Atheists and Fundamentalists: Brothers under the Skin

So a while back I did a little series for the Register on Natural Revelation. In the course of it, I compared the seemingly similar arguments for Intelligent Design and St. Thomas’ arguments for the existence of God and noted that the problem with ID is that it is basically a species of God of the Gaps argument. It says “Here is a living system full of specified complexity and here is a rock. We can’t account for the living system apart from design, therefore… well, You Know Who” (they tend to be cagey about coming out and saying “God”.

In short, the argument tends to proceed by means of appeal to Exceptions to the Normal Rules of Nature.

Thomist arguments, on the other hand, don’t appeal to Exceptions to the Rules. They appeal to the fact that there are Rules. In this, they begin with exactly the same assumption as the Sciences: that there are rules of nature and that it is the work of the intellect to understand those rules. (One fun result of this fact was watching atheists in the comboxes laboring to pretends that there are no laws of nature, or that laws of nature change, in order to avoid the possibility of You Know Who.) Basically, Thomas says, “You know that whole metaphysic that fundamentally underlies the scientific enterprise–the one about a lawful orderly nature comprehensible to reason and intellect? Yeah, well, here’s the thing, that metaphysic necessarily points to lawful and orderly Creator.” No appeals to miracles or Exceptions to the Rules or “We can’t explain how living systems arose, therefore God.”

Now the funny thing is that this used to be called Classical Catholic Metaphysics. But when I pointed all this out in the series, I found myself assailed not merely by the Usual Suspect from the Reddit.Atheist crowd, but by Fundamentalized Catholics who seriously charged me with being a Liberal–for defending St. Thomas. They much preferred the arguments of ID felt that I was attacking the Faith by quoting the Angelic Doctor. It was a remarkable triumph of fundamentalism over the Church’s teaching and was, in great measure, fueled by anger that any concession that there was weakness to the ID case was giving aid and comfort to the enemy. The notion that St. Thomas has stood the test of time rather well and that his arguments were, you know, sound was out of the question. The demand was to know Whose Side I was on and the fundamentalist judge, jury and executioner wasn’t interested hearing a lot of high-falutin’ evidence, reasoning, or argument. I was a Liberal. That was that–for defending St. Thomas’ argument.

Now the funny thing is: evolutionists have analogous people in their camp. Here, for instance, is Michael Flynn’s account of some dogmatic simpleton who decided to arraign, not some six day creationist, but Dr. James Shapiro of the University of Chicago’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. His crime? Failure to believe and profess that absolutely every phenomenon in evolution is strictly and solely accounted for by gradual accumulation of random mutations. Mind you, Shapiro is an evolutionist. It’s just that he’s an evolutionist who knows what he’s talking about and therefore is aware of other natural processes that account for changes in living systems.

His inquisitor, however, would have none of it. The Holy Name of Darwin was being blasphemed and so the cry went up that Shapiro was some kind of Creationist or something. Why? Because the suggestion that something besides “randomness” might enter into the process set off Pavlovian acoustic cues in the Inquisitors mind. The opposite of “random” had to be “intelligent” and that must mean Shapiro was opening the door to ID and the God of Tweaking who pops in from time to time to invent a cow or a sea sponge in the DNA workshop out back. Shapiro was giving aid and comfort to the Enemy! Whose side was he *on*?

Treating with things like evidence, reason, and logic went straight out the window. It was a remarkably similar performance to my Fundamental Catholic interlocutors–made all the funnier by the trademark reddit.atheist preference for worshipping rather than using the intellect.

Atheists and fundamentalists: how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity.

  • RelapsedCatholic

    I’ve always insisted that both fundamentalists and new atheists view the Bible more like a dungeon master’s guide rather than a holy book of poetry & scripture.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      +1000 xp to you, sir or ma’am.

  • Coombes Larry

    I am confused about the apparent
    criticism of Intelligent Design theory. From my reading on the
    subject it seems remarkably coherent and in accord with, frankly,
    common sense… which disappeared from Western society at least some
    twenty years ago but…

    ID, while it draws from revelation in
    science in quite stunningly specific and measurable form – (gave me
    a shock actually) – simply states… where you can see complex,
    sequenced information, indeed, mechanism, you would look
    instinctively for the designer.

    In other words, if I wandered through
    the Sahara desert and found a jeep in the middle of nowhere I would
    ask who left the (designed, ordered and constructed) machine there.
    I would not naturally say, “Oh look, a jeep just happened to
    form in perfect working order by the random accretion of sand over
    thousands of years.” Yet the latter approach is applied not only
    to biology by those-that-know-better but also the creation of a
    stunningly well ordered Universe that is actually more complex and
    more ordered than was believed before the19th Century! ID
    theory returns us to blindly obvious, “if it looks designed,
    work like it is designed and no-one can account for how it can work
    without invoking design even when trying to deny it… it was
    probably designed. Which also means there was a designer.”

    ID theory knows its limits, however,
    and recognises that the acknowledgement of complex design data (which
    there does appear to be – have you seen how complex DNA is?)
    screams a designer. But the *nature* of the designer cannot be
    fully known by examining the creator’s fingerprints.
    That makes sense. I can detect complexity in the code of a computer
    program but that tells me little about the nature of the programmer
    as a person. Having said that, ID theory does rather lay waste to the
    Buddhist conception of a God who wandering into our Universe, seemed
    to find it boring and wandered off again in disinterest. Also, ID
    theory actually goes further than theistic evolution, which Mark
    appears to confuse with ID theory, because rather than ‘nudging’
    evolution, ID theory points positively to design, active creation and
    invention way beyond incremental evolution. Indeed, ID theory
    purports to explain the sudden leaps we find in the evolution chain –
    which is not much of a coherent chain actually. The
    explanation is not perfect in that it is not able to show procress,
    but it is able to positively refute randomness. BTW, if we assume a
    Universe of more than 4 dimensions, something string theory strongly
    holds to, then all manner of systems could be operating (including
    angles and demons frankly) in the 5,6,7th
    dimensions upon the 4 we can perceive which we could never detect
    meaning there would always be a ‘gap.’ Catching up on the limits of
    AlI I have to say that this theory holds a lot of weight with me and
    leaves room for a soul existing in a 5th
    dimension in parallel with our known four.

    ID theory is not a God of the Gaps
    argument. Seriously. If that were the case it would not have the data
    behind it that it does. On the contrary ID theory extrapolates from
    the evidence – the very nature of cells, the very nature of DNA,
    the very nature of the Universe. I do not see a conflict with St
    Thomas. ID theory speak actively of *design* and distinguishes
    specifically between the crudeness of a rock which does not contain
    complex, sequenced information and, thus, could be random, and DNA
    which is so damn complex, perfectly sequenced and statistically (and, frankly causally) could not have come together randomnly by chance
    and, as such, one can ACTIVELY deduce a creator. That’s not a God of
    the Gaps argument, nor is it in conflict with Thomas. ID theory supports constant, ongoing design and creation.

    I am not a scientist, I am not an ID
    theorist but even I can grasp what the theorists are saying by
    reading their books and they have a point. Methinks there is a
    misunderstanding here as to what ID theory is. It sure as hell is not
    creationism and sure as hell is not God of the Gaps. Design is not
    described as a mysterious process but as something we can detect. The
    Church has been saying this from the beginning. ID theory backs the
    Church up. I don’t see why ID theory needs a bashing. I
    really do not get the problem here.

    Am I missing something here?

    • Dave G.

      I think people criticize what has been done with it, rather than the observation that the order and complexity of things suggests an intelligent design. That’s what some mean when they say intelligent design, and I”m inclined to agree.

      • Jedinovice

        Exactly! That’s is all ID is doing. If people want to establish a theology from ID theory that is their business but NOT what ID is about.

        All ID theory is about is the logical inference from clear features of design in creation. The actual PROCESS (which people are screaming for) does not need to be shown. ID theory, in a way, is anegative theory.

        Design – not atheism.

        Process = what we can deduce but, the very nature of ID theory, indeed, concepts of the spiritual, means that the process of creation/design may be outside our ability to detect. As with AI, if man is only a 4 dimensional being then, in theory, a computer wil eventually be able to be made to think. But if mad has a soul that operates outside the 4 dimensions then a computer can never think because we cannot construct a soul. We cannot physically detect a soul by instruments, we can only deduce from operation. The atheist will always scream that we must show the soul on an X-Ray but that’s their problem.

        People are making it way harder than it is.

        BTW, Jedinovice=CoombesLarry. I am being logged in with different avatars on different machines for some reason.

    • http://www.subcreators.com/blog Lori Pieper

      Thank you, Larry. I am not a scientist either, and have read very little of what the specific scientists in question say (some of Michael Behe I have read), and I would be lying if I said I understood it completely, but it seems to me that what the IDer’s are saying is that if we find that something in an organism is so complex it couldn’t have arisen by chance, because the first step in the design has to take into account all the subsequent ones, then the whole organism must have been designed from the beginning. There might not be clear evidence of design in less complex things, but that we can infer design in those cases. I don’t think they are saying that we can deny design in rocks, just that we can’t prove it from them.

      The natural deduction I made from this is that if anything in nature is clearly designed, then everything is, since what is true of the complex organism is very likely to be true of the overarching design we can see in the cosmos as a whole, which is enormously complex and balanced among its interlocking parts. The alternative explanation — that some things in the universe are made by the designer, but huge chunks of it are outside its/his design and completely random — seems monumentally silly to me, and I don’t see how anyone would make it.

      Naturally, scientists as scientists, cannot go further in the speculations than “there is evidence of a design here and here, and hence of a designer,” without going into metaphysics. That is the realm with all the above data must be put together when we want to discuss God and the nature of creation. Scientists themselves, speaking as scientists, can’t do it. So we don’t get a completely clear picture in either realm. They have to be put together. Perhaps that is why ID is easy to attack both scientifically and religiously. But I just don’t see ID as saying what its detractors do — and we have to keep in mind that not all supporters of ID are saying the same things.

      I myself rather like the idea of C. S. Lewis that God set in motion the first event of creation (the Big Bang?), and made it to be of such a nature that it unfolded with all the complex design that we see around us. He could have made it of another nature, and it would have unfolded differently. All of the design is in the first act. It is mind-boggling and far beyond me. But I think it comports well with ID as I understand it. I may be entirely wrong, of course.

      • Ye Olde Statistician

        if we find that something in an organism is so complex it couldn’t have arisen by chance…

        But how can you know that it couldn’t? People once thought that lightning could not arise by chance, so it had to be an act of Zeus. What if things arise not by chance — chance is never a cause of anything, it is only a confession of epistemological ignorance — but by various laws of physics and chemistry? The IDer has painted himself into an intellectual corner.
        http://guweb2.gonzaga.edu/faculty/calhoun/socratic/Tkacz_AquinasvsID.html

        • http://www.subcreators.com/blog Lori Pieper

          I may be quite ignorant, but this is another thing I don’t understand. While the laws of physics (say, gravity) can be used to explain why bodies do what they do, can be expressed in mathematical relations, and even be used to predict events, I don’t see how the laws themselves can cause events to be.

          Didn’t Hawking somewhere say that the law of gravity brought about the universe? But the force itself that acts on bodies is not the law of gravity, but simply gravity. The law of gravity itself can’t exist until both gravity and bodies for it to act on exist. So I don’t see how a certain mathematical relation can cause things to be or direct events. This is another principle I remember from C. S. Lewis. It certainly sounds sensible to me.

          You can, of course, say that gravity causes things to happen – but that’s simply to say that events in the chain of events bring about other events. And it is the existence of these events that requires explanation.

          I guess we humans are made such that we know in some way that design requires intelligence, or if you will, mind. It’s a bit much to expect the laws of physics and chemistry to do that job.

          Of course, there is probably something here I’m not seeing — but then I remind myself that plenty of intelligent people are not convinced either.

          (Up above, of course, I meant not just “chance” but “natural selection.”

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            A scientific law is a description of some regularity in natural phenomena. As such, the phenomena are prior to the law. Laws are just words. So Hawking’s claim that the world was brought about by the “law of gravity” amounts to “in the beginning was the word….”

            What gravity “is” we don’t know. The idea that it is a force is out of style. The presence of mass distorts the tensor field that makes up space-time and these curvatures are experienced by us as “attractions.” IOW, there is no gravity unless there is mass-energy, so gravity cannot be the cause of space-time. It only orders it once mass exists.

          • UWIR

            I don’t see how there’s anything in your post that applies to laws, but does not apply to this “designer” concept. Take, for instance, the watchmaker argument. If I find a watch, and ask what caused it, and you say “A watchmaker made it”, does that answer my question? What does it mean “A watchmaker made it”? You can go through the process of making a watch, and say things like “A watchmaker put a spring in it to drive the timing mechanism”, but then I just ask why a spring is capable of driving a timing mechanism, and what causes the watchmaker to be able to recognize that a spring is capable of driving a timing mechanism. The only reason ID appears to not lead to an infinite regress of “Well, what caused that?” is that ID simply evades saying what the creator actually is.

            • http://www.subcreators.com/blog Lori Pieper

              As I noted up above, scientists (wisely) don’t do metaphysics and the ultimate cause and nature of the designer is a metaphyscal question. Metaphysics does have answers to those questions, if you seek them out from good philosophers. Theology is there and waiting too.

            • Jedinovice

              UWIR – you need to have the last word so I will give it to you. I am generous like that.

              I have made my point to all and am bailing out. I do not have time to be an apologist.

              But, for the amusement of other readers…

              It was in a play.. I forget the name and the writer, but, it was pointed out that:

              Once an arrow leaves the bow it must travel half the distance to its target. It must, however, first travel half the distance before that, and half that distance, and half that distance, and half that distance again in an infinite regress which means that no longbow archer of Merrie England ever shot in arrow in history.

              Cue credits. Final words from UWIR to follow.

        • Obpoet

          Chance is never the cause of anything? Ever considered the random assortment of genes?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            The genes may cause something, but “chance” does not. This is the error of “reifying an abstraction.” Besides, it is not clear that an assortment of genes is “random” or the result of determined laws of heredity, intra-genetic repair mechanisms, and the like.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      if I wandered through the Sahara desert and found a jeep in the middle of nowhere I would ask who left the (designed, ordered and constructed) machine there.

      Largely because the components of a jeep do not naturally come together the way that the parts of an organism naturally grow from the whole organism. You would not normally ask the same question of a stone — but you should.

      All that “specified complexity” crap buys into the Modern Ages paradigm of “dead matter” and sees everything as analogous to machines. But to Thomas Aquinas, even a stone was more marvelous than a machine.

    • http://hjg.com.ar/ Hernán J. González

      > does not contain complex, sequenced information and, thus, could be random, and DNA which is so damn complex, perfectly sequenced and statistically (and, frankly causally) could not have come together randomnly by chance and, as such, one can ACTIVELY deduce a creator. That’s not a God of the Gaps argument

      As I understand it, it plainly is. The moment one says “it could not have come together by chance” we are pretending to infer an additional (efficient) cause to fill the gap. I just can’t buy it.

    • UWIR

      To go through your entire long, rambling post and point out all the errors would take a rather long time, so I’ll just quote this part:

      “I would not naturally say, “Oh look, a jeep just happened toform in perfect working order by the random accretion of sand over
      thousands of years.” Yet the latter approach is applied not only
      to biology by those-that-know-better but also the creation of a
      stunningly well ordered Universe that is actually more complex and
      more ordered than was believed before the19th Century!”

      That is simply not at all the position of mainstream scientists, and it shows your dishonesty that you’re resorting to such straw men. If you think there’s an argument to be made for ID, you should be able to present it in a reasonably sized explanation without logical fallacies.

      • Jedinovice

        Note: I am making a case for ID against those who state that it is at odds with Thomism. My pasts have been for the Thomists, not the atheists. I am not making case for ID for the sake of atheists. I used an analogy to describe what ID is doing, NOT how it is done. If an atheist wishes to know about the case for ID theory then they should read the ID theoriests. My posts are for the Thomists, not the atheists. That is not my beef today.

        Er, the charge of dishonesty would only apply I were attempting to make a postive case for ID theory to atheists which I HAVE NOT BEEN DOING. If I am wrong on a matter of fact, I can be corrected, but charging me with dishonesty is… an interesting form of dialogue that is sure to attract many listeners to your case.

        Now if you want to argue against the ID theoriests as an atheist then go and read (and debate) the actual ID theoriests. My point was that ID theory is NOT intrinsically opposed to Thomism. Period. End. Finish. I am not advocating ID theory to atheists. Not here, not today. Frankly I would rather the ID theoriests and scientists speak for themselves and not have me muck it up for them. So be grateful that I am not advocating ID theory for the likes of you. :-) All I will say is that, however much the likes of Richard Dawkins protests how much more rational his belief system is to religion, when grilled it is amazing how much the word ‘chance’ comes up when explaining the complexity of creation. Personally, after a while, when ‘chance’ is envoked enough times, be it under clever language, long words and attached to ‘science’ I start to get suspiscious.

        But this is a Catholic Blog post and I was posting to fellow Catholics. If you want to tackle ID theory go here to start with:

        http://www.intelligentdesign.org/

        There you can read, hear and understand in their own words and refute the source!!!
        BTW, Jedinovice=CoombesLarry. I am being logged in with different avatars on different machines for some reason.

        • UWIR

          So, there are Thomists who take an approach that is analogous to “”Oh look, a jeep just happened toform in perfect working order by the random accretion of sand overthousands of years.” “? Also, it’s a bit odd that you apparently don’t know who Zeno is.

  • Coombes Larry

    >AlI I have to say that this theory holds a lot of weight with me and
    leaves room for a soul existing in a 5th

    Sorry, typo. i am useless typist and proof reader. It should read…

    …AI (as in Artificial Intelligence) I have to say that this theory holds a lot of weight with me

  • Silly Interloper

    I always love Michael Flynn. Shapiro’s book on evolution is fascinating, though further reading is required to understand a lot of the technical details.

    I think you are mostly correct about the God of the Gaps problems with the majority of ID apologetics, but I do believe the argument of irreducible complexity has merit. Not because it identifies any particular gap, but because it appeals to the obvious.

    This bears out in my discussions with atheists. When asked about the proverbial Learjet being found in a distant galaxy, an atheist will generally agree that it is an obviously designed and made object. And it is obvious for any sane human being because it’s irreducibly complexity simply doesn’t allow the possibility that it happened by chance. Life is full of irreducibly complex systems that go far beyond the complexity of the Learjet. Why atheists cannot see the obvious in microscopic systems is a mystery to me. Everyone occasionally learns obvious things that they couldn’t see before, so I think with many atheists it is inadequate vision.

    Every philosophical position relies upon certain things that are simply obviously true. Once you understand Platonic forms, they are obvious premises on which to begin.

    One of the reasons I like the argument of irreducible complexity is that, as Chesterton liked to say, even the corner grocer can do philosophy, and the obvious designed nature of irreducibly complex systems easily appeals to the grocer.

    Of course, there are varying degrees of strength in such arguments, and in some contexts it may not be strategically efficient. But for what it’s worth, I tend to like it–and, besides, the array of biological systems that fit the ticket are just plain cool!

    • UWIR

      “And it is obvious for any sane human being because it’s irreducibly complexity simply doesn’t allow the possibility that it happened by chance.”

      It’s “its”, not “it’s”. And a Lear jet is not “irreducibly complex”. You clearly don’t understand what the phrase “irreducibly complex” means, and apparently are just throwing out phrases that you’ve heard without bothering to understand them. And the “irreducible complexity” argument has been clearly refuted, so your reliance on it is just beating a dead horse.

  • Elmwood

    ID is philosophy, not science, though it may be based on scientific observations. Evolution is science and it is pretty much a scientific fact. Fundies can’t distinguish science and philosophy. Each have their places and boundaries which have to be respected. ID and creationism have absolutely no place in science class, but could be taught in a philosophy class.

    Listen to climate scientist when it comes to climate science and the Holy Fathers of our church when it comes to faith and morals.

    • Coombes Larry

      Elmwood, I am going to be away for the next few days, certainly not able to post so I have to call it a day now but…

      1) I would argue that ID is NOT Philosophy and but a method of scientific deduction and extrapolation – and why it is not a threat to Catholicism. But I will accept that this is is arguable.
      2) Evolution, certainly in terms of rank atheistic evolutionary theory is so shot full of holes it is unreal. That is NOT in doubt! Modern evolutionary theory fails dramatically in terms of solid evidence (fruit fly experiments anyone?… Which the BBC in their arrogance claimed proved Darwin right???!!!) falsifiability, prediction and a mass of other things. Modern ‘evolution’ is much more a philosophy than a science today, I can assure you. Actually, it’s rather a religion from which one can be branded a heretic for not believing. That’s why it is guarded from threats such as ID theory or any other questioning of the orthodoxy. The latest findings on DNA give evolution a massive kick in the teeth too. I am not a 6 day creationist, by the way, and I can see evolution in terms of natural development, but not by random materialistic processes. Instead, I see a God designing and developing the Universe and living things – and I think he works by processes in dimensions we cannot measure, personally…)
      3) If by climate science you mean global warming… speaking as a one time terrified Global Warmist, I can tell you now, the whole ‘climate science’ you (seem to) speak off is a con job. Again, the data on that is legion but global temperature have been declining since 1998. Also, I was around in 1989 when I was told Bangeldesh would be underwater by 1999. Oh, and CO2 is a minimal greenhouse gas. The major greenhouse gas is water vapour followed by methane… but nobody tells you that. So even if we doubled CO2 in the atmosphere the effect on the Earth’s temperature would be… zero And the polar ice caps are larger and thicker than ever…

      Yes, let us listen to scientists when it comes to science but let it please be real science and not ideology pretending. I am not having a go at you on this. I am assuming you are not not aware of where the science is really going. The Mainstream media are not helpful on matters of science or religion… or news… or information or… uplifting entertainment these days. In fact, I’ve given up on Western reporting and I get my data from the internet and watch inspiring Japanese anime these days!

      Anyway to get you started:

      http://www.evolutionnews.org/2012/07/what_are_the_to_1062011.html [Picked at random]

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtevF4B4RtQ [A must see and I stunned it was allowed to be shown in the UK, which has closed down it's power stations to prevent global warming. Smart...]

      But google will turn up loads of data.

      • Elmwood

        i believe that human nature is inherently good, but prone to sin. therefore, i trust climate scientists when nearly all of them believe in AGW just like i trust geophysicists when they all say the solid earth is seismically anisotropic.

        many GOPers, who seemingly believe that human nature is inherently sinful, come to a different conclusion: AGW is a fraud on a massive scale and amounts to a conspiracy to grift money away from the makers. people of common sense would probably at the very least take seriously what climate scientist say about AGW rather than adhering to a form of scientific gnosticism.

        what most deniers imply is that nearly all the climate scientists are liars and have been bought off by NSF grants. i think this is very insulting to scientists who work very hard at getting their PhDs, not to mention insulting to human nature itself.

        Pope Francis: “God always forgives, we sometimes forgive, but when nature – creation – is mistreated, she never forgives!”. We have also witnessed the devastating effects of several recent natural disasters. In particular, I would mention once more the numerous victims and the great devastation caused in the Philippines and other countries of Southeast Asia as a result of typhoon Haiyan.

        interesting that Pope Francis mentions typhoon Haiyan in context of how nature doesn’t forgive when it’s mistreated. i wonder what he is talking about??

        let’s all drop the protestant baggage (ID, GOPism, creationism, climate denialism, the cult of mammon and mars) and embrace science within its proper sphere of knowledge and our Holy Father Francis in his sphere of knowledge: faith and morals: i.e. how we treat creation and how we treat each other.

      • UWIR

        “Modern ‘evolution’ is much more a philosophy than a science today, I can assure you.”

        You “assure” me? Oh, well, if some random person on the internet claims something, with no evidence at all, I guess that trumps the widespread consensus of thousands of scientists!

  • Neil N.

    For those confused on the conflict between Thomists and ID advocates, Edward Feser’s book “The Last Superstition” as well as the relevant posts on his blog are essential reading. Francis Beckwith has some articles on his site about it as well. Put simply, ID argues from a mechanistic account of nature to arrive at its conclusions; an account of nature that is, if Thomists are right (and I think they are), demonstrably false. You simply cannot make a sound argument from a false premise. Furthermore, even if you granted the philosophy of nature that ID advocates argued from, there is simply no way to deduce many essential divine attributes from ID premises (divine simplicity, immutability, etc.), that are essential to a Catholic understanding of God and of classical theism more generally. The best you could get is an extremely powerful “god”.

    • Coombes Larry

      I think we need to be careful not throw the baby out with the bathwater here. I also think people are confusing a theory of scientific discovery (yes, discovery) and theology. The conflict between IS theory and Thomism appears to me to be an issue of verifiability. The ID theorists by necessity in their field have to draw limits on how they can verify something.

      As a note: I accept that. Christianity claims to be verifiable. I remember clearly in 1987 a BBC program stating that there was no historical evidence for stories of the Old testament. They interviewed some jews who stated this did not matter.
      “You cowards.” I muttered. “Of course it matters. Have some faith and wait for the evidence to appear.” Ten years later David Rohl appears and seems to resolve the issue of evidence with a new Egyptian Chronology – in one of the last UK Channel 4 pro-religion documentaries ever. Not on youtube alas. :-( Segments are there.

      Now, David Rohl is British and, thus, not a religious believer. He does not believe in the Christian God. But does that make his theory regard the Egyptian Chronology just wrong? Do we throw out the findings because the man’s theology is not ours? Personally, I value the ;hostile witness’ – though to Rohl’s credit he is not religion hostile unlike the vast majority in the UK these days.

      Anyway, if the ID theorist has to verify design then he must allow room for alternatives. Otherwise, there is no verifiability. That is the scientific method. Therefore, the possibility for atheistic alternatives must be on the table if only to act as controls. A mechanistic model of the Universe is a working model. It does not denote a theology and I think some Catholics are confusing theology with scientific modelling.

      [Hey, if the Universe is made up 10 dimensions as per strong theory, there are six dimensions which could be acting on the Universe which we cannot perceive and cannot measure. Those dimensions could well be spiritual in nature but it means that every single model of the Universe we use for day to day extrapolation and operation is flawed! But what can we do but work with what we got?]

      But ID theory does not presuppose that the Universe is *not* bound by the nature of God and not designed for a purpose. It simply has limits on what it can prove – but that is true of all disciplines. I have to retain my Asian students to grasp that the limit of all knowledge is not math, science and business studies as I introduce them to logic, critical reasoning and… essays!!! It’s quite a culture shock.

      Even if the ID theorist is incorrect in their presuppositions, the data reported by the likes of Demeski et al need not be despised. Indeed, evidence of complex, sequenced information is confirmation of Thomism – that the Universe is naturally ordered insofar as we can see CSI in nature. Even if the ID theorists are wrong in their conclusions, the Church can correct and ID theorists have not shown themselves to be antagonistic to theism. Indeed, most ID theorists ARE theists!

      I think people are confusing ID which is a scientific theory extrapolating from data from a theology. ID theorists actually DISTANCE themselves from any specific theology because they acknowledge their research can only go so far. ID theory is a theory of scientific deduction and more intuitive than Quantum Physics. It is not a theology and does not assume to prove OR DISPROVE the nature of the designer. ID theory can point towards Thomism but it cannot perfectly confirm it either. Besides, even if the ID theorists are in error in theology it does not follow that their data is intrinsically wrong. One of the pointers to me that ID was onto something was ‘wasted DNA’ There was the belief that because man had evolved from a single ancestor, certain ‘redundant’ RNA in our DNA were remnants from our past ancestors. This theory became the basis of a Star Trek TNG episode. Anyway, the ID theorists argued that because man was designed and did NOT evolve as per rank Darwinism, the so called redundant RNA would turn out to have a use.

      Turns out they were right and that RNA ended up being forms of shift or control keys, INCREASING the level of complexity and blowing away the materialistic Darwinian prediction. Natch. [I've just found out that the 'wasted RNA' is even more complex than was believed thus increasing the complexity of DNA and confirming the ID theorist’s predictions!]

      But also, ID theory is NOT just about gaps! I am not sure where people get this notion from. It is extrapolation from data. When you have a piece of computer code more complex than the entire mass of COBOL (now becoming Java) code using by the entire world’s banking systems combined in DNA and is self replicating… the ID theories do just go “You can’t explain it so god” they say, “Look Sunshine, this is DESIGNED!!!!” And they then go through the principles of design and how it can be detected. That’s rather more than the God of the Gaps. That’s the God of “Staring you in the face intelligence.”

      So even if ID theory does not go so far to show the very nature of God (which was never the purpose of ID work) it does not mean that ID theory is not relevant to the Christian or any honest enquirer. I mean, astronomy – a very Catholic science historically – does not prove the God of Thomism but it does not have to. It is a discipline in it’s own right with limits. We do not go, “Oh, astronomy does not prove a creator God with perfect Divine nature with perfect justice and perfect mercy, therefore astronomy is rubbish.” I think people are getting confused between theology, enquiry and falsifiability. ID theories have to admit to how far they can go in terms of falsifiability. That does not equate to a rejection of Thomism nor does it concede anything to atheism AT THE LEVEL OF PHILOSOPHY. We are talking about scientific verifiability where a mechanistic model of the Universe is assumed for the purpose of testing and verification.

      I do think people are confusing two different things here. ID theory cannot prove the Christian God outright. It does not pretend that it can prove the nature of any God. But ID theory also does not conflict with Thomism. On the contrary, I would argue that ID theory merely gives empirical evidence for Thomism we want to say that irreducible complexity proves nothing at all at which point we concede everything to the atheist.

      • Dave G.

        Thank you for your posts. I don’t comment too much, since I’m no scientist and don’t have much to do but quote others. But what you’ve written has been very informative. .

      • Newp Ort

        “That’s rather more than the God of the Gaps. That’s the God of ‘Staring you in the face intelligence.’”

        But that whole approach IS the God of the Gaps – no other explanation, must be God (or “designer” if you will). It means an interventionist God that has to step in and tweak his creation in order for it to produce life.

        As I understand it, Thomists say that life could have started and evolved as natural processes if god imbued matter with that power at the time of creation. God is the source of all order in the universe, creator of all of nature, so his creation could produce life and ultimately us, if he wills it, without him having to step in partway through the process and throw in some designed bits because his creation couldn’t have done it otherwise.

        • Coombes Larry

          No. We are talking about observation. The assumption that God steps in and ‘tweaks’ his creation ASSUMES ID is talking in those terms. That is not the case. I do think people misunderstand here.

          ID is a process of deducing from data, NOT arguing for a specific process. ID detects when PURELY natural, atheistic mechanisms with no design, just pure randomness is assumed. The ‘Gaps’ are ‘Gaps’ when atheistic materialism is assumed. ID theory assumes design and attempts to show evidence of design BUT DOES NOT ASSUME TO EXPLAIN THE MECHANICAL PROCESS FULLY.

          ID theory is about doing away with atheistic assumptions of randomness and ‘chance’ and deducing positive evidence for design. The end, no further, finish. The process beyond that is NOT identified and cannot be assumed to be identified. PROCESS IS NOT DEFINED and not assumed to be known. ‘Fine tuning’ is an OPTION but not confirmed. ID theory is limited in it’s claims. It postulates but does not assert.

          ID theory goes to disprove randomness and show that there is clear order and design sufficient to effectively show a creator – and a creative creator at that.

          End. Finish. Period. People start to get jumpy when they think that ID theory is attempting to impose a particular theology when it isn’t. ID theory is not pro-Christianity or anti-Christianity. It is a LIMITED PROCESS OF DEDUCTION. People are taking this way too far thinking it establishes an anti-Christian, alternative theology when it AVOIDS theology!!! Of course ID theory is not Christianity! It is not supposed to be. So let’s take it on it’s own terms and use the deductions it makes.

          As I say, all manner of operations could be operating on the physical Universe in other dimensions that we cannot perceive – all in line with Thomism. Sure, all matter can have an intrinsic nature but that nature may well go beyond what we can perceive and measure, unless one wants to be a closed 4 dimensional materialist.

          Hell, as theists, we appeal to operations in the natural in terms of a soul, which explain free will, conscience, etc, etc which we accept cannot be detected by instruments that work in 4 dimensions. So ID theory comes alone, shows a ‘gap’ (actually, far more than a gap, they show CSI and design attributes) and say, “Look – evidence of design.” Then they stop there!!! That’s it!!! End. This is not in opposition of Thomism. Fer cryin’ out, that’s not hard to accept. Any process that cannot be explained on PURELY material grounds – a gap – could be explained by operations in the spiritual which would be part of a larger Universe we cannot perceive. That is, by the way, an intrinsic part of Christian belief and in line with Thomism. ID theory loses when it attempts to explain a ‘gap’ and when it doesn’t. Head I win, tail you lose. It can be criticised on both sides because it’s work has specified, defined limits.

          “So is the software working?”
          “Yup, I’ve been black boxing it all day and the results are good to go.”
          “So, how did you get to extract the compressed data from the flat file with speed?”
          “How should I know? Ask the developer. I’m just the tester.”

          ID theorists are the testers – got it?

          ID theory is about “the design inference.” That’s it. It is a LIMITED field of research that stops when philosophy must take over. It is not a theology and should not be treated as one. Once we assume that matter could have properties that ‘overflow’ into other dimensions (a very Christian theory) then any apparent conflict between Thomism and ID theory goes away. Creation has properties beyond all that we can measure… I kind of think that stands to reason and shows why science cannot and will not explain everything.

      • UWIR

        “There was the belief that because man had evolved from a single ancestor, certain ‘redundant’ RNA in our DNA were remnants from our past ancestors. ”

        The phrase “RNA in our DNA” is completely nonsensical. There is no such thing as RNA in DNA. You clearly have no understanding of genetics, yet you apparently expect us to find some random nonsense spouted by some random person on the internet, with no citations whatsoever, to be more persuasive than the entire weight of the scientific establishment.

  • http://worldinfocus.net/ Colin Morrison

    So based on the dogmatic performance of one atheist, atheists are all just like fundamentalists? Pathetic.

    • Hezekiah Garrett

      You’re correct, of course, that was a pathetic strawman you erected. What I cannot fathom is why parade it before the public?

      • http://worldinfocus.net/ Colin Morrison

        Observe the fallacy of generalisation:

        “Atheists and fundamentalists: how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity.”

        Not “some atheists”. Just atheists.

        Your attempt to portray my point as a strawman is itself a straw man.

        I’m all for respectful dialogue. I acknowledge some atheists are not very bright or logical. But I’ll not for a minute let ugly smears like this pass.

        • Hezekiah Garrett

          While it doesn’t say “some atheists”, it also doesn’t say “all atheists”. You choose this inference, it isn’t implicit.

          Haste generates error.

          • http://worldinfocus.net/ Colin Morrison

            It could be read that way. In which case, what is the point of this entire article? The title screams clickbait.

            I saw it as a continuance of the “atheism as a fundamental religion” narrative which has no serious traction anywhere outside of USA (hello from godless UK btw). Happy if in this case I’m wrong.

            • Dave G.

              Do atheists use religious language, speak of starting atheist churches, and typically use tactics often associated with religious fundamentalists (like ignoring clear evidence or using lame arguments and generalizations that anyone outside the clique wouldn’t buy for a minute) anywhere else other than the USA? Just curious. My experience is only here where there are atheists who do such things in numbers, and seem quite proud of it. Visit the Friendly Atheist blog for example. Except for the title and the subject matter, you could be forgiven for thinking that you’ve stumbled on a variation of Jack Chick’s blog network.

              • http://worldinfocus.net/ Colin Morrison

                Atheists don’t organise quite as they do in USA because it simply isn’t an issue. It’s all over for theism in much of Europe. Most people simply don’t think about religion that much.

                I’m one of the few that cares because I’m in a corner of the UK with a serious creationist problem – same one you have really. Next door in Eire, they are busy throwing off the shackles of the Vatican – fast becoming one of the most secular nations in Europe. Women’s reproductive rights and secular education are the battlegrounds there.

                Most atheists here think the Sunday Assembly is absurd, and while I can’t say all our arguments are perfect, I’d hardly say we’re struggling. What passes for apologetics here is sorry stuff indeed.

                I’m familiar with Hemant Mehta (he’s often the blog linked when the latest story of fundamentalist nuttery breaks out in USA), and your description bears no resemblance.

                • Dave G.

                  Probably true. Victors throughout history almost always behave differently than they did when they were challengers. BTW, I had to stop visiting the ironically titled Friendly Atheist blog because I couldn’t bear to read the things said about my wife and children that were being written. As for the content, yeah, it’s every bit that. Most of it is ‘look how awesome atheists are, look how rotten religious types are because religion is like dumb.’ Though in honesty, Mr. Mehta is probably leaps and bounds better than most (most, not all, but most) who comment or guest post on his blog. I hope you can recognize that.

                  • http://worldinfocus.net/ Colin Morrison

                    If I had to rank atheist sites and blogs in terms of aggressive words and intent, Mehta’s would be well off the lead. Could you reference some of these attacks on your family? A search term is enough.

                    And while I agree religion is bizarre/contorted/occasionally idiotic, that does not extend necessarily to its believers. It is possible to be, simply, wrong. I’ve never known that blog to suggest anything else, though I’m not an avid reader.

                    • Dave G.

                      I’d have to go back and search. It’s been almost a year since I was there. You’ll either have to take my word or think I’m full of it and making it up. The gist of the blog, again, is the gist of far too many today: our kind is awesome (see story), their kind is horrible (see story). Not really arguing anything. Mostly preaching to the choir.

    • chezami

      No.Based on zillions of similar performances.

  • Obpoet

    I am wondering if this is guilty of an “either or” argument when the truth is “both and”.

  • Mike

    ID is a philosophy of science really. It of course is concerned with science but i don’t think it is a necessary part of it. If it inspires you to do better science to believe that you are “reading the mind” of God, good; i think that too. But marveling at the complexity is not science. There are many many laws at play, interacting with each other and acting on us, not least of which is the moral law written “on our hearts” and into our DNA. Most i suspect, just a guess, we haven’t found yet, we haven’t discovered them; they remain covered up waiting for some one to dig them up and describe and explain how they operate. There are laws of supply and demand and laws of gravity, it would be supremely weird if there were no law giver; but that conclusion is not a scientific conclusion per se. You don’t need to posit God to do science but science it self implies a grand designer. God is the God of the whole show not a repair man who is flying around the universe and tinkering with things.

  • Psycho Gecko

    It’s pretty well understood that an intelligence can direct evolution. Man has bred animals and plants in such a way as to suit his needs, after all. We wouldn’t have corn without this, to name one example.

    The problem often arises that people then go on to say “Ok, so it is possible…which means some being that I’m totally saying isn’t the Christian god *wink wink* did it to humanity, despite the lack of any evidence to back up this claim.”

    Some of us atheists are fundamentalists, though, if by fundamentalists you mean our obsession with actually having evidence for what we believe. And we can also do that predicting thing. If Intelligent Design was really so scientific, then is it going to tell us what this omnipotent and omniscient director of evolution is going to make things evolve into next? Or is it just another Creationist rationalization reworded to try and fit into science classrooms (See: cdesign proponentsists)?

    • http://www.likelierthings.com/ Jon W

      I think by the term “fundamentalist”, Mark means someone who holds to a very limited understanding of what constitutes reality and refuses to even consider the existence of that which is not describable within their system.

      Atheists who are so impressed by the truth of (say) evolution that they insist that all of human life is completely explicable as a function of meaningless variation and absolutely contingent selection would count as “fundamentalists” by Mark’s definition. They are the Sheldon Coopers of the world: because of their almost complete grasp of the reality that they do acknowledge, they have a difficult time recognizing even the existence of that which lies beyond this system. This kind of people exists in theistic religions as well as in university science departments.

      *edit*
      It’s the Dunning-Kruger effect (just learned that), but applied to one’s whole life.

  • UWIR

    What exactly is the point of this article? That there exists unreasonable atheists? That’s hardly an earth-shaking revelation. And even so, this article doesn’t even manage to really give a good case for that. All Mark does is post a link to someone else talking about someone supposedly being unreasonable (and this link itself is rather poorly documented).

    The difference between atheism and Christianity is that while atheism is compatible with being unreasonable, Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular stands for being unreasonable. Shapiro’s alleged persecutors are just random people on the internet who have not done anything more than post critical comments. Galileo, on the other hand, received a punishment quite a bit more severe than having people say mean things about him, and it wasn’t from some random Catholic, but from the official representative of Catholicism. Cranston, Rhode Island, is 82% Catholic, and they re-elected Peter G. Palumbo, a Catholic, even though he called a girl “an evil little thing” for objecting to a religious school banner. The Knights of Columbus and the Catholic League both are quite intolerant of other points of view. So, on the one hand, Mark has found some random people on the internet, while on the other hand, we know that at least 96% of Catholics in Cranston voted for a bigot.

    • Jedinovice

      >The difference between atheism and Christianity is that while atheism is compatible with being unreasonable, Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular stands for being unreasonable.

      Unreasonable Catholics?. OK, let me see your Galileo example and your Craston example and raise you the 300 million dead (rough, CONSERVATIVE estimate) in the 20th Century due to atheistic societies. Pol Pot alone reduced the population of Cambodia by 30% in 3 years flat.

      Let me also raise you the slave labour camps, indoctrination centers which made the Spanish Inquisition look like a comfy chair – and the actual *Catholic* Inquisition WAS a comfy chair compared to the secular courts of the time, only mad Philip of Spain made the Inquisition a butcher’s shop – and even THAT has been shown to be exaggerated… and the totalitarianism of every single atheistic state that has been in history. [And why I fled the old country, the UK... The country has formally declared itself an atheistic society and I know what that means ultimately.]

      In the Catholic Church, you reach the ‘wrong conclusion’ – you end up under house arrest but after you die a Institute is named after you and used for the advancement of science. You know about the Galileo Institute, no? And that is granting you the Galileo case in the first place when the truth is not quite as the public think.

      In atheistic societies you THINK the wrong thing and you have your children ripped from you, sent into slave labour and/or are shot.

      Historically, when it comes to being open to reason… actually, the Catholic Church stands out pretty well compared to the alternatives overall. Having said that, I distinguish between the ‘open’ atheist who is willing to discuss but is not convinced, “I don’t get it” versus the closed atheist who denounces religious believers as irrational and holds they should sent for re-education. So I agree with you distinction regard reasonable versus unreasonable atheists but the idea the Catholic Church stands for being unreasonable is… difficult to sustain given the figures methinks.

      • UWIR

        Again with this dead horse? Catholicism is an institution, and is responsible for what that institution does. Atheism is the lack of something. How can not-something be responsible for anything? That’s silly. I clearly said, and you even quoted me saying it, that there is distinction between atheism being consistent with bad things, and Catholicism actually encouraging them. You’re just an anti-atheist bigot. Catholicism has killed people. Atheism has not.

        So I agree with you distinction regard reasonable versus unreasonable atheists but the idea the Catholic Church stands for being unreasonable is… difficult to sustain given the figures methinks.

        The unreasonableness of others is completely irrelevant to whether Catholicism is unreasonable.

  • http://www.ryanbilodeau.com/ Ryan Bilodeau

    Check out David Bentley Hart’s Atheist Delusions book, which confronts many of these topics.


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