Atheism Intelligent Design Religion theistic evolution

Christian Darwinists attempt to douse doubt in Turkey

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From the Faraday Institute, we learn of an effort to combat intelligent design in Turkey:

A significant event during the past month has been the Darwin Anniversary Conference organized by The Faraday Institute and held in Istanbul. As one of our Turkish speakers remarked: “It was the first time for evolutionary discussions in Turkey that both vulgar positivism and religious fundamentalism were excluded”. The main two-day Symposium was attended by 50 faculty biologists from universities all over Turkey, 10 PhD students and 10 observers in the field of education, and drew an international platform of speakers, including Prof. Francisco Ayala (University of California at Irvine), Prof. Aykut Kence (Middle East Technical University, Ankara), Prof. Nidhal Guessoum (American University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates), Prof. David Lordkipanidze (Director General of the Georgian National Museum), Prof. Vidyanand Nanjundiah (Indian Institute of Sciences, Bangalore) and Prof. Simon Conway Morris FRS (Cambridge University). Whereas the main focus of the conference was evolutionary biology, time was also given to the challenge of teaching modern biology today in Turkey and beyond. Details in English and Turkish may be seen [here]. Talks and summaries will be posted at this site as they become available.

On the final night of the Symposium a Public Event was held attended by 430 people, mainly students from different Istanbul universities.

The programme included a number of short talks about Darwin and evolution, the first performance of Re:Design in Turkey (the dramatisation of the Darwin-Gray correspondence performed by the Menagerie Theatre Company), and a televised Panel Discussion on ‘The Hard Questions’ in which the audience posed questions about Darwin and evolution to a panel of experts. The event drew extensive media coverage with clips on the Turkish evening news and 17 journalists in attendance resulting in full-page articles and interviews in publications such as Turkish Newsweek.

Francisco Ayala: Some notes of interest

I don’t know much about most of these people, but the first-mentioned, Francisco Ayala, is here described, accurately in my view, by Phillip Johnson:

The leading Darwinist authorities are frank about the incompatibility of their theory with any meaningful concept of theism when they are in friendly territory, but for strategic reasons they sometimes choose to blur the message. When social theorist Irving Kristol published a New York Times column in 1986 accusing Darwinists of manifesting doctrinaire antitheism, for example, Stephen Jay Gould responded in Discover magazine with a masterpiece of misdirection. [Gould, S.J., “Darwinism Defined: The Difference Between Fact and Theory,” Discover, January 1987, pp. 64-70]

Quoting nineteenth century preacher Henry Ward Beecher, Gould proclaimed that ‘Design by wholesale is grander than design by retail,’ neglecting to inform his audience that Darwinism repudiates design in either sense To prove that Darwinism is not hostile to ‘religion,’ Gould cited the example of Theodosius Dobzhansky, whom he described as `the greatest evolutionist of our century, and a lifelong Russian Orthodox.’ As Gould knew very well, Dobzhansky’s religion was evolutionary naturalism, which he spiritualized after the manner of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

A eulogy published by Dobzhansky’s pupil Francisco Ayala in 1977 described the content of Dobzhansky’s religion like this: `Dobzhansky was a religious man, although he apparently rejected fundamental beliefs of traditional religion, such as the existence of a personal God and of life beyond physical death. His religiosity was grounded on the conviction that there is meaning in the universe. He saw that meaning in the fact that evolution has produced the stupendous diversity of the living world and has progressed from primitive forms of life to mankind. Dobzhansky held that, in man, biological evolution has transcended itself into the realm of self- awareness and culture. He believed that somehow mankind would eventually evolve into higher levels of harmony and creativity.’ [Ayala, F.J., “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution,” _Journal of Heredity_, Vol. 68, January-February 1977, pp. 3, 9] Evolution is thoroughly compatible with religion-when the object of worship is evolution. (Johnson, P.E., “Darwinism and Theism”, in Buell J. & Hearn V., eds., “Darwinism: Science or Philosophy?” , Foundation for Thought and Ethics: Richardson TX, 1994, pp.43-44.)

Religion with no meaningful content

Looking over the Faraday Institute’s offerings in general, it all sounds basically like religion with no meaningful content. It reminds me of dying churches in Canada. Picture a dialogue like this:

They: O’Leary, it is okay to write about science while believing in God.

Me: Well, it had better be okay, because I do it every day.

They: … as long as you don’t think that the universe or life forms show concrete evidence of design.

Me: The problem is that they do, beyond all reasonable doubt.

They: Ah, but that’s just where you are wrong. You must accept God’s existence on faith alone. Look, it is okay to believe in God. It’s true that the prominent atheists who run the show around here say that it’s not okay. But trust us, not them. We will protect you from them.

Me: I don’t trust you. And I should not need you to protect me. And why should I believe on faith alone, when I have evidence as well?

They: Because that is how science is done!

Me: So science is a front for atheism? Look, once I find my bus token, I’m getting out of here. There’s got to be better answers than this.

I just got done reading a book published in Turkey called Evolution Deceit, which helps me understand why Turkey alarms many materialists – but more on that later. Doubts about Darwin in Turkey have alarmed enough people, I guess, that the Faraday Institute felt it had to go there to try to patch up the leaks.

More later, but it seems Turks doubt from a number of perspectives, and not only religious fundamentalism. Could it be that the evidence for Darwinism is not good? More later.

My key concern

My key concern is that Turks may not realize that theistic evolutionism is – as the term is often used today – practical atheism. First, notice the Faraday term “vulgar positivism”. Who uses that term except them? Positivism ceased to be of much interest a long time ago and, while it is highly controversial, whether it is vulgar is a matter of opinion.

The main issue today revolves around the ridiculous Darwin worship that enables mediocre academics to act like big shots while fronting ideas supported by very little evidence. How come the Institute is not dealing with that, when it is front and centre today?

The thing to keep in mind, in my view, is that most Darwinian evolutionary biologists, according to Will Provine’s study, are pure naturalists. No God and no responsibility for one’s actions. That can’t be an accident. And it isn’t.

I think the explanation is that many people go into evolutionary biology because they are attracted by pure naturalism and willing to believe its superstitions. This is a barrier to real science.

I also think that Turks deserve better than this, and hope that they get it. They might begin by reading a translation of biochemist Michael Behe’s Edge of Evolution, which explores the evidence for what Darwinian evolution can – and can’t – really do.

Real theistic evolution

As I have often pointed out, if “theistic evolution” only means that God can create through evolution if he wants to, then I am a theistic evolutionist, as is Behe. Both of us would acknowledge that God could create that way, if he liked. Yet both of us are routinely described as “creationists.”

Why? Because, we ask the dreaded question: Does the evidence suggest that large amounts of new information can be acquired through Darwinian evolution?

Answering that question requires looking at evidence. The evidence does not support Darwinian evolution as a source of much new information.

So, if you believe in God, it seems that God did not do it that way. If you do not believe in God, then someone or something else did not do it that way.

18 Replies to “Christian Darwinists attempt to douse doubt in Turkey

  1. 1
    nullasalus says:

    Heya Denyse.

    I really enjoy reading your columns, and I think you do a great job of pointing out a lot of the hypocrisy and unevenness that typically plagues the ID v no-ID question.

    But I have one question. I think you recently (and rightly) pointed out that the typical scheme is, ‘If no design is detected, that’s scientific. If design is detected, that’s unscientific.’

    So why is the response of so many ID proponents to insist that ID is scientific – rather than to insist that if ID isn’t scientific, then neither is ‘no-ID’? If design detection is outside the scope of science, so too is ruling out design. Wouldn’t it be better to point out that, if we’re going to be consistent, then a whole lot of the orthodox evolutionary claims (that evolution is not a purposeful or guided process, that there were no intentional or guided instances of action in evolutionary history, etc) are beyond the scope of science?

    I ask that sincerely, since I have great sympathy for ID, and I think the philosophical case for design is powerful. But it seems to me that if ID proponents really want to get the reception they deserve, the best path is to point out the extra-scientific abuses of design deniers (as in, passing off their metaphysics as science) to at least explain why ID proponents want equal consideration.

  2. 2
    Joseph says:

    Christian Darwinist is a contradiction of words- an oxymoron.

  3. 3
    JTaylor says:

    O’Leary wrote: “I think the explanation is that many people go into evolutionary biology because they are attracted by pure naturalism and willing to believe its superstitions. This is a barrier to real science.”

    Is there any evidence for this or is it just a supposition on Ms O’Leary’s part? It rather sounds like one of the “just so” stories found in evolutionary psychology that Ms O’Leary is fond of criticizing (and not without reason sometimes). Isn’t Ms O’Leary falling into the same explanatory trap without any actual evidence? Or is that to follow?

  4. 4
    Rude says:

    But J Taylor, Mrs. O’Leary wrote, “I think …” Isn’t that a far cry from proclaiming your fantasies as Science and then loudly denouncing criticism as religion?

    I remember colleagues years ago musing anecdotally about the many rail thin hippies with long blond pony tails over in biology. One does have to wonder. What kind of person will major in a subject where you must lie to yourself just to get along. British atheist Sir Fred Hoyle says that he avoided getting into biology for this very reason. Where did I read this? My often flawed memory says in his Mathematics of Evolution.

  5. 5
    Nakashima says:

    Mrs O’Leary,

    I think your quote of Phillip Johnson must have cut off too soon. After dissing Gould and Dobzhansky, all Johnson does is quote Ayala’s description of his teacher from his eulogy. Johnson’s quip “Evolution is thoroughly compatible with religion-when the object of worship is evolution.” is properly directed at Dobzhansky, not Ayala.

    What I’m getting from the Johnson quote is that Ayala had the integrity to be honest, not just nice. Is that the subtext you are trying to convey?

  6. 6
    Rude says:

    Ah, yes, but one encounters the same naïve attitude in this New York Times interview.

  7. 7
    Steve Fuller says:

    I want to raise a point about theistic evolution’s intellectual strategy that arises from Denyse’s sharp potted dialogue between ‘they’ and ‘me’. It brings out the segregationist line that theistic evolutionists adopt vis-à-vis science and religion: the former exclusively about reason and evidence, the latter exclusively about ‘blind faith’.

    In the quote you cite relating to Dobzhansky, Philip Johnson is opposing much more than the theistic evolutionists you’re talking about would wish to defend. Johnson seems not to like the suggestion that Dobzhansky did not believe in a fully transcendent God. However, theistic evolutionists are not rushing to defend Dobzhansky, let alone Teilhard – because D. and T. actually saw their science and religion in productive dialogue, which then led them into some rather heterodox theological (and occasionally scientific) conclusions.

    One might wish to contest these conclusions on their merits, but the sort of theistic evolutionist you’re talking about thinks that science and religion should stay in their separate camps and does not want to open the door to the idea that one might be led to God by science, because that might create problems for conventional religion (e.g. the sort of God one ends up believing in). Theistic evolutionists are ultimately all about keeping up the ‘good fences make good neighbours’ policy between science and religion, even if it compromises the integrity of both.

    Here it’s worth recalling the context in which Dobzhansky said ‘Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution’ (the only thesis from D. that theistic evolutionists ever defend – or at least trot out). He was talking to biology teachers and suggesting that they don’t need to see a conflict between science and religion because evolution actually provides evidence for belief in a creative intelligence. Here he’s explicitly defending Teilhard, not Darwin.

    ID people with clear theistic leanings like Dembski and Behe also appeal to science to justify theological claims, which are also controversial in their own way. To be sure, Dembski and Behe appeal to different aspects of biology from Dobzhansky and Teilhard – and their conceptions of God, or at least divine agency, are correspondingly different. But today’s theistic evolutionists are reluctant to engage in any such synthesis of science and theology. They much prefer to find God in indeterminacy than in design – hence their attraction to the ‘God of the quantum gaps’ – because that requires minimum change to either science or theology: God is simply where science isn’t. It’s the soft option.

  8. 8
    Polanyi says:

    How can people not get this?? Christian theology and Darwinian “naturalism” can’t both be true at the same time, one can unfortunately not rule out the possibility that they could both be false. But if the one was true, the other could not also be true…no more then the earth can be a sphere and be flat at the same time..

  9. 9
    Ted Davis says:

    Denyse,

    I do not share your low view (“in general”, to borrow your words) of programs sponsored by the Faraday Institute. Last spring I attended a short course on science and ethics (http://www.st-edmunds.cam.ac.u.....minars.php) that was the best workshop I have ever attended. You would actually have applauded much of what was said, esp the talk by Neil Messer.

    Their seminar series (http://www.st-edmunds.cam.ac.u.....minars.php) is also outstanding. Many here will want to download multiple talks, I would venture to say.

  10. 10
    jerry says:

    Ted Davis,

    I can not find the talk by Messer. Do you know when it was?

    On a separate topic, we have some anti ID people here denying the fine tuning of the universe. Has this ever been discussed on the ASA forum? If so do you have any recollections on when? I can then go and look it up.

    I know some of the people there think the universe was so well fine tuned that it led to everything including origin of life and evolution but I was wondering if there were some discussions that might have cited references. I have a bunch but wanted to see what else was out there.

  11. 11
    Ted Davis says:

    Jerry,

    Fine tuning has been discussed often, though not usually very systematically, on the ASA list. The archive at http://www.asa3.org/archive/asa/ can be searched.

    Dr Messer’s talk is not available on the Faraday web site, as far as I know. Usually it is the research seminars that are made available, not the short courses.

  12. 12
    Ted Davis says:

    Speaking of fine tuning, Jerry (and others), let me take the opportunity to invite everyone to attend the ASA annual meeting, held 31 July-3 August at Baylor University. One of the earliest ID advocates, Walter Bradley (our past president), is program chair, and there are many papers by ID advocates including Bill Dembski and Steven Meyer. There will be a very high quality set of papers on the multiverse idea, by scientists and philosophers who are on various sides of that issue. (I am not a big fan myself.) We are also toying with the idea of making podcasts available to those who can’t attend, but probably this will be limited to members of the ASA. (There’s an incentive to join.)

    For more information, see the preliminary program and other information at http://www.asa3.org/ASA/meetingASA.html.

    If anyone here attends as a result of this little announcement, please be sure to greet me there and mention this.

  13. 13
    jerry says:

    Ted Davis,

    Thank you for the link to a prior 2005 search. I assume the current list cannot be searched except through google.

  14. 14
    jerry says:

    Ted Davis,

    Forget my last question. I found the search box for the site.

  15. 15
    herb says:

    Ms. O’Leary,

    I just got done reading a book published in Turkey called Evolution Deceit, which helps me understand why Turkey alarms many materialists – but more on that later.

    Excellent post all around, but this part concerned me. The author of Evolution Deceit is Harun Yahya, a Holocaust denier who has said some fairly uncomplimentary things about ID. I would avoid him like the plague. Just my 2 cents.

  16. 16
    PaulBurnett says:

    Ted Davis, #11, wrote: “Fine tuning has been discussed often, though not usually very systematically, on the ASA list.”

    I’ll try to look for it, but does “fine tuning” mean that galaxies billions of light years away were constructed with physical constants most convenient to the appearance of human life on earth? That puts a stretch on hubris I’ve previously not considered humanly possible.

  17. 17
    PaulBurnett says:

    herb, #15, wrote: “The author of Evolution Deceit is Harun Yahya, a Holocaust denier who has said some fairly uncomplimentary things about ID. I would avoid him like the plague.”

    Here’s some quotes from Harun Yahya’s websites:

    “In order to alienate people in Islamic countries from true religion, Masons are intent on offering the idea of intelligent design as the most appropriate alternative in these countries.” – http://us1.harunyahya.com/Deta....._THEORY___

    “Even children at primary school know that it is Allah, and not “intelligent design,” Who created the sky, gazelles, fish, lambs, apples, bananas, grapes and oranges.” – http://www.harunyahya.com/new_.....design.php

    While Harun Yahya is no friend of evolution, he is also no friend of intelligent design creationism. Herb’s right – you really should avoid him like the plague.

  18. 18
    Nakashima says:

    Mr Jerry, Ted Davis,

    FYI, I wrote to the author of that fine tuning paper to ask his opinion about some of what we have been discussing.

    Basically, he agrees that a model that would predict the creation of carbon and oxygen, etc via stellar nucleosynthesis would be a lot more complicated than the one in the paper he published.

    The next step would be getting those elements out of star, which he agrees is another open question – would stars just die, or would they explode, making the elements available for later solar systems to form?

    The last question was “would galaxies form”? If stars exploded, but weren’t near each other, then those elements couldn’t get reused. On this question, he felt it was 50/50 whether a universe would form galaxies, depending on the relative strength of dark energy vs gravity.

    So it seems there is a lot of room for more research in this area!

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