Darwin and the Bible 3 (RJS)

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A couple of months ago we had two posts based on a book Darwin and the Bible: The Cultural Confrontation – (first, second). This book was designed (with only modest success) to “help readers understand the nature, history, and passions behind the debate between scientific and religious versions of creation and human origin.”  Today I would like to return to this book and address the concerns of the penultimate chapter.

Chapter 13 of Darwin and the Bible is titled quite succinctly “Turmoil.” This chapter was written by Laura Perras, at the time a first year student at SUNY College Plattsburgh. Raised in a religious, antievolutionist background attending public schools and a public University, her emphasis in this essay is on the turmoil caused by the current debates, approaches, and language.  Her point of view:

Evolution or creationism? That is the ultimatum that has prompted the war over what should be taught in American classrooms. This ongoing battle, as chaotic as the primordial waters, had been brewing for many years now. … Similar to a hurricane over the gulf, it keeps circling and striking land from numerous angles. The controversy of evolution versus creation is here to stay and students are going to need more than rain ponchos to protect themselves from the crashing waves. (p. 176)

Here is the question I would like to consider today:

Is “turmoil” a common experience? If so, what can we do to help students, in high school, college, and beyond, weather the storm? How do you think these issues should be approached in public schools? Do you think Christian schools should present “both sides”?

Perras describes her upbringing (northern USA, Methodist, not fundamentalist), her initial inherited view of creationism (typical young earth variety), and the experience of confrontation.

My own public education, although exceptionally good, spawned these feelings of frustration and confusion. I distinctly remember a particular lesson in my seventh grade science class. The teacher was showing us slides, describing different beliefs that humans have come up with in regard to human origin. The first was of a woman, a man, a tree, and a red sky. The instructor called it the “creation myth” and on hearing those words, I felt the hair on my arms stand on edge. I remember thinking: “Myth? What is he talking about? It is not a myth! He’s wrong!” I was deeply confused by the fact that one of my teachers would try to discredit the lessons I had been taught in Sunday school. … I adopted the use of a wall. This wall, similar to the Casparian strip in plant cells, prevents things from going in and coming out. I closed my mind to evolution, refused to learn about it, and kept telling myself that creationism was 100 percent correct. (p. 180)

Several years later a senior project (attempting to prove that creationism did work and evolution was just a guess) led to discovery of a number of problems: Genesis 1 and 2 are not entirely compatible stories of creation; evolution at some level did exist and undeniably; and  Christians have various views on the topics. Perras wound up defending a day-age, microevolution view in her project.  By the end of her first year of college when this essay was written she was leaning toward theistic evolution as an approach to the issues of science and faith.

Perras concludes her essay with a call for reason:

It is imperative that students learn about evolution, but it is also important that they are given a chance to learn about their faith. Both needs are equal. Students do not deserve to be given an education that neglects one approach and asserts another belief that is contrary to their religious beliefs or scientific studies. Compromises can be made.  (p. 184).

This problem – the “conflict” between science and faith –  is often given as part of the reason for loss of faith  (see the chapter on apostasy in Scot’s book Finding Faith, Losing Faith: Stories of Conversion and Apostasy for some discussion and personal stories). Turmoil certainly describes the experience of some people.

Does “turmoil” describe your experience?

What is the appropriate approach to the creation controversy in our world today

  • in our families
  • in our schools (including home schools)
  • in our churches
  • on College and University campuses?

In your experience what works – and what doesn’t?

And now I will really step into it (this book arose in large part out of the Dover, Kansas, and Texas controversies over ID in the middle of the decade):

Does the discussion of Intelligent Design (that intelligent design was involved and that the effects of this design are empirically discernable) help or hurt?

If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail [at] att.net.

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  • Brian

    My family certainly wrestles with this as we homeschool our children. One point I keep coming back to is that we must deal with the data. What are the observations that drive the theories? I want my kids to deal with that rather come with an agenda that limits genuine exploration of the subject.

  • paul

    “Does “turmoil” describe your experience?”
    I would answer this with a yes. I teach bible at a Christian middle & high school. When we discussed this debate (evolution & creation), 95% of my students said they would have a significant faith crisis (my words) if evolution were true. This helped me to understand that these students had been taught (implicitly and explicitly) that this debate is not about science, but about the truth of God. If evolution is true (for them), then God (and Christianity) is not true. And so these students push back against evolution in the same way they would against anything they felt was trying to disprove Christianity and all they believe.
    This definitely leads to serious turmoil.

  • What does NOT work is insensitivity (as your anecdote above shows). I think our approach should be to first affirm faith, then talk about how the science can be consistent with that faith. Because the conflict thesis is so strong at times, jumping into the science too quickly can produce those walls.

  • RJS:
    I am in turmoil now, as you are the first person who has credibly burst my assurance that common descent is a myth.
    As a theologian, I know about epistemology (which I feel scientists tend to be weak on, opting for logical positivism and somehow unconcerned about the nihilism their theory entails).
    But I know I will never have the time to adequately survey the field of evolutionary biology and make a truly informed decision. I feel rather powerless. Even if I did want to spend considerable time reading, what to read? Too many opinions with too many sets of presuppositions.
    I also find the Biblical points made by many atheism/Darwinism/anti-religion proponents to be uninformed (e.g., saying that Genesis 1 and 2 are incompatible is really a decision made after accepting source theory and without considering a consistent reading).
    I am afraid I will have to be agnostic about questions of process and biology. I am not ready to drink the Darwinism koolaid, but my assurance of creationism is also eroded.
    Derek Leman

  • Rick

    Paul #2 is right.
    If the wording of Genesis is the foundation of their faith, then we need to redirect and prioritize the real foundation(s) of the faith (God, Christ, Trinity, etc…).
    The key is to start by building a bridge by emphasizing common ground on the major, essential issues. The topic needs to be approached from a standpoint of holding to an orthodox postion of the faith, a high view of Scripture, etc… Then you can start dealing with some of the other issues, such as this.
    It is important to demonstrate that there is diversity of opinion on this, yet the various opinions all can be, and are, represented in evangelicalism (and/or orthodox Chrisitianity). It does not have to be an either/or.
    I found it interesting that she mentioned, “I was deeply confused by the fact that one of my teachers would try to discredit the lessons I had been taught in Sunday school.”
    Unless the churches get involved with the dialogue (even if parents and schools advocate the dialogue), students will always have a sense of confusion on why (some) churches hold to just one position. They need to show, by stressing the essentials, that you can have a variety of opinions on this topic, yet still fall under the evangelical/orthodox umbrella.
    If churches did this, parents and schools would be less resistant to discuss it. Likewise, those scientists who feel the need to hide their faith would be allowed a little more breathing room.
    To summarize: Build bridges on the essentials; be more open to a dialogue on the non-essentials.

  • These are questions that get to the heart of where Christians wrestle most with their faith. At some level, ‘turmoil’ did once describe my feelings. I vacillated as an undergraduate working on a B.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology between certainty and uncertainty regarding my understanding of biblical creation. In my opinion, much of the turmoil was fostered by the small army of Christian writers (every denomination has them) that write so confidently regarding the evils of biological evolution (or more naively “Darwinism”) and yet understand very little about where the scientific field is today. I was deluged with information, scientific literature, research projects, and historical evidences that made wholesale rejection of biological evolution impossible. What had these writers discovered that made them so confident? Often times, the dust jackets of their books, where all their credentials were listed, told the story: No scientific training and likely no serious research experience had led them to these conclusions. More importantly, they likely had not even been exposed to the amount of information I has absorbed as an undergraduate and were still so confident. Therefore, much of the ‘turmoil’ resulted from what I perceived as intellectual dishonesty from my Christian brothers or sisters. What to do then to assuage this turmoil?
    I think we must expose our students to those writers offering popular works that explore the issues from within the field of evolutionary biology (and yet still wear their faith proudly). One great example of this quality of writer if Dr. Ken Miller. See here for some written works: (http://www.millerandlevine.com/km/evol/)
    But we must also contend with those scientists who are writing popularly who are not persons of faith (and yet are writing wonderful works). An example of such a writer who captures the sense of wonder of biological evolution and who writes popularly to help lay-readers stay current with some of the major research directions in evolutionary biology is Dr. Sean Carroll. See here for a list of publications: (http://seanbcarroll.com/)
    In order to stay current with some of the trends in evolutionary biology without being a specialist would be to weekly read:
    1) Current Biology: http://www.cell.com/current-biology/
    2) Trends in Ecology and Evolution: http://www.trends.com/tree/default.htm
    Note, these are usually available from any research university library in your state or even through some of the science journal databases at your public library. I recommend accessing them this way and not getting a personal subscription.
    Hope this helps.

  • There is no solution for public schools. Public schools, by definition, are in place to not only educate children on matters academic, but also to indoctrinate them with shared social norms and mores.
    This topic, along with a few others (such as aspects of sexual education, the role of homosexuals in society, &c), represents something for which there is no shared social norm or mores. The country is split nearly down the middle, and even though individual communities and school districts may feel overwhelmingly one way or the other, the use of federal funds for education demands a one-size-fits-all solution.
    There is no way to discuss evolutionary biology in science courses without creating conflict, there is no academically valid way to include discussions of creationism or intelligent design in the science classroom (even if you believe ID is valid science, it is not yet nearly well articulated enough or supported by sufficient evidence or community backing to be presented to children on par with evolution), and so your options are to either teach evolution alone and have all your conservative, religious parents rioting all year every year, or to not teach origins biology at all and thus reduce the quality, breadth and scope of the education you give your children.
    The only real solution to this problem is for pulpits to educate parents about the reality of the success of the evolutionary theory -distinct from- the misuse of it by certain people with an axe to grind (such as Dawkins), and to teach them a better understanding of Genesis 1-3 to dissolve the conflict from outside the school. Not until such time as parents no longer teach their children at home to mistrust school teachers who teach evolution and to treat Genesis 1-3 as literal, historic and scientific fact can this topic be fitting correctly into the public academic system.
    Private schools who have any balls should teach evolution anyway, in spite of overwhelming demand that they do not, but of course we know that one of the driving forces keeping private schools well crowded even in economic depressions is the desire of religious parents to shelter their parents from topics they would just as soon keep them as ignorant as possible about.

  • pds

    I think that it is utterly essential that parents and churches give supplemental teaching on this to any child who is going to public school. We need to teach kids to think critically about the science involved, and to understand what the evidence proves and tends to prove and what it does not. We need to give them a foundation for a life long faith that can stand up to anything that is thrown at them in high school and college. We need to help them think through the hard questions in understanding Genesis 1 and 2 before some obnoxious atheist in college does.
    We need to give them a good grounding in philosophy and apologetics when they are in high school. Is this happening in most churches? As I have said before, I think Dallas Willard puts it best on this point:
    Of course, my reply to your last question is that a discussion of intelligent design absolutely helps (and from the footnote at the link above, so does Dallas Willard). Give kids all the perspectives, teach them to think critically, and get them excited about the whole thing.

  • Karl

    The potential for significant turmoil existed in my experience. But somehow I was spared most of the turmoil.
    I attended a fundamentalist Baptist private school for K-12, where we were taught young-earth creationism. In high school, we were taught a little bit about the theory of evolution, but primarily only to debunk it with young-earth arguments, emphasizing that it was only a theory and not a scientifically proven fact, that it was based on secular materialist presuppositions, etc. My parents and Presbyterian church seemed a little less hard-line on the origins issue, but I never got much direct teaching or in depth discussion of the issue from either parents or church so most of the input was from the fundy Baptist school. I do remember being shocked when my high school youth group was discussing Genesis and when polled, more than half of them believed the earth was millions or billions of years old. The young-earth guy who our youth group leader (a Liberty U grad) had brought in to lead the discussion did his best to persuade them of their error, and I was gratified to have been in the minority who raised their hands to indicate belief that earth was 10 thousand years old of less.
    Then I attended a Christian college where my science professors all believed in some form of evolution and thought that the young earth creationist stuff I had been steepted in was an embarrassment scientifically. That was a bit of a shock, but the fact that these were all clearly committed believers who loved Jesus made it less of a crisis than it would have been if I had been at a secular university with a non-Christian professor. The faith and careful explanations that my Christian biology and chemistry profs gave for their views sort of gave me a parachute and turned what could have been a major crash and burn experience, into a kind of exhilarating ride and a soft landing. In essence RJS, they did for me what you so patiently attempt to do for us here on this blog.
    I’m still not sure exactly where to come down on the origins issue, except to know that I can’t hold with the 6-day, young earth stuff. Intelligent Design vs. evolutionary theory, where and how and if God directed and/or intervened directly in the process, Adam and Eve as historical figures or metaphorical truth . . . I have more questions than answers. But I don’t usually feel driven by a need to have it all figured out, either.

  • dopderbeck

    Yes, it creates significant conflict for many people, even adults. I think Matthew (#6) made a great point: “much of the ‘turmoil’ resulted from what I perceived as intellectual dishonesty from my Christian brothers or sisters.” I agree. One of the most frustrating things is to approach a trusted friend, pastor, family member, etc. about such questions and to get “answers” that seem clearly useless but that are offered as if they “must be” correct. This can be particularly troubling when the “answers” are offered by folks who seem to shout the loudest about “absolute truth.”
    On the question of ID, I personally do not think it helps as currently offered. This is because ID is often portrayed in culture war / apologetic terms, such that denying ID arguments seems to amount to denying belief in creation. If ID folks were to say “if you’re concerned about ‘randomness,’ here are some things to think about,” that might be helpful. In my experience, however, that is not what they say, and it certainly is not how Christian apologists use what they say.

  • John L

    “What is the appropriate approach to the creation controversy in our world today”
    RJS, I’m not sure there -is- a controversy. While roughly 2/3 of all university professors and 80% of all MDs maintain a faith in God, less than 5% subscribe to a “creation theory” of life. Evolution is widely accepted by religious academics as valid theory.
    The remaining 5%-tile profs are bunched up mostly at Christian colleges – deep into the bell curve noise level. There are broad matters of faith and charity where education does not play a significant role. This is not one of those issues.
    Education, especially our recent understanding of genomics, is key to understanding why there are really only two choices: (1) evolution theory is accurate, or (2) God is a fabulous trickster.
    Hey, my TED Talk just went live!

  • pds

    dopderbeck (#10)
    You said:
    “In my experience, however, that is not what they say, and it certainly is not how Christian apologists use what they say.”
    Can you give some specific examples of Christian apologists misusing intelligent design?
    Do you think William Lane Craig’s use of cosmological fine-tuning is an example? Do you think Francis Collins’ use of cosmological fine-tuning is an example?

  • Yes, turmoil is a good word. My turmoil was between believing what people I trusted and loved told me I had to believe and my growing sense that there may be other ways of processing these discordant strands of science and theology. The key for me was learning that, for all their protestations to the contrary, creationist/fundamentalist theology does not = true, biblical theology, but, like man’s fallible interpretations of scientific facts, is based upon man’s fallible interpretation of the Bible. This point is key: the best way to resolve that tension in a Christian being convinced of the scientific evidence for common descent is to affirm that neither scientists nor theologians have the whole bag, but are subject to and often in need of correction. This realization enabled and encouraged me to look for ways of examining my received theology in a new light. In short, a little humility, critical thinking, and self-evaluation would go a long way.

  • Great topic.
    I went to a Christian college where I was taught that young earth creationism was so essential to the faith that if evolution became widely accepted, the authority of Scripture would be thrown into doubt and the survival of Christianity would be in jeopardy. I grew up in an environment in which evolution was mocked as a stupid, baseless claim of God-hating atheists, a theory with “absolutely no evidence to back it up.”
    This caused considerable strain when, after graduating, I did some basic reading and realized that there was actually quite a bit of good, solid evidence in support of evolutionary theory. In fact, there is much more evidence in support of evolution than there is in support of young earth creationism.
    I felt I had to choose between my faith and my intellectual integrity. Young earth creationism had been presented as such a FUNDAMENTAL element of the Christian faith, (as important as the deity of Christ), I thought that giving it up meant giving up on Christianity altogether.
    Over the past three years, I have talked with dozens of other Christian college graduates who had the very same experience. Some abandoned their Christian faith altogether; others, like me, have learned to reconcile faith and science…but not without significant doubt and struggle. I can’t help but wonder if things would have been different for us if we had been told the truth from the beginning – that evolution makes sense, that it is supported by the data, and that it is possible for an old earth to coexist with a loving God.
    False fundamentals and unnecessary ultimatums have the power to wreak havoc on a person’s faith. Of that I am certain.
    That’s why I would argue that students receiving a Christian education should be presented with a fair and accurate view of evolution. If all truth is God’s truth, then we deserve to be exposed to it…even if it isn’t convenient.

  • I personally do not wrestle with this, but I recognize that many do. I remember very clearly having to come to the defense of a professor who offered an “old earth” view, in – of all things – geology class!, at my moderately conservative Christian university, Trinity Western University in British Columbia. I was shocked by how many students revolted – you could almost see the fear in their eyes – as implications wound up into serious cognitive dissonance. (Any other TWU alumni in here?)
    For what its worth, I came to Christ in my latter teen years, and grew up in a pretty progressive, postmodern western Canadian society/educational system and family. So I was never entrenched in these “culture wars”. And, looking at it now, I think Christian churches and schools that teach a young earth view – as being a make-it-or-break-it theology piece – really do a disservice to people – especially young people.
    And part of the problem lies in the fact that so many people were taught that the Bible is simple, one-dimensional, and revealed in a “plain reading”. When you’re taught this, its not surprising that all this genre awareness, accommodation, and human/divine mix can throw people into fits. Its not surprising, but it is sad. And, in my view, unnecessary.

  • John the Fisherman

    I think John L. nails it. Like a tornado, the turmoil may do a lot of damage, but it’s within a very limited space.
    If one’s faith is tied to a Bible story, I wonder how strong that faith is in the first place. My faith lies with God.
    I cringe to type these thoughts “out loud,” but my best friend’s daughter and my daughter are both in the same grade. My daughter goes to a private college-prep school while his goes to a private Christian school. Both kids are “good kids.” Active in church and their youth groups.
    But I was shocked to hear that his daughter doesn’t believe in dinosaurs…. etc. All other things being equal, which daughter is going to get into the better college? I want to say something so badly, but I don’t dare.

  • “But I was shocked to hear that his daughter doesn’t believe in dinosaurs.”
    Man, this makes my blood boil. Its almost a form of child neglect. Not criminally prosecutable, but certainly reprehensible nonetheless.

  • Reading Rachel’s comment, it occurred to me that the crucial factor in being able to lay aside my creationism was the surprising level of toleration my environment instilled in me for varying, competing theologies. I was aware of Calvinism vs. Arminianism, the charismatic vs. cessation controversy, the apocalyptically divisive subject of modern vs. traditional church music, etc., and while I knew where my leaders stood on these and other topics, I don’t remember being sold most of them without at least an implied opportunity for a refund. I am persuaded that the blow can be lightened significantly by simply avoiding the urge to demonize other views without explaining them, thereby giving our young (in faith or in age) the invaluable gift of allowing sincere believers who differ from us the benefit of the doubt rather than teaching them that deviation implies aberrant motives and ipso facto bad reasoning.

  • The question of turmoil is an interesting one. My perspective is a bit different. My spiritual travels, including intersections with Christianity, are complicated. But for the sake of a discussion like this, I was pretty much an older adult (30-ish) convert to Christianity. As such, and given my existing background, the young earth creation perspective never gained the slightest intellectual traction with me in spite of being the predominant viewpoint in my church. I did find it mildly irritating on those rare times when a whole sermon would actually be wasted on the subject, including the typical rounds of arguments with gaping logical and evidentiary holes. Beyond that, it’s not something I thought a lot about. I mostly just ignored it. When it was discussed, I would take the time afterwards to point out some of the flaws in the “arguments” to my kids in various age-appropriate ways and moved on.
    That changed when one of our sons (technically a quasi-foster son) was a senior. One of his girlfriends that year was Roman Catholic. We were talking one night and he mentioned that he never knew you that Christians could believe that evolution was true. I was shocked. After all, we discuss science and discoveries a lot. My father is a geneticist and he was around the kids frequently. I spent time deliberately (I thought) discussing why the various young earth arguments presented really didn’t hold up when such arguments were presented. It had never dawned on me that a social construct like that of a church could exert that much formational power with children and adolescents even over against the familial social structure, teaching, and beliefs. In fact, I had assumed the reverse was true.
    That was about six years ago and I’ve paid a lot more attention ever since, especially to my younger two. And I’m not been at all happy with what I’ve seen. It’s not just perspectives on creation and evolution. Some of the ideas about women have infiltrated in spite of both the example and direct teaching of my wife and I. And a lot of other things. I’ve pretty much reached the point where I believe that the typical conservative evangelical environment is not just unhelpful or a little detrimental on specific points for the formation of children, but is actually an actively toxic environment for their spiritual formation.
    And that’s pretty much where things sit right now. As a result, we don’t go much of anywhere at the moment. We’ve tried a few other places, but neither my wife nor I know much about how to “shop” for churches. Her only experience before this church was Roman Catholicism and she’s not really interested in that. I have a very broad, but relatively shallow experience of churches. This is the only one I’ve really engaged with at any level at a point in time as an adult that I would really say that “Christian” described my core identity. It took us so long and so much energy to carve out some kind of place in this church that neither of us are really enthused by the idea of going through that again somewhere else.
    And personally, I would like to preserve whatever faith my two kids still at home have. I don’t think that would happen if we continued to expose them week after week to that same environment. That’s certainly been our experience with the older kids. I believe church is important or I probably wouldn’t care. We would just be a family of individual Christians. In all honesty, some weeks I feel like I’m the only one left in our family who does care. But I’m not willing to place my children in an environment that I’ve come to feel hurts rather than helps them.

  • RJS

    I think “child neglect” even with the almost is too strong.
    The total package counts more than anything else, and all of us will make some (many) mistakes raising our children. We just do the best we can with the information on hand at any given time.

  • pds

    John (#16)
    Could you clarify what you mean when you say the daughter “doesn’t believe in dinosaurs”? She doesn’t believe they ever existed at all? Or does she just doubt the standard dating of them?
    This is a common false stereotype of young earth creationists, so I think we should be careful- especially since it is causing Darren’s blood to boil (#17).

  • RJS,
    With the “almost” in tact, I stand by the comment. It is neglecting the preparation a child needs to succeed and exist in society.
    Do we coddle Christian fundamentalists in this regard, merely because some of us come from that background? Are we as strong in our reaction to Christian fundamentalism, as we are to Islamic? Shouldn’t we be?
    Like I said, I wouldn’t support criminal prosecution or direct state intervention in such cases, but I still find it reprehensible behavior. These issues are not on the margins of current debate. Dinosaurs are as real as my distant English ancestors.

  • I agree that neglect is too strong a word…but I would caution against minimizing the significant harm it can do a child to link faith in God with a distorted or untrue perspective on science. I would also caution against assuming that the damage done by this “tornado” is small or insignificant. I know too many people to walk away from Christianity as a result of unnecessary ultimatums to write this phenomenon off as isolated or harmless.

  • Dave

    I would encourage you to be very careful with your words. Equating fundamentalist Christianity with Islam does not seem to me to be in keeping with the scripture’s commands regarding how we are to speak about our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are all free to disagree about nonessential things in the scriptures. But name calling and inquisitions probably are not the best examples to the world of our love for Jesus Christ and one-another.

  • Chris White

    Darren @ #22 Your equation of Christian fundamentalism and Islamic fundamentalism is not acceptable. There are some, very few, who call themselves Christian who would advocate or actually commit terrorist acts–such as the killing of the Kansas late-term abortion doctor. Meanwhile, we have seen the ongoing, world-wide acts of terror committed by Islamic fundamentalists: in Iraq, in Afganistan, in southeast Asia, in the USA, in Europe, in India.
    Furthermore, your rhetoric “almost” is tactless. If we take the hearsay information as accurate it is a shame that some parents incorrectly teach their children. But as hinted at, most parents come to realize they have made many mistakes in raising their children, this certainly does not make it child abuse (or even “almost” child abuse).
    Nevertheless, as believers in Christ Jesus, the way, the truth and the life, we should strive to line ourselves us with the truth and live in its light. This may mean changing our viewpoints on science or religion or child-rearing. It does not mean gulping down a science couched in a philosophical worldview. Let’s present science without dressing it up in a naturalistic worldview–or in a young-earth worldview.
    That science is presented in such a non-neutral way will continual to cause tension with whoever disagrees with the philosophical view it is presented. I agree with many writers here that our children, as we as believing adults, should be educated in all aspects of the debate.

  • dopderbeck

    PDS (#12) asked, “Can you give some specific examples of Christian apologists misusing intelligent design?”
    I respond: Lee Stroebel, J.P. Moreland, and Chuck Colson come to mind. (Please note that I’m not intending to cast any personal aspersions on these men, but at the level of ideas, I believe they misuse ID as an apologetic). Institutionally, there are examples such as the apologetics program at Biola University. If you’ve been involved in American evangelicalism, I’m not sure how you could miss the fact that “irreducible complexity” has become the new “proof” against evolution in conservative apologetics.
    I don’t consider fine tuning, moral, or general teleological arguments to be a form of “ID,” so I don’t include here Francis Collins’ arguments in that regard nor William Lane Craig’s use of the Kalam argument. When arguments such as these are presented as supportive of Christian perspectives, I welcome them. If they’re presented as some kind of proof against ordinary science, I find them damaging. (I’m also not sure the Kalam argument is entirely convincing on its own terms, or entirely consistent with theoretical physics, but that’s a different matter).

  • John L

    I want to qualify my earlier statement, drawing a distinction between (1) evolution theory, and (2) the very beginning of life on earth (proteins, RNA, etc.). The former is accepted by virtually all religious academics. The latter is an entirely different story.
    There are a number of theories as to how the first organic life appeared on Earth. But little agreement. I’ve read (don’t have stats) that upwards of 1/3 of academics who actually study this topic are open to off-planet origins (spores, bacteria, etc.).
    IMO, this is where the most compelling and controversial “origin of life” conversations are happening today.

  • AHH

    This turmoil will continue to be a big problem as long as churches (and it isn’t just the fundamentalists) give the message to their young people that the falsity of established science (age of earth, evolution at least with regard to common descent) is foundational to their faith. We are setting up our young people for a fall when we do this (Luke 17:1-2 may be appropriate).
    I have said elsewhere that, even as we may disagree on some matters like ID arguments, this turmoil would be greatly reduced if we could only inculcate three principles about these matters in our youth (and our adults):
    1) The *complementarity* of science and faith (like pictures of same reality taken from different angles) rather than *conflict* or *warfare* as the primary metaphor.
    2) The Bible is not a science textbook, and we should not be asking it questions the inspired writers were not trying to answer.
    3) God is sovereign over nature, so a “natural” explanation of something (whether it be rain or the development of life) does not rule God out of the picture.
    Underlying much of this is fundamentalist approaches to Scripture. The problems caused by basing faith on hardline versions of “inerrancy” are legion, but this is certainly one of the areas where it shows up in a major way. How to encourage healthier views of Scripture in the Evangelical church is a REALLY tough nut to crack — makes this science stuff look easy.
    I can also mention that, for college students hitting this turmoil for the first time, the book “Origins: A Reformed Look at Creation, Design and Evolution” by Deborah Haarsma and Loren Haarsma (of Calvin College) is a good book at just the right level.
    As for RJS’s ID question, I think those ideas can be OK, at least not harmful, as long as there is acknowledgment of things that are beyond a reasonable doubt (old Earth, common descent), as long as it is not done with an “us vs. them” culture-war approach, and as long as it is not presented as though the viability of the faith hinges on these particular arguments being right (“Christianity isn’t false after all because Phil Johnson and Michael Behe are showing that evolution isn’t true after all.” — approximate quote from my former pastor’s sermon). Unfortunately, those caveats rule out a large fraction of ID as it is actually presented in the church.

  • pds

    dop. (#26)
    Ok, thanks for the detail. You are criticizing some pretty mainstream guys. If you leave ID out completely (and the thoughts of the people you mention) I think you are not giving students a good preparation for dealing with the issues. Many TE proponents don’t want to give ID people a place at the table, and I think that is a very unhelpful position to take. Civil dialogue is essential.
    You said:
    “I don’t consider fine tuning . . . or general teleological arguments to be a form of “ID,” so I don’t include here Francis Collins’ arguments in that regard . . .”
    If you take that position you are defining ID in a way that the ID proponents themselves do not. I don’t think that is fair to them, and it will lead to more confusion. Seems like you need to disclose that if that is how you are going to use the term.
    Guillermo Gonzalez is clearly an ID proponent, and cosmological fine-tuning is his bread and butter.

  • RJS

    First – on Gonzalez. He has an essay from a book posted on this blog last year (Faith and Culture 4). You can read the comments (not many) on that post.
    Second – you seem to want us to buy ID arguments as a package deal, and most of us are not willing to do that. Some arguments are better than others. And I will point out differences when I see them.
    Third – it seems as though you think that “giving them a place at the table” should be translated “don’t criticize.” But I will criticize bad reasoning when I see it – and I’ve been criticized here on occasion and modified my position when convinced. I think that this is all dopderbeck is asking. Some arguments seem more reasonable than others.

  • Milton

    John L: a JesusCreed regular has a TED talk? My world just turned upside down!
    I don’t tend to think of myself in emotional terms, but “turmoil” would be appropriate. I have almost no friends I can even talk to about this. A close friend of mine who is now pastoring a church said, “I told the congregation that evolution can’t be considered, because God and randomness are incompatible.” I will work up to a conversation with him, but it will take time.
    Meanwhile, I’ve seen my own story on this page at least three times. It’s great to be here!

  • RJS

    Whoops – Gonzalez’s essay was posted this year (February 2009)

  • Chris,
    Fundamentalism is fundamentalism. Now, of course, that’s painting in broad strokes. But, I’m sorry, I just don’t excuse behavior just because someone sticks the qualifier “Christian” in front of it. Fundamentalism, as I’m using it, is a retreat into a closed view of the world, that sees all outside evidence, or even ideas – as problematic, untrue, and evil. I find that perspective on reality “unacceptable”. And I don’t like it when helpless children are indoctrinated into such a system.
    Secondly, you seem to assume that an Islamic fundamentalist is someone who necessarily supports terrorist acts, etc. I never said anything of the sort. Do you really believe that all Islamic fundamentalists support the murder of innocents? Maybe when I write “Islamic fundamentalist” you immediately think “Osama Bin Laden”. But this is no more fair an association than someone thinking about a fringe, anti-federalist, militant group in Texas when you mention “Christian fundamentalism”.
    And Dave,
    You wrote:
    “Equating fundamentalist Christianity with Islam does not seem to me to be in keeping with the scripture’s commands regarding how we are to speak about our brothers and sisters in Christ.”
    Please see what I just wrote about above. Perhaps this is a surprise to you, but to many on the outside, fundamentalists (whether they be Christian or Islamic) often appear to have more in common than they have in contrast. And I’m not sure where you’re drawing your scripture references from, but, from my point of view, I’m supposed to love my enemies. So my “brothers and sisters in Christ” aren’t supposed to get special treatment in this regard. In fact, if anything, the way I read the scriptures, they should be held to a higher, not lower, standard.

  • Brian

    Milton’s pastor friend’s comment about God and randomness is an interesting one. Perhaps a discussion about what is meant by randomness and its role in various phenomena would be helpful.

  • John the Fisherman

    I am not sure if she doesn’t believe in dinosaurs or just the dating. I am not sure how to broach the subject. I got this from my daughter as an aside at dinner after we all got back from vacation together.
    This girl’s sister will probably be valedictorian at the school next year. The school openly markets itself as being Bible-centric.
    I don’t know if I’d call it abuse simply because I know the parents and they’re very good, kind and loving.
    But, on the other hand, once I mentioned an article I read about a study that stated that youth programs really didn’t matter to an adult’s faith.
    The wife’s response was that this was impossible, because the Bible clearly says if you raise up a child in the way of the Lord, he will not stray.
    So, she has no hesitation in ignoring hard data in favor of what the Bible tells her is the truth.
    It makes my head hurt to even think about the mental gymnastics required to square every letter and jot of the Bible with the modern world.

  • RJS

    Brian (#34),
    Randomness would be worth a post.
    There certainly are people who claim that science demands purposelessness. Those who assert that the natural world is all that exists, that purpose is a meaningless concept, and that blind cosmic chance rules the day. I don’t agree with philosophical or ontological naturalism – and I don’t think that the use of random process as a part of creation means purposelessness and lack of action by a personal God.
    The assertion that science proves ontological naturalism and purposelessness is clearly a place where as Christians we should take a stand.

  • Dave

    So you’re saying you shouldn’t have to be careful with your words about other believers?

  • pds

    RJS (30),
    First- thanks, I’ll read it.
    Second- definitely not. Pick and choose if you want, by all means. I am talking about how people define “ID.” We have to use terms the same way if we want to have a meaningful discussion. If you are going to criticize ID, you should use the term the way the proponents do, or clarify. It is not fair to define ID as the parts of ID you don’t like. There is overlap between Collins’ arguments and ID arguments, whether he likes it or not.
    Third- definitely not. Giving a place at the table means you do criticize it, but fairly and accurately. Scot gave Logan a place at the table. Excellent. You are debating with me with respect. Thanks. But the Biologos people do not seem to want to. The Faith and Evolution site includes some articles from the TE position; the Biologos site does not contain anything by ID proponents. This post by Karl Giberson was mean and dismissive (and weirdly reasoned):
    Hence the reply by John West (“Where’s the Dialogue?”):
    The TE folks seem way more hostile to ID than vice versa. But we agree that there is uncivil discourse on both side.
    By the way, one of your comments in the last thread (#29) was interesting, and I have been thinking about ever since. It has been on my mind as I have commented since then.

  • dopderbeck

    PDS (#29) — Again I go back to the definition of “Intelligent Design” on the Discovery Institute website, which is very specific about the use of information theory: http://www.intelligentdesign.org/whatisid.php
    Owen Gingerich makes a helpful distinction between “intelligent design” with a small “i” and small “d” and “Intelligent Design” with a capital “I” capital “D.” What I find unhelpful is “Intelligent Design” — capital I capital D — particularly when it is offered is a “defense” or “evidence” against evolution. BTW another really good example of this unproductive use of ID in mainstream evangelical apologetics, IMHO, is Hugh Ross and Reasons to Believe.
    Even “ID” could have been helpful in some ways if properly qualified and if it hadn’t been coopted into the culture wars. In his books, for example, Michael Behe offers a much more nuanced and qualified argument that is more along the lines of support that life has some “purpose” rather than an “anti-evolution” proof. This is something that particularly bugs me when evangelical apologists use Behe’s arguments to “refute” evolution. They don’t even seem to understand what Behe is actually saying, much less the evidence for evolution / common descent! It’s just irresponsible!

  • dopderbeck

    PDS (#38) — I generally agree with you that the “TE side” can be just as nasty as the “ID side.” There is a history here that goes back to when Phillip Johnson first came out with “Darwin on Trial.” Johnson’s approach polarized many non-young-earth Christians in the sciences. As I understand it, there were some tense and bitter meetings and arguments at this time within the American Scientific Affiliation (http:://www.asa3.org), a leading academic Christian faith-science organization in the U.S., as well as in some Christian academic institutions — most notably Baylor University and and the kerfuffle over Bill Dembski.
    My sense is that the anger and division from that time has never healed. People like us who come to these questions sometimes step into a big stinking pile of historical strife.

  • pds

    I asked this on the other thread:
    You said, “The evidence I consider conclusive is not fossil (although this is powerful) it is genetic, in the genomes.”
    How exactly do genetics prove common descent?
    That is, I agree that it definitely supports the “relationship” idea, and “common origin,” but doesn’t the genetics evidence support common design as much as common descent?

  • RJS

    Common design vs. common descent is a question that will be worth a future post so that we can discuss the issues.

  • AHH

    PDS #41,
    On the common descent as opposed to common design question, this is covered (at a fairly introductory level) in Darrel Falk’s book “Coming to Peace with Science” that I’ve recommended before.
    My own example and not Falk’s:
    If you have experience in computer programming, seeing functioning code in common could just be “common design” or “common purpose”. A matrix multiplication that I write within one program will look a lot like one I might independently write within another. But if you see “commented-out code” in common, that’s a much stronger indicator of common descent, that a copy of one program was edited to make the second.
    And I think dopderbeck #40 is right about history. In the 1990s, Phil Johnson came barging in with no scientific training and told Christian scientists that they were dupes, that evolution was a lie and if they didn’t agree it must be because they lacked integrity and were afraid of losing their jobs. The ill feelings from that era do linger (fanned now by similar behavior by people like Denyse O’Leary and the Uncommon Descent blog), and probably keep more reasonable voices in the ID movement (like Behe, and Gage seemed reasonable here) from getting as gracious a hearing as they deserve. The association with the “culture wars” is another factor in the animosity in both directions.
    Another factor in harsh behavior from the TE side is the “bedfellows” problem — we see how much damage (and turmoil) the “creationist” movement creates in the church and there is the perception that the ID movement gives them aid and comfort. It seems like when the ID movement criticizes fellow Christians, 95% of the time the targets are TEs and maybe 5% the targets are YECs (young-Earth creationists). If those percentages were reversed, I bet TEs would be a lot less defensive and hostile toward ID.

  • I could say “amen” to a lot of the posts above without adding much. I would say it hasn’t been a tension for me, because I grew up in the home of a believing astronomer who taught me that the universe was billions of years old, and that stars form out of condensing hydrogen (he called the process “stellar evolution”), and yet taught a wonderful program in many churches entitled “the Heavens Declare” that included the Psalmist describing the heavens as “the work of thy fingers.”
    The one thing I would clarify is that those who claim Intelligent Design needs a place at the table aren’t acknowledging (at least to my ears) that ID is in many cases a very deliberate stalking horse of young-earth creationists, to use in their attack on “secular” science. To the extent that ID is linked to strident apologists whose other pronouncements seem to parallel my pastor (who said in a sermon about the Bible “if you doubt/disprove one detail, you can’t believe any of it”), ID will in this vein be suspect by the scientific community. Put more bluntly, secular institutions are not going to accept being co-opted into teaching our faith, and in my opinion they should not.
    If we got back to the older meaning of apologetics–not as attack on the other guy’s beliefs, but as an explanation of why we believe what we do–then perhaps the territory here wouldn’t be so fraught. But as long as people seem to feel the need to use science to underpin their faith, and from that position to attack science that doesn’t, the whole discussion is in trouble.
    The best way to really learn about the intelligence and design that are part of the universe, would be to become the best evolutionary biologists on the planet. Then we could, from a perspective of scientific integrity, push out the boundaries of what we can know and observe. This simply can’t be done from a presupposition that it’s all bunk. . .any more than good theology can be done by people who presuppose atheism.

  • Unapologetic Catholic

    “How exactly do genetics prove common descent?
    That is, I agree that it definitely supports the “relationship” idea, and “common origin,” but doesn’t the genetics evidence support common design as much as common descent?”
    I addressed that thoroughly on the other thread when I discussed Tikaliit. Moreover, Behe, the only working scientist advocating ID, agues that genetic evidence comfirms common descent. ALL evolutionary scientist agree with him. Nobody disagrees.
    Edge of Evolution P. 72.
    He also says that ID as he uses that term is fully compatible with evolutionary science:
    “The purposeful design of life to any degree is easily compatible with the idea that, after its initiation, the universe unfolded exclusively by the intended playing out of natural laws.”
    Edge of Evolution p. 232.
    The “common design” argument fails becasue dna is not “identical’ from person to person or from living creature to livign creature. That’s why we execute criminals based on nothing more than DNA evidence. the dna of every livign creature is unique to that creature.
    But…that creature’s DNA is very very similar to the DNA of its parents. It mutates at a known rate. Over time the differences can be calculated. The differencs show there are molcecular clocks in all livimg things and the mutations or “mistakes” in non-coding dna show that more closely related species have more closely related dna than more distant species do.
    A prefect example is human vitamin C deficiency. We know that humans will have to eat viatmin C or suffer rickets. Most other mammals do not have that deficiency. Your dog doesn’t. A pig doesn’t. They manufacture their own vitamin C. You need a gene to do that. Dogs and pigs and most mammals have a workign gene. Humans have the gene too, but it was damaged in our ancestral past. Our DNA shows a non working copy of the gene. The damage was cvaused by a frame shift mutation, a mutation rotinely observed in laboratories.
    What about other primates? What does common design say about their ability to ingest viatmin C? Well they all have the same broken gene humans do. Primates have the same vitamin C deficiency we humans do. The reasonable explanationis a broken gene in acommon ancestor.
    But what does common design say about any other animals with Vitamin C deficiency? Any predictions? Well, it turns otu guinea pigs ahve a vitamin C deficiciency, casued by a broken gene–a diffeernt gene that broek much more recently.
    genitics is so full of similar examples that the slight differences in dna caused by randmom mutations are observable and can be “clocked.” That observable process makes definitive predictions precise enough to confidently send peoeple to death row while a the same time explainging why humans and monkeys and guniea pigs, but not dogs, have vitamin C deficiency.
    Common design is unnecessary. It is possible that angels move planets in orbits around the sun. That possibility cannot be ruled out. But gravity sufficently explains planetary movement. Similarly, evolutionary genetics sufficently explains all known biological phenomona.

  • pds

    Great, thanks. Curious to know what your response would be to this:
    I don’t know enough to vouch for quality of the whole thing.
    Feel free to comment too.
    On “comment-out code” point, the code is left in for a reason by the designer. The reason may not be clear to others. So in biology, it seems like that could still cut either way- common descent or common design.
    On bedfellows- I understand, but that goes both ways too. I have more to say, but it will have to wait.

  • pds

    UC (#45)
    Tiktaalik is a fossil, and it is not clear to me how you think that addresses the genetics question.
    I think there is decent evidence of evolutionary mechanisms producing changes below the level of order. You don’t need to show me more evidence addressing that. What evidence is there at the level of order and above?
    The question is not whether common descent is a “sufficient” explanation of the genetic data. The question is whether the genetic data conclusively proves common descent at all levels of classification, as RJS asserted.
    As I said before, the fossil evidence poses big problems at the higher levels.

  • freelunch

    Casey Luskin and the entire staff of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture are saying whatever they want in their attempts to sell intelligent design. They are unreliable reporters. Please remember that they don’t have a testable hypothesis of intelligent design and have turned down funding to develop and test one. Don’t listen to them when they make any claims about science. They are religious zealots trying to hide their religious doctrines in secular camoflage. Science supporters have shredded the claims of the DI, but that doesn’t stop them from repeating their discredited claims, just as scientific evidence doesn’t stop Young Earth Creationists from repeating their unsupportable claims.
    The question is not whether common descent is a “sufficient” explanation of the genetic data. The question is whether the genetic data conclusively proves common descent at all levels of classification, as RJS asserted.
    Science doesn’t prove things. It gathers information, develops a hypothesis that fits this information, reviews the predictions of this hypothesis and tests that prediction, providing further information. Common descent is the only theory that has passed the test of available evidence, not only 150 years ago, but each time it gets tested as we look for new evidence.
    Common design asserts that a designer exists, yet is completely unable to provide any evidence that such a designer exists and unwilling to develop a test to see if there is a designer. There’s no science in the claims of common design.

  • freelunch

    Yes, I was someone who grew up being taught Young Earth Creationism. When I learned over time that such a doctrine had been proven wrong by the physical evidence and I was unwilling to accept the alternate claim that God intentional is misleading us with the geological and biological evidence, I had to reject the doctrine and joined a church that didn’t teach such things. I eventually realized that I didn’t believe at all, though I doubt that I would have even bothered to question religion if the doctrine of Young Earth Creationism weren’t so demonstrably false and hadn’t led me to question.
    Arguments for teleology and fine tuning of the universe are pretty well meaningless since the assumptions made are critical to the results of the argument. Douglas Adams had a quip about a self-aware puddle that was pleased at the perfection of the pot hole it sat in, perfectly designed for that puddle. We are a result of the universe. There is no reason to argue that the universe intended us to exist.

  • RJS

    I don’t think that science can address the question of teleology. It is a leap of faith to accept the conclusion that there is no meaning, purpose, or direction to our life on earth or existence in the universe. It is a matter of faith to search for meaning and purpose.
    Douglas Adams had a way with words – but that doesn’t mean the quip actually carries any significant meaning.

  • pds

    I encourage you to doubt your doubts like you doubt Christianity. It is too bad you had an unfortunate upbringing. It would be irrational to reject God because of that.
    I encourage you to read Tim Keller’s Reason for God, and question the presuppositions you have adopted to replace Christianity. If you are a thoughtful person, you owe it to yourself to examine everything.
    Douglas Adams’ quip is cute but contains faulty logic. A pothole does not show evidence of design; the universe does. Therefore, the “perfection” of the pothole is a false analogy. I think you can do logic better than that.
    As for common descent, perhaps you can say with specificity what is wrong with Luskin’s arguments, rather than resort to ad hominem attacks.

  • freelunch

    I’m not claiming that science addresses claims about teleology. All that science can address is claims that can be tested and teleology cannot be tested with the total lack of evidence related to the concept currently available. I do argue that the most common arguments for purpose are badly constructed and should not be taken seriously or repeated as support for the idea. I try to avoid assuming that something is true when there is no evidence to support it, but I’m always open to evidence or well-developed arguments.
    I don’t argue that those who believe that there is a purpose to our life or there is a purpose to the universe are wrong, I only ask them to remember that their beliefs in this matter are not supported by evidence or properly constituted arguments. As with faith in God, it is purely a matter of faith.

  • pds

    dop. (39 and 40),
    You said,
    “This is something that particularly bugs me when evangelical apologists use Behe’s arguments to “refute” evolution. They don’t even seem to understand what Behe is actually saying, much less the evidence for evolution / common descent! It’s just irresponsible!”
    We both know that “evolution” means lots of different things. It bugs me too when people don’t explain what they mean. But Behe’s arguments do tend to undermine “evolution” by some definitions.
    I think the term “evolution” is largely worthless in thoughtful discussions. Yet people on both sides use it, and make vast generalizations that are misleading. Did I say both sides? 🙂
    Your comments in #40 are spot on.

  • dopderbeck

    pds — on common descent versus common design — I look forward to RJS’ longer post, but here are my two cents for now: I don’t accept the versus here. I accept that “evolution” is the best explanation for the data, but I don’t think that precludes “design.” Evolution is God’s design. God is sovereign over all of it.
    So why not say God created the genome of each “kind” of creature de novo, using common elements? Because the common elements show a common history. They include useful mutations at common points as well as non-functional insertions, such as bits of viral DNA, at common points. And, we know a great deal about how such mutations and insertions arise “naturally”, and can observe it at work today.
    Perhaps a partial analogy is an orchestral score that has been rearranged for different settings (say, different combinations of instruments, different number of musicians, etc.) over time. The arranger doesn’t create a new score from scratch every time. He takes the existing score and makes changes to it to suit each environment. We could trace the “common descent” of the new arrangements to the original score. (Obviously, the analogy is incomplete because a musical score is not part of a biological organism and can’t change “naturally.”).
    Similarly, I think that any reasonably informed person ought to agree that the multifarious similarities in mutation points and insertions into the genetic code of various organisms shows that there is a common code that has undergone modifications over time — not a code created de novo for different types or kinds of creatures.
    If this is so, then the difference between “theistic evolution” and “progressive creation” in this regard seems to me passingly small. It becomes a pretty esoteric debate about the nature of divine action: can God cause the code to be modified using “natural” causes, or must He have “intervened” like a human composer / arranger? Or could it have been both at various times? And if God did “intervene,” must that necessarily be detectable empirically?

  • dopderbeck

    Freelunch (#49) — Adams’ “puddle” illustration is silly. A very wide variety of pothole configurations can hold a puddle — there is no need for fine tuning. In contrast, our universe could not support life as we know it (and as far as we know, any life at all) if any of a variety of cosmological constants differed by even a tiny amount. Whatever the anthropic principle does or doesn’t mean philosophically or theologically, it’s far more interesting than a pothole.

  • freelunch

    dopderbeck –
    Adams intended to be silly, but his point wasn’t. We are like the puddle in seeing what we want because we are here as a result of things that have happened in the universe.
    The universe is suitable for life. That is obvious because there is life. We can imagine, but cannot show, that there might be other universes that are not suitable for life as we know it. That doesn’t mean that we can draw any conclusions about this. We certainly cannot conclude that the universe exists so life can exist.

  • dopderbeck

    Freelunch (#56) — no, the analogy doesn’t work. The puddle can exist in a wide variety of potholes. We can exist in this universe, and only this universe, with highly particularlized cosmological constants.
    If the point is that there could be other universes with other sorts of life, the puddle analogy doesn’t work. The puddle would then have to say, “well, there could be other non-puddle-things in other non-pothole-things.” That would have nothing at all to do with whether that particular pothole was designed for puddles.
    It is of course conceivable that there could be other universes finely tuned to sorts of life other than carbon-based life — although, the fine-tuning of the cosmological constants seems to suggest nothing but cold empty space if everything isn’t just so. But all you would have then is more than one finely tuned universe, which does nothing to subvert the suggestion of design (indeed, the presence of multiple finely-tuned universes might bolster the notion of design).
    What you really need is the solution many cosmologists propose: a multiverse in which every possible universe is instantiated. “Fine-tuning” in our universe would then be no big deal; it would simply represent the fact that if you roll the dice an infinite number of times, all probabilities are realized. But not only are we now light years from the puddle analogy, we’re outside the realm of empirical science. You can’t, after all, test for the possibility of alternate universes that by definition are not observable.

  • Unapologetic Catholic

    Hi pds,
    I think you need to go back and carefully read my post and all about Tikallit and especiially, if can recommend it again, “Your Inner Fish.” As I explained before……the genetics was used to predict the physical location of a possible transitional fossil between fish and tetrapods. What do you make of the Vitamin C discussion above?
    You say, “You don’t need to show me more evidence addressing that. What evidence is there at the level of order and above?”
    Do you know what an “order” is?
    What “order” do fish belong to?
    What “order” do tetrapods belong to? Tetrapods are a superclass, well above “order. “Pisces” is a a class well above order. So demonstrating a single example of a transitional fossils well above the order level quite satisfies your objections. This is not the only such example, There are many many others. An introductory article that does not even begin to cover all of the fossils that contradict your claim is here: http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CC/CC200.html
    Your use of the term “order” sugggests a fundamental misunderstaning of Linnaean classification. Can I inquire when you last took a biology class? Was it many years ago? Genetics has revolutionized our understanding of biology and demonstrated that the the classifications such as Kingdom, Phylum, Order, Class, Family, Genus and Species are in no way immutable and are essentially man made creations. There are no set numbers of phyla for example and classes and orders are constantly reshuffled based on new genetic evidence. [Pisces in particular ia a very good example of this. The traditional Linnaean classification doesn’t work well for fish. There are now generally recognized five classes of living “fish” for example. Thre are even more classes of extinct “fish.” All of these are above the level of “order” so simply showing evolution from lung fish to amphibians satsifies your search]
    As a general guide the Linnaean classificaiton is still useful, but the 21st century science of cladistics has essentially overtaken the 17th century methods of classification. Here is a brief introductory article if you are not famialir with the work in this area. Caution–this is both brief and introductory. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cladistics

  • pds

    Tiktaalik is a fossil, and I don’t think it represents the kind of genetics evidence RJS was talking about. She can advise in that regard.
    If you look at the Cambrian fossils, the Ediacara fossils, and the entire fossil record, I do not think the entire fossil record supports Darwinian theory at the higher levels of classification, no matter how you group them. When you put Tiktaalik in the context of the entire fossil record, it does not tell us all that much. But it is a very cool fossil, I will grant you that.

  • EricG

    Dopderbeck (#57),
    You say “What you really need is the solution many cosmologists propose: a multiverse in which every possible universe is instantiated. “Fine-tuning” in our universe would then be no big deal; it would simply represent the fact that if you roll the dice an infinite number of times, all probabilities are realized. But not only are we now light years from the puddle analogy, we’re outside the realm of empirical science. You can’t, after all, test for the possibility of alternate universes that by definition are not observable.”
    Agreed that you can’t directly observe multiple universes — just like you can’t directly observe a lot of things in science — but you can empirically test the theories that may require multiple universes. There have been a number of developments in cosmology within the last few years on this point, which are ongoing, so we should be careful, I think. There is a lot of empirical support for inflation, and theoretical proof has been offered that any version of inflation requires an astronomoical number of universes. So it may well be fairly well accepted in the coming years, depending on how things turn out.

  • dopderbeck

    EricG (#60) — yes, observations in our universe can disclose anomalies that can be addressed with mathematical models that propose multiple universes. But those mathematical models are not empirically testable, because by definition we cannot observe alternate universes. As a result, there is a big debate about whether multiverse theories, including inflationary theories, really are “scientific” theories.
    Note that I’m not suggesting that we need to be able to directly observe everything science is capable of theorizing about. Obviously, we can’t directly observe anything that has happened in the past, but we can observe the effects of past events in the present and then make inferences from those effects. So, we can look at fossils, geology, etc., and reasonably conclude dinosaurs roamed the earth millions of years ago. But we cannot really do the same with alternate universes, which would have very different physical laws than our own universe.
    In any event, sure, it’s possible that some version of a multiverse theory is correct, in which case the anthropic principle might not be such a great apologetic argument. But Douglas Adams’ “puddle” analogy fails regardless. At present, it does indeed seem astonishing that we live in a universe so finely tuned to our existence.

  • EricG

    Dopderbeck (#61),
    You say “But those mathematical models are not empirically testable, because by definition we cannot observe alternate universes. As a result, there is a big debate about whether multiverse theories, including inflationary theories, really are “scientific” theories.”
    The way you state that is not exactly correct. There is no debate that inflation is a scientific theory, and it does make predictions that can be empirically verified. In fact, some of its predictions have been verified by the WMAP data.
    And, as you know, the way science works is by testing various predictions of a theory; once it has predicted enough, it is generally accepted, even though each prediction has not been verified — e.g., relativity. Granted, relativity has been tested more than inflation at this point, but if inflation gets to that point (and the evidence is still coming in), then it may reach that level. And if it does, and Alan Guth is right that multiple universes are a required prediction of any version of inflation, then I think folks will be hard pressed to say the idea of multiple universes is unscientific.
    Its also not out of realm of possibility that the effects of multiple universes will be obverserved. Consideration has been given, for example, to whether the gaping hole in the WMAP background radiation was related to another universe. That hasn’t been demonstrated by any means, but my point is that its also not entirely accurate to say that it would never be possible to observe the effects of other universes.
    I agree that the puddle analogy does not work. I don’t agree, however, that the evidence for fine tuning is astonishing, given the work being done on inflation. I worry that in 20 years cosomological fine tuning will be just another ID fad that has been demonstrated likely wrong.

  • G.

    First, I am really impressed by the thinking and reasoning of many of the posters here…I really enjoy reading the debate. Myself, I am highly skilled musically but my science and reasoning skills leave a bit of room for development so I find it difficult to follow the arguments unless I take an inordinate amount of time reviewing /learning all the jargon and concepts bantered here. Certainly changed since I last took a biology class in 1978!
    My question is regards a term used by several posters ; Fine-tuned’ with regards to the Universe being finely tuned for human existence.
    When referring to the universe being ‘finely-tuned for our existence is the definition imply that we are the consummate creation/product/by-product/ of that fine-tunig. That is..are we the reason for the fine-tuning or just a by-product of the fine-tuning?
    In my mind perhaps the universe is actually more-finely tuned for some other life/non-life form that we are not aware of…but maybe it is fine-tuned enough to produce human life.
    Is that a possibility or can we presume that humanity …though still on an evolutionary track really is about the best we can expect from this particular universe?
    Anyway, again, i really enjoy reading some of your posts, I rally admire your reasoning skills and knowledge!!