Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

My review of Christoph, Cardinal Schoenborn’s attempt to tiptoe around the intelligent design controversy


His attempt to tiptoe is better known as his book, Chance or Purpose? Creation, Evolution, and a Rational Faith (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2007).

Tiptoeing won’t work, actually. The ID guys don’t really care what he says because Darwinism and materialism are toast so burnt that even a miracle couldn’t revive them, not that any miracle worker would bother, of course. But the Darwinists/materialists are accustomed to demanding total surrender from everyone for no particular reason, and I guess it becomes a habit or something. Anyway:

Introduction Christoph Cardinal Schoenborn’s Chance or Purpose? Flickering light on the ID controversy at best

Part One: Is the proposed distinction between evolution and “evolutionism” legitimate in today’s environment? (Of course not.)

Part Two: Why is it called “intelligent design” instead of “intelligent intervention”? (Because design is essential and intervention is optional.)

Part Three: What Cardinal Schoenborn doesn’t like about intelligent design (The ID guys talk as though cells operate like machines or something. News flash!: They do. )

Part Four: Can the disgraced Teilhard de Chardin evolve into a pioneer of faith? (But people just wouldn’t get Christ the “evolutor” at my parish, no matter who said it.)

Part Five: Darwin’s ladder knocking over Jacob’s ladder? (Well, that’s the idea anyway, and it won’t be the Darwinists’ fault if it never happens.)


In marked contrast to the straightforward style of his “no-dhimmis-for-Darwin!” op-ed, Schoenborn’s book is very careful not to say much – without taking it back later. One gets the distinct impression that at least two different people wrote the book – one saying “look, this materialist nonsense is just not compatible with the Catholic faith” and the other saying “no, but, we need to placate the high profile Catholic Darwinists – can we just massage this a bit …”

The notion that ID is un-Thomistic (harkening back to an earlier point in the discussion) is just ridiculous. Perhaps it is un-Thomistic in the way it is generally understood, but not when understood rightly. Most ID proponents and skeptics tend to view ID as being opposed to Darwinism, as it were, on an equal ground. That is to say, they view ID as a theory in its own right, opposed to Darwinistic Evolution. This, however, is wrong. ID doesn't propose any theory of how species came to be constituted as they are, nor has it ever claimed to. This is both why the fanatical evolutionists are so desperate to deny it the cachet of "science" and the ID'ers themselves reject the label "creationist." What ID is is not a biological or zoological theory. It is, in Aristotelian terms, simply an argument for the existence of final causes. That's all. It is a prolegomena to science, just as surely as the justification for the existence of efficient, material, and formal causes is a prologemena to biological or any other species of science. So if ID is understood as some kind of demonstrative science opposed to Darwinism, then yes, it's absolutely un-Thomistic. But if it is understood in its true character as an inductive argument based upon probable (albeit very highly probable) reasoning, then it is Thomistic in the highest degree, because Thomas was very far from denying Aristotle's own assertion of the existence of final causation based upon his common sense observation of the world around him. jnewl
tc: Thanks for taking the time to respond. You have done a good job of expressing your objection in more than one way, which makes it a little bit easier to understand. Let's explore your last comment: "However, the design argument as I have seen it relies so heavily on the analogy between a living thing and an artifact that it seems to surpass mere analogy. Maybe this is over interpretation on my part, and if so, please correct me." First, realize that not all approaches to ID make this comparison. Let’s consider the anthropic principle, which advances the following argument: Life in the universe is possible only when certain physical constants are fine tuned to a level of precision that renders a chance explanation implausible. This is a straightforward argument, and it does not rely on “the analogy between a living thing and an artifact.” Fr. Thomas Dubay, for example, applies the anthropic principle to the formation of a bird’s wings. He points out that a random process, such as random variation and natural selection, simply cannot design bones and wings with the necessary precision to allow for all the twists, turns, and changes in direction that the bird must make during its flight. So, quite reasonably, he infers design. Next, let’s consider the concept of “irreducible complexity.” Michael Behe defines it as an irreducibly complex system as one "composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning.” To illustrate, he does compare the bacterial flagellum to a mouse trap, but only to describe and dramatize the point that an irreducibly complex system is really irreducible, meaning that completeness is necessary for functionality. That being the case, the system cannot form through a gradual, step by step process, so it must be designed. In no way, does the design inference depend on an analogy or even a similarity between a human artifact and a living thing. Finally, let’s look at yet a third approach to the design inference. “Specified complexity” is a term that describes observable patterns in nature that can be explained only by the presence of intelligence. Now it is true that we find these patterns in “human artifacts,” as in hieroglyphic messages (on a cave wall), and in “living things,” as in clusters of nucleotides (in the genome). So, in a sense, this approach (and only this approach) is relative to your concerns. Notice, however, what we observe. We find that EVERY TIME that these patterns are present in an artifact, AND AT NO OTHER TIME, an intelligent agency was responsible. It is a “sign” of intelligent activity just as surely as an artist’s signature is a sign of intelligent activity, because nothing else (chance, law) can produce those kinds of patterns. So, when we find it in living things, we can be reasonably certain that they did not occur as a result of natural processes, because we know FROM EXPERIENCE that natural processes can’t produce them. So, we infer design. So, to sum up, most approaches to ID do not rely on the relationship between human artifacts and living things. Further, the one that does rely on that relationship can justify itself on the grounds that intelligence always leaves clues, whether its source is human, superhuman, or Divine. StephenB
The bacterial flagellum is not a motor, and saying it is amounts to interpretation, not observation. We use the concept of a motor to have an understanding of the flagellum. There probably are other concepts under which nature could be understood, however nature would probably look much different in these cases. Neither mechanized nature nor other interpretations are more or less true, they all sublimate living forms under concepts and lose the essential and irreducible aspects of life. Biologists can get away with it as long as they admit that things like DNA and Motorized flagellum show up from a remarkably artificial (and especially reductionistic) way of looking at the world, and not the world of actual lived experience. The danger comes when scientists try to interpret the whole of life under mechanistic concepts, then declare this is the true world. Incidentally, this is the error of Dawkins and co. The fact that this seems so obvious -- that nature is largely made up of living machines -- demonstrates that in modern times we largely ignore the philosophical/phenomenological concept of life in favor of a scheme which interprets living things in terms of artifacts, specifically machines. This interpretation is utterly irreconcilable to an Aristotelian/Thomistic view of life. I didn't mean to suggest that this means ID is incorrect, I don't know enough to say that. In fact, I believe Dembski has said ID argues against a mechanistic metaphysic, and if this represents ID as a whole, that's points in its favor. However, the design argument as I have seen it relies so heavily on the analogy between a living thing and an artifact that it seems to surpass mere analogy. Maybe this is overinterpretation on my part, and if so, please correct me. tc
tc: What are we supposed to do with the bacterial flaggelum's motor? Are we supposed to pretend that it isn't there? Why is ID not congenial to the Arisotelian/Thomistic notion of form and matter? According to ID, the designer forms matter into its patterns because nature's mechanistic processes simply can't pull it off. Part of nature is mechanistic and part of it isn't. Why can't the information in a DNA molecule be its form and the nucleotides be its matter? StephenB
Tried to post this 5 days ago, but I just now got the confirmation email. From the review: "First, as a matter of literal fact, our bodies are composed of hundreds of billions of machines. Indeed, biologists cannot avoid using the terminology associated with machines when describing the activities inside our cells, however they assume that the microscopic machines originated. In other words, to the extent that God is a 'creator of natures,' the natures he creates are composed of machines. Our billions of bodily nano-machines do not, of course, rattle or clunk, but that is because they are sophisticated, not because they are not machines." You drastically misunderstand what Schoenborn says here. The "facts" do not demonstrate that tiny machines constitute our bodies, that is an interpretation. The concept "machine" has proved a useful way of solving certain problems related to the body, as for example viewing the cell as a machine. Nevertheless this establishes no more than that "machinery" of the body functions as a useful analogy; it does not mean that the "machines" really make up the body. Your confusion of fact and interpretation here demonstrate exactly what Schoenborn is saying: that God did not create machines (this is a modern prejudice without grounding in philosophy or theology), but natures; and it demonstrates that even those who question mechanistic materialism can unconsciously fall victim to its suppositions. The difference is an important one: the view of things as machines covers over the distinction between artifacts and natural things. Heidegger rightly accuses Aristotle of conceiving of natural substances on the model of artifacts, but even so Aristotle did not grant human artifacts (such as machines) substantiality. If one does not recognize the ontological difference between natural things and man-made things, one has made a very serious philosophical error that hopefully will not spill over into interpersonal dealings. The problem becomes quite pronounced when one tries to conceive of natural things in terms of man-made things, and I think it is at this point that ID has the most difficulty with any Aristotelian/Thomist ontology (or any ontology that doesn't fall victim to modern mechanistic materialism). Put simply, when living beings are conceived of as machines, they are thereby divested of substantiality. Modern biology can escape this problem by strictly limiting itself, by acknowledging that it adopts a very limited perspective which does not express the full reality of living things. Once this view is taken as representitive of reality itself one has fallen into the mechanistic materialist ontology, even if one thinks he or she is opposing it. "Christ the evolutor?" ... Have you read Teilhard? Bergson? You should make clear (as Schoenborn does) that the epiphenomenalists mean something very different from the ordinary use of evolution. tc
jjNatteri: On the matter of lumping together materialists and theistic evolutionists, the point of interest is not that they are of the same mind, which they are not, but that they happily join forces to persecute ID, What they both have in common is their unscientific and ideologially based criticisms. You will recall that I made specific reference Fr. Oakes, a theologian who has had every chance to investigate the subject of intelligent design and place it in the proper context. If you like, I will add the name of Fr. Thomas Heller, Catholic and Templeton prize winner who labors under the same misconceptions. We could also speak of Barr, Haught, Miller and others, all Catholics who have taken an unnecessarily aggressive posture against ID on the grounds that it is insufficiently attuned to the principles Thomistic philosophy. In my judgment, they are wrong and their rationale is almost incomprehensible. With regard to the so-called dichotomization of religion and science, try to appreciate the hostile environment in which ID scientists must operate. On the one hand, when they point out the common points of interest between ID and theology, something that I gather you would find edifying, they are accused of doing science in the name of religion. These false charges have been raised IN A COURT OF LAW and ratified by an activist judge. On the other hand, when they explain the injustice that was done to them and emphasize the point that the two approaches are different, they must deal with the opposite false charge, namely that they are radically separating two branches of knowledge. I am sure that you can grasp the irony here. Also, please reread my earlier comments with the understanding that I am a Catholic and a Thomist, which means that I support the unity of truth. The last thing I would propose is that religion and science are in “conflict with one another.” The whole scientific enterprise was based on the idea that we can “think God’s thoughts after him.” All the great scientists of the past, in agreement with today’s ID scientists, believed, just as the Bible says, that the worlds design is evident. It is the theistic evolutionists who argue against this proposition. Some agree with Darwin that design is only an “illusion.” Others acknowledge design at some level, but they insist that it is undetectable. In any case, almost all of them accuse ID scientists of treating religion and science as enemies. Either they are ignorant or they are being disingenuous. Since they do this for a living, there is no excuse for their misapprehensions. With regard to America’s founding fathers, they believed in an “intersection” between Church and State, which means that it was to be neither a “union” (theocracy) nor a “radical separation” (secularism). On the other hand, it was clearly more religious than secular. If you ever read the original state constitutions (any of them), you will be bowled over by the religious language. You are right in suggesting that there is a relationship between the way this formulation is interpreted and the way ID is accepted. Many, if not most of those who mistakenly believe that Church and State should be radically separated, also mistakenly believe that ID scientists are unduly motivated by religion and vice versa. This should not surprise us. Those who will rewrite history to serve their own ends will also misrepresent ID for the same reason. StephenB
Stephen: I think it is a little unjust to try to lump together materialists and "Catholic Theistic Evolutionists". It smacks of a "if-you-are-not-with-us-you are-against-us" mentality that is divisive and unwarranted, considering the complexity, subtlety and (let's face it) uncertainty of the issues involved. If you have in mind someone like Kenneth Miller as a prototype for a "Catholic Theistic Evolutionist", well, what can you expect? Miller is only a biologist and I don't think it's fair to extrapolate from his philosophically naive positions as if he were the representative for all catholics. Another key aspect of the debate I find very troubling is this obsession with emphasizing that ID "is science not religion". The moment you concede that religion and science are different spheres of knowledge, or even worse, that they are in conflict with each other, you are succumbing to the exact same mentality that has fostered materialism in the last century. Science is then posited as the only way of really knowing, and religion is relegated to the private sphere where values, opinions and subjective considerations reside. If we as Christians start by assuming as valid this science-religion dichotomy (as for example in the infamous NOMA theory advanced by the late Stephen Jay Gould) we are already in trouble. Half the battle is lost already. I understand that there are some powerful strategic reasons for distinguishing "science" from "religion", but many of these reasons are explicitly cultural and historical, and specific to the United States. I might not be the best person to make this case, but you can read someone that has explored the origins of the evolution wars in the United States, like Steven Fuller. He argues that many of these ideological and philosophical conflicts have its roots in the way the US was founded, and specifically in the radical separation between Church and State that is at the heart of this country. I am pretty sure that many here are familiar with Fuller main theses and regardless of what you think of him, I believe that is very important to take a closer look at what he says. It might shed a lot of needed light to understand where the roots of the disagreements expressed here lie. There is much more to say in this regard, but I hope my points are not lost by my less than stellar presentation. JJNatteri
-----fbeckwith: “But if one thinks of science as the only or best way of knowing, then these claims are not “knowledge” and thus not real objects of academic inquiry. Couple this with an understanding of religious claims as exclusively the deliverances of special revelation and not subject to the rigors of philosophical assessment because they are irreducibly private and personal, you have in place a recipe for the death knell for dogmatic and moral theology as actual knowledge traditions. Hence, every time an ID advocate says, “this is not religion,” they are reinforcing an epistemological truce that was intended to do violence to the good, the true, and the beautiful.” If I understand you correctly, you are suggesting that my commitment to Catholicism and Thomistic realism is at variance with my commitment to intelligent design. I wish that you would explain why you believe that. For the record, there is no conflict. That is why I criticized Father Oakes who trashes ID in the name of Thomism. I find that intolerable. If you want to know why, I commend to you “The Evidential Power Of Beauty, by Father. Thomas Dubay. This is real Thomism untainted by modernism and it is pure ID. While you are at it, share with me your reasons for believing that the ID scientists on the front lines are nominalists. Who among us believes that science is the “best way of knowing?” I’ll be the first to insist that philosophical first principles take logical precedence over science. So what? Does that mean that we shouldn’t do science? The reason we must emphasize the point that a design inference is not a religious enterprise is because materialists and CATHOLIC THEISTIC EVOLUTIONISTS try to discredit us with the false charge of doing science in the name of religion. They want science and its power to influence all to themselves. Toward that end, they call us “creationists” so they can create the public perception that a design inference is nothing more than a religious presupposition. StephenB
My last sentence in the above post should read: "I ask your forgiveness." FJb fbeckwith
Bill: I've not attacked Protestantism. I was referring to Luther's nominalism in my probably lame attempt at humor. The most important book by an ID advocate, in my judgment, is Johnson's Reason in the Balance. Not because it is the most sophisticated or the most ground-breaking. Rather, it explains what is at stake for our culture shaping institutions in embracing materialism whole hog. The question then is, How the heck did we get to this place? Was it merely that Paley did not have access to "Darwin's black box" or is it a deeper philosophical issue? It seems to me to be more the latter than the former. This is why I am not, and have never been, a proponent of ID, for reasons having to do with my philosophical opposition to the ID movement’s acquiescence to the modern idea that an Enlightenment view of science is the paradigm of knowledge. By seeming to agree with their materialist foes that the mind or intellect cannot have direct knowledge of real immaterial universals, such as natures, essences, and moral properties, many in the ID movement commit the same mistake as the one committed by the late medieval nominalists such as William of Ockham, who gave us what is often called “Ockham’s razor,” though Ockham himself did not offer this precise formulation: ``Pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate'' (translated: ``entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily''). According to many scholars, the practical consequence of “Ockham’s razor” is that claims about a thing’s nature, purpose, or intrinsic dignity—universal properties it shares with other things of the same sort---are “unnecessary” for our scientific investigation of the world because they don’t add anything of explanatory importance to our direct empirical observations of the world. But if one thinks of science as the only or best way of knowing, then these claims are not “knowledge” and thus not real objects of academic inquiry. Couple this with an understanding of religious claims as exclusively the deliverances of special revelation and not subject to the rigors of philosophical assessment because they are irreducibly private and personal, you have in place a recipe for the death knell for dogmatic and moral theology as actual knowledge traditions. Hence, every time an ID advocate says, "this is not religion," they are reinforcing an epistemological truce that was intended to do violence to the good, the true, and the beautiful. Although I continue to maintain that ID advocates raise important questions about the nature of science and whether science should presuppose naturalism (namely, the view that all that exists is the material universe and that there is no mind, such as God, behind it), I have doubts about ID’s answers and whether these answers can offer an attractive alternative to the inadequacies of the Enlightenment for the rationality of religious belief. I've held these views for many, many years, long before I became Catholic. This thread was begun by Denyse, who I think was particularly uncharitable to the Cardinal. My responses were intended to call attention to why the Cardinal would think the way he does. It has been brought to my attention that the way I did so did not further amity among Christians from differing traditions. My intent was to make a philosophical point in a provocative and readable way. I was not intending to divide the body of Christ. Again, I ask your forgiveness. FJB fbeckwith
Martin Cothran: Leaving aside ID, does God's intervention in Christ's resurrection require an occasionalist metaphysics? That seems absurd. So why should ID require it or have any special burden to refute it? Frank Beckwith: Are you serious about linking Luther and Bacon to Darwin? You might just as well say that Newton and Boyle gave birth to Darwin. Why is your newfound Catholicism leading you to attack Protestantism? In this thread alone the gibes just keep coming. William Dembski
Martin: I would define “realism” as the notion that the images in our mind accurately reflect the essence of an object outside of the mind (St Thomas), whereas nominalism refers to the idea that there really is no correspondence between the two, meaning that our mental images don’t really reflect reality (Kant), so we just give them “names” (hence “nominal”). It seems more of a problem about how much we know about what God is doing (epistemology) and less a problem about what God is actually doing (metaphysics). As I realist, I happen to believe that we have rational minds, we live in a rational universe, and there is a correspondence between the two. Thus, I would define truth as the correspondence between the mind and reality. This is the principle that started the whole scientific enterprise, and ID is well on its way to reviving it, which is another way of saying that ID is about to help restore the intellectual and mental health that was unnecessarily compromised by hyperskepticism. In that sense, realism is consistent with ID in ways that nominalism is not. StephenB
-----“Rude: “Isn’t this the problem here? Until certain high muck-a-mucks grant us permission we are not allowed to observe the obvious. And when we do and incur their ire I think there’s no choice but to proceed without their permission.” Rude, we appear to diagnose the problem in much the same way. Philosophy was designed to amplify common sense, not to militate against it—to provide first principles and standards of right reason, not to question their existence. StephenB
Oops! I meant tankerships of ink ... mountains of TE drivvel if you ask me (which of course you didn't). Rude
Stephen B49---you hit the nail on the head---you summarized in a very few words what others have spilled tanker ships of oil on (if you'll let me exagerate just a bit). Anyway philosophy is a much neglected subject here in North America—which is a shame. The philosophers are partly to blame. The linguistic guru at my U once formed an interdisciplinary colloquium composed of linguists, philosophers, mathematicians, cog-sci, and computer sci folks. The first to bolt were the philosophers. It seems that until we could solve all the enigmas of epistemology we were not permitted to investigate and comment on the reality before us. Isn’t this the problem here? Until certain high muck-a-mucks grant us permission we are not allowed to observe the obvious. And when we do and incur their ire I think there’s no choice but to proceed without their permission. Rude
DLH: "Then how would you characterize the origin of life and on what basis? e.g., 1) the origin of the first living cell. 2) the origin of man." The short answer is I don't know. I wasn't there. I suspect that the origin of life was a direct occasionalistic act of God (i.e., a miracle). I also suspect, with less certainty, that the origin of man was caused in a similar way. I never said I didn't believe in miracles, I just said that I believed there is a distinction between miracles and non-miracles. DLH: "What basis is there for design to distinguish such events from “secondary causality as the normal mode of nature’s operation,”?" I don't think this is a very coherent question. If you mean how can a belief that the world is designed account for the fact that there are both miraculous and non miraculous events in that world, then I'd say it can account for it by positing that some events are miraculous and some aren't, and by appealing to historical Christian belief that this is so. I'm failing to see what the issue is here. Maybe you could elaborate further on where exactly it is that you disagree with me. Martin Cothran
Martin Cothran at 50
while all other events are the result of secondary causality (the action of cause in the secondary world without the direct occasionalistic act of God).
Then how would you characterize the origin of life and on what basis? e.g., 1) the origin of the first living cell. 2) the origin of man. What basis is there for design to distinguish such events from "secondary causality as the normal mode of nature’s operation,"? DLH
I am glad that the system finally mailed me a password in order to participate in this most interesting exchange. I must say that the tone of this "review" of Cardinal's Schonborn latest book leaves much to be desired. I can understand the frustration of ID advocates with "Chance or Purpose?", since it doesn't provide any easy and clear-cut answers. Nevertheless, I have to agree with Tom Riddle when he says that the RCC (or its highest representatives) cannot pronounce summary statements or judgments that are not 100% factual or philosophically sound. The RCC is a twenty centuries old institution, with over one billion worldwide members and it has to be very careful in its pronouncements regarding matters that can affect the faithful. That is why the Church is so cautious when approaching science, and especially the subject of evolution. The most astute and lucid comments in this thread are the ones by Francis Beckwith and they are crucial for a sober understanding of what is at stake here. I think he is on the right track when he imputes a Protestant epistemological bias to ID theory, and that's another reason why many Catholics/Thomists with sound philosophical formation are deeply reluctant to embrace ID. A good example that comes to mind is father Stanley Jaki, who has written extensively on the philosophy of science and evolution. He has some very poignant words for ID theorists. Although I deeply respect the works and commitment of people like Philip Johnson, William Dembski and Michael Behe, there are some very troubling aspects of ID. Most of the questions and critiques of Darwinism raised by the ID movement are very important, even urgent, but it is not very clear that the answers provided are enough or even on the right track. What bothers me most is that in a sense, IDers are like a mirror image of fundamentalist Darwinists: Darwinists want to claim that Science has disproved purpose, design, or "guided" evolution. At the same time ID tries to claim just the opposite: that Science has proved purpose, design or "guidance" in evolutionary processes. At the end of the day, it seems that both sides have it wrong. JJNatteri
DLH: "How is occasionalism - causing EACH discrete effect - any different a problem for a “realist” then causing ANY discrete effect as in a “big bang”, as in biotic front loading front loading?" I suppose you can ask whether the two are different philosophically or historically. Historically, realists seem to have accepted secondary causality as the normal mode of nature's operation, and that they have rejected occasionalism as a matter of course. Aquinas, being uncharacteristically uncivil, called it "stupid". Philosophically, it seems to me you could make a reasonable distinction between the belief that events such as the creation and the Resurrection result from primary causality while all other events are the result of secondary causality (the action of cause in the secondary world without the direct occasionalistic act of God). This is just another way of saying that miracles are really miraculous, and different from other normal events that aren't. If you can't accept this, I don't see how you can make a distinction between a miracle and a non-miracle. Martin Cothran
-----"allanius: Oakes is barking up the wrong tree. ID has nothing to do with theodicy. The strategic significance of ID is that it fatally undermines materialism. Design is self-evident, and nothing in nature per se can account for it. " Exactly right. It seems that most ID critics who are believers use one of two arguments, neither of which are scientific: [A} A GOOD God would never have done it that way---the design was heartless (problems in theodocy) [B} An OMNIPOTENT God would never have done it that way--intervention should not be necessary. In both cases, the critic is imposing a prefertial ideology that poses as philosophy. Real philsophy recognizes the self evident truth that order requires an orderer and yes, a designer. Good science confirms the point. StephenB
Me thinks they're still counting angels on the head of a pin (if that's an urban legend me thinks it still fits). Rude
Martin Cothran
From a realist perspective, occasionalism–the idea, deriving from nominalism, that God directly causes each discrete effect in the secondary world–would cause a problem for any realist wanting to accept ID.
I presume you are contrasting this with front loading in biotic systems or fine tuning? How is occasionalism - causing EACH discrete effect - any different a problem for a "realist" then causing ANY discrete effect as in a "big bang", as in biotic front loading front loading? If there is no intervention and all is stochastic materialism, can anything be attributed to intelligent design? PS By "irreducible systems", I presume you are referring to Irreducibly Complex systems as posited by Behe. DLH
Frank, Where does Galileo fit here? Maybe you could make him the bastard child's uncle. Martin Cothran
It seems to me that Frank Beckwith has brought up what, for some of us, is the only issue worth discussing about ID, which is: Is Intelligent Design necessarily nominalistic and empiricist. I think this is a hard issue to discuss given what could possibly be meant by 'ID' and what is meant by the term 'nominalist', but it seems to me a clarification of terms here would be worth the trouble. I would love for Frank to articulate why he thinks ID (using, say, a definition acceptable to Dembski) is necessarily nominalist. It is a question I have thought about, but have yet to come up with an answer. It would also be enlightening for some of us who just don't know the answer for Dr. Dembski to explain how ID gets around the charge that it must employ occasionalism in its argument for irreducible complexity. From a realist perspective, occasionalism--the idea, deriving from nominalism, that God directly causes each discrete effect in the secondary world--would cause a problem for any realist wanting to accept ID. If irreducible systems in nature have no mechanism by which they can be produced, then how can they be explained without resorting to occasionalism, and if they must employ occasionalism, then how can ID escape the charge that it is nominalist? Martin Cothran
Oops, I meant to say science WITHOUT final causes. fbeckwith
For the record, I said "DI narrative," not "ID narrative." An understandable mistake. Darwin is the bastard child of Protestant pietism (private faith) and science without final causes, both consequences of nominalism. To put it another way: if Luther and Bacon had a child, it would be Darwin. {DLH corrected with to without per below} fbeckwith
Oakes is barking up the wrong tree. ID has nothing to do with theodicy. The strategic significance of ID is that it fatally undermines materialism. Design is self-evident, and nothing in nature per se can account for it. Like Milton, Oakes wants to tell a story that justifies the ways of God to men (seems he has not read Job very carefully). He’s right about one thing—ID cannot produce such a story, as the chaos on this site amply testifies. But ID can communicate a tangible truth in way that is easily and intuitively grasped: nothing comes from nothing. The goodness that we see all around us could not have come into existence without some standard of value. Oakes apparently does not accept the claim that God brought creation into being through his word and saw that it was “very good.” His negative view of the value of nature is closer to Plato than Moses. Meanwhile Darwinism makes nature itself the designer of the overwhelming goodness and value seen in nature, which is risible. allanius
I must correct my own hasty ending at @36 implying that Fr. Oakes may be a Christian Darwinist. Clearly, he is as critical of Darwinism as he is ID. I hope that the earlier part of the comments made that clear. StephenB
Dr. Dembski, I just read your 2nd article and I was thoroughly impressed with your consistency and clarity of logic: and I have only one thing that I can reply with: In Wonder - Newsboys http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hsmF5o68cw bornagain77
BarryA: Thanks for your posts about Fr. Oakes. Since you offer two links to his work, let me offer two links to mine which address his: (1)"ID as a Theory of Technological Evolution." Don't let the title fool you. Here is how the article starts:
In Book II of the Physics Aristotle remarks, “If the ship-building art were in the wood, it would produce the same results by nature.” Aristotle is here contrasting nature and art. Nature provides the raw materials (here wood); art provides the means for fashioning those materials (here into a ship). For Aristotle, art consists in the knowledge and skill to produce an object and presupposes the imposition of form on the object from outside. On the other hand, nature consists in capacities inherent in the physical world--capacities that produce objects, as it were, internally and without outside help. Thus in Book VII of the Metaphysics Aristotle writes, “Art is a principle of movement in something other than the thing moved; nature is a principle in the thing itself.” Consequently, Aristotle refers to art as completing “what nature cannot bring to a finish.” Thomas Aquinas took this idea and sacramentalized it into grace completing nature. In Aristotle’s distinction between art and nature lies the central issue in the debate over biological evolution. The central issue is not the interpretation of Genesis, nor whether humans are descended from apes, nor whether all organisms trace their lineage to a last common ancestor. Indeed, where one comes down on these side issues is irrelevant to the central issue. The central issue is whether nature has sufficient resources in herself to generate all of biological diversity or whether in addition nature requires art to complete what nature alone cannot bring to a finish. The Greek word for art is techne, from which we get our word technology. The English word most commonly used to capture what Aristotle means by art derives not from the Greek but from the Latin. That word is, of course, design. The central issue in the debate over biological evolution can therefore be put as follows: Is nature complete in the sense of possessing all the resources necessary to bring about the biological structures we see around us or does nature also require some contribution of design to bring about those structures? ...
(2) "Making the Task of Theodicy Impossible: Intelligent Design and the Problem of Evil." This article draws heavily on Kant and responds explicitly to Fr. Oakes. William Dembski
1 2

Leave a Reply