John Haught, mainline Protestants, and the Science of Intelligent Design

Some readers have told me that they enjoy hearing about our different book displays, the places we go, the people we meet. Although I hope to inform BookNotes readers of books for sale here at the shop, it is good to know that many of you feel a part of our itinerant ministry of promoting broad thinking Christian literature. We are glad you are part of the bigger picture of our experience here, and grateful for your interest and support.

And so I give this report from one of the several places weÕve been in the last week. Every year, the prestigious Pine Street Presbyterian Church in Harrisburg offers to the Central Pennsylvania community what they call their Winter Seminar. It is nearly always a person of great note—from Marcus Borg to Phyllis Tickle, Walter Brueggemann to Jack Rogers. We have been privileged to sell books at these important events, and their gift of hosting important speakers which represent the best of mainline, liberal Protestantism, and the nice hospitality they offerÑto the speakers, the guests, and to us from the bookstore—is always a pleasure to behold. As those that know us well may imagine, we are both happy to offer resources to our fellow Presbyterian (USA) friends, and eager to hear these speakers from a theological tradition that is not precisely our own, and, yet, we come away deeply ambivalent. As an evangelical with high regard for traditional orthodoxy, it is always perplexing to me how leaders in the Protestant mainline can re-invent doctrinal views that have held for centuries, as if they are re-formulating a minor matter. And yet, I find the spiritual openness and genuine sense of fidelity and doxology, at least at Pine Street, to be inspiring and interesting. I may be more provoked than some who attend these kinds of events but there are none more gratified for being nurtured into a provocative faith. We enjoy our ecumenical partners, and especially enjoy our friends in Harrisburg.
And so, this year, the Winter Seminar lecturer was the very informative, wonderfully humble, excellent communicator and world-renowned Catholic theologian, Dr. John Haught. Dr. Haught is known as a creative thinker, informed much by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and the subsequent liberal process theologians, yet remaining largely orthodox within a broadly Catholic framework and is an expert on theistic evolution. His work on faith and science at the Georgetown Center for the Study of Science and Religion is renowned, and it was an honor to meet him, a delight to hear him, and we were happy to sell a bunch of his books, the rigorous ones, such as God After Darwin: A Theology of Evolution (Westview; $29.99) and the more introductory ones, such as Responses to 101 Questions About God and Evolution (Paulist; $12.99.) I thank the team at Pine Street for again allowing us to add a bit of value to their good event by displaying such a wide variety of books.
But (and I hope you knew this was coming) I would have wished that Dr. Haught would have spent a bit more time explaining his critique of Intelligent Design. He was, after all, the star witness of the ACLUÕs case against the Dover School Board (near us, here) that ruled against reading a short statement saying that that Darwinist views of evolution are contested, and other views can be found in the school library. (Gadzooks, no! We canÕt tell kids that there are different views out there, for heavenÕs sake. Not in a science class of all places! Yikes! Call the cops!) That the good Dr. Haught caricatured the ID case was evident to the few of use in the room that cared about such things. That nobody but one (a friend I brought) asked even anything approximating a hard question gave me pause. Why, in mainline liberal circles, are the audiences so docile, so agreeable to anything that hammers the conservatives? (It was the same way when Borg denied the bodily resurrection a few years back, an event after which I came back, counted our money, and cried. Nobody, and I mean nobody, raised an eyebrow, let alone a hand in comment!)
To wit: I recommend Dr. HaughtÕs books where he takes the time to explore matters in greater detail. There are many theistic evolutionists out there, and he is one of the more thoughtful ones (despite the fascination with ChardinÕs rather goofy Omega Point evolution of the cosmos stuff.) For instance, see his Deeper Than Darwin: The Prospect of Religion in an Age of Evolution (Westview; $24.99.) This seriously illustrates his mature critique of naturalism and the ways in which religious faith can illustrate deeper truths about the universe than can a dogmatic and reductionistic Darwinism.
Still, despite his vivid critique of secular naturalistic ideology which undergirds much of the mainstream of science these days, and the confusion in many popular writings between science and the philosophy of science, he continual fell back into the typical framing of the matter as if it is a contest between religion and science, rather than different worldviews and presuppositions which lead to different philosophies of science. He admitted that there is never a pure science since all human theorizing is colored by the worldviewish convictions of the scientists (think of Kuhn and Polanyi, at least, Kuyper and Dooyeweerd if you can, and Roy ClouserÕs, Myth of Religious Neutrality if you havenÕt.) And yet, having admitted to that, he fell back time and again into talking about Ã’ScienceÓ (as if that was a neutral given, as if all true scientists agreed on a particular worldview) and Ã’faithÓ (as in Ã’over and against science.Ó) That a Ph.D. and world-renowned theologian who works in this field hasnÕt quite rooted this dualistic and unhelpful framework from his approach was frustrating; Oh, how I wish I could have him, and those listening and nodding in approval, read the last chapter of Creation Regained: The Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview where Al WolterÕs gives us the Ã’structure and directionÓ insight about not confusing the worldviewish and philosophical direction of a sphere’s unfolding with the sphere itself. Or, to get at it a different way, how I wish non-evangelicals who seem unware of this important body of work, would grapple with the history of the fact/value split as illustrated and explained by Nancy Pearcey in Total Truth: Liberating Christianity From It’s Cultural Captivity that gets at the root of the rise of this odd way of talking about truth and religion, as if public truth (science) and private, subjective truth (religion) were two different things. Leslie Newbegin similiarly ponders that, but Pearcey is the one to read first.
To make the point that Dr. HaughtÕs testimony at the famous Dover trial can be contested, and the JudgeÕs rulings were roundly illogical, despite what Professor Haught casually asserted, I would recommend these three resources. What is plain is that very, very smart folks have huge, huge disagreements with the Darwinist hegemony, and that Dr. HaughtÕs Harrisburg lectures, as pleasant and appealing as they were, clearly only skimmed the surface of what is surely one of the most important controversies of our time. For another view, please call us and order one or all of these:
Traipsing Into Evolution: Intelligent Design and the Kitzmiller vs Dover Decision David Dewolf, John West, Casey Luskin and Jonathan Witt (Discovery Institute) $14.99 This is a must-read for anyone interested in the case, the legalities of the matter of the most reasonable definitions of science, religion, etc. A rare book, we are delighted to stock it, even though nobody much cares. It really is a very interesting read, though, and important.
Darwin Strikes Back: Defending the Science of Intelligent Design Thomas Woodward (Baker) $14.99
One reviewer wrote, Ã’The controversy over Darwinism and ID signals a major scientific and social revolution. Everyone who wants to understand it should read this timely and well-written book.Ó Michael Behe writes on the back Ã’Talking the reader behind the headlines, Woodward—the premier historian of the ID movement—analyses crucial developments of the past decade.Ó
Bill Dembski writes in the foreword:

ÉIt is fitting that (I met Woodward) at a lecture by Alvin Plantinga, since Plantinga is not just one of the most highly regarded philosophers of our era; he is also one who has written sympathetically about the intellectual project of Intelligent Design. In this context, he can be viewed as a symbol of the spiraling rhetorical nightmare faced by neo-Darwinism in the high university world. The nightmare is not simply the result of political pressure that Darwinists are experiencing. Rather it is that the Darwinian account of evolution on which they are pinning their hopes is imploding.

Woodward himself makes a good point in his introduction:

We have moved light-years beyond the stereotyped Inherit the Wind clash between dogmatic religion and enlightened science, which etched a fictional rendering of the Scopes trial onto our consciousness. Now it’s no longer William Jennings Bryan against Clarence Darrow—it’s no longer religion versus science. Today it is ID biochemist Michael Behe of Lehigh University versus Kenneth Miller, Darwinian biologist at Brown University. Now it is ID theorist Scott Minnich, who teaches microbiology at the University of Idaho and publishes his research on the flagellum, engaged in intense discussion with Robert Pennock, a Darwinian philosophy professor who teaches at Michigan State and has published critiques of ID. Whether anyone likes it or not, it is no longer science versus religion, it is now science versus science.

The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions About Intelligent Design William A. Dembski (IVP) $16.00 This paperback price is a great buy given how much is packed into this dense 300+ page volume. Dembski responds to all the basic questions, the critic’s accusations and the claims of those who think the ID movement unacceptable. He writes clearly and at some length. Read it for yourself, especially if you are taken with some of the popular level critique.


Science & Grace: GodÕs Reign in the Natural Sciences
Tim Morris & Don Petcher (Crossway) $17.99 Not an ID book, but a great example of how to back up, get the big picture, taking the best Biblical hermeneutics and the best philosophy of science, in light of Christian truth claims and thoughtful wholistic engagement with contemporary philosophy to come up with a radically Christian perspective on science. Morris spoke at Jubilee this past year (see last weekÕs posts) and we were duly impressed. One reviewer called it Òan extraordinarily important book filled with paradigm shifting ideas.Ó
If one were to read up on the sciences, seeking a solid, Christ-honoring, Biblically-informed and reformationally-rooted vision of the high calling and limits of science in GodÕs world, one could hardly do better than Science & Grace. This is the kind of foundational book we should be reading even as we engage the broad cosmological questions of Teilhard or the details of educational policy as misunderstood by Judge Jones. I sure hope our BookNotes readers agree—this is an important matter to think through, and most of us simply haven’t read much on either side. The journalists and judges, and, sadly, theologians and preachers, too often, haven’t either. Might we challenge you to dig in this year, and read up in this arena?

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31 thoughts on “John Haught, mainline Protestants, and the Science of Intelligent Design

  1. What is plain is that very, very smart folks have huge, huge disagreements with the Darwinist hegemony…What is even more plain is that a vastly greater number of “very, very smart folks” (particularly those that work in the relevant fields) find modern evolutionary theory to be the best explanation for the diversity of life. There is no Darwinist hegemony except in the fevered imaginations of ID apologists. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find any evolutionary biologist who considers himself a strict Darwinist. It’s got a nice ring to it, like communist or fascist, but is essentially meaningless.What is impressive about the Discovery Institute is how much noise they are able to make while producing no useful research. Dembski and Behe (who I am convinced knows better) need to publish in the relevant journals where qualified scientists and mathematicians can critique their results. Writing for the popular press doesn’t quite do it. To me the approach taken by the Discovery Institute is fundamentally dishonest and counter-productive. Anyway, I always enjoy reading your stuff. Beautifully written but you might want to cut this idea of Intelligent Design loose. This pig ain’t ever going to fly.

  2. Steve, You are so kind, and given your good-hearted and decades-worth of slow, solid efforts in helping students, your words me more than you can know. Thanks for the encouragement. And, yes, the wider conversation within mainline circles, as you know, is a priority for us. Thanks.Neil,Good, good question. You know we enjoy Collins–he’s an aquintance and has ordered books from us!—but I was writing specifically to offer an alternative set of resources for the one-sided caricature of the ID movement offered at that specific event. Since Dr. Haught, who I enjoyed, was the star theological witness at the Dover trial, it was around that specific matter that I was offering my few titles (like the legal response to the Kitzmiller case, and the historian of the debate. Since that overview handles the “back and forth” debates and chronicals the stuff I was surveying, it seemed like a fine introduction.)For what it is worth, I had plenty of those books at that even, even more in the store, and have cited them in other more general bibliographies trying to show an even-handed summary of the best on a variety of sides.Lastly, the Science & Grace book is written by two biologists and the Dembski is a high-level mathematician, whose work in the sciences is in-depth. Scripto,Thanks for your nice note about my writing. I’ve not written about this much, actually, and one reader wondered why. That the pig wouldn’t fly didn’t cross my mind to tell him, but I’m gonna use that sometime.I perhaps wasn’t as clear as I might have been; I am not fully sure of my own views of the theistic evolution debate (and since Behe and Dembski and others concede so much about the commonly known facts about evolution, the question is much more interesting to me when framed by the philosophy of science stuff.) What frustrated me in the presentation was that Haught seemed to be either confused or disengenious or inconsistent with the question about ideology and science. If there are no Darwinist biologists,as you say, that is news to Dr. Haught, who referred to them through-out the day. If presentors and writers, like you, and Neil (above) write about “evolution” it seems like it would be helpful to say if you mean by that the notion that natural processes alone, random crap happening in a violent and meaningless universe, is an adequate explanation for the wonderous diversity we now see. That kind of (neo-Darwinist?) naturalism (which Haught assured us was alive and well in the sciences, and in other disciplines too) seems more prevelent that being merely a figment of the ID’s cooked up fears.To the question of published research, the historican Woodard who I sited suggested that while this was a common retort of the anti-IDers years ago, it simply won’t fly now, since there have, indeed, been scholarly, peer-reviewed pieces published. You certainly know, too, that some of the stuff simpley isn’t allowed–or, those editors who accept a nominally pro-ID research piece for publication are themselves (like that guy at the Smithsonian-related journal) persecuted for even allowing the ID guys to the table. I don’t know what to make of that claim–how often does it happen, etc, but I sure know that the incivility of it all is astounding (with local university scholars here writing that Behe was a fraud, etc.) I’ll be eager to read his forthcoming book early this summer, if I can understand it.Thanks, all.Byron

  3. Neil,Thanks for your kind spirit and for your willingness to post here. I am grateful.You know, I suppose I can’t enter into a full dialogue, here, as it often goes off in so many (interesting) directions. But I would at least offer this:1. To say you critique ID because you can believe that God can do something seems a bit short-sighted or less compelling than I understand. I believe God can do all kinds of things. I’d hate to make my decisions of how I interpret the way things are just because I, in theory, believe God could do such and such. The question, I believe, isn’t what God could do, but what God did do. And, to know that, it seems, we have to investigate the creation and determine–in light of general truths we know from Scripture–what the creation’s secrets reveal to us. I don’t think an ideological presupposition (Ham or Dawkins, as you’ve noted) is the place to start AND end. We should see what creation reveals. Which is what I think the ID researchers are wanting to do, open-minded investigation of he evidence.2. You’ve noted that most ancient theologians believed in this unfolding process we loosly call evolution. So do Behe and Dembski and Phil Johnson, right? So you’ve got a beef with the YEC, I suppose, but why the complaint against these Augustianian (or nonChristian as some are) scientists who celebrate an evolving planet, but just deny that it happens by chance, with no God-breathed causation? Since most ID writers insist that naming the Creator/Intelligence is not the realm of science, they only want to refute the dogma that it is all accidental, naturalistic. Do you disagree with that portion of their research? I find so much in common between the theistic evolutionists and the ID camp, both in agreement about natural selection, both in agreement that Darwin’s atheism is wrong, both concerned that bringing the Bible in the way the YEC do is unhelpful. What do you attribute the hostility–you own, pleasant as it may be–when there is so much in common? Or do I misread the whole darn thing?Thanks again.

  4. Neil,So, if I read you correctly, Augustine, Polky and Francis Collins and you all think that God did enough to get the ball rolling. You summarize the differences by indicating that the ID people disagree but insist that there is direct intelligent design of the sytems. But don’t they, at some, concede that that “intelligent design” was at the time of the big bang (or whatever it was.) That is, I am not sure that I understand the difference;’ they think when the “ball got rolling” God did something that allowed for it all to unfold. Behe, irreducible complexity of the minute portions of cells notwithstanding, surely doesn’t believe God just created everything just as we see it? The creationists scholars don’t even believe that, do they?So my hunch is that the hostility against the IDers is largely generated by a misreading of their work, and a caricature of their position. As I understand it, the secularists, that is the Darwinist’s, or what you quickly but I think unhelpfully, call “modern science” (Isn’t Behe’s research modern? Isn’t it science? Ahem.) do not agree with your claim, namely, that God put all this together in the beginning.The huge gulf, therefore, the one you should be more excised about, I’d say, is the gulf between who say that God-less (neccesarily God-less!) processes are adequate to explain our world’s complexity, and those that say otherwise. In that sense, all three of you on your panel can make common cause against the reductionism of the matieralists…So, if I follow, therefore, theisitic evolutionists cannot be, precisely speaking, Darwinist. Would you say that?(A parallel, if you can allow me the digression, is this: Marx reduced the meaning of history to the class struggle, indicating along the way, tons of ways that, in fact, social injustice and the oppresion by the capitalists, is evident in the structures of things. We know this, also, from a reading of the Bible, of course, but social scientists, and nearly anybody who has lived among the poor with their eyes half-way open, concur. Still [and this is my point] a Christian cannot be, precisly speaking, a Marxist. It is a contradiction, since at the foundation of Marxist thinking is a non-negotiable atheism and a reductionistic matieralism. Can we appreciate some of the insight about how the world is structured that Marx helpfully discovered? Of course. Can we adopt, critically, some of his theoretical methodology? I would say yes, if we are careful not to buy it lock, stock, and barrel, and to be clear that a faithfully Christian reading of these things, while perhaps simliar, is in significant ways, very different. For a Christian ecnominist to sound like a Marxist, act like a Marxist, get angry when others talk about the atheim of Marx, mock the Christians who call for discernment and discrimination in these things, and then wonder why anti-Marxist schools of thought emerge, well…I trust you see my parallel. Similiarly, while we may concur with much of what the good Charles D said, or what “modern science” says (which isn’t all that helpful a phrase, again, since that would be like saying “modern economics”–where there are always a contested batch of truth claims operative) it is still important (if we are to “take every theory captive” as the Bible demands) to differentiate where we do or do not concur with the core convictions of the Darwinist worldview. Does that make sense to you? Perhaps I am not understanding your reluctance about this. (I don’t mean to sound like the guy in the letters column of the recent B&C that took you to taks. Whew, that was harsh! I said a prayer for you, that you’d take it with good grace and thick skin!)And, lastly, since I think you may be wrong about Dembski and Behe, since they do, I believe, hold to some version of natural selection (I’ve heard them say so, although the qualifications were a bit fine-tuned for me, I think, so maybe I am off, here), then, again, I maintain that the gulf is not nearly as wide as you say.So, you and they agree, I surmise, that the Darwinist project, (precisly, “stuff happens” without God that gives the impression of design in a meaningless and violent world) is inadequate. You both agree that things have evolved, in some orderly process. You both agree that this wonderous process can be studied and documented by folks who do good empirical research, and that reading the Bible’s specific texts is not the task of science.Doesn’t sound like the difference between lightening and lightening bug to me. Wanna help me out? Anybody??Thanks again.

  5. In comment #11 Scripto writes:Other initially unpopular ideas (plate techtonics, symbiosis, punctuated equilibrium) have gained exceptance in the scientific community by proving their case to the relevant disciplines rather than resorting to the kind of mass market shenanigans that the Discovery Institute engages in. None of these theories, especially PE, has been proven. Science doesn’t prove things. Nor did any of these theories, in order to gain acceptance, have any philosophical hurdles to surmount among materialist scientists who reject out of hand any explanation that seems to lead in immaterialist directions. Moreover, I don’t recall any institutional resistance to Carl Sagan’s “mass market shenanigans” in popularizing the view that there is life elsewhere in the cosmos. He certainly didn’t demonstrate this thesis through the methods of empirical science, rather he promoted it in novels and PBS television shows. And there wasn’t a peep from the scientific community because neither Sagan nor his theory was seen as a threat to the materialist hegemony in the scientific establishment. The idea that they can’t get a hearing in the referreed journals because of some sort of worldwide Darwinian bias is absurd. Scripto should read the stories of what happens to untenured science instructors on many American campuses if they evince any taint of ID influence. He should also read what people like U. of Minnesota biologist Paul Z. Myers prescribes for ID advocates on high school and university science faculties. Do you stock Paul Davies (The Fifth Miracle) or Kenneth Miller (Finding Darwins God)? More proof that you don’t have to check your brain at the door to be both a Christian and a scientist. Paul Davies is a Christian?! I’m sure that’s news to Davies. Dick

  6. Scripto:Yes, we carry both of these guys, and the other Ken Miller, too, whose collection of theistic evolution writers is very, very important (Eerdmans.) We carry all sorts of stuff (“Something to offend everyone” is our erstwhile motto!)I am perplexed, though, why there is this meanness (hopefully unintended) in the final line. You may, disagree with Behe, say, but to say he is mindless is insulting, and unecessary. I asked Neil about what accounts for the hostility, but didn’t expect to quite catch it here. Do you really think Dembski, whose one book was considered thoughtful enough to be published by the world’s leading academic press (Cambridge), has “check his brain at the door.”? Maybe you didn’t intend this jab. I find many Christian writers and even leaders nearly gnostic in their disinterest in the life of culture, society and the mind–hence, our uphill battle, here at the shop, trying to carry at least somewhat thoughtful stuff. But to imply that ID scholars have “checked their brains at the door” is just weird.I am going to have to think about this matter of what constitutes science. I think if a guy like Behe or other guys with PhD’s go into a lab, get our their electronic microscopes, start peering into things, doing experiments, write up the inferences they draw from these rather orindary and mundane excercises in what is typically called science (and, yes, Behe, HAS had scholarly journal articles accpeted and published, so you really have to stop saying he hasn’t) why that isn’t science? I think you and Neil have both implied as much. I dunno; he may be misguided in his research agenda, the science editors of The NY Times might be wrong for insisting his work is important, his employer may be being duped, but it seems an odd assertion to say a guy who goes into a lab and does experiements isn’t functioning as a scientist.Neil,I am really, really interested in your statement that as Christians we believe in one Lord and therefore there is only one science. Man, that is a leap I don’t follow at all. As I read the Scriptures, there is indeed a celebration of the goodness of creation—it reveals God’s ways to us if we study it!—and so we can happily assert that “All Truth is God’s Truth.” But, equally imporant, is the notion that sinful people distort the truth (supress it, even, as Romans 1 puts it.) Not everything that is proclaimed is true; all human actions are colored by the believes, convictions, presuppositions and worldviewish faith of the person. (Hence, my fondness for Kuhn, and my initial shout at to philosophers like Dooyeweerd or Roy Clouser in my intial post.) I think I would like to press you to respond to my Marxist analogy (alhtough I hear you that Darwinism may be a long-dead ideology; okay, some more properly are using the phrase neo-Darwinism.) There is no field, technically, of “economics” but there are various thinkers whose convictions in one way or another shape and inform their research into the field of econonomics, and their methodologies, data, interpretation of data, and theories inferred to explain it all differ greatly. It would be silly to talk about economics, as if it is a neutral field untouched by the dispositions of the human heart. I think we can equally see this in the field of political science. Some political scientists—in a blend of presuppostional faith/principle and a study of the evidence from their resarch, are convinced that [just for instance] that war never works well, and that the best form of foreign policy is one which is oriented toward diplomacy or nonviolent conflict resolution. They think the evidence of how nations work–how God has structured creation, the Christians would say, if asked—points in that direction. Others, of course, disagree. Both “schools of thought” have starting points–rooted in faith, finally–that shape how they do their research and read the data. Both claim to be insightful political theorists. Which is the best scientist? Which sees the evidence properly? Which has unhelpfully allowed their perspectival bias to distort their interpretatio of the data as they see it? Pacifist or Machiavellian or “realist”– they each claim to be practicing the science of political theory. I’m not a hard core postmodernist, but it would be silly or mean to say that some are just not political scientists, that because they aren’t mainstream, or hold religiously-motivated principles that inform their work, they dare not call themselves political scientists. Do you know any Mennonite’s with PhD’s in political science? Do their colleagues insist that they are doing “religious studies” when they publish stuff in the Carter Center, say, and not real scientists? I hope not? The hegemony of the political pragmatists is pretty evident, I’d say, but at least they don’t run out of town those who interpret that data about how nations work in ways that are different than the reigning paradigm.And, so, I think the call in the Scriptures to be non-conformed to the reigning idolatrous era, to subvert the theories, to “take every theory captive” to not be hood-winked by pagan ideologies–all fairly black & white and counter-cultural demands—must temper the common grace celebration that says “all Truth is God’s Truth.” Or that their is one science. There are, I’d say, a variety of science theories, some more plausible than others, some more coherent and consistent with the way things really are, all which are human interpretations rooted in that tacit kind of knowing, that is experienced humanly, which is to say “religiously.” For God or not God, all human endeavers—including the forumalating of theories to explain the doing of experiements—inevitably religious. One of the most urgent skills (arts? spiritual gifts?) needed these days in every sphere of life, is discernment, being able to see what is God-honoring, good, true, beautiful, etc.I am not one to discard all humanist knowledge, nor do I want to go to the other extreme and just affirm anything that is alledged to be accepted as “science.” In the world but not of it, you know. Neibuhr’s catagories help me here; I do not want to be “Christ against culture” nor “Christ and culture” since. I suppose it isn’t at all fair, but it is late and you got me on a roll: it might be said that if the creationists are “Christ against culture” in their resistance to nearly all modern explanations, your position seems close to a “Christ and culture” accomodation. Could the ID folk be that middle ground, the “Christ transforms culture” view, engaging the data, but interpreting it differently? I suppose it is a stretch, and I apologize if I seem too blunt.I will ponder your insights, and look foward to talking again.Thanks to all.G’night.Byron

  7. There is a LOT of misunderstanding about ID. I whole heartedly agree with Byron on that. For example, Neil said:”ID says life is too complex to have arisen without direct intelligent design of biological systems.”This is just false, although this the description of ID that is most often seen in the media. I know plenty of ID proponents that have no problem with common descent and natural selection and don’t propose any type of “intelligent intervention.” Dick’s characterization of the difference between ID and theistic evolution seems wrong, too. Robin Collins, for example, has proposed that ID serve as meta-science. Personally, I think ID points to other problems with current views of evolution – namely their reductionistic view of life. See especially some of the writings of Uko Zylstra on this point.I also have to agree with Byron that there isn’t just one science. People like Clouser and Dooyeweerd have pointed out the problems with reductionism and thinking there is “one science.” In addition, there has been a LOT of work done in the philosophy of science on the “disunity of the sciences.”All that being said, I agree with ID supporter Paul Nelson when he said that as of right now ID is “a bag of powerful intuitions, and a handful of notions such as “irreducible complexity” and “specified complexity” Ð but, as yet, no general theory of biological design.” And, for what it is worth, many people still refer to themselves Darwinists or neo-Darwinists, so Byron’s use isn’t really out of the norm. Yeah, and Paul Davies is NOT a Christian by any stretch of the imagination.

  8. Neil,Thanks again for hanging in there with us. I hope a few readers are as interested in this as we are!I do respect your vast knowledge and work in this field, so thanks for being so cordial with this layperson.To your two comments: first: PLEASE don’t misunderstand (as I feasr you may have.) I was not moving towards the idea, popularized in both popular level and academic books, that Darwinism leads to Nazism. I don’t know (and for now) don’t care about that.It was an ANALOGY about how theories work in a scholars scholarship, the relationship between religion (philosophy, worldview, faith) and theory.I do not think, for the purposes of the analogy, it is necessary, or even proper, to seperate the harder sciences from the social sciences. Both examine data—how cells work, how particals function, how nations or business work. Granted, the more solid the area of research (geology, say) to the more human (government or aesthetics) the more empiracal the data may seem. But still: all scholars stand in a school of thought, interpretative communities, presuming a paradigm. To insist that one school of thought in any discipline is THE only one that is REAL science, and the others are frauds, or not authentic, or, a different catagory of discipline altogether, is my beef. That is why I found it helpful to quote, at the outset, the journalists quote (in Darwin Strikes Back) that the debate is not science vs religion, but science vs science. I thought it would be more obvious how that works in different schools of thought in the science of economics or among political science (in a subsequent post.) I was also trying to get at this question of what it means to do “radically” (root) Christain scholarship. (Can we agree [see above] that it is an troublesome to be a “Christian Marxist.”? Again, it seems that if a follower of Christ, in His one creation, wants to honor Him also in our theorizing, we must figure a way to be discerning about the worldviews that are operative in each discipline, affirming the results where they are fruitful, but somehow resisting the pre-theoretical baggage that comes along with it. THAT is what most interests me, and I find that the ID movement (although not attentive enough to their own philosophies of science that are operative) are exquistie in deconstructing the naturalism of the popular way of describing natural selection and the wonders of God’s world.When George Marsden wrote about this, as a historian, in a widely acclaimed book on the secularization of higher education, in a small postscript, the New York Times raved about the body of the book, and then said the postscript, his little Kuyperian essay on uniquely Christian theoretical work, was “outrageous.” (His editor at Oxford University Press then invited him to do a book on that, which he did, the widely used “Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship.” I guess I am wondering if this whole worldview that insists on distinctively Christian ways of thinking and unquiely faithful ways of interacting with the dominent theoretical constructs—in the arts and sciences, from math to aesthetics—is one you’ve read much in. Since you attend a PCA church, and write for B&C, I figure this all is familiar to you, yet we sound like we’re missing each other on this point which is so.So, do you think much about this stuff, the way faith relates to theory, how there are different paradigms, interpretive communities, and that therefore no area of academic discourse is religiously/ideologically neutral?Do you feel called in your work to differentiate between insights or appoximations of truth that one scientists discovers and a varying interpretation that another suggests? Are not theories proposed, rejected, refined, often in light of hunches and philosophical notions?? If so, then why not have a bit more generous appreciation of the ID guys who, as time might tell, may be right, bringing their unique (but not uniquely Christian, since some are not followers of Jesus at all) school of thought to the ongoing unfolding of insight which we call learning?Byron

  9. ByronI stand corrected on Davies. I read The Fifth Miracle a few years back and my impression was that he was angling towards some sort of theisitic front loaded evolution. I believe I had him confused with Polkinghorne since I’ve heard them both speak recently on NPR. I get confused a lot. My intention was not to accuse Behe or Dembski of stupidity in my last statement, although I believe Dembski’s behavior has been fundamentally dishonest and juvenile, especially in his dealing with criticism. It is more a case of willfull ignorance considering the vast array of continuing research they need to ignore to maintain their positions.I stand by my statement regarding the lack of peer reviewed papers supporting ID. Behe is a credentialed and published scientist but none of his peer reviewed work has anything to do with ID. As I said before, Dembski needs to convince a few mathematicians, statisticians, and information theorists of the validity of his work before we incorporate his ideas into the science curriculum. I’m not really qualified to judge, but I’ve read some of his work and that of his critics and I can’t find that even a minority of those in the know find his arguements compelling. But, these are anything but stupid men and I apologize for the implication. How about “misguided”? Dick,None of these theories, especially PE, has been proven. Science doesn’t prove things. Nor did any of these theories, in order to gain acceptance, have any philosophical hurdles to surmount among materialist scientists who reject out of hand any explanation that seems to lead in immaterialist directions.Again I stand corrected. I meant by “proving their case” that a vast amount of observational and experimental data has been amassed to lend a high degree of probability to the accuracy of those hypotheses.Perceived problems with evolutionary theory default to “not known” not to some sort of supernatural causation. Science operates with methodological naturalism. Outside the realm of nature is outside the realm of science. The method as practiced has worked pretty well. Why change?macht, I know plenty of ID proponents that have no problem with common descent and natural selection and don’t propose any type of “intelligent intervention.” You lost me. So where does the design come in?

  10. Neil,There are plenty of ID advocates that talk about “front-loading” in biology. Simon Conway Morris, who isn’t an ID advocate, has written that the biochemistry of sponges “includes elements that seem to foreshadow the immune system of vertebrates.” Many of the front-loading ID advocates are picking up on facts like this (which is just one amongst many) in order to make the case for front-loading. Most of them that I’ve talked to also say that this is an area of research that isn’t very developed yet and a lot more needs to be done. And I’ve never heard any of them talk about “intervening.” And I’ve only talked about biological ID up to this point. Many ID advocates are much more excited about cosmological ID. (Unfortunately, though, **ID the concept** has gotten all tangled up with **ID the political/cultural movement** and so when people hear “ID” they think of this movement because this is what is in all the papers and in the courtrooms. And because the cultural/political movement centers almost solely around evolution and biological ID, people tend to forget about cosmological ID.) Guillermo Gonzalez, for example, in his book The Privileged Planet says virtually nothing about evolution, yet his entire book is about ID. scripto, I hope the above answers your question, too. Many ID proponents don’t think that design does “come in somewhere.” This is a misunderstanding of what is meant by “design.” While it can mean some sort of “intelligent intervention,” it needn’t have to. Perhaps if I put it in the following way it would make sense. There are two senses in which we can use the word “design.” The first is just the overall plan. This deals with the designer’s plans, purposes, intentions, etc. But the second meaning of “design” deals with how a thing comes to be. This deals with the process that is taken in order to realize the design (in the first sense). So we have design as plan/purpose and we have design as process. When we talk about things like “interventions” we are talking wholly about design as process – how something comes to be. But there is no logical or empirical reason why design as plan needs to use intelligent interventions in the design process it takes. (This doesn’t mean that non-intervention design and non-intervention non-design would look alike, though.) My point is that to equate design with some sort of intelligent intervention is to equate design with one very specific type of design while ignoring non-intervention design. The Robin Collins essay that I linked to is a good one – it views design in terms Lakatosian terms – as the “hard core” of a research program. (For those who aren’t aware, Lakatos’ research programs are in many ways similar to a Kuhnian paradigms – the differences between the two are probably off topic though.) What Robin Collins is calling for is for scientists to develop an ID research program – to do science in an “ID paradigm.” The real test of ID, then, would be to see whether it is progressive – basically to see if it leads to novel predictions. This can only happen, though, if (some) scientists “do science” as if the universe were designed. And this gets us back to people like Kuyper and Marsden who call for Christian scholarship. In any case, as I said above, I like Uko Zylstra’s take on biological ID. He focuses on the reductionism inherent in modern biology and thinks that some of the ID critiques of neo-Darwinism point to this reductionism. For example, biological ID has typiclaly focused on molecular biology, which is right on the border between studying “life” and “chemistry/physics.” Irreducible complexity in biochemical structures, then, can be seen not as some sort of intervention, but as pointing to a flaw in the philosophy that modern biology rests on – namely the idea that “the biological” can be reduced to “the physical.” I seem to be rambling now, so I better stop for now.

  11. macht,If ID is inherent in the cosmos from the moment of creation, then what would anyone study? We can’t study miracles or other singularities. If the design of the flagellum that occupied so much of the Dover trial was decreed from the foundations of the world what would there to be to study? Evolution by natural selection says adaptation happens in response to environment within the limits of genetic mutation. That means that the outcome is not predetermined. But you are saying (I think) that all 20 million species and the genetic underpinning of their existence was determined in the moment of creation. Please correct me if I am misunderstanding you.

  12. By, Thanks for plugging Viewpoint. I don’t want to push this excellent discussion beyond its normal life expectancy, but I would like to explore something Scripto said earlier. He wrote: Science operates with methodological naturalism. Outside the realm of nature is outside the realm of science. The method as practiced has worked pretty well. Why change? This raises a series of very interesting (to me, at least) questions. What exactly does it mean to be outside the realm of nature? Does being outside nature mean transcending this universe? If so, and if to be outside nature is to be outside science, is it scientifically illicit to speculate on the existence of other universes? Would not these worlds, by definition, be supernatural? And if it is methodologically illicit to discuss them, why do articles addressing their possibility abound in the scientific literature? One last question: If it is scientifically acceptable to discuss ideas like the many worlds hypothesis, why is it unacceptable to advance the possibility that our world was designed by an inhabitant of one of these other universes? If other worlds are not supernatural then their inhabitants would not be supernatural, and thus the search for intelligent agency behind the cosmos is not necessarily a violation of methodological naturalism. Finally, an observation about the discussion on this thread about the nature or definition of science: This is a very thorny problem, of course, and its intractability has led some philosophers of science to conclude that, simply put, science is what scientists do. The imposition of naturalism upon the practice of science is itself the incorporation of an arbitrary metaphysical preference in the discipline of science. Dick

  13. Byron,There is one paper in particular that I am thinking of that Uko Zylstra wrote about ID. It is appeared in the journal Zygon in March 2004 and is called “Intelligent-Design Theory: An Argument for Biotic Laws.” If anybody has access to a university library, you can probably find the article. Otherwise, I have a PDF of the article – send me an email at and I can send it to you. Here is a brief summary of the article that I wrote. Also, I just remembered that I wrote a summary of Science and Grace if anybody cares to read it. IMO, there are some major flaws in ID that would prevent it from being a “Christian philosophy of science.” As I suggest in my summary of Zylstra’s paper, both Behe and somebody like Dan Dennett view that life is just a machine. They use the machine not just as a metaphor for life – they both say that life ultimately is a machine. In that respect, I don’t think ID is that much different in its basic philosophy than the alternative that it is against. Note that this isn’t much different from the arguments that were going on when a mechanistic philosophy took over physics. Is God the “Great Engineer” or does mechanization explain everything, making God unnecessary? They were having the same arguments hundreds of years ago as they are today. The thing I like most about ID is that they are challenging the “establishment” (so to speak). In Marsden’s book, he compares Christian scholarship to feminist and Marxist scholarship (among others) and notes that these perspectives are given a “place at the table” in most humanities departments and by the same reasoning, Christian scholarship should be given the same place at the table. The natural sciences, however, are generally thought to be one unified whole and there isn’t much room for “other perspectives.” What I like most about ID is that they are challenging this idea. Neil,It doesn’t seem unreasonable to me to suggest that if the universe has some sort of purpose or intention behind it, then it would look a lot different than a universe that didn’t have that intention or purpose behind it. This is probably what unites all ID proponents together – that there are empirical differences between a designed and a non-designed universe. Some ID proponents have proposed that these differences include interventions or “gaps.” Others haven’t. I’m not saying anything about the 20 million species and their genetic underpinnings. I’m not a scientist and I’m in no position to make that claim. I’m also pretty skeptical of ID in it’s current form. All I’m saying is that there is a lot more to ID than most people think and that this is due mostly to the fact that the most politically/culturally contentious wing of ID (e.g., Dover) gets all media attention.

  14. BTW, perhaps the best book that I’ve found on the subject of “design and science” is Del Ratzsch’s Nature, Design, and Science.

  15. Dick,If we lived in an age when theology was as robust as science is now, then your question would be moot. Because questions about the supernatural–things outside the universe–would not be a matter of science. Science is about the normal transformations of matter and energy. Macht,It was believers who set up methodological naturalism as the methodology of science. Because as soon as the supernatural enters you leave the normal workings of nature. We live in the universe the Lord created. Any other universe is just speculation. Asking whether science would be different if it was done knowing there was a purpose behind it, is like asking how different life would be if we did not sin. It has nothing to do with life as it is. From Thales to now science and every other human activity has been done with both faith and doubt in a cosmos in which God is hidden from us all. Byron,If you wonder why people are upset about Jonathan Wells read his Web site. Father (Sun Myung) Moon gave him a mission to discredit Darwinism in the late 70s. He went to Yale divinity then got a degree in molecular biology from UC Berkeley in 1994. He then went to the Discovery Institute. He is not a scientist by Polanyi’s definition. He is not doing science. He is using his training on a politcal mission. I quote:”Father’s [Sun Myung Moon’s] words, my studies, and my prayers convinced me that I should devote my life to destroying Darwinism, just as many of my fellow Unificationists had already devoted their lives to destroying Marxism. When Father chose me (along with about a dozen other seminary graduates) to enter a Ph.D. program in 1978, I welcomed the opportunity to prepare myself for battle.” –Jonathan Wells, Darwinism: Why I Went for a Second PhD

  16. Neil,I don’t think I mentioned methodological naturalism, but I would agree that many Christian scientists throughout history were in favor of searching for natural causes. But this preference for natural causes is much different than the very recent idea of “methodological naturalism” (the term itself is only about 25 years old or so). Today, when people talk about methodological naturalism, I’ve seen it mean two things – 1) there is a rule that says that we can’t talk about “supernatural causes” in science and 2) that scientists should do science as if there were no God. I’ll assume that you mean the first meaning. This gets into the “demarcation criterion” in philosophy of science. You can check ANY text book on philosophy of science and until maybe the last 15 years none of them will mention methodological naturalism. If you pick up books on the history of the philosophy of science (I recommend Losee’s A Historical Introduction to the Philosophy of Science) you will see absolutely no mention of methodological naturalism. It just isn’t a concept that had any importance to the philosophy of science until very, very recently. (And again, I’m talking about a rule that excludes the “supernatural” from being part science.) It appears (to me) that methodological naturalism is an ad hoc rule “designed” to exclude ID from even attempting to be science. Now, I don’t really find this that strange. If you look at why philosophers have generally brought up the demarcation problem, it has almost always been motivated by social and political concerns and not by scientific concerns (I’ve written about this here and here). As I show in those posts, Popper developed his criteria for demarcation because he “felt dissatisfied” with the theories of Freud, Marx, and Adler. In other words, he didn’t start with what good science is and then conclude that those theories were “pseudo-science.” Rather, he started with them being “pseudo-science” I proceeded find rules as to why they weren’t. I see the same thing going on with methodological naturalism and ID. But, as I said above, I agree with you that many Christians did come to the conclusion that we should prefer natural causes over supernatural ones. But the reason you give (“as soon as the supernatural enters you leave the normal workings of nature”) is only one reason. Many prefered natural causes for pragmatic reasons (e.g., in the field of medicine). Many prefered natural causes because they were entrenched in the mechanical philosophy of the day and they thought that any purpose or intention could not belong to a mere machine – only God could have purpose and intent and because of this science should look to natural mechanisms and laws (e.g. Boyle believed this). I think you would enjoy Morris and Petcher’s book. After reading it, I think you would be very hesitant to talk about “the normal workings of nature.” Byron touched on this in his reply to you and I touched on it in my summary of their book that I linked to a couple posts ago. They also talk about how viewing the universe as contingent and how this view is necessary to do science. The fact that we can speculate about how the universe might have been enables us to test those speculations through empirical observation. The alternative is what we had before modern science – Aristotelian physics. His method of science was to start from basic a priori principles and logically deduce what life must be like. Again, the idea that the universe is contingent is absolutely necessary for modern science. I feel like I’m being really negative towards you, although I’m not trying to be. I do share your skepticism of ID because ultimately I don’t think it rests on a Christian starting point. I’m kind of rooting for it though because history of science has shown that when there are competing theories, science as a whole tends fair better than if one theory has a “monopoly.” But as of right now, I don’t think there is any positive theory of ID that has been sufficiently tested (and for that reason alone it isn’t science (yet)).

  17. Byron,No No No. Our Lord is not distance and I am in no way denying miracles. I am simply saying that science has to study what it can test and theology should be the study of the relationship between God and man. Like any Pentacostal, I think the Lord can and does do miracles throughout history BUT I believe these miracles are all by fiat–He decides when and where and why and interrupts the laws of nature to do it. For other reasons I am pre-disposed to think the Lord does not regularly produce money to make American Christians rich, but I know an evangelist who spends most of his time in Zimbawe and Burma and reports miracles among the poorest and most oppressed believers in the world and I have no problem believing him. But science finds patterns in the normal working of nature and does this through laborious and frustrating work. My skepticism of ID is because it is, to me, outside science. It is not producing research it is fighting for a cause. And Scripto is very right. Read Dembski. Look up his current writings on his dispute with the John Templeton Foundation. His tone reeks of sneering. And read Jonathan Witt (not Wells) on Francis Collins book in Touchstone–3700 words of ID promotion ending with that rubbish about “600 Scienctists Agree with ID.” There are 2.1 million Americans with PhD degrees (2000 cencus). I am quite sure there are more than 600 PhDs who dispute global warming, are against fluoride in drinking water, listen to Rush Limbaugh, and read their horoscope.More later. . .

  18. If so, and if to be outside nature is to be outside science, is it scientifically illicit to speculate on the existence of other universes? Would not these worlds, by definition, be supernatural?No, if they were found to exist they would be part of the natural world, no matter how many universes there are. I would consider a supernatural event to be one in which there is an observed suspension or reversal of natural processes. Like a miracle. Of course, that would be dependent on what is known about the natural world at the time and the fact that a supernatural event is observed may make it a natural event. My head hurts. I think you are asking more from the scientific method than it is designed to give. As practiced it is based on methodological naturalism. It is limited to what it does. It can never be as complete as the thing it is trying to describe but my main arguement is that it works better than any other philosophical approach. It’s hard to argue with success.

  19. A few comments have noted frustration with the tone and quality of William Dembski’s work. It is pretty much over my head, but I spent a little time recently with “No Free Lunch: Why Specified Complexity Cannot Be Purchased without Intelligence” which is now, finally, out in paperback (with a new preface.) The main reason I note this is to observe that many of the rave reviews on the back are not Christians, showing to the cheap shots from the likes of Jones that ID is not necessarily Christain or what typical folks call religious. Even Michael Ruse, who disagrees with his conclusions, says that “we should read his book and form our own opinions and counterarguments. He should not be ignored.” I suppose those of you who disapprove of his attitude or accuse him of not doing peer reviewed stuff have some kind of point, but, here, is a book on a secular publishing house, with endorsements by Muslims, secularists and those who disagree with him, all agreeing it is a major contribution to the conversation. Am I just trying to sell a book? Well, I can think of worse motivations for posting, but at least readers who are unaware should know that Dembski’s earlier work was published by Cambridge and, like him or not, he is a major player in this conversation. I think it is obvious that his critics here DO know his views, and have read at least some of this stuff. I hope, like Ruse suggested, that we all are willing to hunker down, do the reading, stay in conversation, and have informed debate. THAT was what most drove my initial post, feeling like one view is often, in my circles, criticized by those who really haven’t read anything at all.I did a new post, noting another book or two on science, and I complimented you all for your helpful converstaions here. Gracias.

  20. macht,You are right. I have not distinguished between ID the concept and the Discovery Institute. It is too bad. If there were no DI, I would agree with ID because, by the definitions you have presented, one could accept ID in a TE frame. The ID is inherent in an evolutionary process started by Our Lord. I think it is sad that DI has become the franchise for ID. And I am now very clear on your postion about resistance movements. And I still regard alternative theories as more bad than good for science, but I will admit that my work in communications skews my perception. I see alternative theories as things that those who simply don’t like science grab onto. But I can also admit that anyone submitting their work to peer review is entitled to any propostion they care to advance. Neil

  21. Macht,If ID accepts common descent from one of a few common ancestors with an intelligent designer only acting directly in the moment of creation, then ID would have no place in a science classroom and no research program. What would be the point? If the ID program does not say that an intelligent designer acted directly in cases of where irreducable complexity is evident then I don’t understand what the point of ID is? Can you really be ID and say that the only moment the intelligent designer intervened is at the moment of creation? This would be new info for me.Byron,I do keep the social sciences and physical sciences apart. I do not think there is a fruitful way to compare the influence of Marx and Darwin except as people react to their ideas. And the evils done by misreading or making up interpretations of Darwin do not have anything to do with evolution by natural selection in biology. Any more than Einstein is to blame for relativism in philosophy.Now as to the One Science comment. I only meant to say that if there is, as I think we all believe, only one creation, then the fundamental constants, the laws, the normal workings of that creation will be found to be universal. So if someone comes along with a new science it will be consistent with existing science. It may even revise it in the way that modern physics threw out aether as the transmission medium of light.Neil

  22. By, I think the main difference between ID and TE (theistic evolution), the only significant difference, in my opinion, is that IDers believe that intelligent input can be empirically detected or inferred, and TE denies this. In other words, TE says that the world looks just like it would look if the materialists are correct, and ID says that the designer has left empirical evidence of its work. There are other differences, of course. TE, for example, is explicitly religious because it affirms that God has front-loaded the evolutionary process whereas ID, because it takes no position on who or what the designer is, is religion-neutral, at least as most people think of religion.This is not the conventional wisdom about ID, but it’s the case nonetheless. Dick

  23. So my hunch is that the hostility against the IDers is largely generated by a misreading of their work, and a caricature of their position. As I understand it, the secularists, that is the Darwinist’s, or what you quickly but I think unhelpfully, call “modern science” (Isn’t Behe’s research modern? Isn’t it science? Ahem.)…Well, Behe is a scientist. He just hasn’t published any research supporting his idea of irreducible complexity. He may be able to convince you or I but that really holds no water with biologists. Do a Pub Med search on various aspects of evolutionary biology (common descent, evolution of the flagellum or other structures, etc.) and then do a search on Irreducible Complexity, Specified Complexity, Behe or Dembski and you will see what I mean. There is an overwhelming lack of meaningful work coming out of the ID camp. And this is precisely what ticks off the scientific community. These guys are using a PR campaign to gain a public hearing instead of the established protocols of science. Other initially unpopular ideas (plate techtonics, symbiosis, punctuated equilibrium) have gained exceptance in the scientific community by proving their case to the relevant disciplines rather than resorting to the kind of mass market shenanigans that the Discovery Institute engages in. The idea that they can’t get a hearing in the referreed journals because of some sort of worldwide Darwinian bias is absurd. The more likely explanation is that the work is unsupported by research and inadequate. Besides they don’t appear to try very hard. A coherent hypothesis or research program would be nice. What we end up with is Dembski tutoring Ann Coulter on evolutionary theory. Please. The apocalypse is truly upon us.Do you stock Paul Davies (The Fifth Miracle) or Kenneth Miller (Finding Darwins God)? More proof that you don’t have to check your brain at the door to be both a Christian and a scientist.

  24. Morris and Petcher’s book is one of the best books on science and faith that I’ve read in a long time. One of the things I liked about it most is that it wasn’t driven by the ID debate – a lot of Christians are viewing science through the eyes of ID and that makes for a very narrow vision.

  25. Bryon, I share your consternation. For example, by and large, I’ve been impressed with the U of M’s sensitivities relating to religious issues. The exception is its handling of ID/Evolution issues. There was a class devoted to readings on the subject that, among other things, grouped ID with Creationism. They called it ID/C. It also accepted Gould’s realm of science/realm of morality without qualification. It’s not like thoughtful people (Christian or otherwise) who offer critiques of this stuff are living in some desert cloister publishing stuff on the insides of caves.

  26. Byron…You are so very good, my friend. I am reading and thinking, every student in America should be reading Byron Borger! To listen in on your reading week after week is itself a university education. Really. The depth and breadth, the rootedness in historic orthodoxy and yet the attentiveness to wider, broader conversations, is a model for all of us about living in the world, and yet not being of it– which is always the hardest thing. And navigating one’s way through the fact/value split is just about as hard as it gets, I think– at least for people who listen to the world and wonder whether the Word can still make sense of what we see and hear. Even if every American student doesn’t read it– because they don’t know about it –I at least want each of my children to read it, scattered as they from 28 to 18, each one trying to find her/his way into the world. I will read it to them! Thanks, dear friend, for your faithfulness. As you serve Christ, you serve all of us.Steve Garber

  27. Byron, But it wasn’t even about the Board mandating the teaching, but reading a lousy 45-second statement that there are books in the library about it.)You’re right. It was a lousy statement. Here is the text.The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin’s theory of evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part.Because Darwin’s Theory is a theory, it is still being tested as new evidence is discovered. The Theory is not a fact. Gaps in the Theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin’s view. The reference book, Of Pandas and People is available for students to see if they would like to explore this view in an effort to gain an understanding of what intelligent design actually involves.As is true with any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the origins of life to individual students and their families. As a standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on standards-based assessments.The implication is that ID is somehow equivalent to evolutionary theory. This is not the case. It also directs students to the “textbook” ‘ Of Pandas and People’ which is so wildly inaccurate given the current state of biological research that no science teacher in their right mind would find it ethical to promote it. And, of course, singling out evolution from the dozens of other scientific theories for which their are unexplained “gaps” was done for purely religious reasons. I don’t see how Jones could have reached any other conclusion.I consider Dembski to be intellectually dishonest because of his refusal vet his ideas through the proper channels rather than the popular press. He uses some lame excuse that his ideas get a quicker turnaround and reach more people that way. He doesn’t even submit this stuff to mathematical journals before making the unwarranted jump to biological systems. In addition, after bragging about the collapse of “Darwinism” once the ID-ologues got their day in court, he hightailed it back to Seattle and left his buddy Behe twisting in the breeze at the Dover trial. Maybe that’s closer to cowarice than dishonesty. As for juvenile, check out the flash animation regarding Judge Jones at Uncommon Descent (although they have since eliminated the original flatulent ridden soundtrack). Way to take the high road, Bill.Of course none of this really has anything to do with the truth of Dembski’s claims. The way the Discovery Institute has approached this whole “teach the controversy” thing makes me feel like I’m being pressured to buy a very iffy used car. The whole thing reminds me of an ICR seminar about Creation Science I attended at our local high school back in the 80’s (I live a couple of ridges west of your area). Very slick but lacking real substance.I’ve had that nickname since I was a kid. It’s a shorened version of my Lithuanian last name which oddly enough was changed by a couple of letters from the original. For what reason I don’t know. Sometimes I guess you just got to live with what ends up written, whether it makes sense or not.

  28. friends,Macht, Where can folks find this stuff by Uko Zylstra? I’ve met him a time or two and he is not only a thoughtful scholar, but a truly decent person, just delightful. Last I heard he taught undergrads at Calvin College in MI and is beloved by all. Where can we see his writing on this?Scripto:Where’d you get the cool name?But more importantly, thanks for clarifying (or toning down) the implication that some ID scholars have checked their brains at the door…alas, the “fundamentally dishonest” jab at Dembski is pretty harsh, too. But I have no idea what you mean, so I’ll let it slide. I actually only have one friend who is seriously into math, and he really, really dislikes Dembski, so there ya go. I am not sure about the juvenile crack, either, and I did like his rebuttal book that I cited, which I understood better than his earlier ones which almost did me in.And here is another point when arguing about this topic: you note that Dembski and co. will have to get more mainline scholars on board before teaching it in the schools. I don’t know Dembski’s own view of this, but I know the official position of the Discovery Institute is that ID ought NOT be taught in schools since there isn’t enough of a consensus about it at all, and it would only be misconstrued as a shot in the culture wars, which they don’t want it to be (or at least don’t want it to be seen as that.) That was a large frustration for many of us around here, that the newspapers, the secular evolutionists, the mainline denominational pastors who spoke up all implied that the Dover case was about getting ID taught, which it clearly was not. (No science teacher in any school I know is prohibited from teaching about it, anyway. But it wasn’t even about the Board mandating the teaching, but reading a lousy 45-second statement that there are books in the library about it.) I like the more nuanced view of the Discovery folks who suggest teachers “teach the controversy” as we would in any other school department (what is the “real” cause of the civil war? Why did the Berlin Wall fall? Is there evidence for plagerism in Shakespeare? Etc.) SO, I would suggest you not use that as a rebuttal phrase, since hardly anybody wants ID taught in schools at this point. I’d just be happy if a couple people read their books before they spouted off with an opinion. You and Neil are happy exceptions and I respect that. Especially if you bought ’em from Hearts & Minds. ;-)Neil,Yes, yes, the biking. Fun stuff.Say, I am eager to hear if you were able to wade through my long, if impulsive, tirade about the outrageous idea of Christian scholarship, the myth of religious neutrality, and my passion to attend to the “anti-thesis” between pagan thought and uniquely Christian starting points, which makes me appreciative of anybody that posits the worldview uniquenesses within different interpretive communities or schools of thought within the disciplines? I used social science parallels, which I supposed you wouldn’t quite like, but the overall concern is one worth addressing, I think.Does Scripto or Dick or anybody have input there?(I must admit, that is something that I still have yet to unravel. Are ID folks offering a new paradigm, really, or just coming up with different answers, using the same old paradigm. Wacky postmodern scientists–who argue for gay science, say–are surely an alternative model; so are the young earth creationists. What is a Muslim view of Science? And are the ID folks, some who are not followers of Christ, forging a yet-to-be-seen Christian philosophy of science? Or not?) Macht??Where was Witt’s review of Francis Collin’s book? I’ve had some correspondance with some other guys saying that I’m an idiot for stocking or recommending Wells, so I understand that some don’t find him fair or compelling. I will go back to B&C and re-read your review. Final recommendation: follow the link to Macht-man. He’s brillant, knowledable and he said nice things about me. Dick, who chimed in yesterday, has a spot on his blog that gives his take on Kitzmiller’s Judge Jones. It is, in my view, the most interesting thing I’ve read on the trial.

  29. Well, I think it is good to distinguish between “movements” and “ideas.” See my distinction way above about the difference between ID the political/cultural movement and ID the concept. I agree that the ID political/cultural movement is connected to YEC. I disagree that ID the concept is connected to YEC (or OEC for that matter). Both YEC’s and OEC’s have rejected the concept of ID for a number of reasons, including, to name a couple, the fact that its arguments are based more on natural philosophy than on Scripture and the fact that ID refuses to speculate on the designer. ID the movement, on the other hand, tries to be a “big tent” and so says very little in the media and elsewhere about things like the age of the earth. They don’t want to exclude political/cultural allies by taking an official, public stance on the age of the earth. But when writing about ID the concept, somebody like Behe has no problem saying he accepts an old earth and common descent. YEC’s deny both of those. And I never said that I like “resistence movements.” (I hope my previous comments suggested that I in fact don’t like the ID political/cultural movement.) What I do say is that I think alternative theories are generally good for science. There is a huge difference.

  30. No, I was not talking about the specific use of the term. I briefly mentioned in a parenthetical something about the term itself – other than that, I was talking about the concept. Furthermore, I tried to add some nuance to the conversation by distinguishing between 3 meanings of the term (i.e., 3 concepts behind the term) – 2 modern meanings and 1 very old meaning. The modern concepts that I mentioned were 1) the rule that we can’t talk about the “supernatural” in science and 2) that scientists should do science as if there were no God. I then talked about the former concept and how it is a very new concept. I then wrote brief paragraph about the concept of prefering for natural causes over supernatural causes. This, I believe, was the concept you were referring to. I didn’t really have a problem with this concept – I merely pointed out that there were many reasons why people started to adopt this concept as part of science. This is a very old idea and it is a much different idea than what I had talked about in the previous paragraph. As I said, I don’t really have a problem with the old concept of a “preference for natural causes” (a very old concept). I have a huge problem with ruling out the supernatural a priori (a very new concept), though. And your reply to all this was (to paraphrase) “The people I work with would say you were wrong if they were here.” I hope you can see why I found this disappointing. I fully admit I could be wrong and if I am wrong I truly would like to know it – but much more importantly I would want to know why I am wrong. You asked “Do we need a competing matter theory?”I think it would be great for science if there were one, but there don’t seem to be too many candidates. If somebody were to try to develop one, I wouldn’t have any objections and I’d probably root for it in the same way that I do ID. I haven’t said anything about “rebellion,” so I’m not really sure where you are going with that. I’m not advocating that.

  31. Neil,You are going to have to do more than appeal to authority to convince me that I am mistaken. I find it highly disappointing that you would do such a thing. And please read what I wrote carefully. I made a big distinction between 1) methodological naturalism as most people think of it today (a rule that scientists must follow) and 2) the preference for searching for natural causes. 1) is very recent and 2) is quite old. My first paragraph of my previous response is about the problems with 1). My second paragraph is about the reasons people did 2).

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