Intelligent Design

Where does the pursuit of science lead?

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Recently I wrote an article about where disbelief in Darwin leads. It generated a lot of good discussion. Now I’d like to pose the question where does the pursuit of science, in particular the quest for material explanations of life, lead?

I just began reading Mike Gene’s book The Design Matrix: A Consilience of Clues. It’s pretty good so far but I’m only in the first section. A point Gene makes early is that evolution and design are mutually exclusive only at the fringes where dogmatic belief trumps empirical evidence. If one takes the evidence of an old earth and descent with modification at face value, not proof positive that it happened that way, but as the most likely scenario, it still leaves plenty of room for design in the picture. This generally leaves 6-day creationists at irreconcilable difference with positive atheists – the fringes of opposed dogmatic beliefs. The strident conflict between the two is all most people know about. For the rest of us who don’t fall into either of those two camps it leaves the roles of evolution by chance and evolution by design as open questions where the two processes are both possible and not mutually exclusive. I’m in complete agreement and to me it seems self-evident.

A second point that Gene makes is by way of analogy. He uses the “Face on Mars” as an example. In the 1970’s a spacecraft was sent to Mars to take close up pictures of it. One of them revealed a rather stark image of a human-like face carved onto the top of a large plateau. As you might imagine this generated a lot of conjecture that an intelligent race much like ourselves once lived on Mars. H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds” was remade into a newer movie and enjoyed great box office success. Years later when another photographic mission was dispatched, this one with much higher resolution cameras on board, the “face” in greater detail disappeared and it became apparent it was just a mountain top that when seen in the right light from the right distance and angle resembled a face. Gene goes on to point out that the history of thought, beginning thousands of years ago and continuing today, on the matter of design or non-design of life is like the story of the Face of Mars, but with a different ending. Thousands of years ago the greatest detail we had in the picture of life was macroscopic. Things like the eye could be examined and it appeared to be designed. Some scientists and philosophers of the time believed that this was an illusion of design and that in greater detail the illusion would disappear, just like the illusion of the Face on Mars disappeared. By Darwin’s time there were microscopes that revealed an eye composed of tiny membranous sacks filled with an amorphous, unorganized mass of jelly (protoplasm). At that point it was thought enough detail was revealed to unmask the illusion of design – life viewed in detail was just sacks of unordered chemical soup. The “primordial soup” theory of the origin of life was thus conceived.

However, since Darwin’s time, really beginning about a hundred years after Darwin, even greater detail of what’s in the cell was revealed. To this day the more detail that is exposed the greater the order we see and so too the greater the appearance of design. In fact we now see a molecular world inside the cell that resembles nothing more than a highly ordered factory with all sorts of different machines and assembly lines and conveyor belts. Waste disposal machines, energy generating machines, coded information storage and retrieval systems, self-repair machinery, self-defense machinery, all of it interdependent and so complex we’ve barely scratched the surface in understanding how it all works. At every level of increasing detail it remains highly ordered and we’re looking at the atomic level in some cases. The order just doesn’t disappear no matter how much detail we get.

This is where the pursuit of science has led and continues to lead. No matter how much more detail we get all we see is more and more order, more and more appearance of design. Unlike the Face on Mars where closer inspection unmasked the illusion of design closer inspection of living things only serves to make design more apparent. In the case of the cellular machinery of life it’s so starkly apparent it boggles the mind. The atheists don’t want you see design but in the pursuit of science they can’t help it. The pursuit of science leads to a stark picture of incredible order and complexity which no open minded person, such as Mike Gene or myself, can possibly construe into anything but a strong design inference. And it just keeps getting stronger. It is leading away from 6-day creation to be sure and the atheists are besides themselves in joy at that but it’s also leading straight to design and purpose in life and they’re far from thrilled about that. So I cheer the pursuit of science on with a passion. Just leave the atheist or theist dogma out of it. Science is about unbiased observation and explanation (pursue the evidence wherever it leads) not dogmatic interpretations of the evidence contorted to fit religious or irreligious world views. The evidence is leading to purposeful intelligent design so bring it on. The more the better! Tease out the detailed workings of nature. More power to it. I’m not at all afraid of where the evidence is leading. It’s leading to right where I thought it would lead and I love being proven right. Vindication is sweet.

25 Replies to “Where does the pursuit of science lead?

  1. 1
    FtK says:

    Well, I’ll have to read the book, because to date, I’ve yet to read anything that provides any *facts* to support the concept of common descent.

    Common design…or common decent…who the hell will ever know for sure. Either one requires tremendous miraculous events in order to occur.

    Anyone ever get the feeling that this debate is the biggest waste of time ever? I mean, these questions have been debated since the beginning of time and always will be.

    [Just ignore me…needed to rant for just a sec…bad day.]

  2. 2
    Gerry Rzeppa says:

    Just leave the atheist or theist dogma out of it…” – DaveScot

    Can’t be done. Either science is a subset of Theology – the Study of God and His Works – or it’s not. The scientist either says, “Look what God hath wrought! Let us think His thoughts after Him!”, or he becomes, for all practical purposes, a materialist.

    An agnostic is nothing but a wishy-washy atheist. Or a wishy-washy theist! Take your pick.

    Science is about unbiased observation and explanation …” – DaveScot

    I’m always suspicious of the man who specializes, who partitions, who restricts the study of anything in any way. Like the guy in another thread who thinks physicist Bohr is unqualified to comment on the probablility of evolution because he’s not a biologist! We’re looking at a universe, after all – everything is related to everything else. In the end, you can’t separate science from theology any more than you can separate chemistry from biology.

    And I take exception to the notion that only some of my God-given faculties are appropriate in the study of things in heaven and earth. Insights, intuitions, gut-feelings, hunches, hints taken from sacred writings, and plain old common sense are all important elements in any investigation. Indeed, if empirical scientists had to spend more time explaining their theories to artists, authors, musicians, farmers, bus drivers, short-order cooks and other “ordinary” men, they’d waste a lot less time (and money) on ridiculous pursuits. And might get a few unexpected insights in the process.

  3. 3
    DaveScot says:

    gerry

    Either science is a subset of Theology – the Study of God and His Works – or it’s not.

    False dichotomy. Science is just a study whose axioms neither include or exclude God.

    In any case, what particular theology do you posit as the container set and what justification can you offer me for any one in particular?

    Christian, Judeo-Christian, Islamic-Judeo-Christian, Deism, pantheism, monotheism, polytheism … what and why? There’s quite a number of theisms to choose between and even more subsets within those major groupings.

    I tend to prefer the same theism you do not because I know it’s the truth but because I know it produces desirable practical results regardless of the ultimate truth. It’s the same way in science. A theory doesn’t have to be the proven ultimate truth. An incorrect theory, so long as it produces practical results, serves as a placeholder for the ultimate truth. Classical mechanics was a placeholder until relativistic mechanics came along and that served as a placeholder until quantum mechanics came along. Currently we have two placeholders in physics, relativistic and quantum mechanics, which both produce practical results in largely separate domains. Until there’s a grand unified theory that combines the two, which may or may not be the ultimate truth, we have to settle for what engineers call “working theories”. Christianity is a great working theory for producing successful ethical cultures but I can’t determine if it’s the ultimate truth or not among the set containing all theistic theories. So I’ve got three placeholders to deal with and no grand unified theory of religion and science, nor even a grand unified theory of science or theism considered separately. What’s a guy to do other than encourage both scientific and theistic research to proceed with all due haste and for my part I promise to consider all results with an open mind?

  4. 4
    PannenbergOmega says:

    “It is leading away from 6-day creation to be sure and the atheists are besides themselves in joy at that but it’s also leading straight to design and purpose in life and they’re far from thrilled about that.”

    Good point, Dave.

  5. 5
    tribune7 says:

    In any case, what particular theology do you posit as the container set and what justification can you offer me for any one in particular?

    Christian, Judeo-Christian, Islamic-Judeo-Christian, Deism, pantheism, monotheism, polytheism … what and why?

    The worldview for science to exist requires the assumption that nature not be subject to supernatural whimsy, that there truth is an absolute value, and that there is purpose to our being. Further, there would have to be an active condemnation of superstition and attempts to control nature through the use of the supernatural.

    While individuals of all times and cultures might have come to accept this philosophy, there has been but one culture that embraced it.

  6. 6
    DLH says:

    DaveScott

    Science is just a study whose axioms neither include or exclude God.

    Ah there is the rub. That is what we expect or hope that science is. However, atheists seek to narrowly define science by presuming that “science” can only study “natural” materialistic causes.

    – OR –
    That there can only be materialistic causes – excluding all “intelligent” causes.

    Then they persuade well meaning theists agree without examining the presuppositions or the consequences.

  7. 7
    congregate says:

    DLH-
    I agree with DaveScot. I think he’s saying that science is a method of studying the natural world. How could we use science to study God? Can we design an experiment to determine whether He has blue eyes? Or how old he is?

    Science may be able to tell us how something might have happened naturally, but it can never exclude that a supernatural force did it and made it look that way.

  8. 8
    bFast says:

    congregate:

    Science may be able to tell us how something might have happened naturally, but it can never exclude that a supernatural force did it and made it look that way.

    Though science could not exclude that a supernatural force “made it look that way” but if a supernatural force did not expend specific energy to “make it look that way”, could science detect the supernatural activity? That is the ID question.

    I contend that the HAR1F gene alone proves beyond reasonable doubt that an agent beyond chance + necessity produced a mutation. Does this prove that the agent is “supernatural”? No. Does it prove that chance + necessity is not responsible for all of the variety of life that exists? I believe it does.

  9. 9
    Gerry Rzeppa says:

    “In any case, what particular theology do you posit as the container set and what justification can you offer me for any one in particular?” DaveScot

    That’s a big question for a little box. One way to deal with it is by a process of elimination. Let me illustrate the process with an example.

    Since conscience is both easily described (it makes us feel guilty when we do wrong) and is highly unlikely to occur by chance, it passes the specified complexity test and must be the result of design. Now the designer of such a thing is obviously someone who thinks we should behave in certain ways, but does not want to force us to do so. We can therefore surmise that our designer is both a moral being, and is concerned with the issue of free will. At this point we can eliminate all competing theologies that do not ascribe those particular attributes to the designer.

    A remarkably concise collection of similar arguments allows us to quickly sort through the plethora of available theologies and zero in on a “working theology” that, in the end, is indistinguishable from traditional Christian theology.

  10. 10
    Gerry Rzeppa says:

    “How could we use science to study God?” – congregate

    See above, post #9, where specified complexity is used to discover certain attributes of God.

    But I think you’re missing the point – my point, at least. Everything we study is either God or His Works, by definition. And it seems apparent that He intended this, that we we would “get to know Him” through the study of His works. That’s why the universe is so “unreasonably intelligible” to us. That’s why it doesn’t take us a lifetime to get used to three-dimensional space or past, present, and future time; that’s why a child is able to manage solids, liquids, and gasses with alacrity before he can even speak – stacking, pouring, and blowing, with delight, all the day long. Now that’s a scientist at work!

  11. 11
    DaveScot says:

    Gerry

    Yes, it’s a huge question for a little box. What we grapple with here are seldom issues that fit even in much larger boxes.

    I agree with you up to a point but it appears to me there are plenty of people lacking a conscience. With a few notable exceptions like murder and theft there’s not a lot of agreement on what’s moral and what isn’t. Take the wide range of feelings about abortion for a case in point just within different Christian denominations.

    At any rate, a creator or creators concerned with morals and free will rules out some theisms but not a whole lot. Take a Wiccan for example. “Do what you will except that it harm no one.” There’s free will, a moral code, and no God of Abraham in sight. I’d say it’s more the rule than the exception that theistic beliefs of all sorts include a moral code and free will to obey it or not, with a range of consequences for failure to comply from coming back as a worm or some lower form of life for Buddhists and other reincarnationists to everlasting hellfire and damnation for others.

  12. 12
    Mung says:

    Where does the pursuit of science lead?

    An excellent question!

    It seems to me that we can put forth three answers.

    1. It leads to a better, deeper, more complete understanding of nature.

    2. It leads to the production of things which can improve the lot of mankind and his environment (technology).

    3. It leads to the production of things which can destroy mankind and his environment.

    If we allow that #2 and #3 cancel each other out, we are left with #1.

    But it all we are left with is #1, the question immediately presents itself, so what?

    What does that understanding get us?

    Materialism (and atheism) have no answer.

    Theism, otoh, has always maintained that to study nature is to study God’s handiworks.

  13. 13
    Gerry Rzeppa says:

    DaveScot –

    I didn’t say that conscience in the light of specified complexity led us to the God of Abraham – only that it narrowed the field a bit.

    Though I do think it eliminates the impoverished Wiccan maxim “Do what you will except that it harm no one” since conscience often strikes us with guilt even when the wrong we do doesn’t cause harm to another. I know it’s wrong to drive recklessly, even when no one gets hurt; and we all know that stealing pencils from the office is wrong even if the effect on the huge multi-national corporation that employs us is negligible.

    But regarding the universality of conscience and the built-in moral law, I recommend you take a look at J. Budziszewski’s What We Can’t Not Know and/or C. S. Lewis’ appendix to The Abolition of Man.

  14. 14
    DLH says:

    congregate

    How could we use science to study God?

    We don’t.

    The first issue is examine whether there is evidence of intelligent design.
    This can be examined similar to how we use Reverse Engineering to study designs by other intelligent agents. If there are repetitive patterns comparable to what we know are design processes distinct from natural law or chance, (See Dembski’s explanatory filter) then we have reason to infer intelligent design.

    More importantly, it provides a basis to develop a theory of intelligent design that is both descriptive of nature, with predictive principles of what is not yet discovered. i.e., the second scientific revolution.

    ID focuses on detecting and modeling evidence of intelligent causation in nature.

    You might then infer some capabilities of the designer from what you have found, but this is not “studying God”.

  15. 15
    UrbanMysticDee says:

    It appears that every comment I post here goes unnoticed. Anyway, ever the outsider I will post this again.

    The face on Mars is not an optical illusion. The Mars Global Surveyor satellite took over 120,000 photographs and the one “debunking” the face was the only one out of the hundreds of thousands of photographs to get sent through five filters that distorted the picture beyond all recognition. When the photo is corrected for to remove the damaging effects of the filters (an attempt at restoring the original) there is striking evidence of intelligence behind the structure there.

    If the face were really an illusion why is it that out of 120,000 photographs taken by MGS, NASA altered ONLY ONE photo, the one of the face, by passing it through five different filters to distort the image? If there really was nothing there what is NASA trying to hide by altering ONLY ONE out of 120,000 photographs, the photo of the face?

    How is the possibility of an artificial structure on Mars an affront to ID? As Giordano Bruno said “Thus is the excellence of God magnified and the greatness of his kingdom made manifest; He is glorified not in one, but in countless suns; not in a single earth, a single world, but in a thousand thousand, I say in an infinity of worlds!”

    I further describe what NASA did to the photograph of the face here:
    http://journals.aol.com/ordina.....part-1/598

  16. 16
    Gerry Rzeppa says:

    “ID focuses on detecting and modeling evidence of intelligent causation in nature… You might then infer some capabilities of the designer from what you have found, but this is not ‘studying God’.” – DLH

    Are you quite sure?

    My dictionary says “study” is “the application of the mind to the acquisition of knowledge, as by reading, investigation, or reflection; the cultivation of a particular branch of learning, science, or art.” So if we, from our observations, “infer some capabilities of the [ultimate] designer”, are we not “studying God”?

    It’s time we stopped playing around with this thing. Either things (like universes with people in ’em) happen on their own, or Somebody makes ’em happen. And that Somebody, ultimately, is God. Even if it turned out that we were nothing but a science experiment on some pimply alien teenager’s computer, we would still be well-advised to skirt the little rascal and do a little sucking up to his God.

    I’m beginning to think most Intelligent Design enthusiasts are as anxious as atheistic materialists to eliminate God from their thoughts.

  17. 17
    Gerry Rzeppa says:

    “I agree with you up to a point but it appears to me there are plenty of people lacking a conscience. With a few notable exceptions like murder and theft there’s not a lot of agreement on what’s moral and what isn’t.” – DaveScot

    To say that conscience and moral standards aren’t common to all normal humans is like saying nobody knows what water is because some people get it from a reservoir full of fluoride and chlorine, some from a well full of minerals, and some from a muddy stream outside the village.

    Everyone knows you shouldn’t put a kitten in a microwave; you shouldn’t have intercourse with a bridesmaid on your wedding day; you shouldn’t “borrow” somebody’s horse (or car) without asking; you shouldn’t say Billy knocked over the lamp when you know you did; and you shouldn’t sit around wishing you had the other guy’s stuff – including his woman. And that’s just five of the ten things everybody knows. People everywhere and everywhen agree on these things – in spite of the curious and telling fact that people everywhere do these things anyway! Even that thing with the kittens.

  18. 18
    tfoo says:

    there are two possibilities, one is that some supernatural processes are simply beyond materialist explanations, in which case ID is useful in establishing the boundaries. the other option is that all processes, even the ones seemingly supernatural to us now, have materialist explanations, varying in degree of sophistication. clearly, degree of sophistication of a scientific theory is a meaningful concept; people would agree that some math proofs are inherently more complicated than others, they would say “such and such a theorem cannot be proven by elementary methods…”. so in this second scenario, the quote from arthur c. clarke comes to mind, about the sufficiently advanced technology being indistinguishable from magic. the advantage of adopting the 2nd possibility as a working hypothesis is that you do not give up looking for answers. and like the original post said, in all likelihood, the more advanced knowledge becomes, the more it will reach agreement with some theistic philosophy anyway. i’m of the opinion that cutting edge physics might well help us to understand events in the Bible better, such as the removal of Enoch and Elijah from this planet.

  19. 19
    DaveScot says:

    Gerry

    It’s a sick world out there and lots of things that you and I would find horribly wrong are not considered wrong by others.

    The treatment of animals in the name of medical research makes my stomach turn but it doesn’t bother others one little bit. There are cultures in the world where dining on live monkey brains is okay by their standards of morality and others where a moral act is publically stoning a woman to death for adultery. I think punishments ought to fit the crime and stoning for adultery is so far overboard it’s hard to believe anyone would even think it but it’s still done in the world today.

    But even without reaching around the globe just look at all the disagreement in our backyard. Take capital punishment. I don’t have a problem with it in open & shut cases of capital crimes and in fact think the methods employed are too easy on the perps and there should be a little more emphasis on the punishment suiting the crime in the way of an eye for an eye. Not everyone agrees. I don’t think that doctor assisted suicide is morally wrong in cases where the terminally ill are suffering and make an informed choice to end it. On the other hand I think in most cases abortion is wrong as it’s usually taking an innocent life to avoid the consequences of consensual intercourse where the possibility of conception was a known risk and willingly undertaken. But sometimes there are two innocents such as in the case of rape and I think it’s morally wrong to force a woman to endure a pregnancy that was forced upon her by a violent act. Obviously there’s widespread disagreement over where to draw the line on all these things and I’m quite convinced that what I believe is right and wrong is not a universal standard that everyone recognizes by conscience and others quite sincerely disagree with me as a matter of their conscience.

    I’d love to say or even think that everyone knows the difference between right and wrong, agree on it, and just choose to do wrong. I’ve tried very hard to believe that but the evidence just doesn’t support it.

  20. 20
    StephenB says:

    —-Dave: “I’d love to say or even think that everyone knows the difference between right and wrong, agree on it, and just choose to do wrong. I’ve tried very hard to believe that but the evidence just doesn’t support it.”

    It is one thing to know what is right and wrong and something else to own up to it. Our capacity to rationalize our behavior is almost endless. Granted, there are some tough questions on the margins, as you point out, but I think most people understand the basics, even when they pretend not to. That is why they make up some of the most unbelievable excuses imaginable. Let me stretch out a little bit on the idea of “conscience.”

    Christian theology posits what is known as the “natural moral law,” which is a morality that has been [A] written in nature (objectively) and [B] written in the human heart (subjectively). The natural moral law is the implicit expression of the explicit revelation expressed in the Ten Commandments. Unless there is a correspondence between objective morality [A] and “conscience” [B], there is no real moral code. So, any whacked out religion, and there are many, that tries to express [B] in the absence of [A] is simply practicing moral relativism in the name of religion.

    Further, these two elements of the natural moral law are possible only because God is both transcendent and immanent, meaning that he is “over and above his creation,” and he is also “in” it. Only the Judeo/Christian world view acknowledges this paradox of a transcendent and immanent God. It is this composite world view that helps facilitate morality and self-actualization at the same time by harmonizing the subjective conscience with the objective moral law. Islam acknowledges only God’s transcendence, which leads to a master/slave relationship and servile behavior; Eastern religions, with few exceptions, acknowledge only God’s immanence, which leads to self worship and narcissistic indulgence. In neither case do we get a teaching that resembles anything similar to a conscience. Atheism, of course, doesn’t lead anywhere, which is why so many of atheist/Darwinists finally end up in a syncretic new age religion that will encourage them to do pretty much as they please.

    By the way, it was this notion of a transcendent and immanent God that prompted the founding fathers to conceive of “the laws of nature,” and “nature’s God. That is why, among all the worlds belief systems, only the Judeo/Christian ethic is compatible with the Declaration of Independence. As external law giver, God is the final moral authority superseding the power of the state and protecting natural rights against the state. As internal conscience, God endows us with the capacity to follow the natural moral law, which means that we are capable of self governance. Thus, true freedom was conceived as the right to follow “the dictates of our conscience,” not the right to follow the “cravings of our appetites.” The natural moral law was the standard for the rule of law which protected minorities from the tyranny of the majority. Unfortunately, the idiot Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black threw out the natural moral law as the standard for jurisprudential justice in 1947 and replaced it with popular opinion. We have been paying the price for that ever since.

  21. 21
    Gerry Rzeppa says:

    StephenB – Well said. Thanks.

  22. 22
    Gerry Rzeppa says:

    DaveScot –

    It sounds like you’re saying there’s no such thing as truth because the world is full of liars; no such thing as courage because there’s so many cowards; etc.

    I freely admit that we don’t live up to the moral law and the understanding of it that we all have through conscience. And I admit that conscience can become seriously corrupted. But a sickly oak that has been improperly nurtured isn’t proof that the acorn was defective.

    And the fact that you can immediately recognize an example of perversion indicates that you know something about the proper and good thing that is being perverted. Those dining on live monkey brains know these things too – I’m sure their meals are attended with all sorts of pseudo-spiritual mumbo-jumbo that attempts to assuage their offended consciences (or what’s left of them).

  23. 23
    StephenB says:

    Thanks, Gerry. I appreciate your earlier comments as well.

  24. 24
    larrynormanfan says:

    Hi StephenB, I’m back from my trip. I’d like to take up our earlier discussion in the appropriate forum (though maybe not in the forum we were using — that was over 220 comments!). Meanwhile, can I ask what you mean by this?

    Unfortunately, the idiot Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black threw out the natural moral law as the standard for jurisprudential justice in 1947 and replaced it with popular opinion. We have been paying the price for that ever since.

    Is there a particular case you’re referring to? I’m not a lawyer and so don’t know many cases other than the ones everyone knows. I’m just curious.

  25. 25
    StephenB says:

    Hi larrynormanfan: Welcome back.

    If I had been writing in more detail, I probably would have hearkened back to Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who began the assault on the natural moral law in about 1918. He was a a eugenicist who believed that morality should be separated from the law. He did not believe in “natural rights,” and insisted that civil law should “evolve” with popular opinion. Several of his decisions reflect this philsophy. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, who was also a eugenicist and a member of the Ku Klux Klan, drew from the thinking of Holmes and extended his philsophy.

    Both Philip E. Johnson and Nancy Pearcy have written short essays on the natural moral law that are easy to find on the internet.

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