Intelligent Design

Friday Musings: Denialists and ID — A Reversal of Roles?

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Even the most vociferous and vehement ID opponents (e.g., Richard Dawkins) admit that design in nature appears to be self-evident. Why then, the heroic efforts to explain design away, with such silliness as random variation and natural selection providing the engine that produced highly sophisticated biological software and information-processing systems?

I remain completely bewildered by the fact that intelligent, educated people cannot recognize this obvious act of denial and desperation. On the other hand, perhaps they don’t want to recognize it, because evidence and logic might conflict with what they want to believe — that there is no design or ultimate purpose to anything.

An obvious question remains: What might motivate this denial of the obvious? I believe that the answer is obvious, and it has to do with accountability.

29 Replies to “Friday Musings: Denialists and ID — A Reversal of Roles?

  1. 1

    I think the answer is pretty obvious too.

    One would think that one would be biased towards purpose and meaning. But I think some, subconsciously, put two and two together. They are consistent. They realize they need to do away with purpose in order to do what they want. Again subconsciously.

    Others aren’t that consistent and just go with the flow of life, doing what they want.

  2. 2
    jerry says:

    I think you have to look elsewhere besides accountability. I know some very good people who leave exemplary lives who think that those who challenge Darwin are the screwballs of our society.

    I am reading Darrel Falk’s book at this moment and one would hardly call him someone who not accountable.

    It is easy to point to the Dawkins and Dennett’s of the world but for everyone of them there are many others who are motivated by something different.

  3. 3
    RickToews says:

    I share the bewilderment. I was just reflecting that someday, science teachers may tell their incredulous students that Yes, there really was a time when many scientists knew about the coding of DNA and denied that it must have come into existence by intelligent agency.

    It may be that the denial of the obvious has something to do with accountability. There’s a pretty well-known quote by Aldous Huxley on what motivated him to see a meaningless world: “The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics, he is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do, or why his friends should not seize political power and govern in the way that they find most advantageous to themselves.”

    Also, there’s the “intellectually fulfilled atheist” observation by Dawkins.

    However, I’m with Jerry on this one: a desire to throw transcendent morals to the wind, while perhaps accounting for some cases, probably doesn’t fit for all — or even most.

    I have wondered to what degree a person can be “educated” into believing something for which there is little or no real evidence (beyond that which is gratuitously interpreted) but which is nevertheless presented by an “authority” who has the power to command great respect and also to wield a degree of intellectual intimidation.

    If students are taught to interpret evidence in one particular way and never exposed to other possible ways of looking at the same data — and if they are assured that the perspective they’re taught has stood the test of time and scientific inquiry, might it not be difficult to tear down and rebuild much of what they accepted as fact? Might it not even seem presumptuous to think of doing such a thing? I’ve read that most scientists have little advantage over an intelligent layperson in areas outside their specialty.

  4. 4 says:

    Jerry, I closely read Darryl’s book last year and met him, heard him lecture in Sydney.

    He holds the position that God does what He does invisbly, so that it requires faith to believe.

    I don’t find that view necessary, especially given the fact that in the NT Jesus rasied the dead and healed the sick, and still faith was sparse.

  5. 5
    jerry says:,

    I did not say I agree with Falk’s position on science only that many people accept the gradualist approach for reasons other than accountability.

    I only got Falk’s book yesterday after some who are theistic evolutionists recommended it. The first couple chapters are nothing more than his personal religious beliefs and that is where I am at the moment.

    I bought five of the books the theistic evolutionists recommended and will see just how much science they adhere to and why.

  6. 6
    jaredl says:

    I think it’s actually not primarily about accountability.

    Most materialists reject religion at least in part because of religious authoritarianism, coupled with the prima facie logical problems associated with most brands of religiousity (here, I’m thinking particularly of the argument from evil and any variant of classical theism).

    It seems to me you might be able to better reach people by not telling them what to do, or by perhaps fixing your own metaphysical houses before inviting company.

    If it came down to rejecting design theory xor accepting classical theism, I’d reject design theory also – because I despise dogmatism and logical contradictions more than I despise highly improbable logical possibilities – and those are the only options both sides of the debate seem to see, which is unfortunate, because it’s a false dichotomy.

  7. 7
    Borne says:

    Here’s another, more brutal, more orphic explanation that few want to see and fewer admit.

    “The god of this world has blinded the intellect [blunt the mental discernment, darken the mind – Thayer] of those who don’t believe. As a result, they don’t see the light… “

  8. 8
    jerry says:


    Your comment does not explain what is going on today when religion is a side show in today’s culture.

    Yes, each religion has its dogma which is required for acceptance but it is not being shoved down anyone’s throat today. In fact the opposite is happening. Non-religion is being shoved down our throats.

    So another form of authoritarianism is amongst us and most could care less. While most say they believe in God, what they care about is in the malls or in the sporting arena. Denyse had a post several months ago on this where the true enemy of virtue is both forms of materialism not just the one we talk about all the time but mainly the popular culture that surrounds us and is not directed by any Darwinist conspiracy. That is the true materialist threat and we love it.

  9. 9
  10. 10
    RickToews says:

    Most materialists reject religion at least in part because of religious authoritarianism, coupled with the prima facie logical problems associated with most brands of religiosity (here, I’m thinking particularly of the argument from evil and any variant of classical theism).

    I have in recent years reflected that, had I not been brought up as a Christian, it is questionable whether I would be attracted, as an adult, to the Christian church. However, the evidence for design has nothing to do with religion: it’s for me a commonsense inference from observed effect to known cause. Neither a distaste for modern expressions of religion nor the “argument from evil” would detract from the validity of this inference.

  11. 11
    great_ape says:

    “The god of this world has blinded the intellect [blunt the mental discernment, darken the mind – Thayer] of those who don’t believe. As a result, they don’t see the light… “ –quoted by Borne

    That is a rather troubling epistemological position, Borne, as it could be just as easily invoked by an adherent of any belief system whatsover, be they Muslim, Wiccan, etc. Basically, if you do not see the world as it is, as I do, it is because you are not capable of doing so as a person who does not believe in [insert belief system here].

  12. 12
    Mats says:

    The Evolution of TV Dinners

  13. 13
    Robo says:

    From a Calvinist perspective, ALL men know but suppress the truth in unrighteousness. There hearts are darkened by God.

    The fact that many non-Christians see design in nature is surely a testament to the obviousness (“…clearly seen…”) of the design.

    Rom 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
    Rom 1:19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.
    Rom 1:20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
    Rom 1:21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

  14. 14
    GilDodgen says:

    …being understood through what has been made…

    I find this interesting. “What is made” might be expressed as “what is designed.” Things that are made do not come about by chance and necessity. Paul is therefore making an argument from design.

    Of course, accountability is not the only reason one might exert much effort to deny and explain away obvious evidence for design, but I believe that this was a major factor in the rise of materialist philosophy in the 19th century (e.g., the “death of God” movement) and the rapid acceptance of its Darwinian creation story, which was, up until the publication of the Origin, a key missing piece in finally putting God out of a job. With design and purpose in nature explained away, materialist philosophy permitted the rise and acceptance of moral relativism, which was quickly accepted by the elite and the academy.

    It might be interesting to come up with a list of other incentives for denying evidence for design in nature. Career investments? Longstanding indoctrination? Acceptance of authority and appeals to consensus?

  15. 15


    “Most materialists reject religion at least in part because of religious authoritarianism…”

    “It seems to me you might be able to better reach people by not telling them what to do…”

    I’m not seeing much difference between this and not wanting to be accountable. If not technically that, it would be its cousin rebellion.

  16. 16
    Designed Jacob says:

    It’s accountability on the one hand, but it’s something else on the other. I don’t know if there’s a word for it or not.

    There is a certain, predominantly liberal mindset that sees itself as contemporary, fashionable, and not at all primitive. It is this “enlightened” mindset that we’re dealing with almost as often as we deal with the armchair theologian. Perhaps more so. After all, most of the people that believe in evolution also believe in a creator deity.

  17. 17
    Designed Jacob says:

    Follow Up:

    To get to the enlightened masses, you have to make yourself seem new, true, and fashionable.

    I.D., therefore, needs a hard-core branding campaign. Believing in I.D. should feel hip and cool.

    I.D. proponents should be portrayed on television as urbanites, surfers, skaters, snowboarders, and yuppies with artistic flair. You wouldn’t be going too far to make it almost Bohemian in feel.

  18. 18
    alan says:

    “We shall NOT have this Man RULE OVER US” – #$)((&^%*$!!!!!!

  19. 19
    Atom says:

    Designed Jacob,

    It’s funny but I kinda think image is important as well. After all, humans are very visual creatures; we often make up our mind about people based on appearance first, substance second.

    For my part, I am talk about ID in my music positively and try to allude to various ID concepts. Since I am a moderately liked independent underground hip-hop artist (just google for “Atom tha Immortal“), I figure the people who like my music are forced to be confronted with ID, and in a positive light.

    In other words, the kids who listen to my hip-hop will say “Well, Atom is smart and cool, and he’s really for ID. Maybe there is something to it…” Being that I am a political leftist also helps, since it shows that ID isn’t just an Amerikan Republican/Conservative venture.

  20. 20
    magnan says:

    Fanatical Darwinism is just the most virulent branch of the modern secular religion of “scientism”. My impression is that Science has become an oppressive orthodoxy or quasi religion that suppresses dissent and brands those who conflict with the consensus view as heretics. This is a general social phenomenon that afflicts a lot of disciplines, not just biology. Examples are physics and chemistry (cold fusion), parapsychology (psi), astronomy (evidence against the Big Bang), and another area of biology (biophysics). In all these fields, scientists who speak out with taboo ideas are persecuted by denial of tenure, attempts to break tenure, denial of funding, and other means.

    In parapsychology (psi research) the “pathological skeptics” are especially noisy, with some similarities in psychological mindset to Darwinists. Such people would “not believe it if it was true” (an actual statement by one scientist).

    I think some of the dynamic is as follows:
    There is a large investment in the current “paradigm” in whatever the discipline going back through an entire career. The person may have authored textbooks and research papers assuming the truth of the paradigm. So it is interpreted as a personal humiliating attack to claim the consensus theory is invalid. If the new idea is God forbid true then a whole career is diminished and put in question. But this is just part of it. Acceptance of a heretical theory might threaten coveted sources of funding for research which assumes the old theory. This probably engenders the most fear and consequent rage.

  21. 21
    Joseph says:

    We may say that a living body or organ is well designed if it has attributes that an intelligent and knowledgeable engineer might have built into it in order to achieve some sensible purpose.

    Anyone care to guess who authored that quote?

  22. 22
    Rude says:

    People don’t think! The biggest pressure is peer pressure—and this is especially true for the young—and youth is a time when life long attitudes are put in place. But of course not all are sheep. There are goats out there with agendas—and that story can be rather shocking. The world periodically eats of the tree of deciding for oneself what is good and what is evil. And there is in it all—or there used to be—the desire for independence from the clergy—a not too unreasonable desire I might add.

    But the time has come to shuck the pretense of Darwinism and face reality. “Science” is almost completely politicized and possessing of unrestricted power yet without any moral code whatsoever.

  23. 23
    GilDodgen says:

    Richard Dawkins

  24. 24
    mike1962 says:

    In talking with many people about this and many other things, it seems to boil down to a cast of mind, shaped by genes and environment. Nobody is completely rational. It’s impossible to be.

    Take consciousness, for example. I read what somebody like Dawkins writes about the subject, and I feel like I’m living in a different universe than he is. All his stated reasons are nonsense, and perhaps mine are too. But when I listen to people speak about it, I can’t help feeling that they may not be conscious at all. There don’t seem to possess what I’m experiencing. Anyway, in my heart and soul I’m convinced, proximately, immediatedly, obviously, and completely, that the brain is merely an interface for consciousness, and not it’s source. Nobody will ever be able to convince me otherwise. And it’s not that it matters in my daily life at all. And I wouldn’t care at all if I were proven wrong.

    Is this just how my brain happens to be wired? To have this opinion of consciousness? Impossible to know obviously, I guess. But my point is that people do seem to be wired up so different that they cannot agree on things like this. If we can’t agree on something like our fundamental experience, then what hope is there for all the rest?

  25. 25
    Janice says:

    Pr 22:15 “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him.”

    The following is from an article titled Character Deficiency Syndrome by Garry Nation.

    A fool is not someone who is silly or unintelligent, but one who is unwise. He has never learned that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”

    … [T]here are a number of Hebrew words for fool, but they do not all mean exactly the same thing. They … indicate at least four progressive stages or degrees [Simple or Naive Fool, Self-Confident Fool, Committed Fool, Scornful Fool] of descent into the moral and spiritual depravity which I call Character Deficiency Syndrome.

    Read the whole thing. It answers GilDodgen’s question nicely.

  26. 26

    We may say that a living body or organ is well designed if it has attributes that an intelligent and knowledgeable engineer might have built into it in order to achieve some sensible purpose.

    Anyone care to guess who authored that quote?

    Dawkins ID Delusion?

    Dawkins is a good enough writer to be clear when he needs to be, so if he is indeed the author of that phrase, I’ll be curious to see what his “yeah but…” response is, or perhaps Mr. Gil knows? Perhaps he means to go on later and say that mere appearance is little to go on. The Greeks, for example, made similar arguments about life in general shot through with many holes leading up to little more than life on earth is just a splendid way to be (the action of the tides, the beauty of the sun, the feel of sand, the location of the mouth relative to the eyes, etc.,etc).

    In any case I still think he lost credibility. ID is not something new, but something that in fact had to be FOUGHT against from the earliest days of inquiry to avoid writing to the effect of the “appearance” of things. Occam’s Razor device is not always effective, but here Dawkins might be missing the trees for the bark and roots, in that perhaps Design is more readily apparent than he thinks–or will admit in all other forums except that one that produced such a statement.

  27. 27
    jmcd says:

    The “people don’t want to believe in God because they do not want to be accountable for their actions” argument is getting awfully tired. That may be the case for some people, but it is not for anyone I know. I also know quite a few people. So either not that many people share Gil’s supposed disdain for divine retribution or I live in a world of statistical aberrations.

    One’s conscience and society at large hold them accountable in this life. There is little left of sinful behavior that will not elicit a negative response from the legal system or from one’s personal relationships.

    As far as design being a matter of common sense goes, well I do not know many scientists that would recommend common sense as a scientific tool. That is especially true when you delve into areas of greater complexity where common sense will commonly lead you astray or simply is not applicable.

    Doubters of intelligent design do not dispute design; they only think that the parameters and forces at work in nature are conducive to producing complexity given the right inputs. That notion is fairly self evident. Whether or not nature is capable of the complexity inherent in life as we know it is debatable, but assuming that it is is a sensible and reasonable working postulate. Everything that we have been able to investigate sufficiently happens naturally. To demand a different case for life can understandably be seen as a bit unorthodox.

    To so brazenly deny the possibility seems a bit ludicrous to many. We have seen the evidence for common descent continue to mount with each passing year. The question for many is no longer evolution or no, but how does life evolve. It obviously happened, but did it happen without some input from outside of nature?

    Obviously Gil does not even begin to consider that to be an actual question. The fact that many thinking minds in honest intellectual pursuit do consider it to be a very real and tantalizing question should give pause to the notion that they are all a bunch of incorrigible heathen rascals who do not believe simply because they don’t want to consider eternal damnation.

    You are on some pretty shaky ground if you believe that the minds of unbelievers are “darkened.” If scientists, who have a much higher portion of unbelievers compared to the general population, are darkened minds then society had been gravely misappropriating its intellectual resources for some time. The fact that such a grave misappropriation has resulted in so many advances only serves as testament to our apparently untapped scientific potential.

    My intent is not to belittle or insult anyone but hopefully to illustrate the fallacy of what I would consider to be a grossly over-simplistic argument. I certainly understand the tendency to believe in intelligent design and consider its possibility very seriously. If the day comes when I do consider intelligent design to be the necessary starting point I will still recognize the very real possibility that I am wrong just as I realize that my current belief in unintelligent design may quite possibly be incorrect. I promise you though that my motives have nothing to do with not being accountable after this life.

    Personally, I would love to believe in an afterlife because I think I am a pretty darn good person to my fellow man and would probably be on the escalator going up. My inability to believe in a specific afterlife also has nothing to do with my thoughts on evolution.

  28. 28
    Viscount says:

    I don’t think it’s a problem of accountability as much as parsimony. We can observe natural selection and whatnot, so there’s not much point in bringing God into it if we can explain what we’ve observed while staying within the material world. Apparent design doesn’t always imply actual design – the face on Mars looks designed, but it’s just a natural rock formation with some tricky shadows.

    Whether natural selection alone is a good enough explanation for the apparent design of life is another matter, but I think the motivation behind the mindset of trying to explain apparent design through evolution is pretty clear.

  29. 29

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