Sigh. I gotta see if I can connect this guy with one of the Dominicans over at Newman

Sigh. I gotta see if I can connect this guy with one of the Dominicans over at Newman November 22, 2014

A University of Washington evolutionary biology prof talks as though he has never so much as heard of St. Thomas.

Proving, once again, that atheists and fundamentalists are brothers under the skin, Dr. Barash goes to war against stuff that, while it’s really important to a lot of Fundamentalists, are entirely beside the point to Catholic thought, as well as making the usual category errors of slipping metaphysical claims in under the guise of “science”.

Blunder #1:

The twofold demolition begins by defeating what modern creationists call the argument from complexity. This once seemed persuasive, best known from William Paley’s 19th-century claim that, just as the existence of a complex structure like a watch demands the existence of a watchmaker, the existence of complex organisms requires a supernatural creator. Since Darwin, however, we have come to understand that an entirely natural and undirected process, namely random variation plus natural selection, contains all that is needed to generate extraordinary levels of non-randomness. Living things are indeed wonderfully complex, but altogether within the range of a statistically powerful, entirely mechanical phenomenon.

Thomas is not interested in the argument from complexity, which usually boils down, in the hand of ID advocates to a God of the gaps argument: (i.e. we can’t see how complex living systems evolved naturally, therefore God). It’s an argument from exception to the rules, in this case, the rule of entropy.

Thomas never argues from exceptions to the rules. He argue from the existence of the rules. “Why is there anything? Why does it behave according to laws? Why are those laws intelligible?” In short, Thomas argues from the laws that are very basis of science itself to the existence of a Lawgiver. (When this dawns on atheists, it can often be hilarious to watch them attempt to deny that the universe has knowable and intelligible laws–in other words, the science and reason exist–just to squirm away from the possibility of You Know Who.)

Blunder #2:

Next to go is the illusion of centrality. Before Darwin, one could believe that human beings were distinct from other life-forms, chips off the old divine block. No more. The most potent take-home message of evolution is the not-so-simple fact that, even though species are identifiable (just as individuals generally are), there is an underlying linkage among them — literally and phylogenetically, via traceable historical connectedness. Moreover, no literally supernatural trait has ever been found in Homo sapiens

A couple of confused muddles here. First, it is a metaphysical, not scientific, statement that man is or is not “central” in some Grand Scheme of Things. Science is worthless for determining that. In Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are not central to the story. But in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Hamlet is the one on the periphery and R&G are central. It depends on who is telling the story. If, as Barash says, no one is telling the story, then sure, no one is central to the story because there is no story. But that is a faith statement, not a scientific one. It is something Barash is bringing *to* the data, not something he is getting from it. If he says “Looks pretty mindless to me!” that’s an excellent statement of his perception of the data, but not a statement about what “science” shows lies behind the data because science can’t tell us anything about anything beyond the metric properties of time, space, matter and energy. It’s like concluding that, since your bathroom scale cannot register anything about the alleged “beauty” of a Mozart Concerto, such beauty–and Mozart–do not exist. The fact that the world of Hamlet looks absolutely absurd to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as they wander in and out of it does not mean that world is what it appears to be to them.

For the same reason, it is silly to speak of science (the study of nature) failing to discover a “literally supernatural trait” in humans. What does that even mean: a gene for working miracles? And why would a supernatural trait makes us central to some cosmic plan anyway? Obviously, way to find out if we are central to a cosmic story is to ask the Storyteller. But, ironically, the claim of the Christian tradition is that we are not central. God is central. Our importance is due, not to a literrally supernatural trait, but to the fact that God loves us. And the love of God is no more measurable to science than my love for my wife is. Meanwhile, as he invokes natural processes to explain the evolution of the human organism (something Catholic teaching has no big problem with since it has always acknowledged secondary causes are real causes) he continues to miss the real questions: Why is there anything? Why does that something obey laws that result in mechanical processes leading to life. So Thomas takes a remarkably evolutionary view of the self-organizing properties which God has invested in Nature when he writes:

Nature is nothing but the plan of some art, namely a divine one, put into things themselves, by which those things move towards a concrete end: as if the man who builds up a ship could give to the pieces of wood that they could move by themselves to produce the form of the ship.
— Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Physics II.8, lecture 14, no. 268

Both of Barash’s arguments are muddled restatements of the second of the only two arguments against the existence of God Thomas could find in the whole history of human thought:

Objection 2: Further, it is superfluous to suppose that what can be accounted for by a few principles has been produced by many. But it seems that everything we see in the world can be accounted for by other principles, supposing God did not exist. For all natural things can be reduced to one principle which is nature; and all voluntary things can be reduced to one principle which is human reason, or will. Therefore there is no need to suppose God’s existence.

Translation: Everything seems to work fine without God, so there’s no God.

What that argument overlooks is “Why is there an ‘Everything’? Why are there any rules governing how the Everything works fine? How is it possible that those rules are intelligble to us at all?” Thomas has an answer for that because he has a metaphysic. Barash has no answer for that because it has not even occurred to him to ask those questions as he is busy arguing with Paley and the Discovery Institute and appears to have never heard of St. Thomas.

Finally, Barash concludes:

Adding to religion’s current intellectual instability is a third consequence of evolutionary insights: a powerful critique of theodicy, the scholarly effort to reconcile belief in an omnipresent, omni-benevolent God with the fact of unmerited suffering.

In other words, Baby Boomers have just discovered suffering, and the suffering of the innocent, and are now presenting this with a flourish to the followers of a religion that is literally founded on the body and blood of an innocent man who was tortured to death. Checkmate, Theists!

In other words, he concludes with Thomas’ first objection to the existence of God:

Objection 1: It seems that God does not exist, because if one of two contraries be infinite, the other would be altogether destroyed. But the word “God” means that He is infinite goodness. If, therefore, God existed, there would be no evil discoverable; but there is evil in the world. Therefore God does not exist.

Translation: Bad things happen, therefore no God.

This too, in addition to being about as new as the blood of Abel and not really the devastating result of “scholarly” insight, is again a switcheroo of science for metaphysics.

I wonder if I could get the Dominican’s to get him over to the Newman Center for a conversation with an actual Thomist? Could be interesting!

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  • Ryan Godfrey

    Your understanding of Intelligent Design is, honestly, abysmal. Have you ever seriously read a major ID book or article? I would suggest Michael Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box. It isn’t “God of the Gaps” at all, and I would be suspicious of my own argument if it also happened to come out of the mouth of someone like Richard Dawkins. Evolution doesn’t account for much, and macro evolution doesn’t cohere with Thomas’ understanding of the stability and integrity of species.

    • Dan F.

      Since our host has been over this territory before, please start here:

      and once done reading through those posts, come back with an actual disagreement with Mark’s argument.

      • Ryan Godfrey

        Cool man, Those articles say nothing to explain how ID is a “God of the Gaps.” Nor does he directly interact with real ID proponents who are real scientists who really address the God of the Gaps accusation. I also wasn’t aware I had to read everything Shea ever wrote on Natural Revelation before I was qualified to comment on his inadequate characterization of ID in this particular post. But thanks for your courtesy by posting with so much grace and charity!

        • Mike Oliver

          ID scientists, and there are highly qualified ones in the area (Stephen Meyer as one example) do not argue for the existence of God from an ID podium. But they do posit, and quite effectively that ‘Everything’ cannot be explained by natural evolution or the random mixing and matching of primordial elements. Statistically, mathematically, and genetically we cannot explain ‘us’ and our attendant qualities from Darwin or any other happenstance believer.

          • Ryan Godfrey

            Were you disagreeing with me? I completely agree with what you said, which is why ID isn’t a “god of the gaps” argument. They make no claims about the identity of the Designer. Only that the evidence demands a designer (whether he be an alien or a supreme being).

            • Christopher Hall

              Wait. What? Where would the alien come from? Who designed the alien? How could “an alien” be in par with “a supreme being” when it comes to the design of the universe? If ID suggests, anywhere, at the designer could simply be an alien, then I struggle to see how it’s not about gaps. Because that leaves a pretty big gap, right there one that is pretty much of an infinite size.

              • Newp Ort

                Design of all that exists pointing to a creator can be argued metaphysically. Physical universe lacking power to bring about life is bad science, GG, ID.

                ETA: ID means physical universe not sufficient to bring about life, requires designer to tinker after creation of physical universe. If designer is actually God the creator, why create universe then come back and fiddle with it later to get what He wants out of it?

            • Mike Oliver

              Not disagreeing. Just wanted to clarify that ID is girded by some serious scientific swaddle, and that while it does not prove God, per se, it does eviscerate the atheistic drivel that evolution both explains us and negates the need or existance of the Great I Am.

              • Newp Ort

                It’s atheistic drivel even if evolution is true (and it is).

            • Newp Ort

              “Coulda been aliens” Also came out of the mouth of Richard Dawkins.

          • Silverback

            Stephen Meyer is not a scientist. He has a PhD in history and philosophy.

          • Newp Ort

            Doesn’t mean evolution is false. Just incomplete.

      • Christopher Hall

        Well, this gentleman seems to be only disagreeing with Shea’s characterization of intelligent design, and the arguments of its proponents. To be honest, I’ve never bothered enough to read much intelligent design stuff (saw no need at all to do so), so I can’t say whether or not he’s right, but a) it would not be wise to simply dismiss this assertion out of hand; b) a review of *Shea’s* writings on the subject are not an answer to whether or not Shea mischaracterizes the arguments of proponents of intelligent design; c) only an actual review of THEIR arguments would do that.

    • HornOrSilk
      • Ryan Godfrey

        This is good, but it doesn’t defeat ID and it certainly doesn’t mean one should embrace Evolution as the viable scientific explanation for the origins of life. So this was helpful but not definitive.

        • HornOrSilk

          I didn’t give it as a “defeat” of ID as much as an intro to the problems traditional theology has with ID.

        • MarylandBill

          Evolution is not about the origin of life, it is about how that life, once it existed, developed into the multitude of species that exist today.

    • Newp Ort

      ID means designer = fallacy, argument from ignorance

    • Newp Ort

      Thomas said New species could arise if God imbued the universe with that power at creation.

  • David Naas

    Is it mean-spirited of me to point out to someone who has just said “X makes no sense,” the obvious –“Just because it does not make sense to you does not mean anyone else is so limited in knowledge or understanding .” ?
    This applies to both types of obfuscationists. And since both depend on their own gnosis as the basis for argument, it drives them into quite a tizzy.

  • Billy Bean

    Mark: Often love your stuff. Big fan here. But you’re off the mark (pun intended) with regard to ID. ID is emphatically NOT a god of the gaps argument. It is a refutation of philosophical naturalism masquerading as empirical science. Until you are willing to examine both (neo) Darwinism and ID in that light, you are doing no justice to either one.

  • MillerJM

    Seems to me that atheists are also backed in the corner because they keep using the word “universe” – which means “one word”, i.e. the word spoken into existence by God.

  • James Patton

    I had some expectation for a logical proof…

  • Rick

    Mark, I would think that the God of the Gaps (GG) argument was addressed best by CS Lewis in Miracles. ID is not a GG argument, rather, ID challenges the darwinian principle of continuity by pointing to basic examples of radical discontinuity–at least, this is what Behe does. Furthermore, St Thomas’s 5th way is a design argument and is arguably a GG argument. I suspect the GG argument actually goes back to Aristotle’s Physics 2 where he argues for the existence of efficient (agent) cause, since, as Aristotle says, all agents act for an end.

    • Newp Ort

      Fifth way is metaphysical, not concerning “gaps” in the physical universe, not at all GG in the ID sense that something unexplainable happens in the physical universe that demands the existence of a designer.

      Find a single example supporting ID that doesn’t find it’s basis in “that’s unexplainable,” or argument from ignorance.

      • Ryan Godfrey

        Specified complexity is actually a positive argument for intelligence, not simply “that’s unexplainable.” Irreducible complexity is similarly positive FOR intelligence not simple ignorance.

        • Newp Ort

          Can you explain or provide a link? Seems like relies on ignorance.

  • The_Monk

    Evolution is the new flat-earth theory, and future generations will shake their heads mockingly at the muddle-heads who now credit evolution with legitimate scientific standing. One can choose to believe in intelligent engineering, or in unintelligible magic.
    Most people who throw about the word ‘random’ neglect to account for the full impact of the word. Any physical system, once ‘randomized’ (think of the bits of paper from a firecracker wrapping after it has been exploded) will not organize except through an application of external force. The key word in that sentence is ‘will’. Randomness NEVER evolves into willfulness.

    • Dave G.

      A bold statement. Interesting, and who knows? But I like it.

    • Newp Ort


      • The_Monk

        Let me see if I understood you correctly.
        My answer is: A crystal is simply another form of some material. For example, a crystal of NaCl is still just NaCl. And it is the nature of NaCl to form crystals; it is not outside the nature of NaCl.
        Is that the idea, or did you have something else in mind?

        • Newp Ort

          Na and Cl ion soln forms crystals w/o external force, save evaporation. Process described by chemistry.

          As u said, their nature.

          Nature of universe is to bring about life, eventually intelligent life (us, maybe others); power imbued to the universe at time of creation.

          Cosmology and evolutionary theory, other sciences describe the process.

          • Dave G.

            Through, destruction and destructive forces, death, destruction and the stronger devouring the weak. Apparently also imbued to the universe at the time of creation. Which makes you wonder.

            • Newp Ort

              Yes, it does!

              • Dave G.

                Which makes you wonder about God’s particular knack for basing existence on death and destruction, rather than those being a violation of what God intended.

                • Newp Ort

                  Yes! It is pretty disconcerting! The existence of evil, and suffering hardwired into the process of life is a bigger stumbling block to me than anything science-related.

                  • Having read this thread with incredulity at the lack of understanding of where things come from in this world, I must say something for the rest of us. Using the presence in the world of evil as any kind of argument for or against the existence of God seems lame to me. What I have seen is that all creation is good. It is only man who creates evil and suffering when he departs from the moral order. There is a moral order, and any deviation from it brings more and more pain and suffering. I like the arguments that St. Thomas Aquinas makes against the usual arguments concerning the existence of God. I am not a debater so I cannot argue, but i know what I see and what I see does match what I am hearing.

                    Evil is not hard wired into creation. Man was created with free will and that is part of the problem. In every action there is a choice for good or evil. Good is following the moral order, evil is not following the moral order.

                    I’m just sayin’…

                    • Newp Ort

                      The rest of who?

                      “where things come from in this world ” – what are talking about?

                      Thomas thought the existence of evil disproving God a potent enough metaphysical argument that he explicitly states it in order to refute it. Philosphers have been considering it for millennia.
                      Not exactly “lame.”

                      Moral evils are caused by people. Natural evils – disease, natural disaster, accidents – are not, but they do exist and it would seem they are unavoidable.

                    • All experiences in this life are good, just pleasant or unpleasant. Referring specifically to the “natural evils” of the world. The existence of God seems obvious to me. I am not certain what I meant by “the rest of us”. Sounded like I was choosing sides it seems. You on the other side. In the light of day THAT statement was lame, the rest of us thing. It seems a pointless exercise to contemplate the existence of God in a universe which is profoundly complex and orderly. I have learned that there are things of which I don’t need to know the why.

                      I have friends who are great at seeing arguments and refuting or supporting opinions. I am grateful for them, especially in political circles. I cannot argue, but I know what I feel in my gut is whether what I see matches what I am being told. I appreciate your comments.

                    • Dave G.

                      I’m not sure I was arguing against God. Just that evolution is packed with carnage and destruction that apparently was part of God’s plan, not a violation of it.

          • The_Monk

            Perhaps. But any physical science theory that depends on ‘random’ events in its foundational tokens is simply an exercise in guessing, or – worse – magic. I concur with Einstein when he dismissed randomness as a real process. He spent decades trying to find the math to overcome the scope of the computations required to describe even simple time-sequenced activities. But the fact that he never found it does not mean such math isn’t real, which gives the quantum physics lads major heartburn.

            • Newp Ort

              Lotta science use randomness. Look up “random walk.”

              When did Einstein “dismiss randomness as a real process?” His 1905 paper on Brownian Motion dealt with random motion.

              • The_Monk

                “random” as used in science is simply shorthand for “the system has such a vast number of variables that we have to guess at the real number.” Einstein understood this, and it compelled him to question the entire line of mechanics that Neils Bohr and Heisenberg were noodling about. While Einstein might have rejected the label of “intelligent design”, his writings indicate that was his inclination. He did not believe in a personal God, and rejected all such notions. But he acknowledged intelligence in the movings and workings of the universe.

                • Newp Ort

                  Doesn’t mean guess: random events individually unpredictable, but the outcomes over many events often predictable.

                  This is what Einstein did w Brownian Motion – hardly a “guess.”

                  Einstein objected to one specific concept of bohr’s: quantum coherence. Bohr’s “noodling ” is supported by the last few decades of experiments.

                  You’ve called randomness a guess, magic, and not a real process. Seems like you don’t understand it.

                  How can you object to evolution based on randomness when u don’t know what it is, how useful and foundational it is to so many fields of study?

                  • The_Monk

                    All events are the process of previous events. That is the basis for all force expressions: gravity, the weak nuclear force, the strong one, etc. No single event is isolated from previous events. All computations include a time factor in expressing them. For example, if we had the calculating wherewithal to handle all the properties involved in a roll of die, from cast thru roll to stop, we would precisely know the outcome. But we have not yet been able to achieve that simple computational prowess.

                    You are simply talking when you indirectly claim that randomness is some ‘property’ of matter. Each and every event, even the misunderstood parallel events found in the quantum world, is potentially ‘discoverable’. The quantum world is less than well-understood. Quantum computing, arguably the simplest of all quantum processes, has yet to be predictably bound by science. And if a process is not discoverable, it is not science, it is something else.

                    Randomness is simply a blanket that covers over a myriad variables with a gauze veil of decipher-ability. It is a ‘best-guess approximation’, and that is why it is called random: because it is beyond our ability to compute.

                    • Newp Ort

                      Let’s back this up a bit.

                      Could you expand on why you think evolution is invalid? Randomness is not a core tenet, necessarily. The core is descent with modification. And random mutation does happen – that’s not really up for debate.

                      Modification by random mutation is the prominent theory for how that occurrs. It’s not essential to the core of descent with modification. There is some theorizing that other additional forces could be at play. Bacteria can transfer traits directly to other groups of bacteria – a different mechanism than transferring traits through offspring exclusively.

                      ID theorists really might be on to something when they point out that random mutation might not be able to account on its own for the development of beneficial traits. They then make the jump to the necessity of a designer, which is where I disagree with them.

                      I’m a catholic, I believe that God created the universe from nothing. I think evolution does not contradict that at all. Do you have a belief system that sways you against evolution? Belief in evolution is not the sole domain of atheists.

                      I’m a believer! And it seems you are too. Belief in God and evolution need not be contrary, don’t you think?

                    • The_Monk

                      I agree that belief in God does not negate a belief in evolution, nor does belief in evolution negate belief in God.

                      The sticking point for me is that the mechanisms attributed to evolution as the changes we see are not grounded in bare-bones science. Things don’t just build themselves. A high-capacity jet-liner is the work of thousands of hours and days and weeks and years of designing, tooling and manufacturing. None of us would rationally expect to dig into the side of an aluminum mine and find the next generation of Boeing super-liner, fully fueled and ready for flight. Yet a single-cell amoeba is trillions of times more complex than any airplane or rocket (no plane or rocket has the innate ability to convert crude oil to kerosene, nor the innate ability to procreate a like specimen), and evolution blithely reports that it just “engineered” itself. That rings exceedingly hollow for me. A microprocessor fresh out of the die with no microcode will not process anything if energized. There are many examples on which we can fasten our eyes and minds that further extend the set of examples.

                      Further, most changes wrought thru mutations and migrations are inadequate to explain, particularly in light of the relatively short life of the earth, the myriad manifestations of life we observe. As Darwin evinced (paraphrasing), for the kingdom of life to show such diversity after application of such mechanisms as natural selection, mutation, migration, etc., if true, would seem a miracle. I agree.

                      I believe evolution begins by promising much, and ends up delivering little. Where others see meandering purposelessness, I see engineering marvelous beyond description. I believe the universe is a deliberate creation, and that life was created to give meaning to the universe. And I think evolution misrepresents the purposefulness of life, and – what I see as – the hand of a Creator who is unbelievably attentive to detail.

                      ps. I appreciate your civility throughout. Thank you….

                    • Newp Ort

                      But do you think God created the universe, then later had to tweak it to get life / humans? It implies God needing to fix His own creation.

                      Personally, I think evolution more marvelous than a universe requiring adjustment – life unfolding through natural processes imbued by God at the time of creation.

                      The evolution/creation either/or debate then bad metaphysics on either side. Random, impersonal? So what? That’s physical, not metaphysical.

                      Something to better explain evolution: 479,258,072,137 – number typed randomly. Odds of me getting again 1/1,000,000,000,000. However take the digits that match, random repeatedly until they all match happens much faster. Shuffle all 747 parts at once never assemble one try. Each time one part matches it sticks, shuffle again get jet way more likely.

                      Also YOUR odds winning lottery practically zero but SOMEONE does win.

                      The math ain’t bad as it seems.

                      Random genetic mutation account for evolution? Maybe not. but could be other processes at work. Theory changes as more discovered. How science works.

                      Probably not entirely convincing to you, but sheds some light.

                    • The_Monk

                      Your arguments show more purpose and thought than most of the folks I encounter, and so I am confident that you will find the truth in the science that you are seeking. But – hypothetically – what happens if that answer is closer to my argument than yours? I argue purely from the position that there are gigantic pieces missing in the evolutionary puzzle, and so far it doesn’t satisfy me as to being resolved science. At least, not in the sense that relativity has been shown to be real, for instance.

                      But to address one specific point you made – randomly typing a large number. I have worked in software for a few decades and know how difficult it was back in the day to write a random-number generator that did not display an easily recognizable periodicity. And when we type, consciously or not, our brain-nerve-finger connections belie the true ‘random’ aspect of the generated number.

                      The problem that I see is that a truly random process remains random unless and until an outside force acts on it. And more is needed for life. If you were to synthesize an isolated system (thinking – like – the atoms of air in a balloon), with the proper chemical components to instigate life, could you do it? My logic tells me, No. Even giving you 4.5 billion years, or 1000 times longer, I do not believe you could ever coerce life out of that mixture of chemicals – no matter how you manipulated them with applications of electricity and/or light baths and/or changes in pressure, etc.

                      That is what I believe. And I don’t think most people believe all that differently.

                    • JM1001

                      Things don’t just build themselves.

                      Sure they do.

                      For example, your body is continually breaking down the carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in your food, and using them to literally rebuild itself. And, eventually, every cell in your body is replaced.

                      This is what Aristotle called self-movement, and is the defining feature of life.

                      Furthermore, contrary to the post-Cartesian claims, matter is not dead — the natural order contains all sorts of inherent causal powers, which are capable of producing new forms. A Boeing super-liner is not a part of the “natural order” in this sense — it does not have inherent causal powers; it is an organized system composed of parts that have no inherent power to come together on their own, but needed to be brought together by an outside agent.

                      The problem is that you’re confusing two very different kinds of things. A living thing (a self-mover) is one sort of thing, while a Boeing super-liner (an artifice) is another. The former is a part of the “natural order” (meaning it has inherent causal powers), while the latter is not.

                      We may not yet understand the natural processes by which life “builds itself.” But since living things are part of the natural order, we can be assured that they contain all the causal powers necessary for their own origin and development; the organization they possess didn’t need to be imposed by an outside agent.

                      If the mechanisms described in current evolutionary theories do not adequately explain the facts observed, as you say, then that only means we have yet to discover the mechanisms that do explain those facts. (I’m reminded of James Shapiro’s “natural genetic engineering” as one proposal.) But whatever the mechanism, it will be one that is part of the natural order, with its own inherent causal powers.

  • MarylandBill

    The problem with Intelligent Design is that it tries to refute evolution on the basis of the lack of imagination on the part of the proponents of ID. That is, the arguments I have seen generally go something like this; Life is incredibly complex. Life is so complex, we cannot imagine any way that it could have arisen naturally. Therefore, life must have had an intelligent designer. Yes, they will state the argument somewhat differently, somewhat like what follows, “Life is so complex that there is no way it could have arisen naturally.” Certainly this seems to have been Behe’s argument when he invoked “irreducible complexity” in his book.

    As Catholics, we should be humble before the creative power of God. God’s creative force so fills the Universe that it is constantly working through natural processes to create more, billions of years after God first said “Let there be light”. Science, biology specifically, explains life how without reference to God, and to a certain extent it is justified. We can never really understand the mind of God, but we can perhaps understand the mechanisms he uses in his creation. The problem of course is when science not only does not reference God directly in its work, but tries to deny the underlying metaphysical reality of God.

    • Here, here. Thank you. I have to look at the fossil record in the rocks of geological history. Evolution is. How? God only knows.

    • HenryBowers

      We can’t prove the universe is billions of years old. We can only infer it.

      • MarylandBill

        I will grant that, but we rely on many inferences and assumptions for most everything we “know”. Proof is in the realm of mathematics and logic. There is a huge amount of evidence available to suggest that the Universe is immensely old compared to us. I prefer to believe in a God that would not be actively trying to deceive us, so I accept that evidence.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      To be fair to Behe, he did not define “irreducible complexity” as “really, really complicated.” He meant a system that did not work at all unless all the parts of it were in place. There are problems with this, but they are not the problem of “I can’t figure it out, therefore God.” In an evolutionary chain, the requirement is that each successive mutation work at least as well as the unmutated creature.

      The error is the supposition that mutations are “random.”

      • MarylandBill

        Its not even that the successive mutation work at least as well as the unmutated creature, it is that the particular mutation provides a certain survival or reproductive advantage under conditions that might exist at the time of the mutation. Heck, a mutation that provides no current survival advantage or disadvantage might survive indefinitely and indeed undergo further mutations all serving no particular purpose until suddenly it does at which point it would get selected for.

        Further, I am not sure that your restatement of Behe’s thesis really changes my basic argument. Yes, I agree that we might not see a way for the system to work with out all the current parts, but that does not mean there is no way the system could have worked or served a different purpose.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          we might not see a way for the system to work with out all the current parts, but that does not mean there is no way the system could have worked or served a different purpose.

          You are in tune with St. Thomas, who wrote:
          “We marvel at something when, seeing an effect, we do not know the cause. And since one and the same cause is at times known to certain people and not to others, it happens that some marvel and some do not.”
          — Contra gentiles

          Of course, we should take a page from physics and supplement “It might have happened this way” with “it did in fact happen this way.”

          I also agree that non-Darwinian processes may be more important than Darwinian ones. Even Behe suggested that by pointing out how the natural selection of small mutations cannot account for the emergence of biochemical mechanisms does not preclude that an evolution might occur by some other process. (Although when Shapiro presented one, I think Behe balked.)

      • jaybird1951

        Mark once again shows that he does not understand ID theory, which does not make a god-of-the-gaps argument. This is a bit surprising and disappointing to me since he lives in the same city as the main proponent of ID, the Discovery Institute. maybe he should arrange an appointment with them or attend one of their seminars. As I understand it, ID proposes that natural selection cannot explain every aspect of evolution, especially “irreducible complexity,” and that the ID explanation makes in some cases the best argument available. However, this argument is rejected out of hand by Darwinian evolutionists with the claim that science will eventually resolve these issues, a touching act of faith on their part.

  • Ye Olde Statistician

    People who take a religious-like approach to evolution can be strange; but those who reify “randomness” as if it were a force in the world are even stranger. Of course, supposing randomness to be real is but another proof of You-know-Who:

    However, in statistics, “random” simply means the outcome is subject to a host of minor causes, no one of which determines the outcome. The outcome is the net result of all the causes, and it is uneconomical or physically impractical to identify or control them. Thus, the pair of dice result in a “12” for any number of reasons or combination of reasons.

    Adam: Why did the dice come up “12”?
    Betsy: You threw the dice too hard!
    Adam: How can we test that theory?
    Betsy: Throw the dice gently, and the problem will go away!
    Adam (throws dice gently): A “6”!

    Betsy: See? That proves it works!

    The irony is that if mutations are truly random, they are far more likely to kill the organism than to “improve” it. If we have to wait around for beneficial mutations to produce new species, we will wait a very long time indeed. More time than the universe has had to give up to now.

    Fortunately, it appears from our expanding knowledge of genetics that the “random mutation” paradigm is wrong. Changes in species can be sudden, massive, and particular — for example, caused by epigenetic factors like environmental stresses. E.g., helmeted water fleas will not develop their “helmets” if the eggs are hatched in waters free of the chemical markers of their predators. That is, the helmeted and unhelmeted fleas have the same genome and there is no mutation at all. Similarly, the same genome will produce grasshoppers or locusts, depending on the environment. A carnivorous lizard became a vegetarian and developed a new organ within 20 years of its being transplanted to a lusher vegetative environment, not nearly enough generations for “beneficial mutations” to fortuitously appear and spread throughout the population.

    For that matter, whether a mutation is beneficial or not depends on what the organism is trying to do. Maryandbill alluded to this earlier. A flap of skin running from forelegs to hindlegs can be a damn nuisance to a ground squirrel or a tree squirrel, since it would hobble their running. But if they try gliding, it can be a boon. That is, the behaviors of the organism determine whether a mutation is beneficial or not, and these “final causes” must be taken into account. Even plants, when watered and tended in labs and such by diligent attendants, will not drive their roots as deeply into the soil in the search for water. In effect, they have incorporated the attendant into their “root system.”