Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

An Eye For An ‘I’: Fighting The Twisted Fables Of The Anti-ID Lobby


Review Of Intelligent Design 101: Leading Experts Explain The Key Issues
ISBN 978-0-8254-2781-7

The debate over whether or not our universe was designed with a purpose is one that centers not around philosophical questions but over “competing scientific explanations of the data”. That is the central argument expounded by Phillip Johnson in Intelligent Design 101, a book that aims to bring into sharp focus the central tenets of the intelligent design (ID) movement. Contrary to a popular misconception, the modern day controversy over design in biology is not one that arose from some push to force Judeo-Christian beliefs into the science classroom. It is instead one that extends back thousands of years to the time of Plato and Xenophon in ancient Greece.

Today the educational literature defines all aspects of biology in purely naturalistic terms. What is more, evolution has become the “monolithic fact” that we must all embrace. Even though there is incontrovertible evidence that defies such a factual status, evolutionists have bent over backwards to make naturalism fill in the glaring inconsistencies in the data. As a vociferous opponent of the macro-evolutionary aspects of Darwinism, Johnson has attempted a “divide and conquer” approach to break such a stronghold. By separating philosophical naturalists such as Richard Dawkins from scientists with a sound objective outlook, Johnson’s much-publicized Wedge Strategy has sought to prize neo-Darwinism away from its “pedestal of philosophical naturalism”. Attacks on Johnson’s initiative have focused on the religious backgrounds of its supporters rather than on the sound scientific arguments that they put forward. Still, as Johnson remarks those who today maintain that ID is all about religion ignore the counter claim that the theory of evolution is not exactly all about science.

Addressing this point in a later chapter of the book, philosopher J.P Moreland re-emphasizes a long-standing denial- ID makes no theological commitments to Christianity, Hinduism, Islam or any other religion and does not set us on a “slippery slope” of religious interference of science. Instead ID has scientific legitimacy evidenced by the observation that those who argue against it do so by attempting to falsify its scientific claims.

What are the scientific foundations upon which ID stands? Geologist and lawyer Casey Luskin, biochemist Michael Behe and philosopher Jay Richards remind us of the widely-disseminated ID arguments in their respective chapters of Intelligent Design 101. Complex information-rich objects such as those that lead to the inference of intelligent activity in archaeology and forensic science also exist in the molecular world. Behe builds on Luskin’s platform by treating us to an exposition of how irreducible complexity in nano-molecular machines continues to present “a conundrum for Darwinism”. Richards then gives us a comprehensive rebuttal of the materialistic interpretation of the Copernican principle challenging science popularizer and television celebrity Carl Sagan’s assumption that “the universe is all there is” and listing the features that are necessary for a habitable planet such as our earth to exist. Rather than being winners of a “grand cosmic lottery”, our earth’s habitability coupled with its prime ‘real estate’ position for making scientific discoveries argue in favor of design and purpose.

Evolutionary stalwart Julian Huxley famously opened the centennial of the publication of The Origin Of Species with the proclamation that naturalistic evolution explained the totality of life’s existence. Nevertheless the more recent struggles between creationists on whether the universe is thousands or billions of years old have done little to quell the rising tide of scientists who feel uncomfortable with the Darwinian endpoint. In Johnson’s assessment ID has become the umbrella movement that unites “people of many viewpoints who were once divided on side issues”. Today there exists a tremendous dissatisfaction with the Darwinian synthesis amongst reputable scientists who are unconvinced by the supposedly unarguable evidence that Darwinists hold on to. Within such a setting, Johnson equates his volume Darwin On Trial to “a match that lit the tinder beneath a stockpile of logs”.

In his chapter entitled Philosophical Implications Of Neo-Darwinism and Intelligent Design, philosopher Eddie Colanter brings to the reader’s attention the religious undertones of the so-called strong form of Neo-Darwinism which holds that (i) all of life is the product of purely materialistic forces, (ii) any reference to God is superfluous and (iii) any moral values that humans place on their comportment are purely arbitrary and subjective (this latter point has important ramifications for how we view contemporary social issues such as abortion, euthanasia and the definition of personhood).

Intelligent Design 101 then concludes with a broad overview of the historical landscape upon which ID has made its impact. What is made explicit is that ID is not simply a modern extension of the Christian creationism that featured in prominent legal cases such as those surrounding the Tennessee anti-evolution laws of the 1970s. In the words of distinguished theologian H Wayne House, it is a movement that carries with it an “empirical method of argument [and a] lack of allusion to the fundamentalist wing of Christianity and Christian theology”.

As we approach Darwin day with its accompanying festivities and plans to parade his namesake through museum halls across the nation, we cannot ignore the vast body of evidence that today is feeding the ID counter-attack. Intelligent Design 101 is an invaluable resource for those seeking to understand the twisted fables of the anti-ID lobby. If those who oppose ID have nothing to fear, they should be prepared to entertain competing points of view and to let truth and reason become “the final arbiters”.

Anyone who criticizes Philip Johnson in the evolution debate is a hypocrite. Just go to the Johnson/Provine debate at Stanford on this. Here is the thread Gil posted a couple months ago https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/the-greatest-debate-on-earth/ My comment on this thread was "I often use this debate in comments because in it Will Provine says that belief that macro evolution happens is essentially based on faith. It is also interesting to contrast the arguments. The so called religious zealot uses science and the scientist uses religious arguments." Cornelius Hunter is correct in pushing his theme that modern evolutionary theory is religious in nature. ID is science, the modern evolutionary synthesis is religious BS. jerry
These are some of the reasons there is an impression that intelligent design has a religious component.
Because some or even most IDists ahve a personal religious component? That sounds like twisted thinking. But if we use that line of thought then the theory of evolution cannot be taught as it violates the same Est Clause due to its anti-religious- ie atheistic- component. As for Johnson being a lawyer- well they understand the meaning of "evidence"... Joseph
I'm glad to see here that some ID proponents still refer to philosophical naturalism. The gist of arguments from design, going all the way back to Plato and Xenophon, is that we can infer from observed design in nature the existence of an unobservable and supernatural designer of nature. Phillip Johnson evidently has better sense than to say, "Everything that is real is natural." Sooner Emeritus
Mr Deyes, I was mystified by your summary of philosopher Eddie Colanter's chapter until I realized that I was reading the chapter title wrong. Philosophical Implications Of Neo-Darwinism and Intelligent Design doesn't mean to contrast the two, it means to say that both have the same philosophical implications. After all, he can't be arguing that God isn't superfluous in ID, that would undercut all of the previous chapters of the book which argue that ID does not entail God, that ID has outgrown its religious roots. Nakashima
William J. Murray (#6) asked: "If Johnson is not a scientist...what difference would it make if he “admitted” there have been no “sound scientific arguments” about ID? How would he know? Johnson has people working for him, for the cause - here's the complete quote (citation as above): "I also don’t think that there is really a theory of intelligent design at the present time to propose as a comparable alternative to the Darwinian theory, which is, whatever errors it might contain, a fully worked out scheme. There is no intelligent design theory that’s comparable. Working out a positive theory is the job of the scientific people that we have affiliated with the movement. Some of them are quite convinced that it’s doable, but that’s for them to prove…No product is ready for competition in the educational world. PaulBurnett
PaulBurnett, at 2: If Johnson is not a scientist, as you are quick to point out, what difference would it make if he "admitted" there have been no "sound scientific arguments" about ID? How would he know? It seems you wish to undermine him as a meaningful source when he says something inconvenient to your cause, and then cite him when he says something that supports your position. \ William J. Murray
"What other terms should be used, and how could that improve our understanding of biology?" Well, magic. There is no evidence for how many of the new species arose. But the textbooks invoke some magical process that has never been shown to work building anything of consequence. So it must have been a miracle or magic. The implications are that Darwinian processes should be removed from the textbooks for anything but the trivial and the origin of complex novel capabilities should be presented as a mystery. Anything else is dishonest. jerry
Cabal @3: Why the difference in quality? It is simple: We are nowhere near to the intellgience of the Designer. Our cesium clocks (and anything else, btw) are infinitely far from e.g. being able to self-reproduce using self-assembly and having a potential lifetime of thousands of years, like the sequioa. In the mean time we have to be satisfied with what we got and learn as much as possible from the miriads of solutions that are in nature, very kindly arranged in a form that is accessible for our crude means of inspection. Alex73
Today the educational literature defines all aspects of biology in purely naturalistic terms.
What other terms should be used, and how could that improve our understanding of biology? We strive to improve and perfect our designs, from clepsydras to cesium clocks, while the so-called 'intelligent' designer is notorious for being satisfied with any old design. Why the difference in quality? Cabal
Robert mentions "Johnson’s much-publicized Wedge Strategy" (published in 1998), but neglects to mention Johnson’s comment that "the wedge made its public debut at a conference…held at Southern Methodist University in March 1992. Another founders’ conference in 1996 at the former Bible Institute of Los Angeles was also not exactly at a "scientific" venue. These are some of the reasons there is an impression that intelligent design has a religious component. It should also be noted that Johnson is not a scientist, but a lawyer, whose "Wedge Strategy" expressed the fervent hope that "sound scientific arguments" would be put forward, but even Johnson has recently admitted that hasn't happened yet. (http://sciencereview.berkeley.edu/articles.php?issue=10&article=evolution) PaulBurnett
One of the leading atheists in the science community, one that is starting to be more vocal about the truth of atheism, has said in his recent book. ""If our universe began at the Big Bang, it is burdened with a finely tuned boundary condition for which we have no good explanation. But if the observed universe is part of a bigger ensemble—the multiverse—then we might be able to explain why a tiny part of that ensemble witnesses such a dramatic change in entropy from one end of time to the other.", [Carroll, Sean, From Eternity to Here]" This is the cosmologist Sean Carroll, not the biologist Sean Carroll. One of the problems this Sean Carroll will have is that even if we are the tiny part of the multiverse that is life friendly, there are a lot more problems of origins to solve than just these boundary conditions. Carroll believes that science will find the solutions while at the same time he advocates silencing any attempt to show other wise. This is an example of how low scientists get when they cannot explain something that might conflict with their worldview. Carroll comes off like a warm and friendly puppy dog, reasonable in his approach but his actions speak something quite different. He helps bully and silence the proponents of ID or those who might consider it rather than have an honest debate, essentially admitting his and the other atheist's intellectual bankruptcy. jerry

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