Is ID Blasphemous?

Peter Hess, Faith Project Director for the National Center for Science Education, argues that it is. He makes his case in this paper in the University of St. Thomas Journal of Law and Public Policy I learned of the article from this post over at Josh Rosenau’s blog. Josh writes, “I think that Peter makes a strong case for ID being blasphemous.” My reaction is considerably less charitable.

We will come to the part about ID in a moment, but first we must address the following from Hess:

The reception of On the Origin of Species was not as the “warfare myth” portrayed it, with godless evolutionary scientists ranged against biblical literalist theologians and bishops. Darwin’s theory met a mixed reception, with some theologians enthusiastically endorsing it as compatible with religious belief, and some scientists vigorously opposing it on scientific grounds.

Whether or not this is true depends on which aspect of “Darwin’s theory” you are discussing. I think it is fair to say that common descent met with a mixed reaction, though there was certainly no shortage of theologians who objected even to this. But on the subject of natural selection as the primary mechanism of evolution the hostile theological response was nearly unanimous. A typical example was Charles Hodge, who famously asked, “What is Darwinism?” and answered, “It is atheism.” It was not common descent specifically that bothered him, but rather that the explanation for that descent could be found in an entirely natural, undirected process.

Historian of science Frederick Gregory sums up the situation as follows:

Unquestionably, the attempt to reconcile evolution and Christianity depended on a rejection of natural selection as the mechanism of evolution. A few writers, for example Asa Gray and George Frederick Wright, claimed that natural selection was not incompatible with a divinely ordered creation, but after Hodge, theologians for the most part abandoned the attempt to reconcile natural selection and design.

(This is taken from the anthology, God and Nature: Historical Essays on the Encounter Between Christianity and Science, edited by Ronald Numbers and David Lindberg.)

Modern evolutionary theory puts natural selection front and center, of course. It is precisely what those nineteenth century theologians most feared. On this point they were far closer in their thinking to modern creationists than they are to modern theistic evolutionists.

But that is just a warm-up. How does Hess make his case that ID is blasphemous?

What are the central theological failings of intelligent design? First, it is blasphemous. Intelligent design constrains God to work within the limits of what its adherents can understand about nature. In so doing it reduces God from the status of creator to that of mere designer, and not a very competent one at that, as suggested by George Levine…

There now follows a lengthy quote from Levine enumerating some of the poor designs in nature. After this, Hess continues:

Intelligent design cannot allow that evolution is the process chosen by God for the unfolding of the universe, entrusting to it its own integrity. ID seems incapable of recognizing the possibility that God remains hidden, indiscernible behind the veil of nature. If we accept the idea of creation, we should also accept the idea of the integrity and autonomy of what is created.

This is all straight from Mars. ID claims simply that there is evidence in nature for the action of an intelligent agent (generally presumed to be the Christian God by ID’s main adherents). How does that constrain God in the slightest? “Blasphemy” is supposed to refer to an insult or act of disrespect directed toward God. Does the suggestion that there is evidence in nature that God did something really qualify as an insult? As they see it evidence for design is a discovery they have made about nature, it is not an a priori conclusion based on myopic assumptions regarding how God must act. It is not that they cannot allow that evolution is the process of creation chosen by God, it is that they have considered evolution and find it wanting. How can it be blasphemous to reject a particular theory of natural history? Scientifically indefensible, certainly, but not blasphemous.

Hess continues:

Second, however seductive an argument it is that intelligent design can be consonant with both religion and science, sooner or later it founders on the shoal of natural evil. The evolutionary history of life on earth implies vast eons of suffering, and theologians have spilled much ink either by attempting to justify it, explaining it away, or somehow integrating it into a theological system. Insisting on God as a cosmic designer — who intervenes periodically to propel evolution in propitious directions — inevitably lays the responsibility for the concomitant suffering squarely at the feet of the designer.

Skipping ahead:

If intelligent design theory is correct, it is understandable why Richard Dawkins should describe God as being (among other things) a “sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” To a theist, of course, such a description of God constitutes blasphemy, but this is the logical descriptor of the God of “intelligent design,” who ultimately is directly responsible for all the suffering built into a universe with which God interminably tinkers.

I agree with Hess that ID has a problem with natural evil, though I do not think it is fair to say they have ignored the problem. Michael Behe discusses it in The Edge of Evolution, and William Dembski just published a book on the subject (based on a long article posted to the internet several years ago, in case Dembski’s book was too recent to be included in this article.)

In making this argument, however, Hess has forgotten Jesus’ question, “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3) Theistic evolution, you see, has precisely the same problem with natural evil as does ID.

If you set in motion a process that inevitably leads to a bad outcome, you are as responsible for that outcome as if you caused it directly. If I drop an anvil from a balcony and it hits someone on the head I do not get to say, “I didn’t do anything! It was a natural process, gravity, that did that.”

If evolution absolves God from the problem of natural evil, it can only be because there was some greater good that God could only achieve via evolution. In treating the problem of human evil it is common to say that such evil is the price we pay for free will. It is very debatable whether this reply is adequate, but it does show what sort of argument is necessary here.

Hess gives no indication of what that greater good could be, beyond a vague reference to integrity and autonomy. (If the story told in Chapter One of Genesis were true the world would lack integrity and autonomy? Really?) As it happens, though, the argument Hess is making here is essentially the one made by Francisco Ayala in his book Darwin’s Gift. In a paper published in the academic journal Science and Theology, Ayala responded to this objection as follows:

Nevertheless, some would say the world was created by God, so God is ultimately responsible; God could have created a world without parasites or dysfunctionalities. Yes, others would answer, but a world of life with evolution is much more exciting; it is a creative world where new species arise, complex ecosystems come about, and humans have evolved. This account will not satisfy some people of faith, and many unbelievers will surely find it less than cogent: a Deus ex machina. But I am suggesting that it may provide the beginning of an explanation for many people of faith, as well as for theologians.

For some reason I am reminded of this Far Side cartoon:



Let me suggest that atheists have nothing to fear from such arguments. Somehow, “evolution is exciting” does not seem like an adequate response to the billions of years of suffering, death and extinction entailed by the evolutionary process. I would add that if humans, complex ecosystems, and new species are the goals, then evolution by natural selection is a horrible means of creating them. It is inefficient, unreliable and cruel. A far better way is to use your omnipotence to bring them into being without the four billion years of horror and savagery. I, for one, would find that plenty exciting.

Hess’ third point is that ID folks routinely present a distorted and dishonest picture of modern science. I agree completely. Let us move on.

Hess writes:

Fourth, intelligent design falsely represents itself as the primary alternative to atheistic evolution or metaphysical reductionism. This is quite untrue. Intelligent design creationism is primarily associated with Protestant Christianity of an evangelical flavor, although a few notable proponents — such as Cardinal Schonborn and Michael Behe — are Roman Catholic. What ID advocates refuse to acknowledge is that mainstream Protestant and Catholic churches, along with progressive Jewish congregations, long ago came to terms with the implications of an evolutionary perspective, and are working hard to integrate it into their theologies of creation.

Hess is kidding himself if he thinks ID is a specifically evangelical Protestant phenomenon. If the public opinion polls are to be believed ID has widespread support among Catholics, Muslims and even orthodox Jews. The idea that there is scientific evidence for the existence of God is hardly a sectarian notion. On the contrary, it is an idea that is likely to appeal to anyone of a religious temperament.

That is the totality of Hess’ case that ID is blasphemous. But there is one more excerpt we must consider before calling it a day:

The mistake intelligent design makes is in asserting that this reality-greater-than-what-is-susceptible-of-empirical-investigation can in fact be discovered by empirical investigation. In fact, intelligent design forsakes both science and religion. In seeking to find in the natural objects of science, some proof of a cosmic designer who by definition transcends nature, intelligent design has abandoned the objective of science. Likewise, in seeking scientific proof of a designer, intelligent design relinquishes faith, which Saint Paul tells us is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” The scientific quest for the designer behind the veil of nature ultimately fails — science can neither discover nor eliminate God.

What nonsense! Really think for a moment about how out of proportion Hess’ reaction is to the provocation. If you think there is evidence in nature for the action of an intelligent designer then you have forsaken both science and religion! You have relinquished faith!

Hess is the one who is trivializing Christianity here. There is so much more to Christian faith than just a belief in God. The Bible itself tells us that in contemplating nature people are “without excuse” for rejecting the existence of God. From the perspective of the Biblical writers, that God existed was regarded as something so obvious as to hardly be the sort of thing that needed proof. The emphasis on faith was directed towards believing that Jesus had accepted the punishment for our sins. Thinking that complex adaptations point toward God hardly leaves you with no need for faith in accepting Christianity.

I wonder how far Hess is really willing to push this. Was William Paley guilty of blasphemy? Does Natural Theology represent an abandonment of both science and religion? All of those advocates of natural theology over the years, all guilty of weak faith? What about all those modern theologians who point to the fine-tuning of the universe as strong evidence for God’s existence. Are they blasphemers? Are they abandoning faith in thinking there is scientific evidence for God’s existence?

Are these really the arguments we are going to present to religious people worried about the implications of evolution? Are we going to tell them that if they think there is scientific evidence for God they are not just mistaken, they are flirting with blasphemy and have abjured faith? Somehow I don’t think that’s a winning argument.

Comments

  1. #1 386sx
    April 8, 2010

    The Bible itself tells us that in contemplating nature people are “without excuse” for rejecting the existence of God.

    Ah, Hess conveniently forgets one of the all time most famous verses in history. Who’s really doing the blaspheming here? (Clue: It’s Hess.)

    Though admittedly it’s kinda hard not to blaspheme, considering there’s 30,000 some odd verses in the Bible or so. You’re bound to run into a blaspheme wall sooner or later no matter what you say. It’s almost like God was self-blasphemingly making the whole thing over complicated so as to confuse even the LORD almighty.

  2. #2 Pierce R. Butler
    April 8, 2010

    Why should someone working for the NC4 Science Ed be telling anybody what is #$*%ing theologically incorrect?

    Is he going to start laying down dietary and sexual rules next?

  3. #3 Mathew Goldstein
    April 8, 2010

    Its unfortunate that in his zeal to promote scientific literacy the Faith Project Director for the National Center for Science Education descends to the level of attempting to argue that ID is blasphemous. Surely with a little more effort the people at the NCSE can find a way to be effective without becoming silly. That kind of argument may be convincing to people who are theistic evolutionists. With everyone else, including those who embrace ID, my guess is that it will more likely be counter-productive. If he wants to make theological arguments then it would probably be better if he at least had the common sense to refrain from making “blasphemy” accusations.

  4. #4 Josh from America
    April 8, 2010

    I would encourage everyone who thinks there is a debate to have a look at a certain Mr H. Neanderthalensis, yes feel free to paste that into Google, Wikipedia or Encyclopedia Britanica.

    Go ahead we will wait,

    Then check out another person of interest Ms H. Erectus, there are endless tons of skeletons to look at by the way. Then on to a previous genus called Australopithecus, then on and so forth. You can probably tell where I’m going by now,

    Q: But those last ones look like aliens, they are just monkeys!

    A: Do monkeys use tools and technology, walking upright?

  5. #5 G.D.
    April 8, 2010

    There is a much simpler (and more compelling) argument for the claim that ID is blasphemous, though I might suspect why Hess didn’t use it. It starts off as the answer to the following question:

    “Why doesn’t God display his present more often? As in sending angelic hordes to battle evil, speaking out in a booming voice, striking down people he doesn’t like etc. etc. In short, acting in a way that would make everyone convinced that he exists?”

    The response is then to point out the centrality of faith to Christianity. The fact that he doesn’t show himself like this is precisely because you’re supposed to have faith in him and Jesus and whatnot.

    My point is that if you take that route, or something like that, it is a short step to realizing that trying to find evidence for the existence of God in the natural world is the exact opposite of having faith independently of evidence. From this perspective, the god of the gaps would exactly amount to some kind of idol worshipping, completely alien to the faith-requiring Christian god, a god which has made it certain that his presence cannot be proven.

    To me that whole line of reasoning comes across as so much appeal to confirmation bias and worshipping the unfalsifiable. Nevertheless, the opening question is a good one, and the answer suggested seems to be more or less the only even remotely viable one. And from that point of view the kind of pantheistic nature god of the ID movement start to sound very much unlike the Christian god.

  6. #6 386sx
    April 8, 2010

    Nevertheless, the opening question is a good one,

    Not really because the question is not answerable since anybody can “have it your way” when it comes to what their God is like. Just like at Burger King where you can “have it your way”, well you can oder up your own God with pickles or without, or whatever.

    and the answer suggested seems to be more or less the only even remotely viable one.

    Only in the sense of being the most viable “con job”. Only relying on faith and totally demonizing evidence to the point where you can’t have any, is the most viable way of performing a “con job”.

  7. #7 AL
    April 9, 2010

    “In seeking to find in the natural objects of science, some proof of a cosmic designer who by definition transcends nature, intelligent design has abandoned the objective of science.”

    What does it mean to “transcend nature” anyhow?

  8. #8 Brian
    April 9, 2010

    I guess Ayala is being blasphemous when he posits God as the Quantum fiddler too?

  9. #9 386sx
    April 9, 2010

    I guess Ayala is being blasphemous when he posits God as the Quantum fiddler too?

    Not at all. He would be like the “whoppers with extra ketchup” people.. Anybody can “have it your way”.

  10. #10 GravityIsJustATheory
    April 9, 2010

    IMO, ID is “blasphemous” in the same way that religious dogmatists consider any alternative interpretation of God/scripture to be “blasphemous”.

    I.e. they care utterly convinced that they know what God is like, how he behaves, and what he wants from the world. Any notions that contradict these “facts” about God are seen essentially as slander against God.

    They “know” that God is loving, therefor any suggested method of creation that involves cruelty is a slander on God.

    They “know” that God is perfect, all-knowing, all-powerful, etc. So any suggested method of creation that is messy, imperfect, unreliable, or unpredictable, or not necessarily leading ot the existance of humans is again slanderous.

    And so on.

    Now, I see no reason why – if there is a God – it should necessarily be perfect, or all-knowing, or all-powerful, or interested in humanity (or even aware of our existance). (But then, I see not reason to think there is a God).

    But Christians (and most other extant theists) do believe in such a God, and the stronger their belief and greater their certainty the more likely they are to see divergent views as slanderous, and hence as blasphemous. (And also as idolatrous, as they are involve mentally creating a “false” God).

  11. #11 adr150
    April 9, 2010

    from my perspective, the question of if ID is blasphemous is a pointless one for two reasons:

    1) ID is a failed hypothesis; whether or not it is blasphemous is irrelevant to the fact that it has no evidence to support it…which brings me to reason 2:

    2) who cares if something is blasphemous (or why should I or anyone care if its blasphemous)

  12. #12 DuckPhup
    April 9, 2010

    This whole argument and analysis is stupid and irrelevant. ALL the claims of Intelligent Design are nothing more than smoke and mirrors. Intelligent Design was NOT invented to serve as a scientific theory… it was invented specifically as a political strategy, whose purpose is to bamboozle and mislead scientifically-ignorant legislators, educators, school boards, and the Christ-cult’s own gullible and scientifically-ignorant constituency. The stated INTENT of this strategy is to undermine scientific education, and sabotage science itself. The inventors of Intelligent certainly don’t believe their own claims; they don’t need to. The strategy works because its proponents can lie with impunity, justifiably confident that it will never even occur to their stupid, gullible, credulous and ignorant God-bot audience that they might actually be being lied to.

    Look up ‘wedge strategy’ (the conceptual blueprint for Intelligent design) and “creationism’s trojan horse”.

    Whenever the subject of Intelligent design arises, it should NEVER be argued on its (bogus) scientific merits (or lack thereof). Instead, it’s background and history should be reviewed… citations provided… and then dismissed, with derision, and its defenders should be scathingly ridiculed for being sucked-in by the scam.

  13. #13 Koray
    April 9, 2010

    I’m with GravityIsJustATheory here.

    DuckPhup, everybody here is very familiar with what you’re saying. Jason’s just writing about this particular paper by Hess.

  14. #14 Jason Rosenhouse
    April 9, 2010

    I would add that there is a distinction between the leaders and the followers in ID. I can certainly understand the anger directed at Dembski, Behe, Wells and co. But things look different to many of the supporters of ID, like the people I have met at the various conferences I have attended. These are people who have a casual interest in the subject, and who like the general idea that science can lend support to their religious views, but who do not really care about the minutiae of irreducible complexity or Dembski’s probability calculations. To them it is a ludicrous overreaction to suggest they flirting with blasphemy just for thinking that science can lend support to God’s existence.

  15. #15 Greg Fish
    April 9, 2010

    Somehow, “evolution is exciting” does not seem like an adequate response to the billions of years of suffering, death and extinction entailed by the evolutionary process. I would add that if humans, complex ecosystems, and new species are the goals, then evolution by natural selection is a horrible means of creating them. It is inefficient, unreliable and cruel. A far better way is to use your omnipotence to bring them into being without the four billion years of horror and savagery.

    Yes, it would be a better way if you were trying to avoid suffering and savagery. But what if it doesn’t really matter to you? What if you consider that suffering is just a part of life and don’t to do anything about it as not to taint your experiment?

    But of course, now we’re right back to the issue of theodicy and the question of how an omnipotent, merciful and compassionate deity could allow death and suffering to happen, then forced to retreat to the story of Adam and Eve to pin the whole thing on humans, then forced to justify why a deity would let two humans he just created seal the fate of humanity as a whole for the crime of curiosity and exercising the free will given to them…

    All in all, any quasi-theological arguments that in any way brush with theodicy keep us circling the same drain. People like me would say that the whole story makes no logical sense and Biblical literalists replying with threats of hellfire and eternal damnation or, when that fails, alternate condescension and pity. On my blog this happens at least once a week. People refuse to change their minds or really discuss the issues at hand and as a result, we’re still stuck with pseudoscientists like Ham, Ruse and Dembski.

  16. #16 Greg Fish
    April 9, 2010

    Hate to be a double commenting pest, but I just wanted to put something out there regarding “Dembski’s probability calculations.”

    They make a mockery of biological modeling in the world of computer science because he doesn’t even know what he’s talking about. Trying to model something you don’t even have a passing grasp of usually yields nonsense.

  17. #17 Deen
    April 9, 2010

    What is an article about blasphemy doing in a journal of law and public policy? Since when is blasphemy a legal concept, rather than just a religious concept?

    Yes, others would answer, but a world of life with evolution is much more exciting;

    Except that most of that excitement is limited to about the last billion years and a single planet. If excitement was the purpose of a creation with evolution, what about the other 12 billion years or so, or the vast, vast, vast expanses of lifeless space?

    What ID advocates refuse to acknowledge is that mainstream Protestant and Catholic churches, along with progressive Jewish congregations, long ago came to terms with the implications of an evolutionary perspective, and are working hard to integrate it into their theologies of creation.

    So which is it? Either you’re done coming to terms with it, or you’re still working on it. Can’t have it both ways.

  18. #18 Tulse
    April 9, 2010

    Why should someone working for the NC4 Science Ed be telling anybody what is #$*%ing theologically incorrect?

    Lots of folks have been asking the NCSE that for quite a while…

    “however seductive an argument it is that intelligent design can be consonant with both religion and science, sooner or later it founders on the shoal of natural evil.”

    This is a very silly statement, since as others have already noted, any theological account of the universe has this difficulty, including theistic evolution. There is simply no way to postulate a supernatural creator without running into problems of theodicy.

    Hess is an executive of one of the main organizations fighting against creationism. That fact depresses me greatly.

  19. #19 386sx
    April 9, 2010

    Intelligent design cannot allow that evolution is the process chosen by God for the unfolding of the universe, entrusting to it its own integrity.

    He isn’t worried when God does other sorts of miracles in the unfolding universe. What makes evolution so special? How come other stuff don’t lose their “integrity” when God performs miracles on them? (Hint: Hess is propagandizing for evolution. That and he has “religion scrambled brain” syndrome, apparently.)

  20. #20 heddle
    April 9, 2010

    Jason,

    Nice post–I agree with you as close to 100% as it is possible for me to agree with you to near 100%.

    GD:

    “Why doesn’t God display his present more often? As in sending angelic hordes to battle evil, speaking out in a booming voice, striking down people he doesn’t like etc. etc. In short, acting in a way that would make everyone convinced that he exists?”

    The response is then to point out the centrality of faith to Christianity. The fact that he doesn’t show himself like this is precisely because you’re supposed to have faith in him and Jesus and whatnot.

    That is not the only response. I also don’t think it is the right answer. But certainly another answer as to why God doesn’t simply make himself visible in some obvious way so that everyone would believe is that it is not God’s intention that everyone believes. After all, Jesus said that he spoke in parables so that unbelievers would not understand.

    My point is that if you take that route, or something like that, it is a short step to realizing that trying to find evidence for the existence of God in the natural world is the exact opposite of having faith independently of evidence.

    The bible, very unambiguously, suggests otherwise. Hebrews 11 is the faith hall of fame–and every person mentioned at charter members saw god or spoke to him or witness miracles. If what you say is true, then Gideon, who repeatedly demanded physical evidence of God before he would act, should be in the faith hall of shame, not the hall of fame.

    The problem with ID is not that it looks for evidence of God. There is nothing wrong, theologically, with looking for evidence of God. The problem with ID is that it is a total and utter failure and it its failure it tries to take down science.

  21. #21 386sx
    April 9, 2010

    God performed a miracle on Mary, mother of Jesus. How come Mary didn’t lose her “integrity”. It’s the complete opposite. Mary has all kinds of “integrity” all over the freakin place.

  22. #22 Jason Rosenhouse
    April 9, 2010

    heddle -

    High praise indeed! Actually, I borrowed the point about Christianity being far more than just belief in God from one of your earlier comments. Hope you don’t mind.

  23. #23 Lenoxus
    April 10, 2010

    If the excitement of raw evolution were a necessary part of any decent world, that still doesn’t justify the existence of actual tooth-and-claw-and-eating-you-alive evolution. There are always games, simulations, novels, television shows, etc — in other words, dozens of ways for people to connect to the excitement without it having to cause any real suffering. (And most of the exciting and neato stuff doesn’t directly require suffering anyway; for example, bioluminescence.)

    For many people, zombie video games are exciting; that doesn’t mean a livable world requires actual zombie holocausts.

  24. #24 Matteo
    April 11, 2010

    It seems that Hess has never read the first chapter of the Book of Romans. But I suppose that St. Paul was actually a blasphemer par excellence.

  25. #25 Brandon
    April 11, 2010

    I’m a supporter of ID, though not a scientist, theologian or philosopher. In fact, this article is now being discussed on Uncommon Descent, Dr. Dembski’s blog. It is true that the arguments for theistic evolution have been recently discussed on UD. Ayala, Hess and others have made it clear their intention to undermine the real arguments for ID with strawmen. To argue that ID is blasphemous necessitates the setting up of a strawman. That strawman is that ID seeks to prove God’s existence, negating the need for faith. I wish ID had that power, but this is simply not the case. ID does not seek to prove God’s existence. ID seeks to understand biological complexity from a scientific perspective. In order to do so, we need to look at all possibilities, and ID has found more scientific validity for design in nature than for the efficacy of naturalistic processes alone to account for that complexity. Design does not diminish God’s omnipotence, nor his omniscience. It doesn’t do this, because ID advocates understand that ID is limited. ID cannot tell us who the designer is, though most supporters believe it is God. This question, however is theological, and not scientific, and I don’t think you will find an ID proponent who has stated that ID can in any way tell us anything about the deity beyond a design inference. It appears then that ID proponents are more careful in separating their theology form their science than are the proponents of theological evolution, or even the proponents of atheistic evolution for that matter.

  26. #26 Vincent Kargatis
    April 11, 2010

    Jason, I’ve noted this before, but you still have a penchant to refer to “billions of years of suffering”. “Suffering” has only plausibly existed for hundreds of millions of years (on this planet), and I think your points fare better if you stay away from hyperbole.

  27. #27 Jason Rosenhouse
    April 11, 2010

    Vincent –

    Point taken. Millions of years it is.

  28. #28 heddle
    April 11, 2010

    Brandon,

    and I don’t think you will find an ID proponent who has stated that ID can in any way tell us anything about the deity beyond a design inference

    How about:

    Intelligent design is just the Logos theology of John’s Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory (William Dembski)

    That’s just a weeeeee bit more than a design inference. (And close, I’d say, to blasphemous.)

  29. #29 Brandon
    April 12, 2010

    Heddle,

    All Dembski is saying in that statement is that what he has discovered in the design inference agrees with his theology. The Logos implies information. He is not saying that ID proves that the Logos is God, nor is he saying anything about the Creator apart from what the evidence of CSI shows. He’s merely finding a theological implication for the evidence. This quote from Dembski gets misused quite often. People who quote mine it tend to mischaracterize Dembski when he is speaking theologically as if he is speaking scientifically. Would you say that a person using the Big Bang theory as evidence for their theological beliefs as being blasphemous, or as saying anything about the Creator apart from what the scientific evidence suggests?

    What do you find blasphemous with finding that God’s work in creation has evidence? I would say that it would be blasphemous to believe otherwise, as if God is not really the Creator.

  30. #30 heddle
    April 12, 2010

    Brandon,

    All Dembski is saying in that statement is that what he has discovered in the design inference agrees with his theology.

    First of all, if that were his intent, it is is hardly worth stating (or claiming as a “discovery”)–as if evidence that the universe was designed could possibly have operated against his theology which has at its core a designer of the universe. Secondly, if all he were saying was “the design inference agrees with his theology” then why did he say it as he did, invoking John’s Logos theology? Just to appear clever–to use an obscure statement when he could have used the simple statement you gave? And why not the Logos generically, why the Logos as used by John, who ties it to Christ, who is a specific deity?

    Would you say that a person using the Big Bang theory as evidence for their theological beliefs as being blasphemous, or as saying anything about the Creator apart from what the scientific evidence suggests?

    I would have no problem with that. But what if I said: My nuclear physics research is just the Paul’s soteriology theology of Romans written in the idiom of quarks and leptons!

    What do you find blasphemous with finding that God’s work in creation has evidence?

    Nice try, but I said no such thing. And from my first post, even if you never read anything else I’ve written on the subject, you see that I agree with Jason that Hess has not (nor can anyone in my opinion) made a case that ID is blasphemous.

    People who quote mine it tend to mischaracterize Dembski when he is speaking theologically as if he is speaking scientifically.

    So when you wrote “and I don’t think you will find an ID proponent who has stated that ID can in any way tell us anything about the deity beyond a design inference” you really should have added: Except when they do, in which case I’ll excuse it as speaking theologically, not scientifically.

  31. #31 ail
    April 12, 2010

    Meanwhile, ID acquires a new advocate:

    Pravda! :
    Creationists Right About Entropy

    If I were a religious person, I’d call it a sign of the end of days.

  32. #32 James Sweet
    April 12, 2010

    Somehow, “evolution is exciting” does not seem like an adequate response to the billions of years of suffering, death and extinction entailed by the evolutionary process.

    Fully agreed, however, I do think that this point is illustrative both of where Hess has a point and simultaneously of where he goes off the rails.

    Basically, he is making the observation that the God of ID is a boring, provincial, tiny God. It is the same observation that many atheists have made when they come to realize that the truth — in addition to its inherent advantage of being, you know, true and stuff — is actually far more exhilarating than ancient (or even modern) myths.

    Unwilling to make that final leap, of course, he tries to set up the God of Theistic Evolution as the alternative. And if we buy that premise, then he’s right: If the choice is between ID’s God and TE’s God, the latter at least has some mystery and some poetry to it, and the former seems pathetic, puny, and sad.

    In that limited sense, Hess’ basic contention is correct: Preferring ID over TE belittles God, and therefore could be said to be blasphemous.

    Of course, it ought not to be a choice between ID and TE, because the God of Theistic Evolution still seems provincial and petty in comparison to the wonder and magic of the actual (atheistic) universe.

    Hmmmm… to extend the argument, perhaps in light of our wondrous scientific understanding of the universe, theism of any sort is inherently blasphemous? The only gods that don’t come off as puny and sad in comparison to scientific truth are the deist and pantheist gods. heh…

  33. #33 James Sweet
    April 12, 2010

    I guess Ayala is being blasphemous when he posits God as the Quantum fiddler too?

    I would argue, yes.

    My antitheistic credentials are pretty strong, so please don’t misunderstand me here. But if you’re going to do the faith thing, one at least ought to do it right. The Quantum Fiddler makes God look pathetic. It’s such a transparently clingy demand for a Gap into which to shove God. It’s “anti-spiritual” in a way… Instead of just blissing out on some kind of transcendental mystery, they’re frantically searching for some scientific nook or cranny in which to shove their increasingly desperate-seeming God.

    Yeah, I’d call that blasphemous.

  34. #34 Blake Stacey
    April 12, 2010

    Peter Hess, Faith Project Director for the National Center for Science Education,

    Wait, what?

  35. #35 Tulse
    April 12, 2010

    Wait, what?

    I don’t understand your confusion — you’re surprised that a science education organization has an executive member whose job it is to pronounce on theology?

  36. #36 Jud
    April 13, 2010

    Re blasphemy: Actually, when considered in simple, straightforward fashion, I think ID – or more precisely, the notion of “irreducible complexity” at its heart – is blasphemous, or perhaps the type of reasoning-from-absurdity that gets people in trouble when they base mathematical conclusions on division by zero, for example.

    “Irreducible complexity,” simply put, is the notion that there are mechanisms in living things that could not have occurred via evolutionary (step-wise) means. But if God is the Creator, then this is exactly equivalent to saying God is not able to create these mechanisms by step-wise means. Thus the notion of irreducible complexity necessarily places a limit on God’s abilities, and is therefore blasphemous. (The notion that God is behind evolution doesn’t run into this particular problem of having to place a limit on God’s abilities, but as others have pointed out, it does raise the problem of evil in the same way ID, creationism, or any other theory involving a God-creator does.)

    The other way of looking at the problem is reminiscent of the schoolboy “Can God create an object so heavy He can’t lift it?” paradox: Can God design a mechanism in living things so complex that He could not cause it to evolve by step-wise means?”

  37. #37 heddle
    April 13, 2010

    Jud,

    “Irreducible complexity,” simply put, is the notion that there are mechanisms in living things that could not have occurred via evolutionary (step-wise) means. But if God is the Creator, then this is exactly equivalent to saying God is not able to create these mechanisms by step-wise means.

    ??? that makes no sense at all. Irreducible complexity can be though of as nothing more than saying God chose, for his good pleasure, to introduce a discontinuity. It makes no statement that he had to. Your point is profoundly incorrect, regardless of the correctness of irreducible complexity.

  38. #38 Jud
    April 13, 2010

    heddle writes:

    ??? that makes no sense at all. Irreducible complexity can be though of as nothing more than saying God chose, for his good pleasure, to introduce a discontinuity. It makes no statement that he had to. Your point is profoundly incorrect, regardless of the correctness of irreducible complexity.

    Howdy. :-) I don’t concede, but it actually doesn’t matter anyway. To explain:

    - It seems to me that ID is invested in the idea of “irreducible complexity” as a logical principal, rather than just what we discern God’s choice to be by observation. Thus Dembski’s NFL theorems and various other attempts to “prove” irreducible complexity (or disprove the efficacy of step-wise evolutionary change, which amounts to the same thing) as a matter of logic. Insofar as ID treats the notion of irreducible complexity as an inevitable part of creation, rather than just what we discern God’s choice to have been through our own powers of observation, thus far does my original “blasphemy” point hold.

    Of course the reason ID supporters want irreducible complexity to be a logical necessity and not just an observed phenomenon is because they wish to prove the necessity of a Designer. Unfortunately, the more they try to prove the necessity for a (divine) Designer, the more they are subject to the paradox that a Designer who cannot – rather than chooses not – to proceed by stepwise evolutionary means is by definition not the all-powerful God of Scripture.

    - On the other hand, it seems to me that evolutionary biologists and other scientists who support evolution do take the road of saying “This is what we observe” (or if you prefer, “This is what we observe God’s choice to have been”). Regardless of whether one believes in God-guided evolution or not, the theory of evolution itself has never been constrained by the need to prove the existence of a divine being behind its principles.

    Comparing ID with evolution, if one chooses to compare the “weak” version of ID (by observation we see God chose direct design rather than stepwise evolution), then it provides no better argument for (or, if you prefer, assertion of) the existence of God than does God-guided evolution (by observation we see God chose step-wise evolution rather than direct design). If one chooses to compare the “strong” form of ID (we can logically prove the existence of features in life that could not have been created by step-wise evolution), then this cannot prove the existence of an all-powerful God.

    Either way, ID is at best equivalent to evolution for those who wish to posit the existence of an all-powerful Creator, and in its strong form it is actually worse. Thus, strong form or weak form, ID is not preferable to evolution on a religious basis. Those who want to believe in ID on the basis that it supports belief in God (which is, I think, everyone who believes in ID) ought to take note.

  39. #39 386sx
    April 13, 2010

    Unfortunately, the more they try to prove the necessity for a (divine) Designer, the more they are subject to the paradox that a Designer who cannot – rather than chooses not – to proceed by stepwise evolutionary means is by definition not the all-powerful God of Scripture.

    Nope not really. People can rationalize whatever they feel like rationalizing. For example, why would an all powerful God have to flood the planet for? Why would an all powerful God have to make a hell? No problem! Still an all-powerful God of Scripture!

    Here’s how it works:

    1) Start out with the premise that there is an all-powerful God of Scripture.

    2) Shut down brain.

    There you go, a rock solid premise that cannot be shaken. Budda bing buud boom, nooooo problemo.

  40. #40 386sx
    April 13, 2010

    Here’s another good one: Why would an all-powerful perfect God of Scripture need to be “worshiped” for? What the hell for?

    Here’s how to resolve that one:

    1) Start out with the premise that an all-powerful perfect God of Scripture needs to be worshiped.

    There you go, problem solved. Budda bing, badda boom, bingo.

  41. #41 heddle
    April 13, 2010

    386sx ,

    Start out with the premise that an all-powerful perfect God of Scripture needs to be worshiped.

    That would be a really stupid premise. Do you actually know someone who presupposes that God needs to be worshiped? I have never met such a person. Budda bing, badda boom, bingo.

  42. #42 eric
    April 13, 2010

    Heddle: Do you actually know someone who presupposes that God needs to be worshiped?

    According to the 1st commandment and similar biblical material, God presupposes that God needs to be worshipped. Just remember, you’re the one who called his pressuposition stupid, not me.

    Ba da bing, ba da boom.

  43. #43 heddle
    April 13, 2010

    eric,

    The first commandment, which we can shorten to “worship no other Gods, is just that, a commandment.

    In 386sx’s construct we have “God of scripture needs to be worshiped.” The subject is God. The verb is need. God needs. But God needs nothing. The need is for us: we need.

    Just like the 2nd commandment, “Make no image image of God.” That does not mean: God needs us not to make an image of God.

    Nor does God need us not to take his name in vain, or to respect the Sabbath, or not to steal, etc.

    The presupposition is not that God needs to be worshiped. Or that God needs to be worshiped by men. The presupposition is that men need to worship God. Men have a need, not God.

    Ba da bing, ba da boom.

  44. #44 Owlmirror
    April 13, 2010

    But God needs nothing.

    So far, OK….

    The need is for us: we need.

    Need, as in require for our survival or basic happiness? Or want, as in desire something extraneous for additional happiness above the baseline, which we could carry on just fine without?

    (I don’t need to argue with people on the Internet; I want to, because I am trying to understand how reality works and how people think about it. But I could easily survive going into permanent lurk mode, and find other ways of occupying my time.)

    The presupposition is that men need to worship God. Men have a need, not God.

    And yet, the bible makes it a death penalty crime to have a different need (or want).

    Hm.

  45. #45 Brandon
    April 13, 2010

    Owlmirror,

    You have a need not to eat razors for your own good, not God’s. God doesn’t have that need. That there are consequences for our actions in no way indicates that God needs us to avoid such consequences. I think what Heddle means (and I agree) is that God is self-sufficient. Furthermore, God’s commands are for us, and are indicative of a God who is directed outside of Himself. He doesn’t need us to worship Him, He wants us to for our own good. To do otherwise leads to dire consequences not because God is a tyrannical egomaniacal dictator of our will, but because our will is self-destructive, not self-sufficient. We are contingent, God is necessary. God does not desire us to destroy ourselves through faulty allegiances to ‘principalities and powers,’ which ultimately lead to destruction because they are not of God. In God’s universe within which He is supreme, allegiance to Him leads to the ultimate good.

    Now getting back to ID. Several on here have made the assertion that ID proponents need God to work in an ID fashion. That is simply not the case. Behe, for example, accepts common descent, and he limits ID to certain biological features, such as the bacterial flagellum and the blood clotting cascade. Behe does not use the human eye as an example, because he sees that there are features of the human eye, which are not irreducibly complex. In fact, there is an arm of ID, which believes that evolution was ‘front loaded,’ which is closer to theistic evolution than anything I can think of in the ID camp – see Mike Gene’s blog.

    But the real contention of ID with Darwinian ToE is not necessarily common descent (although there are ID proponents who do not accept CD), rather the materialistic mechanism of RM + NS as a complete explanation for irreducibly complex biological features and for functionally complex specified information. If you read any of the primary ID sources, Dembski, Behe, Meyer, etc., this is really the main focus. Issues of whether God could create using successive steps is not at issue. ID proponents for the most part accept evolution, but do not accept the Darwinian mechanism for evolution as sufficient in itself to explain these features. ID proponents are not attempting to dictate what God can or cannot do.

    The inadequacy of RM + NS as an explanatory mechanism for FCSI is why Meyer’s book ‘Signature In The Cell’ focuses on the origin of life. Because while Darwinian processes can be at work after the first cell was in full biological functionality, Darwinian ToE neither attempts to, nor does it explain the origin of that cell. Darwinian mechanisms cannot explain it. DNA as a conduit of functionally complex specified information requires an explanation if Darwinian ToE is to be accepted thereafter as the only coherent biological explanation for irreducibly complex structures. So far the supporters of Darwinian ToE have failed to explain how the first cell could emerge through purely Darwinian mechanisms, and few deny this fact. ID simply posits that an alternative explanation of purposeful design is more cogent and parsimonious to the totality of the problem. What you do with that position is up to you.

  46. #46 Wowbagger
    April 13, 2010

    Men have a need, not God.

    If we need to worship God, why are we commanded – or even reminded – to do it? I need to get oxygen into my bloodstream, so I breathe* and have no choice over whether or not I do it.

    The same cannot be said for worship.

    *Simplified for a) brevity and b) my ignorance of a more thorough description of the process.

  47. #47 386sx
    April 13, 2010

    The subject is God. The verb is need. God needs. But God needs nothing. The need is for us: we need.

    Yah like I said, people can rationalize anything they want. :D There you go.

  48. #48 Owlmirror
    April 13, 2010

    I think what Heddle means (and I agree) is that God is self-sufficient.

    If God exists, then God is self-sufficient. Yes, I think I can tentatively agree with that.

    But that wasn’t what I was asking about, was it? I was asking about humanity’s putative “need”.

    He doesn’t need us to worship Him, He wants us to for our own good.

    This “want” — do you mean “want” as I used it in #44? It would make God ‘happier’ if it was the case? That implies that God’s happiness is dependent on the actions of humans, and is thus… not entirely self-sufficient.

    And finally, I perceive no “good” whatsoever in worship, and you do not demonstrate it with your arguments.

    To do otherwise leads to dire consequences not because God is a tyrannical egomaniacal dictator of our will, but because our will is self-destructive, not self-sufficient.

    This is self-evidently false: It is not the case that atheists commit suicide simply because they are atheists, nor is it the case that only atheists commit suicide.

    By the way, what, exactly, is responsible for “our will” being self-destructive?

    We are contingent, God is necessary.

    So you presuppose.

    God does not desire us to destroy ourselves through faulty allegiances to ‘principalities and powers,’ which ultimately lead to destruction because they are not of God.

    I have no idea what you might be referring to with this statement. What do you mean by ‘principalities and powers’? Where did these ‘principalities and powers’ come from? How are we supposed to “ally” with them?

    In God’s universe within which He is supreme, allegiance to Him leads to the ultimate good.

    There is no evidence whatsoever that this claim is true.

    And — I realize that this is a doctrinal issue — it is explicitly false according to heddle’s Calvinism: God saves and damns on whim, not as the result of any commitment of “allegiance” that humans make or refuse to make.

    =====

    The inadequacy of RM + NS as an explanatory mechanism for FCSI

    Except that it is not proven to be inadequate.

    is why Meyer’s book ‘Signature In The Cell’ focuses on the origin of life.

    A book-length argument from ignorance and incredulity is still an argument from ignorance and incredulity. ID tries to make an empirical claim; this requires support from empirical evidence.

    ID simply posits that an alternative explanation of purposeful design is more cogent and parsimonious to the totality of the problem.

    And of course, “ID” is neither cogent nor parsimonious.

  49. #49 Brandon
    April 14, 2010

    Owlmirror,

    Thanks for the response. I had to type this all over again because I tried to submit without name and email. Oh well, maybe it was meant to be.

    I can’t seem to connect God’s desire with His necessity or self-sufficiency. As I stated earlier, God’s will is other-directed, and not directed at self. Therefore, He can have desires that are not in any way connected to His necessity. If God’s desires were in any way directed towards Himself, I can see how this would be contradictory. Let’s discuss the issue of worship, because I think there are some misunderstandings as to what is meant by worship. We are not talking about adulation, as one would give to a saint, or to a person of great accomplishment. What we are really talking about is recognition of the ultimate good. Worship of God is a response to His nature and character. God would be worthy of worship even if He did nothing outside of Himself. But then there would be none to worship Him. If you read the scriptures carefully you will see often the characterization of God as necessary for our good and for our survival. God is spoken of as being a stream of water of the purest sort, or as bread from heaven, or any number of images, which suggest necessity. So worship in that sense is out of our necessity to experience the ultimate good of God’s character. We live through Him, whether we believe or not. We worship because God is perfect. All other beings are imperfect and contingent upon God’s providence. So when we talk about God’s desire for us to worship Him, we are not talking about worship from a human understanding of adulation, but from a position of recognition of the ultimate good. Clearly no other being is worthy of such a recognition. All other beings are contingent upon God’s existence. His existence transcends all other existences. We could go further into this, and you are right in pointing out that it is a theological issue. But I just wanted to make that point as clearly as I can, and perhaps my explanation may still be inadequate. Let’s just leave it with the understanding that God’s full character and attributes are past finding out through intellectual inquiry. I understand Him more from the heart than from knowledge I have gained, so it is difficult to transfer that understanding to another without a breakdown in perception. We all see things from different perspectives.

    That said, let’s get into the issue of ID, which again, I may not be a completely adequate purveyor of its position. When I posited that RM + NS is inadequate as an explanatory mechanism for FCSI (Functionally complex specified information) found in DNA, you stated “Except that it is not proven to be inadequate.” You are correct, and it will never be proven to be so, because RM + NS as an explanation is not inductive like a mathematical proof. But if you look at it from a perspective of what exactly chance can do, you can see that chance alone cannot lead to FCSI. FCSI requires both purpose and intent, so RM + NS as a chance occurrence cannot adequately account for FCSI. Both ID and Darwinian natural selection are deductive arguments, and are provisional. As Meyer stated in his book, we must appeal to the best explanation to the evidence at hand (not his exact words).

    Why do you believe ID is neither cogent nor parsimonious, and an argument form ignorance and incredulity?

  50. #50 Owlmirror
    April 14, 2010

    As I stated earlier, God’s will is other-directed, and not directed at self.

    I’m sure you think so, but how, exactly, can you read God’s mind and know where this alleged will is directed or not directed?

    If God’s desires were in any way directed towards Himself, I can see how this would be contradictory.

    Its contradiction is exactly the point why I cannot accept the claim as being logically valid, let alone empirically valid.

    ====

    What we are really talking about is recognition of the ultimate good.

    If you’re trying to clarify the concept of “worship”, you’re not doing a good job. How are mere mortals supposed to know what “ultimate good” is so as to recognize it?

    Of course, a Calvinist might point out that this is something granted with regeneration, meaning that my inability to know this putative “ultimate good” is simply part of my being one of the damned.

    And what does this recognition entail, such that it is worship? Just the recognition itself?

    “Oh, that’s Ultimate Good, alright. I’d know it anywhere, yep, yep. Definitely good, definitely ultimate. You can tell the ultimateness by the faint blue sheen its got. — OK, now I got that checked off, I’m done with worship, and I’m gonna turn on the game.”

    God would be worthy of worship even if He did nothing outside of Himself.

    Because doing nothing is the ultimate good? Really, you’re not being clear at all.

    If you read the scriptures carefully you will see often the characterization of God as necessary for our good and for our survival. God is spoken of as being a stream of water of the purest sort, or as bread from heaven, or any number of images, which suggest necessity.

    And yet this suggestion cannot be the actual case, because atheists are living their lives without God, many of them happily so.

    So worship in that sense is out of our necessity to experience the ultimate good of God’s character.

    Worship in what sense, exactly?

    We live through Him, whether we believe or not.

    What does this even mean?

    But I just wanted to make that point as clearly as I can, and perhaps my explanation may still be inadequate.

    Very inadequate, I’m afraid. I am utterly confused by what you are trying to convey.

    Of course, again, this may be a result of me being damned.

    ====

    You are correct, and it will never be proven to be so, because RM + NS as an explanation is not inductive like a mathematical proof.

    Mathematical proofs are not necessarily inductive, and are stronger when they are not. But more to the point, no scientific theory is like a mathematical proof. Why single out one aspect of biology?

    But if you look at it from a perspective of what exactly chance can do, you can see that chance alone cannot lead to FCSI

    Since “chance alone” is not relied on in the explanation, this is not really much of a criticism.

    FCSI requires both purpose and intent

    This has not in anyway been demonstrated.

    so RM + NS as a chance occurrence cannot adequately account for FCSI.

    And this has not been demonstrated.

    In fact, “FCSI” has not been formally defined, to the best of my knowledge. That is, there is no explanation of what “FCSI” means in terms of biology such that something (a system? An organ? An organelle?) definitely is or is not “FCSI”.

    Have you read this paper, by the host of the blog that we are commenting on?

    Just curious.

    Why do you believe ID is neither cogent nor parsimonious, and an argument form ignorance and incredulity?

    1) It isn’t parsimonious because it posits an entity — the putative designer — before that entity has been shown to be necessary.

    2) It isn’t cogent, because it lacks formal empirical definitions of critical terms, such as “FCSI” (as noted above), or “IC”, or anything else that it relies on for its argument. It has no methodology on how to go about defining those terms or providing any sort of falsifiable theory. It has no scientific program or research plan. It argues that a “designer” is necessary for “FCSI” [...whatevers...] to come into existence without demonstrating this, and it contains an internal contradiction: Their putative designer can not have come into existence — if RM+NS is inadequate for us, it’s equally inadequate for this putative designer.

    3) It’s an argument from ignorance and incredulity because it insists that RM+NS is inadequate for “FCSI” without actually demonstrating this, and it insists that life cannot have arisen via natural means without knowing or showing this.

  51. #51 Brandon
    April 14, 2010

    Owlmirror,

    Since most of your responses are assertions without anything to back them up, I will assume that you are really not interested in debate about reality, rather that you are simply interested in contradiction, like the argument clinic guy from Monty Python. For example, you assert that ID lacks formal empirical definitions for FCSI or IC, but you give no basis for such an assertion. FCSI has been given a very specific definition, and if you can’t understand that, then perhaps you really haven’t read the pertinent material. As far as FCSI, It means Functional Complex Specified Information. It specifically rules out any kind of information that does not fit those 3 criteria. Those criteria are met by DNA, because like a computer code, it has a function, it is complex as opposed to for example Shannon information, which may be complex, but does not necessarily have a function.

    IC (Irreducible complexity) was very meticulously defined in Michael Behe’s ‘Darwin’s Black Box,’ to the extent that even those who disagree with Behe continue to use the term as a legitimate definer of a very particular phenomenon – when a machine has parts, which are essential to its function, such that if any one part was missing, the machine would not function. Behe applies IC to molecular machines, and many disagree with this application, but the term itself is very empirically valid. Your assertion does not hold.

    Furthermore you assert that ID isn’t parsimonious because it posits an entity = the putative designer. ID does not posit a designer, it posits design. There’s a very important difference. Design infers that there is a designer, but ID is not interested in the designer per se, but in the design. You are incorrect.

    And thirdly you assert that ID is an argument from ignorance and incredulity because it insists that RM + NS is inadequate for FCSI without actually demonstrating this. Well obviously you haven’t been reading the arguments from ID theorists, because Behe, Dembski, Meyer and others have made a very forceful argument for why RM+NS fails. Meyer even dedicated an entire chapter in his book to the inadequacy of the common computer models, which purport to demonstrate how natural selection works, only to really show the efficacy of design. All of the Darwinian computer models actually demonstrate design, and not natural selection. This is why Dembski has spent so much time writing papers regarding Dawkins’ Weasel program and others. They clearly demonstrate as a model that purposeful design is required even for some processes that might appear random.

    Now I have to ask you how for example Meyer fals to demonstrate in his 600 page book, how RM+NS fails in its ability to generate functional complex specified information. What specifically can you point to that demonstrates Meyer’s failure to demonstrate this?

  52. #52 Wowbagger
    April 14, 2010

    Brandon, you need to cite the appropriate scientific publication in which this FCSI concept you speak of is explained. As it is, a Google search for that initialisation brings up, as its firt link, the home page for the Foodservice Consultants Society International.

  53. #53 Brandon
    April 14, 2010

    Wowbagger,

    Try googling the actual term (Functionally complex specified information) rather than its acronym. You will usually end up with CSI (complex specified information) due to the fact that ID proponents have recently updated the term to include functionality, even though functionality is implied in CSI. FCSI simply adds some more specificity to the term. Functionality distinguishes CSI from Shannon information, and I believe this is the reason for the update.

  54. #54 Wowbagger
    April 14, 2010

    Brandon, are you saying that there aren’t any scientific publications that include papers on FCSI? That seems a little odd for something you’re implying demonstrates serious flaws or underlying problems with the TOE.

  55. #55 JimC
    April 15, 2010

    Reading Brandon a couple of posts up and it becomes clear you are dealing with a real fruit loop. Owlmirror you might as well save your energy.

    We are not talking about adulation, as one would give to a saint, or to a person of great accomplishment

    There are no ‘saints’ in any sense past those among us. The others are simply catholic superstition foisted upon a credulous populous typically through childhood indoctrination. No sane adult would buy such babble.

    Brandon,

    It is quite clear you ‘think’ you know something about God, when in fact you know as much or as little as the next guy. All you are offering is dribble that has no bearing on anything at all and would be debated by the next person who ‘knows’ God of whatever variety they choose to worship. Your version of God is yours and yours alone.

  56. #56 JimC
    April 15, 2010

    doesn’t need us to worship Him, He wants us to for our own good. To do otherwise leads to dire consequences not because God is a tyrannical egomaniacal dictator of our will, but because our will is self-destructive, not self-sufficient.

    This is really really stupid. The vast majority of the planet neither worships your version of God nor has for most of recorded(and unrecorded history) and yet we have gotten far enough to waste time sitting at desks discussing drivel.

    Billions of individual wills came and went and still go without being self destructive. Your statement is simply false. A species that is self destructive doesn’t survive very well. Nature has essentially ensured we are not self destructive as a species despite a lapse here and again. The vast majority fo humans are peaceful and kind. Not evil in any form or fashion.

  57. #57 Brandon
    April 15, 2010

    JimC,

    I’m not a Catholic, so I don’t hold any adulation towards any Catholic Saints. I used that merely as an example of human adulation. I think it’s an appropriate example. But I would agree with you that there are no ‘saints.’

    But I see that this discussion is getting far and away from the main topic of ID and weather it is blasphemous, which I will reiterate, it is not. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if it has scientific merit or not.

  58. #58 Brandon
    April 15, 2010

    Wowbagger,

    My response to your last post has apparently been held up in moderation for reasons unbeknownst to me.

  59. #59 Owlmirror
    April 15, 2010

    Since most of your responses are assertions without anything to back them up, I will assume that you are really not interested in debate about reality, rather that you are simply interested in contradiction, like the argument clinic guy from Monty Python.

    What on Earth brought this on? I asked questions about God, and argued the current scientific consensus on ID, and this makes you act like a character from Monty Python?

    Is ID pining for the fjords?

    For example, you assert that ID lacks formal empirical definitions for FCSI or IC, but you give no basis for such an assertion. FCSI has been given a very specific definition, and if you can’t understand that, then perhaps you really haven’t read the pertinent material.

    The only pertinent material I can find in scholar.google.com is rebuttals of Dembski and his CSI.

    Why is there nothing by anyone in support of his arguments, I wonder?

    Information Theory, Evolutionary Computation, and Dembski’s “Complex Specified Information”

    Intelligent design advocate William Dembski has introduced a measure of information called “complex specified information”, or CSI. He claims that CSI is a reliable marker of design by intelligent agents. He puts forth a “4th Law of Conservation of Information” which states that chance and natural laws are incapable of generating CSI. In particular, CSI cannot be generated by evolutionary computation. Dembski asserts that CSI is present in intelligent causes and in the flagellum of Escherichia coli, and concludes that neither have natural explanations. In this paper we examine Dembski’s claims, point out significant errors in his reasoning, and conclude that there is no reason to accept his assertions.

    Not looking good for WD, so far…

    As far as FCSI, It means Functional Complex Specified Information. It specifically rules out any kind of information that does not fit those 3 criteria. Those criteria are met by DNA, because like a computer code, it has a function, it is complex as opposed to for example Shannon information, which may be complex, but does not necessarily have a function.

    And function means what, exactly? It does something?

    Does the atmosphere have FCSI? Why or why not? It’s certainly complex; it arguably contains specified information (in terms of temperature, wind flow direction, humidity, particulate count, and probably other factors as well), and it’s pretty well functional in its dynamic change.

    IC (Irreducible complexity) was very meticulously defined in Michael Behe’s ‘Darwin’s Black Box,’ to the extent that even those who disagree with Behe continue to use the term as a legitimate definer of a very particular phenomenon – when a machine has parts, which are essential to its function, such that if any one part was missing, the machine would not function. Behe applies IC to molecular machines, and many disagree with this application, but the term itself is very empirically valid.

    Not if he cannot actually prove that the molecules could not have arisen by natural selection. His “IC” is just a fancy way of arguing from incredulity and ignorance.

    Did you read Jason’s paper on the topic?

    And thirdly you assert that ID is an argument from ignorance and incredulity because it insists that RM + NS is inadequate for FCSI without actually demonstrating this.

    Indeed so.

    Well obviously you haven’t been reading the arguments from ID theorists, because Behe, Dembski, Meyer and others have made a very forceful argument for why RM+NS fails.

    They assert it — argue it from ignorance and incredulity — but do not prove it.

    Meyer even dedicated an entire chapter in his book to the inadequacy of the common computer models, which purport to demonstrate how natural selection works, only to really show the efficacy of design. All of the Darwinian computer models actually demonstrate design, and not natural selection. This is why Dembski has spent so much time writing papers regarding Dawkins’ Weasel program and others. They clearly demonstrate as a model that purposeful design is required even for some processes that might appear random.

    I’m afraid that neither you, nor Dembski, nor Meyer, actually understand the point of the computer programs.

    They do indeed demonstrate that randomness and selection are necessary and sufficient to generate complexity. The “weasel” target string did not have to be an English sentence; it could have been a random string. But that target string represents informational characters that permit survival in the computer model just like biological characters permit survival in the real world. I emphasize “like” because “like” is used when making an analogy.

    Why do you have such problems understanding an analogy when it contradicts your presuppositions?

    Now I have to ask you how for example Meyer fals to demonstrate in his 600 page book, how RM+NS fails in its ability to generate functional complex specified information. What specifically can you point to that demonstrates Meyer’s failure to demonstrate this?

    Ultimately, Meyer must demonstrate this assertion, with actual empirical evidence that falsifies the current understanding of evolutionary biology, rather than arguments from incredulity and ignorance, to evolutionary biologists, cellular biologists, geneticists, biochemists, biostatisticians, and so on — all of the scientists whose work he is claiming is useless and wrong.

    In order to do this, he must publish this empirical evidence in a peer-reviewed scientific journal; that is, one which is reviewed by the types of scientists whose fields he is making his argument about, and convince the editors and the reviewers that his evidence and argument have merit. And, having published, his work must stand up to additional criticism from scientists in the fields he is making his argument about. If other scientists in the fields he is making his argument about find fatal flaws in his data and/or methodology, his work is falsified, and cannot be considered valid even if it was published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

    He has not done this.

  60. #60 Owlmirror
    April 15, 2010

    You will usually end up with CSI (complex specified information) due to the fact that ID proponents have recently updated the term to include functionality, even though functionality is implied in CSI.

    Perhaps its being recent is the reason why there’s nothing in scholar.google.com. But are his arguments for it any better than what has already been rebutted?

    Besides, the acronym is less important than the actual definition, which isn’t looking too good from a coherence and cogency perspective.

    My searching in scholar.google.com found this as well…

    AN ALGORITHMIC INFORMATION THEORY CRITIQUE OF STATISTICAL ARGUMENTS FOR INTELLIGENT DESIGN

      W. Dembski claims to have established a robust decision process that can determine when observed structures in the natural world can be attributed to intelligent design. Dembski’s decision process first asks whether a structure as an outcome can be explained by the regularity of natural laws. If not, and the outcome can be “specified”, a randomness test is devised to determine whether an observed low probability outcome indicates non natural design.
      As other authors have shown, the Dembski test is unworkable as it provides no reliable way of assessing the probability of these events. This paper argues that a decision process based on a Martin Löf universal randomness test does not suffer from the failings of the Dembski approach and should replace it. Indeed, a universal randomness test will show that most observed outcomes in the natural world are not random; they are highly ordered. However this does not necessarily demonstrate a design intervention. It becomes clear that the critical decision is not between chance and design, but between natural laws and a design intervention. Unless the chance hypothesis is eliminated in the first step of the decision process the decision will be strongly biased in favour of design. However, if chance is eliminated first, natural explanations of outcomes would seem to be far more credible than postulating a non natural design explanation. The Dembski decision process is flawed. Dembski also introduces a 4th law of thermodynamics, the law of conservation of information, to argue that information cannot emerge from random processes. However, if a more robust measure, the deficiency in randomness, is used to define what Dembski means by information, the so called 4th law is seen to contain no more than the second law of thermodynamics. Introducing a 4th law obscures the fact that the second law allows order to arise by natural means. For example, low entropy outcomes representing order emerge when low entropy photons from the sun generate low entropy living systems on earth.
      In conclusion despite the good intentions, the Dembski approach fails. Because the universal Martin Löf test is scientifically valid and more effective in identifying order, the scientific community should refuse to engage in any discussions on the possibilities of design interventions in nature unless the discussion is articulated in terms of the Martin Löf universal randomness test.

  61. #61 Jud
    April 15, 2010

    Brandon writes:

    But the real contention of ID with Darwinian ToE is not necessarily common descent (although there are ID proponents who do not accept CD), rather the materialistic mechanism of RM + NS as a complete explanation for irreducibly complex biological features and for functionally complex specified information. If you read any of the primary ID sources, Dembski, Behe, Meyer, etc., this is really the main focus. Issues of whether God could create using successive steps is not at issue. ID proponents for the most part accept evolution, but do not accept the Darwinian mechanism for evolution as sufficient in itself to explain these features.

    This demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of both the logical implications of ID and “irreducible complexity,” and the theory of evolution.

    Of course one doesn’t read in primary ID sources that “God could not have created [feature X] in living things via stepwise means.” That is, however, the unavoidable implication of two ideas held by virtually everyone involved with the ID movement: (1) The features we see in living things could not have been created by stepwise means; and (2) The God of Scripture is the Creator/Designer.

    The first of these ideas is utterly necessary to ID because if features could have evolved by stepwise means, there is no need for a Creator/Designer to plonk ‘em in there already designed and built. The second of these ideas you will never see in ID materials, due to ID’s attempt to pass itself off as a scientific theory in order to get into schools alongside or in place of the theory of evolution.

    “ID proponents for the most part accept evolution, but do not accept the Darwinian mechanism for evolution as sufficient in itself to explain these features” is a nonsensical atatement. We can see there are various species that arose over time. The theory of evolution posits natural mechanisms as the cause. ID says there is a necessity for supernatural, thus non-scientific, mechanisms (or aliens from outer space, if you’re DaveScott – so who is responsible for their evolution/creation?) to explain it.

    People can differ scientifically (and scientists do) regarding the contributions of various natural mechanisms to evolution. The “new synthesis,” neutral theory, contingency, “evo-devo,” and other schools of thought all weigh in to this vigorous discussion. But once you get to saying “Yah, the Big Magic Guy In the Sky who can do whatsoever he pleases plonked ‘em in there,” then you have left the domain of scientific theory and you can no longer reasonably be said to “accept evolution” by any semantically meaningful definition.

  62. #62 Owlmirror
    April 15, 2010

    Forgot this while responding last night…

    Furthermore you assert that ID isn’t parsimonious because it posits an entity = the putative designer. ID does not posit a designer, it posits design. There’s a very important difference.

    That’s a distinction without a difference. You wouldn’t be positing design if you weren’t positing a designer.

    How do you distinguished between designed and non-designed? Are snowflakes designed?

    Design infers that there is a designer, but ID is not interested in the designer per se, but in the design.

    This kind of coy feigned indifference makes you look disingenuously dishonest.

  63. #63 386sx
    April 16, 2010

    How do you distinguished between designed and non-designed? Are snowflakes designed?

    The answer would be yes. The whole dang universe was created. The real question should be, but can it be detected that the snowflakes are designed? The answer to that is also yes. It is detected every time the invisible friend talks to them and tells them invisible stuff. The next question would be, but can it be detected scientifically? The answer is of course 42. And my magic bunny-gerbil too, of course.

  64. #64 Tex
    April 21, 2010

    Evolution, Intelligent Design, or Both?

    Many people argue that either the Theory of Evolution is the truth, or that Creation is the truth. I believe there is truth to be found in both. There is simply so much undeniable evidence that supports Evolution, that it simply cannot be dismissed. Intelligent Design, however does not have much supporting facts. This does not mean it is an incorrect theory. Thus far, Evolution offers the best explanation as to how life began on Earth. However, just because it is currently the best, does not mean it is the only explanation, or the ultimate truth. Evolution, when it was first proposed, was considered a joke, and people (including scientists) mad a mockery of it. Now there is a new theory on the horizon, and it is also being dismissed without much thought.
    I personally am a strong supporter of Evolution. That does not mean I am not open to other possibilities. Do I think Intelligent Design is a better explanation than Evolution? Not particularly. But I do believe it deserves its fair share of proper research. Once it has been properly researched, and there has been no real evidence found to support it, then I think that it should be rejected as a whole. Yet there is always the possibility that through such research, there will be solid evidence found that supports I.D., and then I.D. should be accepted.
    Evolution has had hundreds of year’s worth of evidence, facts and scientific breakthroughs that support it. And yet it was finally being taught in schools little more than a century ago, and even then teachers were losing their jobs for it. I.D. has not had hundreds of year’s worth of the same evidence, scientific breakthroughs and the like. Do I think it should be taught in schools? Definitely not at this time for it is simply too controversial, “… it is unconstitutional to teach I.D,” (Judge Jones). But once again, if proper research reveals there is evidentiary support, then yes, I.D. will have earned its place in the classroom. I do not think that people of faith should use I.D. to get God back in the classroom. I.D. does not claim God to be the Intelligent Designer. It is possible that God is such, but scientists that support I.D. do not claim a specific Deity.
    People claim the Theory of Evolution is just that: a Theory, and should not be the only thing being taught in classrooms. The reason it is the only thing being taught in classrooms is because it is the best explanation in existence at the moment. I do believe, however, that students be made aware of the facts that there are other theories in existence, even though they may not be as well supported as Evolution is. I think teachers should name the other theories, give a brief explanation as to what that theory is about, and leave it at that. If students wish to study such theories on their own time, it is of course their right to do so. The reason students need to know about other theories that exist is because of the simple fact that not every one agrees with Evolution. An example of this would be a good friend of mine. Caitlin Goldsmith is a student at Pima Community College, in Tucson Arizona, and she is also a devout Christian. As she learned about Darwin and Evolution, she could not help but feel conflicted. Her Church had taught her one thing, yet her school was teaching her something different. She spent many hours of her own time trying to find a creation theory that she could honestly believe. She found it in Intelligent Design, and when she researched it further she began to wonder why it hadn’t been taught in her school. “If they had taught I.D. in school it would have saved me hours of my own time. It has tons of factual evidence, and besides the Theory of Evolution is just a theory, it isn’t fact,” (Caitlin Goldsmith).
    As of now, the strongest argument supporters of I.D. use is a negative one: Evolution has gaps, therefore I.D. wins by default. Science does not work this way. You must have a hypothesis, and then you test that hypothesis. If your tests do not prove your hypotheses incorrect, you test it again and again, modifying it based on the evidence found. That is what is happening with Evolution continuously. I believe I.D. needs to do the same. While neither I.D. nor evolution can be proven ultimately correct, there is still a lot to be learned from research of both. “Neither Evolution nor Creation can be either confirmed or falsified scientifically,” (Scientific Creationism, pg. 9).

  65. #65 tresmal
    April 21, 2010

    Howdy Tex! (Sorry I couldn’t resist)
    You seem like a reasonable person, so I’ll address some of your points assuming that you are.

    Now there is a new theory on the horizon, and it is also being dismissed without much thought.

    Actually the Inference From Design is much older than evolution and was pretty widely accepted by scientists before Darwin. It took about 20 years for Common Descent to be widely accepted and another roughly 50 years for Natural Selection to be accepted as the main driver (after being integrated with modern Genetics in the 1920′s and 30′s into the Modern Synthesis.) My point is that during that time design was given a lot of thought and consideration by a large number of intelligent and knowledgeable people. It failed because it was bad science. It made no testable predictions and was useless for suggesting promising areas of research. Another problem was its logical weakness, it is nothing more than a God of the Gaps argument. Modern ID does nothing more than extend these weaknesses to biochemistry and fails for the same reasons.

    But I do believe it deserves its fair share of proper research. Once it has been properly researched, and there has been no real evidence found to support it, then I think that it should be rejected as a whole.

    About that research. In the 20ish years that modern ID has been around, nobody has done any ID research. None at all. Period. None of the ID promoters has even described – and they’ve been asked – how to do ID research. They have not described, let alone performed, a single ID experiment. They have not suggested, let alone sought, a single potential fossil find that would support ID. They have made no predictions about future discoveries in Biology. They have made no useful suggestions about where to look for future discoveries. In short, in 20 years nobody associated with ID has done any ID science.

    I do not think that people of faith should use I.D. to get God back in the classroom.

    That’s largely the point of ID. See Wedge Strategy.

    I.D. does not claim God to be the Intelligent Designer.

    For purely legal and political reasons.

    but scientists that support I.D….

    Precious few of them.

    …do not claim a specific Deity.

    Dishonesty on their part.

    People claim the Theory of Evolution is just that: a Theory…

    The word “theory” does not mean what you think it means. The idea that matter is made of atoms is also a theory (Atomic Theory) as is the idea that the Earth does around the Sun (Heliocentric Theory.)

    I do believe, however, that students be made aware of the facts that there are other theories in existence, even though they may not be as well supported as Evolution is. I think teachers should name the other theories, give a brief explanation as to what that theory is about, and leave it at that.

    If you followed the previous link and understood the article, you’ll realize that, in fact, there aren’t any other theories.

    Caitlin Goldsmith is a student at Pima Community College, in Tucson Arizona, and she is also a devout Christian. As she learned about Darwin and Evolution, she could not help but feel conflicted. Her Church had taught her one thing, yet her school was teaching her something different. She spent many hours of her own time trying to find a creation theory that she could honestly believe. She found it in Intelligent Design, and when she researched it further she began to wonder why it hadn’t been taught in her school. “If they had taught I.D. in school it would have saved me hours of my own time. It has tons of factual evidence, and besides the Theory of Evolution is just a theory, it isn’t fact,” (Caitlin Goldsmith).

    She went shopping for a theory? She looked around until she found one that fit her lifestyle and budget? That’s doing it wrong. Also, “tons of factual evidence”? Why have they never presented any of this evidence to scientists?

    As of now, the strongest argument supporters of I.D. use is a negative one: Evolution has gaps, therefore I.D. wins by default.

    And it is a very weak argument.

    Science does not work this way.

    Correct.

    You must have a hypothesis, and then you test that hypothesis. If your tests do not prove your hypotheses incorrect, you test it again and again, modifying it based on the evidence found.

    Sounds like you’ve got the basic idea. I have to quibble a bit and point out that scientists don’t really “prove” things. That’s for math and logic.

    That is what is happening with Evolution continuously. I believe I.D. needs to do the same.

    It’s been suggested to them.

    “Neither Evolution nor Creation can be either confirmed or falsified scientifically,” (Scientific Creationism, pg. 9).

    That is utter bullshit. Creation has been destroyed by scientific evidence. Evolution can, in principle, be falsified but, at this point it would be pretty implausible that it will be. Discoveries that would falsify evolution, while hypothetically possible, wouldn’t just overturn evolution, they would pretty much invalidate most science.

  66. #66 Owlmirror
    April 26, 2010

    These are the basic principles of evolution, as laid out by Jay Hosler.

    ================

       1. As a result of mutation creating new alleles, and segregation and independent assortment shuffling alleles into new combinations, individuals within a population are variable for nearly all traits.

       2. Individuals pass their alleles on to their offspring intact.
       3. In most generations, more offspring are produced than can survive.
       4. The individuals that survive and go on to reproduce, or who reproduce the most, are those with alleles and allele combinations that best adapt them to their environment.

    ================

    Those are the empirical premises that would be falsified in order to falsify evolution.

  67. #67 Allen
    May 9, 2010

    Does Creation NEED to be confirmed scientifically? Evolution stands up to scrutiny from all sides and stands well, as it should being a scientific idea, in the face of those would test the idea again and again to clarify and correct.
    Does creation qualify as a scientific idea? Is it not based on ‘faith’, the word of God which cannot be falsified. It can’t be tested…it’s about faith. And if it isn’t testable and falsifiable…it’s not science.

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