The discovery of digital code, hierarchically-organized information processing systems, and functionally-integrated complex circuits and nano-machinery would in any other realm of experience immediately and properly trigger an awareness of the prior activity of a designing intelligence — precisely because of what we know from experience about what it takes (i.e., what kind of cause is necessary) to produce such systems. But Bishop and O’Connor seem entirely unmoved by discoveries showing the existence of such informational and integrated complexity in living organisms, not because the existence of functional digital code or the nanotechnology in life is in any way in doubt, but because they have committed themselves to viewing the world as if it were the product of materialistic or naturalistic processes regardless of the evidence. (Of course, they conceptualize those processes as modes of divine action, that is, “secondary causes” in theological parlance, even when those same processes clearly lack the creative capacity necessary to explain the origin of the features of life that are attributed to them.)
Both Bishop and O’Connor are Christian defenders of the principle of “methodological naturalism” — a principle that specifies that scientists must explain all events by reference to materialistic (non-intelligent) causes whatever the evidence.2 For this reason, their affirmation that God designed the universe, but signed His work in undetectable “invisible ink,” should be taken with a grain of salt. True, the “signature” of design in nature can only be seen by those with eyes to see. But an a priori commitment to methodological naturalism ensures that we will never perceive (or at least acknowledge) design in nature whatever the evidence, and it codifies our innate tendency to avert our eyes from what is “clearly seen” — and from what modern biology has made increasingly clear — in “the things that are made.”3 More.
In practice, here is what methodological naturalism means: Science is coterminous with naturalism. The purpose of science, therefore, is to come up with theories that are in line with and support naturalist (nature is all there is) explanations.
If those explanations seem weak (cf crackpot cosmology and evolutionary psychology, we must wait for better naturalist explanations. No other explanations, however informative by comparison, can in principle be science.
The concept is tailor-made for the “faith and science” crowd among whom it apparently arose. After all, it promises grants, books, invitations to lecture or preach …
And having one’s perspective snubbed politely rather than contemptuously doesn’t hurt either.
Some people, nonetheless, prefer evidence to naturalism, to say nothing of sanity. After all, if there is a God, evidence may matter after all.
See also: What has naturalism done for science? Introducing “Science Fictions”
Note: In the quote above, at “in ‘the things that are made,’” Meyer is referencing a passage in the first chapter of the Letter to the Romans, Paul’s defense of Christian theology in the New Testament:
Romans 1:20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse
I used that on the flyleaf of a 2005 book, By Design or by Chance?, to make a point. I’ve heard at least one big name Christian for Darwin argue that Paul does not mean that evidence for design in nature can be “clearly seen,” despite what the passage obviously says.
Other C’s for D informed me that Paul doesn’t base his theology on Romans 1:20. No, he does not. He raises the matter to show that some people ignore what they can plainly see in the world around them, with bad results. The theology (the stuff they can’t plainly see) comes later.
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