More precisely, if we say that theistic evolution is a form of intelligent design, then we have to stop saying that intelligent design is a form of creationism.

Over at HuffPo, Victor Stenger writes:

But when surveys ask moderate Christians what they really believe, they all say that evolution is God-guided. Well that’s not Darwinian evolution. That’s intelligent design. There’s no guidance in Darwinian evolution. It’s all accident and natural selection. In particular, and this is what is unacceptable to all Christians and just about every other religion: humanity is an accident. Start up life on Earth all over again and humans would not evolve.

Stenger should know better than to talk about what “all” Christians believe. It’s actually pretty common for theistic evolutionists to abjure any notion of direct activity by God in the evolutionary process. The idea is that God allowed the world to create itself by setting in place a certain system of natural laws. The picture of God micromanaging the process by guiding the mutations has theological problems.


Now, I never miss an opportunity to scoff at theistic evolution. I do not believe it is a reasonable position to hold. The arguments made on its behalf are weak, and I can understand why so many Christians can not bring themselves to accept it.

But for all of that it’s not ID. The hallmark of anti-evolutionism, whether young-Earth creationism or intelligent design, is some implication that scientists are doing it wrong. They are not saying simply that evolution as scientists understand it fits within a larger metaphysical framework that involves God. They are saying that any understanding of natural history that does not make reference to God’s direct activity is just wrong.

Moreover, there is a clear political dimension to creationism and ID. To accuse someone of supporting ID is to imply that they support inserting religion into science classes. That certainly does not describe TE.

This particular meme, that TE is a form of ID (or, even worse, a form of creationism) is a needlessly incendiary way of making what I believe is a reasonable and important point. Evolution as scientists understand it works just fine without any thought that God is directing the mutations. And, as I alluded to earlier, the notion of God micromanaging the process suffers from grave theological problems. That so many people feel they must go this route to make evolution acceptable says something about the magnitude of the problem in reconciling science and religion. Most people just can’t seem to accept evolution “full strength.”

By all means criticize TE for glopping up a perfectly good scientific theory with a lot of unnecessary theological gobbledy-gook. Just remember that on the issue of science education they are on the side of the angels, and, indeed, are necessary allies in the fight against creationism. Describing them with the same term we use for anti-science, right-wing religious zealots is not helpful

Comments

  1. #1 couchloc
    May 18, 2012

    Just to be clear there are really three, possible theses in play here. These seem to not be sufficiently distinguished in your otherwise nice description.

    (1) Intelligent design requires not merely that God “started everything off” but makes the additional claim that evolution is incapable of producing the complex adaptations organisms have and God intervened in the process.

    (2) Theistic evolution–deism (TED) holds that God created the universe and its laws, and everything developed from there without intervention.

    (3) Theistic evolution–interventionism (TEI) holds that God created the universe and its laws, and everything developed from there with occasional interventions.

    I think only (1) is properly described as a form of intelligent design.

  2. #2 Arthurian Daily
    May 18, 2012

    It is like the evolutionary predecessors to the flat earth.

    Here is all the proof you need:

    http://arthuriandaily.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/evolutionary-predecessors-to-the-flat-earth/

  3. #3 flippertie
    May 18, 2012

    @couchloc
    The Discovery Institute’s definition of ID says that “certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause”.

    The “certain features” sounds like your (3)

    And of course it’s not a god but a ‘designer’…

  4. #4 Ned
    May 18, 2012

    There is a difference between Intelligent Design – a cultural, religious, political movement with a clear cut agenda — and the philosophical notion of intelligent design. I heard Ken Miller state that he believes in i.d., as any theist does, but of course he is inalterably opposed to I.D. Jason is right that the term “intelligent design” should be used to denote ID — the anti-evolution movement espoused by the DI in Seattle — rather than the theological idea that there is a conscious creator behind the universe. Even if both are false, they are not equivalent positions and it is easy (and accurate enough) to refer to the second one as theistic evolution.

  5. #5 Jim H
    May 18, 2012

    Paul Staments states it best: “Evolution is God’s Intelligent Design” That cuts to the heart of the matter and keeps both parties happy. If you want to believe God is guiding evolution, as a atheist, I can go along with that.

  6. #6 Bilbo
    May 18, 2012

    Hi Jason,

    I’m an ID proponent, but I’m politically liberal on most issues, and I don’t believe that ID should be taught in science classes (interestingly, Bradley Monton, an atheist who is NOT an ID proponent, DOES believe ID should be presented in science classes, assuming it is presented in the proper way).

    I’m curious what you think are the “grave theological problems” of ID.

  7. #7 SC (Salty Current)
    May 19, 2012

    It’s actually pretty common for theistic evolutionists to abjure any notion of direct activity by God in the evolutionary process.

    I don’t see how TE could have any meaning if this were true.

  8. #8 Kel
    May 19, 2012

    It comes down to what is meant by “god-guided” evolution. I’m sure some of the claims about God’s role in evolution by theistic evolutionists would be indistinguishable from claims made by intelligent design proponents. It seems it’s more a problem of degree (depending on the scope of what is claimed) than a dichotomy.

  9. #9 Deepak Shetty
    May 19, 2012

    By all means criticize TE for glopping up a perfectly good scientific theory with a lot of unnecessary theological gobbledy-gook. Just remember that on the issue of science education they are on the side of the angels, and, indeed, are necessary allies in the fight against creationism.
    But creationism is just one symptom. I’d think that their position on separation of church and state and reduction of religious influence in the public sphere is what would determine whether they are allies or not.

    In any case TE seems to take multiple forms
    a. A pure deistic like form – harmless
    b. God set a plan in motion and then watches – harmless
    c. God set a plan in motion and can violate some physical laws (miracles) , just not evolution – problematic
    d. God set a plan in motion , interfered once (souls) – problematic

  10. #10 Thanny
    May 19, 2012

    Theistic evolution is not Intelligent Design™, but it certainly is intelligent design. That follows quite directly from the definition of the words.

    Any objection to what Stenger wrote is purely political. While I understand the reasoning on that front, I don’t agree with the premise (that theists will abandon or avoid evolution if someone states a plain fact).

  11. #11 NickMatzke
    May 19, 2012

    I think the post makes some very important points. Amongst other things, it helps clarify why the creationists/IDists fight so much with the theistic evolutionists (at least as much as they do with other evolutionists), and why they fight so little amongst themselves despite the logically massive disagreements between creationists on empirical matters like the age of the earth. The creationists/IDists almost all share some important chunks of theology, like Biblical inerrancy and a strong-to-extreme dose of literalism.

    couchloc writes:

    Just to be clear there are really three, possible theses in play here. These seem to not be sufficiently distinguished in your otherwise nice description.

    (1) Intelligent design requires not merely that God “started everything off” but makes the additional claim that evolution is incapable of producing the complex adaptations organisms have and God intervened in the process.

    (2) Theistic evolution–deism (TED) holds that God created the universe and its laws, and everything developed from there without intervention.

    (3) Theistic evolution–interventionism (TEI) holds that God created the universe and its laws, and everything developed from there with occasional interventions.

    I think only (1) is properly described as a form of intelligent design.

    Posted by: couchloc

    There are probably a lot more possible/in play positions, actually. We can boil them down to how much of the universe is supposed to be explained by the direct special miraculous intervention of God, versus natural processes seen as God’s handiwork but non-miraculous, vs. natural processes seen as totally God-free things.

    E.g.:

    1. YEC — miracles explain origin of the universe, earth, geology, first life, biological ‘kinds’, adaptations, humans

    2. ID (mainstream version) — put the earth and geology in the “agnostic, could go either way” category

    3. OEC — remove earth and geology, other things are still miracles

    4. ID (Behe 1996 version) — add common ancestry of the kinds, but still have interventions to tinker with the DNA to produce IC adaptations

    5. ID (Behe 2006 version) — on the one hand make arguments that seem to imply intervention, on the other hand claim that all the necessary “coincidences” and “information” was set up at the Big Bang (somehow). Collapse in confusion.

    6. “God guided mutations”, strong version — God basically miraculously intervenes sometimes to accomplish things in evolution that would otherwise be improbable. IMHO this is still a flavor of creationism/ID

    7. “God guided mutations”, weaker version — God sometimes chooses the results of certain random processes so as to oh-so-subtly “guide” evolution so that, say, humans come about eventually; but there is no implication that this will be detectable or that humans will “look” particularly improbable without God’s action

    8. “God guided mutations”, even weaker version — God chooses/intends the results of everything everywhere, including mutations as well as the wind etc.

    9. God might guide mutations in one of the above senses, who knows, but it doesn’t matter much because the natural law of natural selection makes it inevitable that something like humans will emerge (e.g. Simon Conway Morris)

    10. #9, but replace “inevitable” with “possible”

    11. God’s intention was to let nature have independence and have true randomness, and through luck or through a large number of trials with lots of universes/planets, humans emerged.

    12. The universe is deterministic and so God just made up the starting state and everything else was certain to follow. This is basically Deism.

    And there are probably even more positions even without getting into the non-religious positions. I think anything in 7-11 would reasonably be called theistic evolution, but only some of them rely on God-guided mutations, and thus God-guided mutations are not a required part of theistic evolution — not even guided in the remote sense that God might guide everything, since God might decide he wants true randomness in places. They are probably all underdetermined by the data, but they don’t do violence to standard scientific theory IMHO.

  12. #12 island
    May 19, 2012

    Vic makes the bogus claim:
    There’s no guidance in Darwinian evolution. It’s all accident and natural selection.

    um, TILT, Vic… as ususal, your politics betrays your science.

    It is very commonly known that the changing ecobalances drive and guide evolution, and uh… that’s a function of the Goldilocks Enigma… and uh… that’s a function of many balanced conditions that are produced by the same mechanism that produces the “flat” and balanced structure of the universe that we observe.

    And uh… cosmological ID is the assumption that this isn’t just a law of nature that *requires* life as a *necessary* function of the physical process, which requires an unfounded leap of faith beyond the natural expectation for a cosmological principle that will explain the observation from *first physics principles*.

    But don’t feel alone, as few can ever even get to that *honest* realization Vic, because they are *almost* as hell-bent on denying/downplaying/willfully ignoring anthropic significance as you are, thanks to the freaking culture war.

    Let the denial begin…

  13. #13 THEMAYAN
    May 19, 2012

    “Evolution as scientists understand it works just fine without any thought that God is directing the mutations”

    The modern synthesis is at least 60 years out dated, as is the paragraph above. And I might add, if many scientist are not willing to consider anything that they perceive as being outside of metaphysical naturalism (therefore not qualified as an alternative explanation) then they especially have no say so for any reference to a God head, period. To state that science has already quantified this no God needed paradigm, is based on ones own personal opinion and not on any empirical fact.

    I urge anyone who believes the quoted paragraph to actually take the time to look at the scientific data of that last 15 years and especially after ENCODE’s sequencing of the human genome. The neo Darwinian synthesis/modern synthesis is now not only being challenged by ID’ers and the 900 hundred signatories of earth scientist from around the globe who signed a list entitled a “Scientific dissent from Darwinism”, but also from many of the same biologist who are actually specialist in the field of evolutionary development biology/evo devo.

    There is truly a revolution going on in biology right now. Thirty years ago J. Gould (an honest evolutionist) said that neo Darwinism (which is the theory that we have been teaching as a dogma for the last 60 years) is effectively dead as a theory. You are still welcome to believe in macro evolution as a scientific construct if you so choose, as many do, but without a cohesive scientific theory, then in reality all you have is a bunch of (and many times conflicting) educated guesses.

  14. #14 Jerry Coyne
    May 19, 2012

    Jason,

    I agree with Kel here:

    “It comes down to what is meant by “god-guided” evolution. I’m sure some of the claims about God’s role in evolution by theistic evolutionists would be indistinguishable from claims made by intelligent design proponents. It seems it’s more a problem of degree (depending on the scope of what is claimed) than a dichotomy.”

    Theistic evolutionists span a whole range of people, from those who see God as having simply set evolution in motion, perhaps by just creating the Earth, through those who see God as having tweaked evolution on rare occasions, as Catholics see God as having inserted a soul into the hominin lineage, to those who see God as having intervened more often in the evolutionary process, creating new mutations and/or species as he saw fit. Which of these are our allies and which are not?

    I’ll be glad to fight alongside Ken Miller to keep “classical ID” out of the classroom, but I’m not so sure that (if he believes the assertions of his church) he is not in some ways a creationist. After all, the Catholic Church’s position is that at some time in the last six million years, God inserted a soul in the genus Homo. That’s creationism and intelligent design, pure and simple.

    And, given your history of seeing the nuances of creationism, I’m surprised that you think all exponents of classical Intelligent Design have a political agenda, and that is what distinguishes them from theistic evolutionists. (Indeed, you have an apolitical ID proponent in the comments above!) That may in general be true, but I think we should concentrate on the scientific beliefs, not the political agenda. And if you think that God intervened in evolution in an intelligent way to direct its course, then you are in some sense a creationist.

    Ask yourself this: why do you (as you admit) think that theistic evolution is wrong and has severe problems? Aren’t those problems just less obvious versions of the problems that beset ID? Isn’t the theistic evolution of Catholics problematic because there’s no evidence for a soul, or for the idea that God inserted it into our lineage? Or is it problematic for other reasons?

    Both theistic evolution and ID have fundamental similarities: they posit that God intervened in evolution to direct it to particular ends, and they enable superstition. Both of them subvert the scientific view of evolution and give credence to the view that things like morality (a la Francis Collins) could not have evolved but must have been vouchsafed us by God. Isn’t that creationism or intelligent design?

  15. #15 NJ
    May 19, 2012

    THEMAYAN@14:

    if many scientist are not willing to consider anything that they perceive as being outside of metaphysical naturalism

    There’s your problem, right there.

    You seem to have conflated the philosophy of metaphysical naturalism (which is not used in science) with the tool of methodological naturalism (which is used in science). Once you remove that fundamental underpinning of your post, the rest of it collapses into arguments from personal incredulity.

    You’re welcome.

  16. #16 Chris H
    May 19, 2012

    Surely the main difference between TE and ID is what you think there is scientific evidence for rather than the specifics of what you think happened.

    In other words two people could think that God guides certain mutations to affect the course of evolution, one thinks that this leaves the same evidence as if it happened naturally/randomly, they are a theistic evolutionist. The other thinks the evidence only shows guided mutations, they are an IDer.

    (Yes I’m assuming intellectual honesty on behalf of both people, humour me)

  17. #17 island
    May 19, 2012

    I agree with JC. Catholics are *typically* just in denial about the fact that they are IDists simply because they do not want to admit that they agree with those right winged fundies at the DI.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/07/opinion/07schonborn.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

  18. #18 harold
    May 19, 2012

    Jason Rosenhouse is exactly right here.

    In particular, these two statements are of profound importance.

    The hallmark of anti-evolutionism, whether young-Earth creationism or intelligent design, is some implication that scientists are doing it wrong.

    This is an incredibly important point.

    In the context of biomedical science, the term Intelligent Design unequivocally refers to the evolution denial associated with the Discovery Institute and authors such as Behe, Dembski, Wells, Johnson, Berlinski (on the topic of biology), etc.

    The primary focus of this body of work is evolution denial.

    The term “Intelligent Design” is deceptive and confusing because it is intended to be deceptive and confusing.

    The primary motivation for this body of work was to “court proof” creationism for public schools, by disguising its religious nature with ambivalent terminology that was intended to allow plausible deniability. If creationists had won Edwards v. Aguillard and been allowed to insert blunt YEC “creation science” evolution denial into public schools, ID would never have been invented. It is creationism given a fig leaf of plausible deniability, and was developed as a reaction to a defeat of more overt creationism in court.

    Moreover, there is a clear political dimension to creationism and ID. To accuse someone of supporting ID is to imply that they support inserting religion into science classes. That certainly does not describe TE.

    Again, 100% correct. Evolution denial in public schools is by definition a political goal. It is a goal of the religious right. Virtually all politicians at all levels, from local school boards through state legislators to former US Senator and Presidential candidate Rick Santorum and others, at the federal level, who support evolution denial in public schools, are affiliated with the religious right.

    One of the methods of political creationists is to make use of deception – ambivalence, subject-changing, plausible deniability, etc.

    The true goal of ID/creationism, which is very strongly ongoing, is to insert evolution denial into taxpayer funded public schools.

    One of their techniques is the use of confusing, dishonest language, and anyone who plays along with them on that, whether accidentally, or deliberately, to make common cause againt religious moderates, is helping them.

    For full disclosure I am completely non-religious and have no possible need for any type of “theistic evolution”.

  19. #19 Jerry Coyne
    May 19, 2012

    Just one more comment about whether theistic evolutionists think that scientists are doing it wrong. Island referred to an article by Cardinal Schöneborn, the Catholic archbishop of Vienna:

    “The Catholic Church, while leaving to science many details about the history of life on earth, proclaims that by the light of reason the human intellect can readily and clearly discern purpose and design in the natural world, including the world of living things.

    Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense – an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection – is not. Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science.”

    “Furthermore, according to the commission, “An unguided evolutionary process – one that falls outside the bounds of divine providence – simply cannot exist.”

    “Indeed, in the homily at his installation just a few weeks ago, Benedict proclaimed: “We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.”

    “Now at the beginning of the 21st century, faced with scientific claims like neo-Darwinism and the multiverse hypothesis in cosmology invented to avoid the overwhelming evidence for purpose and design found in modern science, the Catholic Church will again defend human reason by proclaiming that the immanent design evident in nature is real. Scientific theories that try to explain away the appearance of design as the result of “chance and necessity” are not scientific at all, but, as John Paul put it, an abdication of human intelligence.”

    Are those or are those not statements that “scientists are doing it wrong”? Also, Francis Collins’s statements that the Moral Law proves God is an implicit claim that scientists are wrong in trying to discern the evolutionary basis of moral sentiments by examining our close relatives.

  20. #20 harold
    May 19, 2012

    Jerry Coyne –

    If your argument is that Catholic theology about biomedical science has areas of overlap with Intelligent Design (as promoted by the Discovery Institute, as a political/legal reaction to Edwards v. Aguillard) then your argument is obviously correct.

    If your argument is that Catholic theology about biomedical science is “just as bad as” Intelligent Design (as promoted by the Discovery Institute, as a political/legal reaction to Edwards v. Aguillard), that is a subjective evaluation.

    If your argument is that Catholic theology about biomedical science is exactly the same thing as Intelligent Design (as promoted by the Discovery Institute, as a political/legal reaction to Edwards v. Aguillard), and I don’t think that is your argument, but if it is, then –

    A) That claim is transparently false, and a major opponent of ID/creationist sectarian evolution denial is Kenneth Miller, a practicing Catholic, and –

    B) Creating that type of confusion would border on unintentionally cooperating with the DI and political creationists, as the use of ambiguous language to create false impressions of equivalence is one of their major tactics.

    I certainly agree that areas of overlap are obvious. After all, Ken Miller was a witness against ID at Dover, but the Thomas Moore Legal Center was involved for the defense.

    However, they are not exactly the same thing, and that artificial legal/political “plausible deniability” version of right wing fundamentalist Protestant evolution denial, known as Intelligent Design, deserves to be recognized for what it is.

  21. #21 ildi
    May 19, 2012

    Also, though Pope John Paul II stated in 1996 in his address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences that

    It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge. The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favour of this theory.

    He drew the line at the human mind:

    Theories of evolution which, in accordance with the philosophies inspiring them, consider the mind as emerging from the forces of living matter, or as a mere epiphenomenon of this matter, are incompatible with the truth about man.

  22. #22 NJ
    May 19, 2012

    To put Jerry Coyne’s point @19 in historical perspective:

    Now at the beginning of the 21st century, faced with scientific claims like neo-Darwinism and the multiverse hypothesis in cosmology invented to avoid the overwhelming evidence for purpose and design found in modern science, the Catholic Church will again defend human reason by proclaiming that the immanent design evident in nature is real.

    -Christoph Schöneborn, Finding Design in Nature New York Times editorial, July 7, 2005.

    Today, at the dawn of the new century, nothing is more certain than that Darwinism has lost its prestige among men of science. It has seen its day and will soon be reckoned a thing of the past. A few decades hence when people will look back upon the history of the doctrine of Descent, they will confess that the years between 1860 and 1880 were in many respects a time of carnival; and the enthusiasm which at that time took possession of the devotees of natural science will appear to them as the excitement attending some mad revel.

    -Eberhard Dennert, At the Deathbed of Darwinism, 1904.

    Plus ça change…

  23. #23 island
    May 19, 2012

    How can you possibly have an all knowing and all powerful god who doesn’t know what numbers will come up with the roll of the dice?

  24. #24 couchloc
    May 19, 2012

    I think harold’s last reply (@20) gets it substantially right. It is important to be clear about the broad differences between theistic evolution as Catholics understand it and intelligent design theory, since there are areas of overlap, and we’re likely to run different issues together if we’re not careful. It seems to me that some people here are focusing on particular “claims” of ID and TE and noticing their similarities (which there surly are). But what matters are the broad character of the theologies that are different.

    Notice that intelligent design theory is properly understood a branch of natural theology. It focuses primarily on the design argument for God and suggests that scientific theories like evolution are not sufficient to explain design in nature. This approach appeals to empirical evidence about “irreducible complexity” and “order” we observe, together with rational argument, to reach conclusions about God. It is the empirical character of this view that its proponents claim makes it the legitimate topic of a science class.

    But this isn’t a good way to describe official Catholic theology. Catholic thought appeals to facts like design that can be understood through “the light of reason,” yes. But they also make separate appeals to faith. Importantly, Catholic theology does not give natural theology a central role. The appeal to this is just one part of a larger metaphysical framework that doesn’t depend on empirical evidence.

    This matters since official Catholic reference to theistic evolution is NOT implying the view arises out of natural theology. TE is just part of their broader view about God and the universe and how he’s behind everything. So when they talk of “intelligent design” or “the designer” they are often talking generally and not invoking the views of ID.

  25. #25 Captain Kirk
    May 19, 2012

    Gee… even left wings like you are too ignorant to even notice that you are no different than people that believe in creationism. I call that science censorship…

    No wonder why I stay independent because of insane faux liberal lunacy crap. They are so ignorant of their ignorance.

    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolved-primate/201006/when-ignorance-begets-confidence-the-classic-dunning-kruger-effect

    Oh by the way, human evolution is still a theory with big gaps and I guarantee you that it’d look very different in 50 years.

  26. #26 introvertible
    May 19, 2012

    It seems to me that what matters here is what kind of conversation we’re having. So, TE and ID are clearly – in some foundational, philosophical sense – very much the same thing: they both posit a ‘mind’, a ‘designer’, at some level of abstraction as necessary to the process.

    As Jerry says, both TE and ID say, at some level, that ‘scientists have got it wrong’, but the immediate, here-and-now, impact is very different in the two cases – or at least it can be, on some milder readings of TE.

    They clearly differ in terms of their political significance, too. Catholic-style TE is so vague – one might say intentionally vague if one were feeling cynical – that it basically says ‘carry on, as you were in you’re schools and universities’. Obviously, Discovery Institue-style ID is much more problematic in this regard.

    So I’d break it down like this:

    Philosophically/Theologically: TE and ID are both forms of creationism

    Verdict on Science: TE = vague feeling that there’s ‘something else’ to the story; ID = scientists are wrong about it all

    Political Impact; TE = negligable to none; ID = orchestrated campaign to corrupt science teaching

    Ultimately, I’d say that although TE and ID are the same kind of thing, the distinction – a la Jason – still matters. Elephants and mice are both mammals, it really helps to know which one is about to step on my foot.

  27. #27 harold
    May 19, 2012

    Political Impact; TE = negligable to none; ID = orchestrated campaign to corrupt science teaching

    This truly is the critical distinction.

    To repeat some key points for emphasis, as some readers of this forum may not be entirely aware of them…

    Discovery Institute brand ID/Creationism is more or less purely political in nature. It was invented as a way to get narrow sectarian creationist evolution denial taught to a captive audience of students in taxpayer funded public schools, regardless of the First Amendment, family wishes, or anything else. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Of_pandas_and_people#Pandas_and_.22cdesign_proponentsists.22

    It was and is an authoritarian attempt to disguise the sectarian nature of latter day right wing political fundamentalist Protestant creationism, by replacing direct mention of God with dog whistle code words like “designer”, and by creating confusion with the use of ambiguous terminology, such as the very term “Intelligent Design” itself. The ultimate goal is to get evolution denial into taxpayer funded public schools, by hook or by crook.

    I cannot stress this enough – if creationists had won Edwards v. Aguillard, “ID”, and probably the Discovery Institute, would almost certainly never have been created. It is all about playing with words to sneak evolution denial into public schools.

    Although I am personally not religious and politically progressive, these points were equally noted by church-going Republican Judge Jones, who noted the disguised religious nature of ID in his Dover decision. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitzmiller_v._Dover_Area_School_District#Decision

    If we were to pretend that ID was some kind of sincere philosophical exercise, I personally think that it could still be shown to differ somewhat from TE (and in fact, advocates of TE are typically despised by ID/creationists). After all, all ID books always deny evolution, rather than try to relate to the will of God or some such thing.

    Having said that, though, the most obvious difference is the fact that ID/creationism is directly associated with repeated constitution-violating, science-denying attempts to eliminate, replace, or distort the teaching of evolution in taxpayer funded public schools.

  28. #28 Mike Hart
    May 19, 2012

    A PhD in Math who writes to discount religion deserves about as much consideration as a someone in building maintenance who writes in disbelief of architecture.

  29. #29 Jason Rosenhouse
    May 19, 2012

    Jerry –

    Here’s the distinction I’m making:

    If you ask a theistic evolutionist where eyes came from, he will reply that eyes evolved gradually by natural selection, just as scientists say. If you ask him what scientists should be doing differently in their professional lives he will reply that they shouldn’t change anything they are doing. If you ask him whether his belief in God results from a straightforward inference from scientific data he will reply that it does not and then look at you funny. And if you ask him what we should be teaching students in biology classes, he will say that we should teach evolution precisely as scientists understand it with no mention of God at all.

    Contrast this with how an ID proponent would answer. He would say that natural selection is fundamentally incapable of explaining complex structures and that scientists are terribly deluded to think otherwise. He says naturalistic evolution is a dramatic wrong turn in the history of ideas and can only be corrected by switching to the new scientific paradigm of ID. He will say that the existence of some awesomely powerful intelligent designer can be inferred by entirely scientific methods. And he will say that science standards that teach the consensus view on evolution are tantamount to lying to children and must be stopped immediately.

    These are highly significant differences, and they are far more important than the trivial similarities between the two views. We should not be describing the views of Ken Miller or John Haught with the same language we use to describe Phillip Johnson or William Dembski. Miller and Haught say that scientists are right in everything they say about evolution, but there’s more to the story than what science can discover. Johnson and Dembski say scientists are wrong on every important point and must take into account the reality of God if they are to do their jobs properly. You don’t think that’s a distinction worth making?

    You asked what are the arguments against ID that don’t apply to TE. My reply is that ID is based on a collection of scientific assertions that are plainly absurd. ID says that irreducibly complex structures pose a challenge to evolution. It says that some back of the envelope probability calculation is sufficient for refuting natural selection or that the no free lunch theorems have some relevance to inferring intelligent design. These claims are wrong. In fact, they are ridiculous. They are also not part of theistic evolution.

    As I understand theistic evolution, its religious claims are entirely insulated from any scientific data. All a scientist could say is that there is no evidence in support of anything TE’s say. I think that any reasonable person should find that significant, but the really grave problems for TE, in my view, are theological. I don’t think TE’s have any good answer to the question of why God would do his creating through billions of years of bloodsport. They also have no good reply to the argument that evolution makes human beings seem not so special. But these objections are very different from the ones I level at ID.

    You’re on safer ground with regard to the Catholic Church. JP II’s “endorsement” of evolution was awfully tepid. Benedict and his cardinals have come perilously close to endorsing ID as I understand that term. It’s pretty pathetic to see so many evolutionists hold up the Catholic Church as some great friend to science.

    But the fact remains that as close to the line as they have come, they still have not crossed it. They are not telling scientists to change anything they are doing. Instead they are doing essentially what I suggested at the end of the post. They are taking a perfectly good scientific theory and glopping it up with a lot of silly theological gobbledy-gook, and then claiming they have some special insight into the truth about man. That makes them arrogant and disgusting, but it does not make them ID proponents, at least not as I understand that term.

    Why is it so important to you to apply the label “intelligent design” to theistic evolutionists? You know ID has political and anti-science connotations that don’t apply to TE. Why not just say that even when Christians accept evolution, they still often feel they have to water it down to make it acceptable? That’s accurate and relevant, and avoids the problem of arguing over labels.

  30. #30 Jock Young
    May 19, 2012

    THEMAYAN@14:

    You seem to be conflating the many criticisms of the Modern Synthesis. People such as Stephen Jay Gould and most “evo devo” evolutionists criticize it for not allowing for developmental constraints and other mechanisms now known to be important. They all still except “macro-evolution,” of course, but believe it must have been channeled in somewhat different ways than the gradualistic Modern Synthesis would imply. Your suggestion that they reject the core of Darwin’s evolution by descent with modification (macro-evolution) is disingenuous or just plain ignorant.

  31. #31 Larry Moran
    May 19, 2012

    Every single theistic evolutionist I’ve ever met believes in a personal God. They believe that God designed and created the universe and they believe that God designed humans to be special in various ways. If they are Christians, they believe that God gave humans a soul. I’ve never met such a Christian who thinks that evolution gave humans a soul.

    Designing and creating a soul may be different than designing and creating bacterial flagella but the principle is the same. It’s still design by God.

    It may come as a bit of a surprise to some of you but there are many believers in theistic evolution who think that Jesus did not have a human father and he rose from the dead. To me, that sounds a bit more like design than any scientific version of evolution that I’ve seen in a textbook.

    Most proponents of theistic evolution believe in miracles. If God intervenes from time to time to save a child from dying and that child goes on to have children then how is that consistent with evolution? Why is that not a form of design?

    As many readers have pointed out, strict deism is the only way for theistic evolutionists to avoid an interventionist God. But that doesn’t allow them to avoid a designer God who creates the universe.

    Does anyone know a strict deist? Does anyone know a theistic evolutionist who doesn’t believe that God created (designed) the universe?

  32. #32 Larry Moran
    May 19, 2012

    Jason says,

    Moreover, there is a clear political dimension to creationism and ID. To accuse someone of supporting ID is to imply that they support inserting religion into science classes.

    Jason, do you think that Intelligent Design Creationism is confined to America?

    There are many people in Canada who self-identify as intelligent design proponents but hardly any of them are trying to insert religion into science classes.

  33. #33 SLC
    May 19, 2012

    I have pointed this out before but once more into the breach. Ken Miller, in a comment made on Prof. Moran’s blog several years ago rejected the term theistic evolutionist as applied to him. As I recall, he stated that he accepted methodological naturalism but also philosophical theism. As to whether that makes him a creationist, I have no opinion.

    As for the inevitability of humans evolving, Prof. Miller at one time opined that that was god’s intention from the get go. More recent presentations appear to have him backing off that view to the extent that he, apparently, now believes that the evolution of intelligent beings, not necessarily humans, was inevitable. The latter view, is, IMHO, at least an arguable position, based on the increase in encephalization of both the dinosaurs and mammals as time progressed. Again, it is always foolhardy to extrapolate from a sample of 1.

  34. #34 SLC
    May 19, 2012

    Re Larry Moran @ #31

    Not all Christians accept the Virgin Birth as a literal occurrence. For instance, the late Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of California, James A. Pike, thought that Yeshua of Nazareth was born of the union of Joseph and Mary, and was selected as god’s messenger at a later date, after he had matured into a grown man. Based on his testimony at the Dover trial, it would appear that the aforementioned John Haught may have been of the same opinion.

    I would also point out that Prof. Haught, again based on his Dover testimony, does not apparently believe that Yeshua physically appeared before his disciples, but, instead appeared as a vision. As he put it, if a video camera had been present at the event, it would have recorded nothing.

  35. #35 harold
    May 19, 2012

    Larry Moran said –

    There are many people in Canada who self-identify as intelligent design proponents but hardly any of them are trying to insert religion into science classes.

    It’s the “insert religion into science classes” part that bothers me. In any free society, lots of people are going to believe in things that I don’t think are true, and say so.

    However, as a dual US/Canadian citizen, I am disturbed to learn that there are Canadians naive enough to be “Intelligent Design proponents”, without understanding that Intelligent Design is just “creation science” expressed in code for plausible deniability in the courtroom.

    I have said this three times in this thread now, but I guess it is worth it to keep repeating it…

    Discovery Institute brand ID/Creationism is more or less purely political in nature. It was invented as a way to get narrow sectarian creationist evolution denial taught to a captive audience of students in taxpayer funded public schools, regardless of the First Amendment, family wishes, or anything else. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Of_pandas_and_people#Pandas_and_.22cdesign_proponentsists.22

    It was and is an authoritarian attempt to disguise the sectarian nature of latter day right wing political fundamentalist Protestant creationism, by replacing direct mention of God with dog whistle code words like “designer”, and by creating confusion with the use of ambiguous terminology, such as the very term “Intelligent Design” itself. The ultimate goal is to get evolution denial into taxpayer funded public schools, by hook or by crook.

    I cannot stress this enough – if creationists had won Edwards v. Aguillard, “ID”, and probably the Discovery Institute, would almost certainly never have been created. It is all about playing with words to sneak evolution denial into public schools. It is a coded substitute for “creation science”, which they prefer, but which was ruled unconstitutional in Edwards v. Aguillard.

    Although I am personally not religious and politically progressive, these points were equally noted by church-going Republican Judge Jones, who noted the disguised religious nature of ID in his Dover decision. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitzmiller_v._Dover_Area_School_District#Decision

    Since one major goal of the Discovery Institute “Intelligent Design” project is to create public confusion via the use of ambiguous terminology, those who, unlike me, Jason Rosenhouse, or Judge Jones, persist in playing along with the gag, whether in an effort to antagonize religious moderates by implying a false connection to authoritarian efforts to censor, deny or distort the teaching of evolution in public schools in the service of a narrow sectarian ideology (in violation of either the US or the Canadian constitution), or for any other reason, border on being unwitting, duped allies of the Discovery Institute.

    I am not defending theistic evolution here, I have no use for it whatsoever. Nor am I denying the obvious areas of overlap between “Intelligent Design” and TE.

    I am, however, arguing in favor of recognizing the specific, unique nature of Discovery Institute associated ID/creationism.

  36. #36 island
    May 19, 2012

    Typically, it is local school board YECs who want to insert creationism into science class. Sometimes they enlist the help of the DI, (but not always and they typically get hammered when they don’t), and the people at the DI know better than to violate the constitution so they only promote “Critical Analysis”, which requires that they stay within the bounds of the constitution as well as local curriculum guidelines that only allow for scientific evidence.

    So far these bills when passed have had zero effect either way.

  37. #37 Carneades of Ga.
    May 19, 2012

    All theism is creationism in the wider sense.

    Yes, theistic evolution fails. It is just an oxy-moronic obscurantism!
    Per Lamberth’s atelic/teleonomic argument, as science finds no Divine intent behind natural causes, then to affirm that however He has intent in guiding evolution- wanted outcomes- teleology when science illuminates only teleonomy- causalism- mechanism- so that religion is compatible with science as the NCSE does, is absurd. They should instead maintain that the religious can be evolutionists, and from the side of religion, the two are compatible.
    But from the side of science, quite the contrary as Mayr, Simpson and Coyne proclaim. By what mechanisms does He operate in the Cosmos. It is absurd to prattle that why evolution is His means when no theologian ever has explained how- by the magic of let there be light? And as teleonomy rules, to still aver His intent, then theists are making the implicit new Omphalos argument that He deceives us with teleology- His intent- as John Hick implicitly maintains with his epistemic distance argument that He hides Himself ambiguously so as not to overwhelm our free wills [ Ah, Yahweh in the Tanakh non-ambiguously reveals Himself without overwhelming the free will of the Israelites and as His son, Yeshua, why, He ever delights in doing miracles that don't overwhelm free wills. Oh, we don't have free wills as determinism rules!].
    No, no teleology at all!
    I developed this argument from pondering what Paul B. Weisz notes about causalism in ” The Science of Biology.” He notes that were there teleology, then we’d face backwards causation with the event before the cause and the present before the past, negating time. He notes that then scientists could never do experiments,because then all would have been ever the same prearranged outcomes beforehand.
    And without that intent, then He’d have no referents as the Creator and so forth and thus could not exist, and as He has contradictory, incoherent attributes then again He cannot exist!
    Google lamberth’s naturalistic arguments about God to see in full what his many blogs say about these matters.
    My arguments make explicit what others make implicit.

  38. #38 Lenoxus
    May 20, 2012

    I imagine that many, perhaps most, TEs feel the same way about God’s relationship with evolution as they do about his relationship with the weather, or really just about every other natural phenomenon. It simultaneously “happens on its own” and in accordance with the divine pan. (Work out the contradictions as you will.)

    So I agree that it doesn’t work to call TE a type of creationism, unless you would also accuse all religious people, up to and including Al Gore, of being deniers of anthropogenic climate change because they all attribute ultimate responsibility for such things as global temperatures to God. Many of them believe that it obviously must have been part of The divine plan, just like every other event in history is. (They still agree that many of those events, such as the Holocaust, were simultaneously horrible events caused by human beings, of course. Work out the contradictions as you will. God governing history, or the weather, or evolution is all gobbeldygook to me, to use Jason’s word.)

  39. #39 Carneades of Ga.
    May 20, 2012

    Lenoxus, yes, that plan-that intent-that teleology that science will never find keeps minds from discovering that mechanism rules, and yes, no Divine purpose for us exists, and such a plan betrays our status as independent beings by affriming that we are just clay for whom our potter can haveplans: again that one for the Holocaust! What’s the greater good from that evil that He has transmuted? Israel and the evils of war/ Israel could have come by some other means.

    Let’s go to the theistic jugular, Lenoxus: per lamberth’s argument from autonomy, we are independent beings, owing no worship to any other, and no other has rights over us or to send us to Hell!
    What’s the evidence for Heaven and Hell, free will and the future state as Roy Jackson^ would demand?
    Let’s make theists whine about our persistent emphasis on evidence!

  40. #40 Carneades of Ga.
    May 20, 2012

    ^ Roy Jackson ” The God of Philosophy”
    Sorry for the typos.

  41. #41 harold
    May 20, 2012

    Typically, it is local school board YECs who want to insert creationism into science class.

    Efforts to deny, distort, or censor the teaching of evolution appear at all jurisidictional levels; furthermore, individual teachers do so even where official curricula as well as the constitution technically do not allow it.

    In some states, local school boards are largely autonomous in determining curriculum.

    On the other hand, elsewhere, state school boards have relatively more power.

    In 1999, it was the Kansas state school board that attempted to remove evolution from Kansas science classes. They were creationists but used the strategy of censoring evolution rather than directly inserting creationism in an effort to make court challenge more difficult. Fortunately, Kansas elects school board members, and those school board members were defeated in the primaries.

    Sometimes they enlist the help of the DI, (but not always and they typically get hammered when they don’t), and the people at the DI know better than to violate the constitution so they only promote “Critical Analysis”, which requires that they stay within the bounds of the constitution as well as local curriculum guidelines that only allow for scientific evidence.

    This is basically correct but oversimplified.

    The DI accepts funding and pays salaries to its “fellows”. It came into being when implied claims were made that the Edward v. Aguillard ruling could be evaded via the use of “intelligent design” language.

    I think it is perfectly fair to say that those who fund the DI admit that evolution denial in public schools is a major goal.

    The DI does try hard to avoid direct involvement with losing law suits, not (in my subjective opinion) out of respect for the constitution, but because actually testing their claims in court and losing leads to loss of prestige and loss of funding.

    It is true all publicly known efforts to directly teach evolution denial as science, with or without DI involvement, or to censor or distort teaching of evolution, have been defeated in court and/or at the ballot box.

    However, “hammered” is far too optimistic a term. Edwards v. Aguillard made it all the way to the Supreme Court. It was defeated 7-2, but the pro-creationism dissent was written by Antonin Scalia, the only justice involved in the case who is still sitting. Since this case involved open 6000 year old earth YEC “creation science”, Scalia is on record as arguing that it is constitutional to teach outright YEC Noah’s Ark/talking snake/Garden of Eden “literalist” creationism as “science”. He has more allies on the court now than he did at the time of Edwards.

    Statutes encouraging the teaching of evolution denial are in place in Texas and Louisiana. These statutes have not been tested in court, but they are sitting there.

    John Freshwater was terminated but is currently in the process of applying to the Ohio Supreme Court to have his case reviewed.

    So far these bills when passed have had zero effect either way.

    By the use of the language “bills when passed”, you contradict your earlier claim that only “local school boards” are involved. You are correct here. Although local school boards were the initiators of some of the most famous cases, state legislators also often introduce anti-evolution bills.

    In fact, far from going down in number, a record number of such bills were introduced in 2010, due to the election of large numbers of “tea party” politicians.

    Once a teacher or curriculum-determining authority inserts evolution denial, it takes millions of dollars and millions of hours of work to fight it.

    Edwards v. Aguillard, Kansas, Dover, Mount Vernon – millions of dollars and millions of hours of work in each case.

    Individuals, on both sides, have had to move from their communities.

    While it is true that a fair number of state bills are sitting there, not yet having caused any problems, evolution denial, once it appears in the classroom, has had major negative effects.

  42. #42 David Roemer
    May 20, 2012

    I agree with every think Jason says in this blog with the exception of the phrase “right-wing religious zealots” because there is no mention of “left-wing religious zealots.”

    The only theory that attempts to explain evolution is intelligent design (ID). There is no evidence for this theory. The theory of natural selection only explains adaptation, not common descent. In other words, natural selection only explains why giraffes have long necks, not how giraffes evolved from bacteria.

    Right-wing religious zealots defend their bright idea by comparing it with natural selection. Their motivation for this scam is to promote religion. Left-wing religious zealots go along with this scam because they want to promote atheism. They don’t admit that ID explains evolution, and natural selection does not.

  43. #43 island
    May 20, 2012

    By the use of the language “bills when passed”, you contradict your earlier claim that only “local school boards” are involved.

    um, no, that’s why I said “typically”… which you ignored to make that lame claim.

    I smell a Copernicanism worshiping antifanatic…

  44. #44 SLC
    May 20, 2012

    Re David Roemer @ #42

    Mr. Rormer has joined the totally wrong club. Common descent is entirely independent of the concepts of natural selection and genetic drift and, in fact, was proposed well before Darwin wrote his 1859 book. The evidence that supports common descent is quite evident from the fossil record and from the study of genetics.

    For instance, the fact that, virtually alone amongst the mammals, humans and the great apes share a broken gene for making vitamin C can only be explained by their having a common ancestor. Another fact is the identification of the fusion of ape chromosomes 12 and 13 and human chromosome 2. Here’s a presentation by biologist Ken Miller, no atheist he, on the significance of that finding.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zi8FfMBYCkk

  45. #45 harold
    May 20, 2012

    um, no, that’s why I said “typically”… which you ignored to make that lame claim.

    I smell a Copernicanism worshiping antifanatic…

    I actually realized that you said “typically”. The general point is that your original comment displays what I perceive as a naively blase attitude toward a major negative social trend.

    I have no idea what you a “Copernicanism worshiping antifanatic” is. I know individual the individual meanings of all those words but cannot understand what you mean by the phrase. I strongly agree that the earth revolves around the sun, rather than vice versa, I am generally opposed to religious fanaticism (although I support everyone’s right to be a law-abiding fanatic), but neither of those things has anything to do with worship.

  46. #46 tomh
    May 20, 2012

    Island wrote:

    people at the DI know better than to violate the constitution so they only promote “Critical Analysis”, which requires that they stay within the bounds of the constitution as well as local curriculum guidelines that only allow for scientific evidence.
    So far these bills when passed have had zero effect either way.

    Just because no major court case has challenged the laws passed in Louisiana or Tennessee doesn’t mean they have had no effect. As was mentioned above, students and their families pay a terrible price for challenging the religious-centric culture in these states. And “critical analysis” laws are not passed to stay within the bounds of the Constitution, but are semantic devices, much like ID was, invented to circumvent court rulings against teaching creationism.

    Even before these laws were passed, 1 in 8 biology teachers were explicitly advocating creationism, and spending at least an hour of class time presenting it in a positive light, witness Freshwater in Ohio. He was not some outlier, though, and we only know about him because he burned crosses into students arms. With the passage of these laws, teachers have much more state-sanctioned cover to present creationism. And if, by some chance, a right-wing Supreme Court declares these laws constitutional, many more states will pass similar laws and science teaching in American high schools will degrade even further.

  47. #47 Jim Harrison
    May 20, 2012

    Maybe the most interesting question here is whether it is legitimate to draw any general conclusions whatsoever about ultimate things from a study of nature. The question is generally raised in a theological context as asking whether science can tell us anything about god, but god isn’t the only possible first principal that can be proposed to explain the phenomena. In the history of philosophy, after all, the first answer was water.

    The epistemological question does raise a particular problem for Christianity, however. Believers can and do appeal to other sources of information than natural theology—a leap of faith, mystical illumination, revelation, a priori arguments such as the ontological proof—but if nature doesn’t have any discernible relationship to god, how do you avoid asserting a purely gnostic religion of the spirit since the flesh apparently doesn’t have anything to do with god? In the early church there were influential figures such as Marcion who rejected the God of the Old Testament as a cruel demiurge and relied on a savior who arrived from some undefinable elsewhere. We think of Christianity as a religion that preaches contempt for this world, but it defined itself from very early on by rejecting the Marcionite thesis that god has nothing to do with the world. It seems to me that the theistic evolution folks, at least to the extent that they are serious in denying that god has any role to play in a scientific understanding of nature, are admitting that what we see about us is irrelevant to things of the spirit.

  48. #48 abb3w
    May 20, 2012

    Back about 2002, in the height of the ID foofrah, the Ohio Plain Dealer ran a poll that included a question with categories that seems to fit pretty well to the category distinctions (though not using the labels in the poll).

    ID: “Living things are too complex to have developed by chance. A purposeful force or being that may or may not be God is responsible for designing life as we know it. Evolution may be part of a such a design.”

    Theistic Evolution: “God created the universe and all living things as claimed in the Bible. Creation took millions of years and evolution is the method God used to achieve this result.”

  49. #49 Wow
    May 21, 2012

    “The question is generally raised in a theological context as asking whether science can tell us anything about god”

    But nobody asks whether theology can tell us anything about god.

    Probably because they know it can’t.

  50. #50 Wow
    May 21, 2012

    “The theory of natural selection only explains adaptation, not common descent.”

    It seems like you think things evolve by changing THEMSELVES.

    Well, sorry, they don’t.

    Their children change.

    The better adapted inherit the earth.

    And, because this adaptation is NOT DONE, natural selection doesn’t explain it.

    But since the modification of the species is done by error-prone creation of progeny, it DOES explain common descent.

    You DO know “descent” means the progeny of some earlier entity, right?

  51. #51 Ian Kemmish
    May 21, 2012

    Surely TE is broadly equivalent to ID if and only if the Abrahamic deity is omniscient.

    To expand slightly: an omniscient deity which establishes the laws and initial conditions for any process of evolution will be aware of the final outcome; in other words, the final outcome will be “designed” in the everyday sense of the word. Even if one allows that randomness can occur in a universe managed by an omniscient deity (how would that happen?), then even so, the randomness of gene mutations will surely merely delay, rather than defeat, the attainment of optimal fits for environments – evolution is after all a remarkably efficient optimisation process.

    For most of its history, the Abrahamic religion declared the denial of omniscience to be heresy. Now it’s true that most people who call themselves Christians today would be heretics to most Chrisitians who ever lived, so the question arises: whose definition of Christianity are we using? Upon the answer to that depends that answer to whether TE is the same as ID or not.

  52. #52 eric
    May 21, 2012

    I posted a response to Prof. Coyne over on his board so I won’t repeat it here, just link (see comment #38). I tend to agree with Jason and think the differences outweigh the sames.

  53. #53 Ye Olde Statistician
    May 21, 2012

    I see folks are still confusing “creation” with “evolution,” not least of all those ultimate purveyors of scientism, the “creation science” dudes. Like nearly everyone in the Late Modern era, they use “science” as a general term of approval and try to press everything into its Procrustean bed. Evolution is a transformation: a species changes from one form to another. You start with one form of stuff and end with another form of stuff. Creation has to do with the existence per se of the stuff itself.

    Consequently, people confuse “design” as an engineer at a drafting table with “design” as in “I have designs on that piece of chocolate cake.” And practically no one today understands what natural telos is.

    The medieval Christian notion that God endows matter with natures capable of acting directly upon one another allows for all laws of nature. Augustine pointed this out in the long ago: “It is therefore, causally that Scripture has said that earth brought forth the crops and trees, in the sense that it received the power of bringing them forth. In the earth from the beginning, in what I might call the roots of time, God created what was to be in times to come.” (On the literal meanings of Genesis, Book V Ch. 4:11).

    And later, in passing, Thomas Aquinas commented directly on the origin of species: “Species, also, that are new, if any such appear, existed beforehand in various active powers; so that animals, and perhaps even new species of animals, are produced by putrefaction by the power which the stars and elements received at the beginning.” (Summa theologica,
    Part I Q73 A1 reply3)

    Replace “putrefaction” with “mutation” and it doesn’t sound half bad. The Ultimate Theist of Them All when commenting on the origin of species some 800 years ago said that, if any such arise, they would do so through the inherent powers of nature.

  54. #54 Dan L.
    May 21, 2012

    A PhD in Math who writes to discount religion deserves about as much consideration as a someone in building maintenance who writes in disbelief of architecture.

    If religion was really as important as you imply God wouldn’t need you to pinch hit for him. That you feel the need to say stuff like this is evidence against God’s existence.

    So well done.

  55. #55 ildi
    May 21, 2012

    eric: I followed your link over to WEIT to read your comment; so, his only response was to tone troll his own thread? Describing his language as ‘BS’ is pissing on his rug? Glaring through his lorgnette is a good way to avoid actually addressing the substance of your comment…

  56. #56 heddle
    May 21, 2012

    Jason,

    I will add my name to those who think you nailed it in the first two paragraphs of #29.

    As a scientist and a theistic evolutionist who has fought the IDers in my own way, I will reiterate: TE’s fully support the scientific method (methodological naturalism) and perform scientific research, publish peer-reviewed articles and advocate scientific classroom teaching in a manner that is indistinguishable from our secular colleagues.

    IDers, in general, do none of these things.

    Coyne, always the lidless-eyed ideologue, misses the boat once again.

  57. #57 dawne
    May 21, 2012

    in laymans terms:(1) intelligent design (the why)suggests “an intelligent cause, not an undirected process”. this would be the 1st response of science moving away from darwinian evolutionism. (2) theistic evolution (the how) suggests, ‘the universe was created by God (intelligent cause) and “evolution” is a tool by which natural development takes place’. the 1st is an ascension to a ‘higher power causing life’, the 2nd+ will be speculatitive theories as to ‘how’ our Creator does it. it makes perfect sense.we learn simple to complex. ‘little by little’. step by step.

  58. #58 Dan L.
    May 21, 2012

    Coyne, always the lidless-eyed ideologue, misses the boat once again.

    LOL. The guy who believes in absolute moral law is throwing the word “idealogue” around again.

  59. #59 heddle
    May 21, 2012

    Dan L.

    LOL. The guy who believes in absolute moral law is throwing the word “idealogue” around again.

    But I don’t. Are you thinking of someone else?

    Just one example (I could give you many): In OT times, I believe it was moral to sacrifice animals as a blood atonement. In NT times, in light of the finished work of Christ, I believe it would be an abomination.

    What was moral (sacrificing animals) is now an abomination. Where is that “absolute moral law” that you claim I believe in?

    LOL.

  60. #60 Ye Olde Statistician
    May 21, 2012

    Some descriptions of the proper approach to natural science:

    [They say] “We do not know how this is, but we know that God can do it.” You poor fools! God can make a cow out of a tree, but has He ever done so? Therefore show some reason why a thing is so, or cease to hold that it is so.
    – William of Conches, 12th cent. The Dragmatikon

    “[T]he natural order does not exist confusedly and without rational arrangement, and human reason should be listened to concerning those things it treats of. But when it completely fails, then the matter should be referred to God. Therefore, since we have not yet completely lost the use of our minds, let us return to reason.”
    – Adelard of Bath, 12th cent. Quaestiones naturales
    and
    In studying nature we have not to inquire how God the Creator may, as He freely wills, use His creatures to work miracles and thereby show forth His power; we have rather to inquire what Nature with its immanent causes can naturally bring to pass.
    – St. Albertus Magnus, 13th cent. De vegetabilibus et plantis

    So it is nice to see so many folks following the lead of the medieval Christians.

  61. #61 dawne
    May 21, 2012

    (chuckle) YOS – it would appear that plain & simple common sense will transcend borders, Ages and rhetoric! it seems the scholars here are debating, what? either one ‘believes’ in a God which creates all, or not. it is that black and white. the problem is for years our ‘science’ said ‘no God’ and now our science says – hey, wait a minute ‘yes God’. part of the problem whether one is phD or mechanic – if we mental ascent to the reality of a ‘higher power’- we are held accountable to live accordingly. the standards we are taught have come from religion. unfortunately, it’s confusing b/c there are hundreds of religions, ideologies and philosophy. which is true? fortunately, only One.

  62. #62 NickMatzke
    May 21, 2012

    Jerry writes,

    Both theistic evolution and ID have fundamental similarities: they posit that God intervened in evolution to direct it to particular ends, and they enable superstition. Both of them subvert the scientific view of evolution and give credence to the view that things like morality (a la Francis Collins) could not have evolved but must have been vouchsafed us by God. Isn’t that creationism or intelligent design?

    Harold and others have made the basic counterpoints, but here’s a shorter version:

    1. ID was quite literally invented in response to the 1987 Edwards v. Aguillard decision and preceding litigation, as an attempt to rebrand creationism so it could get into the public schools. That’s why the first book to use the term “ID” as a term was “Of Pandas and People”, the 1989 supplemental textbook.

    2. Theistic evolution, on the other hand, was more or less invented to *oppose* the creationists — the term goes back at least to the early 1920s where it was used by Christians who were opposing what the fundamentalists were doing with the antievolution laws, the Scopes Trial, etc.

    Re: this:

    Just one more comment about whether theistic evolutionists think that scientists are doing it wrong. Island referred to an article by Cardinal Schöneborn, the Catholic archbishop of Vienna:

    “The Catholic Church, while leaving to science many details about the history of life on earth, proclaims that by the light of reason the human intellect can readily and clearly discern purpose and design in the natural world, including the world of living things.

    Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense – an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection – is not. Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science.”

    “Furthermore, according to the commission, “An unguided evolutionary process – one that falls outside the bounds of divine providence – simply cannot exist.”

    “Indeed, in the homily at his installation just a few weeks ago, Benedict proclaimed: “We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.”

    “Now at the beginning of the 21st century, faced with scientific claims like neo-Darwinism and the multiverse hypothesis in cosmology invented to avoid the overwhelming evidence for purpose and design found in modern science, the Catholic Church will again defend human reason by proclaiming that the immanent design evident in nature is real. Scientific theories that try to explain away the appearance of design as the result of “chance and necessity” are not scientific at all, but, as John Paul put it, an abdication of human intelligence.”

    Are those or are those not statements that “scientists are doing it wrong”? Also, Francis Collins’s statements that the Moral Law proves God is an implicit claim that scientists are wrong in trying to discern the evolutionary basis of moral sentiments by examining our close relatives.

    Posted by: Jerry Coyne | May 19, 2012 9:41 AM

    Schöneborn’s piece in the New York Times was almost certainly ghost-written by the Discovery Institute, or at least was very heavily influenced by them. So it is weird to use it as an example of theistic evolution. I forget the details but in the late 2000s IIRC the Pope had a big meeting on evolution and pro-ID Schöneborn basically was alone against all the other catholic scientists and other speakers who took the anti-ID position.

  63. #63 Deepak Shetty
    May 23, 2012

    I forget the details but in the late 2000s IIRC the Pope had a big meeting on evolution and pro-ID Schöneborn basically was alone against all the other catholic scientists and other speakers who took the anti-ID position.

    Uhh , the question is what does the official hierarchy think – i.e. the Catholic priests , not the catholic scientists. Hint : attend any Catholic baptism course and see whether Adam and Eve are treated as literal or non literal metaphors.

  64. #64 Wow
    May 23, 2012

    “if we mental ascent to the reality of a ‘higher power’- we are held accountable to live accordingly.”

    I.e. “I didn’t do it! He MADE me do it!”.

    Whereas atheists, with no special friend to pin the blame on have to take responsibility for their actions themselves.

  65. #65 Wow
    May 23, 2012

    “intelligent design (the why)suggests “an intelligent cause, not an undirected process””

    The problem here being recursion.

    What made that intelligence?

    Given the argument for intelligent design hinges on “irreducible complexity”, this is rather a poser.

  66. #66 eric
    May 23, 2012

    OT – I have to say, I greatly dislike the new Sb page designs; the old page was much easier to navigate. I know Jason can’t do much about it, but maybe make some suggestions to the management????

    Posting this here because the ‘migration’ post does not appear to have comments activated (is no-comments the default for new pages now, or did JR choose this?), and this post appears to be the most active.

  67. #67 SC (Salty Current)
    http://saltycurrent.blogspot.com
    May 23, 2012

    Every single theistic evolutionist I’ve ever met believes in a personal God. They believe that God designed and created the universe and they believe that God designed humans to be special in various ways. If they are Christians, they believe that God gave humans a soul. I’ve never met such a Christian who thinks that evolution gave humans a soul.

    Designing and creating a soul may be different than designing and creating bacterial flagella but the principle is the same. It’s still design by God.

    It may come as a bit of a surprise to some of you but there are many believers in theistic evolution who think that Jesus did not have a human father and he rose from the dead. To me, that sounds a bit more like design than any scientific version of evolution that I’ve seen in a textbook.

    Most proponents of theistic evolution believe in miracles. If God intervenes from time to time to save a child from dying and that child goes on to have children then how is that consistent with evolution? Why is that not a form of design?

    As many readers have pointed out, strict deism is the only way for theistic evolutionists to avoid an interventionist God. But that doesn’t allow them to avoid a designer God who creates the universe.

    Does anyone know a strict deist? Does anyone know a theistic evolutionist who doesn’t believe that God created (designed) the universe?

    This. Exactly.

  68. #68 Ça alors!
    Montreal
    May 23, 2012

    “If you ask a theistic evolutionist where eyes came from, he will reply that eyes evolved gradually by natural selection, just as scientists say. If you ask him what scientists should be doing differently in their professional lives he will reply that they shouldn’t change anything they are doing. If you ask him whether his belief in God results from a straightforward inference from scientific data he will reply that it does not and then look at you funny. And if you ask him what we should be teaching students in biology classes, he will say that we should teach evolution precisely as scientists understand it with no mention of God at all.” – Jason

    At least an atheist who can resume well a position that isn’t hard at all to understand..!

  69. #69 Nickmatzke
    May 23, 2012

    Looks like the move to NatGeo screwed up umlauts:

    Schöneborn

    Why, oh why, can the world not figure out how to make non-ASCII characters cross-platform? Or, just convert everything to ASCII? BBedit can do it, why not everyone else…

  70. #70 El Schwalmo
    Germany
    May 23, 2012

    Schöneborn’s piece in the New York Times was almost certainly ghost-written by the Discovery Institute, or at least was very heavily influenced by them.
    That’s not correct. Schoenborn (‘oe’ is correct in German avoiding the so-called ‘Umlaute’) wrote exactly what the catholic church taught. Everyone who read

    Papst Johannes Paul II (1996) ‘Magisterium Is Concerned with Question of Evolution For It Involves Conception of Man’ URL:

    should know this. This article was commented e.g. by

    Ruse, M. (1997) ‘John Paul II and Evolution’ The Quarterly Review of Biology 72 (4):391-395

    or

    Dawkins, R. (1997) ‘Obscurantism to the Rescue’ The Quarterly Review of Biology 72 (4):397-399

    and many, many others. I guess there was a lot of wishful thinking, liking to have the Pope as an ally against YEC. Dawkins was very blunt in

    Dawkins, R. (2001) ‘Sadly, an Honest Creationist’ Free Inquiry 21/4:7-8

    and I’m in full accord with him. I’m very upset if people of the TE-camp seek assistance from naturalists fighting ID and YEC, but at the same moment attacking consequent naturalism. It’s a poor argument to differentiate methodological from ontological naturalism, because, if you want a consistent worldview, ontological naturalism is the basis for methodological.

    Mahner, M. (2011) ‘The Role of Metaphysical Naturalism in Science’ Sci & Educ, Online version

    Living in Germany, YEC and even ID isn’t very important politically, so I consider TE, fighting consequent naturalism, as more dangerous. We don’t need ‘allies’ who fight naturalism.

    So it is weird to use it as an example of theistic evolution. I forget the details but in the late 2000s IIRC the Pope had a big meeting on evolution and pro-ID Schöneborn basically was alone against all the other catholic scientists and other speakers who took the anti-ID position.

    You got this wrong. It was a very strange little meeting, all talks given two times. The first time with discussions between the participants, the second time the next day exclusively for the Pope. If you’re interested in details, its published in German:

    Horn, S.O.; Wiedenhofer, S.; (Hrsg.) (2007) ‘Schoepfung und Evolution. Eine Tagung mit Papst Benedikt XVI. in Castel Gandolfo’ Augsburg, Sankt Ulrich Verlag

    The Pope liked Schoenborns talk very much (the OpEd in NYT was shown to him in advance, Schoenborn is the best student the actual Pope had when he was a professor) and we were very lucky in German, that the pope didn’t follow ID, because he got into trouble with muslims and couldn’t afford a second line of fight. The roman catholic church uses two different, but quite funny ways to get God into the play, either via Teilhard de Chardin (‘god made things making themselves), e.g. in

    Kummer, C. (2009) ‘Der Fall Darwin. Evolutionstheorie contra Schoepfungsglaube’ München, Pattloch

    or by very old concepts, allowing them seeing selection theory as proof of god , following the ‘quinta via’ of Thomas Aquinas

    Rhonheimer, M. (2007) ‘Neodarwinistische Evolutionstheorie, Intelligent Design und die Frage nach dem Schoepfer. Aus einem Schreiben an Kardinal Christoph Schoenborn’ Imago Hominis 14 (1):47-8

    But you’re right, most catholic theologians didn’t like ID and even Schoenborn retracted …

  71. #71 tvday
    Texas
    May 28, 2012

    I very much agree with your position, although I do not agree with theistic evolution. However, in some ways I think it is a necessary evil. Unfortunately, many of my friends would not accept evolution without the theistic approach. I especially agree with your last point that if we lump together theistic evolution with intelligent design we will just end up alienating individuals who are in full support of the teaching of evolution and keeping creationism out of our schools.

  72. #72 chas
    May 28, 2012

    Let’s see — Jason is in fact just a collection of atoms & subatomic particles. Are those atoms & subatomic particles doing his thinking or is he?

  73. #73 IntelligentAnimation
    Florida
    May 28, 2012

    I read at least half of the comments and very few got the definition of ID right. Most importantly, if you incflude the word “God” or “Bible” in the defintion you are not defining ID, which stringently avoids religious terms. You can be cynical about it and call it “stealth theism” if you like, but that is not a part of the definition of ID. Like it or not, many of us ascribe to ID on scientific grounds only.

    ID is NOT TE. ID says intelligence is required for the biota we see today to exist as it is, based on the scientific data, evidence, logic and math. TE says no intelligence is required scientifically, and as far as religion, they believe in God.

  74. #74 IntelligentAnimation
    Florida
    May 28, 2012

    I should add that ID is also NOT anti-evolution, as was stated both in the article and many of the comments. I am an evolutionist who believes in common descent, yet the true definition of intelligent design is clearly factually correct.

    I do feel that the definition of ID is too wide an umbrella, which causes confusion. One blogger listed some 14 or so different viewpoints on biological origins. He could have listed dozens more without scratching the surface, but I think the best catagorization came from Gallup in their poll. They say 40% of adults ascribe to Biblical Creationism (suddenly made by God YEC or OEC); 50% believe in “guided” evolution (as I do) and just 10% believe in full materilalist evolution, including Darwinism, without guidance.

  75. #75 IntelligentAnimation
    Florida
    May 28, 2012

    ID is also not anti-science, but work entirely through the scientific method, mathematics and observational data.

    I am staunchly Anti-Darwinian, anti-materialist, anti-TE, anti-Creationism and anti-Accidentalism. I also strongly oppose concepts of “intervention” as if only momentary adjustments are needed for life. Intelligence is needed for every moment of every living thing or else death ensues immediately.

    Life is the intelligent animation of matter. Intelligence is the base root of all life, including first life, evolution and every aspect of life we see today, including all formations, all purposeful movements and all thoughts and instincts.

    To claim it is all an “illusion” even though absolutely nothing has been explained by the accidentalists yet is just a religious belief having nothing to do with science.

  76. #76 Wow
    June 25, 2012

    “ID is also not anti-science, but work entirely through the scientific method, mathematics and observational data.”

    It concludes that the answer to any question it hasn’t already answered is “God did it while wearing an alien mask” and therefore should not be investigated. This is anti-science.

  77. #77 Mark
    July 8, 2012

    I must say I find thid debate ridiculous! On one side we have a vast number of people who believe in a fantasy friend, who made everythng and runs everything and for whose existance there is not a single shred of evidence. On the other side we have people who use the evidence of the real universe around them to work out how things work.
    Basically – fantasy friend believers – get a life! You are deluded. misguided and wrong and no matter how long you argue, all your arguments fall to dust because you have no single shred of evidence for any God!

  78. #78 Dan
    post-catholic.blogspot.com
    July 9, 2012

    Every single theistic evolutionist I’ve ever met believes in a personal God. They believe that God designed and created the universe and they believe that God designed humans to be special in various ways. If they are Christians, they believe that God gave humans a soul. I’ve never met such a Christian who thinks that evolution gave humans a soul.

    Believe it or not, there are theistic evolutionary models that do not see things in exactly these ways. That God created (or was the “cause” or ultimate” ground) of the universe, is indeed a given. But the doctrine of kenosis (self-emptying), a doctrine held by many Christian theologians, could be used to explain the unfolding of the universe along “naturalist” lines as God’s gift to the universe of the “freedom to become.” As well, many modern theologians do not posit the soul as a supernatural entity added to the body, but rather as the emergent property of the brain.

  79. #79 IgnosticMorgan-CarneadesofGa.-SkepticGriggsy
    Augusta,Ga., home of Morgan lamberth
    July 27, 2012

    Explain then how kenosis works! No, ti’s the same unfounded assumption that of He did it, that uninformative interjection!
    Percy Bysshe sums up naturalism versus supernaturalism:” To suppose that some existence beyond, or above them [natural descriptions-laws, I.M.] is to invent a second and superfluous hypothesis,to account for what already is accounted for.” Why then would any rational person add God as any kind of explanation? He is only the god of the gaps and the god of the explanatory gap-arguments from ignorance in response to arguments from personal incredulity!
    For the record.

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