Why ID is OK

Recent wrangling by The Everlasting Man (in the news here and here) shows a passing familiarity with the arguments for Intelligent Design. The mechanical arguments proposed to bolster ID (irreducible complexity, specified complexity, mini machines?!?, poking holes in the fossil record) are not overly convincing, and have not merited publication in a peer reviewed academic journal.

I commend to readers, the words of Augustine:

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.

I think ID shows promise in the fields of philosophy, cosmology, and epistemology. ID is inherently metaphysical. It also powerfully argues in favour of human dignity and personal responsibility.

Science actually grew from a worldview founded upon the Bible. As our society turns away from the Creator, it has returned to useless superstitions and ignorance of science. It’s ironic that the scientific establishment, bastion of free thought, should be so hostile to dissent.

In this old Civil Unions thread I mused on this very topic:

I spent some time in the university science library trying to reconcile the claims of creationist “science”, against tenets of the Christian faith, and the mountain of evidence for evolution. The only solution that I believe respects both science and the Bible, is the Catholic position of “theistic evolution”.

Like Augustine I deeply regret the pseudoscience propagated in churches and elevated to an article of faith. No doubt it has caused difficulties to many faithful people who understand science. For a long time I struggled to reconcile the revelations of faith I have received, with the unscientific things I was taught by people I respect.

In non-traditional churches particularly, they seem to delight in their “superior knowledge” of theories such as the “discoveries” of Bob Cornuke or Intelligent Design advocates. It’s a pain because I believe the church DOES have a lot of spiritual insight. But a humble attitude in matters of science would be more appropriate, in light of the dedication of hundreds of academic lifetimes spent discovering the secrets of the universe that God has made.

There are a few synthesising thinkers out there, such as John Polkinghorne or Stanley Jaki, but their scholarship is out of reach of the less scientifically inclined. People are like sheep.

Sheer causality takes us back to the Big Bang or whatever is the current cosmological model. While not particularly fond of “God-of-the-gaps” models (theologically, God is transcendent and immanent in relation to creation), this makes a big space for God, the uncaused First Cause.

Just because we can’t detect Dark Matter does not mean it’s not there.

I also touched on the scientific enterprise here and here. A couple of selected observations:

  • Evolution does not preclude the existence of God. Evolution challenged the preconceptions of the established worldview. Nowadays the scientific “no divine intervention” assumption, has been extended to assert soulless materialism in every aspect of life, and tear down any claim to transcendent values such as Right and Wrong. The existence of God is by no means a settled debate in philosophy. The life and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most thoroughly attested event in human history (manuscript, inductive, historical), exceeding the evidence for Winston Churchill for example. The Catholic position of “theistic evolution” offers a coherent synthesis between Christianity and Science.
  • There are certain assumptions that science makes to work eg. that the creation is an orderly place, that human reasoning can be used as a tool in the search for knowledge of the creation, and so on. Religion, namely Christianity, provides the theological underpinning for these metaphysical assumptions. This is why Europe has seen the longest sustained period of scientific development. (read Stanley Jaki on this – fascinating). All other ancient cultures stagnated scientifically and mathematically because their theology was flawed.

UPDATE: More comments at Sir Humphrey’s and Philosophy, etc. See also the links to the right, under ‘Science’. The thread has also been taken up at Jarrod’s place and Home, Throne & Altar. This subject wears me out …


5 thoughts on “Why ID is OK

  1. Hi peasant

    I agree that ID is not 100% accurate (and I state so at the end of the post you mention), and naturally, being Catholic, I tend towards the “theistic evolution” you mention. But its not so simple as you well know and ID isn’t a dead duck yet. One thing that WILL come out of the current hearing is a rigourous public outing of the arguments and scientists themselves may become more aware of it, even if to discredit it.

    Evolution itself does not try to disprove God, but atheistic Darwinism does. Naturally it has failed because it has no evidence to do so ie. you know it lacks a necessary first cause. Comments of the type presented on my blog by S (a guy called Scott) and Jarrod do nothing, add nothing and are at best ignored. Why? Neither of them offered any evidence that they understand the issue, they just repeated the mantra from the mainstream media.

    Best wishes

  2. It’s interesting that I’m accused by MrTips of “repeat[ing] the mantra from the mainstream media” – given that the media would very much like us to believe in a controversy that in large part doesn’t exist. ID is not widely accepted, and isn’t gaining ground among scientists (among non-scientists it’s a different story). I didn’t feel the need to argue with MrTips because he has already demonstrated in the past that his approach to science may be somewhat wanting – and his attitude to the first commenter to his post on ID simply confirmed this.
    However on to the argument – I believe it’s fairly clear that even a modest reading of the available evidence debunks both of MrTips main points – on the Cambrian explosion, and on Behe’s “irreducible complexity”.
    A slightly larger problem is that as an overall theory ID is not scientific – it simply isn’t testable. Individual hypotheses that, if true, might provide evidence for ID – like Behe’s, for example – might be testable – but the overall theory is not.

  3. Hmmmm… lets see Jarrod, how many scientific articles have YOU published in peer review? Hang on, I bet its………ZERO.

    If individual hypothesis provide evidence for ID, umm…..isn’t that science?

  4. How many articles on Intelligent Design have you published in peer review?

    I refer to our previous “discussion” on the subject of what constitutes a valid sample. In that discussion, you demonstrated a wilful misunderstanding of statistical validity. If you have in fact managed to get some articles past a panel of peers, then that’s great. But it doesn’t necessarily demonstrate an adherence to the scientific method, merely that you can play by the rules when it suits you.
    And you (perhaps deliberately) misunderstand my point. Behe, for example, might examine the hypothesis that “the mechanism that clots blood is irreducibly complex – that if any component in the mechanism is removed, than the mechanism will cease to function”. This is testable.
    It is a different hypothesis, however, from “if blood clotting is irreducibly complex, then it could not have arisen via natural selection” or “if blood clotting is irreducibly complex, this provides evidence that a Designer exists”.

  5. That’s where blogging is fun!

    From Calvin & Hobbes:
    “The purpose of writing is to inflate weak ideas, obscure pure reasoning, and inhibit clarity. With a little pratice, writing can be an intimidating and impenetrable fog!”

    I think ID makes some interesting points but in no way has it undermined the well-attested evidence for evolution.

    Unfortunately, fellow Christians have seized upon it as vindication for their faith. But Christianity does not need pseudoscience and polarised rhetoric to buttress its claims. There’s plenty of other evidence for God’s intervention in human history. And naturally I believe that Jesus offers the most complete and satisfying answers to life’s most profound questions.


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