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The Taint of Intelligent Design


Certain individuals associated with the Templeton Foundation see it as their duty to put as much distance as possible between the foundation and intelligent design. The most recent case is Billy Grassie’s explanation of how the Templeton Foundation could have been in their right minds when they awarded me a $100,000 book grant back in 1999: “The Case of the Missing Book: Setting the Record Straight on William Dembski, the Templeton Foundation, and Intelligent Design.” (Go here and here for earlier posts on this topic at UD).

Grassie was responding to a piece by Joseph Campana at ResearchID.org (go here), and Campana has now provided a detailed reply (go here). I therefore don’t see the need to offer a detailed reply of my own. But there are a two points in Grassie’s piece that deserve notice:

(1) Grassie dismisses ID with a single stroke, calling it POLITICS. As if that dismissal destroys its scientific case for design in biology or its critique of conventional evolutionary biology. ID theorists have and continue to produce a large body of work detailing the problems with a reductionistic conception of science and the ID alternative. Yes, there’s politics connected with ID. But no less with the Templeton Foundation, which, among other things, uses its money to expand college curricula to include science and religion courses of a particular bent (the emphasis being on purpose, efficacy of prayer, love, and altruism). Read Stephen Jay Gould’s last chapter in ROCKS OF AGES, and you’ll see that Gould had every bit as much contempt of the Templeton Foundation for its politicizing of the dialogue between science and religion as Charles Harper has for the Discovery Institute’s politicizing of ID. Just because ID has a political dimension does not mean that it does not have a solid scientific and intellectual core than can be weighed apart from political considerations.

(2) In describing Templeton’s early dalliance with ID (which included supporting ID-friendly conferences, such as Baylor’s Nature of Nature Conference in April 2000 — go here), Grassie makes it clear that one of the things he and others at the Templeton Foundation were concerned about was the ID community’s refusal to ostracize young earth creationists from its ranks. As Campana notes in his reply, Grassie was clearly mistaken when he identified the bulk of ID supporters (whether among the intellectual leaders or among the sympathizers in the broader public) as largely young earth creationists. But Grassie was right that I have never distanced myself from young earth creationists. Grassie suggests that this was wrong of me, and of my colleagues in the ID community, and that as a consequence ID was discredited in the eyes of the Templeton Foundation. That’s too bad. Many young earth creationists are quite bright and have good insights. Many Darwinists are quite bright and have good insights. And I work happily with both camps even though I belong to neither (my published writings include collaborations with young earth creationists, e.g., Paul Nelson, and Darwinists, e.g., Michael Ruse). I am a Christian, and the example of our Lord is not to shun people or set up a caste system of more, or less, acceptable people. It’s therefore my policy to firmly resist all pressures from people who think it’s their right or duty to tell me whom I may associate with and what sorts of penalties I will face if I don’t distance myself from the wrong crowd (I faced such pressures continually in my days at Baylor, and I never buckled to them).

Question: How healthy is it for the Templeton Foundation that its associates such as Billy Grassie and Charles Harper feel such an obsessive need for the foundation to place its stamp of approval on only “the right sorts of people”?

I posted this in response to Dr. Heddle on his He Lives blog. Bill, if I'm misunderstanding your intentions now would be a good time to clarify them so I'm not misrepresenting your position on this matter. Oh, and I didn't think it a good use of my time to respond to the other allegations. Dr. Heddle apparently has made up his mind in relation to ID. Dr. Heddle,
"Grassie has not asked Dembski to leave friends high and dry, he has asked him to take a scientific and educational stand on the age of the earth."
Errr...Dembski has done that many times before now. Here is just one recent instance: http://www.designinference.com/documents/2006.05.christian_theodicy.pdf
"I’m going to argue that cosmic and transhistorical consequences to human sin are eminently tenable, though not because, as young earth creationists suggest, the science of astrophysics and geology got it wrong about the age of the Earth and universe. In fact, I’m going to argue that viewing natural evil as a consequence of the Fall is entirely compatible with mainstream understandings of cosmic and natural history." "Even though I accept standard astrophysical and geological dating (12 billion years for the universe, 4.5 billion years for the Earth), young-earth creationists deserve credit here. They see the crucial significance, theologically, of preserving the link between evil (both personal and natural) and human sin."
The key is, Bill isn't going to create a personal schism by continually harping on the age of the earth. He's noted before that YECs and OECs can rarely work together even when it comes to issues they agree upon--the personal divide has grown too wide. He's also not going to skewer someone for not accepting his preferred hypotheses based upon Intelligent Evolution which are obviously very different from any Creationist model derived from specific interpretations of the Bible. Heck, the lead moderator of UD is an agnostic. The point is to focus on where we all agree: Darwinism has problems. Once the paradigm shift is over then I'm hoping that everyone will still continue to amiably work together to discover which of the competing hypotheses is correct. Unfortunately, based upon human behavior, I personally expect the "Big Tent" to collapse and the competing camps will start sniping at each other...but that's in the future.
"The way Dembski responds is a dishonest ploy: he acts shocked and appalled that he would be asked to “ostracize” his friends and only associate with “the right kind of people.”
I read what Grassie wrote before Bill responded. I interpreted what Grassie said in the same way that Bill did. Now you may be correct and both of us misinterpreted what Grassie meant but I believe you owe Bill an apology for calling him dishonest since he clearly has taken a public stand on the age of the earth and the universe. **Unfortunately, I posted at He Lives before this one last thought came to me: In fact, I'd go one step further and criticize Grassie since--at least to my mind--Grassie was purposely attempting to make it appear as if Bill dishonestly took money for a book but never did the work. That's a serious allegation. Patrick
Yes, there’s politics connected with ID. Fortunately, there's none connected with the Smithsonian /sarc. tribune7
We have got to find something to get momentum going again.
This makes ID sound like a political movement, where nothing will happen if we are not in the streets rallying the troops. The funny thing is, a lot of scientists who don't know it (or won't admit it) are doing ID research. If nature really is intelligently designed, anyone who looks will find evidence of it whether or not it says "ID RESEARCH DEPARTMENT" on their door. sagebrush gardener
i remembered reading the other week that members of the democratic party leadership were attacking senator john mccain because he met with an intelligent design organization. i'm not a very political person and i don't want to get into what i think of the liberal wing of the democratic party. JMP83
I personally think that everyone needs an opposition party close by to "keep them honest" and sharp. As such it is good practice to communicate with those who have differing opinions, scientific or otherwise. If this is true, then the strict materialists should thank everyone, from YEC to IDers, for providing them with the oportunities to show the validity of their research. So, as it applies to this blog posting, The Templeton Foundation should be aplauding Dr. Dembski for his choice in surrounding himself with many differing opinions. As to ID reasearch projects, I suggest, if it hasn't been done yet: If life is a replicating, information processing subprogram within the larger program of the universe, then why not at least attempt to model the idea of a subprogram developing within a larger program. If it can be shown that a program can be designed to create a secondary information processor within the original program, using only the information which has been put into the original program at its creation, would this not further show that ID is scientifically verified and again more plausibly and scientific than the creation of information processors by random accidental, chance processes. This would add even more scientific merit to the fine-tuning argument. This would be analogous to the designer being extra-universal and designing the universe to eventually produce life; however life would be a necessary result of the initial conditions of the universe and not the result of blind, accidental, highly improbable occurences. CJYman
JMP83 -- Don't worry, there are a lot of people who are "at work". The problem is that very few of them can work on this full-time, as opposed to the thousands of scientists who are free to persue all aspects of Darwinism full-time. Labs cost A LOT of money, and ID doesn't have government funding or large backers behind them. For a comparison, I believe more money was spent on the PBS Evolution miniseries than in the entire history of the Discovery Institute's CSC. As for Democrats, you may be correct regarding the Democratic _leadership_, but I think you are woefully inaccurate as far as the Democratic party _members_. Most Democrats are Democrats because they think that is the best way to have compassion on others and the planet, and they want to have compassion on others and the planet because they have made their own design inference, and don't want to harm the design. johnnyb
JMP83: Oh, but we are working. Question: Who are you to tell us to get to work?? William Dembski
I want to make a plea to Design Theorists like Bill Dembski and others. PLEASE GET TO WORK. We have got to find something to get momentum going again. Are you guys still building a lab at a major university? I mean if the Dems (lets not delude ourselves, they are not friendly to ID) in 2008. The atmosphere in this country towards ID will probably become hostile. All my hopes. JMP83
While I have respect for the Templeton foundation, and I'm not a YECer (and I'm not sure to what degree I'm an IDer), I too believe that YECers shouldn't be shunned - no one should be, for a scientific outlook, or a metaphysical claim. Even if I strongly disagree with it, even if I won't associate with that belief, it's too easy, worthwhile, and generally desirable to afford people respect, especially if they can conduct themselves with consideration. nullasalus
The Templeton Foundation wants to be accepted by secular society. As of right now Intelligent Design is unacceptable to secular society. JMP83
I am a Christian, and the example of our Lord is not to shun people or set up a caste system of more, or less, acceptable people. It’s therefore my policy to firmly resist all pressures from people who think it’s their right or duty to tell me who I may associate with and what sorts of penalties I will face if I don’t distance myself from the wrong crowd
You'd think that point would be easier to communicate than it ends up being. You get some hard-headed reductivist, activist, one too many visits from the anaesthesiologist types who simply won't accept that we can work together to increase the quality of our science, our culture, our values and our lives. Dr. Dembski, you are absolutely right. Bless you. Doug
Umm...I might rephrase the title. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Tain%27t Or....maybe its entirely appropriate. RobertC

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