Essay / Misc.

Some Typical Comments on ID

From the blog Transterrestrial (linked above) comes the following. Thanks to Hugh for point me to it. The original blog is in black (with an introductory paragraph removed) and my comments are as usual in a lovely Packer green.At the risk of setting off another evolution debate here, while his point about the MSM making ID defenders out to be gap-toothed sibling-marrying Bible thumpers is well taken, he’s quite mistaken on the general policy issue. He’s viewing this through the eyes of a lawyer, but that’s not how science works:

My limited expertise is not with the interaction of ID and evolutionary theory,though it seems to me quite obvious that the hardest admission to wring from aevolutionist enthusiast is that while even conclusive proof of evolutionwouldn’t deny the existence of God, no such proof has yet been offered.

Of course no such proof has been offered. Proof of the validity of the theory (and there’s nothing about that word that should shake our confidence in evolution or any other scientific theory) of evolution does not, and cannot, exist. And that’s true not only for evolution, but for gravity, quantum chromodynamics, and any scientific theory that one wants to consider. Proving that theories are correct simply isn’t how science works.It is important to note that these statements are not scientific ones (strictly speaking). They are about how science works or should work. As such the writer is dealing with philosophy and not science. This is part of the problem. Science has often been hijacked by a philosophy of science. Most scientists don’t think much about what they do. They do it. Philosophers who are naturalists are of course quite content that most scientists go on doing science from their own philosophical perspective and are quite leary about the difference being exposed.After all, it is not constitutional to force your particular worldview or philosophy on the public. If defenders of Darwin are just defending science, then they seem worldview neutral. As a traditional Christian, I do not like the creation myth offered by Darwin. As a philosopher, I am not convinced by the mechanism offered. I much prefer Plato’s reasoning to Darwin’s. However, that is beside the point in a free society. Darwinists have the right to do science from any point of view they wish. If it productive, so much the better. What they do not have the right to do is pawn off philosophy as science.Darwinism can be a scientific theory. As such it should be taught in schools. As the dominant scientific view, it should get the bulk of attention. Darwinism also has philosophical implications (no teleology in biology for example). These should also be exposed as assumptions. Challenges to those assumptions should be presented. Often, very often, Darwinism is supported for ideological and sectarian reasons. It functions as a prop for a secularist view of how the world works. (Interesting question: if that prop were removed, how many would believe in it? I suspect few, but that is beside the point.) There exists substantial dissent to this theory. Much of it is based on science. Some of it is motivated by religion, as is partly the case in my own opposition to Darwin, however motivation should not be used to judge arguments. The fact that Darwinism is a prop to secularism should not exclude it. The fact that ID can be adopted for religious reasons should not exclude it nor should critics of ID simply be able to ban it be defining science as excluding it. Arguments merely from definition are pretty shoddy. I once was a theistic evolutionist. My faith did not demand I abandon Darwin, but my best reason did. Plato had more to do with changing my mind than Genesis. Still, if Genesis had motivated me, I see no reason to apologize for it. It is a book of great genius (see the previous post) and persons who dismiss it lightly are likely merely engaging in chronological snobbery, the belief that new is always better than old. How science works is by putting forth theories that are disprovable, not ones that are provable.Some philosophers think this is how science works (and this is a statement of meta-science), but others do not. Contra Popper, not all scientific theories function in the realm of falsifiability. See J.P. Moreland’s seminal Christianity and the Nature of Science. When all other theories have been disproven, those still standing are the ones adopted by most scientists. ID is not a scientific theory, because it fails the test of being disprovable (or to be more precise, non-falsifiable), right out of the box. If Hugh doesn’t believe this, then let him postulate an experiment that one could perform, even in thought, that would show it to be false. ID simply says, “I’m not smart enough to figure out how this structure could evolve, therefore there must have been a designer.” That’s not science–it’s simply an invocation of a deus ex machina, whether its proponents are willing to admit it or not. And it doesn’t belong in a science classroom, except as an example of what’s not science.ID can be tested. As a general statement, “X is designed” is tested daily by scientists such as archeologists. If I find a rock with a pointed shape, I can ask: Is this designed? I can then proceed to test the idea that it is designed against the evidence. Design as a notion is not odd, nor is it mysterious. Even if a Divine Designer is invoked, it need not enter the realm of the mysterious. ID theorists do not merely argue that a thing has no known natural origin so it must be designed anymore than an archeologist does. Just as a forensic scientist studies a potential murder to see if intelligent agency is involved, so an ID scientist looks for positive signs of design. . . fingerprints of the designer. A lot of this post depends on the writer knowing (or believing he knows) how to demarcate science and non-science. Except when in court arguing against ID, many (if not most) philosophers are loath to claim that they can do this. If all truth is one (as many Western thinkers, certainly scientists have believed), then to look for the intersection of religion and science in the world is not odd. All fields of knowledge tend to overlap. To exclude theology from this pattern is either mere prejudice or wrong headed. Some religions do take things on “faith,” by which they mean “without evidence.” This is not traditional Christian faith.Traditional Christian faith believes things that cannot be known for certain based on best evidence and experience. It is not blind. Now other people are entitled to other views of faith, but non-Christians should understand that most thoughtful Christians are Christians for what they take to be good reasons. I’ve made my position on this subject quite clear. ID, and creationism in general should be able to be taught in the public schools. Just not in a science class–they need to be reserved for a class in comparative religions. Of course, I don’t think that public schools should even exist, but that’s an entirely differen
t subject.We agree on government schools. They are a bad idea, just as government automobiles would be. If religion is presented as a branch of knowledge, then I agree. Schools should teach more ideas about the world, not less.Of course, if someone thinks that religion does not contain knowledge, but is “mere faith” (which they take to be irrational) then that view too should restricted to religion class as it is religious and not science. But of course, that view is taken by the person holding it to be true. . . therefore there is at least one religious statement (“All religious statements are matters of faith, which is not knowledge.”) that is knowledge according to the skeptic. The point is that ID isn’t science–it’s a copout on science and the scientific method, and as I said in my post a couple years ago, creationists attempting to get their views into science class, whether explicitly as the 6000-year-old solution or dressed up as science, as in ID, is a failure of their own personal faith in their own beliefs. They seem to think that if science doesn’t validate their faith, then their faith is somehow thereby weakened, and that they must fight for its acceptance in that realm.No. That is not right. Science has a limited domain to study. Most of my religious knowledge has little or nothing to do with that domain. On the other hand, my faith makes predictions about the natural world. At that point religion and science intersect. At that point, I enjoy the challenge of seeing what happens at the intersection. Since Christianity helped create modern science the interaction is rarely difficult and always stimulating. I am not afraid. . . or looking for validation nor do we need scientists to tell us what we can believe.Given the absolute hash most scientists make of ethics or even of their metaphysics and their limited educations in the humanities, scientists have much to learn from religion. Of course, given the unity of truth, religion has much to learn from science. I enjoy thinking about ID as a theory because I believe it to be right, but my faith does not hang on it. One version of Christianity, the one I happen to hold, does depend on it, but I was once a Christian and did not believe in a strong view of Biblical authority. I would survive the discovery that I was wrong.Darwinian scientists need to relax. Everytime someone asks them questions they see mobs with torches. The usual response is for Darwinists to claim that ID people see a “conspiracy” to promote Darwinism. Well, yes. Asking hard questions about Darwin can be career poison in some fields, no matter how careful the question asking is done. That is a fact. Public school teachers I know have lost their job for presenting secular objections to Darwinism. Here is a deal I would be happy to make with Darwinists. I will condemn anyone who suggests Darwinism should not be taught in schools. I will fight any move to cut off research or questions dealing with evolutionary biology. Biologists should be free to follow the evidence where it leads them, whatever their worldview. I just what Darwinists to say the same about ID. But that’s nonsense. Faith is faith. It by definition requires a suspension of disbelief.That is false, at least for most Christians. I teach Socratically and live (best I can) by the dictum that everything must be examined. I love skepticism. However, I do not worship it and I have other tools in my rational handbag. The statement that lumps all religious views about faith together based on some religious sects in the USA who may believe such things is naive and offensive. I am sure the person did not intend to do this, but the world of religious thought is complex.As a neo-Platonist and a Christian (in the tradition of folk like C.S. Lewis), I find no difficulty taking the “examined life” and religion as my goal. If their faith hasn’t the strength to withstand science, then they should reexamine their faith, not attempt (one hopes in futility) to bring down a different belief system that is entirely orthogonal to it.If my belief system is correct, then you are missing a vision of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. You have also placed your immortal soul in danger so I will try (best I can with my limited wit and skill) to convince you of your error. However, God Himself gave you free will so I would never support or do anything to prevent you from pursuing the ideology or system that you choose. You should be free to be wrong, even as you would allow me (thank you!) the freedom to pursue what you think an error on my part. And that is all the best ID thinkers ask: we ask to be allowed to pursue our vision of reality and present our views to students. We do not ask for the state to sanction our view and we oppose censoring yours. Liberty is our aim. I for one repudiate anyone who does not have the same goal.

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