Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Theistic evolution

Some people believe in what they call "theistic evolution." I used to be such a person. Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason gave what I thought was a pretty good refutation of theistic evolution. He argued that it's self-contradictory. There is a big difference bewteen natural selection and intentional selection. If something is selected intentionally, then it was not selected naturally. "Theistic" implies intentional selection, and "evolution" implies natural selection. Since they are mutually exclusive, "theistic evolution" is a contradiction in terms.

I got to thinking, though, that a theistic evolutionist can go ahead and accept natural selection. Remember that evolution consists of two parts--mutation and natural selection. Couldn't it be that God causes some mutations he knows will be advantageous, and therefore naturally selected? Koukl argues that "natural selection" is part of the meaning of "evolution." But what about "mutation"? Does the mutation have to be random, or determined by natural law, or something along those lines before it counts as "evolution"? That, I don't know. If God caused some of the mutations that were then naturally selected, would that still be "evolution"? If so, then maybe "theistic evolution" is not a contradiction in terms after all.

Maybe I'll call Greg Koukl on Sunday and ask him what he thinks. In the meantime, what do y'all think?

Even if sound, Koukl hasn't really given us an argument against what theistic evolutionists mean by "theistic evolution." They just mean changes in species happen over time and generations because God causes the changes. All Koukl's argument accomplishes, if it is sound, is showing that theistic evolutionists should just call it something different besides "evolution." Koukl has really only refuted a term; not a concept.

Now of course I realize there are other problems with theistic evolution, or any kind of evolution, but those are beyond the scope of this post. Before any of you get all bent out of shape, I'm not taking sides on the evolution debate at this point. I'm still suspending judgment because I just don't know enough. If you want to get bent out of shape about my suspension of judgment, I can live with that.

48 Comments:

At 1/30/2007 7:10 PM , Blogger Psiomniac said...

I agree with this post on the whole.
From my perspective, Occam's Razor deals with theistic evolution, in that evolution by natural selection does not require an agent to intervene in any way, whether it be to make particular mutations or to guide selection itself. (I agree that there is more of a naming clash in the latter case but 'evolve' from évolūtus meaning to roll out or unfold, can mean a process of gradual change and development. So in this case 'theistic evolution' would be distinct from Neo Darwinian evolution by natural selection).
This does not logically mean that god could not have done these things anyway of course.

 
At 1/30/2007 7:54 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Occam's Razor would deal with theistic evolution if evolution by natural selection could explain all the evidence, but isn't that the issue under dispute between natural evolutionists and theistic evolutionists? If so, then employing Occam's Razor to dismiss theistic evolution is question-begging because it assumes from the get-go that an agent isn't necessary.

 
At 1/30/2007 8:14 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

psiomniac, if it won't take thousands of words to explain, what is the difference between Darwinian evolution and NeoDarwinian evolution?

 
At 1/31/2007 9:53 AM , Blogger Psiomniac said...

ephphatha,
I can see how you might think that the use of Occam's Razor is question begging from your perspective, if I understand it adequately. As it is, with matters so complex over such vast spans of time I doubt that any theory will explain all the evidence.
However, I think that evolution by natural selection does such a spectacularly good job without introducing supernatural agency that theistic evolution does fall to the Razor. The disputes in the field that are reputable and on a scientific basis are about detail and emphasis, not about whether natural selection can explain the available evidence. The jury is in on that one.
Neo Darwinism is just another way of saying modern Darwinism. Darwin himself knew very little about genetics, he did not know of Gregor Mendel's work sitting on a shelf somewhere.

 
At 1/31/2007 4:37 PM , Blogger DagoodS said...

ephphatha,

I, too, tend to stay out of the evolution/creation debate. I feel as if I know just enough to really get in trouble. Besides, I see a trend where creationism seems to be giving ground and focusing on abiogenesis, instead. (A wise move, in my opinion.)

Perhaps what was amazing to me, due to my upbringing, was how outside the religious world, this is such a non-issue. The scientists I have dealt with take evolution for granted, and simply ignore creationism. It is not beneficial, nor helpful to their work. (It falls outside the naturalistic methodology, which is the sole system they utilize.)

What was troubling, during my investigation, was the overwhelming percentage of scientists that hold to evolution. Conservatively (and I mean that literally) 95%. If creationism is subscribed by only 5%, I would hope they would understand the responsibility of persuading the other 95% of being incorrect.

We all can envision a time where the 95% were wrong and the 5% were correct. (Heliocentricity comes to mind.) But the 5% continued to provide proof and evidence, that eventually was so conclusive, the 95% conceded they were wrong.

Is creationism doing that? Is it attempting to convince the other 95%? Or is it, instead, merely reinforcing the lay people that already don’t believe in evolution? That is what was so troubling to me. If creationist scientists truly were convinced of their position—they should be presenting to other scientists. Not “preaching to the choir” as it were. Worse (and I hate to say it) there is a great deal more money “preaching to the choir.”

In stepping back, what I saw was creationism attempting to prove “not-evolution.” It was not supporting its own claim, but rather attempting to tear down its opponents, in the hopes it could fill the vacancy by default. I have yet to see an adequate explanation for fossil records, or genome analysis as provided by Dr. Collins, other than “God just did it.” To look exactly like evolution?

As you aptly stated—reserve judgment. A person cannot be an expert on everything. (I fear I have to reserve judgment as well with the scientific arguments in cosmology.)

Anyway…theistic evolution.

Yes, it is an odd mixing of God and nature. The question seems to be—when did God get involved and when did he not? Did he stir things up in the Cambrian Explosion, and then sit back for a few 100 million years, just to see what would happen?

Did he control the “Big Bang” and after the particles were safely accelerated to escape the singularity, sit back for the next 13-14 Billion years?

Even most creationists recognize some natural adaptations that result in speciation (creatures that cannot mate with each other are in a separate species.) Commonly referred to as “micro-evolution.” Or is God involved in that?

Herein is where I could see why the confusion within the Christian Theistic Evolution world. If you accept the miracles of the Bible; they, too are an odd paring of the Natural with the Supernatural.

God creates a supernatural flood, yet to preserve the animals orders a human to build a natural boat, with natural animals, loaded in natural cages.

God orders a supernatural plague, which is a larger-than-normal group of natural frogs. (or natural flies. Or natural locusts. Or hail.)

In order to cross water, in the Tanakh, God splits the water, so that people can walk on the river floor. In the New Testament, Jesus walks right on the water itself.

We see this constant integration of what is natural and what is supernatural. (I can’t help pointing out Peter’s shadow healing the crowd. If a person was just outside the natural shadow—no supernatural event? Or if a natural cloud covered the natural sun?)

Yes, there were truly supernatural events, (Stopping the earth was a pretty good trick) but many, many of the stories include elements of God intervening, but then using nature as his foil.

Why not the same with evolution? Christians have a difficult time describing what parts of a story is a miracle, and what are natural. (If God turned all the water in Egypt to actual blood—did it scab? Or was it not natural blood?) I could see where it would be just as easy to claim that “some” elements of the process of evolution we observe, God was involved in. We don’t know what. We don’t know even how to quantify that with any methodology.

But it is the same with Biblical miracles, so translating it over to non-Biblical miracles does not seem that much of a leap. At least, to me.

 
At 1/31/2007 11:03 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Dagoods,

The fact that 95% (or more) of scientists accept evolution as a given makes me reluctant to doubt it. I usually do give the authorities the benefit of the doubt when there is such a wide concensus. I don't think it sways me quite as much as it does you, though, and there are two reasons.

First, in what little I've read in the whole debate between intelligent design (ID) and evolution, the argument coming from the evolution side is rarely ever over the evidence the ID side provides. Rather, it's the argument that ID is not science. So I suspect the wide concensus has a lot to do with the fact that a creator/designer is ruled out as a matter of principle, and not necessarily because the evidence for evolution happens to be so strong. The scientific principle seems to exclude a creator/designer as even worth consideration since it would not be science to include it.

Second, I do know a little about the synoptic problem, the two-source hypothesis, and the "Q" source. Mark Goodacre, in his book, The Case Against Q, argues that one of the reasons Q is so widely accepted is not because each Biblical scholar has investigated the arguments and each come to the same conclusion. Rather, it's because Q became popular in its earliest formulation, and has just remained an assumption since then. New scholars who come into the field just sort of lazily accept it and work from its assumption. The way I hear evolutionists talk, I get the impression the same thing is going on there. There are hardly any scientists at all whose specialty is "evolution." The field of evolution is more specialized than that. Evolution is just the big picture--the background assumption--from which people do more specialized research. So most people in the field, I don't think, really ever look at evolution as a whole and conclude based on their own investigation that evolution must be sound. I especially get this feeling from people who are not scientists. There are people who know far less than I do about biology and such who think anybody who denies evolution just has their head in the sand. Obviously, they are only accepting it because it's the going thing--not because they're really qualified to have an opinion on it. I suspect the same is true of a lot of people who support ID, too.

I can't comment on the degree to which ID people are trying to convince the other 95%. I don't know about that. I do know that it's very hard if not impossible for ID people get any of their stuff published in academic journals. If they're trying, then surely they ARE trying to dialogue with other scientists, and not just with lay people. I haven't read a single book by an ID person, so I really can't say, but I suspect most of these books are aimed at lay people, so you may be right.

I tend to agree with you that non-evolution people spend more time trying to point out the problems with evolution than they do trying to support their own position. But that isn't entirely the case. There are arguments for ID. One off the top of my head has to do with the "information" found in DNA.

Have you ever read C.S. Lewis' book on Miracles? He explained in their that a miracle is an event in the natural world whose cause is not natural. He also argued that strictly speaking, any interaction between the brain and the soul is, by his definition, a miracle. That means miracles happen continuously. However, he said that in ordinary language, that isn't what we mean by "miracle." It got me to thinking, though, that whether we call something a miracle or not seems to depend on the degree to which God interacts with nature or how severely or obvious it is. Most of us Christians think God is involved in nature, but we still consider miracles to be rare. We don't consider it a miracle when God sovereignly governs the world, when he influences people, etc., but we do consider it a miracle when he parts the sea or raises people from the dead. I think that even though most of us (Christians) think God is interacting with nature continuously, we only consider it a miracle if it's such a spectacular interaction that it's obviously a miracle, even though strictly speaking, any interaction by God in nature is a miracle however subtle it might be.

 
At 2/01/2007 12:11 PM , Blogger DagoodS said...

ephphatha,

I am enjoying this discussion.

Do you know why scientists do not argue over the evidence that ID provides? Because ID does not provide any.

If you ever get a chance, the opinion in the Dover Trial was illuminating, when ID is placed “on the stand” (as it were) as to what exactly it is. The judge noted that ID was basically setting up a false dichotomy by attempting to tear down evolution, and proclaim that the only other choice was ID.

But even Behe indicated that irreducible complexity (the only “evidence” ever presented by ID) has flaws, and he “intended” to address them. That was four years ago. We are still waiting.

Part of the problem of ID is that, by its very nature, it cannot produce evidence. One cannot demonstrate “creation” since it is entirely up to the creator whether to appear or not.

You are right on target, though about scientists not considering ID as qualifying as “science.” Of course ID, ALSO agrees that, under the current definition of “science” ID does not qualify. The way around that? ID proposes to re-define science.

What was troubling (and should be troubling to many) was that in order to define science in such a way that ID qualifies, a number of other “pseudo-sciences” ALSO qualify. Behe admitted in the trial that under the definition of science that would allow ID to be included, astrology would also be included.

Astrology? Horoscopes? “My moon is in the seventh wave.” Science? I would suspect even most Christians would balk at allowing Astrology to be considered as viable as ID.

Interesting what you said about evolution being taken for granted. Again, I think you are quite correct. Although, I would hasten to point out that many sciences depend on the predictive nature of evolution, and while they are not attempting to “prove” it, if evolution did not exist, neither would their field of study.

Like gravity. Most scientists are not trying to “prove it” but they utilize it within their experiments, because to not do so would be disastrous.

But let me ask you something—more geared to a philosophical bent of mind. I am curious as to your input from a theist philosopher, rather than a scientist.

One of the things that bothers me about ID is the word “design.” They look at a certain item (blood coagulation, or the eye, or bacterium flagellum) and say, “That is designed.” But isn’t “design” a comparative notion? In other words, the only reason that we can proclaim something as “designed” is that we recognized “not designed.”

If I drop a pile of metal on the floor, you would look at that and say, “Not designed.” If I carefully placed each piece in order (such as size, or shape, or pattern) you recognize it as “designed.” Arguably, though, I could carefully place each piece down, but have no intentions whatsoever in my placement. You may scratch your head, impose your vast knowledge of Art History (*grin*) and come up with some design, but the reality is, they were not designed. (Perhaps you could argue that by intervening and placing, rather than letting the chips fall where they may, there WAS design.)

It seems to me, in order to find “design” in the universe, we would necessarily need to compare it to something that is not “designed.” Which brings a question—is there anything in the universe that was NOT designed? It seems to be an all-or-nothing proposition.

If there was a creator, then everything was designed, and we can’t tell the difference. If there was not, then nothing was designed, and we can’t tell the difference.

Does the word “design” lose all meaning when viewing nature? Curious as to your perspective, more philosophically, if you get my drift.

I have only read excerpts of Miracles. C.S. Lewis never moved me much for certain reasons that are not very complimentary to him, so I politely decline to talk of why.

Defining what a “miracle” is can get a bit tricky, eh? What is obviously a miracle to you may not be so obvious to others. A person who heals extraordinarily fast—is that “obvious”? Sure, we all agree that stopping the earth for a day qualifies. Big, Grandiose. And, as you say, the passage of time, while technically could be a miracle, for all intents and purposes we call “natural.”

So we have two sets—“Miracle” and “Natural.” We (I think) both agree that raising the dead would fall under “Miracle” whereas walking up the stairs would be “natural.” The question, though, on the spectrum is where does it switch from “Miracle” to “natural”? Tough question, and not easily placed, methinks.

And, in light of your blog entry—do certain mutations happen naturally, and others supernaturally? And how do we tell the difference?

I could see a theistic evolutionist state that God allows nature to continue, but occasionally comes in and “zaps” it with shot of supernatural. You seem to say the same thing about theistic evolutionists. Where, on the spectrum does that fall? “Miracle” or “Natural.” I wonder if we view that in terms of quantity. In other words, if God raised 4 people from the dead, then it is miracle. 4 billion becomes natural.

One mutation (abiogenesis?) is miracle. The numbers of mutations necessary over billions of years? Natural?

 
At 2/01/2007 4:09 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Dagoods,

I have a hard time believing ID doesn't provide any evidence. You even said yourself that irreducible complexity is offered as evidence for ID. I wouldn't balk if you had said ID doesn't offer much evidence, or that the evidence ID offers is flawed, but it seems a stretch to say they don't offer any evidence at all. You have piqued my interest in the Dover trial, though. I might have a look-see at that.

I have heard ID compared to forensic science. The analogy goes something like this: Just as forensic scientists can investigate a death to determine whether it was natural or designed (the person died of natural causes or was murdered), so also can scientists determine whether something in nature was designed or came about naturally. You don't need to identify a murderer before you can conclude murder, and you don't need to identify a creator before you can infer design. Do you see a flaw in that analogy?

You hit on something that I have thought about for a long time. One of the primary reasons I've never found the teleological argument for God to be very convincing is that it seems to make a distinction between nature and design while, at the same time, deny there is such a distinction. For example, you always hear about people walking out into the woods and finding a watch. Because of how it works, you recognize it as the result of design, and not naturally occuring. But this has to be contrasted with other things you might find, such as trees and rocks, which doesn't so automatically cause you to infer design. Unless you can make this distinction between design and nature, the analogy doesn't work. But if you make this distinction, you refute the whole argument, because the whole argument ends up saying, "Well, even the trees and rocks, and the whole universe is designed."

I think it is possible to have something designed but to not recognize it as designed. For example, I used to have a friend who made all the artifical rocks and things at the zoo here in town. He was really good at it, too. They looked natural even though they were really designed. I don't consider my above critique of the teleological argument to be a knock down drag-out refutation because even if everything whatsoever is the result of design, some things appear more obviously designed than others. This mere appearance may be all we need to make the analogy work--to distinguished between designed and not designed. Just as in the case of miracles where I said that even if God has a hand in everything, there are only certain things that are obviously miracles, so also, even if everything is designed, there are only certain things that are obviously designed. An IDer might argue that life is one of those things.

In answer to your question, I want to say something about causation. I do believe God is sovereign over all events, and I mean by that that somehow or other, everything happens because God intended it to happen. But I don't believe that entails that God directly caused everything to happen. I remember a long time ago having a discussion with Paul and/or Jeff about this, and I think it was on my blog somewhere, but it might've been on one of their's. Anyway, one of them suggested that maybe there are no laws of nature. Maybe God acts in nature in a such a consistent way that nature seems to behave according to laws, even though it doesn't. I took issue with that point of view because it seemed to imply a denial of natural causation. For example, there are laws of collision that are able to make accurate predictions. That is, collisions are law-like. But if you have a situation where one ball smacks into the other, and the other begins to move, and it isn't the result of law, but rather God causing one ball to move and then the other, then you're basically denying that one ball caused the other to move by smacking into it and saying, instead, that God caused one ball to move and then the other, only giving the appearance that the second ball was caused to move by the first. (That's the longest sentence I've written all day!) Some people believe God operates that way. If he does, then yes, everything is the result of design. But I don't believe God operates that way. I believe he uses secondary causes. He operates like a pool player may operate. By moving one stick, he can set into motion several balls on the table and have them go where he wants them to go, and they go there quite naturally after he has removed his stick and stepped aside. In a sense, the movement of the balls is natural, but in a sense they are designed as well. I think that's basically how nature operates, whether there's evolution or not. So when you ask whether there's anything at all in the universe not designed, I can answer both yes and no in a sense. Yes, in the sense that somehow or other, it is all the result of a plan, but no, in the sense that there is natural causation in the universe.

And, in light of your blog entry—do certain mutations happen naturally, and others supernaturally?

I have suggested that could be the case. I said I was suspicious that mutation and natural selection can account for all evolution. Maybe to an extent evolution happens naturally, and maybe to an extent God intervenes.

And how do we tell the difference?

We may not be able to tell. Evolution is supposed to happen in such gradual steps that it's impossible to observe. After long periods of time, we can see the result and infer design even if we can't look at any one particular step and recognize any design.

I'm only offering this as a suggestion, by the way. I do think Lewis is right to define a miracle as any event in the natural world whose cause is not natural, even though meaning on the street only encompasses obvious miracles. If God comes in and zaps the evolutionary process with a bolt of supernatural, I would consider that a miracle. But nobody would probably recognize it as a miracle. We may look at the long-term affects, though, and recognize that a miracle has taken place. Instead of looking at one generation of reproduction and say, "Aha! That's where the miracle occured," we may, instead, look at the whole history of the evolution of some species and say, "That's a miracle." After all, even with obvious miracles, like resurrections, we don't know exactly where the miracle occured--whether it's in moving individual blood cells, realigning molecules, making the heart beat, etc. We just recognize the overall result--a dead person coming back to life. In the same way, we may not be able to recognize precisely where a miracle occured in evolution, but we may be able to recognize the results of evolution as having been miraculous.

 
At 2/01/2007 11:10 PM , Blogger Paul said...

Sam, to address your original issue, I've actually done quite a bit of debate and thinking on this. You can see the results of that effort here: Theistic Evolution: Oxymoron?. It has some similarities to Koukl's article, which I didn't read till afterwards.

Basically, I would argue that supernatural intervention, in any sense, is not compatible with the commonly understood definition of evolution. That definition involves chance variation and selection. If God is involved, then it is not chance; and if it is purposeful manipulation, no matter how slow and subtle, it is not evolution according any definition that the "95%" would care to affirm (although I think that privately a good number squeeze God in there in some way). Either way you go you are going to run afoul of the other camp. I used to believe in evolution, then theistic evolution, but after I abandoned the theory on scientific grounds it then occurred to me that it makes no sense to say that God "used" chance. To squeeze God into the equation you'll first need to get the scientific elites to give up their insistence on methodological naturalism, i.e., that all answers MUST BE non-supernatural. While that presupposition is in place, there can be no "scientific" evidence of design by definition.

Now some comments on your dialog.

I think there are far more scientists who are skeptical of evolution than public polls would suggest. It is a career killer in most circles to question this orthodoxy. By the way, have you seen this list of scientists who have been willing to declare their dissent? (warning, PDF) It grows by another 100 or so each time I look at it. There's another long list out there that includes medical doctors.

Scientific theories that have metaphysical implications flush the biases out of the weeds. Big Bang theory was fought ferociously by many who were fairly candid about their reasons. It took a mountain of hard evidence to break through to the majority. And there are still various cosmologists working their hearts out to find an alternative. The idea of a beginning of space, matter, and time is just too friendly to theism.

You are right that many people simply hold the majority view out of intellectual laziness. I used to believe in evolution. I even thought I knew why it was true. One day I began to look at the debate and realized I had no clue what evolution was really claiming. I had to learn more about evolution and biology before the theory lost plausibility for me.

We think of a miracle as that point where God acts in nature. Because He is acting upon nature, ultimately, He must manipulate nature at some point. This can be done by direct action, secondary cause, etc. For example, to lift a car he could just directly shift all the atoms straight up, create an anti-gravity well, directly create a tornado, create a weather system that results in a tornado, create some global temperature condition that results in such a weather system, give a crane operator the mad compulsion to hoist up the car, or simply cause the observer to imagine that the car is lifted. What limits do you want to put on God, and must he use the same means every time?

On defining science to disallow ID... I think that by the present definition that excludes ID we must also exclude alien engineering. If aliens created life on earth and then left, how would you ever prove that if not looking for the hallmark of intelligent engineering? I know, I know, aliens would be part of nature, but the point is, how would you ever come to that conclusion without permitting ID theory?

Regarding ID not offering evidence in its behalf... That is a fiction, which really boils down to either an under-appreciation of the force of the evidence, or the assumption that the evidence has actually been refuted. But in any case, let me offer a thought. Do attorneys need to supply the true culprit, the means, and the motive in their court cases to get their defendant off the hook, or is it enough to simply dismantle the prosecution's case? Darwinists propose to explain the complexity of life by means of a natural mechanism. Even Dawkins admits that "biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose." If that theory to explain why they only appear to be designed is found wanting, then by Dawkins' own definition the default assumption of "design" would seem to prevail. Innocent until proven guilty; designed until proven otherwise.

Regarding physical laws and divine causation, let me ask you a question that may open a can of worms in your thinking Sam: Could God do something like in Bruce Almighty and go on vacation, and then would nature go on ticking as usual?

 
At 2/02/2007 9:42 AM , Blogger DagoodS said...

ephphatha,

Yeah, I had a hard time believing ID doesn’t put out any evidence, either. Nuts, they put out a book every six hours or so, you would think they could stumble on to something!

I put “evidence” in quotes when talking about irreducible complexity. See, what I am looking for is evidence for creationism, not evidence against evolution. The dichotomy that is implied by creationism, or ID, is that it MUST be either evolution OR creationism, and by virtue of knocking out evolution, creationism wins by default.

The method I would prefer is to provide proof of creationism. Not to be a smart ass, but can you find any? Can you point me in a direction where creationism is proven by scientific evidence, rather than evolution dis-proven?

That was partly why the Dover Trial was enlightening. Yes, I understand that it was a separation issue, and not a trial on the scientific viability of creationism vs. evolution. But we aren’t exactly stupid in the legal field, either. If ID had scientific evidence to present proof of its theory—THAT was the place to do it, and THAT was the time to do so. By doing so, it would have made the Judge’s job so very much more difficult (not to mention set a precedent) by demonstrating that creationism was actual science.

Or, if you prefer, look at it this way—if ID had evidence for creationism as it stands, why do they need to re-define science in order to include ID? The only way they get evidence in, is by changing the rules of evidence!

(P.S. If you want the opinion and cannot find it, I will e-mail it to you. Personally, I think it worthwhile reading, but I presume you appreciate my bias. *grin*)

ephphatha: Just as forensic scientists can investigate a death to determine whether it was natural or designed (the person died of natural causes or was murdered), so also can scientists determine whether something in nature was designed or came about naturally.

Do I see a flaw in the analogy? Well…since you asked—yes I do. Two. The first one you recognize yourself. It is with past observation that we are able to make the determination and differentiate between “natural” and “murder.” We have a way to compare.

In nature, we have no way. (While I am on this point, assume we did. Assume we did have some items in nature that we said, “those are not designed” and others that we said, “these are designed.” How did the non-designed items come into being? Did God only make half the world?)

Secondly, the analogy attempts to avoid the religions implications of ID by claiming we do not “identify” the murderer before we conclude murder. Not true. By determining murder, we necessarily make determinations about the murderer. If a person was shot, the murderer was shooting. If poisoned, the murderer was a poisoner (to coin a word.) What type of poison, how the shot happened, where stabbed—all these things provide valuable information about the murderer.

Even if the forensic scientist does not have a clue as to the make-up of possible suspects, simply by determining murder, a great deal of information is derived.

Can we say the same about the “designer” of the universe? Or do we just say “There is one” and then move on to other arguments, once the foot is in the door?

See, if we are going to claim there is a designer, just like the coroner determines the type of murderer by the body of evidence, should we equally follow the evidence of nature toward this designer?

It is a designer that made HIV. Down’s syndrome. Sickle cell anemia. Influenza. Lou Gehrig’s disease. Alzheimer’s. Cancer.

I am not listing those to say “Bad God!” but rather to point out that if one wants to use this methodology to determine designer, does it become inconsistent to avoid the obvious implications that this designer made both intelligence and appreciation of beauty, as well as epilepsy and polio?

ephphatha, you did bring up something, though, that I had not considered in theistic evolution in your analogy of the balls and natural law.

Anyone who has played pool, understands the predictive nature of hitting the cue ball. We line up the angles so as to hit a cue ball at precisely an angle, so that it will hit another ball at precisely an angle, and, utilizing geometry, the ball will go directly toward a hole.

One item regarding evolution is its Predictive nature. The fact that we can anticipate, upon our previous method, what something will do, or look like, or become. We can see the progression of the past, and even predict the future, such as they are attempting with E. Coli.

How does this work with theistic evolution? I would anticipate less predictive nature.

Imagine the cue ball of evolution was traveling along at the right angle toward the next ball or step. Why would God intervene? Nature is progressing as He desires. But what if next step takes an erratic turn. Heads in the wrong angle. God would necessarily have to step in changing the course, and thus eliminating the predictive nature. We would predict the ball would go at a 32 degree angle, based on the shot, but all of a sudden we see a 30 degree angle.

I think (if I am reading it correctly) this is what Paul was getting at with his paper.

We should see jumps that are unpredictable—yet we do not. I wonder how a theistic evolutionist handles this issue.

 
At 2/02/2007 9:43 AM , Blogger DagoodS said...

Hello, Paul.

A point, and then a question, if you don’t mind.

I am glad that scientists are being added to that list every quarter. Perhaps someday one of them will finally present proof that will be convincing to the other 95%. As you say, it might be hard work, and a “mountain of evidence” but the majority can change.

You make a good point that science, by utilizing methodological naturalism, necessarily does not look for God as the answer to a particular problem. But aren’t you glad they do? Imagine if those working on a cure for cancer, stopped utilizing natural ingredients, natural methods, and natural processes and added “Pray a lot” at step 17. Do you think we would find a cure faster that way?

Or if those who build structures presumed that God can hold steel together, so why bother to test the strength of the connection?

I am not trying to be facetious, as much as pointing out that perhaps science is not the place in which we should look for God. I think you are right that scientists have a bit of cognitive dissonance by the fact that 40-50% believe in God philosophically, yet not scientifically. But why should the two mix?

Look, I met a great girl. She interested me. I wanted to date her, be with her, and see her every chance I could get. Do I go to the science lab, whip out the test tubes and Bunsen burners to perform experiments as to the viability of my reaction? Of course not. “Love” and “Science” (outside of a movie theater) do not mix. They aren’t intended to.

Is it so rotten and horrid to do the same with God? The reality (if we face ourselves) is that we all deal a bit with cognitive dissonance. Christians claim their belief is grounded in faith (something with no evidence), upon a being that is not natural (outside of observable science.)

This attempt to cram God back where even Christians say he is not is an unwelcome fit at best.

I do have a question for you. Not to debate, really more out of curiosity than anything. Two, actually.

1) What scientific grounds caused you to abandon the theory of evolution?
2) Did you become a theist first and then abandon evolution, or vice versa?

Thanks

 
At 2/02/2007 3:22 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Dagoods,

Besides evolution and creation, what other options are there?

Or, if you prefer, look at it this way—if ID had evidence for creationism as it stands, why do they need to re-define science in order to include ID?

I don't know what the current official definition of science is or why ID is excluded. But this all supports what I said earlier that the 95% concensus is not all that impressive when you consider why there is such a wide concensus. It isn't because the evidence for evolution is so strong or that the evidence for ID is so weak; it's because ID is ruled out as scientific by definition. Even if there was a designer, and even if the evidence for a designer was conclusive and undeniable, a scientist still couldn't conclude "design," since, by definition, that wouldn't be allowed. With that in mind, why should we be impressed that there's such a wide concensus on evolution among scientists?

I can probably find stuff on Dover on the internet if I get interested enough, but thanks.

Assume we did have some items in nature that we said, “those are not designed” and others that we said, “these are designed.” How did the non-designed items come into being?

I don't understand why that's a relevent question.

The second observation you made in response to the forensic scientist analogy was that ID doesn't tell us anything about the creator, but forensic science does tell us something about the murderer. I really don't see how that observation is at all relevent to the point of the analogy which was simply that you need not identify the agent to know that there was an agent.

Of course I would agree that having established that there is a murder or a designer, we should then try to find out as much as we can about the murder or the designer. It turns out that you can discover more about the murderer in some cases than in other cases, but they are no less murders for that reason. Likewise, if it turns out we can tell less about the designer than about some murderer, it would be no less design for that reason.

I agree with you that given theistic evolution, you should expect evolution to be less predictable than billiard balls, but I don't know enough about how predictable evolution is to respond to you on that issue. I doubt we know enough about past evolution to say how predictable it is anyway. Even if we make accurate predictions today with things like ecoli, that certainly doesn't eliminate a designer from the entire history of evolution. Theistic evolutionist may disagree amongst themselves about the degree to which a designer intervenes in the process. They need only make the case that a designer must have intervened at some point for things to have gotten where they are today.

 
At 2/02/2007 3:30 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Paul: Could God do something like in Bruce Almighty and go on vacation, and then would nature go on ticking as usual?

I didn't see Bruce Almighty, but I think the answer to your question depends on the degree to which God is currently involved. In Colossians 1:17, it says that in Jesus, "all things hold together," but that could be interpreted in a variety of ways. Some people go so far as to say God sustains the universe in existence continually such that if he removed his sustaining power, the universe would cease to exist.

I'm far from being a deist, but I don't believe God's sovereignty requires that every event is caused directly by God. I suspect, though I can't say for sure, that if God did go on vacation, nature would continue to tick. People might go off the deep end, though.

Paul, I want to ask you a favour (and Dagoods, please be understanding). If you decide to answer his first question at the end of his last post, please be as brief and general as possible.

And Dagoods, I ask that you not turn his answer into an opportunity to debate the merits of the arguments. That is just too big of a topic, and it would take us too far away from the current topic.

I just think if any of us ever want to have a debate like that, somebody ought to start a blog of their own spelling out their arguments, and not doing it in the discussion section of this blog.

 
At 2/02/2007 5:20 PM , Blogger Paul said...

Ouch. I just finished a reply, which includes a bit of content for question one. I was going to proof and post tonight.

I may still post it since most of the verbiage includes personal narrative. For the bulk of my reasons I just list bullet points. I, too, am not looking to debate the issue at this time. I've done that exhaustively on some messageboards several years back. I've got a post in mind on this topic that I will eventually author where interested parties may be able to pitch in their two cents.

 
At 2/02/2007 7:54 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

I'm such a party pooper.

 
At 2/02/2007 10:26 PM , Blogger Paul said...

Dagoods,

Regarding the 95% figure, your link is illuminating. It is merely an indicator of how many scientists are "creationists," not how many scientists are skeptical of naturalistic Darwinian Theory. I'd wager that if you phrased the poll question just right, and you offered guaranteed anonymity, that you could get that number up between 30 and 60 percent. It is an oversold fiction that anyone who objects to the theory simply does so based on a literal 24 hour day reading of Genesis and without genuine rational cause. Ad Hominem arguments and psychoanalysis seems to be the stock-in-trade of the Darwinian evangelists.

I was just listening to a lecture by John Lennox of Oxford, who told the story of a colleague who introduced John to a visiting scholar as someone "who doesn't believe in evolution." The fellow's eyes went wide, and then he said, "me too!" The original colleague seemed to be encouraged enough by this exchange that he finally broke down and shared his own doubts about the theory.

Regarding methodological naturalism, you seem to forget that most of the scientists who paved the way to our technological utopia were, in fact, theists. They had no problem mixing their God with their science. It is another fiction that ID advocates are merely seeking to overthrow scientific progress and plug in "goddunnit" for every unanswered question (not all are theists anyway, and many, even, are non-Christian). It is the idea that God is a designer and lawgiver that made the cosmos a thing worthy of study for theists in the first place. Most ID proponents are comfortable with a form of "soft" methodological naturalism. They are simply willing to consider "design" in their observations.

I simply must comment on this:
Look, I met a great girl. She interested me. I wanted to date her, be with her, and see her every chance I could get. Do I go to the science lab, whip out the test tubes and Bunsen burners to perform experiments as to the viability of my reaction? Of course not. “Love” and “Science” (outside of a movie theater) do not mix. They aren’t intended to.

What do you mean, "intended to"? Just who is it that intended anything at all about human psychology? If we are merely creatures of matter and physical law, then we should, in theory, be able to explain things like love as nothing more than an emergent property of matter, and we could do experiments to detect if someone was in a "love" state.

And this:
Christians claim their belief is grounded in faith (something with no evidence) . . . This attempt to cram God back where even Christians say he is not is an unwelcome fit at best.

To which Christian theologians and apologists are you referring when you say that we believe that faith is something wholly separate from evidence? This is how secularists would very much like to paint Christianity, but it is not its historical position or warranted from a careful reading of its Scriptures. Unfortunately, I will have to admit that there are many in the pews who have bought into this.

Now to your questions:
1) What scientific grounds caused you to abandon the theory of evolution?

Jeff Yeager did a decent group of posts on some of the reasons, in the Dec 05 to Jan 06 timeframe. Actually, he and I went around and around on this kind of stuff many years back before I was a Christian (he has been one far longer than I).

My first hurdle was getting past the naïve idea that scientists are a bunch if presuppositionally sterile priests of truth, who simply follow the evidence wherever it leads them. I also had this childish notion that novel ideas and axiom-destroying theories were the holy grail of the profession. As it turns out, there is orthodoxy and heresy even in the temples of science. Many Nobel Prize winners have a tough go at getting their original theses accepted into the major peer reviewed journals. Frank Tipler's chapter in the book, Uncommon Dissent - Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing, is very illuminating.

One thing that really kicked me in the teeth was the realization that the fossil record did not contain what I assumed that it did. I was resting on the idea that the geological strata held organisms from small to large (supposedly simple to complex), and I believed the press that transitional forms between these groups were a dime-a-dozen. I later learned that everything I had ever seen as a supposed transitional form was either debunked as such (e.g., the famous horse series) or it was the sum total of what was available, not just the tip of an iceberg. And it was quotes from pro-evolution types admitting this dirty little secret that convinced me that it wasn't just bald creationist rhetoric. As Gould says, "The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology."

Along with this came the admission that what did appear in the strata was sudden emergence, stasis, and then sometimes extinction. Also, I became aware that some of the life from early history was not so simple after all. For example, the eye of the trilobite is quite unique and sophisticated.

Some of the other areas I could touch on would be...
* The Cambrian Explosion (and other explosions)
* Abiogenesis (rediscovering cellular biology really underscored this problem for me)
* Numerous instances of repeated evolution (parallel evolution achieving comparable results, e.g., the human and squid eye)
* Convergence (e.g., sandlance and chameleon, also, a range of placental vs marsupial parallel species)
* Irreducible Complexity
* Information content (DNA)
* Statistical improbabilities
* The problem of instincts (especially where they contain detailed instructions)

While I was discovering some of these more heady areas of debate, it was the silliest little thing that kicked me over the edge. After becoming a Christian (actually before that point) I listened to Christian talk radio shows on my daily commute (R.C. Sproul was one of my favorites, but I mostly listen to recorded lectures now). Anyway, there was a short little children's show that came on between two of the shows I liked. I had nothing better to listen to at the time, so I suffered through the 10 or 15 minute thing for weeks on end. In this show, "Uncle Bob" would "interview" various animals, and they would tell all about themselves and their lifestyles. Episode after episode, week after week, the diversity of life and the myriad instances of unique specialization and complexity was driven into my mind (also by way of recollection of things I'd learned elsewhere). I finally reached a breaking point of credulity. I could no longer believe that chance could do so very much detailed and creative work so very many times. The more you learn about species, the more you understand that even those that would appear similar have remarkable adaptations that are unique to themselves and which work in concert. As one of my bumper stickers says, "Evolution gives fat chance a full-time job." A beneficial mutation is already an astoundingly improbable event. We are talking millions of such things required to build up the various class, order, family, genus, and species, and we are talking about billions of individual organism going through this. There's just not enough time to do all this work, if it were possible to do it at all.

2) Did you become a theist first and then abandon evolution, or vice versa?

Well, I'm not sure that I was ever a self-professing atheist, though I was a functional naturalist. I think I leaned more toward pantheism. I didn't care much for the idea of a personal God, and I kind of liked the implication that I might somehow get to be a god. I never really thought of this god/force doing much more than kicking off the universe or starting life. In fact, it sometimes helped to exercise my mind of the haunting improbabilities I stumbled across.

After becoming a Christian I simply became a self-conscious, theistic evolutionist. After that it was a matter of exposure to the controversy, and being more receptive to the idea that the critics of evolution were not necessarily a bunch of ignorant, back-woods, fundamentalist Sunday School teachers. I think it took about a year before I finally turned to the "dark side."

Looking back, I harbored a good bit of hubris in thinking I knew too much to buy what those nutty Bible-thumpers believed. I'm not sure how Jeff suffered my arrogance (he's a black belt and probably wanted to kick my butt). I also made the common mistake of thinking that an old earth means evolution, and creation means < 10,000 years. Interestingly, after debate and research with him, I was swayed to doubt evolution and he came to doubt young earth creation!

Sorry for the length, Sam.

 
At 2/02/2007 11:31 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

What ever happened to Jeff anyway? He seems to have fallen off the face of the earth.

 
At 2/03/2007 11:09 AM , Blogger DagoodS said...

99.86

That is the percentage of scientists involved in life sciences that actually deal with evolution who hold to the theory of evolution. When I indicated 95% that is inclusive of ALL scientists, including field such as computer programming and electrical engineering.

And that is in America, with the least percentage of scientists who subscribe to the theory of evolution. The rest of the world is even higher!

It is funny. In response to that figure we are told that the statistical question was phrased incorrectly (although we are not told why, nor is it explained why the numbers have stayed consistent over the past 15 years). Or we are told that it is some conspiracy that all the scientists are holding to evolution because of money, or because they hate God, or because they want to be hedonists.

Conversely, we are then provided a list of quotes as to all these scientists that disagree with evolution. (If they disagree, aren’t they hurting the “conspiracy” by letting the cat out of the bag.) And, I might add, does a theist really want to use the methodology that those who hold to a theory but disagree in a variety of ways as to how it occurred, or what it consists of requires us to reject the theory? With all the disagreements over what a god looks like, employing this method would seem to be slitting one’s own throat!

Look, if less than 1/5 of 1% hold to creationism, isn’t there SOME burden upon them to convince the other 99.86%? If science is defined in some way that they are excluded, is it not equally their burden to convince a re-defining of science?

Let me try this analogy. (I presume you know very little about the law.) Imagine I told you that I have a theory about the implementation of the law. I admit that 99.86% of all the other lawyers disagree with my theory.

I would hope you would expect some overwhelming evidence. Some powerful argument and proof whereby you see that the vast, vast majority is wrong. Is this convincing?:

“99.86% disagree with me because it is some conspiracy to keep my theory from going public.”

“See? Even among the 99.86% they disagree among themselves. That means my .14% must be true!”

“We need to re-define Law to include the level by which one appreciates the fine music of Weird Al Yankovic, and then my theory has a chance of being correct.”

The percentages of scientists that hold to creationism or evolution have remained the same. But do you know what percentage has increased? The percentage of Americans (NOT other countries) who believe in creationism. It is evident where the .14% is taking their argument—to the people.

Would it bother you that I put together a fancy presentation, and say what the people want, but cannot even move the other lawyers?

What other options are there besides evolution and creationism? Creationism is not even a blip on the radar as an option in the scientific community. It does not even rise to the level of a fringe belief!

The only place that this “option” appears is in the popular arguments in churches and on the internet between theists and non-theists. In the field in which it is most relevant, it is a dead issue.

Interestingly, even within the theistic community, it is focusing on those who hold to a literal Genesis 1 & 2. (Even Old Earth’s read literalism in Genesis 1 & 2, and not that it is a complete analogy.) This reflects a complete misunderstanding of the method and way in which the story was written. The inspired Hebrew that wrote it had no intention to be writing a literal story of creation. It was human’s interaction with God and morality.

200 years ago, Evolution was unheard of. Yet we still had people who were atheists and agnostics. Even though the only “option” was creationism. Then we gained the theory of evolution. It became more and more supported through the fields of geology, archeology, paleontology, and biology. The more we learned, the more that supported it. Eventually we gained the ability to perform more minute inspections at the cellular level. Something Darwin could never even imagine possible.

And what do we find? Yep—genomes support the theory of evolution. All we need is one fossil, one record out of place and the entire theory blows up. One genome, one DNA strand out of sync. Yet over and over and OVER we keep finding the right things in the right place.

Is it possible that 200 years from now there is another “option” besides evolution? Sure. But to brazenly state (in looking at our past) that the only two options are evolution and some fringe theory is a bit hasty.

Creationism rises and falls on the dichotomy. And it knows it. Why should I buy into it?

If designed item indicates a designer made it, then a non-designed item indicates a designer did NOT make it. In other words, some things God did not make. Now, you could argue that the non-designed items only give the appearance of non-design, but are actually designed.

But what does that give us? It means that we have two items:

1) Things designed;
2) Things designed, but appear non-designed.

However, the determination of design is made upon appearance. So honesty would require us to state that what we have are:

1) Things that appear designed;
2) Things that appear non-designed.

Knowing this, do we have a designer or not? We gain no information from the appearance.

I am learning to not attack other people’s analogies. So I try to avoid them. But you asked my opinion, and I gave it.

The forensic examiner determines that a man died of poisoned mushrooms. Was it natural or murder? A woman dies from a severe laceration to her throat. Was it natural or murder?

See a forensic scientist must go outside the body itself, utilize his/her knowledge of the human condition (that there ARE murderers), and the minute study of the body to make such determinations. We have neither option available to us when inspecting a supernatural murderer (as the analogy.)

My last question for ya: If Genesis 1,2 & 3 was an analogy would you have a problem with evolution? Frankly if you hold to the story’s literalism, I see little choice but for you to be a creationist. Suspending judgment or not. *wink*


Paul,

Thank you for your response. I appreciated it.

 
At 2/03/2007 4:40 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Dagoods,

The reason I asked you what other options there were besides evolution and creation is because you thought it was fallacious for people to take any argument against evolution as an argument for creation. If these are the only two options, then any argument against evolution is an argument for creation, which you could show with a disjunctive syllogism:

1. Either creation or evolution.
2. Not evolution.
3. Therefore, creation.

The only way to say that the second premise does not support the conclusion is if the first premise is false. The first premise would have to be a false dilemma. There would have to be a third option.

Now your answer seems to be that there is a third option, but we don't know what it is yet. Of course I can't dismiss the possibility that there is a third option even though I can't imagine what it might be. But what reason do you have to say there is a third option? Are you offering it merely as a possibility, or do you have some reason to think there really is a third option that we just don't know about yet?

Since you agree that things are either designed or not designed, then whatever the third option is, it would have to be among things that are "not designed." That means it would have to be some kind of natural process--something that operates according to the laws of nature, natural cause and effect, etc. Do you really think nature could produce complicated life forms apart from the process of evolution?

If Genesis were an analogy, it would have no affect whatsoever on whether I had a problem with evolution or not. If Genesis were meant to be completely literal, then I'd have a dilemma. I'd have to either reject the inerrancy of Genesis or I'd have to reject evolution.

 
At 2/03/2007 8:40 PM , Blogger DagoodS said...

Not sure it even has to be “completely” literal. Even partially literal will qualify. I wonder if there is a single person who is convinced evolution is incorrect AND believes that Gen. 1-3 is an analogy.

I think the decision as to evolution compared to creationism falls NOT on scientific research, but rather one’s opinion as to the literalism of Genesis.

Honestly, I cannot envision a third option at this time. But, as I said, 200 years ago no one could envision evolution either, which seems so obvious to us now. 2000 years ago, no one (or very few) could envision heliocentric theory either. Which also seems so obvious. Or atomic theory. Or a variety of other things we now see as obvious.

It would be equally foolish and myopic to presume we have reached some sort of pinnacle. Think of it. (Well, we can’t really.) There will be so many things 200 or 300 years from now that are so obvious to humans that we don’t even know now. Wow!

And, even though I can’t see it, perhaps there is some third option. Or a hybrid. Perhaps a god appears, explains how things work, and evolution and creationism as you and I know it becomes a footnote in history books. Or perhaps the abiogenesis puzzle is broken and the fundamentalists Scientologists are running the political parties in North CanAmerica. Who knows? But to proclaim it IS a strict dichotomy is solely the tactic of the creationist.

Why that is should be obvious.

ephphatha: 1. Either creation or evolution.

Far too simplistic. What “creation”? Deism? Theistic evolution in its varieties? OEC or YEC? ID? Some alternative we have not thought of yet?

And what “evolution”? The evolution of Darwin? The evolution of today? 50 years ago? 50 years from now? Only 25 years or so ago, we would have no clue whether genomes would confirm evolution.

That is a very important point. With the discoveries we make in the next 50 years, will “irreducible complexity” become a forgotten term?

Creationism would LOVE to make this a simple dichotomy. Since it has no proof, no evidence for its own viability (notice how I pointed that out, and none has appeared?) the only thing it can do is make the exact argument you framed so well.

“Us or them. They are wrong! So it must be us.”

 
At 2/03/2007 11:07 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Dagoods,

Let's grant that there's a third possibility that we just haven't discovered yet. Even if we grant that, all it does is remove logical certainty from the argument. The argument can still work inductively depending on the likelihood that there is a third alternative. The less likely it is, the more likely evolution and creation are the only two options. If a third option is unlikely, then the conclusion to the argument is likely. So any argument against evolution makes creation more probable.

Now you seem to dismiss the dichotomy for another reason--it's too simplistic. There are different kinds of "creation" and different kinds of "evolution." Granted, but how does that invalidate the dichotomy? Different kinds of evolution are still evolution, aren't they? And different kinds of creation are still creation.

What would you do in this situation? You decide to give your daughter an option between eating pizza and eating macaroni. You say, "It's pizza or macaroni, and those are the only two options." Then she responds, "But daddy, that's too simplistic. There are different kinds of pizza, and there are different kinds of macaroni. You've set up a false dichotomy." Would you take an answer like that seriously?

I think the decision as to evolution compared to creationism falls NOT on scientific research, but rather one’s opinion as to the literalism of Genesis.

Do you mean that the real reason anybody believes in creation rather than evolution is because they take Genesis literally? If so, what follows from that? It certainly doesn't follow that all of the pretend reasons they give are fallacious. When a person gives you an argument, their internal thoughts and motives are completely irrelevent to whether or not the argument they gave you is sound. So we can't dismiss all these books and things IDers write just because their real reasons might be quite different than the ones they give us.

 
At 2/04/2007 12:43 PM , Blogger DagoodS said...

Good, ephphatha. I hope you focus on the arguments rather than accusations of bias thrown about by the opponents.

I hope, then you will dismiss ID’s primary accusations of science holding to metaphysical naturalism, and therefore eliminating the possibility of God from the equation. If, as you say, the import is the argument itself, it should not matter what the view of the scientist is, eh?

Further, I hope you will ignore accusations of some type of conspiracy to maintain evolution due to funding, or academics, or because everyone else believes it. Even if these are true, the point is that we need to look at the arguments themselves, true?

(Do you see that removal of bias undercuts most of the complaints of creationists?)

So, in looking at the arguments, what have we on the creationist side. Well. Nothing, really. No evidence, no experiments, no papers—nothing proving creation. Instead they impose this dichotomy (false in my opinion, obviously) that it must be either creation or evolution. Rather than support their own position they attempt to tear down evolution and hope to win by default.

And how do they do that? Do they produce evidence that directly contradicts evolution? An unexplained jump in genomes? A fossil outside the accepted dates? (Such as a rabbit in pre-Cambrian rock) Do they produce a single experiment that disproves evolution?

Well, again, no. Basically what they say is there are gaps within evolution. Things we do not know. And since evolution has these horrible, horrible gaps, then it must be false.

How strong of an argument is that? I do not know if you ever read my blog, but did you see the Parable of the Rolling Stone? It makes this point admirably.

When I was thinking about a literal Genesis, to be honest I was thinking about you. I think that if you hold to Genesis 1-3 even being partly literal, you will fall on creationism over evolution.

I sincerely hope not. I hope you do your research thoroughly. Frankly, it is not easy. Creationists and IDers write in a popular fashion. They write in pleasing stories to a public at large. Scientists write toward other scientists. Their papers require dictionaries and re-reading to understand what they are saying.

I hope you see the integration between the various fields, and how each support evolution. I hope you maintain your position that one’s bias, whether for a god or not is irrelevant, and what is important is the argument.

I would hope that you learn how evolution is…well…an evolving field. Each month we gain more and more information supporting the premise. To discount it because it does not know something today is a dangerous method, indeed.

 
At 2/04/2007 1:52 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Dagoods,

I love your little moments of triumph. Yes, it's equally fallacious for creationists to dismiss evolution on the basis of irrelevent motives on the part of evolutionists. That's called the genetic fallacy.

Now since you've turned this observation back on me, can I take it that you concede the point I made? Do you agree with me that it's the arguments that matter, and not the perceived motives or presuppositions of the arguer?

I should add that the motives or presuppositions are relevent when they are part of the argument. But since, to my knowledge, no IDer uses Genesis in their arguments for ID, their personal opinions about Genesis are irrelevent to whether their case for ID is sound.

In the same way, the metaphysical naturalism of evolutionists is only relevent if it is part of their argument. I don't know if or to what extent any of them appeal to naturalism to support evolution, though. Do they?

Do you see that removal of bias undercuts most of the complaints of creationists?

I don't know what most of their complaints are. I suppose if you're working from the assumption that most of the arguments creationists give are versions of the genetic fallacy mentioned above, then yes, that does undercut most of their complaints. Is that really the case, though?

From what little I know about ID, I don't get the impression their argument amounts to God-of-the-gaps, which seems to be your take on it. They don't just argue that "We don't know how evolution did this." Rather, they argue, "Evolution could not have done this," or that "Nothing but an intelligent designer could've done this." And I don't get the impression these arguments are based on what they don't know, but on what they do know. I suppose that's arguable, though, and unfortunately, I'm not equipped to argue with you about it.

 
At 2/05/2007 10:23 AM , Blogger DagoodS said...

ephphatha,

I would heartily concur that we must do our best to remove as much bias as possible from the argumentation. Obtain a neutral, third-party determination, if possible. Look at the arguments themselves, regardless of who proffered it, or what bias they may have.

Not sure that many people can. Could a literalist really remove their bias of Gen. 1 & 2 being literal, and view the arguments of evolution accordingly? Equally, could a scientist who is a metaphysical naturalistic feasibly ever come up with a supernatural conclusion? Or would they default to “We don’t know. Yet.”

When I said “I hope you can” I truly meant it. No game. No “triumph” or fear of “conceding.” Genuine hope. ‘Cause it is not easy to do.

What I generally see is that studying the scientific side and engaging in the debate becomes too difficult, primarily because of the subject material. It IS a lot of reading, and it IS a lot of digging. So people default to whichever supports their theistic belief, on the premise that “Apparently there is a lot of argument out there; probably neither side knows for sure, so I will pick the one that works for me.”

No matter where one falls, deism, theistic evolution, evolution, creationism, YEC, OEC, whatever, there are Ph.D’s that support your position, and Ph.D’s that argue against it.

I’m always interested in what people find persuasive.

 
At 2/05/2007 12:09 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Dagoods,

I agree it is very difficult to overcome our biases. Ronald Nash, in his book, Faith & Reason, argues that our noetic structure and our presuppositions determine what we will accept and what we won't.

But since you're curious about the extent to which my own biases are influencing my opinions, I'll try to be totally honest with you about it. There are really only two things that cause me to be suspicious that all life we know has evolved purely by natural processes. First, it's because a few people I think are pretty careful thinkers, who know more than I do, and who are smarter than I am, think there are some serious problems with evolution. Second, it's because on the face of it, it does seem highly unlikely to me that nature, by itself, could produce such intricate and complex machines as living organisms.

Now of course I realize there are also people who are smarter than me and more informed than I am who think the evidence for evolution is conclusive, and as I said in the beginning of our discussion, the large concensus does make me reluctant to doubt it. It just doesn't impress me as much as it does you for the reasons I gave.

Also, I recognize that due to my lack of knowledge, I'm really not in a good position to say what the probability is that natural processes could've produced all the life I see around me. All I'm saying is that on the face of it, it seems highly unlikely to me.

 
At 2/05/2007 10:49 PM , Blogger Paul said...

Rats, I've gotten behind here. I've tried to have a relaxing weekend with the family. Then I've used my free time today to craft a lengthy reply to our Baha'i friend John (which I'll post tomorrow). Perhaps I can come back soon and review the dialog for items that require a response.

BTW Sam, can you go into your profile and change the date format to show the day & time of the comments being posted?

 
At 2/08/2007 2:29 PM , Blogger Paul said...

Not looking to stir the pot again, but I feel obligated to follow up, and I see items that could use a response. I'll try to be brief, but you know how that goes.

Regarding the percentage that hold to evolution:

Even if I grant the percentage (and you'll forgive my caution in doing so), the point is that the link you gave indicated that it was "creationism" vs evolution. The majority of the members of the ID community would not label themselves as "creationists," so I am not at all confident that your figure properly captures all those who are skeptical of evolutionary theory.

The percentage of Americans who believe in creationism [is what is increasing]. It is evident where the .14% is taking their argument—to the people.

This may well be so, but if evolution is so all-fired obvious, and there are so many academics available that hold to it, one would think they could be more successful in evangelizing their cause. It is not as though they have not tried. There are organizations committed to the cause and they have our schools in their grips. And you cannot watch a nature or science show on TV without it being mentioned in the most gratuitous of ways.

The impression of design in nature is so very powerful that materialists must expend a great deal of effort to keep it pressed down. For this reason, ID theorists need only crank the handle the slightest bit to let the jack out of the box.

200 years ago, Evolution was unheard of. Yet we still had people who were atheists and agnostics. Even though the only “option” was creationism.

This is not true. Materialists have had ideas about biology coming about by some random collocation of atoms since at least Democritus in the 4th Century BC. These ideas came down to the enlightenment through popularizers like Lucretius, who I would imagine to be something of a hero in atheistic circles. Darwin's theory was no great novelty; he simply put legs on it and packaged it very well. See the book Moral Darwinism for an excellent treatment on this issue.

What other options are there besides evolution and creationism? . . . Creationism rises and falls on the dichotomy. And it knows it. Why should I buy into it?

I think Sam has answered very well on this, but I just can't find another rational option than supernatural intervention (ID) versus some form of purely materialistic development (evolution). No matter who the designer is, it is still ID; no matter how that natural process played out, evolutionists will manage to put it under their umbrella. The only possible alternative would be some synthesis, but materialists would much prefer to keep the dichotomy than allow that.

The more we learned, the more that supported [evolution]. Eventually we gained the ability to perform more minute inspections at the cellular level. Something Darwin could never even imagine possible.

This is the whole point of Behe's book, Darwin's Black Box: the cell is exceedingly more complex than Darwin could have possibly imagined. Simply because we know more about biology does not lend support for evolution. Indeed, it adds to the immensity of what is to be explained by several orders of magnitude.

And what do we find? Yep—genomes support the theory of evolution. All we need is one fossil, one record out of place and the entire theory blows up. One genome, one DNA strand out of sync. Yet over and over and OVER we keep finding the right things in the right place.

You have been drinking too much cool aid! There ARE things in the genome that don't line up with what they had expected. Genetics doesn't always parallel homology. This is one of the points that Michael Denton made (who is not a Christian) in his book, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, that put Michael Behe onto the road toward ID.

Additionally, evolution will not allow itself to be falsified. It always finds a way to make every unexpected twist somehow fit into the theory. An example: Several years back when they were unraveling the human genome it was found that humans had fewer genes than estimated — about the same number as an ear of corn. It seems that our superior complexity is derived via a very economic reuse of much the same gene space as other organisms. This would suggest an even more complex task for evolution, in that instead of implementing ad-on components (as it were), it had to do in-situ upgrades to existing systems without missing a functional beat. (Imagine changing a motorcycle into a Ferrari on part at a time while simultaneously driving it across country.) The author of the article I read on this topic managed to unconsciously allow his readers to experience the surprise and difficulty that this implied for evolutionary theory. However, he ended the article on a characteristically positive note saying something to the effect of, "isn't it wonderful how efficient evolution is." And I could give other such examples.

If Genesis 1, 2 & 3 was an analogy would you have a problem with evolution? Frankly if you hold to the story’s literalism, I see little choice but for you to be a creationist.

I can only speak from what my beliefs are at this time. If I were to reject the authority of Scripture I would not automatically accept evolution (that would play into the dichotomy you are so keen to avoid). I would still have my issues with evolution to deal with.

There are Christians who do hold to some form of evolution. You seem to be arguing that only a liberal Christian would be comfortable with evolution. Perhaps there is truth to it. A more mythical reading of Genesis would at least make theistic evolution more coherent anyway.

the point is that we need to look at the arguments themselves, true?
(Do you see that removal of bias undercuts most of the complaints of creationists?)


I have listened to numerous debates on this issue and the frustrating thing is that while the ID advocate tries very hard to focus on the science, the evolutionist wastes the better portion of the time on ad hominems and attacks on the Bible! And even when the evolutionist mentions the science it is often to discuss its proper boundaries or to make broad statements about its incontrovertible proofs that such and so is true. But it is always someone or somewhere else to which we are commended to gain our detailed support. Listen to this lecture, from around the 41 to 58 minute mark, to hear Behe talk about some of this and what he finds when he actually does follow up on the alleged support.

Of course, I do not deny that there is circumstantial evidence for evolution. My point is that the case is not being made in the public sector (and often shut down by political pressure in the academic sector); rejection of evolution is simply brushed off as flat-earth, neo-luddism. This will only serve to lose further support due to the "me thinks they doeth protest too much (and too arrogantly)" factor.

It would be nice if we could actually succeed in setting aside psychologizing and motive-mongering, but there may be something worth considering in all this. Think about it: can a non-theist give up on naturalistic evolution without collapsing his belief system? Can he allow "some design" — a divine foot in the door at all (to quote Lewontin)? (Well, maybe, if you allow for alien intervention.) In opposition to this, theists can and do allow for natural causes in this world. Their worldview will permit them to entertain something like evolution as at least a possibility. The only thing that is excluded from consideration is a fully random and purposeless process, but that is how materialists insist on defining it in order that it be called "science." If presuppositions are frivolous in this debate, then they apply nowhere at all.

in looking at the arguments, what have we on the creationist side. Well. Nothing, really. No evidence, no experiments, no papers—nothing proving creation.

Well, if you want to qualify "evidence" as being a "made by God" label, then maybe only something like the Bible would fit that bill. And if you qualify "papers" as only those appearing in specific journals, then the problem of academic snobbery emerges. In any case, your charge is an underestimation of the actual facts. See this list of publications. And here is an example of ID backed research.

But even if ID'ers had no papers of their own, there are an abundance of papers like this and this which do a fine enough job in pointing out the biological difficulties of evolutionary theory. Of course, if you continue to imagine that evolution has no chinks in its armor, and if you think that even shooting down every alleged support for a natural process is not enough to make you suspect design, then all that could be left is to convince you that the inventor has already filed His patent with humanity.

I wonder if there is a single person who is convinced evolution is incorrect AND believes that Gen. 1-3 is an analogy.

Well, I could name a few:
David Berlinski - agnostic Jew
Frank Tipler - something like a pantheist
Michael Denton - Neoplatonist
Anthony Flew - deist
(Of course, the list would grow or shrink depending on how absolute you take the word "incorrect" to be.)
And if members of other religions count, here is some interesting information.

 
At 2/08/2007 8:15 PM , Blogger DagoodS said...

Paul,

Again, I appreciate your comment. One nice thing about being a skeptic, is that I tend to question what people say, which gives me an opportunity to go off and explore areas I did not even know exist.

I found your last link to that poll particularly fascinating.

I am respecting ephphatha’s request to not debate, so I will hold my fingers.

 
At 2/08/2007 10:50 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

I appreciate that, Dagoods, but I don't mind you responding to Paul. I just don't want y'all to turn this into a debate about the specific arguments for and against ID. There is just too much information on a topic like that to handle in a discussion section, and it would go on and on until one of you just got tired of arguing. Most of what's been going on in this discussion so far is "in principle" kinds of arguments, and I'd like to keep it that way if we could.

 
At 2/09/2007 12:09 AM , Blogger Paul said...

Don't worry Dag, I'd never take your silence as any sort of implied concession ;-)

Sam's right that the technicalities of the discussion just lead to infinite debate, though the effort can result in quite an education in science. Jeff and I spent several months on a message boards debating this a few years back and it seemed that nobody moved an inch on any position, though I got quite a bit of inspiration for the Theistic Evolution article that I eventually wrote.

Speaking of Jeff, I forgot to answer your question, Sam. Most of the LifeWay information technology department got caught up in a multi-year project to replace one of our main business systems. I was pulled in at a later stage because of my involvement with systems that are required to feed data into and pull data out of this system we were replacing. My effort ramped up beginning around July and got more intense as we hit November, and I'm still not entirely finished. By "ramped up" I mean that overtime was starting to occur and my cherished lunch writing time was being squeezed out. You may have noticed the inactivity on my blog toward the end of the year.

Jeff got deeply involved in all this earlier than I did, and in fact he has managed to work himself into one of the technical leadership roles for this new system. His effort in all this has made my own heavy load look like a nap. He's still keeping very busy and I think he's more concerned with career issues than returning to the world of debate and blogging, although he does take time to work out at the gym midday. I probably don't have the time for this yet either, but I think I've got more of an addiction for it than Jeff :-) He appreciates being missed though.

 
At 2/09/2007 1:08 PM , Blogger DagoodS said...

Always interesting to see how I am perceived when people respond to my posts. Admittedly, I have a history, so the response is justified.

I am not worried about “conceding.” I do not know enough about science to even be qualified to worry about it.

I became an atheist without knowing the first thing about evolution. (‘Cept I was always taught it was WRONG.) If evolution is disproven tomorrow, I see no reason that would provide me impetus to change my thinking in that regard. It is not what led me here; I do not see it leading me out.

In the same way, I am slightly puzzled as to the theist or Christian’s unabashed vehemence against evolution. (I get it against natural abiogenesis—but not evolution.) For example, many Christians have no problem with the metaphor of a “snake” in the place of Satan, a fruit as a metaphor for disobeying God, a fig leaf as a metaphor for realization. But dare we claim that Gen 1 is a metaphor for the process of how humans came? Gasp! Heaven forbid!

After studying the Tanakh, and Hebrew recognition of how Genesis 1 was written, it is far more likely an allegory. A poetic description of God’s manufacturing. In which case, evolution is neither supportive, nor destructive to God’s existence and interaction with the creation of the world. (And, a God that stops the sun, causes drought and floods, makes bones animate, brings back the dead and causes animals to talk is hardly prevented from intervening with a “nudge” now and then.)

If evolution was absolutely proven tomorrow, I do not see that as tantamount to Christianity or theism as being wrong. Yet that seems to be the terms in which this debate is framed.

So why do I discuss it? Partly because it tends to be a lively debate (which I love) and it is an area I can learn. And, partly because I have no stake in the outcome, I do not feel quite so passionate about making sure my position is clear to those who disagree with me. My ignorance is there for all to see. If I am not clear—it is most likely because I really don’t know.

Brief background. When I first encountered Biblical discussions with atheists, I was amazed, convicted and humbled with how little I knew. Here it was my letter from God, and they knew more about it than I did! So…I studied.

I now realize how little the average Christian knows about their Bible, its manufacture, its controversy. They take it “as is” and merely talk about doctrine, rather than explore its rich history. Very few Christian-on-the-street know what Documentary Hypothesis is, or who first gave us the name of “Mark” to the Gospel. They don’t even know there is a question as to the authorship of books such as Colossians, or 2 Peter, let alone what the arguments are.

I see the same lack of information in the evolution controversy. They may have read 1/2 a book by Strobel, or skimmed through an ID book—and that is about it. They (as I did) listen to what is said with no research, no investigation, no motivation to do anything but mow the lawn.

Usually, when I enter this debate, the first question I ask the creationist is, “What books have you read by scientists in support of evolution on this controversy?” Most times I get non-response. My favorite, though, was “I looked on Amazon, and couldn’t find any.” (Wow!) I gave some suggestions. They disappeared.

There is a reason I use the 99.86% figure. Not because I believe majority rules. (And if you think about it, using the method of “if a majority believes it; it must be correct” is not the smartest move for an atheist!) I use it because I hope that it is such an overwhelming number, that maybe, just maybe some Christian will think, “Hm. If that many hold to evolution, perhaps I ought to read at least one book written by the 99.86% rather than read 10 books written by the .14%”

To address Paul specifically…

I am sure that there is one person out there that holds Gen 1 & 2 are allegory, yet do not hold to evolution. I do think it is a far, far minority. I was a little surprised at the names you listed for the premise that Gen. is allegory AND evolution is incorrect.

I am talking about evolution. Not abiogenesis. Not cosmology. Not a God that started the whole thing and let it run. The reason I say that, is (as far as I know) Antony Flew (Note: No “h”) is a deist, but still holds to the theory of evolution. Denton and Behe both hold to evolution (PLUS intelligent design.) Tipler (according to the world’s worst source of wikipedia) believes people will evolve to immortality. Which is, of course, evolution.

I did not find anything on Berlinski. I guess I am not sure why you would say that Flew (especially), Denton and Tipler are convinced evolution is incorrect.

But your point is still valid. Eventually we could find such a person.

Paul: The majority of the members of the ID community would not label themselves as "creationists," …

Ah. The label game. Just what is it exactly they propose this “Intelligent Designer” did? Watch?

There is a reason they do not use the label “creationist.” The Federal court has ruled that “creationism” is promoting religion, and may not be taught in public school. Intelligent Design desires to be taught in public school. If they label themselves as “creationists” they have shot themselves in the foot before they started.

I assume you do know the story of the label of “creation” in Of Pandas and People? One of the pieces of evidence in the Dover trial was that they had removed the word “creation” and inserted the word “intelligent design” and left the remainder of the wording exactly the same. Oh, they don’t label themselves as such. For a very specific purpose.

Is “creationist” now a bad word? Would you prefer I say you don’t believe in creation?

But there is another label. “Darwinist.” What the heck is a “Darwinist”? This is a label, created by the creationist, so as to claim, “Look! Look! You are a religion just like us! See? You even have a ‘-ist’ at the end of your label.”

It is a deliberately derogatory term, designed to portray scientists as being in some sort of cult or set of beliefs, the equivalent of creationism. As if the two are different sides of the same coin. Have you ever head someone proclaim themselves as a “Darwinist”? Most people wouldn’t have a clue what that meant!

Unfortunately, I agree that there are insulting attacks that come from scientists toward creationists. Yet are creationists so different? Is “Darwinist” supposed to foster open communication, or is it “preaching to the choir” as label?

I see, Paul, you use that label. Why? I enjoy discussing with Christians. I hope they review what I say, and pause for a moment to reflect on what they believe. How far do you think I would get if I called Christians, “Crazyians”? Have you ever seen me write the term “fundies”? (Other than explaining, as I am now.) Nope. Because it is a derogatory term, and it only inhibits conversation. I don’t call Christians “deluded” or “crazy” or “stupid.” Why? Because it doesn’t help any!

Does calling a scientist a “Darwinist” help? Look, you want to—go ahead. While I may not know all the scientific arguments in the field of creationism/evolution, I do know what “preaching to the choir” is, and I do recognize that use of labels is an effective way to portray someone as they really are not. I can see why scientist would respond to this back-handed label in a negative light.

And let’s discuss the different tactics in debate. We have a saying, perhaps you have heard it; “depends who’s ox is being gored.” From my perspective, I see a great deal of pontificating, and nebulous, unsupported claims by the creationist. I see very little actual science. (No experiments with “God” at the end, of course) You see little science from the scientists and attacks on the Bible. Most likely the truth is somewhere in between.

Where creationists horrifically excel is at providing Death Threats to the point that people require armed guards, as they fear for themselves and their family! Have you heard of an IDer who had to get a guard because s/he felt in fear of their life from a person who holds to evolution? Oh, they may get called “stupid” or “ignorant” or other names (which I also think is wrong) but death threats?

You say scientists drop the name-calling and attacks on the Bible. We say drop “Darwinists” and death threats. Neither party is entitled to any high moral ground here.

Paul: …if evolution is so all-fired obvious, and there are so many academics available that hold to it, one would think they could be more successful in evangelizing their cause.

I hope not. I am far more interested in their spending time eliminating disease, or improving quality of life, or finding some cure than wasting one minute of time “evangelizing.”

How many scientists bother with even responding to ID? How many shrug, write it off as an unproven, remote theory and move on with their life? Yes, there are people that are concerned about it, especially with teaching it in our schools. But it seems the vast majority of scientists are simply moving on with their lives. To them it is comparable to UFO’s. Curious, but nothing that will change their experiments the next day.

Again, in my opinion, and with what I have read, the only area in which this “evangelizing” is important is within the small area of internet debate and protestant America.

Paul, you mention ID articles. I always found this quote from Dembski poignant:
"I’ve just gotten kind of blasé about submitting things to journals where you often wait two years to get things into print," he says. "And I find I can actually get the turnaround faster by writing a book and getting the ideas expressed there. My books sell well. I get a royalty. And the material gets read more."
- -William Dembski in The Chronicle of Higher Education Dec. 21, 2001
here

(ephphatha. I don’t vouch for all the quotes at that link, but if you haven’t read much ID, you may find the quotes from Philip Johnson interesting.)

To some extent, I agree that the intelligent design debate should be more in the public sector. Because of America’s fascination with knowing everything, and constant conspiracy plot concerns, the idea that it is NOT taught in schools legitimizes it somewhat. That if the scientific community does want a person to KNOW something, they have some nefarious plot, and now, all of a sudden, the person desires to know this deep dark secret even more.

I do find it a bit humorous that each side declares it is “better” because it is more open. The naturalist is “better” because they allow for both naturalism AND theism—the theist just has to prove it. The theist is “better” because they allow for both theism AND naturalism—the non-theist just has to prove it.

Frankly, being more “open” to more possibilities does not make a system “better.” A pantheist has us all beat—is their system therefore “better”?

Was Denton’s book written before Dr. Collins’ research? In fact Denton’s book was written in 1985. Not that this is too remote, but according to one source I read, he based his discussion on fossils to articles that were written 130-150 years previously! I find that hard to believe—but is it true? (And even at that, Denton holds to evolution!)

I may be “drinking the Kool-aid,” but the fellow who basically invented genome research served it to me.

Again, I am not trying to name-drop and play “who has the bigger Ph.D” but when the guy who basically wrote the book on it, and is a Christian says that “the evidence in favor of evolution is overwhelming” shouldn’t that make me take notice? If he is wrong, shouldn’t there be some strong evidence refuting his claims? I don’t see his belief system collapsing without evolution.

Paul, can I ask you a question? And if this is getting too specific, ephphatha, please feel free to politely tell me to “shut up.” (grin)

What mechanism do you propose happened in the Cambrian Explosion? We have a period of time, the most conservative estimate being 5 Million years, in which we see a variety of creatures appear in the fossil record. No flowering plants, no reptiles, no mammals, no birds, of course.

I get why a theist would question evolution in this situation. (sorta) But what do you propose God did? Did He slowly introduce different creatures over the course of this 5 million time period, all of which would go extinct? What about the creatures before?

Why no other creatures during this time? Or do you shrug and say, “Who knows what a God will do?” Or is this solely an exercise in “evolution must be wrong”?

I am not trying to limit you—the field is wide open. But I am curious what you propose God was doing.

 
At 2/10/2007 12:18 PM , Blogger Psiomniac said...

ephphatha, you said:

First, in what little I've read in the whole debate between intelligent design (ID) and evolution, the argument coming from the evolution side is rarely ever over the evidence the ID side provides. Rather, it's the argument that ID is not science. So I suspect the wide concensus has a lot to do with the fact that a creator/designer is ruled out as a matter of principle, and not necessarily because the evidence for evolution happens to be so strong.
I have read books from each side of this debate and have watched interviews with scientists in the field. I think that given the context of the time span and complexity of life, the evidence for evolution is very good indeed. I think science adopts explanatory naturalism as well as methodological naturalism. I don't think that there is a coherent alternative to this. This does not entail ontological naturalism though, which is why some scientists can be Christian and still hold that the theory of evolution will keep surviving attempts at falsification, will keep delivering accurate predictions and will offer coherent explanations. If the evidence were not so good or if the signs of supernatural intervention were at all obvious then I doubt such a high percentage would support evolution. Nor do I think that the conspiracy theories about ID not getting a fair hearing are credible, they just don't tally with what I know about the methodology of science, even as practiced by flawed human institutions.

 
At 2/10/2007 2:16 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

psiomniac,

I didn't mean by my statement that the evidence for evolution wasn't strong. I suspect it is. What I meant to say is that the overwhelming concensus is not, by itself, a good reason for thinking the evidence is strong given that a creator/designer is ruled out by principle rather than by evidence. In other words, even if the evidence for evolution was weak, and the evidence for a creator/designer was strong, the concensus in favour of evolution would be exactly the same. So the concensus doesn't tell us much.

 
At 2/10/2007 9:17 PM , Blogger Psiomniac said...

In other words, even if the evidence for evolution was weak, and the evidence for a creator/designer was strong, the consensus in favour of evolution would be exactly the same. So the consensus doesn't tell us much.
Well, the point I made about ontological naturalism is why I think this is not true, I don't think the consensus would be the same. I guess we will have to agree to differ on this one!

 
At 2/13/2007 9:50 PM , Blogger Paul said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 2/14/2007 9:58 PM , Blogger Paul said...

Dag,

If evolution is disproven tomorrow, I see no reason that would provide me impetus to change my thinking in that regard.

So, if it is discovered that no natural process is found to be adequate to explain the formation of life, you would not find any metaphysical conclusions to follow from that? It is still not clear to me (or Sam, I think) what alternative option is available. Perhaps life popping fully developed from the quantum foam?

I am slightly puzzled as to the theist or Christian’s unabashed vehemence against evolution.

The thing that is in direct conflict with Christian theism is the idea of a purposeless, non-direct process. The Bible, or at least the God portrayed by it, implies that life is as God meant it to be. Naturalistic evolution would suggest that God merely made due with what developed. You are right that some sort of synthesis seems theoretically possible, but since evolutionary scientists will have none of that talk in their labs it is a superfluous idea.

I now realize how little the average Christian knows about their Bible, its manufacture, its controversy.

Amen! (Though I do not believe that salvation depends upon scholarship.) But this goes both ways. Most skeptics I know base their objections to Christianity on popular misconception and conspiracy theory. Few realize that the really difficult objections lay far deeper than they are prepared to swim, and that there are thoughtful responses to each one that must be wrestled with.

I was a little surprised at the names you listed for the premise that Gen. is allegory AND evolution is incorrect. I am talking about evolution. Not abiogenesis. Not cosmology. Not a God that started the whole thing and let it run.

I think the names I picked were fair.

David Berlinski (agnostic) is a relatively new paradigm-defeating advocate of ID theory. His writing is brilliant and witty. You may enjoy it. Tipler seems a justified choice in that he was a contributing author to the present book I am reading, which is subtitled, Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing. Flew has said himself that some of the modern arguments offered by ID proponents are what led him to his deism. Denton may hold to some aspects of evolution, but rejects the idea that purely undirected processes can and have done the work ascribed to them. I did not include Behe in that particular list because he is a Roman Catholic, who may or may not take Genesis as allegorical. The others are explicitly non-Christian, and I could add other names of that sort, like James Barham.

It appears to me that you would like to disqualify anyone unless they hold to a full-blown special creation view without any allowance for micro-evolution.

There are certainly dissenters to the standard theory who are still open to the idea that evolution may indeed have done some work, but I don't know how it would make sense to insist that folks like Denton, Berlinski, and Barham are really just one of the evolution gang (or are not speaking to the same issue) when both they and "the gang" consider themselves at odds.

Ah. The label game [regarding "creationists"]. Just what is it exactly they propose this “Intelligent Designer” did? Watch?

So, you want to say that anyone who believes there is a transcendent intruder qualifies as a creationist. You'll just have to trust me that in my circles "creationist" is a term of art that implies a young-earth, 6-day-creation Christian whose primary talking-point is Genesis (think Ken Ham). Since many in the ID movement do not qualify as such, or at least do not choose to argue from a position of biblical authority, they would like to reserve some means of differentiating themselves. Those who are 6-day biblical creationists seem satisfied with that label, and in many cases are dissatisfied with associating themselves with the ID movement — they, at least see a difference even if you do not. For this reason, I will continue to assert that labeling a poll "creationists" vs. ...whatever [that is largely undefined in your link] is loading the dice.

I assume you do know the story of the label of “creation” in Of Pandas and People? One of the pieces of evidence in the Dover trial was that they had removed the word “creation” and inserted the word “intelligent design” and left the remainder of the wording exactly the same. Oh, they don’t label themselves as such. For a very specific purpose.

I am sympathetic to the rationale for the court ruling against teaching the biblical creation narrative in the science classroom, but I don't believe that this is what the authors of that book were seeking to do. The problem is that the label creation/creationism has become vested with a great deal of legal and religious baggage that is inconsistent with the distinctive concerns of the ID movement. This book is one written during the ideological divide — in light of new scientific challenges to evolution — before the new generic term, Intelligent Design, had come to appear; its content was conceptually ID before such a name existed. The fact that a search and replace of one word with another could be done only demonstrates that biblical creation was not the focus of this book, otherwise they'd have to find something to do with terms like "Adam," "Eden," "on the # day," and "Bible."

You are right that there are motives for seeking to distance oneself from the label, but there are equal motives for evolutionists to thrust that label upon any opposition: it allows one to avoid the untidiness of having to actually confront the scientific and philosophical arguments against the theory itself. The objection regarding this book seems to me to be a textbook example of the genetic fallacy.

But there is another label. “Darwinist.” What the heck is a “Darwinist”? This is a label, created by the creationist, so as to claim, “Look! Look! You are a religion just like us!

I think it tends to be used as a label for those who hold to a stoutly materialist view of evolution — Darwin being its ideological founder (think Christian or Calvinist). I would say that materialism is a worldview if nothing else, and the vitriolic anti-religious use with which fellows like Richard Dawkins employ evolution simply beg for some label. But even if it were meant in a derogatory manner I don't see why it should be accepted as such, unless there is something actually wrong with being in agreement with Darwin. This point has recently occurred to "liberals," who are finally beginning to wear that label with pride.

Perhaps "evolutionist" is sufficient and less derogatory, though it would be nice to have more nuanced labels. I am perfectly willing to allow others to define themselves, though I find most people allergic to "labels" in general, even if they are accurately assigned.

Where creationists horrifically excel is at providing Death Threats to the point that people require armed guards, as they fear for themselves and their family!

"Where creations ... excel is at providing Death Threats"? That's quite an excessive statement! I might just as well accuse atheists of excelling at mass murder and founding totalitarian regimes.

Having no access to the alleged threatening letters I can neither confirm nor deny such a thing or speculate on their true source. What I can say is that such a thing is neither consistent with Christianity nor the stated goals and methods of the ID movement. You would have to make such connections to have any impact on my attitudes about this. I would also hazard a prediction that if ID began to gain the upper hand in this debate that we would see similar things from evolution's "supporters." As it stands, persons like Dawkins are content to merely say that evolution-deniers are stupid, insane, or wicked, and that perhaps children ought to be disallowed from receiving certain forms of instruction from parents suffering from religious mental viruses. I find such public, uncensured sentiments from influential academics far more ominous than shadowy unconsummated threats from unknown quarters.

How many scientists bother with even responding to ID? How many shrug, write it off as an unproven, remote theory and move on with their life? Yes, there are people that are concerned about it, especially with teaching it in our schools. But it seems the vast majority of scientists are simply moving on with their lives. To them it is comparable to UFO’s. Curious, but nothing that will change their experiments the next day.

From where I sit, there is a great deal of commotion being made about ID. I've seen articles in numerous papers and publications and media pieces on it, with more than willing input from evolutionary scientists. And I've listened to numerous debates on this which include evolutionary scientists at very high levels. Additionally, far from being ignored, the books and articles written by ID advocates are found and regularly critiqued by top academic defenders of evolutionary theory. Some examples:

When David Berlinski wrote his now infamous article in the '96 issue of Commentary magazine, "The Deniable Darwin," he garnered a quick rebuttal by fellows like Orr, Dawkins, Dennett, and Shapiro — no slouches — as well as these other scientists.

Jonathan Wells book, Icons of Evolution, also received a thorough going over upon its release.

Michael Behe spends a great deal of time answering his critics.

As does William Dembski. See how "response" to critics pervades the article collection. If no one were taking these fellows seriously, then there would be no responses to file.

Additionally, the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) is an organization specifically chartered with the task of defending the teaching of evolution. They, at least, believe there is something to be countered. All of this is attention that I do not see being paid to creation scientists, which more accurately fits your characterization of academic apathy.

To some extent, I agree that the intelligent design debate should be more in the public sector. Because of America’s fascination with knowing everything, and constant conspiracy plot concerns, the idea that it is NOT taught in schools legitimizes it somewhat.

This is a good and welcome point. It seems to me that organizations like the NCSE are so concerned that we not question the veracity of evolutionary theory that they are suppressing the discussion over its inner workings. To hear them talk you would think that there is very little left to learn in the field — so keen are they to portray it as locked down and bulletproof. There are, at minimum, open questions to the theory. Should we not allow the academic freedom to discuss them? In every other field of science we can speak openly about the issues, even if they have metaphysical implications (like the origin of the universe). This is the small victory that ID is seeking. I would think that if the theory were so evidentiarily (?) solid that allowing questions and tire-kicking would only serve to increase support for the thing. The hyper-defensive response of evolution's supporters has the smell of fear and panic to us.

Frankly, being more “open” to more possibilities does not make a system “better.” A pantheist has us all beat—is their system therefore “better”?

Not "better," but able to fit either position into their thinking without overturning their entire worldview. I'm just saying that atheists have a built-in noetic roadblock to permitting any whiff of design into their thinking.

Again, I am not trying to name-drop and play “who has the bigger Ph.D” but when the guy who basically wrote the book on it, and is a Christian says that “the evidence in favor of evolution is overwhelming” shouldn’t that make me take notice? If he is wrong, shouldn’t there be some strong evidence refuting his claims? I don’t see his belief system collapsing without evolution.

It certainly gives me pause, but 1) I could give other credentialed genetic scientists who would be only too happy to point out what Collins may have missed emphasizing, like Roland Hirsch, 2) I would suggest that if someone like Collins is to lead me to reconsider my stance on evolution, then someone like Flew should equally lead you to reconsider your atheism, 3) his acceptance of evolution suffers some cognitive dissonance, but is in the end contingent upon the idea that God has prearranged nature such that man would result, not that chance is our sole benefactor, and 4) not that it matters in the larger sense, but since we are referencing him specifically because he is a "Christian" I would be interested to know in what sense he considers himself to be one.

What mechanism do you propose happened in the Cambrian Explosion? We have a period of time, the most conservative estimate being 5 Million years, in which we see a variety of creatures appear in the fossil record. No flowering plants, no reptiles, no mammals, no birds, of course.

I get why a theist would question evolution in this situation. (sorta) But what do you propose God did? Did He slowly introduce different creatures over the course of this 5 million time period, all of which would go extinct? What about the creatures before?


First, that 5-mil window does not necessarily mean they appeared one-by-one over that span of time. It might simply be the margin of error in the dating of the species that did appear at some point within it.

Second, do not minimize the scope of what did appear at that time. It has been said that all (or most) of the phyla that have ever appeared occurred right here. In other words, all the major body plans upon which the later species would be patterned came into being then. This is the inverse of what would be expected for an evolutionary progression (think of a tree with the diverse and separate branches appearing as you move higher up). This is what's called the "inverted cone of diversity."

Third, it is a theological question to wonder what God was supposed to be doing at this point. It is an interesting one, to be sure, but it is certainly not "science" by the evolutionists own standard, and not a relevant answer to the challenge of the CE event if the event is indeed a challenge to be met. However, countering ID arguments with the equivalent of, "Oh yeah, if your God's so smart why'd he do X," is a well-trafficked rejoinder.

But more to the point of your question, at that point in earth's history the environment was not yet equipped to support higher life forms, e.g., problems of solar luminosity, atmospheric and soil composition, etc. For this reason, if God were at all committed to secondary causes, then He might have created only those things suitable to that particular stage of Earth's gestation. I personally favor the idea that God did the equivalent of tilling and farming his creation (humanity being fruit and harvest) rather than going for carry-out, so to speak.

The graduated appearance of life on earth had the interesting effect of terraforming it at just the right time with just the right kinds of creatures. You may reply that this was just evolution working through its selective constraints, but there is no principled reason why evolution would progressively prepare such a suitable, stable, and resource-rich habitat for advanced life and would not instead have left behind a scorched, frozen, or toxic planet. And the fossil record seems to support periodic epochs of creation, characterized by sudden appearance and stasis — the "appearances" consisting of extravagant biodiversity with operational ecosystems.

You may wish to comment further, but I'm afraid I may need to move on. We have, as we tend to do, inflated the scope of this dialog beyond what I have time to pursue.

 
At 2/15/2007 12:27 PM , Blogger DagoodS said...

Paul, as always you are free to move on at any time. Frankly, I am always a little surprised when you respond to me at all, so I take what I can get.

Part of our confusion is that you seem to include natural abiogenesis as a requirement to hold to evolution and I do not.

For example, I stated, “If evolution was disproven tomorrow…” to which you replied:

Paul So, if it is discovered that no natural process is found to be adequate to explain the formation of life…

That is natural abiogenesis. Not evolution. They are not the same. This confusion continues into the listing of your names. Antony Flew (at last review) holds to a deistic god that initiated that universe and life to non-life and no more. From there, evolution takes over and moves forward. As I pointed out previously, Denton holds to common descent. Tipler seems to hold to evolution as a viable process. While each of those fellows may hold to supernatural abiogenesis, does that mean, in your mind, they do not hold to evolution?

Odd, in light of the original blog entry about “theistic evolutionists.” You seem to claim that such a thing is a misnomer, yet then state that “such a synthesis seems theoretically possible”? Are you equally saying that theistic evolutionists do not hold to evolution? Then whence the complaint of their position?

From where I stand, what seems to be is when you want a person to be an “evolutionist” you reach far back on the scale and include anyone who holds to supernatural abiogenesis. But when you want to reject “evolutionist” (specifically theistic evolutionist) you reduce evolutionist to a certain limit of those who hold to more than micro-evolution only.

Bear with me and imagine a scale. On one end we have the naturalist. No God, universe from natural sources. Moving up the scale, next we have a deist. A god that initiated the universe, but then did nothing further. Whether life developed or not was completely irrelevant to this God. Next up the scale we could have a minimalist deist. A god that started the universe, and helped non-life to life, but no more.

Then we have a huge section of theistic/evolution combination. Within this scale, we start at a God that only intervenes occasionally, giving life a “nudge” here and there. Or a God that gives a good solid push. Or a God that allows evolution to continue on a broad scale, with an outright creation of certain artifacts. (Consciousness, for example.) A fairly broad parameter.

Moving up the scale, we enter more the creationist side, with a God that created all lifeforms as they existed, with perhaps with some allowances of some speciation through natural selection and then finally, reaching the very top, a person that holds every lifeform is created by a God in the forms as it existed, and God continues to create lifeforms today.

I guess my question, Paul, is: “Where on that scale do we start to call someone an evolutionist?” I would put it at the point at about where we start the creationist side. When I referred to people who hold evolution as incorrect, you included people holding evolution as incorrect all the way to supernatural abiogenesis. Yet if I asked, regarding theistic evolutionists, whether they think it is incorrect, you would include a great deal less.

As an evolutionists, are you ONLY including people that hold to natural abiogenesis and natural evolution?

Maybe the better question is “Where, on that scale, do people hold that evolution (NOT, NOT, NOT natural abiogenesis) is incorrect?” I’d think it would be closer to the creationist turn.

Now, if natural abiogenesis was disproven tomorrow (NOT, NOT, NOT evolution), yes that certainly would be information I would need to contemplate regarding my atheism. Although it had nothing to do with the other reasons for there being no god, I would be just as wrong to blindly adhere to a belief despite the learning of a new fact.

Of course, are you aware of any research or experiment that is ongoing to prove supernatural abiogenesis? OR, is ALL of the research designed to throw stones at claims of natural abiogenesis?

Stick with evolution—easier to disprove. (One pre-Cambrian rabbit fossil would do nicely.)

Let’s talk about the term “creationist.” I was serious about my question as to whether “creationism” has become a derogatory term. Do you find it offensive to be called a “creationist”? Is it NOT creation that an intelligent designer believes in?

I think many people in churches across America would be surprised to learn they should be taught an “Intelligent Designer-God” and not a “Creator God.” That “In the beginning God intelligently designed the heavens and the earth” NOT “created the heavens and the earth.”

In church, and the talk shows, and the Bible studies, God is referred to as the “creator.” This belief is referred to as “creationism.” But when it comes to internet discussions, or debates with scientists, “creation” is abandoned like the proverbial black sheep, and “intelligent design” is assumed.

I chuckled when you said:

Paul: You’ll just have to trust me that in my circles “creationist” is a term of art that implies a young-earth 6-day creation Christian whose primary talking point is Genesis.

Come on, Paul! It was not THAT long ago, I was in the circle, too! Rather than merely claim what the term “creationism” implies, I look back at how and why the word changed. Coincidentally, it was one of my other “circles” that caused this change.

When I was growing up God was a creator. We were creationists. We objected to evolution which was NOT creationism. Whether you were an OEC (albeit OEC’s were wrong in my “circle”) or a YEC—you were a creationist. You wore the term proudly. Like being “Pro-Life.”

All the books were written with the word “creationism.” Everybody is thrilled to bits with the two sides lining up as creationists vs. evolutionists. And the creationists attempt to teach creationism along side of evolution in the public schools, even starting to create their own textbook, “Of Pandas and People.”

Tragedy! “In Edwards v. Arkansas, 482 U.S. 578 (1987)…the Supreme Court held that a requirement that public schools teach “creation science” along with evolution violated the Establishment Clause. The import of Edwards is that the Supreme Court turned the proscription against teaching creation science in the public school system into a national prohibition.” (Taken directly from the Dover decision.)

Anything labeled “creationism” is now barred from public schools. The court, my “circle” of the American Judicial system has given “creationism” a black eye and prohibited it from entry.

What to do? Simple, explain that they were not teaching “creationism.” Oh, no! “Creationism” is something much, MUCH different. Yeah, that’s it! Hey, we will say “Creationism” is a literalist YEC, and we don’t hold to a literal Genesis (‘course we don’t NOT hold to a literal Genesis—we simply refuse to say one way or the other.)

They tear the label off themselves, and stick it on some other poor group, to try a new tactic. Luckily, the court was not completely stupid:

“As Plaintiffs meticulously and effectively presented to the Court, Pandas went through many drafts, several of which were completed prior to and some after the Supreme Court’s decision in Edwards, which held that the Constitution forbids teaching creationism as science. By comparing the pre and post Edwards drafts of Pandas, three astonishing points emerge: (1) the definition for creation science in early drafts is identical to the definition of ID; (2) cognates of the word creation (creationism and creationist), which appeared approximately 150 times were deliberately and systematically replaced with the phrase ID; and (3) the changes occurred shortly after the Supreme Court held that creation science is religious and cannot be taught in public school science classes in Edwards. This word substitution is telling, significant, and reveals that a purposeful change of words was effected without any corresponding change in content, which directly refutes FTE’s argument that by merely disregarding the words “creation” and “creationism,” FTE expressly rejected creationism in Pandas. In early pre- Edwards drafts of Pandas, the term “creation” was defined as “various forms of life that began abruptly through an intelligent agency with their distinctive features intact – fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, and wings, etc,” the very same way in which ID is defined in the subsequent published versions. (P- 560 at 210; P-1 at 2-13; P-562 at 2-14, P-652 at 2-15; P-6 at 99-100; P-11 at 99- 100; P-856.2.). This definition was described by many witnesses for both parties, notably including defense experts Minnich and Fuller, as “special creation” of kinds of animals, an inherently religious and creationist concept. (28:85-86 (Fuller); Minnich Dep. at 34, May 26, 2005; Trial Tr. vol. 1, Miller Test., 141-42, Sept. 26, 2005; 9:10 (Haught); Trial Tr. vol. 33, Bonsell Test., 54-56, Oct. 31, 2005). Professor Behe’s assertion that this passage was merely a description of appearances in the fossil record is illogical and defies the weight of the evidence that the passage is a conclusion about how life began based upon an interpretation of the fossil record, which is reinforced by the content of drafts of Pandas. “

(Dover Opinion at 33-34. Emphasis removed.)

So, I will ask again—what do you guys want to be called? You know me; I have no intention to offend. If you want to be called “Chocolate covered Squash” I will do my best. If you believe “creationism” is a derogatory term, or inaccurate as to your belief as to what your God did, I will be happy to comply.

I get that you want to claim it “implies” a literal 7-day creation account of Genesis. It doesn’t. We understand very well the difference. We aren’t stupid either.

What I surmise is that in this discussion, the non-evolutionists (for a completely non-descript term) desires to be called “Intelligent Design.” It sounds scientific. It has flair. Panache. And, most importantly, it is not that dreaded prohibition of Edwards—“creationism.” But when it comes to its constituents, the church-goer and pew-filler, they all want the term “creationism” They believe in a creator God.

In order to not offend, IDers will not completely absolve themselves of the term “creationism” but will complain, within the intellectual debate, if it is applied.

Do you guys want it, or not? No scientist (that I am aware of) desires the term “Darwinist” They would also be “Newtonist” and “Einsteinist” and countless other “-ists” if they are to be labeled by scientists who were remarkable in their field. By the way, “Calvinists” assumed the term, as a designation for themselves. Did “Darwinists”?

I don’t “thrust” the term of creationist upon you. Your constituency does.

Paul, I understand from “where you sit” there is a bit of chatter about ID. And I agree that there ARE groups that actively write and debate against them.

But is that the predominance? Looking through scientific journals, are there that many articles written against ID? Or is it basically ignored? I get that the IDers want to claim that there are all these rebuffs, and debates, and papers—but in the experimental and research and active world of science—is it that big of a deal?

We tend to focus on what interests us. Is this just a matter of focus, as compared to what is happening?

Paul: 2) I would suggest that if someone like Collins is to lead me to reconsider my stance on evolution, then someone like Flew should equally lead you to reconsider your atheism,

I have no idea why. Flew is a philosopher. If, within his field of study (philosophy) he provided a philosophical argument for God that was so persuasive to him, that he changed his stance from atheism to theism—you can be certain I would review that argument with keen interest.

But if Flew reads some ID material, becomes convinced that since we do not have a solution yet, there must be a God (God-of-the-Gaps. Again.), refuses to read up-dated material on alternatives within natural cosmology because it is too much work, and maintains some non-personal, nebulous God concept—no, that would not move me much.

If I was telling you that Dr. Collins read some book that indicates Jesus was a Myth, and was not interested in reading the responses to that claim—simply because he is a brilliant scientist in genomes, would that compel you to re-think your position on the historicity of Jesus? I would hope not!

I couldn’t find any writings in which Dr. Frisch referred to or disputed Dr. Collins research. The one speech I DID read of Dr. Frisch was God-of-the-Gaps. (Sigh.)

So if I have your claim of what happened in the Cambrian Explosion correct (and I am not sure I do) God occasionally re-entered the Earth’s zone, and created animals, based upon what the atmospheric conditions would allow. Why wouldn’t the atmospheric conditions allow small fish? Or flowing plants? And once the atmosphere could withstand creatures such as dinosaurs, why did mammals take so long?

Or, why was God limited by his own created atmosphere? Couldn’t God have created the Earth to have a full atmosphere? And created reptiles, mammals, birds and fish at the same time?

What you have (it seems to me by this explanation) is a God that acts remarkably similar to an evolutionary time-table, with no real explanation as to why. We are left with a “God did it” stamp upon whatever science discovers.

Why would God create in such a way as to make evolution look so feasible?

We have a universe that exists because of a Big Bang.

God waits.

God waits and waits and waits.

Galaxies and Stars and Planets form, go through a life-cycle and die.

God waits.

Finally, after 10 Billion years, God sees the gathering of dust to the point a planet is formed around the Sun and decides this is the place.

God waits.

Volcanic eruptions occur, gas is expelled, and slowly an atmosphere stabilizes.

God waits.

At some point there is enough water on the planet, and enough atmosphere, God creates simple life forms.

God waits.

After the simple life forms interact with their surrounding conditions, and affect it (perhaps by introduction of Oxygen) the earth and atmosphere change enough so that God can do more.

God creates a bunch of animals.

God waits.

These animals interact, go through their life cycles, and become extinct.

God waits…

At some point, through this tale, Paul, can’t I ask “why?” If God can (and will) make humans, it seems that this is all just a pointless exercise, mostly designed for people to be convinced that God didn’t have anything to do with it.

What I see are scientists forging ahead, attempting to discover. And when they come across a roadblock, the IDer steps in and says, “God must have done it.” When the scientists push through and discover the natural process, they eventually (as science always does) come to another roadblock. Again, the IDer steps up and says “God must have done it.” And the scientists forges ahead, new discoveries are made, new resolutions are proposed and eventually come to a roadblock. And there, the ever-faithful IDer stands, ready to say “God must have done it.”

You say my question of “why” is a counter to IDer’s arguments. What Arguments? What proposals are IDer’s putting together as to how life happened, and how the various lifeforms came into being? All they propose is “God must have done what we observe.”

ID itself (as I point out time and time again) is merely a counter to evolution. It is not making any more proposals of its own, other than “God did it.”

I was looking for your explanation as to the Cambrian Explosion. Not your description.

 
At 2/15/2007 11:16 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Dagoods,

So, I will ask again—what do you guys want to be called?

I'm a creationist. I believe God created everything. I don't know whether he did it abruptly or gradually, but he created it, so technically, I'm a creationist.

On the other hand, I do think this distinction between "creation" and "intelligent design" is legitimate. Of course all intelligent design involves creation, which is why I've been using the terms interchangeably in my discussions with you. The creation of a car, for example, is the result of intelligent design. But that doesn't mean we should all refer to people who believe in engineers and manufactorers as "creationists" or "IDers." For the purpose of this discussion, the difference between a creationist and an IDer is that a creationist identifies the maker, and IDers don't. Granted, most of the people defending intelligent design probably believe the Christian God created it; nevertheless, that is not the position they are defending in their books as far as I can tell. The evidence doesn't warrant the conclusion that the Christian God is the intelligent designer; it only warrants the conclusion that what we find was designed by some intelligence.

By the way, “Calvinists” assumed the term, as a designation for themselves. Did “Darwinists”?

You know, Christians didn't choose to be called Christians either. It was originally a term of derision as far as we can tell, but we embraced it. Although I do hear the term "Darwinist" used mostly by people who don't believe in evolution, I really haven't heard much objection from evolutionists about it.

But is that the predominance? Looking through scientific journals, are there that many articles written against ID? Or is it basically ignored?

I would be interested in knowing that myself. Are there any articles that address ID in scientific journals? I've heard that nobody will publish material defending ID. With that being the case, it shouldn't surprise us to find almost no refutation of it in those journals. But what do you think would happen if some scientific journals were willing to publish articles written by IDers? Do you think it would still be ignored in those journals? Since ID is relegated to popular literature, the criticism is also found in popular literature. Doesn't that make sense?

Flew is a philosopher. If, within his field of study (philosophy) he provided a philosophical argument for God that was so persuasive to him, that he changed his stance from atheism to theism—you can be certain I would review that argument with keen interest.

This ID argument is a version of the teleological argument that has long been a part of philosophy, so maybe you should look into it. I have to admit that Flew has caused me to be a little more interested in the argument than I used to be. I've always found the teleological argument to be one of the least convincing arguments for God, but Flew's conversion has made me wonder if there's more strength in it than I recognize. I recently read a book by Flew on critical thinking called How to Think Straight. I wish he'd write one specifying his reasons for changing his mind. I'd be interested in reading it.

 
At 2/16/2007 4:30 AM , Blogger Psiomniac said...

ephphatha,
I hope you don't mind me responding to a couple of things you have said to Dagoods.

The evidence doesn't warrant the conclusion that the Christian God is the intelligent designer; it only warrants the conclusion that what we find was designed by some intelligence.

The IDers think the fact that the rational project of the last three hundred years or so hasn't solved every last problem with the immensely complex biosphere that has developed over billions of years, constitutes evidence that warrants intelligent design. This should set off alarm bells. I am surprised that people find this credible at all given the scientific consensus of those working in the field.

I've heard that nobody will publish material defending ID.

I think it is more a case of not publishing things that don't meet the necessarily stringent criteria.
Again it surprises me that people think there is some kind of conspiracy against IDers (the plucky underdogs trying to promote truth in the face of the self interested scientific community). I can imagine ways in which it would be rational for people to believe this, though I am disturbed that you seem to take it seriously.
I think the teleological argument was pulverised by Hume. I have a book by Flew and I too would like to hear his reasons for changing his mind. I would be astonished if he manages to reconstitute the teleological argument but then again, we all have to be prepared to be astonished occasionally.

 
At 2/16/2007 8:19 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Psiomniac, is there any conceivable point at which you think it would be rational to infer "intelligent design"? For example, suppose somebody who had been dead for a week suddenly rose from the dead and returned to life. And suppose somebody said, "That could not have happened by natural causes alone. Somebody must've caused that to happen on purpose." Would you say, "Just because science hasn't come up with an explanation yet, that's no reason to think a person caused it"? I'm just wondering if you believe there's a line there at all, or if you think we could never be warranted in inferring intelligent design no matter what the evidence suggests.

I've heard that nobody will publish material defending ID.
I think it is more a case of not publishing things that don't meet the necessarily stringent criteria.

Doesn't that amount to the same thing? IDers can't get their stuff published in scientific journals. Do you think it's because they have bad grammer or that they can't spell or stay within space limitations? Or do you think it's a principled objection to intelligent design? Regardless of the reason the fact remains that they can't get their stuff published, so Dagood's observation that they are ignored in scientific journals is without much consequence.

I think the teleological argument was pulverised by Hume.

I doubt if Hume knew as much about biology as people know today.

 
At 2/16/2007 10:45 AM , Blogger DagoodS said...

ephphatha,

A quick google of “objection term Darwinist” brought up this blog here. Both sides of the issue in bite-size form, I would say. Also wikipedia (which, as you know, is information of what the populace believes on a subject) notes it is a pejorative term used by Intelligent Design creationists.

And seriously? No one is buying that Intelligent Design is some antiseptic idea, free from the notion of God. We see who is writing it, who is buying it, who is pushing it, and what their agenda is. In fact, the more they attempt to remove themselves by claiming it is not a claim about God, the more disingenuous it appears.

I understand the advantage of divorcing the two concepts. And because of my understanding, I ain’t buying it.

As to Antony Flew, no one is quite sure why he is now a Deist. Not sure even HE knows why. But in a BBC interview, he indicated it was not the fine-tuning teleological argument

Antony Flew: “No. No I, I've never thought the, the fine tuning argument was any sort of proof”

Here is Richard Carrier’s interaction with Flew. If you can make any more sense of it than I can—good on ya!

Until Flew clarifies his position as the what exactly he thinks, and why, I hope you can see why “Flew was an atheist, and is now a deist” is not very compelling to me. Dr. Collins, on the other hand, is very clear as to what he thinks and why.

Don’t get me wrong—you (and Paul) are free to disagree with someone even though they are a Christian. I am not saying, “Dr. Collins is a Christian—so you have to believe just like him.” However, if someone is going to claim that a reason a person is an evolutionist is due to a preconceived notion that the world is solely naturalistic, I am going to be curious how they explain Dr. Collins.

 
At 2/16/2007 11:13 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Dagoods,

Antony Flew: “No. No I, I've never thought the, the fine tuning argument was any sort of proof”

Do you have more of the context of that interview? The reason I ask is because this quote by itself can be read in two different ways. Either he could be saying that the fine tuning argument isn't what changed his mind, or he could be saying that he simply doesn't consider it a "proof" implying that it leads to certainty. Maybe I've been mistaken about Flew's reasons for becoming a deist, but I've been hearing from several different people that it had something to do with design arguments. I wish Flew would write something about it so we could at least clear that up.

I think you're right that the idea of God is behind intelligent design--or at least most advocates of it and believers in it. But you can't dismiss the arguments for intelligent design based on your mind-reading. The distinction is important because it describes what the advocates are defending. Regardless of the fact that the IDers may believe God is the designer, that is not what they are defending in their books. You can't dismiss what they are writing on the basis of what they are not writing.

However, if someone is going to claim that a reason a person is an evolutionist is due to a preconceived notion that the world is solely naturalistic, I am going to be curious how they explain Dr. Collins.

I don't know who Dr. Collins is, but I have no doubt that many theists believe in evolution. I would never claim that the only reason anybody believes in evolution is because they think the world is solely naturalistic. Would you deny that naturalistic presuppositions account for many people's beliefs about evolution, though?

 
At 2/16/2007 11:21 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Nevermind about the quote. I just went and looked at link you gave to Richard Carrier. Yeah, based on what I read there, it does leave a lot of question marks about what's going through Flew's head.

 
At 2/16/2007 2:48 PM , Blogger DagoodS said...

ephphatha: Would you deny that naturalistic presuppositions account for many people's beliefs about evolution, though?

For “many”? Possibly. (How many is “many”?) But it would not have to necessarily, for three reasons.

1) If I recall, 40 – 45% of scientists believe in God. (it may be higher). Almost 1/2 of the scientists that subscribe to evolution ALSO have a belief in a supernatural creature. Is it fair to claim they have naturalistic presuppositions? Or do they (in some way) reconcile evolution with a creator.

2) On a personal note, I became an atheist without knowing the first thing about evolution. While the world should never use me as a barometer, I can’t help noting that people were atheists long before evolution was formalized into a theory. Apparently evolution is not necessary to be an atheist.

In light of point 1, it would start to appear to me that evolution, in and of itself, doesn’t really say much about naturalism vs. supernaturalism. Why, then, would it require naturalism to account for a belief in evolution?

I am aware (and you probably are to) of people that became atheists through the study of science, and becoming convinced of evolution. (That and the Problem of Evil seem to be the biggest deconverting concepts.) The problem with that is the people started off with supernatural presuppositions. They originally believed in a god. While it baffles me (because of who I am) how evolution makes one then take the next step and lose belief in God, it does happen.

So, perhaps for them, evolution accounts for their acquired naturalistic presupposition. (Not sure this is the same as naturalistic presupposition accounting for evolution.)

3) Evolution is in the field of science, which is naturalistic in method. When the beaker blows up, the scientist first and solely looks to a naturalistic answer. They don’t shrug it off as a miracle.

By constantly applying naturalism as a method, the only conclusions are naturalistic. It is no small surprise that evolution then looks as if it springs from a presupposition of naturalism. All sciences would.

Imagine if I told you that I could not quite get a mathematical formula to work, so I figured some intelligent designer wanted it to work, and I just fudged it. In math we look for natural conclusions.

Or in electrical engineering, I could not figure out how 120 volts went in, and only 40 volts came out, but what the hey? Maybe angels ate ‘em. Would you accept that? Or would you look for a short, or a leak, or something that caused that drop.

Why is biology any different? If we cannot figure where a fossil fits in the scale, why does this necessarily translate to “God did it.” Or if we have a “gap” (and oh how I hesitate to use that term) why does that translate to “God did it”? Science is not designed, nor intended, nor (in my opinion) desired to ever throw up its hands and stop searching because it becomes convinced that it must stop and place the label “God did it” here.

ephphatha, God did not wipe out yellow fever—humans did. God did not all but eliminate small pox and polio—humans did. God does not seem too keen on curing AIDS or Cancer. I really do not want my research scientists giving up on cures for Staph infection, as the virus continues to evolve against our penicillin’s because “evolution” is not giving God the credit.

This intelligent design debate is fun for the philosophers. But leave it there. Let me ask you—do you think scientific research in the field of curing disease would be better or worse if it recognized an intelligent designer?

P.S. Did you see that the Kansas State Board of Education changed back to evolution-only curriculum?

 
At 2/16/2007 4:48 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Dagoods,

During highschool, the navy, and my first few years of college, I was steeped in science and engineering. So I can relate with a lot of what you're saying. For example, I became somewhat of a determinist (albeit an inconsistent one) as a result of my scientific studies. My determinism resulted in sort of a deistic view of God--a God that isn't involved very much at all in the world. Even believing in God, I was working with naturalistic presuppositions. So yes, I think it is fair to say that these evolutionists who believe in God probable do work from naturalistic presuppositions.

I think you are right to say evolution causes some people to stop believing in God. Like you, I can't put a number on how many, but I remain just as convinced that many people believe in evolution because of naturalistic presuppositions. I'm sure it happens both ways. I'm also convinced that many people believe in evolution just because they've absorbed it from the culture. That includes scientists. By the time they become qualified to really have a strong opinion on evolution, they've already long since been convinced just from repetition that it's true.

I have never claimed that naturalism is necessary to believe in evolution. I would only claim that it has some influence on how many believe in evolution. I can't figure out whether you agree with me on that because at first you said "possibly," but then you went on to talk about the necessity of naturalistic presuppositions to do science. If naturalistic presuppositions are necessary to do science, then surely you must agree with me that naturalistic presuppositions have something to do with the conclusions of science, including evolution.

If somebody simply didn't know how something worked, No, I wouldn't accept, "Well, an angel must've done that," or "Well, God must've done that." But if they can show, not from what they don't know about nature, but from what they do know about nature, that the thing they're observing could not have been caused by natural processes apart from any agency or even that it's highly unlikely that natural processes could've produced it, then I would accept "Well, maybe an intelligent agent did this." Science does, after all, work on models. Models are revisable. If something appears designed then we should say it's designed. And if we discover later that it happened by natural processes, then we should abandon the design model. Finding a theory or a model that works never means we stop investigating. I don't see why ID would be a science stopper anymore than any other theory.

Let me ask you—do you think scientific research in the field of curing disease would be better or worse if it recognized an intelligent designer?

I don't see how it would be any different.

Did you see that the Kansas State Board of Education changed back to evolution-only curriculum?

No, I didn't see that.

 
At 2/16/2007 9:33 PM , Blogger DagoodS said...

ephphatha: can't figure out whether you agree with me on that because at first you said "possibly," but then you went on to talk about the necessity of naturalistic presuppositions to do science.

He. He. He. Excellent! Then my inability to decide as to whether this is an accurate statement or not was admirably communicated. I can’t figure out whether I agree or not.

On the one hand I would agree, because it is straightforward and broad enough there are certainly people of which this is true.

Why I can’t seem to agree is a bit more complicated, and perhaps not fully explained in my last post.

I think most people simply believe as it is convenient. Most live a very naturalistic life. Yes, even Christians. We work so many hours a day at so much per hour. We save so many dollars to pay for rent, heat, etc. We look for jobs, and spouses in a very naturalistic manner. We drive, eat, sleep, dress ourselves, read and live in a manner in which we act as if the natural laws of nature move about us.

But throw us off a cliff, or fire us, or send us heartbreak, many (even those who are naturalists) start to turn to some supernatural being or hope, or fate or whatever you want to call it, some “other” in the hopes of rectifying the problem.

I will freely acknowledge that Christians are more consistent as to the personage they turn, and how often. But it is merely a matter of scale.

So when you ask about the relation of naturalist presuppositions and evolution, it does not give me a clear “yes” or “no” answer. It is more inter-related, in contrast to one following the other.

Evolution, in its basic form, is naturalistic. It is an observation of what nature provides, and a theory as to how it came about. Evolution does not follow naturalism, nor does naturalism follow evolution. They are more hand-in-hand by the very nature of the beast.

When you are asked about how to build a carburetor, or the Pythagorean theorem, do you first “check” your belief as to God before responding? Or do you simple respond? I think for most, on evolution it is the same. The idea of whether there is a God or not is completely by-passed in responding.

Or, if you prefer, let me put the shoe on the other foot:

I propose that belief in a God accounts for many people’s belief in creationism.

At first blush, you may tend to agree with that statement—but reflect upon it. They already believe in a God. An omnipotent being capable of creating. They have a universe. They have time, space, life and consciousness. It is not that they FIRST have God then SECOND have creationism, but rather the two go hand-in-hand. To plug a God into a creation role is simply being consistent with their worldview.

Is it so much that it “accounts” with their belief or conforms into it?

In the same way, plugging evolution into a naturalist is being consistent within their worldview. Maybe not necessary, but it fits well enough, so why not?

I certainly do not think that the debate of evolution vs. creationism rises or falls upon this point, but nor do I buy into the premise that “you are a naturalist, so you have a tendency to accept evolution.”

I appreciate that you are not saying “you are a naturalist, and that is why you are convinced by evolution” and I do not want to give the impression I think you feel that way.

Interesting that you think most believe evolution because they have been told it so many times and believe it by their culture. I agree.

I see the same with Biblical study. So many have been to church and heard the same tired themes. (not to bring up bad history but “die for a lie” comes to mind. *wink*). And (being a self-centered human) I see how I react to that. I go out and explain why those tired themes may fail. I try and explain why I, who held to the similar beliefs, became unconvinced of their viability.

Are Intelligent Design Creationists doing the same? Are they going to scientists, or are they preaching to the choir?

ephphatha, if I told you that all my atheistic buddies agreed with my Biblical analysis—would you be impressed? Or is it better for me to present serious questions and interact with you as to how you would respond?

In the same way, if Intelligent Design Creationists are selling books in churches—does that impress you? Or should they be asking these questions to scientists?

As to your question—for the moment, I will safely land on “I don’t know.” (Ain’t that definite. He. He. He.) I hope you understand why I say that.

 
At 2/17/2007 10:15 AM , Blogger Psiomniac said...

ephphatha,
Psiomniac, is there any conceivable point at which you think it would be rational to infer "intelligent design"?
Yes, I just don't think we are anywhere near it.

Doesn't that amount to the same thing? IDers can't get their stuff published in scientific journals.
You say regardless of the reason. But the reason matters. It is the same reason psychics and astrologers can't get published.

I doubt if Hume knew as much about biology as people know today.

Which makes his still valid demolishing of the argument all the more impressive.

 
At 8/31/2015 2:51 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

God doesn't need to step in at all.

Haven't you ever set up domino's to do what you want them to? I think some people just don't understand what all powerful means. God doesn't need to course correct. The trajectory's of energy from the big bang are known to God. Every possible path. Every path with intervention or not. Its semantics

I know this blog is years old but this stuff is interesting but ultimately pointless. Do you accept Christ or not?. If you want to know ask God himself and he will put it in your mind as a fact. This question leads to pride and bickering. My question leads to the real truth you want to know.

 

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