Re: [asa] Conversation with Timaeus, part one

From: Ted Davis <>
Date: Tue Sep 23 2008 - 10:44:06 EDT

I am very interested in Mike Gene's comments about CD and ID. His point about having cyber-experience is helpful: I am not very experienced at surfing and using the internet. I'm one of those old guys who still reads books, and who finds that too much time surfing has a major negative effect on writing things that end up in books. I think that PCs will become obsolete before books do, for various reasons, so I don't feel a great burden to change my habits. However, sometimes I do need cyber-happy people to help me get up to speed with what they are finding; likewise, sometimes cyber-happy people on UcD and other blogs need to do some actual reading from books, seeing things that just are not available online. A good chunk of the serious stuff on this issue is still printed on paper between covers.

On this part, however, I'm already up to full speed:

You need to distinguish between the ID Movement (which draws from elements
of the Creationist Movement and gets all the attention) and the concept of
ID which, thanks to the internet, draws a grassroots network of iconoclasts,
oddballs, and rabbit lovers. :)

Mike, I've been making and stressing that distinction for many years. I've been doing a lecture in various places (even at the U of Washington, not far from TDI) in which this distinction is one of the central points. What I have missed is your point, that web sources are very important for understanding actual ID theory (as vs the IDM, which is what I would normally associate with the web). I've confined my understanding of ID theory to the books by the big guns--or, to be even more accurate, to some of the books by the big guns, since ID isn't the only topic I read about. :-)

And, when I read things by Johnson (now retired, I realize), Dembski, and Wells, and articles by Meyer and Nelson, I do get the overwhelming impression that CD is just Mike Behe's pet idea within the inner circle of ID. And, no doubt, those people are the "big boys," in terms of their influence on the IDM; they certainly sell a lot of books in a lot of places. Furthermore, one of those big boys (I will provide no further identification here) told me once that Mike is pretty much the odd man out on this point, and that the others hadn't given up trying to persuade him. So, I think my instincts about a close link between ID and the rejection of CD are still at least partly justified.

So, let me get at this divide (between the blogosphere and the authors of books) with a more pointed question. I've indicated above, Mike, who are in my mind the main ID theorists. Granted, I've left out a few other people who are also influential, for various reasons--for example, George Hunter almost certainly rejects CD (heck, he's probably even an agnostic about the earth's great age, and that pretty much means that he has to reject CD), but he's not really in the inner circle as far as I can tell. Anyway, my understanding of what ID is, has been substantially shaped by people such as those named here; and, by their books and essays, not by their blogging. I hear you saying that I need to get around more, and I accept that point. If I did get around more, Mike, which specific people should I be paying the most attention to? You are obviously one of them, but I already know about your ideas b/c you wrote a book about ID (thank you for sending me a copy) and you are !
 on this list. If you could give me, say, half a dozen specific names to look into, rather than just the names of a few web sites that I need to keep checking (as important as that is), it would be very helpful to me in rounding out my picture of ID. The people you have in mind are probably not on my radar screen, and what I'm missing could be important to my understanding of ID.

Thank you for the comments,


- Mike

----- Original Message -----
From: "Ted Davis" <>
To: <>; "Ted Davis" <>
Sent: Monday, September 22, 2008 4:01 PM
Subject: Re: [asa] Conversation with Timaeus, part one

> Timaeus will be replying to comments and questions periodically and in
> bunches, not individually as they come up. Let me open the discussion
> myself, by replying to one of Timaeus' statements, as follows:
> "I want to make it clear from the outset that ID is not opposed to
> evolution as such. It is in fact, in pure form, neutral on the question
> whether species are created by the direct action of an intelligent maker,
> or through a process of evolution. The science of ID, insofar as it can
> be accepted as science, can establish only the fact of design, not the
> causal history by which design was instantiated in nature. Thus ID has no
> reason for being dogmatically opposed to evolution as the “historical”
> means by which design found its way into living things."
> Ted replies:
> For several years, Timaeus, I was involved in a private conversation with
> perhaps 2000 supporters of or sympathizers with ID. I had gone into that
> conversation with the sense that ID is in fact neutral on the question of
> common descent--that ID simply opposes unjustified claims of the
> omnipotence of RM + NS to produce all of the diversity of living things.
> (NOTE: I will use RM = random mutations and NS = natural selection
> henceforth in this thread.)
> However, several things I heard from many others in that conversation led
> me to wonder about the accuracy of this perception. At some point, I
> bluntly asked whether ID was as described above, and I also asked the
> related question of whether the common descent (CD) of humans and other
> organisms was considered to be good science by ID proponents. The
> resulting exchange was very interesting. Nearly everyone who spoke
> up--and many did not--expressed considerable doubt about common descent.
> My overall impression was that I seemed to be sitting (as it were) in the
> middle of Phillip Johnson's book, "Darwin on Trial." Someone who knows a
> lot of the science that supports CD tried to make the case for it, but
> mostly this seemed only to produce denials, and the lone defender of CD
> shortly dropped out of sight.
> Now, this was some time before Mike Behe's most recent book was published,
> and also (I think) before Francis Collins' book. Both Behe and Collins
> believe that the evidence for CD is very strong. From where you sit,
> Timaeus, would I be likely to find a similar amount of scepticism about CD
> among ID proponents today? Is CD still a very hard sell? It certainly
> seems that way on UcD, but that is Bill Dembski's blog, and he has always
> been known for opposing CD. I do think that ID is widely seen as being a
> type of progressive creationism, despite its official stance of avoiding
> claims about both the Bible and CD, and I think the evidence for this is
> conclusion is more than just anecdotal.
> If the level of opposition to CD is still quite high, then what
> specifically do ID proponents say to Mike Behe about this? How do they
> respond to the evidence that he and Collins accept, concerning the
> evidence for CD from genetics?
> If on the other hand there has been a sea change, then can we expect more
> ID books like Behe's, in which CD is strongly supported?
> Ted
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Received on Tue Sep 23 10:45:12 2008

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