Intelligent Designer/Underachiever

From People in White Coats via NCSE

Just a reminder that tomorrow is Evolution Sunday, an occasion set aside to try to bring serious discussion of evolution, and science more generally, into churches. I always try to do something in my Sunday school class at least this time every year. Why not talk about the Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye debate, if nothing else?

Perhaps the most important message to convey is that young-earth creationism and Intelligent Design are not the default Christian views, with anything else being a departure and a compromise. Believing that God created each individual living thing – or some specific features of living things that are “irreducibly complex” – is not as self-evidently more “biblical” or more reasonable than mainstream views. Indeed, as has been shown time and time again, it is not just that YEC and ID are scientifically problematic. The God that they depict is objectionable on Biblical, theological, moral, and other grounds.

If you do read this blog and you do something in your religious community to mark Evolution Weekend, please do tell me about it in a comment!

  • No_one_significant

    Isn’t every version of origins objectionable on theological and moral grounds? The fossil record is a violent record. Seems like the God of theistic evolution just turned everyone lose to fight it out for survival.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Well, that situation is no better on the YEC view, despite what they would have you believe. They have God deliberately introduce those things after the Fall as punishment for human sin. How is that better?

      • Ken M. Penner

        I’m not as interested in the question of in which view God is nicer as in the question of which view of God is truer, i.e., better able to account for and predict our experiences.

      • Sean Garrigan

        Another typical McGrathian “you, too” or “them, too” deflection.

        “No_one_significant” has a very good point. On several occasions you have used things like the existence of parasites to suggest that the god of ID is a monster, yet a god who creates indirectly by letting things create themselves — a god who is apparently even more powerful than the traditional designer god, in your view, in light of your “God Makes All Things Makes Themselves” post — is no less responsible for the existence of parasites than the traditional designer god.

        The difference between the two scenarios is that on the biblical model human suffering is the consequence of man’s fall, whereas on the Zeitgeistian model parasites and countless other things that cause suffering are just part of life as physical creatures that emerged via the evolutionary processes that supposedly make God even more awesomely powerful than a god who designs directly.

        If you want to be consistent then you should rhapsodize about how parasites testify to the awesome glory of God. Indeed, parasites, in your view, ARE among the things that God made make themselves, and so their existence should bring you great joy and respectful reverence. Yet you spit in God’s face by using this testimony to His greatness as a basis to serve your petty apologetic desire to offer evidence against Intelligent Design.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          My, you do love to twist things. One can appreciate parasites differently when they are part of the creative experimentation of natural processes that produced us, than when they are a deliberate vindictive act by a God acting out towards all living things because of what one species did. And make no mistake, that is what “a consequence of man’s fall” means. I have only met a couple of people who thought that Adam and Eve were engaged in genetic experimentation and actually changed the nature of other living things themselves.

          • Sean Garrigan

            I didn’t “twist” anything; I exposed the fatal flaw in your flaccid attempt to use parasites as a basis to reject ID. In other words, I exposed YOUR attempt to twist data to satisfy your petty apologetic desires.

            BTW, I’ve never met anyone who thought that Adam and Eve engaged in genetic experimentation.

            Another BTW, I recently spoke favorably of another person’s attempt to get you to be less confrontational in your approach to those who hold a view of human origins that differs from your own. However, the sort of behavior that you display has caused one pastor to change his mind on Darwin in favor of ID, so perhaps your Luther-like approach ultimately serves my cause:-)

            http://pastorjamesmiller.com/2013/10/12/changing-my-mind-on-darwin/

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              I know that people who do not have a firm grasp of biology and of how science works are liable to find Meyer persuasive and may dismiss the overwhelming agreement of scientists as “motivated reasoning” while persuading themselves that Meyer and Nagel are the exceptions. That is precisely why some of us get so upset.

              I am very amused that you think you have exposed “the fatal flaw” in my thinking. Is that supposed to distract from the point that your view involves God vindictively venting on the rest of creation when he is angry at humans? Are you even willing to talk about that aspect of your belief system? Evolution does not make the problem of suffering go away magically, and I never said it did. My point was that your claim that an evolutionary view is worse is patently false.

              • Sean Garrigan

                “I know that people who do not have a firm grasp of biology and of how
                science works are liable to find Meyer persuasive and may dismiss the
                overwhelming agreement of scientists as “motivated reasoning” while
                persuading themselves that Meyer and Nagel are the exceptions. That is
                precisely why some of us get so upset.”

                I’m not sure that it’s possible to miss the point more completely! Did you merely skim Pastor Miller’s blog post? He didn’t change his mind primarily because of the arguments FOR ID, but because of the character and content of the arguments AGAINST ID.

                “I am very amused that you think you have exposed ‘the fatal flaw’ in my
                thinking. Is that supposed to distract from the point that your view
                involves God vindictively venting on the rest of creation when he is
                angry at humans?”

                “[V]indictively” is your word, not mine, and not God’s. There’s nothing “amusing” here, James. The fatal flaw in your attempt to use the existence of parasites as a basis to reject ID has been exposed. I’m not laughing; you shouldn’t be either. What you should do is set aside your pride, which goes before a fall, and simply acknowledge that the existence of parasites isn’t evidence against a designer god, whether such a concept of god be true or not.

                “My point was that your claim that an
                evolutionary view is worse is patently false.”

                Only if one assumes that suffering brought about by the fall necessarily suggests that God is “vindictive”. I’ve never met anyone other than you who has suggested that the suffering experienced on earth is the result of vindictiveness. I’ve never heard a YEC make such a claim; I’ve never herd a OEC make such a claim; I’ve never heard anyone but you make such a claim. Your claim is not consistent with the Zeitgeist with which I’m familiar.

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                  Since you have posted your reply in two places, I will respond to the one above, rather than repeat myself and make the blog comments a place of chaos and confusion.

            • David_Evans

              Miller may have a point about the tone of some of Meyer’s critics. However the evidence is all on the critics’ side. Miller says the Cambrian Explosion (a bad misnomer in my view) happened in a very short time. Perhaps he should have read one of the critics he dismisses ( http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2013/06/meyers-hopeless-2.html ) who shows clearly that the “explosion” was spread over at least 50 million years of increasing complexity. 50 million years is time for a lot of evolution.

              • Sean Garrigan

                In light of Miller’s blog post I suspect that he would respond by pointing out that, based on his reading, the evidence isn’t all on the critics’ side; rather, in the place of the compelling evidence he sought, he found instead argumentation based on the worst devils of our nature. He finds that to be very telling, and I agree with him.

                • David_Evans

                  This
                  http://www.skepticink.com/smilodonsretreat/2013/10/27/darwins-doubt-chapter-2-part-6/
                  is part of a series reviewing Meyer’s book. So is this
                  http://www.skepticink.com/smilodonsretreat/2013/10/22/a-survey-of-precambrian-animals/
                  I think, combined, they show that Meyer is either ignorant of, or deliberately misrepresenting, the pre-Cambrian fossil record. That may be one reason why he brings out “the worst devils of our nature” in some reviewers. I get tired of having to defend evolutionary theory against flat misrepresentations of the facts.

                  • Sean Garrigan

                    Darwinists often blame others for their bad behavior.

                    • David_Evans

                      I see you prefer talking about tone to discussing the scientific evidence. Very well, then. Miller says “When I listen to militant Darwinists, it’s pretty clear that they aren’t scientists, don’t know what they’re talking about, and aren’t even open-minded enough to think about the subject.”

                      I take it he would regard the man who said “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution” as a militant Darwinist if anyone is. That would be Theodosius Dobzhansky, a major figure in evolutionary biology and a Russian Orthodox Christian. I guess he knew what he was talking about, implying that Miller had never heard of him.

                      Reference http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodosius_Dobzhansky

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      Actually, as I’ve pointed out before, the Dobzhansky quote is evidence of the hyperbolic rhetoric that is used to support Darwinism, which helps reveal the doctrine’s religious character. Kenneth Miller, an evolutionary biologist who spends considerable time attempting to refute ID, even disagreed with that claim during the Firing Line debate during cross examination by David Berlinski.

                      Berlinski: “Professor Miller, would you agree with the statement, that ‘nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution’ — it’s very often quoted?”

                      Miller: “And in a simple way, so I don’t have word-games played on me, no I would not agree with that. I think there are things in biology that are perfectly sensible even if evolution is not correct.”

                      Miller goes on to qualify that statement by asserting that the interrelationships between organisms, phylogeny and natural history only makes sense in light of evolution, but at least he’s honest enough to implicitly acknowledge that the popular quote is hyperbolic.

                      Balance the Dobzhansky’s hyperbole with this:

                      “All I’ve studied and researched over the past 30 years has only strengthened my belief that nothing makes sense in biology apart from belief in an intelligent being who has created us. Those who do not believe in an intelligent being must go to great extents to rationalize that what they see as design is not the product of intelligence.” (Dr. Donald L. Ewert, Microbiologist, researcher at the Wistar Institute for almost 20 years.)

                    • David_Evans

                      If we are comparing authorities I’ll take Dobzhansky’s expertise over Ewert’s any day. Not to mention that there are many more biologists who accept evolution than accept ID.

                      My point was to argue that when Pastor Miller wrote

                      “When I listen to militant Darwinists, it’s pretty clear that they aren’t scientists, don’t know what they’re talking about, and aren’t even open-minded enough to think about the subject.”

                      he was showing ignorance of the general state of opinion among competent working scientists. Dobzhansky was the first example that came to mind.

                      Yes, Dobzhansky’s statement was hyperbole, but I think it’s defensible. Let’s take an example. Dolphins have a shape that is beautifully adapted for fast swimming. If you ask “why do they have that shape?” there are answers in terms of the laws of physics, and possibly also chemistry, that boil down to “given the constraints, it’s the best shape for the job”.
                      If you then ask “why do they have the best shape?”, the answer can only be some variant of evolution or of intelligent design. It may not be easy to decide, given only those facts.
                      But look deeper. Dolphins have the vestiges of pelvic bones. They have damaged copies of the genes which, in land mammals, are needed for colour vision. Why would a designer incorporate those things in a purely marine animal? It doesn’t make sense! But it makes perfect sense if dolphins are descended from a land animal.

                    • stuart32

                      Good points. I should mention that the non-functional genes in dolphins are for odour receptors not colour vision.

                    • David_Evans

                      Thank you. I am abashed. I should know not to trust my memory by now.

                    • stuart32

                      No worries.

                    • David_Evans

                      PS I should also have pointed out that Richard Dawkins, the archetypal “militant Darwinist”, is a scientist and does know what he is talking about. And Kenneth Miller, whom you quote approvingly, is a defender of evolution and not of ID. You note that fact but don’t seem to have taken it on board.

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      You’ve obviously misunderstood my use of Miller’s response to Berlinski. James has recommended the writings of Kenneth Miller here on his blog, and, like you, James has offered the Dobzhansky quote as though it should compel me to embrace the law of higgledy-piggledy.

                      My point is that even an evolutionary biologist, who comes highly recommended right here on Exploring Our Matrix and who opposes ID, has implicitly acknowledged that the Dobzhansky quote is hyperbolic rhetoric. No one wanted to accept that observation when it came from me, and now, for the first time, someone here (you) has admitted that it’s true.

                    • David_Evans

                      “the law of higgledy-piggledy”? Is this an example of the intellectual rigour you would wish to contrast with the “bad behaviour” of the Darwinists?

                      Yes, Kenneth Miller regards Dobzhansky’s statement as hyperbole. But it is a hyperbolic exaggeration of what Miller, Dobzhansky and the vast majority of biologists (many of them Christians) regard as truth. Doesn’t that fact weigh with you at all?

                      By the way, what about those dolphins with their vestigial pelvic bones and non-functional genes for colour vision? Design, or evolution?

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      “‘the law of higgledy-piggled”? Is this an example of the intellectual
                      rigour you would wish to contrast with the ‘bad behaviour’ of the
                      Darwinists?”

                      Actually, I’ve had Darwinists admit that Darwinism is the law of higgledy-piggledy, and that observation was first made by a scientist named John Herschel. Notice that this is descriptive of a physical process, and does not insult the intelligence or character of any person.

                      “…Doesn’t that fact weigh with you at all?”

                      Of course, which is why I try to make time to consider what Darwinists have to offer. But I don’t consider appeals to authority to be compelling, and, more importantly, I observe that the very fact that evolutionists feel the need to resort to hyperbolic rhetoric is one piece of evidence of the religious nature of Darwinism.

                      “By the way, what about those dolphins with their vestigial pelvic bones
                      and non-functional genes for colour vision? Design, or evolution?”

                      I don’t put much store in assertions that are based on supposedly “vestigial” parts, as yesterday’s vestigial part is tomorrows “Oops, that had function after all.” I don’t know that non-functional genes go very far in demonstrating that what appears to be designed is not designed.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      I have my doubts about whether “Darwinists” said the things you claim, since I have yet to converse with someone who thinks that “Darwinist” was an apt description of their point of view. Perhaps you managed to track one down, but it may also be that the person was pulling your leg, precisely because of the inappropriate terminology you used.

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      You probably would have expressed doubt that I’d be able to produce an evolutionary biologist — one you recommended, no less — who would confirm my observation that your favorite quote by Dobzhynski is hyperbolic rhetoric, yet I have done so, just for you:-)

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Your assumptions about me are off base as consistently as your assumptions about science.

                      It is well known that Dobzhansky’s statement is only true at the level at which the theory of evolution pertains, the interrelatedness of the genetic, paleontological, homological, and other details. We could study the genes or the bone structures of organisms without evolution. What we could not do is make sense of the similarities and differences between them.

                    • David_Evans

                      Dobzhansky’s essay, of which the quote is the title, is here: http://www.2think.org/dobzhansky.shtml
                      You might like to look. Apart from the title it’s not noticeably hyperbolic, and presents a list of observations which he thinks (and I agree) make sense only in the light of evolution.

                    • stuart32

                      ” I don’t know that non-functional genes go very far in demonstrating that what appears to be designed is not designed.”

                      Perhaps this might help: all primates (apart from strepsirrhines) have a defunct version of a gene that makes vitamin C. Primates have a diet that is rich in fruit, which contains vitamin C, therefore, a mutation that disables the gene wouldn’t be weeded out by natural selection.

                      Now you could argue that all primates have independently acquired the mutations which have disabled the gene. The problem is that the defunct versions of the genes are very similar in primates. What is more interesting is that the defunct version of the gene in humans is most similar to the version in chimpanzees, less similar to the one in orangutans and even less similar to the one in macaques. And it just so happens that this fits the order of relatedness which has been established by other means.

                    • David_Evans

                      Herschel said, that, if he said it at all, less than a month after the first publication of The Origin Of Species.

                      From Darwin’s letter of December 10 1859:

                      I have heard by round about channel that Herschel says my Book “is the law of higgledy-pigglety” What this exactly means I do not know, but it is evidently very contemptuous.— If true this is great blow & discouragement.

                      Now, clearly, this is not evidence of the views of present-day Darwinists, and Darwin himself did not think it was a neutral description.

                      So far we have one example of Darwinist hyperbole, to set against the continual rhetoric of people like Ken Ham that evolution is responsible for all the world’s evils.

                      Let’s try two more examples of bad design.
                      1 The recurrent laryngeal nerve runs from the brain to the larynx in mammals, but it makes a detour via the aortic arch. That detour takes it several feet out of the way in humans, and 15 feet in giraffes, creating an increased risk of damage for no apparent gain.
                      2 Humans cannot synthesize vitamin C, because of a mutation in a gene which most mammals use for that purpose. As a result many sailors died of scurvy on long voyages without fresh fruit or vegetables.
                      I could fill pages with examples, but what’s the point? You will say that the Designer has his reasons which we don’t understand. Maybe, but it gets tired after a while.

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      Actually, the fascinating thing is that Herschel’s words are no less true today. And the modern debate is rife with rhetoric — from both sides — but most egregiously from the Darwinian side because it is supposed to be scientific, yet it is defended like a religion, with defenses couched in attitudes that reveal the worst devils of our nature.

                      For a donation one scientific organization offered a Darwin Fish bumper sticker that believers could sport on their bumpers to show their brethren that they share the faith.

                      But we’re getting pretty far removed from the point that I entered the conversation to address, so I’ll let you have the last word, if you chose to offer any.

                    • David_Evans

                      If this is my last word I had better make the most of it.
                      I take Herschel to mean that chance plays a large role in Darwin’s theory. Yes, it does. That’s because it plays a large role in biology generally. Which prey is eaten by a predator, which sperm fertilises an egg, which part of a gene suffers a copying error – these are all to a great extent random. But they have an effect. Pick a different sperm from the same sexual act and you may cause, or avoid, a crippling genetic disorder. If these are not random, but fall under God’s providence, his purposes are so inscrutable that they can only appear random to us.
                      It was Darwin’s achievement to show how these random events could be shaped by natural selection into what, otherwise, we would have to interpret as design. “Higgledy-piggledy” if you like, but that does not make it wrong.
                      I will ignore “the worst devils of your nature”, which is much more hyperbolic language than I have seen from any Darwinist, unless you can back it up with some examples of evolutionist rhetoric that justify the phrase.
                      If a bumper sticker is evidence of religion, I can only conclude that every political view and every sporting affiliation is religious. But I’m sure you wouldn’t maintain that.

      • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

        Don’t assume that Darwin’s viewpoint of “red in tooth and claw” is anything more than a cultural lens. Evolutionary theory has come a long way, baby.

        A great rebuttal to Nature=Violence is here:

        …but similar themes were nonetheless picked up by Darwin, who set the tone for our view of nature “red in tooth and claw.” Darwin saw his theory of natural selection arising from the incredible lethality and ruthlessness of the natural world. This narrative has remained in place, even while the evidence to support it has eroded completely away.
        ·

        This war of nature was perhaps Darwin’s most enduring contribution to the theory of evolution. What had been seen, until then, as a harmonious natural order, became a bloodbath. And in the rest of Origin, Darwin rams home the image of struggle, war, murder, extermination.
        ·
        It is not particularly hard to see where this idea comes from. Given more mouths to feed than the limited amount of food available, the image is easily conjured of hungry, jostling, struggling animals, wedged together, biting and tugging and trampling over each other to reach that food. And, given this image, it is clear that the strongest, fastest, and most aggressive are likely to come out the winners. And, indeed, that an animal would increase its chances of survival if it took to actively exterminating its competitors.
        ·
        But hidden in this vision of competition is an unstated supposition that the natural world provides its bounty in a concentrated and localized form—as if Nature, like a farmer, feeds the creatures by unloading its produce in one great pile, in a particular place and a particular time, before the hungry livestock. In this artificial circumstance, as they all rush in, direct competition is inevitable.7

        ·
        Darwin, growing up among the farms of Shropshire, projected the dynamics of agriculture onto the natural world, and conjured up the image of nature as an eternal war, the Hobbesian bellum omnium contra omnes that we still hear echoed in the language of nature documentaries. Idleness could have little place in the daily struggle for survival in such a situation—but this model is a question of projection, of domestication onto the undomesticated world. In the real world, resources are not hoarded in a single location, and so competition is rarely an issue. Instead, resources are spread out, and individuals likewise spread out to gather them. The Darwinian “survival of the fittest” speaks as much to the mythical daily struggle for survival as to the process of natural selection itself; in contrast, “Idle Theory” presents “Survival of the Idlest.” It provides little challenge to the basic notion of evolution or even natural selection, but it does overturn the Darwinian model of life as a constant war. Instead, animals that spend the least energy providing for their survival are the most likely to survive.
        ·
        In Praise of Laziness
        by Jason Godesky
        5 June 2007
        rewild.info/anthropik/2007/06/in-praise-of-laziness/

        P.S. I’m a big fan of Idle Theory, being one of the laziest of lazy farmers. :)
        idletheory.info

  • Sean Garrigan

    Which Sunday does your church set aside for the theory of gravity?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      We haven’t needed to – thankfully Intelligent Falling hasn’t caught on to the same extent as Intelligent Design.

  • Sean Garrigan

    James’s anti-ID, apologetically motivated “Logic”:

    1) The existence of suffering that results from the fall of man = God is “vindictive”

    2) The existence of suffering that results from “creative experimentation” = More Understandable

    Reality:

    1) If suffering is the result of man’s fall, then the fact that God allows it, while difficult for us to understand, is founded on principle.

    2) If suffering is the result of “creative experimentation”, then God’s passivity is either because God disagrees with James’s view that such suffering is bad, or the mere fact that it is “natural” is good enough reason for him to allow it to continue.

    In other words, the irony with James’s view is that his own belief that suffering is bad constitutes testimony against the very point he sought to make.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      OK, when you say that suffering results from humanity’s fall, and God allows it, you are leaving many things far too vague. Did human being bring killer viruses into existence directly through their sin? Or did God bring them into existence, as Intelligently Designed devices that torture, cripple, and kill? Or is there a third view that you hold? Simply saying something results from the fall, without explaining how human sin causes animals to start eating one another and earthquakes and whatever else, is clearly not adequate.

      • Sean Garrigan

        I don’t think anyone knows exactly how or why suffering and death follow from man’s disobedience. Whatever the cause, God fulfilled his responsibility by warning us that it would happen. (This understanding does not require us to believe that Adam and Eve ate literal fruit.)

        What we do know is that if such suffering is the result of “creative experimentation” then God’s passivity is either because he disagrees with you that such suffering is bad, or, for him, the mere fact that it is “natural” is good enough reason to allow it to continue.

        I do need to make one clarification. When I said that I’d never heard anyone but you claim that suffering implies that God is vindictive, I meant that I’ve never heard a Christian make such a claim. I’ve certainly heard militant atheists say such things.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          Why can you not just honestly admit that, according to the view of groups such as the young-earth creationists, the suffering that enters the world is (as Genesis 3 depicts) due to a divine curse, and not directly due to human sin?

          And then by all means tell me whether you would consider someone who injected his cat with a disease because he was angry with his children would be best described as vindictive, spiteful, or some other adjective.

          • Sean Garrigan

            “Why can you not just honestly admit that, according to the view of
            groups such as the young-earth creationists, the suffering that enters
            the world is (as Genesis 3 depicts) due to a divine curse, and not
            directly due to human sin?”

            Genesis explicitly states that the ground became condemned/cursed “because of you [Adam]” (3:17), and so I don’t think that your attempt to separate cause and effect does justice to the narrative. As R. Davidson explains in The Cambridge Bible Commentary:

            “Because of what man did the ground has become accursed. For good or for ill in Old Testament thinking, man and his environment interact on one another.” (Genesis 1-11), p. 45

            “And then by all means tell me whether you would consider someone who
            injected his cat with a disease because he was angry with his children
            would be best described as vindictive, spiteful, or some other
            adjective.”

            As I’ve already demonstrated, that line of argument is self refuting, because it is based on the premise that disease is a bad thing, when, according to you, parasites, diseases, etc, are just another part of what “God made make themselves”, which testify to the glory and awesome power of God. You’ve argued that my view of God is limited, and that the God who “makes all things make themselves” is way more awesome.

            A little consistency on your part would be helpful.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              There is no inconsistency in saying that the cosmos reflects divine creativity precisely through the allowing of the universe to explore its creative possibilities. We can then view illness not as a divinely-ordained punishment that we must simply submit to, but as an unfortunate but inevitable byproduct of the process that gave rise to us, and which we can legitimately combat in an effort to reduce the suffering of others.

              I still don’t see either that you have made the case that God saying “cursed is/be the ground” is not God cursing the ground – when we encounter “cursed is/be” elsewhere, that is the meaning. Nor have you shown that human consumption of a particular fruit can bring parasites into existence or cause some herbivores to begin devouring other animals.

              • Sean Garrigan

                “Nor have you shown that human consumption of a particular fruit can
                bring parasites into existence or cause some herbivores to begin
                devouring other animals.”

                It strikes me that it’s a really odd worldview that, on the one hand, thinks parasites and carnivorousness are lamentable, yet thinks that a god who makes things make themselves is more awesomely cool than a creator god. If there is one thing that the god-makes-things-make-themselves process virtually *guaranteed*, in your view, it’s parasites and carnivorousness. This isn’t just a dog-eat-dog world, it’s a myriads-and-myriads-of-creatures-eat-myriads-and-myriads-of-creatures-with-pitiless-indifference world, and the ecosystem depends on it!

                Interestingly, if we base our understanding about what is pleasing to God on the testimony of his evolutionary creation, then it would seem that we can be far more certain that He is pleased by carnivorousness than we can that he is pleased by the emergence of man. The existence of the current ecosystem depends on carnivorousness, literally, whereas it doesn’t depend on the existence of man.

                • stuart32

                  Wouldn’t it be interesting if we were having this discussion without actually knowing what the world is like? James and I argue that God would use the process of evolution to create life, and you reply that God could never do that because if He did it would lead to great suffering. Then we go and look at the world to see which one of us is right.

                  • Sean Garrigan

                    My point isn’t that God couldn’t create the world via evolutionary processes; it’s about consistency of argumentation, and the fact that James’s favorite anti-ID argument is not just ill-conceived, but self-refuting. He’s determined not to think so, and I can’t really do anything about that. All I can do is show that it’s self-refuting, explain why to the best of my limited ability, and let people conclude what they will.

                    • stuart32

                      I think I see the point you are trying to make. But, whichever way you look at it, there is an inescapable ambivalence. Creatures like peregrine falcons and cheetahs can’t fail to inspire our admiration at the wonders of creation, and yet we also have to acknowledge the cruelty of what’s involved.

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      It also inspires the question: Is it “curelty” or does it merely seem cruel to us? I love cats, and I’d much rather see the continuation of my pets at the expense of some mice than worry about the suffering of mice, not that this is a necessary decision, since I feed them cat food. Moreover, before cats were popular as pets, they were often kept as tools to get rid of mice. The predator/prey relationship is not just appreciated as a necessary evil, but embraced as a good.

                      We humans sometimes cringe at the death of an animal captured by a predator for food, yet millions of animals are subjected to pain and suffering in laboratories all over the world, sometimes for reasons no more important than a desire that our wives look pretty on a Saturday evening without fear of developing a skin condition as a result of her makeup.

                      Is God really a monster if he allows animals to suffer as part of a lesson that enables us to return to him and have an eternal relationship with him, yet we aren’t monsters for wanting our wives to look pretty without fear of possibly developing a rash?

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      But how does any of that support your repeated claim that evolution with the suffering it involves is abhorrent, but suffering inflicted as chastisement is just fine? Why not be honest and accept that suffering is either a problem in both, or not a problem in both? Why continue to pretend that it is a problem for the view you disagree with but not for the view you embrace?

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      My objective has been to demonstrate that your use of suffering as a petty apologetic weapon to refute ID is self-refuting. It’s pretty clear to me that I’ve accomplished that task, and your resistance to accepting it is out of my control.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Your comment illustrates the biggest problem with ID: the dogmatic certainty that you have understood the point of view of others and refuted them, and that, when most people actually find your arguments unimpressive and your claim to have refuted theirs unpersuasive, the problem must be that everyone else is a fool, because there could never under any circumstances be a flaw in either your comprehension, your logic, or any other element of your own viewpoint.

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      Not at all, though what you describe ironically reminds me of you.

                      The number of people who accept or reject an argument often has to do with the context in which it’s presented. Lots of folks who follow your blog are atheists, and people who otherwise think a lot like you. So they will be inclined to agree with you. If you were to enter an environment where most people hold more conservative views, you’d probably find that many would often agree with me.

                      That’s neither here nor there. The important part is the soundness of the argumentation. The fact that I’m able to see what logically follows from your argumentation doesn’t make me dogmatic, anymore than the fact that you can see flaws in, say, Larry Hurtado’s or Richard Bauckham’s argumentation makes you dogmatic. Ironically, since you’re a Zeitgeistian you’ll probably end up having to defer to Hurtado’s view as the better paradigm, because, purportedly, the emerging consensus favors him. I’m sure that won’t trouble you much, as your primary theological commitment is to Darwinism.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      This is another bizarre comment. I invite people of all views to comment here, even you despite the persistent misrepresentation. I seek out opportunities to be in conversation with people who disagree with me – hence my encouraging the participation of atheists in conversation here, as well as conservative Christians and many other viewpoints. Unfortunately participation in discussion on blogs like Uncommon Descent is not open to someone with my views and actual knowledge, but I participated as long as they allowed me to.

                      I would definitely recommend that someone follow the scholarly consensus on a topic that I have written on. If I wrote trying to challenge the consensus, then obviously it will in most cases be too soon to tell whether any of my arguments will eventually become part of the consensus. People should not pick and choose views of scholars they happen to like, including mine, except in instances where that view is one of several widely held views and there is no overwhelming consensus.

                      I have no theological commitment to Darwinism. Science presents its evidence in the appropriate ways for scientific investigation. Theology can only work with the best information available from the natural sciences and seek to interact with such conclusions and data.

                      And of course, it bears repeating that the only people who have any sort of commitment to “Darwinism” are antievolutionists who are ideologically motivated to focus on Darwin rather than the current state of biology.

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      You were banned from Uncommon Descent? That’s fascinating. Are your comments and reason for exclusion still in the archives?

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      I have no idea. I blogged about it here, and so that should make it easier to look into: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2007/11/banned-from-uncommon-descent.html

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      You were removed but not even given a reason? That’s pretty strange, esp when one considers how tolerant some others are, e.g. Cornelius Hunter.

                      I enjoyed the dialogue between you and vjtorley, and it would have been nice to see you given the opportunity to interact with the many comments that were offered that were critical of your view.

    • stuart32

      You seem to have forgotten your complaint that scientists reject ID because of their assumption of naturalism. According to you, this is unjustified because we don’t have to assume that the designer was a supernatural being. So let’s assume that the designer was something like ourselves. This gives us the chance to test ID as a potential scientific theory.

      If we were the designers of life, would we create living, sentient beings and then create parasites to prey on them and cause them immense suffering?

      • Sean Garrigan

        I don’t think that is a scientific question, so it really doesn’t serve as a valid test of whether ID is a scientific theory. Additionally, ID doesn’t attempt to either identify the designer or plumb the potential moral implications of the design we see in nature. That’s the job of philosophers.

        Looking at James’s argument from the standpoint of philosophy, an interesting question does emerge:

        If we were to engage in “creative experimentation”, which ended up causing immense pain and suffering to sentient beings, and we considered such pain and suffering to be so bad that we would never think of directly designing things that way, and felt that anyone who would design things that way would be a monster, would be more likely to introduce controls to the experiment to end the suffering, or would we just sit back and watch?

        • stuart32

          I don’t agree that it isn’t a valid scientific test of ID. We have no reason to think that any purely natural process would minimise suffering. We do have at least some reason to think that a process which is under intelligent supervision would minimise suffering. Therefore, the fact of suffering favours unguided evolution over design.

          As you say, there is another question as to whether God would create a universe in which suffering was inevitable even if He wasn’t directly responsible. And, as James says, this is a problem either way you look at it. Evolution doesn’t “get God off the hook”. But it does mitigate some of the damage that would arise if all life forms had been individually created.

          • Sean Garrigan

            “But it does mitigate some of the damage that would arise if all life forms had been individually created.”

            I’m content that I’ve demonstrated that that assertion is false; I don’t require that you agree with me. If you meditate on what’s been said then you should realize that it’s worse for your side, because at least the designer god allowed suffering as a matter of principle, even if we don’t quite understand it. But the suffering allowed by Zeitgeistianity’s god isn’t permitted as a matter of principle; it’s permitted because it’s simply natural, and this creation by natural processes is part of the testimony to God’s glory, in James’s view, which means he should rejoice at the existence of parasites!

            • stuart32

              I would argue that the principle is one of allowing things to follow their natural course, but I don’t wish to press the point because I don’t think there are any easy theological answers on this.

              In fact, there is a kind of beauty even in a virus. Some of them look like spaceships when seen by an electron microscope. Whether you would go to the trouble of creating one individually is another question.

              • Sean Garrigan

                “I would argue that the principle is one of allowing things to follow
                their natural course, but I don’t wish to press the point because I
                don’t think there are any easy theological answers on this.”

                I wouldn’t want to press that point either, because it seems difficult to make it philosophically coherent, much less compelling. But, as I said, I don’t feel the need to get you to agree with me.

                • stuart32

                  If I did try to press the point I would probably suggest the following:

                  All knowledge depends on the regularities of nature. This is obviously true in science but it is also part of our commonsense understanding of the world. The sun rises every morning; things fall when you drop them; water boils when it’s heated etc. All of this involves the assumption that nature has been and will continue to be consistent.

                  This assumption has enabled us to acquire a vast wealth of knowledge in science. However, in a universe that has been designed this assumption must fail us at some point. This is where the problems arise. First, we have to know where the regularity breaks down. How can we know where it breaks down? What happens if we apply our usual methods and they still appear to work even when we have been told that they shouldn’t work? What if we use scientific methods to determine the age of the earth and they (apparently) reliably show that the earth is 4.5 billion years old even when we “know” it’s really only 6000 years old?

                  These are the problems that arise if we assume that certain things within the Universe have been individually created by a supernatural agent. These problems are avoided if we assume naturalism within the Universe.

                  • Sean Garrigan

                    None of that seems to answer the specific problem I highlighted. However, as I said, I think the point I made is a powerful one, and those who are confident in the power of their case are content to let it percolate in people’s brains so that they can come to appreciate it in their own time, if such is their disposition.

                  • Sean Garrigan

                    BTW, God’s active intelligence doesn’t jeopardize the uniformity of nature, it guarantees it. In fact, without God there’d be no reason to assume that nature is or should be uniform. That’s at the heart of one of the most compelling arguments for the existence of God, i.e. TAG.

                    On the other hand, the hope of historical Christianity depends on God’s intelligent intervention, not only in the resurrection of Christ, but on the coming resurrection of his corporate body. It seems to me that on your paradigm, God *shouldn’t* have resurrected Christ, and *shouldn’t* resurrect anyone else, because then we could no longer trust science.

                    • arcseconds

                      Why do you think the existence of God guarantees natural uniformity?

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      For a more complete answer than I can give in light of time constraints, check out the debate between Greg Bahnsen and Eddie Tabash. I think it’s still available on Youtube in multiple parts, and it’s still available from Covenant Media Foundation in two parts, here:

                      http://www.cmfnow.com/doesgodexistadebate.aspx

                      BTW, I pointed that out as a BTW;-) The more interesting aspect of stuart32′s comment is that it seems to imply that the Christian hope of the resurrection should be abandoned as a matter of principle — i.e. it’s more important for science to remain trustworthy than for humans to experience the fulfillment of the Christian hope. Of course, I reject the notion that the resurrection would render science untrustworthy, but that seems to follow from stuart32′s comment.

                    • stuart32

                      You haven’t addressed the central issue, and that is the disagreement over the uniformity of nature. Some things in the world are the result of natural processes, and other things, supposedly, have been made by God. Which is which, and how do we know? Young earth creationists and old earth creationists agree that life was made by God but they disagree about other things. YEC’s believe that the solar system was made by God. OEC’s don’t.

                      This isn’t just the kind of technical disagreement that can occur in any field; it’s more serious than that. The disagreement raises doubts about the foundation of knowledge in general. How do we learn about the world? Do we use science or divine revelation. This seems to be a recipe for epistemological chaos.

                      It doesn’t help to invoke the example of miracles. Presumably, miracles are, by definition, exceptions to the laws of nature. The exceptions shouldn’t be used to inform our understanding of nature in general.

                      Still, your question deserves an honest answer. I think there are compelling reasons to adopt the approach of methodological naturalism. This may well create what you might see as a slippery slope which leads to the denial of any supernatural intervention. I don’t think this is inevitable. It could be argued that God uses miracles only to achieve what can’t be achieved by natural means. This would allow for belief in the resurrection but not divine creation of individual life forms. Personally, I am inclined to reject any claims of supernatural intervention within the world.

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      “You haven’t addressed the central issue, and that is the disagreement over the uniformity of nature.”

                      How we come to know what we know is a different question from whether suffering should be permitted simply because it’s “natural”. What can I say; you’re view is hard for me to address because it simply makes no sense to me, and even if it made sense, I wouldn’t find it compelling as a “principle” that makes it important for God to permit suffering. In point of fact, Christians long for the day when God finally ends suffering, so the laws of nature aren’t more important for Christians than God’s promise and our innate desire for life!

                      As I’ve said, your view suggests that God *shouldn’t* resurrect either of Christ’s bodies (his flesh and his followers), because he won’t be able to do so without breaking laws of nature, and you’ve already said that it’s important for God to allow suffering and death for the sake of the laws of nature. It wouldn’t seem to make much sense for God to say, “The laws of nature are so important that I need to let my creatures suffer horribly and then die. On the other hand, it’s really important to me that my creatures live forever, so I’ll break the laws that were so important that I let them die so that I can make them live forever.”

                      Incidentally, I don’t view the gift of deathlessness to be a breach of our nature; I view it as a repair of our nature.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      If the nature of humans was once immortal, why was a tree of life necessary, and why did being cut off from that tree result in our mortality? Or do you treat the tree as symbolic of humanity’s original nature?

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      Good point. Immortal isn’t the right word. Deathless is probably better, as we didn’t die before the fall.

                    • arcseconds

                      What is the difference between immortality and deathlessness?

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      An immortal can’t be killed, whereas a deathless person can.

                    • arcseconds

                      Isn’t being killed death?

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      I once saw a TV show, I think it was an episode of The Twilight Zone, where a history teacher became inordinately passionate while teaching about the Civil War. It turned out that the reason he became so emotional while discussing it was because he was there. As he explained, he could have been killed, but wasn’t, and so he lived on. If memory serves, he fought in the Revolutionary War as well. There was always the possibility that he could be killed, but he was lucky, and no one killed him, until the end of the program, when one of his wives, now a very old woman, put an end to whatever fountain of youth kept him going, century after century.

                      He was deathless, but not immortal. If you don’t like those words to describe the sort of thing I mean, that’s fine.

                    • arcseconds

                      I think ‘ageless’ (or even more precisely: non-aging) is probably a better term for what you mean. I guess you probably want to exclude disease too, which isn’t obviously implied, but ‘deathless’ really doesn’t suggest to me that the person is subject to being killed.

                      Why do you think they were ageless but subject to being killed? Not being subject to age and disease is nice, I suppose, but if you’re still subject to trees falling on your head or falling off cliffs, you’re lifespan is still finite, in the sense that there’s some length of time which will take the probability of death arbitrarily close to 1.

                    • Andrew Dowling

                      LOL!

                    • stuart32

                      Actually, I suspect that my view is less alien to you than you realise. You are familiar with the free-will defence of suffering. According to this argument, it is sufficiently important to allow one aspect of nature – the part that consists of our decisions and actions – to follow its course that the suffering which may result is justified. Perhaps you don’t accept this argument, but you are no doubt familiar with it. All you have to do is to extend the argument so that it applies to the whole of nature rather than just one part of it.

                      My previous comment wasn’t particularly concerned with the problem of suffering. I was making a more general case for why God should allow evolution to create us instead of opting for special creation.

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      I think that the free-will issue is qualitatively different. It’s seems that it would be logically impossible for God to give us the freedom to reject him, while simultaneously making us so that we couldn’t reject him. It’s not logically impossible for God to make us so that we don’t suffer and die; in fact the Christian hope depends on God’s ability to do so.

                    • stuart32

                      Perhaps, but what happens to free will in heaven? Presumably, we would have to relinquish it. If we still had free will in heaven then there would be the risk that we could reject God, in which case heaven wouldn’t really be heaven. But if free will is something that can be given up why were we given it in the first place?

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      I think a small part of that inadvertently equivocates “heaven” the “place” with “heaven” the conception of what that “place” will or should ultimately be like, but it’s still a very good question.

                      I just had a flashback to a Q&A session where David Berlinski was asked the sort of question that baffles the finest religious philosophers we have, and he replied (paraphrasing): Do you REALLY expect ME to answer THAT? :-) These sorts of questions may be why he vacillates between agnostic and theist, depending on what day of the week it is! (He says this for good humor.) In any case, I’m no David Berlinski.

  • Naomi D’Andrea

    Well, to answer your post, our family DID watch and discuss the Ham-Nye debate. Fun stuff! For today, Paul’s at CFI on the canal. The girls and I were slightly less motivated to leave, so we’re reading your blog! Happy Evolution Sunday!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Glad I gave you something to do today! :-) We talked about the debate in my Sunday school class at church, too.

  • Guest

    “All the biological groups, from bacteria and blue-green algae to man, appear abruptly in the fossil record without any links connecting them with each other.

    “Evolution is presented to grown-ups and taught to the very young as a fact that has been verified and demonstrated for so long that it is a waste of time and even ridiculous to question it.

    “The fact is that after nearly two centuries of intense research the paleontological evidence for evolutionary theory is not only rare but highly questionable. The point is that if evolution had really happened the evidence would be in great abundance and incontestable. The museums would be overflowing with fossils clearly documenting the transitions between the various biological groups, yet there are none. Moreover, there is no indication that the situation will change in the future.

    “The idea of gradual evolution of man from such creatures as australopithecine apes is totally without foundation and should be firmly rejected. Man is not the most recent link in a long chain of evolution. He represents a type, or taxon, which has existed without any substantial change since his first appearance.”

    – Professor Roberto Fondi, Paleontologist

    “Since the same main types of creatures and plants alive today were living in the past, it is quite clear that the same complex mechanism of life has existed from the very beginning. To the geneticist this is very obvious proof that bio-chemical evolution has never taken place.

    “What we can say, from observing the human chromosomes or the human DNA and comparing it to that of other species is that man is original; man is not derived from any other species. So the statement that man is a recent creature coming from some primitive form cannot be supported by genetic data at all.”

    – Professor Giuseppe Sermonti, Molecular Biologist

    Genesis 1, 27
    God created man in his image. In the image of God he created him.
    Male and female he created them.

    • stuart32

      “All the biological groups, from bacteria and blue-green algae to man,
      appear abruptly in the fossil record without any links connecting them
      with each other.”

      Imagine a photograph album that documents the life of one person, with a photograph taken each year, every year from birth to old age. You could say that, “all the photographs appear abruptly in the album with no links connecting them.” Nevertheless, you could observe a pattern in the photograph album which suggests that it is the same person even though the first and last pictures look very different.

      What you don’t say is that bacteria appear in the fossil record 3.5 billion years ago and modern humans appear 200 000 years ago. What a great argument against evolution it would be if bacteria and humans both appeared in the fossil record 3.5 billion years ago.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Thank you for illustrating once again why anti-evolutionists cannot be trusted. What is the point of posting these quotations here? There are experts in every field who hold views that do not persuade their peers. Some work hard to persuade their colleagues, and a few actually do because they have strong evidence to support them. Many do not, and some relegate themselves to the fringe by blaming the intransigence of everyone else in their field, rather than accepting that their arguments are unpersuasive.

      So why quote these individuals here? If the fact that they have credentials counts for something, then so too does the scientific process, and the fact that the vast majority of people with similar credentials draw a different conclusion ought to inform your thinking on this topic.

      Have you looked at the possibility that these individuals are motivated by religious bias rather than the scientific evidence? Although the Catholic Church embraces science and evolution, there are a small handful of Catholics who reject their church’s stance on the topic and instead side with views promoted among some conservative Protestant sects.

      We could go back and forth with dueling quotes, and I am sure that you are aware of that. Why not listen to Francisco Ayala, who not only contradicts the quote about the genetic data, but unlike that quote, provides extensive discussion of the evidence? He’s Roman Catholic too, as is Kenneth Miller, another top-notch biologist who makes several book-length cases against the claims you quoted here.

      • Sean Garrigan

        I also recommend Francisco Ayala, because he has made it quite clear that his opposition to ID is, at least in part, theologically motivated. As he argued during his debate with William Lane Craig, in his (shortsighted) view the God of ID would be a monster.

        So, when you ask:

        “Have you looked at the possibility that these individuals are motivated
        by religious bias rather than the scientific evidence?”

        The answer is: Absolutely! Many of us have looked at the possibility that individuals are religiously motivated, and found that you and Francisco Ayala, and scores of others going all the way back to Darwin’s Bulldog certainly have been and are so motivated.

    • David_Evans

      These are sufficiently vague as to be hard to refute. But there are plenty of transitional fossils – just Google Tiktaalik, Ambulocetus or Pikaia, or look at talkorigins’ list of transitional forms

      http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CC/CC200.html

      Also there are definite times before which there were no birds, no whales, no dinosaurs, no vertebrates… so Sermonti’s first paragraph is simply false. As is his second – check out http://www.evolutionpages.com/chromosome_2.htm
      By the way Sermonti and Fondi are not independent witnesses – they have co-authored a book.

      • stuart32

        I wondered what that first sentence meant. At first I thought he was saying that all life forms appeared in the fossil record at the same time, then I thought he couldn’t be saying anything that bonkers.

        What I think he was saying is that when species appear in the fossil record, whether it’s 200 million years ago or 200 thousand years ago, they appear abruptly, i.e. there is no proof that they have evolved from an ancestral species. The problem with this claim is that there is no other way of appearing in the fossil record. The fossil record gives us a series of random snapshots. It doesn’t show how populations change at generation by generation.

        • Sean Garrigan

          “The problem with this claim is that there is no other way of appearing
          in the fossil record. The fossil record gives us a series of random
          snapshots. It doesn’t show how populations change at generation by
          generation.”

          So you disagree with Darwin?

          • stuart32

            What views of Darwin were you thinking of?

          • stuart32

            Ok, I think I see what you mean. You thought I was contradicting Darwin on gradual change. What I said was that the fossil record doesn’t show how populations change generation by generation. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t such change; it means that the fossil record can’t show it.

      • Sean Garrigan

        So every evolutionary textbook that’s co-authored or multi-authored must be considered a single witness?


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X