ID and science – can we be friends?

Thanks Ryan! You’ve taken some time with your reply, so let me try to return the favor. And let me do so by making this a front page post, rather than a more limited reply.

I also like that definition of ID. I asked the question because many people believe that ID is creationism. And creationism is thought to be a kind of religion that is antithetical to science. My worldview is Christian. Notice that I did not say my religion is Christian. The difference is that although I rely on and trust the Christian Bible, I do not do so without question.  The Genesis account of creation, for example, can be heard and believed in different ways.  It could be interpreted literally, in which case you believe that God did it supernaturally, and that it took only six literal days.  I know some Christians who believe that.  I don’t.  I am what you would call an old earth creationist.  In other words, I do believe God did it.  I just have no idea how or even what the mechanisms were.  I also believe that evolution is a valid scientific theory.  But as someone who is not closed-minded about the existence of non-naturalistic realms, I do not accept neo-Darwinism (Darwin’s original ideas, updated and expanded by modern Darwinists) as the explanation for all of life.

As I wrote in the post you responded to, we still don’t know what the origin of the universe is.  We’re pretty sure it started, and by logic can assume that it did not come from noting to ‘everything’ of and by its own volition.  So it’s logical and reasonable to ask what caused it to start to exist.  What caused the big bang?  Until the scientific world has an answer to that, we all must assume something.  We can assume that there was an immensely powerful entity that did the causing, or we can assume there is a naturalistic explanation out there somewhere that just has not been found yet.  Even if you just ignore the question, you still carry your assumed answer around with you in the recesses of your mind.

So what?  Well, it does matter, I believe.  If you make the naturalistic assumption, you are an atheist.  If you make the creation assumption, you are a creationist.  And here’s where the power of that assumption is so insidious.  Either way, you live your life looking for confirmation that the decision you have made is the correct one.  Nobody wants to live their life with logical inconsistencies and incongruities.  It’s just disconcerting to do so.  That is why I have contended in other posts that one is a neo-Darwinist because he is an atheist, not the other way around.  I shoul probably amend that to say ‘naturalist’ rather that neo-Darwinist.  

There are several assumptions built into different terms, and those assumptions can vary from person to person.  When the term is used, and person A imputes assumptions underlying that term that are different than person B, fireworks can occur.  That’s why I wanted to agree on the definition of ID before replying.  But now we come to the term neo-Darwinism.  Some assume that includes the ‘doctrine’ of survival of the fittest.  Others don’t.  So I would like to say that much of Darwinism and much of neo-Darwinism is logical and acceptable to me. But there are parts of it with which I disagree.  Mostly, the parts I disagree with are the non-science parts – that is, the parts where empirical evidence of things that have actually happened is used as the basis for a faith statement.  A good example of this is when the suggestion is made that life first arose from inorganic matter without intervention by intelligence (abiogenesis), and that even though there is no evidence yet that that it happened that way, that it is only a matter of time until it is proven.  That is a faith statement.

And that leads me to your list of the practical applications of evolutionary theory:

* Bioinformatics, a multi-billion-dollar industry, consists largely of the comparison of genetic sequences. Descent with modification is one of its most basic assumptions.  

Assuming an intelligent designer got the whole thing started does not seem contradictory.  This would seem to apply to the next two points and the last two as well.

* Diseases and pests evolve resistance to the drugs and pesticides we use against them. Evolutionary theory is used in the field of resistance management in both medicine and agriculture (Bull and Wichman 2001).

* Evolutionary theory is used to manage fisheries for greater yields (Conover and Munch 2002).

* Artificial selection has been used since prehistory, but it has become much more efficient with the addition of quantitative trait locus mapping.

I was under the impression that artificial selection required the direction of an intelligent agent.  Otherwise, no problem.

* Knowledge of the evolution of parasite virulence in human populations can help guide public health policy (Galvani 2003).

* Sex allocation theory, based on evolution theory, was used to predict conditions under which the highly endangered kakapo bird would produce more female offspring, which retrieved it from the brink of extinction (Sutherland 2002).

So I have no problem with the idea that evolutionary processes are extremely useful and have led to much of what we know about how life works today.  But we still come back to the question of how the whole thing got started.  And by that I mean not only the universe, but life itself.  The things you have listed here are all supported by scientific testing and development.  But none of them is falsifiable by the underlying assumptions that God started both the universe and life itself.

As to your assertion that ID is not testable, I recommend this article by William Dembski.  Is Intelligent Design Testable?

He asserts not only that it is, but that “Darwinism” is not.  (Again, be sure of what he imputes to that term).  Finally, I recommend Intelligent Design In Nature which should be a mind-expander, and What Science Can’t Do, written by my blogfriend Krietsauce.

Thanks for the opportunity to have a constructive dialogue!

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10 thoughts on “ID and science – can we be friends?

  1. Pingback: ID and science - can we be friends? « Bloom Where You’re Planted - ezineaerticles

  2. Ryan

    D***, my comment messed up and got deleted. That sucks. I don’t have much time either, got a lot to do today. I’ll probably be back tonight to leave another comment.

    On first glance I don’t have too many qualms with your post. Just a couple quick notes.

    Abiogenesis is a completely different subject from evolution. There is also a LOT of scientific evidence on the subject. The problem is that it’s relatively new. New scientific research goes in scientific journals and takes longer to spread through the internet. What spreads much quicker is religious propaganda from religious apologetic sites like AIG.

    I have no problem when someone says that God started it all a long time ago, in a way that we don’t understand. That’s perfectly fine to me. I only take issue with anti-science.

    Sidenote- most atheists use the definition “without theism”. They’re not Anti-God, they just don’t have a personal belief. What they usually harp against is religion. I’m not defending all atheists, I’m just throwing that out there for you.

    Like I said, I have more thoughts, but for later.

    Lastly, I’ll check out Demski’s article. I almost feel bad for him. He was just about the only honest to goodness legitimate scientist doing intelligent design research, but the trial in Dover, really REALLY killed his reputation.

    Take Care

    1. Yeah, that happened to me too. But sorry, I want to keep the language clear of expletives, so I edited your first word.

      I’m unsure what you mean when you say there’s a lot of evidence for abiogenesis. By that do you mean that there’s confirmation that life did indeed start spontaneously from inorganic material?

      Does all of the information in scientific journals qualify as good stuff and all that comes out of “religious apologetic sites” is “religious propaganda”? I don’t think you really mean to paint with such a broad brush, but not being aware when you lapse into some of the atheists’s offensive jargon is one way we allow our discourse, which is positive and a win for both sides, to lapse into a streetfight, where everybody loses.

      I appreciate the insight in your sidenote. I understand how they might feel about that, but saying you’re not anti-God and living that out are two different things. I still contend it comes down to how one deals with the God/No God question. The agnostic and the atheist both assume the answer is ‘no God’ – at least until proven otherwise. And when you make that decision, you constantly look for confirmation that you are right.

      Finally, on the Dembski comment. I’m curious how you get that. I thought he was one who was not there and did not testify. And speaking of the Dover trial, I watched the documentary on WETA last week and came away with these thoughts.

      First, an anonymous donor sent copies of an ID friendly book (Of Pandas and People) that the school board had voted against ordering. A catalogue left in the box linked ID to “creationism”. This would later prove to be devastating for the defense. And while there certainly are some people who equate ID and creationism, some, perhaps a majority, just want the idea that there may be a creator, and that He may have been involved somehow. The definition you used for ID is a long way from creationism.

      Second, several of the key players claimed to be Christians, yet they saw absolutely no problem keeping all mention of intelligent design out of the classroom. In other words they saw no problem keeping science and religion separate, and saw no need to reconcile the apparent contradictions. How they could live with them is a mystery. A prime example of this is Bryan Rehm, a teacher in the school who was completely opposed to the teaching of ID, yet was filmed playing the guitar and singing about Jesus with his wife and kids. Astonishing how one is able to compartmentalize.

      Third, a number of so-called Christians in the community wrote hate-laced letters and otherwise demonstrated that Christians were angry jerks and imbeciles.

      Fourth, and perhaps most devastating, all but three of the witnesses that had been lined up to testify on the ID side dropped out, and never testified. William Dembski and Jay Richards were among those who dropped out. That was definitely the A team. That left only Michael Behe, Scott Minnich and Steve Fuller.

      Behe, who was depicted as the best of the three was completely outclassed by Ken Miller, who turned out to be articulate, well informed and quite flamboyant. He destroyed Behe, not so much with the quality of his material, but with his showmanship. His use of three parts of the mousetrap to show that it was not irreducibly complex was the best example.

      Ken Miller, himself a professed Catholic, made this statement in the video: “A long tradition of scholarship in the Catholic church has argued that truth is one – that science and religion should ultimately be in harmoney. But that doesn’t make faith a scientific proposition. I think, as many religious people do, that faith and reason are both gifts from God. And if God is real, then faith and reason should compliment each other rather than being in conflict.” On its face, that’s a statement I would agree with. But how he could hold that opinion, claim to be a Catholic, (Catholics are Christians, by the way) and still prove to be such a devastating witness against ID?

      Finally, Barbara Forrest, by scouring the documents sent to her by the ACLU lawyers, found two drafts of the Pandas book, one that used the term creationism, and the other, which had apparently had been rather sloppily edited to say intelligent design. I say sloppy, because the editor making the change left part of the word “creationists” in, so the revised draft read “cdesign proponentsists”, instead of design proponents. This was used as proof that the term intelligent design and creationism were interchangeable. This devastated the claim that ID was not religion.

      It is hard for me to escape the conclusion that the Moore Law firm was less than effective in defending the case. There was apparently a disagreement between the Discovery Institute and the firm, and that led directly to the withdrawal of five of the expert witnesses. And throughout, the prosecution seemed much more well prepared, and had apparently worked much harder at digging than the defense. Worse, they were so apparently sloppy, that when doubts were raised as to whether defense witnesses had lied on the stand, it became possible to envision the defense encouraging inappropriate behavior on the part of their clients.

      They actually let the prosecutors claim that the teaching of ID in school is unconstitutional, because it is an inherently religious proposition. How the defense allowed this claim to go unchallenged is a mystery to me.

      In the final analysis, every Christian should be appalled by the behavior of the so-called Christians on both sides. They behaved in a highly un-Christian manner, and the result was an absolute train wreck for ID. The idea probably was set back at least 10 years.

      Thanks. Talk to you again soon!

  3. Ryan

    “We’re pretty sure it started, and by logic can assume that it did not come from noting to ‘everything’ of and by its own volition.”

    This is partially true. We don’t know what came before the big bang, but to say that God did it, is just an assertion. I don’t have any problem with someone saying that, but an assertion is the opposite of logic.

    -this is a short post to see if html works.

  4. Ryan

    ok, I’m actually sitting on the computer but I’m working on other things. We keep hitting on a million different points, and you have me wearing many different hats here.

    I’m speaking from the viewpoint of science, and from the viewpoint of an atheist, while keeping my own philosophy clear and distinct. Not the easiest thing to do.

    ok…

    By that do you mean that there’s confirmation that life did indeed start spontaneously from inorganic material?

    No, the experiments currently being conducted (that I know about) are attempting to create ‘life’ from non-life. Much progress has been made, but it still has a LONG way to go. They’re strictly attempting to recreate.

    The agnostic and the atheist both assume the answer is ‘no God’ – at least until proven otherwise. And when you make that decision, you constantly look for confirmation that you are right.

    Very close here, but still an oversimplification. I am personally indifferent on whether or not there is a God. The way I see it, if there is a God it would be a pretty cool bonus.

    …..

    I did make a mistake on my scientists. Behe is the most credentialed scientist out of the bunch, but the prosecution showed him in a true light when they put a huge stack of books in front of him that explained how the immune system came about. Poor guy.

    Demski gets pretty low marks in my book, for many reasons. He’s very unscience. (yep, just made that word up)

    My thoughts on Ken Miller- That guy is amazing. I’ve read his book ‘Finding Darwin’s God’, then I got him to autograph it when he came and did a lecture at my work.

    They actually let the prosecutors claim that the teaching of ID in school is unconstitutional, because it is an inherently religious proposition.

    When you say that the universe had an intelligent cause, your stating more of a philosophy than a science. Even if it wan’t/isn’t religious, it still isn’t science.

    oops… I missed this.

    Does all of the information in scientific journals qualify as good stuff and all that comes out of “religious apologetic sites” is “religious propaganda”?

    The stuff in scientific journals is stuff that science can examine. Apologetic sites may have their place, but I wouldn’t look to them for science information.

    Take care.

    1. The agnostic and the atheist both assume the answer is ‘no God’ – at least until proven otherwise. And when you make that decision, you constantly look for confirmation that you are right.

      Very close here, but still an oversimplification. I am personally indifferent on whether or not there is a God. The way I see it, if there is a God it would be a pretty cool bonus.

      Do you agree with the assertion that you look for confirmation that you’re right?

      Regarding Behe – I think it’s maybe a bit unfair to say they showed him in a ‘true light’. I think they proved that he is not very articulate, and I think they proved he may have been a bit of a microbiological lightweight. OK, maybe that’s not kinder.

      As to the universe having a cause – I don’t agree that my assertion that it had a cause is philosophy. If the evidence says it began, and that it began in an unimaginably big bang, it seems like the assertion that there was a cause is inescapable. Since time, matter, energy and space all started at the same time, it seems like you’d have to twist yourself up into a theoretical pretzel to avoid the conclusion that there was a cause. And the cause had to be external, and it had to exist outside of time, matter, energy and space. Hmm, let’s consider the list of possibilities…

      Did you read the stuff on the sites I referenced? Dembski seems like a pretty solid dude to me. And I thought the Worldview Test Site was pretty strong.

  5. Ryan

    Hey what’s up? I’m still sitting here, trying to build a website, and procrastinating majorly on some calculus homework.

    ok, down to business….

    Do you agree with the assertion that you look for confirmation that you’re right?

    Kind of. We all look for ourselves to be right. However, I’m not scared to be wrong either. I think this is a major flaw in our society, everyone is so determined that they MUST be right, that they can’t allow themselves to be wrong.

    I say forget that, just get your idea out there and let the ideas stand or fall on their own merit.

    So, yes in a longwinded answer, I do look to be right, but I remain flexible.

    Now the big bang. Now I’m no physicist, but there are actually a couple different versions of the big bang theory, and as far as I know none of them claim that ‘existence itself’ started at the big bang. As far as I know, space has always been around. But hey, this is a huge topic that I can only really talk top level on.

    I haven’t really thought about it, but I don’t think I agree with the statement that time, matter and energy all began at the same time.

    I still haven’t checked out the Demski articles. I’ll try to do it tonight, but last I heard he was running a blog where he was still promoting that the flagella was still irreducibly complex.

    Take care now

  6. Hey John,

    Just thought I’d drop by to let you know I read Demski’s article, I also read the other guys blog and what science can do.

    Unfortunately, they were the same old arguments that Demski has always used, refuted many times over. I did enjoy the read though; I printed it, and highlighted it as I went. I also bookmarked the site for reference.

    I’ll come back and highlight the notable parts (believe it or not, I really enjoy this geeky stuff), I just don’t have time at the moment. I have a feeling the response could get long rather quickly.

    I do my best to try to not be negative in discussion, but the best thing I can say about Demski, is that they guy is persistent. He reminds me of a 9-11 Truther (you know, the guys who think 9-11 was perpetrated by the U.S. government). No matter how much evidence you put in front of the guy, he just won’t have it.

    Anyway, that‘s about it for now. The blog about science was ok. There were a few errors, and a few correct statements, and a few misunderstandings. My main critique is that the whole thing was one giant oversimplification, but not really much to debate about.

    I hope your doing well, it’ll probably be a few days until I can return with my response to Demski. Calculus is still seriously kicking my tail at the moment.

    Peace,
    Ryan

    1. Hi Ryan – Hope you’re surviving calculus.

      I meant to ask you a question on this and got sidetracked. But the question is, which of Dembski’s stuff has been refuted, and by whom? And when you say refuted, do you mean that they were shown to be false by the overwhelming weight of the evidence, or just that alternative arguments have been made by the naturalists that are able to “explain” his ideas without “needing” an intelligence or a designer?

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