Re: [asa] Atheist finds God thru Behe's books....

From: Schwarzwald <>
Date: Tue Oct 13 2009 - 22:25:39 EDT


In no sense did I say that "we" have to do "anything necessary" to get back
at atheists, etc. How in the world can I do that when I expressly say that I
do not think ID qualifies as science? I also said, and certainly meant, that
I would harshly criticize any dishonesty or lying on these sorts of topics,
regardless of my greater sympathies.

What I did say is this: If 'discovering' a lack of design in nature is
science - if it's scientific to say "this is unguided" or "this is (truly)
random" or "this happened by chance, without purpose or intention" - then
consistency demands that 'discovering' design, guidance, purpose, and
intention in nature is science as well. Either these things are outside the
scope of science, or they are not. I also said that I think neither of these
approaches are truly scientific, or should be considered scientific. But
yes, at the end of the day, if the scientific establishment, the government,
etc all treat the former as science, then consistency demands the latter be
recognized as science as well.

Keep in mind a few things here. I'm not saying that this gives license to ID
proponents to lie, exaggerate, or what-have-you. I'm not even saying that we
should throw up our hands, say "Well, science is already being abused" and
regard ID as science out of fairness, end of story. I'm saying that we
should recognize the reality of the situation - "science" is not as purified
of extraneous philosophy as so many would like to pretend, nor has it been
quite possibly ever. We should be every bit as concerned with - and
condemning of - atheistic abuses as we are of theistic abuses. And as it
stands, I find the "abuses" of Behe in particular to be shockingly,
radically minor in comparison, and the resulting tumult to be utterly out of

You seem to think that demanding consistency is equivalent to endorsing lies
and deception. Sorry, but I think that's utterly wrongheaded. Demanding
consistency is, in fact, the best way to ensure that science remains
unpolluted across the board. What makes abusing science so attractive IS
that inconsistency, that ability not only to offer
philosophical/(a)theological spin, but to have the field such that only a
single variety of it endures. In the end, though, I have to admit - I don't
think this problem is going to be solved by regarding ID as science, or by
an increase in consistency. I strongly suspect the most likely outcome is
for scientists and science in general to eventually be regarded with
considerable skepticism, turned to purely for pragmatic reasons rather than
"truth". Sad, but perhaps that's a blessing in its own right.

Incidentally, with regards to the Origin of Life and related questions - you
may want to keep in mind that 'multiverses' are being defended as
"scientific" in some quarters now. In other words, inferring some
supernatural (that is what it is, regardless of how much people dislike that
word), unobservable-in-principle force or property beyond our universe, is
being defended as the stuff of science. And those advocating this are not
being condemned as ruining science, etc. Indeed, some of the biggest ID
critics are enthusiastic supporters of this new envisioning of the
scientific paradigm. I have to wonder, John, if you would regard this as a
problem in need of correcting - and if so, just how do you think that should
be done?

On Tue, Oct 13, 2009 at 9:34 PM, John Walley <> wrote:

> C.
> I can appreciate the difficulty of the decision that Behe needed to make
> about Dover and his desire to defend the science and maybe only in hindsight
> do we have the liberty of second guessing him on it and your perspective is
> valuable in that regard. However I have little patience for anyone that
> accepts YEC as bedfellows and I think that is already a flawed and doomed
> strategy. Whether this was obvious before Dover or not is debatable but
> hopefully it should be obvious now.
> As far as MN, I heard the argument once that any characteristic of a
> designer we may infer or any modus operandi he may have or any mind reading
> we may do on him has to be outside of nature which I think is valid, so
> therefore it would have to be outside on MN. I think "pitting design
> against chance" falls into this trap. How can we know anything outside of
> nature and how is that different than the atheists appealing to multiverses
> because they can't find a naturalistic explanation for life in this one?
> This gets back to my suggestion that we are running into theological
> constraints here. We can only know in a scientific sense what we see in
> nature (MN) and God doesn't lend himself to be known that way.
> Jesus wouldn't prove Himself to the skeptics who asked Him to then and I
> don't think He will do it now. He has intentionally hidden how He works in
> nature so therefore ID as a scientific claim I think is overreaching and a
> fool's errand.
> " But by your ground rules, we should keep banging our heads away, looking
> for naturalistic explanations for the origin of life, for the next hundred
> years, for the next thousand, even for the next million, and even if the
> case for a naturalistic origin never gets any better than it is today,
> indeed, even if gets worse, i.e., looks more and more improbable, *at no
> point* should we ever concede, based on everything we know, that design is
> the best *rational* (not religious) explanation."
> Yes I agree we should keep looking for naturalistic explanations. What else
> could we look for? Even if we "conceded" and threw up our hands and
> completely gave up on finding any naturalistic solution and concluded that
> you were right all along, it was designed, then what? What do we do
> differently? I am not sure where this leads or why we would go there or why
> ID pushes this? How do we look for God even if we believe He did it?
> Wouldn't it be like looking for a naturalistic solution? Isn't that the only
> way we could find it if it did exist?
> As an aside I heard a quote once attributed to Plato that paraphrased went
> to the effect of "If God did exist, the only way he could interact with us
> would be to become a human, and even if he did do that, we would probably
> kill him". Has anyone else heard that and can provide a source? If so that
> is very profound and relevant here. Suppose God wanted to reveal Himself to
> us through ID, how would He do it? Would it be through IC and bacterial
> flagella and limitations of single point mutations in malaria or maybe some
> other way? And then how would He show us he was the God of the Bible and
> not Allah or some new age deity? I am not sure this aligns with how God
> reveals Himself historically in scripture.
> Granted Behe is a gentleman and I think I said as much and gave him credit
> for that about his performance on the interview. A common theme though among
> ID supporters is this angst about the atheists lying and getting away with
> it and some latent frustration or outrage about a great injustice being
> perpetrated on the culture that someone needs to counter, and sometimes by
> any means necessary. You admitted yours in this email and Schwarzwald said
> the same thing the other day. It is this unchecked chip on the shoulder
> angst and drive to fight back and "even the score" that drew the parallel
> with Ann Coulter, no off-color vulgarity or tastelessness intended.
> Thanks
> John
> ----- Original Message ----
> From: Cameron Wybrow <>
> To: John Walley <>; asa <>
> Sent: Tue, October 13, 2009 6:26:45 PM
> Subject: Re: [asa] Atheist finds God thru Behe's books....
> John:
> Thanks for your comments. I appreciate your willingness to listen and to
> engage in a give-and-take conversation.
> I agree that Dover was not the best case for ID people to be involved in,
> and I've said that here and elsewhere. On the other hand, Behe never
> defended the specific illegal and foolish actions (the lies, the clumsy
> handling of the issue, etc.) of the Dover school board trustees. He only
> defended the legitimacy of intelligent design as an approach within the life
> sciences. That's nothing different from what he had said before, in
> settings quite different from Dover. He was there to set the record
> straight about intelligent design, not to defend Biblical literalism or the
> control of school boards by fundamentalists. Even if in one sense Behe was
> being used by such people, in another sense he was seizing upon an
> opportunity to educate the public regarding the nature of ID. And if he
> hadn't testified, it could easily have been made to look as if all the
> leading ID proponents were "chicken" to defend their views on the scientific
> side. He had to
> make a judgement call, and only in historical perspective will it become
> clear whether his decision to participate was helpful or harmful to the
> cause of ID. Thus, your characterization of "getting taken captive by the
> YECs at Dover" is a bit unfair.
> There's no comparison between Behe and Ann Coulter. Ann Coulter is vulgar
> and self-consciously offensive; Behe is a gentleman. (As are many other ID
> proponents, e.g., Stephen Meyer.) Even if you did not intend it, your
> parallel was in very bad taste.
> You wrote:
> CW -- "Behe's argument does not pit interventionism against
> non-interventionism. It pits design against chance."
> JW -- This is a good crystallization of Behe's position and I contend it
> violates MN and causes the problems above.
> How so? If I set up a mile-long chain of dominos, so that, when the first
> domino is tipped, a chain action follows which causes the final domino to
> flip a switch to launch a rocket to the moon, the entire chain of activity
> is entirely explicable within methodological naturalism; yet it is also
> entirely designed and planned. No violation of natural laws was required to
> launch the rocket; yet the design of the domino set-up was absolutely
> required (in this instance) to launch the rocket. Design and natural causes
> worked together hand-in-glove, with no violation of MN. How do we know that
> some analogous process was not involved in the Cambrian explosion or the
> origin of life? You say that you understand Behe's argument, yet your
> objection shows that you do not, and that you are still seeing him as
> arguing for miracles. You are still confusing him with Ken Ham and Duane
> Gish and Henry Morris.
> I did not concede that the claim that Behe illegitimately mingled
> philosophy with science was a "valid criticism". I conceded that it was a
> "plausible criticism". For it to become a "valid criticism" in my mind, I
> would need a demonstration from someone that it is absolutely necessary for
> science to insist on an abstract notion of method which must be followed to
> the last jot and tittle, even where it threatens to mis-explain nature, when
> it seems that a more open conception of science could do justice to the
> data, while offering a better explanation. For example, it certainly looks
> -- at the moment, anyway -- as if intelligent design is necessary to explain
> the first life, and that "methodological naturalism" has led scientists down
> the wrong path on this subject. But by your ground rules, we should keep
> banging our heads away, looking for naturalistic explanations for the origin
> of life, for the next hundred years, for the next thousand, even
> for the next million, and even if the case for a naturalistic origin never
> gets any better than it is today, indeed, even if gets worse, i.e., looks
> more and more improbable, *at no point* should we ever concede, based on
> everything we know, that design is the best *rational* (not religious)
> explanation. I would say, if that is the kind of sheer stubbornness that
> "methodological naturalism" requires, then let's scrap methodological
> naturalism in favour of a more intellectually honest way of investigating
> nature. But I don't believe that methodological naturalism, which is a
> sensible pragmatic principle, requires such idiotic, ideological
> stubbornness. Methodological naturalism is fine in its place. But in the
> hands of Eugenie Scott and NCSE, it is merely a scientific-sounding cover
> for unacknowledged atheism, and that is how it's used in the culture wars.
> I didn't say that methodological naturalism was a capitulation to the
> Enlightenment. I said that *a rigid boundary between science and faith* was
> a capitulation to the Enlightenment. NOMA, a principle which many here seem
> to hold dear, is the result of capitulation to the Enlightenment. I could
> argue this in detail, but it would require a long essay on the history of
> Western thought from Kant through to Stephen Jay Gould, and I'll save that
> for a future publication. In any case, it was merely a prefatory remark to
> my main point.
> I was not speaking of teaching ID in the classrooms. I don't think that
> properly teaching ID concepts would do any harm, but most high school
> science teachers right now have no competence to teach it (they don't even
> have the competence to teach Darwinism in most cases), and they have been
> brainwashed against ID anyway and would only use the classroom lessons to
> take cheap shots at ID, cheap shots which the students would not recognize
> as scientifically groundless in most cases (and frequently atheistically
> motivated). I would be content if Darwinism were taught more critically,
> e.g., if Michael Denton's critique of Darwinism were required to be taught
> alongside of the views of Mayr and Dobhzhansky and Dawkins and Gould, and if
> impressionable 14-year-old students were made aware (as they are not made
> aware now) that some of the fossil finds on which human lineages are
> reconstructed are limited to a single tooth or bone fragment, and that many
> of the
> "classic" images of prehistoric creatures are in fact artist's
> reconstructions based on incomplete skeletons and no soft tissues, and that
> in many cases we have almost no information on the details of ancient
> environments and that therefore the determination of "selective pressures"
> in those cases is necessarily highly speculative, and that no biologist on
> the ASA list, or for that matter in the National Academy of Science, can
> explain how even one major new organ or system evolved in anywhere near
> demonstrative detail.
> I do not understand why you think a scientific method should try to "keep
> out" Muslim views or YEC views or anything else. A scientific method should
> try to determine what is true about nature, and let the chips fall where
> they may, as far as whether the results please or offend any religious
> groups. Thus, I think it is perfectly appropriate to teach schoolchildren
> information that would allow them to infer that YEC is impossible -- BUT
> only on the proviso that schoolchildren are ALSO taught information that
> would allow them to infer that design is a more reasonable explanation for
> the origin of life than abiogenesis by random recombination of atoms. If
> science class isn't going to worry about offending fundamentalists, neither
> should it worry about offending atheists. What offended ME about the Dover
> Trial was the self-righteousness of the atheists in the ACLU and the media
> who condescendingly lectured the fundamentalists for trying to control
> the contents of science class in order to promote their religion, when the
> atheists quite plainly wanted to make sure that nothing was taught in
> biology class, in Dover or anywhere else in the country, that could lead
> students to infer the existence of a designer, since the existence of a
> designer would threaten their own atheist religion. And they claimed that
> they were defending "constitutional neutrality regarding religion". Right.
> Cameron.
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "John Walley" <>
> To: "Cameron Wybrow" <>; "asa" <>
> Sent: Tuesday, October 13, 2009 6:23 AM
> Subject: Re: [asa] Atheist finds God thru Behe's books....
> "I know the exact boundary between science and faith, and design inferences
> fall on the faith side of the boundary."
> If we substitute MN for science in the above and tone down knowing and
> exact, then yes I will own that quote. And you labeling MN as a
> "capitulation to the Enlightenment" affirms my point. You see MN as an
> artificial constraint that is designed to keep God out of science. Even if
> so it still serves a useful purpose because it keeps YEC out and muslim
> creationism out and new age quantum mechanics out as well. And defining
> science in any way to not keep these out yields chaos in the classroom. To
> oppose MN to push your ID barrow, you have to open up this can of worms and
> draw speculations from all these ideological groups and others and that is
> best kept out of science. So if you agree with this conclusion you will see
> the value of MN. Sure you can debate whether the Bible has more historical
> and scientific concordism than the Koran but lets not call that science and
> lets not do it in the science classroom.
> I will concede that Behe "brings philosophical conclusions into science" is
> a more accurate description than crossing the boundary from science to
> faith
> and I am glad you concede that it is a valid criticism. My apologies for my
> edtorial error about crossing the line and my conclusion of you being
> oblivious.
> "Behe's argument does not pit interventionism against non-interventionism.
> It pits design against chance." This is a good crystallization of Behe's
> position and I contend it violates MN and causes the problems above. Now am
> I saying that Behe as a scientist is not allowed to draw his own
> philosophical conclusions and state them publicly? No and in an ideal world
> it would be great if we could all freely and publicly draw conclusions
> about
> Christianity and the Christian God. But the fact that this is a very
> polarizing issue and it strikes at the very heart of the athesit lobby
> means
> we have to use wisdom in how we present it. Getting taken captive by YECs
> at
> Dover is not a good example. And that is going to be the result of pushing
> ID now, it is going to get smeared like Dover unless it is handled much
> more
> politically expediently and that is why I keep bringing up Collins. I
> wished
> you guys could see this simple comparison. ID would be a lot less
> repulsive to the culture if it was not so tightly coupled with science that
> was falsifiable and what most objective people don't want taught to their
> kids. I have to agree with the atheists on that.
> "It appears to me that Collins is willing to sacrifice adequacy of
> explanation, if necessary, in order to adhere strictly to an abstract
> notion
> of scientific method, whereas Behe thinks that it would be better to
> sacrifice an abstract notion of scientific method in order to achieve
> adequacy of explanation." This is another good distillation of the
> differences between Collins and Behe and I agree with its accuracy. And
> within the church and private circles I think Behe is right, God does
> provide the explanation. But you can't just take this to the public square
> without expecting push back. I may have my political opinions but I can't
> just voice them all at work without running the risk of getting voted off
> the island. You guys are the theological equivalent of Ann Coulter, you
> like
> to just throw it out there and to hell with who gets offended.
> JOhn
> ----- Original Message ----
> From: Cameron Wybrow <>
> To: asa <>
> Sent: Mon, October 12, 2009 1:45:00 PM
> Subject: Re: [asa] Atheist finds God thru Behe's books....
> John:
> What you mean by "strong ID advocates ... don't clearly see the boundaries
> between science and faith" translates into:
> "I know the exact boundary between science and faith, and design inferences
> fall on the faith side of the boundary."
> You are of course entitled to that opinion, and of course others will
> differ. Behe differs. I certainly differ.
> I think that the idea of a rigid science/faith boundary is itself somewhat
> suspect, smelling of a capitulation to the Enlightenment, but even if I
> were
> to accept your conception that faith and science are in watertight
> compartments, it would not follow that the design inference is on the
> "faith" side. It could be on the "science" side. Or it might be that there
> is a third "zone" which is neither that of science nor of faith, but of
> philosophy, and that design arguments belong in that third zone. This, I
> believe, is Ted Davis's position, and also, I think, Schwarzwald's
> position.
> Thus, Behe's "error" is not that he draws doctrines derived from faith into
> science, but that he brings philosophical conclusions into science. There
> is
> a certain plausibility to this latter criticism of Behe. However, regarding
> your criticism, I have yet to be shown any part of Behe's scientific
> discussion that smuggles in premises from faith.
> "MN", as you call it, i.e., methodological naturalism, is not challenged by
> Behe's arguments. He has not insisted that evolutionary change be explained
> by reference to non-natural causes. He has repeatedly said that he admires
> Denton, who is explicitly naturalist, and he has repeatedly said that
> evolution could have occurred in an entirely natural way, without requiring
> any special interventions. Intelligent design as an explanation is not
> incompatible with an entirely natural delivery system for the design.
> Behe's
> argument does not pit interventionism against non-interventionism. It pits
> design against chance.
> My question, "What crosses the line between science and faith" did not
> indicate that I was "oblivious" of anything; rather, it was a complaint
> about your writing style. You had written:
> "You could make the case that he is using it to differentiate it from
> Dentonian or Mike Genian but again *that is crosses* the line from science
> to faith so I don't consider *that* useful or helpful or relevant."
> I assume the phrase "that is crosses" is an editorial error for "that
> crosses". But even so, the referent of "that" is unclear.
> Thus, I asked for clarification: *What* crosses the line between science
> and
> faith? Denton's theory? Mike Gene's? Something Behe said? Or my
> interpretation of why Behe was using the qualifier "Darwinian"? Your
> writing
> wasn't clear. I decided that you probably meant that Denton inferred God
> from design, and that you thought that this was illegitimately sneaking
> faith into science. And my point in response was that Denton did not infer
> the *Christian* God from design, but meant by God only an intelligent
> designer of some kind, and therefore was not appealing to "faith". If I
> misunderstood you, chalk it up to your ambiguous use of the pronoun "that".
> I don't know what you are thanking me for "reminding" you of, but I
> certainly did not wish to "remind" you of anything which would lead you to
> imply that Collins has a better understanding of scientific method than
> Behe. Behe is just as aware of Collins of the advantages of seeking natural
> explanations for things that happen rather than positing supernatural
> interferences. As a biochemist, Behe does not explain processes like
> digestion or protein synthesis with reference to special actions of God. In
> this respect he differs from Collins not at all. But Behe does not make an
> abstract insistence on method the be-all and end-all of science. The *goal*
> of science is to explain nature, not to maintain a certain investigative
> method at any intellectual cost. If explaining nature in some cases
> requires
> (as Behe thinks it does) a conception of design, then design inferences
> fall
> legitimately within the realm of science. It appears to me that
> Collins is willing to sacrifice adequacy of explanation, if necessary, in
> order to adhere strictly to an abstract notion of scientific method,
> whereas
> Behe thinks that it would be better to sacrifice an abstract notion of
> scientific method in order to achieve adequacy of explanation. So which is
> more important in science, the adequate, rational explanation of causes, or
> the maintenance of an abstract requirement of method? It does not seem to
> me
> obvious what the right answer is, nor do some of the greatest philosophers
> of science (who have wrestled quite seriously with teleological
> explanation)
> think it is obvious what the right answer is; TE people, on the other hand,
> just take for granted that consistency of method trumps adequacy of
> explanation every time.
> I did not intend my distinction between biochemists and geneticists to be
> "profound", though if I have achieved profundity accidentally I am most
> gratified to be informed of it. In any case, I am glad that you found my
> suggestion useful.
> Your last two sentences are unclear in meaning. I can't determine who is
> breaking away from which traditions. In any case, here is my statement:
> theistic evolution is not a departure from Catholic faith if all that is
> meant by "theistic evolution" is the simple statement that God guided or
> planned the process of evolution. The Roman Church has given the green
> light
> for that speculation. Many Catholics are already theistic evolutionists in
> this broad sense. But theistic evolution as it is often understood here and
> elsewhere is a narrower proposal, implying a rigid separation between
> spheres of knowledge such that the two (science and theology) can never
> intersect, and that no natural knowledge of God is possible. This runs
> against the grain of mainstream Catholic faith since the time of Aquinas,
> and of course Aquinas's thought has many precedents in the Church Fathers.
> It is this narrower notion of TE that I have asserted to be a primarily
> Protestant notion. It is too bad that there does not exist a label by which
> Protestant-TE could be distinguished from TE-in-general. Behe is certainly
> a
> TE-in-general, since he both believes in God and accepts macroevolution,
> but
> he does not like calling himself a TE because of the way that term is
> generally used in Protestant evangelical circles. He does not hold to the
> theological and methodological premises which are generally insisted upon
> by
> the leading Protestant TEs. On these matters I am in agreement with Behe.
> Cameron.
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "John Walley" <>
> To: "Cameron Wybrow" <>; "asa" <>
> Sent: Monday, October 12, 2009 9:43 AM
> Subject: Re: [asa] Atheist finds God thru Behe's books....
> Cameron,
> My response to Schwarzwald in another thread applies to you here. The mote
> in the eye of the strong ID advocates is that they don't clearly see the
> boundaires between science and faith. You show that here as well.
> In your own words, "Behe's primary scientific argument is that Darwinian
> (neo-Darwinian, etc.) mechanisms cannot explain the phenomena, and that the
> existence of some sort of designing intelligence is a more reasonable
> hypothesis to account for them. That's it. " Yes that's it. That
> conclusion,
> although rational and logical and valid, is outside of the realm of science
> if you uphold MN which I do. Then in the next sentence you ask "What
> "crosses the line from science to faith"?" making it clear that you are
> totally oblivious to this.
> In contrast, I think Behe and ID in general consider MN a convenient
> ideologically inspired and artificial constraint and therefore owe no
> homage
> to it, where Collins and science in general respect its purpose. I think it
> is fair to say this is at the root of the tendency of ID to confuse science
> with faith and my previous diagnosis of the condition was incomplete
> without
> it so thanks for reminding me.
> I will admit though that your distinction between the outlook of a
> geneticist and a biochemist is vary valid however and possibly even
> profound, and also your observation between Catholics and Protestant TE's.
> I
> would say though that Catholics don't need to become TE's though because it
> is no departure from their faith but a logical extension of it. Not so in
> Protestantism though which does require they break away from their
> tradition
> which explains why all TE's would be Protestant.
> Thanks
> John
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