Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

ID at Baylor


Here’s an excerpt from Lisa Anderson’s piece today in the Chicago Tribune about ID at Baylor. Notice that Baylor’s main concern in shutting down my Polanyi Center (for the full story, go here) was not the truth of ID but that “it made Baylor look like it could be stereotyped and placed in a particular fundamentalist camp that Baylor didn’t want to be in.” That insightful quote comes from Baylor’s provost.

. . . The initial exposure to modern biology and neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory can be akin to “culture shock,” said Randall O’Brien, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Baylor University, a moderate Baptist General Convention of Texas school in Waco. . .

“If you ask me what do we teach here at Baylor, we’re really as much about interrogation of faith and learning as we are about integration of faith and learning,” O’Brien said. “At Baylor, we believe Jesus came to take away our sins, not our minds.”

Nonetheless, he said, faculty are aware that “sometimes the word evolution is very offensive to people who come from home-schooled situations.”

“My intent is to be honest and truthful and to engage all questions as a person of intellect and a person of faith and not feel that truth is some sabertooth tiger that might jump out of the woods and devour my little, anemic God,” he said. “If truth leads to God, what fear do we have going after it?”

Although intelligent design is not taught at Baylor, O’Brien said, the university had a controversial association with it. In 1999, the Michael Polanyi Center opened at Baylor’s Institute for Faith and Learning, headed by William Dembski, one of the foremost ID proponents and an early fellow of the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank and leading advocate for ID. After creating a furor among Baylor faculty, the center was stripped of its name and Dembski was dismissed in October 2000.

“Our scientists felt it made Baylor look like it could be stereotyped and placed in a particular fundamentalist camp that Baylor didn’t want to be in,” O’Brien said. . .

[For the full article, go here.]

Jaredl, "the only solution to which is to postulate a relative beginning." So God's cousin set the whole thing in motion? pmob1
What I've shown, hopefully, is that an absolute beginning to creation is confronted with a paradox, the only solution to which is to postulate a relative beginning. jaredl
Is the post above this one closed? My post won't post. Oh well... dchammer
Testing one-two-three dchammer
Jared, I think you have presented an infinite chain of paradoxes. You are also, needless to say, proposing something which is infinitely more difficult to demonstrate than D's proof for the elimination of chance. D is examining one universe, ours, and setting bounds on the basis of known physical information. pmob1
Jaredl, In other words, creation out of nothing would be a self-contradictory idea if there were no other possible way of conceiving God than the one you present. But there is another possible way. Therefore, the idea of creation out of nothing is not in itself absurd---at least not for the set of reasons you give, which all have to do with the supposition that the only way to conceive of God is as subject to the same basic limitations any other intelligence is. Cordially, Adrian adrian walker
Jaredl, Let me try this again: I'm not trying to convince you that creation out of nothing happened. All I'm saying is that you haven't shown that the idea of it is self-contradictory. The two arguments you use in 38 could do prove that point only if Christians were claiming that God creates inside of an already existing universe, rather than creating the universe in the first place. But thay aren't. It seems to me that a better way to construct your argument would be like this: (1) the Christian creator is supposed to be an intelligence not subject to the limitations that we are and that would make it absurd to claim that any of us created out of nothing; (2) this is not a logically contradictory claim, but is is false, because (3) there can be no intelligence who is not subject to the limitations that we are. (4) would then have to be an argument OTHER than the one you gave above based on induction---all intelligences we know act inside this already existing universe and are subject to its constraints, therefore all possible intelligences act inside this already existing universe and are subject to its constraints"---which looks more like a hasty leap than a well-founded generalization. I'm not saying that there aren't other arguments to use in step four, just that the one you do use is no good. So, once again, I am simply criticizing the quality of your argument, without saying anything pro or contra the conclusion of it. Cordially, Adrian adrian walker
But, this restricts God to a being inside the universe. Christianity claims that God is outside (and inside) the universe. And He became a man, subjected Himself to death, and rose again. jacktone
What is the first law of thermodynamics? First Law of Thermodynamics: Energy can be changed from one form to another, but it cannot be created or destroyed. The total amount of energy and matter in the Universe remains constant, merely changing from one form to another. The First Law of Thermodynamics (Conservation) states that energy is always conserved, it cannot be created or destroyed. In essence, energy can be converted from one form into another. Is that not good enough of an argument against creation ex nihilo, apart from the lack of information necessary to produce CSI in the creation we in fact do see? jaredl
Jaredl, In other words: I am not postulating a being that does the contradictory. I am saying that you haven't yet given good arguments for your claim that that's what Christians are doing when they say God created out of nothing. Cordially, Adrian adrian walker
Jaredl, I am not expecting you to believe in the God of traditional Christian theology. I am simply pointing out that the argument you're making---"the only intelligences we have encountered get the information they need from the outside, therefore all intelligences do," is not sufficient to support your assertion that the idea of creation out of nothing makes no sense. Do you see the point I am making? Cordially, Adrian adrian walker
Again, we can postulate beings who can simultaneously give us A and ~A, and by the existence of such a being we can prove whatsoever we wish. Is this a satisfying exercise? No. The whole point of such postulating is to protect the core idea from disconfirmation by inductive generalization, not to search for truth. That's why Darwinians do it in reference to Darwinian solutions to irreducible complexity; that's why orthodox Christians have been doing it from the fourth century onward against the simple faith of the primitive Christians; that's why you're doing it here. I love the trinity, by the way. 1. There exists exactly one God. 2. The Father is God. 3. The Son is God. 4. The Father is not the Son. jaredl
Jaredl, To clarify a bit more: the information God needs to create is neither external to God nor does it simply pop into his head someday out of nowhere, but is always, eternally there, within his always, eternally existing self-knowledge. Such is the conviction of classical Christian theology. Perhaps a mistaken conviction, but not one that is evidently absurd or self-contradictory. Cordially, Adrian adrian walker
Amen, Dave T. Of course, orthodox Christianity identifies God as Triune, hence, within Himself, having awareness of Himself and His own extra-temporal nature. jacktone
Dear Jaredl, Although David T. can certainly speak for himself, I thought I would take a shot at trying to explain what he was objecting to in your argument. You wrote above: "all intelligences use specifications in generating CSI because all intelligences that we are aware of in fact do use specifications in generating CSI." If I understand him, Dave T. was saying that you can't legitimately argue from "all intelligences that we are aware of" to "all intelligences." Why not? Well, because there might be some intelligences out there that aren't like the ones we have encountered so far. Another point: you claim that the Christian doctrine of creation ex nihilo is self-contradictory. The basis of this clam? The above argument from "all intelligences that we are aware of" to "all intelligences" period. But that argument doesn't work. So, at least insofar as it's based on this failed argument, your claim of self-contradiction in the Christian doctrine of ex nihilo creation is unfounded. According to the classical orthodox Christian understanding of God, God isn't like us. This not being like us also applies to how God was "alone" before the creation. God is not like us; so he is not like you or I would be if we suddenly found ourselves the only beings in existence. As Dave T. already put it so well, you may think there is insufficient evidence for such a God, but the IDEA of him is not self-contradictory. Nor would your "all intelligences we know---all intelligences period" argument, even if it were true, mean that the IDEA of such a God was self-contradictory. The most your argument could prove is that nothing like the classical Christian God is supposed to be actually exists, not that the IDEA of such a God simply makes no sense. Here is another point that might help with your problem. On the classical Christian view, the world comes into being out of nothing, BUT NOT God's idea of it. As Dave T. put it, on the classical Christian view, God doesn't need to know anything outside of himself to know himself (he is not like us). To which we can add this: in the act of knowing himself, he also knows all the possible ways of participating in or reflecting the fullness of being he is. The "information" you're talking about isn't outside of God, but inside of him, and it doesn't just suddenly appear, but is implicit in the self-knowledge God always has of himself, a self-knowledge that is not like ours, in that God does not have to know anything other than himself to have it. One final bit of the orthodox Christian view: the Trinity. God is alone prior to creation in the sense that there is no other being next to him. But within himself God is never solitary. The Word Jn 1:1 speaks about is an eternal template for all possible information that might then somehow get encoded into the physical creation. Cordially, Adrian adrian walker
Reply to the addendum: by axiom, to be aware requires an other to be aware of. So far as we can tell, this axiom is sound. To postulate a being that can violate this axiom is what I was inveighing against in post 12. jaredl
And I responded in posts 11 and 12. So, there's no further need to beat our nonproductive conversation into the ground. jaredl
Addendum: I shouldn't have mentioned the God of traditional theology because it doesn't matter if this God has logical problems (like the problem of evil) unrelated to the topic at hand. To make your case, you need to show that an intelligence in which the subject/object distinction disappears is logically contradictory. (I assume you mean more than that we have no evidence for the existence of such a being. That much I might agree with. I think your argument is that such a being can't possibly exist.) Dave T. taciturnus
Jared, Go back to my post 5. I have never said that intelligence does not use specification. Your argument hinges on the claim that the specification must be separate from the intelligence itself, and that "awareness" is only possible if there is a separation between subject and object. My argument is that this is true of human intelligence, but not necessarily all possible intelligences. There may be an intelligence that is directly aware of itself (the subject/object distinction disappears) and could use itself as the specification. This intelligence would use a specification (found in itself) and not some separate background information. In particular, I said that the God of traditional theology is alleged to be such a God, completely aware of itself through itself. I don't claim to have empirical proof of such a God. My only claim is that your logical claims against ID don't hold. It isn't necessary to assume that a designing intelligence must use a specification separate from itself. Dave T. taciturnus
pmob1 - If there was an absolute beginning, then there cannot be a satisfactory resolution to the paradox. The paradox is resolved when we realize that neither materialism nor classical theology is correct, and that we must have an infinite chain of creators/creations; both matter and intelligence are eternal. jaredl
Jared, I think I see what you’re driving at. I wonder if it ends up having to do with acts of creation per se. How does intelligent creativity bootstrap into existence when everything/nothing is background information? How can you generate a specification when there is only One thing and that thing is You? You have no reference. There are no detachable patterns, nor, it appears, can there be. However, doesn’t all intelligent creation suffer from that paradox? Let us say, Darwin-wise, that there was time when humans were not intelligent yet. There were no intelligent creations anywhere. No one could find a pocket-watch lying in the forest because there weren’t any yet. There were no artifacts that D or anyone else could prove to be of such small probability that they had to have been intelligently created. We were still knuckle-dragging around. I guess, from the inside, from the pre-ape perspective, it was inchoate. It was “all the same.” It was unspecified. Okay. So how do you get from there to the first specification? pmob1
Mr. T, you deny the validity of my inductive generalization. I am pointing out that the same type of logic undergirds ID, and if you reject my argument - all intelligences use specifications in generating CSI because all intelligences that we are aware of in fact do use specifications in generating CSI - then you must, for consistency's sake, reject ID on identical grounds - all CSI is generated by intelligence because all CSI that we can follow back to its source is generated by intelligence. I guess further explication would not be productive. jaredl
Jared, I’ll try it another way. You wrote: “Why shouldn’t we expect a universe that makes no sense, such universes being much more highly likely than ones that do make sense?” Your proposition contains a false inductive claim. How would you or I or anyone else know that one sort of universe is “more highly likely” than another? You do not have a data sample of universes with known properties of likelihood and unlikelihood. You are trying to claim what I would call a Hume Exemption. Until you show me your data sample, your exemption is denied. We must all remain agnostic on the “likelihood” of this universe relative to other universes. We have to work with the one we have. That’s it. Given our universe we can, however, detect artifacts of intelligence and distinguish them from things that “make no sense.” I don’t recall D speculating about what God was up to before he fired up this universe, how God might have construed himself or anything of the kind. It is scientifically erroneous and spiritually presumptuous to pretend to know anything of the sort or to believe such knowledge is possible. Also, you wrote: “Moreover, why should we respect the claim that all that is, was created from absolute nothing, the very idea of which is contrary both to scripture and science?” You make a false presumption here too. The bible says Creation was “without form,” not that it didn’t exist. Furthermore, God said I am that I am. If you want some steady state, there it is, buddy. pmob1
Jared, This whole conversation has me confused... I've written nothing about CSI or how it is generated by intelligence and I have no idea what you suppose I am dissenting from. I'm not going to ask you how you falsify "all possible intelligences must use background knowledge when acting" because I suspect you will tell me again that you know it inductively, which merely restates your belief that all possible intelligences must be like the ones you have experienced, and we are back in the old circle... Dave T taciturnus
I'm still curious, though: what motivates your dissent? jaredl
2 is certainly falsifiable, as is the claim that "Only intelligence generates CSI." I guess, then, that you reject CSI as a reliable indicator of design also? jaredl
Jared, I understand what you are saying... I guess we will have to agree to disagree. I don't think this is a legitimate inductive argument: 1. All intelligences we have experience with only act with respect to background knowledge. 2. Therefore, all possible intelligences must use background knowledge when acting. Cheers, Dave T. taciturnus
Mr. T - I'm not sure how to say this other than this way: whenever I have observed intelligences acting, it is always with reference to background knowledge (specifications). It follows inductively that all intelligences act with reference to specifications (where confirmation is possible). I'm not sure why you would debate this point. Pmob1 - I'll have to search through all the books. Dembski notes that to produce information is to rule out possibilities, and I think that this is in NFL or Intelligent Design: TBBST. jaredl
Btw. in that particular link above- the author argues that Baylor fired Dembski because "ID isn't science" end of story. Tho, right before he says that he actually quotes the guy who says they fired Bill precisely for the reason Bill gives in his own post! If you're going to make a bogus case, I suggest you not directly contradict yourself in the previous paragraph with a quote from Baylor! Josh Bozeman
Too bad the author of the above site linked continues to claim that ID is the theory that life could not have arisen naturally. Of course, that is not what ID says, and if you can't even get a simple definition of something, I say don't attack it. On top of that ID says nothing of the designer- another concept the author can't seem to get right. It seems to me, from reading a number of sites, that nearly every site that attacks ID and proclaims it isn't science- they always define it wrong and attack the false definition. That's beyond lame. I'm also surprised at how many people think they have any right to proclaim what IS and what IS NOT "[real] science." I pointed out on this site, as I have on others, if ID isn't real science, and they often times attack creationism in the same breath (which means creationism isn't real science), then to follow that out, you have to conclude that most scientists through the history of science were not really scientists. Nearly all scientists before the 1840s were creationists. And they didn't get that from some gaps in thinking- they thought this because of the evidence they saw as pointing to design. Someone will reply saying that we didn't know about evolution then as we do know, but that's still pointless. Even if that's so, if you're going to attack ID supporters today as fools, you must do so of the scientists of old as well. They saw science itself as a pursuit of learning more about God's glory- science itself was born out of this Christian desire to find the order within nature as mentioned in the Bible. Josh Bozeman
Jared, You wrote: "Dembski points out that when an intelligence acts, it does so by ruling out possibilities." Could you reference this for me? I thought Dembski: said when we detect intelligence we do so by ruling out possibilities. Thanks. pmob1
[...] Dembski of course is ever the spin master. Citing O’Brien’s words in this article, he claimed today on his blog: [...] [Follow this link if you want the spin from the other side. --WmAD] Ocellated » Christian Schools and their Students Deal with Teaching Evolution
.. over and over again. Merely labelling a generalization "inductive" doesn't justify it. taciturnus
"that intelligences use specifications in generating CSI is an inductive generalization. " Ok, you wore me down... I'm tired of asking how you justify this generalization other than repeating it... taciturnus
... Kind of like how postulating unlimited probabilistic resources is done solely to short circuit design. Protecting a theory or hypothesis or religion from falsification in principle is not very satisfying. jaredl
Ah. Mr. T, you have taken two unrelated statements of mine and conflated them. That awareness requires something to be aware of is an axiom; that intelligences use specifications in generating CSI is an inductive generalization. And, additionally, the logical problems with the conception of God as offered by orthodox Christianity, are well known. ID exacerbates some of them. And of course induction doesn't work when one is postulating beings with properties for which there is no evidence whatsoever. It is precisely to short-circuit induction that one postulates such beings. jaredl
Jared, You are going way too fast for me... you made this statement: "Such a being, being alone, cannot become aware because there is nothing for it to become aware of, there being nothing which is not God." And justified it with this inductive argument: "Additionallyl, in our experience, intelligences have used specifications to produce innovations. It follows inductively that all intelligences use specifications when generating CSI." My point was that this inductive argument does not work because it goes beyond our experience to make a universal claim about what all intelligence must be like. I cited Kant to this effect. Your response is to repeat your assertion that the "problem of awareness" is a logical contradiction, and add that it is "well-known." Is there a justification for your inductive claim other than it being well-known? Cheers, Dave T. taciturnus
You misunderstand, Mr. T. That there are logical contradictions in orthodox Christianity's conception of God is well known. The problem of evil, the problem of awareness (outlined above), and the problem that ID poses creation ex nihilo (outlined above) are logical problems, not evidentiary. And, if you follow Hume to destroy my argument, then you must also deny any knowledge beyond direct experience. Curiously, if you postulate intelligence as a "first cause," you necessarily exceed any empirical warrant, for such a cause is unknown. The evidentiary problem did not arise for the primitive Christian. The primitive Christian did not believe in creation ex nihilo (solving also the problem of awareness), and had a ready solution to the problem of evil. They also had an embodied God, and relied on direct experience for knowledge of things theological. jaredl
Nonetheless, he [Randall O’Brien] said, faculty are aware that “sometimes the word evolution is very offensive to people who come from home-schooled situations.” This is VERY interesting! O'Brien is aware of the concerns of Home Schoolers and well he should be. Home schoolers are a growing population of potential students who have home schooled primarily because of the exclusive, heavy-handed dominance anti-theism in public schools. These students have proven to be no academic slouches and they are looking for universities. My opinion is the public universities may get a few of these students, but most will look for rigorous private schools, espeically schools like Baylor that have a heritage of faith. HOWEVER, Baylor is blasting itself in the foot; Baylor is going to lose out if it caves to "acceptability" which in reality, IT HAS ALREADY DONE!!! Many of the best and brightest will look elsewhere. (Why pay extra at a private school that's really no different than a public school?) Since ID is science, what is likely to happen as some of the best and brightest go to universities that take ID science seriously? Rigorouse education coupled with "intelligent" research followed by discovery followed by breakthroughs followed by accolades followed by funding. Baylor and a host of other schools who once had the future on their doorstep will find themselves--again--distant also-rans in the race to conquor nature. Red Reader
Jared, You jumped from "no evidentiary basis on which to postulate such a being" to "logical contradictions contained in first principles." One has nothing to do with the other. Even if Christians have no evidentiary basis on which to postulate God, it doesn't follow that their notion of God is logically contradictory. I have no evidence to postulate unicorns, but were I to start a religion of unicorns, my religion would be unsupported by evidence but not logically contradictory. You are quite right that the nature of God is not something that can be disconfirmed by evidence... this is nothing new, but has always been the position of orthodox theologians. God cannot be found (or disproved) in a laboratory experiment. "Additionallyl, in our experience, intelligences have used specifications to produce innovations. It follows inductively that all intelligences use specifications when generating CSI." Not if you listen to Hume or Kant. Our statements derived from experience go as far as experience. Our experience is with human intelligence, therefore our statements about what intelligence must be like are limited to human intelligence. What other intelligences might be like we just don't know. Cheers, Dave T taciturnus
Mr. T - it does follow that we have no evidentiary basis upon which to postulate such a being. There is neither scriptural nor logical necessity, and it does seem, with what evidentiary base that we have, that that which is itself alone cannot be aware. Additionallyl, in our experience, intelligences have used specifications to produce innovations. It follows inductively that all intelligences use specifications when generating CSI. But this inductive chain meets its death in the God of orthodox Christianity, for there existed absolutely no specifications for this being. It originated CSI for free, from nothing. Is orthodox Christianity then immune to disconfirmation by evidence, and by the logical contradictions contained in its first principles? jaredl
Jared, With respect to your comments about creation ex nihilo: "Such a being, being alone, cannot become aware because there is nothing for it to become aware of, there being nothing which is not God." Kant makes this point in the Critique of Pure Reason: Human consciousness may be such that it is not directly aware of itself and knows itself only indirectly as the ground of objective awareness, but that is a limitation of human consciousness. It doesn't follow that every consciousness must be so limited, and there may exist a consciousness that is directly aware of itself. God may very well be such a self-aware being and, in fact, the God of classical theology (I'm speaking of Aquinas here) is supposed to know itself through itself and not through others. The point of comparison God uses in creation is Himself: He who is the fullness of existence. Every created being necessarily exists in a limited way with respect to God, and the "ruling out possibilities" involved in creation is deciding what existential limitations any particular creature will have. Cheers, Dave T. taciturnus
I don't have time to develop this fully, and there's no discussion board here (hint hint), so this looks as likely a place as any to post this comment. Imagine an intelligence, call it God, uninstantiated by matter, being the sole existing thing. There can be no temporal sequencing of events, there being no time. There can be no reason to prefer one pattern of matter over another, since there exists no basis for comparison, neither matter to form patterns from. Such a being, being alone, cannot become aware because there is nothing for it to become aware of, there being nothing which is not God. It appears to me that the doctrine of creation ex nihilo makes the transcendent God of orthodox Christianity a self-contradictory being. How does this relate to ID? Dembski points out that when an intelligence acts, it does so by ruling out possibilities. Accepting at face value Dembski's theology, which is orthodox Christianity, with its attendant doctrine of creation ex nihilo, we ask ourselves, what would a pre-creative God have to base a pattern off of? From whence would such a being get its specifications from? Why should a universe created by a being with no point of comparison make sense? Why shouldn't we expect a universe that makes no sense, such universes being much more highly likely than ones that do make sense? Moreover, why should we respect the claim that all that is was created from absolute nothing, the very idea of which is contrary both to scripture and science? Is it not more likely that intelligence cannot be reduced to matter, and that matter cannot be reduced to intelligence, and that neither can come from absolute nothing, there being absolutely no evidentiary basis upon which to claim such a thing? Perhaps Baylor should have investigated the ontological and epistemic implications of ID for the orthodox faith rather than concentrating on the public relation implications of displeasing the materialist establishment. Perhaps also Dr. Dembski can show how his theology is implicated by ID. jaredl
Darwinism again reveals itself as a "cultural camp," not a science. This is even more true in secondary education, where Darwinism is taught for the same reasons as other (wildly proliferating) "cultural agenda" courses. This is Darwinism's natural course. It was initially accepted in the latter 19th Century, not as empirical science but as a culture wave. Similarly, Darwinism will not be rejected by empirical disproof. There is, after all, no way to disprove any of Darwinism's "long, gradual sequences" since not one has ever been presented for peer review. Darwinism will be rejected for cultural reasons. Although I personally think it more interesting, scientifically valid and morally edifying than Darwinism, Design will probably also be accepted for cultural reasons. pmob1
I think it's obvious to even the casual observer that image trumps truth at Baylor. Even that wouldn't be so bad if they could make up their minds about the image they want. DaveScot
I thought the end of the article was interesting [quote]Meanwhile, Colling at Olivet Nazarene is determined to find a way to bridge the gap between science and faith. "When they recognize ID is a sinking ship, they'll want an option that keeps God in the picture," he said. He believes he may have that option in "random design," a concept he developed that gives science the freedom to pursue truth wherever it leads and people of faith the ability to see God in the very randomness of evolution. "Random design is not directionless design. Random design is equal opportunity. It speaks of a God who is so big that he can even harness the law of randomness to create," said Colling, who laid out his case for the concept in his 2004 book "Random Designer." "It makes a very clear statement to the student that religion and science can be fully compatible," he said. "We know it can happen because it's happening. You can be a Christian and fully embrace science."[/quote] His book is called "Random Designer", and I can't help (through word association) but to think of Dawkins' "The Blind Watchmaker". Now I haven't read his book, but Colling uses phrases very much like Dawkins as well: "harness the law of randomness to create" . . . that sort of thing. It makes me wonder who is right, Dawkins or Colling. Can't a universe without God also "harness the law of randomness to create"? What differentiates the God of Colling from the non-god of Dawkins? Just wondering. Though I admit it's not particularly fair to judge a book simply by its title. jazzraptor

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