The Case for a Creator: Redefining Science

The Case for a Creator, Closing Thoughts

The theory of evolution not only explains and unifies a vast range of scientific observations, it’s given rise to an enormous, fruitful research program by predicting where we should look in order to find all kinds of phenomena of interest. One of the most famous examples is how Charles Darwin predicted that the earliest human ancestors would be found in Africa, which turned out to be 100% correct. Based on observing flowers from Madagascar, Darwin also predicted the existence of a moth species with a startlingly long proboscis, and a moth matching his specifications was discovered. Evolutionary theory led paleontologists to inspect rocks of a certain age in a certain location to find tetrapod ancestors, and lo and behold, we dug up Tiktaalik roseae. Evolutionary theory enabled us to predict the likely characteristics of an ant ancestor, and we found a species preserved in amber that matched our expectations almost perfectly. Evolutionary theory illuminated the similarities between birds and dinosaurs, and feathered theropods continue to turn up at a dizzying rate.

Even today, evolution continues to guide researchers who are expanding our knowledge of the human genome. Because of evolution, we looked in yeast to find genes that build bodies, and we looked in sea cucumbers to find blood-clotting genes. Because of evolution, we found viruses with similarities to crucial genes in our immune system, and bacteria with family ties to the mitochondria that power the metabolism of each and every cell in our bodies, and apes and monkeys whose vitamin C synthesis gene is broken in exactly the same way as ours. Based on evolutionary reasoning, the first scientists to crack the genetic code worked under the assumption that it would be universal among life, and this too was correct.

These are bold, surprising predictions, which expand our knowledge of humanity even as they reveal our deep and intricate ties to the natural world. And without the overarching assumption of evolution, there was no reason to suspect any of them to be true. Yet they are true, and no other theory or hypothesis accounts for them so consistently and so well. By letting the principles of evolution and the scientific method guide us, we’ve enjoyed enormous success, and reaped the bounty of a rich harvest of knowledge about nature. We’ve also found no evidence whatsoever which confirms the existence of a supernatural creator. And when some people are losing, it’s little surprise that they want to change the rules of the game.

In chapter 9, Stephen Meyer sums up his argument as follows:

“Well, I say it’s time to redefine science. We should not be looking for only the best naturalistic explanation, but the best explanation, period. And intelligent design is the explanation that’s most in conformity with how the world works.” [p.243]

Please note the major concession: Strobel and his fellow-travelers aren’t doing science. They’re doing something else, and they want to “redefine” science so that the new definition can encompass whatever it is they are doing.

What’s curious about this statement is that although Meyer calls for redefining science, he never says what he wants the new definition to be. If they want to redefine science, how should the new definition differ from the old one? What activities will count as science that didn’t before? And once you conclude that “design happened”, then what? What predictions does the design hypothesis make about the structure of the world? Is there research that we can do to figure out the mindset, the abilities, the intentions of the designer? Can we know anything about him other than, perhaps, an inordinate fondness for beetles? If so, how?

Neither Meyer nor any other advocate of ID has ever attempted to answer these questions. If they’re so eager to establish a new, non-natural kind of science, why don’t they explain how it would work? More to the point, why don’t they just go ahead and do it? They don’t need anyone’s permission. If they could use their method to make verifiable predictions, they wouldn’t have to sit around trying to convince the rest of us. There would be incontrovertible evidence of their success.

The proof is in the pudding, but Meyer, Strobel and the rest are offering us nothing but thin gruel. They want us to discard the well-tested and massively successful framework of evolutionary theory and adopt their method instead, and promise vague but marvelous results at some unspecified future time. They come to us empty-handed, having done none of the necessary work, and expect us to take their claims on faith – even though the Discovery Institute’s sizable budget could easily support a well-equipped research division, and groups like the Templeton Foundation are openly seeking pro-ID research to fund. Clearly, the only reason they’re not doing science is because there’s no science in their ideas to be done. Like all creationists, they are intellectually bankrupt, and the “redefinition” they seek is to redefine scientific failure as scientific success.

Other posts in this series:

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • http://steve.mikexstudios.com themann1086

    “We should not be looking for only the best naturalistic explanation, but the best explanation, period.”

    As many people have said before, the “best explanation, period” has always been a naturalistic explanation. For every single phenomenon that we have observed, over thousands of years, naturalistic explanations have supplanted supernatural ones. Not once has the reverse happened; why should this be any different? It’s a pretty extraordinary claim that needs extraordinary evidence, and they got nothing.

  • Valhar2000

    Can we know anything about him other than, perhaps, an inordinate fondness for beetles?

    Not even that:

    1) What if the designer made lots of beetles because they are easy to make, and let him populate the world with species quickly and thus leave work in time to watch the game.

    2) What if the designer was paid to make more beetles, and doesn’t really are about beetles one way or the other?

    3) What if the designer was getting a divorce, and the judge ruled that the spouse would get the world as part of the settlement, and in the last minute the designer filled the world with beetles knowing how much the spouse hates those things?

    ID offers no way to rule these hypotheses out, or to rule them in, for that matter. The answer is always Goddiditbutwecantknowwhy. It is the ultimate curiosity killer.

  • AnonaMiss

    Good post as always Ebon.

    Btw, I’ve been trying to get to the site all day, and only just managed to get through – when I wasn’t getting “server reset” messages, I was getting redirected to a white page that never finished loading, under the same URL as the post. Finally managed to actually read your article by stopping the load before it could start me onto a white page loop.

    It’s sad how often your site gets attacked. I’m guessing from how this is happening that it’s a malicious site ad.

  • http://www.superhappyjen.blogspot.com SuperHappyJen

    I had similar issues reading your blog today. You are as always, a breath of fresh air in a world of nonsense.

  • Ritchie

    I’m SOOO glad you’ve written a post on this point. I always end up having this argument on ID blogsites – with ID advocates thinking science should not be/is not limited to materialism and naturalism, and should/does allow for the possibility of miracles. I’ve heard ‘science is only concerned with what is real’ more times than I can count. And that’s a lot; I can count pretty high…

    Precisely how a scientist who allows for miracles is supposed to be able to trust the results of her own experiments, they never really explain. Funny that.

  • John Nernoff

    I recently watched a TED talk by Susan Blackmore on “Darwinism” which neatly and powerfully encapsulated the design inference from three simple events:

    1. Variation
    2. Selection
    3. Heredity

    (from Dennett) with the notation that “You MUST get evolution or Design out of Chaos without the Aid of Mind.”

    Variation is automatic and has no goal whatsoever. Good mutations or bad mutations don’t matter at all. The selection is made by the environment, and it doesn’t give a hoot either. Heredity just happens too; it doesn’t “want” to save anything for posterity. There’s no mind or thought process involved. We are accidents of nature. Frightening, isn’t it? The talk is well delivered and it will impress, for sure.

  • http://thechapel.wordpress.com the chaplain

    @ Ritchie, #5:

    I’ve heard ‘science is only concerned with what is real’ more times than I can count.

    Is that a concession that religion is concerned with something other than reality? Isn’t that a conversation stopper?

  • Eurekus

    With all the money that spins around in Christianity you’d think they would have already funded a research team which gives even a little evidence that hints at God’s existence. After 2000 years of Christianity they have nothing.

    I wonder if Xians are ever going to wake up and smell the roses and realise they smell sweet because of mutation and natural selection.

    Ebon, you must be a very patient person. I would have thrown this nonsensical book up against the wall half way through, let alone write a critique on the stupid thing.

  • L.Long

    The basic point is does it do anything to say g0d did it???
    For 25000yrs g0d has not even done a good crap much less solve any problems.
    As soon as someone started finding answers and getting things done with science
    the g0d-followers have been pissed!!!
    PLUCK!! ACCOMMODATING!! They, as stated in the last paragraph, do not need permission, all they need to do is put out results and they will be the top boss.
    Except for hate and bigotry the g0d-group has not done anything else constructive.
    Their BS has been and will always be BS!
    So go ahead and impress me…make the waters part! make my leg grow back! Do something REALLY miraculous & constructive and then you can join our club.

  • Richard P.

    “We should not be looking for only the best naturalistic explanation, but the best explanation, period.”

    Maybe what he is saying is when we realize that there is something we don’t understand, we should use the fall back position of goddunit until someone else figures it out. Always better to leave the questions to some one else, isn’t that what the preacher always said.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    What if the designer was getting a divorce, and the judge ruled that the spouse would get the world as part of the settlement, and in the last minute the designer filled the world with beetles knowing how much the spouse hates those things?

    Valhar2000 wins the thread for that comment. :)

    I’ve heard ‘science is only concerned with what is real’ more times than I can count.

    Is that a concession that religion is concerned with something other than reality? Isn’t that a conversation stopper?

    Very much so. It reminds me of a fundie I corresponded with once, who told me, in all apparent sincerity: “I think basing your life on reason is very limiting, because you can only reason with the knowledge you have.” As opposed to faith, obviously, which enables you to reason based on knowledge you don’t have…

    By the way, if I didn’t make it sufficiently clear, this is my final post on Case for a Creator. After 15 months and 48 posts, I’m finally done with this book! My thanks to everyone who read, commented, and otherwise participated in this experiment. I have to admit, it’s been fun taking these creationists to task. It hasn’t been too much of a challenge, though. I do hope they can come up with something more clever next time. :)

    I’m happy to say, however, that this won’t be the last apologist book to get this treatment on Daylight Atheism! A brand new series is starting up later this month, aimed at a believer’s book that takes a somewhat different tone. Stay tuned…

  • Ritchie

    the chaplain #7

    Is that a concession that religion is concerned with something other than reality? Isn’t that a conversation stopper?

    You’d think so, wouldn’t you? But no, apparently it is the theory of evolution which is the religious premise, based as it is on the idea that God WOULDN’T have created the world the way it is and therefore MUST have been done through natural means. ID is the result of looking at the evidence and considering that all explanations are possible, including the supernatural ones, if that is where the evidence leads. ID = science (either as it is, or should be done), ToE = religion!

    Scary, isn’t it?

  • Ritchie

    Ebon – btw, I for one have enjoyed this book critique enormously, and look forward to seeing you take other such works to task.

  • TommyP

    Gotta say, once again, I really loved this critique. Looking forward to your next project. Yay for reasoning with what you know.

  • Lion IRC

    The most troubling thing about evolution for me is the proposition that a random (pathogenic) mutation could theoretically occur which might result in the total annihilation of all life (along with the pathogen which failed to anticipate its own extinction under such circumstances)

    Left with a world completely devoid of life the earth would once again find itself sitting there waiting for ANOTHER random/spontaneous event (or multiple simultaneous events) such that evolution “Mark II” would then be possible.

    A second abiogenesis. A second wave of primordial life and random mutations accompanied once again by natural selection.

    What would a subsequent life form in “Earth Mark II” make of the remnants of “information” it encountered that we had left in our wake.

    Lion (IRC)

  • 2-D Man
    I’ve heard ‘science is only concerned with what is real’ more times than I can count.

    Is that a concession that religion is concerned with something other than reality? Isn’t that a conversation stopper?

    I read that in a different light, Chappie; I think any such believer is trying to make this arguement:
    -The Jeebus*-designed-our-bodies story is true.
    -Science finds out what’s true
    -Therefore, doing science properly will find that that story is true. (The means by which the story is found to be true don’t matter.)
    -Therefore, if you’re not finding that the Jeebus-designed-out-bodies story is true, you’re sciencing wrong.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Left with a world completely devoid of life the earth would once again find itself sitting there waiting for ANOTHER random/spontaneous event (or multiple simultaneous events) such that evolution “Mark II” would then be possible.

    A second abiogenesis. A second wave of primordial life and random mutations accompanied once again by natural selection.

    It is entirely possible that we are MkII, or III, or IV.

  • http://she-who-chatters.blogspot.com D

    An excellent close to an excellent series! I can’t wait to see your next project, and congratulations on a job well done!

  • Eurekus

    I love atheists, we explore the brutally honest possibilities. This reminds me of the brutal honesty of artist Ron Muek. In his case humanity is cast in a most brutally truthful way. Professional Xian apologists can learn from him.

    I hope you guys don’t mind me posting this.

    http://www.google.com.au/images?hl=en&rlz=1G1GGLQ_ENAU348&q=muek&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=univ&ei=-QA9TIqzDsixcZeJ9ZQD&sa=X&oi=image_result_group&ct=title&resnum=4&ved=0CCQQsAQwAw

  • http://dormantdragon.wordpress.com DormantDragon

    It seems many people like to insist that there must be a supernatural explanation for life, for souls, for consciousness, for existence, or whatever – usually something for which science has yet to find the full explanation.

    And yet, as other commenters have pointed out, naturalistic explanations are continually being found for phenomena that we didn’t understand before. The natural universe as we now understand it and are able to observe it is so amazing and surprising that it seems foolish to think that there are things natural forces can’t do – yet that’s a line often trotted out by religious believers: “That just couldn’t have happened naturally!”

    What’s needed, in my opinion, is not a redefinition of science but an expansion of our understanding of what nature, all by itself, is capable of accomplishing.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X