Re: [asa] ID/Miracles/Design (Behe vs. Behe)

From: Cameron Wybrow <wybrowc@sympatico.ca>
Date: Fri May 29 2009 - 13:51:54 EDT

Hi, Randy.

You wrote:

"May I also comment on of your statements to Terry? You quote Dembski, Behe,
and others as saying that ID is not incompatible with evolution and that
even if evolution were shown to be true, ID is still valid. I think that is
certainly true of id but I have often asked for clarification of the
compatibility of ID with evolution. If I understand all your comments as
well as those of Dembski and Behe, the compatibility of ID with evolution
depends critically on evolution being incomplete. That is, "we agree with
everything except it cannot explain the details" or something along those
lines. Let us suppose (I know you think it is a fantasy but let's pretend)
that the evolutionary theory explains at every level of detail the
development of all proteins. Would ID still be compatible with evolution in
that scenario?"

The problem with your question is that "evolutionary theory" is ambiguous.
Darwin had an "evolutionary theory". Dawkins has an "evolutionary theory".
Denton has an "evolutionary theory". The evolutionary theory of Darwin and
of Dawkins is incompatible with ID, because in both cases it is set forth
with the deliberate intention of excluding design. The evolutionary theory
of Denton, on the other hand, has design built into it. Denton's theory
would predict "the development of all proteins", but not through Darwinian
means. In his view, the proteins emerge as a necessary consequence of the
laws of nature, which are anthropogenic, i.e., designed at the beginning so
as to produce life, evolution, and man. Denton is an ID theorist, in
fact -- he just happens not to be associated with the Discovery Institute.
His model of evolution is also entirely naturalistic. Unlike that of Darwin
and Denton, however, it depends very little on chance and much more on
built-in necessity. He sets this all forth in *Nature's Destiny*.

As for your questions in your second note, which were:

"And one more question that has puzzled me for a long time. If ID is indeed
fundamentally compatible with evolution, then why not drop the
anti-evolution aspect and focus on the ID part alone? If evolution turns out
to be incomplete, the scientists will work that out sooner or later. There's
no particular responsibility for the ID team to hasten it. Then we can all
join forces on the part that is most important to all of us. We can
certainly debate the scientific aspects of evolution but it need not be the
thorn in everyone's side. How does the ID argument run in the absence of
anti-evolution?"

I've already partly answered this above. ID has already formally dropped
"the anti-evolution aspect", though many of the ground troops in the
conservative churches haven't got the message yet. Behe was never
anti-evolution in the first place. Denton is pro-evolution. Dembski has
stated that fully naturalistic evolution, e.g., versions such as Denton's,
are compatible with ID. (That doesn't mean that Dembski himself personally
accepts fully naturalistic evolution, but it does mean that naturalistic
evolution doesn't necessarily run afoul of ID. It depends on what kind of
naturalistic evolution one is talking about.)

As for how the ID argument would run in the absence of anti-evolution,
Dembski's attempt to quantify Behe's argument regarding the flagellum in *No
Free Lunch* gives one example of an ID argument. The problem for you is
that you do not accept that design inferences regarding biological systems
can be "scientific" inferences, so you will not grant that Dembski's results
are scientific results (even presuming that you would find no flaws in his
biological or mathematical statements). The most you could see in it would
be an interesting philosophical argument, maybe even a persuasive one on the
personal level, but not a scientific one. And that's fine. I'm not trying
to browbeat you into agreeing that ID methods are scientific in your sense.
The point I am trying to make is that if Dembski's argument holds, Darwinian
processes are inadequate as an explanation for the flagellum. Something
else must have been going on. Whether that something else was some sort of
divine intervention, or front-loaded design, or something else, Dembski's
argument cannot specify.

I think the hardest think for anti-ID folk to grasp (and indeed, for many of
the pro-ID conservative religious ground troops to grasp) is that ID over
the last few years, with increasing clarity since the Dover trial, has been
moving in the direction of understanding itself as an a-historical theory,
i.e., as a theory which is not concerned with "how things actually happened
in the past", but with "design detection". If one can show that there is
design in nature, *however it got there, or whenever it was inserted*, then
one can show that Dawkins is wrong, even on the level of his science, since
his science is built upon the rejection of design. Even if one cannot
"prove" design, even if one can show only that design is by far the stronger
explanation for what we observe in nature than chance alone, Dawkins's
science becomes highly questionable, and of course if his science is highly
questionable then his anti-religious ravings, to the extent that they
pretend to be based on science, are also questionable.

The contribution of ID to the public discussion of nature is that it has
convinced many *secular* people that the science of Dawkins, Coyne, Dennett,
Weinberg, etc. is questionable. That, as I see it, is its main value. I
think that many TEs don't see ID in this light, because they are more
concerned with the attitudes toward evolution of people who are *already
Christian* than with the attitudes toward evolution of the unchurched and
secular. TE is largely about some Christians persuading other Christians to
take a more positive attitude towards evolution. That's not my project. I
grew up formally "churched", but in an essentially secular ethos, very
pro-Darwinian, and I know how secular people, formally churched or utterly
unchurched, think. They are horrified by YEC and by Creation Science, but
they are equally repelled by TE, because it still seems to be pushing
Christianity at them. ID, as formulated by Behe or Denton, or by Dembski in
his theoretical books (e.g., *No Free Lunch*), does not threaten their
secularity, and therefore they will listen to it. And once having listened
to it, and having come to think that perhaps chance and necessity alone are
not adequate to explain everything that happens in nature, but that design
is at some level present, they are in a frame of mind which, under the right
circumstances, could lead them to entertain the possibility of revelation.
So for at least some people, ID can be the first step toward religious
belief. I think that TE people regularly underestimate the importance of
this.

True, ID may also have had the side-effect of reinforcing the views of YECs.
But YECs are going to reject evolution in any case. Before ID came along,
they hung their anti-evolution on "Creation Science". Now some of them hang
their anti-evolution on ID. An analogy would be that if a guerilla movement
in some banana republic can't buy its arms from Britain, it will buy them
from France. So I don't see ID as increasing the number of YECs. And if ID
died tomorrow, the number of people who would switch from YEC to TE would be
minimal. Most YECs would go back to Creation Science or some such view. In
other words, ID is not the cause of the problem that Terry Gray has
identified in the churches. The distaste for evolution among some
Christians pre-dates ID. It springs from a certain way of reading the
Bible, and ID is not responsible for that way of reading the Bible, which
was very strong in America long before Behe and Dembski were even born.

Cameron.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Randy Isaac" <randyisaac@comcast.net>
To: <asa@calvin.edu>
Sent: Friday, May 29, 2009 7:36 AM
Subject: Re: [asa] ID/Miracles/Design (Behe vs. Behe)

> Thank you, Cameron.
> May I just make a minor further clarification?
> I'm not "limiting "science" in the way that you do". I don't have the
> power or ability to limit science. It's just that design by an unknown
> agent or methodology cannot be done scientifically--no one has shown the
> ability to do so, no matter how much we may want to.
>
> May I also comment on of your statements to Terry? You quote Dembski,
> Behe, and others as saying that ID is not incompatible with evolution and
> that even if evolution were shown to be true, ID is still valid. I think
> that is certainly true of id but I have often asked for clarification of
> the compatibility of ID with evolution. If I understand all your comments
> as well as those of Dembski and Behe, the compatibility of ID with
> evolution depends critically on evolution being incomplete. That is, "we
> agree with everything except it cannot explain the details" or something
> along those lines. Let us suppose (I know you think it is a fantasy but
> let's pretend) that the evolutionary theory explains at every level of
> detail the development of all proteins. Would ID still be compatible with
> evolution in that scenario?
>
> Randy
>
>
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> "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
>

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Received on Fri May 29 13:52:39 2009

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