re: Michael Palevitz

From: Stephen E. Jones (
Date: Sat Jan 29 2000 - 23:54:42 EST

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    On 28 Jan 2000 05:55:04 -0000, wrote:

    AK>I'm really sorry for this double post. I'm having some technical
    >difficulties (for the last few months even)

    A welcome to Ami to the Reflector. Perhaps he can tell us a bit more
    about himself?

    One of Ami's problems might be posting in HTML format. He could try
    using text format.

    >AK>Anyway, I would like to say something in response to this little snippet
    >rom Palevitz's article.
    >>Behe is coy enough (and a tad disingenuous) to avoid calling his designer
    >>God, but that's consistent with recent creationist strategy. Having failed
    >>to convince the Supreme Court that "scientific creationism" is science,
    >>they now package it as "intelligent design theory."

    Palevitz wrongly conflates "intelligent design theory" with "scientific
    creationism". Dembski makes it quote clear the ID and SC are two entirely
    different things:

    "Intelligent design needs to be distinguished from what is known as
    creation science or scientific creationism. The most obvious difference
    between the two is that scientific creationism has prior religious
    commitments whereas intelligent design does not. Scientific creationism is
    committed to two religious presuppositions and interprets the data of
    science to fit those presuppositions Intelligent design, on the other hand,
    has no prior religious commitments and interprets the data of science on
    generally accepted scientific principles. In particular, intelligent design does
    not depend on the biblical account of creation." (Dembski W.A.,
    "Intelligent Design", 1999, p247).


    "Intelligent design is not scientific creationism cloaked in newer and more
    sophisticated terminology. Intelligent design makes far fewer commitments
    than scientific creationism, carries far less baggage and consequently has
    far less chance of going wrong. Scientific creationism describes the origin
    of the universe, its duration, the mechanisms responsible for geological
    formations the limits to evolutionary change and the beginnings of
    humanity all the while conforming its account of creation to the first
    chapters of Genesis. In contrast, intelligent design makes no claims about
    the origin or duration of the universe, is not committed to flood geology,
    can accommodate any degree of evolutionary change, does not prejudge
    how human beings arose and does not specify in advance the mode by
    which a designing intelligence brought the first organisms into being.
    Consequently it is mistaken and unfair to confuse intelligent design with
    scientific creationism. Intelligent design is a strictly scientific theory devoid
    of religious commitments. Whereas the Creator underlying scientific
    creationism conforms to a strict, literalist interpretation of the Bible, the
    designer underlying intelligent design is compatible with a much broader
    playing field. To be sure, the designer is compatible with the Creator-God
    of the world's major monotheistic religions like Judaism, Christianity and
    Islam. But the designer is also compatible with the watchmaker God of the
    deists, the demiurge of Plato's Timaeus and the divine reason (i.e., logos
    spermatikos) of the ancient Stoics. One can even take an agnostic view
    about the designer, treating specified complexity as a brute unexplainable
    fact. Unlike scientific creationism, intelligent design does not prejudge
    such questions as Who is the designer? or How does the designer go about
    designing and building things?" (Dembski W.A., "Intelligent Design", 1999,

    AK>Palevitz misses the point. Behe isn't being coy or disingenuous.

    If Palevitz (a professor of botany at the University of Georgia), is a
    scientific materialist-naturalist (which he seems to be), then it is not so
    much that he "misses the point", but that within his metaphysical framework
    he cannot possibly get the point. Because it is inconceivable to a scientific
    materialist-naturalist that there really could be a God who is real, Palevitz
    must assume that anyone who is seriously arguing for the actions of God in
    natural history *must* be effectively a scientific creationist in disguise!

    >AK>He knows that science can't look for God. But science can make
    >observations about intellegence and create tests for it. He is making the
    >observation that certain mechanisms in life have unknown origins. The most
    >similar mechanisms with known origins were intellegently designed. Therefore, it
    >is not such an illogical leap to concider that these life mechanisms were also

    If anything it is "illogical" to *deny* that "life mechanisms" could possibly
    be "designed"! Why should things *appear* to be designed, if they are not
    in fact designed?

    AK>Perhaps the designer is an alien. Perhaps a type of organization of
    >energy that sustains intellegence but is unknown to us, however could
    >have evolved in a purely naturalistic universe, decided to play around with
    >carbon. Science fiction, speculation...of course. But the inference of
    >design in nature is not an unscientific observation and does not
    >automatically lead to the God depicted in the Bible..

    Agreed. See Dembski above. ID is agnostic about the identity of the
    Designer. Another design theorist, Mike Behe points out that science does
    not need to know the identity of the designer, to know that something was

    "How then will science "officially" treat the question of the identity of the
    designer? Will biochemistry textbooks have to be written with explicit
    statements that "God did it"? No. The question of the identity of the
    designer will simply be ignored by science. The history of science is replete
    with examples of basic-but-difficult questions being put on the back burner.
    For example, Newton declined to explain what caused gravity, Darwin
    offered no explanation for the origin of vision or life, Maxwell refused to
    specify a medium for light waves once the ether was debunked, and
    cosmologists in general have ignored the question of what caused the Big
    Bang. Although the fact of design is easily seen in the biochemistry of the
    cell, identifying the designer by scientific methods might be extremely
    difficult. In the same way, Newton could easily observe gravity, but
    specifying its cause lay centuries in the future. When a question is too
    difficult for science to deal with immediately, it is happily forgotten while
    other, more accessible questions are investigated. If philosophy and
    theology want to take a crack at the question in the meantime, we scientists
    should wish them well, but reserve the right to jump back into the
    conversation when science has something more to add." (Behe M.J.,
    "Darwin's Black Box, 1996, p251).

    I do think that Christian theists can build on basic ID to mount further,
    more specialised arguments for the existence of God, even the Christian
    Trinitarian God, but this is Natural Theology, and is beyond the scope of
    basic ID.

    AK>It should not be dismissed by the scientific establishment purely
    >because theists will use it as evidence that God exists.

    Agreed again. But it is precisely because they *are* "the scientific
    establishment" that design is "dismissed ... because theists will use it as
    evidence that God exists"!

    "Naturalistic evolution is not merely a scientific theory; it is the official
    creation story of modern culture. The scientific priesthood that has
    authority to interpret the official creation story gains immense cultural
    influence thereby, which it might lose if the story were called into question.
    The experts therefore have a vested interest in protecting the story, and in
    imposing rules of reasoning that make it invulnerable. When critics ask, `Is
    your theory really true?' we should not be satisfied to be answered that `it
    is good science, as we define science.'" (Johnson P.E., "Darwin on Trial",
    1993, p159).



    "It was-and still is-very hard to arrive at this concept from inside biology.
    The trouble lay in an unremitting cultural struggle which had developed
    from 1860 onward between biologists on the one hand and the supporters
    of old beliefs on the other. The old believers said that rabbits had been
    created by God using methods too wonderful for us to comprehend. The
    new believers said that rabbits had been created from sludge, by methods
    too complex for us to calculate and by methods likely enough involving
    improbable happenings. Improbable happenings replaced miracles and
    sludge replaced God, with believers both old and new seeking to cover up
    their ignorance in clouds of words, but different words. It was over the
    words that passions raged, passions which continue to rumble on in the
    modern world, passions that one can read about with hilarious satisfaction
    in the columns of the weekly science magazine Nature and listen to in
    basso profundo pronouncements from learned scientific societies." (Hoyle
    F., "Mathematics of Evolution", [1987], Acorn Enterprises: Memphis TN,
    1999, p3).
    Stephen E. Jones | |

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