Intelligent Design

Francis Collins: “I greatly respect William Dembski…best wishes to Salvador Cordova and the IDEA club”

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I mentioned earlier my delight that the GMU Provost was willing to put his good name behind Francis Collins book tour: GMU Provost hosts The Language of God.

Well, the talk happened and it was amazing! Francis Collins gave his Christian testimony tonight pretty much along the lines of his book. He recounted his conversion from atheism to the Christian faith. He referred to the Design argument and the creation of the cosmos. The word “Design” kept slipping out of his mouth.

He said the cosmological argument points to God, but it cannot establish Him as personal. For that Collins appealed to the moral conscience which we find in men. He recounted that evolution cannot explain altruism and so many things about what makes us human. He said group selection and kin selection fails to explain these qualities. He concluded these facets of human beings pointed us to the Creator.

From his book:

The Big Bang cries out for a divine explanation. It forces the conclusion that nature had a defined beginning. I cannot see how nature could have created itself. Only a supernatural force that is outside of space and time could have done that.

If the Law of Human Nature cannot be explained away as cultural artifact or evolutionary by-product, then how can we account for its presence? There is truly something unusual going on here. To quote Lewis, “If there was a controlling power outside the universe, it could not show itself to us as one of the facts inside the universe–no more than the architect of a house could actually be a wall or staircase or fireplace in that house. The only way in which we could expect it to show itself would be inside ourselves as an influence or a command trying to get us to behave in a certain way. And that is just what we do find inside ourselves. Surely this ought to arouse our suspicions?”

Encountering this argument at age twenty-six, I was stunned by it’s logic. Here, hiding in my own heart as familiar as anything in daily experience, but now emerging for the first time as a clarifying principle, this Moral Law shone its bright white light into the recesses of my childish atheism, and demanded a serious consideration of its origin. Was this God looking back at me?

Then during the very brief Q&A I managed only one question. I introduced myself and said, “Thank you Dr. Collins for your courage in writing your book. Here is a gift from the IDEA club and a friend from the Discovery Institute who wanted you to have it. It is the Privileged Planet DvD.”

Collins smiled, and said, “I already have it, but I’d be delighted to have another copy.”

I said, “I have a comment and question. I have been monitoring the demographics at universities. About 1/3 of the biology majors accept intelligent design. Even here at George Mason, at least 3 creationists were awarded PhD’s in biology. Do you see this could be a problem that in the future that there could be so many scientists that accept ID?”

Collins said, “I accept intelligent design in that God created the universe…”. But he said he doesn’t accept ID for biology. Let me quote his book as it echoes what he said in response to me:

The perceived gaps in evolution that ID intended to fill with God are instead being filled by advances in science. By forcing this limited, narrow view of God’s role, Intelligent Design is ironically on a path toward doing considerable damage to faith.

The sincerity of the proponents of Intelligent Design can hardly be questioned….If believers have attached their last vestiges of hope that God could finda a place in human existence through ID theory, and that theory collapses, what happens to faith?

He really seemed worried that IDers would someday be disappointed. But I really think he gives too much credit to the Darwinian community for having succeeded in demonstrating ID false.

Collins’ anti-ID arguments are laid out in his book. He recommended a book by one of our UD visitors, Darrel Falk. Falk’s book was Coming to Peace With Science: Bridging the Worlds Between Faith and Biology (Paperback).

He seemed genuinely distressed that so many accept ID. Collins said, “I have no axe to grind. I accept Intelligent Design for the universe. If ID is true for biology I would embrace it. But I caution everyone out there that I think it has cracks and it will be overturned scientifically.” I did not sense that he was inimical to IDers, but that for what ever reason, he thought the problem of Irreducible Complexity has been solved!

He then mentioned Bill, “I greatly respect William Dembsk for what he said….” Let me quote Collin’s book specifically for what he praised Bill for:

From my perspective as a geneticist, a biologist, and a believer in God, this movement [the ID movement] deserves serious consideration…ID could be tought of ironically as the rebellious love child of Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett.
….
William Dembski, the leading mathematical modeler of the ID movement, deservers credit for emphasizing the overarching importance of seeking out the real truth: “Intelligent Design must not become a noble lie for vanquishing views we find unacceptable (history is full of noble lies that ended in disgrace). Rather, Intelligent Design needs to convince us of its truth on its scientific merits.” Dembski is absolutely correct in that assertion, and yet his own statement portends the ultimate demise of ID
…..
A sober evaluation of current scientific information would have to conclude that this outcome [the demise of ID] is already at hand.

It might have been easy for many IDers in the audience to have turned red with a bit of rage over that portion of Collins talk, but I felt none of that. I simply saw a great scientist mistaken about an issue, and he got so much of the rest right. I mean, Hector Avalos wanted to punish Guillermo Gonzalez for the very things Collins was saying that night, but here at GMU, Collins was welcomed and heralded as a great scientist, and there was no shame whatsoever for him to share his deeply personal views. I would gladly welcome Collins into the ID community as a real and sincere critic. I do not view him as “the enemy”. I am confident Collins isn’t out to destroy ID. I think he is willing to see ID succeed. He does not have a vested interest in seeing ID fail.

He signed my copy of his book, “best wishes to Salvador Cordova and the IDEA club”. He cringed a bit when Caroline Crocker and I were getting our books signed as I pointed out the three of us were actually all together in the same Coral Ridge Hour TV series (see: Crocker and Sisson’s TV appearance helps launch a half-million dollar pro-Design campaign). I told him I was sorry over what happened in that he was not made aware of the complete content of the TV series. I thanked him for his visit, and said, “God bless you, Dr. Collins”.

The one news item I gleaned is that he debated Dawkins 2 weeks ago, and he was speculating whether Time magazine would cover the discussion. [imho, Dawkins doesn’t hold a candle to Collins as a scientist]. He also indicated he was being severely criticized for writing his book.

But I really don’t think he’s getting that much flak. I would bet the NCSE would have been thrilled at the reconciliation of Christianity and Darwinism which Collins offered this evening. I would not be surprised if the evolutionary community has been giving their whole-hearted blessings to such overtly Christian messages as long as Darwin’s theory is treated as fact. No kidding, I really think the AAAS, NCSE, and the evolutionary community are so desperate to fight ID they’d hire Christian pastors and Evangelists to spread the news that “Darwin loves you (and has a wonderful plan for your life)!”. Lest any one doubt my claim, see: NCSE faith project director. They would gladly concede a little ground to Christianity if it will keep Darwinism intact. I mean, look at the NCSE website and how much they try to promote themselves as Christ-friendly Darwinists of late. Eugenie gets her anti-ID book endorsed by a pastor. Remember, it was Eugenie who said that in the game of selling evolution, “One clergyman with a backward collar is worth two biologists”.

Here is the irony. If someone from the Discovery Institute spoke, the talk would be characterized as an fundamentalist plot to spread the Christian faith. If a pro-Darwin scientist speaks about Jesus Christ, they are applauded for helping people of faith warm toward the “science” of Darwinism. Such speakers will be given a free-pass to share the Gospel. Is their any complaint from Barbara Forrest about Collins helping to spread the Christian faith? Has there been an ounce of outrage in the blogsphere of Collins sharing the Gospel on college campuses? Maybe only a little, but not much.

50 Replies to “Francis Collins: “I greatly respect William Dembski…best wishes to Salvador Cordova and the IDEA club”

  1. 1
    kairos says:

    I’ve found very interesting the Collins’ words for they perfectly confirm why many christian scientists do not support ID.

    “If believers have attached their last vestiges of hope that God could finda a place in human existence through ID theory, and that theory collapses, what happens to faith?”

    The more reasonable answer would be simply: there wouldn’t happen nothing: Faith does not require an empirical proof. However this is not at all a reason for close the eyes and non see the overwhelming presence of design in the universe only for the (very hypotetical indeed) possibility that in the future science could really prove that M+NS is sufficiente to produce the biological world. The real problem is IMHO that christian scientists should realize that there is no real scientific reason to give ND more credit than it is worth.

    “A sober evaluation of current scientific information would have to conclude that this outcome [the demise of ID] is already at hand.”

    This seems more a transient success of ND tries to assure scientists that IC could not be a problem than a real success. After all in my experience all the people who outline heavy critics about ID arguments really do so without a sufficient knowledge about.

    I would end by rewriting the Collins’ word:
    An objective and clever evaluation of current scientific information should lead us to conclude that, in spite of its apparent scientific demise, the most important expected outcome of ID, i.e. the demise of ND theory as an accepted fact, is already at hand.”

  2. 2
    jpark320 says:

    Dr. Collins’ might be a good scientist, but once he comes out and professes that he is a Christian he should be willing accept what the Bible says about the creation of man. Actually he already has stated how he believes God created man…

    I think that both OEC and YEC agree that God had a guiding influence on the creation of man. Sad that one of the most easily discernible obvious facts of the Bible got lost in all his “science.” Geez wrong on theology and science…

  3. 3
    jaredl says:

    Well, I guess I need to ask my question directly of him, then – how can I get ahold of him?

  4. 4
    scordova says:

    jaredl,

    Sorry I couldn’t get your question through. There were 500 people in the room clamoring for time and I was glad I had the chance to put my little question through.

    I don’t know how to get a hold of Collins, but i will point out his cosmological argument he offers as a plausibility argument, not a proof argument. I think in that respect he has answered your question. Even the question I asked was not directly answered.

    My major regret is that since he has Privileged Planet already, I would have given him Sanford’s Genetic Entropy instead.

    Sal

  5. 5
    ajl says:

    I think Collins is wise in his statement:

    “If believers have attached their last vestiges of hope that God could finda a place in human existence through ID theory, and that theory collapses, what happens to faith?”

    the reality is, many believers are looking for the quick answer, be it ID, “A Purpose Driven Life”, “The Prayer of Jabez”, etc., etc.

    I heard a pastor recently tout ID and IC especially, and talked about the woodpecker. After reading about how the woodpecker works, he said “now if that isn’t complex, I don’t know what is”.

    Well, certainly the woodpecker is complex, but that doesn’t mean that it is irreducibly complex. So, here was a guy who doesn’t really know what IC means talking about it because ID/IC is the “next Prayer of Jabez” for him.

    I know the pastor was sincere, but I think Collins is correct – your faith should not rest on the fact that there is currently no explanation for the BF gradual formulation. The truth is, there may never be, and the BF may be IC, but if as an organism it isn’t, then your faith may come crashing down around you.

  6. 6
    scordova says:

    jpark320 wrote:

    I think that both OEC and YEC agree that God had a guiding influence on the creation of man. Sad that one of the most easily discernible obvious facts of the Bible got lost in all his “science.” Geez wrong on theology and science…

    The most polemic things coming out of the Q&A were YECs hammering Collins with the Bible. A few were surprised I didn’t go after Collins about his claims of ID and his support of Darwinian evolution.

    My view is there are plenty of non-IDers out their to fight. Collins in my view is mistaken, he is not “the enemy”. He has no ill-will toward IDers, “no axe to grind.”

    I sensed there were many Christians in the audience who appreciated someone of his reputation elevating the reputation of people of faith. He got a very long and sustained applause at the end.

    There was a time I would have totally been enraged over what he said about creation science and ID, but I recall there was a time I was a Theistic Evolutionist like him. I recall there was a time Dean Kenyon and Caroline Crocker and John Sanford were Theistic Evolutionists. His heart is in the right place, perhaps in time his mind will be where it needs to be someday.

    I would rather think he needs support and appreciation and welcoming into the ID community as a respected critic. He has already offered ID at the cosmological level, and for that I am very grateful. I don’t think the ID community has anything to gain by going after Collins. Rather, if ID continues to make its case on science, things will take care of itself.

    Sal

  7. 7
    ajl says:

    My major regret is that since he has Privileged Planet already, I would have given him Sanford’s Genetic Entropy instead.

    Sal,

    yes, that might have been a good choice. I spoke to Sanford about the mouse genome page, and he said that many of the examples of shared “junk” are falling apart. I don’t necessarily understand this statement. Has anyone got insight as to whether this is true or not?

  8. 8
    scordova says:

    ajl,

    I think for many in ID it’s not a matter of what we don’t know, it’s a matter of what we do know. I don’t study the BF (Bacterial Flagellum) that much, but I understand Turing Machines and computers much better. That was my field of study for 6+ years in school. The Turing Machies (computers) inside the cell are far more sophisticated than the ones I have worked on for years. Added to that, the Darwinian explantions don’t work, and will never work, and with my background in information science and engineering, I find acceptance of ID a simple matter-of-fact, not a matter-of-faith. I honestly cannot see it otherwise. I could of course be wrong, but I doubt it 🙂

    My belief that the Designer is the Christian God is a matter of faith.

    Sal

  9. 9
    ajl says:

    sure, but even Behe said in that audio that was linked yesterday (btw, great audio!) that perhaps God front-loaded the whole thing during the Big Bang.

    My point is that for someone like you, if the BF was ever overturned and shown that a RM&NS process created it, I doubt very much your faith would be hurt. You have studied the ideas yourself, and if there were a few changes along the way, I’m sure you’d adapt.

    I think Collins is worried (maybe without warrant) that many people are jumping onto ID without any real understanding of it. And, he’s saying your faith has to be more than based on the BF or other arguments like that.

    Like you, I don’t understand why Collins rejects ID when you consider the language of DNA, but I think part of it is that he is open to science changing, and doesn’t want to hang his faith on science entirely.

  10. 10
    scordova says:

    ajl,

    I appreciate your post. As powerful as the BF is an evidence for design, I have been reluctant personally use it as an example because it is outside my field of specialty. Behe is likely right, but both Mike Gene and I consider it a good and probably correct argument, but not yet completely airtight (not that I think there are that many airtight arguments in any science primarily because of incompleteness issues and uncertainties defined by the laws of physics themselves).

    In contrast, the case for the biological Turing Machine being designed is so strong that several peer-reviewed papers promoting ID or at least friendly to ID have already come out. Unlike the BF, there is a colossal body of literature on the design of computers. The scientists at the forefront know the score. Here is the essay I wrote:
    Perfect Architectures Which Scream Design

    Regarding the front loading, even the creationists are warming to the idea. One of the creationists awarded a PhD in biology from GMU was Gordon Wilson (2003). He believes there were dual gene sets for benevolent vs. malevolent abilities within creatures. That means there there could be front-loaded IC all over the place, and probably dormant benevolent modes in various creatures. The idea is so extreme few would entertain it except in places like the Baraminology group.

    I don’t think it’s so outrageous personally. There was the long held theological belief people once lived almost as long as Methuselah. There was once upon a time a mode in humanity for longevity that is no longer in operation, yet the artifacts are still in our genome of that former mode of operation. I pointed that out in my discussion of Geron Corporation’s activation of the Immortalizing Enzyme in the human cell: see: How IDers can win the war

    I believe ID can make great advances in uncovering dormant or deactivated designs. The Lord has honored the office of Physician, I believe medical advances through ID will someday transpire because IDers are willing to look in places where no one else will care to look.

  11. 11
    Scott says:

    methinks Dr. Collins doth not know what biological ID is and the arguments which support it.

  12. 12
    jaredl says:

    Sal,

    You say “his cosmological argument he offers as a plausibility argument, not a proof argument. I think in that respect he has answered your question.”

    Please help me to interpret this correctly – his argument is an argument from personal incredulity?

  13. 13
    scordova says:

    jaredl,

    Every theory is built with a degree of faith, even mathematics. What Collins demonstrated is what Meyer calls methodological equivalence, not absolute proof.

    ID arguments can be classified as arguments of methodologically equivalence, not absolute proofs. See The Methodological Equivalence of Design & Descent: Can There Be a Scientific “Theory of Creation”?

    Sal

  14. 14
    Rude says:

    Yes, if one leg of science is refutation the other has to be faith . . . and so we invest our hearts in theories that take us to the moon yet for which we have no final proof.

    So why can’t Collins turn it around and say, “Darwinism must not become a noble lie for vanquishing views we find unacceptable (such as ecclesiastical and/or biblical authority, oppressive sexual mores). Rather, Darwinism needs to convince us of its truth on its scientific merits.”

    There is the infallibility of Darwin as apostle of Materialism, that’s the overriding factor in the present hysteria, but I also think the academy is full of narrow specialists too “nice” to criticize the supposed expertise of their colleagues. And then there is the inverse of that wherein the expertise of the Nobel laureate in one narrow field, or even the celebrity status of a Hollywood star, confers authority on matters political and social that–chances are–the rancher down the road has a superior grasp on.

    As for Collins’ pitiful plea:

    If believers have attached their last vestiges of hope that God could find a place in human existence through ID theory, and that theory collapses, what happens to faith?

    Really—has Modernism banished the Deity so thoroughly from all aspects of our world such that now we can only protect his ethereal essence behind the Big Bang? I say it’s only in our imagination—we have so wanted not to retain God in our knowledge that we have blinded our eyes to the marvelous evidence that science continues to uncover—be it in biology, archaeology, the human sciences, even biblical studies.

    Even history ought to have informed us, as Sir Winston Churchill famously said in his speech to a joint session of the US Congress just after Pearl Harbor in 1941: “… that he must indeed have a blind soul who cannot see that some great purpose and design is being worked out here below, of which we have the honour to be the faithful servants.”

    Here one might contrast David Horowitz’ wonderfully written, Qohelet style cri du coeur, The End of Time (Encounter Books, 2005), with Sheldon Glashow’s observation in The Charm of Physics (Masters of Modern Physics. AIP Press, 1991) that no scientist ever discovers anything unless he somehow knows deep in his bones, all evidence to the contrary, that things are good.

    Not all have this optimism deep in their bones–but maybe it’s important to note that it is they who are the driving force in science–the rest is commentary and the role of Devil’s advocate.

  15. 15
    sagebrush gardener says:

    If believers have attached their last vestiges of hope that God could finda a place in human existence through ID theory, and that theory collapses, what happens to faith?

    His arrogance in assuming that my faith rests on the latest pontifications of him and his colleagues is amusing. My faith stands with or without his approval. The fact that Science™ is finally dragging itself reluctantly toward what believers have held true for millenia is just a little icing on the cake.

  16. 16
    jaredl says:

    Sal –

    Help me out. I take Dembski’s work as definitive, with respect to justifying a design inference. I’ll get to Meyer’s paper in a bit (kind of long for work hours).

    Here’s my view – if an event/phenomenon meets the specification criterion of Dembski’s latest version of the design inference, then it is assertible that said event/phenomenon is designed. If an event fails to meet that requirement, then its design is unassertible.

    Since the laws of nature that we know of at present constitute our only example of laws of nature, the laws cannot meet the specification criterion. Hence, the claim that the laws of nature are designed is unassertible.

    Have I misunderstood something?

  17. 17
    scordova says:

    then it is assertible that said event/phenomenon is designed. If an event fails to meet that requirement, then its design is unassertible.

    Asserting something is designed, formally speaking, does not necessarily mean it is intelligently designed:

    Wm. Dembski pg 36 of The Design Inference:

    The principal advantage of characterizing design as a complement of regularity and chance is that it avoids committing itself to a doctrine of intelligent agency.

    Defining design as the negation of regularity and chance avoids prejudicing the causal stories we associate with the design inference.

    This merely shows the equivalence of labelling human designed objects with other kinds of objects in nature. It is consistent with the way a Darwinist would even say a biological system has a design.

    Since the laws of nature that we know of at present constitute our only example of laws of nature, the laws cannot meet the specification criterion. Hence, the claim that the laws of nature are designed is unassertible.

    We can assert it as designed in terms of it’s properties. Whether the mechanism is intelligence or many-worlds is another story. It is however a very reasonable hypothesis, and by reasonable, I mean methodologically equivalent to any other inference we make in the every day world.

    One would not look at a car and conclude it was the product of many worlds. The immediate answer is intelligence. ID is at least as plausible as Many World’s (MWI) in practice. If we do not in practice use MWI to explain the design of cars, why use it to explain the universe? That is what I mean by arguments of methodological equivalence.

    We don’t know for sure the sun will rise tomorrow. We can however compare assertions with our level of confidence the sun will rise tomorrow. That is what I mean by methodological equivalence. For practical purposes at least, things methodologically equivalent (or at least good enough) to the assertion, “the sun will rise tomorrow” is good enough to qualify for most people’s epistemology.

  18. 18
    scordova says:

    jaredl,

    Were you at Jonathan Well’s talk last week at the Discovery Institute? Was that you in the front row asking questions about cosmological ID?

    Sal

  19. 19
    mike1962 says:

    “To quote Lewis, “If there was a controlling power outside the universe, it could not show itself to us as one of the facts inside the universe.”

    Of course, as Lewis also acknowledged elsewhere, that “controlling power” could conceivably incarnate within this universe and communicate in a proximate way, which is what Jesus is supposed to have done.

  20. 20
    mike1962 says:

    Collins: “The sincerity of the proponents of Intelligent Design can hardly be questioned….If believers have attached their last vestiges of hope that God could finda a place in human existence through ID theory, and that theory collapses, what happens to faith?”

    There are three kinds of religionists, that I can tell, culturists, gnostics, and evidentialists. If Collins’ fear of ID collapsing is realized, the evidentialists might be disappointed somewhat, the culturists probably wouldn’t care at all unless the crowd shifted in response to some bellwether, and I doubt the gnostics would be the least bit moved. (Some people are a combination of these, of course.)

    Most people don’t leave their faith (if they ever had any) because of something like this, anyway. They usually drift away and while Darwinist might bolster where they find themselves, it is rarely a reason for the drift in my experience. True committed believers have powerful reasons in their faith arsenal to stay where they are. There is typically a strong gnostic component which is hard to knock down.

    So I wouldn’t worry about it.

  21. 21
    ajl says:

    “To quote Lewis, “If there was a controlling power outside the universe, it could not show itself to us as one of the facts inside the universe.”

    I hate quotes like this 🙂 I think they are disingenuous.

    it could not show

    why not! It made the whole freakin’ universe, and gets to make up the rules, right?

    Its not like God would have to say:

    sorry guys, I really want to show myself to you as one of the facts inside the universe, but my hands are tied. I can’t do that

    I think this is a way to have your cake and eat it too. I find the argument unconvincing.

    However, like Mike1962 states, perhaps the greatest apologetic is in the person of Jesus Christ. But, thats for another blog.

    I just don’t like when people make up rules for a creator who invented space, time, matter, and energy just to suit their own bias.

  22. 22
    mike1962 says:

    “…science could really prove that M+NS is sufficiente to produce the biological world.”

    I doubt this is possible, even in theory. The reason why is, the missing elements behind “chance” as they call it (which is merely a term for ignorance) can never be filled in. Either there REALLY is non-determinist events occuring in nature (which is beyond human reason to fathom, thus ignorance) or else nature really is deterministic at bottom and the universe *had* to be what it is, from the very first planck’s unit of time. Either way, Darwinism cannot ever demonstrate what they hope to: that “random natural forces” (whatever that means) can lead to the bio-forms as we know them.

    There is no reason to fear.

  23. 23
    scordova says:

    For myself, I worry less about people losing or gaining faith. The greater issue is what is true and worth believing in.

    As I was learning to fly airplanes on instruments, one of course could give all the mathematical arguments as to their reliability and reason to put faith and trust in them. It was another thing in practice to actually follow through and exercist the faith our intellect was taught in ground school. That is where the issue of gaining or losing faith is imporant, after it is shown that it is reasonable something is worthy of having faith in, then it is a matter of cultivating faith in a worthy object.

    Of course, there is a chance the instruments are wrong, but as the case with methodological equivalence, the instruments in zero visibility were probably more reliable than my senses. If a pilot can not have some level of faith in his instruments and equipment, perhaps he should not even choose to take off!

    We may have a proposition, call it E. Ascertaining whether that proposition may be true might only be accessible through an act of faith as it’s truthfulness is unprovable (ala the great mathematician Kurt Godel). In such cases we can only offer reasonable, hypothetically falsifiable hypotheses, and run numerous experiments to give us confidence the hypothesis is accurate. No kidding, there is a field of Experimental Mathematics….

    Darwinian evolution and naturalistic evolution in contrast asserts proposition “F and not-F are both simultaneously true”. A logician would immediately dismiss a theory with such contradictions as not worthy of any more pursuit. That is my view of naturalistic evolution and Darwinism, they can not even be true based on their own claims.

    At least, ID has a chance of being true. That is where I am today. I have absolutely no reason to heed to the ramblings of The Prophet of Pointlessness.

    Collins may be mistaken about biological ID, but he is light years ahead of Dawkins in logic and in science, and dare I say, in person.

  24. 24
    jaredl says:

    Sal,

    Yes, that was me. My question was more about the theological implications of Dembski’s work on design, but it is tangentially related to the cosmological problem I’m pointing up.

    Basically, we have seen many different things matter can do other than form cars; on the other hand, we haven’t seen other configurations of laws of nature. With cars, therefore, we can estimate the probability of matter left to itself forming cars, and issue a justified design inference – with laws of nature, we can’t.

    I don’t know how many ways to say the same thing – without showing evidence that the reference class of possibilities for laws of nature DOESN’T contain only one element, we are not justified in asserting design, according to Dembski’s work on design theory. I’m not referring to how it the laws were instantiated – that would be a theory of intelligent agency.

    To assert the laws are designed despite not having sufficient justification to do so might be seen, and plausibly, as an argument from personal incredulity – “It’s just too perfect, it had to be designed.”

    I will get to Meyer’s paper this evening.

  25. 25
    scordova says:

    jaredl,

    I’m sorry you didn’t come by and say “hi”. Edward Sisson, Caroline Crocker, myself and several others were there. It would have been nice meeting you.

    Regarding incredulity, I don’t think anyone is claiming the design argument for nature is an absolute proof, only plausible. We can in fact, at least compare it to the space other mathematical possibilities. It has a design (an architecture) in that sense.

  26. 26
    Rude says:

    Jared L,

    If I recall correctly—and I’m certainly no authority here—the first node on WmD’s Design Inference test is the question: Is it Contingent or Determined?

    Thus we ask, Is the pattern in these salt crystals contingent or determined? We answer “determined” because we know their form to be predicted by universally applicable physical laws. But that is the form of those particular crystals at that particular time. What about the laws themselves? Our answer to that question is more philosophical. As mathematical realists (as are most or all physicists) we start with certain fundamental axioms (“that even God cannot alter”) and reason from there. If there are no logical reasons that the laws and constants must be as they are then we judge them to be contingent and proceed to the next step (which, if I remember correctly, is): Are they complex?

    Martin Rees (Just Six Numbers) argues that they are–and he’s a staunch British atheist.

    But there are some, such as David Berlinski, who suggest that we really do not know whether the physical laws and constants proceed directly from our ultimate set of Platonic axioms—perhaps they do and someday some mathematician will figure out how—so I think Berlinski’s caution is warranted. Everybody agrees that biological organisms are contingent creatures (except wait a minute! I’ll bet that some, Michael Denton comes to mind, will balk here). Anyway detecting design in biological organisms is closer to home and more in line with the Hebrew God of History—the distant deity of the Deists is compatible with design at the level of the laws, and that’s probably why Darwin and not Einstein is the apostle of Materialism.

  27. 27
    scordova says:

    Let me clarify for the reader in case I my remarks may be a cause for confusion regarding my position on truth:

    1. I believe there is such a thing as absolute truth

    2. Godel showed however, absolute truth does not imply provability, in fact, as Hofstadter observed truth is greater than provability

    In a mathematical sense it is not a question of whether one must have faith, it is a matter of where one chooses to place his faith.

    At a a bare minimum, as a logical heuristic, it’s ill advised to place faith in theories which are inherently self-contradictory and have no chance of being true.

    ID may ultimately be true, and like everything in science and math, the deepest questions are beyond our ability to confirm. We can only postulate falsifiable and reasonable hypotheses.

    pg. 91 of The Design Revolution:
    ”The prospect that further knowledge will upset a design inference poses a risk for the Explanatory Filter. But it is a risk endemic to all of scientific inquiry. Indeed, it merely restates the problem of induction, namely, that we may be wrong about the regularities (be they probabilistic or necessitarian) which operated in the past and apply in the present.”

    I think it’s something of a strawman to say we insist absolutely that ID is true. I believe it is, but the official statement is modest, IDers argue that it is the “best” explanation, not the only one. That is a qualitative argurment. Dembski’s work has formally shown evolutionary theory’s grand claims are inherently self-defeating. It does not make ID automatically correct, but it certainly put ID as the “best” explanation between the two by default.

  28. 28
    DharmaBum says:

    scordova:

    If someone from the Discovery Institute spoke, the talk would be characterized as an fundamentalist plot to spread the Christian faith.

    No, the talk would have been characterized as part of a Christian conservative plot to insinuate quasi-religious beliefs into American public institutions. There is no reason to believe that Collins has a hidden agenda. If he were affiliated with someone like Bruce Chapman or George Gilder, things would be different.

    If a pro-Darwin scientist speaks about Jesus Christ, they are applauded for helping people of faith warm toward the “science” of Darwinism. Such speakers will be given a free-pass to share the Gospel.

    I don’t think that is what is going on. Collins is being applauded, in general, for sharing his best efforts at reconciling science and faith. It seems to me that many more are complaining about his theology than his science.

    Is their any complaint from Barbara Forrest about Collins helping to spread the Christian faith?

    A friend of mine is on the board of the American Humanist Association. She tells me that there is internal conflict between those who believe that religion and spirituality are blights to humankind and those who believe they can play a positive role in the lives of some people. While I don’t know where Forrest stands on religion, I can tell you that secular humanists are anything but monolithic.

  29. 29
    cae1976 says:

    “If believers have attached their last vestiges of hope that God could finda a place in human existence through ID theory, and that theory collapses, what happens to faith?”

    I find it interesting that so many theistic evolutionists worry that ID will destroy that faith of many Christians, especially since Darwinism does such a good job (think of Michael Shermer, for instance). The moment this question became open for scientific inquiry, faith was tested. Some Christians are willing to accomodate, but it’s reasonable to ask At what point does accomodation become aquiescence? At what point have Christians given up a cornerstone of faith to be accepted by Darwinists and the intellectual elite, many of whom are atheists and agnostics?
    I have a hard time dealing with theistic evolutionists such as Collins and Miller because it’s not clear what their miracle cut-off point is. For instance, Miller claims to believe in the virgin birth, the miracles of Jesus, and the resurrection, yet he is admant that the Darwinian creation model is true. If you already believe that someone can be born without a biological father, can feed 5,000 people with a couple loaves of bread and some fish, and be resurrected from the dead, on what basis can you be so certain that the same deity had nothing to do with the creation of humanity? And would this same diety send his only Son to die for the sins of people whom He did not even create or even intend to create? Collins believes that since there is a moral law, there had to be a law giver. But the only reason that God could command of us (and we be obligated to accept His rule) is if He created us. If He did not, we can ignore Him and when we die and He asks why we paid Him no mind, we can say, “You didn’t make us!” I find this mix of biblical theology and philosophical materialism incompatible and irreconcilable. Pick a pony and ride.

    I realize that I may be injecting more doctrine into this discussion than any one else, but these are reasonable questions for Christians to ask themselves should they accept the Darwinian explanation for life. A core reason why many people believe in God is they are convinced that He created them in His own image and has a plan for their lives and the world. Can Christians (or Jews or Muslims as well) be truly expected to remain faithul if the Truth of Creation is that they were created by a random series of events which did not have them in mind?

  30. 30
    jaredl says:

    Sal,

    I unfortunately had another event to attend in Falls Church at 7:30, and I was metroing, so I didn’t have a lot of time (plus, a neuroscientist decided to give me an interesting, but fatally flawed, answer to my question to Wells after the close of the presentation). However, I do live in the area, and plan on attending other functions.

  31. 31
    Rude says:

    Good stuff, Sal!

    What this dunce—yours truly—deduces from Gödel’s incompleteness theorems is that there’s “turtles all the way” up—that at any level reasoned from a set of axioms there are always phenomena that don’t follow from those particular axioms—anyway it’s as you say, we know in part and see through a glass darkly.

    But those who reject reason and truth end up asserting that, “No proposition means anything,” including the one just uttered. It always amazes me how nihilism is so self-refuting. It’s like there are two choices, logic and illogic, beauty and ugliness, good and evil, sanity and insanity. On the positive side is a realm of vast contingency and potential and truth but on the other side only the straight jacket of postmodernism.

  32. 32
    scordova says:

    Let me put a theological argument on the table.

    If we assume the universe is undesigned, does not have us in mind, is not tuned for discoverability ( as Gonzalez asserts), then on the whole, why should we pursue science. A fundamental belief in scientific inquiry is that the nature is architected in such a way as to make it amenable to discovery. If that were not so, there would be no reason to pursue science.

    There may be no way to absolutely prove the universe is intelligently designed, but from the standpoint of methodological equivalence, we sure are acting (even if only unwittingly) like it is. Occam’s razor is based on a Design argument at its root, and it is at the root of the scientific method. We are at least being more philosophically self-consistent by accepting the scientific method in an Intelligent Designed universe rather than a pointless one.

    Perhaps an interesting path of inquiry for you might be to explore and codify the philosophical inconsistency of applying Occams razor in pointless universe. I think that would be a fruitful path of inquiry.

    Sal

  33. 33
    jaredl says:

    Rude – you might consider that the unclean who are cast out at the last day are those who fight against reality; that is, they are insane (literally, of an unclean mind).

    As far as the explanatory filter, my copy of TDI is not immediately accessible, but I think the first node on the filter asks if the phenomenon in question has small probability. If not, it is adduced to law. If so, then it is asked whether it displays specification. If so, then the phenomenon is designed, else it is due to chance.

    As it is, we have no way of ascertaining the probability of the laws of nature being what they are unless we have evidence that other sets of laws are possible.

  34. 34
    scordova says:

    As it is, we have no way of ascertaining the probability of the laws of nature being what they are unless we have evidence that other sets of laws are possible.

    jaredl,

    The point of that was to show that if one assumes for the sake of argument a mechanism of chance (a component of Darwinism), then the same mechanism cannot explain design. Dembski set up a classic proof by contradiction and showed naturalism as an explantion for design in nature is mathematically self-contradictory, and as such cannot be admitted for consideration even in principle.

    He showed naturalism argues for the existence of square circles (figuratively speaking).

    Whether ID is ultimately true is a separate issue, but Dembski has successfully shown that it is at least a better explanation by simple logical default.

  35. 35
    jaredl says:

    Sal,

    I agree naturalism – the pointless universe – only has significance if it is false. But I would take issue with your claim that “A fundamental belief in scientific inquiry is that the nature is architected in such a way as to make it amenable to discovery. If that were not so, there would be no reason to pursue science.”

    I’m not certain that in fact science cares how nature is architected. I rather thought its mission was simply to describe what is and model, if possible, the workings of the world around us. The purpose of doing so is left up to the investigator. Certainly when I was an atheist, I saw the pointlessness of the purely naturalistic existence….

    Lest I be misunderstood, in fact I do hold the universe to be designed, but I don’t claim the backing of science for my view. I claim the backing of science (supplemented with design theory) for the following two views: matter is uncreated and eternal, and so also is intelligence – the active, patterning, choosing portion of reality.

  36. 36
    jaredl says:

    Sal,

    I get Dembski’s argument. I caught the vision, so to speak, and while the presentation might change from time to time (as it has with Specification: The Pattern that Signifies Intelligence) the fundamental intuition that underlies it is sound. As I said to Wells that night, for me the argument ended with the publication of Darwin’s Black Box and No Free Lunch. What I meant was that it’s game over; design theory is the clear winner. Wells took me to mean the argument has not advanced since those books were published, and in fact that too is true, even if it’s not what I meant – all the issues are already on the table. The rest is PR.

  37. 37
    jaredl says:

    PS – my other point is that the cosmological argument is, thus far, an unsound application of the design inference.

  38. 38
    DharmaBum says:

    mike1962:

    There are three kinds of religionists, that I can tell, culturists, gnostics, and evidentialists.

    Interesting, but I recommend generalizing gnostic to mystic. For instance, the Friends and the Jesuits are mystics, but not gnostics. In past centuries, there were many more Christian mystics than there are today.

    Christian mystics, who experience God directly through inward experience, may find new scientific explanations of outward experience interesting, but they assign no ultimate significance to those explanations.

  39. 39
    scordova says:

    PS – my other point is that the cosmological argument is, thus far, an unsound application of the design inference.

    To be fair to Bill, I don’t think he suggests the UPB be applied to Many Worlds. I’m not sure Dembski’s formalisms were meant primarily for the issue of cosmology. They could be used for it, but only with some qualification and modification.

    Collins arguments I think is one of plausibility (methodological equivalence), not proof.

    Thus, a scientist may view design and its appeal to a designer as simply a fruitful device for understanding the world, not attaching any significance to the questions such as whether a thoery of design is in some ultimate sense true or whether the designer actually exists.

    Bill Dembski,
    No Free Lunch

    I think this is a subtle way of saying, at least operationally we treat things as intelligently designed. We do not treat the universe as having a random mathematical form. For cosmological ID we at least operantionally act as if the universe were Intelligently Designed.

    The question of its ultimate truthfulness is beyond provability. We can at least demonstrate consistency with operational practice.

    Something as basic as proving that you’re not the only conscious being in the universe is beyond one’s reach. Hypothetically it’s possible that everyone but you is an automaton pretending to be conscious. However, no one from an operational standpoint acts like they’re the only conscious being in existence.

    I think the design inference for cosmology (not formally derived from Dembski’s EF, but the more colloquial idea of design) kind of falls in the category of being consistent with the way we deal with everything else in life. Like the issue of unprovable consciousness in other humans, we can only demonstrate formally operational constency.

    Sal

  40. 40
    Rude says:

    Jared L,

    . . . but I think the first node on the filter asks if the phenomenon in question has small probability.

    hmm . . . that seems odd . . . was it not whether it is complex? Probability enters in when considering complexity and specification. All complex situations that are not determined are improbable, and (let me speculate) all situations that are completely determined are not so complex. Thus the question would be whether the physical constants are complex—and I think the answer (for folks like Martin Rees) is that, for example, the electromagnetic and gravitational constants have values relative to one another such that we can exist. Together I think this fulfills both the complexity and specification criteria.

    Then there’s your postscript:

    PS – my other point is that the cosmological argument is, thus far, an unsound application of the design inference.

    Hold on! I suggest you hear from other as well, for I think the Design Filter does fit the Cosmological Argument. As Sal says, nothing’s absolutely convincing to everyone—there’re those who will not even admit that they exist. But the cosmological argument is valuable because it catches even the theistic Darwinists, alone it’s weak because it lets the Deists disagree with ID.

    When Many Worlds is brought in we’ve moved beyond science and reason to pure speculation. To refute the MW argument you’d have to show not just the utter unlikelyhood of chance producing this cosmos but the absolute impossibility.

  41. 41
    jaredl says:

    Sal,

    I’m not arguing for using the UPB for cases outside the known universe.

    I understand your point about cosmology following a colloquial sense of design – but in that case, it ceases to be interesting (that is, it no longer is iteslf evidence for design in the universe). Which was an implication of my position.

    Rude,

    I’m just following the technical definition of the design inference. Complexity, on Dembski’s view, is a probability measure. Since we have no grasp on the probability of the laws of nature, we likewise have no grasp on their complexity. It is a logical possibility, which cannot be ruled out at this time, that the laws of nature are by necessity, and not design.

    But I thank you both for your input. I look forward to meeting you, Sal, at some future function.

  42. 42
    Rude says:

    But Jared L, we should check–my take is that as far as the design filter “complexity” is easily definable by the number of elements. Two scrabble pieces lying on the floor is not complex, some number, say, ten or more, is–and this before we proceed to the question of whether this is “specified”. Anyway think about it–time now I head for home.

  43. 43
    DharmaBum says:

    scordova:

    If we assume the universe is undesigned, does not have us in mind, is not tuned for discoverability ( as Gonzalez asserts), then on the whole, why should we pursue science. A fundamental belief in scientific inquiry is that the nature is architected in such a way as to make it amenable to discovery. If that were not so, there would be no reason to pursue science.

    You seem amenable to mathematical realism. Well, it happens that for almost every property of a nontrivial axiomatic system, the property has no proof smaller than the property itself. Properties are generally large, and this means that even if there is a proof of a property, we are unlikely to discover it. Mathematics is not designed to allow us to discover proofs, yet we search for proofs, and we manage to find them.

    If the enterprise of mathematics can proceed in the face of randomness and practical unknowability, then why should science be predicated on a “cooperative” physical universe?

  44. 44
    mike1962 says:

    DharmaBum, “Interesting, but I recommend generalizing gnostic to mystic. For instance, the Friends and the Jesuits are mystics, but not gnostics.”

    Same thing to me. I mean gnostic in the lower g sense, not the Gnostics, who were gnostics with a particular sort of theology, such as the ancient Jewish and Christian Gnostics, who had very heterodox theology compared to the mainstream.

    What I mean is gnostics (lower g) are those with a personal subjective experience of what they consider to be the divine. Lots and lots of ordinary people seem to have this sort of “inner witness.”

  45. 45
    scordova says:

    DharmaBum wrote:

    If the enterprise of mathematics can proceed in the face of randomness and practical unknowability, then why should science be predicated on a “cooperative” physical universe?

    What on Earth do you mean, we only comprehend an infinitesimal amount of math since most of the questions are uncomputable or at least very difficult. We’ve only conquered less than an inch of math compared to all the buzillion miles of math questions that are possible.

    The miracle of science is that the physical univerise is conforms to the kind of math our finite brains can explore.

  46. 46
    DharmaBum says:

    scordova:

    What on Earth do you mean, we only comprehend an infinitesimal amount of math since most of the questions are uncomputable or at least very difficult.

    There’s more to the story than incompleteness and uncomputability. See Chaitin’s The Unknowable:

    In a nutshell, Gödel discovered incompleteness, Turing discovered uncomputability, and I discovered randomness—that’s the amazing fact that some mathematical statements are true for no reason, they’re true by accident. There can be no “theory of everything,” at least not in mathematics. Maybe in physics!

    scordova:

    The miracle of science is that the physical univerise is conforms to the kind of math our finite brains can explore.

    How do you know that? How does anyone know how much in the natural universe we fail to perceive, let alone explain? Does the preponderance of dark matter and dark energy in the universe not leave you profoundly impressed by our ignorance, as it does me? How do you even know that the local laws of physics hold throughout the universe? Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg is not convinced of that. I am overwhelmed by a sense of mystery, not mastery.

  47. 47
    David vun Kannon says:

    Sal:
    The miracle of science is that the physical univerise is conforms to the kind of math our finite brains can explore.

    It’s not such a miracle. If our brains evolved to understand a kind of math that was unrelated to the physical world, it wouldn’t benefit us nearly as much as evolving a brain that understood a math that _did_ reflect physical reality. Even if I was wired to grok quantum mechanics easily, it wouldn’t help me stay alive in a world where Newtonian rules are a workable approximation.

    There is some discussion of this in Wolfram’s “A New Kind of Science”.

  48. 48
    scordova says:

    David,

    I appreciate you post, but Paul Davies book, Mind of God demonstrates the reason why the hypothesis you offered is infeasible.

    In brief, from a computational algorithmic perspective, only a small subset of math is computationally amenable. It would have been very easy for the universe to be otherwise and computationally inaccessible. No amount of adaptation would allow a brain to evolve which could understand a computationally inaccessible universe.

    We live in a universe that allows exploration because of the architecture of physical law, not because Darwinian selection gave us minds to comprehend it. Even if Darwinian selection created our minds (which I doubt) it could not over come the constraints of a computationally intractable universe. That is a simple mathematical fact.

  49. 49
    kairos says:

    “We live in a universe that allows exploration because of the architecture of physical law, not because Darwinian selection gave us minds to comprehend it.”

    You’re completely right. Indeed the world could be wholly deterministic but at the same time ruled by laws that are not accessible to human understanding. But there is also a point that ND evolutionists typically avoid. Why RM+NS would have produced (provided that this could be possible at all, and I think it didn’t) something like the human brain, with all its powerful abstraction features? After all evolution had only to produce people who were able to hunt a bit better that lions or tigers.

  50. 50
    jaredl says:

    Sal,

    To your knowledge, does DI plan to host any other events in the near future? Or where may I go for a list of DC-area events (debates, lectures, whatever) relating to ID?

    Thanks!

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