Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Show Stopper? ...

Opponents of Intelligent Design claim that the theory is a real show stopper. In today's posting we ogle the sheet music for this oft played anti-ID tune ...

Objection – Intelligent Design is a Hindrance to Science …

The NCSE’s Eugenie Scott says of the theory of Intelligent Design:
“The Problem with the Intelligent Design Movement is that it’s a real science stopper. It says, this particular phenomenon has religious implications for my particular religious views. Therefore, I’m not going to search for a natural explanation.”
(Environmental Review, Oct. 2000, pg. 4)

Source: http://www.environmentalreview.org/vol07/vol7no10.pdf

Scott is quite wrong … and one needs look no further than the bevy of key contributers to the field of science throughout history who believed in an Intelligent Designer. Historically speaking, I think you’d have a hard time making a case that belief in an Intelligent Designer has somehow adversely affected the advance of science. Did belief in an Intelligent Designer inhibit Gregor Mendel (father of modern genetics) in his research with peas? Did it somehow get in the way of George Washington Carver (one of America’s greatest agricultural researchers & developers) and his experiments? Did that same belief hinder Louis Pasteur (formulator of germ theory) in debunking the belief in spontaneous generation? Did Joseph Lister’s (founder of antiseptic surgery) belief in an Intelligent Designer somehow impede his developing procedures to eliminate microbes? Did that same belief somehow ground Werner Von Braun (father of modern rocketry) ... keep the mind of Max Planck (father of quantum mechanics) stuck in conventional space … or somehow dull the genius of Albert Einstein in the least? Belief in an Intelligent Designer didn’t seem to petrify the mind of Louis Agassiz (father of glacial science/foundational in establishing paleontology) or swat the science Jean Henri Fabre (founder of entomology.) What about Newton? ... Bacon? ... Copernicus? ... Galileo? We could go on and on with names of such scientists both past and present who not only have made key contributions to science ... but in many cases were responsible for founding many fields of scientific study.

For more ...


Furthermore, the Age of Enlightenment in Western Europe was birthed out of the Reformation and rooted IN a belief that the Book of Scripture and the Book of Nature equally testified to God’s existence – thus validating and encouraging Nature’s study in the first place (for more see: Labyrinth: A Search for the Hidden Meaning of Science [http://www.americanscientist.org/template/BookReviewTypeDetail/assetid/23869 ])

So if we were truly honest … we’d recognize that the theory of Intelligent Design has a rich scientific tradition and has historically SPARKED rather than hindered scientific study. Quite the contrary, according to the evidence it appears that it’s the theory of Evolution that has the potential to be a “science stopper.” For example, in biology a natural outflow of Natural Selection is the belief that some structures and DNA are simply vestigal (biologically useless.) That type of thinking can lead to ignoring the study of something … all because one believes that it IS useless (when in fact it may not be.)

On the other hand, belief in an Intelligent Designer did historically (and still does today) engender scientists into broadening their horizons and compelling them to greater research in trying to more thoroughly understand the original design (especially into those areas where function may not be immediately apparent.) Therefore, I don’t really see that there’s any validity to the claim that belief in an Intelligent Designer somehow has been science's party pooper. Quite the contrary, based upon history and the evidence being discovered today … I’d argue that ID has actually been the life of the party.

[I want] to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or than phenomenon, in the spectrum of this of that element. I want to know His thought, the rest are details.”
- Albert Einstein

Saturday, October 22, 2005

More Legends Of The Fallen ...

Today's posting continues the analysis of more frequently seen criticisms of Intelligent Design. As is often true with urban legends, these tales of lore die hard ...

Objection -- Intelligent Design is Anti-Evolution

This objection is raised by some, who again, equate the theory of Intelligent Design as being some form of Creationism. Contrary to the belief of some who confuse it with Young Earth Creationism, Intelligent Design theory doesn’t advocate that some supernatural creator was involved and created the Earth and everything in it in 6 days. In actuality, the theory of Intelligent Design agrees with many aspects and beliefs that are commonly held within Evolutionary circles. Intelligent Design agrees with the idea that Natural Selection and diversification of life does occur within nature. In fact, a majority of Darwin’s opponents believed in directed evolution, but rejected many of Darwin’s ideas. What many of Darwin’s colleagues questioned … and what modern day Intelligent Design advocates still question … is whether the processes of Self-Organization, Natural Selection, Undirected Random Mutations, Translocation, and so on … can account for all phenomenon seen in nature. Can these processes actually explain things such as: the Big Bang, the fine tuning of the universe, the origins of life, the complete spectrum of biodiversity seen throughout history, the sudden appearance of between 35-40 new forms during the Cambrian Period, complex biological systems such as the eye, bacterial flagella, the blood clotting cascade, and so on?

Objection – Intelligent Design Advocates Want to Mandate the Teaching of Intelligent Design in Schools

This has been at the heart of many struggles between Intelligent Design and Evolutionary theory in schools across the United States ... as it is currently in the Dover v. Kitzmiller case. Though many scientists connected with the Discovery Institute are scheduled to testify in the Dover case, the Discovery Institute itself has consistently been extremely outspoken about NOT mandating the teaching of ID in schools. The Institute’s official stance is to advocate for ALLOWING for discussion of ID and critiques of Evolution to be taught … not to mandate them. Currently, debating any of the potential critiques surrounding the theory of Evolution itself is not permissible and is generally seen by many as merely a “Creationist” tactic. Many scientists fear that the acceptance of ID is merely the Trojan Horse for Creationism with the goal of slaying the theory of Evolution. Intelligent Design advocates connected with the Discovery Institute have made it abundantly clear that they don't want the teaching of Evolution removed at all. They merely point out that a monopoly by any one theory makes for poor science ...

“Education, you know, means broadening, advancing, and if you limit a teacher to only one side of anything, the whole country will eventually have one thought, be one individual. I believe in teaching every aspect of every problem or theory”
– John Scopes speaking at his now infamous trial in 1920.

Cited in P. Davis and E. Solomon, 1973 The World of Biology. New York: McGraw Hill, p. 610

For More see John West’s commentary below …

Objection -- Belief in Intelligent Design is Relegated to the Uneducated and Ignorant.

Nope. In fact, Intelligent Design is starting to make inroads even into very the heart of the scientific community. Consider the comments of Robert Holub, dean of Berkeley’s Undergraduate department from March of 2005 …

At a recent academic cocktail party I had the occasion to speak with two colleagues, both fellow humanists, about various topics in higher education. At one point the conversation turned to the notion of intelligent design, and much to my amazement both colleagues indicated a great deal of sympathy for this alternative to "Darwinism." I was shocked, and although I told them that few, if any, reputable biologists in the country subscribe to intelligent design, I could tell that they were not persuaded. Somewhat dismayed, I turned to other, more congenial issues.

That even intelligent people fall for intelligent design was disquieting. I had read the news stories describing the large numbers of people who believe that intelligent design should be taught along side Darwin's theory of natural selection, and the somewhat smaller, but more alarming group that advocates creationism or intelligent design be taught instead of Darwinism. But until that conversation with my colleagues I thought that misconceptions about evolution were a phenomenon of communities far away from Berkeley, not members of faculty of the most distinguished university in the country.


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Gather 'Round ... It's Story Time ...

Today's posting continues the analysis of common criticisms of Intelligent Design and takes a critical look at a couple of well told tales. So sit back, enjoy, and we'll try to weave our way through some well spun yarns ...

As The World Flips ...

Objection -- Intelligent Design?! These are the guys that believed that the Earth was flat!

Historically, the Flat Earth criticism has been one that has been directed solely towards Christians living in Europe during the late Medieval era (specifically surrounding Christopher Columbus.) While that’s historically been the case, some mention should be made regarding the belief systems of the two other major monotheistic faiths that existed in Europe around that time period.

Islamic influence was felt strongly throughout Spain and Iberian Peninsula during the Medieval Era, as Muslims had occupied the land from the early 700s and were not driven out of Spain until 1492. While it’s true that some Islamic scholars such as-Suyuti taught that the Earth was flat, others such as Ibn Taymiyah (1263-1328) [ http://www.muslimphilosophy.com/it/default/htm ] believed and taught that the Earth was round. In fact, Muslim astronomers of the 9th-12th centuries (i.e Al-Biruni) made huge contributions to science and also knew that the Earth was spherical. [ http://www.muslimheritage.com/topics/default.cfm?/ArtcileID=232 ]

Meanwhile, Jews became spread out throughout Europe since the diaspora in 70 AD when the Solomon’s temple was destroyed. Prior to the diaspora, the nation of Israel had been occupied by the Greeks under Alexander the Great in 332 BC. It is highly possible that the Jews would have assimilated ideas of Greek Cosmology. At any rate, the belief in a round Earth was a widespread one throughout Judaism and the rest of the Western World around that time.

Regarding the frequently told story of Christopher Columbus’ fear that he would sail off the edge of the world, it is exactly that – a well told story that just so happens to be a complete fairy tale. Though it’s been widely debunked by a number of historians this story, like Jason Voorhees, simply refuses to die (possibly because it fits nicely into some well formed preconceptions.) In short, the story was completely fabricated and its genesis appears to be able to be traced back directly to both the French author Antoine-Jean Letronne and Washington Irving. It was then later falsely propogated by John Draper and Andrew Dixon White. For more details, see Jeffrey Russell’s and Thomas Woods’ pieces below …

The Myth of the Flat Earth by Jeffrey Russell

The Flat Earth Myth by Thomas E. Woods, Jr.

The Rest Of The Story …

Objection -- Believers in an Intelligent Designer suppressed science by making Galileo recant his conclusions that the earth moved around the sun and then sending him into exile.

The answer to this objection is both Yes and No. This objection is extremely popularized, but one that’s a bit like judging the entire content of a book after reading only its intro chapter. And as the saying goes … the Devil’s in the details.

Western Europeans of 17th century held to the conviction that the Earth was the center of the universe. This belief system had its roots in Greek philosophers (such as Aristotle and Ptolemy) who held this geocentric view of the universe. Westerners picked up these ideas initially from their interpretation of certain Biblical passages. Westerners studied the Greek ideas that the New Testament writer Paul had used to communicate the gospel to the audience of his day … which in turn lead to their study of the classical Greek thinkers and the further assimilation of these ideas. Copernicus waited until late in life to publish his theories due to fear of reprisal from Aristolilean academics, not out of fear of censorship from the church. The Catholic Church had historically been a strong proponent of scientific discovery.

Here are some brief facts regarding the Galileo Incident:

1) Galileo ran into trouble because he became obsessed with the idea of changing the academic mindset immediately. Galileo, not known for his tact, publicly ridiculed, humiliated, and alienated just about everyone as he launched a widespread campaign to propogate his ideas against the advice from sympathizers.

2) Galileo ran into trouble when he insisted on challenging the geocentric view on the basis of the Church’s interpretation of these Biblical scriptures, when he in turn couldn’t answer certain objections from the scientific community.

3) Galileo’s extremely vocal campaign began in 1611 … and ended with his trial in 1633 (in 1616 an encounter with Cardinal Bellarmine resulted in an edict, forbidding him from discussing heliocentrism.) He had been assured by Pope Urban VII in 1624; however, that he could write about it as long as he treated it as a mathematical theory. Galileo’s publishing of Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, ended up prompting his trial in 1633.

Legends, Overlooked Aspects, and Little Known Facts …

1) Aspects of the fate of Giodano Bruno are often mistakenly attributed to Galileo. Bruno was a philosopher, not a scientist although he did believe in Copernican cosmology. Bruno was tried as a heretic because of his preaching of hermiticism – a pantheistic cosmology -- and not because of any supposed scientific teaching of his. Any science he propograted was more a backdrop he sprinkled in for his real teaching on hermiticism.

2) A popular legend is that clergy refused to look through Galileo’s telescope. In reality, it was only 2 of Galileo’s scientific rivals, Cesare Cremonini and Guilio Libri, who refused to look. In fact, 2 clergy members who did look through his telescope who were converted to his heliocentric ideas.

3) The sequence of events that lead to Galileo’s trial began not with the Catholic Church, but from his academic rivals. In other words, Galileo’s troubles were not truly the result of persecution by the established church, but of an academic feud.

4) Historically, Galileo’s troubles with the Catholic church was at the exact same time that it was dealing with effects from the Prostestant Reformation. Galileo’s advocacy that scientists could re-interpret scripture to fit their theories was viewed exactly in the same light as the Protestants’ assertion that they could privately interpret scripture. The idea of private interpretation of scripture was considered heretical by the Catholic church at this time.

5) Galileo’s exile was actually a very comfortable one as he was even moved closer to his doctors when his health failed later in life. Galileo in spite of his opposition to the Church, remained loyal to it throughout his life and was even carried to mass when he could no longer walk there on his own.

Though admittedly tragic and wrong by today’s standards, Galileo’s conflicts with the Catholic Church mark the only "persecution" of a scientist in its history. Contrary to popular perception, it has not historically persecuted or stifled scientists (quite the opposite in fact.) In fact, the only incident in history in which a scientist was condemned to death was Antoine Lavoisier by the Terror during the French Revolution (a fact almost never mentioned by those critics who like to cite the Galileo incident.)

Personally, the Galileo incident actually strikes me as eerily similar to Intelligent Design’s current conflicts with stalwarts of Darwinism. Might there be a moral of the story to learned here?

The Galileo Legend by Thomas Lessl, U. of Georgia

The Galileo Affair by George Sim Johnston

Monday, October 17, 2005

Boarding The Trojan Horse?

Today's analysis addresses a horse of a different color. Will the real masked rider please stand up?

Objection #2 -- Intelligent Design is merely Creationism in Disguise

Historically, this objection has been a reference specifically to Young Earth Creationism, a charge that is patently false. Intelligent Design theory does not claim that the Earth was created in 6 days, that it’s only 6,000 years old, that fossils were deposited during Noah’s Flood, nor incorporates any Biblical or religious scripture of any type from any world religion in the formulation of any of its hypotheses. In fact, many Young Earth Creationists have been extremely critical of Intelligent Design advocates. In reality, ID theory can be traced back at least to Plato, seen especially in his work The Timaeus [ http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/timaeus.html ] (circa 360 BC.) Though it is true that ID has metaphysical implications, so too do all ideologies including Darwinism, Materialism, Naturalism, and so on. Though it is true that the majority of Intelligent Design advocates currently ascribe to some form of Theism (Christianity, Unitarianism, Judaism, Islam, etc.), there are advocates for the theory who are Agnostics as well as believers in Panspermia (the idea that life was seeded on Earth by an extra-terrestrial intelligence.)

John West addresses this criticism further …

Jonah Cohen, a writer for the American Thinker (who does not agree with ID theory) also addresses this subject …

The battle over the definition of ID has been a key controversy in the Dover v. Kitzmiller case. In her testimony in the Dover Case, Dr. Barbara Forrest attempted to tie Intelligent Design to Creationism, claiming that the two are virtually the same. Forrest basically ignored all the facts presented above and claims that ID is actually a Trojan Horse for Biblical Creationism.

Forrest, who happens to be on the board of directors for the NCSE, described herself on the stand as a Secular Humanist. Dr. Forrest is a member of the New Orleans Secular Humanist Association; a group which is an affiliate of the Council for Secular Humanism, American Atheists and a member of the Atheist Alliance International. Mr. Thompson, the attorney for the defense, attempted to establish Humanism as a religion as well. Dr. Forrest wasn’t willing to concede that, nor was she willing to draw the distinction between the personal beliefs of individual ID advocates and the overall doctrines of ID itself. When asked for her opinion though about this in regards to evolution, Dr. Forrest answered: "It’s not within my purview to object to anyone attaching a philosophical view to their understanding of evolution."

What was truly interesting to me personally was that Dr. Forrest was quick to call ID "in essence a religious belief" and "creationism" based upon the individual belief systems of some ID advocates … but yet claimed that Dr. Ken Miller (a staunch defender of Darwinian faith) wasn’t a creationist when presented with earlier testimony of his.

(So, according to Dr. Forrest it would appear you’re only a creationist if you disagree with Darwinism. I guess God can be your co-pilot … so long as He’s flying Darwinian Airlines.) ;)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Objection In The Scientific Court #3

Today we continue with more cross examination of Intelligent Design and another common objection that's often raised in the scientific court ...

Objection: Intelligent Design Isn't Science Because ...

1:C) Intelligent Design Theory offers no explanation of the method of design …

The objection to ID because it offers no "method of design" is a bit of short-sighted argument in my opinion ... mainly because people infer design all the time. No person who walks along a beach and sees "John Loves Mary Forever" etched in the sand with a heart drawn around it honestly thinks: "Gee, I wonder what wondrous undirected naturalistic process of nature created that?" Observers of the "John Loves Mary Forever" phenomenon may not know exactly how its designer created it (with a stick, a rock, their finger, etc) but they nonetheless infer that this apparent message had one. For years, the Great Pyramid at Giza has puzzled archaeologists as to exactly how the Egyptians were able to construct it. Just because archaeologists don’t fully understand the method of how the Great Pyramid was designed … doesn’t mean then that they don’t believe the Egyptians weren’t its architects. The discoverers of the Rosetta Stone, the statues on Easter Island, and the first Stone Age cave paintings in Altamira, Spain never attributted their findings to naturalistic and materialistic processes … nor suggested any cause for them other than an obvious intelligent designer. Even Stonehenge has never been believed to be the result of naturalistic geological processes.

Imagine an alien race possessing no knowledge of Earth … discovers a badly damaged (yet intact) Voyager spacecraft as it wanders into their system eons into the distant future. Having no knowledge as to the method of such a craft’s design … let alone any of the beings who designed it … would they then conclude after examination of this fascinating object that it was somehow the result of some mere undirected purposeless phenomenon of nature?

We need not fully understand the design process … to recognize that something has a designer.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Objection In the Scientific Court #2

Today's posting continues by analyzing another one of the more frequent objections that opponents of ID often bang their gavels on.

Objection: Intelligent Design Isn't Science Because ...

1:B) Intelligent Design Advocates Haven’t Invented a Theo-Meter Yet …

Let me start out saying first of all that behind this objection is the inherent belief that all advocates for Intelligent Design are theists. While it's true that a great many are, there are also advocates for Intelligent Design who are believers in Panspermia (in the case of ID it would be the belief that the building blocks for life on Earth were seeded intentionally from an advanced extra-terrestrial civilization) as well as Agnostics. So painting ID with the wide brush of theism is somewhat inaccurate.

Secondly, if we’re postulating about whether or not there is evidence to suggest the possible existence of a creator, then I would answer this objection this way …

The majority of the evidence shows that our universe began from a singularity (though the singularity itself can only be demonstrated mathematically) … and expanded in an incredible explosion of heat, energy, and the creation of everything in our universe known as the Big Bang. [ http://www.big-bang-theory.com/ ]
Currently, the majority of the evidence coming to us from space confirms either the Big Bang theory or an Inflation theory such as postulated by Alan Guth. [ http://lifesci.sussex.ac.uk/home/John_Gribbon/cosmo.htm ]Today the vast majority of scientists believe in either of these theories.

Some of the main pieces of evidence for the Big Bang are … 1) The observed Red shift of the galaxies (meaning they’re speeding away relative to us) … 2) The discovery of the 2.7 degree above Kelvin background radiation in (leftover heat from the initial flashpoint) … 3) the fact that the lightest elements (such as deuterium and helium) CANNOT be synthesized within the interior of stars. In order to synthesize these light elements, a furnace that has BILLIONS of degrees of heat would be needed. Currently, the explosion that created the universe is the ONLY conceived answer to such a conundrum as the existence of lighter elements. 4) The confirmation of predicted "wrinkles" in the cosmic background radiation ("Cosmic Seeds" as Fred Smoot calls them) discovered by NASA's COBE satellite. [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COBE ]

Alternative theories to the Big Bang such as the Steady State theory [ http://www.pbs.org/wnet/hawking/universes/html/univ_steady.html ], Oscillating Universe Model [ http://www.answers.com/topic/oscillatory-universe ], and Plasma cosmology (theorized by Hannes Alfven) [ http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/encyclopedia/p/pl/plasma_cosmology.htm ] are highly doubted due to lack of evidence, current contrary evidence, and major conceptional problems with each of those theories. The highly popular Oscillating Universe model suffered a death blow in 1998 when five different laboratories concluded with 95% certainty that the universe won’t collapse and will continue to expand forever [ http://newton.ex.ac.uk/aip/physnews.355.html ] Though many theories such as Multiple Universe Theory, String Theory, and Stephen Hawking's "No Boundary" proposal have been suggested as alternative explanations for universe’s apparent beginnings ex nihilo … all of them currently have significant flaws attached to them.

For More:
The Ultimate Question of Origins: God and the Beginning of the Universe

Design and the Multiple Worlds Hypothesis

Regarding how the universe is constructed, physicists are starting to recognize just how exquisitely and finely put together the universe itself truly is. There are multiple (around 25 or so) cosmological variables (i.e. the force gravity, electromagnetism, strong and weak nuclear forces, etc.) that are amazingly fine tuned … so much so that if even 1 of them were altered even the tiniest fraction, the universe and all life within it would not exist.
Physicist Robin Collins has focused a considerable amount of study into this phenomenon and discusses this subject at length …

God, Design, and Fine Tuning

Guillermo Guillermo and Jay Richards study multiple variables necessary for the creation of a habitable planet in their afforementioned highly controversial book, The Privileged Planet [ http://www.bookfinder.us/review9/0895260654.html ]
After examining these factors at length,Gonzalez sums up by stating that the probability of getting just 1 Earth like planet – (given all those factors and the fine tuning variables in our universe) complete with a similar solar system and all the requisites needed for life is less than 1 chance in 10 (180th power) (11th power.) Gonzalez goes on to calculate that even given a universe with 10 (11th power) stars per galaxy … and 10 (11th power) galaxies in it … the overall chances of getting such a system like ours would still be 1 chance in 10 (158th power).

Roger Penrose, the highly respected British mathematician and friend to Stephen Hawking, also calculated the odds of life arising by chance in 1989 (undoubtedly without considering the many factors that Gonzalez has.) In The Emperor’s New Mind Penrose stated …

This now tells how precise the Creator's aim must have been, namely to an accuracy of one part in 10 (10th power) (123rd power). This is an extraordinary figure. One could not possibly even write the number down in full in the ordinary denary notation: it would be 1 followed by 10 (123rd power) successive 0's. Even if we were to write a 0 on each separate proton and on each separate neutron in the entire universe- and we could throw in all the other particles for good measure- we should fall far short of writing down the figure needed.

Penrose, Roger; 1990, The Emperor's New Mind, Oxford University Press, pg. 344

To get a further sense of just how significant those numbers are -- consider the comments of physicist Robert Gange, who in his interview with Robert Heeren (author of Show Me God,) had this to say about the remarkable fine tuning of the universe …

Gange: "Now, since the universe should have gone out of existence in under a Plank time, and since it’s 14 to 17 billion years old, according to scientific thought, the conclusion is it must have been tuned at inception to better than 60 decimal places. All natural processes have a maximum precision; 3 or 4 decimal places is enormous. To say 60 decimal places is to literally genuflect at some supernatural creation."

Heeren, Fred; Revised Edition 2004, Show Me God, Day Star Publications, pg. 388

Some additional factors that should be considered:

1. All of the elements necessary to create all of the Amino Acids (AA’s) essential for life would not only need to end up on 1 planet, but we would need enough of them to end up in the same spot on Earth. (Given the fact physicists acknowledge that there are an estimated 10 (80th power) particles in the universe that's highly unlikely.)

2. All purely naturalistic Origin of Life studies have all demonstrated that there are multiple serious obstacles and issues that need to be overcome (as evidenced by the fact that the following foundation is willing to give $1 million to anyone who is able to come up with a realistic purely naturalistic proposal.) [ http://www.us.net/life/ ]For more details on the problems associated with current Origin of Life experiments see link below.

3) Given that Amino Acids can somehow beat astronomocal odds and arise purely via naturalistic means, these molecules must then all link up in precise order (and there must be enough of them) to create DNA to even have a chance for life to exist. If we’re going to envision the Origins of Life as being purely naturalistic, matter must somehow just "know" how sequence itself. However, years of study into the workings and makeup of DNA has revealed that AA's appear to have no preference in where they link up in the sequencing of DNA molecules (sequencing is crucial in order to have useful genetic information.) Genetic information works just like the letters of our alphabet. An appropriate analogy that demonstrates the current dilemma would be – sit a toddler at a computer and have them pound away on the keyboard with the goal of producing a perfect copy of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Bill Gates has called DNA far far more densely programmed than anything Microsoft has ever produced. Each and every time we have a computer program … we have a programmer. Think your copy of Windows XP arose and diversified via purely naturalistic processes?

For More:
Problems with Purely Natural Explanations for the Origins of Life on earth


Physicists recognize that material processes can only be measured and traced back to Plank time (which is 10 (-43) seconds after the Big Bang.) Since that’s the case, it’s impossible to gain any empirical data before that point in time because there’s nothing to measure. So seeking some materialistic measure for an Intellgent Designer that exists outside of the space-time continuum is like trying to run through a solid brick wall. Furthermore, any intelligence powerful enough to create the universe and everything in it is clearly at a level far superior to our own. Given that, would we honestly expect such an intelligence that would be powerful enough to create everything in the universe … and powerful enough to order and arrange its laws in such an amazing synchronicity … to necessarily be contained within the material universe and explainable by it? Would we expect such a designer to be subject to the very laws that designer created? It would be quite logical to expect that such a designer would be beyond the full comprehension of the beings it created. After all, can the fish having been confined for its entire lifetime within its cozy, well-kept and maintained environment ever truly comprehend the world outside its fishbowl, let alone the owner who maintains it?

Given the complete portrait of evidence coming to us from science today --- which hypothesis is far more probable? Is it more probable to believe that purely undirected purposeless naturalistic processes could account for our universe and everything in it … or that an intelligence both caused it and holds it together.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Slicing Through The Fog ...

Those who most vigorously oppose the theory of Intelligent Design do so for a variety of reasons. Over the next few days I'll assess a few of the common objections to the theory of Intelligent Design that opponents of it often cite …

Objection #1 – Intelligent Design Isn’t Science Because …

1:A) It’s Neither Testable Nor Falsifiable …

One of the biggest criticisms that’s often leveled against ID theory is that it’s neither testable nor falsifiable (able to be proven false by experimentation or empirical discoveries.) As far as this particular criticism is concerned, I’d say that this is an argument with tunnel vision. Honestly, how many accepted theories and concepts in science don’t pass the testability criteria? How about the Big Bang? One of the central tenets of the theory is the belief in the existence of a singularity at the beginning of our universe. The existence of this singularity can be mathematically demonstrated, but cannot be proved via an empiracal test (and never will be in my opinion), since the singularity is supposed to have existed before the observable universe and matter itself existed. Scientific tests only work when there’s material to test. That hasn’t stopped a large majority of the scientific community from believing one though. Quarks, Dark Matter, Superstrings, are all currently untestable theories – yet this doesn’t stop scientists from believing in them. Besides being an unfair criticism, it also happens to be untrue, as both Kenneth Miller and Michael Behe have agreed on a laboratory procedure to test the theory of Irreducible Complexity in complex biological systems (see A True Acid Test[ http://www.arn.org/docs/behe/mb_trueacidtest.htm ]) The very fact that opponents of ID seem to be working so hard to debunk it, proves that it IS in fact very falsifiable.

The problem that Anti-IDer’s seem to overlook in their criticisms of ID … is that the theory of Evolution itself seems to also qualify as a theory whose merits aren’t truly testable either. Several Evolutionary theorists have admitted this throughout the years. For example, Birch and Ehrlich noted that testability for the theory of Evolution is problematic since every observation is explained by Evolution. They note of the theory of Evolution:

“Our theory of evolution has become, as Popper described, one which cannot be refuted by any possible observations. Every conceivable observation can be fitted into it. It is thus 'outside of empirical science' but not necessarily false. No one can think of ways in which to test it.”

Colin Patterson backed up that assessment as he made the observation that since modern evolution combines Darwin’s concept of Natural Selection with the non-Darwinian concept of genetic drift … that the theory of Evolution is no longer testable nor falsifiable since failures of one are explained by merits of the other. Karl Popper called Evolution a “metaphysical research program” and said that at best it was a “possible framework”for a testable scientific theory.

Thus, we have an endless circular reasoning yin/yang. In addition, since the formulation of the theory of Punctuated Equilibrium by Gould and Eldridge, common descent in the position of being unfalsifiable since they contended that confirming evidence of evolutionary change for PE is essentially unnecessary. Popper in 1963 strongly criticized the concept of “survival of the fittest” calling it an unfalsifiable saying…

If, more especially, we accept that statistical definition of fitness which defines fitness by actual survival, then the survival of the fittest becomes tautological, and irrefutable.

Speaking further on the problem of falsifiying modern Darwinian theory William Dembski adds …

On the other hand, falsifying Darwinism seems effectively impossible. To do so one must show that no conceivable Darwinian pathway could have led to a given biological structure. What's more, Darwinists are apt to retreat into the murk of historical contingency to shore up their theory. For instance, Allen Orr in his critique of Behe's work shortly after Darwin's Black Box appeared remarked, `We have no guarantee that we can reconstruct the history of a biochemical pathway.' What he conceded with one hand, however, he was quick to retract with the other. He added, `But even if we can't, its irreducible complexity cannot count against its gradual evolution.' The fact is that for complex systems like the bacterial flagellum no biologist has or is anywhere close to reconstructing its history in Darwinian terms. Is Darwinian theory therefore falsified? Hardly. I have yet to witness one committed Darwinist concede that any feature of nature might even in principle provide countervailing evidence to Darwinism. In place of such a concession one is instead always treated to an admission of ignorance. Thus it's not that Darwinism has been falsified or disconfirmed, but that we simply don't know enough about the biological system in question and its historical context to determine how the Darwinian mechanism might have produced it."


Evolution looks for evidences of common descent w/modification … ID looks for evidences of design. As far as the testability and falsifiability criteria’s concerned … I see very little difference between ID, Evolution, the Big Bang’s Singularity, String Theory, Dark Matter, and Quarks. They’re all equally scientific theories.

Birch L.C. & Ehrlich P.R., 1967, "Evolutionary History and Population Biology," Nature, Vol. 214, 22 April.

Patterson C., 1978, "Evolution," British Museum of Natural History: London.

Popper, Karl R. 1963. Science: problems, aims, responsibilities. Federation Proceedings 22:961-972.

Popper K.R., 1982, "Unended Quest: An Intellectual Autobiography," [1974], Open Court: La Salle IL, Revised Edition.

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