asserted that “the whole of [humanity] is the result of evolution, except in the trivial sense that as biological beings our biology is the result of biological evolution. On the contrary, there are huge areas of human intellectual endeavor that are clearly not the result of evolution, morality being one of them. Moreover, I believe that this is the mainstream belief of most scientists (including such luminaries as Stephen J. Gould) and the overwhelming majority of moralists and ethical philosophers, who agree with G. E. Moore that to conflate morality (i.e. “ought” statements) with science (i.e. “is” statements) is a serious logical fallacy (quite rightly called the “naturalistic fallacy”).

    As to the evolution of mental processes, I (provisionally) accept the empirical evidence that human mental processes are a product of our evolved neurobiology. However, I agree with Wilder Penfield (perhaps the greatest neurobiologist and brain scientist of all time) in his belief that the content of our mental processes is not a necessary product of that same evolved neurobiology. To assert otherwise is to assert that the wiring of a computer necessarily completely determines all of the content of the programs which reside within it. I hope you will agree with me that this is a nonsensical.

    As for your assertion that I believe that religion is a product of our evolved nature, I have no such belief. On the contrary, I have proposed (and please note that this proposal is an hypothesis which has yet to be empirically verified or falsified) that the capacity for religious experience may be an evolutionary adaptation, in the same sense that our capacity for language may be an evolutionary adaptation. Regardless of whether this hypothesis is empirically verified or falsified, I hope you will realize that this has no bearing whatsoever on the content of any particular religious belief, any more than our evolved capacity for language has any bearing on the particular language one learns during the critical period for acquisition of language.

    By the same line of argument, even if there is convincing empirical evidence that the capacity for religious experience is (or is not) an evolved capacity, such evidence would clearly have no bearing on the truth or falsity of any particular religious belief (unless, of course, such religious beliefs explicitly and necessarily require that capacity for religious experience not be the product of evolution).

  23. StephenB @16, yes, I see your point:

    “My discussions. . . (are) based on the metaphysical foundation for ID science, which is the rational nature of the universe which makes science possible, not ID science itself.”

    ID science, then, shares an attribute with your religious discussions in that they are both based on common metaphysical underpinnings. Therefore, the “consonance” is pushed back yet another level so that ID does not ramify those religious discussions.

    That was my mistake.

    Looking back, when I wrote about “what ramifies out of ID and derives from evo/mat thought,” I neglected to clarify that ID science shows restraint in what is ramified, i.e. the nature of the source of the design, while Darwinism and what is derived from it can show no such logical restraint. Or if they can, Darwinists are certainly unwilling to show any restraint. Proof? The entire field of evolutionary psychology.

    Perhaps that is why I assumed your conversation came directly out of ID. Perhaps that is also why Darwinist’s make claims all over the map and yet are loathe to pursue their materialism to its logical conclusion in a few distinct areas.

    Is it true that materialism as a metaphysical foundation has improperly informed both the sciences and philosophy? Methinks it is like a . . . yes!

  24. In #23 Tim asked:

    “Is it true that materialism as a metaphysical foundation has improperly informed both the sciences and philosophy?”

    Yes to the first, but no to the second. The empirical sciences (i.e. physics, chemistry, geology, etc. but not mathematics, metaphysics, theology, etc.) are not about metaphysics, except insofar as they are based on the metaphysical assumption that only empirical evidence counts, that the only testable hypotheses are those that can be falsified, and that all scientific generalizations are necessarily provisional. As long as these metaphysical “ground rules” are adhered to, you’re doing science.

    However, you’re not doing science if you assert that the generalizations that are based on your empirical observations somehow verify or falsify your metaphysical assumptions themselves. This is both logically impossible and ethically pernicious.

    By the same argument, materialism as a metaphysical assumption (rather than a methodological guide) cannot be “improper” in the pursuit of philosophy, as metaphysics is one of the branches of philosophy by definition. One may not agree with it, but one cannot assert that materialism is not a metaphysical (and therefore not a philosophical) assumption.

  25. 25

    Allen,

    “My responses here are not intended to “defend” evolutionary biology, they are intended to defend the process by which the science of evolutionary biology has been formulated.”

    What exactly are these “processes” which are under attack by ID methodologies? What exactly are they, and how exactly has ID subverted these processes? I would expect that you can name them from the research articles that support ID or from the trade publications that do the same. What are they?

  26. I would be curious to know whether or not Berlinski listed, say, 100 of the 50,000 difference he ‘counted’ between a whale and a cow…

  27. Here you go derwood:
    Dr. David Berlinski: What Does It Take for Change? (Clip 5)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRqdvhL3pgM

    Whale Evolution? – Exposing The Deception – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vyUqoTsmqbA

  28. Credit where credit is due! Allen MacNeill is dead on in 24.

    I suspect that’s why Darwin is deemed so important—why he is the rasul or apostle of materialism and Marx is only the opiate of the intellectuals.

  29. Um, bornagain?

    I was asking if he had actually said what they were, not simply asserted that he’d done this.

    Of course, I won’t mention that nobody has claimed that whales evolved from cows so his whole speech is merely an exercise is sophistry and nonsense.

    Impressed you, I see.

  30. —-Tim: “Is it true that materialism as a metaphysical foundation has improperly informed both the sciences and philosophy? Methinks it is like a . . . yes.”

    Yes, materialism militates against reason at every level, philosophical and scienfitic. I will list only two ways. [There are many others]

    First, it denies the very possibility of unchanging truth, often holding, among other things, that all reality is in flux, which means, by extension, that nothing is permanent and, therefore, that there can no such thing as goodness, unity, or truth. Since these things are the objects toward which reason and the intellect strive, at attack on them is also an attack on reason iself, which is the means by which we arrive at them. If truth is reason’s destination, and if that destination doesn’t exist, then the vehicle for making the journey becomes useless. If, by extension, the world has no objective purpose, then reason, the tool which is suppose to help man discover it, has suddenly lost its job and is reduced to looking only for ways to survive and serve human passions. Thus, materialism, disavowing any higher good or purpose than physical comfort, prompts man to pervert his own nature and act like an animal.

    Another problem with materialism is the way that it oversimplifies causality, ignoring formal and final causes, fixing exclusively on efficient and material causes, an error that can be costly in many ways. Among other things, it fosters the derivative philosophy of determinism, which rejects all aspects of human free will and reduces man to little more than nature’s plaything. All mental events are explained as effects of physical events, and even mind itself is either denied altogether or reduced to an epiphenomenal extension of matter, totally dependent on matter. Obviously that foundation also rules out religion of any kind, including the possibility of Divine revelation. Materialist theories are essentially reductive, and therefore hostile to reason which seeks answers to questions that transcend the reality of time/space/energy.

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