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

From: Schwarzwald <>
Date: Thu Oct 15 2009 - 00:51:05 EDT

Heya all,

Cameron's pointing out some interesting things here, but there's one
particular aspect of his argument I want to emphasize.

Does anyone - and I mean anyone - really believe that the NCSE, Eugenie
Scott, the NABT, etc, are motivated purely, even largely, by a concern for
science here?

I mean, doesn't it strike anyone else as odd that science education in
America, and in the west in general, so often seems to be measured largely
or entirely in terms of belief - not understanding of, mind you, but simple
declared belief! - in evolution? Why does everyone in these debates remember
Dover, but no one seems to remember the NABT debacle, or consider it as an
instructive moment in this debate's history? Does anyone find it odd that
the NCSE's commitment to science education seems myopic to the point of
caring for nothing but evolutionary theory - and, along with it, the
discouragement of any percept of design whether or not such design is
inherently opposed to evolution? And further, does anyone find it odd that a
scientific theory has political advocates?

Let me explain what I mean here. I'm very at home with evolutionary theory
in general. I find Behe to be very thoughtful and have a strong argument,
but since I see design in play in nature, even in evolution (I suppose I'd
be close to Denton's mentality on this), irreducible complexity and the edge
of evolution are if anything interesting possible additions to that design I
already see. At the same time, I think methodological naturalism is a
misnomer - and that for all the chanting of MN, it's demonstrably violated
repeatedly anyway.

But here's the question I really have to ask everyone involved in this
conversation: Does anyone really believe that Eugenie Scott, the NCSE, and
assorted parties are really motivated mainly, or even primarily, by a
concern for science? That it just so happens that, of all the various
oddities of scientific speculation and discovery (that time apparently had a
beginning, the various oddities of quantum physics, etc), evolution is
regarded as the singular scientific topic that it's very, very important to
get everyone believing in? Doesn't anyone think that when someone declares
that "if aliens were to make contact with us the first thing they'd ask if
whether we discovered evolution, because it's just that important", said
person may be either A) exaggerating wildly, or B) quite possibly a bit

I ask this utterly apart from any discussion of ID, in any form, being
appropriate to teach in school. I just think it's blindingly obvious that
this fight is not and has never been about science in large part. Now, I can
respect someone's feelings about what the limits of science should be, of
course - I've made my own views on that clear myself. But at the same time,
I've never been able to kid myself into believing that, say.. the NCSE,
Eugenie Scott, etc are just trying their darndest to defend science
education. Anymore than I think (to use a somewhat exaggerated example)
Lysenkoism was a big issue in Russia purely because it was honestly thought
by all involved to be the best science of the day, and had nothing to do
with politics and philosophies.

On Wed, Oct 14, 2009 at 11:57 PM, Cameron Wybrow <>wrote:

> I'm glad we agree that design inferences can be rational.
> Whether they are scientific depends on the definition of "scientific".
> If "scientific" means not being allowed to use either supernatural causes
> or design inferences, then of course, by definition, design inferences
> cannot be scientific.
> If "scientific" mean not being allowed to use supernatural causes, but
> being allowed to use design inferences, where the evidence is strong enough
> and the non-design alternatives are evidentially very weak, then design
> inferences can be scientific.
> My point has been that "methodological naturalism" rules out the appeal to
> supernatural causes, but it doesn't automatically rule out arguments that a
> certain system or organ or animal is designed.
> Behe doesn't appeal to supernatural entities in order to establish his
> design conclusions. He does not start from the premise: "A supernatural
> being exists", and then use that in place of natural causes to explain
> things.
> Rather, he starts from a position of agnosticism (not personal, but
> professional) regarding the existence of supernatural beings. Then he asks:
> How did this complex integrated system come into being? Then he looks at
> the reigning view, which is that all such systems can be completely
> explained by an appeal to Darwinian and allied processes. He finds this
> view highly improbable, based on empirical data and mathematical
> considerations. Then he considers the known fact that intelligence can
> produce complex integrated systems. He weighs and balances, and comes up
> with the rational conclusion that "some intelligence" is a more likely
> candidate, either by itself or in conjunction with the evolutionary
> processes identified by the biologists, than those processes by themselves.
> I see no violation of "methodological naturalism" here. "Some
> intelligence" may possibly exist, and if it is an embodied intelligence,
> e.g., if this planet was seeded by alien biologists, there is no violation
> of methodological naturalism. There may also be other bodily intelligences,
> as yet unknown to us. That would not violate methodological naturalism,
> either. Even if we suppose that the intelligence is a supernatural being,
> that arguably still doesn't violate methodological naturalism, because
> Behe's method isolated the intelligent design without reference to the
> supernatural characteristics of the designer. It identified a design, and
> from that inferred only an intelligent agent, not a divine one. The
> determination that the intelligent agent was supernatural came via a
> separate argument, not via the design inference itself.
> Methodological naturalism means that science cannot say that the source of
> the design was God. But Behe does not say, as a scientist, that the source
> of the design was God. As a scientist, he says that the source of the
> design was intelligence. And as a scientist, there he stops.
> By all means, you can reject the legitimacy of inferring an intelligence
> behind natural causes. You can say that science is not capable of making
> such inferences. That is a position which some quite intelligent people
> have taken. But to affirm that position is not the same thing as to affirm
> that science is methodologically naturalistic. As Aquinas would put it, it
> doesn't follow, simply from the meaning of the term "methodological
> naturalism", that science cannot infer intelligent design. Or, as Kant
> would put it, that is not a valid "analytic" conclusion. If you want to
> prove that science cannot infer design, you need an argument; you cannot
> just chant "methodological naturalism" like a mantra.
> To summarize: Behe's method does not involve taking for granted the
> existence of supernatural entities, and does not employ the notion of such
> entities in the process of design detection. It therefore does not violate
> methodological naturalism. If Behe's method is unscientific, it is
> unscientific for other reasons.
> I am not going to take up the question here whether "the design inference"
> that Behe makes is truly scientific, or merely a philosophical or logical
> inference. That is an argument worth having, but it isn't the argument I've
> been addressing here. Here I've been addressing the false claim that design
> inferences violate methodological naturalism and make use of supernatural
> causes. Eugenie Scott and her gang have used this false claim to great
> effect; it helped to get ID condemned by Judge Jones, and it spooks school
> board trustees all over the nation, who don't want to get near "the
> supernatural", and hence religion, in science class. What she doesn't want
> the world to know is that from a strictly logical point of view, it's no
> more "religious" to see design in the cardiovascular system than in the dam
> of a beaver or the sculptures on Mt. Rushmore. That's because she isn't
> content with preventing science teachers from telling students that the
> designer is God; she wants to make sure that science teachers don't tell
> students even that there *is* a design, because she doesn't want students,
> freely using their own minds, to wonder whether the source of the design
> might be God. And she wants to go further than that: she doesn't want
> teachers engaging in criticism of neo-Darwinian and allied evolutionary
> theories, because she doesn't want students, having seen the criticisms, to
> have the opportunity to infer that there is in fact design. That's why her
> organization blocks not only attempts to teach creationism, and not only
> attempts to teach ID, but even attempts to point out the weaknesses in
> evolutionary theory, the ones discussed by scientists themselves. She wants
> to use high school science classes in such a way that they cut off even
> thinking the thoughts that could lead to belief in God. That's a violation
> of the spirit, if not also of the letter, of the First Amendment. How
> people can fail to see that her deeper motives are both anti-religious and
> entirely unconstitutional is beyond me.
> Cameron.
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "John Walley" <>
> To: "Cameron Wybrow" <>; "asa" <>
> Sent: Wednesday, October 14, 2009 6:50 AM
> Subject: Re: [asa] Atheist finds God thru Behe's books....
> " Designed objects, if they exist, are not something outside of our
> experience, up in some supernatural world; they reside in our empirical
> world. Even if the source of their design lies outside of nature, the
> design
> embodied in them does not. You still seem to me to be confusing
> "supernatural intervention" and "design"."
> No I think it is valid to say that we have no scientific basis for
> detecting
> design outside of nature. You cannot say that supernaturally sourced design
> does not exist outside of nature.
> On one hand I can sympathize with this conclusion because I agree detecting
> design at least within nature is obvious and intuitive, but once we
> consider
> supernatural design then we have no basis on which to evaluate it. As I
> have
> said many times, I am happy to admit this conclusion may be logical and
> rational, but it is just not scientific. Granted the atheists take
> advantage
> of this but I think we have to give them that. I dont believe God has given
> us the abilty to know him scientifically, it is a much more subjective
> knowing that resists us using it to "prove" Him to others. That is what you
> are trying to do with your design argument.
> John
> ----- Original Message ----
> From: Cameron Wybrow <>
> To: asa <>
> Sent: Wed, October 14, 2009 3:08:03 AM
> Subject: Re: [asa] Atheist finds God thru Behe's books....
> John:
> 1. Behe came to his conclusions regarding ID *independently* of the YECs.
> Why, then, should be NOT advocate them in the public square, merely because
> the YECs happen to agree with him some points? Isn't that like NOT putting
> up a Republican sign on your lawn, even though you support the Republicans,
> because Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh support them, and you want to
> distance
> yourself from Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh? What am I supposed to do, put
> a
> Democratic sign on my lawn, just to prove I have no truck or trade with
> Republican extremists? Why should anyone refrain from arguing publically
> for
> a conclusion he has come to, merely because some fools and/or repulsive
> people have come to the same conclusion?
> Here's another example: Why would you publically argue for the truth of
> Christianity, since YECs also argue for the truth of Christianity, and you
> think they've got it disastrously wrong and are an embarrassment to other
> Christians? Wouldn't you be safer to become a Jew, to avoid being thought
> of
> as "in bed" with YECs? No one could mistake you for a YEC if you abandoned
> the church for the synagogue.
> Of course, I anticipate your answer: "It's more important for me to
> identify
> myself as a Christian than to distinguish myself from other kinds of
> Christians." And you would be right to answer thus. But similarly, Behe
> would say that it was more important for him to identify himself as an
> anti-Darwinian than it is for him to distinguish himself at all costs from
> other anti-Darwinians.
> Behe disagrees with YEC, but his battle is not against YEC. His battle is
> against Darwinians. Your problem with Behe is that you think his battle
> should be against something else. But you're not him, and he's not you. I'm
> not asking you to join him in his battle. I'm saying that you are being
> illogical to expect him to battle your foes, when he doesn't hold your
> views. I'm saying that you are being illogical in wishing that Behe would
> behave more like Collins, because Behe doesn't agree with Collins about
> Darwinian evolution and therefore it would make no sense for him to conduct
> himself as Collins does. You might as well wish that that Michael Jackson
> would dance more like Fred Astaire.
> 2. I honestly cannot follow your theoretical discussion of MN and I can't
> take the time to untangle it. I did not speak of "knowing anything outside
> of nature". Designed objects, if they exist, are not something outside of
> our experience, up in some supernatural world; they reside in our empirical
> world. Even if the source of their design lies outside of nature, the
> design
> embodied in them does not. You still seem to me to be confusing
> "supernatural intervention" and "design". ID does not try to prove that
> particular events happened supernaturally. It tries to prove only that
> certain things are designed.
> 3. Your reference to Plato is a very loose paraphrase of part of the
> Republic. Plato is discussing the fate of the perfectly just man, and the
> description is strikingly reminiscent of what happened to Jesus. Many
> passages in Plato are reminiscent of Christian stories and themes.
> 4. I am not saying that anyone should "give up" a search for naturalistic
> explanations of anything. I am saying that it should be allowable, within
> science, for someone to render (if the evidence sustains it, I mean) a
> *tentative* judgement in favour of design, e.g., it should be possible for
> a
> scientist, speaking as a scientist, to utter a statement such as this:
> "Based on the evidence gathered *so far*, after 80 years of trying to find
> an explanation for the origin of life in terms of unguided chemical
> mechanisms, the best conclusion we can come to is that such an origin is,
> if
> not literally impossible, at least wildly implausible, and smacking of
> wishful thinking on the part of the person who insists upon such an origin;
> conversely, the integrated complexity that we see in even the simplest
> living cell bears all the marks of structures and systems that, in our
> experience, never come into existence without intelligent design. Thus, at
> least at
> this moment in our understanding of nature, the *best* explanation is that
> the first living organisms came into being, at least in part, through the
> agency of some unknown intelligence."
> Note immediately that I intend this as an example of the way in which
> someone might argue for design; I am not offering it as a proof that life
> is
> in fact designed.
> Note also that this inference is tentative and revisable; that it uses the
> word "best" rather than "true" to describe itself; that the words "in part"
> admit the possibility of a contributory role of purely natural causes
> alongside of or within the framework of design, and even the possibility
> that the design is entirely dependent upon natural causes for its
> realization; that the inference is based entirely on empirical evidence and
> theoretical considerations; that it draws no support from faith, theology,
> the Bible, or any other religious sources. I fail to see why anyone would
> deny that this conclusion is a "scientific" conclusion (I don't mean by
> this
> a true conclusion, but a conclusion that is scientific in form).
> 5. I have no idea what you are talking about re angst, and chips on
> shoulders, especially in reference to Schwarzwald, who is the most
> laid-back, least chip-on-my-shoulder sort of person among us. But if we are
> to speak of chips on shoulders, I would say that there are quite a number
> of
> people in this group who have a chip on their shoulder -- about YECs --
> that
> is as big as the rock of Gibraltar. The attitude towards YEC here borders
> on
> the obsessive.
> 6. Your statements about how God would or would not reveal himself strike
> me
> as entirely arbitrary. Other Christians, even other Protestants, have quite
> different prior expectations of God. My advice is that Christians should
> not
> tell God how he ought to make himself known to us, but should let him make
> that decision on his own. As one of Einstein's colleagues said to him:
> "Albert, stop telling God what to do!" I think that my biggest problem with
> TEs, other than their uncritical acceptance of Darwinian explanations, is
> their tendency to tell God what he must do, if he's to be the kind of God
> that they deem worthy of worship. Fortunately, God does not really pay much
> attention to such instructions from his creatures, and so it may well be
> that he has rather uncooperatively left evidence for his existence in
> nature. The possibility is at least worth investigating. ID people, who are
> less interested in guessing what a God of a certain
> preferred kind would probably have done, and more interested in finding out
> what the actual God has in fact done, spend their time undertaking just
> such
> investigations. And I wouldn't say that they have found "proof" of God's
> existence in nature, but I would say they have found very strong hints.
> And,
> unlike Dawkins and Co., I can take a hint.
> Cameron.
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "John Walley" <>
> To: "Cameron Wybrow" <>; "asa" <>
> Sent: Tuesday, October 13, 2009 9:34 PM
> Subject: Re: [asa] Atheist finds God thru Behe's books....
> 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
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Received on Thu Oct 15 00:51:39 2009

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