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Karsten Pultz: The perils of talking about ID He wonders, should he give up?

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(Danish ID proponent Karsten Pultz reflects on the conflict.)

Karsten Pultz

As usual, I felt seriously annoyed and slightly depressed after giving a talk about ID in a Christian setting, and I spent the next one and a half days pondering what had gone wrong.

Having recently read The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World by British psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist, I suddenly realized I had a tool to dissect my frustrations around these talks.

As a proponent of ID, I very much feel I represent a scientific theory which points to very important empirical facts we need in order to establish a realistic worldview, but that those facts are few and that ID leave us with a lot of unanswered questions. Fortunately, I find that very satisfying because I like to think for myself, I’m not troubled by unanswered or unanswerable questions nor am I afraid of being wrong and being placed in a situation where I need to adjust my understanding and point of view on some issues. I have learned from McGilchrist that this is a trait of people who are dominated by the right brain hemisphere.

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I realized that the world seems to consist of different tribes who primarily seek information that can feed their confirmation bias. Because confirmation bias is situated in the left hemisphere it follows that this tribal behavior is largely due to left hemisphere domination. ID is bad news for people who want a fully packaged worldview served on a silver plate which leave them with no need to think for themselves, – and this is where the dog is buried.

In Denmark, 85 % of the population believes in evolution as a proven fact. This 85% can be split into two groups, atheists and theistic evolutionists. We also have 10 % Muslim migrants and finally 5 %, among whom we find the creationists, I assume most creationists are the Young Earth type.

The ID-talk I gave was to an audience of evangelical Christians and judging from the questions I got, probably most of them were Young Earth Creationists.

So what’s the problem here? Well, the atheists think I promote creationism because anyone who thinks there is evidence for design in organisms is by definition a creationist, and naturally, therefore, a moron. The theistic evolutionists also think I’m a creationist. Being a Christian myself, I give Christianity a bad name by exposing my moronic belief that evolution is wrong. The Muslims do not want to listen to me because I’m an infidel. Thus, the only audience I can get is to be found among the small fraction of Danish creationists.

Now then, speaking to creationists about ID should be enjoyable; after all,it ought to be water in their mill. But no, it is not. Creationists, like the atheists and the theistic evolutionists, belong to a tribe, a tribe with strict rules that tell what you can and cannot believe. Their worldview is a complete package, like that of the atheists and TE people who also have their complete worldview packages. ID does not feed their confirmation bias sufficiently, so they regard ID as suspicious, inadequate, or simply as a theory that they consider an enemy of creationism.

Again I stood there with an audience who insisted on discussing the age of the earth, six days creation, the Flood and other issues I do not want to touch on them because they lie outside the realm of detecting design in nature. Again I found myself forced to take stands on topics I find no empirical evidence for and likely to compromise my intention of keeping strictly to empirical data and the design inference.

Atheists, theistic evolutionists, and creationists act like if they were political parties where you either submit to the ruling dogmas or you leave the party. This is no wonder because dogmatic thinking is situated in the left hemisphere, which can only relate to and accept already acquired knowledge. A tribe will therefore primarily be excited when listening to a lecture given by one who agrees on every dogma approved by the tribe. Anything that falls outside the tribal dogmas is off-limits because it challenges the left hemisphere’s desperate need for only having served confirmation of what it already has accepted. Left hemisphere thinking is also characterized by the need for absolute control, which means that unanswered or unanswerable questions must under no circumstances exist. The left hemisphere would rather make stuff up than accept that there are things we cannot know—so you better tell us that the earth is 6000 years old, or we might panic!

So ID is bad news for people of a variety of views who suffer from severe left hemisphere domination, and there is nothing I can do about it. I can’t force people of any tribe to love what they hate, namely being challenged on their full package worldview. I am seriously considering abandoning giving ID-talks in Christian settings, as it seems completely purposeless and because I find it exhausting, depressing and frustrating. While atheists and theistic evolutionists reject ID because they consider it creationism, the creationists reject ID because it is not creationism. This leaves me with only one open-minded listener – my wife.

More from Karsten Pultz and Denmark:

Educating Oneself Away From Science Denial: Two True Stories

Denmark: Slowly developing a conversation about design in nature

Something Is Rotten In The State Of Denmark

Denmark: Perhaps Not So Rotten After All


Swedish Mathematician Explains Why He Sees Design In Nature (And Became A Christian)

The “rule of thumb” should be: FACTS, BELIEFS and then OPINIONS-- in that order. In other words, your beliefs and opinions need to be based on the facts and not vice-versa. In other words, it doesn’t matter how strongly or sincerely you believe in something if you can’t justify your beliefs and opinions on the basis of the known facts you’re probably wrong. Or, to be a little more generous, there is no way for you to prove to anyone else that your beliefs and opinions are true. john_a_designer
My rule of thumb is, if most people disagree with it, it's probably right, and visa versa. jstanley01
I see that of the people believing in evolution, some of them are TEs. Is it possible that TEs in Denmark would be more open to non-Darwinian forms of evolution than TEs elsewhere? hnorman42
gpuccio: Yes, "any dogma" cringes before uncomfortable facts. I agree. PaV
In the same 2011 MIT lecture on DNA replication, at the minute mark 19:40 Dr Lander said that the topoisomerase does an amazing job. But that could still be swept under the rug without major commotion. The Jeep-like Mercedes I saw the other day looked amazing, but that’s just an expression. I could have said that it looked cool. But when professor Lander talked about how fast the polymerase polymerizes (2000 nucleotides per second doing it right 99.9% of the time with proofreading and other quality control tricks) starting at time mark 28:25 approximately he qualified it as “really impressive engineering”? Huh? “Engineering”? Is he serious? Hello! Anybody there? Were they zombies sitting in that lecture? No reaction? No objection? No question? They just let him get away with saying such a thing? So next time Karsten Pultz should try professor Lander’s approach and just say that the biological systems are “really impressive engineering” and keep talking as if nothing controversial had been said. Maybe Karsten Pultz should change the wording? :) PeterA
Can somebody explain to me why Karsten Pultz has problems saying that there are factual evidences for ID, but a distinguished evolutionary scientist like MIT professor Eric Lander could say around 8 years ago in the middle of his lecture that the DNA replication is “really impressive engineering”? Did somebody object his affirmation? If nobody objected then why they object Karsten Pultz? Because he’s not an MIT professor? I see a major inconsistency. What did professor Eric Lander mean by “engineering”? In the same lecture he said that the DNA replication is “impressive engineering” and immediately repeated even more strongly that it’s “really impressive engineering”. Can somebody explain this? Thanks. PeterA
Sounds like he's annoyed they didn't immediately agree with him and he's projecting. ScuzzaMan
Peace & joy! The world is a wondrous flower that we get to explore anew every day. Well, maybe not Tuesdays because I'm off on Tuesdays. I can only say that there is a VERY similar situation with History. Most people "learned" History in grade school occasionally see some awful Special on TV written to reinforce the grade school version of History. NEVER color outside the lines... So there are topics that are Private Pleasures: you peel back one of the petals only to find an even more fascinating petal underneath. On average, I order 1 new (actually "Old, Used") book every day. I'm not sure what will happen to the heaps and gobs and piles of books when I die. I'm guessing they'll all go to the county landfill down the street. vmahuna
I'm a YEC and I think ID has a lot to offer, even if we disagree on some things. aarceng
Well, I can certainly agree that dealing with ID for what it really is, a completely scientific theory, can give you problems in almost all the fields with a strong established worldview. That is true, in general, of all good science. The main principle that makes science science, that is depending strictly on facts, seems to be uncomfortable for any type of dogmatism. gpuccio
It sounds like he's mainly talking with college students. He doesn't say that, but the behavior sounds like 18-year-olds with abstract tendencies. College students are all about pure ideology, pure theology, and cliques. It's not a hemisphere problem, it's just an age problem and a self-selection problem. If he talked to older people, or younger waitresses and car repairmen, he'd find a lot less purity. polistra

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