Darwinism Intelligent Design

ID/Darwinism Debate Review: Paul Nelson versus Michael Ruse

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Last evening I truly enjoyed a wonderfully edifying experience at Biola University in La Mirada, California: a debate between Paul Nelson and Michael Ruse.

The theme of what was characterized as an “undebate” was, What would it take to make you change your position on Darwinism versus ID? Both men were extremely articulate, and I witnessed a side of Ruse of which I had not been aware. He has a clever sense of humor.

Nelson concentrated on two evidential issues and one philosophical issue: the problem of the origin of self-replicating biological systems and their complex machinery, the problem of the origin of new body plans (specifically the Cambrian explosion), and the truth-seeking deficiencies associated with the exclusion of design inference in the toolkit of scientific inquiry. Nelson provided one of the most articulate defenses I have ever heard as to why Darwinists cannot logically divorce the origin of life from Darwinian theory. Nelson said that if it could be convincingly shown that there are reasonably conclusive naturalistic explanations for the origin of life and new body plans, he would be challenged to abandon his views.

Ruse first posed the question, Why would I want to become an ID proponent? He then made the point that just because we don’t currently have naturalistic explanations for the problems outlined by Nelson, that doesn’t mean we will not find them in the future. He then made the case that ID proponents don’t really take seriously the notion that ETs designed life, and that most are really apologists for the Christian God. The rest of his lecture focused on theodicy. If God can intervene in genetics to make a bacterial flagellum, why wouldn’t He intervene to prevent dreadful genetic diseases?

The problem of evil was pretty much the take-home message I got from Ruse. He also told what I presume was a mostly evangelical Christian audience that the ID movement has “sold them a bill of goods.” He commented that, within the confines of a Christian world view, he could accept the logical consistency of the argument that God intervenes in the world for purposes of human redemption and salvation. The implication I took away was that the ID movement also claims that God intervenes in the natural world for other purposes (e.g., for purposes of engineering bacterial flagella), and this makes God look petty and sadistic, since he’ll intervene to bring about something trivial but not to alleviate human suffering.

Unfortunately, Ruse never did address the evidential challenges presented by Nelson.

The interesting thing to me was that Nelson focused mostly on science, and Ruse focused mostly on religion — quite an irony, since Nelson is a theist and Ruse is an atheist.

In all fairness, one should listen to the entire presentation and make his own judgment. The graphics were essential, so I hope Biola offers a DVD of the event.

27 Replies to “ID/Darwinism Debate Review: Paul Nelson versus Michael Ruse

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    Very Interesting, Darwinists have been overwhelmed with recent breakthroughs in scientific evidence and now they try to argue philosophy to defend themselves…

    Remember the old adage about the scientist who labored hard all his life,, climbing the mountain of reality,, he finally pulls himself up the final summit and discovers to his dismay that Theologians have been sitting there all along for thousands of years?

    Well it seems that if Ruse wants to start to argue philosophy to defeat ID, or at least defeat his interpretation of ID, he is going to find that the Theologians have also been sitting at the top of that philosophical summit for thousands of years!

  2. 2
    tribune7 says:

    He then made the point that just because we don’t currently have naturalistic explanations for the problems outlined by Nelson, that doesn’t mean we will not find them in the future.

    That’s a statement of faith.

    If God can intervene in genetics to make a bacterial flagellum, why wouldn’t He intervene to prevent dreadful genetic diseases?

    What’s that have to do with ID?

    The problem of evil was pretty much the take-home message I got from Ruse.

    How come they never address the problem of good? Why is there this command to love thy neighbor? Many did quite well — as per the world (and evolution) — by ignoring it. Think Genghis Khan. Think Stalin.

  3. 3
    russ says:

    He then made the point that just because we don’t currently have naturalistic explanations for the problems outlined by Nelson, that doesn’t mean we will not find them in the future.

    Why do they get to point to unknown mechanisms and pathways to biological complexity, but we can’t posit an unknown (via science), yet obviously intelligent designer? IDist double-dares notwithstanding, they can’t even lay down 10 steps to a bacterial flagellum, yet we’re supposed to accept their Darwinian promissory note for cow-to-whale evolution. Who is “selling a bill of goods” to whom?

  4. 4

    […] ID/Darwinism Debate Review: Paul Nelson versus Michael Ruse […]

  5. 5
    goatmilton says:

    Has it become more acceptable to ‘admit’ that ID is tied the theism?

  6. 6
    Robo says:

    Atheist? I thought Ruse was an agnostic.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C....._agnostics

  7. 7
    Berceuse says:

    I wouldn’t say Wikipedia is a reliable resource for topics like this.

    But atheist or agnostic, I find it peculiar how often materialists place faith in future discoveries. When one looks at the research done in the recent decades, do we see a trend of meeting these Darwinian expectations, or do we instead observe Darwinism becoming increasingly difficult to defend? It’s very ironic to me, for I’m seeing the very crux of materialist ideology, a strict adherence to “science,” being undermined by science itself.

    And yet, whenever I bring this up, the Darwinist will usually say something to the effect of:

    “That’s the way science works and progresses. When the data doesn’t fit a hypothesis, the theory is revised”

    Of course, the assumption here is that the “revision” being made is an objective one. And I’m sure I don’t need to point out the ad hoc speculations in the past that have been toted as an objective development in evolutionary theory.

    Furthermore, I get the sense that materialists too often put the burden on the ID proponent or Creationist to defend their case. As if there’s this tacit assumption of “Darwinism is right until proven wrong,” but that seems no less an arbitrary judgment than “ID is right until proven wrong.”

  8. 8
    William J. Murray says:

    I’m a proponent of ID, but I think Ruse has a point in how most I.D. proponents are apologists for Christianity.

    For instance, if we posit MWI, then we can have ID active without the need for any designer – the real ID scenarious and sequences would be an artifact peculiar to universes like ours. The ID model would be valid, but it wouldn’t have to involve non-material influences. Most ID proponents seem to dismiss this idea, and others like intelligent RNA, alien influence, intelligence-as-emergent-property, or even historical wave-function collapse as “the designer”.

    It seems to me there is a polemic to the ID side as well; if it’s just about the theory, then ID proponents need to take the “god” aspect out of it stop demanding that it be the only possible source of ID. If the nature of the “designer” is irrelevent to the theory as discovery.org claims, then ID proponents need to stop arguing against any materialist hypothesis concerning what could be accountable for generating the design and pursue evidence that supports or defeats those ideas.

  9. 9
    XtremeCamera says:

    Mr Murray, I couldn’t agree with you more. I too am inclined to believe ID over anything else presented to date. But ID does not point to a Christian God, supposedly. Yet we hear it all the time.

    Perhaps we should concentrate on finding the solid, irrefutable evidence of design and THEN search for the designer. We need to leave religion out of it.

  10. 10
    Paul Nelson says:

    I said nothing about theology or religion until Michael brought it up in his own presentation. That’s what usually happens at these events: my interlocutor introduces “God” to the discussion, not me.

    Numerically, btw, it may not (or no longer) be true that most ID proponents are Christians. For instance, one can argue that the recent Council of Europe resolution against ID was motivated in large measure by fear of Islamic activism on the topic.

  11. 11
    GilDodgen says:

    Atheist? I thought Ruse was an agnostic.

    As I recall, Ruse has commented that Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion, made him embarrassed to be an atheist. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong.

  12. 12
    Charlie says:

    I can only confirm that you are right, Gil.
    At least according to the Ruse quote on the cover of my copy of The Dawkins Delusion.

  13. 13
    Robo says:

    So either Wackipedia is wrong or Michael Ruse is wrong about himself. Or perhaps he has changed psitions.

  14. 14
    Emkay says:

    “If God can intervene in genetics to make a bacterial flagellum, why wouldn’t He intervene to prevent dreadful genetic diseases?”

    Since Ruse’s question is of a religious nature, the appropriate response must necessarily be of a religious nature. The answer is in Genesis 3:17-18 of the Christian Bible:

    “To Adam [God] said, ‘Becaue you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, *You should not eat of it,* Cursed is the ground because of you…It will produce thorns and thistles for you and you will eat the plants of the field by the sweat of your brow…”

    The entire chapter of Genesis 3 gives a snapshot of The Fall, the entry point at which man’s disobedience to God introduced imperfection into a hitherto perfect creation. Sin contaminated what had been up to that point a holy, pure and perfect creation — much as a virus corrupts a perfectly designed computer program.

    Christian theology pinpoints the origins of disease and death to the events outlined in Genesis 3. Here, in God’s pronouncement that the ground “will produce thorns and thistles for you,” we have in effect the beginning of mutations in the natural order. And the mutations, as borne out by empirical evidence ever since, are NOT beneficial.

    Christian theology from a Bible-believing perspective posits the trajectory of life as we know it in three broad phases: Creation, Corruption Consummation. Or, in other words, Generation, Degeneration, Regeneration.

    Since The Fall, we continue to live in a degenerated world, both physically and spiritually. Jesus Christ, in His first coming, gave demonstrations of His power over diseases (and bacterial flagella. He provided the means for a spiritual regeneration to any and all who believe in Him and accept Him as their personal Savior.

    In His resurrection He gave proof of His power over death, and left His followers with the promise that at His Second Coming He will restore the natural order to perfection, and bring about the final triumph of good over evil, the holy over the profane.

    It never fails to amuse how atheists demand answers for God’s deeds and then when one points them to the answers God has provided in the Bible, they say they don’t believe it because there is no God.

  15. 15
    Foxfier says:

    I’m a proponent of ID, but I think Ruse has a point in how most I.D. proponents are apologists for Christianity.

    And most Darwinist proponents are apologists for atheism. This has no effect on the truth or logic of the belief.

    Actually, I think it’s a logical fallacy, but I don’t have my list of proper names handy.

  16. 16

    I hope audio will be made available.

    So Nelson didn’t identify any sort of scientific finding that would make him reconsider? If true, that is sad. “Oh, we’ll find answers.” Really? Translation: “My theory is unfalsifiable.”

    If he wants to get into answers for the problem of evil, there are plenty of them. Some better than others.

  17. 17
    GilDodgen says:

    So Nelson didn’t identify any sort of scientific finding that would make him reconsider?

    I presume you meant Ruse. I mentioned the scientific findings that Nelson said would make him reconsider.

    By the way, Ruse kept talking about God intervening. ID theory does not imply or require interventionism; it only asserts that design is detectable. The universe could have been front-loaded with everything it needed. We know that to be the case when it comes to cosmological ID. The initial conditions were precisely set so that stars would form and produce life-essential chemical elements, and so that some of them would be unstable (supernovae) and release these elements to form at least one planet on which life could exist. None of this required intervention after the birth of the universe.

  18. 18
    Apollos says:

    “If God can intervene in genetics to make a bacterial flagellum, why wouldn’t He intervene to prevent dreadful genetic diseases?”

    This ideal, used in an attempt to judge God, is irrational and meaningless if the conclusion is true. In order to hold God to a standard of righteousness means deferring to an objective definition of it — which, if He doesn’t exist, has no basis in reality. What an awful conundrum atheists find themselves in, having to invoke objective morality in order to “disprove” God.

    The very hammer they use in an attempt to smash the edifice of religious notion has to be borrowed from God Himself; and so atheism exposes itself as nothing more than a pathetic mockery of what is true, rather than any sort of original thought.

    Inherent in the above quote is a confession that the very mechanism of NDE is evil, and should be forcibly halted by the direct interference of an omnipotent God. Quite ironic on two accounts: 1) if you consider that genetic disease, if NDE is true, is nothing but a sacrifice on the altar of mindless processes for genetic perfection; 2) and that the Bible’s claims support the notion that God is doing, and has done, exactly what He is accused of avoiding: a direct intervention to halt the assault of death on all humanity.

    The fingerprints of the Liar are all over the arguments of atheists in their attempt to malign God: no capacity for originality, only for pernicious and abusive assault on God’s character; with need to borrow from God the very tools with which to vilify Him.

    Genesis 3:4-5 “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. (5) “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

    (See also, John 3:16)

  19. 19
    bevets says:

    It would be nice if threads about debates would include information about where I can obtain an MP3 download or DVD.

  20. 20
    magnan says:

    William J. Murray (6):
    “I’m a proponent of ID, but I think Ruse has a point in how most I.D. proponents are apologists for Christianity.”

    This seems to be the case, and it can be a turn-off to non Christians, theists or non, inclined to ID.

    “For instance, if we posit MWI, then we can have ID active without the need for any designer – the real ID scenarious and sequences would be an artifact peculiar to universes like ours.”

    ? ID as normally defined inherently posits the actions of some sort of designer, therefore without a designer the hypothesis is not ID. Certainly it is not ID to propose the idea that life as we know it is just because we happen to be in a lucky universe where things just happened to organize this way by chance. Anyway, this just pushes the question of the ultimate source of intelligent design up another metaphysical notch to outside the multiple universe frame.

    ” The ID model would be valid, but it wouldn’t have to involve non-material influences. Most ID proponents seem to dismiss this idea, and others like intelligent RNA, alien influence, intelligence-as-emergent-property, or even historical wave-function collapse as “the designer”.”

    Perhaps so. But as has been pointed out many times, the design apparent in living organisms is very much like the design of human technological systems. Humanly designed machines and other creations came about strictly from the actions of human focused intelligent awareness. Most of these alternate hypotheses for ID do not embody any conscious, focused, aware intelligence, so they do not seem to be capable of carrying out the various design engineering processes needed.

  21. 21

    Sorry, meant to say Ruse instead of Nelson.

  22. 22
    William J. Murray says:

    #18

    Quote: “? ID as normally defined inherently posits the actions of some sort of designer, therefore without a designer the hypothesis is not ID.”

    Discovery.org specifically addresses this, and leading proponents state categorically that the a “designer” is nothing more than one possible implication of the theory. No such designer is intended or directly implied by the theory itself. I refer to the theory as linked to on this site on the right bar:

    Quote: “The theory of intelligent design (ID) holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection.”

    Best explained by intelligent cause .. not accurately, truthfully, or factually; intelligent design is a model that describes an apparent process, not an entity.

    “Certainly it is not ID to propose the idea that life as we know it is just because we happen to be in a lucky universe where things just happened to organize this way by chance.”

    Yes, it is. If we just happen to live in a very lucky universe, the actual theory still applies, because it would better describe certain aspects of the universe. No “designer” is directly implied by the theory, nor should it be; it just states that the “intelligent design model” would be more useful in certain situations than a non-directed model.

    Quote: “Anyway, this just pushes the question of the ultimate source of intelligent design up another metaphysical notch to outside the multiple universe frame.”

    The “ultimate source” of ID doesnt need to be addressed, just as the “utlimate source” of the Big Bang doesn’t need to be addressed, just as the “ultimate source” of electricity or gravity doesn’t need to be addressed; what the theory intends to be is a useful scientific model for describing and predicting behavior of phenomena, not a “gotcha” for theists to box materialists into.

    IDers need to stop trying to convert materialists to their theistic beliefs by succumbing to the temptation of asserting a designer as part of the ID package. Otherwise, ID will not be taken seriously by the mainstream.

  23. 23
    tribune7 says:

    IDers need to stop trying to convert materialists to their theistic beliefs by succumbing to the temptation of asserting a designer as part of the ID package.

    A separation of church and science? People have beliefs. They should not be expected, much less required, to refrain from talking about them, much less giving an honest answer when asked about them.

    Regardless, the indisputable truth is that ID concerns the means of infering design not the naming of a designer. Further, it is not the responsibility of the proponent to convince the honest materialist this is the case by hiding his tangentially related beliefs. It is the repsonsibility of the honest materialist to understand the rather simple definition of ID and debate the facts on those term — which materialists appear to be unable to do.

    Otherwise, ID will not be taken seriously by the mainstream.

    It is being taken seriously by the self-appointed arbiters of scientific fashion. It is scaring them silly.

  24. 24
    DaveScot says:

    Foxfier

    You are correct that conflating ID and Christianity is a logical fallacy. It’s one of two “association fallacies” called “guilt by association”. The other is “honor by association”. It might also be described as a correlation fallacy “correlation proves causation”. It may also be described as a “red herring”. A red herring is an attempt to change the subject. Instead of addressing the evidence and logic used to draw a design inference the ID detractor attempts to change the subject to religion via the association fallacy.

  25. 25
    Matteo says:

    It is an outrage for some that the world is full of natural evil, such as disease organisms, and that God does nothing about it. For the same people, the idea of God “violating” the normal outworkings of the cosmos is also an outrage.

    So it is an outrage if God doesn’t act, and it is an outrage if he does act.

    There’s no pleasing some people.

  26. 26
    Carl Sachs says:

    In re: 26

    Brian: “There’s no pleasing some people.”

    Ex-Leper: “That’s funny, that’s just what he said.” (referring to Jesus)

    — from Monty Python’s Life of Brian

  27. 27
    Robo says:

    So are the debate recording available?

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