Perhaps Miller & Co. need to cut to the chase and take out a contract on key ID players. As I recall from the three years I lived in Rhode Island (I went to a prep school there), Providence, the city in which Brown University (Miller’s employer) is located, has an effective mob presence.
“Why is this a big deal?” asked Miller. The answer, according to Miller, is the future of science in America. We are raising a generation of people who are going to be suspicious of science, and that has huge implications for scientific fields. Other countries will be moving ahead in science, leaving the United States behind. “What is at stake is, literally, everything,” said Miller.
76 Replies to “Ken Miller and Chicken Little — The Sky Continues to Fall!”
I find it disturbing that science questions are being waged through PR campaigns. I don’t understand why he needs to be so vehement in his public opposition to ID. ID is a new science and as such, it will gain its credibility with published scientific work. Why is that scary? Isn’t that how all the rest of science works?
Miller is taking the alarmist approach. Nice.
Ken, it is bad science that we hope the next generation will be suspicious of.
i love the doom and gloomers.
If Intelligent Design is taught, we’ll become a darkage thirdworld country!
If evolution is taught, our kids will all shoot each other at school and get pregnant early!
I doubt either case will cause such extreme outcomes.
When science is presented as unquestionable dogma of course people are going to be suspicious of it. The fault isn’t in the people who are suspicious and the fault isn’t in the science. The fault is in the people who want to teach it as as dogma.
Truth according to Miller: “evolution defines a relationship between creator and created based on a moral independence and free will.”
What a load of Dodo doo-doo. Since when can evolution define a relationship with a creator it (Darwinism) specifically denies the existence of? Remember, evolution is supposedly an “unplanned, purposeless process” and was invented in the first place to eliminate the need for a creator (and subsequently make atheists feel intellectually satisfied). What Miller’s religion really does is lock potential scientific discovery behind an impenetrable barrier of dogmatic Darwinism. Why would any student of science seeking to make fundamental discoveries waste his/her time researching questions that the establishment claims to have already answered – and all that is left to do is fill in the unimportant details? The answer is that they wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t Ã¢â‚¬â€œ theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d find something more interesting to do.
Dr. Miller should open his eyes. See the truth. Talk the truth. But continuing to deny the obvious – or even worse continuing to force a false doctrine on our children while prohibiting them from free skepticism – will indeed lead to our inevitable demise. Miller is right about the end result, but seems blind to the cause.
Anti-ID folks like Ken Miller and Barbara Forrest can make transparently outrageous claims about impending doom, the collapse of science, and conspiracies to establish a theocracy, and make these claims with complete impunity. Why is this?
If those on the other side made analogous claims they would rightly be labeled nutcases.
THey are labeled nutcases. That’s the PR gimmick of ad hominem. It works. Label the other side as “Them” and our side as “Us” and you get what you see in the article above. If science is so open, let’s see the journals start accepting the work done by the ID sciences. It’s part of the ploy, pretend that science is “based solely on merit” then define a system where only your interpretation has merit. The DI lists dozens of scientific papers. Let’s see one in “Nature”.?
Hey Ken- you and your ilk are the problem.
Ken do you realize there isn’t any difference between your “God” and no “God” at all?
And finally Ken, thanks for the closing quote by Darwin exposing the theory of evolution as just another Creationist theory. After all if life didn’t arise from non-living matter via unintelligent, blind/ undirected (non-goal oriented) processes, there would be no need to posit its subsequent diversity arose via those type of processes.
Or are you just too stupid to realize what you just admitted to?
Are you saying the ACLU would be OK with it if biology teachers read the following to their students:
“As for what evolution really means, I can’t think of anyone who summed it up better than Charles Darwin,” said Miller.
(Miller closed with a quote from the conclusion of Darwin’s Origin of Species:)
Did anyone click on the picture of Ken “I’m-a-commmited-Catholic-who-believes-in-evolution” Miller? Very interesting – look closely at the slide in the background. It is an AiG book cover by Ken Hamm. Now, not to offend any YEC, but look at what Miller is doing – using an argument against YEC – his typical approach (caught red handed in this picture). ID is not YEC in a cheap tuxedo – but rather Ken “I’m-a-commmited-Catholic-who-believes-in-evolution” Miller is trying to fit a cheap tuxedo onto ID.
Ken “I’m-a-commmited-Catholic-who-believes-in-evolution” Miller knows better than this, but he keeps running the same tired arguments up the flagpole.
But, I can’t really argue with him, considering he is “a-commmited-Catholic-who-believes-in-evolution”, I guess I should believe it too.
I just completed a lengthy thread discussion with a proponent of ken miller’s type of theistic evolutionary philosophy because I find it a particularly frustrating position. Nevertheless, I was able to come to a greater appreciation of the viewpoint of people who think this way, and it seems that the basic thrust of their view is that the physical laws of the universe were created by God with the intent to produce life, and that the natural interactions of these physical laws are adequate to explain the development of life. Darwinian evolutionary theory describes this process as “random mutations plus natural selection”. The theistic evolutionists basically hold that what appears ‘random’ to science could actually be a far more complex, multi-variable process with intent behind it, but that intent would never be recognizable through material scientific analysis. They accept the use of the term ‘random’ but personally assign it a far less powerful meaning that the people like Dawkins, who take the implications of randomness seriously. I started the thread by basically saying that whenever I have discussions with theistic evolutionists, they always end by waffling on this particular issue of how truly UNGUIDED the process really is. In essence, they feel that the process is guided in the sense of being pre-planned through the laws of creation, but unguided in the sense of purposeful and specific ‘tinkering’ with particular mutational changes. What intrigued me by my discussion was to learn the extent to which the gentleman in question, who was very forthcoming with careful explanations, had an apparently limitless ability to believe the Bible stories of God’s interventions in material life, and yet maintained with absolute steadfastness that God (or the intelligent designer of one’s chosing) could NEVER be detected through the work of material creation in a rigorous way. It felt like an absolute wall separating what might be termed the intellectual work of science and the faith-based activity of the soul. I get the sense that people who believe in this fashion sincerely believe that they are protecting both science and religion from the impurities of mixture.
Ken Miller’s god is Darwins god, but He is not the God of Abraham nor the God of this Catholic who doesn’t question God’s ability to use evolution to His own ends.
However, having read Ken Miller, I have come to the conclusion that, Mendel aside, had Professor Miller been a contemporary of Lemaitre he would have discarded that Catholic Monk’s cosmology as fundamentalist driven drivel.
I’m inclined to think that theistic Darwinists of the Ken Miller variety have been bullied into submission by atheist and anti-theist materialists so much that their belief in Darwinism has become fused to their belief in theism. The kind of impassioned zeal with which many Darwinists defend their theory comes only from people who are defending an ideology which goes deeper than just science. The fact that professing religious theists can be found among their ranks validates my point.
Ken Miller claims to be a Catholic. The Catholic Church believes in the constant meddling of God in our lives. That is what prayer is about. They believe the laws of nature are violated all the time by God. That is what miracles are about. So if Ken Miller is a Catholic then he will have to ask why he defends that God intervenes with prayer and miracles but could not change the odd nucleotide here and there. Part of what may be at the basis for his opinion is something I said on another post. Namely, to many it seems to be beneath the all powerful God of the Jewish and Christian theology to be the actual tinkerer of DNA in life forms. When you think about it, DNA and all its implication is a marvelous accomplishment but it pales next to the magnificence of the universe and the intelligence and power that created it.
The Catholic Church’s position is very unclear on Intelligent Design in biology. They have said it alright to accept Darwinian evolution but this is not an endorsement of it as truth. Their position is that science and religion should never be in conflict. I am sure they do not want to get caught in another Galileo trap by pronouncing on something as charged as this issue is right now. There has been several stories of Pope Benedict talking about the obvious design in the world and Cardinal Schoenborn, his main assistant on matters of theology, also talking about obvious design and in particular Intelligent Design but they will neither get involved with the specifics of Intelligent Design nor specifying the limits of Darwin. They are walking a fence at the moment saying that if the evidence supports Darwin then that is OK but if it doesn’t then that is OK too.
I haven’t read Ken Miller’s book so I do not know how he gets around the issue of espousing a God who constantly meddles in many areas of this world but never in the area of creating life forms. He must, if he is a Catholic, believe that God intervened with Man. It is part of the basic belief of Catholicism. All you have to do is look at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel to understand this. Maybe someone else who has read his book can comment on Miller’s position on these other issues.
Two other Catholics who obviously endorse Intelligent Design are Michael Behe and Bruce Chapman, President of the Discovery Institute. But neither may agree with every other member of The Center for Science and Culture about different aspects of Intelligent Design.
“He must, if he is a Catholic, believe that God intervened with Man.”
not necessarily. I know some TE who believe RM&NS and that man eventually showed up. The difference according to TE is that God eventually breathed a spirit into two of them.
“IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m inclined to think that theistic Darwinists of the Ken Miller variety have been bullied into submission by atheist and anti-theist materialists so much that their belief in Darwinism has become fused to their belief in theism.”
My family is probably one of the most God centered families I know. Our family reunions seem to be theological conventions. One Uncle is a preacher, the wife a sunday school teacher. Another Aunt is a Sunday school teacher. My parents were Sunday school teachers at my church (my father was also a biology teacher). Everyone is deeply involved in a church, (Church of Christ, Baptist, Methodist, Christian and Missionary Alliance, No catholics LOL etc) and this characterization above makes no sense to me. All but two (out of 30+?) of them accept evolution, and the beliefs of atheists make no blip on anyone’s radar. No one has been bullied that I know of. I’m only saying this so that you may understand my perspective.
I just think statements like this are very divisive among Christians, and I personaly think the topic of evolution can become an in-house debate. Instead of trying to paint “theistic evolutionists” as deluded Christians, or worse “non-Christians” I think a kind intelligent discussion can take place. I know atheists accept evolution, but so do people from every religion out there. Most Buddhists accept evolution, but Christians don’t feel that by accepting evolution you also have to accept the Buddhist philosophy. The same should go for atheists, jews, wiccans or any other religion that applies a philisophical coating to science. I simply don’t see how atheists have come to own the theory of evolution (in the eyes of some people, including atheists! heh)
Jerry, I agree with you in your assessment of the TE viewpoint. I didn’t mean to imply from my post that I now sympathize in any way with this outlook;only that I have a greater appreciation for the sincerity with which the view is held, which basically shocked me. I am accustomed to hearing serious pronouncements by Eugenie Scott types which imply that any conflict between science and religion is just so much fluff and fantasy. Everyone knows that these pronouncements are purely political, as anyone who has ever worked in academic biology can attest. The other part of the discussion I had with the TE poster involved the implications of Darwinian theory. I pointed out the many ways in which the ‘life by accident’ core of darwinism radiates out into the other fields of study, such as evolutionary psychology, etc. This person seemed not only not interested in these obvious effects, but felt that any such discussion was tantamount to a rejection of science, and an irrational ‘blaming science for all of the evils of the world’. Incidentally, like I wrote before, this individual was very candid about his personal belief that God manipulates events in history to his ends all the time. But he felt that the events of biology and the evolution of life were all so much a part of a kind of pre-determined lawful unfolding that detecting individual instances of ‘design’ was impossible because of the very seamlessness of the magnitude of God’s creation. There may be some merit to this view fundamentally, except that to the TEs, the lifeless physical laws interacting as they do seem to be enough to bring about complex life, where an ID position could be that the physical laws, in conjunction with some source or form of INFORMation would be necessary. I don’t know.
Perhaps Ken the “Catholic” can explain the following:
Atheist Frank Zindler said,
Atheist Frank Zindler said,
Wait, do Atheists get to decide who is and isn’t a Christian now? I think we should let Christians define Christianity.
A lot of Christians use the Nicene Creed as a working definition, and the that doesn’t mention Adam and Eve at all. It’s certainly possible to believe in the Nicene Creed while also believing that the story of Adam and Eve is a parable, or that it happened in a spiritual realm that’s not accessible from the physical universe.
Atheist Frank Zindler can say that people like that aren’t “real Christians”, but why should anyone believe him?
What Zindler doesn’t realize is that there are many Christians who hold to a “Pre-Ademic” world where intelligently guided biological “evolution” occured which would ultimately lead to God’s sinless Adam.
I do agree with Zindler that if we have no Adam, we have no need for a literal savior because there was never a falling out of harmony with the creator, and thus no need for redemption.
Zindler’s statement relies on a literal interpretation of the Genesis story. For many/most Christians Zindler is full of hot air.
Atheist are perhaps the smallest least politically organized group in the world. I come across Leprechans more than I do atheists (unless I go online). Why do they get to define what is and isn’t Christian. IT seems to me that this Frank guy has a very narrow definition of Christianity and is using a strawman argument.
I think atheists and Christians who go around saying that Genesis must be literal or there is no God are creating a polarized environment that’s probably not good for spiritual growth. IMO
Depends on where you look. Over 70% of the National Academy of Sciences are positive atheists. -ds
LoL! The Nicene Creed might not mention Adam & Eve but it does mention Jesus and salvation. Salvation from what, if there were no original sin?
The Nicene Creed would never have existed had it not been for the Torah and then the New Testament. It is a simple “prayer” affirming one’s faith. That’s it. A working definition? What a joke…
As someone who was brought up Catholic, went to Catholic schools and learned about Christianity inside and out. I can confirm what Zindler states is absolutely correct.
The theistic Darwinists to whom I refer in comment 13 are not simply theistic evolutionists or even ordinary theistic Darwinists per se. I refer to theists who put great amounts of effort into defending the position that design in nature has not and cannot be detected scientifically. Because I don’t see how such a position is theologically necessary (for Christianity, at least) and because I perceive fundamental errors in their arguments, I do think these people are misguided. “Deluded” is too strong a word, and I certainly dare not go so far as to call these people “non-Christians”. As far as I know, Miller is a very devout believer in his Catholic faith; I have no right to insinuate otherwise.
just read this today. great article by jonathan witt that is very relevant to this thread.
i think that it is too easy for folks to make the mistake of thinking that “Science” has some sort of corner on the truth market. consequently, we find ourselves expecting science to answer questions that it can’t. seems like the wrong way to look at science. discovering Truth should include the “truths” that science can reveal to us, but “Science” doesn’t belong on such a lofty pedestal that it is the exact image of “Truth”.
Ken and the TE’s appear to have lost the ability to look at things from a variety of perspectives.
I find DS’s assertion that 70% of the National Academy are atheists very hard to believe.
Much of this comment was deleted. I don’t really care to waste my time linking to well known surveys. Consider yourself warned and be careful how you reply to this if you want to continue participating here. -ds
Thank you to tinabrewer. I have had this same frustration recently. Many of my Catholic friends whom I love and respect share the view she described, and the journal First Things has given it much play. See “The Miracle of Evolution” by Stephen Barr in hte Feb. 06 issue. Last week at our ROFTERS meeting Edward Oakes joined us and expressed this view as well. I keep thinking, “What am I missing? I simply cannot reconcile their position with the God of the Bible, but they seem to be able to do so with alacrity.” Now I know I am not alone in my mystification.
Without direct knowledge of God and miracles, science does have an apparent monopoly on truth.
Sorry, can’t buy that assertion. Science of any sort is built upon logical presuppositions, and that is the realm of philosophy … which is informed by science, but not necessarily subordinate to it.
ds: “Much of this comment was deleted. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t really care to waste my time linking to well known surveys.”
Well, I’m happy to be corrected. I wasn’t aware of the survey. I’m still surprised at the results, though.
I’m a Catholic and an “evolutionist”, and in my opinion tinabrewer’s assessment is correct. Most Catholics I know have no difficulty in reconciling their faith and evolution. I can only speak from personal experience, but I consider religion and science to be completely different ways of knowing the world, as different as apples and screwdrivers. One relies on faith, and the other on empirical observation.
I live in Ireland, where the vast majority are Catholic. (But there are more atheists than leprechauns here, sorry Fross.) There is very little or no controversy about evolution here. Most secondary (high) schools are run by religious orders, and evolution is taught in biology classes in accordance with national standards. So I think the viewpoint of keeping faith and science separate and accomodating both without conflict is pretty common among Catholics.
[NOTE TO MODERATOR: not sure what I said that violated the rules here. I’ve rewritten what I said without references to Biblical literalness & Adam & Eve. Maybe that was it? Care to enlighten me?]
Thanks, Gandalf. That’s what I was trying to say. Fewer words is better.
I wanted to clarify a thought that has bothered me since I finished my discussion with the TE the other day. it was his firm belief that ID is basically saying that only certain individual instances in the unfolding of life are obviously the result of an intelligent agent. This left him with the impression that IDist believe that MOST or MUCH of life could have come about through RM+NS, but that in THESE PARTICULAR INSTANCES (the bacterial flagellum, the blood clotting mechanism, etc.), design was necessary. What this led to was, for him, an engineer type God, who doesn’t really need to intervene but does so for fun now and again. I was surprised to hear that someone could have this impression of the ID position, because I have never held such a view. It was my belief that the reason IDist point out individual instances of particularly complex systems is because they are clearly above the probability threshold for events which came about by chance and circumstance, whereas other biological systems and functions, while equally designed, do not necessarily meet this necessary criteria for making a design inference. in other words, ID is like if you walked into a room full of strange looking machines, and you found a few extremely complex ones, which exhibited irreducible complexity, etc. and you also found a few which were far simpler. You would use the more complex ones as ‘proof’ that these things were clearly the result of intelligent agency, but you would not at the same time say ‘these other, simpler ones are not designed’. Could anyone help me out here? Am I misunderstanding the ID position on this?
Well Tina, folks are always saying that ID is a big tent. I personally come down where you are – all the machines are designed, even the simple ones. If I understand Behe’s position on this, it is more like your TE’s perception of ID.
I’m the TE from another thread (“If you can’t beat ’em…”) that Tina has commented about. Tina, I’m glad that our discussion was somewhat helpful in understanding where people like me are coming from. I do want to try to clear up a few continuing areas of confusion.
As we discovered in the other thread, my view of the randomness of mutations is pretty much the same as your view of the randomness of coin tosses. They appear random to us, but that doesn’t mean God couldn’t intervene in any outcome, or use any outcome to accomplish his purposes. Even though you accept this about coin tosses, you still call them random, just as I still call mutations random.
First, I was directly referring to God. (Since TE is an unabashedly theological position, there’s no need for me to avoid using the word “God”.) I didn’t say God could never be detected. What I said (twice) was, “God does work in nature, and it’s not necessary for him to break the rules he set in place for him to do so. God can work within nature or above nature. His actions can be detectable or not. No limits.”
My disagreement with ID is with the particular place where the movement typically looks for God to intervene in a detectable way. They don’t focus on the ultimate ex nihilo creation of the natural realm, or on purported miracles, but rather on things like bacterial flagella. I don’t want to bet my belief in God’s existence on the flagellum needing an explanation that defies nature, since I accept that God is the author of nature as well. As for the universe as a whole, I do find value in the philosophical fine-tuning argument.
Also, a clarification from another thread where you discussed our conversation. I am not a “believer in Darwinism”, since most ID advocates including you define Darwinism as more of a world-view than the scientific theory of biological evolution. I do not accept materialism, nor do I believe that all truth is discoverable through science. I accept consensus science without necessarily accepting the philosophical opinions of various scientists. My belief is in Jesus.
Tina, this is the million dollar question for me as well. And it is a troubling one. It seems to me that most of the learned, credentialed scientists that support at least the consideration of ID come down on the side of supernatural intervention SOME of the time. I could be wrong, but that’s the impression I get. That is, Darwin’s theory holds up pretty well in explaining the fossil record, similarities in form, etc. But when it comes to the bacterial flagellum, Darwin’s theory falls apart. Now, according the Phillip Johnson, science only tells us what is, not the way it ought to be. So, conjecture about why God would do his designing only some of the time, is really off limits to science. For me, this is immensely unsatisfying, but those are the ground rules I guess. It is awfully strange, isn’t it?
Barrett1, have you considered the creationists position?
Oops, comment above for Barrett1 is meant for Mercury.
What do you mean by creationist? I do consider myself a creationist in the general sense, since I believe God created all that exists that is not God. If you mean young-earth creation, that was my default position since that’s how I was raised, but I didn’t find that position to account for the evidence once I looked at the issue in detail.
I think YEC was what I had in mind. How closely have you examined your “default” position?
I examined YEC pretty closely, and it took quite a bit for me to let go of it. Ice cores were one of the main things that caused me to have doubts: not only do they record layers going back tens of thousands of years (and now hundreds of thousands of years), but the layers contain ash and other material that can be independently dated. Most of the YEC arguments I read were based on different areas that get more snowfall than where the icecores come from, and they also ignored the corroboration from other dating methods that shows the layers to be seasonal. The “God created it fully-formed” argument didn’t wash, since there’s no reason for God to create an appearance of history, such as ash and other material in various layers.
One of the last pieces that changed my mind is “polystrate” fossils. I had thought that was a good piece of YEC evidence, but when I saw the other side, I realized that not only were the YECs wrong, but my sources had deceived me on that issue by withholding important information. I had never put two and two together to see that floods, volcanic eruptions and other natural disasters still occur regardless of whether there was a global flood. And further, multiple floods or eruptions could explain the fossilized forests buried in successive layers, often with their roots intact. The global flood explanation could only plausibly explain the first layer. What really got me was that the YEC sources I had been using were about 70 years out of date in what they said was the standard geological explanation. It wasn’t just that the standard explanation was better, but that the YEC sources were hiding it.
Anyway, I switched to gap theory shortly after coming across that issue. I was pretty sure I was moving to a position that only seemed like a good compromise while actually it would be problematic both scientifically and scripturally if I looked closer. For a while, I just lived with the tension and ignored the issue. Finally, it bugged me that there was an area of Scripture I was afraid to read, and so I studied the early chapters of Genesis in depth. That led me to what I later found out is called the framework hypothesis, and since that view allows one to accept the rest of the findings of science, over the next year or so I looked at evolution in a new light.
Without my need for it to be wrong, it no longer seemed that implausible. Though I still thought it was improbable, I had to admit that long odds wouldn’t be a problem for God if he was the architect of it. So, I tentatively accepted it, and as I read more, I came to accept it further, and even think that the odds really aren’t quite as astronomical as I thought. It seems to me now that God endowed his creation with what it needs to bring forth what he commanded it to bring forth, and that’s why nature are so amazing and powerful. Now, rather than every scientific discovery shrinking my view of what is left for God, I see every discovery as revealing more grandeur and majesty in the creation God made.
So there you go. That’s my creation journey so far.
“God endowed his creation with what it needs to bring forth what he commanded it to bring forth, and thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s why nature are so amazing and powerful. Now, rather than every scientific discovery shrinking my view of what is left for God, I see every discovery as revealing more grandeur and majesty in the creation God made.”
And that’s why I find intelligent design so inadequate. I cannot imagine God bent over a blueprint designing flagella. He works on such a grand scale, so far beyond our comprehension. Evolution is His perfect tool.
Mercury also said “I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to bet my belief in GodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s existence on the flagellum needing an explanation that defies nature, since I accept that God is the author of nature as well.”
Have you all read the Book of Job?
Your honest and thoughtful presentation of your position is both refreshing and appreciated, Mercury. Thanks.
I agree with Scott! Thank you for your open and forthcoming presentation of your quest, Mercury. I am a fellow traveler; let us see where the road leads! The ultimate end, I believe, will be determined by The One whose creative finger originated the whole process to begin with.
Mercury, thanks for the additions. I tried to present your view as I had come to understand it and i apologize if I misrepresented you. I have asked the other participants on this thread to clarify for me their own perceptions of the ID movement’s stance on design (does God/designer tinker occasionally or is the whole thing designed) I was genuinely surprised to learn that many IDproponents advocate the idea that only in particular instances did God intervene to add design to the naturally unfolding process. I am glad that this has been clarified for me, because it makes me realize what a big tent ID is indeed, since I certainly do NOT hold this view. I believe in a way which is probably more analogous to your view, of the whole creation as a lawful unfoldment of God’s Will. But I also believe what ID says on its face, very simply, that the complexity of life bespeaks design. period. I believe the designer to be the Almighty and his helpers. Incidentally, what evidence made you come to be more comfortable with the idea that random mutation and natural selection were probable instead of wildly improbable?
Thanks for the kind words Scott, Lutepisc and Tina.
Tina, no problem about your comments. Sometimes I get frustrated when people can’t read minds and so don’t get exactly what I mean. 😉
Perhaps surprisingly, I agree. I think that the complexity of life (and many other things in the universe) bespeaks a well-designed universe. I think that the natural processes God created and sustains truly are marvels — especially how some of them appear to emerge from each other during those first moments after the Big Bang. ID seems to be about looking for elements that deviate from the way the universe is designed to work, while TE sees the design of the universe itself as a fulfillment of Romans 1:19-20 and Psalm 19:1-4a.
To me, the amazing “life” cycle of stars is testament to God’s creativity and intellect even though no steps break any natural laws. Actually, I think it’s more elegant because it doesn’t break any laws. The process of evolution, including mutation and natural selection, also seems to point to a far more transcendent designer than would be required to occasionally intervene in these processes. A highly intelligent alien or even future humans may be able to genetically manipulate cells and inject new molecular machines into them, but it truly takes God to make a universe endowed with processes that facilitate the adaptation and diversification of life.
Of course, a God who could make such a universe could also intervene in it whenever he chose to, but the reverse doesn’t necessarily hold: intelligent aliens may be able to intervene in nature, but they couldn’t make nature. As such, ID seems to be a poor method for establishing God’s design (and indeed, many ID advocates insist that its goals are far more modest).
As I read more about evolution, I realized that my conception about it hadn’t been that accurate. I had thought that novel features came about in big leaps, similar to additions to computer programs, without fully understanding the incremental nature of the process or the amount of time involved. And, I read about some examples of observed evolution where fairly complex new structures evolved in the span of a human lifetime. Nothing as complex as a flagellum, but still more than a mutation or two could produce. As for irreducibly complex structures, once I factored in the possibility of scaffolding (that something could evolve piecemeal, and then some pieces could be removed, leaving a structure that appears to be irreducible), it didn’t seem that insurmountable a hurdle for evolution.
Mercury, thanks again for your response. I am so intrigued by this new tangent of our ongoing dialogue, because I couldn’t agree more with you that the universe is lawful and that the magnitude of this lawfulness is what is the truly glorious evidence of God’s creative genius. On the issue of intelligent design being about God intervening by breaking those laws, though, I think this is an interpretive stance. This is really where the sticking point is. I have not been forthcoming about my own personal beliefs bacause, like I said, I wanted to avoid, initially at least, having the discussion be about competing BELIEFS, and more about getting a handle on what TEs think, and how they resolve what TO ME has seemed like an unresolveable dilemna. Perhaps I can be more forthcoming here in order to illustrate why I still come down on the side of design inferencing in individual instances:
First of all, I am a vitalist. I believe there is matter, and I believe that for that matter to have life, and element or substance OF A HIGHER SPECIES must penetrate and ‘set aglow’ the dead matter. The laws of the universe to which you seem to be referring, and to which the Darwinian theory of evolution refers, seem to me to be interactions within matter only. This leads quite directly to the view that higher properties are always emergent: they come about as a result of matter arranged in complex ways, but have no independent integrity or origin. I would be interested to hear your view of this, because the vitalist conception of life includes the idea that living things have a body or material form, which is, however, infused with, or occupied by, a non-material form. This non-material component, which in humans we would call the soul, has independent existence and the value or quality of its own species. The emergent view negates this.
Second, I think about the evolution of life on earth as being the result of constant work by intelligent beings who act fully within the creative laws of God, and whose purpose is the development of material life. The ancients called these beings gods or elementals, because for them, their activity was the most immediate and real. Nearly all of the most ancient religions are animistic, and it is my view that as the spiritual recognitions of humans developed to higher and higher planes, culminating, again in my view, in the recognition of the one Almighty God, that unfortunately this always led to the categorical rejection of everything that came before. I understand that this will not be a popular view, but I decided to share it anyway, because it is fundamentally why I do believe that the mutational changes which lead to progressive successful adaptation through time are in fact directed by these beings, who are servants of God. Their activity, which is entirely within the laws of creation, nevertheless shapes its development willfully. The reason this view is important to understand is that there seems to be a division between the conception of something working out according to law, vs. violating that law to move something in a particular direction. I think this is a false conflict. If I build a bridge to walk across a river, am I violating the laws of creation, such as gravity? I don’t see this as a violation, but rather as an acceptance of the inexorable and unchangeable nature of gravity and an intelligent adaptation to it. If however I could only build a bridge over a chasm by suspending the activity of gravity, this would constitute a miracle or violation of this law. Incidentally, I think there are no such violations, which might be termed miracles, because the laws ARE the will of God and as such are perfect. God doesn’t violate his own perfection or his own perfect will. If Christ healed the sick, it was not by violating laws, but by infusing the event with a HIGHER FORM OF ENERGY, which he posessed as a result of his inner nature. THe higher energy form is able to quicken a perfectly natural process (which in this case would be the sick person’s own natural tendency to heal) in much the same way as adding heat to a chemical combination increases the rate of the sought after reactions.
I’m still not clear on how the TE reconciles their position with the clear hallmarks of Intelligent Design we observe in nature. Like it or not, the cell contains digital code, the flagellum, the cell, etc… are Irreducibly Complex, the fossil record demonstrates the abrupt appearance of all major phyla sans precursors. All this evidence points away from the gradualistic Darwinian Mechanism and points towards these relics of a designing intelligence.
The other issue I struggle to grasp is how the TE reconciles their faith in a redemptive Christ with a figurative Adam.
Scott, I just read your post. It is wonderful how the human spirit demands consistency and clarity! Everything should fit together, because we intuit that God is clarity itself! Maybe in this light, you could explain to me how it is possible that individual humans are guilty for time immemorial just for the guilt of a single individual who made a single bad choice a long time ago? How does this jive with God’s justice?
Personally, aside from all the theological questions surrounding original sin, what I need is forgiveness for my own sin.
Jacktone, I entirely agree. I think too much focus on Adam’s original sin can tend to minimize the true ugliness of our own volitional rebellion against our Creator. My own view of original sin is quite different from the Augustinian view. I see it as affecting us more like culture than an inherited defect. From the first act of disobedience, sin entered the world. The world contained the results of that disobedience, and as humans perpetuated that sin, the world has become more and more tainted with the results of our sinfulness, causing it to figuratively groan under the weight of what humanity, its God-appointed ruler, has subjected it to. Every human is born into this world, and so experiences this taint of sin. Jesus was no exception, and that’s why the author of Hebrews can say that he was made like us in every way, and tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. He experienced the full temptation and horror of sin, yet withstood it perfectly.
Tina, I also agree with you that the Augustinian view of original sin causes a lot of logical problems. I’ve been involved in a few apologetics discussions with atheists/agnostics, and they absolutely love Augustinian original sin. I think sometimes it’s useful to listen to what people “outside” our viewpoint think of as its weak points. Sometimes they’re right.
Back to Scott’s comment:
First, many TEs believe in a literal Adam. One of the more prominent ones is Glenn Morton, who has a website with lots of information about the issue. His view entails a stillborn child with a chromosome fusion around five million years ago. God looks at this dead child with pity, raises him to life, places him in a safe environment, and cares for him. Eventually, God forms a partner for this man, since otherwise he would be alone. So, a very literal interpretation, but he’s still a TE.
My own view is that Genesis 2-4 is recounting history the same way Ezekiel 16 and 23 do. The characters are more than individuals. The serpent actually represents the tempter, Satan. The trees aren’t literal magic trees, but rather represent God’s knowledge (Genesis 3:5) and God’s sustaining power (Revelation 2:7, 22:1-2). Adam and Eve represent the first humans, however many of them there were, just as the lady Jerusalem and Oholibah represent Israel in those Ezekiel passages.
For those coming from a literal perspective, perhaps the simplest way of explaining it is that I interpret the entire account the way you probably interpret Genesis 3:15. I don’t think that one verse is a deviation from an otherwise prosaic, literal account; instead, the whole account is pregnant with that kind of far-reaching symbolism.
Scott, I’ll respond to your other comments about IC later.
Scott, re-reading the last two paragraphs of my post I see I wasn’t explicit in tying it back to your comment. I reconcile a redemptive Christ with a figurative Adam because of the way I view symbols and figures. They are more than what they literally appear to be, not less. I don’t view figurative as the same thing as false. Adam, a name that means “humanity”, really did do the things Genesis 2-3 recounts, just as surely as God’s chosen nation-bride really did play the harlot.
I hear where you are coming from, Mercury, and I personally find this figurative view fascinating. That said, there are still some puzzling questions.
1. An examination of the NT writers attitudes towards the events of the early chapters of Genesis reveals that they did indeed view them as literal historical events (Adam/Eve, the Flood, etc…). We see nothing in the NT that would indicate that the writers saw them as allegorical, legendary or even “evolutionary” events. (And remember a proper hermeneutic is to interpret the OT in light of the NT, since the NT completes the OT).
2. Jesus indicates that Adam and Eve and the events surrounding their sinning (Mark 10:1Ã¢â‚¬â€œ12) and also Noah and the Flood (Matthew 24:37Ã¢â‚¬â€œ39) were literal historical events.
3. Do a study of the number of times the Apostle Paul compares and contrasts the Jesus Christ with Adam (it’s a bunch!) So, there would appear to be a strange thing going on if he is making comparisons of the literal Christ and his literal redemptive sacrifice, with a figurative/allegorical Adam. Christ is called “The Last Adam”.
Again, I appreciate your viewpoint and I would like to get your feedback on the above whenever you can.
Hi again Scott. I’ll get to your latest post when I can. Back to your earlier post:
I don’t really want to get into a science debate, since my main reason for posting here was to explain the TE position which seemed to be quite misunderstood. A few quick comments. The cell contains digital code, and we have a pretty good idea how natural processes can transcribe information from the environment into the genome over time. Irreducible complexity is explained in a general sense by concepts like scaffolding, and in particular cases by continuing research. Natural selection has been shown to be capable of creating IC structures in findings in the wild (such as the well-known nylon bug), lab experiments, and the mimicry of natural selection in artificial environments. The “abrupt” appearance of the major phyla over tens of millions of years does little to advance special creation. Our own phylum of chordates includes modern fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and birds, and most using this argument would not be willing to accept the common descent of all these creatures. In any case, more precursors are found every decade, and many now exist from the pre-Cambrian.
More important than any of that, what I’d like to point out is that what you call the “gradualistic Darwinian Mechanism” is what I call natural selection, a part of God’s creation. So, to me, your statement reads similar to someone railing against the relativistic Einsteinian mechanism that can’t possibly be skillfully designed enough to keep planets in their orbits. All the evidence you’ve listed, as you interpret it, points to an intervening designing intelligence which may or may not be the intelligence responsible for nature itself. Rather than showing the skill with which creation was designed, it argues for gaps where an outside intelligence would have to help creation along to get it over hurdles it was ill-equipped to surmount itself.
Consider the familiar example of a 747, but instead of in a junkyard, imagine one forced into a crash-landing in the countryside, but with no lives lost. Two men are investigating the crash. The first one looks for evidence — any evidence — to show that the fortunate outcome was due to some outside force and not the good design of the plane. He can’t accept that the plane was built in such a way to make outcomes like this possible. Something else must have prevented the fuselage from tearing apart; something external must have kept the cabin from bursting into flame; something other than the design of the seats must have kept the passengers from suffering more serious abrasions. The other investigator notes the careful structure of the plane designed to protect the fuselage at all costs; he examines the fire-retardant materials used and how jet fuel is prevented from entering the cabin; he sees the seatbelts and soft-but-firm cushions designed to protect the passengers.
The first investigator sees evidence of intelligent intervention, but not necessarily by the designer of the plane. The second investigator sees evidence that could only point to a competent designer of the plane.
The plane is the universe. God is its designer. When it comes to creation, I prefer to focus on the evidence of his handiwork rather than looking for flaws needing to be fixed and limitations needing to be overcome by the intervention of unnamed others. God may have miraculously intervened at many places within creation, but my faith in him as Creator does not rest on me finding those places. The miracle of creation as a whole is strong enough testimony to that.
I don’t know where to post this but this is too freakin’ funny. Over at Jack Krebbs DB I asked about falsifying the theory of evolution:
One evo named Les responded with:
It’s easiest with specific genes. If a eucaryotic gene is unrelated to corresponding genes in similar (recognizably related) organisms then it must have been “inserted” by an unknown mechanism. [b]An intelligent designer is one such mechanism.[/b]
Did you get that? The same people telling us that ID is pseudo-science are now telling us that that pseudo-science can falsify their science!
I can’t believe I initially missed it…
You state “The cell contains digital code, and we have a pretty good idea how natural processes can transcribe information from the environment into the genome over time.”
Natural processes can transcribe information from the environment? That is, natural (non-intelligent) can transcribe information (intelligence) from the environment (non-intelligence). That is very strange. How does the environment transcribe into the genome? How do we have a Ã¢â‚¬Ëœpretty goodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ idea that this is even possible, much less happened? Wishfual speculation does not make this true, does it?
Scott, I’d like to reply your questions about “this figurative view” (comment 53), but keep in mind that this is not something that distinguishes Christian ID advocates from Christian TEs. Among those who see a lot of symbolism and figurative language in early Genesis are TEs like me and ID advocates like Tina and Drs. Dembski and Behe (at least as far as I can tell). Among those who hold to a fairly literal interpretation, including a literal Adam and Eve, are TEs like Glenn Morton and ID advocates like jacktone and yourself. So, whatever disagreement you have with me on this issue is not necessarily disagreement with TE and certainly not support for ID.
Let’s look at one event from Genesis: the seventh day of creation. It is first detailed in Genesis 2:1-3 and made even more explicit in Exodus 20:11 and 31:17: “on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed”. Yet, we know that God cannot suffer a lack of refreshment. Further, Hebrews 4 says that this rest is something we can still enter today — it’s not limited to a single day thousands of years ago! As justification for working miracles on the Sabbath, Jesus declared that God the Father also works during his Sabbath (John 5:17). So, both the duration and the activity of the seventh day of creation appear to be figurative: God’s rest is not about natural refreshment or ceasing to work, but it is still something real; it did not last 24 hours, but instead continues to this day. The reality of the seventh day is much, much more (not less) than a literal interpretation points to.
That’s one example. To keep this from getting too long, I’ll comment on Adam and Eve and the flood in my responses below.
That passage in Mark doesn’t mention how Adam and Eve were created or how they sinned. It does say, “from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.'” From Genesis 1 we know that creation took six days, and humans were made on day six — at the end of creation. Why does Jesus say they were made from the beginning of creation?
I’m sure you see the fallacy here. By using a more restrictive definition of the word “creation”, I can make the texts appear to contradict. You probably interpret “creation” as meaning the universe that was created and not the event of creation, and that’s fair enough. However, the word can also refer to the human realm, and that interpretation jibes the passage both with Genesis and with evidence in creation itself.
Later in Mark (16:15) Jesus says, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” The word translated “creation” here is the same Greek word translated “creation” in the verse we’re looking at. Now, I think that in both cases Jesus is referring specifically to humanity. In both cases it fits the context, whether divorce or spreading good news. Once it is acknowledged that this could be referring to the beginning of humanity, there’s no contradiction between this verse and creation itself. As long as there’ve been people, they’ve been male and female.
As for the reference to Noah, I do believe there was a flood, but not a global flood. As far as the physical details go, I pretty much stick with what Peter had to say. I think that “the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished” (2 Peter 3:6). Obviously I don’t think “world” refers to the entire planet, since we’re still living on the same planet as Noah. It was “the world of the ungodly” (2 Peter 2:5) that was destroyed, and the trust and obedience of Noah saved him like our trust and obedience in baptism saves us, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:20-21). The days of Noah also provide a picture of what the day of God’s wrath looked (or will look) like (Matthew 24:36-42). Other localized events were also used as a picture of God’s wrath (2 Peter 2:6; Jude 1:5-7).
Why would this be strange if Adam represents humanity, particularly the first humans? I think that rather it sheds more light on why Eve is so often left out. Just referring to Adam seems to at least be shorthand for referring to both, and in my view, it’s shorthand for referring to all the first humans. Genesis 1:26 quotes God as saying, “Let us make adam in our image… let them have dominion…”. In Genesis 5:2, both male and female humans made in the likeness of God are given the name “Adam” by God. In reading the first chapters of Genesis in different translations, you can see how they often differ on when to translate adam as “Adam” or “man”/”humanity”. In Hebrew it’s the same word. So, already in Genesis there is basis for seeing Adam as representing more than an individual.
According to a strictly literal interpretation, it was by one woman or by one woman and one man that sin entered the world. Yet Paul just says one man, and we have concepts such as federal headship that try and explain the New Testament focus on Adam while the Genesis narrative shows sin, guilt and responsibility being shared by both. If one allows that Adam in Genesis may be representative of humanity, there’s no reason why Paul couldn’t be referring to Adam the same way.
Paul’s teaching about the “one man” Adam doesn’t fall apart if Adam represents Adam and Eve, or even a larger group of people. The parallels between Adam and Christ aren’t meant to be exact: Christ is God while Adam was not; we are related to Adam differently than we are related to Christ. Paul frequently uses analogies that don’t hold all the way (eg. Romans 7:1-4, noting who dies in both sides of the analogy). His overall point, though, remains unchanged in either a literal interpretation with federal headship or a representative interpretation of Adam.
Strange but true. For an obvious example, look at the many creatures that have skins or coats that blend in with their environment. The details of the environment, due to at least mutation and natural selection (and perhaps other mechanisms), become part of their genome.
It’s not just coincidence that polar bears have fur made up of hollow hair shafts that provide far more insulation. Mutations gradually leading to such a trait would only be favoured in environments where it was an advantage. This is why it’s so difficult to say whether or not a mutation is beneficial or not. In many cases, it depends on the environment.
I think even most YECs accept that this type of “micro-evolution” occurs. It’s an example of information from the environment (such as colours, temperature, predators, and myriad other data) becoming part of genomes.
Mercury, you wrote about “examples of observed evolution where fairly complex new structures evolved in the span of a human lifetime. Nothing as complex as a flagellum, but still more than a mutation or two could produce.”
Can you recall or point to any of these examples?
The so-called nylon bug apparently has about six mutations that together allow it to metabolyze nylon waste. The mutations do not have incremental value (at least some of them need to be present together to do anything useful), so the system qualifies as IC, at least by Dr. Behe’s standard.
I’ve heard two ID objections to this. First, that while this is an addition of information, it isn’t more than 500 bits, so it doesn’t qualify as CSI. That may be so, but it evolved over mere decades, giving weight to the idea that more complex IC systems could emerge over more time. The second objection is to claim that this is another example of intelligence because there’s no way this could have come about naturally. For instance, it has been called “natural genetic engineering” that “must be a directed process”. Another person said, “I often wonder myself if the intelligence behind evolution is part and parcel of the cell itself.” Both objections and more conversation can be found here:
At that point, the line between ID and TE gets pretty thin, though you wouldn’t know it from the rhetoric. I too believe that God endowed creation with what’s necessary for it to do what it’s supposed to do. In a bind, some ID advocates seem willing to admit that this is the case for a very small area of apparently nonfunctional DNA in bacteria, but don’t want to apply that to creation as a whole. Dr. Dembski said, “There is something very special about the nylonase host gene that isn’t true of most genes in general and gives it much greater evolvability.” That may be, but I’m quite sure that there’s also something very special about “evolvability” itself, as well as all other natural processes that God designed.
Interestingly, I can’t find any real data about this so-called “nylonase” enzyme or enzymes. Nylonase appears nowhere in any peer reviewed literature that I could locate (scholar.google.com turns up zero hits for it) and was simply made up by Ken Miller. Even google.com only brings up 81 non-redundant hits for the term and they’re all in creationist/evolutionist blogs – not a single hit to any research or actual data from a lab. What’s up with that? -ds
I have lots to say in reply, especially regarding DNA and IC. No time now. I’ll post later today.
Mercury, I wanted to make ask a question about the nylon bug example. I personally have absolutely no problem with the idea of descent with modification. I have written in other threads about the fact that natural selection, being simply descriptive of an obvious condition, is really not a controversial thing per se; rather it is controversial to claim that it has the degree of formative power it must have in the Darwinian explanation of evolution. What seems more interesting to me is the question of the mutations themselves, because if the evolutionary process is INTENDED to help creatures unfold and come to fruition (a theistic position) then it would make perfect sense that a creative hand of some sort would act upon the genome when it was beneficial for a certain new trait to come about. This would then allow that trait to spread through a population (which we observe as natural selection) but it would be very much the work of an intelligent agency, rather than a chance event. I know that you do not want to discuss chance with me again! I wasn’t trying to do that…I just noticed that in your last post you said “the line between TE and ID gets pretty thin…” around the question of the who or what engineers changes in the cell. When I read this, I kept thinking, ‘well, this is what our whole argument was about the other day!’ It seems to me that this forms the basis of my entire attraction to ID, that is that it argues, I think persuasively, that the probability of all of the beneficial changes occuring at just the right time and in the right combination with the correct environment is astronomically low without factoring in some kind of directing intelligence. To me, that is basically ALL that ID says. It really cannot do anything other than that, but since I am not a mathematician, nor am I a biologist, I end up trusting other people’s numbers.
Mercury is actually a close real life friend of mine, and largely responsible for my conversion to TE being a former follower of YEC and later a follower of Dembski (accepting common descent, but that naturalistic explanations were not sufficient to fully explain how we got to our species). I’ve followed much of your conversation, and I have been thoroughly impressed with the quality of the discourse between the two of you (and a few others).
I thought evolution was an atheistic hypothesis and contrary for the need of God to explain things. After all, if God isn’t needed to explain what we call “creation”, God doesn’t seem needed at all, and I still agree.
Personally, I have a background in mathematics and statistics (and actuarial science for what it’s worth), I’m not as much as an expert as Dembski is, but I can usually understand the principles behind the mathematics he uses in his books and on-line articles. (For example, I understand the difference between Bayesian mathematics and Fischerian mathematics).
I have to say that the mathematics as applied in biology is incredibly complex, and not all that intuitive. Dembski uses examples such as a combination lock to illustrate complex specified information. I agree whole-heartedly with his illustrations, and I agree that CSI can be a good detector of design. However, when applied to evolution, mechanisms such as natural selection are not as easy to mathematically formulate as a combination lock. Not even close. Natural selection allows for multiple failures before a success, yet it is the successful mutations that is stored and reproduced, and the unsuccessful ones that are eliminated. When we try to convert these scenarios into probabilities, I have no idea where to start. I don’t know what the possible combinations are, I don’t know what the possible outcomes are. It seems to come down to intuition.
I think CSI is more successful when applied to cosmology (for example, I recommend the Discovery Institute’s “Privileged Planet”, or Robin Collins on-line essays). At least in cosmology, a failure really is a failure, and isn’t simply eliminated through natural selection. When failures are failures, the mathematics really do simplify, and we are justified in multiplying this probability with that probability to understand how lucky we are to be here.
Back to evolution, I didn’t expect I would end up accepting the theory, as my gut told me this doesn’t just happen by chance, there’s got to be a better explanation. I think the better explanation is that when God created the universe, he fine-tuned it so precisely, and not just the laws of physics, but the laws of chemistry as well, particularly the ones used in the evolutionary mechanisms. God only needs one shot to pocket all the balls on the pool table, and I think creation is evident of how good a job he did. If evolution is true, it strengthens the fine-tuning argument, in my opinion. I don’t know 100% for sure that evolution occurred without divine intervention, but if he didn’t, there’s still a lot of explaining to do.
Thanks for the explanation. I was also wondering about natural selection. If “itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s so difficult to say whether or not a mutation is beneficial or not.”, then what are the criteria for measuring fitness? For natural selection to be a theory, doesn’t the “fittest” class need to be measured by some sort of criteria?
We have no idea how a blind, mindless, natural mechanism can produce specified instructional information. We have very good reason to believe it cannot. What we have are just-so stories presented by those with an epistemological axe to grind. Programs require programmers and every instance of specified information that we have, has an intelligent agency as it’s source. There is no reason to suggest that the 4-nucleotide instructional code on the DNA molecule could come about via natural processes [Just ask Dean Kenyon]. Here are some excellent treatments about the computer program we call “DNA”:
IC cannot be explained by the Darwinian mechanism. We know that direct Darwinian pathways are impossible and we know that indirect Darwinian pathways are so rediculously improbable that they are effectively impossible. The fact remains that the core of these machines are Irreducible – requiring all components simultaneously to function, remove one and the machine breaks. NS is incapable of building such machines. Co-option of homologous components does not help at all, it just raises more difficulties for the gradualistic model of NS. Telling me that a motorcycle motor can also be used as a blender, does nothing to tell me how that motor evolved into a motorcycle by natural processes. A blind mechanism which can only secure a functional advantage with something already functioning can do nothing to build such machinery. Here is more on the subject:
Prior to the Cambrian, we had nothing remotely close to the degree of complexity and novelty in body plans which indeed do appear abruptly [for evolutionary time tables] during the Cambrian era. We have unique fossil remains which give no evidence of precursors which gradually evolved into the latter. This fact flies in the face of Darwinian gradualism. At best, you may only gather from the fossil record that there was an intelligently programmed “unfolding” which does a fantastic job of explaining what science actually observes. We most certainly do not see the gradual transitions which Darwinism would predict. More on the Cambrian:
Let me point out that Natural Selection is very accurately described as the “gradualistic Darwinian Mechanism”. And let me suggest that you have placed entirely too much faith in this mechanism. A mechanism which has only been observed bringing out trivial adaptive change within a species. It is an extrapolation to suggest that the same mechanism that is responsible for the size and shape of the Finch’s beak, is also responsible for the Finch. Rather than the evidence I have cited demonstrating that a designer helps “creation along to get over hurdles”, it is simply artifacts we have thus far been able to determine which are the result of a designing intelligence. At this stage in the game, I am thoroughly unconvinced that Natural Selection is capable of anything beyond the status quo. It can only shape that which already exists and is already functional. It is not creative. It is a mechanism which Darwin proposed as a designer-substitute.
I agree that the miracle of creation is a sufficient testimony. I think your error is in assuming that the relics of design which he has allowed us to have a glimpse of (and marvel over) somehow suggest flaws or limitations. And if we begin with a Biblical premise, we have to view this creation as fallen and therefore flawed and yearning for it’s redemption, anyway. So, I would prefer to focus on these exciting windows into God’s engineering (even if we are viewing these relics after eons of decay due to the Fall).
Mercury, I am well pleased with your responses to my [“YEC’s Advocate”] questions regarding the Genesis account. 😉 And this is, in fact, the direction I’ve been leaning, for the very reasons you cited. It’s exciting to see what is being communicated when we dig a little deeper into the text. 🙂
Having said that, I do think that there remain some compelling counter-points from from those who hold to the literalist view of those passages, points which I’m not willing to dismiss quite yet. I think my study on this continues, even though I pretty much share your position.
[I’d love to hear Sal’s views on this]
Though I strongly disagree about your Darwinian views, I like what you have to say on the Genesis issue. 🙂
Paul Brand, thanks for the input. I think it is interesting that you say that ultimately the probability question seems to come down to intuition. If so, then my conviction that intuition, and not intellect, is the voice of the human spirit is once again reconfirmed. The problem is that intuition and intellect should not be in conflict, but in a harmonious relation in which the intuition LEADS and intellect FOLLOWS. What exists today is a gross distortion of this natural, God-created harmony. Today the intellect so completely dominates every human endeavor, and being strictly material in both origin and outlook, it systematically narrows and diminishes the inner perceptive capacity. This is my view of original sin. This is also why we find ourselves in the depressing condition wherein our best scientists assure use that our overwhelming intuition of design in nature is just a delusion which has been selected for by chance! I think the main problem I have with the TE position which Mercury and you have now made so clear to me is that it seems to be basically the material laws of the material creation which you feel to be adequate, when it is assumed that these laws were sculpted by God. In my view this leaves a gap, which i tried to address in a previous post, since matter itself is just cold dead matter. I think even the Biblical narrative points to this in the distinction which is made between forming the man and breathing into him life. THis seems, (and I definitely take this creation story as the single most beautiful and powerful allegory ever written) to indicate the necessity to introduce a ‘life force’ or substance of a higher, more refined nature, into the physical form. If this is the case, this would indicate that indeed a constant supply of regenerative creative light, a constant reenactment of ‘let there be light’ would be necessary to sustain life in the sphere of dead matter. I wonder if this has anything to do with the thermodynamics issue.
Another question I had for Mercury (or now you) is I was wondering if you have any mental picture which you make for yourselves which might illustrate your belief that God can intervene in material life. How? Is this a physicalization of God and his will? Is there an intermediary energy which God makes use of? Or are these instances of intervention also essentially lawfully preordained?
I think the important thing to note, even if you take the position posited by Mercury, is that at some specific point in past, a “spiritual transaction”, if you will, occured in which humans fell out of fellowship with the creator.
Even if you embrace Adam as “humanity”.
Thanks for your comments.
I’ll elaborate a little bit more on my “intuition” comment. What I’m saying is that we seem to be limited to a qualitative analysis of whether naturalistic processes are sufficient to explain the complexity and diversity in life we observe. A quantitative analysis is virtually impossible. As well, our qualitative analysis is extremely limited, as we don’t have the necessary information to understand whether there could be naturalistic explanations for things such as the bacterial flagellum. Intelligent design is not a very forceful argument, if it were limited to saying things such as “we have no natural explanation for this, therefore we infer an intelligent designer.” The design inference ought to be more rigorous than this. It has to be able to eliminate all natural explanations, including the ones we haven’t thought of yet. I use the word “intuition” because the information we have is too limited to make a convincing conclusion, but we do the best we can with the available information we have.
You also said “matter itself is just cold dead matter.” I think it may be a lot more than this. Particles form into life, and this simple fact itself tells me that particles are very special, and are necessarily fine-tuned for life. I think TEs and IDs can agree on this point. Perhaps God designed matter in such a way that it has properties that allow for the potential of life, and who knows, maybe even individual consciousness. My intuition tells me that particles with these properties don’t just appear out of nothing through a quantum accident.
I realize my comments are speculative, and as I noted before, I do not rule out intelligent intervention in the course of biological development. Essentially, I’m not myself a biologist, and I’m not very much qualified to have a well-respected opinion.
Anyway, I’m a TE for a combination of [perhaps] two reasons:
1)TE is a more commonly held position amongst biologists, including theistic and Christian biologists. I need very compelling reasons to go against the opinion of the vast majority who are experts in that field. At this point, I have no sufficiently compelling reasons, neither scientific nor theological. I can question it to the extent that I am an expert, that is in probabilistic analysis, but I don’t have enough established information to do a probability calculation.
2)I think our intuition that life is designed is well justified. The only difference between an ID and my own position, is that I believe that the design occurred at the Big Bang, and not ex nihilo along the way. I find this to be a theologically and philosophically compelling point of view. It’s speculation, but it is speculation that is consistent with the character of the God I worship and believe in. It is also a position that I find is compatible with Scripture.
My one concern with biological ID, is that it seems to minimize how miraculous nature itself is, which is where I think ID would be and is most effective. Let’s show the world that the inherent physical and chemical properties of the universe themselves are very well suited for life. I think atheistic naturalism is not very compelling in explaining why the properties of nature are so beautiful and so accomodating to life. Theistic methodological naturalism is much more compelling in my opinion.
Paul Brand, you wrote “the inherent physical and chemical properties of the universe themselves are very well suited for life” Like I said before, I agree in essence with TEs about the design of life being much larger and more profound than individual instances of tinkering, although I believe such tinkering occurs, not as a direct result of God, but of the servants who carry out His Will. I identified myself in a previous post as being a monotheist who is also an animist, entirely without conflict. The reason I restate this is because for me it completely resolves the dilemna of ‘does it all unfold lawfully or does tinkering go on” There is, for me, no dilemna. The laws of creation contain the basic information for life, but the specifics have to be worked out at every level. An analogy would be to a potter, who wishes to make a pot. He has, in his mind, the image of a pot of the perfect shape and dimensions, but in order to manifest that pot in matter, he must apply his IDEA to the conscious manipulation of clay. He knows the properties of clay, and the limits of its manipulation, etc. Similarly, I envision a God who contains all, and wills all into being, but this will must be put into effect. The animism of ancient religions is essentially a recognition that conscious entities are active in the manipulation of the creative forces of matter. I know its a minority view, but it resolves the above dilemna, and also makes sense spiritually, since it doesn’t require me to believe that everyone before the monotheists was crazy and spiritually delusional!
Thanks for the clarification on the probability stuff. I get from what you are saying that there are too many variables at play at any given moment to make very precise statements. But do the increasing number of variables always tend in favor of making chance more probable than design as an explanation?
I hadn’t read the entire conversation yet between you and Mercury, and thank you for restating your beliefs, I was unaware of your religious beliefs, and so obviously, my conceptions of God may not be applicable to your religious belief system.
Regarding your last question, I don’t think it is a chance vs design issue. I think there is a valid argument for design, but I would focus more on the idea that the evolutionary mechanisms are possible because of design, not that the evolutionary mechanisms are not sufficiently competent on their own. It’s really a design vs design issue. When did God do his tinkering? That’s where we disagree.
I believe in chance to the degree that it helps explain diversity. It helps explain why there are so many successful branches in the evolutionary tree, and not just one. Quantum mechanics suggests that there are really chance probabilities with such things as whether a particle gets reflected by a mirror, or if it goes right through. With genetic mutations, Kenneth Miller says that quantum level fluctuations can result in chance mutations. I haven’t personally verified this claim, but I believe he is a knowledgable enough guy that he knows what he is talking about. In my opinion, it is possible that God used the inherent properties of quantum mechanics to result in chance mutations, and that he produced the laws of chemistry and physics to occassionally allow a beneficial mutation with natural selection selecting out the negative mutations.
Now I guess the question that comes from this is whether God knew what the outcome would be if the universe isn’t deterministic. If God exists outside of time, there may be some room for explanation how he might know the outcome of chance events logically “before” he created it. Then again, whenever we speak about God existing outside of time, we are bound to get into numerous paradoxes that are beyond my comprehension, and often result in logical contradictions. Nevertheless, even if God didn’t know the final outcome, he designed into the chemical makeup of the universe the ability for complex species to evolve. Or, perhaps in spite of these probabilities, he knew that humans would evolve. I don’t have it all figured out.
More direct to your intended question, I think we are discovering more and more how complex reality is. I agree that the bacterial flagellum is extraordinary, and I think our intuition of design is warranted by observing the amazing powers of the flagellum. The question in my mind is whether nature is so advanced that it can produce such things, or if it isn’t advanced enough to explain such things. I lean more towards the conclusion that things like the flagellum show how advanced nature is. The more advanced nature is, the more we have to look at the question of why nature is so advanced.
So if the question is reformulated the way I put it, I am not convinced that nature is not powerful enough to produce complexity and diversity of life. I don’t think there is enough information to show that God has indeed tinkered in life. Again, I’m not against the possibility that he did, but theologically speaking, I find it more compelling that if God could do all the tinkering at the beginning, he would do so.
paulbrand, thanks. I agree that it is really a design vs. design question. What a simple way of stating what has taken so many words to get to! What it really comes down to, then, is figuring out whether there can ever be an objective and scientifically credible way to infer design as being more probable than chance. Duh, of course that is what it comes down to, but what strikes me as surprising from the TEs that I hear is how very often they express incredulity and mocking contempt for the very notion that design can be detected. I have heard Ken Miller (on the radio? TV? don’t remember where, really) saying with near disgust in his voice what a pathetically poor example of design the human eye is. I understand that material nature has many instances of what appear to us to be inefficient or piecemeal designs, and I have no doubt that this results from the necessities of the density of Matter, vs. spirit or form. The medium must be made to express the concept, and the limits of the medium cannot be overcome. I just shudder when I hear ostensibly religious people express such contempt for the obvious brilliance in the natural world in the name of protecting the purity of science from incursion by religion! THat is an aside, though, a rant. To the point, though is the question I tried to ask you in my previous post, but not clearly enough: do you think, as a TE that higher qualities, such as soul or spirit, are emergent properties of matter? This is a huge dilemna for the TE position if the wonders of nature are seen to be the result of the material mechanisms of the physical universe alone, which in spite of their grandeur are finite. The human body, for example, will die. If consciousness is an emergent property of the interactions of chemistry and physics, then that consciousness will end when the complex system which supports it breaks down at death. however, if matter must be infused with information or a higher substance ‘the breath of life’ , then matter is more like a cloak, or garment which houses consciousness but does not give rise to it or limit its duration. Just wondering about your thoughts on this.
Allow me to quote your question, and what you see as the implication before I respond:
“Do you think, as a TE that higher qualities, such as soul or spirit, are emergent properties of matter?”
“If consciousness is an emergent property of the interactions of chemistry and physics, then that consciousness will end when the complex system which supports it breaks down at death.”
I think this is a very thought-provoking question and point.
I am unable to explain through nature how my consciousness was formed or even describe what consciousness is using natural properites. I have to claim to be rather unknowledgable in the subject area. Without much knowledge, I’m unable to see a necessary conflict between TE and consciousness. All I can say is that perhaps there is a non-physical component in us that is created for each of us individually. The way I see it, TE is based on what we observe in nature, not the unobservable. I’m a little hesitant to say much on the subject with a lot of certainty, but I do see the validity of your question. I am a theist, and not a deist, so I believe that God is personally active in our lives, and that may mean that he intervenes in nature every so often. Thinking back to what I have said before, there may appear to be a contradiction here. Perhaps I can clarify by saying that if God can get the desired result through his initial design, he wouldn’t intervene later on. God’s interventions, as I see them, are contingent on human volitional choices.
Regarding the human eye problem. The objection TEists may bring is that if God is specifically intervening for this particular problem, perhaps he could have come up with a better design. I think they may be right that the eye isn’t perfect. But I do think what we have is rather marvelous, and indicates the power inherent in nature itself.
Regarding the suggested tone of people like Miller, I’ve gotten a different sense, but he has said a lot more than I am aware of. I did get the sense that Miller is one of the more likable evolutionists out there. Far better than Richard Dawkins, or Barbara Forrest, or a few others. On the other side we have Michael Ruse and Eugenie Scott, who seem to come across rather pleasantly to me. Reading Miller’s transcript at the Dover trial, I became impressed with his communication abilities, and his abilities as an educator. I’m also impressed that he would take away from his textbooks the idea that evolution is without direction (or something like that). But, to the extent that Miller’s words are hostile, I think they are counter-productive. If he is right, some frustration may be understandable, but exhibiting frustration is not usually helpful.
When I hear theistic evolutionists criticize other theistic points of view, I like to hear what they have to offer for the case for theism. Miller does do that in “Finding Darwin’s God” when he discusses cosmological fine-tuning. But, I would like to see more TEers suggest more as I have been doing that the complexity and diversity we see in life does indicate design, albeit a little more indirectly.
Hi again Saxe,
Whether or not a mutation is beneficial (assuming it’s not lethal or silent) is determined by the environment. Fit creatures are ones that propagate their genes. Please let me know if this isn’t what you were asking.
I didn’t get a chance to respond to your earlier comments, and I wanted to pick up on one thing:
I agree that we are often too eager to dismiss the thoughts of those who came before us. I also think the ancients were on to something that we have minimized, but I see it a bit differently. They used to think that God or gods were responsible for bringing the rain to water their crops, for making the crops grow, for allowing them to conceive and give birth to healthy children, and many other things that today we call “natural”. I understand your perspective to be that God’s messengers are directly involved in at least some of these things. My perspective is that God is involved in what nature does, due to how he made it, how he sustains it, and what purposes he has for it. So, I think there is real truth in the biblical claim that God provides our daily bread, for example, even if how we earn our bread does not defy any natural laws.
As to whether God delegates some of his creative work to other beings, I have no strong opinion (though I did enjoy the first part of Tolkien’s Silmarillion that illustrates such an approach).
I have to admit that I didn’t read the roughly 200 pages of material you linked to in order to counter one paragraph I wrote. I don’t want to get into a link war, and I’m sure you’re well aware of the other side of all the issues you raised. In the interest of not burying a very interesting theological conversation in the same arguments for and against IC/CSI that you can easily find elsewhere, I’m going to leave that be.
What is your own view? For instance, how did chickens evolve from those toothed, beakless ancestors? Do you think that a designer (or designers) is injecting new components into organisms over time? How can you show that this designer is the same one who created the universe, and if you can’t, what theological benefit is there to the argument? If there is no theological benefit, what other benefit do you see in it?
Thank you for the last half of that, but I’m again going to take issue with the characterization of my views as “Darwinian”. I don’t know how you define the term, but probably you have a fairly benign definition, such as relating to Darwin’s formulation for evolution based on natural selection. However, especially in an ID blog, that is not the way the term is typically understood. Many see it as an epithet as vitriolic as calling someone a baby-eater. For instance, in the recent post about liquid water on Saturn’s moon, another ID advocate defined the term as follows:
Darwinists are Ã¢â‚¬Å“stuck on stupidÃ¢â‚¬Â. They seem interested in only one thingÃ¢â‚¬â€œthat life arose without any help from any sort of God and that therefore there is no God, period. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s it. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all they really care about. If thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s no God, then THEY are the smartest molecules in the Universe: if there is, well, the opposite is true. What a sad way to live.
Do you see why I object to it? I don’t think anything happens in nature apart from God. I’m not out to prove there is no God. I don’t think that mine are the smartest molecules in the universe. I would really appreciate it if you could refrain from using such charged words that mean radically different things to different parts of the audience here.
If the universe is a game of chess, ID seems intent on pointing to a chessmaster through looking for illegal moves. I think the legitimate moves are better testimony to the existence of a chessmaster.
How is biological ID not an attempt to find a flaw or limitation? I do accept interventions. For instance, natural processes do not allow water to spontaneously turn into wine or long-dead bodies to become alive again. Those are limitations. God’s intervention overcame those limitations in certain situations. Biological ID seems to be about claiming that natural processes in general are far more limited than most scientists believe, and then going about looking for places where intervention would have needed to occur.
I’m not against intervention. I believe in miracles. I just don’t think the biological ID argument has chosen good places to look for them. And worse, I think the movement is causing a lot of people to dismiss God’s work entirely because what is being touted as the best evidence of design hasn’t been able to withstand criticism.
Illegal moves? Hardly. They are moves that reveal planning, intention, and purpose. Your understanding of ID is shallow and the “evidence” has indeed withstood criticism. -ds