Shuck and Jive

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Aric's Feelin' Spunky

Thanks to Aric of Mined Splatterings for this gem on Intelligent Design. Bad boy, Aric, bad. I'm going to turn you in.


  1. And on that same note:

  2. Heh...:)

    We'd better wait until all the facts are in...

  3. "Aric's Feelin' Stupid" you mean. What anti-intellectual drivel....and you wonder why this crap has no traction outside of your choir room?

    a video on DNA Wrapping and Replication you might want to watch. Believing that the DNA replication system came about by accident is not science but alchemy.


  4. I agree with Jim. As far as I am concerned, it's far more difficult to believe that the universe came about by accident than to believe that it was created by design.

  5. Thus the point where intuition and belief fails and science begins.

  6. "This crap [you mean the scientific theory of Evolution?] has no traction out side of your choir room."

    That's actually pretty funny...

  7. By "this crap" I was [obviously] referring to the cartoon, not evolution. There are many scientific aspects of evolution. There is also much Elmer's Glue and silly putty holding stuff together.
    Humility and open minds are better than arrogance and puerile posturing.

    P.S. - I always try to be funny in some way. Thanks.

  8. Jim,

    Hello. It's always a pleasant feeling to discover you're being maligned in the comment threads of another person's blog for something you didn't produce and with such stunning intellectual acumen.

    Science isn't interested in belief. The cartoon is making fun, rightfully, of people who want to pass something off as science which so patently is not. ID is not a theory. It is not scientific. It is not testable or repeatable. There are no experiments you can conduct to prove the existence of a "designer". It is, at best, philosophical extrapolation. Just as we wouldn't teach something as completely unscientific as "the Stork" in biology class, so we shouldn't be teaching things like ID which the best thing it's proponents can say about it is "it's more believable".

    As a theologian, I am appalled actually by ID, which tries to reduce God down to something we can "observe". God is no such thing. To such absurd natural theology I am with Barth saying, "Nein!" ID is neither salvageable as science or as theology. It will go down in history the way of angelology and Limbo - quirky ideas religious people thought up when they had nothing better to do.

  9. Aric,

    Nicely put. Personally I consider ID a religious heresy.

  10. Hello Aric
    You say that It's always a pleasant feeling to discover you're being maligned in the comment threads of another person's blog for something you didn't produce and with such stunning intellectual acumen.

    It's sounds like you should take issue with John for his title "Aric's Feelin' Spunky". I do apologize that I could not resist the spunky to stupid transition. Thanks for the "stunning intellectual acumen" commendation.

    There are no experiments you can conduct to prove the existence of a "designer".

    How can you prove the existence of "Natural Selection" then? Isn't that Evolution's Designer? Check out this article that explains "Why men who chase after younger women are just obeying natural selection". Can you not deny that this is bordering on stupidity? Does older men preferring younger women equal "Natural Selection"? If older men select younger, hotter women, than how can Natural Selection make the selection? What is the difference between obeying NATURAL SELECTION and obeying GOD?

    This begs the question, do you believe in Natural Selection or do you believe in God?

    My advice is to keep an open mind on that point. Fair enough?

    Aric**As a theologian, I am appalled actually by ID, which tries to reduce God down to something we can "observe".

    Are you kidding me? What we see in nature can't tell us anything about God? Gimme a break. Nature is the Other Book.

    And Jodie, why is ID a "religious heresy"? I guess I'm playing Devil's Advocate but I see an orthodoxy here that doesn't stand up to scrutiny. You're swallowing the Evolution pill whole without washing it down with the 8 oz. of truth serum that might keep you from choking. Here's to better days.

  11. OK, I said this when I first started bloging with John. If we replace the word belief with presuppositions then I think we can say that science and the scientific method has presuppositions. The primary one is that experiments can be repeatable. In other words there is order in the universe. The scientific method rules out the category of miracle as something it cannot study. But honest scientists must admit that science cannot say that miracles can't happen because their presuppositions say they don't study miracles.

    Having said that, as a Christian I believe that the universe was created by God and is sustained by God. Whether scientists can say that it is more probable that some agent is behind the start of the universe (such as the timing of the Big Bang), and the gravity that allows stars and planets to develop and some particular life forms requiring that outside agent to put together certain parts of organisms I have to say is outside of my expertise. I'll leave that to the scientists to discuss.

    One concern I have is the attempt by some apologists for the "things just happened" viewpoint is that they are in fact making theological statements. When those apologist claim that science proves this they are not really doing science. They are making faith statements. Another concern is the attempt by some to equate young earth creationists with ID people. There is a distinct difference.

    Still I claim that God created the universe. And I make that as a faith statement.

  12. Well said Bob, but I'm not sure I agree with you that ID and Creationists are distinctly different. If nothing else, their advocates are united in the goal of removing evolution from the classrooms. This is not a new thing, but its a shame the debate hasn't evolved more than this after all this time. The infamous Scopes Monkey Trial (1925) was in Tennessee, and our state (and others) still to this day has people who would like to remove or undermine the teaching of evolution. To me, Intelligent Design looks like Creationism wrapped up in a new dress with the same goal; to counter and remove the theory of evolution in our education system, and that's the problem.

  13. Wow... just when I think that Jim can't surprise me anymore, he goes and tries to show us that he's not only not Presbyterian but not a Christian.

    When and where and under what system of theology did "Nature" become "the Other Book"? A statement like that would be considered heretical in most Christian churches.

    I'm not sure what Jim's point is with the video on DNA wrapping. Yes, it's amazing to consider how this goes on billions of times a second in a body. However, those who think that this process, refined over a period of billions of years, is a natural one do not think that it happened by accident one Thursday afternoon. This took a loooooooooooooooooooong time to happen (BTW, one of the strong evidences for evolution is mitochondrial DNA--it points to the mitochondrion having been an independent single-cell organism at one point. Why would God/Intelligent Designer waste DNA like this?). If you can't understand something, it doesn't mean that something is immediately proof of God's existence. And besides, isn't the cornerstone of Christian life FAITH?

    An honest Christian doesn't need to find proof of God's existence, as s/he knows s/he will never be able to prove that God exists. It's that bit of a blind leap that makes belief even more remarkable and precious. In my experience, those Christians who need to be able to show others "proof" of God are those with faiths on the shakiest foundations. Those whose faith is tested and questioned usually end up with the strongest faith.

    It's what I get from John's references to the Jesus Project: if I were to be presented with incontrovertible proof that Jesus was completely human and never resurrected, would I have to stop loving God and neighbor? For me, the answer is absolutely not.

    The point of the cartoon (which is a good one) is exposing the false dichotomy. There is not a legitimate debate amongst credible biologists and paleontologists about whether life evolved over billions of years or if an "Intelligent Designer" (i.e., God) created the whole thing. The existence of God cannot (and IMO should not, see above) be scientifically disproven or proven, and therefore it cannot be accepted, scientifically, as a mechanism for change over time. Natural selection, on the other hand, can be observed and tested as ONE OF (not the only, Jim) mechanisms that generate change over time.

    Little tangential rant: No rational person I know, be they Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, atheist or agnostic, thinks that Natural Selection is a god. It's a false equivalency: because you think that the mechanism that drives change over time is God, therefore I MUST think that one of the mechanisms that drives change over time is a god. I don't think that Natural Selection is a god, no more than I think gravity is. However, I know that absent other factors, an object dropped near the Earth's surface will fall at a rate of 32 feet per second per second, and there's precious little that will change that. Like the theory of gravity, the theory of evolution is simply a scientific (i.e., testable) way of explaining why things behave the way they do. I can be a Christian and still accept the Darwinian theory of evolution.

    Back to my final point. I just finished American Fascists by Chris Hedges (himself a son of a Presbyterian minister and onetime seminary student), and he makes the good point about how the right is now adopting "liberal-sounding" reasons for advancing their agendae on the public. "Let's be openminded", "let's hear both sides", "people can agree to disagree" etc. are being used to peddle lies as truth. The news media falls nicely into the trap in the name of "balance" (the journalism school archetype is that if you have someone on who says "Hitler was a murderous tyrant", balance dictates that the next person has to say "Hitler was a saint"). It gets the foot in the door for religious dogma clumsily disguised as science. It's not just bad for science, it's bad for religion.

  14. Flycondescension wrote When and where and under what system of theology did "Nature" become "the Other Book"?

    Psalm 19, Genesis 1 and 2, Psalm 139, Romans 8 et al.

    BTW, if faith is all we need, then where does reason fit in? Abraham and his ilk asked serious questions about God. They wanted to see evidence of God's existence and His character. Our faith is in His promises, that aspect we cannot see.

    I do not understand how you can believe that God created everything and have nothing in common with folks who believe God created everything. The pivot point for you seems to be that one "cannot say" for sure. Doesn't sound like a big fulcrum.

  15. Jim said: This begs the question, do you believe in Natural Selection or do you believe in God?

    Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeep. Wrong. No good. Cue to Ret. Gen. John Singlaub's comment, "Are you stupid or a Communist?" Cue up W's famous "You're either with us or with the terrorists" comment.

    Says who? Cutting such an argument down to those two choices is like whittling a redwood to make a toothpick.

    Bottom line: it is just as easy (for me, anyway) to accept that evolution has "just happened" to turn everything out this way (so far) as it is to believe that a supreme, all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful being can "just happen" and then make all this stuff up. And that is precisely where faith comes in.

  16. Good point, snad, but I think you overlooked the next line, My advice is to keep an open mind on that point. Fair enough?
    I believe what we see as "Natural Selection" is the result of God's handiwork.

    I should mention that the problem with the cartoon and the mentality it represents is that there is nothing the ID proponent could say that the cartoonist would listen to. However, there are many excellent scientists who support ID. For one example, check out Uncommon Descent.

    In scientific inquiry we try to find the causes of a variety of effects so we can get a clearer picture of our natural history. When we study a newly discovered fossil, we ask questions like "how did it breathe?" or "how did it see?" This is a tip to how CREATures are designed. ID is first and foremost an idea that we are searching for a purpose behind the mystery that may lead us to more discovery. Having read much of pro-ID scientists, I am very comnfortable with the level of humility in them. In contrast, 6-day Creationists have an arrogant "my interpretation or Hell" attitude. They are closer in mindset to this cartoonist IMO.

    There's a lot more to this discussion than your typical "us vs. them/ Left vs. Right" approach, flycandler. My complaint was with the childishness of the cartoon in dealing with a serious and exciting debate. The cartoonist is embarrassingly uninformed.

    As history proves, one age's science is another age's alchemy, so we should show humility and caution in what we claim to be scientific fact. That's my point in a nutshell. Chris Hedges makes a lot of good points in his book about the conservative Christian elite, but you shouldn't slam ID out of a fear that Pat Robertson will pull 6-day creationism out of a hat and force it on our kids. There is a difference.

  17. Oh, Jim, you are so predictable. Fly off the handle, distort what others say, and just say something absolutely bizarre just for the sheer hell of it.

    First, none of the passages you brought up say that observation of "Nature" is in any way some sort of divine revelation of the Word of God. "Nature" is not canon, and it's very likely that such a claim would (for instance) bar you from ordination in most Presbyterian denominations, even the fallen PC(USA).

    I'm not even sure what your point is about my "pivot point" (other than possibly saying "heh heh, my fulcrum is bigger than your fulcrum"). I find it sad that you place so little value on faith. Christ himself did in fact have a lot to say on the subject (Mk 11.22-5, Luke 17.5-6, etc), and often during the telling of the healing miracles, Jesus says something along the lines of "go, your faith has made you well".

    The cartoon makes its point, and does it well, and I feel that you, Jim, are missing it. "Intelligent Design" is on its face an unscientific hypothesis. It presupposes a supernatural intelligence that cannot be proven or disproven through experimentation or observation. The difference between "intelligent design" and 6-day Creationism is only in degree. It is fundamentally incompatible with the concept of scientific inquiry. Especially in the context of a public school setting, it is harmful in the way it pollutes the students' basic understanding of the Scientific Method. "Intelligent Design" has no place in an intelligent discussion about science because it is inherently unscientific. I have no idea who all these "excellent scientists" are, but I imagine that few or none have much experience or credibility in the areas of biology or paleontology. There are in fact people who believe in magic, in astrology, in alchemy, and they do provide a satisfying (to some) alternative explanation for quantum physics, astronomy, and chemistry. However, we do not teach astrology, alchemy or magic in science classrooms because they are not scientific. If you want to teach about them in a humanities class to explain their significance in art and literature, fine. Just don't foist the false dichotomies on us.

  18. Sigh

    I'm not usually the voice of reason but I'm going to try again. The Scientific Method is built on certain assumptions. The central assumption is that experiments are repeatable. A miracle of any kind by definition cannot be studied by science because it cannot be reliably repeated.

    Therefore to say that there is no force behind the development of the universe, intelligent or not, that makes the things we observe happen is to make a faith statement. The reverse is also truth. You cannot get to "it just happened" or "the God of Israel made it all" by the scientific method.

    Can we all agree on that?

    The question that honest advocates of Intelligent Design (those who don't have a particular religious ax to grind) examine is the probability of something just happening as compared to whether something or someone made it happen. One example is the nature of gravity in our universe. If they are honest they cannot say that there is definitely an intelligent force behind the way the universe and developed. They can only talk about probabilities.

    And yes, rational people without a religious ax to grind have been persuaded by certain scientific data that it is more probable that there is a force or intelligence that at the very least started the universe on its path. Anthony Flew, the great atheist philosopher has been so persuaded.

    As for me, I'm not a astrophysicist or a microbiologist. Therefore I have no right to an opinion on the subject as science. As a person of faith I can say that I believe that God created the universe and sustains it. And anyone who says that science proves that it just happened or that God did it steps outside the realm of science into the realm of faith statements.

    So can we all play a little nicer and admit that none of us are omniscient?

  19. flycandler writes
    Oh, Jim, you are so predictable. Fly off the handle, distort what others say, and just say something absolutely bizarre just for the sheer hell of it.

    Surly, you can't be serious...

    Especially in the context of a public school setting, it is harmful in the way it pollutes the students' basic understanding of the Scientific Method.

    Wow, this idea of a Creator is bad stuff! If our kids leave public schools not knowing how to read, write, or think rationally (which is the case), that's OK as long as their knowledge of the Scientific Method is intact! [OK, sarcasm, don't cry]

    You obviously didn't go to Uncommon Descent and read a little. You have no clue as to who or what you're talking about when it comes to ID. But that's Ok, pomposity covers a multitude of sins!

    Here is a statement from Uncommon Descent.

    Materialistic ideology has subverted the study of biological and cosmological origins so that the actual content of these sciences has become corrupted. The problem, therefore, is not merely that science is being used illegitimately to promote a materialistic worldview, but that this worldview is actively undermining scientific inquiry, leading to incorrect and unsupported conclusions about biological and cosmological origins.

    That sounds more like common sense than Alchemy to me. You need to think outside your bubble, my friend. Good day.

  20. My complaint was with the childishness of the cartoon in dealing with a serious and exciting debate.

    Actually, the point of the cartoon was that there is no debate. It was a brilliant spoof of the fallacy by those who try to give credibility to nonscience by putting it on a par with legitimate science and then proclaiming that there is a "debate" between them, and that both sides should be treated equally, and therefore children in schools should be given "both" sides so they can decide.

    Velikovsky and Lysenko also screamed out to be put on a par with legitimate science. Just because there are people who disagree with legitimate science, that doesn't mean that science is involved in any serious "debate" over their claims.

    That is to say, it is as nonsensical to give "both sides" of the so-called evolution debate as it is to give "both sides" of the astronomy versus astrology debate. Those who object to evolution are akin to those who object to any other of the foundations of modern science and who are stuck in a superseded paradigm. The cartoon made this point wonderfully.

    And since we know that there is no contradiction whatsoever between evolution and belief in God or in divine participation in the creation of the world or of life, then the idea that evolution is inherently "materialistic" is also a fallacy. But that's another matter altogether.

  21. Again, Jim, it's just all too predictable.

    I did not say that children should not be taught about a Creator. However, that is the job of the churches, not the biology teachers. If churches are doing so badly at religious education, why should they foist the responsibility on the public school system? The problem with mixing religion and government is that often you don't get the religion you want mixed in. Would you want your kids being indoctrinated in Islam in a science class at taxpayer expense?

    I agree completely that we have to teach our kids critical thinking skills, and learning the scientific method is a crucial part of that.

    I did look (briefly) at "Uncommon Descent", and it didn't impress me. The site owners' qualifications are:
    One man is a mathematician who is a fellow at the creationist "Discovery Institute".
    One woman writes columns for a religious newsletter.
    The others include an accountant, several software designers, an aerospace engineer and a grad student in a murkily defined field.



    Bob, the problem I have with this "debate" is, as others have stated, is that it is not a debate that is going on in the scientific community amongst biologists and paleontologists. "ID" as a hypothesis is not a scientific one, and to pretend that it is is to "accept lies as truth", something we acknowledge in our Brief Statement of Faith as sin and something we need to overcome. We as Presbyterians, with our long history of scholarship, have a responsibility in this field. We cannot advocate knowingly teaching our children falsehoods.

    I do think you're making a leap where one isn't necessary. Where (to pull a name out of my hat) Richard Dawkins may well be making a theological statement in the conclusion he draws from evolutionary science (i.e., there is no God), but (again, just pulling a name out at random) Richard Leakey does not when he discusses the similarities in different kinds of artifacts and fossils and leaves it at that. Science does not seek to prove or disprove God. It seeks to understand the observable, testable phenomena around us. The essence of faith is believing in something that is not observable or testable.

    For example, it is entirely possible to jump to the conclusion (as the Church had) that anyone who believes that the Earth is round and that it and the other planets orbit the sun (a statement that directly contradicts the Bible) is making a theological statement. Well, not really. The heliocentric theory is religiously neutral--it doesn't concern itself with God. It took the Church centuries to come to terms with that (just ask Signore Galileo).

    It is IMO a seductive idea to construe anything that the church objects to as being a rival religion, and I find this apparent in the fact that more are beginning to puppet this particular talking point. The fact is that like the theory of gravity, of subatomic particles, of quantum mechanics, the theory of evolution as a means of explaining an observable biological mechanism doesn't care whether or not God exists. ID does, and that is a critical difference.

  22. The fact is that like the theory of gravity, of subatomic particles, of quantum mechanics, the theory of evolution as a means of explaining an observable biological mechanism doesn't care whether or not God exists.

    Exactly, and well stated.

    Religion is not threatened in the least by evolution. It is an insult to religion to think otherwise.

  23. Jim wrote: "Good point, snad, but I think you overlooked the next line, My advice is to keep an open mind on that point. Fair enough?"

    Yes, I did overlook that line, but intentionally, as I see no evidence that you really want that. Nor do I expect to be swayed by your argument. Belief is belief. Science is science. May they live in peace, but may they also be inclined to start seeing other people.

  24. I think its funny that there are 23 comments on a cartoon posted on an entirely separate blog. Pastor Shuck, I think Aric needs your agent!

    I just wanted to mention that I think the dichotomy of either "God did it" or "it just happened" has nothing to do with modern science whatsoever. There isn't a scientific theory of cosmogenesis - there are many, which are currently competing with each other and seeking to find laboratory results which help clarify the matter in the hope that we can one day understand what we currently do not.

    At no point whatsoever does science claim "it just happened". This is a mis-characterization of science for polemical purposes. "It just happened" is an unsatisfactory answer for science, even as it is one for theology (or should be!).

    For science, "God did it" or even "an unknown, unobserved Intelligent Designer did it" is also an unsatisfactory answer. It is in fact a non-answer in any meaningful sense. There is nothing to critically consider once you've accepted that explanation. To a scientist, it is of no more value than "it just happened".

    (And I read through the Uncommon Descent website. No, materialism is not new to science, and no, it is not a corruption. It is science, plain and simple. Good science doesn't claim to be anything more than an attempt to materially account for phenomena.)

    To posit that there is a debate between, say, theism and materialistic reductionism is accurate. There has been for a long, long time. But to posit that there is a debate in science as to whether "God (or a Designer) did it" and "it just happened" is inaccurate at best.

  25. I do feel bad that I stole Aric's thunder. Go on over to his blog and throw him a bone, will ya?

  26. Doug you said

    "No, materialism is not new to science, and no, it is not a corruption. It is science, plain and simple. Good science doesn't claim to be anything more than an attempt to materially account for phenomena."

    That is my point exactly. Science only operates with the presuppositions of the scientific method. To set outside those presuppositions, in any direction is to stop doing science. I'm not condemning the presuppositions but rather saying that they place limits on the scientific enterprise.

  27. Bob, Doug, Flycandler et al...

    And the limits you've identified for the materialist presuppositions of science are precisely why ID cannot be regarded as a scientific theory and has no place in a science class - just as the cartoon suggests.

    Some of us here clearly have more or less regard for the substance of ID, but what is aggravating to this cartoonist, and hence to me since I went and posted it on my blog, is that it attempts to pass itself off as science. Nothing else. If it were to acknowledge that its aim were theological, or philosophical, or metaphysical (all potentially legitimate categories for the type of inquiry it is making) I would have no beef with it. To teach it in such a setting would then at least be honest.

  28. Doug said, "No, materialism is not new to science, and no, it is not a corruption"

    True, but that's not what the website said. The words were "materialistic ideology" that is corrupting scientific inquiry. I'll rephrase this yet again:
    If you do science with the primary intent of proving God's existence you are wrong. If you do science with the primary intent of proving God doesn't exist, you are wrong.

    Here are examples of the latter:
    The famous physicist Fred Hoyle proposed one bogus cosmological theory after another in an effort to convince others the universe did not have a beginning.

    Look at the article that explains that men choosing younger women as mates is due to Natural Selection. That's comical. It's a conscious decision, unless you're drunk.

    Columnist Carlos Alberto Montaner recently referred to a study [uncritically] that claimed that mankind is descended from two types of apes, one which has oversexed males and one that is strongly patriarchal. Since human nature includes these two characteristics, the study concluded that mankind must be descended from these two types of apes.

    Homo habilis supposedly evolved into Homo Erectus based primarily on their place in the March of Evolution chart. Now we find that Habilis and erectus co-habitated.

    The list goes on. Clearly we are trying to make leaps and bounds in our knowledge that we just don't have the capacity to do yet without this fudging. The reason there is so much of this bad science is that scientists are being influenced by their compulsion to come to a finding that either denies or avoids the existence of a higher intelligence.

    And that is how "materialistic ideology", which is a philosophy and not a science, is corrupting science or as Pastor Bob said about ID, "places limits on the scientific enterprise". Show me that materialistic ideology doesn't corrupt science and I'll be quiet. Fair enough?

  29. This comment has been removed by the author.

  30. Jim,

    I am no scientist and thus in no place to speak "for" them, but I will readily concede that no scientist does their work without their own ideologies shaping their actions. I fully believe that it is probable, SOME scientists do things as you suggest, both intentionally and unintentionally.

    However, that seems a long way from the point of this cartoon, which is not that science is somehow completely pure and free of ideology, but that ID is not science. That's all. I'm not sure I understand why you took offense.

  31. Aric, I'm going to disagree with you. I think ID can be science, given certain conditions:

    1. Proof of the existence of God cannot be the purpose of the work.

    2. The hypothesis must be based on evidence, not presupposition.

    3. The hypothesis must be based on evidence that suggests that traditional hypotheses do no sufficiently describe the evidence.

    4. The hypothesis must be based on probability, not a faith statement.

    5. The hypothesis must be stated in a way that allows for proving it wrong based on the evidence.

    An example: what convinced Anthony Flew that there is some intelligence behind the creation of the universe was the series of physical aspects of the universe that made the universe a place in which life could exist. Flew now believes that it is more probable that there is an intelligence behind the creation of the universe as it is than there is no intelligence behind the creation of the universe.

    I suggest that Intelligent Design theory that is based on evidence and not on faith may be proper science, but only if the evidence supports the theory and allows for testing the theory.

    Finally, I have to say that the God of Intelligent Design does not describe the God of the Bible at all.

  32. Pastor Bob, I do agree that the scientific method is built on several presuppositions about repeatability and evidence. That is why "ID" is at its most basic, fundamental level an unscientific conjecture.

    The criteria you outlined are more or less a decent jumping off point. The problems with "ID" leap out:

    1. The ultimate test of this theory is to either prove or disprove the existence of The Intelligent Designer based on the available evidence.

    2. The presupposition (as I noted earlier) is that since Mr. X cannot understand a complex biological process, it must be God-driven since Mr. X doesn't have the time, training or desire to study it in detail.

    3. The problem with this is that it tries to do an end run around the science. It assumes that anything we don't understand as of September 7, 2007, must be the direct product of a supernatural being and doesn't account for the possibility that we may just not have the tools, the technique or the learning to understand it. Using the heliocentric controversy, Copernicus' model of the solar system does NOT accurately predict the motion of planets in our solar system. The big breakthrough came with Johanes Kepler, who discovered (by drawing shapes idly on a wine barrel, as it happens) that the planets move in elliptical orbits. Further refinements (including satellites and space probes such as Voyager) gave us a better understanding by using tools unavailable to Copernicus, Galileo or Kepler. For any of those men to say, "oh well, let's just say an Intelligent Designer is running it" short circuits the research.

    4. Positing the existence of an unprovable Creator is by its nature a faith statement.

    5. Again, the fundamental problem with "ID" is that it is impossible to design any test to prove that God does not exist.

    My thought is that if you want to discuss "ID" in a philosophy class, fine. I even think it's useful for students to learn the basics about the world's major religions so that they will have a basic understanding of the recurring imagery in art and literature.

    However, science class is meant for the teaching of science, including the scientific method, and philosophy and religion have no place in such an environment.

    Finally, I have to say that the God of Intelligent Design does not describe the God of the Bible at all.

    Amen, Pastor Bob! I have come a long way in my faith, and I believe I have come to a point where the mysteries no longer trouble me as much. I try to embrace the mystery and make that leap of faith. I find the research into string theory and the unified field theory (with the ultimate goal of a Theory of Everything) to be fascinating. I like the idea (philosophical of course) that to briverse into existence, God did something very tiny and very minute, and something larger than we can comprehend came as a result. It's not a scientific conjecture. I just like the image of God sitting back with a wry smile watching everything fall into place and thinking, "it is good."

  33. An example: what convinced Anthony Flew that there is some intelligence behind the creation of the universe was the series of physical aspects of the universe that made the universe a place in which life could exist. Flew now believes that it is more probable that there is an intelligence behind the creation of the universe as it is than there is no intelligence behind the creation of the universe.

    I'm not familiar with Anthony Flew's argument, so I'm not sure how what he said relates to the idea of Intelligent Design. However, I am familiar with the various versions of the Anthropic Principle, and if that is what he is referring to, then I would say that I am inclined to think that there is some validity for people of faith to consider that the laws of physics are the way they are--and thus permit life--are the result of God's will in some way. But that is a philosophical or religious interpretation, and is not science--it simply isn't scientifically verifiable. And it doesn't really impinge on the subject of evolution one way or another. To say that God evoked the universe in some way such that it has certain laws does not change the fact that the universe has undergone billions of years of stellar formation, planetary creation, and on at least one planet the evolution of life.

    ID, as Flycandle pointed out, is basically just a modern appeal to the God of the Gaps. This has always been a fundamentally flawed approach to theology. Trying to find God in the natural laws that we don't understand fully inevitably proves to be a dead end.

    The specific issue is whether life evolved on earth as the result of natural processes. To say that God was involved in those natural processes in some way--that perhaps the Deity established the laws of the universe in such a way that permitted life to evolve--is a theological, not a scientific statement. The question of why we exist instead of not existing--it's a great one to ponder. But it isn't what science concerns itself with.

  34. I also had written an earlier comment, which I deleted because I didn't like what I wrote, that went over some of the examples that Jim Jordan offered as proof of a materialistic ideology in modern science. Basically, I think the problem is that most of those examples don't seem to have anything to do with any such ostensible bias.

    For example, a debate among scientists over the evolutionary history of humans--whether homo erectus evolved from homo habilis, or if they both evolved from a common ancestor--has nothing to do with any alleged materialistic bias whatsoever. It is simply a scientific attempt to root out the specifics of human evolution. That's what science does--it proposes hypotheses, and tests them against new data. I think most anthropologists would tell you that the details of humanity's evolutionary past are yet to be fully determined, even if we understand a great deal about the broad outlines. The important point to consider here is that the fact of human evolution has nothing to do with any so-called "materialist ideology". The truth of evolution does not impinge on whether God exists or doesn't exist.

    And to suggest that animal behavior, including that of humans, is influenced by biology is hardly a radical concept. To assert that human sexual choices are all simply matters of "free choice" and not influenced by our genes is itself a an apriori pronouncement, and not particularly scientific. The role of science is to figure these sorts of things out. Maybe humans are influenced in the choices they make because of genes, maybe because of nature, maybe some combination of the two--but to deny the reality that humans tend to make certain kinds of choices, and to refuse to ask why the choices are made in the way they are, is be essentially anti-science. By the same token, it is not exactly late breaking news that humans, chimps, and bonobos are closely related species. Personally, I have some problems with Frans Der Waal's approach to the relationship between the three species, but one thing we do know is that all three of us share a lot of genetic material. There is no "materialistic ideology" that lies behind this.

  35. There is an excellent writing by the late Stephen Jay Gould called "Non-Overlapping Magisteria". Essentially he argued the point that then-Pope John Paul II had made in 1996 (which expanded upon a point made in 1950 in the encyclical Humani Generis) that as far as the Roman Catholic Church is concerned, evolutionary science and the Church concern themselves with separate areas of teaching, and that evolutionary biology is not inherently contradictory toward Christianity. VERY broadly speaking, the scientist is concerned with the "how"; the priest is concerned with the "why".

    Atheists like Richard Dawkins and a good many Christian folks have criticized Gould's explanation of NOMA, which is easier to do now that the man is dead. Still, it explains how many good Christians view the scientific world. As Bruce Alberts, then President of the National Academy of Sciences, said back in 1999:

    "Scientists, like many others, are touched with awe at the order and complexity of nature. Indeed, many scientists are deeply religious. But science and religion occupy two separate realms of human experience. Demanding that they be combined detracts from the glory of each."

  36. "Demanding that they be combined detracts from the glory of each."

    Absolutely. Evidence that appears to contradict religious belief is at risk. The flip side is that demanding that it be separated also puts evidence at risk. There is a very real threat that materialistic ideology may be demanded to be combined with science. You simply can't force the absence of presuppositions.

    The battle is not between ID and evolution as much as it is in keeping presuppositions in their place.

  37. Many good points in this discussion.

    I'd only add one more, as a warning more than anything else, to those of you with young kids. ID really exists mostly in the context of our public school system, which is intentionally secular so as to remain open to peoples of all religions and non-religions alike.

    In the public secular school system we teach science because science is a core pillar of our democracy and an integral part of the American Experiment. But certain religious folks (not just Christians either) are afraid of science. So one group invented this hybrid aberration that tries to undermine science by literally redefining it to include their religious dogma. Then they descend on unsuspecting school boards with intimidating credentials and cute semantic tricks to try and convince them to put it in their curriculum.

    No way. We've already talked about how they insult both science and faith, but such tricks also violate the Constitution of the United States of America and undermine the very nature of our democracy.

    I'm happy to discuss how we can better teach science in the public schools just as I am happy to discuss how we can teach better religion in (my) church but if somebody comes peddling ID in >my< neighborhood they better be wearing a Kevlar lawyer.

  38. "Materialistic ideology" sounds lovely, but it's really pretty meaningless in this discussion. As noted above, the scientific method is inherently materialistic because it deals with the material world and phenomena that can be observed therein. To try to purge that which is "materialistic" from science is to redefine the very meaning of science itself, and to do so in the name of God (or "Intelligent Designer" or "the Great Green Arkleseizure") is dangerous.

    ONE MORE TIME: Science does not attempt to prove or disprove the existence of God. It's just not concerned with metaphysics. That's not to say that science cannot disprove certain phenomena as written down in the Bible thousands of years ago. We now know that the Earth is much more than 4,000 years old. We know that the Earth is round. We know that the Earth is one of eight planets and a whole bunch of asteroids and comets orbiting a star we call the Sun and not the other way round. We know that flashing different colors at a female sheep while she is conceiving will not affect the color of her offspring (Gen 30.37-9).

    We cannot know if God does or does not exist, however, using the material sciences. Science does not have the capacity nor the need to disprove the existence of the supernatural. Just as science does not try to disprove God, it doesn't try to disprove Buddha, the Hindu gods, the Tao, or Baal.

    Similarly, faith does not attempt to explain everything we encounter. Quite the contrary, it requires a leap, a willing suspension of disbelief if you will, to understand that there are some things we cannot, no matter how sophisticated our thinking or instrumentation, truly fathom. That's the miracle of faith: that we learn to just close our eyes and take that step anyway, that we can quiet that material-obsessed inquisitive monkey part of our brains and hear, for a brief moment, the quiet voice of God.

    So yes, demanding that scientific evidence and religious belief be separated doesn't put either at risk and is in effect ESSENTIAL to both. Forcing the need for scientific evidence into religious belief destroys faith; forcing the need for religious belief into scientific inquiry destroys scientific methodology.

    Jodie is 100% correct that "ID" exists as a politically correct alternative to teaching creationism in American public schools that is a direct result of the opinion of the Supreme Court in Edwards v. Aguillard. So amen, let's teach better science in our schools and better religion in our churches!

  39. Wonderful reference to Gen 30.37-9.

    I confess I had never quite followed what was going on there. Never really stopped long enough to get it.

    It's one of those passages nobody ever preaches about...