[asa] ID/Miracles/Design

From: Cameron Wybrow <wybrowc@sympatico.ca>
Date: Wed Apr 22 2009 - 21:14:34 EDT

Thanks for your reply on Biblical miracles, George. I found it somewhat clarifying, and will get back to you on the subject later. For now, however, I will restrict myself to replying to just one point in your post. You wrote:

"But even more relevant to the ID context you've noted is that the fundamental claim of the ID program is that some phenomena (bacterial flagellum, blood clotting cascade) must be miraculous. Of course that isn't the language ID proponents use, but when they say that those phenomena cannot be explained in terms of natural processes, & when one recognizes that the Intelligent Designer is a rather transparent disguise for God, then what is being spoken about is a classic definition of miracle. And when ordinary Christians believe these arguments, use them to support their faith and resist scientific arguments that those phenomena can be explained in terms of natural processes, we have a situation not unlike that in the Marcan text."

This criticism of ID would be understandable a few years ago, when the ID people weren't being 100% clear about a number of things. I think the lowest point of ID fortunes in this area was the Dover trial, where some ID proponents gave, to my mind, some confusing testimony about naturalism and natural causes, which would justify the sort of criticism you offer here. (Of course, to be fair, it is hard to think straight in a courtroom situation where lawyers, who are interested in victory rather than truth, are controlling the line of questioning in an aggressive way. But nonetheless, some damage was done.)

However, in recent years, ID has been correcting and refining itself, and I think your criticism is no longer applicable (as I think Keith Miller's criticism, made the other day, and to which I responded, is no longer applicable). I think that the whole business about "intelligent vs. natural" and "supernatural vs. natural" and "designed vs. natural" has become much better formulated now, as can be seen in Dembski's *No Free Lunch* and in Behe's second book, and in the work of non-DI people like Denton who think in design terms.

In the new, polished formulation, ID is not a theory of historical origins but a theory of design detection. The argument from the flagellum is not an argument that one or more miracles must have historically intervened (between natural steps on either side) in order to create the flagellum; it is an argument that the flagellum is designed, rather than a product of chance, so that whatever the efficient-cause explanation of its production, its existence is an argument for a higher intelligence of some kind.

So, for strict naturalists, the historical cause, i.e, the efficient cause of the flagellum, could be some form of front-loaded evolution, in which there is obviously some sort of intelligence at work, but no "miracles" in the sense of "interventions". On the other hand, for those who believe in divine interventions, the efficient cause of the flagellum might have been a blast of mysterious energy from God, that transformed a bacterium without a flagellum into one with a flagellum. There may be other possibilities as well. ID theory can't distinguish between the various historical possibilities, because it's powerless to detect anything but the design itself. So ID theory is compatible both with traditional notions of divine intervention and with modern notions of seamless naturalism. That leaves the field wide open for evolutionary biologists to try to explain the flagellum in terms of stepwise natural modifications, if they can. (Though so far they've come up with only one possible intermediate stage, which is nowhere near an adequate explanation.)

So it's now clear that ID does not rule out naturalism per se, but of course there are different kinds of naturalism. Denton's necessitarian naturalism is explicitly different from Darwin's naturalism of chance. ID refutes, or purports to refute, the naturalism of chance. If ID is right, Darwin misconceived how nature works, but "evolution" is not thereby falsified or rejected.


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Received on Wed Apr 22 21:15:08 2009

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