Dispatches from the Creation Wars

John West, associate director of the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute, has replied to my “fulminating” essay, posted to Dispatches, In the Agora and the Panda’s Thumb, on ID and “divine design”. You’ll recall that Mr. West had claimed that he and his fellow ID advocates get “very upset” when people “confuse” intelligent design with divine design, as a Utah legislator has in a bill designed to give equal time, and I replied by offering numerous quotes from ID advocates themselves ostensibly “confusing” the two. Mr. West’s reply to me, unfortunately, almost entirely misses the point of my response – by design, I suspect. He has essentially two arguments: A) that ID only has “metaphysical implications” rather than being inherently metaphysical, and B) so does evolution:

First of all, if he had read the article I referenced in my blog post about why ID is not creationism, he would have known that I never deny that ID can have metaphysical implications…I went on to explain that ID in this respect is no different than Darwinism.

But he fails to address here the real substance of my argument. I did not argue that ID merely has metaphysical implications; I argued that ID is inherently metaphysical and that many ID advocates had admitted as much. The only quotes in my initial post that dealt only with the implications of ID were the ones from Nancy Pearcey; the rest of them dealt with the nature of ID either as an explanation or as a political/legal movement. The rest of them all begin with statements like “Intelligent design is…”, “Our strategy has been…”, and “Our objective is…”. These are statements about the nature of ID, not about the implications of ID.

More importantly, as I have argued elsewhere, the nature of ID by the Discovery Institute’s own definition can only be metaphysical. Here is the definition of ID given by West’s own group in their FAQ answering questions about ID:

The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.

Their own definition combines biological ID with cosmological ID, which means the designer is responsible not only for living things, but for creating the universe itself. The DI’s writings on cosmological ID make clear that when they say “certain features of the universe”, they mean the nature of the universe itself – the nature of nature. This pretty much closes the door on their mantra-like citation of aliens as possible “intelligent designers”. If the argument is that the universe was designed with the ability to sustain life, invoking alien life as an explanation is clearly absurd – alien life would be an effect of that universal design, just as human life is, not a cause of it.

(Incidentally, let me add that I have no problem whatsoever with the claim that the universe is designed to support life. Indeed, this is something I agree with. I am a deist and I do believe that the universe was created with the attributes to allow life to begin, exist and evolve when the conditions are right. But not only does this have little to do with whether evolution is true or not, I would maintain that there is a tension between accepting cosmological ID and rejecting evolution. As my friend and colleague Howard Van Till likes to point out, the ID movement believes in a God who created the universe with the ability to sustain life, but did so poor a job of it that he had to continually intervene to make sure it happened.)

Anyway, getting back to the argument that ID is inherently metaphysical, let me provide more support for this position from ID advocates themselves. William Dembsk has agreed with my argument above that the combination of cosmological and biological ID means that the “designer” can only refer to God. In an August 1998 article published on ARN, The Act of Creation. He wrote:

The complexity-specification criterion demonstrates that design pervades cosmology and biology. Moreover, it is a transcendent design, not reducible to the physical world. Indeed, no intelligent agent who is strictly physical could have presided over the origin of the universe or the origin of life.

So here again, their own words demonstrate that ID does not merely have “metaphysical implications”, but that ID is an explanation that requires a metaphysical designer – i.e. a God. To be fair, Dembski does say that angels could have had a hand in designing too:

And another thing I think we need to be aware of is that not every instance of design we see in nature needs to be directly attributed to God. Certainly as Christians we believe there is an angelic hierarchy – it’s not just that there’s this physical material world and there’s God. There can be various hierarchies of intelligent beings operating, God can work through what can be called derived intelligences – processes which carry out the Divine will, but maybe not perfectly because of the fall.

But either way, ID is a metaphysical explanation by its nature, not merely by its implications. Does that mean that it’s wrong? Of course not. But it means that it is outside the ability of science to deal with, and it means that West and his fellow ID advocates are putting on a Janus-like display of double talk, saying on the one hand that the designer could just as easily be aliens and that they don’t deal in the supernatural, while simultaneously admitting that the designer could only be supernatural.

I would also note the interesting dichotomy between their position on evolution and their position on ID. It has been a staple argument of the ID crowd for over a decade now that evolution is an inherently atheistic/materialistic idea. Their rhetoric about destroying “atheism” and “materialism” has been quoted a thousand times over, so there is no need to rehash it here. And it is important to note that they do not merely claim that evolution has atheistic “implications”. As Phillip Johnson says:

The objective [of the Wedge Strategy] is to convince people that Darwinism is inherently atheistic, thus shifting the debate from creationism vs. evolution to the existence of God vs. the non-existence of God. From there people are introduced to “‘the truth” of the Bible and then “the question of sin” and finally “introduced to Jesus.”

Thus we see that it is a vital part of their strategy to claim that evolution is not atheistic merely by implication, but by its inherent nature, and that their entire goal is to use ID as a wedge to introduce people to the bible and Jesus. Yet when you take those words seriously and conclude that ID is an inherently religious or metaphysical idea – as they themselves admit – they howl in outrage at the unfairness of it all. It’s quite an interesting tension at play between their rhetoric about evolution and their rhetoric about ID. I maintain that this tension is simply a result of the fact that their real position and the marketing campaign with which they sell it are fundamentally at odds. As a political/legal strategy, they simply must pretend that ID is purely about science and an unnamed “designer”. But as a fundraising campaign – and remember that they themselves refer to the Wedge document as a fundraising letter – they have to tell people that evolution really means atheism, ID really means Christianity, and that if you send them money, they’ll stand up for God and destroy atheism.

Comments

  1. #1 Aaron
    June 30, 2005

    So, what if all those people you quote who say that ID isn’t/but it is metaphysical just have the theory wrong. I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’. Not to be flip, but you’ve done a lot to show that many IDers themselves have religion on the brain, but not much to show that the theory itself must be metaphysical.

    It seems that West would be as equally frustrated with Dembski, Pearsey, and Johnson as he is with that Utah legislature for “misrepresenting” ID. I use scare quotes there because it isn’t clear that they *are* misrepresenting it. I happen to believe that ID is an inherently religious idea, but we haven’t been talking about ID, just about how its proponents talk about it.

    Let’s pretend for a moment that all those ID scholars you quoted are overzealous adherents to a theory which they wrongly believe will justify and promote their religious beliefs. How do you argue that Intelligent Design = Divine Design?

  2. #2 Ed Brayton
    June 30, 2005

    Aaron-

    I thought the argument that cosmological ID requires a supernatural designer was clear enough in that regard.

  3. #3 Les Lane
    June 30, 2005

    In claiming that “ID is not creationism” DI promoters fail to note that “creation science” is not creationism. Both ID and creation science are subsets of the larger concept “creationism”. ID is in fact a larger subset than creation science.

    “ID is not creationism” is a nice example of correct propositional logic, intended to rhetorically obscure a relationship.

  4. #4 Ginger Yellow
    June 30, 2005

    “Not to be flip, but you’ve done a lot to show that many IDers themselves have religion on the brain, but not much to show that the theory itself must be metaphysical.”

    Well, besides the cosmological ID argument Ed gives above, these aren’t just “IDers”. They are the people who invented ID theory, such as it is. If Dembski says ID theory is religious, it’s not West’s prerogative to say it isn’t.

    Even ignoring those two points, there’s a very strong argument that biological ID is inherently religious. To the extent that biological ID is a theory, it rests on specified complex information and irreducible complexity. Again leaving aside the fact that these are both unscientific and basically meaningless concepts, if life on earth demonstrates either of these things, then surely the creator of life on earth must as well. The whole basis of ID is the idea that complexity generation is a top down process – more complex things beget less complex things. So the alien designer must itself have been designed, either by another alien or something supernatural. And so it regresses infinitely, until you get to a supernatural first cause.

  5. #5 KeithB
    June 30, 2005

    But don’t you have to be careful using the statements of certain ID proponents as being the very nature of ID?

    After all, you could argue on one hand, that Evolution is directed by God by using quotes from Miller and other Theists, while on the other argue that Evolution is inherently atheistic by using quotes from Dawkins and others.

    What any individual states is not necessarily official ID policy. The problem with ID is that the pool of individuals is so small, it is hard to distinguish personal and offical pronouncements.

  6. #6 dlw32
    June 30, 2005

    I don’t see how ID can function without a metaphysical creator (functionally, God).

    ID theory as I understand it, starts with the statement that some things have a level of complexity that requires a thinking creator. If a thing is sufficiently complex it must have been created.

    If that’s true then you’d also have to accept that “aliens” could not be the ultimate creator. If the alien is significantly evolved to be able to design our universe then isn’t the alien itself also so complex that it requires a designer?

    In effect you can go back through generations of this logic to find further designers but ultimately you must come to the One True Designer who stands in a metaphysical place that encompasses all universes. For all intents and purposes, this is God.

    If you accept the ID premise that complexity implies design then I don’t see how you can not end up with Creationism. I suppose you could be pro-ID and not accept the Christian creation mythos, but you can’t avoid arriving at one metaphysical creator.

  7. #7 Ed Brayton
    June 30, 2005

    Keith wrote:

    But don’t you have to be careful using the statements of certain ID proponents as being the very nature of ID? After all, you could argue on one hand, that Evolution is directed by God by using quotes from Miller and other Theists, while on the other argue that Evolution is inherently atheistic by using quotes from Dawkins and others.

    I don’t think so. The difference is that in the case of Miller and Dawkins, they truly are discussing inferences drawn from evolution, and those inferences could cut either way. With ID, the core of the idea is a supernatural designer, i.e. God. And I’m not merely quoting someone a hundred years later who accepts the idea, I’m quoting the very people who invented it. And I’m also showing that those very people are talking out of both sides of their mouths on teh subject.

  8. #8 TikiHead
    June 30, 2005

    The view that the universe is ‘designed’ to support life is odd. We are of course stil ignorant of the extent of life elsewhere, but from what astronomers tell us of conditions prevalent in most places, the universe is hostile to life.

    Let me put it this way: imagine the refrigerator of a scrupulously clean homemaker — she has used bleach on every inch of the fridge’s interior. Unknown to her, a smallish colony of mold is living on the hingepin of the lettuce bin door. The best philosophers among the mold population argue a great deal about the nature of the refrigerator, and the evidence it does or does not show for a benevolent Creator. A strong contingent of thinkers is arguing for fine-tuning, that the fridge is designed such that, thought most of it is bleached and mold-hostile, the whole fridge exists for the sake of the lettuce bin lid hingepin!

  9. #9 Ginger Yellow
    June 30, 2005

    “After all, you could argue on one hand, that Evolution is directed by God by using quotes from Miller and other Theists, while on the other argue that Evolution is inherently atheistic by using quotes from Dawkins and others.

    What any individual states is not necessarily official ID policy. The problem with ID is that the pool of individuals is so small, it is hard to distinguish personal and offical pronouncements.”

    You’d have a point if ID were actually a scientific theory, rather than a few incoherent hypotheses cobbled together around a preformed conclusion. With evolution, we have the “neo-Darwinian synthesis”, which is a well understood (within the scientific community) explanatory model of evolution independent of individual scientists. With ID, there is no explanatory theory. All we have is the overarching “Not evolution” concept, Dembski’s hypotheses and Jonathan Wells’s hypotheses and Michael Behe’s hypotheses. Therefore Dembski’s beliefs about ID are very relevant to his hypotheses, which constitute the bulk of ID’s pseudoscientific content. Likewise for Behe and Wells.

  10. #10 GH
    June 30, 2005

    See this is what just gets to ya’

    ‘The difference is that in the case of Miller and Dawkins, they truly are discussing inferences drawn from evolution, and those inferences could cut either way.’

    You can believe evolution was guided by God but thats all it is a belief. Dawkins stands on much firmer ground as his belief is quantified by the evidence or lack thereof. Miller does alot for science but his religious views when you get down to brass tacks are as equally empty as any IDer. He just embraces a different theology.

  11. #11 Aaron
    June 30, 2005

    Ginger,

    I’m in total agreement with you on the merits of ID and the reason why it is primarily a religious idea. John West, though, clearly disagrees. Nevertheless, even though his collegues may loudly proclaim (or carelessly proclaim) ID to be based in religion, that doesn’t indict *his* version of the argument – which seems to be the more politically potent one.

    Ed says it right when he points out the political necessity of keeping the “It ain’t religious” argument around. My question is, even though other IDers contradict that argument with their own writings, is it true? No, of course it isn’t. I’d like to say, as Ed does above, that it is self-evidently not true, but I won’t because it is an important enough issue to fully de-bunk with all the proper footnotes and a conclusive “so nyea” at the end.

    West gave five reasons why ID is not creationism (here) and they are all either off-topic or unpersuasive. That, to me, is the more interesting debate, not this stuff about who in what camp said what.

  12. #12 island
    June 30, 2005

    The view that the universe is ‘designed’ to support life is odd. We are of course stil ignorant of the extent of life elsewhere, but from what astronomers tell us of conditions prevalent in most places, the universe is hostile to life.

    Let me put it this way: imagine the refrigerator of a scrupulously clean homemaker — she has used bleach on every inch of the fridge’s interior. Unknown to her, a smallish colony of mold is living on the hingepin of the lettuce bin door. The best philosophers among the mold population argue a great deal about the nature of the refrigerator, and the evidence it does or does not show for a benevolent Creator. A strong contingent of thinkers is arguing for fine-tuning, that the fridge is designed such that, thought most of it is bleached and mold-hostile, the whole fridge exists for the sake of the lettuce bin lid hingepin!

    Yeah, but they aren’t being scientific, like most when it comes to this subject.

    Given commonality and continuity alone, (in terms of similarity in the evolution of raw materials, over time), one would expect to find life on the bands of uncountable spiral galaxies, unless you were cluelessly lost in the idea that goddidit, OR you can also lose touch with this very obvious reality if you think that we’re here by purely random chance events.

    In the first place, the universe doesn’t have to be designed to support life in order for life to be required within the physics all the way back to the big bang, depending on which model of the universe you “believe in”.

    As a natural atheist who has recently made a number of discoveries concerning this subject, I can tell you that NOBODY is looking at this scientifically or they’d be asking questions like:

    What traits might intelligent life have that would make it necessary to the thermodynamic process of a predominantly expanding universe?

    The near perfect flatness of the universe is one of the so-called “cosmic or anthropic coincidences”. It’s called “flat” because that’s the geometry that you end up with if the big bang results in a near perfect balance between diametrically opposing tendencies to runaway in opposite directions, e.g., run-away expansion or recollapse.

    What everyone has missed, that is new to this, is that this balance between diametrically opposing runaway tendencies, which is common to every “anthropic coincidence”, is actually defining an “eco-balance”, just like every other ecosystematic balance in nature, is actually defining the subtly-tipped balance that’s common to all ecosystems, so that the universally applicable principle is actually biocentric in nature, extending across the universe and bringing the forces to bear on a specific plane of life, so that a very fine layer of sentience arises within observed biotopes of inhomogeneity that are observed to exist in the large scale structure of our universe.

    The Anthropic Cosmological Principle is actually a thermodynamic principle that defines the mechanism that constrains the forces of the universe to an almost perfect balance between diametrically opposing runaway tendencies, which produces a grand-scale ecosystematically balanced structure that enables it to evolve with the greatest possible efficiency, in one-direction-only. An ecosystem disseminates energy more evenly and efficiently than any other system.

    It’s just thermodynamics, but the anthropic principle as a biocentric principle is for real.

  13. #13 TikiHead
    June 30, 2005

    Island:

    I don’t think any member of the mold colony’s philosophical community could have put it any better!

    I never mentioned ‘Science’ regarding the Anthropic or “Mold in Fridge” principle, because I was answering Mr. Brayton’s remarks about being a Deist, and feeling that the Universe is designed for life to occur, as he said here:

    “I am a deist and I do believe that the universe was created with the attributes to allow life to begin, exist and evolve when the conditions are right.”

    This is a philosophical approach to the information we have, and though I perhaps did not express myself very well, and was off topic to most of the posts, my objection holds.

    The mold in the refrigerator has every reason to believe that the fridge was finetuned for their sakes: more information, i.e. knowledge of the scrupulously clean homemaker’s existence, would no doubt change their views.

    I don’t think one need invoke any magical Balance issues — when the universe is swarming with example of non-balance. What delicate balancing processes are in action on the Planet Mercury, for instance? Kinda hot there, you know.

    Why not just say, life survives where it can, and the Universe is full of places it can’t?

  14. #14 TikiHead
    June 30, 2005

    Island:

    I apologize for reading/answering too hastily — that’s what happens when one reads and posts at work in spare moments — what you say is interesting, relevant and makes a great deal of sense.

    But any scientific information is bound to be fought over by metaphysicists — no escaping that I am sure…

    I think even if the mold philosophers were made aware of their “Scrupulous Homemaker” Lord and refrigerator owner, she who had bleached all but their blessed lettuce bin lid hinge pin, it would not silence argument aamong them.

  15. #15 island
    June 30, 2005

    Damn!… I already wrote this before realizing that TikiHead had responded again… but I’m going to post it anyway, because it’s important, except now it only applies to the most extreme facets of this debate, not to TikiHead, and thank you more than you know for re-reading more carefully:

    Again, this is just a generality:

    Why not just say, life survives where it can, and the Universe is full of places it can’t?

    Because the constraints on the physics indicate that intelligent life is more specially required than other systems, (at this time in the history of our universe), for our unmatched capability for directly affecting the thermodynamic process of the universe.

    We do this when we make particles from vacuum energy, and we are by far the most efficient means for this out of three known sources, Black Holes, Supernovae… and us. This has an extremely important affect on the thermodynamic evolutionary process of the universe depending on which universal model that you “believe” in.

    Like I said, nobody that wants to deny the implication of the physics will even ask the right question, much less acknowlege my valid points as being signifcant to anything. Instead they will stereotypically avoid it, and try to “explain-away” the significance. This is typically the result of a “knee-jerk” reaction to fanaticism, instead of normal scientific curiosity, the curious strangness of the coincidences get rationalized away with infinites and random probabilites, instead of looked at for what else it might mean besides god. Atheists apparently “BELIEVE” that the anthropic pinciple means that there IS a god if it can’t be explained away, so they hang onto that rationale by tooth and nail if necessary. Well, they’re wrong, because the hardest “proof” for “specialness” is still, on its best day, only proof that there is some method to nature’s madness. That’s the view that Einstein had that got lost in the “free-thinkers” world of quantum uncertainties, random probablities… and chaos worship.

    The immediate reaction of these is to hang onto the contrary running idea that the obvious strangeness of the cosmic coincidences somehow indicates that “life survives where it can, and the Universe is full of places it can’t?”.

    What you’re missing:

    The balance conditions that you call “magical” are proven to actually exists with every anthropic coincidence, meaning that they are entirely necessary to life.

    The prediction that is indicated by this is that life ONLY exists almost exactly *BETWEEN* the relevant spectrum of potential for this reason, and so the PREDICTION is that life will be only found on the bands of spiral galaxies that exist in the middle, of the spectrum. This factual information indicates is that you’re wasting your time looking in the older or newer systems, because the odds fall off exponentially with runaway consequences as you fall off of the “plane of life”.

    The same can be said of Venus and Mars, the prediction is that you WILL NOT find life on our nearest and most similar brother and sister planets for the reasons that I’ve given, so chew on that before you tell me how plausible life might be elsewhere.

    The factual information makes testable predictions about life, and that’s important to science!… is “why”.

  16. #16 Tikihead
    July 1, 2005

    Island:

    Thanks for the detailed reply. Again, there is MUCH humor to be found in a mold colony’s smugness that a bleached refrigerator was made for them, and it equally applies to us.

    “Because the constraints on the physics indicate that intelligent life is more specially required than other systems, …”

    I do not follow that at all. I do not see intelligence as inevitable in evolution — it just happened. But then, one could always say that God is inscrutable, and does things Her/His own way. Who knows? It’s one of those Gap issues, surely, but our own egoes as humans form the debate.

    “…(at this time in the history of our universe), for our unmatched capability for directly affecting the thermodynamic process of the universe.”

    Really? I had not heard of this. Do you mean some sort of large-scale, human-driven, Universal engineering? I did watch a documentary about Brane Theory, and one scientist airily mentioned that scientists would be spawning a universe artificially. Mindlowing stuff.

    I really don’t know where you’re getting your info about life in galactic spiral arms, etc., but I am familiar with that line of argument. Stellar age, placement in the Galactic spirals, Earth’s distance from the Sun…

    “The same can be said of Venus and Mars, the prediction is that you WILL NOT find life on our nearest and most similar brother and sister planets for the reasons that I’ve given, so chew on that before you tell me how plausible life might be elsewhere.”

    I happen to think life IS possible on Venus — there has been some talk of microscopic life in the clouds there — we’ll see. It may even turn out that earthlike life is the rarest of all kinds of life, and that many many more organisms live on supermassive, superhot planets. Right now, it’s fun to speculate, but real data is missing.

    Do you feel that other Life really only qualifies if “Intelligent?” I am not sure if that is what you’re implying.

    “That’s the view that Einstein had that got lost in the “free-thinkers” world of quantum uncertainties, random probablities… and chaos worship.”

    Yikes — you’re making an assumption there about me. I absolutely loathe Quantum Trendiness, and laughed out loud when I was dragged to see “What the @#$% do We Know?”

    “What you’re missing:

    The balance conditions that you call “magical” are proven to actually exists with every anthropic coincidence, meaning that they are entirely necessary to life.”

    I am addressing in my Fridge example the view that a Deity expressly designed this universe for life. My example stands.

    Again, we have a pretty small data set to go on right now — one planet. Maybe our Celestial Homemaker is less scrupulously clean, bleaches the fridge rarely, and mold is everywhere.

  17. #17 island
    July 1, 2005

    Thanks for the detailed reply. Again, there is MUCH humor to be found in a mold colony’s smugness that a bleached refrigerator was made for them, and it equally applies to us.

    Yeah, there is natural tendency to think it arrogant for us to dare even consider reasons why us little humans might possibly bear any real significance in our vast universe, but it is only the indignant pride of human-arrogance that will enable us to allow this “belief” to stick in our craw hard enough that we would deny the implications of substantial evidence to the contrary when we don’t like what the science is telling us. That defines a willfully ignorant form of fanaticism, in of itself, and this is detrimental to science when the closest thing to truth lies between ideological extremes.

    “Because the constraints on the physics indicate that intelligent life is more specially required than other systems, …”

    I do not follow that at all. I do not see intelligence as inevitable in evolution — it just happened.

    It didn’t “just happen” if the anthropic principle is actually a thermodyamic princple which requires intelligent life for a specific effect in the thermodynamic process. These guys have derrived part of the same theory, which defines good physical reason why intelligence is inevitble in evolution.

    The more complex the structure the more effective is the energy dissemination. Populations are better in this respect than single individuals; ecosystems even more so, and most effective of all — so far — are human high-tech societies.

    Thus, goes the argument, the second law of thermodynamics is not contrary to the existence of life; rather, it is the cause of life. That law drives evolution to higher levels of complexity and to more sophisticated societies and technologies for the sole purpose of disseminating energy gradients.

    More on this can be found in the following article, and the author, Arne Jernelov, is professor of environmental biochemistry, an honorary scholar and former director of the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis in Vienna and a UN expert on environmental catastrophes:

    http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/edit/archives/2004/09/30/2003204990

    But then, one could always say that God is inscrutable, and does things Her/His own way. Who knows? It’s one of those Gap issues, surely, but our own egoes as humans form the debate.

    No, I’m an honest scientist. God has nothing to do with anything that I say.

    “…(at this time in the history of our universe), for our unmatched capability for directly affecting the thermodynamic process of the universe.”

    Really? I had not heard of this. Do you mean some sort of large-scale, human-driven, Universal engineering?

    Particle creation from vacuum energy reverses the normally destructive consequences of the second law on a grand scale, but without violating it. This directly affects the balance of the universe, and it, (currently), only requires a few of these particles per galaxy annually to have a significant affect.

    Einstein didn’t know that particle creation in his static model causes expansion, while holding the universe flat and stable, or we’d be living in a much different universe right now that doesn’t include infinities and uncertainty.

    http://www.lns.cornell.edu/spr/2005-06/msg0069755.html

    I did watch a documentary about Brane Theory, and one scientist airily mentioned that scientists would be spawning a universe artificially. Mindlowing stuff.

    Crackpot stuff, you mean… ;)

    I really don’t know where you’re getting your info about life in galactic spiral arms, etc., but I am familiar with that line of argument. Stellar age, placement in the Galactic spirals, Earth’s distance from the Sun…

    “The same can be said of Venus and Mars, the prediction is that you WILL NOT find life on our nearest and most similar brother and sister planets for the reasons that I’ve given, so chew on that before you tell me how plausible life might be elsewhere.”

    I happen to think life IS possible on Venus — there has been some talk of microscopic life in the clouds there — we’ll see. It may even turn out that earthlike life is the rarest of all kinds of life, and that many many more organisms live on supermassive, superhot planets. Right now, it’s fun to speculate, but real data is missing.

    Right, woulda, coulda, shoulda… prove it, but it helps to have a theory that makes testable predictions, rather than pure sci.fi crap.

    Do you feel that other Life really only qualifies if “Intelligent?” I am not sure if that is what you’re implying.

    No, the same physics applies to everything from Dung Beetles to Black Holes with varying degrees of natural preference to their continued survival that’s base on their ability to continue increasing their contribution to the entropy of our expading universe.

    “That’s the view that Einstein had that got lost in the “free-thinkers” world of quantum uncertainties, random probablities… and chaos worship.”

    Yikes — you’re making an assumption there about me. I absolutely loathe Quantum Trendiness, and laughed out loud when I was dragged to see “What the @#$% do We Know?”

    No, I specifically stated, (TWICE!) that I was generalizing, and that you are not the subject of my statements, but yeah, modern theorists are off their crackpot rockers.

    “What you’re missing:

    The balance conditions that you call “magical” are proven to actually exists with every anthropic coincidence, meaning that they are entirely necessary to life.”

    I am addressing in my Fridge example the view that a Deity expressly designed this universe for life. My example stands.

    We may be at cross purposes here, but I was responding to what you said:

    “I don’t think one need invoke any magical Balance issues”.

    … and that is what I responded to in context with your statement about fine tuning.

    “A strong contingent of thinkers is arguing for fine-tuning”

    Again, we have a pretty small data set to go on right now — one planet. Maybe our Celestial Homemaker is less scrupulously clean, bleaches the fridge rarely, and mold is everywhere.

    No, we have a univesally applicable principle that says that you won’t find life everywhere for the reasons that I’ve given.

    “Free Thinkers”, like Vic Stenger and Nick Bostrom have developed a slew of theoretical rationale that attempts to bypass the observed universe, but rationale is what they’re full of, because empiricism always trumps that bs, and that is the winning point in any argument that includes theoretical speculation, including “multiverses”, many worlds, random probabilities, an infinite number of possible universal wave functions, quantum uncertainty… etc., the observed universe defines the most conservative mainstream scientific approach, so it is necessarily the naturally preferred theory.

  18. #18 ts
    July 5, 2005

    So does this mean that Dembski et. al. are dishonest scumbags who lie about their motives (which we know because they have told the truth at times, when talking amongst themselves)? I think it does.

    On deism and the special place of humans: Wikihead si, island no. The theories of the latter are structured like those of Von Daniken, Velikovsky, and others of their ilk; no more needs to be said.

    On ID necessarily being cosmic: false. The IDists believe that, even those who vehemently insist otherwise, but it isn’t a logical necessity. Whether ID is involved is an *empirical* matter; that’s why Dembski has his filters, and Behe points out specific cellular mechanisms. The IDist position is that, given specific empirical observations, ID — intelligent design — is inferable. So, the IDer might be an alien. Was the alien necessarily IDed? We don’t know, because we have no empirical evidence concerning the alien — for all we know, *it* evolved (but our cells purportedly did not). So there’s no regress.

    Not that it matters, because ID is *not* inferable from *any* empirical circumstances — to do so would be to commit a fallacy, of argumentum ad ignorantiam or of special pleading. “this is *so* unlikely to have arisen without intelligent design that it *must* have arisen from intelligent design” begs the question of how likely such an intelligent designer and such an act of design are — since there is no empirical information concerning the designer, no such probability can be calculated, yet the inference rests upon a *comparison*. This special pleading — evolution must meet criteria that the “alternative” is not subject to — is fundamental to ID, and seals its lack of logical or intellectual legitimacy.

  19. #19 raj
    July 5, 2005

    So does this mean that Dembski et. al. are dishonest scumbags who lie about their motives…

    Let’s get something straight. Dembski et al have a gig. They haven’t produced a theory. And they haven’t produced any evidence in favor of the theory that they haven’t produced. They are nothing more than entertainers who are cashing in among the rubes. They’ve gotten some people to give them money (who knows why?).

    It beats working. They have a gig.

    You might want to consider that science will go to other countries. Actually it already has.

  20. #20 island
    July 9, 2005

    I resent being compared to Von Daniken, Velikovsky, and others of their ilk… but if… no more needs to be said… then I guess that I’m not allowed to talk anymore… ;)

    I can honestly say from first hand experience that Dembski is an agenda motivated liar.

    Now, “no more needs to be said”.

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