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SDG

a critique of Intelligent Design

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I think the position science holds in our society--namely that it is the ultimate authority on "truth"--is a big part of the controversy. The reason why some Christians push for ID and Creationism to be taught in science classes is that they want religion to have the same authority and status of science. I sympathesize with that. If they teach those ideas in religious or philosophy classes, they will have lost the argument because science trumps religion in our society; we believe that science is superior at getting at truth than religion.

What is central to the argument for Chrisitians is essentially religious in nature: how did life begin God or random chance?; what is our purpose in life?--to love and worship God or to pass on our genes); who are we?--creatures of both body and spirit made in the image of God or purely biological organisms that ultimately evolved from a single-celled organism; how should one live his or her life?---love God with all your heart, mind and soul and love your neighbor as yourself or do what you must to survive and increase the chances of passing on your genes.

To the evolutionary theorists, I would guess these are not the questions they are most interested in answering, nor would they view evolutionary theory as providing the most interesting and meaningful answers. Some (although not all--and this is where part of the problem lies) would say that if you want answers to those questions, look to religion or philosophy. Which is a good answer, except it's not very satisfying to Chrisitians I believe because religion is seen as an inferior--and maybe even "false"--means for getting at larger truths. I think this is where we are right now.

A solution to this problem is not to teach Creationism or Intelligent Design in a biology class, but to teach a class about science and religion, specifically the philosophy and history of science and religion. Students would learn the strengths and limitations of each endeavor. I really think part of the problem is that people have a misunderstanding of science and what it can and cannot do; what its focus is and is not. If that happens, more people may be open to the idea that religion and philosophy will be respectable ways to understanding larger truths.

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stu   
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.

Probably better clarify my point a little. I admit I am using deliberately provocative terms, but what I mean by it being 'implausible' is not so much that there are not reasons to think there is a Creator, but more that the idea of creation from nothing itself is completely outside of our ways of thinking, that we're not led to the idea of something-from-nothing in an easy progression of cause and effect. I would hate the idea of creation to be taught as if it was a reasonable, sensible, everyday thing to believe, just as I hate the fact that people could 'believe' in evolution and think it was sensible and everyday. The idea of an absolute beginning is just so far removed from our daily understanding of things that to make it seem sensible misses the point, I think. Once there was just God. And now there is all this. I believe this, but I feel it's one of those beliefs that will continually elude me, and continually be a source of bewilderment and hopefully, awe.

My problem with the average unthinking acceptance of the evolutionary theory is that it allows people to function as if we are accounted for, as if our presence is fully explained and rational. Which it isn't. And I guess an unthinking acceptance of some creation story or other could work in exactly the same way - it may give a pleasant sense of everything being explained, our presence accounted for and justified. But I don't see this kind of logic in Psalm 139's meditation on what it means to be entirely the result of Another's action, it's more along the lines of 'such knowledge is too lofty for me to attain'.

So anyway, I think a sense of the implausibility (maybe not a good choice of word) of this whole thing (life) is important. And I guess I agree with Jazzohola's post - if religion is pushed to a separate sphere entirely it has been relegated. But the answer can't, surely, be to make religion into a less rigorous, pseudo-science, but rather to show how science is itself necessarily in a certain, limited position.

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stu   

Oh, and this....

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

I am coming from a point of view of starting to see the whole of Christian theology as being based around a number of aporias, or paradoxes. And the seeming impossibilty of God creating things which are not him is one of them. C.S. Lewis touches on this in The Problem of Evil, I think.

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Jazzaloha wrote:

: I think the position science holds in our society--namely that it is the ultimate

: authority on "truth"--is a big part of the controversy.

Yes, the fact that science is regarded as an "authority" from on high and not as a METHOD is, indeed, a problem. But then, high school versions of the arts and sciences always dumb things down, and always suck as a result. When discussing the origins of life, I don't think about high school at ALL. I'm more interested in the issues themselves.

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I don't know if there are many high schools that have a history and philosophy of science course. Many probably don't even teach philosophy. That's a big reason for the problem right there.

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Oh, yeah, the lack of philosophy classes is the problem with public education today. Nevermind that many graduating students barely know how to READ, we need to be teaching them more philosophy! wink.gif

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I don't disagree with that, but basic illilteracy -- the inability to read on the mechanical level -- is a far more fundamental problem.

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I don't know if there are many high schools that have a history and philosophy of science course. Many probably don't even teach philosophy. That's a big reason for the problem right there.

More than the suck quotient of much high school teaching, I wonder how many teachers in regular high schools have the ability to go very far into philosophy themselves, let alone teach it. History itself is mangled even at the college level at times. I'd hate to see what the average high school would do with history and science sub-genres. OTOH, some private schools do quite well with philosophy at least. And from what he's shared of some of his curricula, our own Dan Buck seems to do a fair job of introducing aspects of philosophy in high school. Private school again.

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I absolutely agree that basic literacy ought to be taught before studies of philosophy are introduced. However, I wholeheartedly agree with Alan:

Perhaps we need to teach them to read philosophically. Learning to read is of merely mechanical and civic value if one does not know what to read. Being literate is much more than the opposite of being illiterate. Many people can read who remain illiterate in the deeper sense.

The study of philosophy need not be a detailed analysis and critique of Kant. Philosophy, from Merriam-Webster Online is:

2 a : pursuit of wisdom b : a search for a general understanding of values and reality by chiefly speculative rather than observational means c : an analysis of the grounds of and concepts expressing fundamental beliefs

At the core of human life is the search for truth -- In today's society (and this, I think dove-tails into how we view science) there is little to no emphasis on speculative searching. Children in schools are not encouraged to speculate or think for themselves and without developing this tool, they are left with the purely observational means of acquiring knowledge. And what is most observable in our culture today? Pain, distrust, anger, advertisements of goods to make us feel better, etc.

I strongly believe some sort of basic philosohy course ought to be taught along with basic reading, writing and arithmatic skills.

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New article on the looming court battles over ID at Salon.com.

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BethR   
New article on the looming court battles over ID at Salon.com.

Clever how the Salon.com article, though giving a passing nod to the fact that ID is not actually equivalent to young-earth creationism, still manages to equate the two in this paragraph, and also imply that those who believe in the Creator are at least 80 years behind the times:

Arguments over evolution -- which has long been accepted as fact by the vast majority of scientists -- arouse deep passions in America. Almost 80 years after the Scopes "monkey trial," in which Edward Scopes was tried and convicted for teaching evolution in Tennessee, many Americans still do not believe in it. A Gallup Poll last month showed that 45 percent believe God created humans in their present form within the past 10,000 years.

Wonderful what you can do with rhetoric. huh.gif

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...and how they infer that a belief in 'biological change over time' ("...accepted as fact by the vast majority of scientists...") with the knowledge that the origin of life was merely random. In fact, many who believe in evolutionary processes also believe that God is the creator.

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gigi   

Did anyone read over November's issue of National Geographic?

Check it out online

An attempt to understand the reasons for such massive support of Creationism in the US, and to explain away the myths of evolutionary theory. As usual, amazing pictures too.

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There is a sort of Q&A about ID over at Baptist Press that serves as a useful overview of the subject. May not be a lot new for readers here, but there you go.

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Malevolent Design

For all that ID can tell us about the Creator, H. P. Lovecraft's nightmare deity Cthulhu might have been the brains behind the operation. (Lovecraft, like Thomas Hardy and Stephen Crane, was an early proponent of what might be called Malevolent Design.) Is there anything inherent in ID that tell us for certain who let the dogs out? If not, is ID really much use as a Christian theory, or is it simply another spacecake philosophy that suggests, like The X-Files, that "something is out there"?

J. M. Tyree, TheRevealer.org, November 3

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SDG   

Is there anything inherent in ID that tell us for certain who let the dogs out? If not, is ID really much use as a Christian theory, or is it simply another spacecake philosophy that suggests, like The X-Files, that "something is out there"?

I didn't know ID proponents (as opposed to detractors) claimed it was a "Christian theory."

I thought it was an attempt to understand the nature of design in the created order.

If the author finds this a "spacecake philosophy," perhaps that says more about his own preconceptions than the potential value or lack thereof of ID.

Edited by SDG

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SDG wrote:

: I thought it was an attempt to understand the nature of design in the created order.

If that were true, then ID would 'fess up to being a philosophy and not a science.

That's my knee-jerk reaction, anyway. The more I read your sentence, the less sure I am as to what it means. ID, as a God-of-the-gaps style theory, doesn't seem interested in understanding the nature of design so much as imposing certain kinds of filters -- blinders might be a better word -- on the way we discern that design.

I am actually reminded of Robin Williams's spoof of Ghaddafi's "Line of Death". "It's a line of death! Cross it, you die! ... Okay, cross THIS line, you die! ... Okay, cross THIS line, you die!" ID basically draws a similar line in the sand with regard to our scientific knowledge, and says we cannot go any further; i.e., we cannot learn anything more about the evolutionary process than we have already learned. So, when we DO learn more about the evolutionary process, ID then has to take a step back and say, okay, now that line in the sand is HERE, and NOW we cannot go any further. And so on.

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SDG   
: I thought it was an attempt to understand the nature of design in the created order.

If that were true, then ID would 'fess up to being a philosophy and not a science.

That's my knee-jerk reaction, anyway.  The more I read your sentence, the less sure I am as to what it means.

Me too. Not sure what your sentence means, that is.

ID, as a God-of-the-gaps style theory, doesn't seem interested in understanding the nature of design so much as imposing certain kinds of filters -- blinders might be a better word -- on the way we discern that design.

I am actually reminded of Robin Williams's spoof of Ghaddafi's "Line of Death".  "It's a line of death! Cross it, you die! ... Okay, cross THIS line, you die! ... Okay, cross THIS line, you die!"  ID basically draws a similar line in the sand with regard to our scientific knowledge, and says we cannot go any further; i.e., we cannot learn anything more about the evolutionary process than we have already learned.  So, when we DO learn more about the evolutionary process, ID then has to take a step back and say, okay, now that line in the sand is HERE, and NOW we cannot go any further.  And so on.

I'm not sure that's true, or fair. Of course, I know very little about the structure of the theory or philosophy or whatever you want to call it. But I have recently read a number of essays by anti-ID evolutionists who seem offended by the very premise of design itself. I don't understand this.

In Monument Valley there are striking configurations of stone that formed naturally. At Stonehenge there are striking configurations of stone that reflect intelligent design. Prescinding smile.gif for the moment from how we know that Monument Valley Just Happened and Stonehenge Didn't, as a matter of principle I see nothing inherently demeaning or limiting about concluding that one particular configuration of stone didn't just happen, because, well, some did and some didn't. Design is a thing that happens, and when it happens and we recognize it, we understand the world more, not less.

Again: I don't profess to know whether the concepts that have been used to articulate ID can deliver what they promise. I'm just saying I don't see the notion per se as inherently hostile to the furtherance of knowledge and understanding.

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Let's just say I am very impressed by the Bible-believing, evangelical, even charismatic biologists who criticize ID for failing to propose any testable scientific theories, and I am not impressed at ALL by IDers like Phillip Johnson who not only get their science wrong but insinuate that these people just want to be respected by secular academia.

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I don't see ID as a "God of the gaps" theory at all, any more than naturalistic evolution is a "made-up science of the gaps" theory. ID says that design is a testable, falsifiable explanation for the origins of life on earth. That design can be perceived, tested, and shown to be operative in the makeup of various facets of organic life. I don't see how that's any less scientific than if you took "design" out of those sentences and substituted "evolution."

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SDG   
Let's just say I am very impressed by the Bible-believing, evangelical, even charismatic biologists who criticize ID for failing to propose any testable scientific theories, and I am not impressed at ALL by IDers like Phillip Johnson who not only get their science wrong but insinuate that these people just want to be respected by secular academia.

Oh, well, that's quite different then.

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CrimsonLine wrote:

: I don't see ID as a "God of the gaps" theory at all, any more than naturalistic evolution

: is a "made-up science of the gaps" theory.

ALL theories are intersubjective and are therefore "made-up" in some way. The question is, how are we to discern which theories are true and which theories are false? In science, we separate truth from falsehood by separating that which is useful (i.e., useful for explaining all the known data) from that which is not useful. This criterion of usefulness keeps us focused on the objective phenomena that theories are designed to explain, and thus saves us from pure intersubjectivity.

ID, I am told, has produced no useful theories whatsoever. Instead, it asks us to throw up our hands and say, "Well, science has only taken us so far -- I guess it will never take us any further!" While this may be a valid approach when examining something really peculiar, like a miraculous healing or a myrrh-streaming icon, it is not so valid when we are dealing with things like the fossil record, the geographic distribution of species, the genetic and morphological links between species, and so on and so on.

As I have long said, if God did not create the world through evolution, then he sure went out of his way to trick us into thinking that he did.

So, yes, scientists propose theories to fill the gaps in our knowledge. And then they test those theories, always taking into account the new evidence that comes into our possession.

ID, OTOH, proposes no theories to fill the gaps in our knowledge, beyond a vague, general assertion that "God did it" -- an assertion so broadly true (surely God "did" the parts BETWEEN the gaps, too, no?) as to be particularly meaningless (this assertion says absolutely nothing about HOW God did it, and science concerns itself with the "how", not the "who").

: ID says that design is a testable, falsifiable explanation for the origins of life on earth.

Funny, then, that ID has produced no testable, falsifiable theories.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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ID, I am told, has produced no useful theories whatsoever.  Instead, it asks us to throw up our hands and say, "Well, science has only taken us so far -- I guess it will never take us any further!" 

...ID, OTOH, proposes no theories to fill the gaps in our knowledge, beyond a vague, general assertion that "God did it" -- an assertion so broadly true (surely God "did" the parts BETWEEN the gaps, too, no?) as to be particularly meaningless (this assertion says absolutely nothing about HOW God did it, and science concerns itself with the "how", not the "who").

: ID says that design is a testable, falsifiable explanation for the origins of life on earth.

Funny, then, that ID has produced no testable, falsifiable theories.

I'm no scientist, but I think you've been misinformed about what ID is and how it operates. I've found this site helpful: www.idthefuture.com. There, a number of prominent ID'ers answer objections to ID. And the one they counter the most often is that ID is not falsifiable, and that it produces no testable theories.

ID doesn't propose the cessation of research! Rather, it proposes a mechanism (intelligent design) that appears to be correct (even ardent Naturalists concede the appearance of design) and propose ways to test that hypothesis.

I find the "God of the gaps" approach repellent, as do you, for theological reasons as well as intellectual ones. So far, I haven't seen a single ID statement that argues for a God of the gaps. The only place I've seen that approach argued is in counter-arguments by ID opponents. It's a caricature and a mischaracterization that persists because it is an effective straw man to use against ID. It is not an accurate description of their position.

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