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a critique of Intelligent Design

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Anders   

I might have to pass that one on to my uncle, who has PhD in soil and microbiology, and who is a big fan of Well's Icons of Evolution to see what he thinks.

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I haven't had time to read more than the first few paragraphs of this essay yet, but I just want to pipe up and say that my favorite critique of ID so far is the one articulated by Denis Lamoureux in his written debate with Philip Johnson, as published in Darwinism Defeated?. Near as I can make it, ID may be just theology posing as philosophy posing as science.

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I'm into parity of late. I think it was the political rhetoric surrounding the election that first made me notice the strinking similarities between the two sides of many of the significan cultural debates. This ID article shows provides another example. Just for the record, I'm more than 90% convinced of an old (> 1 billion years) universe and more that 60% convinced of the usefulness of standard evolutionary theory. I've also read a few of the ID standards, including one mentioned in the article, Jonathan Wells' Icons of Evolution. Here's what struck me. The structure, and even more so, the language of the two sides' argument is awfully similar. From the article: "Behe made a simple, but bad, mistake. He overlooked..." and "Ussery and Musgrave present unshakable evidence that...". Wells' book, in particular, is full of similar language. The tone, too, is remarkably similar. Both speak of the 'other side', the ones blinded by there own [whatever] with a sort of sad superiority. Now, of course, there are differences, with one side the establishment and the other the rebellion. But it seems to me one more example of this strange parity.

Also, am I out of the loop here, or does ID not necessarily apply to only creationism and/or a rejection of biological macro-evolution? I always thought that it applied to any (including evolutionary) theory of design that allowed for the existence of an interactive higher intellegence. There's a lot of grey area between Bishop Ussher and standard materialistic evolution.

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Jeff,

You're right that ID isn't necessarily applicable only to creationism. In fact, I think you'd find a good deal of support for 'biological change over time' among Dembski, Behe, et al. But there is a deep ideological divide... one one hand, a sure belief in a Supreme Being guiding the affairs of biology, and on the other, an unshakable belief in the purely naturalistic appearance of life and life forms.

One of the problems could be fact that the ID camp is seen primarily as a group of theologians. A couple of years ago, in conversation with Hugh Ross, he mentioned that the unmentioned theological issues surrounding the ID movement were seen as reason for suspicion on campuses, and he felt that they would benefit by being more up front about their beliefs/agenda. By being more up front about his own beliefs, people are clear about where he's coming from and are willing to go straight to the issues of science.

Ross has a very decent website, btw: reasons.org. He posts this article about his position on the ID movement.

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Tim Willson wrote:

: In fact, I think you'd find a good deal of support for 'biological change over time'

: among Dembski, Behe, et al.

Very true. ID proponents tend not to be "young Earthers" but, rather, "God of the gaps" types -- and as Lamoureux points out, the gaps have been closing, even for them!

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I realize I'm coming late into this discussion. I read recently the

October WIRED cover story critiquing ID, and am fascinated by this topic.

I find this latest attempt to battle against evolution from a scientific viewpoint to be a questionable use of resources. Who are they ultimatley trying to convince?

Having said that, I'm curious to know how folks on this site deal with evolution. What do you do with Genesis 1 & 2?

ant

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My personal view: while I accept the general scientific accuracy of theory of evolution, I don't believe that humans originally evolved from another species. The Genesis story indicates that we were specifically created by God, and that's my view. Since that creation, we have evolved via natural selection/genetic mutation just like all the other species.

What are my scientific theories to back that up? I have none, and am not really interested in finding any. But it's fun to watch the two camps duke it out.

Mind you, in the very few discussions I've had with people on both sides, nobody seems to find this explanation satisfactory in the least. But by and large I find the entire controversy absolutely irrelevant to any important matter of Faith.

Edited by The Baptist Death Ray

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Having said that, I'm curious to know how folks on this site deal with evolution.  What do you do with Genesis 1 & 2?

Recognize them as a couple of attempts to talk of the origin of the cosmos from a religious point of view. Genesis 1 isn't concerned with science, it is concerned to cite God as the source of all things. Genesis 2 is concerned with the perfect and imperfect relationship of humankind and God. They speak truth in an intirely different manner than truth in a scientific sense.

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I personally don't see it as a faith-breaking issue either. I accept "by faith" that the Scriptural account is true, that God created everything ex nihilo. I'm not as concerned about the specific mechanics of how He did it. Although it is clear He did so in an orderly and very purposeful way. It is also clear that we are the pinnacle of that creation, and are unique among all living things on this planet.

I tend to view contemporary science as useful but still suspect. Of course, I am happily embracing post-modernity at this point.

Two aspects of evolution that continue to bother me:

1. Genesis 1:24-25 states that God created everything "according to its kind". While "kind" doesn't necessarily mean species, it does imply that God had a set way He intended each kind of animal to be.

2. I might be grossly oversimplifying evolution here and am willing to be corrected. But, my understanding is that a species evolves when those with the best characteristics have a better survival rate than those with lesser qualities. And yet, God would not create a system in which perfection is acheived by the strong devouring the weak. It is antithetical to the message of the cross.

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When people ask the aforementioned Hugh Ross, 'Do you believe in the Biblical account of creation?' he answers, 'Which one?'.

As he rightly points out, there are many creation accounts in Scripture (Job, Psalms, and the Minor Prophets), and if an attempt is made to "read" them the same way (to a particular standard of literal, scientific interpretation, for instance), they conflict with each other. Clearly, the Bible uses different literary styles in different places to characterize the mystery of our origins, but none of them is in conflict with science (unless artificially forced to do so).

In fact, science has fairly corroborated many of the Biblical details, such as a sudden beginning, as explained here.

The Bible

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anthony_dunn wrote:

: And yet, God would not create a system in which perfection is acheived by the

: strong devouring the weak.

Oh? Maybe, maybe not. This gets into the larger question of why violence is such an integral part of the "design" that we believe was created so "intelligently".

I love spiders. Always have. Spiders fairly REEK of design. I mean, wow, how is it that a creature can have BOTH the ability to spin webs AND the instinct to use this ability? Most animals just run around, eat things, poop out what their body doesn't use, and then look for more things to eat; but the spider looks at a bunch of leaves or branches or abandoned houseware items and thinks, "Well, if I start over there, then I can go over there, and then I can go over there, and once I've taken care of all those basic architectural points, I can begin filling in the gaps with that nice spiral-y thing I do..." It boggles the mind to think that there is NO design at work here.

Ah, but why do the webs exist AT ALL? To trap and kill flies. So that the strong (spider) can devour the weak (flies). That design exists for the purpose of killing other creatures.

I don't think the death of plants and animals is necessarily antithetical to God's purpose. Psalm 104, which is chanted regularly at Orthodox vespers, marvels at God's creation and includes, among its many tidbits (in v. 21), "The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God."

As for the question of evolution itself, I have said for years that if God did not create all our species through evolution, then he sure went out of his way to make it LOOK like he did. The layering of the fossil record, the drifting of the continents, the distribution of species among those continents, the shared morphology and genetic information that overlaps more and more as the species resemble each other more closely, etc., etc. -- no one element proves anything, but together, collectively, they do seem to converge on a certain point. And that point is that we and all the other species are linked on some sort of grand family tree.

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Anders   
Although it is clear He did so in an orderly and very purposeful way.  It is also clear that we are the pinnacle of that creation, and are unique among all living things on this planet.

I just finished doing some research into Darwinian influence on Nineteenth Century Britain. One of the things that I found interesting, was that Darwin had no place for a creator, whether through intervention or not. The one thing that your post reminded me of is his conclusion that human beings were neither the "pinnacle" nor the "purpose" of his world view, and that is the one thing in which Christian thought and Darwinism most clash. It's not on the particulars, of which none of us truly knows, but rather the fact that Darwinism takes away man's centrality to the univerise. As Freud called it, this was the "Second Blow" to man's narcissistic view of the universe (the First being Copernican cosmology, and the Third, rather egotistically his own psychoanalitic theory).

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Ah, but is that Darwinian evolution or Darwin's personal philosophy?

Either way, Darwinian evolution's most natural conclusion is that humanity is just another step in the evolutionary chain. There's nothing particularly special about us except that we happen to be on top right now. And eventually, we'll be replaced by an even greater species.

I see no way this position can be reconciled with Christianity which teaches:

1. All human beings are created in the image of God. We are not "just like" the other animals. There is something special and worthwhile about us.

2. Humanity is redeemable through Christ's sacrifice. Although all of Creation is affected by the atoning work of Christ, human beings are the specific benefactors of Christ's redeeming work.

These two fundamental positions are fatally threatened by current evolutionary thinking. This is a very significant shift in Western thought. Call it narcissistic, but at least these truths preserved the dignity of all people. "Forward looking" thinkers, such as Peter Singer, are able to correctly see where this road leads: infanticide and murder of the elderly and mentally handicapped people:

Taking Life: Humans

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anthony_dunn wrote:

: Either way, Darwinian evolution's most natural conclusion is that humanity is just

: another step in the evolutionary chain. There's nothing particularly special about

: us except that we happen to be on top right now. And eventually, we'll be

: replaced by an even greater species.

Not necessarily. Evolution can work downwards as well as upwards. In fact, I'd imagine the very notion of "upwards" and "downwards" is somewhat foreign to a purely naturalistic understanding of Darwinian evolution, since the only thing Darwinian evolution concerns itself with is what is necessary to survive in any particular environment. Objectively, you could say that lifeforms become more or less complex. But objectively, you could not necessarily say that greater complexity leads to automatic superiority.

I mean, for example, in what sense is humanity "on top" right now?

: "Forward looking" thinkers . . .

Upward, downward, forward, backward ... all these concepts are meta-scientific, and not scientific in and of themselves. Evolution is a fact. What we make of it is something else.

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I'd agree with you Anthony, but we're mixing science and theology here. Analytical science simply does not address the image of God, or the special nature of humanity, nor does it address Christ's sacrifice. And theology does not address microbiology.

Of course the two can inform one another, but they are separate disciplines.

Hmmm.... I don't see where the sharp distinction comes from? Where are these boundaries coming from? Of course, both theology and science are presenting their truth claims from within their own worldview using their own vocabularly. However, both are making truth claims about the origin of human beings as well as the relationship between human beings and other forms of life.

That having been said, I might be persuaded that true analytical science cannot address specifics about the image of God or Christ's sacrifice. But I certainly wouldn't say the same is true in the other direction. After all, God created microbiology long before any scientist made observations about it.

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First off, I am enjoying this discussion.

God most certainly did not create microbiology -- he created what we call cells and microorganisms, etc. The branch of scientific inquiry known as 'microbiology'--with all its conventions, terminology, etc.--is a purely human construct.

You got me there. Forgive my lack of precision. You are, of course, correct.

My point still remains. Both theology and science are attempting to make truth claims about the relationship of human beings to the rest of life. And the ramifications of those truth claims are significant.

If we are going to be completely precise here, I would offer one slight correction to your statement:

Science describes the taxonomy of life of planet Earth and postulates mechanisms of development--but does not postulate who or why.

"Science describes a taxonomy of life of planet earth." The taxonomy Darwin was using had developed for several centuries prior. It was based on the Medieval doctine of the Great Chain of Being, that states that all life in the universe (inlcuding angelic beings) fit within a great hierarchy ordained by God.

Thus, as Darwin got started, he was already looking through a paradigm that one species exists "on top of" another. A next logical step would be for him to think that one species would evolve into the next. It is interesting to speculate "Had Darwin started with a different taxonomy, where might he have gone?"

That having been said, I do agree with you that contemporary science, in its current form, is incapable of postulating who or why.

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anthony_dunn wrote:

: Thus, as Darwin got started, he was already looking through a paradigm that one

: species exists "on top of" another.

Well, it would be more accurate to say that Darwin was trying to explore how greater complexity came about from lesser complexity. There is no "on top" there.

But even if Darwin and his contemporaries DID believe in a "hierarchy" a century and a half ago -- so what? Again, such a scheme would be more philosophical than scientific.

The scientific evidence pointing towards evolution has remained the same over the past 150 years -- indeed, it has increased, and greatly. The philosophies AROUND the science may come and go, but the evidence and the most likely hypotheses to which they point remain.

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stu   

I have only just noticed all this, but have to make some comment!

I think there is a big problem here

Both theology and science are attempting to make truth claims about the relationship of human beings to the rest of life. And the ramifications of those truth claims are significant.

I am increasingly of the opinion that there is not really such a thing as a generic, universal thing called a 'truth claim' that we then apply to different areas, such as whether or not we evolved, or whether or not there is a God. Our language is simply not being used in the same way in the two different situations. In theology, we are certainly wanting to talk about real things that exist, or rather live, outside of our minds, and free from the words we use of them, but never just so that we can posit that they exist. The 'truth claims' claim us, we do not claim them.

But in science (although I am no scientist) 'truth claims' are a different beast alogether - I guess they are, like Alan said, more models that seem to fit, and can be changed. Science doesn't involve us necessarily and personally with the 'truths' that it claims in the way theology does. The theological idea that God created humans has never been a 'pure' fact that one could accept or reject, and then be happy that you had made the right choice of truth claim, it is one that involves us - we are from God, we cannot answer for ourselves, all the things that go along with the idea that 'creator' gradually becomes understood in terms of 'father'. In other words, there is not a theological 'truth claim' (i.e. God made humans) and then a theological interpretation of this truth claim (i.e. we are special, created in God's image, etc), they are bound together.

Another thing that has just occurred to me, is that the Christian doctrine as I understand it is creation ex nihilo, i.e. God made everthing out of nothing, not out of himself, we don't emanate out from God the original being. So we're all made from nothing. Humans, monkeys, amebas, bricks, Van Morrisson. All made out nothing. But now I'm even further from the point...

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Good point about the differences between theological and scientific approaches. They DO both operate at the level of theory -- at the level of intersubjective interpretation of observable objective phenomena -- but they operate in different ways.

For a glimpse of what happens when we do theology the way we do science, take a look at Anglican Bishop Michael Ingham. He's the guy who became the first bishop anywhere in the world to officially endorse new liturgies for the blessing of same-sex unions. But several years before he did THAT, he put out a book challenging traditional doctrines about God and Jesus. Here's a clip from my interview with him in conjunction with the publication of that book:

For his part, Bishop Ingham recognized polarization and a sort of abandonment as somewhat inevitable, but also possibly beneficial.

In an interview with BC Christian News after his lecture, he said, "When there is a paradigm shift, there is always a drawing apart, a polarization of thoughts and deeds. That's not a bad thing. If I could use an analogy in science, when science begins to propose new hypothetical models for seeing physics or particle physics or the structure of the atom, and it challenges formerly received models, people don't throw up their hands and cry out, 'This is a betrayal of science!' What they do is they regard that as part of the scientific enterprise.

"And I think there's no need for us in the church, when a new theological model is proposed, to just argue that anyone should see that as, in some sense, a betrayal of the faith. It's always been a part of the faith and its development. Theology, religious thought, evolves and changes, and old models pass away."

The key difference, of course, is that science points to things OUTSIDE itself when it makes a change, or a paradigm shift; it is not so clear that this is the case with theology. Sometimes there are visions and things that motivate people to do paradigm-shifting things, but these are not exactly the sort of experiences that one can test or repeat; if theology is looking for some sort of OBJECTIVE phenomenon on which to base a paradigm shift, then, strictly speaking, it would not be the vision itself that we point to, because it is subjective and confined to someone's memory of the past, but someone's TESTIMONY about it.

Then again, as Fr. Thomas Hopko points out, "St. Paul was converted by a vision, but he preached from the scripture, and he even chided people not to preach from visions and voices, in Colossians, and as soon as he had this conviction that Jesus was raised, he even says, I think in Galatians, that he went and studied the scripture and became convinced, and then he went around preaching from the scripture that Jesus was the Christ."

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I'll probably get blasted for this, and frankly I hope I will.

How can evolution be accepted as a view of the origin of species when inter-species evolution has never been observed and no credible evidence exists supporting it? By inter-species evolution I mean genetic mutations that result in the forming of what would be considered a new species.

Given that most (or all? I haven't kept up) "missing link" discoveries have been discredited as either hoaxes or diseased humans/apes, how is it that so many people are willing to put so much faith in a theory that has no scientific proof and is extremely fricking implausible to start with?

I look forward to intelligent commentary from those who are more educated on the issue than myself.

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stu   
By inter-species evolution I mean genetic mutations that result in the forming of what would be considered a new species.

I can't claim to be particularly educated, but anyway...

So far as I'm aware, the term 'species' is used when two populations become

so different from each other that they can no longer (on the whole) mate to produce fertile offspring. So a selectively advantagous genetic mutation on its own would not be sufficient to create a new species, it would have to be the subsequent development based on this that would end up with a different species - it would be a long process, and there would be no definite point at which you could say that they were now different species. I think.

I guess scientific proof normally consists in being able to predict future results accurately, which doesn't really apply when the future results would take place over such a long period of time.

As for it being generally implausible, that may well be the case. But then so is the idea of God just bringing zapping a whole ecosystem into existence out of nothing. They're both pretty implausible, and either way, the idea of an absolute beginning to things seems to be out of reach of my mind, at least.

Edited by stu

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As for it being generally implausible, that may well be the case. But then so is the idea of God just bringing zapping a whole ecosystem into existence out of nothing.

If an Almight God does exist, then it is entirely plausible that He could create everything out of nothing.

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Stu, thanks for the clarification on the biological aspect, especially regarding the definition of species. Now I know why my argument is flawed.

Regarding plausibility, I have a hard time seeing how the existence of a powerful being to which we ascribe deity creating the world is implausible. The scientifically accepted laws of physics guarantee an absolute beginning to this universe. Since by necessity the being or event that created this universe is outside the laws of it, science can't touch origins. The assumption that the being(s) or event(s) that created the universe is the God of the Bible is just as valid as any other speculation. This is all tangential, but it's an important thing to note that science just plain isn't useful in addressing the specific case of the origin of the universe.

I'm still troubled that people regard the theory of evolution as an answer to the question of the origin of the human race to be proven. It's a logical and sensible model and the only recourse for atheists, but there's just not enough evidence available to claim that it's the de facto answer to how the species were formed. It gets off easy as a theory because it isn't observable in the span of one or one thousand human lifetimes (although some experts disagree, thinking mutations come in spurts).

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theoddone33 wrote:

: How can evolution be accepted as a view of the origin of species when

: inter-species evolution has never been observed . . .

Yes it has. Google 'speciation' for more info on this.

: I'm still troubled that people regard the theory of evolution as an answer to the

: question of the origin of the human race to be proven.

Given that we have 98.6 percent of our DNA in common with chimpanzees, I don't think there is any significant "gap" between our design and the design of the monkeys that requires a "God of the gaps" or an "Intelligent Designer". So there is no particularly good reason to doubt evolution when it comes to specifically HUMAN biological origins. The ID debates take place at points much earlier on the evolutionary timeline.

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