Intelligent Design

My Views in a Nutshell

Spread the love

A couple of days ago I received the following email from a student in France:

 Hello,First of all, please excuse my poor English (I am a French native).  I am currently writing an essay in epistemology with two of my co- students (I’m in second year of M.Sc in research, specialized in Evolutive Ecology and Epidemiology of Host-Parasites relationships), in which we focus on the gloabl acceptance by society of different models to explain evolution. More than the models (we choose the “original” theory of Charles Darwin, the transformist theory of Lamarck, the “balanced equilibrium” theory of Stephen Jay-Gould, and the more recent Intelligent Design), we are interested in the people who believe in them.I contact you because the blog “Uncommon descent” states you as a friend of them. This blog is well known in France as one of the main information stream on Intelligent Design. My question is: how do you comme to trust in Intelligent Design? What do you think to be the most important flaws in the modern theories describing the course of evolution?

I hope you will find some time to answer me,

Regards,

XXXXXX

How would you respond to Mr. X’s inquiry.  My stab at a response is below.

 Dear Mr. X,I am writing to respond to your email of September 27, 2007.   You ask two questions: (1) How do you come to trust in Intelligent Design? and (2) What do you think to be the most important flaws in the modern theories describing the course of evolution? I will answer the questions in reverse order.

Question 2. Darwinism’s flaws include:

A. Specified Complex Information. DNA is an information code of staggering complexity and elegance. We know that complex specific information of this sort is not normally generated though unguided mindless natural processes. When we see complex information in other contexts (think of Mount Rushmore), we are compelled to assume that the cause of the information was intelligent agency. The Darwinist, on the other hand, is compelled to “explain away” what everyone would concede is initially the most probable explanation.

Dawkins writes: “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design (New York; Norton, 1986), 1.

Darwinists attempt to explain this complex information by resorting to the “numerous monkeys typing” randomness. In other words, the theory goes, if you have enough monkeys pounding on enough typewriters, sooner or later they will pound out the works of Shakespeare. We now know, thanks largely to the work of scholars like William Dembski, that appeals to randomness of this sort are mathematically unsound given the limits on probabilistic resources set by the apparent age of the universe.

Darwinists themselves are beginning to recognize this conundrum and some have attempted to solve it by substituting “large number of monkeys” with “infinite monkeys.” They do this by positing a “multiverse theory” of infinite universes. But this is a double-edged sword for the Darwinist. On the one hand, “infinite monkeys” does in fact get one to the generation of complex specified information by random means. On the other hand, the multiverse theory is not testable or falsifiable. It is not science; it is metaphysics, philosophy or, dare I say, religion. Multiverse theory also violates the elementary principle of scientific inquiry known as “parsimony,” which states that, other things being equal, the simplest explanation is to be preferred. I ask you, which is the most parsimonious theory: infinite universes or one designer?

B. Origin of Life Problem. Darwinists do not even have plausible speculations about how life began in the first place. In fairness, Darwinism, by definition, cannot begin until life has already begun and a self-replicating system is in place. But simply waving one’s hands and assuming a problem away is like assuming away the elephant sitting in the living room.

“Research on the origin of life seems to be unique in that the conclusion has already been authoritatively accepted . . . What remains to be done is to find the scenarios which describe the detailed mechanisms and processes by which this happened. One must conclude that, contrary to the established and current wisdom a scenario describing the genesis of life on earth by chance and natural causes which can be accepted on the basis of fact and not faith has not yet been written.” Hubert Yockey, “A Calculation of the Probability of Spontaneous Biogenesis by Information Theory,” Journal of Theoretical Biology 67 (1977): 379, 396, 377-98.

C. Irreducible Complexity. Michael Behe’s work on irreducible complexity is compelling. Various Darwinist’s claims to the contrary notwithstanding, no detailed Darwinian account of the evolution of irreducibly complex systems such as the bacterial flagellum have ever been proposed.

D. The Edge of Evolution. Once again, Behe’s work appears to be unanswerable (at least it has not been answered). Over millions of generations natural selection has been able to produce only very modest changes in the malaria parasite. Thus, the hard irrefutable “facts on the ground” suggest that natural selection is simply insufficient to account for substantial changes to organisms.

E. The Fossil Record.

One need not be a creationist or an ID proponent to understand that the fossil record does not support Darwinist gradualism: “Darwin’s prediction of rampant, albeit gradual, change affecting all lineages through time is refuted. The record is there, and the record speaks for tremendous anatomical conservatism. Change in the manner Darwin expected is just not found in the fossil record.” Niles Eldredge and Ian Tattersall, The Myth of Human Evolution (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982), 45-46.

Thus, some Darwinists say that gradualism is falsified by the evidence. But others say that gradualism is the very essence of the theory.

“Darwin’s own bulldog, Huxley, as Eldredge reminds us yet again, warned him against his insistent gradualism, but Darwin had good reason. His theory was largely aimed at replacing creationism as an explanation of how living complexity could arise out of simplicity. Complexity cannot spring up in a single stroke of chance: that would be like hitting upon the combination number that opens a bank vault. But a whole series of tiny chance steps, if non-randomly selected, can build up almost limitless complexity of adaptation. It is as though the vault’s door were to open another chink every time the number on the dials moved a little closer to the winning number. Gradualness is of the essence. In the context of the fight against creationism, gradualism is more or less synonymous with evolution itself. If you throw out gradualness you throw out the very thing that makes evolution more plausible than creation. Creation is a special case of saltation – the saltus is the large jump from nothing to fully formed modern life. When you think of what Darwin was fighting against, is it any wonder that he continually returned to the theme of slow, gradual, step-by-step change?”

Richard Dawkins, “What Was All the Fuss About?” review of Time Frames: The Rethinking of Darwinian Evolution and the Theory of Punctuated Equilibria by Niles Eldredge, Nature 316 (August 1985): 683-684 (emphasis added).

In summary, Darwinist Dawkins says gradualism is absolutely necessary for the theory to be true, and Darwinists Eldredge and Tattersall say gradualism is falsified. Thus, I conclude – based on the statements of the Darwinists themselves – that Darwinism is falsified.

Question 1.

I do not “trust” in the theory of Intelligent Design. Of the competing models purporting to explain the astonishing diversity and complexity of life, ID is by far the most plausible to me. Darwinism truly is the best theory of evolution by mindless unguided natural forces. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine such a theory that does not in some way look like Darwinism. The only other explanation on the table is intelligent design. Thus, evidence disconfirming Darwinism tends to support ID. Therefore, the answer to question 1 is to some extent the flip side of question 2. This is not to say that the data does not support ID affirmatively. It does. For example, when dealing with complex specified information, ID is the obvious inference to the best explanation.

Finally, I suspect Darwinism because it is clear that it is held by many Darwinists on religious, not scientific, grounds not because of the evidence but in the very teeth of the evidence.

“Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”

Richard C. Lewontin, “Billions and Billions of Demons,” review of The Demon- Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, by Carl Sagan, The New York Review of Books, January 9, 1997, 30-31.

I do not accept Dr. Lewontin’s religious views; therefore, there is no reason for me to accept any conclusion of his that is compelled by those religious views instead of the evidence on the ground.

63 Replies to “My Views in a Nutshell

  1. 1

    […] UD responds to a query from France Dear Mr. X,I am writing to respond to your email of September 27, 2007. You ask two questions: (1) How do you come to trust in Intelligent Design? and (2) What do you think to be the most important flaws in the modern theories describing the course of evolution? I will answer the questions in reverse order. […]

  2. 2
    Jack Golightly says:

    My response to Mr.X – what he said.
    Well written Barry. Concise. I especailly appreciate all the quotes. Reminds me of Paul in Acts 23:6. Let ’em hash it out themselves while we get on with the real business.

  3. 3
    StephenB says:

    Barry A, a most thoughful summary. I found it helpful myself. I would add only this in a general sense.

    I am inclined toward ID because it is liberating to the intellect. Yes, I do trust it, because it trusts me. It tells me that I deserve the privilege of following where the evidence leads; that I may pursue scientific truth without the inhibitions imposed by methodological naturalism; that I may explore all the mysteries of the universe including, if that be the case, any clues that a Creator or anyone else may have left, allowing for the possibility that nature itself contains some rational principle that may be discerned.
    After having been thus liberated, I cannot return to that world of insufferable dogmatism that will not account for itself or allow anyone else to question it. On the one hand, I love Dogmas insofar as they reflect truths than are not in conflict with the standards of right reason. Certain assumptions are necessary as a rational starting point. I accept the dogma, for example, that a thing cannot be true and false at the same time and under the same formal circumstances. If I didn’t believe that, I would not be a reasonable person. Unless I submit to that truth, I can discover nothing of value, say nothing of value, or do nothing of value.

    On the other hand, I hate dogmas that militate against reason and forbid intellectual scrutiny. To me, the Darwin formula has become such a dogma. It insists that the investigator intrude his ideology into the investigation, which means that it is no longer an investigation. If I may not even question my scientific assumptions, no amount of research or reasoning will save me if those assumtions happen to be wrong. I want intellectual freedom as much as I want personal freedom. In fact, I’m not sure there is a difference.

  4. 4

    Good thoughts and well stated.

  5. 5
    GilDodgen says:

    Barry,

    I’m going to save this, print it out, and give it to people who ask what ID is all about, and why I’m a proponent of it.

    The irony is that ID proponents are accused of resorting to pseudo-science, when it is Darwinists who are desperate to prop up an obviously failed hypothesis with illogical speculation (like co-option as an explanation for the origin of the bacterial flagellum), wild, unjustified extrapolation (like bacterial antibiotic resistance explaining the origin of new body plans and cellular information-processing machinery), ignoring or waving away colossally huge probability barriers and the counter evidence of the fossil record, and making up fanciful stories that have no basis in any evidence, just wishful speculation.

  6. 6
    professorsmith says:

    Excellent comment.

    When I get emails from someone in foreign country X, I usually assume it’s a scam. I may have to check my email a bit more closely from now on for chances to educate others on what ID science really is about.

    Barry, do you mind if I link to this on my blog?

  7. 7
    Jack Golightly says:

    Good idea Gil, think I’ll do the same. (Not that I have a bunch of folks beating a path to my door asking what ID is, but at least I’ll be prepared)

  8. 8
    magnan says:

    Very good, Barry. I would just make a couple of clarifications.

    Most important, you don’t actually define ID, so you still leave this open to misunderstanding and distortion since it isn’t clear that this is rigorously understood by the French writer of the email. You need to explain that “Intelligent Design” is most definitely not Biblical creationism, but is the scientific theory that some form of intelligence is behind evolution. ID does not dispute evolution as the observed progression of biological forms over hundreds of millions of years.

    Concerning irreducible complexity: This should probably be defined, perhaps as the intricate organization of a biological structure where all of the parts are required for it to function, and that this quality makes the gradual step-by-step evolution of it (per MET) vanishingly improbable.

    Concerning the “edge” of evolution: explain that this is where random genetic change + other circumstances + natural law (various versions of MET) fail to account for fundamental innovations and new forms in evolution.

  9. 9
    BarryA says:

    Thank you for all of the comments. I give blanket approval to link to any of my posts. I’m going to chew on some of these and respond later.

  10. 10

    […] 3rd, 2007 · No Comments At Uncommon Descent, Barry A gives us a great post on what ID is really about.  […]

  11. 11
    professorsmith says:

    Thank you for allowing me to repost.

    http://professorsmith.wordpres.....all-about/

  12. 12
    magnan says:

    I forgot to include this comment in my last post:

    Concerning the problem to Darwinism of complex specified information you say: “Darwinists attempt to explain this complex information by resorting to the “numerous monkeys typing” randomness. In other words, the theory goes, if you have enough monkeys pounding on enough typewriters, sooner or later they will pound out the works of Shakespeare.”

    I know what you mean, but for the purpose of answering this French student this is incomplete. The Darwinists of course claim it is actually the combination of random genetic change and natural selection that rescues the process from pure randomness (and no increase in complexity). Natural selection is supposed to give evolution the magic creative and apparently directional touch. Dembski and Behe recognize natural selection as a real force, but show it to be ultimately trivial and even tautological.

  13. 13
    GilDodgen says:

    DAWKINS’ BLUNDER

    Richard Dawkins: It is as though the vault’s door were to open another chink every time the number on the dials moved a little closer to the winning number.

    I’m labeling this “Dawkins’ Blunder,” because he has offered a perfect example of irreducible complexity in an attempt to defend Darwinian gradualism.

    The fact of the matter is that the vault’s door does not open another chink every time a number on the dial moves a little closer to the lock’s combination. The vault’s door does absolutely nothing until all the numbers are exactly correct, and are entered in an exactly correct sequence.

    A professor of the public understanding of science should have been able to figure this out, one would think.

  14. 14
    godslanguage says:

    Hi, I am new to the blog, not new to Intelligent Design. However, in reference to Behe’s Irreducible Complexity I believe that even if a biological feature is reducible and still functions (efficiently or not), then it indicates more design then previously thought. Redundancy is a major part of any design, to correct errors such, one example in networks: when information or data is transmitted there is a CRC or field Checksum field header attached to the data packet so that if an error occurs, its re-sent etc…the number in the header would have to match the data size that was sent. Many biological features are irreducibly complex (ie: the bacterial flagellum), but even if they are reducible and still function, in my mind that would indicate tremendous more amount of specified information to include redundancy application.

  15. 15
    BarryA says:

    StephenB writes: “I am inclined toward ID because it is liberating to the intellect.”

    Good point. I considered throwing in a comment about how ID allows us to be open minded and follow the evidence wherever it might lead; whereas most Darwinists seem bent on ignoring or distorting any evidence that may lead them off the straight and narrow path illuminated by Saint Charles. This is, of course, another double-edged sword, because we really must face the fact that Darwinism is supported by some evidence (unimpressive evidence in my view), and we must be prepared to deal with that sometimes uncomfortable fact.

    “Certain assumptions are necessary as a rational starting point.”
    Indeed, as C.S. Lewis said in the Abolition of Man, “You cannot go on ‘seeing through’ things for ever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it . . . It is no use trying to ‘see through’ first principles. If you see through everything, then everything is transparent . . . To ‘see through’ all things is the same as not to see.”

    Magnan writes: “You need to explain that “Intelligent Design” is most definitely not Biblical creationism, but is the scientific theory that some form of intelligence is behind evolution.”

    I agree. Perhaps I assumed that Mr. X would already understand what ID is, but that is a risky assumption given the desperate lengths our opponents go to in order to conflate ID with creationism. I would not, however, define ID in the way you do. I would define ID as the theory that some aspects of living things are best explained as the result of intelligent agency.

  16. 16
    jerry says:

    There are several explanations for the appearance of new species. Each essentially lacks any positive evidence supporting it. We resort to negative information to disprove the other theories. That is essentially what Darwin did and it still remains the strongest argument against intelligence based explanations. It is also essentially what ID does best, namely showing that the other explanations cannot possibly happen and by default we are left with an intelligence based explanation which could explain life’s origin and its changes over time. That is essentially what the Edge of Evolution was about.

    So each side adds up the negative arguments for the other explanations and then proclaims victory.

    So who has the best negative arguments? I personally think ID does.

  17. 17
    Carl Sachs says:

    In re: (13)

    I would define ID as the theory that some aspects of living things are best explained as the result of intelligent agency.

    I think that this needs to be supplemented with the claim that intelligent agency is either independent of, or at least irreducible to, causally closed system as deterministically understood. Or no?

    In re: (14), Jerry, I think you’re really onto something there — that each side has largely (if not entirely) negative arguments.

    More and more I’m coming to think that (a) each side is wrong precisely because it fails to acknowledge the truth of the other side and (b) this is a general feature that underlies all conflicts (intellectual, scientific, social, political, personal, etc.)

  18. 18
    ReligionProf says:

    Showing that we do not have the explanation for something just shows that we do not have the explanation (yet). What troubles me most about ID is its message that it is appropriate to stop looking for explanations at that point.

    I also find the focus on notions like ‘complex specified information’ troubling not so much in and of themselves, but because those who actually study the CONTENT of the information found in DNA agree that it contains a wealth of information about the history of humankind, our relatedness to other species, and the way our organism functions. There are plenty of unanswered questions about the early history of the language and its natural or supernatural origins. But we have the book in front of us, and what it says when we read it seems pretty clear to most scientists.

  19. 19
    russ says:

    ID does not dispute evolution as the observed progression of biological forms over hundreds of millions of years. – magnan

    Just to clarify, ID neither affirms nor denies this.

  20. 20
    Sladjo says:

    BarryA,

    I would include in my response to these students a reference to origin of information.

    As we all know, there is nowhere in this Universe a source of information that is purely materialistic. An information source is ALWAYS a mind. And we all know that a cell is “teaming with information”, as a stored information, and also as a processed information. There is – within the cell – a huge database AND a great computing capability. Can that evolve from scratch? … I don’t think so, that was never observed in nature…

  21. 21
    jerry says:

    Carl Sachs,

    There is no attempt to lay out each other’s arguments in a systematic basis. Twice I have gone through UC Berkeley’s evolution class in their first year biology series. It is on the internet for all to see. At best circumstantial evidence is provided in support of neo Darwinism while depending upon the professor disingenuous shots are taken at ID.

    The best circumstantial evidence I have seen in support of a naturalistic mechanism is the geographic isolation data which shows that geographically isolated areas have very different species. How is not supported by any evidence. Thus, this does not point to a gradualistic approach just that different environments brought forth different species. It would be consistent with some other naturalistic approach that is more abrupt. Using the negative argument, the naturalistic supporters always point out the unlikelihood of some intelligence creating all these variants in different isolated geographical areas.

    By the way I believe the geographical argument is the strongest in the naturalistic bag of explannations.

    However, these same proponents always fail to mention the lack of evidence that should be there. It is the classic “dog barking in the night” scenario. Why didn’t the dog bark; why aren’t the expected transitions there? There are no transitions barking at us anywhere. So they wave it away.

  22. 22
    jerry says:

    ReligionPtog,

    Do you believe in God? If you do and by the way personal experience has taught me that religion professors do not necessarily believe in God, then did God ever do anything?

    If God did something to affect the way of the world, would that be an example of God intervening to change the natural flow of things. As such would science be at a standstill to explain this intervention since the natural flow was interrupted. I think the answer is obvious.

    So if you admit the possibility of God and you then admit the possibility that God intervened in the world somehow, then you have to admit that there may be some instances where science would not be able to explain the event in question.

    So to continue to rely on the God of the Gaps argument which is what you seem to be doing is to admit that you are either an atheist or some form of Deist that said God may have acted once but that was it and He then took a hike.

    So which are you, an atheist or a deist?

  23. 23
    jerry says:

    I am sorry that my typing went astray and the previous email was addressed to ReligionProf.

  24. 24
    bornagain77 says:

    Religion Prof.

    I get very tired of people saying ID is a science stopper! If an Intelligence did indeed intervene at certain points in the universe’s march towards advanced carbon based life as is currently being indicated, then I want to know this with as much certainty as possible, and feel that science offers men the tools to detect and solidify these facts as such. Is science all the sudden going to stop it relentless pursuit of knowledge because of such revelations…NOT IN THE % !! Much like the cat that was too curious, science will continue to question and search out answers for exactly how did the Intelligence effect whatever cause was determined to be influenced…Indeed such questions as ” Did the Intelligence somehow encode complex specified information in light so as to implant it on the DNA of matter? Is gravity intimately connected to matter or does it arise from a higher dimension? Do any specific thoughts of the human mind effect any type of matter in any way shape or fashion? etc. etc. etc. Indeed Prof. once this alchemy of evolution is finally tossed into the trash heap of human history where it belongs I see many possible breakthroughs in science…In all truthfulness Prof. materialism/evolution is the science stopper for it refuses to consider any other possibility other than a proven false one. And I ask you Prof. “What good is a proven end going to do for science?”

  25. 25
    Borne says:

    ReligionProf:

    “There are plenty of unanswered questions about the early history of the language and its natural or supernatural origins.”

    This is erroneous in itself, because it supposes that “the language” might have natural origins.

    However we know that no coded information system can arise naturally. Languages do not arise without intelligence. Abstract code that represents something other than itself – like the genetic code – never arises from random processes in matter.

    Language implies symbolic convention which implies intelligence.

    The fact that DNA contains error trapping mechanisms implies knowledge. There is no such thing as ‘error correction’ without knowledge. But DNA does not have it’s own knowledge therefore it was designed by someone with knowledge of what proper states are within the genome versus erroneous states.

    Only intelligently designed processes can detect error.

    The very existence of logical absolutes implies the existence of an absolute mind. Logic is conceptual, not physical. There is no absolute logic without mind.

    Information is not sugars and enzymes. Information is metaphysical and is thus different from the media in which it is stored.

    That alone ought to wake up any Darwinist to truth about the universe -> there is more than empirically verifiable, materialist constructs in existence!

  26. 26
    BarryA says:

    ReligionProf writes: “What troubles me most about ID is its message that it is appropriate to stop looking for explanations at that point.”

    I am so weary of the “ID is a science stopper” argument; for it has been answered again and again. See here for example: http://www.uncommondescent.com.....the-piles/

  27. 27
    BarryA says:

    godslanguage,

    Welcome to the blog. I understand your point, but I think it speaks past Behe’s project, which was not so much an argument for design as an argument that Darwinist process were simply insufficient to account for these structures. As I mention in the post, this is an argument for design, but only indirectly so

  28. 28
    dacook says:

    What troubles me most about ID is its message that it is appropriate to stop looking for explanations at that point.

    This is a straw-man.
    I’ve never heard an ID proponent make this argument. Some Creationists, maybe. But ID is not Creationism.

  29. 29
    ReligionProf says:

    I’m not an atheist and not a deist, although I suppose many of us might be willing to allow for the possibility that God does not directly do things that God was in prior generations assumed to do. But if you see God’s involvement in all things – even those that have natural explanations – then how is that atheism or deism? I accept that, on the level of biology, it is possible to describe what is going on in my body when I speak in natural terms ON THAT LEVEL. Speaking about my volition, like speaking about God, is not a competing explanation, but a different level of viewing the same things.

    Let’s say we can know about the designer just as we know about the humans who produced artifacts that archaeologists have found. Would you conclude that the designer was inept for placing the wind and food pipes together? Would you conclude that the designer was sadistic for creating insects that kill one another in the mating process? Would you treat the designer as just plain weird for creating moles with non-functional eyes instead of no eyes at all? The design argument is not only scientifically troubling – it leads to a very troubling view of God.

  30. 30
    StephenB says:

    Religious Prof:

    Suppose you were a witness in a murder case and the prosecution was trying to decide if the defendant had opportunity, means, and motive to commit the crime. He is accused of a brutal physical act. The prosecutor begins the process of ascertaining the probability of guilt.

    First, he want’s to know if the alleged killer had the opportunity (was he on the scene?) If not, there is no need to proceed further. If so, he moves to the next step to find out if the defendant actually had a murder weapon (means). If not, there is no need to proceeed. If so, he begins to consider possible motives.

    This is the natural process of the human mind. This is roughly the same process that Dembski’s explanatory filter uses. There is no reason to even consider design unless you have eliminated necessity and chance.

    Now suppose the presiding judge examines this logical process and says to the prosecutor, “what is it with all this negative methodology your are using?” The prosecutor say, “wait judge, it makes no sense to speculate WHY he did it if we don’t first know IF he did it.

    Finally, the judge says, “away with this bigoted prosecuter, he is just trying to sneak in his Motive theory throught the back door. All this talk about eliminating other possibilities is just a cover for his ideology. We have already decided that there are never any motives, only the APPEARANCE of motives. Anyone caught checking for motives in the future will be lampooned, persecuted, and, if need be, held in contempt of court.

    Religious prof, stop being that judge.

  31. 31
    dl says:

    “The design argument is not only scientifically troubling – it leads to a very troubling view of God.”

    Troubling conclustions are often a good sign. Evidence that only supports what we already “know” is a sign that some things are being overlooked.

  32. 32
    Carl Sachs says:

    ReligionProf,

    I suspect that you’re going to face a lot of resistance on this blog — which is good for all of us!

    It strikes me that you’re willing to accept some degree of “hermeneutic pluralism” — that there are many different levels and strategies of interpretation (e.g. physical, biological, psychological, theological), and that what ‘works’ at one level might not work at another. So the language and concepts used in biological explanations can operate in some independence from theological problematics.

    By contrast, most design theorists and their supporters are “hermeneutic monists” — they want a single system that unifies all interpretative schemes within a ‘meta-scheme’. They see the concept of design as a way of achieving within a 21st century what Aquinas was able to do in the 12th century — unify all science, ethics, politics in a single metaphysical system.

    And their materialist/atheist opponents are no less Cyclopsean. While pluralists like us are, as it were, damned from both sides.

  33. 33
    gpuccio says:

    As Shakespeare said: “Tired with all these…”
    Anyway, it’s almost a duty now. So on we go:

    #18 “Showing that we do not have the explanation for something just shows that we do not have the explanation (yet). What troubles me most about ID is its message that it is appropriate to stop looking for explanations at that point.”

    The problem is that ID is not showing that we do not have the explanation for something, it is showing, on the contrary, that specific explicit explanations, like darwinian evolution, don’t explain anything, and are self-contradictory. In any serious science, that would be more than enough to reject those explanations.
    Moreover, ID has never issued a message that it is appropriate to stop looling for explanations. The only message is that it is frankly stupid to stick to explanations which don’t explain anything, and which cannot ever explain anything, because reason clearly shows that. The problem is not that darwinian evolution is not “yet” supported by facts. Darwinian evolution is logically inadequate and contradictory, “and” many times falsified by facts.
    Moreover, ID “is” definitely suggesting a scenario of thought in which a lot of explanations can be searched and found: it is, exactly, the design scenario. The fairy tale that, once admitted design, no further inquiry is possible because we have let God in is, indeed, a fairy tale, and a bad one.

    #18 “I also find the focus on notions like ‘complex specified information’ troubling not so much in and of themselves…”

    I am afraid that the only reason you might find the notion of CSI troubling is because you can’t understand it. But don’t be discouraged: try again. With time, you may succeed. If you need help, we are here for that.

    #18 “…but because those who actually study the CONTENT of the information found in DNA agree that it contains a wealth of information…”

    and

    “…and what it says when we read it seems pretty clear to most scientists”

    Here is, again, your favourite, and I am afraid only, argument: conformism. Scientists are on your part, so you must be right. Pardon me, but then why ever should we talk to “you”, or red what “you” say? We has better relate to true (and relaxing) scientists, like Kenneth Miller or PZ Myers, and they will certainly be good enough to give us illunination. Why discuss? It’s so much simpler to believe and obey…

    #29 “I accept that, on the level of biology, it is possible to describe what is going on in my body when I speak in natural terms ON THAT LEVEL. Speaking about my volition, like speaking about God, is not a competing explanation, but a different level of viewing the same things.”

    You might say that this is an argument, and that I was not correct in affirming that your only argument is conformism. You are right, I apologize. I should have said that your only “scientific” argument is conformism. You have indeed philosophical arguments of your own. They are not original, they are not good, they are a recycling of old, very old conceptions, but they are something. So, let’s be realistic: you are a bad philosopher, and a conformistic science amateur. But please, try to understand that, once you admit that everything can be fully explained by known physical laws at what you call one “level”, nobody with a reasoning mind will probably be interested in your other very imaginary and completely useless level: your idea that the two levels may co-exist, and yet be completely independent, is a rather gross recycling of a “res cogita and res extensa” view of the world, and it could easily be shown that it leads to unsolvable internal contradictions.

    #29 “Would you conclude that the designer was inept for placing the wind and food pipes together? Would you conclude that the designer was sadistic for creating insects that kill one another in the mating process?”

    Bad philosophy again, and above all very, very bad religion. The “bad design equals no design” argument is silly in the mouths of atheists, but it is complete folly from one who believes in God. Millennia of religious though have tried to find an answer to the coexistence of a God and of evil. That’s a true metaphysical mystery, and the core of many deep religious and/or philosophical insights in all times. You are only banalizing it in a terribly simplistic argumentation. You are making bad philosophy, and in no way any science, in doing so.
    Just think for a moment that, if God exists, and if He has created the world (two big ifs, but let’s say that you probably agree), He is anyway responsible for the whole result, unless you think that undefined limitations outside of Him have compelled Him to do so. So, your easy dismissal of all bad things in the world by attributing them to natural forces is completely nonsense: God created those natural forces and, if you believe that He is outside time and space (as I think you should), than He certainly knew what He was doing, and what the result would be. So, He is responsible anyway. I am afraid you will have to find a better solution to ease your conscience.

  34. 34
    BarryA says:

    I am also weary of “Bad design equals no design.” It too has been answered over and over. That’s why we have it in our “put a sock in it” section on this blog under “arguments not to use” I repeat that section here:

    Bad Design Means No Design

    By pointing out imperfections in living things it is somehow made apparent that there can’t be an intelligent agency behind it. This is really odd as it is basically a religious argument being made against Intelligent Design. The proponent of this argument is making a faith based assertion that God is perfect and hence incapable of bad design. ID makes no claim that the source of complexity is a perfect God incapable of imperfection. Write that down.

  35. 35
    StephenB says:

    Religious Prof:

    Also, if you are going to use religious arguments against ID by suggesting that God could have done it better, why not solve it with a religious answer. God created a universe with perfect design, but the design was later compromised by the effects of original sin.
    If you are going to use your religious imagination–go all the way. Don’t just use religion to raise questions and then abandon relgion when it provides the answers.

  36. 36
    StephenB says:

    Religious Prof:

    Apparently, you are also not aware that Dembski has made an important distinction between “optimum design” and “perfect design.” You can read about it in his book, “The Design Inference.”

    It makes no sense to keep shooting all these arrows hoping that one day you will hit a target. Why not just do the reading?

  37. 37
    magnan says:

    jerry: “The best circumstantial evidence I have seen in support of a naturalistic mechanism is the geographic isolation data which shows that geographically isolated areas have very different species…..By the way I believe the geographical argument is the strongest in the naturalistic bag of explannations.”

    This simplifies the argument of many ID advocates like Behe. There does not appear to be just one mechanism. Some version of random genetic change plus selection is taken to explain evolutionary diversity through the genus level and would explain divergence of forms in geographically isolated regions.

  38. 38
    tribune7 says:

    The problem is that ID is not showing that we do not have the explanation for something,

    We can’t forget the things that ID shows — namely that design is the best explanation for certain aspects of organisms.

    And it does it objectively, without resort to supernatural explanations.

  39. 39
    bornagain77 says:

    I believe geographic isolation and diversity of species will fall under front-loaded conditions that obey genetic entropy..

    Take for instance the human adaptations from the original parent species of humans that is thought to have migrated out of Africa 50,000 years ago. We can readily prove that loss of information (Genetic Entropy) is occurring.

    Tishkoff; Andrew Clark, Penn State; Kenneth Kidd, Yale University; Giovanni Destro-Bisol, University “La Sapienza,” Rome, and Himla Soodyall and Trefor Jenkins, WITS University, South Africa, looked at three locations on DNA samples from 13 to 18 populations in Africa and 30 to 45 populations in the remainder of the world.

    “We found an enormous amount of diversity within and between the African populations, and we found much less diversity in non-African populations,” Tishkoff told attendees today (Jan. 22) at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Anaheim. “Only a small subset of the diversity in Africa is found in Europe and the Middle East, and an even narrower set is found in American Indians.”

    As well we can readily see on the morphological level of humans that, since black contains all the information for the other colors, that humans are losing information for skin color (I argue losing information for shape as well).

    Thus from this and other strong evidences, I argue the evidence is strong for introduction of information at the level of parent species with each succeeding adaptation of a sub-species, to a new geography, resulting in the loss of genetic information.
    This hypothesis lines up well with the evidence in the fossil record as well,,explaining the fairly constant rate of mysterious extinctions in the fossil record!

  40. 40
    magnan says:

    russ (19):

    ID does not dispute evolution as the observed progression of biological forms over hundreds of millions of years. – magnan

    (russ): Just to clarify, ID neither affirms nor denies this.

    I don’t think I agree here. The “observed progression” I referred to consists of a great mass of fossil evidence covering hundreds of millions of years. My impression is that most ID advocates accept this evidence as clearly showing that “evolution”, defined strictly as change with time, has occurred. Those who do not accept this are mostly Biblical creationists, and appear to be a minority.

  41. 41
    Daniel King says:

    BarryA

    Bad Design Means No Design

    By pointing out imperfections in living things it is somehow made apparent that there can’t be an intelligent agency behind it. This is really odd as it is basically a religious argument being made against Intelligent Design.

    Not at all. It simply says that whatever did the designing was error-prone.

  42. 42
    jerry says:

    magnan,

    There are lots of possible ways an intelligence could intervene in the design of species and one is to create a a species with genomes that has a variety of many different alleles with the possibility that these species will be able to adapt to new environments through natural selection.

    In other words species could be designed to adapt. This would explain the geographical diversity we see and such phenomena as the Wallace trench separating widely different species.

    This is just speculation but it sure would be intelligent for a designer to do it. After all the more important and even more complex thing is the ecology and unless species can adapt they will face extinction earlier. So every species should be designed to adapt and natural selection would be a good mechanism but it requires a robust set of alleles in the genomes of the population.

    It supports neo Darwinism in minor ways but essentially defeats it as an over all mechanism for species change since the genomes are designed and do not come into being by mutation which Behe has just shown is extremely unlikely.

  43. 43
    jerry says:

    ReligionProf,

    It seems your religious beliefs are determining your science. You bring theodicy arguments against ID and this is a common negative argument leveled against ID. But you are letting your theology/ideology determine what is good science or not.

    I have found there are four major players in this debate and three of the four have their science determined by their theology.

    These are the YEC’s whose science must support or at least be neutral to a recent creation. There are the Theistic Evolutionists for which many believe that God would never act directly in this world which seems to be what you are espousing. For many TE’s Darwinism is part of their theology because they cannot conceive of any other way that God would have the world run and thus it becomes a theological assumption. The third group are the atheists who must have some naturalistic mechanism for evolution because they cannot admit that a God exists to direct anything in this world whether directly or indirectly. Thus, it is very hard to tell the differences between the TE’s and the atheists on evolution because they see the same world in terms of life forms and their history and they seem chained to their belief system as opposed to the facts.

    There is a fourth group which does not see any relation to what is discovered in science and their religious beliefs. For them whatever science reveals is how the world was created and controlled. So they could believe in Darwinism if the evidence pointed that way or they could accept some other naturalistic mechanism or they could accept intervention by an intelligence or God Himself.

    The distinguishing thing about the fourth group is that they are free to follow the science wherever it goes.

    I was always puzzled by the theistic evolution philosophy because how do you determine the difference between a direct or indirect control of an event in the world.

  44. 44
    StephenB says:

    Daniel King:

    Barry A is not ruling out your interpretation in principle. ID allows for an error prone designer.

    ID critics, while they often do not understand intelligent design, do understand that many ID advocates are also Chrisitians. They can’t conceive that a Christian IDer could approach the same subject from two different vantage points without being contradictory. They think that by challenging Christianity’s perfect God, they have somehow made ID’s generic designer, which could but need not be perfect, seem implausible.

  45. 45
    bornagain77 says:

    Magnan you stated:

    I don’t think I agree here. The “observed progression” I referred to consists of a great mass of fossil evidence covering hundreds of millions of years. My impression is that most ID advocates accept this evidence as clearly showing that “evolution”, defined strictly as change with time, has occurred. Those who do not accept this are mostly Biblical creationists, and appear to be a minority.

    As well as this progression let’s not forget to bring the other evidence to the table i.e. sudden appearance, stasis, CSI, Genetic Entropy, proven limited radiation from parent species. the vast majority of extinctions in the fossil record being very mysterious at a fairly constant rate of 3-5 million years!
    If you are convinced that ID is the strongest theory to explain the complexity we find in molecular biology then you must of necessity believe that information was implanted in the genome of life form-s at one time or at several times….
    Putting all these pieces of the puzzle together magnan what do we find? The evidence points to CSI being inserted at the level of parent species with limited radiation away from parent species occurring while obeying the overriding principle of Genetic Entropy…As well, the Genetic entropy will explain the numerous (over 90%) extinctions found in the fossil record due to “Genetic Meltdown…The Hypothesis is strong in validation…I find all trumpeted adaptations of sub-species away from parent species always obey genetic entropy,,,that is loss of information is always detectable in the adaptation!!! Yet if you believe in ID you must find when the information was inserted!!! I find the evidence compelling at insertion at parent species…until information is demonstrated to occur by random mutation or some radical Front-loading scenario is revealed in evidence this is the strongest possible solution to the pieces of the puzzle available to us

  46. 46
    godslanguage says:

    BarryA wrote:

    I also like add that Bad design is subject to mere opinion, even if it is scientific. The differance between the idea of “good” and “bad” design is essentially based on purpose behind the design, purpose tends to pre-determine the function. Virtually any simple to complex design you can think of revolves around that idea.

  47. 47
    godslanguage says:

    My response was based on what BarryA wrote (which didn’t appear for some odd reason)

    BarryA wrote:


    I am also weary of “Bad design equals no design.” It too has been answered over and over. That’s why we have it in our “put a sock in it” section on this blog under “arguments not to use” I repeat that section here:

    Bad Design Means No Design”

  48. 48
    larrycranston says:

    StephenB:

    It’s been a while since I read The Design Inference, but I don’t recall Dr. Dembski addressing optimum design and perfect design. Can you provide citations?

  49. 49
    jerry says:

    Optimum design must take into account that each organism lives in an ecology. So what is optimum design? It depends upon objectives. Each organism must be limited to succeed in an ecology or else it starts to eliminate other elements of the ecology and then finds itself in a situation in which it cannot survive so this optimum designed organism goes extinct.

    Ecologies are much more complicated than organisms and so called “perfect design” must mean a design that is not perfect or else the organism sees/hears/smells too well, runs too fast, gets too strong, climbs too easily etc.

    Dr. Dembski has a paper somewhere that discusses optimum design.

  50. 50
    larrycranston says:

    If someone could locate a paper or book where Dr. Dembski addresses optimum design, please let me know! Thanks!

  51. 51
    godslanguage says:

    I have no clue what the definition of perfect is in reference to object “X”!

    What is a perfect designer that designs imperfection
    versus
    A imperfect designer that designs perfection
    versus
    A imperfect designer that designs imperfection
    versus
    A perfect designer that designs perfection

    These conditionals state nothing, all I have is meaningless statements based on mere opinions.
    How do I know what perfect or imperfect is when I am not the original designer, nor do I have knowledge of whether perfection is attainable.

    One design may not meet the standard criteria or “satisfaction” of another design.
    So how do we quantify and qualify something as being perfect? Is it efficiency, redundancy, is it super-flying powers?

    What would be a limit or threshold for object “X” for ruling it as a “better-then” perfect design after it has reached
    its perfect state?

    I don’t think any of these can help ID for the most part, this is all subjective opinion-based reasoning.

    I don’t believe this line of reasoning can help the Darwinists nor can it help ID proponents. ND’st like to point out object “X” as being imperfect for “Y” reason, how they come to this conclusion is nothing short of classical humor, IMO.

  52. 52
    Charlie says:

    Dr. Dembski has a short chapter in The Design Revolution entitled Optimal Design.

    He also discussed it briefly in a post from a couple of years ago.
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....le-design/

  53. 53
    Janice says:

    I give you the de Havilland Comet.

    It was designed (by intelligent human beings) to have square windows, so that they would not resemble the portholes of ships.

    Too bad. The designers didn’t know that repeated pressurisation and depressurisation of such an aircraft would cause metal fatigue in the corners of the windows and that, ultimately, would lead to fuselage failure in which, “the cabin structure … burst like a blown-up paper bag and was ripped to pieces in a fraction of a second”.

    When people start rabbiting on about what they regard as “poor” design (e.g., the vertebrate eye) all they are really doing (given our current state of ignorance about the details of almost all biological systems) is revealing that they are arrogant know-it-alls. All the guff about the vertebrate eye being back-to-front has now been shown to be guff but, sadly, that doesn’t shut the know-it-alls up.

    Personally, I wouldn’t mind being able both to fly and to breathe underwater but then I’d have to have different bones, a couple of extra oxygen exchange systems, gills that don’t dry out while breathing air, and wings as well. Of course wings would be a problem as far as clothing and sleeping goes, and keeping gills moist enough so that they would work immediately whenever I feel like plunging into the briny depths could also be a problem. No doubt one of the know-it-alls could come up with a solution to prevent continual leakage of moistening fluids from my neck and down the rest of my body, perhaps causing the usual sorts of problems associated with constantly wet skin. Frankly, I can’t. I just assume that I was optimally designed to be an air breathing, land dwelling creature of the human-being kind and therefore I can’t fly and can’t breathe underwater.

  54. 54
    Daniel King says:

    StephenB:

    Barry A is not ruling out your interpretation in principle. ID allows for an error prone designer.

    ID critics, while they often do not understand intelligent design, do understand that many ID advocates are also Chrisitians. They can’t conceive that a Christian IDer could approach the same subject from two different vantage points without being contradictory. They think that by challenging Christianity’s perfect God, they have somehow made ID’s generic designer, which could but need not be perfect, seem implausible.

    Thanks, SB, I understood the distinction you are making.

    But if there are imperfections in organisms, then the putative designer of those organisms cannot be perfect, and the perfect Abrahamic god cannot be the designer. Nor can ID’s generic designer be perfect.

    Of course, has has been stated, the existence of imperfections in organisms can be debated.

  55. 55
    StephenB says:

    Daniel King:

    “But if there are imperfections in organisms, then the putative designer of those organisms cannot be perfect, and the perfect Abrahamic god cannot be the designer. Nor can ID’s generic designer be perfect.”

    Yes, your logic is sound here. Don’t forget, though, that when we speak of an Abrahamic God, we have entered into the domain of religion. From that perspective, a perfect God can design a perfect universe which, in turn, can be compromised by the effects of original sin. Many Christian theologians believe that man’s disobedience to God upset not only the moral universe but the physical universe as well.
    I realize this answer is out of bounds from an ID perspective, but there is no rule (or shouldn’t be) that prevents scientists from analyzing the world from a philosophical/theological perspective. This is what Dembski was doing, by the way, when his enemies tried to lay the charge on him of intruding religion into his science with his comments about “Logos theoory.” Monists are capable (or willing) to look for truth only in the context of one paradigm (Darwinism). In that sense, they are severely limited, and, in some ways, perverse.

    For my part, I feel free to take my ID hat off and put my Christian hat on any time I please. But I realize that is leaves me vulnerable to dishonest Darwinists, who will accuse me of leaking religion into my scientific methodology. Such is the world we live in.

    Daniel King:

  56. 56
    StephenB says:

    Sorry, about the misfire. Obviously, that was StephenB signing off and not Daniel King.

  57. 57
    bornagain77 says:

    Stephan and Daniel

    I find this following article by Dr. Dembski to be very reasonable in addressing the issue of imperfection in a world created by a perfect God.

    http://www.designinference.com.....eodicy.pdf

  58. 58
    XtremeCamera says:

    Because these are short comments and not full length books I realize that we must keep the focus tight in our respective posts. That being the case, here’s a question that relates to natural progression, changes over time. (I realize the amateurish way I am presenting this question, but bare with me here)

    According to darwinists I am to believe that life started out as simple organisms with no direction, no intelligent agent whatsoever. That all living things evolved from simple to complex. If that is indeed the case I’d like to know the response to the following.

    1. Without the complex design of the inner ear in all animals balance in the material world could not be achieved, correct? Don’t all animals possess this balance mechanism?

    2. The “first” animal, in order to survive, would also need this balance mechanism and in fact studies have shown that early dinosaurs had complex inner ears.

    3. If we are to believe that all life was a long, natural, non-intelligent path, exactly how and when did the inner ear for balance come about? How did the first animals achieve balance naturally? How do you go from un-balanced to somewhat balanced to balanced?

    4. Without balance you cannot survive and evolve, but without millions of years of surviving you cannot develop the complexity of the inner ear so that you can evolve in the first place.

    What am I missing here? Try to google “How did balance evolve” and you get nothing. Surely others have posed this question before?

  59. 59
    StephenB says:

    Daniel King: To be more precise, it would be illogical even to attribute imperfection to the generic ID God, because ID cannot confidently make the inference that original sin didn’t happen. So, from a scientific perspective, the question would have to be left open.

  60. 60
    bornagain77 says:

    XtremeCamera,

    Be very careful what you ask,,, You must NEVER EVER question things too critically or look too closely for rational explanations, for the illusion quickly vanishes, and you invite the wrath of being considered a retarded IDiot and having your name slandered all over the web.

    Or to put it Matrix terminology;

    The choice is yours and you will have to live with the consequences of your decision for the rest of your life, if you take the blue pill of complacency you are free to go back to sleep and not ask any more probing questions– but if you take the red pill of investigation you will see the world as it really is and wake up from the illusion created by the Darwinbots!!!!

  61. 61
    Borne says:

    ReligionProf:

    “Would you conclude that the designer was inept for placing the wind and food pipes together? … was sadistic for creating insects that kill one another in the mating process? …The design argument is not only scientifically troubling – it leads to a very troubling view of God.”

    I think you’re making troubling assumptions here that have, on the one hand, nothing to do with science, and on the other are mis-informed presumptions about good and evil.

    What about humans who kill and eat animals and plants of every variety?

    Why have you placed moral judgments in with observation of what happens in nature and then brought those judgments to bare against the Designer? If the Designer made DNA to make humans with the moral sense, how can that moral sense also claim the Designer is immoral because of the way he made nature?

    Also your whole argument is based on the assumption that things have always been as they are now in nature. This is where the theist brings in the “fall” and the consequent corruption or deterioration of all nature (2nd law thermo).

    Your statement assumes that insects killing each other after mating is sadistic. Sure it looks sadistic to humans, but is it really? Eating hamburger would seem sadistic to cows. Is it?

    Your arguments are all values-based, not evidence and fact based. And you have apparently failed to notice the moral implications of Darwinism upon life.

    Whether man will ever understand the problem of pain is quite irrelevant to whether the designer, who has allowed death and designed the nerves that cause both pain and pleasure, is just and good or perfect or not.

    Suggest you read CS Lewis’ “The Problem of Pain” – “Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free-wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself.”
    “When you are arguing against Him you are arguing against the very power that makes you able to argue at all.”

  62. 62
    Borne says:

    Daniel King:
    “But if there are imperfections in organisms, then the putative designer of those organisms cannot be perfect, and the perfect Abrahamic god cannot be the designer. Nor can ID’s generic designer be perfect.”

    This is poor logic. It assumes too much about perfection and thus imperfection. It also assumes too much about the current state of things as though imperfections could not be introduced post-creation by mutations, human actions etc. – as is indeed the observed case.

    It also carries an element of arrogance by claiming to understand the real nature of both suffering and supposed imperfections. It assumes knowledge of an absolute rule of measure to which all things must conform. No such rule exists in the Darwinian world-view. Yet they persistently bring one of their own liking in!

    You will find that virtually all of the so-called imperfections pointed out by Darwinists have, over and over again been demonstrated – due to increasing knowledge, to be no imperfections at all.

    Indeed, any expert in anatomy (be it it human or other) will rather point out the marvels and “genius beyond genius” clearly visible at all levels of living organisms.

  63. 63
    StephenB says:

    bornagain 77:

    Thanks for putting me on to Dembski’s article on the imperfections in a world created by God. It’s reassuring to have someone of his calibre confirm my beliefs and to provide a rich philosophical framework to show how rational they are. I was surprised he had to overrule C. S. Lewis, but I don’t think there is any other answer that makes sense.

Leave a Reply