Dispatches from the Creation Wars

The Roman God of ID

A couple years I wrote an essay called Intelligent Design as Roman Mythology, in which I noted that the most appropriate symbol of the ID movement was that of Janus, the Roman god of gates that is generally portrayed as having two faces. Here is a bust of Janus that can be found in the Vatican museum:

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By this time, of course, ID advocates are so accustomed to presenting different faces to different audiences that it has become old hat. The central deceit at the core of their PR campaign is the one that says that their motivations aren’t religious and that ID is nothing more than a “scientific research program”. Time and time again, of course, they have had their own words thrown in their face(s) when trying to support this deceit. The examples are many.

Jonathan Wells likes to tell audiences that he was a convinced evolutionist until he got to grad school, when the evidence alone convinced him that evolution was an untenable explanation. At least, that’s what he says when speaking to normal audiences. But his own words, still available today on a Unification Church website, show that he says something quite different to an audience made up of his fellow Moonies:

Father’s words, my studies, and my prayers convinced me that I should devote my life to destroying Darwinism, just as many of my fellow Unificationists had already devoted their lives to destroying Marxism. When Father chose me (along with about a dozen other seminary graduates) to enter a Ph.D. program in 1978, I welcomed the opportunity to prepare myself for battle.

One of the claims you will hear constantly from ID advocates is that the designer doesn’t have to be a god, it could just be an alien who bioengineered life on earth. But again, their own words prove otherwise. The DI’s own definition of ID says, “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.” Because an alien would, like us, be an artifact of the universe, aliens could not be responsible for the structure of the universe itself. And confronted with an alien intelligence, ID advocates would make the same argument for why they could not have evolved without a designer.

Also bear in mind the constant invocations against “naturalism” from ID advocates. If naturalism is the enemy to be defeated and is disproven by ID, as they constantly claim, then the designer can only be supernatural. If it’s not supernatural, then it’s a natural entity that falls well within the confines of the “naturalism” that they claim to be defeating. Clearly, then, the claim that the designer could just be an alien is disingenuous – it conflicts with their other statements time and time again. They simply don’t mean it; they can’t mean it. Yet they expect us to believe it.

This duplicity can be seen in innumerable conflicting statements. When Comedy Central did a show on ID and poked fun at this bit of deceit with the line, “We’re not saying that the designer is God, just someone with the same skill-set”, Dembski replied by claiming that, in fact, the designer need not be transcendent at all, it only needed to be able to manipulate matter:

Although the line is funny, it is not accurate. God’s skill-set includes not just ordering matter to display certain patterns but also creating matter in the first place. God, as understood by the world’s great monotheistic faiths, is an infinite personal transcendent creator. The designer responsible for biological complexity, by contrast, need only be a being capable of arranging finite material objects to display certain patterns. Accordingly, this designer need not even be infinite.

That’s what one of his Janus-like faces says. Now let’s see what the other face says in his essay The Act of Creation: Bridging Transcendence and Immanence:

“The fine-tuning of the universe, about which cosmologists make such a to-do, is both complex and specified and readily yields design. So too, Michael Behe’s irreducibly complex biochemical systems readily yield design. 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.”

Contradiction? You bet it is. But when it’s brought up, the ID advocates fall strangely silent – until the next time someone points out that their “theory” requires a supernatural designer, and then they scream holy hell all over again at how unfair they’re being portrayed. Every time they do so, we show the same quotes that prove that they’re not being honest. And every time, they ignore them and pretend never to have said those things. And then they’re shocked – Shocked! – when someone else accurately portrays their goals and methods.

That’s why we get their behavior of a couple days ago with the Baylor newspaper. Their own words clearly show that calling them a “conservative Christian think tank” is a perfectly reasonable characterization. And it frustrates them to no end that, no matter how many times they make a claim with one face, people still insist on remembering what the other face said. And the funniest thing about it all is how they act like it’s just so unfair of us to keep ringing up their own words.

This also explains, I would add, the tendency of posts to just disappear from the various ID blogs. Time and time again, we’ve pointed out how posts have either been posted and then disappeared altogether when they prove embarrassing, or have been mysteriously edited without any mention of having been corrected. That’s why we continually archive their blogs and websites so we have true copies of everything, because they really do think sometimes that they can play Winston Smith and just have embarrassing statements sent down the memory hole, never to be seen again. A wise man once said that telling the truth is easier because you don’t have to have a good memory to keep track of what lies you told in the past. The ID crowd should take such words to heart. You wouldn’t have to scramble so much to pretend you never said something if you weren’t trying to be dishonest now.

Comments

  1. #1 Raging Bee
    April 21, 2006

    Yo, don’t be dissin’ Janus, dude. His two faces represent vigilance and preparedness, NOT hypocricy or doublethink.

  2. #2 wheatdogg
    April 21, 2006

    Yeah, I was born in Jaunary, so watch it!

    Seriously, I find it telling that Dembski lately has had only seminary jobs. Presumably, his line at SBTS and SWBTS is to support ID as evidence for a divine Creator, aka God. When it talks to secular audiences, his line is to stress how ID will soon be a scientific theory like evilution.

    Also interesting is how Baylor is bucking the Southern Baptist Convention by booting out Dembski and other IDists. Baylor now seems to be part of the moderate Baptist camp, which I have learned still has a reasonable grip on Texas Baptists. The university seems less willing to associate itself with losing propositions like ID and wingnuts.

  3. #3 ruidh
    April 21, 2006

    Even if you posit some kind of less-than-God designer, this designer exhibits “specified complexity” as the IDists define it. Thus the designer must have been designed by some kind of a meta-designer. Eventually, there must have been an ur-designer who was not created yet exhibits “specified complexity”. That ur-designer must be God.

    “It’s turtles all the way down.”

  4. #4 K Klein
    April 21, 2006

    For an organization that claims to be concerned about the moral decay of our culture, the DI sure seems to contributing more than their fair share of immorality.

    But I guess that fits in nicely with the whole Janus theme, eh?

  5. #5 steve s
    April 21, 2006

    I was banned from Dembski’s blog last year for that quote:

    http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2005/12/teach_the_contr_1.html#comment-61147

  6. #6 AdamIerymenko
    April 21, 2006

    “For an organization that claims to be concerned about the moral decay of our culture, the DI sure seems to contributing more than their fair share of immorality.”

    I think that the behavior of these guys reveals how modern neo-fundamentalism (both Christian and otherwise) is a fascistic cult of power and will. They don’t actually *mean* anything that they say. They argue for power and victory, not for truth.

    I also think that the word “faith” means something different to these guys than it’s classical meaning. Faith for them means something closer to the concept of “will to power.” Read their stuff with this model in mind and I think you’ll find it to be enlightening.

    They have lots of naive followers who, like many other naive followers, confuse names with things and judge ideas by their own self-referential claims rather than by their real content and consequences.

  7. #7 Ed Brayton
    April 21, 2006

    steve s wrote:

    I was banned from Dembski’s blog last year for that quote

    Hardly a surprise. Hell, they delete their own statements when they’re inconvenient, why wouldn’t they delete yours?

  8. #8 Matthew
    April 21, 2006

    I like how in his response to the Stewart joke he basically defines the designer as “only” needing to be a demigod. As though they were perfectly natural and not at all related to religion.

  9. #9 RPM
    April 21, 2006

    Also interesting is how Baylor is bucking the Southern Baptist Convention by booting out Dembski and other IDists. Baylor now seems to be part of the moderate Baptist camp, which I have learned still has a reasonable grip on Texas Baptists. The university seems less willing to associate itself with losing propositions like ID and wingnuts.

    Baylor has an excellent medical school and their genome sequencing center is one of the top genome centers in the US. With so much biomedical and life sciences research, it’s no wonder that Baylor is distancing itself from the anti-science camp. Every genome sequencing paper that comes out is full of evolutionary biology.

  10. #10 steve s
    April 21, 2006

    Yeah, one of the funniest things with ID so far. Getting banned from Dembski’s blog, for quoting Dembski.