Posts Tagged ‘Intelligent design’

Religion and Science

I don’t personally agree with all of the viewpoints, but I think that this video, thanks to The Panda’s Thumb, helps to illustrate Stephen’s position.  Intelligent Design is a misdirection to try to show that science is an attempted refutation of a Creator, when in reality science is a method for exploring nature and testing causal links to phenomena.

Intelligent Design really is a muddled attempt to achieve contradictory philosophical goals:

1. Science shouldn’t be talking about God, because science isn’t theology.
2. Science proves theology.


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Theistic Evolution and the Creator

I should probably state upfront that this is not an attack piece.

Despite Alden’s protestations otherwise, Intelligent Design is clearly a form of creationism.  The concept, as drawn, tries to impose limits on the natural processes of evolution where they have not been demonstrated through the process of science.  If he wants to conflate the issues of science and theology in this issue, then he is doing so in opposition to the philosophy of science and how science is done.  Intelligent Design pretends to impose limits in order to demonstrate a designer by default.

Before I get into the main piece, I would like to make an observation about my co-bloggers here at Clashing Culture.  Stephen Matheson is an accomplished researcher and teacher in the naturalistic processes of evolutionary development at Calvin College.  He is a committed Christian who believes that a Creator is the author of the Universe.  Thomas Robey is a biologist who is working very hard to complete his MD, and is a committed Christian, who also believes that a Creator is the author of the Universe.  He sees the effects of the evolution of microbes in response to medicine, and also sees the limits of the design of the human body.  Anastasia Bodnar is a researcher, and here is a small twist of irony.  Anastasia is a strong agnostic, yet she is studying a form of design through genetic modification.

I am bringing it this all up because of another form of evolutionary philosophical thought (which some call a form of creationism) and that is Theistic Evolution.   I don’t think it is creationism because it doesn’t mess with the actual science of evolution, but it does create some problems for me in trying to place the God of Theistic Evolution (TE) with the state of nature as it is observed.

In a sense, and correct me if I am wrong, the nature of TE is that evolution unquestioningly leads to “endless forms most beautiful” and leads from a common ancestor as yet unidentified.  The process works with the mysterious guidance of the Creator, leading us through to the ascent of man.  Ken Miller is an advocate of TE, and yet echoed Gould’s statement that if we were to rewind the tape of evolution it is unlikely to have resulted in mankind as we know ourselves.

TE still proposes that mankind is a teleological development of evolution, and that God is the guide that led evolution to us animals with souls.  It holds that even if the creation stories of the Genesis accounts are not literally necessary in order to be a religious Muslim, Jew or Christian, at least there is a reason to trust that God has an active role in our lives, deaths and afterlives.  But here is where my problem lies.

Thomas Malthus

Thomas Malthus

Malthus’ essays on population and overpopulation from an economics standpoint inspired, at least in part, Charles Darwin’s understanding of natural selection as a creative force in combination with variation and heredity.  Populations are overly fecund, and so through processes of reproduction each species will fill its niche being stopped only by death, destruction, starvation and then evolution comes in.  The species whose variations give them even the slightest advantage over their sister variations will have a greater chance at survival should the environment force adaptation.  It is a lesson in fluid dynamics, in that while seeking equilibrium things remain unequal in nature. (Fluids seek equilibrium in temperature and volume.)

In responding to the urge to reproduce and eat, nature is red in tooth and claw.  It’s a metaphor for the violence in nature, and even plants participate in the violence, seeking ascendancy over competing plants through spreading deeper roots, growing bigger leafs or growing taller in seeking the materials they need to create their food.  Plants and animals defend themselves against being eaten through developing defenses that increase their survivability against their predators, and equilibrium forces natural selection not to overreach (costs and benefits, while not drawn on charts by plants trying to figure out the best survival strategy with the least energy cost, are important.  Too much defense takes away energy used for other needs for survival.)

If we consider Theistic Evolution, then we need to figure out what kind of God is proposed and maintained.  A Creator who has created such a world in which death drives natural selection in order to achieve humanity could hardly be considered to be a benevolent creator.  Theistic evolution would seem more likely to accept the God of the Old Testament who gave favor in war to Joshua, enabling the slaughter of the Canaanites and those others who stood in his way.

The Creator of Theistic Evolution seems to me more the one who favors certain froms of life over others, considering the estimate that 99% of all life forms (I am tentative about using the word species, see Wilkins,) are now extinct.

So, I ask, who would be the loving God of Theistic Evolution.  Conceptually, any God involved in evolution wouldn’t be a loving God who gave his only son for our salvation, but a God who either is distant as in the deist conception, or actively cruel and capricious.  Considering the damage that Man, presumed to be  the highest achievement of Theistic Evolution has wreaked on our environment, I would think that the near God of the Abrahamic religions could have found a better way.

Can anyone fill me in on how Theistic Evolutionists reconcile nature with Nature’s God?

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Design and the Intelligent Design movement (IDM) will probably come up regularly on this blog, and in fact I am eager to discuss the concept of design with the other bloggers here. But it’s almost impossible to bring up “design” without bringing to mind the IDM, and that’s unfortunate, Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Camebecause the IDM is contaminated with some of the most toxic intellectual and cultural ideas that one can find outside of the brand of fundamentalism that Mike brought up a few days ago.

The natural theology of the IDM, and its obvious stealth creationism, are topics for another time. Today I thought I’d point readers to a disturbing outburst by one of the IDM’s leaders, a tirade that is notable for its vicious malice and for its stark explication of the soul of the movement. ID raises interesting (if shopworn) questions about design and information, but its raison d’etre is not design. The IDM is a social and political movement against naturalism (HT: Ted Davis of Messiah College). And Bill Dembski, one of the movement’s most prominent spokespersons, makes it clear that the goal is total war — “culture war” to be exact. Here’s one of the more chilling sections of Dembski’s most recent call to arms:

So here’s the deal, everyone. Theistic evolutionists are implacably opposed to ID… They are happy to jump in bed with Richard Dawkins if it means defeating ID. They are on the wrong side of the culture war. And they need to be defeated.

Those who know anything about the IDM know that culture war is one of its founding principles, but maybe you all didn’t know that Christians like me, who accept and even embrace evolutionary explanations, are among their most reviled foes. Am I on the Enemies List because I criticize ID? (Well, okay, they haven’t actually named me. Yet. Dang.) Nope. What makes “theistic evolutionists” anathema to the culture warriors of the Discovery Institute is made clear in this comment on Dembski’s followup to the Fatwa of 12 June:

I would have preferred peaceful co-existence with the TE’s. My first choice was to agree to disagree—to seek common ground—to dialogue in a spirit of friendliness and mutual respect. But it was they who decided to go on the attack, defending their materialist atheist friends…

Yes, I have “materialist atheist friends,” and I’ve been known to defend them and drink beer with them and even hug them sometimes. And it’s clear that “being in bed with Richard Dawkins” or “defending atheist friends” is far more horrifying to some IDM leaders than is, say, fabricating a fairy tale about “junk DNA.”

Anyway, I’m not currently worrying about mathematicians and aerospace engineers showing up in my driveway with torches, pitchforks and graphing calculators, but if they do, I sure hope Mike and Anastasia will make some room for us in their basements.  And in the meantime, I’m praying that Christians will wake up and see the “culture wars” as the insanely self-destructive exercises that they are, and looking for a day when they give a culture war and nobody comes.

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