Intelligent Design Debate…

On October 12th, at the CATO Institute, Michael Shermer, author of Why Darwin Matters, presented his case against intelligent design in a debate with Jonathan Wells, Senior Fellow, Center for Science and Culture, Discovery Institute.  I just finished watching this debate and was pleased with the intellectual congeniality and engagement.  BUT, I have a few things I want to vent about:

1)  It blows my mind that (in this case) Shermer is going on and on about how we don’t need to stop when the science gets tough and posit the God of the Gaps.   So, he is saying that we need to “roll up our sleeves and keep doing science.”  BUT, he is not starting from a scientific premise.  THIS IS IMPORTANT.  He assumes materialistic natural philosophy.  This is where his science begins.  BUT, this is not a scientific theory.  This is a philosophical theory.  How is this any different from positing a “god of the gaps”?  Further, most serious ID scholars are not wanting to posit  a “god of the gaps.”  They are simply wanting to pose a problem with Darwinism and follow the evidence where it leads.  They want to be able to practice this without being called “pseudo-scientists” or “masked creationists.”  Most of the time their position is reviewed in popular media it is straw-manned as such (though, we have been guilty of the same),

2)  Something I heard William Dembske say at a conference I attended a year or so ago really stuck with me.  WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS FOR THE FACT THAT ALL EXPERIMENTS NECESSARILY INVOLVE PERSONAL AGENCY?  The scientist might be able to recreate, in a controlled environment,  microevolution.  However, they cannot recreate macroevolution.  Most importantly though, experiments cannot occur without personal agency.  So, to create the sorts of things they are wanting to argue for, they must “design” the parameters.  They must “fix the books so to speak.”  No experiments occur, or come about, or coalesce “randomly” or by “unguided processes.”  This is a problem.

3) Jonathan Wells pointed out that polls show consistently that about 80-85% of the nation do not believe in a Darwinism that posits that things came about by “unguided processes” or “random mutation.”  However, ALL tax payers currently pay for this science to monopolize public education.  Further, as Jonathan Wells rightly insisted, the “universities are not the bastions of competing ideas” that we think they are.  Rather, they are just as politicized and monopolized, even to the point that any prof that engages in I.D. is ostracized, often times being forced to leave or fired.  One example of this is Guillermo Gonzales.  There is a professor at the institution where he works that is on a crusade to get him fired.  Does this sound like intellectual freedom?

I could keep going…but I must study now.

Watch the debate here.

What are your thoughts?

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9 Responses to Intelligent Design Debate…

  1. I haven’t watched the debate yet, but plan to. But it’s interesting with your point number two because I was taking an online general biology class this last summer from a local community college. I needed it to graduate from college. Anyway things were going relatively smoothly and there wasn’t any ID bashing or anything like that until the professor posted a threaded discussion question asking us to give “proofs” for evolution. The answer she was looking for was secretly macro-evolution but disguised by having us look in the text book for micro-evolutionary examples. I got into a rather heated debate with the professor over such matters, needless to say this did not affect my grade thankfully, which I was concerned about. But like you talked about I kept bringing up the fact how SCIENTIFICALLY, a theory is only viable when the experiments can be recreated. Long story a little shorter, I kept bringing up this fact to her and she would come back with answers like evolution is because “it just is and the science proves it”. I would ask to elaborate but she kept getting real defensive. In closing I heard a statistic the other day that something like 75% of college profs are secular-progressive. That doesn’t give much wiggle room for the IDers does it? But of course colleges are objective! Whatever.

  2. Gary Veazey (Xavier's Father-in-Law) says:

    The ID’ers are not exactly faithful to the Bible themselves. Check out some articles on the Answers in Genesis website (by Ken Ham). I believe in a young creation, say 6,000 years at the most. Adam was created to be a man of about 30 years of age (same age Christ was when He began His earthly mnistry). Today’s aging processes would say Adam was 30, but he was one day old the day he first existed. The remainder of creation is the same. All the fossils, mountains, skeletons, etc. that are dated to be a certain age only have an “appearance” of that age, when in actuality, nothing is older than @6,000 years. I also believe dinosaurs were on the Ark with Noah too. Of course the fossils show they weren’t as big creatures as Hollywood makes them out to be.) The climate changed after the flood (no more protective canopy) and most died off, especially after trying to live where the ark landed or migrate to where they came from. According to the fossil record and man’s written history, the earth is young but looks old. God created the world the way he soveriegnly chose to do. He didn’t need millions of years to do it. He only needed days. Check out Ken Ham’s site. Some great info on Genesis and creation.

  3. Keith says:

    Gary,

    Wow, sounds like you’re pretty sold on Ken Ham and his views.

    Interesting (and offensive) opening statement you’ve made: “The ID’ers are not exactly faithful to the Bible themselves.” This is not only a gross example of stereotyping, it’s also guilty of a version of the “straw man” logical fallacy. Which ID’ers do you mean? May we have an example of their disloyalty to holy Scripture? If, say, one so-called “ID’er” were guilty of improperly handling Scripture, does that necessarily mean that all the others are as well? Obviously not. Suppose someone responds with a similar statement: “Fundamentalists can’t understand ID, though it has been spoon fed to them.” This just doesn’t seem fair (or respectful), does it?

    There is, nevertheless, the possibility that you are correct; it is logically possible that all “the ID’ers are not exactly faithful to the Bible.” Presuming you’ve made this statement only after due diligence in research, I’m curious: which ‘ID’ers’ have you read? Dembski? Meyer? Behe? Craig? Johnson? I must say, you have (or at least must, if you insist on your position) shouldered quite some burden of proof.

    Your position concerning the age of the earth is, of course, a fairly common one—as is the so-called “old earth” view. Incidentally, though I disagree with you, I am very sympathetic toward the young earth crowd. Now, this old/new earth talk is great and all, but I’m curious about why it has come up here. After all, the ID vs. Darwinian evolution debate is not the same as the old vs. young earth debate (the latter being obviously an “in house” discussion). Moreover, ID can certainly be construed as compatible with a young earth position. So, what’s really the problem here?

    PS- I believe in dinosaurs, too. They’re cool.

  4. dtrain says:

    I think your have some great points here (Keith?). I believe that scientism is self-referentially incoherent (science can’t demonstrate that science is the only valid path to knowledge) and this is fatal to their view. Also, your point of the inability to “recreate” an experiment to test whether macroevolution was possible is insightful. However, this also causes me to have some concerns. Could the inability of scientists to “see outside of themselves” also apply to Christians? For example, could we be blind to evidence that disproves or renders Christianity highly unprobable because we are fundamentally committed to faith (eg fides quarens intellectum)? What do you think?

    Great site guys; i am going to add you guys to my blogroll!

  5. Keith says:

    dtrain,

    Thanks for stopping by, and we appreciate the compliment!

    Clint actually authored the post on ID, so any props for it should go to him. I haven’t given this nearly as much thought as Clint, but I’ll offer an answer.

    You asked, “Could the inability of scientists to ‘see outside of themselves’ also apply to Christians?”

    Absolutely; the risk is there for everyone, even Christians. I think, however, it is strongly worth noting that the ID is primarily philosophical, not scientific. This is significant b/c, for philosophers, there are no experiments to be run. It seems to me (and again, I haven’t given this the amt. of thought you and Clint have given it) that an ID friendly scientist doesn’t need reproducable experiments, either.

  6. shulamite says:

    This debate is more charged and loaded than it needs to be because both sides agree on an erroneous premise: that what happens by chance does not require the activity of God. fo this reson, it is believed that to the extent that events are random, God can not exist. I hold this false since God is the cause of being as such, and chance events exist. I understand that there is an immense amount of metaphysical argument that is required to establish this, but its an argumnent that needs to be had if we truly want to resolve the questions that various physical scientists are raising.

  7. Gary Veazey says:

    I have read the works of Johnson, Behe, Dembski and Meyer.

    Because most of the leaders of the intelligent design movement are not fully Bible-believing scientists and researchers, their primary thrust is not to convince people that the Bible is totally true from its very first verse, including its gospel message. Also, while it is difficult to judge the motives of each one, I don’t see much evidence that these well-intentioned scholars are using their abilities to point people to the most important aspect of who the Creator of the universe is: that Jesus Christ is Savior. In terms of eternity, what does it really profit if a person accepts there is a Creator, but doesn’t recognize that He is foremost Christ the Redeemer (Colossians 1)?
    The ID scholars are having an impact in exposing the scientific bankruptcy of evolution theory, and their work can be usefully (though carefully) used by creation ministries as an adjunct to the work of truly Bible-believing researchers and scientists. However, it should always be kept in mind that they are merely rejecting evolution (or at any rate the “random” explanation of evolution) in favor of a generic notion of intelligent design, and this does not go far enough. The facts are not put by them into a worldview framework based on the real history of the Bible. In fact, as a movement, it has not presented a unified worldview with which to challenge the dominant worldview of the atheistic, evolutionary scientific establishment.
    All the “intelligent design” theorists I know of do not take a stand on the issue of millions of years, and some openly proclaim their belief in an old world. This undermines the gospel message, because it puts death and bloodshed prior to the First Adam. This gospel message is central to the Bible, and ultimately, it is the Word of God that will not return void (Isaiah 55:11), not the words of scholars who present arguments for intelligent design, no matter how eloquent.

    I am not necessarily “sold” on Ken Ham, but I am sold on Scripture.

  8. Ben says:

    One thing about ID that evangelicals don’t often think about is that all ID’ers are not looking to the Bible as the ultimate explanation of who/what the “intelligent” thing is that is driving this.

    Mary Midgley, a vocal opponent to Richard Dawkins, but also an open atheist came and spoke to our department the other day on ID. She spoke of three options in the overall debate: creation, chance, or an “organizing force”. For #3 she offered an option of a wholely “immanent” designer that is driving this process. That is, there is a “force” within things that drives them to organize themselves. It was brought up that this sounds a lot like Aristotle’s view that things inherently move toward the telos.

    I’m not up on the debate, so I could be clearly mistating her position. However, ID does not always lead people to God as the ID, but could just as easily lead to some other very non-christian options that are no better than the scientism that often comes with evolution theories.

    I lean towards theistic evolution–the young earth dinosaur response just doesn’t convince me, and why is it any harder to see that God was in control of that process as he is for a thunderstorm today, even though we can “scientifically” explain the process of both. However, I still hold to a literal creation of Adam because, as Gary points out, God is both Creator and Redeemer. If people just evolve and evil is just a related part of the created order, does that make God the source of evil as the creator? He is the solution to evil, not the source of it. But to those here in Enlgand, I think they would think my view is just as unenlightened as the young earth-ers. I know theistic evoloutionists out there have thought about this, but I haven’t gone looking for any answers.

  9. Clint says:

    Ben,

    you are absolutely right. There are many advocates of ID that are not Xtians and do not think that it leads to a Xtian God. Further, the Discovery Intsitute, the driving think-tank behind ID for the past 10 years, is made up of many individuals that differ on their religious beliefs. Not all of them are by any means Judeo-Xtian in their convictions. Nor do they need to be. The point of ID is not to push a YHWH creator-God (although this might be a consequence of it). Those IDers that I have spoken with and heard at lectures, conferences and have read are not trying to force any Xtian agenda onto a scientific framework. They are merely trying to say that materialistic evolution is no longer able to account for much evidence that is being turned out by science. Therefore, they are trying to propose an alternative vehicle that can better explain such things as specified complexity, cosmic constants, fine tuning, etc.. This in no way precludes a non-xtian worldview.
    So the value in ID is not strictly for XTY. However, it does give us a scientific axe to weild that has much apologetic value…that is, if it will be allowed in the scientific marketplace of ideas. But it seems at this point that evolution has a monopoly on the market and is not too keen on the allowance of rival theories. Academic freedom?…you tell me.

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