Darwinism Intelligent Design

The God Dilution

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I blogged once before about one of my favorite ID essayists, Roddy Bullock of idnetohio, who frequently posts at ARN.

Here is another essay that I found most insightful. Roddy is a clear thinker and a superb writer.

Let’s be honest: One of the main reasons that passions tend to run high in the ID versus Darwinism/materialism debate is that the implications are profound concerning ultimate issues and questions, especially, Is there any ultimate plan, design, meaning, or purpose in the universe and, most importantly, our lives?

I’ve always been upfront about my personal background and experience. Until 1994, at age 43, I was a Dawkins-style, hardened and committed atheist, but I am now one of those dangerous and nefarious evangelical Christians. My conversion involved a variety of interacting factors, but one of them was that I finally recognized that the materialistic apologetics with which I’d been indoctrinated didn’t comport with the evidence of modern science, or even simple logic. And I found that the bad logic and evidence had hideous and inevitable implications — in a word: nihilism.

In his essay, Roddy discusses Richard Dawkins and Ken Miller. Dawkins defends a god delusion, while Miller defends a god dilution. Which is worse, or at least less logically consistent?

On Dawkins:

It’s not surprising that a fanatically fervent atheist like Richard Dawkins boldly proclaims God a delusion. He really believes it, and his frankness is refreshing, even if he is somewhat crass in his delivery. Referring to creationists as “redneck creationists” and scientists who deny the truth of evolution as scientific “backwoodsmen” who “pretend” to scientific credentials exhibits a certain pitiful flair that only the most secure in a minority position can pull off. But Dawkins’ ruthless consistency in taking his worldview beliefs to their logical conclusion is admirable. He deserves recognition for a lifetime of relentlessly pressing his science into the service of his theology, and for his effort Dawkins has forged a place for himself as a first-rate flaming atheist in this world, if not in the next.

On Miller:

But why would someone who identifies himself as a theist willingly pitch his tent with the likes of Dawkins? What is it about impersonal, purposeless Darwinism that compels self-proclaimed believers in a personal, purposeful God to dedicate their lives to its defense? And why would a theist choose to side with the “no-design” hypothesis of Darwinism in a world that by all accounts displays undeniable design? Nature’s material evidence makes intelligent agency the logical inference, so why does anyone, much less a theist, choose to believe unintelligent Darwinism over intelligent design? Are the two ideas, creation without intelligent agency and creation by intelligent agency, really compatible? No; it’s like saying you believe intelligent beings carved the statues on Easter Island, while simultaneously adamantly defending a theory that holds they were certainly formed by natural forces alone. Dawkins rightly rejects such thinking; who wouldn’t?

30 Replies to “The God Dilution

  1. 1
    nullasalus says:

    I actually have to wonder if Miller would defend a philosophical version of ID. Namely that – while he doesn’t believe design is verifiable in the biological scences – life, the universe, and everything WAS in fact designed. Along the lines of saying that he thinks those statues on Easter Island were designed, but does not believe there can be any scientific test to falsifiably determine such one way or the other.

    In fact, has anyone in an interview ever asked this of Miller?

  2. 2
    Borne says:

    “why would a theist choose to side with the “no-design” hypothesis of Darwinism in a world that by all accounts displays undeniable design?”

    Simple. Miller is a phony. He is no more “Christian” than the devil.

  3. 3
    Borne says:

    I recant. I have no right to judge the man’s spiritual state. Maybe he’s just hard of seeing.

  4. 4
    IrishFather412 says:

    Speaking of offsprings from scientific theorie . . . Have you all investigated the ICON-RIDS webiste and Pleasurianism?

  5. 5
    bFast says:

    I find only one way to make sense of Ken Miller. I believe that being respected by his peers is highly important to him. This need for the respect of others, in psychological terms, translates directly into an issue of low self-esteem. In more human terms, it displays as someone without a backbone — a “yes man”.

    From what I have read of Miller’s view, I think he and Denton (as presented in Nature’s Destiny) are not far apart. Miller seems to see the work of God in establishing the laws that invite the development that has occurred. However, if God established the laws in the intricate way that they must have been designed to account for what we understand of the strong anthropic principle, then then only thing that he and Denton have done is move the point of design to no later than the moment of the big bang. However, it still remains to be design — as Denton clearly recognizes. The day that Miller decides that truth is more important than status, he will stand up at least for the likes of Guillermo Gonzalez, and announce that, even if only back at the big bang, we are the product of design on the level of God-like amazement.

    Sorry Dr. Miller for whaling on you this hard, but it is the natural consequence of trying to please that you displease. I continue to invite you to stand up for what you believe, to announce what you believe. You surely recognize that your options are an impotent god who only observes, or an omnipotent God who directly orchistrated it all — a God so great that he was able to orchistrate it in a single movement 16 billion years ago.

    The “by law” hypothesis is a design hypothesis.

  6. 6
    jpark320 says:

    Great article and I agree.

    I’m beginning to understand more and more why Christ said be ‘hot or cold’ and not luke warm.

    Luke warm ppl are inconsistent and they just make your side look bad.

    Dawkins is consistent (sorta), but Miller is trying to please everyone like bfast said.

  7. 7
    LeeBowman says:

    ” … why would a theist choose to side with the “no-design” hypothesis of Darwinism in a world that by all accounts displays undeniable design?

    I’ve pondered that myself, ever since becoming familiar with Miller. He sits in a precipitous place, on the one hand having to defend Darwinism, and one the other going to Mass and having to pray to a non-existent God throughout the service. I don’t like to get personal, but a logical question posed privately by a friend and confidant might be, “Do you pray, Ken?” and then, “Do you feel that your prayers are heard?”

    Francis Collins is in a similar position, although he seems more open to a belief in an interactive God in his life. But nonetheless, the concept of front loaded coding within the genome that expresses innovative mutations millions of years later is a difficult theory to embrace. I feel that it’s been proposed by theistic scientists to avoid having to deal with an existent God, and yet, to not embrace an atheistic belief. Were it not for the hard shelled materialist mindset of the scientific community, and their utter prohibition of allowing a designer into the origins question in any way, even though evident, you would see this far less often.

    “But why would someone who identifies himself as a theist willingly pitch his tent with the likes of Dawkins? What is it about impersonal, purposeless Darwinism that compels self-proclaimed believers in a personal, purposeful God to dedicate their lives to its defense?”

    Good question. Although technically in the same camp, if sitting together in a debate with ID advocates, I can think of questions that they would each answer differently, and could easily get into a disagreement between themselves over. With Miller, it’s not ‘The God Delusion’, but rather, ‘The God Decision’, that is, how in the world do I define (and relate to) God?

    I would qualify my remarks, however, by saying that I don’t claim to have real answers to the basic theistic questions, nor do any of us. Nor do I feel that I (or Ken Ham) are morally any better than Richard Dawkins, or any other skeptic. He truly believes what he believes, and would pose that comparison in reverse order!

    My mission, if I truly have one, is to stimulate the cognitive processes of those with atheistic mindsets, and do it by the means most dear to them; rationalism, (but hopefully not argumentation ad nauseum). I feel that once one can get beyond the kind of intellectualism based largely on refuting scripture, or of relying on fallacies like ‘Occam’s Razor, and other rationalizations that help them justify their ‘logic’, that they may someday see the road ahead more clearly. I guess that’s why I’ve spent so much time on news groups like alt.atheism, talk.origins and other similar venues.

    But in proffering the concept of Intelligent Design, I sometimes wonder how my words may resonate ‘beyond the veil’ (not pale). Does the term ‘design’ denigrate? Is it acceptable to believe that perhaps the cosmic creator has made things over time? I see this planet as a kind of ‘biologic workshop’, and as a stomping ground for many, all the way from ants to antelopes. I also see clearly synergy, order, aesthetic qualities, and yes, design. How can one not?

  8. 8
    Peter says:

    I think Miller is an RC. I am one also. I believe he is defending the opinion of his church. He may have had a hand in formulating its position. So many people/Catholics have been brainwashed about the Galileo incident that they are terrified of criticizing any science – no matter how bad it is. Especially science that is so widely accepted among scientists. With more scientific converts and published papers I think the RC church will more vocally accept ID. Some RC scientists have already said that ID is consistent with RC belief.

    I believe also that he is attempting to convert the scientific community to RC. Unfortunately, I think he conflates ID and protestantism, and tries to distance himself from what he thinks is a competing church. This is a mistake. We should be allies against a common foe.

  9. 9
    nullasalus says:

    Does Ken Miller really believe in a non-interactive God? I recall reading that he believes God may work more at the quantum level – basically, in the most subtle ways possible, though a subtle move may have a dramatic effect in our lives.

    Just to play Miller’s Advocate here: I think what may animate both him and Collins isn’t so much a hidden lack of belief (possible, but somehow I doubt it) as a desire to remove what they see as an unnecessary point of attack by devoted materialists: Arguing that theism is a threat because it leads to denying scientific data (the role the YECs play, to them) or relating to science primarily in terms of criticism, rather than in contributing (the role ID plays to them – pointing out the problem of a IC structure evolving, while not proposing specifics on how said IC structure to come into being.)

    Instead, they take the tact that YEC is false, and that even if ID were true, proving design is not possible and, further, not necessary for their faith. And if that much is true, then YEC and ID both become liabilities, because it allows jokes to be made at their unwilling expense. Worse, if people are brought up believing “If YEC isn’t true or IC structures could have evolved, then there is no God” then the moment they become convinced that YEC is false or IC structures evolved, they’ll become bitter atheists. You’ll notice that many atheists insist on the YEC point – it’s a proselytizing tact for them.

    That said: I would much prefer to see Miller come out stronger against the atheological manipulations of Dawkins and the rest. If he truly believes ID is a threat, then I understand his motives. But if he truly believes that evolution does not require atheism, then he should turn his criticism against the other side of that particular fight as well. That would be courageous, though; Burning the ID bridge, and burning the naturalist bridge too?

    That would be one lonely biologist.

  10. 10
    magnan says:

    “But why would someone who identifies himself as a theist willingly pitch his tent with the likes of Dawkins? What is it about impersonal, purposeless Darwinism that compels self-proclaimed believers in a personal, purposeful God to dedicate their lives to its defense?”

    A combination of forces in the personality must be involved, often at conflict with each other.

    One would be a perhaps deliberately unrecognized desire to have some spiritual comfort in life, combined probably with an early upbringing in Christianity whether rebelled against or not.

    This would battle against scientific training which strongly inculcated materialism and atheism. The person becomes intellectually convinced of the truth of scientific understandings of the world. He swallows Darwinism hook line and sinker as part of that system of “truth”.

    There is also a deep need for recognition and approval. In the chosen field of science unquestioning acceptance of Darwinism is a requirement to succeed as a professional and achieve this greatly desired recognition and approval.

    So how to achieve scientific recognition, retain methodological naturalist materialism, and also keep a little spiritual comfort, all at the same time? So-called “theistic evolutionism” is one way, carefully ignoring or suppressing the basic cognitive dissonances involved.

    Lee Bowman:

    “But nonetheless, the concept of front loaded coding within the genome that expresses innovative mutations millions of years later is a difficult theory to embrace. I feel that it’s been proposed by theistic scientists to avoid having to deal with an existent God, and yet, to not embrace an atheistic belief.”

    This seems right to me. This seems to be the underlying dynamic with at least some adherents of front loading in ID. However, this may be presumptuous. They would need to speak for themselves.

  11. 11
    jerry says:

    Never underestimate the role of money in this debate. Ken Miller makes a lot of money off being a Darwinist, probably over $200k a year for his textbooks. Also never underestimate the sanctions, money and ostracism, one would have to endure if one questioned Darwinism even if the person wasn’t selling textbooks. Have you read the announcement on the Lehigh biology site?

    Ken Miller can be quietly critical of Dawkins and his crew but he dare not tone down his criticism of ID or else his sincerity will be suspect and somehow his textbooks might get replaced in various school districts. Don’t think it couldn’t or wouldn’t happen. All of a sudden various school boards decides a different text book author is more appropriate and then the publisher makes the assessment that a newer fresher approach is warranted.

  12. 12
    tribune7 says:

    Burning the ID bridge

    I think our side is quite tolerant of dissent.

    Where we get our back up is with those who distort (lie?) about our positions, say, by equating ID with creationism or testyfing in court that because the Type III secretory system shares parts with the flagellum IC has been disproved.

    Quick quiz: What good is an immobile secretory?

    Quick quiz 2: What good is an immobile secretory system designed to interact with life more advance than bacteria before such life came into existence?

  13. 13
    nullasalus says:

    magnan,

    “So how to achieve scientific recognition, retain methodological naturalist materialism, and also keep a little spiritual comfort, all at the same time? So-called “theistic evolutionism” is one way, carefully ignoring or suppressing the basic cognitive dissonances involved.”

    While I have some strong problems with naturalism/materialism (And what tends to fall under either header), I disagree that TE functions the way you say. Since I would probably be categorized as a TE, let me give you my personal take on the matter. I’ll try to be narrow, since this is a topic that’s easy to go on and on about.

    When I think about how God would be involved in the creation of man, to me the question isn’t ‘what method would an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent God use?’ The question is, ‘What method would He rule out?’ Whether the biological precursors to man were borne purely of so-called ‘natural’ processes (one which God would have understood and “designed” in the most fundamental ways) or God rather directly intervened to ‘fix’ the design (create an IC structure) does not concern me too much. I see no reason to expect God to rule out either method.

    The same goes for miracles. If it turned out that, say, Christ’s resurrection wasn’t any violation of natural law, but rather part of a law that came with this universe that we do not yet (or may never) understand, why should I be concerned? It’d be akin to being resurrected by God via my brain’s atoms and quanta all being gathered and re-arranged to what they were at the moment of my death. What am I going to do – arise, frown, and say that if God were REALLY God, then I would have had an immaterial consciousness that wasn’t dependent on matter? [Note: I am not saying there is no immaterial soul. I think consciousness has more surprises in store for us than we think. I’m just giving an extreme example.]

    That said, I sympathize strongly with ID. I dislike how arguments against ID so often involve screaming about how they’re really part of a creationist conspiracy (Trying to pass Behe off as only recently accepting common descent is the latest canard.) I think evolutionary psychology is hilarious nonsense – Freud did better than that. And I think that, while design may be impossible to prove, there’s just as much (or more) validity in arguing that nature is rife with design as there is for the Weinberg/Dawkins ‘There is no design, it’s all pointless – science has shown us this!’ view.

    Further, I believe that ID has a particular ace: It encourages engaging science at the most fundamental levels and seeing the work of God therein. The best-kept secret among atheist materialists and naturalists is that you can look to science – biology, physics, chemistry, even evolution itself – and see ample design, purpose, and the divine, with as much falsifiable worthiness as Dawkins ‘pitiless indifference’. My criticism of most TEs is not with their beliefs, but their behavior – it’s often too timid. Needlessly so, as if we have to ask Oxford’s permission to see purpose in natural history, or to regard the miraculous nature of the human brain as something to attribute to God.

    So, there. I’m just one mostly-TE, mind you, but hopefully this provides people here with some better insight about how non-ID theists think.

  14. 14
    Jason Rennie says:

    “But Dawkins’ ruthless consistency in taking his worldview beliefs to their logical conclusion is admirable”

    I don’t think this is true at all. Dawkins doesn’t even come close to doing that. He balks at the properly nihilisitic implications of his atheism and embraces all manner of moral positions. If he was actually consistent he wouldn’t do this and would stop relentlessly indulging in the is/ought fallacy.

  15. 15
    GilDodgen says:

    Jason,

    Good point. Atheist-derivative morality is an oxymoron.

  16. 16
    Janice says:

    Atheist-derivative morality is an oxymoron.

    Yes. And don’t they act stung when that, or some similar remark, is made. The latest insult hurled at me was, “pig-ignorant”.

  17. 17
    duncan says:

    But atheist-derivative morality manifestly isn’t oxymoronic.

    Are all atheists leading amoral and immoral lives? No. Do atheists understand the notion of ‘right and wrong’? Of course they do. Religious people may disagree with an atheist’s moral choices (just as they may disagree with those of other religious people), but to suggest that atheists never make moral choices is absurd. Certainly atheists can behave very badly, but so can religious people.

    It can be argued that a religious person doesn’t act out of morality, anyway. What God demands isn’t a morality, but obedience. This is the specific and intentional lesson of the story of Abraham and Isaac.

  18. 18
    pk4_paul says:

    Janice and Duncan, it is not that atheists cannot understand or act in accordance with moral laws. But atheism itself does not produce moral codes. Moral laws are a characteristic of religion.

  19. 19
    Scott says:

    Duncan: The problem is that atheist-derivative morality is absurd, in principle. On a pragmatic level it may make some sense, but there is no reason in principle for the atheist to be a “moral” person.

    After all, we are just matter in motion.

  20. 20
    antg says:

    Getting back to the topic:

    For what its worth I suspect that a lot of theistic evolutionist’s objections to ID are based on fear, principally three things:

    1. Fear of empowering biblical creationists.

    2. Fear of creating a god-of-the -gaps and/or a ‘goddidit’ science stopping theory

    3. Fear of ID leading to a close link between ‘evil’ designs with God

    Some may be fair critisisms but from my POV some are just not objective when it comes to evaluating the purely scientific claims. At the very least it should not be beyond the pale to ask the questions that ID asks.

    Oh, and don’t be so hard on Ken Miller. I understand he has taken a lot of sh1t from some scientist for his Christian faith.

  21. 21
    duncan says:

    Scott

    Yes, there is – and it’s a higher principle than a religious one. Do you behave properly because those are your orders and you’ve been threatened with frightful sanctions in an afterlife if you don’t, or because you have come to your own considered judgement based on inherited decision making processes using reason, imagination and memory?

    It’s the difference between living in an old-style Soviet Union, where all the important decisions are made for you and enforced, and living in the free world, where the responsibility is yours. Which is the more desirable and, indeed, the higher calling?

    What do we hate more, a hideous immoral act, or God’s displeasure at a hideous immoral act? The former, surely? What would you do if God told you to torture your own child to death (as in Abraham and Isaac)? Morality exists because it matters to US.

    We are matters in motion, but we’re not helpless. Things make a difference to us, and we have choices.

  22. 22
    tribune7 says:

    Are all atheists leading amoral and immoral lives? No.

    Who is to say? I mean just because they are living lives according to certain Scriptural tenets . . .

  23. 23
    Karen says:

    Funny how simply knowing that Ken Miller doesn’t believe in ID tells us that his religious beliefs are suspect (at best).

  24. 24
    LeeBowman says:

    “Funny how simply knowing that Ken Miller doesn’t believe in ID tells us that his religious beliefs are suspect (at best).

    Or we could look at it the other way, that perhaps his disallowance of ID is suspect …

    Let me go a step further. It has been stated that 98 (even 99) percent of scientists are committed evolutionists. I firmly believe that a much lower percentage of scientists are firm believers in evolution as sole originator and propagator or life, and by extension could easily hold to theistic or ID constructs as viable.

    However, since neo-Darwinian belief is a requirement of their scientific associations, the true percentage may never be known.

  25. 25
    Phinehas says:

    Duncan,

    Morality exists because it matters to US.

    I think this assumes the very thing in question. Why should morality matter to us? Nothing in nature, red in tooth and claw would lead to this conclusion.

    Do you behave properly because those are your orders and you’ve been threatened with frightful sanctions in an afterlife if you don’t, or because you have come to your own considered judgement based on inherited decision making processes using reason, imagination and memory?

    I would argue that we all have an inherent sense of morality because we are created in the image of God. I would also argue that it is not God’s laws that define morality, but His very nature. Morality is not doing as God says, but being as He is. Absent this standard, I see no basis for making reasoned judgments leading to moral choices. Why should choices matter to US? Why shouldn’t they just matter to ME? And if morality is simply me making choices that make me happy with no consideration for others, why is it that everyone seems to have a built-in sense of fairness that says otherwise?

  26. 26
    duncan says:

    Phineas

    Very interesting comment. Does this work the other way round i.e. if we are made in God’s image (hence our morality), are our less attractive characteristics also a reflection of His e.g. malice, guilt, deceit, violence? I guess it’s all to do with the limits of free will?

    As I said before, I think morality stems from reason, memory and imagination. If you stick your hand in the fire you feel pain. If you later see someone forcing another person’s hand into the fire you know (i) it will hurt them (memory), and (ii) they are not doing it voluntarily (reason), and you feel empathy (imagination). The inevitable conclusion is that the event should be prevented – it’s simply logic.

    The “me” versus “us” question is all about self-interest. We enjoy helping people, and we all benefit from the general application of good behaviour. It is interesting how our moral involvement and sense of obligation dilutes with physical and emotional distance (this is the ‘imagination’ aspect at work). A parent’s love for their child, which can involve complete self-sacrifice, is given entirely willingly. We want to be good because it suits us.

  27. 27
    dl says:

    Duncan, I agree with most of what you’re saying, but I wanted to point out one minor thing. God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, not torture him to death. I don’t want to trivialize killing him, but its not as bad as torturing him to death.

    I’ve always thought that morality transcends religion (or lack of religion). I’m religious, and I think that God/religion codifies (maybe the wrong word, but I can’t think of a better one at the moment) morality, but neither creates it or defines it. Morality would be (in my opinion) defined by what is good overall for society/humanity/the universe.

    I’m good friends with an athiest who pretty much lives by the same moral principles that I (try to) live by. Neither of us does it out of fear of punishment. We both genuinely believe that doing “the right thing” is important, whether it helps us or hurts us personally.

    In a universe created by a malevolent being, would “good and bad” be the same as “good and bad” in a universe created by a benevolent being? Personally I think they would.

    I think morality is defined by the common good. It may hurt at some levels, or in the short-term, but in the “big picture”, morality has a net positive effect.

  28. 28
    duncan says:

    Hi dl

    I’m no Bible expert, but I thought that Issac was forced to build his own funeral pyre, and that he knew that once it was finished his father was going to tie him to it and set light it alight, so that he would be burned alive ….. although at the moment of ignition Abraham was also going to stab him, so it is possible that this might have killed him first. All in all, a not inconsiderable period of mental and physical anguish, I would have thought.

  29. 29
    dl says:

    My understanding is that, with animal sacrifices (and presumably this situation too), the animal was killed first and then burned. There are several scriptures that either prohibit animal cruelty or support kindness to animals, so it seems likely that the animals were not made to suffer.

    Abraham was 90 or 100 years old when Isaac was born. Isaac was (at least according to some traditions) pretty much an adult when this happened, so he could have stopped it if he wanted to.

    Of course its still a very troubling event.

    But to get back on topic, I agree that morality transcends religion/athiesm.

  30. 30
    Apollos says:

    Many misunderstand the Abraham-Isaac incident when it’s not viewed in the context of Messiah. (And yes, indeed, with burnt offerings the animal was slain before any of it was burned.)

    Abraham and Isaac were performing a prophetic play, of sorts, acting out the sacrifice of God’s son that would occur 2,000 years later on the cross of Calvary.

    Notice some fascinating parallels. 1) Abraham knew 3 days in advance that he was to offer Isaac, so his son was “dead” to him for 3 days, as Jesus was 3 days in the tomb. 2) Isaac carried the wood for his own offering up the hill to the offering spot, just as Jesus carried His own cross to His own offering. 3) After 3 days the son was “given back” to the father. 4) The offering spot for Isaac was Mount Moriah; the top of Mt. Moriah is Calvary (Golgotha).

    Jewish tradition has Isaac’s offering at the threshing floor of Araunah, the place purchased by King David to build the Temple (Mt. Moriah) but at the top of the mountain, just above the Temple site (some maps have it marked as 777 meters) is the crucifixion site. Isaac’s offering was on the very spot of Christ’s.

    The remarkable and prophetic parallels between Isaac’s offering and Christ’s show that there was more going on than Abraham’s faith being tested (remember Abraham was stopped at the last moment).

    They were acting out prophecy of the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, and they were doing it 2,000 years before the event. This was God’s way of showing Abraham what He was going to do in order to make atonement.

    The account is in Genesis 22, and at the end of it all, it says:

    Gen 22:14 KJV And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen. (my emphasis)

    The “it” that “shall be seen” is referring to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

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