Intelligent Design

Ken Miller the Closet ID Supporter Backpedals and Dissembles

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Thanks to Reed Cartwright at Panda’s Thumb for pointing out Miller’s lame response.

The question and answer as Bill Dembski was given by someone in the audience recalling it wasn’t an unfair paraphrase. The verbage was different but the points were essentially the same.

And whether Ken Miller wants to admit it or not a unverse that was designed so that the evolution of life was inevitable fits just fine into the big ID tent. Miller’s claim that ID supporters all think that constant meddling by a creator is required to make evolution happen is just a big, bold lie made up so that Ken can exclude himself from the tent. Shame on you Ken. Even though you lie about us we welcome you to the tent anyhow.

Bill Dembski’s blogczar for one (me) doesn’t think the creator meddled. Obviously Bill Dembski, the go-to guy for all things ID, must respect my viewpoint if he saw fit to let me moderate his weblog and use it for a soapbox for my front-loaded corner of the big tent. I happen to think the best explanation is that the life that appeared on the earth billions of years ago was placed here by an intelligent agency (whose character is unknown to me) and that first life was preprogrammed to evolve and diversify along a more or less set path from single undifferentiated cell to everything today, much as a hen’s egg is preprogrammed to evolve and diversify from a single cell into a chicken. No meddling required. So there. Now be a man and take back your lie about what all ID proponents believe about constant meddling.

35 Replies to “Ken Miller the Closet ID Supporter Backpedals and Dissembles

  1. 1
    EJ Klone says:

    It is clear to me that an outside agent stepped in on this planet to influence what we see here, but again and again I hear the cosmological ID arguments mixed up with the biological ID arguments. I feel that the cosmological arguments are being used, in effect, to advance a religious notion about the origin of the universe, and the biological reality of intervention in the biological realm are being piggy-backed on them as if they were weaker, somehow.

    Kenneth Miller, it seems, believes that the god of his religion could have created the universe so precisely that the evolution of life would be inevitable. This puts evolution squarely into his religion, I might add.

    But the biological issue is something else – Miller doesn’t accept intervention on the biological scale. Dave makes it clear here that he understands that intelligent intervention occurred, but not adding flagella and blood clotting pathways bit by bit, but by programming it all from the start. I admit, I must disagree with Dave on the issue of Miller misrepresenting him in particular, because programming it from the start is still an intervention.

    As for myself, I feel that he has misrepresented me because I don’t find it conceptually impossible for life to develop without intervention, I simply think that intervention occurred in our case. So he’s still pidgeon-holing IDers!

    Anyhow, what do you think, shouldn’t the issue of whether life was designed be kept separate from the issue of the universe itself being designed? I know the poseurs at Pandas Thumb keep bringing up the “certain features of the universe” tie-in whenever we try to talk about biological design. I think it hurts the movement.

  2. 2
    Mung says:

    I, and I think all other evolutionists, would point to the fact that the capacity for life is inherent in matter. Matter is…. Life is a chemical and physical phenomenon.

    Matter is what, Ken? The capacity for life is inherent in matter. Matter is … ? WHAT?

    I don’t blame him for not finishing that. It probably wouldn’t have been anything intelligible anyways. So he starts out, he’s going to tell us how matter has some inherent capability for life, but then disappoints us with, “Life is a chemical and physical phenomenon.” Well, Duh. But is that all it is? Nothing buttery, Ken? So how did you get from there to here, logically that is?

  3. 3
    Mung says:

    They think constant intervention on the part of the creator is required to bring about the first life, the first living cell, the first chordate, the first insect, the first bird. In other words, the designer or the creator had to keep tinkering with it.

    Ken’s confused. This is his view. You know, evolution the tinkerer, with God in the background pulling the strings. It’s Ken’s God who is God the tinkerer, with evolution as his tinkering tool.

  4. 4
    Mung says:

    I think that the universe does have a “design,” and that the design is so grand that it makes the evolution of life not only possible but almost inevitable.

    The ironic thing is that the proponents of intelligent design actually don’t think that. Because they don’t think that the universe is well enough designed to make the evolution of life inevitable. … So, in away, In think most biologists look at the universe and have a grander appreciation for the orderliness of the universe based on what many of us regard as the almost inevitability of the evolution of living things.

    More nonsense from Ken. Ken himself doesn’t believe that the evolution of life is inevitable. But he’s going to berate the ID crowd for not thinking the evolution of life was inevitable.

  5. 5
    DaveScot says:

    EJ Klone

    Well, you’re dead wrong about Miller not misrepresenting me. You obviously didn’t read what Miller actually said about intervention:

    They think constant intervention on the part of the creator is required to bring about the first life, the first living cell, the first chordate, the first insect, the first bird. In other words, the designer or the creator had to keep tinkering with it.

    Now that we have Miller’s words in front of us tell me again how this is a fair representation of my view that there was no intervention over the entire course of evolution on this planet.

    On the universe being designed – no, there’s no reason to keep that separate. If the deck was stacked for life to inevitably evolve the way it did it matters not to ID because the design is still detectable. ID doesn’t propose a time or place or method for how complex specified information was created in nature. It only proposes that complex specified information is detectable and that such information can only be created by intelligent agency. A designer of universes could have inserted the information into the arrangement of matter and energy at the instant of creation and never tinkered with it from there. Call it UBER front-loading. I bring the front-loading a little closer to home is all but it’s still a one-time front-loading not constant tinkering. A front-loaded universe is essentially the deist view and it is well grounded in reason. Miller appears to making the deist argument to design from reason then shellacking it with bits and pieces of a personal God from the bible. What I don’t get is how he manages to shift gears from a God that never interfered with evolution because his creation was perfect to a God that tinkers with the affairs of men through miracles and had to tinker with man’s ability to enter heaven by sending down a messiah to save us when we screwed up. Non sequitur. Ken Miller is a very confused ID supporter.

  6. 6
    mmadigan says:

    Any one who believes that physics and chemistry can ‘explain’ how molecules organized into a cell
    isn’t really a scientist. They are faith based materialists. Let them repeat the experiment.
    Throw an amoeba in a blender, then water it in the sunshine. Spontaneous generation anyone?

  7. 7
    BK says:

    What does “almost inevitable” mean?

  8. 8
    DaveScot says:

    Almost inevitable is a nod to the chance worshippers so they don’t excommunicate Ken and dry up his book sales. He’s walking on a very thin tightrope trying at once to placate Catholics and atheist evolutionists all the while being a closet ID supporter. It’s quite the circus act. Ringling Brothers quality to be sure.

  9. 9
    gpuccio says:

    It seems to me that there is some confusion about this problem. I’ll try to express how I see it:

    1) A purely materialist view is one that states that all that we observe now in the universe, including living beings, can be explained on the basis of physical laws as we know them today (or by future variations of them which do not radically change some basic assumptions, like mechanical determinism). From such a point of view, darwinian evolution is the only available hypothesis which can “explain” the existence of biological beings. On another plane, the random multi-universes hypothesis is the only available hypothesis which can “explain” the fine-tuning of physical laws as we know them now.
    2) I cannot rule out that it is possible to believe in point 1 and still believe in a God who organized everything in that way, but it seems raher obvious that such a belief does not sound necessary at all. So, it seems to me that believing in point 1 is more likely compatible with a materialistic detrministic and atheistic view of reality (on that point, at least, I think Dawkins is quite right).
    3) If we accept the hypothesis of ID (and I think that here we all accept it, although in different ways), then we must admit that, at least, some information is added to reality. That may happen in many ways:
    a) At special moments, imposed on “natural laws” by a God or any other intelligent agent.
    b) At the beginning of creation (but I would like to understand what that means: it cannot be only an intelligent fine-tuning of natural laws as we know them, because otherwise we would be again at point 1, that is natural laws as we know them would be enough, and added information would no more be necessary. The fine-tuning argument would still retain its validity, but the biological ID argument would no more be valid).
    c) Continously, always, in reality. This is my favourite view, and what it means is not, in my opinion, that God is “tinkering” with natural laws, but rather that natural laws, as we know them now, do not explain well reality. That is a perfectly coherent point of view in science. No scientist is obliged to believe hat our present understanding of natural laws is perfect or complete. In other words, our future understanding of natural laws could well explain how intelligent agents, either in a physical body or not, can constantly interact with reality and matter, adding information and changing the flow of events (in some way, also our present understanding of natural laws can show some possible ways: some quantum theories of the brain have tried that, and I think that Dembski has tried to give some tentative answer, too). After all, that is what each of us does every day, if we believe in any form of free will, and unless we support a completely deterministic view of reality (and again, that would be again point 1). So, it seems strange to me that we find hard to believe that a God, if he exists, can do just the same thing that we do everyday (and, reasonably, a little better).

    To sum up, unless one believes in point 1, I don’t see how some form of “intervention” can be avoided. Mere intelligent fine-tuning is still compatible with a belief in God, but is not an answer to how biological complexity emerged on a life-free planet by means of natural laws as we understand them today. I am afraid that only evolutionary theory can “explain” that from those premises, if you can accept that type of “explanation”.

    Point 1 is flawed in two ways. There are a plethora of non-Darwinian theories of evolution compatible with materialism. See the sidebar article by Jeane Staune Non-Darwinian Evolution. Secondly, the multiverse story isn’t a hypothesis. It’s theoretical physics with no way in principle of testing it. -ds

  10. 10
    gpuccio says:

    To DaveScot:
    Obviously I don’t believe in point 1, but I think it sums up the general premises of of what we could call “naturalistic materialism”, and therefore of darwinian evolution as possible cause of biological complexity.
    I am aware that there are “materialistic” theories which try to explain a lot of things. Only, I think that a philosophy that introduces new (and often unexplained) concepts, like self-organization, purpose, and so on, in its conception of matter, may be termed perhaps “materialistic”, but is not “naturalistic”, in the sense that it does not believe that everything can be explained by mechanical natural laws as we know them today. So, in a way, these “materialistic non darwinian” theories are in some way ill defined, at least for me. Besides, we know well that the problem in the ID discussion is not to necessarily deny “evolution” (in the sense of similarities and some continuity in biological beings), but rather to rule out mere random mutation and natural selection as a possible explanation of biological complexity. If somebody prefers to speak of “self-organization”, instead of “intelligent design”, as an alternative explanation of biological complexity, I can accept that, but only if he may explain what “self-organization” is, and how it can generate information.
    Secondly, I am aware that the multiverse is a theoretic physics hypothesis and that it cannot be proven in any way. In my opinon, it is also a very incredible hypothesis, and it should be considered, in principle, only an extreme artificial conjecture. Still, it is in my opinion the only posiible phylosophical objection to the fine-tuning argument. In other words, I do believe in the strength and validity of the fine-tuning argument, as its only possible refusal relies on such a bizarre conjecure as the multiverse theory.

  11. 11
    darrel falk says:

    Dave,

    If you believe in front-loading and no “tinkering” thereafter, am I correct to assume that you believe in natural selection and Darwinian evolution? If not, I would love to see your understanding of the biology of all that has happened if it only occurred because of a “seed” planted in the beginning. Either way this is very, very interesting: the czar of Bill Dembski’s web-site is either

    1. A Darwinist, or
    2. A person who believes that the grandeur of life that arose from the little “pond” evolved without any external intervention on its own by some mechanism other than natural selection…yet to be discovered.

    I am also saddened that you don’t know the character of the Designer.

    Thanks so much for your honesty and forthrightness.

    Darrel

    Understanding the biology is easy. Equate phylogenesis and ontogenesis. There is no need for selection in ontogenesis. The egg cell already has all the information it needs to diversify along a set course into a complex multicellular organism. All it does is express the information that’s already there along the way. The environment provides no more than cues about when to proceed to the next stage of diversification. Similarly, a phylogenetic egg cell would already have all the information it needs to diversify along a set course into a complex multispecies phylogeny. The information only needs to be expressed. There’s no need for selection and the environment again only serves to provide cues about when to proceed to the next stage. So you see, there is no mechanism to discover. The mechanism is staring us in the face – phylogeny is simply ontogeny writ large. We’re probably part of an even larger cycle IMO and that is locating a young earth-like planet in a different solar system and seeding it like our planet was seeded. The earth is going to die eventually but if life follows its pattern of reproducing before dying then earth-life will find a younger planet on which to start the cycle all over again. Nothing biblical or even unnatural about this. But it’s still ID. We don’t know who or what got the ball rolling but that’s no excuse for not acknowledging that the digital program codes and machinery it controls in the tiniest spaces of every individual cell is someone’s design.

    There is a further parallel between phylogeny and ontogeny worth mentioning. Ontogeny has a terminal point. Diversification of the egg cell stops when the adult form is attained. One might then reasonably ask what evidence there is that phylogenesis is still proceeding today. You’ll find that there is no evidence. We see lots of extinctions but no replacements. There hasn’t been a new genus in many millions of years and humans are the youngest of the mammals. If the goal of life on this planet is to locate and seed one or more younger planets then the adult form has been reached and there’s no evidence to contradict it. That aduilt form is us. I don’t know if you keep up with astronomy but we’re already identifying and classifying planets orbiting other stars. Each generation of telescopes gets more detail. As well, I don’t know if you keep up with space science but the Voyager spacecraft launched decades ago recently exited our solar system. There’s no need for further phylogenesis for life here to complete its mission. It’s now a race to move life off this planet before all the resources it has are expended. It appears there’s plenty left to get the job done. -ds

  12. 12
    GilDodgen says:

    “Life is a chemical and physical phenomenon.”

    This is a bit like saying that Windows XP is a computer and electronics phenomenon. Yes it is, but there is a third, paramount, missing ingredient — information, which can’t be reduced to chemistry and physics or computer hardware and the behavior of electrons.

  13. 13
    Mark Nutter says:

    So how do we explain Irreducible Complexity if there was no tinkering (intervention) after the initial setup? IC is supposed to lead us to the conclusion that some structures in nature cannot be explained apart from design intervention. Is this a flawed/failed approach? Is “Darwin’s Black Box” nothing more than a white elephant?

  14. 14
    darrel falk says:

    Dave,

    Wow! Thanks for that explanation of your thinking. It is much different than I was expecting. Please help me understand one thing. ID leaders have made a major issue of the notion that ID is heavily based upon empirical data. It seems to me that has always been at the heart of what people within the movement believe it means to be ID. Your views on the origin of life are very similar to Francis Crick’s. So with respect to life’s origin they are reasonably mainstream among non-theists. On the other hand, from the scientific perspective your views don’t fit with that of any scientists of whom I am aware. Can you help me with the empirical data that would lead one to believe that the environment can “serve to provide cues about when to proceed to the next stage of diversification” by some manner other than natural selection. This is a revolutionary concept biologically speaking, and I’m wondering if you could put me in touch with the scientific data that would lead you to hold such a view.

    Thanks,
    Darrel

  15. 15
    darrel falk says:

    Dave,

    Wow! Thanks for that explanation of your thinking. It is much different than I was expecting. Please help me understand one thing. ID leaders have made a major issue of the notion that ID is heavily based upon empirical data. It seems to me that has always been at the heart of what people within the movement believe it means to be ID. Your views on the origin of life are very similar to Francis Crick’s. So with respect to life’s origin they are reasonably mainstream among non-theists. On the other hand, from the scientific perspective your views don’t fit with that of any scientists of whom I am aware. Can you help me with the empirical data that would lead one to believe that the environment can “serve to provide cues about when to proceed to the next stage of diversification” by some manner other than natural selection. This is a revolutionary concept biologically speaking, and I’m wondering if you could put me in touch with the scientific data that would lead you to hold such a view.

    Thanks,
    Darrel

    A lot of it had to do with building an atmosphere (terraforming). Atmospheric oxygen is needed for reasonably fast metabolisms. Next an industrial civilization needs an energy source better than wood burning. Fossil fuel reserves must be layed down. The environment can’t be hit by one huge disaster after another so you have to wait for the earth to cool and radioactive elements in it to decay so that volcanism & earthquakes taper off. Along with that the solar system has to be swept clean of most of the meteors and comets that cause frequent large scale disasters. Carl Sagan was perhaps the most well known scientist with the same mindset. His first wife Lynn Margulis is perhaps the most prominent scientist (maverick evolutionary biologist & author of endosymbiosis theory) in the Gaia (viewing the planetary ecology as one organism) camp. Planetary habitability is an emerging science – astrobiology. I don’t really know where to point you for this stuff. Astrobiology used to be the domain of hard science fiction and that’s where I picked it up over the course of 40 years (a great many scientists like Sagan moonlight as SciFi authors). I recommend beginning with Wikipedia articles on Sagan, Margulis, terraforming, gaia, astrobiology, planetary habitability, and galactic habitable zone. Follow links from there as desired. -ds

  16. 16
    avocationist says:

    EJ Klone,

    ” shouldn’t the issue of whether life was designed be kept separate from the issue of the universe itself being designed? ”

    Why? The physical universe is the bedrock upon which the biological creatures are built and sustained. The two are fitting together hand in glove.

    I think what you’re saying is that you are a materialist but you think aliens seeded or tinkered to create life here, and the theological implications of a fine-tuned universe mucks it up for you.

  17. 17
    Barrett1 says:

    Dave, I would also like to thank you for putting your thoughts out there. I’ve been reading this thread for some time and have picked up bits and pieces of your ideas, but have been frustrated by a lack of a book or at least a lengthy essay that explains your views. I remember the common descent flap, and have been intrigued by your ideas since. Sometimes I get the sense that the lack of specificity is a strategy to keep ID’s big tent intact (which is a worthy goal given the Darwinist juggernaut. Nevertheless, I look forward to your book or lengthy essay.

  18. 18
    EJ Klone says:

    Avocationist,

    What reason do you have to conclude that if the universe and life were designed that it must be the same designer? Arguments about the origin of the universe by design do not “muck up” my views. I see naturalist and supernaturalist explanations for the origin of the universe to be mostly religious in nature, but not scientific because they cannot be tested. Since multiverses and gods are supposed to be outside our universe, we can’t do research on them.

    But biological design is another thing. We can test to see if organisms have had genes inserted into them by genetic engineering and conclude that they were inserted on purpose. So too could we potentially test to see how complex organisms were assembled and modified if they were. I never said anything about aliens. It seemed that Bill Dembski was able to separate the two and not let his religious beliefs make him assume that they must be the same entity:
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....chives/603

    I left another comment to respond to Dave, correcting my statement about misrepresentation, and where I explained what I thought about it in more depth, how come I do not yet see it here?

  19. 19
    Mung says:

    Can you help me with the empirical data that would lead one to believe that the environment can “serve to provide cues about when to proceed to the next stage of diversification” by some manner other than natural selection.

    Well, first, since DS seems to be arguing by analogy from ontogeny, is there any doubt that environmental cues serve to indicate when/how diversification should occur during ontogenesis (development)? Assuming such cues exist, is there anyone who consider these cues to be “natural selection?”

    Second, as I pointed out in the other thread, you seem to have a different conception of what natural selection is and what it does than I do. I thought that natural selection is differential reproductive success. All it does is re-arrange things into aggregates of “more of this than that.” It does not and cannot introduce anything new into the genome, or even into a population.

    That said, concerning environmental cues, it would seem that mass extinctions have ion some sense served as environmental cues. This seems counter to Darwinian thinking, which would seem to indicate that more evolution occurs when there is more competition. What I have never been able to understand about evolutionary theory is why evolution seems to occur more rapidly when there is a lack of competition.

    Temperature and moisture are cues for a seed to sprout aren’t they? -ds

  20. 20
    Mung says:

    Oh, I may as well toss this out. I don’t much care for the ontogeny metaphor, since it seems to me to fail wrt single-celled organisms. How do they develop and diversify?

    In a predetermined manner just like any other organism. Why would they be different? -ds

  21. 21
    jerry says:

    Darrek Falk,

    Can you help me with the empirical data that would lead one to believe that Neo Darwinism has led to anything other than minor changes in a population or to anything that is not just trivial changes in a current species.

    Most of here do not believe such data exists. I also think most of us believe in the ability of random mutations and natural selection to create some small changes but that there is no evidence or empirical data to go beyond that except wishful speculation. If you have some it would open up a very interesting discussion.

  22. 22
    jerry says:

    Darrel,

    I apologize for mis-spelling your name. I am using a laptop with a small keyboard and l hit the k by mistake.

  23. 23
    Scott says:

    Almost inevitable is a nod to the chance worshippers so they don’t excommunicate Ken and dry up his book sales. He’s walking on a very thin tightrope trying at once to placate Catholics and atheist evolutionists all the while being a closet ID supporter. It’s quite the circus act. Ringling Brothers quality to be sure.

    A key point. Miller has a lot vested in this game. I’m sure he hates to think of all the text books he’s authored which he’d have to go back and revise. I suspect there’s a pride issue at the heart of it for Ken. He’s disingenuous to say the least.

  24. 24
    darrel falk says:

    Dave Scott: “His first wife Lynn Margulis is perhaps the most prominent scientist (maverick evolutionary biologist & author of endosymbiosis theory) in the Gaia (viewing the planetary ecology as one organism) camp.”

    Dave, I am familiar with the premises of astrobiology and, as I indicated, I realize it is consistent with the thinking of a number of mainstream non-theistic biologists (like Francis Crick and Lynn Margulis). However, my puzzlement (and unfamiliarity) is with the notion that all that is needed for the hundreds of millions of speciesin life’s history is *environmental cues* different from natural selection.

    I am struggling with imagining any biologist today (including Margulis and the recently deceased Francis Crick) making the parallel between ontogeny (i.e. development of a single organism from a fertilized egg) and phylogeny, (the history of life’s diversity.) in the way that I understand you to be doing.

    Ontogeny is no problem: From the early days of DNA research on multi-cellular organisms, we could picture how there would be enough information in a fertilized egg to support the process of development from that egg to an adult organism. Indeed, the key paper on this came out in 1969 (Britten and Davidson, Science 165:349, 1969.) Now almost forty years later we know much about the basic process of ontogeny and, in a broad sense, the concepts laid out by Britten and Davidson for the utilization of this information have been confirmed (see “Endless Forms Most Beautiful,” by Sean Carroll, 2005). However, with many genomes having now been sequenced, and a tremendous amount of knowledge about how that information is utilized, I am curious about the scientific basis of anyone proposing that the info for phylogeny is all there: “the information only needs to be expressed” (DS, comment #11, this thread). Given our knowledge of genomes, how could one propose that the information in the “seed” of life could some day give rise to billions of species with nothing more than environmental cues of the sort that are used in ontogeny? Natural selection is a tremendous environmental cue…but you seem to rule that one out in the same way as you rule out guidance from the Creator. So my question Dave is this—is there any scientific data leading one to suspect some other environmental cue? There needs to be something (i.e. data, albeit preliminary) upon which scientific ideas are founded, and ID, after all is meant to be a scientific enterprise.

    Thanks for your patience in helping me understand.

    Darrel

    I’m far from the first to find front-loaded evolution to be the best explanation of the available evidence. After independently arriving at the conclusion that front-loading was the best fitting explanation I started searching for others who’d arrived at the same conclusion. Here is one of those. The author is biology professor John A. Davison. In this published paper he quotes other biologists from the past century such as Berg, Schindewolf, Bateson, and even Huxley. Here is a far more in depth but unpublished paper from the same author. -ds

  25. 25
    darrel falk says:

    “Can you help me with the empirical data that would lead one to believe that Neo Darwinism has led to anything other than minor changes in a population or to anything that is not just trivial changes in a current species.”

    Jerry,

    With all respect and sincerity, I wish that all ID folk, should be required to read “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” by Sean Carroll, in the same way as I imagine that all ID folk believe that scientists who make comments about ID should be required to read “Darwin’s Black Box.” (Actually, I suspect that most of the latter have read Michael’s book). Carroll’s book lays out the concepts very clearly and it is hard for me to believe that anyone who reads this book with serious attention to the genetics behind it, would not be able to see the power and feasibility of natural selection.

    Having said that, I need to emphasize (again!) that as a person who is a firm believer in God as ongoing Creator (in much the same way as the God of the Bible is always present and acting in the history of Israel and humanity), I believe that God uses natural selection to accomplish God’s creative purposes. (Excuse me for emphasizing that again, but I have been misunderstood far too many times, here as well as in other places!!)

    Best Regards,
    Darrel

  26. 26
    avocationist says:

    EJ Klone,

    –“What reason do you have to conclude that if the universe and life were designed that it must be the same designer?”

    No, I don’t say that they do, but you stated that you are comfortable with the idea of naturalistic evolution, but simply think there was intervention in our case, and you would like that to be kept separate from fine-tuning of the universe. In fact, I find the idea of intervention by other planetary beings very intriguing; I think there’s a fair amount of evidence for it. However, it does nothing to solve the problems with origin of life and diversification of species.

    –“Arguments about the origin of the universe by design do not “muck up” my views. I see naturalist and supernaturalist explanations for the origin of the universe to be mostly religious in nature, but not scientific because they cannot be tested. Since multiverses and gods are supposed to be outside our universe, we can’t do research on them.”

    The problem for me is, most people write in this vein, and I find it hard to respond. I don’t consider God to be outside the universe or supernatural. The concept of supernatural just can’t find a place in my mind, except perhaps for recognizing that nature-as-matter cannot cause itself.

    –“I never said anything about aliens. It seemed that Bill Dembski was able to separate the two and not let his religious beliefs make him assume that they must be the same entity:”

    Sure, he seemed to have angels or something like that in mind. Thanks for the link. But what do you have in mind? Why do you think there was intervention in our case?

  27. 27
    j says:

    darrel falk: “I believe that God uses natural selection to accomplish God’s creative purposes.”

    Is this belief based on any evidence?

    Imagine a (hypothetical) computer/program that can open-endedly generate ever-changing, and generally ever more complex “apparent designs” starting from “completely simple” initial conditions, with only a (pseudo)random number generator and a few rules of interaction of virtual “particles” controlling the evolution of the internal state of the program. All that one must do is press “Start” and wait a few minutes, and this automatically starts to happen. Each time the program is run, something different happens, and the programmer/user has no idea what will occur.

    At the start:
    * No goal, either explicitly or implicitly included in the code.
    * No intentional setting up of replicators, either explicitly or implicitly (by rigging the initial conditons, i.e., front-loading). Because of the particular settings of the key constants, they just “happen” occasionally (or at least once) by chance, given the right state of the program.
    * No endowing of the replicators with particular faculties, either explicitly or implicitly. They gain all faculties by random variation (mutation/recombination/etc.) and natural selection.

    Now this is the essence of Evolutionâ„¢. (Acknowledging that the universe is obviously vastly more powerful than any possible man-made computer.) There’s never been a working demonstration of it — all proposed demonstrations of “Darwinian evolution” violate one of the three bulleted items — but there it is.

    In what way would the creative purposes of the maker/programmer/user of the computer/program be considered accomplished through it, when he had no idea what would result? How can any of the entities that result be considered to be “in his image”?

  28. 28
    j says:

    P.S. If this does not match your understanding of evolution, please feel free to explain how your conception of it differs.

  29. 29
    tinabrewer says:

    “I believe that God uses natural selection to accomplish God’s creative purposes.” This is interesting in that it leaves out what has to be the actual creative mechanism of NDE, namely random variation. According to the theory to which you adhere, random and unguided accidents occur, which happen to be just the right accidents at just the right time (based on environmental conditions or whatever) and this accident-rich, totally unguided process fits with the idea of a God who pre-planned and intended things? How?

  30. 30
    Mung says:

    Darrel,

    I don’t mean to pile on. But I have raised this before, so I think it’s fair to raise it again. If you don’t want to respond that’s fine. But please at least think about the issues raised.

    I believe that God uses natural selection to accomplish God’s creative purposes.

    You keep saying this and I keep questioning it :). In what way is natural selection a creative force? I keep trying to get the point across that natural selection is not a creative force, but it doesn’t appear to have registered yet. Natural selection, as we all know, acts as a sieve. It merely leads to greater or fewer numbers of already existing varieties. It doesn’t create anything new at all. In fact, many would argue that natural selection is not a cause, but an effect.

    Natural selection is a tremendous environmental cue…

    Please explain. How so, and wht do you mean by tremendous? What I mean is, it seems to me that selection must be very slight, and not “tremendous.” What are some average selective values? What happens in the face of tremendous selective values?

    p.s. I had posted an apology to you over in the other thread. It was not my intent to call into question your faith.

  31. 31
    darrel falk says:

    Tina Brewer (my friend from earlier commentary):

    You have asked how God could be involved in a process that is supposedly random. My answer simply is that it is not random. Having said that, you know what I need to add next: the non-randomness may not be measurable and may not even be scientifically detectable (sorry you must be getting tired of me saying that) as a supernatural presence influencing the course of natural selection. Key mutations might occur, for example, because of God’s supernatural presence. Key events (a meteorite, perhaps) might occur under the influence of God’s supernatural intervention. (Is that why the dinosaurs went extinct allowing the mammalian line to flourish???) Despite what you read on this blog the data in support of natural selection giving rise to macro-evolution is over-powering (I’ve recommended key books previously.) However, it is occurring in the context of God’s Presence.

    The best analogy for me to explain what I mean is the Holy Spirit working in your own life as a believer. Can you measure that? Can you prove, for example, that a Christian relationship which matures into marriage does so because of God’s Presence in the life of each person? To the outside observer, it might well be consistent with random events…each “just happened” to attend the same function…and each just happened to sit next to each other…etc. Some would look at the events and describe them as pure chance…but to the Christian it occurred under the guidance of the ever-present Holy Spirit.

    Just as God works in our lives, just as God worked in the nation of Israel during Old Testament days, so also I believe that God works in the natural history of life on earth. Today, all these years later we can’t prove scientifically that Israel survived as it did because of God’s Presence and leadership. But now as we look at the finished product and, by faith, accept the biblical account, we shake our head in amazement at the way God worked things out for those descendents of Abraham and Sarah. So it is with life’s history. Biology makes it very clear (see Ernest Mayr’s, “One Long Argument,”) that natural selection occurred. What Mayr wasn’t able to see was that God was influencing the process whenever and however God chose to do so…just like God did for Israel and just like God does in your life as a believer.

    Thanks for giving me one more chance to try to clarify my view.

  32. 32
    darrel falk says:

    Mung,

    You’ve asked how I could say that natural selection was creative, and you’ve said (in another thread) that since it involves such tiny steps, doesn’t this mean that there is nothing creative about it at all.

    Actually, I have had a little difficulty understanding your point, since you made it in the other discussion thread. Here’s why: when an artist makes a stroke with the paint brush, we would be able to analyze it and say “Nothing creative about that….looks like a streak of paint to me.” It is only when we look at the finished product, that we stand back and say—how amazingly creative those brush strokes turned out to be.

    Natural selection is just “brush-strokes.” Almost all biologists believe that the magnificent “painting” that is this planet’s 30,000,000 species is a result of individual strokes carried out by natural selection. Many of us who are Christian biologists believe that God was intricately involved in this “natural” process and we wish that non-believers would come to see that it happened because of God’s guidance and Presence. But still there is no denying that it is the most magnificent “painting” imaginable. That’s also why I think the word “tremendous” is a great word to use for the power of natural selection. Whether materialists are right about absence of God’s supervision of this process, or people like me are right, the point is still the same, the result is tremendous.

  33. 33
    crandaddy says:

    Hi Dr. Falk,

    I’m wondering if you could please tell me what you think the extent of our ability to detect design in nature is. That is to say, do you think that there is any aspect of nature that could be best explained as the result of intelligence? Furthermore, do you think that we are even capable of inferring design in nature, or are you a strict epistemic materialist (at least insofar as ID is concerned)? If this is the case, then why do you think it is so? I apologize if you’ve already answered these questions; just refer me to your answers if you have. Thank you for chatting with us here.

  34. 34
    tinabrewer says:

    Darrell Falk: I understand your view of evolution, and having held it once myself, I also understand that as a theist, it is of course necessary to add the caveat “…it is not random.” While this works from the viewpoint of one’s religious worldview (I personally have no theoretical problem with the idea of a God who works in this way) it doesn’t address the question of the information content of natural systems. No one on this blog that I know of doubts that mutational events occur, nor do they doubt that depending upon the particular environmental context in which those mutations occur, advantageous mutations will be preserved. This is all standard stuff. The project of ID is not about denying that mutations and selection occur. It is about their relative importance, and the ability of them to do what they claim to be able to do without intelligent input at some point. Since you clearly don’t believe the “random and unguided” part about the modern theory, I guess I could get further clarification about your view by asking the following question: As a thought experiment, imagine that you found out today that there is no God. Would the evidence that purely unguided and purposeless processes lead to the complexity of life seem as overwhelming to you?

  35. 35
    Mung says:

    It is only when we look at the finished product, that we stand back and say—how amazingly creative those brush strokes turned out to be.

    An interesting choice for an analogy :). Thought provoking.

    So I would have to say that in the absence of a finished product we lack any reason to believe that natural selection is creative or has any creative power whatsoever. And yet, isn’t the idea of a finished product inherently teleological? In evolutionary theory there is no such thing as a finished product, it’s all a work-in-progress.

    Does the fact that we can look at something and see it as a finished product speak at all to the failure of evolutionary theory to conform with reality?

    It seems to me that the view that Darrel has regarding natural selection is that it is teleological. That God uses natural selection to bring about finished products. It is purposeful, and not blind. Mutations are not random and unguided. If I am wrong, Darrel, please adjust my thinking.

    To return to the analogy which Darrel offered, let’s say our aspiring artist is blind. We provide her with a number of canvasses upon which she places a brush stroke. So now then, what can we do that is analogous to natural selection? CAn we have another blind person select out some of these canvases and discarding others, and then use the selected canvasses to repeat the process? Return them to our artist, have our blind artist place another brush stroke, repeat, etc. (Isn’t each one, in reality, a finished product?)

    I wonder what our expectation would be that we would ever actually see anything that we would think was designed. Could we distinguish paintings made by an artist who was not blind, which were not selected by a blind man, from the paintings that were the result of this blind, chance process? Could we, perhaps, detect design? If so, HOW?

    My guess is that we could and that it would have something to do with complexity and specification.

    IOW, our brush strokes by different artists and different forms of selecting the survivors is a revealing analogy for how random mutation and natural selection can be shown to be powerless and how design detection is empirically possible.

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