I am currently in the middle of the conference and I decided to go ahead and post my notes from the conference thus far. I have enjoyed it and I think it is great that the speakers open up the floor for questions after each session. Please note that these are my notes and typos are likely to be found as I have not edited them. Also, the yellow highlights are courtesy of my typing the notes in Google Docs.

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Science and Faith Conference

Session 1- Dr. Jay Richards
A Biblical Theology of Nature
  • Three Distinct Things
    • Intelligent Design (ID)
    • Natural Theology
    • Theology of Nature
  • ID
    • The activities of intelligent agency are sometimes detectable
    • Nature exhibits evidence of intelligent agency
    • ID is not robustly theological
      • It is not the claim that there is a God, but it is possible the some aspects of nature exhibit design. This is is the presupposition of ID so that it can remain open to the evidences of nature.
  • Natural Theology
    • “Theology is properly distinguished as natural and revealed. The former is concerned with the facts of nature so far as they reveal God and our relation to him, and the latter with the facts of Scripture.” -Charles Hodge
    • There are certain things you cannot learn about God without the text of Scripture, however you can also learn things about God by studying nature.
    • General and Special Revelation
    • Movement of the mind from the created order to certain theological conclusions
  • The book of nature (Ps 19: 1-4)
    • General (El)
    • Continuous
    • Abundant
    • Universal
    • In Scripture- Romans 1:20- “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”
  • What about materialism?
    • “The Cosmos is all there is, or ever was, or ever will be.”- Carl Sagan
    • Sagan was attributing things that theology applies to God, to the cosmos
    • The theological answer to Sagan can be found in Romans 1:21 ff.
    • The created world clearly reveals something about the eternal qualities and divine nature of the creator.
    • Because of sin we attribute things that ought to be attributed to God, to the created order.
  • Theology of Nature
    • Themes
      • Creation and Contingency- The existence of the natural world is not necessary and is the result of the free choice of God
      • Imago Dei– Man is created in the image of God
      • Stewardship- We are part of the created order and are to care for it and will be held accountable for our care of it. Humans are a part of God’s created order and are not a parasite as radical environmentalists would have us believe
      • The Fall
      • The Trinity
      • Incarnation
Session 2- Dr. Michael Keas
The Role of Christianity in the Founding of Modern Science
Intelligent Design in Ancient Greek Science
  • Socrates
  • Plato
  • Aristotle
  • We have pagans who espouse some form of intelligent design with the above Greeks
ID and the Early Church
  • Nature has certain features that can only be attributed to science
  • Theophilus– “God is known by his works and mighty deeds”
  • Tertullian– Argued that orderly celestial motions point to a “governing power”
  • Clement of Alexandria- Greek philosophy is “a stepping-stone to the philosophy which is according to Christ.”
  • Augustine- a Christian “should understand that wherever he may find truth, it in his Lord’s.”
    • He used Greek science to help interpret the Bible and also developed and contributed to Greek science
Creational Theology Stimulated the Growth of Science
  • Comprehensibitly of the World
  • Optimist and humility in knowing nature
  • The unity of heaven and earth- both heaven and earth decay
  • Nature has a qualified self-sufficiency due God’s granting of natural laws. It still depends upon God.
  • The university was a Christian invention
  • The scientific revolution was possible because of many discoveries made by Christians during “the Dark Ages”
Common Myths About Science and Christianity
  • Medieval churchmen thought the earth was flat
    • Medieval people know the earth spherical
    • This myth started with Washington Irving’s novel that portrayed Columbus fighting against the flat-earth theologians
    • The real debate with Columbus was not about the shape of the earth but about the size of the earth (he thought it was much smaller than it was)
    • No one before the 1830s believes that Medieval people thought the earth was flat. Defenders of Darwin wanted to put Christians to shame and called them “flat earthers
  • Copernicus wanted to remove Christians from the center of universe
    • Copernican principle- There is nothing special about earth and we have no purpose
    • The problem is that Copernicus did not believe in the Copernican Principle
    • Copernicus actually promoted earth. He promoted earth into the heavens. To the ancient Greeks the center, where the earth was located, was seen as a lowly location. Thus, Copernicus actually promoted earth from its place on bottom in Greek cosmology.
    • Kepler argued that the universe was designed for discovery. If the earth was the center of the universe, the triangulation for measuring the length between distant objects would not have been possible.
Christianity’s Role in the Origin of Origin Sciences
  • Two goals of science
    • How things work
    • How things originated
Conclusions about the Rise of Science
  • Christianity was a leading factor in the rise of modern science
  • Other religions contributed, especially Islam, but the accelerated growth of science since the 16th century took place within Christian cultures
Session 3- Dr. John West

The Rise of Scientific Materialism and Its Impact on Ethics and Culture

Materialism
  • Origins
    • Dates back to the ancient Greeks
Darwin and the rise of scientific materialism
  • Darwin proposed a “designer substitute”
  • All things descended from a universal, common ancestor
  • All creatures are produced by a blind, impersonal material process of natural selection acting on random variations
  • “Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind.”- George Gaylord Simpson
  • Darwin, in Descent of Man and his personal notebooks, describes what he believed to be the ramifications of his theory
    • Darwin and the problem of free will
      • “The general delusion about free will [is] obvious.”- Darwin did not believe his system allowed for free will. It was all hereditary and interactions with the environment that formed people and ultimately people have no free will. Ultimately this would make morality pointless because humans would ultimately have no real control.
    • Darwin and the origins of morality
      • Darwin argued that evolution lead to things like sympathy and the Golden Rule
      • Moral rules are ultimately determined by reproductive success
      • Morality was ultimately determined by natural selection
      • Acts that lead to survival of more healthy offspring became enshrined as moral rules
      • Problem- any practice in nature can be justified in this way. Whatever exists by definition must have contributed to reproductive success. Moreover, any time conditions for survival change, so do moral rules
    • Darwin and the Basis of Human Dignity
      • What is so special about humans?
      • “There is no fundamental difference between man and the higher mammals in their mental faculties.” -Darwin
      • There are significant differences in the mental faculties of “men of distinct races.”- Darwin
      • Believed natural selection explained why racial inequalities should be expected
      • Darwin believed, in the Descent of Man, that black people were the closest to apes
      • Darwin believed it was fortunate that natural selection would kill off the weakest in society despite the best efforts of society to help save them and rehabilitate them
      • “Man like very other animal, has no doubt advanced to his present high condition through a struggle for existence consequent on his rapid multiplication; and if he is to advance still higher he must remain subject to a severe struggle.”- Darwin, Descent of Man
Ideas Have Consequences
  • Crime and Punishment
    • What happens if people do accept Darwin’s view of free will as being a myth?
    • Leupold/Lobe case defended by Clarence Darrow- Darrow argued they murdered due to their “making” and the imperfectness of their “machine” thanks to hereditary issues
    • Fueled liberal crusades to abolish punishment and treat criminals more like patients to be cured (i.e. lobotomies)
  • Family life and sexuality
    • Darwin thought that marriage, like all human behaviors, is just another evolving product of the struggle to survive
    • Monogamous marriage might have made sense in 19th century England, but that does not mean it has always been that way or will continue to be that way
    • There is nothing sacrosanct about monogamous marriage as the preferred form of human mating
    • Alfred Kinsey was a Darwinian zoologist at Harvard- sexual ethics reduced to “normal mammalian behavior”
      • “The main trauma for molestation come from societies reaction to it.”
    • Floyd Martinson (Sex Education in the Eighties) suggested that molestation could be a positive experience the sexual development of children
  • Sanctity and value of life
    • Charles Davenport, Evolutionary Geneticist- Influenced eugenics movement
    • Eugenics- the self direction of human evolution
      • Did want the human race to be destroyed by bypassing natural selection and helping the weak
      • Eugenics was to help natural selection by improving human beings through breeding by encouraging the breeding of the genetically superior and discouraging the breeding of those deemed inferior
  • Impact of eugenics on public policy
    • Peter Singer- “The life of a newborn baby is of less value than the life of a pig or a chimpanzee”
Darwin and Religion
  • If Darwinian evolution is true, it makes atheism far more plausible
  • Richard Dawkins– “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.”
“A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question.”- Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species– Dr. West used this to point out the mean-spirited and ad hominem attacks of Darwinists on ID people and how they go against even Darwin who would have encouraged a rigorous and intellectually honest debate.
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Posted by: Mr. C | August 19, 2009

Darwinism’s Banned Words

Apparently there have been some efforts to remove even the slightest hints of questions from textbooks that Darwinism might be false.

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Darwin Lobbyists Urge Ban on “Dangerous” Words in State Science Standards

-John West

If you needed more evidence that the Darwin lobby wants to turn science education into little more than unquestioned propaganda, take a look at the outlandish new “study” evaluating state science standards published by two officials of the National Center for Science Education, the leading Darwin-only lobbying group. Published by a journal devoted to the one-sided teaching of evolution, the article by Louise Mead and Anton Mates condemns various states for filling their science standards with “dangerous” words and “creationist jargon.”

Just what are these “dangerous” words that must be banned?

“Assess,” “Analyze,” “Evaluate,” and “Critique.”

No, I’m not kidding.

Evolutionists typically claim that the evidence for modern Darwinism is “overwhelming.” But they act as if they know that the evidence is so shaky that the slightest whiff of open discussion will topple the theory, and they are working overtime to prevent students and teachers from being able to evaluate the evidence for themselves.

Increasingly, the Darwinists’ justification for shutting down open inquiry by students and teachers is the patronizing insistence that high school students are too infantile to be allowed to discuss things like adults. In the words of Mead and Mates: “Expecting high school biology students to be able to evaluate evolutionary theory is no more reasonable than expecting high school physics students to evaluate quantum field theory. If students had the necessary knowledge and skills to make such judgments, there would be little reason for college science courses!” Rubbish. If high school students are capable of understanding the arguments and evidence for evolutionary theory, then they should be able to understand—and rationally discuss—scientific criticisms of modern evolutionary theory.

At some point, reasonable people outside the Darwin lobby are going to realize that the real threat to science education in America isn’t coming from proponents of intelligent design or other critics of Neo-Darwinism. It’s coming from the Darwinists themselves, who are trying to replace the scientific method in science classrooms with unthinking dogmatism and learning by rote.

Posted by John West (at http://www.evolutionnews.org/2009/08/darwin_lobbyists_urge_ban_on_d.html) on August 12, 2009

Posted by: Mr. C | August 19, 2009

Does Science Really Have Laws?- D’Souza

Here is are some interesting thoughts from Dinesh D’Souza about “scientific laws.” Really, how concrete are those scientific laws that many people hold to? Just something to think about…

Does Science Really Have Laws?

Dinesh D'Souza

Posted Sep 24th 2008 7:15PM by Dinesh D’Souza
Filed under: Science, Religion, Controversy

Does science really have laws? The proposition that it does is at the root of the argument that science is based on undisputed “facts” while religion is based on subjective “values.” Moreover, if science has laws that are known to be incorrigible, then miracles would seem to be impossible.

So what exactly are scientific laws and what degree of certainty can we attach to them? This question was raised in a recent email I received. “My question concerns your summation of Hume’s position concerning scientific laws,” the writer says. In my book on Christianity, I cited Hume to make the point that “no finite number of observations, however large, can be used to derive an unrestricted general conclusion that is logically defensible.”

This raised for my correspondent the following question: “How do you suppose a modern-day Hume would answer someone who points out that all humans are made from DNA? Surely he would not be so stubborn as to insist on the possibility that there are a few of us walking around without DNA. What say you?”

Here is my answer. Consider the proposition that all life forms–including all humans–are made from DNA. Hume would say this is not a “law.” Rather, it is an observation based on common experience and testing. The reason we cannot speak of a “law” is that we haven’t checked every human and every life form that has ever existed to ensure that every one is made of DNA.

So where do we get this so-called “law”? And where do we get other laws, such as Newton’s inverse square law or the law that says “light travels at the speed of 186,000 miles per second in a vacuum”? Hume would argue that we have measured many humans and other life forms and found DNA and therefore we infer that all humans and other life forms are made of DNA. Similarly we have measured the speed of light frequently and from this we derive the idea that light always and everywhere travels at the same speed.

Hume’s point is not to deny the practical utility of these conclusions, but to deny that we know something as a law just because we have measured it many, many times. As Hume writes in his Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, from the proposition “I have found that such an object has always been attended with such an effect,” it is impossible to derive the conclusion, “I forsee that other objects which are in appearance similar, will be attended with similar effects.” Logically, Hume notes, this is a non-sequitur.

In particular, just because we have measured light at a given speed a hundred or a thousand or ten million times doesn’t mean that light always and everywhere travels at that speed. How do we know that on a distant star, light travels at the same speed as it does here? In truth, we do not know. Along the same lines, if tomorrow a life form was located on, say, Mars, and this life form did not contain DNA, we could no longer hold that all life forms are made of DNA.

From this we can conclude that: scientific laws are not really “laws” but merely generalizations based on previous tries. Once we recognize this we see why miracles are entirely within the realm of scientific possibility. Since we cannot name a single empirical scientific law that is in principle inviolable, we cannot rule out deviations from these so-called laws. I’m not arguing for the validity of this or that miracle. I’m simply saying that the idea that these things cannot happen is based on an ignorance of what science shows and doesn’t show.

Hume, generally regarded as an exploder of metaphysics, was also an exploder of the pretensions of scientific knowledge. Recognizing the power of Hume’s argument, the philosopher Karl Popper conceded that science is incapable of “verifying” truth; it can merely “falsify” hypotheses and thus (we hope) draw us a little closer to truth. This truth, however, remains elusive, just over the horizon. The biblical notion that “we see through a glass darkly” turns out not to be theological hocus-pocus but a clear-eyed summary of the human situation.

Posted by: Mr. C | June 8, 2008

Temporary Leave of Absence

Hello readers,

Due to my job situation this summer, I will be unable to update this blog as much. I will do my best to post occasionally, but it won’t be as regular as it has been in the past. Thanks for reading and I look forward to this fall when I can once again post regularly about topics related to Creationism and Intelligent Design.

Posted by: Mr. C | June 3, 2008

Biology without Ideology- Dinesh D’Souza

Here is another interesting post from Dinesh D’Souza that coincides with a previous post of one of his articles where he talks about science classrooms pushing an ideology.

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Biology Without Ideology

Posted Apr 8th 2008 9:01PM by Dinesh D’Souza
Filed under: Science, Christianity, Controversy, Atheism

Shouldn’t biology teachers and textbooks stick with science and leave metaphysical statements–especially statements implying or promoting atheism–out of the classroom? I have made a constitutional argument that they must, and some leading Christian groups are now reviewing this strategy. Meanwhile, atheists on this blog and elsewhere noisily contend that there is no problem, and that no one is peddling atheism in the name of science.

In this context it’s instructive to review a controversy generated several years ago by the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) when the group decided to remove the words “impersonal” and “unsupervised” from its position statement on the teaching of evolution. The NABT is a membership organization of thousands of teachers at the elementary, secondary and college levels. It has been in the forefront of legal battles against “creation science” and “intelligent design.”

The original statement said, “The diversity of life on earth is the result of evolution: an unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable and natural process of temporal descent with genetic modification that is affected by natural selection, historical contengencies, and changing environments.” And there it is: the official statement of the largest pro-evolution group of teachers smuggling metaphysical atheism into a scientific claim about evolution. Let’s remember that this metaphysical pronouncement appears in an instruction manual for science teachers nationwide. So much for atheist ideologues who say that this is not an issue for anyone to worry about.

Two thoughtful academics, philosopher Alvin Plantinga and theologian Huston Smith, noticed the problem and wrote the NABT. They pointed out that the vast majority of Americans believe that a personal agent, God, is responsible for both the universe and for life. What Christians object to is not the idea that the earth is old or that one life form has evolved into another; what they object to is the insinuation, using the authority of science, that Gd does not exist and that material reality is all that there is.

Plantinga and Huston noted that terms like “impersonal” and “unsupervised” are not scientific terms. “It is extremely hard to see how an empirical science such as biology could address such a theological question as whether a process like evolution is or isn’t directed by God. How could an empirical inquiry possibly show that God was not guiding and directing evolution?”

The NABT board found the argument persuasive, and decided to drop the two unscientific terms from its statement. At this point, a group of atheists, led by one Massimo Pigliucci, filed an open letter with more than 100 signatures accusing the NABT of bowing to religious pressure. But Eugenie Scott, writing on behalf of the NABT, pointed out that the NABT’s decision was scientific and not political. Scott noted that making metaphysical claims about God’s existence or nonexistence “is venturing outside of what science can tell us.”

Atheists who were hoping to use the battering ram of evolution to attack religion were bitterly disappointed by this outcome. But this was one small episode: I’d like to see a coordinated strategy over the next several years to increase their dismay. Imagine the apoplexy in the God-hating camp if courts rule that atheist interpretations of evolution by scientists such as Richard Dawkins, William Provine, Steven Pinker, Douglas Futuyma and others have no place in the biology classroom! When atheism is the loser, science is the winner.

Posted by: Mr. C | June 3, 2008

Was Einstein an Atheist?

The recent surfacing of some documents that call into question Einstein’s belief in a higher power has caused an interesting battle as both sides of the atheist-theist debate try to claim this great scientist for their own side.

Dinesh D’Souza has a take on the argument that is worth checking out:

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Einstein’s God

Posted May 21st 2008 1:33PM by Dinesh D’Souza

Atheists seem very eager to claim Einstein for one of their own. Richard Dawkins devotes a whole section to Einstein in The God Delusion and Christopher Hitchens’ Portable Atheist is peppered with Einstein quotations seemingly rejecting all belief in God. Recently an Einstein letter surfaced which showed the great scientist scorning the idea that the Jews were in any sense God’s chosen people.

But all that these quotations prove is that Einstein was not an orthodox believer. He rejected the idea of a personal God “who would directly influence the actions of individuals or would sit in judgment on creatures of his own creation.” Einstein also rejeted the immortality of the soul, noting that “one life is enough for me.”

At the same time, Walter Isaacson in his celebrated new biography Einstein provides ample evidence that Einstein not only believed in a higher or transcendent power, but also that Einstein despised atheists. Here are some quotations, drawn from Isaacson’s book with full documentation, that I offer as a needed counterbalance to the one-sided list provided by Dawkins, Hitchens and the others.

On whether he considered himself religious: “Yes, you could call it that. Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature and you will find that, behind all the discernible laws and connections, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable. Veneration for this foce beyond anything we can comprehend is my religion.”

On whether he accepted the historical existence of Christ: “Unquestionably! No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.”

On whether he considered himself an atheist: “I’m not an atheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what that is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of the most intelligent human toward God.”

On the nature of God: “That deeply emotional conviction of a presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.”

On whether science leads to religion: “Every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of nature–a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort.”

On how religion motivates scientific inquiry: “The cosmic religious feeling is the strongest and noblest motive for scientific research.”

On whether science and religion are at odds: “The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

On how he feels about atheist efforts to claim him as an ally: “There are people who say there is no God, but what makes me really angry is that they quote me for support of such views.”

On how he regards atheists: “The fanatical atheists…are creatures who cannot he[a]r the music of the spheres. I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist. What separates me from most so-called atheists is a feeling of utter humility toward the unattainable secrets of the harmony of the cosmos.”

Posted by: Mr. C | June 1, 2008

The Real Problem with Darwinism- Dinesh D’Souza

D’Souza presents an interesting take on how prevent the proliferation of atheism in the guise of science in the public school classroom.

Full text follows:

The real problem with Darwinism in the public school classroom is that it is often taught in an atheist way. Textbooks by biologists like William Provine and Richard Dawkins routinely assert that evolution has done away with the need for God. The claim is that chance and natural selection have demonstrated that we can have design–or the appearance of design–without a designer. In this sense Darwinism becomes propaganda for atheism.

Typically evangelical Christians seek to counter this atheism by trying to expose the flaws in the Darwinian account of evolution. This explains the appeal of “creation science” and the “intelligent design” (ID) movement. These critiques, however, have not made any headway in the scientific community and they have also failed whenever they have been tried in the courts. Fortunately there is a better way.


Consider this: the First Amendment to the Constitution prohibits public schools from teaching or promoting atheism in any way. How do I know this? Well, the religion clauses of the First Amendment protect the “free exercise” of religion and at the same time forbid the “establishment” of religion. Courts have routinely held that the free exercise clause protects not only religious beliefs but also the absence of religious beliefs. If you are fired from your government job because you are an atheist, your First Amendment rights have been violated. In other words, the term “religion” means not only “religion” but also “atheism.”

Yet if the free exercise clause defines religion in a way that includes atheism, then the no-establishment clause must define religion in the same way. So the agencies of government are prohibited from “establishing” not only religion but also atheism. This means that just as a public school teacher cannot advocate Christianity or hand out Bibles to his students, so too public school textbooks and science teachers cannot advocate atheism.

I’d like to see Christian legal groups suing school districts for promoting atheism in the biology classroom. No need to produce creationist or ID critiques of Darwinism. All that is necessary is to parade the atheist claims that have made their way into the biology textbooks and biology lectures. The issue isn’t the scientific inadequacy of evolution but the way in which it is being used to undermine religious belief and promote unbelief. If the case can be made that atheism is being advocated in any way, then the textbooks would have to be rewritten and classroom presentations changed to remove the offending material. Schools would be on notice that they cannot use scientific facts to draw metaphysical conclusions in favor of atheism.

In this way Darwinism in the public schools would no longer be a threat to religion in general or Christianity in particular.

Posted by: Mr. C | June 1, 2008

Evolution Failing as a Theory of Everything?

This is an interesting post from Uncommon Descent that references some articles worth checking out about the downfall of evolution as an all-encompassing theory that explains everything.

Full text follows:

Christian commentator Dinesh D’Souza has recently been arguing that the real problem with Darwinism in the classroom is that it is used to promote atheism. Today,

I noticed he had an interesting item in TotheSource, which is not yet archived, talking about Darwin’s own agnosticism-bordering-on-atheism. I have elsewhere pointed out that Darwinism has always been sold primarily as the creation story of atheism.

And with good reason. If we survey the patterns in the actual history of life from the Ediacaran period to the present, given what we know today, it is most unlikely that we would credit Darwin’s theory of natural selection acting on random mutations with explaining how most of it happened.
.
That is why I was somewhat impatient with D’Souza’s contention that we need only prevent people from using Darwinism as a tool of atheism and everything will be fine. (See “Earth to planet D’Souza.”*)

The reality is that right now, scientists seem to be trying to dump Darwin’s theory as a theory of everything in biology, yet the secular chants of praise for Darwin have increased in volume in the popular media – competing with a flood tide of nonsense from evolutionary psychologists, flogging to journals material that, if only it were well written and a little more plausible, might have morphed into saleable “Clan of the Cave Bear” fiction. For that sort of thing, Darwin’s theory is far more essential than it is for biology.

Posted by: Mr. C | May 16, 2008

Intelligent Design and Scientific Method

One of the common criticisms against ID is that it fails to use the scientific method. I was skimming through an ID website that I hadn’t visited before and found this useful article that lays out the scientific method used by ID researchers.

Here is an excerpt:

Many critics of intelligent design have argued that design is merely a negative argument against evolution.
This could not be further from the truth. Leading design theorist William Dembski has observed that “[t]he
principle characteristic of intelligent agency is directed contingency, or what we call choice.”1 By
observing the sorts of choices that intelligent agents commonly make when designing systems, a positive
case for intelligent design is easily constructed by elucidating predictable, reliable indicators of design.

Design can be inferred using the scientific method of observation, hypothesis, experiment, and conclusion.
Design theorists begin with observations of how intelligent agents act when designing, to help them
recognize and detect design in the natural world. – Casey Luskin

Posted by: Mr. C | May 16, 2008

The Case Against Intelligent Design Fails

This is an interesting article written in the opinion section of the Register-Guard Newspaper in Eugene, OR. The author, Norm Fox, presents a solid argument against some claims that Richard Dawkins has made.

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Case against intelligent design fails

Published: May 4, 2008 12:00AM


The universe either made itself or it was made. Any argument supporting either alternative automatically opposes the other. This is why neither of these competing cosmogonies can be honestly advanced without at least contemplating its opposite, either philosophically or scientifically.

The alleged third alternative, that all physical reality oscillates eternally through cycles of disintegration and reorganization, is purely metaphysical and not subject to scientific examination since we are, as far as we can tell, in the relentless grip of a universe-wide atrophy arc.

Richard Dawkins’ essay “Creationists haven’t got a chance against aliens” (Commentary, April 27) claims to offer arguments against the universe having been made by a creative intelligence outside itself. Thus by default (since he makes no mention of the oscillating universe hypothesis) he is arguing for a self-created universe without quite confessing so. As a dogmatically atheistic evolutionist and author of the book “The God Delusion,” he is defending the only position his worldview will allow.

Dawkins’ principal strategy, consuming roughly half of his essay, is to focus on “directed panspermia,” (aka “exogenesis”), the irrelevant notion that life on Earth was “seeded” by life forms residing elsewhere in the universe. It’s irrelevant as a theory of the origin of life, of course, because it does not account for life’s origin at all but merely pushes the problem further out in the universe, and I have never heard a creationist advocate it. I’ve heard it proposed by evolutionists, most of whom discuss it seriously but admit its inadequacy to account for ultimate origins. Dawkins tries to turn this tangent into evidence that creationist arguments are dishonest.

His own argument, meanwhile, climaxes in the assertion that a complex, eternal creator is no more conceivable than complex, eternal flagellar motors. Proponents of intelligent design would retort that they can rationally distinguish the likelihood of an eternal creator from the improbability of an eternal product. Still, Dawkins insists, “A creator god who has always existed would be far more improbable” than “visitations from distant star systems.”

Dawkins’ determination to render a creator “improbable” does not provide a compelling basis for treating an intellectually respectable issue — whether God exists — as if it were a question firmly settled in the negative. Observations that call into question the self-creative adequacy of the universe abound all across the natural sciences from astronomy to biochemistry to genetics to paleontology to zoology and back, but since arguments against atheistic evolution are automatically arguments for an intelligent designer, they are being censored with increasing fervor as a matter of public policy. Scholars who admit to the slightest suspicion that the universe did not generate and organize itself are often professionally intimidated (sometimes even “expelled”), casting a chill over scientific inquiry as it relates to origins.

Most scientists or laymen who conclude that intelligent design best explains the complexity of the universe do so not because they are, in Dawkins’ language, “lying for Jesus,” but because they have been impressed with the scientific evidences for design and/or have thought through a sequence of reasoning similar to the following:

1) Something is eternal. If there had ever been absolutely nothing, that condition would have persisted.

2) Biological life is evidently not eternal, being represented by organisms that without exception come from similar temporarily living organisms and then die.

3) Matter-energy is evidently not eternal, as it inescapably spends itself with every energy transaction at a net cost to the whole system. This process cannot have gone on eternally, because it would culminate in the eventual “heat death” of the universe in some finite amount of time (barring the oscillating universe mythology that belongs somewhere beyond science fiction).

4) Our consistent experience is that mind manipulates matter, not vice-versa, suggesting that an eternal mind having formed matter is more plausible than matter having created information-rich structures such as the human mind. Here, and with the next point, the “design demands a designer” argument fits.

5) Our consistent experience is that every effect must have an adequate cause. Thus, the universe viewed as a sequence of causes and effects points back to a first cause which is itself uncaused (see point No. 1 above). Just as logically, the universe viewed as a single huge effect also requires a sufficient cause outside itself.

The fact that these arguments are centuries old and have a venerable philosophical pedigree does not diminish their cogency or their relevance to a 21st century debate. Similarly, the existence of vigorous but time-worn rebuttals against these arguments cannot legitimately turn a two-sided issue into a closed question. The doctrinaire teaching of spontaneous macroevolution and the authoritarian stonewalling of intelligent design seeks to do exactly that by penalizing skepticism about the materialist world view and its central article of faith.

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