We’re not religious

Sherlock Holmes OI’m a rather disinterested party in the whole intelligent design versus evolution debate so I don’t follow it as much as I should. But there is something so bizarre about the federal judge in Pennsylvania’s ruling yesterday, and attendant coverage, that I feel forced to comment. I think we could write on various aspects of this story for weeks to come, but here’s a start.

The ruling basically says that intelligent design is religion-based and therefore false science. Why is it that people have such an easy time seeing into the hearts of intelligent design proponents and discovering nefarious religious motivations but never question the religious motivations of evolution proponents? I think I used to be more sympathetic to the view that evolutionists were religiously-disinterested scientists before I spent a portion of last year reading the excited claims of secular humanists, and others, around the fin de siecle that evolution would triumph over Christianity. That’s a theological statement, to put it mildly.

For instance, Open Court, a “fortnightly journal” around from the 1880s through 1930s (of which I read much too much) was devoted to science and a leading proponent of evolution that constantly attacked Christianity. The fact is that evolution’s proponents makes theological statements. The belief that natural events have natural causes is a theological belief. The idea that the origin of the species and the origin of the universe has a natural cause is inherently atheistic. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be taught in the science classroom. But neither let us deny that religious belief swirls all around here.

David Klinghoffer over at National Review raises the question well:

“We conclude that the religious nature of Intelligent Design would be readily apparent to an objective observer, adult or child,” wrote Judge John E. Jones III in his decision, Kitzmiller v. Dover, which rules that disparaging Darwin’s theory in biology class is unconstitutional. Is it really true that only Darwinism, in contrast to ID, represents a disinterested search for the truth, unmotivated by ideology?

Judge Jones was especially impressed by the testimony of philosophy professor Barbara Forrest of Southeastern Louisiana University, author of Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design. Professor Forrest has definite beliefs about religion, evident from the fact that she serves on the board of directors of the New Orleans Secular Humanist Association, which is “an affiliate of American Atheists, and [a] member of the Atheist Alliance International,” according to the group’s website. Of course, she’s entitled to believe what she likes, but it’s worth noting.

Klinghoffer goes on to mention other prominent evolution prononents: Daniel C. Dennit (wants Christians put in zoos), Richard Dawkins (“faith is one of the world’s greatest evils”), Steven Weinberg (“science is corrosive of religion”), P.Z. Myers (believes Abraham is worse than Hitler), and on and on and on.

Would not debates about the strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary theory be better waged if everyone admitted that evolutionists have very serious theological beliefs, such as those mentioned by Klinghoffer? Then, as members of a civilized society, we could ask ourselves whether — and which parts of — evolutionary theory have been proved beyond a reasonable doubt and whether intelligent design provides a reasonable alternative to fit the scientific data.

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  • http://agrumer.livejournal.com/ Avram

    The idea that the origin of the species and the origin of the universe has a natural cause is inherently atheistic.

    That will surprise the heck out of the millions of Christians, Jews, and various other religious people who believe in evolution.

    Why are you putting “the origin of the universe” in there? It’s not part of evolutionary theory, or any branch of biology.

    Also, you’re selling the ruling short. The ruling makes a number of observations about ID; the religious bit is only part of it.

  • ceemac

    Of course it seems to me that Dover school board was never really intersted in the teaching of science. That’s probably why they were voted out in the last election.

    From the AP article that appeared in the Dallas Monring News

    He [Judge Jones] also said: “It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.”

    Former school board member William Buckingham, who advanced the policy, said from his new home in Mount Airy, N.C., that he still feels the board did the right thing.

    “I’m still waiting for a judge or anyone to show me anywhere in the Constitution where there’s a separation of church and state,” he said. “We didn’t lose; we were robbed.”

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    My point is simply that the media ignore the religious motivations of prominent evolutionists.

    At least, that’s the case in the gazillion stories I read over the last 24 hours.

  • http://japery.newpantagruel.com GJ

    This ruling is an interesting, possibly positive development. While I have no truck with ID, I do like any kind of attack on positivism, scientism, crude darwinist ideology, and anyone who claims to be “objective” or “neutral.” These are all doomed ideas, already dead and waiting to fall. The judge’s statement may for that reason elicit a lashback or at least convince serious religionists that they must be prepared to abandon the courts, “civil discourse,” and other proxies for bullets (as these are all stacked against them) in favor of a bluntly Leninist strategy of cultural revolution.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie


    Do you not agree that the idea that the origin of species has a NATURAL cause is inherently atheistic? I don’t see much room for the SUPERNATURAL in the NATURAL. Or am I missing something?

    I’m not saying the people who support a natural cause explanation are atheists. I’m saying the IDEA that the origin of species has a natural cause is atheistic — in other words, it is notable for its absence of a theistic explanation.

  • Andrew

    I have been following this debate for some time and agree with your point. The storm around this debate seems to be more emotionally driven by the specter of fundamentalism than by “objective” conversation. This just adds to the postmodern malaise I feel about the “objective” claims of the scientific community. Is it fair to judge the Dover school board on their “motivation” rather than the strength of ID’s claims? Only if you honestly question the motivation of the response from parts of the scientific community, the MSM and now a judge in PA.

  • http://agrumer.livejournal.com/ Avram

    Mollie, what if we weren’t talking about evolution and the origin of species? What if we were discussing, say, how the seasons work, and why it’s colder in non-tropical areas in the winter and hotter in the summer. This is a pretty simple manner — the Earth is tilted on its axis of rotation, and therefore sunlight strikes a given region at different angles at different times of the year. I could go into more detail about why the angle of the sunlight matters, but you get the basic idea: I can explain it without recourse to the supernatural.

    Now you could, if you wished, add supernatural elements to this explanation. You might believe that Earth started out vertical, for example, and was somehow kocked off at an angle when Adam and Eve ate of the apple. Or you might believe that God created it tilted from the start. Or that God created the universe knowing that the unwinding of the physical forces would lead to a titled Earth and seasons. Or that God created the universe, and didn’t really care whether the Earth had seasons or not. All of these ideas are compatible with the purely mechanistic explanation of seasons; the titled-Earth theory isn’t inherently atheistic.

    Now, if there were a large, vocal group of people insisting that winter comes, not because of axial tilt, but because the goddess of the Earth is in mourning for her daughter Persephone, who must spend six months out of every year in the underworld because of the six pomegranite seeds she ate, such a group might argue that titled-Earth theory contradicted their religios beliefs, and was thus inherently athiestic. They’d be wrong, becuse there remain a wide variety of theistic beliefs that are compatible with tilted-Earth theory.

  • http://agrumer.livejournal.com/ Avram

    Andrew, have you read the decision? (Warning: It’s 139 pages long. Some entertaining bit to it, though.) Judge Jones judges both the school board’s motivations and the strength of ID’s claims.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie


    I think the better analogy is to compare the view that the earth’s tilt has a natural explanation vs. a belief such as one that argues that the rare cosmic gem that is planet Earth is the result of the axis’ tilt, orbit, distance from sun, surface gravity, magnetic field, surface temperature, solitary moon, etc (not to mention all the other myriad galazy constraints) — all so finely tuned that even the slightest glitch in this would mean earth wouldn’t exist and that this points to evidence of an intelligent design rather than coincidence.

    One of these views is INHERENTLY atheistic. One is not. That’s all I’m saying. I’m not saying one view is better than another.

  • http://agrumer.livejournal.com/ Avram

    Mollie, why do you think that’s a better analogy? Does it actually better address the question of yours that I was answering?

    I wasn’t addressing, with my analogy, the matter of better or worse. I was addressing the matter of whether non-supernatural explanations are “inherently atheistic”.

    Now, maybe I don’t know what you mean by that phrase. I know that in my life, I routinely encounter non-supernatural explanations for all sorts of things — economic explanations, scientific explanations, techologucal explanations. Are all of these explanations “inherently atheistic”?

  • Andrew

    No Avram, I did not read it. You are right that would probably put me more at ease.

    But is there a place where a judge making the decision on the strength of ID claims is the best place for it? What is better? That, I don’t know. If that judge is hearing the motivations of the school board and not the motivations (or foundational beliefs) of the expert witnesses that he is basing much of his judgment on, is that fair? He might come out the same way. I might be persuaded if I had the time to read the judgment.

    I am not very firey about this and recognize that the Judge is probably much smarter than I am. He also put a whole lot of time and energy into the argument that I cannot afford. This is not a hill I would die on but the whole debate seems tilted in one direction.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie


    “I know that in my life, I routinely encounter non-supernatural explanations for all sorts of things — economic explanations, scientific explanations, techologucal explanations. Are all of these explanations “inherently atheistic”?”

    Well, great question. And as far as what I’m trying to say goes, yes, non-supernatural explanations for all sorts of things are inherently atheistic.

    This is not the best example, by far, and I can see weaknesses in it, but let’s just throw it out there for the economics field:

    You can take the “invisible hand” theory of Adam Smith’s, which says, in essence that people, motivated by their self-interest so effectively do good for society, as if they are led by an invisible hand. That’s not inherently atheistic in that it is compatible with the notion of a god using economic means to achieve good ends. Which is not the same thing as saying it’s theistic — just compatible.

    But an idea such as Marx’s that people only presume that they develop art, theology or philosophy from a desire to achieve truth or beauty when in fact their work is simply an expression of class interest and class conflict might be inherently atheistic in that it denies the presence of even a cursory supernatural explanation.

    So some economic, scientific and (if I knew what this word meant) techologucal explanations are inherently atheistic and some are not.

    I’m kind of upset with myself for choosing Marx, a rather discredited economist, for my example of an inherently atheistic economic explanation. There are many esteemed economists who also have inherently materialist/atheistic explanations for economic concepts — I’m just too busy to think of any right now. And a mark in favor of using Marx is that he didn’t believe in a god so his particular economic explanations (as opposed to some Christian socialistic visions) are inherently atheistic.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    As a former City Councillor I can assure the judge that most politicians–like most Americans–are at least somwhat religious. In fact the city council I was elected to passed many programs to aid the poor–and the concern for the poor was because of the religious convictions of a majority on the council–AND many publicly said so.
    So, according to this judge’s freedom FROM religion —as the Communists always promoted–
    bizarre and intemperate (unjudicial) ruling all the ordinances our council passed are illegitimate and -if challenged–should be declared unconstitutional.

  • http://agrumer.livejournal.com/ Avram

    “Techologucal” means the same thing as “technological”, but typed faster.

    I think you’re taking Smith’s “invible hand” too literally. The Wealth of Nations and Das Kapital both provide materialistic, non-supernatural explanations for social and economic phenomena. Look at the famous Smith quote in context: “By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention.”

    In either case, a religious person who believed that Smith or Marx had accurately described how economies work could say that those systems are the working-out of a divine plan. And in either case, an atheist could say that the systems show how an economy can work without the intervention of a deity.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Well, not to turn this into GetEconomics, but that’s why I wasn’t saying that evolutionists are atheists. But within various larger fields of study there are aspects that do not leave room for a god or creator.

    And while Adam Smith’s does (although his legion of atheist fans would not put God in the invisible hand space), Marx’s at least in the limited issue I raised, does not. He would be the first to tell you.

    Of course some Christian Marxists could teach us how they morph his theories to give room for the supernatural . . . but in my experience they take his explanations at face value but say that Christian thought provides a solution to the Marxist problem.

  • http://agrumer.livejournal.com/ Avram

    Shifting topic a bit, Mollie, I see that Klinghoffer (and you, by quoting and paraphrasing him) are misrepresenting the words of at least two of those four prominent evolution prononents.

    Daniel Dennett does not want Christians put in zoos, at least as far as I know. The book Kilnghoofer’s quoting from, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, has search enabled at Amazon.com, which means that you can search for a phrase and get a look at the whole page it appears on. Dennett’s actual words, in context:

    “What will happen, one may well wonder, if religion is preserved in cultural zoos, in libraries, in concerts and demonstrations? It is happening: the tourists flock to Native American tribal dances, and for the tourists it is folklore, a religious ceremony, certainly, to be treated with respect, but also an example of a meme complex on the verge of extinction, at least in its strong, ambulatory phase; it has become an invalid, barely kept alive by its custodians.” page 520

    And PZ Myers doesn’t say that Abraham is worse than Hitler in his blog post. It’s a short post, just an angry, tossed-off reaction to a story about militant Islamists in Bangladesh, but the point seems to be that Abraham is much, much earlier than Hitler, and that using a time machine to eliminate Abraham would therefore produce a much vaster change than using it to get rid of Hitler. A pretty silly idea, really, but not the same as “Abraham was worse than Hitler.”

    And here’s Steven Wienberg, right after than comment about science being corrosive of religion:

    “But I don’t think that that attitude of mine should control the high school curriculum,” he said, adding “my own personal motivation is irrelevant,” just as the motivations of religious people should not affect high school curricula: “Science should be taught not in order to support religion and not in order to destroy religion–science should be taught simply ignoring religion.”

    I’m not going to bother with the Dawkins quote; that one’s probably an accurate representation of his views.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    I will totally cop to abbreviating Klinghoffer’s points, but I don’t think the expanded quotes in any way change my point. In the first two cases, I think they come off worse.

    They have theological views — pretty strong ones. These views affect the way they debate this. Why don’t we (by which I mean journalists, basically) acknowledge that?

  • http://agrumer.livejournal.com/ Avram

    Depends on what you mean by “they”, Mollie. Were Dennett, Dawkins, Myers, or Wienberg involved in the Dover case? Of the atheists or agnostics who testified for the prosecution, did any of them present strong theological views in their arguments?

    Deacon John, I recommend that you read the text of the decision (that’s a PDF file), and familiarize yourself with the Lemon Test.

  • http://www.ocellated.com/ Jay Packer

    I’m a Christian with a degree in biology. In a few weeks, I’ll be starting grad school for a master’s in biology.

    I’m a rather disinterested party in the whole intelligent design versus evolution debate so I don’t follow it as much as I should.

    I can tell. (Don’t mean to be rude about that either). You make some statements which to me, are understandable for a person who hasn’t followed this debate and doesn’t know much about intelligent design.

    Intelligent design is simply not science. I can say this as a scientist (well, a scientist in training at least) and a Christian. I wrote a post on my blog where I addressed this issue thoroughly, from the view of a scientist and the view of a Christian. This post was intended for people that were Christian and didn’t know much about the issue. You can find it here:


    Also, you brought up a bunch of understandable comments about the bias of evolutionary biologists from that article at National Review. Again, I blogged about that article here:


    I’ll just comment briefly here.

    1) There are scientists who have very strong biases on how they feel about religion. That may cloud their view on everything that comes out of their mouth about religion, but if they’re sticking to the rules of science, their work stands on it’s own. It’s one of the ways that science works. Science has to be falsifiable and make predictions, something intelligent design doesn’t do.

    2) This article was written by a fellow of the Discovery Institute, a leading think tank about intelligent design. The author is cherry-picking his examples of evolutionary biologists that dislike religion.

    He could have, for example, cited Ken Miller. This evolutionary biologist, who is a practicing Christian, co-authored the textbook that the school board cited as being “laced with Darwinism” and that they wanted to replace with something else. That’s what kicked off the series of events leading to the trial.

    So you just have to seperate people’s science from their metaphysics… Yes many are biased. But if they’re talking about science, and if they follow the scientific method, present evidence, and make predications well, other scientist’s will accept their work.

    If they’re talking about religion, I usually just tune it out, or let it go, like water off a duck’s back.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    It seems you may have “read into” my post and comment more than I wrote. I’ll remind you that the post about reporters mentioning evolutionists’ religious views was just that — a post about reporters mentioning the religious views of evolutionists. So this is not about the virtues of intelligent design.

    But here’s my question. If intelligent designers are so on-their-face kookie — what’s the big problem in letting their ideas come to light? Why do they have to be Gallileo-suppressed?

    Let me explain — In the sense you are writing, I agree — intelligent design is not science. Science is the exercise of testing hypotheses with controlled, designed experiments. There’s no way to test for a designer; ergo, not science. (I also agree with your comment abou the attendant virtues of science — i.e. work stands on its own outside of the workers’ religion).

    However, what intelligent design adherents ask — and which I do tend to find completely reasonable and am somewhat shocked that a theory so supposedly airtight as evolution can’t withstand — is an open discussion and debate over whether the explanation for the finely-tuned order of the universe and the complex diversity of life is best explained by evolution.

    Now it’s totally possible that that discussion could have evolutionists say, “we don’t have any clue how something so complex as a flagellate with whiplike tail, complex human eye, or distinct genitalia for males and females all happened at the same time — but we have complete faith that scientific exploration will some day explain it to us” while others could argue that the complexity of life argues in favor of a designer.

    And then the two sides could wage a duel or whatever — in the classrooms (though maybe not the biology classrooms), the press, books, etc.

    We all probably agree that uninformed people embrace too much of evolutionary theory without thinking critically. And they get a free pass.

    And all I’m saying is that reporters should not get so hystrionic and irrational when discussing intelligent design ideas.

    Everyone can just calm down and find out what the IDers are saying. That’s what I did when I started looking into it recently. And it changed me from saying some (admittedly) mean things about them to understanding their position.

    Remember, if evolution is so airtight, it can withstand an open discussion about its virtues and weaknesses. So nobody — especially reporters — needs to shut new ideas down. In general, new ideas — crazy as they may seem to those who hold the orthodox, popular, mainstream views — are sometimes exactly what’s needed to advance the field. And either way, journalists shouldn’t be in the job of deciding what fits into their catholicity and what doesn’t.

    Oh yeah, and everyone has ideas about religion v. science — we shouldn’t ignore the religious views of people just because we happen to agree with them while seeing the religious views of distinct others in bright, shining neon lights. Especially if we are reporters. It’s not our job.

    Finally, if you read the Klinghoffer piece — who doesn’t fit YOUR stereotype of ID supporters being Christian, I might add — he specifically said he had been collecting quotes from evolutionists ABOUT religion, especially Christianity.

    ALL I AM TRYING TO SAY is that this story is important enough to at least cover fairly, accurately and with a critical eye in all directions. I’m sure we can agree about that.

  • http://agrumer.livejournal.com/ Avram

    Mollie, which reporters were getting “hystrionic and irrational when discussing intelligent design ideas”? Your original post was about alleged bias (asking whether the atheistic beliefs of some evolutionists should be mentioned as the Christian beliefs of ID proponents are). When did hystrionic irrationalism enter into the discussion?

  • http://www.ocellated.com/ Ocellated.com


    Believe it or not, god hating scientists have not called for intelligent design to be suppressed. Rather they have insisted that a science class is not the place to talk about it. And I agree with them. ID can be discussed in any number of humanities classes. If it’s to be discussed, I think it firmly belongs in a religion or philosophies type class, or perhaps a class dealing with culture, etc.

    The judge himself even said as much. In his conclusion he states:

    With that said, we do not question that many of the leading advocates of ID have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.

    Also, no one on my side of the issue is afraid of talking about evolution. What’s happening though is that the debate is not being carried out in the proper context. Instead of debating the scientific issues with scientists, what I find happening repeatedly is that ID (and other brands of “creationists” that have problems with evolution) are turning the issue into a debate in the public sphere, a debate that’s held in churchs or town halls where the real issue becomes, how good a debator are you, not how good are your ideas.

    Science is not always trivial and easy to understand. It’s why getting a degree takes some time, and pursueing graduate work takes even more time.

    It’s a recipe for frustration when someone who understands evolutionary biology has 20 minutes in a town hall meeting to convey everything he’s learned in 20 years, when his opponents have both a sympathetic audience biased against science, and lack the patience or even desire to really learn about the issues. “Creationists” can then perpetuate all kinds of misinformation. At best they don’t understand, but more often than not, I’ve found them to be outright lying. They make claims about science and scientists which simply aren’t true. (“There’s no transitional fossils, etc, etc, etc”.)

    As I scientist, it can be impossible to even have a debate when the audience simply has no way of 1) evaluating the truth of these claims and 2) they want to believe these claims undermine evolution.

    As far as this reporter, he is Jewish, as you point out. ID is not entirely Christian, but it’s overwhelmingly. To put it a better way, people of different faiths can feel comfortable with ID because they can then claim the designer as the god they want it to be. And this author is about the most biased person possible to right this piece, as a fellow of the Discovery Institute — the think tank for ID. I don’t want to write pages to support myself, but the DI has been dishonest to it’s core in it’s claims about evolution, science, and intelligent design.

    I honestly am a creationist myself. I refer to myself as an evolutionary creationist. I like the term a little better than theistic evolution, because creationist is the noun, evolutionary the modifier. But it’s downright painful to wear this label in these times.

    ID just isn’t science. And reporters who feel compelled to give it a fair treatment as science are missing the point. If many people of faith, Christians and others, believed in the idea’s of a designer (don’t we all? I do.) as a part of their faith, scientist would not be so up in arms.

    It’s the fact that this belief has now been couched in the language of science, and people are claiming day in and day out that it actually is science, that has scientists in such an uproar. That and the fact that the dispute isn’t being “fought out” like any other scientific argument would be. It’s being fought out as a battle for public opinion, in popular books, public debates, and political processes like school boards.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie


    In general the coverage of this issue by papers like the NYT has been deplorable and partisan.

    But just for starters, how is THIS lede from my Washington Post this morning:

    A federal judge’s ruling in Pennsylvania that
    “intelligent design” is religious fundamentalism
    dressed in the raiment of science has wounded a
    politically influential movement.

    religious fundamentalism? I mean, I guess I didn’t read the whole opinion, but it seemed to be that Jones was saying that intelligent design was a particular brand of Christianity (at times) and a version of Creationism (at times) but fundamentalism?

    What a charming and unbiased word to use.

    That’s what I’m talking about hystrionic reporting.

    Everyone should just calm down and report everything in as unbiased a manner as possible. Even if (like some of the reporters I know) they were jumping for joy at the judge’s ruling . . .

  • Eric Phillips

    Here’s the thing… speculating about the Designer is not science, but pointing out the irreducible complexity emphatically IS science, esp. when the alternative is to teach AS SCIENCE the mechanism of natural selection, which is precisely the thing that the ID critique _scientifically_ debunks.

  • http://www.ocellated.com/ Ocellated.com


    In Christian love, you don’t understand science. Have a read of this article by Ken Miller on irreducible complexity. Ken’s a practicing Christian biologist.

    The argument of irreducible complexity (IC) has been widely and repeatedly proven false. (The irony is that IC is one of the few falsifiable claims of intelligent design — and it’s been falsified.)

  • Eric Phillips


    In Christian love, I haven’t said nearly enough on the subject yet for you to have the first clue whether or not I understand science.

    The article you link to is interesting, but doesn’t live up to its own hype. If the flagellum has 30 components, and 10 of them are associated with this other micro-structure, that leaves 20 unaccounted for and raises the further question of how the 10 got together in the first place. Miller recognizes this point as an “ID counter-attack,” but he sure doesn’t answer it.

    Of course, most scientists have faith that the rest of the puzzle will fall together in time, but IF that ever happens, it’ll happen in the future. For now, faith is faith. It ain’t science, no matter how many scientists indulge in it.

  • J-Money


    You’ve obviously done a great deal of thinking about this topic and have some good things to say.

    And while this conversation has been very fruitful, you would probably win a few more friends if you dropped the tone down a few notches.

    Just a suggestion.

  • Andrew

    Who is a guy to believe? I read that arguments are falcified on most of the “proof” of evolution. I now read that the irreducible complexity argument is falsified. Some Korean scientist apparently falsified his stem cell research. And on top of that, the scientists here want me to trust that science is objective and based on facts? Maybe that is why it seems obvious to me that the motivations of each person who puts out a “scientific” should be equally brought to light. I have to agree with Molly that the exploration of motivation is simply one sided. Saying that someone is a “scientist” is not enough.

    I admit, I am personally hampered in the argument by belief in a God who is present and intimately concerned with the realities of life – a God who pulled a pretty un-scientifically sound move of becoming a baby and then being raised from the dead. If I am right and God is not only creator but sustainer of life, then this is the big white elephant in the room that scientists in their search for truth are missing. What ID seems to be doing is saying that maybe the elephant is there, maybe not, but lets start postulating different theories. Let’s look at the scientific data and see if maybe “not seeing the elephant” is never going to make the data points connect (at least without some fantastic theories). And you know what, in many ways, the elephant helps connect those data points. Not only the scientific ones but the relational ones for people like me. Keep ignoring the elephant and the only explanation for Christian intimacy with God (not just intellectual faith) is psychosis and projection. We’ll see.

    None of this is high school biology science, but it is the perspective by which the data and experimentation is examined. In that, I agree with Mollie, there is an inherently atheistic perspective presently in either science or how the MSM is portraying it.

  • http://agrumer.livejournal.com/ Avram

    Mollie, Judge Jones did (if I’m remembering correctly), in his decision, when discussing the history of ID, say that it was a form of creationism, and that creationism as an opposition to evolution had its origins in Christian fundamentalism. I don’t think I’d have phrased that lede the way Michael Powell did (I also thought the bit about being cast into the wilderness was dopey), but it strikes me as over-simplified, not hystrionic or irrational.

    I should explain my perspective here: I don’t see bias there, I see somebody who didn’t read a long document carefully. You didn’t read it carefully either. Actually, neither have I, I’ve just skimmed the Dover decision, stopping to read chunks of it in full when they looked interesting.

    Anyway, I see this sort of thing in journalism all the time. Any time I read a general-press article about a technical subject I’m knowledgable about, I see glaring errors. I used to figure it for bias, now I figure it’s usually just clumsiness or tight deadlines.

  • http://www.ocellated.com/ Ocellated.com

    J-Money, fair enough! I’ll drop the tone a few notches. Didn’t mean to come across so harsh or egotistical. My apologies, particularly to Eric. My statement should have simpmly been, “the idea of irreducible complexity has been shown false scientifically.”

    Much of my enthusiam on the subject, which at times lets me speak too harshly, stems from a frustration of Christians not understanding the basic rules of science and why scientists work that way.

    For those that think ID, or any mention of God is compatible with science, they really aren’t. I guess in that sense, some could say that science is inherently atheistic. I think that it would be much more accurate to say that science is inherently agnostic.

    Science seeks only natural answers because of it’s epistomology. Science, if it’s done right, shouldn’t say one thing about religion. It can neither confirm nor refute religious beliefs. Now I understand that scientists on the other hand can have extremely strong (and negative) opinions about science. And many have no problems voicing them. But just keep in mind that when they make statements like that, their views are not science.

    If you’ve never checked out Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, some of you might get a chuckle. Just a warning, it’s highly satirical. Also, though the letter introducing flying sphaghetti monsterism is pretty neutral, you’ll find anti-religious views by others on the site. (For all I know, the author himself is anti-religious). The point is simple. His “religion” — flying spaghetti monsterism — cannot be refuted by science. Just like the concept of a designer cannot be refuted by science.

    In the same way, science cannot, in any way, support (and discuss) the concept of a designer or a flying spaghetti monster. It goes against the rules of science.

    So what this all means is that God is outside the realm of science. Think about it this way. I dobut science will ever do this, but even if science were to show exactly how the universe began, how life began, and every evolutionary relationship there ever was (in other words, it fully provided natural explanations for everything we see), it cannot explain why we even exist. I don’t think it can explain why matter even exists.

    This is where faith comes in, and where a belief in God comes in. It’s a metaphysical (ie, outside ourselves) thing. By definition, not in the realm of science.

    That doesn’t mean as a Christian I can’t conduct science, enjoy it, have it enrich my life or even my enrich my understanding of God. It just means that I can’t in reverse have my understanding of God influence my science.

  • http://www.ocellated.com/ Ocellated.com

    And one last comment on irreducible complexity, this in response to Eric’s statement.

    The idea has been proven false in the sense that IC, by definition, says that subsets of parts are not functional until the whole thing’s in place. That clearly is not the case with the TTSS proteins in bacterial flagella.

    Also, when you ask for a full explanation on where the other 20 proteins came from, you’re subjecting evolution to a higher level of proof than you should. Here’s what I mean.

    If that was the only fact in the world we have, and from it we tried to deduce a theory of evolution, scientists would be very, very skeptical.

    But it’s not that way. Rather, we have tons of evidence for evolution from throughout the natural world, and that’s where the theory comes from.

    So the bacterial flagella, with their TTSS proteins, fit into the theory of evolution. It is plausible (actually very plausible) that this is where they came from. So even if we can’t explain exactly how something came to be, the data that we have still fits within our understanding of our theories, in this case evolution.

    I’m sorry I keep referring people back to my blog, but I wrote a very lengthy post about evolution and how it works. I wrote this almost entirely for a person who’s skeptical, particularly Christians. You (or anyone else) is welcome to read it if you like. If you’ve never studied the subject much, I hope it would give you a little bit of a very basic understanding on the theory. You can find it here.


  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie


    If the judge actually said the intelligent design movement came from the early 20th century BIOLA movement that would be odd indeed.

    Or are we using different meanings for the term fundamentalist.

    Either it’s an insulting, derogatory term of oppobrium that shouldn’t be rehashed (esp. without context) in the Wash Post or it’s a very specific term with a specific meaning about a very specific and relatively small religious movement.

    Not that I don’t completely agree with you that reporters are lazy and sloppy. We are, at times.

  • Eric Phillips


    Apology accepted.

    The article you directed me to does not even scratch the idea of Irreducable Complexity. It only lowers the number of discrete parts necessary for the flagellum from 30 to 21. Seriously, even if you got the number down to 5, it would be too high for natural selection to function.

  • http://agrumer.livejournal.com/ Avram

    We’re all lazy and sloppy at times, Mollie. Thanks for giveng me incentive to look up Wikipedia’s entries on Fundamentalism. Although I’ve caught at least one blatant factual contradiction between the Fundamentalism and Fundamentalist Christianity articles, which I guess demonstrates a problem with relying on Wikipedia.

    Anyway, I’ve opened up the Kitzmiller v Dover PDF again. Here’s Jones (pages 7 and 8):

    The religious movement known as Fundamentalism began in nineteenth century America as a response to social changes, new religious thought and Darwinism. McLean v. Ark. Bd. of Educ., F. Supp. 1255, 1258 (E.D. Ark. 1982). Religiously motivated groups pushed state
    legislatures to adopt laws prohibiting public schools from teaching evolution, culminating in the Scopes “monkey trial” of 1925. McLean, 529 F.Supp. at 1259; see Scopes v. State, 154 Tenn. 105 (1927) (criminal prosecution of public-school teacher for teaching about evolution).

    So, if by “The religious movement known as Fundamentalism” he means the movement started by the publishing of The Fundamentals at BIOLA, then he’s wrong. On the other hand, some people trace the origins of the Fundmentalist movement back to the Niagara Bible Conferences of the 1880s and ’90s.

    Anyway, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t late-20th (and 21st) century conservative Evangelical Christianity descended from the Neo-Evangelicals who split off from the Fundamentalists?

  • http://agrumer.livejournal.com/ Avram

    Holy cow, I just realized that this is the mirror of the argument I had with terry over the word “elites”!

    “Fundamentalist”, in this context, offends not because of the literal meaning of the term, but because it’s become polluted by its common misuse by those who use it as an insult. Using it incorrectly therefore implies membership in the group of people who use it as an insult, and can therefore be assumed to disapprove of, say, conservative Evanglicals, and maybe of all Christians or of religious practice in general.

  • http://blog.higherthings.org/wcwirla/ revcwirla

    Intelligent Design is apologetics not science. Science does controlled variable experiments. (Never mind that Evolution is not based on experiments. That’s for another discussion.)

    ID is natural theology in the way of Paley, Aquinas, and Athanasius. It uses scientific observations to score a theological point for the existence of God.

    Questions dealing with life and origins will always have religious overtones. As Ms. Ziegler’s post points out so nicely, no one is neutral when it comes to the “God question.”

    In my mind, the real issue in this case is this: What the heck are the courts ruling on what is or isn’t science? I thought that was the business of scientists. Let the scientists shoot holes in ID all they want. That’s their job. While they’re at it, let them take a few shots at Evolution too, if they are so inclined.

    But keep it out of politics and the courts. That’s the last place for intelligent discussion, let alone Intelligent Design.

  • Pingback: tjic.com » Blog Archive » another great GetReligion article

  • http://www.ocellated.com/ Ocellated.com


    I’m sorry but that’s just not scientifically correct. Takes eyes for example. I don’t think we have an exact understanding of how they evolve, but consider that we see a vast array of eyes in the animal world. Some are nothing more than a few light sensitive cells, others are quite good, like ours. Octopus eyes are also amazing, and they evolved differently and seperately. It’s completely consistent to understand that a couple of cells that sense light at 1% capacity compared with a “fully developed” eye at 100% (if we could really know when something’s fully developed) will offer an advantage to the organism that has 0% light sensing ability.

    In the same way, 2% eyes are better than 1%, and so on. We see this at work in the natural world! It’s not hypothetical. There’s plenty for natural selection to work on.

    Finally, I just want to cut and paste just a tastte of the court ruling. It speaks directly to our discussion.

    This is from page 72.

    As referenced, the concept of irreducible complexity is ID’s alleged scientific centerpiece. Irreducible complexity is a negative argument against evolution, not proof of design, a point conceded by defense expert Professor Minnich. Irreducible complexity additionally fails to make a positive scientific case for ID.

    He goes on to discuss these failings, and hits upon the bacterial flagellum well. He also talks about how we have evidence of other structures being co-opted for use in different purposes, for example the evolution of the middle ear bones from what was once jawbones in mammals.

    The flagellum is another example consistant with this. The proteins that function as a secretory system are co-opted in the flagellum. You should really get the trial and read through it, if you’re interested in these matters.

    Finally, I just want to say that I’m not going to keep argueing with you. I think I’ve given ample examples and resources to discuss this issue. If you choose to simply deny these conclusion, that’s your right.

    I will point out however that virtually the entire scientific community (I’m talking 99% of biologists here) reject the concept of irreducible complexity as it relates to intelligent design.

    I really hope that I can help Christians with this issues, since I know they can challenge how we deal with them and our faith. But in the end, all I can do is try.

  • http://blog.higherthings.org/wcwirla/ revcwirla

    “I will point out however that virtually the entire scientific community (I’m talking 99% of biologists here) reject the concept of irreducible complexity as it relates to intelligent design.”

    99% of biologists do not make up “virtually the entire scientific community.” They are virtually the entire biology community. It’s noteworthy that most of the criticism of evolutionary theory come from outside the biological sciences. As a trainted chemist, I’ve always found the theory of Evolution to be a bit fishy, especially at the molecular level. A little too dogmatic for my empirical tastes. As a trained theologian, I know a dogma when I see one.

    Interesting choice in words when you say “proteins that function as a secretory system are co-opted in the flagellum.” You have to resort to an anthropomorphism, as though the evolving flagellate “knew” which components to “co-opt” to make its tail spin. I’ve always been fascinated by the notion, implicit in Evolution, that nature has some innate “intelligence” to “design” everything out of nothing by itself.

  • http://blog.higherthings.org/wcwirla/ revcwirla

    …that’s “trained chemist” though some might suspect “tainted chemist” might be more in order.

    The spelling and syntax of my previous quote clearly indicates the absence of intelligent design. It is more likely the result of the natural selection of a random choice of words and letters. Ever evolving onward and upward. ;-)

  • Jonathan S

    To Ocellated.com,
    I also found your tone a bit condescending, especially considering I have a Ph.D from a top 25 research institution in neuroscience. I worked down the hall from a pre-eminent evolutionary biologist. But what much of your posts suffer from is a decided ignorance – ignorance of PHILOSOPHY of science. You should read more about how different people conceptualize science. Your philosophy is an outdated, positivistic, Bertand Russell-influenced epistemology. Read Thomas Kuhn’s “Structure of Scientific Revolutions”. Much of your argument, as pointed out by revcwirla, is driven by a paradigm that is untestable and unquestioned. Your “education” in graduate school is more likely indoctrination, and this is definitely more the case in the biological sciences than the physical sciences, although Kuhn’s main example uses physics. Your ignorance of philosophy, and your ignorance of your ignorance, does a disservice to all of these Christians that you are trying to help with these issues.

  • http://blog.higherthings.org/wcwirla/ revcwirla

    “His “religion” — flying spaghetti monsterism — cannot be refuted by science. Just like the concept of a designer cannot be refuted by science.”

    Just as the concept that every event must have a natural cause cannot be refuted by science. Or proven. It must be held as a presupposition. The last time I checked the scientific method, presuppositions prior to the data aren’t part of it.

    The Flying Spaghetti site is a good example of the Straw Man fallacy, of which critics of Evolution are often accused (and often are guilty). Nice to see the shoe on the other foot.

  • Herb

    I’m entering this discussion late, but “conservative evangelicals” didn’t first emerge as a split off of fundamentalists. We’ve been around since the 1st century A.D. True, a bit sparse at times, but always there down through church history. The nineteenth century put us on the defensive with the development of liberal Christianity, and some of us “retreated” even further (fundamentalism). Thankfully, God seems to have brought us out of a self-imposed imprisonment. I hope we can continue to learn, and at the same time question the presuppositions of both modernity and post-modernity. My own beef with modern science is when it tries to explain the “why” of human existence, which it clearly cannot do.

  • http://areyoudressed.blogspot.com Molly

    And won’t we all look silly when – at the end of time – we’re all sprinkled with shredded parmesean cheese and given the keys to the kingdom.

    Let’s keep whacking one another with cosmic meatballs in the name of the Lord!

    Hallelujah and pass the tomato sauce!

  • http://www.ocellated.com/ Ocellated.com

    I figured I’d post a response since I’ve taken a little of a beating here. It’s probably so late no one will read it. Sorry about that — I’ve had the holidays and have recently moved. (Oh, is that painful).

    revcwirla, I can’t tell you percentages like I’ve done some survey, but I know the overwhelming number of scientists (and not just biologists) completely reject ID. Also, you’re poking fun at 99% of biologists not being 99% of scientists misses the point, I feel. Why on earth people who don’t study biology feel like they need to jump into the fight is a mystery to me. I used the wording 99% of biologists because I had thought that might make the point that people who study these things don’t give any credence towards ID. Even in crossover fields, where biology touches on other disciplines of science (biochemistry is the perfect example), the overwhelming number of scientists don’t find anything of use with ID. If your area of expertise is straight chemistry, I certainly would hate to argue with you about things you know well. (In fact, I think you’re a little weird but I have a deep respect for you in being able to enjoy study of chemistry.) ;) In the same way, it just “gets my goat” when engineers, chemists, and (my favorite) lawyers start talking about biology and screaming ID from the rooftops.

    Also revcwirla, my religion in Christianity. Stop by my blog and you’ll see it on display (though I talk more about science). Flying spaghetti monsterism is simply a good laugh for me. I have no doubt that others take great enjoyment in feeling that the parody ridicules religion of any kind. I guess it’s all in the eye of the beholder. I simply find it to be a good parody of what happens when you start mixing metaphysics in scientific pursuits.

    Jonathan S, if you’re a PhD in neuroscience, you’re undoubtedly smarter than I. I’m sorry if you’ve found me to be a bit condescending. I tend to be a little less patient online than in real life. I also tend to be a little passionate in both.

    I don’t like your suggestion that my comments suffer from ignorance on the philosophy of science… I certainly wouldn’t claim to be an expert on the subject, though I know a little. I am familiar with Kuhn’s work and ideas, though I don’t know what you’re suggesting here. Are you saying that ID represents the next paradigm shift in science, like other revolutions did before? If that’s what you mean (and it may not be), I certainly would disagree. Unlike prior revolutions, ID doesn’t have anything to offer scientifically. (At least, I certainly haven’t seen anything it offers.) I actually am comfortable with a designer (God) as an underlying reality. I just don’t think science tells us anything about Him directly.

    Finally, one thing that did ruffle my feathers just a bit (and I found to be a little distasteful) was your suggestion that my “‘education’ in graduate school is more likely indoctrination”. I take a little offense at that, and can easily refute it from my point of view. If indoctrination was what I was after, I would have long ago relinquished my faith and belief in God. I’m already well aware that many in my field are a little hostile towards religion and especially Christianity. (And some are more than just a “little”.)

    I think for myself, and am not afraid to follow the evidence where it leads. Show me a reason that ID is scientific, and I’ll be extremely fascinated to learn about it. Otherwise, I encourage everyone to leave their metaphysics out of science. (My faith speaks deeply to how I conduct myself as a scientist, but it doesn’t influence my results).

    Thanks for all the comments here. My intention was to simply provoke some thinking on this issue. Maybe I’ve succeeded.