Young-Earth Creationism and Intelligent Design are Blasphemous

Young-Earth Creationism and Intelligent Design are Blasphemous April 17, 2011

There has been a lot of discussion over the years about how much and in what ways young-earth creationism and intelligent design are the same and in what ways they are different.

Here’s one similarity: both are blasphemous.

Both work with the assumption that God would only have created in a certain way, and would not work through processes such as those that biologists, geneticists, and paleontologists study. And since the evidence is more than adequate to demonstrate that the history of life on this planet followed a course that is described in more-or-less accurate terms by mainstream science, with processes at work that are at least partially described and accounted for by mainstream evolutionary theory, there is only one conclusion that a religious believer who is well-informed about science can draw:

Both young-earth creationism and intelligent design insult the Creator and demean creation.

If that isn’t blasphemy, what is?

Although it is done somewhat less openly by proponents of intelligent design, both groups try to justify their insults addressed at God the Creator, ironically, by appeal to particular interpretations of a book they believe that He wrote.

Ken Ham and others like him famously deny that they interpret the Bible, insisting that they just read it. Anyone who knows what reading involves would laugh at such a statement, until they realized that the creationists who say such things aren’t kidding.

But which is easier to interpret – texts written in human languages, or scientific data? While scientists know better than to say the equivalent of “we don’t interpret the data – we just read it,” there is a sense in which this statement would make somewhat more sense, and be slightly more true, in the case of the natural sciences than in the case of reading texts.

And while we’re on the subject, anyone with literacy skills can write a book claiming to be by or about God or to reveal the truth. It is much harder to make a planet, or life, let alone a universe. And so, if one believes that there is a Creator and wants to get an appropriate sense of the majesty, power, wisdom and activity of that Creator, should one look to texts written by people (whether divinely inspired or not) or to the creation itself?

To allow one’s interpretation of texts to trump scientific evidence, motivate you to distort that evidence, motivate you to insult thousands of committed believers who work in the natural sciences, and motivate you to describe as inappropriate methods of creation things that the evidence suggests actually happened – isn’t a group, individual or movement with these characteristics rightly described as blasphemous?

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Wisdom without both context and experience is merely Knowledge. Knowledge without both interpretation and application is merely Information. Information without both structure and focus is merely Data. Data in and of itself can tell us *nothing*.This is why it makes me cringe to hear any individual say "I'm not interpreting the Bible." They are words that do not only fly in the face of the text, itself, but of nearly 2000 years of Christian seeking, debate, and tradition trying to get to the bottom of the very same problems.It's beyond me how such consideration not even acknowledged.Peace,-Steve

  • Anonymous

    Hey, Professor, you wouldn't be trying to "rile" people us, would you? (wink wink)And whats this "blasphemy" concern? Wouldn't ridiculing God already count in that regard?But in all seriousness, putting "Science" on a pedestal can be dangerous as well. After all, the New Atheists like Stenger and Dawkins claim Science can be used to show there is no God, when what they are doing is preaching SCIENTISM, because "Science" can do no such thing.Heck, toward the beginning of the last century, the mainstream view was that the universe was static and eternal, then the view became that it had a beginning and was expanding…and might even come to an end someday. The views continue to change…The point is that Science is provisional and subject to change, so I am not sure "Faith" always has to defer to it.Another example, Roe v Wade was decided on a faulty "Scientific" view of when the fetus could begin to feel pain. We now know it was much earlier than we thought.OOPS!Jeremy Mancuso, MU at Columbia and future Legal Eagle.

  • " the New Atheists like Stenger and Dawkins claim Science can be used to show there is no God"Only because the creationists claimed that their "scientific" observations could prove the existence of God.

  • Good post. I have always thought that young earth creationism was not only laughably simplistic in its insistence on adherence to a literal interpretation of Genesis, but demeaning to a God who allegedly has the omnipotence to create a universe that is so obviously staggeringly beautiful and complex. When I was nearing the end of my journey as a Christian, I happily ditched all notions of Genesis as an accurate account and instead willingly acknowledged God as having all the skills necessary to go about things as we are seeing them from the viewpoint of science. Of course, I was consigned to hell by the fundamentalists who couldn't free themselves from the prison of iron-clad adherence to biblical literalism.

  • Young earth creationism makes God into a liar. He created the earth, so the evidence for its age is down to him. If he created it 6000 years ago, but planted evidence that makes it look as though it's four and a half thousand million years old, he's a liar. I rather object to that view of God!

  • Jeremy, I do not think your criticism of the Biblical authors is fair. Was the author of Genesis 1 wrong to depict creation using the best available knowledge and thought from his time, which included a dome holding up waters above? Was Paul wrong to update his cosmology to include multiple heavens? I don't see your criticisms as fair. They could do no better than to work with the best available knowledge available to them, just as we can do no better than to work the best available knowledge in our own time. Of course we should treat it as provisional, but unless one is going to forego having a cosmology altogether, I don't see a better alternative than the one that the Biblical authors, and those Christians who accept the conclusions of mainstream scientific research up until our own time, have followed.

  • Bravo, James! *applause*

  • sarah jane

    This is wonderful, thank you!

  • James:There are two classic positions:(A) God determines what is Good(B) God does what is GoodI think perhaps many ID folks and most Creationists would be B-Theologians. For them, you A-Theologians are the blasphemous. They would insist you limit God and change the Bible interpretation to fit what you imagine must be a good God. They are literal and say, "If it sounds ridiculous or unkind, that is because God's ways are beyond ours."Wouldn't you imagine that could be a possible defense against part of your accusation?

  • Is it likewise blasphemous to believe in the resurrection of Christ, in spite of "evidence" to the contrary (according to many scientists)?

  • Apologetic Front, there is no physical evidence regarding Christ's death and resurrection period, whether in favour of or against. There is no comparison to the origins of earth and common descent, regarding which there are enormous mountains of evidence.

  • Fantastic! I am sending this around to people I know who think that science is incompatible with Christianity.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah…. I don't think you understand the definition of the word "blasphemous".

  • Paul, i'm sure there are many naturalistic materialists who would disagree with that.

  • Apologetic Front, blasphemy isn't really a scientific concept, so I'd have to say no, if only on a technicality.But more to the point, Hebrews describes faith as "evidence of things not seen" whereas young-earth creationists and proponents of intelligent design treat faith as though it were evidence that things we (and in particular scientists) see do not exist."If there is a reason why a significant number of scientists look at Christianity with disdain, it is precisely that some Christians are determined to make Christian faith and pseudoscientific deceptions seem as though they are inseparable. And inasmuch as in my younger years I was a person of that sort of stance, I am determined to do what I can to repair the damage that such people cause, to whatever extent I can.

  • James, though the Creation/Evolution stuff isn't within my main areas of study, I do like to take a peek from time to time. Like many controversial subjects and issues, what has helped me the most in formulating my opinions is to see these things debated publicly. But from what little I know about the scientific details, I remain unconvinced of the neo-Darwinian perspective. For me, if evolutionists want to "repair the damage" for people like me; debating with the best proponents from the other side would be most helpful.

  • For me, scientists who are Christians and who demonstrate that they are committed to excellence in both areas of their personal and professional lives – such as Francis Collins, for instance – have a more positive impact than any debaters could, especially as there have been so many debates featuring Christians who weren't particularly familiar with the relevant scientific evidence.

  • James,I completely agree that there have been Creationist "debaters" in the past with no expertise in their fields, which isn't overly helpful to those seeking the truth. However, those who are experts in their fields and likewise aware of the evidence (take Richard Sternberg, for example), could make for a very useful exchange with a proponent from the other side. And to use Sternberg as an example, I found his debate with Shermer to be most helpful; though it could have been organized better.

  • JSA

    I think you're being a bit too fundamentalist with your charge of "blasphemy". You can go ahead and say that they are wrong about science, but being right about science isn't a precondition of having right doctrine. You are accusing them of blasphemy based on a rather uncharitable extrapolation of what you insist their view entails. Do you really think YEC would agree with the way you represent their views? It's the same thing Arminians and Calvinists do to each other.For the record, I'm a materialist Calvinist. But if my kids had to end up either atheist materialist or YEC, I'd rather they end up as YEC. YEC are desperately wrong about science, but they're basically right about theology. Of course, I'd rather that the be right about both theology and science..

  • DJJ

    I have long wondered if there is a "fundamental heresy". Fundamentalism limits God and or makes God in man's image.Too much of the YEC and co seem to want to limit god to what they can comprehend. You had a great quote from Carl Sagan back in 2007How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded,"This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophetssaid, grander, more subtle, more elegant. God must be even greater than wedreamed"? Instead they say, "No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want himto stay that way. A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of theUniverse as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves ofreverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths"

  • With this post, James, you have revealed your own ignorance of what many proponents of ID believe and promote. You asked, "If that isn't blasphemy, what is?" If ID is correct — and to me it seems almost certain that it is — then a possible answer would be your obsession with defaming the character of those who bring glory to God by acknowledging his active role in bringing his creatures into existence. Like so many obsessions, yours doesn't seem to be based on a solid understanding of the issues.~Kaz

  • And if ID is wrong, Kaz, what then?

  • From a previous comment: "You asked, 'If that isn't blasphemy, what is?' If ID is correct — and to me it seems almost certain that it is — then a possible answer would be your obsession with defaming the character of those who bring glory to God by acknowledging his active role in bringing his creatures into existence."You people have a lot of problems. For example, Mr. McGrath is an Associate Professor of Bullshit.Blasphemy is a worthless word because there's no magic god fairies to disrespect."Intelligent Design" are code words dishonest Christians use when they really mean "supernatural magic". Sorry Christians but no matter what you call magic it's still childish. Grow up."your obsession with defaming the character of those who bring glory to God by acknowledging his active role in bringing his creatures into existence."Anyone who uses the childish words "glory to God" deserves to be ridiculed. Also, your fairy had absolutely nothing to do with the development of creatures, including the modern human ape species.Grow up and educate yourselves people. Disagreeing about what your god of gaps did or didn't do is a disagreement about nothing. Join the 21st century. You're wasting your lives hiding in the Dark Ages.darwinkilledgod dot blogspot dot com

  • James, I meant to ask you this with regards to Collins. Given that he is a theist and probably agrees with some of the "theistic proofs," such as the Cosmological Argument and Teleological Argument; is he really that much different from those who believe that life is intelligently designed, when in fact, he sees the universe as intelligently designed?Perhaps all of these "theistic evolutionists" are likewise committing this "blasphemy" that you speak of?

  • Mike, I think that there is a crucial difference between those who interpret the scientific data in relation to their faith (and vice versa) and those who, because of what they believe their faith requires, deny the validity of select aspects of the scientific enterprise and its scientific conclusions (I'm not referring to attempts of scientists to pronounce as scientists on matters of metaphysics).But the heart of my point was that, if the proponents of YEC and ID positions are wrong about evolution, as all the evidence suggests, then in saying that evolution is an inappropriate way for God to create, aren't they thereby making derogatory remarks about what God in fact did?

  • James, Is Collins right or wrong about a teleologically designed universe? The vast majority of atheists would say the evidence suggests otherwise. Therefore, if Collins is wrong about the evidence, then is that not likewise a "derogatory remark about what God, in fact, did?"From what I can gather, Collins is no different from the ID proponent except in scope. That is, is one more justified in believing the universe is intelligently designed than one who sees life as intelligently designed? I'm failing to see the real difference.

  • I think the reason the two are different is the same reason that physicists are in general much more comfortable using terms like "God" than biologists are. Biology blends into chemistry on one side and psychology on the other, perhaps, but is a well-defined area of inquiry in which there is nothing that requires us to posit gaps in our understanding. There are at present gaps in our understanding, but that is not the same thing as saying that there must be. With physics, however, one of the boundaries is, in essence, with metaphysics. If we posit a Big Bang, we wonder what went before it. If we posit cycles of inflation and crunches, we wonder how it got started. If one posits an infinite multiverse, we then have something or someone that produces endless universes. In no instance can we get beyond the ultimate puzzle of why there is something rather than nothing. And of course, bringing God into the picture doesn't make things any less mysterious.But in one case, there are questions that seem to be fundamentally unanswerable in terms of empirical investigation, and the attempt to bring God into the picture is certainly not above debate, but it is understandable in response to what we know and what we can never hope to know. But in the case of biology, proponents of ID and YEC are not trying to suggest that the scientific data points to God or makes room for God. They are trying to cast doubt on reams and reams of data so as to make room for God as they understand him. And that, for me, is a genuinely fundamental difference: the difference between finding evidence for God or pointers to the divine in science, and the attempt to undermine science in an attempt to make room for an already-existing concept of God.

  • James,Thanks for your clarification. I see that this is how you perceive the issue, but its not how i've seen in. When I witness ID'rs and evolutionists debating, I see the very same standards of disagreement as when I see theists and atheist's debating. In both instances, the atheist and evolutionist see ID and or theism as not only unnecessary, but contrary to the evidence. Show Collins the supposed "fine tuning" of the Universe, and you get, "wow, this looks like it was designed." And by the very same standards, show an ID proponent the DNA, and you get, "wow, this looks like it was designed." Yes, you have some differences in that one is dealing with biology and another physics and metaphysics; but the standards seem to be the same. This is why many atheists would see both Collins and the ID proponent arguing a God of the gaps.

  • It is certainly a fair point that people can look at the same evidence and either perceive or not perceive the hand of a Creator. But I still think that there is an approach that looks for God's hand in the evidence that science turns up, and doesn't try to argue against scientific discoveries and research out of a desire for God's hand to be seen at work in a particular way, and another approach which in fact does the latter. If a physicist looks at the cosmos and believes that it points beyond itself to a transcendent Creator, source or meaning, that is one thing. If, because of belief in such a transcendent ground of the universe, a physicist then starts attempting to claim that the periodic table of elements is wrong, that is something else. Again, it is true that both sorts of approaches are "God of the gaps" arguments. But one takes what is likely to always be a gap and posits God, while the other tries to argue that scientists are not in fact making progress filling gaps, so as to make room for God as they understand him. One claims that the things that we cannot hope to know leave room for God; the other denies things that we know in order to try to make room for God. So, in spite of some genuine similarities, I still think that there are important differences – one accepts our current scientific understanding as the best information we have to work with, the other casts aspersions on it and ends up being opposed to the scientific enterprise. And I remain convinced that the latter approach harms not only science education (when it gets the opportunity) but also the reputation of Christianity, if not indeed of God.

  • James,I suppose it all depends on who you talk to. Many scientists would see both Collins and ID proponents as "going against the scientific enterprise, denying the evidence, etc." while others, like yourself, would see only ID'rs and creationists doing so. In the end, the best thing that any of us can do is look at both sides and come to our own conclusions based on the best possible reasons, regardless of the implications or results that might follow.

  • I don't think that anyone can seriously make that sort of claim about Francis Collins, Ken Miller, Francisco Ayala or any of the other scientists who are also Christians and who continue to do scientific research of the highest caliber. Indeed, I think the fact that such people exist and do the work that they do is one of the most effective arguments against the idea that science necessarily leads to atheism as well as the idea that Christians have to be opposed to science.

  • James,I think Richard Dawkins and many others would beg to differ.

  • Indeed they do, but their views would be much harder to take seriously if there were not a significant number of Christians who do oppose legitimate scientific work.

  • JSA

    @Apologetic Front – I don't think Dawkins, etc. would agree at all. Dawkin's "747" example, which is most relevant to Collins, is explicitly given as a likelihood argument. Dennett does the same. So they would simply say that they disagree with Collins about the likelihood of a particular causal mechanism. It's essentially a matter of differing Bayesian priors, and scientists tolerate differing priors all the time, even if they think the other clique is wrong. Since both sets of priors are harmonized with the evidence, neither side need move until a manner of empirically testing between the two is discovered.In contrast, Dennett and Dawkins look at YEC and see people who are essentially superstitious and anti-science. They don't just differ in priors; they think that the empirical evidence cannot be trusted. Their theory doesn't even harmonize with the evidence! That's a HUGE difference.However, I still believe James is misrepresenting the YEC position. There is nothing that says that theology must harmonize with all evidence, or else it is blasphemous. The figure of a deceiver who is prince of the earth does figure largely in Christian theology, so it's absurd to argue Biblical warrant for the idea that we can always trust frequentist empirical evidence.

  • JS, Can you show me a quote from any YEC or ID scientist who claims that, "empirical evidence cannot be trusted?"

  • JS, I appreciate your point, but unless one is going to regard that deceiver as also the creator, in which case one has become a Gnostic or Marcionite, then there is still a problem. Having said that, I will fully acknowledge that theistic evolution can also be accused of Gnosticism, with God letting an inferior tinkering Demiurge, the laws of physics, natural selection, and so on, to accomplish key aspects of creation. But at least one is still able to treat observer reality and the nature of the created order as something other than a deception. So I still find the alternatives to accepting mainstream science theologically as well as scientifically more problematic.

  • JSA

    @Apologetic – It's easy to find. Although I was never a YEC, I grew up around these people, and there are common answers they give to the problems of radiocarbon dating and fossil layers. I have heard people argue that the fossil record was forged by Satan to deceive people, or put there as a test by God, or whatever. Or they'll say that God changed some fundamental physical constants after creation to make the radiocarbon dating appear different.@James – I wasn't even thinking of the gnostic angle, but that's a good point. I was thinking of the much more simplistic view of the YEC I grew up around. They would say, "sure the evidence is hard to explain, but that's because God wants to test your faith, or the devil wants to deceive you". I think it's an ignorant perspective, but certainly not blasphemous.

  • JS, Hopefully you didn't get the impression that I was looking for a quotation from some backwoods, snake handling fundamentalist. Nonetheless, I don't think its fair to suggest that ID'rs and YEC scientists reject empirical evidence. That would be like rejecting the existence of oxygen or something of the like. What would be more fair is to say that ID'rs and YEC's reject the evidential interpretations of many or most mainstream scientists.

  • Anonymous

    "I'm failing to see the real difference."You really can't see any difference between a philosophic argument and a (pseudo)scientific one? Or between metaphysics and physics?

  • JSA

    Oh, good heavens! My mind can't even parse the idea of a "YEC scientist". Isn't that an oxymoron? Is that really what James was talking about??

  • Anonymous, Both arguments posit something metaphysical as far as I understand them. As far as the Kalam and Teleological argument, these largely scientific arguments with philosophical and metaphysical underpinnings and implications. At least that is how ones like William Lane Craig has presented them.

  • JS,As small of a number they might be, there are some. My whole point in bringing it up was in requesting a quotation from a YEC non-laymen who is educated in his or her respective field. That would carry more weight for me than, let's say, a quote from "Dr. Dino" or the "Banana Man."

  • JSA

    Perhaps you can explain what you mean by YEC non-laymen. Are there universities that grant YEC science degrees?I'm not aware of a single YEC apologist, well-spoken and intelligent or otherwise, who doesn't believe that the laws of nature have been altered and/or overridden. Among the YEC I believe it is mainstream and respected to argue that "uniformitarianism" is an unsupportable assumption made by naturalists. And of course, every YEC believes that God has intervened and violated the laws of nature "supernaturally" at various points in time.This is the fundamental difference between YEC and a guy like Collins. When the YEC see some scripture that doesn't seem to harmonize with the laws of nature, they say "supernatural". Collins, on the other hand, believes that God got the laws right, right from the start — thus there is no such thing as "supernatural". That's a HUGE difference, and this is why Dawkins and Dennett don't have nearly the same beef with Collins.

  • JS,You're not aware of even one YEC with a Ph.D in their respective scientific discipline? Jason Lisle is a YEC astrophysicist who received his Ph.D from the University of Colorado at Boulder fairly recently. There are certainly are more, but I don't want to pretend as if YEC's aren't a minority. It sounds like the "beef" you have with YEC's is the same you'd have with ID'rs, which is seemingly why James has written this blog towards both.

  • JSA

    I just explained why Dawkins does not have the same beef with Collins as he does with YEC folks. You retort by saying that I'm wrong because … I couldn't name a YEC with a Ph.D. Non-sequitur much?Does Jason Lisle believe that God never violates the laws of nature? That would be a very interesting YEC indeed, and probably well in the minority.

  • JS,I only brought up this YEC in reference to your question about universities granting science degrees to them. As far as "violating the laws of nature," even Collins would admit that this was done in biblical history (assuming you see miracles as violating the laws of nature).

  • JSA

    OK, I just looked up Jason Lisle, and it appears that he obtained his Ph.D. by concealing his YEC beliefs. This is consistent with my experience. Not only do real science programs not grant YEC degrees, confessing a belief in YEC will make it very hard to get a Ph.D.Regardless, I trust you now agree that Dawkins sees Collins as being rather different from YEC. Collins believes that the wonder of creation is revealed through the laws of nature, while YEC believe that the wonder of creation is revealed through the suspension or violation of the laws of nature.

  • JS, Of course YEC's would likely have to conceal their beliefs; as would probably be the case with ID'rs. What you said about the difference between YEC's and Collin's view of the universe is certainly true. However, you have to agree that Collins has his own beliefs about the "violation" of the laws of nature through the miracles recorded in Scripture.

  • JSA

    I thought that Collins view of miracles is essentially the same as mine: none of the miracles attested required suspension of the laws of nature. But I may be wrong about his position.

  • JS, I may be wrong too; it was just an assumption on my part.

  • I am not a YEC or ID'er, and don't have a PhD, but as I remember in the requirements for a valid science degree from a good university, you do the course work, you do a thesis, and if approved by a committee of advisory prof's, you get a PhD. No one would do a YEC subject thesis, unless they are totally crazy. But on the other side, no professors that I know would ask a person what their religous beliefs are, as a requirement for passing. And I doubt if a YEC type would be stupid enough to answer questions on a written or oral exam stating that he didn't believe in carbon 14 dating, or anything else they object to. Only after they get their degree would they venture into proselytizing, unless they wanted to get a job at a legetimate university. I have a BS in physics from SDSU, and a MSEE from UCLA, so I know a little about the process. And regarding people like Dawkins, he doesn't necessarily represent all science types. It seems that the people that are the most vocal, get all the attention. Science types, by nature, are usually not extroverts, in my experience.

  • JSA

    Gary, I've seen it firsthand more than once, and I'm somewhat sympathetic to blocking people like that. I doubt it happens in engineering or humanities departments, but if it is biology or physics, you really don't want to be turning someone loose who believes that green leprechauns intervene in the process based on whether or not someone looked at some porn that night. Sure, the person can probably do the job, but he'll need heavy adult supervision, and it doesn't reflect well on your department to crank out people who are superstitious about the basic model of the field they're supposed to be researching.It's easier to avoid being noticed if you're in a BS or MS program. And superstitious people with BS or MS don't have nearly the same negative impact on the department. You can always say, "Yeah, the guy is a kook, but at least we didn't let him into the Ph.D program". Once you're in a Ph.D. program, you're going to be working with your advisor a lot, and it's hard to hide something like that without making a conscious choice to hide it like Lisle did.

  • My question is about how the creation accounts in Genesis have been interpreted historically. I haven't really looked into this myself, but I understand that Christians haven't always necessarily read them literally, have they?

  • It is clear to me that state supported schools, from my experience, view ID and Young Earth views as religion and not science (and I agree). But state supported schools have to be politically correct when it comes to religion. So as long as the PhD candidate keeps within the bounds of the class material and thesis, I doubt if there would be a conspiracy to fail a candidate based upon his religious views (at least in the physics or biology dept). When I say keeping within the bounds…I mean any student going to class, or doing research, takes instruction from his Prof/advisor….a student that is so arrogant that he throws his personal religious views into the mix as scientific fact deserves to fail. Private schools might be different, in terms of "seek and destroy" YEC and ID'ers, I don't know.

  • Ross, St. Augustine provides both a nice example of non-literal (almost evolutionary!) interpretation in the ancient church, as well as how one major theologian's thinking on these texts changed over time.

  • “And if ID is wrong, Kaz, what then?”If ID is wrong, then it's wrong. It's difficult to imagine that it could be, and current science certainly lacks the ability to speak to the matter one way or the other, because science, as it is typically defined, lacks the ability to speak to the supernatural, assuming, of course, that the intelligence behind life on this planet is a supernatural entity.I've said before that evolutionary theory lacks explanatory power beyond the bumper sticker. Evolutionists can't explain how life emerged; they can't explain how life that began at the cellular level gave rise to life that propagates via male/female copulation; they can't explain how unguided processes could have produced both a male and a female organism with fully functional genitalia during the same minute 50 to 100 year slice of time and in the same general vicinity so that they could locate each other and copulate; they can't explain how the male and female knew how to use their genitalia when the time was right; they can't explain with confidence or precision how many morphological changes are required so that a land roaming animal could evolve into a whale; they can't explain with precision which morphological changes came first and which came second, third, fourth, etc; they can't explain how unguided processes gave rise to cells that are so complex that they can be compared to miniature cities; they can't explain how unguided processes gave rise to complex body plans whose many parts and systems must all function with staggering precision lest the organism get sick or die; they can't explain the emergence of consciousness; etc, etc, etc…..People who can't answer these and myriad other questions really aren't in a position to deny that life, which even atheists admit has the appearance of design, emerged by way of a guiding intelligence. ~Kaz

  • Kaz: It's difficult to imagine that it could be, and current science certainly lacks the ability to speak to the matter one way or the other, because science, as it is typically defined, lacks the ability to speak to the supernatural,Not really. If this "supernatural" interacts with reality, then it leaves empirical evidence. If not then it's hard to see how we could know about it, or why it would be remotely relevant if it should exist.Kaz: assuming, of course, that the intelligence behind life on this planet is a supernatural entity.A rather huge assumption on your part there. I very much doubt it can be justified 🙂Kaz: Evolutionists can't explain how life emergedBut they're working on it. Beats the "You can't explain it so God did it" or "You can't explain it, so it must have been some mysterious intelligence we mustn't talk about (but you and I know it's the Christian God)" we usually get from YEC's and ID'ers.Kaz: they can't explain how life that began at the cellular level gave rise to life that propagates via male/female copulationAs far as I'm aware, there are some reasonably fleshed out theories to cover this.Kaz: they can't explain how unguided processes could have produced both a male and a female organism with fully functional genitalia during the same minute 50 to 100 year slice of time and in the same general vicinity so that they could locate each other and copulateWhich completely ignores hemaphrodites, which seems a logical "first step" prior to distinct sexes.Kaz: they can't explain with confidence or precision how many morphological changes are required so that a land roaming animal could evolve into a whale;Since before becoming completely aquatic, the ancestors of modern whales were semi-aquatic, I don't see a really big problem here.Etc, etcKaz: People who can't answer these and myriad other questions really aren't in a position to deny that life, which even atheists admit has the appearance of design, emerged by way of a guiding intelligence. And yet, while actual biologists are pursuing these questions (where they're relevant), and there are decent working hypothesis for most if not all of them, as well as known mechanisms which seem likely to be involved, what do we get from ID proponents?"You can't explain it so some unknown intelligence did it (who is actually the God of Christianity)!"There never seem to be any reasons to actually think this intelligence(s) actually exists, and was/is capable of what is being attributed to it/them.

  • Kaz, it is obvious from what you wrote that you have not looked into this subject except perhaps to listen to the deceitful propaganda of the Intelligent Design movement. You've mentioned the old canard about sexual reproduction without doing any investigation whatsoever so as to find out whether scientists have made any progress on this front – you just take the ID movement's word for it that scientists not only haven't made progress but cannot make progress. and you go on and on about "mindless processes" when in fact what matters is not whether processes are explicable in terms of natural phenomena, since Christians regularly see God's hand in things that also have natural causes; instead, the key issue is whether scientists have accurately described the processes in question.So you make all your Christian brothers and sisters who do genuine work in science out ot be liars, while you buy into the nonsense peddled by charlatans whose doctrines tickle your ears and say what you want to hear. You insult the handiwork of the Creator without even having taken the time to try to master the extensive scientific literature that could perhaps have turned you back from this diabolical course you are on. You've chosen blasphemy when you could have shown respect for God and for other Christians. You've chosen to parrot old lies instead of treating this topic with the seriousness it deserves. If you ever actually take the time to learn about what actual scientists do and have written about evolution, I hope and am confident that you will do what I did when I followed a similar course to yours: repent. But until then, since you clearly have only heard one side of the story, and not the side that actually does research, I implore you to minimize what you'll have to be ashamed of later by refraining from promoting pseudoscience, blaspheming God, and mocking as ignorant your brothers and sisters in Christ who actually work in these fields and would probably take the time to explain your errors to you, if only you cared enough to ask them to do so.

  • Regarding young earth creationists who are bonified trained and credential scientists, I don't think there are many but one example is Kurt Wise. He worked under Stephen J. Gould, (the well known writer about evolution) at Harvard and received his PhD. Myself, I find more in common with the theistic evolution approach. The modern ID movement sometimes likes to claim us as on their side but I think most of us TE's would have problems with that.

  • My, my, I point out that you exposed your own ignorance of the ID movement and you respond with a tirade. You should consider hanging up your anti-ID hat — since you lack sufficient knowledge to speak on the subject with credibility — and spend your time praying for a greater measure of Christian grace.~Kaz

  • I am sure that I could do with a greater measure of Christian grace. But I have read a fair bit of what proponents of Intelligent Design have written, and so the difference between us is not my failure to acquaint myself with ID but your failure to acquaint yourself with their critics. But in addition to having read Michael Behe's publications, to give but one example, I've also looked in the databases of peer-reviewed scientific publications, to see whether he has actually been doing scientific research and publishing the results, something that all academics are expected to do. Unlike his critics, he hasn't. And yet for some reason, you find him trustworthy but other Christians who also do legitimate scientific research less trustworthy. And it troubles and saddens me.

  • I'm less impressed with who agrees with an argument or series of arguments than I am with the persuasiveness of the arguments themselves, their explanatory power, and the evidence upon which they are founded. As one example, I have not found a single person — laymen or scholar — who agrees with you that POIWN is being used concessively at John 5:18, yet I don't dismiss your argument on the basis of scholarly consensus. Your argument, as presented in John's Apologetic Christology, may be incorrect and the majority view may be correct, but I won't reject it simply because that's where the appeal to authority would naturally lead. Our current understanding of Greek grammar may not seem to be in your favor, but your analysis of the biblical and historical context is first rate, and compelling.My approach to ID is similar. I won't dismiss their position simply because the majority opinion stands against them. I focus on the arguments, for and against. When I say that the theory of evolution has the explanatory power of a bumper sticker, that's not based on anything that any ID proponent has told me or written; it's based on my own interaction with both sides of the question. By the way, when David Berlinski et al debated Ken Miller et al, he asked one of the evolutionists how many morphological changes would be required for a land-roaming creature to evolve into a whale, and person from Ken Miller's group didn't have a clue. Their theory, unlike your argument for taking POIWN concessively, simply can't get past the bumper sticker. ~Kaz

  • James,What specifically is missing from Behe's research that would warrant one to disbelieve that ID is a legitimate idea?Or are some of us justified in believing an idea based on its merits rather than how many articles are published in journals that are run by evolutionists?Perhaps I could doubt the legitimacy of a theological theory based upon whether or not its published in conservative theological journals?

  • Thank you both for your comments. Kaz, I really do think that if my argument cannot persuade other experts in my field, it is probably wrong. And if it is right, that should be determined by careful analysis by linguists and exegetes. I am committed to the scholarly process, which means that it is not enough to come up with good ideas – they need to be cross-examined and tested. I would be dismayed if my own suggestions or anyone else's ended up being countered in scholarly publications and at the same time caught on in popular opinion.In fact, as it happens, the situation with ID is better. My own suggestion you mentioned has gotten little attention. ID, on the other hand, has received substantial discussion. If accepting a neglected view as a layperson is unjustified, how much more one that scholars and experts have taken the time to look at and found unpersuasive?Mike, I used to hold the view that seems to be behind your question, that there is a conspiracy to keep other views out. But the truth is that science changes in light of evidence. Supporters of YEC and ID views regularly point to both the changing nature of scientific consensuses and alleged conspiracy, but it doesn't seem to me that both can be true simultaneously. And the example of the Big Bang in a different scientific domain makes me think that allegations of conspiracy are bogus. Many great minds in astrophysics disliked the idea of the universe having a beginning, and I think it was Hoyle who specifically said that it reminded him too much of Genesis as an atheist, and came up with "big bang" as a mocking description. The name stuck, but the view that the univeersse has a beginning became almost universally accepted, because the evidence was in it's favor.Kaz, returning to your comment, how many ideological changes aree necessary in order to get from the idea of a Messiah that defeats national enemies to one that can be crucified by them and still be the Messiah? I don't see that mainstream theory's failure to alread have an answer for every imaginable question about the evolutionary history of every species implies that what we know doesn't point clearly in its favor. Nor do I see how ID, unless it actually has answered all comparable questions definitively, can fairly consider gaps in our knowledge as evidence of a problem with the approach itself.Ultimately both ID and mainstream science can make bumper stickers. That's why I go with the mainstream science – that and the fact that the evidence it presents was able to persuade me that I had been duped when I went around claiming that evolution was a theory in crisis, as well as a lie from the pit of hell. But even if I had not been persuaded, and were still promoting such views, it would be no less true that anyone with sense ought to ignore me and listen to the scientists. Because the very fact that ID proponents are not trying to settle the matter in the lab but in the court of popular opinion itself suggests that they aren't about science. Otherwise they would be urging calm and caution among any supporters they might have, until such time as they have formulated a testable theory, done research and experiments, and published their results. Anyone who says they are doing science and yet seems to be interested in persuading the public rather than their peers should get our alarm bells ringing.

  • The interesting thing about Behe is that he started to question Darwinism after reading Michael Denton's "Evolution: A Theory in Chrises". He said in an interview that prior to this he hadn't been exposed to that information. Imagine that, a biologist got a Ph.D. without being exposed to scientific data Denton discusses. It therefore doesn't surprise me when folks like James say that the majority of biologists support the theory. The scientific feast students of biology enjoy in their various curricula apparently lacks vital nutrients for healthy growth.~Kaz

  • Kaz, one can go to a mainstream medical school and never be exposed to homeopathy. Is that best taken as evidence of a conspiracy to keep exciting new ideas out of the medical profession, or as evidence that, at the very least, homeopathy has not demonstrated its scientific/medical merits?if you read Ken Miller's book Finding Darwin's God, he tells a similar story but with a different ending. He read some creationist literature and got excited and went to tell his professor, knowing that science thrives on new ideas and challenges to consensus. The professor patiently explained to Ken why the ideas in question weren't exciting new scientific ideas, and indeed misrepresented the scientific data.And that is perhaps the key issue. I can understand a layperson being suspicious of the scientific establishment. But how can such individuals claim to know better than the experts? If we cannot trust scientists, I certainly don't think that you or I can get at the truth using just our own imagination and reasoning.

  • Hi James,You said:"ID, on the other hand, has received substantial discussion. If accepting a neglected view as a layperson is unjustified, how much more one that scholars and experts have taken the time to look at and found unpersuasive?"I have to disagree with you there, again. Responses to ID have been more dismissive and visceral than thoughtful and penetrating. The fact that people like you and others still argue that ID is a God of the gaps argument shows that you and others just aren't paying attention. You're claiming to interact yet you do so with a straw-man. You said:"I don't see that mainstream theory's failure to alread have an answer for every imaginable question about the evolutionary history of every species implies that what we know doesn't point clearly in its favor."It's not just that the theory can't answer every imaginable question, but it doesn't seem able to answer myriad *crucial* questions that it must do if we are to rule out what even atheists admit: There is the appearance of design in living organisms. If you are going to rule out what is apparent to all then you'd better get past the bumper-sticker and layout in detail the hows, whens, wheres, etc. "Nor do I see how ID, unless it actually has answered all comparable questions definitively, can fairly consider gaps in our knowledge as evidence of a problem with the approach itself."That's the God of the gaps argument, again, which misrepresents ID. In fact, it is not ID that doesn't live up to it's claims, it's the theory of evolution. The theory of evolution is about the claim that all life emerged by way of purely physical processes, whereas ID is about demonstrating that there is evidence of design in living organism. To expect ID to provide details about the process is to expect it to do the work that the theory of evolution is supposed to be doing. You said:"Kaz, one can go to a mainstream medical school and never be exposed to homeopathy. Is that best taken as evidence of a conspiracy to keep exciting new ideas out of the medical profession, or as evidence that, at the very least, homeopathy has not demonstrated its scientific/medical merits?"I don't think you've ever heard me speak of "conspiracy." But, setting that aside for now, the problem with your comparison is that one wouldn't necessarily expect someone who graduated from medical school to have a detailed knowledge of every disease or every type of treatment. I don't fault my doctor because she doesn't practice iridology as part of her program to identify and cure my illnesses. I do find it extremely troubling, however, that a biologist can get a PhD without being exposed to the complex inter workings of the cell, which is the sort of info that Michael Denton addresses in the book I referenced.~Kaz

  • James, by asserting that ID has had substantial discussion (assuming you mean discussion that is meaningful) and then asserting that we shouldn't expect biologists to be conversant with the sort of info that Michael Denton discusses, is to reveal a rather serious disconnect between what you're saying, and, well, what you're saying;-)~Kaz

  • My experience and opinion, most scientists could care less about ID and YEC….they do not consider it science but religion. Thus they do not waste their time on it. As a matter of fact, I consider the so-called debates between IDer's and real scientists a side show, mostly in the same category as non-credit "extension" classes offered on campuses, with totally useless but amusing subjects to students. Real scientists, I think, are only interested in ID if they effectively have a "mission", either religious and wanting to convert the wayward IDer's; or strongly atheist, with a mission of both converting the IDer's, and embarrassing the real scientists that are religious (but accept things like evolution). Happy Ressurrection Sunday.

  • I think atheists tend to lump together IDer's and scientists who believe in God, just as IDer's lump together atheists and scientists who believe in both God and evolution. Neither process has anything to do with science. Just their own personal beliefs. Science and religion should be separate, just like government and religion.

  • Kaz, if you really believe the things you wrote, then you have not looked into the subject very deeply. Oh, I fully acknowledge that you may have read a lot of sources advocating Intelligent Design. But you seem not to be aware of the range of criticisms that scientists have offered of ID – not in science journals, since ID has yet to publish anything substantial in such venues, but in plenty of other books and online. Please listen to the scientists themselves, rather than discussing this with a religion professor. If you're not listening to the scientists, then you either aren't really interested in finding out the truth or are just out to promote an ideology, no matter how much harm you do to the reputation of Christianity in the process. Scientists have written on this subject. Christians have written about it. Scientists who are Christians have written about it. I've recommended books and web sites in the past and will gladly do so again. Please, consult the experts. You might still think ID is right, but presumably if you have heard another prespective, the mainstream one, then at least you won't just repeat the claims of one side in the way you have consistently done here.

  • Kaz, in relation to your second comment, let me direct your attention to the example of homeopathy which I used. It wouldn't be appropriate to have always ignored it, but having looked at it's claims, and having found them wanting, it would be inappropriate to give them "equal time" or any serious time in a medical school curriculum. But that doesn't mean that doctors and scientists do not write about the subject in articles, on blogs, and elsewhere. The same is true of Intelligent Design. It has been shown even in a court of law to offer "breathtaking inanity" and while in the Dover trial it became clear that there were experiments that proponents of ID could do but had not done, and still haven't – though others have, and have found the results to support mainstream biology. But scientists continue to blog and write in other venues about it because misinformation continues to circulate, and be promoted by organizations that do not care about truth but about their Intelligent Design agenda.

  • Well, I guess we'll end it here, since we apparently have the same view of each other's familiarity and understanding of the relevant data. ~Kaz

  • Yes, and it may be that the opportunity I have of being able to speak regularly to colleagues who are biologists about these things gives me an unfair advantage.

  • Stephen Frasier

    Nice post! Although I am not a creationist – at least in the traditional sense – I agree with much of what you say. The creationism debates can become sickening after a while. Great reverence for nature, unspeakable awe of the universe, and the continued deep inspiration we can all receive from the natural world are more practical (and FAR more satisfying) than any particular group’s interpretation of the creation portions of religious texts. 
    – From a genuine truth seeker 

  • I think you have mis-characterized Intelligent Design Theory. It does not work on the assumption that God must have created in only a certain way. It works on the assumption that it is possible to infer intelligent design of biological features the same way that we infer intelligent design of other things, such as SETI is attempting to do.

    To call ID blasphemous is preposterous.

    • That design arguments are impious is not a new suggestion, much less an imherently preposterous one. I take it you have not read Hume’s Dialogues concerning Natural Religion? Demea, the character whose viewpoint is closest to conservative Christian theism, opposes Cleanthes’ argument from design on the grounds that making such a close analogy between a human creator and the divine Creator is fundamentally irreverent.

      • It doesn’t matter if it is new or old. It is still preposterous. ID isn’t trying to argue that the designer is God. It is trying to argue that there is similarity between known design and biological features, such that it is reasonable to infer that the biological features are designed. The atheist Fred Hoyle believed that the first living bacteria were intelligently designed. I doubt he would have given a fig if someone accused him of irreverence.

        But there is good theological grounds for thinking that the Creator is like us. We are told that we are created in His image. It is reasonable to think that there will be analogical similarities between us.

        • Well, I could simply respond that it doesn’t matter whether it seems preposterous to you – it is still blasphemous. The ID movement regularly claims to not be arguing that the designer is God, in order to try to get its claims into public schools, but few find that persuasive, and the evidence for the dishonest of “cdesign proponentsists” seems clear with respect to this particular point. But my point is about the very nature of ID. It assumes that there is sufficient analogy between the Creator and humans to justify the argument that divine creation will have features akin to human creations. And that line of reasoning also allows for one to talk about the ineptitude of the Creator, failing to design things in a rational way – as with the giraffe’s pharyngeal nerve – or in a benevolent way – as with most living things needing to breathe and drink through the same orifice and frequently choking as a result.

          Can you now understand – even if you still disagree – why Christians have often found design arguments to be more of an attack on God than a legitimate argument for his existence?

          • And I could re-respond that you are making a preposterous statement. The fact that the atheist Fred Hoyle thought that intelligent design was the best explanation for the origin of the first cells should be enough to show that ID isn’t just arguing that God is the designer:


            But at least you have now buttressed your claim with an actual argument:

            1) God is not inept.
            2) There are inept features in living things.
            3) Therefore, God did not design those features.
            4) Anyone who believes that God designed them is implying that God is inept, which is blasphemous.

            An ID proponent could grant the soundness of this argument (though theologians might debate whether God might create inept designs for purposes we don’t know) without giving up ID or committing blasphemy, since ID does not claim that God designed any or all features of living things, or that all features of all living things were intelligently designed. ID makes the much more modest claim that there is evidence that at least some features of living things are best explained as having been intelligently designed.

          • What astronomers or physicists happen to think about biology, or vice versa, isn’t really germane. Just because I’m a scholar of religion doesn’t mean that my impression regarding a matter related to Sikhism will be more insightful than that of anyone else, if it isn’t my field.

            Here’s a link to an excerpt Tony Jones posted by Nancey Murphy which relates to this topic:

          • Hmm. I thought I had posted a reply, but I don’t see it. First, I didn’t quote Hoyle as an authority on the origin of life (which is not, strictly speaking, part of biology), but as an example of how one can believe in intelligent design without believing that God is the designer. Which is Murphy’s point, is it not?

          • This may help you grasp Murphy’s point more clearly:

            Unless you are using “Intelligent Design” in a manner different from that of the “Intelligent Design” movement?

          • I think Murphy is mistaken in thinking that there is (a) one monolithic view within the ID movement regarding the compatibility of Darwinian evolution and Christianity; and (b) that ID proponents think that divine action in Nature is only interventionist and not also sustaining of nature.

            Regarding (a), Behe has stated on a number of occasions that he has no theological axe to grind regarding Darwinian evolution, merely a scientific one. The other leaders have a more theologically antagonistic view of it. Regarding (b), I don’t know of any ID leaders who deny that God also acts by sustaining Nature and its laws.

            But I don’t know of any ID leaders who think that ID theory proves that God is the designer. As far as I know, all of them believe that God is the designer (though I think one or two of them might attribute evil design to Satan and his minions). But none of them think there is a direct logical inference from design to God.

            Personally, I have no theological beef with Darwinian evolution. God has my permission to create anyway He so chooses. I have doubts about whether neo-Darwinism can account for all or most of evolutionary history. But if my doubts are ill-founded, that’s okay with me.

          • James, are you deleting my comments?

          • No, I do not delete comments other than from spammers or if they contain nothing but insults combined with swearing/vulgarity. I just checked and there isn’t anything in the spam filter. What was the gist of the reply? I should have a notification e-mail, assuming it didn’t just disperse into the cyber-ether.

          • Well, if it doesn’t disappear, the comment below this one gives the gist.

  • Cardhu

    I agree.

    Creationists rejecting the findings of modern science reveal a fundamental philosophical flip-flop between science and creationism over the nature of God’s Creation:

    If God created existence, can what we experience be trusted to be real, shareable between individuals, and verified as having common characteristics that can be studied and learned?

    Science answers that question with “Yes.” In fact, this is the entire basis of empirical scientific methods.

    Completely ironically, creationism firmly answers this same question, “No. The truth of God’s Creation cannot be trusted.” Creationism rests on anti-christian assumptions about God’s Nature:

    – God is not always truthful;
    – God is not constant and unvarying. God is arbitrary.

    In Christian tradition, the nature of God is clearly defined in the Bible:

    Only God has the power to create (Colossians 1:16, John 1:3);

    God does not lie, does not vary, does not deceive; God is steadfast, unvarying, and always truthful (Numbers 23:19, Hebrews 6:18);

    God reveals Himself through His Creation (Romans 1:19-20, Matthew 7:7).

    Creationism beliefs fundamentally violate the nature of God described in The Bible.

    Jesus warned the Pharisees about the sin they committed in denying that the Works of God are God’s Works:

    “And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.” Matthew 12:31

    In denying the truth about God’s Creation, creationists are actually not demonstrating faith.

    They are actually committing blasphemy.

    It is really hilarious irony:

    Atheists do not believe in God but do believe His Works;

    Creationists claim to believe in God, but do not believe Him or His Works.

    Creationists seem to just want a god of their own creation.

  • Cardhu

    A physician once commented that the clearest refutation of intelligent design he could conceive is the design of the human rotator cuff.