Re: Meaning of ID #2B +2C

From: bivalve (bivalve@mail.davidson.alumlink.com)
Date: Tue Dec 04 2001 - 19:37:28 EST

  • Next message: D. F. Siemens, Jr.: "Re: Response to: What does the creation lack?"

    Bob wrote: My question is: Why have not TEs (to use a convenient shorthand) joined with YECs and IDers in criticizing the Dawkins and Dennetts and Simpsons of the evolutionary community, if "this criticism applies equally to them"? Why do you immediately shift into criticizing YECs and IDers with a mere slap on the wrist for D, D and S?

    My reply: Too often, the YECs and IDers endorse Dawkins, Dennett, etc. Quoting them as proof that evolution supports atheism is a claim that they are theologically correct in denying God's providence. Most YEC and ID criticism of atheists that I have seen focus on erroneous attacks on their scientific claims. However, I have criticized Dawkins and his ilk as the opportunity arises, e.g. in a letter I just sent to GSA Today. As for the focus of my message, ID and YEC seemed to be the most relevant. I do not think Dawkins has many adherents on the list at present; instead, most list members are aware of many of his shortcomings. ID was the focus of the present discussion. Another reason to address ID and YEC that the advocates of those views who profess Christianity are committed to seeking the truth, whereas Dawkins has asserted his intention to ignore the topic.

    Bob asked: I'm not sure what you mean by, "that does not legitimize young earth or ID advocates making the same unbiblical claims." What unbiblical claims to you refer to?

    My reply: Claims that evolution or other natural process implies atheism. This claim could be made directly, e.g. Johnson insisting on fingerprints of a particular type, or indirectly, e.g., claiming that TE must be a compromise with atheism.

    Bob wrote: I think you have it wrong, Dave. Dembski et. al. are trying to _bring intelligence into nature_. (1) Identifying and characterizing design in biology, for instance, is a legitimate scientific activity. (2) Trying to locate the intelligence or intelligent processes that produced the design within nature is also a legitimate scientific enterprise. (3) In so far as they or anyone else identifies the designer outside of nature, he or she has departed the scientific enterprise and taken on a theological and philosophical one. One can do (1) and (2) without committing oneself to (3). Indeed, it seems to me that it is the opponents of ID who keep on bringing up (3).

    My reply: Perhaps we do not mean the same thing by intelligence. I would say that, as Christians, we already know intelligence is there. The heavens declare the glory of God, etc. Everything in nature is created by God for His purposes, no matter what the means. "Do the skies themselves send down showers? No, it is you, O LORD our God." (Jer. 14:22).

    It is theoretically possible to produce scientific criteria for the identification of design in biology. However, I have not seen any that I think are both legitimate and adequately applied. One important flaw in the ID criteria is severely limited testing for false positives. Some criteria are so general that the production of carbon dioxide and water from wood and oxygen by fire is an example of intelligent design. Both products are exactly suited for a variety of uses, can be specified in great detail before I light the fire, and significantly different from the raw materials. On the other hand, proving that a biological molecular system is irreducibly complex is irreducible complexity requires more knowledge of molecular biology and evolution than we have at present. We do not know that all the elements of any biological system must be assembled simultaneously, because we do not know that it is impossible that a partial system could have had some function. For som!
    e complex systems, we do have evidence of the assembly of some parts before the whole system. We do not know what can be evolved in small steps, especially when we do not know with certainty what the starting point was. We do not know how big a step might occur by natural selection. Rarely do we know that a system cannot function until and unless all the elements are present. Function must be carefully defined. If I find that a landslide has produced a two meter heap of rocks, I should not conclude that it was intelligently designed just because it would not be a two meter heap if any one rock was missing. A shorter heap is not significantly different and probably just as functional. Similarly, the fact that a molecular process requires 20 steps does not mean that 19 steps might not produce something quite useful.

    The regular apologetic role taken by ID advocates suggests that they do see 3 as an integral part of ID. However, I do not see the identification of a non-natural designer itself as problematic. I have no objection to the following approach:
    X seems to me to be inexplicable based on natural laws. As a Christian, I know that God is capable of achieving His goals using ordinary or extraordinary means. In this case, I believe that God achieved X by working above or beyond ordinary means. However, if further study should provide a natural explanation, then I will suspect that God used natural means to achieve X. (Note: I would classify your episodes of bringing creation to the next level as miraculous.) A natural explanation might simply shift the gap in natural explanation (e.g., X is readily derived from Y but I do not know where Y comes from), or it might eliminate it.
    I do see significant problems in misrepresenting the purported inexplicability and in insisting on the necessity for miraculous action (as opposed to claiming that there seems to be good evidence for it) where it is not specified in the Bible.

    Bob asked: Do you hold that if it's not evolution, it has to be non-natural? Is it not possible that biological systems are first basically designed, and later evolved?

    My reply: I am not quite sure how the second question connects to the first. I think that, in light of your other post, that you and I are not defining natural in the same way. If biological evolution is defined broadly as any change in organisms over time, then by definition it includes all natural ways of generating new kinds of organisms or new biological features except for abiogenesis. This includes natural selection, genetic drift, etc. In fact, it would also include intelligent (and foolish but technologically advanced) manipulation of genes.
    Certainly it would be possible for things to be produced by either setting aside or supplementing existing natural laws and then to proceed through a course of natural evolution.

    Bob wrote: Thanks for your clarifications. I hope my questions are helpful

    My reply: Yes, I think they help clarify both our views. Certainly they show where I have not explained myself well.

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