Comments on Snoke's approach

From: George Murphy <gmurphy@raex.com>
Date: Sat Aug 13 2005 - 20:43:33 EDT

Several discussions have developed out of Randy's original post about David Snoke's ASA paper so in order to return to that I'm starting a new thread. A few points:

1) It may be helpful to note that David's presentation was closely related to a paper, "In Favor of God-of-the-Gaps Reasoning," which he published in PSCF 4 years ago.
It's at http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2001/PSCF9-01Snoke.html . My criticisms of this paper are at http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2002/PSCF3-02Murphy.pdf .

2) David devoted most of his presentation at the recent meeting to his own research on exciton-generated luminescent rings in semiconductors which showed that the original theoretical explanation of this phenomena was inadequate. While this was quite interesting, I found it strange that he seemed to think that some people wouldn't have thought that he was "doing science" while his research was in this essentially negative phase. Maybe some people would say that but it wouldn't be anyone who knew how science actually works. Of course showing that there are things that an accepted theory doesn't explain is part of science! Who would ever claim that Michelson & Morley weren't "doing science" when they showed that the expected effects of an aether wind didn't exist, even though they had no theory of their own to explain that negative result?

The relevance of that to ID is that David went on to argue that it's scientific to point out deficiencies in conventional evolutionary theories even if one has no positive explanation of the phenomena in question. Again maybe some would dispute that claim but I certainly wouldn't. E.g., IF (& it's a big IF) Behe's claims about the inability of natural selection to explain the blood clotting cascade &c are correct then they're a legitimate part of scientific work. So it seems to me that David spent a lot of time knocking down a straw man.

But does this mean that ID is scientific? No, because pointing out things that conventional theory can't explain makes to use at all of the concept of intelligent design. It just means that natural selection doesn't work. (Again note the above IF.) The correct theory might be quite different from either natural selection or ID.

3) I was struck by the same thing that Randy mentioned: While discussing the inability of the current theory to explain the luminescent rings, the possibility of explaining them by invoking a Designer didn't come up. David responded to Randy's question about this by saying, "In your analogy, the leap to God from luminescent rings seems unwarranted because God seems pulled out of a hat. There is nothing in the data that seems personal. The whole point of ID, however, is
that persons can leave tracks in data, so sometimes data can seem personal." This seems to me to be a highly subjective judgment. Persons can do lots of things, including making pretty rings. & the criticism that many people have of ID is that God is precisely "pulled out of a hat."

4) But the most serious problem from my point of view is theological: ID proponents have preconceived ideas about their Designer, who is identified with God, but those ideas represent problematic theology. Christians at least should not be characterizing God's activity first in terms of complexity &c but by the way God has revealed himself in Christ. I gather from his comment on my own paper at the ASA meeting that David wants to think of the dramatic miracles of the Bible as typical of God's activity in the world, so that God's work should be quite open and visible. I do not, & never have, denied the reality of miracles, though the assumption that they must be actions that are completely beyond the capacity of natural processes is highly questionable. But to understand God's work by giving priority to miracles rather than to the cross seems to me a serious distortion of the Christian message - & I include the miracle of the resurrection there. In I Corinthians Paul devotes the whole of Chapter 15 to the resurrection but not until he devoted 1:18-31 to the scandal of the cross and said in 2:2 that "I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified."

In addition, we should note that
    a) God's ongoing creative work in the world does not take place through miracles but mediately, through natural processes. Neither the earth's seasons, nor our daily bread, nor the birth of babies takes place through miracles in the sense of processes that science can't understand.
    b) The Bible gives no justification at all for the idea that God's origination of living things was more miraculous than the creation of anything else.

5) In summary: David described some interesting science but the support that his work gives to ID is negligible.

Shalom
George
http://web.raex.com/~gmurphy/
Received on Sat Aug 13 20:45:53 2005

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