Intelligent Design

Flamboyant Theological Quotes

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In my book Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science & Theology, I remark that ID is the logos theology of John’s Gospel in the idiom of information theory and I also refer to Christ as the completion of science. Barbara Forrest and others have gotten a lot of mileage out of these quotes, using them to argue that ID is just religion masquerading as science.

I would like here to indicate why these quotes do not undercut ID’s scientific program. Indeed, the quotes derive from a book explicitly about the dialogue between science and religion — as the subtitle and publisher (IVP) make clear. In the very first paragraph of the preface, I indicate that ID is three things:

  1. A scientific program for understanding the effects of intelligence in nature.
  2. A program of cultural renewal.
  3. A way of understanding divine action.

In that book, I address each of these aspects of intelligent design. In thus describing the broader implications of ID and connecting them to my worldview, I’m not doing anything unusual. Indeed, evolutionists have been doing the same for evolution right along. For instance, Barry Lynn, who heads Americans United for Separation of Church and State, remarked on a Firing Line program in 1997 that in the beginning was the word and the word was EVOLVE! (See bottom of page 2 here.) Thus he also sees the logos theology of John’s Gospel as relevant to this debate, though where he goes with it is quite different from where I take it.

Actually, one will be hard pressed to show that ID is religion based on my logos quote. Many biblical scholars agree that the author of John’s Gospel drew inspiration from the Stoics in identifying Christ with the logos. The logos of the Stoics was an intelligence operating in nature that gave form to the world of matter — this parallels ID’s refutation of materialist reductionism and its emphasis on the indispensability of intelligence in structuring the natural world.

As for the Christ-the-completion-of-science quote, critics invariably omit a crucial qualification that I make in the text, namely, that as the completion of science, Christ does not play a practical role in the day-to-day outworkings of science. I state this explicitly on pp. 209 and 210. In referring to Christ (and we are talking here about the Cosmic Christ, the logos of John’s Gospel, the intelligence ultimately responsible for the designs in the world — though this intelligence may act through intermediate teleological organizing principles) as the completion of science, I am using completion in a technical sense, by analogy with the way the real numbers complete the rational numbers. Just as applied mathematicians never uses anything other than rational numbers and can in any given calculation dispense with the real numbers, so too working scientists, even brilliant ones, can and often do dispense with Christ. The significance of Christ as the completion of science is metaphysical, not empirical.

If critics like Barbara Forrest are to be believed, I would have done ID better service by never getting a seminary degree or exploring what I take to be the theological implications of ID. Is it that a subset of my work (like The Design Inference) holds up under general scrutiny, but that when it is embedded within my larger corpus, it suddenly loses credibility? Isn’t it instead that individual arguments and claims must stand on their own merits?

Fair-minded people, of course, understand the point.

20 Replies to “Flamboyant Theological Quotes

  1. 1
    MWC says:

    EXACTLY!

  2. 2
    Jon Jackson says:

    I do believe Ms. Forrest has religion on the brain. In my experience that’s usually more indicative of where the critic is coming from than anything else.
    Nice dovetail with the DFP article, don’t you think?

  3. 3
    Charliecrs says:

    Evoluntionary critcs are always going to use / misuse what “we” say or refer to about “our” personal beliefs that may or maynot motivate us and use that against us. Its any easy target, that can cite something like that and say look he wants to bring God into the clasrooms. This way they can easily doge any real questions and get a pat on their backs. Sorta like killing two birds with one stone…

    Charlie

  4. 4
    Bourbaki says:

    “God, like one of our own architects, approached
    the task of constructing the universe with order
    and pattern, and laid out the individual parts
    accordingly…”

    Johannes Kepler – Christian Scientist

    Kepler believed science worked because God was rational, had created a rational world, and had made man to be rational, and capable of discovering the features of this rational world.

  5. 5
    DaveScot says:

    USSC justices aren’t necessarily fair minded. They’re legal minded. It’s easy for a left leaning justice to inextricably entwine ID with religion. Let’s hope it’s just as easy for a right leaning judge to separate the two aspects. I think it’s easy but I’m often led astray by the illogic of applied law.

  6. 6
    avocationist says:

    Mr. Dembski,

    Which of your books could you recommend for someone like me, who doesn’t know much math? I have already read Uncommon Descent.

  7. 7
    crandaddy says:

    Avocationist,

    Read “The Design Revolution”! It is a wonderfully lucid book about Intelligent Design. And it is written for the general public, so it’s easy to read.

    David

    [Good suggestion. –WmAD]

  8. 8
    Alan Fox says:

    I challenge anyone to produce evidence that mainstream science is anti-faith. But when faith blinds one to reality, problems arise.

  9. 9
    jaredl says:

    Since “faith” is generally taken as a synonym for “blind belief” – that is, belief without evidence – then perhaps one can argue that the whole point of science is to negate faith.

    “Non-telic processes are sufficient to account for all observable phenomena” directly conflicts with most, if not all, religions.

  10. 10
    Fer says:

    Dear Dr. Dembski,

    I admire your standing for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

  11. 11
    DaveScot says:

    Alan Fox

    “I challenge anyone to produce evidence that mainstream science is anti-faith. But when faith blinds one to reality, problems arise.”

    No problemo.

    http://media.ljworld.com/pdf/2.....letter.pdf

    38 Nobel winners write:

    “Logically derived from confirmable evidence, evolution is understood to be the result of an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection.”

    This is utter denial of the faith most people have about God and evolution.

    If this isn’t mainstream science then the silence coming from mainstream science denying this recent statement by such an elite group is deafening.

  12. 12
    Charliecrs says:

    Question # 1

    Why is it these type of people [ pro evo ] always refer to this mountion of
    “confrimable evdience” thats locked away in some unknown remote database that is yet to be unseen ?.

    Charlie

  13. 13
    Charliecrs says:

    Maybe some should tell em, while they’ve been storing all the confrimable mountinas evidence of data to the remote servers; someone has already blowup this and other invisible mountians with something called FACTS. Fact is the only true “fact” in the theory of Dariwn is that the facts just keeps evolving every day.

    Charlie

  14. 14
    Charliecrs says:

    For example

    Paleo Joe comes to work one day a discovers that when he compares two chicken scratches of dio pics and says that they look the same and therefor declares these two chicken dino scratches are ancient [ ie x billions of years old ] and are not only related but evolved from eacother and probably intermeidate forms also.

    40 – 50 years later when Paleo Bob rediscovers Joes work and re examines it he realizes that Joes chicken scratches are actually crumbs from someone Mcdonald’s leftovers. To this Paleo bob rejoices and declares this new discovery completly changes our old view about dino chicken scratches. Sure we thought we knew the facts before but now we really know it and we know what we are doing.

    These sadly are the only type of the Mountainous facts for evolution. When the next Paleo ? comes into the picture he will boldly declare to know the next line of facts that was thought to be VERY VERY VERY boldly understood before as fact by the previous Paleos and the scientifc commuinty as yet another chapmion proof of the Evo theory.

    Charlie

  15. 15
    wmmalo says:

    Avocationist,

    Any book on ID is easy to read. The science of ‘design inference’ doesn’t require much math, more theology than biology, metaphysics in lieu of physics (which is math heavy)and toss in a bit of Oral Roberts, just for good measure. Libraries are a poor source for ID research, however The Discovery Institute and its affiliates provide websites containing all you need to know about ID, the theory, the science and the notable researchers involved in the development of ‘Design Theory’. Only take an hour or so and you will be an expert.
    You do have to be religious, very religious and Christian is the best. All ‘that’ information is referenced or linked quite well on the sites.
    God’s Speed.

  16. 16

    Midweek In Blog

    I’ve decided to start a daily review of posts I’ve seen during my reading as well as posts that are pertinent to the day’s Hot Topics that might be of interest to others. I’m going to call it Midweek In Blog–MIB for short. So let’s begin.

  17. 17
    ICtfIAm says:

    I read online an interview recently between Antony Flew and Gary Habermaas, in which Flew stated that what led him to deism (as opposed to his former atheism) was the design argument. He stated that he was not very impressed, however with the Kalam Cosmological argument. I wonder if it was “The Design Inferrence,” which led him to his conversion? He seems to be an admirer of Dr. Dembski (I read his letter in support of Dr, Dembski at Baylor U. from something online – can’t remember).

    Also, I find Flew sincere in his decision. He was a close friend of C.S. Lewis, long before Lewis converted from Atheism to Christianity. I wonder if Lewis went through a “deism phase,” on the road to his final conversion.

    Flew’s humility is quite a contrast to those who see nothing but “religion” in ID arguments. I’ve read some of his earlier debates with theists, and he always strikes me as having some sincere reservations towards theism, yet not altogether hostile. He was an atheist, but he had the audacity to discuss this intelligently and respectfully with Christians. I wonder what kind of impact his conversion will have in atheism camps.

    I just finished reading “Intelligent Design,” and the chapter in which Dr. Dembski talks about the necessity of Christ in understanding Creation (forgive me if I’m misreading you here), bothered me initially. My reservation with the chapter was due to the fact that I had read earlier in the book, a dispassionate and intelligent description of the history behind the Evolution/Intelligent Design debate, and then a factual explanation of what Intelligent Design is. The “Christian” chapter seemed at first to detract from the argument. However, I had to think about this for a while, and consider the fact that Darwinists do the same thing in their writings. They interpret their data within a framework of unplanned, undirected naturalism. Why shouldn’t Christian scientists interpret their data within the framework of their beliefs as well?

    It is a dangerous thing to do this, but it is entirely appropriate. It is dangerous, because it seems to add fuel to the fire that is attempting to relegate and confine Intelligent Design to the realms of philosophy and theology, rather than its proper place in science. The “Christian” chapter will be used (in fact has been used) to politicize, rather than to enlighten the debate. Just as the Bible is often misused by (militant) atheists in their attempts to discredit theism.

    It shouldn’t bother me that scripture twisting is made possible because the scriptures exist – in the same way, it shouldn’t bother me that Christ is mentioned in a book that is supposed to be about science. Christ is the author of science. Scientists are allowed to have POVs that are not confined by mere data processing. I appreciate the insight I gained from this book.

  18. 18
    ICtfIAm says:

    WilAD – “As for the Christ-the-completion-of-science quote, critics invariably omit a crucial qualification that I make in the text, namely, that as the completion of science, Christ does not play a practical role in the day-to-day outworkings of science. I state this explicitly on pp. 209 and 210. In referring to Christ (and we are talking here about the Cosmic Christ, the logos of John’s Gospel, the intelligence ultimately responsible for the designs in the world — though this intelligence may act through intermediate teleological organizing principles) as the completion of science, I am using completion in a technical sense, by analogy with the way the real numbers complete the rational numbers. Just as applied mathematicians never uses anything other than rational numbers and can in any given calculation dispense with the real numbers, so too working scientists, even brilliant ones, can and often do dispense with Christ. The significance of Christ as the completion of science is metaphysical, not empirical.”

    Thanks for that explanation. I think that God has his own empiricism, and it includes the metaphysical. We, however, are limited by our finiteness. The problems we are dealing with here are our failures as human finite beings, to see the division between ourselves and our Creator. We believe that all truth can be detected in what is by nature limited. That is our natural assumption about the world in which we live. But our Creator contains a truth that is within His own perogative to reveal to us. The metaphysical – which we cannot master apart from revelation, nor apart from redemption. When we say that we are “in Christ,” we say that Christ is the master of the metaphysical within and around us. I appreciate also, how you distinguish between the word of God and the Word of God (capital W). While I had before this reading, been stuck on the Greek understanding of Logos, you have clarified really, what John was thinking about when he mentioned both aspects of the Logos.

    I think that non-Christians could appreciate your argument from the beginning part of the book, but this very issue here, is perhaps a stumbling block. It is so because of the thinking of the “natural man.” Metaphysical understanding is imparted by the divine Logos. Empiricism is the language of nature. It takes a higher language to understand what is going on beyond the empirical world. Yet, as you clearly point out, “Christ is the completion of science.” Is it that he is so because he imparts all reality to us – the reality of creation, and the reality of redemption? I think that this is the point you make in this chapter?

    Many Christians fail to grasp this as well. We tend to approach our faith from a metaphysical perspective first, and then we interpret reality from that perspective. But God created before He redeemed. I think that it should be the other way around. We should discover God’s reality by what He has made, and then we will be more thoroughly equipped to accept His redemption on the basis of His reality, rather than by blind leaps of faith.

    But that would only be so if our redemption was a matter of our own doing. I tend to be more of a Calvinist on this issue. It’s not that we could discover God’s reality by our own empiricism. God is entirely at work in our intellect and our hearts in the process of our redemption. So while God’s Creation is such that we could discover Him through our own investigation, by our nature, we don’t. We fail to grasp that there is a division between the world of the spirit and the natural world, but instinctively, we know (perhaps by God’s impartation in our subconscious).

    When you mentioned at the beginning of the book (I believe) that methodological Darwinism is idolatry, I wasn’t following you. However, toward the end of the book, you provided a broader explanation of this, and I understood. Methodological Darwinism hasn’t come to terms with the separation between metaphysics and physics. Consequently, it denies metaphysics, while at the same time, employing metaphysics and calling it physics. This is also a failure to grap the division between the creation and the Creator. Darwinism posits that the creation and the Creator are one and the same. Because of our instinctive awareness of something beyond ourselves, Darwinists reinterpolate that metaphysical instinct into the physical realm, whereby, the creation becomes the only reality. Creation is spoken of in terms of having personality ala “Mother Nature,” as an example of failing to graps this division. The need to anthropmorphise nature is no different than the making of impersonal idols out of stone and wood, and attributing divine personality to them. I also appreciated your insight that “natural selection” is an oxymoron.

  19. 19
    ICtfIAm says:

    Dr. Dembski – Could you provide us with some insight into the circularity of Methodological Darwinism? I think that this is a stong argument that really should be elaborated on. I have been involved in many online debates with atheists, who adhere to MD. I was often caught unaware of the circularity of their arguments, because I was broadsided by the seemingly philosophical and scientific sophistication by which they laid them out. I’m still learning to think critically.

  20. 20
    avocationist says:

    wmmalo,

    I’ve been interested in anti-Darwinism for at least 6 or 7 years, and until recently completely refused to read anyone with a religious bias. Any mention of God and I put the book down. Shattering the Myths of Darwinism is a good one. I’ve spent many hours on the net, and I like Dembski’s writing style. I particularly liked his refutation of Ken Miller’s The Flagellum Unspun. But I am also aware that he is a mathematician and that some of his arguments use mathematical proofs. That is why I asked the question, because I never went beyond algebra.

    Funny, the stuff I have read includes very little theology, and is almost totally about biology, with a bit of logic and probability thrown in. Perhaps you could speak a little more objectively if you had not limited yourself to just one hour of reading before claiming expertise.

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