Good Theology, Bad Theology, and Demons

Good Theology, Bad Theology, and Demons

I have frequently commented that intelligent design (ID) is bad theology. Equally often, I am challenged by someone who will point out that ID may be bad theology from my point of view, while it might be good theology from someone else’s point of view. This is a very valid objection to what I have said, though I will defend the basic point. ID could be more correctly termed “theology done badly” than “bad theology.”

Nonetheless, since ID is being supported primarily by Christians, and evangelical Christians at that, it can be quite properly called “bad theology” as well, because it is bad theology within what is supposed to be the theological framework of most of its supporters. If you are wondering why there is a split amongst conservative Christians over ID, it is simply that many conservative Christians are saying either that this does not prove or that it is not even trying to prove anything that actually works within their theology.

In talking to Christian groups, I frequently find people who are shocked that I don’t support ID. “How can you not believe the universe is designed?” they ask. My answer is that I don’t accept ID precisely because I believe that the universe is designed. However it is disguised, however many chapters of mathematical formulas are provided, however many pious statements are made (whenever someone is not trying to pretend this is not theology), ID does not prove, and is not attempting to prove that the universe is designed. It is, in fact, attempting to prove that some elements are more designed than others, i.e. when we deal with specified complexity as a test of design, it means that we distinguish things that could happen randomly, and things that happen by design. Right or wrong, evangelical Christians are generally very uncomfortable with things that happen randomly. They are not looking for Paley’s watch on the seashore to prove that the watch is designed, but rather to prove that everything is designed.

Incidentally, that remains a failing of Paley’s proof for the existence of God. In traditional Christian theology the sea, the seashore, and each grain of sand is a design, and not just the watch, so again we’re distinguishing design from design. Theologians grab hold of such arguments largely because in a scientific age in which objective knowledge is king, they want to have just such scientific facts in hand. They want to replace faith with fact, but do so without giving up theology. The ID theorists envy the scientists their objective data, and their theories that explain major categories of evidence in an elegant way. They want that for themselves, but they don’t want to give up theology and go pursue science in order to do it.

Scientists wonder why ID proponents are so slow to get down to actual research and publication related to their material if they really want ID to be accepted as scientific. Michael Behe has even suggested research, questionable as it may be, that could be done, but nobody is doing it. Why? Because these people are essentially following the processes of theology. They are rearranging the existing ideas and historical data, and constantly wondering why it is that it doesn’t become acceptable science. They can maintain this search despite scientific training because they have become theologically convinced that theological proposals must be able to be as true as, and as demonstrably true as the results of the hard sciences.

This comes simply from a different approach. Most commonly theology, especially Christian theology, focuses on coherence rather than correspondence. (I’m bracing myself for the accusations that I am oversimplifying here. I am. I confess it. But I think that the generalization is adequately valid for my purposes and I don’t want to dig that far into epistemology.) The scientific method, on the other hand, focuses on correspondence. If a theologian finds a misbehaving fact, one that won’t fit into the system, he is first going to look for a way to tuck it into the system. A scientist in the same circumstances will try to adjust the theory, and if that fails, will hope to propose a new one and become famous. This is what the general public seems to miss about science and scientists. Discovering revolutionary new things is something scientists dream of. You don’t get famous by producing more data to support an existing theory; you have to produce something new. Theologians do try to produce something new as well, but most commonly that is a new way of arranging or looking at old data. An entirely new theology can be built without a single piece of hard data being introduced. And need I mention inventing data, something that gets scientists get caught at and get drummed out of the profession, but makes theologians founders of new religions. 🙂

A theologian doesn’t worry about new discoveries destroying his systematic theology. He is concerned instead with people who take apart the logic, or reinterpret some foundational text, and then follow some new path through the data. Rarely, however, does such a reinterpretation result in the original author recanting his view. It will probably just start a new school of theology, or a new sub-school, or perhaps a new sub-sub school. That’s because one theologian can’t tell another one that he is unable to replicate his data, and thus the theologian’s theology must be false.

Let me detour for a moment to comment that when a theologian deals with a field that does have objective data there will be a difference, and that theologians can make statements that can be objectively disproven. For example, a preacher approached my son when he was ill with cancer, and said that God had told him that anyone he laid hands on and prayed for would be healed of cancer. He laid hands on my son and prayed. My son later died of that cancer. Claim falsified. Fortunately, my son was smarter than the preacher, and didn’t let those words ruin such time as he had left at that point. But even in these cases, the theologian’s approach is not generally to alter the theory, but to explain the data within the prior theory. The recipient didn’t have enough faith (whether that was specificed in advance or not), the historical data that seems to contradict the inerrancy of the Bible can be explained in some other way, or will soon enough be contradicted by other data and God (or rather the theologian) will be vindicated.

If I can illustrate from something closer to my own field of Biblical studies, let’s say new evidence is discovered about the destruction of Jericho, as has happened several times. The objective archeologist takes the new data and adjusts his historical charts for the city of Jericho, looking at all available evidence. The theologian, in this case a defender of the Bible, looks at that data to see how it can be handled to support the Biblical story of the destruction of Jericho by Joshua and the Israelites. Some skeptics, taking an equally theological approach look at the same data to see how well it can be used to oppose the Biblical story. Only the view that attempts to formulate the best understanding taking into account all of the data (and that admits where data is absent) is an attitude compatible with a scientific approach. (I’m avoiding here differences between historical study and hard science. My observation is that the data comes down on the side of the defenders sometimes and of the skeptics sometimes, which suggests to me that the Bible is neither 100% historical when talking about history, nor is it totally in error. Of course, any amount of error means not inerrant.)

This takes me to the current mini-flap about an article Rumors of Angels: Using ID to Detect Malevolent Spiritual Agents. Scientists quite properly laugh this out of scientific court. But why would ID advocates avoid it? The intelligent designer is not specified. ID is not supposed to be a religious concept. So what difference does it make if the designer is an alien, and unknown intelligence from the stars, an angel, a demon, or God Almighty?

But that article has underlined the problem, because we clearly see that ID cannot distinguish between these various possibilities of a designer, because it is trying to demonstrate design in those little places where some external intelligence (rodents of unusual size, perhaps?) might tinker with life in an experimental lab. It’s precisely because they are not looking for design in the traditional sense that most Christians accept theologically, that this kind of thing cannot be excluded. Evangelical theologians would not be proposing angels and demons as agents of creation. But ID doesn’t really have a defense against it.

And please, my fellow Christians, don’t laugh just because we’re talking angels and demons. If you believe in one invisible friend, who are you to laugh at more invisible friends and and some invisible enemies. I see nothing in Christian theology that suggests that we can’t have such agents involved. But again, the fact that ID can admit this shows that it is working much more like theology than science. It reminds me of a three year old foster child my parents took in when I was a teenager. Whenever something bad happened, she’d announce, “Somebody done it, but I didn’t done it!” ID has attained just that level of explanatory power. When all current explanations have failed, ID proposes that we announce: “Somebody done it!”

Personally I don’t see much theological light in seeing demons interfering with nature. I’d have a serious practical problem if someone started suggesting exorcism as the proper response to Ebola, but then DD (demonic design) doesn’t suggest that the demons are actually in the virus, but rather that they adjusted it. I don’t tend to see “spiritual beings” as existing, but rather as more of a metaphor allowing us to use concrete language about spiritual issues. But then that’s my theology. Others will be more receptive to spiritual entities, many will be less so. That’s theology for you!

And thus I see ID as badly done theology, because it does not fit itself into any theological system, including the one purportedly held by most of its advocates, and because it presents itself as though it was theologically demonstrating something it cannot. In my own Christian view of a creator God who is sovereign over all and designed everything, however small, including many processes that produce other things in predictable ways, it is also just plain bad theology. Your mileage may differ on how good the theology is, but it remains theology, nonetheless.

But something else that shows up here is that it is also politics, because it shows a different face to different people. Many Christians right now are deceived into thinking that somehow these scientists who advocate ID have “proven” the existence of God and the presence of the creator. Because they believe this has been scientifically proven, they cannot see why it should not be taught as science in the classroom. Finally, they think, the existence of God has been made as certain as the principles that allow an airplane to fly! But ID has acomplished no such thing, and I would suggest that Christians should not rejoice if it had. The ID movement is perpetrating this deception as a political strategy. This makes it badly done theology used as a political strategy. The jury is still out on whether it’s an effective political strategy.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, NRSV). Let’s not confuse that with science. If that type of faith embarrasses you, perhaps you should reconsider your faith choice.

61 thoughts on “Good Theology, Bad Theology, and Demons

  1. *applause*

    We need more of this sort of reflection on ID. ID is not necessarily an ally of Christianity.

  2. ID is also bad Philosophy. The argument that if Theory A has some difficulty explaining Phenomenon X, then Theory B must be correct (without subjecting Theory B to any scientific scrutiny) is a serious logical fallacy.

  3. ID avoids angels, demons, etcetera because there is no empirical evidence to support them. ID is about detecting design in nature through specified complexity. There is nothing in the data to discriminate between hypothetical intelligent agents responsible for any patterns exhibiting the characteristics of design. Thus while design detection is science (arguably math) talking about specific designers is not. Instead of angels we might as well postulate invisible quantum scale pixies that guide subatomic particles around with invisible little leashes – there’s exactly the same amount of empirical evidence (none) in support of both angels and quantum pixies.

  4. Re faith healers: I had a similar experience when I was ill a few years back Henry. In the later part of 1998 I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis (thankfully not Cancer although many of the symptoms were similar). One of my christian friends told me that he was certain I was going to be healed. Despite extensive drug treatment (heavy steroids and anti-inflammatory drugs) and a lot of prayer I eventually opted for an ileostomy in July of 1999. In the end it was the skilled hands of a surgeon, and the pioneering work in the 1950’s of professor Brian Brooke that gave me a measure of normality in my life again (although I have had to have several operations since then). I have far more respect for people like Professor Brooke (who has changed to lives of millions, for the better) than for those creationists who would turn back science, if they could, by several hundred years. The claim that all illnes is as a result of Adam’s sin is in my opinion nonsense.

    I dread to think of the plight of those who had mental conditions in biblical times. I’m sure many of them were told they were demon possessed !

  5. “[ID proponents] are not looking for Paley’s watch on the seashore to prove that the watch is designed, but rather to prove that everything is designed.

  6. *In the quoted text, I meant to put: “[Evangelical ID proponents] are not looking for Paley’s watch…”

  7. Here’s another reason why ID is bad theology: in effect, it tries to base one’s faith on material evidence or circumstances, which many Christian theologians have been saying for centuries is a no-no.

    To take another example of how this trap can undermine faith, imagine a rich man who sees his fabulous wealth as proof that his God loves him and approves of his actions. Now imagine that his investments tank and he loses all that money. What happens to his faith then? If his wealth was proof that God loved him, is his loss proof that God no longer loves him? That God no longer approves of his actions? (What if his actions never changed?) What would happen to his previous committment to do his God’s will? Might he suddenly no longer feel obligated to his God, since his God has clearly “abandoned” him?

    Looking for material “proof” of a “designer” takes the faithful into the same trap (even when it’s done more honestly than DaveScot is doing it): by pegging one’s faith in God to material circumstances, one is exposing it to the changes, failures and deceptions of the material world that the Bible repeatedly warns against. If your faith is based on an “inference” of “design” in a particular phenomenon, then what happens when another explanation is offered for the same phenomenon?

    YMMV, of course, but I have always heard people — both lay people and clergy — saying that their faith and values remain rock-steady despite the capricious and sometimes frightening and destructive events that have beset their lives on Earth. Does it really do these people any good to peg the basis of their values to some guy’s blatherings about “inference” of “design?” And if “science” is really as “anti-God” as the ID crowd say it is, shouldn’t they be keeping their faith safely apart from it, and not trying to confuse the two?

  8. DaveScot declaims:
    “there’s exactly the same amount of empirical evidence (none) in support of both angels and quantum pixies.”

    And you apparently think there IS empirical evidence for your OWN concept of the “D”esigner? Yahweh/Allah/Cthulhu

  9. Henry wrote:
    “And please, my fellow Christians, don’t laugh just because we’re talking angels and demons. If you believe in one invisible friend, who are you to laugh at more invisible friends and and some invisible enemies.”
    — ———

    Laugh? What Christian would laugh? Especially when the book, the Bible, (or Koran, or Talmud), that tells you about your primary invisible friend also tells you about invisible enemies called demons. If you’re going to base your faith on the elements of a story in the Bible why would you accept Jesus and deny demons when they are both part of the supernatural structure the Bible outlines?

  10. Interestingly, DaveScot, none is also the amount of empirical evidence that supports ID. None is also an accurate count of the number of real scientists who use “specified complexity.” (No, Behe isn’t a scientist, he ceased being a scientist years ago, and no, Dembski isn’t a scientist.) None is also the use for “specified complexity.” You might be on to something. None is a word that applies well to many things about ID.

  11. Qual:

    “The ID technique is about identifying [i]detectable[/i] design. They are not making the grand philosophic claims that you are.”

    Two requests:

    1. Please define [i]detectable[/i] design.

    2. Please give us an instance of [i]design[/i] that has been detected and describe what detection method was used.

    Links to clear explanations on other web sites are fine.

  12. All the great historical religions have experienced a tug of war between believers who try to make rational sense of their faith and the great mass of the faithful who want Christianity/Judaism/Islam/Buddhism/Hinduism to be a normal human superstition with the appropriate Golden Calves. This split is not between the priesthood and the laity or between the educated and the great unwashed. In Christianity, for example, literal belief in demons has been orthodoxy in most times and places. It has usually been as heretical to deny the reality of Satan as it is to deny the existence of God. Indeed, when renaissance scholars began to come up with explanations of Greek mythology that didn’t assume that the “Gods of the Old religion were the demons of the new,” they got in trouble with the church authorities, who went to a considerable amount of trouble arguing there really was a goddess Diana.

  13. Henry is right but might say things a bit clearer, at least to my ear:

    I am not a theologian, but I am an evangelical Christian, and as best I understand the theology of my faith, it is blasphemy to suggest, as Bob Newman does in his “angels & demons” essay, that _any_ creature can create. Faith statement: God is the Creator and all the Universe is His creation; it is heresy against Christianity to suggest that ichneumon (sp?) wasps and thistles and panda’s thumbs are created by anyone else than the One True God. Scientific statement: the Universe evolved to now from the Big Bang, and all life evolved to now and continues to evolve, in consistent, material cause-and-effect processes that scientists observe and describe. The scientific evidence does not and CANNOT show whether or if God’s hand is active in the evolutionary process. Theology: No one should demand that the Creator God leave detectable traces. As best any of us can tell, he didn’t and doesn’t, and crediting angels or demons with detectable traces isn’t any better!

    FWIW, I know Bob Newman, though not well. His writing is in agreement with his worldview as I know it, but I’m afraid it still looks like heresy, though I am sure Bob does not intend that.

  14. To build further on what Jim Harrison was saying.

    When Henry writes:
    “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of
    things not seen

  15. Christianity would indeed be in a bad way if ID *did* succeed in scientifically proving that God exists, since that would make faith superfluous. “No one shall come to the Father except through me … or through ID’s scientific discovery.”

  16. Complex Specified Information, Irreducible Complexity, Ontogenic Depth, Explanatory Filter…

    Intelligent Design is like the Sokal hoax writ large. Instead of taking in Lit Crit types for a few months, it’s taking in all sort of christians for nigh on 20 years now.

  17. This post offers nothing of substance. Some of the comments, however, at least say something, even if it is just to commit the usual flaw of asserting that the bible not only calls for “blind faith” but elevates it to the ultimate virtue. It does neither.

    ID being good or bad theology has nothing to do, nothing at all, with its impact on faith. It stands or falls as good theology solely on whether or not it is true.

    Raging Bee is one who restates this misconception:

    “Here’s another reason why ID is bad theology: in effect, it tries to base one’s faith on material evidence or circumstances, which many Christian theologians have been saying for centuries is a no-no.

  18. David Heddle wrote:

    This post offers nothing of substance.

    I don’t regard your opion on this point as of much significance, especially after your attempts to dance around the moral issues in a number of Bible stories.

    Those would be theologians who never read the bible, otherwise they would know:

    Not a single example that you cite has the slightest thing to do with detecting design in nature through the scientific method.

  19. Henry does indeed have a point – that Christian theology teaches that the entire Universe, down to the smallest detail, is designed by God. Christians accept this tenet, whether they think about it or not. To a Christian, the Inverse-Squared Law of Gravitation and the phototropic properties of plants are just as divinely designed as the blood-clotting mechanism. To say that some parts of Nature are more Intelligently Designed than others is tantamount to denying the underlying Devine Creation.

    Although DaveScott is trying to stem the tide of religion in the ID community, almost no one is listening. The irony – or the joke – is that virtually all of the believers in ID see it in a religious context. Everyone knows that the Intelligent Designer is really none other than Yahweh Himself, as the ID believers keep spilling the beans. (Like the barely disguised ICTHYS in the ID the Future masthead.)

    Henry is pointing out that Christians who are grasping onto ID as a way to bring religion back into science, are ignoring the grand concept of Divine Nature in Christian teaching and are cheapening their own beliefs.

  20. ID proponents remove the majesty of God’s creation by requiring God to create things the way humans would create. Perhaps God’s creative abilities lie in a totally different dimension from human perception. Perhaps God’s creative abilities exceed humans’ capacity to understand. Perhaps God’s creative abilities have to be accepted on faith and faith alone.

  21. DaveScot,

    “ID is about detecting design in nature through specified complexity. There is nothing in the data to discriminate between hypothetical intelligent agents responsible for any patterns exhibiting the characteristics of design.”

    ID is discounting natural causes, as evolution, for “design”. (Whatever that is.) By begging the question thus remains a designer.

    If nothing in the data discriminate between hypothetical intelligent agents, why are you upset by the suggestion of angels and demons as designers?

    “Thus while design detection is science”.

    This is a lie, we don’t know this. It remains to be shown to be useful, and applicable. There is no criteria for design, there is no predictions to test, there is no predictions that can be falsified, there is no tests that have been done.

    Qualiatative,
    “The ID technique is about identifying detectable design.”

    As the post says, “Right or wrong, evangelical Christians are generally very uncomfortable with things that happen randomly. They are not looking for Paley’s watch on the seashore to prove that the watch is designed, but rather to prove that everything is designed.

    Incidentally, that remains a failing of Paley’s proof for the existence of God. In traditional Christian theology the sea, the seashore, and each grain of sand is a design, and not just the watch, so again we’re distinguishing design from design.”

    You have to show the difference between the design of a grain of sand and the rest of the grand design. Sand grains are mostly alike, so they look designed to me. They are very useful in sandblasting equipment, surely they must be designed for that.

    David,
    “It stands or falls as good theology solely on whether or not it is true.”

    This is exactly why it’s bad theology, since the strength of your belief now rests on whether ID is confirmed or not. (Nothing in science is philosophically independently true, but it can be observed or verified to be a fact of nature. Or falsified…) If ID is falsified, your belief has been tested and found wanting. Do you want to risk that?

  22. Henry wrote:

    “I don’t regard your opion on this point as of much significance, especially after your attempts to dance around the moral issues in a number of Bible stories.”

    Henry, that is bizarre. I absolutely did not “dance” around those moral issues. I said: those horrible things commanded by God, such as the slaughter of he Midianites, were good, no equivocation necessary. I could be charged, by a reasonable person, with being overly simplistic, but certainly not with dancing.

    However, your take on such passages was, from your March 28 post “Applying Divine-Human Scriptures:

    “When I read ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ I don’t have to apply such an interpretation, but when I read ‘go kill all the __’ then I must resort to a special understanding of inspiration.

    Now that’s dancing.

  23. I have been reading the comments, but basically commenters are doing such a good job of responding, I really haven’t felt it necessary to say much here. Four or five times I considered a response to something and then saw that someone else had provided the same response. I kind of doubt the statements would improve in truth value just because I repeated them.

    I must note, however, that DaveScot’s response over on UncommonDescent, (I’m not providing a link/trackback because they’ll just ignore it) differs in an interesting way from his response here. There he responds to my post in which I accuse the ID movement, amongst other things, of being a political strategy with . . . a political poll! I guess he wants to tell us that while ID is a deceptive political strategy, it’s successful!

  24. A question for Henry.

    I agree that the Paley argument is problematic for traditional Christians since for them absolutely everything is designed and they cannot reasonably make any inferences by singling out a class of objects–living things, for example–and constrasting them with other objects. In fact, I’ve made the same argument myself, most recently on a Panda’s Thumb comment thread. Do you know who first popularized this bit?

  25. Loved the article. As a Christian and a Biology teacher, I’ve had similar thoughts on ID myself- bad theology. But for another reason. I believe in miracles. But in the Bible every miracle, every miracle, is to increase faith, to heal people, etc. It’s for the benefit of people, to bring them closer to God. If there were times when God had to step in, as ID suggests, then who were the miracles for? The Echinoidea? The Platyhelminthes? It is bad theology of the miraculous, for it reduces the miraculous to meaninglessness.

  26. This ought to be a trackback. I have written an article at the TheologyWeb discussion forum, prompted by Henry’s essay.

    There are two quite distinct kinds of design arguments floating around, and they are diametrically opposed to each other.

    One argument is the conventional Discovery Institute style argument, and Newman seems to be using it. This argument is that natural processes are inadequate for certain phenomena, and therefore we need a designer to step in as an additional cause.

    Another argument, which may be closer to Henry’s view, is the fine tuning argument. This argument is that natural processes are finely tuned to enable the emergence of complexity, and therefore we postulate that a designer set up the very laws of nature themselves.

    The first argument is founded on a putative inadequacy of nature; the second is founded on a putative adequacy of nature. The arguments are therefore based on two completely different perceptions of the natural world.

    I discussed these two design arguments in another essay at TheologyWeb last year, and attempted a brief evaluation of them as theology and as science. I’m pleased to see Henry making some of the same points here.

    Cheers — Sylas

  27. Sylas said:

    This ought to be a trackback.

    Did you try a trackback and have it fail? I’m asking because I’ve been having some trouble, and I’m trying to track down what it is. Just for the record, there are no comments or trackbacks that I have rejected in moderation for this post, so if you have tried a trackback and it failed, there is some technical problem and I would appreciate an e-mail (henry@energion.com). If necessary, I’ll create a post and link to you from that to make sure your input is displayed.

    One note on your comment. I think we are on the same track in general. In essence, you could say that I believe evolutionary processes can produce complexity because God designed them that way. I still don’t see how ID can detect that, and all I expect science to do is observe and build theories on the process. Let the theologians meditate on theology.

  28. Jim Harrison said:

    I agree that the Paley argument is problematic for traditional Christians since for them absolutely everything is designed and they cannot reasonably make any inferences by singling out a class of objects–living things, for example–and constrasting them with other objects. In fact, I’ve made the same argument myself, most recently on a Panda’s Thumb comment thread. Do you know who first popularized this bit?

    Popularized, I’m not sure. My statement is a horribly abbreviated statement of just one of Hume’s objections. I also horribly abbreviated only part of Paley’s argument, but then that wasn’t my major point. Here’s a link to the text of Hume’s Dialogues on Natural Religion, and also to Paley’s Natural Theology.

    One is often disappointed if one expects traditional arguments for the existence of God to demonstrate the existence of the God of orthodox Christianity.

  29. Thanks Henry. I figured I was plagiarizing Hume, but I was too lazy to check. On the other hand, Hume couldn’t have been answering the watch argument since Paley’s argument, so far as I know, first appeared in 1802, some years after Hume’s death.

  30. Jim Harrison said:

    On the other hand, Hume couldn’t have been answering the watch argument since Paley’s argument, so far as I know, first appeared in 1802, some years after Hume’s death.

    True, but I still think that there’s nothing that I said about Paley that is not a slight adaptation of one of Hume’s arguments. For me the order of reading was Paley and then Hume. Darrow specifically addressed Paley, and some of his arguments are similar, but I wasn’t going to mention that, because I only realized they were yesterday when I was trying to remember the names. Thus obviously they could not have influenced my thinking.

  31. Henry, please try to understand the essence of ID before attacking it.

    Know that I do NOT agree with everything on the ID plate, but the essence is sound and good for Christianity.

    Feel free to email me questions and I’ll try to help where I can.

    In Christ,

    Jorge

  32. Jorge said:

    Henry, please try to understand the essence of ID before attacking it.

    Know that I do NOT agree with everything on the ID plate, but the essence is sound and good for Christianity.

    Feel free to email me questions and I’ll try to help where I can.

    I discuss these things publicly. If you see that I have missed the essence of ID, then show me where that is, and why it is that I should accept your understanding.

  33. I am in agreement with the original post.

    ID is bad theology, bad philosophy and scientifically useless. I also consider it very dishonest and political.

  34. Henry : “I discuss these things publicly. If you see that I have missed the essence of ID, then show me where that is, and why it is that I should accept your understanding.”

    *****************************

    First things first : it’s not that you “should accept MY understanding” – this isn’t about me. It’s that you should understand the essential basics of ID.

    ID was opposed right from the start because of its ideological implications, not because of anything related to science. Yet ID has been and continues to be promoted on a math/science platform, not on any theological point. That ID eventually links to theology is fairly obvious – a point that wasn’t missed by many. But theological arguments aren’t part of ID’s battle plan.

    The title and content of your thread wholly ties ID to theology. This is a point that anyone that understands ID knows is in error. Who/what the ‘intelligence/designer’ is becomes a question only AFTER it is concluded that an intelligence/designer is the best explanation – a conclusion arrived at via scientific methodology.

  35. Jorge,

    If you consider ID to be scientific. How do you explain the wedge document?

    http://www.aclu.org/evolution/legal/wedgedoc.pdf

    BTW Jorge. What is the scientific “theory” of ID?

    From.

    http://www.discovery.org/csc/topQuestions.php

    “Questions about Intelligent Design

    1. What is the theory of intelligent design?

    The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.”

    Wow! That sounds usefull.

  36. I don’t know how I found this page but I am glad I did. It helps me to better understand why those who approach ID and evolution from the framework of theological criticism have difficulty understanding those who come from the framework of scientific criticism. I’m with Henry on this. If ID or anything else scientifically “proves” god, then what remains is a technical and political relationship with the divinity, not a relationship based on faith and expressed through religion. I come from a technical background and have been puzzled by those who accept the “scientific” arguments of those who are clearly at the fringes of pseudo-science when those same people deny the validity of the explanations provided by eminent scientists. I am not Christian but I have taught at a number of church affiliated colleges and know full well that the devout Christians on the faculty are also very competent scientists who do not look for proof of their god in a test-tube. Nor did they ever find my scientific opinions to be grounds for villification. Thank you. M.Tran

  37. “I think this is disingenuous. It is clear that you want me to understand what you think are the “essential basics

  38. Oh, so now we’re supposed to demand material proof of God’s existence and intentions? Thanks for clearing that up for us, Mr. Heddle. Care to provide some?

  39. Being as versed as you claim to be on ID, you should know that there are just as numerous replies to those criticisms.

    Typical IDist blather: we should doubt the criticisms because there were “numerous replies” to them, not because you’ve given us any good reason to doubt them. Sorry, Skippy, but mere numbers of responses does not invalidate an argument — especially since you haven’t actually said what all those “responses” were about.

    A point that in spite of my heartiest efforts has not been grasped is that the controversy and opposition to ID originates in an ideological realm, not a scientific one.

    The problem is not that we don’t “grasp” your point; it is that we all know your point is an out-and-out lie. Scientists have repeatedly demonstrated that ID is not science because it offers no testable hypotheses, and makes no attempt to test anything. Remind us again how many peer-reviewed papers have been published in support of ID? What repeatable experiments have been performed?

    If, as you say, “ID is completely theology

  40. Raging Bee,

    “Oh, so now we’re supposed to demand material proof of God’s existence and intentions?”

    Nowhere did I claim that we are “supposed to demand” physical proof. We don’t get to demand anything of God, not even that he lives up to Henry Neufeld’s image of how a good God should behave. What I stated was much weaker—that the bible is very clear the God is not at all opposed to providing physical evidence, when it pleases him to do so, as in the examples I cited.

    Blind faith is never called for. Hence, ID cannot be bad theology merely because it allegedly represents the antithesis of blind faith.

    Whether or not cosmological fine-tuning (for example) is physical evidence is a matter of conjecture—since neither cosmological ID nor the only other explanation, multiverses, can be put to the test.

  41. As for reading Dembski, I’m pretty certain I’ll never read an entire book by him. I’ve read portions of such and articles, and I quickly noted that he claims to be able to calculate the probability of an event for which he has no knowledge of the process. If he thinks he can do that, why bother reading anything else? He merely spends the rest of his time trying to convince people who can’t follow his math that he must have bound a way around the problem or why would he publish so many formulas?

    At first I didn’t comment on this point, simply because I thought I should read everything first, and also because I am not a scientist myself. But then I saw critiques by folks like Howard Van Till, for whom I have the utmost respect, and they noticed the same thing.

    But again you seem to think I’m missing the basics of ID, when what I’m doing is rejecting your view of those. Now you have a right to your view, but rejection of someone’s view does not necessarily imply ignorance of that position.

    What I am trying to correct you on is your position that “ID is completely theology

  42. Another point that should be emphasized regarding Jorge’s “Martian artifact” analogy: inferring that it was designed (and manufactured) for a purpose would not be the end of the debate; it wold be the beginning. Once someone said “It looks like something made for the purpose of…” the race would be on to test the hypothesis, by repairing or duplicating the object and trying to get it to do what we’d guessed it was made to do. And all of that, in turn, would involve more speculation about the nature and motives of the object’s makers — the kind of speculation that the IDists have explicitly ruled out for fear of exposing their real, religious, motives.

    The IDists explicitly refuse to even try to answer the most obvious questions their “design inference” raises, pretending it’s outside their remit when the conclusions have already been reached. And they keep on referring to a “designer,” and trying not to acknowledge the obvious fact that a “designed” object doesn’t exist until it is “created” by some physical means. These facts are conclusive proof of the IDists’ colossal dishonesty.

  43. Every once in a while somebody needs to point out that the watch analogy also fails because living things are not tools or instruments. Cats are not like watches because (among other things) they are in the game for their own purposes. They are, to use a fancy word, autotelic. A watch doesn’t make sense without beings that use it to tell the time. Cats don’t need anybody at all.

  44. Again.

    What is the scientific theory of ID? How can it be tested? What would prove it false? What predictions can it make?

  45. What is the scientific theory known as “the string theory landscape”? How can it be tested? What would prove it false? What predictions can it make?

  46. Not that I’m aware of. That is relevant, how? Was is not clear that I am pointing out that some things (such as the string theory landscape) get treated as science when they are no more science than ID?

  47. Not that I’m aware of. That is relevant, how?

    Well, supposing that “the string theory landscape” was actually just a piece of speculation that was not testable. If that were the case, and scientists discussed it as speculation, then I’d have to ask what you mean by getting “treated as science.” If it’s simply batted around between scientists who are working on the cutting edge, what’s the problem?

    The problem with ID is not simply that it’s not science. Its proponents want it accepted as science without them having to do the work. They want it taught as science in high school science classrooms without it having gone through the rigorous testing that is involved in publishing scientific research.

    Was is not clear that I am pointing out that some things (such as the string theory landscape) get treated as science when they are no more science than ID?

    Well, it was clear that you were trying to do that. It was equally clear that you are pretty vague on what you mean by “treated as science.”

    But as a non-physicist (my field is Biblical languages), I had only a vague knowledge of what the string theory landscape might be. So I decided to go look it up. I found an article The string-theory landscape that discusses this theory at a level I can follow fairly well. It comments that:

    The inflationary model solves many of the cosmological problems of the Big Bang model, and has also received strong support from the latest measurements of the cosmic microwave background. In addition to describing inflation, de Sitter space also provides an explanation for the acceleration of universal expansion.

    Wow! Here we have certain measurements that seem to accord with this theory, and it provides an explanation for something. There are two things that it does that ID fails to do. ID explains nothing, and is supported by no measurements whatsoever.

    Then it continues:

    Obtaining a de Sitter solution is therefore a major challenge for string theory, which has been the main candidate for a fundamental theory of the universe for almost 20 years. String theory is believed to be a unique theory that unifies all the particles and forces in nature – including gravity – by treating them as infinitesimal 1D strings (see “Superstrings”).

    Wow! A challenge for development of the theory! It provides fruitful areas for further research and development.

    So if I read this article right, and I admit that as a non-physicist it’s possible I do not, this theory is not only science, it’s a pretty fruitful theory. Note however, that it is not accepted as true yet–it is viewed as facing certain challenges before it can be accepted. And it appears to be based on work that started close to 100 years ago. But I’m supposed to believe that ID, which explains nothing, predicts nothing, and offers no fruitfual areas of research is only rejected as science because of a Darwinist conspiracy?

  48. Henry, you have not read it right. The landscape theory predicts nothing (that can be tested), and even its leading proponent admits it. Regarding its lack of Popperian falsifiability, Susskind commented to Nature (January 4, 2006 online article)

    “Susskind, too, finds it “deeply, deeply troubling” that there’s no way to test the principle. But he is not yet ready to rule it out completely. “It would be very foolish to throw away the right answer on the basis that it doesn’t conform to some criteria for what is or isn’t science,” he says.”

    Imagine if Behe said that about ID.

  49. Henry, you have not read it right.

    Do you mind if I don’t take your word for it?

    The landscape theory predicts nothing (that can be tested), and even its leading proponent admits it. Regarding its lack of Popperian falsifiability, Susskind commented to Nature (January 4, 2006 online article)

    At the same time if some measurements can be either consistent or inconsistent with it, then it’s better than ID.

    Imagine if Behe said that about ID.

    I’d be surprised if an ID proponent would be that honest.

    I find it interesting that I find plenty of references to controversy about this topic, including some people who claim it’s not science. It looks like some people are saying it’s not science. Sounds much like what they are saying about ID.

    But unlike string theory landscape, ID proponents want to get in the door without going through the process, which again emphasizes the relevance of my original question.

    Does string theory landscape have a political movement that is trying to get it added to high school science textbooks before it’s accepted by the scientific community? Does it have a religious agenda behind it?

    No?

    Oh well.

  50. Ref: David Heddle’s last several comments.

    After posting my last comment I spent a little time looking around the web. I’m not even close to being a physicist, but I do enjoy reading articles about it, and having been told by David Heddle that I misunderstood what looked like a pretty straightforward set of points about from an article, I was interested in whether this was something similar to Jorge’s claim taht I completely misunderstand intelligent design, to wit, the assumption that if I disagree, I must not understand the topic.

    I was quickly reminded of the headline currently on AntiEvolution.org–Are ID Advocates Required to Lie Once a Day or More?, and Wesley Elsberry’s comment that “if the ID advocate claims that the sky is blue, their next step had better be to look out the window to see for themselves.”

    Why do I say this? As soon as I started looking I find two things. First, there are scientists questioning whether string theory landscape is scientific, on the grounds it cannot be falsified, (String Theory and Intelligent Design) and others arguing that indeed it is science and can be falsified (Intelligent Design and String Theory and associated references).

    String theory landscape is being held to the same standards as are being expected as ID, and the evidence is all over the place. It seems you didn’t quite present the facts accurately, did you?

  51. The other thing that David Heddle doesn’t bring up is that string theorists aren’t trying an end-run around the scientific community and forcing their theory to be taught in public schools. String theorists aren’t crying, “Teach the controversy!” They have a model and they are working on it. The same can’t be said for ID.

  52. Mr. Heddle: it’s okay to admit that ID is vacuous politicized pseudoscience and a pack of lies. Really it is. The actual Christian faith — all but its most deranged interpretations at least — won’t be at all weakened by such an admission. The ID crowd never really represented the theology of most Christians to begin with. That’s part of the point of all the debate.

    Besides, the ID crowd are now feverishly disowning their own religious roots; so it’s perfectly okay for persons of fatih to disown them.

  53. Well, this is quite an old and forgotten thread. Since commenting are open I will close my part of it.

    “Another argument, which may be closer to Henry’s view, is the fine tuning argument. This argument is that natural processes are finely tuned to enable the emergence of complexity, and therefore we postulate that a designer set up the very laws of nature themselves.”

    As with the anthropic principle, finetuning come in many variants. Most aren’t finetuning that is needed for life as we know it, which is the real definition. Complexity appears over much wider scales. The remaining finetuning is simplest described by chance.

    Finetuning is incompatible with ID which trivially demand an unnatural designer.

    “Whether or not cosmological fine-tuning (for example) is physical evidence is a matter of conjecture—since neither cosmological ID nor the only other explanation, multiverses, can be put to the test.”

    Several cosmologies are under testing, for example WMAP has found basic inflation (which creates multiverses) the most promising and has ruled out others. By further studying inflation at the bigbang and possibly at the wormholes which creates new universes we could possibly get direct evidence for a multiverse.

    “What is the scientific theory known as “the string theory landscape

  54. Pingback: Life of a Lab Rat
  55. Life of a Lab Rat says:

    Non-biologists look away for a couple of lines.

    . . . but in general, go read his post because it will help you understand how science works.

    Thanks to Black Knight for the trackback and the link to his excellent post.

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