The Ball is in the Designer’s Court

COCCOLITHOPHORESby Brad Nelson   10/19/14
One of the things I gauged from the Meyer/Sternberg and Prothero/Shermer debate that I ran into by chance on the web (which I don’t consider worth watching in regards to learning anything substantial about either intelligent design or neo-Darwinism) is that if one doesn’t have a good argument, one’s argument will tend to descend into attacks on someone’s character. That was central to the “debate” from the side of the Darwinists. (And “debate” needs to be in quotes, for as is typical of such “debates,” it’s more a pissing contest than a careful and thoughtful articulation of ideas and arguments — a circumstance exacerbated by the disingenuous demeanor of the Darwinists).

And that makes sense because the Darwinists don’t have a detailed argument for how complex life evolved via random mutations and natural selection. There has not been even one paper published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal that explains, in any relevant detail, how any complex biological system came to be via neo-Darwinian theory.

Indeed, all that neo-Darwinists can say in regards to these complex systems and data is that “things evolved.” And they do so (and keep doing so) in many imaginative ways — some of them clever, some of them stale. For example, they will point to the obvious fact (a fact not in dispute regarding intelligent design) that, on the long scale, we see in the fossil record (starting with cyanobacteria and ending with man) that things have certainly become more complex. Meyer stipulated several times in the debate that he had no argument regarding the facts, only with the efficacy of neo-Darwinism to explain those facts.

To be fair, I sympathize with the argument presented by one of the neo-Darwinists in this debate (although he seemed to be arguing more from the side of atheism than from science) that positing a designer sort of short circuits the scientific enterprise. In some respects, I think it does. I think it’s only honest to admit that. But perhaps that is where the evidence is leading us, while acknowledging that it is one thing to posit an intelligent cause for life. It’s quite another to prove it.

As I roughly view things, neo-Darwinism is dead (and, according to Dr. Paul A Nelson in his interesting presentation, has been known to be dead by the scientists themselves for over 20 years now) as a credible explanation and cause for the complex systems of life. For bending a finch beak a little? No problem, although the famous Galapagos finch beak observation in question that is hailed as proof of the power of Darwinism was shown to be merely a seasonal variation…there was no permanent change to the species. But for creating the flagellum or human immune system? There is no even marginally credible reason to believe that neo-Darwinism could do so. The only power this theory has at the moment is that there is no other solid explanation in hand proven to a sufficient degree. Neo-Darwinism glides on the kind of vapid “consensus” that keeps alive the fraud of man-made global warming.

Stephen Meyer and others assert that intelligent design is the alternative (and only) theory that is able to explain the specified information and the complex systems of life. Asserting an unknown intelligence as a possible alternative explanation is all well and good. But short of a barcode imprinted by the designer in the DNA molecule, the idea of an intelligent designer is still in the realm of informed speculation, even granting some of the somewhat “soft” proofs that Stephen Meyer has posited for intelligent design (including the one for the supposed junk DNA which so far has borne out in favor of those who support the theory of intelligent design).

Still, I find it a credible argument by neo-Darwinists, for example, that it’s one thing to infer design from, say, ancient cave paintings because we know that humans do such things today and that there were humans around tens of thousands of years ago. But it’s another thing to infer a designer of the type we have never before seen. And although Meyer makes a good case in one of his books that one need not show proof of the designer if one can show that intelligence was the only cause able to produce the particular effect in question, it’s only common sense regarding something this important to need the designer as well. The designer is integral to the argument.

This is important because, again, I’m sympathetic to the objections by materialists of ambiguous story-telling entering as an explanation for something we see in nature. Humans are capable of endless story-telling (as we see in Darwinists themselves in their weak apologetics for their theory) regarding some basic set of circumstances, texts, or ambiguous (or otherwise) evidence. The power of science has been to ignore any and all such stories and to assume that whatever was seen in nature was necessary. And if one were to make a story, it would be formed as a hypothesis that could develop into a theory, which could then be supported or refuted by hard evidence — by something other than the clever ways we humans have of manufacturing and twisting rhetoric (or mathematics, as Stephen Hawking has done to produce his mythical multiverse).

It is entirely reasonable to resist an idea that basically says, “On the most important question facing humankind, we must now throw aside the assumption of hard evidence and resort to a kind of soft story-telling that is based upon rhetoric, logical or otherwise.” One thing we learned from the Greeks, for example, is that one couldn’t come to understand the universe via mere logical argument — story-telling from the armchair, if you will. And the overall assumption of intelligent design does engage in at least a bit of story-telling regarding the designer, thus I believe that the nature and motives of any such proposed designer are integral, not peripheral, to the intelligent design argument or the argument itself will forever remain in the realm of mythology.

That neo-Darwinism should be junked for anything other than peripheral biological issues and micro-evolution (with the edge between that and macro-evolution still to be precisely determined) seems self-evident, as does the fact that many have made materialism/naturalism not just their default procedure for doing science but their religion. Where intelligent design might take us perhaps depends, suitably, on whether the designer wishes to take active credit for the design. We’ll see.

There is still so much to discover about the mechanisms of cells (however those mechanisms came to be) and the various complex systems of life. And that information will surely direct us to one theory or another, even if those theories are necessarily speculative. And it is more than fair, and eminently logical, to posit mind as an ingredient in the solution — maybe even the key ingredient. But if the insertion of mind is integral to the process, it could be that we have come somewhat to the end of science (at least regarding biology) and that our theories (short of a credit-taker) will remain necessarily fuzzy and unconfirmed to the extent that we are used to.

So, the ball is in the designer’s court. The designer or designers must step forward and take due credit for his or her (or their) work if this mystery is to be resolved. And if that sounds amazing, I don’t think it’s any more amazing the positing a designer in the first place.

By the way, the thumbnail image to this article is an image of coccolithophores, a type of algae that, according to this info, first appeared 220 million years ago: “They produce peculiar plates called cocoliths out of calcium carbonate, and  incorporate them into an external shell.”

And that, of course, makes me cuckoo for cocoliths.

Brad is editor and chief disorganizer of StubbornThings.
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Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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38 Responses to The Ball is in the Designer’s Court

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    I wonder if cocolithophores are related to diatoms.

    The Darwinian argument of the problem of the designer is a good explanation for why science prefers not to use such arguments, but begs the question: What if there really was a designer of some sort? But the reliance on falsely equating ID and creationism and smearing the adherents of the theory, and then grossly exaggerating the importance of evolutionary theory, are indications that their case is so weak that they have to bullshit the jury. And this has made me increasingly skeptical of their case.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Timothy, I knew you’d be game enough to comment on this. 🙂

      Regarding the relation to diatoms, that’s what I figured as well. Surely they’re both using calcium carbonate to build their shells. And if anyone would like to do a layman monograph on diatoms (even primarily from a pictorial standpoint), that would be a good article suggestion. They are amazing and they are beautiful. It is more stuff like that that I’d like to see at StubbornThings.

      What if there really was a designer of some sort? But the reliance on falsely equating ID and creationism and smearing the adherents of the theory, and then grossly exaggerating the importance of evolutionary theory, are indications that their case is so weak that they have to bullshit the jury.

      Indeed. Or as Indiana Jones would say, “Now you’re getting nasty.” If Stephen Meyer were secretly another Indiana Jones (and I hold out some hope that he is), he would have gotten out his whip and touched a couple of those Darwinist flakes.

      It may sound like a cliche, but even cliches can be true. And my best assessment, given all that I’ve read and all that I’ve seen firsthand, I think atheism is indeed a religion. And it is bizarre to see a couple religious fundamentalists attack Meyer for supposedly being a non-scientific religious kook.

      It is a profoundly daring thing to assert that intelligent design is the answer for how complex life forms were built. But science has uncovered bizarre realities deeply imbedded into nature before (such as quantum physics) and not denied that these things are true just because they are bizarre.

      The problem with intelligent design is that it’s not just another theory (no matter how much Meyer tries to make it seem so); It’s a proposed paradigm shift, and a major one. And as things stand now, it’s the most likely explanation for the creation of life. But even if we all sat down and kumbaya-ed with Dawkins and Shermer, set aside all differences (perhaps even hugged), and agreed that, indeed, intelligent design is true, it would then come down to . . . What then?

      The problem with intelligent design is that if it is true, it becomes highly problematic in terms of fleshing out the details. Yes, as Meyer notes, other “historical sciences” deal with one-off events that happened in the past, such as the Big Bang. But the thing with the Big Bang is that there are material processes and evidence that can be logically followed to get to that Big Bang idea. I’m not a radical materialist, but one must admit that for things that one can investigate via the materialist paradigm, it gives you something tangible within space and time that you can locate and deal with.

      This is not true of intelligence and mind, which are immaterial things and are not located in space and time. If intelligent design is true then it is likely the case that we can’t then say a hell of a lot about it. It will be tough to pin down. True, one might perhaps pin a few things down. If the Cambrian explosion was a case of a whole bunch of special-creation events (the 20 or so phyla that arose suddenly), then one ought to be able to create several consistent and unambiguous “trees of life” from the fossil record. I don’t know if anyone has tried that. And that tree should be consistent when comparing DNA in terms of (as I believe they can) the various mutations that can act like unique markers. And these should line up very well in the trees and not be expressed in the other parallel trees of the various phylum of a supposed event (or multiple events) of special creation in the Cambrian.

      One then also has to deal with such odd things as why the designer was content presumably to play around with nothing but cyanobacteria for a few billion years before the Cambrian explosion. What’s the goal? What’s the point? And there surely should look as if there is some overall point, for it all looks rather random and contingent, when this doesn’t seem particularly consistent with the methods of a designer. For instance, if this designer presumably had extraordinary powers, why did he let that asteroid wipe out his work and kill the dinosaurs?

      And because there is going to be little or no sign exactly when and how intelligence actually intervened to design or to tweak a design, we’re left (as I said) waiting for the designer to give us some details. A downloadable pdf giving a rough summary of events would be a start. This pdf would show when and where any shazam-like special creation events took place, and whether these were major creations or just small adjustments. And it would say how much ability for change was programmed into those special creations. (That is, where does macro-evolution end and micro-evolution start?)

      This all may sound stupid, but if there is a designing intelligence, it goes with the art and architecture of such things that you will have documentation, or that such documentation is a reasonable outgrowth of a project like this. If intelligent design is to be taken seriously, these kinds of speculations are part of the process. And if it makes the process seem silly, so be it.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Some would say that we already received such a download, a few thousand years ago. Unfortunately, Abraham or Moses or whoever could never have understand the precise facts (they had no concept of microbiota, for example), so we’re left with the symbolic description in Genesis.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Some would say that we already received such a download, a few thousand years ago.

          That’s all well and good for the “big picture” stuff. But Meyer’s, et al, argument is that mind is the best explanation for the specified information, irreducible complexity, and apparent design that we see in life. This brings the issue out of the clouds and past the pearly gates to actual artifacts that we can examine. No one can examine Jesus walking on water. But we can examine the specific creation of a designer who has designed things in ways that resemble our own complex computer and electronic systems. And we can evaluate them thusly.

          “Let there be light” is so non-specific as to almost be meaningless. But “Let there be light at 186,000 miles per second” is a different proposition. To deal with intelligent design (if we are going to deal with it), our minds can’t be satisfied with the image on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel of God giving the spark of life to Adam. That is as unspecific and unhelpful as Darwinists saying “Things evolved.”

          For intelligent design to be taken seriously, it cannot hide behind grand stories, mythology, and Cosmic karma. It has to get specific. If not, it’s a worthless idea, for although I’m no friend of materialists, at least they have several notches in their belt for the discoveries they’ve made and the useful products that have come from those discoveries.

          One of the challenges of the intelligent design theory is to go beyond mere “big picture” stuff. To be fair, Meyer does make some interesting predictions for intelligent design in “The Signature in the Cell.” And perhaps some of those ideas will be confirmed.

          But even the “big picture” stuff has to make sense. If it is posited that life is a result of design, then the fossil record (as well as the life we see all around us) has to make sense in this regard. Given that the theory is about another mind’s intention, the designer doesn’t have to follow any logical method or pattern. But intelligent design has to be able to show intention and overall patterns or else the entire story of life is going to make more sense in terms of just contingency, even if we have no idea of how the information and machinery in the cell came to pass. If it all just looks willy-nilly and random, there is no need for a designer.

          There should be the remnants of some logical goal and method in the pattern of life, particularly as shown in the fossil record. And we can also parse that pattern according to various assumptions such as: The designer is benevolent. The designer is a mad scientist. The designer is the equivalent of a child with a glorified ant farm. The designer is malevolent. The designer drops acid a lot.

          I very much look forward to the next decade of research into the mechanisms of the cell and DNA. This should spawn the next round of intelligent design books that perhaps bring the theory a bit out of the clouds. Or perhaps some other mechanism will be found. But one thing seems sure, if intelligent design is true then we will never find a natural explanation for life. I’m sure I won’t live that long for that conclusion to ever seem reasonable. But if a thousand years pass and life remains inexplicable according to naturalistic theories, then that would be extremely suggestive.

  2. Tom Riehl TRiehl says:

    When I opened this article, I sure didn’t expect to laugh at the end.

    Unless the designer enters our world, we will necessarily never know for sure how and why we are here. God as designer is at least a useful construct to think about this mystery. Belief and Faith can add a bit of spice to the endeavor, as well. But, I fear all we’ll ever be able to accomplish within our realm is to eliminate hypotheses and theories that fail scientific validity. The prime example of course is Darwin’s famous theory; it has been disproven even by his own standard.

    My question is: why can’t people let it go when informed with the facts? What’s the motivation for clapping your hands over one’s ears and yelling Neener-Neener-Neener?

    Now whenever I consider this topic I’ll see the rainbow Cocoa Puff bird. Thanks, Brad!

  3. GHG says:

    Brad, I’m not sure if you meant it this way, and I mean no disrespect, but the Designer already signed His work and if you think He needs to make an appearance to prove it to you or anyone, then I think your skepticism is leading you into a minefield. You’re amazed at the physical details of the design, and rightfully so, but it seems you may be missing the faith to believe what your intellect has concluded.

    We (humankind) are programmed to be curious, to question and then to seek answers. But I think the temptation succumbed to by so many is to raise our intellect on high like a personal Tower of Babel. What is the purpose behind searching for the answers to these fundamental questions – is it to glorify God or to eliminate Him?

    God created us with curiosity and intellect so it’s reasonable to assume He wants us to explore and to seek answers, but unless we do so in service to Him, we do nothing but worship our intellect.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      the Designer already signed His work and if you think He needs to make an appearance to prove it to you or anyone, then I think your skepticism is leading you into a minefield.

      Remember, Mr. Lesser, I’m speaking of intelligent design as a hopeful scientific theory. Referring to the Bible is irrelevant for purposes of positing a designer. Meyer (and rightfully so) makes no claim about who this designer is. It could be a Buddhist God, or a Hindu God, or — God forbid — Allah.

      For intelligent design to be taken seriously it is of no help to say “the Designer already signed His work.” If Meyer wants to bring the Bible in as evidence for intelligent design, he could do so. But I don’t think he will. And there’s nothing about the theory that presupposes a Christian or Jewish God rather than some other.

      And if we’re talking “faith” as the missing ingredient, then we’re no longer talking about a proposed scientific theory meant to explain (in at least general terms) the information and machinery in the cell.

      I give Stephen Meyer top marks for being specific about his theory. As much as he’s been accused by the other side, he has not mixed his religion into it. Of course, as he states in back of “The Signature in the Cell,” if the theory of intelligent design is true, it has religious implications. But he separates the two, and I will do no less in evaluating the theory.

      And in regards to “worshipping our intellect,” that’s unfortunately the kind of thing that comes from a religious sensibility but has no place in actual research. For science, there is no “no-go zone.” Scientists may be humble, they may be smug, but the process itself knows no boundaries, and should know no boundaries.

      And when you say “He wants us to explore and to seek answers,” you are ascribing thoughts to the mind of God (that’s no small thing, speaking in terms of perhaps worshipping intellect). All I’m doing is trying to eek out the implications of the theory of intelligent design. The basic tenet of that theory is that it was a mind (God’s or someone’s) that built the cell. By spelunking in the machinery of life, we don’t have to ascribe thoughts to the mind of God (or the designer). We can see the fruits of that mind and thus have some tangible idea as to those thoughts. That’s pretty exciting stuff.

  4. GHG says:

    For intelligent design to be taken seriously it is of no help to say “the Designer already signed His work.”

    Be taken seriously by who? The people who have closed their mind to the possibility of a supernatural reality? I think it would be better to stop ceding ground – being defensive and playing by their rules and using their language. If in fact the science points to design, and I believe you and I and many other people think it does, then trying to shoehorn it into an acceptable explanation for those who won’t believe it anyway is not only a waste of time but it’s also a losing game plan, or if not losing in the long run, then certainly a game plan that will extend the Darwinian charade. It’s time to nail that coffin shut and bury it.

    Regarding whose God is the Creator – let each believer of a Creator God assume it’s their Guy/Gal – my comments were not meant to be religion specific, only that for me it is Christianity. The point is to (re)introduce the reality of a supernatural creator back into science. They didn’t used to be incompatible and they don’t have to be today.

    I’m running out of time … too many thoughts ping ponging around the old melon and too little time to format and post. To be continued …

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Be taken seriously by who?

      I would say to have intelligent design be taken seriously as a logical and scientific theory. That’s how Meyer intends it. If you have a beef with this, take it up with him.

      For what it’s worth, I think he has very carefully and honestly articulated his position without being tricky, two-faced, or “sneaking God in the back door.” His theory, in short, is that DNA and the cellular system inside the cell cannot be achieved in a stepwise fashion (such as with neo-Darwinism). Not only that, but to achieve this data and the accompanying cellular systems (many of which do seem to be irreducibly complex), one needs to have a forward-looking approach – aka “design.” All this and more implies mind…the mind of a designer.

      That’s it. There’s no talk about parting the Red Sea or anything else like that. Meyer is trying to keep his theory inside the confines of a scientific theory.

      If in fact the science points to design, and I believe you and I and many other people think it does, then trying to shoehorn it into an acceptable explanation for those who won’t believe it anyway is not only a waste of time but it’s also a losing game plan, or if not losing in the long run, then certainly a game plan…

      That’s your opinion, and it might even be a good one. But the question that Meyer and others are positing (unless they’re being disingenuous) isn’t a sociological question, a political question, a public relations question, or a religious question. They’re not asking whether it would be a good thing to propose this theory instead of that one. They are asserting the one they have. And that theory proposes that there is an effect seen in nature for which there can be no material cause. They are saying that mind, of some type, is the cause of the specified information in DNA as well as the complex system of machinery in the cell.

      Meyer, in particular, says that designer could be imminent (inside the universe…a space alien, for all we know) or transcendent. He says that although those questions are surely interesting, all he’s dealing with is what the thinks is a fact, that of mind. Surely the reason he is carefully articulating this argument the way he has is in order to avoid the baggage of religion. Meyer is frank that he is a Christian. But the theory is the theory and does not require a Christian God. That would add nothing to it from a technical standpoint. One might be able to build a solid case for inferring mind. A much tougher job is to infer which mind.

      The point is to (re)introduce the reality of a supernatural creator back into science. They didn’t used to be incompatible and they don’t have to be today.

      There are those who say the mind is inherently a supernatural thing. Whatever the case may be, Meyer isn’t asserting a supernatural designer. His is just a plain-vanilla “designer.” But, yes, if the theory of intelligent design is somehow proven, that could have religious implications, as Meyer says. But we should be cautious. If it’s true there is a designer, there is every chance to be surprised about who that designer might be (assuming we can ever find out).

      If Meyer is secretly just trying to prove his religion, then fine. He is then guilty as charged by his materialist/atheist opponents. But I take him at his word. He believes that the best and only cause of the kind of specified information found in DNA is a mind. And because he is a scientist, he doesn’t say more. (That is quite large enough of a proposition as it is.) And that’s not likely because he dares not in case he scuttles his long-range plan of bringing Jehovah into legitimate vogue in the halls of science. I think he just means simply to do careful science. If so, it would behoove you to get into the mind of the intelligent theoretician (Meyer) and see where he’s going with this and what the implications of intelligent design might be. And those implications don’t all automatically point to proving anyone’s religion. The law of unintended consequences could well come up with this issue and give surprising results.

      • GHG says:

        Let it never be said I was blessed with an abundance of subtlety and patience. I understand the battlefield dictates the tactics used and that Meyer is using tactics appropriate for the enemy with whom he’s engaged. I appreciate him and others that engage in the struggle for truth. My frustration is that the most powerful and convincing part of the argument is being veiled in an effort to sound scientific and that tactic (1) won’t convince the “unconvincable” and (2) won’t provide enough of a distinct difference between the two positions to attract those who are open to evidence of creationism. Citing a “designer” instead of a creator is too easily dismissed or misunderstood to mean something other than a creator God.

        Back when evolutionary theory was trying to be introduced in school curricula, the tactic was to appear non-threatening to creationism by wanting only to provide an alternative viewpoint. And of course the rapid advance of Darwinism eventually eliminated creationism and here we are. Aiding and abetting that cultural change were all the liberals/progressives/leftists in academia, media and government. Those guys still hold sway. To think the theory of ID, even if they manage to get their foot in the door, will have the same success in eliminating Darwinism is just wishful thinking.

        The opponents of ID are correct when they accuse ID of being a back door for creationism. And that’s the problem – using the back door. The evidence for creationism should be used to knock down the front door.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Citing a “designer” instead of a creator is too easily dismissed or misunderstood to mean something other than a creator God.

          Defining terms can be half the battle in understanding and in doing any kind of science. Here’s what John Lennox writes in “God’s Undertaker” about the meaning of the word “creationism”:

          Now ‘intelligent design’ strikes some as a curious expression, since usually we think of design as the result of intelligence – the adjective is therefore redundant. If we therefore simply replace the phrase with ‘design’ or ‘intelligent causation’ then we are speaking of a very respectable notion in the history of thought. For the notion that there is an intelligent cause behind the universe, far from being recent, is as ancient as philosophy and religion themselves. Secondly, before we address the question whether intelligent design is crypto-creationism we need to avoid another potential misunderstanding by considering the meaning of the term ‘creationism’ itself. For its meaning has changed as well. ‘Creationism’ used to denote simply the belief that there was a Creator. However, it has now come to mean not only belief in a Creator but also a commitment to a whole additional raft of ideas by far the most dominant of which is a particular interpretation of Genesis which holds that the earth is only a few thousand years old. This mutation in the meaning of ‘creationism’ or ‘creationist’ has had three very unfortunate effects. First of all it polarizes the discussion and gives an apparently soft target to those who reject out of hand any notion of intelligent causation in the universe. Secondly, it fails to do justice to the fact that there is a wide divergence of opinion on the interpretation of the Genesis account even among those Christian thinkers who ascribe final authority to the biblical record. Finally, it obscures the (original) purpose of using the term ‘intelligent design’, which is to make a very important distinction between the recognition of design and the identification of the designer.

          These are different questions. The second of them is essentially theological and agreed by most to be outside the provenance of science. The point of making the distinction is to clear the way to asking whether there is any way in which science can help us with the answer to the first question. It is therefore unfortunate that this distinction between two radically different questions is constantly obscured by the accusation that ‘intelligent design’ is shorthand for ‘crypto-creationism’.

          This idea of intelligent design won’t be won or lost on mere language. It will have to prove itself. But in order to promote and prove any theory, a scientist has to be precise and clear about what he’s talking about. I give Meyer full marks for doing so and especially to Lennox for articulating the issue in such clear detail.

          Intelligent design isn’t claiming that the designer is God, although that would be a logical assumption. But not all assumptions are true. So if one is building a theory, one should not pile on any unnecessary assumptions. If Meyer were trying to prove God, I suspect he’s honest enough to say so. But he’s not. He (and presumably others) are struck by the logic that only via minds do we see the kind of information content as contained in life. Darwinism (neo or otherwise) was primarily built on the idea of materialism, that the dumb forces of chemistry and physics were all that it would take to make life, that because of these forces life was inevitable.

          We have since learned that life is more a function of information than chemistry. This is the key element of intelligent design. There is no need to jump to religion. And, frankly, if all this was simply about proving religion, I wouldn’t be interested. The type of thinking it’s going to take to eke out a coherent, viable, and logical theory of intelligent design hasn’t a chance in hell of getting forwarded if people jump straight to religion. I think the theory would be undermined, if only because, logically speaking — as Lennox notes — there is a substantial difference between recognizing design and the identity of the designer.

          Of course, I’ve stated that for this theory to hold much water, the identity (or at least motivation) of the designer is integral, for unless we see some kind of overall pattern to the design through the ages of the earth, it would be a more logical and conservative move (from a scientific standpoint) to just assume that the overall process of life is random and subject to contingency — leaving the exact cause of life as still an unknown. If we posit mind as a cause, and yet the fossil record and the essence of life in whole looks like “catch as catch can,” then we haven’t gained much by positing a mind — at least from a scientific point of view.

          To think the theory of ID, even if they manage to get their foot in the door, will have the same success in eliminating Darwinism is just wishful thinking.

          I, for one, do not think I’ve ever stated that my interest in intelligent design is as a method to eliminate Darwinism. Yes, surely Darwinism exists to a large extent because it is the Left’s means of indoctrinating people into their world view. And like Leftism, it is a secular religion. But I want Darwinism pushed out the door because it’s wrong (or is at least wrong for anything but micro-evolution or wherever Behe’s “edge of evolution” turns out to be).

          This really is a case where two wrongs are not going to make a right. If intelligent design doesn’t make any sense, it should then be unceremoniously added to the scrapheap of failed theories. But if it’s true, it should be taught as the most probable way that life came to be. As for whether this designer is a God or an alien from the Gamma Quadrant, that is still up for grabs. But a careful science isn’t going to care one way or the other. It’s been this mindset of using science to try to validate a world view that has been so poisonous to science of late, giving us everything from the fraud of global warming to the dogmatism of Darwinism.

          • GHG says:

            I admit Lennox makes a valid point in the ambiguous definition of creationism. So scratch use of that loaded term. But I still believe avoiding the term creator is just beating around the bush in a fruitless endeavor to placate atheists. It’s ceding the power of words to them. If life is designed, then the default position is there is a designer which is a word that may be less offensive than creator to those who believe in a natural explanation for life, but no different in implication. Whether the designer is the Christian God or a space alien, he is for all intents and purposes our creator.

            I understand your point that to show probability of design doesn’t answer the what and why questions that materialism isn’t burdened with and therefore we’re still left with an unproven theory and even more unanswered questions. But if neo-Darwinism has been proven false, and it seems that’s the case, then it should be replaced with the most probable alternative and if that means it involves using the word creator, even if it means taking great pains to avoid attachment to a specific religion or a specific concept of God, then I believe the search for truth will be accelerated instead of slowed down while we play word games with the people who invented the use and abuse of word games.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              Well, one could argue that a creator would have operated at an earlier stage (such as initiating the Big Bang), with a designer merely working with existing terrestrial materials to jumpstart evolution (and perhaps work with it occasionally later on).

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              But I still believe avoiding the term creator is just beating around the bush in a fruitless endeavor to placate atheists.

              Well, let’s do a quick straw poll of those who are least into placating atheists:

              Paul Nelson
              Jonathan Wells

              Few get into the face of the Left as these men do. But generally they go by the term “designer.”

              I know it might seem as if intelligent design is on the cusp of proving a particular religion. But it isn’t. It’s the study of artifacts – ostensibly artifacts made my intelligence. But the artificer still remains silent on the issue and there is no reason to believe that this situation will change.

              Thus science can remain science and religion can remain religion, and intelligent design, in all likelihood, does not mean the end of science or the verification of anyone’s religion.

              Besides, the “designer” aspect stresses the intelligence aspect, which is the central tenet of the intelligent design theory, that information such as is found in the cell can only be generated by intelligence. But the term “God” means so much more. To try to put “God” in there is to try to simply own a concept that it has no right to.

              Good science is (or should be) less concerned with who is or is not being offended but with what language is most accurate.

              And as rickety as neo-Darwinism is in regards to explaining the creation and diversity of life above the level of micro-evolution, there isn’t yet anything to replace it. But that should not matter one way or another. A lack of a good theory for something does not automatically mean to throw something into the slot. If there is no clear and accepted theory for a phenomenon (which is the case for dark matter and dark energy), then the textbooks should say so. And that is the case for macro-evolution. Intelligent design is an interesting idea, but it has proven nothing yet.

              In a perfect world (or even one with a mild regard for integrity), neo-Darwinism’s strengths and weaknesses would be a part of the core curriculum. And any honest reading would state that the dogmatic way in which Darwinism is espoused is more an effect of people holding it like a religion rather than the efficacy of Darwinism to explain anything.

              Simple. Rational. Truth. It’s what science says it is supposed to be all about.

              • GHG says:

                Intelligent design is an interesting idea, but it has proven nothing yet.

                Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems to me that Darwin’s theory was as rickety as ID when it was first advanced, if not more so. The plausibility depended on faith that science would fill in the gaps and yet the theory was taken as gospel, albeit undoubtedly helped along by the philosophical and political opportunists to shove religion to the back of the bus. The intervening years have cemented natural evolution as the de facto belief system even past the point where it is known in the scientific community that it is no longer a plausible theory to explain the origin and evolution of biological life.

                Why shouldn’t ID get the same privilege? Even with the “baggage” of an implied creator. It doesn’t have to be attached to a specific religion any more than natural evolution had to necessarily throw God out of science. Of course the discoveries supporting ID are welcome news to creationists of all stripes, but you’re right, it doesn’t prove one religion over others – only that a creative force created us.

                I also feel compelled to say, in case you haven’t already picked up on it, that I’m somewhat combative on this subject. A part of me would like to see their atheistic snobbery shoved up their bippy and being gentlemanly and playing by the Marquess of Queensberry rules simply isn’t doing it for me. Picture Clint Eastwood shouting “get off my lawn” would come close to my disposition toward Dawkins and his ilk.

  5. Glenn Fairman says:

    God is the consummate chess master. We will find that it is always our move. We are warned, however, that the sky will one day be rolled back and the game abruptly concluded, but then it will be too late to ponder another move.

    If the great Lord God presented himself in the skies, then it would certainly dissolve all debate. If that DNA barcode was found stamped “Made in Heaven,” then it might settle the case of our origins, but it would leave undone the means of our Fall and Redemption. He is a Hidden God for all save those who wish to find Him with all their hearts. He remains hidden to the proud and the haughty — or the self-absorbed. He wishes to cultivate that mustard seed of faith– the smallest of all seeds. We are here to begin that process, and until it is begun, we can have no part in Him. One can approach the throne in apologetics, but throwing down one’s guarded reserves and gazing at the cross is the sole way to understand the Creator in all His Creative benevolence. Everything else is peripheral. The miracle of God’s Love makes the pots and pans of Creation pale by comparison.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      One of the interesting aspects of this entire subject is that built into the very structure of life is the ability to change. Variation is not something that neo-Darwinism builds. At most, it seems to ride on top of the existing cellular machinery, being like a gentle breeze the helps to choose one variation over another, and perhaps never fixing it beyond seasonal changes. John Lennox writes in “God’s Undertaker”:

      Stephen Jay Gould said, ‘The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of palaeontology.’48 His fellow palaeontologist, Niles Eldredge of the American Museum of Natural History, adds: ‘When we do see the introduction of evolutionary novelty, it usually shows up with a bang, and often with no firm evidence that the fossils did not evolve elsewhere. Evolution cannot forever be going on somewhere else. Yet that’s how the fossil record has struck many a forlorn palaeontologist looking to learn something about evolution.’49

      In fact, Eldredge makes an astonishing admission. ‘We palaeontologists have said that the history of life supports [the story of gradual adaptive change] knowing all the while it does not.’50 But why? What conceivable reason could there be for members of an academic community to suppress what they know to be the truth – unless it were something which supported a worldview, which they had already decided was unacceptable?

      What, then, does the fossil record reveal? Gould wrote: ‘The history of most fossil species includes two features particularly inconsistent with the idea that they gradually evolved: Stasis. Most species exhibit no directional change during their tenure on earth. They appear in the fossil record looking pretty much the same as when they disappear; morphological change is usually limited and directionless. Sudden appearance. In any local area a species does not arise gradually by the steady transformation of its ancestors; it appears all at once and “fully formed”.’51

      At best, it would seem that neo-Darwinism rides on top producing a slight effect — an ability that is already built into the cellular machinery and that would occur, and does occur, even without genetic mutations. Therefore “natural selection” can be seen as an after-the-fact law that helps to shape life. But, as it’s been said, natural selection deals with the survival of the fittest but not the arrival of the fittest.

      This is to me all terribly riveting stuff. But I doubt that most comprehend intelligent design as anything other than trying to assert the authority of God over science — and that includes both Christians and materialists/atheists. Surely this is why people such as Shermer push back so hard. They think they are meeting one religious Crusade by pushing back with their own. And might they have a point? How much of intelligent design is actually about positing a logical argument and how much of it, in practice, is about people trying to not just prove their God but to assert their God over science?

      One could say that Stephen Meyer is either a schemer in this regard or he is one of the first to take the idea of a designer seriously. Meyer is bringing the idea of God out of the mythology of Gardens & Snakes and asserting a real, live, actual designer. And I think it’s logical that the designer would be some sort of supreme being, not space aliens. But then again, you never know.

      It’s actually a very dangerous thing (at least for religion) to take God out of the sky, out of his comfortable generalities, and posit him as a designer of specific things which give specific effects. Ideas such as “nature’s god,” as written in the Declaration of Independence, act more as a social platitude than a statement of fact. But intelligent design treats the designer as a statement of fact. And that is different from a religious view and I think can be handled accordingly.

  6. Jerry Richardson says:

    I am exploring a book entitled, The Microcosm Within: Evolution and Extinction in the Hologenome, written by William B. Miller, Jr. who is an MD.
    Hologenome theory is defined as

    “The hologenome theory of evolution proposes that the object of natural selection is not the individual organism, but the holobiont, i.e. the organism together with its associated microbial communities.”

    Hologenome Theory of Evolution

    As you can probably guess, I don’t study and read various evolutionary theories because I “believe” them. I read and study them because for the most part I think they are flawed theories that need to be questioned and/or debunked.

    But surely there are some elements of truth in these theories. I just don’t know what it is; and I certainly don’t buy-into the just-so stories of most evolutional theory.

    I was fortunate enough to spend my early teen-age years growing up on farm. I saw first-hand some of the effects of man-made selection on cattle via selective breeding. This, of course, is not the same as “natural selection” mainly because there is a purposeful agency guiding the selection. According to neo-Darwinism there is NO purpose, all is by chance (the blind watchmaker). But there are some similarities. Heredity is obviously a very real and powerful happening.

    I have read, followed and applauded the theory of “Intelligent Design” not just for my interest in it as a theory in its own right, but also because the “Intelligent Design” advocates have been champion-debunkers, in my opinion, of “evolution”; especially in the areas of neo-Darwinism, “macroevolution”, and evolutionary theory of life from non-living matter.

    The book I’ve mentioned on hologenome theory is of particular interest to me because it seems to be a serious challenge to the worn-out, inadequate theory of neo-Darwinism; and it seems to suggest serious challenges to the long-supposed value of spontaneous mutations, the role of chance-beneficial mutations, and it seems to question how natural selection chooses among those mutations. All these things need, in my opinion, extensive questioning. Yet, the dogmatic, neo-Darwinism establishment opposes honest, open, no-holds-barred examination of the festering issues.

    The two features of hologenome theory that interest me the most are the primary aspect of the theory that contends that evolution does not happen on individual organisms, but happens to communities of organisms. So it’s like unless the coordination and cooperation are correct; instead of evolution we can expect extinction. In addition, there is the radical thought that all living organisms have some degree of “awareness.” That’s like saying that sentinent life extends down to the lowest, cellular levels. Heavy!

    What does this have to do with “Intelligent Design”? In my mind it places a greater premium, and burden, on the notion of design, in that design would have to extend to the encompassing complexity of an entire cooperating community of organisms.

    But at the same time, this potentially places a greater explanatory burden on standard evolutionary theory: How did these sorts of dependent connections survive and evolve by pure chance?

    I think at the very least, pure chance has to go. There has to be some sort of goal-oriented process that would drive anything purporting to be called “evolution.”

    The following is a lengthy, and dense, quote from the book I have referred to. I really wish that someone who has a real interest and or knowledge in this area would take the lead and do a write-up:

    Near the beginning of this project about 20 years ago, I had a chance conversation about evolution with an older physician colleague. I was stating the accepted theory about spontaneous mutations occurring in populations, the role of chance beneficial ones and how natural selection chooses among them. His reaction was animated and forceful. He felt that the theory did not accord with reality based on his own observations in every day medical practice. He had never seen any beneficial mutations during all those years. The only mutations that he had ever witnessed were harmful and often disastrous to patients. Although we weighed the possibility that beneficial mutations might be only very rare, or there might be some bias to perceive deleterious mutational outcomes over favorable ones, we agreed that there was likely to be something important in his observations with respect to evolutionary theory.
    There are many scientists in evolutionary and molecular biology who no longer believe that random spontaneous mutation can, in and of itself, account for the pace and patterns of evolutionary development and allege that additional factors must be considered. A short while ago, this would have been considered heretical and it is by no means in the current mainstream of evolutionary thought today. But, by incorporating current scientific findings, a new robust theory can be offered that better accounts for evolutionary processes.
    This new evolutionary construct is based on the recognition that every complex organism is an expansive hologenome , which is a highly complex collective network of discrete, inter-related and co-evolving microbial genetic ecologies in combination with the basic cellular matrix of an organism. That intrinsic cellular matrix has been previously identified by us as ‘host’. Medicine and science in general have only now begun to explore the extent of the microbial life that constitutes an obligatory part of any organism. New research has revealed that the vast bulk of the total genetic material which is a part of any single organism is microbial and not within its intrinsic cellular structure. Exploring the full implication of this genetic duality opens a pathway to unite the basic organic processes of infection, pathogenesis, symbiosis, parasitism, mutualism, latency, epidemic infection, extinction, and evolution into a unifying continuum of responses to a singular innate impulse: all genetic material seeks the most favored environments for its existence and reproduction.
    Recent research provides that answer by demonstrating that even the smallest genetic aggregates, microbes and cells, are not only passive reproductive elements but are discriminative, aware of their environments, and are able to compete and cooperate within them. In so doing, they are expressing a form of perception and preference. These faculties enable cooperative behaviors and enhance connections between cells.
    As James Shapiro, Professor of Microbiology at the University of Chicago emphasizes, “life requires cognition at all levels” (2007).
    Furthermore, this elemental sentience, even though it is not consciousness as we experience it ourselves as humans, is that agency that underlies and drives a series of organic processes which have been previously regarded as discrete, but rather represent a continuum of responses that encompasses individual pathogenesis, epidemic pathogenesis, parasitism, symbiosis, mutualism, and evolution . That same agency is also the final common denominator in extinctions.
    Every creature, which until now has always been regarded as a single entity, actually represents its own interconnected genetic universe of linked, semi-autonomous, and co-dependent ecologies. Every complex creature is much more than self. It is an unconscious multi-compartmental partnership , a link in a chain of successively larger and smaller interrelated universes, extending inward down to the most minute of microscopic genetic elements within each individual and throughout its innate cellular matrix. Every being is a result of a very basic process of elemental awareness and capacity brought forward over time and collected together in the marvelous creature we call a discrete organism, but is better understood as an immensely complex sum of its parts rather than as a singular entity.

    — Miller Jr., William B. (2014-01-23). The Microcosm Within: Evolution and Extinction in the Hologenome, Kindle Edition.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      An interesting concept, related to the notion that symbiosis is the main driver of evolution. Incidentally, if you like books about unusual theories, I would recommend Elaine Morgan’s The Descent of Woman and The Scars of Evolution, which posit an aquatic phase (probably in African salt marshes) of human evolution. Very interesting.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Someone between the “selfish gene” and the Gaia hypothesis there lays the baby-bear “just right” place.

      Or not. Where does the individual end and the group start? How much of an individual itself is defined by the essence of the group?

      I can’t think of the name of the species offhand, but we’ve all seen those nature shows where there is some extremely weird life cycle, particularly of aquatic creatures. There’s one (a type of coral?) that spends part of its life as a sponge-like group of cells and part of its life as an individual creature (and I may even be thinking of the sponge).

      And what about those fish that can change sexes?

      And then there are creatures such as bacteria that copiously share stretches of DNA with each other. In terms of the swapping of bodily fluids, they make even gay males seem like church ladies by comparison.

      Given that we don’t yet understand the mechanism of evolution (or to what extent evolution even happens), it’s impossible to say at what level it happens (to the extent of creating new species rather than just transient micro-evolution).

      • Jerry Richardson says:


        Given that we don’t yet understand the mechanism of evolution (or to what extent evolution even happens), it’s impossible to say at what level it happens (to the extent of creating new species rather than just transient micro-evolution). —Brad Nelson

        Absolutely! We don’t understand it because it is fundamentally based upon an irrational philosophy. One of my favorite Phillip E. Johnson Quotes is:

        One of the absurdities of materialism is that it assumes that the world can be rationally comprehensible only if it is entirely the product of irrational, unguided mechanisms. —Phillip E. Johnson

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Absolutely! We don’t understand it because it is fundamentally based upon an irrational philosophy.

          Well, I don’t consider either materialism or evolution to be irrational philosophies. Both have proved themselves in certain areas, and often quite profoundly. What is clearly irrational are statements such as this by Richard Lewontin which John Lennox mentions in “God’s Undertaker”:

          Similarly, in his review of Carl Sagan’s last book, the Harvard geneticist Richard Lewontin makes it abundantly clear that his materialistic convictions are a priori. He not only confesses that his materialism does not derive from his science, but he also admits, on the contrary, that it is his materialism that actually consciously determines the nature of what he conceives science to be: ‘Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs… in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment… to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated.’9,10

          Perhaps the paragon of materialist irrationality is contained in this Richard Dawkins quote:

          It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).

          • Timothy Lane says:

            A good example of what science can look like can be found in Tom Weller’s parody of particle physics in Science Made Stupid (which discussed such particles as the quark and the quirk, not to mention the groups of hadrians (further divided into barons/borons and masons/dixons) and teutons): “An amusing though less plausible parody of this material can be found in any current book on particle physics.” A friend who majored in physics found the comment rather apt.

  7. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Mr. Lesser, we’ve run out of room for replies so I’ll start anew:

    Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems to me that Darwin’s theory was as rickety as ID when it was first advanced, if not more so.

    Objections to the theory were raised early and often — including by Darwin himself. Darwin mentioned things that he said would disprove his theory, including the sudden appearance of species (such as in the Cambrian explosion). His theory required many small steps over very long periods of time. Many of those early objections still stand. I think that Lennox, in particular, mentions a few of them in his book, “God’s Undertaker,” but various quotes from scientists before and since Darwin’s theory have been sprinkled throughout the various prominent books on intelligent design.

    The plausibility depended on faith that science would fill in the gaps and yet the theory was taken as gospel, albeit undoubtedly helped along by the philosophical and political opportunists to shove religion to the back of the bus.

    There was no doubt a religious-like component in Darwin’s theory…just as there is a religious-like component in some objections to Darwinism and in the desire of some to raise up creationism to be put in its place, whether creationism is quite ready to fulfill that role or not.

    Let’s give the Darwinists their due: First off, evolution on some scale has happened, and neo-Darwinism at least describes micro-evolution, if not higher forms of evolution. And let’s give them their due and note that if we take a broad view of the fossil record, and look at the various ways in which species resemble each other, there has been an increase in complexity from single-celled cyanobacteria to human beings. It was (and is) never logically wrong to posit some type of evolution to account for this. Indeed, in the debate cited above, Meyer doesn’t dispute the facts. He simply posits that neo-Darwinian theory can’t account for all of those facts.

    And neither could creationism. Let’s also give credit to the scientists (whether Darwinists, atheists, or otherwise) who have done the painstaking research to uncover so many of the mysteries of life, particularly of the functions of DNA and the protein machinery. Research in these areas continues robustly regardless of anyone’s religious views.

    In fact, it can become somewhat comical as Darwinists have one face that they show to the public that all is well, and another they share among themselves. According to Lennox and others, there is apparently general agreement among many that neo-Darwinism faces many shortcomings. I can’t find the exact section of the book at the moment, but Lennox (or someone) cites a mainstream and popular biology textbook that has exactly one or two references to evolution in the index among thousands of index listings. For all the supposed centrality of evolutionary theory, it often is given the seat in the back of the bus when it comes to functional understanding of biology. It’s “out there” as a sort of Darwinian Pope that one must genuflect to. But once you have, you can forget about it in regards to understanding how things actually work.

    Why shouldn’t ID get the same privilege? Even with the “baggage” of an implied creator. It doesn’t have to be attached to a specific religion any more than natural evolution had to necessarily throw God out of science.

    You’re making my argument. The “designer” of intelligent design isn’t attached to any specific religion. And they’re being even more careful and thoughtful than this because they are not characterizing the designer himself, only that there was a designing mind of some type.

    And let’s remember this isn’t my theory. I found a list of contact information here for the Discovery Institute, including a contact email for Stephen Meyer’s assistant. I’d love to hear Meyer’s rationale on saying “designer” instead of “creator.” Searching for the term in Meyer’s “Signature in the Cell” doesn’t come up with much. When the word is used, he’s usually citing someone else. Here’s a passage from “Signature in the Cell” where that word is used, and is relevant to the general discussion:

    Nancey Murphy is a philosopher and seminary professor who strongly affirms methodological naturalism. Here’s what she says in full: “Science qua science seeks naturalistic explanations for all natural processes. Christians and atheists alike must pursue scientific questions in our era without invoking a Creator…. Anyone who attributes the characteristics of living things to creative intelligence has by definition stepped into the arena of either metaphysics or theology.” 41.

    Some might object to my description of methodological naturalism as a principle that excludes all intelligent causes from science. They could point out, correctly, that some scholars construe the principle of methodological naturalism (MN) as forbidding, invoking only supernatural intelligent causes, not intelligent causes in general, within science. Nevertheless, nothing follows from this objection. Interpreting the principle of MN in this more limited way doesn’t justify disqualifying intelligent design from consideration as a scientific theory. If methodological naturalism merely forbids reference to supernatural causes in science, then the theory of intelligent design should qualify as a scientific theory. Why? The theory itself claims to do no more than establish an intelligent cause, not a supernatural intelligent cause, as the best explanation for the origin of biological information.

  8. GHG says:

    First, I got my Kindle copy of God’s Undertaker and look forward to reading it – thanks for the recommendation.

    Maybe I don’t have a clear understanding of evolution theory success stories. I thought it claimed to (eventually) prove how lifeless matter was animated and how simple life forms evolved into complex life forms. So far as I know, 150 years later, evolution theory has proven neither. You’re correct to give credit to those scientists who have discovered so much about how life works but none of that credit belongs to the failed theory of evolution because in all likelihood those scientists would have made the same discoveries and possibly more had they not had materialistic blinders on and been open to design theory. As such, I have no patience for the continued need to genuflect to a debunked theory and her priests.

    So while those blessed with more patience and restraint than I continue to fight the good fight, I’ll continue shouting “get off my lawn” at the thieves of reason and fair play.

    BTW – the gap between Methodological Naturalism and atheistic naturalism is barely perceptible. Seems like another word play euphemism to me.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Maybe I don’t have a clear understanding of evolution theory success stories. I thought it claimed to (eventually) prove how lifeless matter was animated and how simple life forms evolved into complex life forms.

      The theory of evolution itself makes no claims as to the start of life. It addresses, by its own admission, how such life then diversified, changed, and became more complex once a reproducing organism came to be.

      Naturalism, on the other hand, makes broader claims, including that life came to be as a result of chemistry and chance. Lennox uses Sagan as a good working definition of naturalism:

      …Carl Sagan expressed with elegant economy in the opening words of his acclaimed television series Cosmos: ‘The cosmos is all there is, or was, or ever shall be.’ This is the essence of naturalism.

      Lennox is masterful at giving the implications of naturalism. Instead of positing an eternal, all-powerful mind, they posit an eternal, all-powerful material. In all their theories that try to prove naturalism, they end up investing the material of naturalism with god-like powers. Here’s a passage from Lennox’s “God and Stephen Hawking:”

      Tim Radford captures this very cleverly in his review of The Grand Design: “In this very brief history of modern cosmological physics, the laws of quantum and relativistic physics represent things to be wondered at but widely accepted: just like biblical miracles. M-theory invokes something different: a prime mover, a begetter, a creative force that is everywhere and nowhere. This force cannot be identified by instruments or examined by comprehensible mathematical prediction, and yet it contains all possibilities. It incorporates omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence, and it’s a big mystery. Remind you of Anybody?”

      Seeing the whiplash-to-truth that both ends of this debate can produce, I’m amenable to the idea that the large-T truth exists either in between or outside of either naturalism or supernaturalism. Material acting as a god seems as absurd to me as a talking snake in a garden.

      BTW – the gap between Methodological Naturalism and atheistic naturalism is barely perceptible. Seems like another word play euphemism to me.

      I don’t think there is much of a difference, in practice. I wouldn’t have thought that there was. However, distinctions regarding other subjects and concepts still remain or are possible.

      But regarding methodological naturalism, it is arguable that all science has proceeded using this technique, and rightfully so, for the division that counts from a metaphysical standpoint is nature and nature’s creator. Whether one believes in a creator of nature or not, both types (theists and atheists) can and will do just fine examining nature as a self-contained thing.

      It’s only when we get to the margins (such as the Big Bang and, arguably, to the information content of life) that methodological naturalism is stressed as a technique. And regarding mind itself, I don’t see any neat and tidy way to comprehend it or categorize it. Some say that mind is inherently supernatural. Others would rightly point out that because mind appears in nature, there is at least a natural element to it. And that leads to a view that what we call “natural” is simply that which has come under our means of observation and experience. Is perhaps “natural/supernatural” a somewhat artificial boundary?

      Thus Meyer’s minimalist use of the word “designer” seems wiser by the day.

      • GHG says:

        Brad, thanks for your patience. I’ll belabor this only once more (although I don’t promise 🙂 ).

        Thus Meyer’s minimalist use of the word “designer” seems wiser by the day.

        I think you’ve hit on the word that encapsulates what you find right about the approach of Lennox and Meyer and others and what I find frustratingly passive – “minimalist”.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          I think the word “designer” is appropriate in this case. If one is trying to establish fact and get at the truth, I believe it is advisable for one to use words which describe, as near as possible, that which one is discussing.

          Of course, if one is willing to misuse words to promote a particular agenda, then the misuse of words may not be as important to the writer. But this type of misuse can be turned on the user. I believe, we are seeing this happen with the discussion on Darwinism. It would appear the Neo-Darwinists have misused the language to further their agenda and this is being turned back on them. Had they remained open to where the science led them and not misused the language they might not appear in such bad light today.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            On page 100 of “God’s Undertaker,” Lennox goes into the various definitions of evolution (a little long to post here). I believe Meyer gives various definitions as well in “Signature in the Cell.” There are various meanings to the word “evolution,” some completely uncontroversial and others that theories such as neo-Darwinism attempt to explain that I believe are still obviously up for grabs.

  9. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Getting into the issue of intelligent design inherently gets you into the issue of…design.

    Let’s posit the obvious, that contingency is an active ingredient in shaping life. This may occur primarily at the level of micro-evolution, but just sheer chance and the dumb brute forces of nature do effect things.

    The logical question then becomes, Where does design stop and nature take over?

    One interesting aspect in this regard is mitochondria, the energy-producing organelles in the cell which produce the mini-batteries called ATP

    One now fairly well-accepted idea, as popularized by Lynn Margulis, is that mitochondria were independent bacteria that were incorporate (swallowed, but not digested) by some fortunate cell around 2 billion years ago. Without these energy factories, it’s doubtless that more complex and energetic forms of life (and cells) could exist.

    Mitochondria are hardly a sideline in terms of understanding life as it is today. They are as central to how things are now as the cell wall itself. It’s a basic structure to energetic life, although there are apparently more primitive cells that do not have these mitochondrial energy factories.

    The incorporation of mitochondria by an existing cell certainly isn’t support for neo-Darwinism (although it is for “evolution” in a general sense), as no new structure was built via mutation. It was just the merging (supposedly) of two existing structures. And it’s problematic for intelligent design, for would something as crucial to life as the energy factory of mitochondria be left to dumb luck?

    • GHG says:

      … would something as crucial to life as the energy factory of mitochondria be left to dumb luck?

      It seems to me that many creationists assume God created everything and then “rested”, even though the Bible describes it as a process that took “6 days”. Of course there is debate on the definition of “day”, but in general it is understood that each part of creation was complete – all were primary creation events. But that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. Setting aside the origin question of the “life” in mitochondria and the soon to be host cell, the incorporation of mitochondria into the cell could have been a secondary creation event – for instance right there in between the second and third “day”.

      So I don’t see that as a death knell for ID (or as I like to call it creationism 🙂 ). In fact it seems a design would require components to be separately built before assembly. There is little debate that micro-evolution is true and beneficial for weeding out the weak so components like mitochondria may have needed to evolve enough before they were ready to be the little energizer bunnies that their host communities needed.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        the incorporation of mitochondria into the cell could have been a secondary creation event – for instance right there in between the second and third “day”.

        Mr. Lesser, that points out one of the central problems that I think intelligent design faces. Indeed, it could be that the designer created biological aspect A at time X. And then biological aspect B at time Y. And then biological aspect C at time Z, etc. And that’s how it could have happened.

        But if this chain of creationism becomes long and convoluted enough, then it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to discriminate between a designer and just natural (if unknown) processes at work.

        If we’re always using the design principle to explain-away what we see, then we’re in the same boat as neo-Darwinist who do a fair amount of explaining-away.

        I would expect that if intelligent design is true, there ought to be some fairly clear overall plan that is evident. If “design” depends on positing contingency every time something odd or unexpected appears, then the design argument isn’t saying much.

        Still, much study and observation must be done to see if any kind of overall design can be seen.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      One book we have (it may even be by Margulis) suggests that symbiosis is a more important cause of evolution than natural selection, and gives this as an example. We might also note intestinal bacteria, which in mammals are essential for proper digestion.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        One book we have (it may even be by Margulis) suggests that symbiosis is a more important cause of evolution than natural selection, and gives this as an example.

        I’m just a hardened, bitter, cynical old fool, Timothy. As soon as I hear someone say that cooperation or symbiosis may be more important than competition, I smell the sickly-sweet perfume of gag-me-with-a-spoon Kumbaya. My first instinct is to dismiss such a vapid notion as so obviously trite.

        Luckily I’m a conservative not a Progressive or Libertarian, so first instincts aren’t the deciding factor. I have little doubt there is a mix of considerations: competition, cooperation, etc. One of my favorite examples of symbiosis is the clownfish and the sea anemone.

        Being the bitter old cynical fool that I am, I would still point out that I think it’s probable the most forms of cooperation are, at heart, a means of simply getting the upper hand on someone else. Two people cooperating provide a distinct competitive advantage over a single individual.

        And that example you site of bacteria and the human intestinal tract is interesting. Whether by hook or by crook, it seems that once some of these symbiotic relationships get started, neither side can live without them.

        Thus how to cure socialism? You see? (And being bitter and cynical has its advantages in terms of clear sight).

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Ambrose Bierce in his Devil’s Dictionary defined (I think) alliance as a combination of two men whose hands are so entangled in each other’s pockets that they can’t separately rob a third.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            LOL. Interesting definition. And I think it should be pointed out that cynics are often cynical for a reason.

            But certainly there are many forms of cooperation among humans whereby we accomplish peaceful things that we could not have otherwise, particularly in the areas of business and civics. And although the cynic is likely right that man will always look to his own advantage, there’s probably nothing inconsistent about advantage and cooperation..

            But it’s also a dog-eat-dog world out there. It is lost on the Left that we create “borders” and societies to deal with this fact. Europe will find out the hard way that political and social alliances have many good aspects, including excluding the barbarians from your borders (which they have not done in terms of Muslims, and they will eventually be engulfed by them).

            What the religious envision is the highest type of alignment and cooperation of all — and disagree on the nature of the Creator. Either he is a benevolent genius (Jehovah) or a blood-thirsty sick tyrant (Allah). Allah (given his derivation from a bunch of worldly, pagan-like gods) would seemed to be derived from nature, and nature is indeed “red in tooth and claw.” Any religion based upon nature is going to be bloody, aggressive, and quite likely beastly. And so it is. It’s the sick religion that knows only competition.

  10. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Language and myth-making can be important on both sides of this equation (both for evolution and intelligent design). If it comes down to whose myths to choose, that hardly seems like a rational argument.

    I was doing a little light reading about chloroplasts. I couldn’t begin to tell you how that all works. But I understand that by using carbon dioxide and water, plants are able to create a form of energy they can store and use inside the cell.

    But note the possible myth-making at the very bottom of this article after all this wondrous stuff is explained:

    Order can be produced with an expenditure of energy, and the order associated with life on the earth is produced with the aid of energy from the sun.

    You see this a lot in articles about biology. Biologists (particularly Darwinists) fill their literature with the same kind of genuflections to orthodoxy that I find frequently in books written by Catholics. (And I generally enjoy these Catholic books by authors such as Nouwen.) Some statement will be made by a Catholic writer, perhaps asserting nothing particularly controversial but perhaps slightly so, and it will be announced out of thin air that “Of course, I believe in the Trinity, of the father, son and holy ghost” as if perhaps doubt for that had come up (when, to the casual reader, it never would have crossed one’s mind that it was relevant to the nearer points being made). Those statements (disclaimers, really) seem to be thrown in there to announce to one at all that whatever it might look like I’m saying, I’m orthodox.

    We see biologists doing this all the time. The statement above could be interpreted as “No matter how wondrously designed this chloroplast plant system looks, it’s nothing more than an expenditure of energy.” Indeed, a famous quote by the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, Francis Crick, is one of the driving dogmas of Darwinists:

    Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.

    And unless the biologist above in regards to the chloroplast meant something else by his disclaimer, he was letting us all know that despite the wondrous biology that is drawn there for all to see, it’s just “an expenditure of energy.”

    But as Stephen Meyer or Paul A. Nelson might say (and I’ve read enough of their stuff to have a good idea of what they would say), “There’s nothing novel about the conservation of energy. By way of the machinery of the chloroplast, electromagnetic energy (sunlight) is turned into chemical energy (simple carbohydrates or sugars). This is not a controversial notion. But the energy of the sun does not give you the machinery in the chloroplasts that can work this transformation. Complex biological systems are not a function of energy. They are a function of the information that went into constructing these systems so that they can then take advantage of the law of thermodynamics.”

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