ID and the Science of God: Part IV

This post originally began as a response to Andrew Sibley but the issues here may resonate with others wanting to reconcile science and religion, coming at it mainly from the religious side. My concern here, as an interested bystander, is that apologetics tends to be much too apologetic. Christianity, in particular, has a much stronger hand to play with regard to the support of science.

 

I am intrigued by the caution, if not squeamishness, that ID supporters – especially Christian ones – express towards the pursuit of theodicy. Since these reservations come from people on both sides of the Atlantic, they do not seem to be exclusively tied to the particular legal issues surrounding the separation of church and state in the US Constitution.

 

Maybe these reservations concern the idea that the Bible might be understood literally yet fallibly, as the theodicists seemed to do.  They read the Bible as we would a scientific treatise, namely, as some admixture of socio-historic construction (of the theorist) and timeless reality (of the theorized). Certainly our Darwinist opponents read Origin of Species in that spirit. They venerate the text and its author but they do not deny its flaws. Instead they dedicate their lives to correcting its errors and offering a better version of the original vision. Thus, Darwin is read as literal, fallible and corrigible.

 

I believe that the original 17th century Scientific Revolutionaries, including the theodicists, read the Bible exactly in this way – and would have been surprised, if not appalled, to learn that it opened the door to intense religious scepticism and even atheism over the next two centuries. After all, the likes of Newton believed that the Bible was indeed inspired by God but equally that it is an alloy text. It demands that we distinguish the divine inspiration from the inevitable noise introduced by the people originally entrusted with capturing that inspiration. To engage in this separation of wheat from chaff is to attempt to get closer to God. Of course, one might get the task horribly wrong, which might even result in eternal damnation. Nevertheless, we – as those created in the image and likeness of God – are called to engage in this risky business.

 

But note: The relevant engagement is not prayer or special revelation – but science itself. Nature’s design is not a sign that God wants to communicate with us. It is a message that has been already sent to us, and our job is to decode it and offer a fitting response – which is to say, to make the world a better place, in keeping with the divine plan. At least, if one wishes to remain a Biblical literalist and be robustly committed to science, this is how one should think about the science-religion relationship. My view is that this is how the theodicists Leibniz and Malebranche, as well as Newton and many of his illustrious successors – Whewell, Faraday, Maxwell, Kelvin – thought about the matter.

 

This is not the familiar dodge of claiming that the Bible is ‘metaphorically’ or ‘ethically’ true. Such an attitude effectively denies the need to reconcile the Book of God and the Book of Nature: We can live in a world of multiple truths for multiple occasions. On this basis, there would never have been a Scientific Revolution, whose protagonists, after all, parted ways with the Pope because of Catholicism’s fundamental distrust of humanity’s Biblical entitlement to exercise its own creative reason to arrive at a unified understanding of reality. Perhaps the most artful expression of this point about Catholicism’s latent ‘bad faith’ is Dostoevsky’s ‘Grand Inquisitor’ episode in The Brothers Karamazov.

 

But what’s the specifically religious
payoff of this line of thought? I see two major ones, though both controversial.

 

First of all, it helps to explain how Christianity managed to surpass Islam as a scientific culture – especially if we think of science the modern self-critical sense that followed in the wake of the Protestant Reformation. Muhammad is usually presented as an illiterate vessel for the divine truth recorded in the Qur’an. His lack of personal authorship, and hence lack of personal responsibility, has made it very difficult to raise the fallibility of Islam’s sacred book without courting charges of blasphemy. (Consider the fate of Averroes.) To be sure, the Qur’an gives pride of place to humanity in nature and encourages the pursuit of knowledge. But it provides little if no scope for challenging specific claims made in the sacred book itself, since everything said there is presumed to be exactly as God wanted it to be said.

 

Put another way, Muhammad is not presented as a sufficiently independent thinker to have possibly resisted or misunderstood what God said to him. In contrast, from day one, there have been disputes about whether the Biblical authors got God right, which has had major consequences, not least for which books ought to be included in the Bible. I would trace Christianity’s historic openness to the questioning of even its most sacred texts to the strength of its Judaic heritage, as Jesus himself is portrayed as a precocious master of rabbinical criticism. 

 

Second, and perhaps more provocatively, I believe that the style of  ‘scientific theology’ exemplified by theodicy helps to serve Christianity’s proselytising mission – i.e. conversion of the unbelievers. I have spent a fair amount of time (including at the Dover trial) defending the idea that certain religious beliefs have outright facilitated – not impeded – scientific discovery. But I would also make the reverse case, namely, that as more of the natural world is illuminated by hypotheses concerning the designer, thus enabling us to get a more exact understanding of the design, the closer science comes to communion with God. Indeed, if design were as illusory or superficial as Darwinists maintain, then the concept of design should not be so illuminating — even for evolutionists who continue to operate with stealth notions of design in the guise of, say, ‘adaptation’ or ‘optimisation’.

 

Nobody denies the metaphorical, even poetic, appeal of conceiving of nature as an artefact. However, an explanation is required for why turning the poetry into prose works even better, though not infallibly. That we are created in the image and likeness of the creative deity is the most straightforward explanation on offer. Of course, that doesn’t ‘prove’ God’s existence but it does provide grounds for selling the Biblical deity on scientific grounds – indeed, as the Jesuits were doing in China at the same time they were holding Galileo’s feet to the fire in Rome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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78 Responses to ID and the Science of God: Part IV

  1. I am intrigued by the caution, if not squeamishness, that ID supporters – especially Christian ones – express towards the pursuit of theodicy.

    I think you are missing our points. Pursue theodicy to your heart’s content just don’t use ID to do it.

  2. tribune7:

    If you’re not a Christian, then, sure, you’re entitled to pursue a diminished version of ID to your heart’s content. But if you are a Christian, then you’ve sadly missed the intellectual power of your own religion if you fail to see the connection between ID and theodicy.

  3. But if you are a Christian, then you’ve sadly missed the intellectual power of your own religion if you fail to see the connection between ID and theodicy.

    ID is methodological naturalism. You cannot use methodological naturalism to answer philosophical or theological questions.

    ID can be used to find design. Once design is found, ID’s usefulness ends.

    Now, how are you suggesting that a very interesting technique used to find design be used to answer matters relating to God’s justice and the existence of evil?

  4. tribune 7:

    In that case, you’re not an ID theorist. you’re a D theorist. It sounds to me like you are the one in the wrong place — unless you’re a fifth columnist!

  5. —-tribune 7: “ID is methodological naturalism.”

    Trib, you don’t really mean to use that language do you? Methodological naturalism is about as anti-ID as you can get?

  6. tribune7,

    “ID is methodological naturalism.”

    I must respectfully disagree. One big reason mainstream science hasn’t warmed up to ID is precisely because it is not naturalistic. Mind-first explanations are not naturalistic explanations.

    Steve,

    I’m not quite clear on what criteria you use to distinguish design theory from intelligent design theory.

    I think I understand well enough the significance of ID to the project of theodicy, but it seems that once we put design in a theological context, we make assumptions (e.g. that God exists and that his designing activity is intelligible to humans) that are not properly attributable to design epistemology, as such. To me, intelligent design theory is simply an approach to design epistemology; theodicy is a separate (though related) field of study.

  7. tribune is correct. Design is, at the very least, a conclusion of methodological naturalism.

    There is nothing in the sequencing of nucleotides that indicates anything other than agency. There is no chapter in Behe’s book or Demski’s filter that says that anything has acted beyond natural law.

    The demarcation between what can be answered by naturalism and theology or philosophy remains, at the acceptably mild expense that honesty and integrity will have been returned to science.

  8. I find Steve’s responses at 2 and 4 to be most illuminating.

    Take note.

  9. —–Steve: “I am intrigued by the caution, if not squeamishness, that ID supporters – especially Christian ones – express towards the pursuit of theodicy. Since these reservations come from people on both sides of the Atlantic, they do not seem to be exclusively tied to the particular legal issues surrounding the separation of church and state in the US Constitution.”

    I am not clear on what you are saying here. Christianity has its own built in explanation for a compromised design and the problem of suffering. Obviously, it’s related to original sin and the “fall of mankind.” I am not getting the problem. On the one hand, Christians who embrace intelligent design acknowledge, or should, that their religion and their science are all part of the same truth. On the other hand, they also recognize their religion presents a different aspect of the truth than does their science. That means that [A] Christian theodicy and intelligent design are perfectly compatible and yet [B] intelligent design does not need Christian theodicy to justify itself. You seem to be saying that if [B] is true, then [A] cannot also be true. Obviously, that is not the case. So, I don’t know what you are getting at here.

    —–“Maybe these reservations concern the idea that the Bible might be understood literally yet fallibly, as the theodicists seemed to do. They read the Bible as we would a scientific treatise, namely, as some admixture of socio-historic construction (of the theorist) and timeless reality (of the theorized). Certainly our Darwinist opponents read Origin of Species in that spirit. They venerate the text and its author but they do not deny its flaws. Instead they dedicate their lives to correcting its errors and offering a better version of the original vision. Thus, Darwin is read as literal, fallible and corrigible.”

    By using the word “theodicists,” are you suggesting that everyone who tries to justify the ways of God to man all think the same way? If not, I am not clear on why you are generalizing here. When you say “they read the Bible this way,” (“literally yet falliby”) are you suggesting that they accept every word as “literally” true yet, at the same time, think the Bible is “fallible,” meaning that it contains errors. That seems like a very strange hybrid of an attitude, if not an outright contradiction. If they think that the Bible contains errors, why don’t they just rewrite it as they see fit. That would certainly solve their “theodicy” problem. Am I missing something?

  10. Trib, you don’t really mean to use that language do you? Methodological naturalism is about as anti-ID as you can get?

    StephenB (and Crandaddy) I have a big grin on my face right now. Why not use that language? ID does not invoke (or require) the supernatural. Not in the least.

    Crandaddy, ID is very naturalistic. It uses the scientific method to describe a measurable and observable event. I wouldn’t want to go beyond that. Most significantly, it can be falsified.

    What I would suggest is that ID and meth-nat are very useful at investigating certain things but neither (I’ll separate them for this post) is able to reveal or explain the important truths (what is our purpose, to what must we account for failure etc.)

  11. Steve Fuller:

    I can’t remember what the definition of theodicy is in case you care to repeat it. (I considered making a joke about idiocy being the study of id but thought better of it.)

    Two thumbs up on this piece you’ve written though. I had briefly perused some of your previous essays in this series, and from what I read, wasn’t inclined to commend them – but sincere praise for this one. I’m thinking at the moment for example of your analysis of how even those that venerate and even deify Darwin still treat his works critically and seek to improve on them, and how Biblical literalists need to have the same attitude towards the Bible.

    Ironically however, the problem with most self-proclaimed Biblical literalists is that they simply aren’t taking the Bible literally enough. Vast sections of the Bible are written off with a patronizing attitude as mere metaphors even by them. I’m thinking specifically of the Bible’s repeated personification of the forces of nature.

    The central question in the id-evolution debate is whether the physical universe is a mechanism capable of generating human life on its own. Evolutionists, methodological naturalists, and so own would answer with a resounding “Yes”, with perhaps a further qualification by some of them that it is an extremely inefficient and unfocussed mechanism. ID would assert that Agency, which is for them a distinct category from mechanism – and for probably most of them a nonmaterial entity – is necessary to create human life (and indeed a necessary component for humans themselves to be able to do the things that they do), and that material forces of nature most definitely do not exhibit such agency.

    But the Bible repeatedly ascribes personhood to forces of nature. Someone can gently correct me later about how I don’t understand the concept of metaphor, but in the mean time consider the following passages:

    (Psa 65:8) They who dwell in the ends stand in awe of Your signs; You make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy.

    (Psa 65:13) The meadows are clothed with flocks And the valleys are covered with grain; They shout for joy, yes, they sing.

    (Psa 68:1-2) Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered, And let those who hate Him flee before Him. As smoke is driven away, drive away; As wax melts before the fire, let the wicked perish before God.

    (Psa 68:16) Why do you look with envy, O mountains with peaks, At the mountain which God has desired for His abode?

    (Psa 90:3-5) You turn man back into dust And say, “Return, O children of men.” For a thousand years in Your sight Are like yesterday when it passes by, Or a watch in the night. You have swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep; In the morning they are like grass which sprouts anew.

    (Psa 96:11-12) Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; Let the sea roar, and all it contains; Let the field exult, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy

    (Psa 98:7-8) Let the sea roar and all it contains, The world and those who dwell in it. Let the rivers clap their hands, Let the mountains sing together for joy

    (Psa 103:13-16) Just as a father has compassion on children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. When the wind has passed over it, it is no more

    (Psa 104:3-4) …[the Lord] makes the clouds His chariot; He walks upon the wings of the wind; He makes the winds His messengers, Flaming fire His ministers.

    (Psa 104:19) He made the moon for the seasons; The sun knows the place of its setting.

    Psa 114:3-6) The sea looked and fled; The Jordan turned back. The mountains skipped like rams, The hills, like lambs. What ails you, O sea, that you flee? O Jordan, that you turn back? O mountains, that you skip like rams? O hills, like lambs?

    (Psa 148) Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; Praise Him in the heights! Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts! Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all stars of light! Praise Him, highest heavens, And the waters that are above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the LORD, For He commanded and they were created. He has also established them forever and ever; He has made a decree which will not pass away. Praise the LORD from the earth, Sea monsters and all deeps; Fire and hail, snow and clouds; Stormy wind, fulfilling His word;… Beasts and all cattle; Creeping things and winged fowl; Kings of the earth and all peoples; Princes and all judges of the earth; Both young men and virgins; Old men and children.

    So we see forces of nature “looking with envy”, singing, praising, acting as messengers and ministers, “knowing” things, fleeing, skipping, “ailing”. Contarily we see above men equated to things like dust, grass, wax, smoke and flowers. If the Bible writers were convicted that forces of nature couldn’t really do the things generally attributed to humans or agents, then they should have employed different metaphors.

    Some will object, “Where does it say in the above that forces of nature created life?” For that you’ll have to go to Genesis, wherein we find the following phrase uttered repeatedly in varying forms, “Let the earth bring forth living things.”

    Some Biblical literalists might think that the Psalm writers above were doing nothing more than mindlessly and incessantly repeating some poetic conventions of the day. They should then consider the New Testament and the words and actions of the person identifed as the Son of God:

    (Luke 8:24) They came to Jesus and woke Him up, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And He got up and rebuked the wind and the surging waves, and they stopped, and it became calm.

    (Mark 11:13-14) Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!” And His disciples were listening… As they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots Being reminded, Peter *said to Him, “Rabbi, look, the fig tree which You cursed has withered.”

    (Luke 19:38-40) …[his disciples were] shouting: “BLESSED IS THE KING WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”

    So to Jesus, things like the wind and waves could be rebuked. And something as simple as a fig tree could be judged and condemned. This should be food for thought for all those that assert that moral culpability necessitates what they term “Free Will”.

    And for those who would belittle or marginalize the Psalms, lets see what the Son of God had to say about them:

    (John 10:33-36) The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out God.” Jesus answered them, “Has it not been written in your Law, ‘I SAID, YOU ARE GODS’? “If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?

    The passage Jesus was quoting and which he characterized as the “Law” and “scripture that cannot be broken” is Psalms 82:6 -

    (Psa 82:6) I said, “You are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High.

    Regarding the personification of nature, obviously that would be easier in an era when it wasn’t understood how all these things work. But can any claimed Biblical literalist implicitly write off all these passages, with the thought, “Science knows better now.” (And then turn around and castigate science for assuming naturalism.) Perhaps it should lead us in the other direction, i.e. “The Bible personifies things in nature which we know to function as mechanisms. Perhaps man, who is also personified in scripture, also functions as a mechanism.”

    Apologies for the Sunday School Lesson, but it is almost Sunday. I thought of waiting for Sunday, but Seventh Day Adventists probably consider this the right day to post scripture.

    I have often thought that what is needed is a forum for people who respect the Bible to analytically discuss all these issues. It wouldn’t be for people who simply have a patronizing but dismissive attitude towards the BIble, as merely a collection of improving and charming stories, maybe sort of like Uncle Remus’ tales, but rather for knowledgable people to analytically and critically discuss origin issues in the specific context of scripture. And I do understand that this forum is not the place for that.

    Also apologies to KairosFocus if you happen to be reading this, as I devolved into an overly personal attack on your writings about a month ago (after posting for several hours) and was embarassed enough to consider I should lay low for awhile.

    One reason for the current post is to see if I’ve been put back on moderation, and if I have, I will not post here again.

  12. Upright Biped, thank you.

    I didn’t get 4. What’s a D theorist?

  13. —–Upright biped: “tribune is correct. Design is, at the very least, a conclusion of methodological naturalism.”

    Methodological naturalism is simply an arbitrary rule that defines science as a search for natural causes and forbids the researcher to consider any other explanation, regardless of what the evidence may indicate. In keeping with that principle, it declares that any research that finds evidence of design in nature is invalid and that any methods employed toward that end are non-scientific. The Darwinist academy instituted this tyrannical standard in the l980’s to preserve their failed paradigm, to silence those who question it, and to “expel” all dissenters from the scientific community.

    So, if the ID scientist finds functionally specified complex information in a DNA molecule, methodological naturalism simply throws the evidence out or insists that it be re-interpreted to fit the Darwinist paradigm, meaning that is must be explained as the product of Darwinian processes. Further, if any scientist dares to challenge this rule, he will be disfranchised from the scientific community and all his work will be discredited. Obviously, this is unfair, because there has never been any such “rule” in the history of science; it is new and totally arbitrary.

  14. 14

    if the ID scientist finds functionally specified complex information in a DNA molecule, methodological naturalism simply throws the evidence out or insists that it be re-interpreted to fit the Darwinist paradigm

    More commonly, they just pretend that CSI doesn’t exist, tossing out all the math simply because it hasn’t been vetted through their cliquish journals.

  15. StephenB–Methodological naturalism is simply an arbitrary rule that defines science as a search for natural causes and forbids the researcher to consider any other explanation, regardless of what the evidence may indicate

    It’s not entirely arbitrary and it has it’s place. For instance, we like to use arson investigation as an example of ID in action. Well, without meth-nat the building’s owner can say ‘hey, it was an evil leprechaun that set the fire because it thought I had it’s gold so give me my insurance money.”.

    What ID does is take meth-nat to its limit i.e “Yep, we can conclude life is designed. What did it? Can’t say.” And from there we can point out that there are questions beyond the ability of meth-nat to answer and that these questions are not just relevant but of prime importance.

    Hence, when this is recognized the use of meth-nat would be significantly limited in legislation, social policy and personal relations.

  16. —-trib: ‘It’s not entirely arbitrary and it has it’s place. For instance, we like to use arson investigation as an example of ID in action.”

    Trib, Methodological naturalism is not the exercise of bracketing natural causes, which is the routine way of doing science. We all know that science is “primarily” about natural causes. Methodological naturalism insists that science is and must always be “exclusively” about natural causes. That is why it is anti-ID. The difference is subtle but all important.

  17. Perhaps I am a bit slow, but in 100 words or less, what exactly is the connection between theodicy and ID? I always considered theodicy a theological issue, explained in terms of the fall. How does this connect to detecting and/or inferring design in nature?

  18. 18

    Yes Stephen, I know the history and agree with all you’ve said.

    That does not change the recorded fact that the method of natural discovery has lead to an intractable inference to agency. The measure of its intractability is paralleled by the amount of obfuscation used to cover it.

    The point of my post is that ID should not change its central goal – the removal of concealment around the inference to Design.

    Dr. Fuller has a new goal for ID. He is happily convinced that it will propel ID forward. In this he is a wrong as any intelligent person could possibly be.

  19. 19

    NZer, it doesn’t.

  20. —-Upright Biped: “The point of my post is that ID should not change its central goal – the removal of concealment around the inference to Design.”

    I have registered my protests about Steve Fuller’s thesis many times, for many of the same reasons that you have cited. Still, As I have stated many times, the “goal” is that one which is established by the individual scientist, not his critics, not his friends, and not even the ID community. It is his affair and his alone to decide which methods he will use and how he will preserve their integrity.

    Scientists don’t need rules to tighten up their methods. If they don’t know how to isolate one component from another in order to achieve a valid result, no regulation from the outside will help them. Translation—no rules from nobody–that includes no worries about “theodicy” or “characteristics of the designer” as Steve Fuller would have it

    You say you agree with my statement that methodological naturalism is anti-ID, but you also say you agree with tribune 7, who said that ID is methodological naturalism. I don’t know how to process that. Do we have a problem with definitions here.

    From Steven C. Meyer, the premiere ID spokesman and educator:

    “Methodological naturalism is a role of scientific matter that says that scientists should proceed as if philosophical naturalism is true. Now, if that’s assumed, what that means is that students will only be provided with the evidence that supports the idea that there are no causal designs in nature. So in its effect on students, methodological naturalism is not significantly different than philosophical naturalism because they will only be presented with that evidence that supports a naturalistic position.”

    ……”Basically methodological naturalism says scientists should proceed as if there is no design in nature. So that prevents the Darwinian claim that design is an illusion from being tested. If you make the claim that design is an illusion, the only thing that could prove that you are mistaken is some evidence that would show that at least some of the design is real. If there can be by definition no such evidence, then there is no way to ever refute the claim that design in nature is an illusion.”

    …”It’s not, by the way, that the Darwinian claim itself is unscientific. It’s perfectly scientific and it’s perfectly testable. It is rather joining the Darwinian claim to methodological naturalism that insulates it from being tested because it means that only the evidence that supports the theory can be presented, not the evidence that would count against it.”

    First things first. Is everyone clear on the definition of methdological naturalism.

  21. Methodological naturalism insists that science is and must always be “exclusively” about natural causes. That is why it is anti-ID.

    OK StephenB, I stand corrected.

    But some things to consider: the secularists have made meth-nat synonymous with science. This leaves us with a conundrum since ID is natural science as has been historically understood.

    We must fight to make clear, then that meth-nat is not synonymous with natural science since the battle is leaving the realm of the pursuit of truth and becoming one of definitions and investigation-inhibiting dogma.

    It is also important for us to recognize that one must avoid invoking the supernatural in investigating observable/measurable phenomena. ID does that, of course.

    It might be wise if we insist that be the demarcation of science/meth-nat/whatever.

  22. Steve Fuller,

    I was wondering, how exactly does Theodicy relate at all with ID? Theodicy seems, to me, more of a theological issue, rather than scientific.

    Don’t get me wrong, you may be completely onto something, but I’m confused nonetheless. It could be too that I just haven’t read all that you’ve written. (At least, I don’t think I’ve read parts 2 and 3 of your Science and God “series”.)

    Oh, and by the way, a really cool person who likes to connect the God of the Bible with nature is a man named Gerald Schroeder. I haven’t read any of his books, but even his website (http://www.geraldschroeder.com/index.html) is cool! lol

  23. tribune7,

    Methodological naturalism does not permit mind-first explanations. The methodology seeks to reduce mental causes to non-mental causes.

    To be sure, MN is a very fruitful approach to science when used correctly. Things go awry, however, when MN is stipulated to be the only valid approach to science.

    NZer and Upright BiPed,

    I’ll defer to Prof. Fuller for a more in-depth explanation, but the way I see it, both ID and theodicy are fields of study that are concerned with the intelligibility of design in nature. ID seeks to determine its presence; theodicy evaluates it from a theological perspective, seeking to reconcile God’s designing activity in nature with divine goodness.

  24. —-tribune 7: “It is also important for us to recognize that one must avoid invoking the supernatural in investigating observable/measurable phenomena. ID does that, of course.”

    Yes, indeed. That point is certainly worth reiterating when necessary.

  25. Tribune7 wrote: “…one must avoid invoking the supernatural in investigating observable/measurable phenomena. ID does that, of course.

    If ID invokes the supernatural, then it is not science, by definition. Or are you separating the intelligent designer from the intelligent creator? One is supernatural and the other isn’t?

    Crandaddy wrote: “…both ID and theodicy are fields of study that are concerned with the intelligibility of design in nature. ID seeks to determine its presence; theodicy evaluates it from a theological perspective, seeking to reconcile God’s designing activity in nature with divine goodness.

    So are we now publicly admitting that the Intelligent Designer is God? Isn’t that still officially denied?

  26. Paul,

    So are we now publicly admitting that the Intelligent Designer is God? Isn’t that still officially denied?

    How did you get that from what I wrote? My point is that theodicy and ID are related but distinct fields of study. Did you not read my first comment in this thread?

  27. I wonder if, when the Big Bang was proposed, there were attempts to get Lemaitre to admit that he ‘really’ was proposing a theological creation concept.

  28. Steve,

    I stand corrected as well.

    ….however

    If scientists following appropriate methods have found agency as a rational answer to the question, then without mixing words, the goal of that answer is to be given to the people whom science must serve.

    That giving of the answer is not held up by natural science, after all, it was arrived at by natural science. There is nothing in design detection that requires a supernatural agent, only an agent.

    The point is not to shuffle definitions; it is to return the power to the evidence, and out of the hands of those who subvert the evidence for ideological reasons.

  29. NZer: “Perhaps I am a bit slow, but in 100 words or less, what exactly is the connection between theodicy and ID?”

    Some ID critics complain that the universe wasn’t really designed because, if it had been, the designer would not have arranged things so “badly,” meaning there would have been no suffering. For them, a “bad” design constitutes “no” design.

    ID insists that the question is irrelevant to science, which it is. Still, critics will not leave the problem alone, so some ID advocates humor them and provide explanations about why a good God could allow suffering and why what “appears” to be a bad design is not really a bad design at all. That is the study of theodicy. (99 words)

  30. —–Upright Biped:

    “The point is not to shuffle definitions; it is to return the power to the evidence, and out of the hands of those who subvert the evidence for ideological reasons.”

    Agreed. That’s a nice way of putting it. We seem to be on the same page.

  31. Paul –If ID invokes the supernatural, then it is not science, by definition.

    ID does not invoke the supernatural. Why do you think saying something is designed is invoking the supernatural?

  32. StephenB – very good answer in 29.

    Something to ponder is that when an ID critic brings up the bad design argument, it is the ID critic who is invoking the supernatural.

  33. Prof. Fuller:

    There are some fascinating assertions about intellectual history in your latest post, which I would love to pursue, but I am still unsure why you think that ID’s treatment of theodicy is defective and how ID could be improved by integrating its science with theodicy. And the only way I can express my confusion is through an example, which I would ask you to examine.

    Let’s take malaria. Let us say that a team of ID theorists, each trained to a high level in some physical, biological or mathematical science, studies malaria. Its genome, structure, activities, and ecological connections are carefully examined. After rigorous examination, let’s say the ID team comes to the conclusion that the malarial cell is a designed entity.

    Now, the next question is: what sort of designer would design something which is so horribly deadly, so cruel, so nasty?

    Most of the team believes that the designer is God. So now theodicy enters the picture. The team members, both those who believe in God and those who are not sure, want to know why God would make such a horrible creature. So each member of the team tries to come up with a justification of existence of the creature, supposing for the sake of argument the existence of some kind of God. The problem, however, is this: there is nothing in any of the biochemistry, cell biology, ecology, geology, math or physics courses that any of the ID team have taken that tells them how to answer this question. Questions about “why” were not on their science curricula in either undergraduate or graduate schools. In fact, they had all had it drilled into their heads that “why” questions belong in philosophy class, or English class, or theology class, not science class.

    So they turn to their personal religious resources. The problem is that one is a liberal Protestant, three are fundamentalists from Gospel and Baptist churches, two are members of conservative Reformed and Presbyterian churches respectively, two are ultra-conservative, pre-Vatican II Catholics, another is a swinging liberal Hans Kung Catholic, another is a conservative Low Anglican, one is a conservative Muslim, one is an Orthodox Jew, one a secular Jewish agnostic, one is an Indian Buddhist, and one believes in a Platonic Demiurge who is not omnipotent. So how does this religiously incoherent ID team go about producing a coherent theodicy regarding malaria?

    Suppose that the ten team members who are religiously conservative manage to agree on a common theodicy. What if the Buddhist and the agnostic and the Demiurgist are unconvinced by it, and say that there is no need for any theodicy, because there is no need to suppose an all-powerful God whose failure to overcome evil needs justifying? Do they get outvoted by majority of conservative and orthodox religious members? And if they resent that, do they quit the team in protest, claiming that ID is just creationism in a cheap tuxedo, and that all its protestations that it is faith-neutral are lies? Will not such a split destroy the scientific credibility of the team’s final report?

    Or what if the conservative Jew and Muslim come up with a different theodicy from that of the Christians? Do they resign in protest, with the Jew perhaps alleging an anti-Semitic bias in the Christian theology, and the Muslim perhaps alleging Christian theological imperialism against the Muslim faith? Again, will this schism not scuttle any scientific value the project might have had?

    But to make it easier, suppose the team consists only of the ten Christians. The problem remains. Christians will still disagree about theodicy because they have different conceptions of God, different ways of relating the two Testaments, different ways of reading the texts (literal, allegorical, etc.). The conservatives will outvote the liberals, or the Protestants will outvote the Catholics, or else individual differences will prevail over group affinities so that the committee will become a hung jury. Under such circumstances, I don’t see how the ID team can press forward and finish its report.

    But even if they could agree on a theodicy, in what sense would their theodicy depend on the scientific work they did in studying the malarial cell? What they learned from their science was that the malarial cell was designed, and horribly efficient at doing its work. When they asked themselves why such a thing should exist, they found that they immediately had to abandon their science and offer personal opinions (albeit opinions guided by their individual traditions) about why God would have done what he did, given the sort of God that he was.

    In the light of this example, how can theodicy ever hope to become, not merely an optional adjunct to ID science, but an essential part of ID science? How could it ever follow inevitably from the science? Or are you asserting that the science must hang inevitably on the theodicy? In the latter case, will the scientific procedures of a Christian who thinks that God is love (as 1 John says) differ from the scientific procedures of a Christian who thinks that God sometimes deliberately makes evil (as Isaiah at one point says)? Is that a tolerable result – different rules of science for different faiths?

    Your writing is on a high and general level. You say very interesting things about the history of ideas and about the theoretical interpenetration of science and faith. But your remarks about theodicy are not giving us examples of how we should proceed differently on a practical level. And since science is not just a theoretical but a practical activity (of hypothesis forming, experiment, observation, inference, etc.), I don’t yet see how your discussion about theodicy is guiding us toward the improvement of ID as science.

    May I suggest that you write your next column directly addressing the question of “how ID should be done in conjunction with theodicy”? And that you base your discussion on a practical example with implications for theodicy, e.g., the apparent bad design of some creature or organ, or the good but apparently cruel design of the parasitic creatures that shocked Darwin’s religious sensibilities? They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and an example is worth many more.

    T.

  34. 34

    (…cough)

  35. In anticipation of Timeuas at 33, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote,

    “Beware when the great God lets loose a thinker on this planet.”

  36. The tendency of Muslims to accept their received instructions as direct from God, whereas Christians and Jews tend to view it as something they need to check on first, is well-connected to the Reformation, and the lack of anything like the Reformation in the Islamic world.

    At one point it was dangerous to even question what the local bishop said, and disagreeing was out of the question. The Reformation changed this; in a literal sense, it became safe to disagree with the religious authorities, and then (especially in the United States) it became a legal right. This attitude on religion spread to other areas as well, including politics, and science became a beneficiary of it; but too late for Galileo’s sake.

    On the other hand, under Islam, there has been nothing like a Reformation. The average Joe is required not only to accept the Quran as the direct word of God, but is also expected to accept the interpretations of the clerics over him as equally authoritative. If he fails, the hotheads shout to the world that he has slandered Islam or blasphemed the prophet, and the government either directly assists his “correction,” or stands idle while that gang of hotheads beats him up, burns down his house, and/or gang-rapes his wife and daughters. The consequence of this is that a Muslim’s brain is expected to roll over and play dead whenever a cleric sees fit to issue an opinion on any topic. This becomes a habit and spreads to areas like politics and science.

    So the real cure to the Islamic world’s problems is to persuade enough Muslims that their clerics’ monopoly on interpreting the Quran is itself blasphemy, and that they really cannot be true Muslims if they are not ready to break with their cleric in order to follow Allah and His prophet.

  37. I will be brief because it’s hard to know what deserves a separate post and what can be answered here.

    But first on theodicy, again I realize that just because I write something, it doesn’t mean you will read it. Nevertheless, he I go again: Theodicy ain’t what it used to be. Today it’s just about God’s permission of evil in the world. Originally, that was just part of the general problem of design flaws in a divinely created nature. Theodicy is a problem not only because of the Fall of Man but also because divine creation as a whole is presented as a struggle of intelligence over matter. (After all, the creation didn’t happen all at once, did it?) And yes, theodicists held different views on how to approach this problem – and yes, the field in this large sense fell into disrepute. But in its original form, theodicy and ID were pretty much identical, and when Darwin rejects ID in the form of Paley, he is rejecting the work of a theodicist.

    The second point is that ‘methodological naturalism’ does not exist. There is the scientific method, which is neutral on metaphysical issues surrounding the nature of causation. And there is naturalism, which is a metaphysical doctrine about the nature of causation that may or may not be pursued by scientific means. The philosophical mirage known as ‘methodological naturalism’ is a concoction of the Neo-Darwinists based on a wildly spun Whig version of the history of science. In fact, the point of my participation in the Dover trial was to make this precise point, since science’s alleged commitment to methodological naturalism is forever being used as the key background assumption for excluding ID from science classes.

    This is why if you draw a sharp line between scientific and theological explanations, and then you say you’re committed to ‘methodological naturalism’, it’s hard for me to see how you’re pro-ID at all. You’re then just a D theorist (i.e. a design theorist) for whom the problem of intelligence drops out altogether. In that case, there’s no dispute with the Darwinists at all.

  38. I’ve just read Timaeus 33 now, and yes, I will do that as the next instalment.

  39. In fact, the point of my participation in the Dover trial was to make this precise point, since science’s alleged commitment to methodological naturalism is forever being used as the key background assumption for excluding ID from science classes.

    Please, please, please say you didn’t bring up theodicy at the Dover trial.

  40. So look, Trib & Biped are absolutely right about one thing: ID as currently constituted is a silver bullet. The inference of design in irreducible complexity and fine tuning and probability is self-evident and easily communicated to the general public. In fact ID already seems to have won that argument in the court of public opinion, hands down.

    In that context, Behe’s discussions of irreducible complexity already do what Steve is trying to indirectly. They point to a designer but also to the excellence of nature and act as confirmation of the statement that creation is “very good.” Without straining, and staying very much within the limits of science, Behe accomplishes a great deal of good.

    To go beyond inference and attempt to recreate a lost thought-world is possible, I suppose. I don’t know that any of the Christian respondents here are opposed to what Steve’s trying to do in principle. But the way it is being done causes some concern—starting with the use of the hot-button term “theodicy.”

    Steve’s goal seems to be as large as it is noble, but a big goal needs a big strategy—and such a strategy does not yet seem to have made its appearance in the posts. Having said that, this post is better than the others. One credible strategy is simply to induce conversation, and Steve’s definitely doing that.

    As for Timaeus—the answer, my friend, is not blowing in the wind, but in Genesis 2 & 3.

  41. Timaeus (33):

    Congratulations on a very well-argued and thought-provoking post. Suppose we return to your chosen example: malaria.

    After rigorous examination, let’s say the ID team comes to the conclusion that the malarial cell is a designed entity.

    Now, the next question is: what sort of designer would design something which is so horribly deadly, so cruel, so nasty?

    Here’s a working hypothesis. The most general and pervasive designed features of living organisms are the work of a Universal and Omnibenevolent Intelligence, which also designed the laws of nature; by contrast, designed features of organisms which are specific to certain species or lower-level taxa might well be the work of second-rate intelligences, which are in many cases malevolent. (Following Plantinga and C. S. Lewis, we might hypothesize that the Universal Intelligence gave them a certain degree of creative freedom, whch they subsequently abused.)

    If you were a medical researcher attempting to combat the malaria parasite, it would certainly be profitable to know which features of the parasite you should focus your research on trying to eliminate or modify. Fighting against a malevolent “small-i” intelligent designer makes a lot more sense than trying to eradicate features of organisms that were designed by a cosmic “big-i” Intelligent Designer.

  42. Allanius (#40) mentions: “…Behe’s discussions…point to a designer but also to the excellence of nature and act as confirmation of the statement that creation is “very good.” And StephenB (#29) explains theodicy: “…some ID advocates…provide explanations about why a good God could allow suffering and why what “appears” to be a bad design is not really a bad design at all.

    How then does ID explain the “bad design” of the recurrent laryngeal nerve, which in all mammals loops around the aorta in order to get from the brain to the larynx? In the giraffe, this nerve is about fifteen feet long, whereas the larynx is about one foot from the brain. This unintelligent and even dangerous design feature makes the animal more susceptible to injury.

    Dr. Neil Shubin mentions this briefly in “Your Inner Fish” (http://tiktaalik.uchicago.edu/book.html). Matt Ridley explains it in more detail in Evolution: “The laryngeal nerve is, anatomically, the fourth vagus nerve, one of the cranial nerves. These nerves first evolved in fish-like ancestors. … [S]uccessive branches of the vagus nerve pass, in fish, behind the successive arterial arches that run through the gills. Each nerve takes a direct route from the brain to the gills. During evolution, the gill arches have been transformed; the sixth gill arch has evolved in mammals into the ductus arteriosus, which is anatomically near to the heart. The recurrent laryngeal nerve still follows the route behind the (now highly modified) gill arch: in a modern mammal, therefore, the nerve passes from the brain, down the neck, round the dorsal aorta, and back up to the larynx.

    This is just one of many examples of unintelligent / incompetent design, which makes sense in the light of evolution – but which illustrate bad design if one accepts design.

  43. allanius, your points are good. There is nothing wrong with Steve’s goal.

    I just don’t see any benefit in removing the compartmentalization while seeing a whole lot of trouble.

  44. Vjtorley (#41) hypothesized: “…designed features of organisms which are specific to certain species or lower-level taxa might well be the work of second-rate intelligences, which are in many cases malevolent.

    I have wondered for years if the Intelligent Designer may have contracted out Creation (or some portions of Creation), much as King Solomon contracted with Hiram of Tyre to build the Temple in Jerusalem.

    Some of these contractors or subcontractors may have “adjusted” or “tweaked” the original design, creating something which wasn’t quite up to the original intelligent designer’s specifications and drawings. See, for instance, http://farm1.static.flickr.com.....deb4_o.jpg

  45. StephenB — I’ve been thinking some about meth-nat overnight and my arson-investigation example. Meth-nat seems appropriate to invoke there i.e. the automatic rejection of a non-natural cause.

    OTOH, it seems equally appropriate to recognize that meth-nat can’t come close to answering all questions and these include the most important ones (motive in the arson example, for instance).

    Now it seems that there are those who have made meth-nat the arbiter of all truth. Would it be smart for us to embrace the good of meth-nat — that there are times when it is right to reject non-natural causes — to give us authority to point out that it ultimately fails with the big question.

    And in doing so it would be good to point out that ID can’t answer all question as well.

  46. This is just one of many examples of unintelligent / incompetent design, which makes sense in the light of evolution -

    Paul, if evolution were true we would never has stopped being bacteria — the ultimate survival form.

  47. All the good conversations seem to happen while I’m asleep!

    One sub-thread I followed with some interest over my coffee this morning is this:
    tribune7 @3

    ID is methodological naturalism. You cannot use methodological naturalism to answer philosophical or theological questions.

    Upright BiPed @7

    tribune is correct. Design is, at the very least, a conclusion of methodological naturalism.

    There is nothing in the sequencing of nucleotides that indicates anything other than agency. There is no chapter in Behe’s book or Demski’s filter that says that anything has acted beyond natural law.

    tribune7 @31

    ID does not invoke the supernatural. Why do you think saying something is designed is invoking the supernatural?

    These are excellent points that clearly refute the claims of ID opponents that ID theory is religion in disguise.

    However, that leads me to question two other statements:
    tribune7 @3

    ID can be used to find design. Once design is found, ID’s usefulness ends.

    tribune7 @15

    What ID does is take meth-nat to its limit i.e “Yep, we can conclude life is designed. What did it? Can’t say.”

    Why is ID theory not useful in the obvious further questions about the nature of the designer? Why can’t we say more?

    As I noted in the thread following from Dr. Fuller’s previous post in this series, design detection and knowledge of the designer are inextricably linked. First, detection of design tells us, at a minimum, that the designer exists. In fact, it tells us much more about how the designer chooses to design. The more designed artifacts we identify, the more conclusions we can draw about the designer.

    Second, it is impossible to detect design without making at least some working assumptions about the nature of the designer. Without some minimal assumptions, there is no reason to consider the existence of CSI as an indicator of design. Perhaps rocks are just as designed as flagella.

    JJ

  48. tribune7 @39

    Please, please, please say you didn’t bring up theodicy at the Dover trial.

    The Wikipedia entry for the Kitzmiller vs. Dover trial contains links to transcripts of Dr. Fuller’s testimony. He seems to have been on the stand for two full days, so I didn’t have time to read through the whole thing, but a search for “theodicy” didn’t find any matches.

    The Wikipedia entry itself said that Dr. Fuller called for “affirmative action” for ID. I didn’t see that term in the transcript either. Did you actually say that, Dr. Fuller?

    JJ

  49. JayM @48:

    Responding to myself, I did find the quote:

    And in one of my earlier books, The Governance of Science, I actually talked about this as an affirmative action strategy with regard to disadvantaged theories. It’s not obvious in the normal system of science that these theories will get a fair hearing.

    In context it doesn’t sound anywhere near as bad as Wikipedia makes it out.

    JJ

  50. JayM asked (#48): “The Wikipedia entry itself said that Dr. Fuller called for “affirmative action” for ID. I didn’t see that term in the transcript either. Did you actually say that, Dr. Fuller?

    “A quote that is associated with me at the trial was my statement that ‘intelligent design needed affirmative action’.”http://www.thomasmoreinstitute.org.uk/node/19

    “Fuller…actually testified in favor of teaching Intelligent Design in the recent Dover trial, saying he was in favour of “affirmative action for fringe science…”http://realityconditions.blogs.....minar.html

  51. WeaselSpotting @14

    StephenB @13

    if the ID scientist finds functionally specified complex information in a DNA molecule, methodological naturalism simply throws the evidence out or insists that it be re-interpreted to fit the Darwinist paradigm

    More commonly, they just pretend that CSI doesn’t exist, tossing out all the math simply because it hasn’t been vetted through their cliquish journals.

    This sounds similar to the issues raised by Dr. Fuller at the Dover trial. There does appear to be a history of this type of behavior from journal editors. Is anyone maintaining a list of ID supportive or sympathetic papers that were submitted but rejected from peer-reviewed journals? It would be very helpful to have a substantive, demonstrable counter to the “ID isn’t science because ID researchers don’t publish in scientific journals.” argument.

    Being able to hold an ID opponent’s feet to the fire about why an otherwise well-researched and well-written paper was rejected would just be a nice side benefit. ;-)

    JJ

  52. Jay, great points.

    Why is ID theory not useful in the obvious further questions about the nature of the designer? Why can’t we say more?

    It’s not so much that we can’t say more, it’s just that should we do so by invoking ID?

    If ID as described by Behe & Dembski fulfills its promise it will create a principle as hard as anything cooked up by Newton i.e. if this, this and this are present you can be certain the object is designed, and be applicable for anything where signal must be discerned from static.

    Now, thinking people will always make inferences with regard to designed objects of unknown origin — you find a piece of flint, determine (perhaps by Dembski’s method) that it is an arrowhead (and designed) and infer that the person that made it was a carnivore.

    Its quite a logical and reasonable assumption — and it’s not a bad thing to make such assumptions — but it’s not a certainty.

    My vote is to keep ID compartmentalized. Any offshoots of ID can easily be named something else.

    It would make it easier to articulate a very important point, make us less of a target for insincere critics and still in no way inhibit or demean those offshoots.

  53. PaulBurnett: “I have wondered for years if the Intelligent Designer may have contracted out Creation (or some portions of Creation), much as King Solomon contracted with Hiram of Tyre to build the Temple in Jerusalem.”

    I have wondered if the angels that designed the megafauna of Africa and Australia tended to drink a bit. The ones in charge of Europe and North America were much better artists.

    In any event, the problem of suffering is only a problem if the circular argument of assuming that there is no afterlife is present in one’s arguments. Apparently God never intended this life to be a permanent state of affairs for any of its inhabitants. We gotta die, and we gotta die from something, and dying usually involves setting off and defeating various mechanisms that during life survive to keep us alive.

    Hence, life is finite, and its end is not pleasant.

  54. —-”tribune 7: StephenB — I’ve been thinking some about meth-nat overnight and my arson-investigation example. Meth-nat seems appropriate to invoke there i.e. the automatic rejection of a non-natural cause.”

    Right. Indeed, methodological naturalism is almost always the right way to go. Everything turns on the word ALMOST. One might even say that using the explanatory filter consists of applying methodological naturalism for the first two steps, and then abandoning it in the last step. Of course, strictly speaking, MN forbids taking that final step.

  55. Paul Burnett (#42),

    Your complaint about the recurrent laryngeal nerve is a common one, but misguided. You have to keep in mind that living organisms are not made the way we would make an automobile, for example. If we install a new electrical device on the dashboard, we can simply run a new wire either from an existing wire or the battery, whichever is more efficient. And we can base our wiring pattern primarily on efficiency, and secondarily on avoiding wires too close to dangerous areas such as the engine bloc (because of heat).

    In living organisms any designer faces a different problem. Inside the DNA and whatever epigenetic data storage there also is, there is not a blueprint as to how to create a human or chimpanzee or giraffe (or oak tree for that matter). Rather, it is more like a recipe. At this stage produce a three-layer organization, at this stage divide it into somites, at this stage produce limb buds, a heart and blood vessels, etc. We at present have no idea how to produce a giraffe, and thus have no way of knowing whether we could produce a better one than the existing one, so we cannot say with any confidence that the fundamental design is suboptimal with regard to the laryngeal nerve or anything else. Suboptimal implies that there is an optimal, and that the design misses this optimal design.

    Having said this, I believe that there is suboptimal design in nature, and that the malaria parasite (and cystic fibrosis) may very well be a good example of it. But the recurrent laryngeal nerve is not yet a good example of it.

  56. Timaeus:

    In the light of this example, how can theodicy ever hope to become, not merely an optional adjunct to ID science, but an essential part of ID science?

    and

    And since science is not just a theoretical but a practical activity (of hypothesis forming, experiment, observation, inference, etc.), I don’t yet see how your discussion about theodicy is guiding us toward the improvement of ID as science.

    If ID is merely about design detection it seems to be missing out on many of the features of science you mention. I would also add prediction. Detecting design certainly has a scientific bent to it, but if ID never makes a testable prediction, is it legitimate to call it ID science?

    So how would ID make a testable prediction? If certain features are designed then from an engineering perspective one would need to hypothesize about the goals, values, and constraints of the designer. That known reasonable predictions could be made about other designs coming from the same designer. Lousy human designers consistently produce lousy designs, and vise versa.

    Since your hypothetical team would presumably come up with different sets of goals, values, and constraints of the designer (even for the Demiurge), they could each propose hypotheses about what to expect from other designs and test them.

  57. Mr. Petermann:

    I’m unsure how you think that the team, or any of its members, could even begin to determined the “goals, values, and constraints” of the designer.

    The only “goal” that would follow from the empirical data is that the designer wanted this particular kind of deadly killer to exist in the world.

    As for the designer’s “values”, how can we tell what the designer “values”, when we don’t yet know anything about the designer? If I find a gun, and determine that it is designed, I might infer that the designer values tyranny, and that he invented the gun to enslave others, or I might infer that the designer values liberty, and that he invented the gun to defend his people from invasion by others. My science (which detects the design of the gun) cannot tell me what the designer had in mind. In fact, I cannot even tell that he intended the gun for use on human beings; it might have been intended only for hunting, or for some other purpose. So I am ignorant of the designer’s values. In the case of malaria, the designer may have introduced it into the world to serve some long-term good which I cannot fathom, or out of malice or caprice. How can science decide?

    Regarding design constraints, whether there are any such constraints (beyond logical constraints) depends on whether or not the designer is omnipotent. But I cannot determine whether the desiger of malaria was omnipotent based on the science I used to detect design. I need theology for that. So my question to Dr. Fuller is: how can I simply assert a particular theology, within the context of science, which is supposed to be theology-neutral?

    T.

  58. Timaeus,

    I think the issue is whether it is necessary or even desirable to strike a sharp demarcation between empirical investigations and theology. Certainly this has not been the case in the history of natural theology.

    As for the designer’s “values”, how can we tell what the designer “values”, when we don’t yet know anything about the designer?

    Science, per se, may not claim to know anything about the designer, but religious folk would say they do. This is where there could be a synergy between the two. In the past science has often informed theologians to adapt their theology. Could it be that the reverse can be the case with ID? Theology says something about the goals, values, and constraints of God. Whether or not those theological assertions hold up when faced with empirical explorations is always in play. But if theological hypotheses about the designer could be integrated into ID and tested, then ID would become more than just a biological SETI. I’m not saying this would be easy. It wouldn’t. But I see no reason not to try.

    For instance, your example of malaria is a great example. As you mentioned there could be a deeper reason (that is benevolent) for diseases, natural disasters, etc. This is where theology can ponder its notions about God and soak up all the empirical data it can to reevaluate those formulations. If theology can move beyond “the Fall did it” and develop more nuanced ideas in theodicy then it might enable ID predictions.

    The question I have for those who find Fuller’s prodding in a negative light, what is the valid reason for not even trying to integrated current ID with theology?

  59. Steve Petermann (#58) wrote: “…your example of malaria is a great example. As you mentioned there could be a deeper reason (that is benevolent) for diseases…

    How do we know that the intelligent designer wasn’t a malaria hyperprotozoan who designed humans as fodder for the creatures He created in His image? Can you prove this hypothesis wrong?

  60. Mr. Petermann:

    Your answer makes sense to me, and perhaps it is what Steve Fuller is driving at. And let me add that I am not leading a charge against Prof. Fuller’s ideas; I’m just trying to figure out exactly what he is recommending and how he is proposing to implement it.

    The problem I see with your answer, which appears to apply to Prof. Fuller’s position as well, is this:

    Granted, we could start from a theological orientation and use that orientation to guide scientific research, to see where that orientation leads and whether it improves our understanding of nature. However, since theologies differ, we have to choose one as our starting point. And this is where I don’t follow Prof. Fuller.

    If we choose, say, Barthian Christianity, we probably won’t be able to do design theory at all, since Barthians are generally opposed to the idea that nature displays anything of the divine mind, or at least, anything detectable by the rational mind.

    But even if we resolve to choose a theology more amenable to design theorizing, we still have to make a decision. Out of the multitude of possible theologies, which shall we choose? Among Christian understandings of God, creation, and evil there are many options, from the East, from Rome, and from Protestantism. And then there are theologies coming out of Judaism, Islam, Zoroastrianism, and Hinduism. Is the suggestion that we pick one of these theologies, use it as the basis for our working assumptions, and then launch our researches into design?

    Maybe that would work; but the cost would be that ID would have to give up some of its central public defenses. It would no longer be able to claim that it was religion-neutral, and was merely following empirical evidence. This would be attacked on methodological grounds (modern science is supposed to be neutral regarding ultimate questions), and it would be attacked on legal and constitutional grounds (if ID openly admits to being religious, then it is right to keep it out of the public schools). So it seems to me that if we follow Prof. Fuller’s advice, we have to admit that the Dover trial judge was right about the religious character of ID, and that Ken Miller and Eugenie Scott and the NCSE are right in their characterization of ID as a departure from metaphysics-neutral science.

    We have invested vast amounts of money, time, intellect, and emotional energy rebutting these criticisms of ID. Are we now to retract our arguments and admit that the critics have been right all along? Are we to do a 180-degree turn, and frankly and advisedly tie the future of ID to adherence to a particular theology? Is our new defense to be: “Yes, we are creationists in a tuxedo, but it’s not a cheap one, and we’re not ashamed of it, and we think we can do some good empirical research while we’re wearing it?” If so, what will happen to the thousands of thoughtful agnostic ID supporters (including some important scholars, writers, and bloggers), who have supported ID up to now, but will bail out if any particular religion takes over the notion? It is hard to see how the gains of such a move will outweigh the losses.

    T.

  61. Timaeus @60

    The problem I see with your answer, which appears to apply to Prof. Fuller’s position as well, is this:

    Granted, we could start from a theological orientation and use that orientation to guide scientific research, to see where that orientation leads and whether it improves our understanding of nature. However, since theologies differ, we have to choose one as our starting point.

    I suggest that we work bottom up, rather than top down. As I’ve argued here and in other threads, the detection of design inherently provides information about the designer. Steve Peterman made this point extremely well @56. Further, detection of design requires some minimal assumptions to be made about the designer. At the very least, the designer must be assumed to exist. ID theory goes further and asserts that CSI is the hallmark of the designer.

    So far there is no need for theodicy. The designer could be a completely natural phenomena or entity. Unless ID theory asserts a priori that the designer is God, there is no need to go through the logical and rhetorical contortions necessary to attempt to separate the inseparable detection of design and knowledge of the designer.

    Where Dr. Fuller’s recommendations do come into play is after enough designed artifacts are identified. By that point we’ll have learned a great deal about the designer, both from observation of the artifacts and knowing which assumptions provide the most predictive power. At this point, assuming that the evidence points to God as the designer, theodicy (in the broad meaning of the term advocated by Dr. Fuller) will become absolutely necessary.

    JJ

  62. I think this entire line of threads is going in the wrong direction. I mean, I applaud the discussion itself, but listen. ID has suffered enough bad press for it supposedly being “creationist” and “religious”.
    I (and many of you I’m sure) have gone out of my way to show a lot of people who wouldn’t know otherwise (and some who do know better), that statements like “ID is religious” or “ID is just creationism in a cheap tuxedo” is just the critic’s way to introduce a religious component into the discussion for no other reason than to turn around and accuse ID of being religious. All the while ignoring the fact that ID does not have a religious premise.

    Now here on the foremost ID blog in all of blogdom, is a thread called “ID And The Science Of God”, and there is no mention of any scientific evidence for God. This isn’t helping fellas.

    We all know what the implications are of some features of the universe and of living things showing evidence of design. Even ID critics know. But shouldn’t ID advocates be more focused on establishing evidence for design itself, and letting the theologians and philosophers wrangle it out about who or what the designer is?

  63. Bantay @62

    We all know what the implications are of some features of the universe and of living things showing evidence of design. Even ID critics know. But shouldn’t ID advocates be more focused on establishing evidence for design itself, and letting the theologians and philosophers wrangle it out about who or what the designer is?

    The problem is that we cannot detect design without making at least some assumptions about the nature of the designer. If ID theory is scientific, those assumptions cannot include non-natural characteristics.

    Because it is clear that design detection does require such assumptions, ID opponents can conclude that the refusal of ID proponents to address the issue means that the designer is automatically assumed to be supernatural, that is, God.

    We know ID theory does not make this assumption, so there is no rational, scientific reason to exclude consideration of the nature of the designer. In fact, we cannot logically do so.

    JJ

  64. Uncommon Descent is a pretty interesting blog! It’s not just blind ideology and name calling but thought and controversy. Thus PaulBurnett in 44,

    I have wondered for years if the Intelligent Designer may have contracted out Creation (or some portions of Creation), much as King Solomon contracted with Hiram of Tyre to build the Temple in Jerusalem.

    And then this fragment from Steve Petermann in 58,

    If theology can move beyond ‘the Fall did it’ and develop more nuanced ideas in theodicy …

    And Evil Snack in 53,

    Apparently God never intended this life to be a permanent state of affairs for any of its inhabitants. We gotta die, and we gotta die from something, and dying usually involves setting off and defeating various mechanisms that during life survive to keep us alive.

    Hence, life is finite, and its end is not pleasant.

    Which reminds me of this Solzhenitsyn gem:

    If humanism were right in declaring that man is born to be happy, he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to die, his task on earth evidently must be of a more spiritual nature. It cannot be unrestrained enjoyment of everyday life. It cannot be the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then cheerfully get the most out of them. It has to be the fulfillment of a permanent, earnest duty so that one’s life journey may become an experience of moral growth, so that one may leave life a better human being than one started it.

    It’s a great conversation, and though I’m on the side of keeping ID simple and clear and a Big Tent, we ought to be talking about these other things anyway—not having to agree, of course.

    If ID ever triumphs in the academy then everyone’ll be in on the conversation.

  65. 65

    With all due respect, JayM are you a sock puppet?

    the detection of design inherently provides information about the designer

    Would you please provide an inventory of what the evidence of design tells you about the designer?

  66. Evidence of design in life would tell me that the designer possess foresight (as the ability to model the future), possesses creativity (as the ability to use a system of signs to represent something that is not connected to those signs by necessity), is more intelligent than humans are at the moment, and is most likely extra-terrestrial [possibly extra-universal].

  67. Furthermore, we may be able to psychoanalyze the designer if we have any evidence that all intelligence has something in common and that we can tell something about the designer’s psychology through his effects. Do humans leave any markings of the state of their psychology through the effects that they produce? Is there a common thread among all intelligence, where that could be exploited?

  68. —-Jay J: “The problem is that we cannot detect design without making at least some assumptions about the nature of the designer. If ID theory is scientific, those assumptions cannot include non-natural characteristics.”

    In effect, you are suggesting that ID is a tautological exercise and therefore cannot really be an inferential science. A tautology consists of smuggling the conclusion into the assumption. It is very easy to discern when this is and is not happening. If, for example, one begins by assuming some attribute about the designer, then obviously one will find design in nature. In that case, the conclusion is imbedded in the hypothesis. If, on the other hand, the scientist begins with the observation that certain patterns are present in a DNA molecule, he can, through the use of systematic methods, analyze those patterns and draw inferences about how those patterns resemble designs that we already know about. A scientific inference requires no prior commitment to a designer. If it did, it would not be an inference, it would be a presupposition.

    ID critics tend to confuse tautological thinking with reason’s first principles, not knowing that, while tautologies do indeed constitute bad reasoning, first principles define the necessary conditions for reason itself and must be assumed PRIOR the investigation. Many Darwinists, for example, on learning that science requires metaphysical foundations, (they generally don’t know that) begin by denying THAT fact and, when they can deny it no longer, exploit their newly acquired information by concluding, mistakenly, that those foundational assumptions must be tautologies. Anyone who has had to wade through their confusion can attest to the almost frustrating difficulty in trying to explain to them this point: We reason FROM first principles [law of non-contradiction etc]; we cannot reason our way TO them. On the other hand, when we do a scientific inference, we reason our way FROM reason’s first principles, through the data, TO a designer. We do not begin by assuming anything about the designer.

  69. on Jay @63

    “The problem is that we cannot detect design without making at least some assumptions about the nature of the designer. If ID theory is scientific, those assumptions cannot include non-natural characteristics.”

    Is this the same kind of assumption that strict materialists make?

    I just want to make sure i understand what you’re implying. Are you implying that we should ask..”IF (G)god exists, then such (G)god would have characteristics A, B & C. If this is true, then we would expect the appearances of design A, B & C.” ??

    Well that’s a no-brainer. In the case of the apparent design of the universe, if the Judeo-Christian God exists, then we would expect to such God to design a universe the way we see it.

    Does that contribute to anything toward evidence of design? No.

    Let’s consider an assumption of a supposed designer. It would be intelligent. It would be purposeful. It would make choices. Dawkin’s intelligent aliens could be a likely candidate for that. Seems to me it is more relevant to recognize the minimal characteristics of design, rather than the characteristics of the designer. We already have a minimal set of characteristics for design, as demonstrated by human intelligence.

  70. Upright BiPed @65

    With all due respect, JayM are you a sock puppet?

    I suspect my screen name is closer to my real name than yours is. Are you a sock puppet?

    the detection of design inherently provides information about the designer

    Would you please provide an inventory of what the evidence of design tells you about the designer?

    As noted here and in other threads, at a minimum evidence of design shows that a designer exists. In fact, it shows a great deal more. The characteristics of the designed object provide information about the means used to produce it, and therefore about the nature of the designer capable of using such means.

    As more designed artifacts are identified, commonalities that emerge provide even more information about the designer, i.e. “The designer tends to use this approach but never that approach.” which, in turn point to the capabilities, preferences, and constraints of the designer.

    These kinds of inferences can define, at the very least, the general nature of the designer and suggest additional research directions.

    JJ

  71. StephenB @68

    “The problem is that we cannot detect design without making at least some assumptions about the nature of the designer. If ID theory is scientific, those assumptions cannot include non-natural characteristics.”

    In effect, you are suggesting that ID is a tautological exercise and therefore cannot really be an inferential science. A tautology consists of smuggling the conclusion into the assumption.

    That wasn’t what I meant to suggest, quite the opposite in fact! ID theory is about the detection of design. In order to do that, we have to determine one or more characteristics that uniquely identify design vs. non-design. ID theory posits CSI as this distinguishing characteristic.

    That, in and of itself, makes implicit assumptions about the designer. Specifically, it assumes that, if CSI can be identified, a designer exists and that the designer is capable of producing CSI. More information about the designer can be gleaned from patterns found as additional designed artifacts are identified. This information can be used to generate testable models of the designer’s capabilities and limitations.

    There is no tautology here.

    when we do a scientific inference, we reason our way FROM reason’s first principles, through the data, TO a designer. We do not begin by assuming anything about the designer.

    I agree up until the last sentence. It is simply logically impossible to make no assumptions about the designer. Without some minimal assumptions, there is no reason to consider a rock undesigned but a flagella designed. Maybe the designer likes granite.

    JJ

  72. This information can be used to generate testable models of the designer’s capabilities and limitations.

    The outcome of design demonstrates abilities, but not limitations. A human designer can create an abacus and Pentium. A skilled artist can also write his name in the dirt with a stick. Can we infer limitations from what we observe?
    The only

  73. StephenB — well said at 68. You know your philosophy.

  74. Bantay @69

    I just want to make sure i understand what you’re implying. Are you implying that we should ask..”IF (G)god exists, then such (G)god would have characteristics A, B & C. If this is true, then we would expect the appearances of design A, B & C.” ??

    Not at all. I’m saying that if we see characteristics A, B, and C in an artifact we have determined to be designed, that tells us something about the designer. If we find those characteristics are shared across a set of designed artifacts, that tells us even more.

    Well that’s a no-brainer. In the case of the apparent design of the universe, if the Judeo-Christian God exists, then we would expect to such God to design a universe the way we see it.

    Why? The Judeo-Christian God is omnipotent. He could design the universe any way he wanted, by definition.

    Let’s consider an assumption of a supposed designer. It would be intelligent.

    What does that mean, though? Are there intelligences other than human intelligences? If so, what is the nature of those intelligences and how would that impact the designs they create?

    It would be purposeful. It would make choices. Dawkin’s intelligent aliens could be a likely candidate for that. Seems to me it is more relevant to recognize the minimal characteristics of design, rather than the characteristics of the designer.

    That’s exactly what can’t be done in a vacuum. Detection of design requires some assumptions about the nature of the designer. As I keep asking, how can we say that the flagella is designed but a rock is not unless we make some implicit assumptions about the designer?

    We already have a minimal set of characteristics for design, as demonstrated by human intelligence.

    Those suffice for identifying design by humans or human-like intelligences. If the designer is God, making those assumptions is inappropriate (and, by some lights, heretical).

    JJ

  75. “Detection of design requires some assumptions about the nature of the designer”

    Yes, I agree. The designer must have intelligence.

    Anything else?

  76. “Detection of design requires some assumptions about the nature of the designer”

    Yes, I agree. The designer must have intelligence.

    Anything else?

    the designer must have the physical tools necessary to bring his design to fruition.

  77. Jay M @74

    ” I’m saying that if we see characteristics A, B, and C in an artifact we have determined to be designed, that tells us something about the designer. If we find those characteristics are shared across a set of designed artifacts, that tells us even more.”

    I would agree here. Yay! From this paragraph at least, you appear to approach it from a “design evidence first” instead of “assumption of characteristics of some arbitrary designer”….other than what we would already assume…..intelligence, purposefulness, choice-making.

    “Why? The Judeo-Christian God is omnipotent. He could design the universe any way he wanted, by definition.”

    Yes, I agree. The Judeo-Christian God, being omnipotent, could have created a universe with no life or with no intelligent life, or a universe that would be different to a degree that life would not be possible. The universe could have been much different. The fact that it appears so optimally suited for such a wide range of earthly life and scientific observability should clue you in about the motives and care of God.
    In my opinion, and using your line of reasoning, the universe appearing as it does with significant evidence of fine-tuning for intelligent life would seem to tell us something about the designer; That God cares enough about those intelligent beings for which the universe is designed, so those intelligent beings can enjoy the universe, observe it, admire it and study it.

    When somebody asks me “who or what is the designer?”..I always say…”ID presents a scientific inference for design, while my own personal, theological assumption is that the Judeo-Christian God is the designer”.

    Khan @ 76

    “the designer must have the physical tools necessary to bring his design to fruition.”

    What if the designer created all the physical tools….from nothing?

  78. “the designer must have the physical tools necessary to bring his design to fruition.”

    Maybe. But what tools did a designer use in creating the universe? Our concept of tools may not exactly match what the designer has available. Darth Vader and the Emperor used a method called the “Force.” If such a thing was possible, what would be the tool there? The Force?

    Some claim telekinesis may be possible. It doesn’t seem possible with humans but who knows there may be others out there with powers we can only imagine.

    Maybe in another galaxy far, far away.

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