It’s One Thing to Lie

. . . it’s another to lie stupidly when the evidence of that stupidity is right in front of you.

ID creationists William Dembski gave an account (loosely speaking) of a question and answer by Ken Miller and Francis Collins. Since then an actual transcript has been made that clearly shows the inaccuracy of the account provided by Dembski’s informant. Having dealt with many “eye or ear-witness accounts” of such events, I would never have used such an account without verification. It has the clear signs of the witness hearing what he or she wants to hear. You can read the relevant transcript and Ken Miller’s comments here. (All links, hat tip to The Panda’s Thumb.)

DaveScot, over on Uncommon Descent has now commented:

The question and answer as Bill Dembski was given by someone in the audience recalling it wasn’t an unfair paraphrase. The verbage was different but the points were essentially the same.

That’s not only lying, that’s lying stupidly, and it continues the pattern despicable behavior demonstrated over at Uncommon Descent.

What DaveScot and William Dembski are trying to paper over is, in fact, the fundamental issue, and the fundamental problem with intelligent design. Intelligent design theory neither argues, nor does it demonstrate that the universe is designed. In fact, one of my strongest objections to ID is that it demonstrates precisely the opposite. If it were true, it would show not that the universe was designed, but rather that if there was design, it is poor design. ID points to the places where design fails as demonstration that design is, in fact true. This is inescapable if one applies any actual thought to the so-called “explanatory filter”–a Dembski contrivance that neither filters nor explains.

For a Christian who accepts evolutionary theory, such as myself, the most fundamental problem with ID theory is not what it says about nature and science. Apologies to my scientist friends and colleagues, but the scientific answers are not the most fundamental thing to me. The problem with ID is what it says about God. I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but from reading Finding Darwin’s God, Ken Miller has a similar problem. ID finds not God the designer, but God the backroom tinkerer, God the perpetual inventor who can never get it right.

Futher, even if one allowed that God might have intervened precisely at the formation of life, that would not make current ID theory and the explanatory filter any better than they are. In order to show an intervention at that point one would need to design a complete new theory. ID is bad at what it tries to do now, and it would be bad at detecting intervection at the formation of life. Note that just because ID is lousy does not mean God never intervened. It merely means that ID is lousy science.

What theistic evolutionists are arguing, for the most part, is simply that God made a universe that was well enough designed to work! We argue that it does work, and that science shows us God’s creation actually working. We celebrate God in even the simple things that happen on a day to day basis. For me, the formation of the bacterial flagellum is something God did. He did it in a wonderfully elegant manner, by creating a universe in which such complexity could appear according to natural laws. Because again, as I see it, natural law is simply the consistent result of God’s will. Consistent!

Nonetheless my expectation is that scientific investigation will eventually show us how non-living matter can produce life under the appropriate conditions. I think it is just a matter of time. And this points again to the nature of ID theory. It is, in fact, a God of the gaps argument. It posits God’s action where we don’t understand the process. As long as it does that it is horrible theology and it says horrible things about God. It says that God is generally a failure, who creates a system that works partially, but requires constant retuning to make it go. It says further that even that retuning is rather poorly done.

If, as I expect, a natural process leading to the origin of life is found, I will see in that also the work of God. What I will not expect is that we will be able to properly identify God in the parts of the process that we don’t yet understand.

This is the big difference between the theistic evolutionists and ID creationists. We see God as a competent designer who is successful. They see him as a complete failure. They believe in a small God that they can bring inside a scientific theory as an explanation. We believe in a God who just won’t fit there. We’re not saying God isn’t good enough to be a scientific explanation. We’re saying he’s something completely different, too big to be an hypothesis, too great to fit in their piddly formulas.

If the ID proponents could just “get” that, they would perhaps understand why their petty little pseudo-theory gets on the nerves of Christian theists who accept evolutionary theory.

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