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Francisco Ayala — But does he really believe what he’s saying?


Francisco AyalaHere’s an excerpt (translation follows) from a remarkable interview with Francisco Ayala by one of the most prominent media outlets in Spain. One wonders how a Catholic priest, even a former Catholic priest, can actually believe all this. In his book Darwin’s Gift to Science and Religion he calls me (a mathematician by training) a “sociologist.” Given his remarks below, apparently anyone who is not the right sort of scientist is, in Ayala’s view, a sociologist. Great to see the Templeton Foundation supporting him.

Source:  http://www.abc.es/20100506/ciencia-/barbaridad-culpar-dios-disenado-20100506.html

Entrevista realizada al biólogo Francisco J. Ayala
Diario ABC, Madrid, 6 de Mayo de 2010
Entrevista: A. Grau, Nueva York

 -Usted ha recibido muchos premios y reconocimientos en EEUU por su lucha sin cuartel contra el llamado creacionismo. ¿De donde saca su fuerza este movimiento?

 -En realidad de poca gente. De los cinco o siete científicos a sueldo del Discovery Institute, sólo uno es bioquímico profesional, el resto vienen de las ciencias sociales. Ni siquiera es una cuestión de convicciones. Me consta que ellos no creen lo que dicen.

 -Pero otra gente sí.

 -Sí, hay gente que lo cree de buena fe, del mismo modo que toman la Biblia en un sentido literal, ingenuamente. El creacionismo es la mayor aberración que se puede concebir no ya para la ciencia sino para la fe. Es una barbaridad que trata de resolver el reto de la teodicea, es decir, de cómo conciliar la existencia del mal en el mundo con la de Dios, echándole a Dios la culpa de todo lo que va mal. Que no otra cosa es el diseño inteligente.

 -Porque el mundo está mal diseñado.

 -No puedo concebir nada más desastroso para la religión que el diseño inteligente. Según sus promotores Dios sería el responsable de los tsunamis, del terremoto de Haití, de las erupciones del Vesubio. Los defectos genéticos serían un castigo de Dios, así como la crueldad de la Naturaleza y de todo el mundo viviente. ¿Sabía usted que el 20 por ciento de los embarazos se malogran antes del tercer mes porque el canal de natalidad humano es muy imperfecto? ¿Y le parece a usted serio considerar que 20 millones de abortos al año pueden ser culpa de Dios?


 Interview with biologist Francisco J. Ayala
ABC Journal, Madrid, May 6, 2010
Interview: A. Grau, New York

 –You have received many awards and recognitions in the United States for your relentless fight against the so-called creationism. Where does this movement draw its strength from?

 -In reality, from very few people.  From the five or seven scientists in the Discovery Institute’s salary, only one is a professional biochemist, the rest are from the social sciences.  It is not even a matter of conviction. I am certain that they do not believe what they say.

 – But other people do.

 -Yes, there are people who believe in good faith, in the same way that they take the Bible in a literal sense, naively. Creationism is the biggest aberration which can be conceived—not to science—but to faith. It is an atrocity that it attempts to solve the challenge of theodicy; that is to say, on how to reconcile the existence of evil in the world with that of God, pouring on God the blame for everything that goes wrong. What no other thing is intelligent design.

 -Because the world is poorly designed.

 -I cannot conceive anything more disastrous to religion than intelligent design. According to its promoters, God would be responsible for tsunamis, the earthquake in Haiti, the eruption of Vesuvius. Genetic defects would be a punishment from God, as well as the cruelty of nature and the living world. Did you know that 20 per cent of pregnancies are hindered before the third month because the human birth canal is very imperfect? And do you think it seriously to consider that 20 million abortions a year may be God’s fault?

oops!! I mixed up a and b for the Fred Hoyle situation. But the good news is that everyone immediately KNEW that. :-) tgpeeler
cabal @ 73 "What really matters is that the world is waiting to see evidence instead of convoluted arguments for ID." Ah yes, those old convoluted arguments for "design." I did a survey and I found that 100% of the respondents could answer these questions correctly. Situation 1. I see a dictionary in a book store and I think: a. Wow. A battalion of monkeys banging on typewriters MUST have done this. b. An intelligent, purposeful team of human beings collaborated to produce this book. Situation 2. I am traveling through the badlands of South Dakota and I observe Mount Rushmore. I think: a. Wow. That must have been a heck of a tornado that whipped through here. And look! It left behind the likenesses of four Presidents! b. An intelligent, purposeful team of human beings collaborated to produce this monument. Situation 3. I walk outside after lunch and look up in the sky. I see "SURRENDER DOROTHY" written in black smoke. I think: a. What an odd cloud formation. b. OMG. The wicked witch of the west is real!!! Situation 4. (The Fred Hoyle homage) I go to the airport and see a 747 sitting on the runway. I think: a. An intelligent, purposeful team of human beings collaborated to produce this airplane. b. A tornado blew through a junk yard and magically created an airplane. You'll never believe this but everyone picked "b" for each situation!!! I have the vaguest sort of idea about how science works but I think it's by making observations and making inferences to the best explanation for those observations. So I wonder, how would a scientist evaluate these data points? Even children get the right answer to these questions. EVERYONE gets the right answer to these questions. So how is it, then, that the idea of "design" requires some sort of convoluted argument? Situation 5. I see a bird flying through the air. I think: a. Wow. Look at that accident of nature. In fact, everywhere I look I see accidents of nature. In fact, everything I see in nature is an accident. b. OMG. Look at the living technology embodied in that bird that puts our best efforts to shame. I wonder Who designed that? tgpeeler
---Doomsday Smith: "It’s quite difficult to deny, however, that the vast majority of those who publicly advocate it are theists, and specifically Christian theists. A Berlinski or two doesn’t change that." So? Finish your sentence and make your point. ID is heavily populated by Christians, therefore-----. You were expecting atheists to develop design paradigms? What does that have to do with the legitimacy of ID's scientific methods? How do you explain Clive's point that there are partisans from every world view that accept intelligent design? StephenB
Doomsday, There are those who trust in ID that are Christian, Jewish, Deists, Islamic, believe in aliens, pantheists, agnostics, and atheists. Clive Hayden
StephenB @74: "Doomsday has moved the goal posts. If you cite more examples, he will, no doubt, move them again." No. Clive specifically said "to name a few". He only named two, so obviously, he must know of more. I simply wanted to know who. I've never made "the claim that ID logically requires a theistic orientation." I have no intention to ever make that claim, as that's clearly not the case. I.e., you've "scored" that specific goal, for whatever it's worth. It's quite difficult to deny, however, that the vast majority of those who publicly advocate it are theists, and specifically Christian theists. A Berlinski or two doesn't change that. But thank you for attempting to tell me what I would or would not do. Doomsday Smith
Cabal: There is and has long been abundant evidence. Not only supportive of the design of cell based life and body plans, but of the fine tuned cosmos that supports c-chemistry based life. And, of the reason why all too many evolutionary materialists are not open to that evidence. Namely, a priori materialism and going so far as to try to redefine science under that imposition. As in the pattern among scientific elites described by Harvard's Agassiz professor, R Lewontin in his well known NYRB 1997 article:
To Sagan, as to all but a few other scientists, it is self-evident that the practices of science provide the surest method of putting us in contact with physical reality [which to such physicalists, exhausts reality] . . . . It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. [after all, atheists will be, well, atheists]
So, maybe what is needed is to take a more consciously philosophical approach: lay on the table the alternative major worldviews with some track record of contributing to the rise of modern science. Then, assess on factual adequacy, coherence and explanatory power. Then see why people come out where they do. GEM of TKI kairosfocus
Clive, I once provided an ID critic with the names of five noted atheist/agnostics who advocate ID only to be met with a demand for twenty more. [Seriously] Suffice it to say that my response followed the claim that ID logically requires a theistic orientation. The fact that I totally refuted the argument had suddenly become old news. The pattern continues. You have completely refuted Graham's arguments, but that doesn't matter. Doomsday has moved the goal posts. If you cite more examples, he will, no doubt, move them again. StephenB
All we can say with certainty is that all design proponents believe in ID. Even Erich von Däniken. Faith in ID is a matter of choice regardless of evidence. What really matters is that the world is waiting to see evidence instead of convoluted arguments for ID. Cabal
Doomsday, I name the prolific ones, there could be countless others (who are not prolific) of whose existence I would never (or could never) be aware of in the general populace. The point is that just a few defeat Grahams arguments that all ID advocates believe in God. I need not show anything more to defeat it. Clive Hayden
Clive: please, do continue. Why stop at naming just a few? Doomsday Smith
Graham, David Berlinski and Bradley Monton are agnostics, to name a few who do not believe that the designer is God, yet support ID. Clive Hayden
To johnnyb: So the ID crowd get all hyper-sensitive when you suggest the designer is God, yet they all believe it. Yeah, that makes sense. Graham
Graham - "I wouldnt mind the obsession with theology one bit, if the ID supporters would just honestly admit that they believe the designer is God." I don't know anyone who *doesn't* admit this. Can you name someone? Just to name the ones I remember being explicitly clear on this, I know that Casey Luskin, Bill Dembski, and Steven Meyer have made the explicit connection. The point is, however, is that ID *itself* doesn't have the intellectual capacity on its own to do the job scientifically. The *science* merely says that there is a designer. Graham - I've always wondered what about this is hard to understand. could you help me see which part of this is difficult? It would help me know where I need to either (a) be more clear, or (b) rethink my reasoning. johnnyb
To AlexM8: The rule isnt unwritten, its very explicitly written: whenever a critic suggests the designer is God, the ID defenders protest (far to much) about how ID is scientific, is not creationism, makes no assumptions about the designer, etc etc etc. To retain scientific credibility, the ID community must distance itself from God, but this is constantly watered down by the obvious fondness of most of the contributers here for the God thing. I wouldnt mind the obsession with theology one bit, if the ID supporters would just honestly admit that they believe the designer is God. Graham
It seems that some of those who post here to ask, "Is the designer God?" are afraid of the possible answer. On the other hand, some post here as if to say, "Why mention God? If you mention God then you are breaking some (obviously unwritten) rule. As human beings, we can discuss theology and science at the same time, or at least walk and chew gum at the same time. AlexM8
Slightly related to challenge laid down by Hitchens, another thing a believer can do which an unbeliever is unable to do is, Pray for wisdom. James 1:5. This is not the wisdom of the world that tells us things like, hot things burn, but the wisdom which originates in the mind of God. Godly wisdom does not come through the pursuit of worldly wisdom. God, in His wisdom, made it that way. I Corinthians 1:20-21. Without humility before God, we can’t get there from here. suckerspawn
Tom - "What causes you to believe in the presence of a designer rather than just nature or evolution?" For me, it's several streams converging. First, as a Christian, I believe there is a God, and have no prior reason for excluding Him from the act of creation. I have later become to be an active Creationist, but was not always so. But the idea that there was a God who is active meant that His being involved some way in Creation was not out-of-bounds and fit quite naturally. Second, I come from a whole family of engineers, and my dad taught me to program computers right after I learned to read (it was on a TI-99/4a) - at about 7 years old. Anyway, my experience in doing so helped me to understand the nature of machines and programs. A personal reflection on some of this can be found here. It is interesting to note that evolutionists have derided ID'ers and Creationists by means of the "Salem Hypothesis" - that most PhDs against evolutionary theory are actually PhD engineers not scientists. I think of this as a feature, not a bug :) Engineers, as a matter of course, have to think of the effects of how design itself works. The physics, while important, is actually often a secondary consideration from straight-out design issues (modularization, user-interface, documentation, explainability, etc). Design is not something that any equation of physics or chemistry teaches us to expect, yet it is precisely what is found in biology. In mechanics, we have machines that are consistent with physics and chemistry, but are not made from them, but by a designer. Therefore, when such things are also found in cells, the analogy works easily. Combine that with 150 years of solid research into Darwinism which has utterly failed to provide a reasonable counter-explanation, and it makes a whole lot of sense. So, I think that the theological ideas provide for the space required to move, and then the engineering ideas reinforce that by providing a strong (and heretofore uncontroverted) analogy as to how this takes place. There was once a saying (I forgot who said it), which goes, "to find a thing, you must believe it exists". There are a few people who have been dragged into ID kicking and screaming against their preconceptions about God (Anthony Flew would be one), but I think that believing God exists in the first place allows the space in one's thinking to allow for the evidence for ID to have meaning. johnnyb
And Tom, If you care to know, here would be a good place to start: Micheal Polanyi, Life's Irreducible Structure (The journal Science, New Series, 160) http://www.compilerpress.ca/Competitiveness/Anno/Anno%20Polanyi%20Lifes%20Irreducible%20Structure%20Acience%201968.htm I would also suggest: Meyer "Signature in the Cell Behe "Edge of Evolution" Behe "Darwin's Black Box" Dembski and Witt "ID Uncensored" Gene "The Design Matrix" Denton "Evolution: Theory in Crisis" Berlinski "The Devil's Delusion" cheers... Upright BiPed
Tom, You might also want to remember; finding design in nature is not an issue and never has been. Upright BiPed
Tom, 1) It's because that is what the evidence is telling us by our universal experience with semiotics, algorithms, encoded information, abstractions of reality, and the properties of matter. 2) Your question betrays you. It assumes that scientist have simply not yet figured out what must be true. Upright BiPed
Upright Biped, I hear what you are saying. What I still don't understand is why people would say there is design just because scientists haven't yet been able to answer all the questions. Tom Sawyer
Tom Sawyer, To be frank with you, it’s a little difficult to understand what you are trying to get at with your questions. You ask "why do people choose to believe in a designer and try to prove that theory rather than try really hard to remedy the faults in evolutionary theory?" It's not immediately clear how that question ranks on the real-o-meter. Most observers are tax accountants, real estate brokers, and librarians. They are not trying to "remedy" any scientific theory. Perhaps the largest group of observers are those who where raised in some sort of Western religious tradition, most probably mildly practiced, who have a big question mark about what they believe. In direct opposition to their upbringing they are constantly told that Life is the result of accident and chance. It is the inescapable mantra of modern scientism. When they come to UD or are exposed to actual ID arguments otherwise, they find that there is virtually intractable evidence which contradicts the materialist' mantra. Those that are paying attention will notice that some pieces of evidence are so striking and so devastating, that the materialists don’t even try to answer it. In place of answering this scientific evidence, they see a constant attack on the Western religious tradition instead. It is (without question) the number one feature on UD, and is virtually the only feature of websites oppossed to ID. A very interesting reaction is then set to occur. It is something that all people can relate to in some manner of human experience. We all have an almost innate familiarity with the person who refuses to answer the question, or the one who is always trying to change the subject. It is very enlightening to find out that person often turns out to be the educated academic. - - - - - Good Luck with whatever it is you are trying to understand. Upright BiPed
OK, if I'm understanding correctly: Some people believe in a God based creation theory. Some people beieve there is a designer that they attribute some properties or others to. And some say they give no attention to who a designer may be but believe there is design because of the faults in evolutionary theory. So why do people choose to believe in a designer and try to prove that theory rather than try really hard to remedy the faults in evolutionary theory? There must be a reason for this? Tom Sawyer
StephenB:… [c] anyone who disagrees with this dubious proposition is either “ignorant, stupid, wicked, or insane.” [Richard Dawkins]” To more fully quote the amusing Pope of Atheism, his risible assertion was "It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I'd rather not consider that)." Notice the intellectual dishonesty in just the parenthetical -- first, the whole point of it is precisely to “consider” what he says he’d rather not; then, it is a moral assertion, made by a man who vociferously asserts that moral assertions may not validly be made, and that human moral responsibility is an illusion. Ilion
To StephenB: The point I was getting at is that this blog is remarkably free of progress reports in the field of ID. OK, you can go on flogging evolution, but eventually you have to start saying something about ID. So far, I havent seen anything that could be described as a pro-ID result (as distinct from an anti-evolution result). When can we expect to see some results from ID 'research' ? Graham
---Graham1: "For a blog that is discussing an allegedly scientific subject, this blog seems to spend an inordinate ammount of time on theology.” The only logical way to counter Darwinists' non-scientific, theological/philosophical claims is to answer with theological/theological refutations. One cannot refute a theolgical objection with a scientific answer. Hence, when Darwinists build their entire scientific case on the illogical proposition that something can come from nothing, scientific evidence, which can only be reasonably interpreted from the perspective that something CANNOT come from nothing, becomes useless and meaningless. The only way to answer such a non-argument is to point out that it is not an argument at all but rather a religious presupposition. StephenB
---Tom Sawyer: "Why plumb for there being a designer?" Many people have an interest in origins science. According to the Darwinist power structure, the following points are to be accepted as fact: [a] unguided naturalistic forces drive the evolutionary process from a single cell to you and me, [b] no program, plan, design, or designer is deemed necessary or even reasonable (design is an "illusion") and [c] anyone who disagrees with this dubious proposition is either "ignorant, stupid, wicked, or insane." [Richard Dawkins] Since the evidence points the other way, and since the current power structure has done everything possible to suppress that evidence, resorting even to institutional tyranny and character assassination, it would seem that providing an alternative point of view would constitute a valuable public service. ---"What causes you to believe in the presence of a designer rather than just nature or evolution?" The presence of a designer does not rule out evolution or the power of nature to unfold. Some ID advocates accept universal common descent, many others do not. What we all question, though, is the unwarranted assumption that naturalistic forces alone can drive such a process. StephenB
Thanks again, the answers you have provided are quite clear. They do raise another question in my mind though. Why plumb for there being a designer? What causes you to believe in the presence of a designer rather than just nature or evolution? Barb, from what I've read all across this blog, those atheists bring God into the discussion in a derisory manner. As in claiming that ID supporters are driven by a belief in God. Further to this they seem to be saying that there is no God. If they are promoting evolution, surely they will mention God in this vein? Tom Sawyer
Graham1 writes, "To smordecai & Phaedros: I couldnt agree more. For a blog that is discussing an allegedly scientific subject, this blog seems to spend an inordinate ammount of time on theology." And you'll notice that most of the time, the posters bringing God into the discussion are atheists. I wonder why? Barb
"Barb #32: God does not cause birth defects. If pressed, I suppose Barb would say that birth defects are a result of the Fall. Perhaps this is so." For theists, it makes the most sense. "Jesus was given the opportunity to clear up any confusion about the cause of a man’s blindness when questioned in John 9:2. His answer in the following verse is challenging, to say the least." John chapter 9 was Jesus speaking to Nicodemus about being 'born again' which has nothing at all to do with birth defects. Jesus is referring to a spirital rebirth. Jesus also healed a man born blind, and the Bible refers to a future time when there would be no more birth defects at all. Barb
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