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Food for thought: ScuzzaMan on Design Law Theory

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Here at UD, we often find food for thought in the comment box. The following by ScuzzaMan, is worth pondering as a particular, from the horse’s mouth philosophical-theological perspective within the Christian frame (and yes, it is Creationist-Biblical in focus rather than empirical-inferential on reliable signs of design). Here is a Christian voice, in his own words:

___________

 

Design Law Theory.

Design Law Theory is the notion that the book of nature, being written by the same author who inspired scripture, and being properly understood, is an unerring guide to the nature and character of that author.

As such it is necessarily an equally unerring guide to the nature of his moral or spiritual laws, as demonstrated to physical mortal beings through the mechanism of his physical laws.

Design Law Theory (DLT) is a theological term but it relies on an understanding of how reality actually operates, i.e. it relies on a correct science of existence. The content of what I describe here implicitly supports the Intelligent Design concepts as they’ve been developed in the last several decades in contest with the darwinian and neo-darwinian propositions and their innately materialist foundations, but it is not necessarily implied by ID since it is a highly specific instantiation of what is a much more generic theory. The specifics rely heavily on Christian doctrine, and a quite narrowly specific version of Christian doctrine at that, and thus it possibly won’t be of interest to some who read and comment here and may violently perturb others, albeit for different reasons.

It also touches on a myriad of related theological issues, as any coherent theory of everything must necessarily do. (Yes, design law theory is a theory of everything, a really BIG ToE.) It implies a number of obvious and a number of unpalatable truths, to believers and unbelievers alike. It puts into theological context, attempting to do so in a scripturally consistent and robustly coherent manner, an insight that is not new but is nonetheless exceedingly rare. Both its rarity and its essence were most eloquently referenced by Emerson in his essay entitled “Compensation”. I highly recommend it.

(Normal caveats apply: recommending this essay so highly does not imply endorsement of every thought or sentiment in it or the rest of his body of work. Caveat emptor. Test all things; hold fast to that which is Good.)

That essence is that, as the designer and creator not only of Life but of the Existence in which Life is embedded, God’s character cannot avoid being expressed in the physical laws by which his will indirectly governs all of his creation. This principle follows one declared by Solomon long ago:

Even a child is known by his doings.”

To fully appreciate this statement requires an understanding of how the scriptures use the verb “to know”. Knowing is deep and very intimate understanding. Hence, “Adam KNEW Eve, and she bare a son.” Hence, “the Man has become as one of us, to KNOW good and evil.

Man had a daily experience of Good, being intimately acquainted with his maker. But lacking God’s capacities he had to do evil, and endure evil, to gain his knowledge of it; he had to experience it to gain his deep and intimate knowledge of it. Using the same verb, Jesus re-iterated Solomon’s principle in a more generic form:

Wherefore by their fruits shall ye KNOW them.

The import of these sayings is that we can learn of the inner motivations, the character, of an individual by observing their external actions and the consequences thereof. Thus, the physical laws, set by our designer and creator in an incomprehensibly complex choreography of countervailing and intertwining forces of staggeringly minute and utterly unforgiving tolerances, are a teaching device. They teach us not merely of the character and power of the designer but simultaneously, and arguably more directly, of the minutely exacting character of his moral or spiritual laws, of which they are merely necessary outworkings of the underlying reality. As Emerson summarised it:

It would seem, there is always this vindictive circumstance stealing in at unawares, even into the wild poesy in which the human fancy attempted to make bold holiday, and to shake itself free of the old laws, — this back-stroke, this kick of the gun, certifying that the law is fatal; that in nature nothing can be given, all things are sold.

The specific theological content on which this realisation about reality rests, is that the relationship between the spiritual and the physical is not what most people – even most believers – tend to think. Being flesh we tend to assume largely automatically – i.e. unthinkingly – that what is amenable to the senses of our flesh is real. Correspondingly, if it is not so amenable it is not real. Or at best, not as real. When engaged in theological debate and your opponent, a devout Christian, objects that “you’re spiritualising!” what he means to say is that you’re making a scriptural statement about (e.g.) Israel refer to ‘spiritual Israel’, a concept that is less real to him than the physical nation comprised of physical descendants of Abraham and Sarah and based in the middle east around Jerusalem.

Were God to fulfil his promises to Israel only to those spiritual descendants to whom Paul refers, saying “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed” and irrespective of their genetic inheritance, then the physically-focused believer thinks this is not a true fulfilment. There are honest devout Christians who believe God absolutely MUST restore the physical middle eastern nation of Israel to a position of global power, wealth and influence because … somehow materialism has seeped into Christianity without the Christians being aware of it. Such is the power of our environment and it isn’t as if they don’t know that Galatians 3: 29 exists or that they’re flatly contradicting Paul and, by extension, God himself.

DLT holds that things are and must be otherwise. DLT asserts that this ‘natural’ assumption about the nature of reality is totally upside-down from the reality of … reality. DLT asserts the exact opposite:

  • The spiritual realm is fundamental, it is primary, it is cause. It is the ‘more real’.
  • The physical realm is derivative, it is secondary, it is effect. It is the ‘less real’, if anything is.

Thus, spiritualising the promise’s fulfilment makes it more real, and defends God’s character at the same time from any implication he’s diluting his promises. No, he’s paying more than he owes.

When Jesus says that “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing”, he is not teaching dualism or the necessity of mortification, although you can read those into his words if you will. He’s making a statement about reality; the spirit is the prime mover, the physical does nothing of itself.

Dead material is no good to you. Only the spirit can move it, give it life.

As Emerson wrote, we see this in our every daily experience. We see this in ourselves. First the immaterial motive, then the physical speech. First the non-physical desire, then the physical act. Jesus put it slightly different terms, but the meaning is the same:

But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.

The physical cannot move itself. The idea of physical objects setting themselves in motion and then governing themselves is, ironically, primitive animism. To find it amongst the most educated scientists of the most materially powerful age of our history would be a shocking surprise to someone who didn’t know that they’d started with Christianity first but abandoned it. Consciously up-ended it.

The fruits of this poisoned tree have not only infected science. Christian theology too suffers even more grossly under the weight of this error. The target of this error is the very laws of which we’re speaking. Via them, of course, the ultimate target is the lawgiver himself. For DLT concludes from the above that Emerson was right and that those who break the laws of life itself cannot ever profit thereby, however much immediate appearances may suggest otherwise. Everything God has made obeys his laws because the things he has made are demonstrations OF those laws. Everything he has made is an instantiation of his laws.

Here’s what science believes about the physical laws:

  1. Universal in time
  2. Universal in space
  3. Inherent properties of matter

Here’s what DLT Christians believe about the moral / spiritual laws of life, aka “God’s laws”:

  1. Universal in time
  2. Universal in space
  3. Inherent properties of God’s character, or spirit

Men have gotten together in synods and councils and thought to change the laws of God because they’ve accepted the error that God’s laws are, like Men’s laws, the precise opposite:

  1. Local
  2. Temporary
  3. Arbitrary (i.e. imposed, NOT inherent)

To illustrate this dichotomy, ponder why nobody gathers a council or synod to deliberate on what the value of gravity or the weak nuclear force will be from midnight on the 31st of September and henceforward?

Because we know those laws are unchanging and unbreakable. We happily acknowledge that reality.

It gets worse.

Teaching that God’s laws can be changed is, ipso facto, teaching that God’s laws are local, temporary, and arbitrary. But the incredible fine-tuning of the physical laws argues most emphatically that this cannot be so. Teaching that they bear no inherent consequence is teaching that God is morally obliged to seek out and punish the offender against them. This demotes God from Designer and Creator to Policeman and renders him as a Roman Emperor – only with more power. In other words, this casts God as one of the many ancient pantheons. Like the Greek gods, you see he’s just a man, albeit with more power than the ordinary. He’s subject to all the same limitations and motivations. Teaching that God’s laws are like Men’s laws is teaching that God is like a Man. A powerful Man, but still a Man.

This is God made in Man’s image, and once again we’re at the full reversal of reality mentioned earlier.

By their fruits shall ye know them, right?

Finally, because the laws of life are inherent and necessary for life to exist and persist, so too are the physical laws. We know that if any one of many values governing the material realm was very subtly different, life could not exist as it does today. The existence of the laws, their universal ubiquity and unchanging nature as inherent properties of existence, is a logical and therefore moral necessity.

Thus, when Man attempts to break the law of gravity and plummets from a high rooftop, God is not killing him.

Equally, when Man attempts to break the sixth commandment and receives the wages of sin, God is not killing him.

Neither of these are punishment.

Both are consequence.

God does not need to intervene to kill us; he needs to intervene to keep us alive.

(And he does. Has. Will again.)

He does not seek out evildoers to punish them; we punish ourselves. He seeks out evildoers to bring us to repentance and salvation, which we cannot do ourselves.

Design Law Theory de-emphasises, but does not eliminate, the focus on legal penalties. It takes it as an accurate analogy of our circumstance with powerful didactic properties, but only as useful as understood within the wider framework of the proper order of reality. Get one of the major premises wrong and the conclusion must also be in question. Yet this entire essay is about law. DLT is not antinomian in intent or effect. Quite the opposite.

Design Law Theory re-emphasises, as being of equal accuracy and explanatory power, the medical analogy of which scripture also speaks. That we have a fatal spiritual condition, and this condition induces errant thinking, errant physical behaviours, and these have dire consequences.

These consequences cannot be magically waved away. To do so would be to change and thus break the inherent laws by which life is made and kept possible. To do so would make God a tyrant playing arbitrary favourites, like our modern political classes who excuse the destruction of nations as a policy blunder and execute a man for stealing the tax on a cigarette. That’s not a defence of theft; it’s an attack on arbitrary disproportionality. But to accuse God of it is to accuse him of permanently threatening all of existence. And some Christians do indeed worship such a God – but we do not.

Our God takes these consequences upon himself, so that we might live, and the law be preserved, and thus all life everywhere be preserved. All of creation is at stake in this controversy over the law.

For the Christian the death of Christ ought to be the most powerful argument for the unbreakable and unchangeable nature of the law. That the Father would change it for us but not for Christ is an horrific slur on his character, not to mention sanity, as is every error of doctrine.

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”

It has a different flavour in this context, doesn’t it? Saving the world isn’t solely an expression of redeeming repentant sinners; it’s also necessary to keep all of creation in existence, as a necessary consequence of the order of reality itself.

____________

As announced, food for thought. END

18 Replies to “Food for thought: ScuzzaMan on Design Law Theory

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    Food for thought: ScuzzaMan on Design Law Theory

  2. 2
    Seversky says:

    There are some here who insist that ID has nothing to do with religion. This would seem to provide evidence to the contrary.

  3. 3
    ET says:

    Seversky:

    There are some here who insist that ID has nothing to do with religion.

    ID doesn’t say anything about worship- nothing about the who, how, when, why, where- there aren’t any services nor rituals.

    ID does allow for the existence of intellectually fulfilled theists. 😎 But that doesn’t make it a religion nor religious in nature.

    As Justice Lewis Powell wrote in his concurrence to Edwards v. Aguillard,

    “(A) decision respecting the subject matter to be taught in public schools does not violate the Establishment Clause simply because the material to be taught ‘happens to coincide or harmonize with the tenets of some or all religions’.”

    If the religions had or have a scientific foundation- evidenced based- we would expect there to be evidence to support it.

  4. 4
    EricMH says:

    @Seversky, there are buddhists and satanists who are atheists. That seems to provide evidence atheism is a religion.

  5. 5
    kairosfocus says:

    Seversky, with all due respect, you just showed the underlying animosity of too many atheists and how that distorts perspective. For one, the above is a guest post, which discusses from a Creationist perspective, allowing us to both [a] examine worldview alternatives and [b] note the difference between such a Scripture-based view and an empirically-driven, strong sign based design inference. The post also raises a serious train of issues on the roots of reality, origins and our duties in light of those roots. FYI, ever since Plato (that Bible-thumping fundy — NOT) it has been on record that our origins options are nature (= accident/chance and mechanical necessity) vs art (acting through intent and design). He pointed to signs that show design and drew the relevant inference, as a pagan, independent minded philosopher. Many others have followed that line. Such turns out to be complementary to the Scripture-based Hebraic-Christian tradition; a clue in itself. While we are at it, can you kindly give us a cogent, evidence-backed non-design, “natural” explanation for how in the heart of the cell we find alphanumeric code (=> language), algorithms (=> purpose-driven, goal-oriented processes) and linked molecular nanotech execution machinery? As in: _______ Similarly, kindly provide a cogent “natural” explanation for how the observed cosmos — the only actually observed cosmos — shows signs that it sits at a finely tuned, deeply isolated operating point for C-chem aqueous medium life in the field of possibilities: ______ When you can do so, you will at last have put a serious alternative on the table. Ideological imposition of evolutionary materialist scientism and/or fellow travellers then marginalising through the atheist’s veto does not count. KF

  6. 6
    kairosfocus says:

    ET, very well summarised. Do you care to expand? KF

  7. 7
    john_a_designer says:

    Is the following quote from a creationist or someone who has a religionist agenda?

    “It is important to emphasize at the outset that the argument presented here is entirely consistent with the basic naturalistic assumption of modern science – that the cosmos is a seamless unity which can be comprehended ultimately in its entirety by human reason and in which all phenomena, including life and evolution and the origin of man, are ultimately explicable in terms of natural processes. This is an assumption which is entirely opposed to that of the so-called “special creationist school”. According to special creationism, living organisms are not natural forms, whose origin and design were built into the laws of nature from the beginning, but rather contingent forms analogous in essence to human artifacts, the result of a series of supernatural acts, involving the suspension of natural law. Contrary to the creationist position, the whole argument presented here is critically dependent on the presumption of the unbroken continuity of the organic world – that is, on the reality of organic evolution and on the presumption that all living organisms on earth are natural forms in the profoundest sense of the word, no less natural than salt crystals, atoms, waterfalls, or galaxies.”

    Can you guess who said it?

    My point very simply is there have been people involved with the modern ID movement from the very beginning who are not creationists and who are actually agnostic when it comes to religion.

  8. 8
    Seversky says:

    EricMH @ 4

    @Seversky, there are buddhists and satanists who are atheists. That seems to provide evidence atheism is a religion

    The question is whether the promotion of Intelligent Design has a religious purpose, specifically to advance the cause of particular faith. The evidence suggests that it does and the courts have agreed.

  9. 9
    ET says:

    Seversky:

    The question is whether the promotion of Intelligent Design has a religious purpose, specifically to advance the cause of particular faith.

    Clearly it doesn’t. At best it may have theological implications.

    John Morris, the president of the Institute for Creation Research wrote:

    “The differences between Biblical creationism and the IDM should become clear. As an unashamedly Christian/creationist organization, ICR is concerned with the reputation of our God and desires to point all men back to Him. We are not in this work merely to do good science, although this is of great importance to us. We care that students and society are brainwashed away from a relationship with their Creator/Savior. While all creationists necessarily believe in intelligent design, not all ID proponents believe in God. ID is strictly a non-Christian movement, and while ICR values and supports their work, we cannot join them.”

    Hmmm…

  10. 10
    ET says:

    kairosfocus-

    Faith doesn’t have to be blind. Faith doesn’t have to depend on purely made up stories. Some faiths may be that way but that doesn’t mean it is a requirement.

    For example- the Bible says there was a beginning. Science agrees. The notion worried many at first because of its implications but now it is accepted. The Bible says there will be reproductive boundaries. Science agrees. The difference is what established those boundaries. Biblical archaeology is making confirming finds all of the time.

    The religious writings of ancient India led some to search off of its coast for a “fabled” city and found it.

    All of the Flood stories of the Middle east led to the discovery of a breach that formed the Black Sea and the artifacts left behind by the peoples who lived in that basin.

    Things that happen in the physical realm tend to leave physical traces. Some people see those traces or events as signs and concoct stories based on what they observed. While others see them as opportunities to explore to advance our knowledge so that we can figure out why we are here.

    Irreducible complexity may have theological implications but science is there, again, telling everyone “it is what it is”. Hand-waving and screams of “religion” don’t make it all go away. And we will not trash a winning argument because of its implications.

  11. 11
    Seversky says:

    kairosfocus @ 5

    Seversky, with all due respect, you just showed the underlying animosity of too many atheists and how that distorts perspective.

    If I feel animosity, it is towards those who betray the faith they profess by using it to seek wealth and political influence: the prosperity gospelers, those who use it to justify racism and sexism and those who pander shamelessly to political power. I freely admit not all Christians are like that and there are many who are a credit to their faith but I feel that religion, like politics, is becoming increasingly infected by a bitter and intolerant partisanship.

    While we are at it, can you kindly give us a cogent, evidence-backed non-design, “natural” explanation for how in the heart of the cell we find alphanumeric code (=> language), algorithms (=> purpose-driven, goal-oriented processes) and linked molecular nanotech execution machinery? As in: _______ Similarly, kindly provide a cogent “natural” explanation for how the observed cosmos — the only actually observed cosmos — shows signs that it sits at a finely tuned, deeply isolated operating point for C-chem aqueous medium life in the field of possibilities: ______ When you can do so, you will at last have put a serious alternative on the table. Ideological imposition of evolutionary materialist scientism and/or fellow travellers then marginalising through the atheist’s veto does not count. KF

    I have admitted before that there are many things for which we do not have an a/mat explanation, including the origins of both life, the laws by which this universe is organized or the universe itself. But no one does. Postulating a God who was the author of everything doesn’t tell us anything about how he might have contrived his creation, which is what you are demanding of naturalistic science or why a being who had existed for an eternity before the creation and will exist for an eternity after it has all gone would want to do such a thing in the first place.

  12. 12
    EricMH says:

    @Seversky

    > The question is whether the promotion of Intelligent Design has a religious purpose, specifically to advance the cause of particular faith. The evidence suggests that it does and the courts have agreed.

    This is known as Bulverism.

  13. 13
    kairosfocus says:

    EMH:

    https://uncommondescent.com/culture/c-s-lewis-on-bulverism/

    The modern method [of argumentation] is to assume without discussion that [your opponent] is wrong and then distract his attention from this (the only real issue) by busily explaining how he became so silly. In the course of the last fifteen years I have found this vice so common that I have had to invent a name for it. I call it Bulverism. Some day I am going to write the biography of its imaginary inventor, Ezekiel Bulver, whose destiny was determined at the age of five when he heard his mother say to his father — who had been maintaining that two sides of a triangle were together greater than the third — ‘Oh you say that because you are a man.’ ‘At that moment’, E. Bulver assures us, ‘there flashed across my opening mind the great truth that refutation is no necessary part of argument. Assume that your opponent is wrong, and then explain his error, and the world will be at your feet. Attempt to prove that he is wrong or (worse still) try to find out whether he is wrong or right, and the national dynamism of our age will thrust you to the wall.’ That is how Bulver became one of the makers of the Twentieth [and Twenty-First] Century.

    –C. S. Lewis, “Bulverism,” in God in the Dock, p. 273

    KF

    PS: On evidence, the court in Dover acted in a highly questionable fashion suggesting that it too committed Bulverism.

  14. 14
    kairosfocus says:

    ET, I agree, indeed I hold that our worldviews must rest on a more or less reasonable faith, given the challenge of a regress of warrant: A, as B; B as C . . . forcing the Agrippa trilemma. Infinite regress is absurd, question-begging circularity fails to warrant, only a responsible, finitely remote set of first plausibles sustainable on comparative difficulties is tenable. However, too many today assume — bulverism again — that faith is essentially subjective, emotional, blind, inferior. They have failed to adequately address worldview structures i/l/o requisites of warrant. KF

  15. 15
    kairosfocus says:

    Seversky, in effect, you acknowledge naturalism is a non-starter. There is just one, quite manifest cause of language, algorithms, code, purpose, execution machinery: intelligently directed configuration. Thus, we have every good reason to hold that life was designed. Then, we see that the observed cosmos was credibly fine tuned in its physics, setting up a place for life. That points to further design, one by designer beyond the physical cosmos. Onward, we note that we are responsible, rational, significantly free and morally governed (starting with reasoning). This goes beyond properties of matter and points to us being amphibians, embodied spiritual beings. Multiply such by what is needed to bridge IS and OUGHT at world-root, and we see that the God of Ethical Theism [this is philosophy here, not Bible-based Theology] makes good sense as world-root. None of this undermines genuine science — that which is not held hostage by a priori, ideological evolutionary materialistic scientism — but instead is historically the matrix in which modern science was birthed. KF

  16. 16
    ScuzzaMan says:

    Faith doesn’t have to be blind

    Indeed. I’ve long considered the phrase “blind faith” to be somewhat amusing as it is used by people desperately trying to pretend there’s no faith involved in what they believe.

    Because if faith were inherently blind they wouldn’t need to add the qualifier to it, would they?

    I pointed out at the beginning of my essay that it is consistent with ID, being a rather specific instantiation of a far more general theorem. But that’s precisely akin to noting that Big Bang theory is a highly specific instantiation of the theory that the universe had a beginning.

    Yet oddly Seversky does not hold this as evidence of Big Bang theorists being religionists in disguise.

    One can either sigh or smile.

    Or both, I suppose.

  17. 17
    Seversky says:

    EricMH @ 4

    @Seversky, there are buddhists and satanists who are atheists. That seems to provide evidence atheism is a religion.

    That would depend on your definition of a religion.

    As an aside, is categorizing atheism as just another religion intended as a compliment or an insult?

  18. 18
    kairosfocus says:

    Sev, there is a difference between religion and theistic religion. KF

    PS: Online Enc Brit:

    Religion
    Written By:

    The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica

    See Article History

    Religion, human beings’ relation to that which they regard as holy, sacred, absolute, spiritual, divine, or worthy of especial reverence. It is also commonly regarded as consisting of the way people deal with ultimate concerns about their lives and their fate after death. In many traditions, this relation and these concerns are expressed in terms of one’s relationship with or attitude toward gods or spirits; in more humanistic or naturalistic forms of religion, they are expressed in terms of one’s relationship with or attitudes toward the broader human community or the natural world. In many religions, texts are deemed to have scriptural status, and people are esteemed to be invested with spiritual or moral authority. Believers and worshippers participate in and are often enjoined to perform devotional or contemplative practices such as prayer, meditation, or particular rituals. Worship, moral conduct, right belief, and participation in religious institutions are among the constituent elements of the religious life.

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