Intelligent Design and Miracles

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Note: The purpose of this essay is to offer a critique of intelligent design on theological, rather than scientific, grounds. It is not intended to provoke arguments over the validity of Christianity or theism in general because that is not the concern of this blog. Hence, we would ask that any comments be restricted to the subject of the theological validity of ID and its relation to science education rather than the rational validity of Christianity. Such discussions are fascinating, but are best left for other fora.

In a recent contribution I suggested the possibility of a designer who made such a perfect design that intervention would never be necessary. This is not something that could be demonstrated, nor is it something that I assert as a fact, but it is a design possibility. The point here is that a deist or theist can quite easily both believe that the universe is designed, and yet not believe that the “design” is going to be detectible. Since the whole is designed, there is no necessity that some portions of it look more designed than others.

The question is whether this hypothetical theist can allow any kind of intervention in the universe, without also assuming that such intervention can be detected and measured? I am frequently asked how I can oppose intelligent design, and yet see any kind of interaction of God with the universe.

There are many possible forms of intervention that could not be measured or detected. I’ll get to the issue of miracles soon, but first, if God intervenes in such a way as to duplicate a natural process, there would be no evidence that would necessarily point to divine intervention. Prophetic inspiration is one example of such intervention from religious literature that would not necessarily provide any way of measurement. If I think a creative thought, or if I am divinely inspired with a creative thought, all that occurs is that I have such a creative thought. I would like to think that the presence of a creative thought in my brain is not impossible, and that its presence would not be seen as evidence that there must be a creator who inputs thoughts, any more than my brain as a whole would be evidence for such a creator.

I go into some detail on this type of intervention in my essay The Hand of God: Miracles, in which I suggest first that if all the miracle claims of all the worlds religion were to be accepted, there would nonetheless be a remarkably small impact on the whole of human history. Further, the majority of those miracles would simply be miracles of communication, providing information to certain people. In this sense, the fact that certain people believe that there has been a miracle has almost as great an impact on history as does the miracle in itself.

Let’s look at the resurrection of Jesus as a good example miracle. I do not intend to attempt to prove the resurrection, nor do I intend to ridicule anyone’s view of it. I’m simply using it as an example of a miracle claim so as to ask what one must believe about the universe in order to believe in some form of resurrection.

1) There are those Christian who believe that the resurrection was a totally psychological event, i.e. that Jesus lived on in the hearts of his followers, and because he had much more impact than the average person that he lived on much more powerfully in their hearts. In this sense, there isn’t any real claim of divine intervention, except for a special spiritual presence in the person of Jesus, which would be quite similar to the issue of prophetic inspiration I noted above: How can one tell the difference between a very special person, and a very special person because God made him special? If one believes under these circumstances that God had something to do with the process that belief is completely outside the realm of physical verification. It is certainly not necessary to have such a hypothesis to explain the observable facts. In this scenario, stories of sightings of the risen Jesus grew up over time to explain people’s conviction that Jesus was present.

2) There are those who believe that, using the words of Paul, Jesus was raised with a “spiritual body.” Now nobody knows precisely what a spiritual body may be, but this view tends to take the stories of physical sightings seriously. Unfortunately, there were no video cameras, so we can’t be sure, though it’s possible one could suggest photographic evidence could be obtained. Nonetheless, according to the stories, Jesus appeared to people, he was not generally seen, and he was not always recognized. If this claim is true, it is quite possible we would have physical evidence. I will tie this point to intelligent design once I’ve looked at the third scenario.

3) There are those, possibly the majority, who believe that the physical corpse of Jesus returned to life. Ah! Finally! Some solid ground. Here we would certainly have evidence. If the scientific facilities had been available, one could have proven to a reasonable degree of certainty that the corpse was a corpse, that it came back to life, and that the living person shared identical DNA. The miracle has a measurable impact on the physical world.

But having said all that, I would suggest that the miracle is nothing like intelligent design. Let me express intelligent design as I hear it theologically. God creates the universe, and creates a number of processes that we generally express as laws to make it function. It is possible for some things to occur according to these processes. (Indeed, many intelligent design advocates say they can accept common descent.) At some point, however, there are elements of life that are too complex for these processes to manage, and thus we have evidence of an added “divine factor” in the process at that point.

To be fair, I must point out that the claim is not precisely that God intervenes at those points, but rather that evidence that certain complexe elements of the process would be impossible without intelligent guidance points to an intelligent guide of the entire process. But in reality that distinction points right back to my starting point. Intelligent design is no more than the old “watchmaker” in new clothes.

So how does intelligent design differ, as a claimed intervention, from the resurrection? First, intelligent design claims regular tinkering, detectable in the nature of the things done. Second, intelligent design claims tinkering that is essential to the functioning of the overall process (in this case biological evolution). Third, intelligent design claims that by putting a label on something unknown (Behe’s “black box”), that we have somehow scientifically identified that unknown element as a divine intervention.

In the case of the claim of a physical resurrection, even if it happened, it was either singular or rare. The resulting body would be indistinguishable from any other living body, and it had negligible impact on the physical universe. The fact that the first two theories I mentioned exist, and have considerable support amongst Christians, indicates that the physical fact of resurrection itself may have less impact than the simple belief that the resurrection took place.

Intelligent design suggest a constant, measurable intervention in part of the process. Most miracle claims suggest a singular intervention. One could not produce a “theory of miracles” because they are not supposed to happen with regularity. Miracles are not going to have much impact on science simply because even the claims of miracles are rather rare. We tend to notice miracle claims because they are the exception. Ordinary historical events don’t get noticed. Nobody puts a story on the news when they notice a water stain that looks like a water stain. But if it looks like the Virgin Mary, it will be all over. Claims that things are going normally just don’t make the news.

That may also explain some of the excitement for many about intelligent design. A claim that we have found yet another explanation for how certain physical structures or biological processes have been produced through variation and natural selection is pretty ordinary to most people. A claim that we’ve found God’s fingerprint on some process is much more exciting. Boring people like me ask whether it’s really a fingerprint, or just a reflection of our own wishful thinking.

I would like to put in my prediction on another point. One of the favorite theistic claims that I do not accept is the idea that life could not occur without intervention of God. I expect this barrier to be broken as well. I believe that scientists will be able to be confident within a few years as to the basic processes by which life is formed. Those who are waiting for a barrier here, who believe that there will be proof that God is needed at the point of formation of life (in a way other than he is needed for existence itself) will be disappointed as we learn the natural processes involved in the emergence of life.

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250 Comments

Thanks for the thoughtful essay. My sentiment is also that ID is simply distasteful theology, quite independent of being scientifically vacuous. A problem that ID faces theologically comes from the claim that one can detect special instances of the Designer’s action (i.e. “too complex not to have been ID-ed”). Besides being a dubious claim in the first place, if it were true observable phenomena would then be divided into two classes: those special enough that the Designer must have tweaked it and the not-so-special, mundane remainder of observable phenomena. The theological problem is that this claim makes much (most?) of the world we experience unworthy of reverence or appreciation. IMO, a theologically preferable posture is precisely the opposite, i.e. one in which the whole of what we experience - perhaps in particular the mundane - is a vehicle in, with and under which one is graciously sustained by God. Dividing the universe into “designed” and “not special enough to consider designed” implicity denies (theologically) the all-source, all-sustaining acknowledgement of the Creator.

Cheers,

Shaggy

This is a weak argument. Interesting read but a weak argument.

In the case of the claim of a physical resurrection, even if it happened, it was either singular or rare.

Lazarus was a physical body. So where many of the other ‘God men’ who as recorded as being resurrected. So I don’t think the singular works well as an argument, the rare, well yes it is rare for dead people to get up and walk around.

The resulting body would be indistinguishable from any other living body, and it had negligible impact on the physical universe.

How could one know this. I could be mistaken but doesn’t the bible describe Jesus as having abit of a glow? And doesn’t it also have him ascend to heaven? I would say a body that does these things has a substantial impact on the physical universe.

The fact that the first two theories I mentioned exist, and have considerable support amongst Christians, indicates that the physical fact of resurrection itself may have less impact than the simple belief that the resurrection took place.

Well of course. If you ask 100 people if dead people rise and walk and talk, 100–well lets say 99 of the 100– would say no. But ask them about the religion they were raised with and the responses will differ. Doesn’t make it any more true.

Intelligent design suggest a constant, measurable intervention in part of the process. Most miracle claims suggest a singular intervention. One could not produce a “theory of miracles” because they are not supposed to happen with regularity. Miracles are not going to have much impact on science simply because even the claims of miracles are rather rare. We tend to notice miracle claims because they are the exception. Ordinary historical events don’t get noticed. Nobody puts a story on the news when they notice a water stain that looks like a water stain. But if it looks like the Virgin Mary, it will be all over. Claims that things are going normally just don’t make the news.

I don’t know what planet you currently inhabit. Supposed miracles make the news quite frequently, even daily. It’s the quality of such claims that precludes their impact on science, not their abundance.

As Father Hesburgh, former Pres. of Notre Dame, said

“Biology does not study miracles.”

It is not intended to provoke arguments over the validity of Christianity or theism in general because that is not the concern of this blog. Hence, we would ask that any comments be restricted to the subject of the theological validity of ID and its relation to science education rather than the rational validity of Christianity.

How is the theological validity of ID the concern of this blog? Doesn’t this open the door to a claim that the theological validity of science, evolution, materialism, etc. is fair game in a science class, if it’s appropriate at an evolutionary science blog?

It’s interesting that some people here have been screaming up and down that discussing religion here is terrible and will lose the culture war, and yet one after the other of the articles posted to PT have been focused on religion, which virtually guarantees that religion will be discussed and debated.

Of course, one of the key sticking points in the resurrection myth is that the authors seem to have wanted to have it both ways: the disciples handle Jesus’ flesh (remember Thomas putting his fingers into the wounds?), and Jesus eats some fish in a flashy display meant to assure the reader that this was no mere ghost–and then Jesus walks through walls!

Paul, writing before the Gospel accounts were completed, describes Jesus as having a spirit body, as noted, that is not flesh and blood…which hardly sounds indistinguishable from a regular old body, as the essay implies. Of course, Paul never actually met Jesus “in the flesh,” so perhaps his oxymoronic phrase is excusable. Are Paul’s encounters with Jesus mystical and visionary rather than material, face-to-face meetings, on the basis of Paul’s phrasing of the kind of Jesus he met? It’s not possible to know. Just as it is not possible to know that a god did not set the evolutionary sequence in motion or does not act “behind the scenes” in ways not detectable or distinct from natural processes. What we can state with some confidence is that while nothing in science can ever rule out all possible theisms, science has gone some distance in showing that nothing in observed reality requires, in principle, the kind of miraculous interventions recorded in revealed religions.

Henry -

I think it’s clear that ID is, in addition to its scientific vacuity, incompatible with Christianity of almost any form as well.

Although many Christians believe in miracles (I don’t, in the usual sense of the term), Christian teaching makes it clear miracles, or other “proofs” of God, are NOT to be expected.

ID essentially claims that God has studded the universe with physical proof of intervention, visible to geniuses like Dembski. The primary goal of this claim is actually, in my view, to discredit the views of political opponents of one particular party and undermine democracy (by falsely labelling all opposition “atheist”). This is mere informed conjecture on my part, however. If this is true, then ID is incompatible with Christianity on this ground (even if it were “accidentally true”, acting on such a devious motivation would be unethical), but we can “never know for sure”, unless an ID advocate eventually confesses that this was his motivation.

But a secondary goal, one that is inherent in the arguments of ID regardless of the motives of its authors, is to “reassure” believers that they don’t need to make any effort or struggle with any doubt, because Dembski and Behe have shown that God had to “design” the human blood clotting system (unless it was “superintelligent aliens”, wink, wink, chuckle, chuckle). The implicit message is that ID believers should behave like Christians only because they have physical proof that it will pay off for them; otherwise, why would a desperate search for “proof” be needed? I don’t know of any Christian theology that endorses that attitude. It’s intensely cynical. “Okay, I’ll stop mistreating other people if you can PROVE that I’ll get to heaven for it”.

A naive well-meaning Christian might believe in ID out of ignorance, assuming that DI “scientists” knew what they were talking about. A sincere Christian with adequate education and time to evaluate the arguments would eventually have to conclude that ID is NOT compatible with Christianity.

Many people would like to equate ID with Christianity. For one thing, ID advocates and certain political groups that label themselves as “Christian” (incorrectly, in my view) promote the idea that ID IS somehow valuable to Christianity. But the fact is that the two aren’t really compatible.

On this site, and perhaps elsewhere, opponents of the general concept of Christianity (seldom carefully defined) in all its forms may be tempted to equate ID with Christianity as well. However, it should be understood that they are not the same thing. You can certainly disagree with them both, but that does not make them the same.

science has gone some distance in showing that nothing in observed reality requires, in principle, the kind of miraculous interventions recorded in revealed religions.

Indeed, science has gone some distance in showing that we have no need for theological critiques of ID.

I think it’s clear that ID is, in addition to its scientific vacuity, incompatible with Christianity of almost any form as well.

Although many Christians believe in miracles (I don’t, in the usual sense of the term), Christian teaching makes it clear miracles, or other “proofs” of God, are NOT to be expected.

Well, it’s quite obvious that Christian IDists subscribe to a form of Christianity that doesn’t accept that little bit of dogma, so this argument of yours is vacuous, like virtually all theological argument, because in theology anything goes – absolutely any proposition whatsoever can be accepted on “faith”.

Harold:

The situation is worse than miracles not being expected; they should be positively abhored. Not only do miracles not aid faith, but according to several Bible passages, they simply make things worse for faith:

God’s great miracles through Moses filled Egypt with undeniable evidence for the God of Israel (Ex. 9:27). Yet neither the Bible nor history records Egyptian repentance, only good riddance (Ps. 105:38; Ex. 12:35-36; 14:25). Further and more dramatic, consider the effect of those tremendous miracles on Israel. God followed the 10 plagues (Ex. 7:14-12:30) done on behalf of Israel with the parting of the Red Sea (Ex. 14:21-22) and the drowning of the Egyptian army (Ex. 14:26-28). Then daily for 40 years God appeared to the entire nation as a column of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night (Ex. 13:21-22; Num. 14:14; Neh. 9:12; Ps. 105:39). The Lord kept their clothes from wearing out (Deut. 8:4), produced water out of the Rock (Ex. 17:2-6), fed the people with food from heaven (Ex. 16:4-7) and brought meat on demand, literally filling their camp with quail (Num. 11:31-32; Ps. 105:40).

Yet with all this, virtually the entire nation rejected God:

For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? … Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? Heb. 3:16-17

…and He made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation… was gone. Num. 32:13

Pretty much the last thing any theist should want is miraculous intervention. It appears to foster the worse kind of unbelief.

TS,

I’m half with you half not with you. I would heartily agree that “science has gone some distance in showing that we have no need for theological critiques of ID.”. Just as I would heartily agree that “science has gone some distance in showing that nothing in observed reality requires, in principle, the kind of miraculous interventions recorded in revealed religions.”.

However, theological critiques of ID and standard creationism are useful, but not from a scientific perspective. The purpose of this blog expressedly includes critiques of the claims of the antievolution movement. Some of those claims are theological in nature. Thus it is well within the remit of this blog to discuss not only the scientific ramifications of the scientific claims, but also the theological ramifications of the theological claims. Add to that the simple fact that it may be possible to persuade some ID/creationism converts of the vacuosity of their claims by using a theological critique, and really don’t see any problem. There is more than one way to skin a cat, just as there is more than one basis to criticise ID creationism, and more than one way to pursue an argument

Now to me personally, as an atheist, I think theological critiques are useless. TO ME. They may, however not be useless TO SOMEONE ELSE. I don’t expect that a) everyone has to think like I do, b) come to the same conclusions I have come to by precisely the same route, or c) like/dislike the same things I like/dislike.

The fact of the matter is that whilst I would strongly assert that reason (and thus the scientific) method is the only reliable lens we have to examine the universe through (and I could back this up too!), not everyone thinks this way. Sadly they are wrong. Not because they disagree with me, but because the evidence is against them. Sometimes you have to reach other people on their terms, no matter how daft. That way, they might actually grow to understand things on your terms, rather than just react.

This is why I am half with you, half agin you on this one. Henry has presented an interesting article that may be of use to someone, even if it isn’t useful to me or you (it was interesting to me). Simply because it is a religious article does automatically make it totally useless or worthy of scorn.

ts (not Tim S), me boyo, take a deep breath. Have a sip of camomile. Think happy thoughts. Better? I thought so.

Now, let’t get to the heart of the matter. As Genie Scott and Glen Branch have pointed out, creationists since Bryan repeat three mantras: (1) Evolution isn’t real science. (2)Evolution is incompatible with religion. (3)It’s only fair to teach both sides. That these statements are bold-faced lies does not obviate the fact that they are useful to the fundies. It is important to counter all these directly and indirectly, and in a way that does not alienate the polity we are trying to win over. The success of science (not just evolution) depends on it.

(1) We have a natural advantage here. Why do you think the YEC’ers have to show Adam and Eve with a (hebivorous) dinosaur? They recognize the power of the image for science, and the way in which it resonates with kids. On the other hand, we all need to do a much better job of showing what science is, and how that definition fits evolution. Think Mr. Wizard. Or Beekman. Or local science museums.

(2) The only way that the creationists can defend this statement is by defining all evolution-believers as “non-Christian” and non-Christian as “irreligious,” thereby winning their internal war against Catholics, Orthodox, mainstream Protestants, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Quakers, Unitarians, etc., etc. This is our wedge, and we need to hammer it in at every opportunity. Your and others’ personal opinions about definitions, validity, logical consistency, etc., of (a)theism are irrelevant to this effort.

Religious people are not religious because of a supreme act of willful irrationality; they are religious because they see evidence of God, whether it’s evidence of design, beauty, family love, or something else. Anti-creationists cannot allow themselves to be sucked into the trap you are so artfully laying out. If your purpose is not to defend evolution but to rant on atheism, please go to the many sites that are devoted to this topic.

(3) Again, if the debate is over theism vs. atheism, then it will be necessary to teach both sides, and we will be on an endless loop. If we are able to recast it into science vs. non-science, then we can win. Not everyone but enough so that we can get back to the important stuff: education and discovery.

ts -

“Well, it’s quite obvious that Christian IDists subscribe to a form of Christianity that doesn’t accept that little bit of dogma, so this argument of yours is vacuous, like virtually all theological argument”

As usual, you take a small snippet out of context, and ignore the overall message.

The point is that Christianity, even as defined by ID advocates, is incompatible with ID.

While in theory someone might exist who would say “my interpretation of Christianity allows me to lie about science, especially to school children and naive lay people, in an effort to trick others into believing that the existence of my particular God has been ‘proven’, and therefore I support ID”, in practice, virtually no-one would agree with that position. Even if some ID advocate did advance such a statement, which is most unlikely, it would not be accepted as a valid interpretation of Christianity by theologians or the public at large.

Although Christianity is admittedly diverse, certain behaviors are so clearly in violation of Christian ethics that a “theological” claim to the contrary would be nonsensical. Killing a stranger on the street for the existential thrill of it, for example. At a less eggregious level, the claim that lying about testable, measurable physical reality in order to trick people is “Christian” is nonsensical.

Some people do claim to be Christian, but behave in ways that make a mockery of a claim, and this happens a good deal at the DI. It has happened in far more serious ways throughout history. But an example of someone hypocritically claiming to be Christian is not the same thing as someone holding a theologic view. If someone claims to be a secular humanist, but then violates the rights and dignity of another human being, this does not mean that doing so is a valid interpretation of secular humanism. It means that the claim to be a secular humanist in the first place was false.

It is true that ID can be dismissed scientifically, without reference to theology or ethics. However, the fact that it is incompatible with Christianity is valid as well. Why should its false claim to being “Christian” go unchallenged.

I rather like it that critiques such as this appear in PT. When it is shown that ID is ridiculous both scientifically and theologically, it’s that much easier to convince misguided school boards (who are, after all, the ID proponent’s major target) that ID is bogus.

I’ve been wondering for many years how creationists (of any self-label) can continue to call themselves Christian and adhere to a religion which demands faith, while at the same time seeking to undermine the need for faith itself. After all, if you can prove your claims scientifically, haven’t you just made faith superfluous?

Despite some picky quibbles above, we have here a good distinction between what might be called religious miracles, communicating some point to certain people, and behind the scenes engineering because natural processes aren’t quite good enough.

Other theological problems: That chemist Behe discovering God in his own image. Is it blasphemy? The Designer of life on earth and unspecified features of the universe isn’t God? Is the Designer a previously unknown and un Biblical entity between God and creation? Or is the Designer above God?

But we know who they really mean. They think their Designer is the Christian God. Really? Nothing in the Bible about flagella. The God of the DI is God of the gaps, based on what we allegedly don’t know, not on revelation.

As usual, you take a small snippet out of context, and ignore the overall message.

As usual you display your offsensive arrogance. I am not obliged to respond to every word you write, or to restrict myself to what you think is important.

The point is that Christianity, even as defined by ID advocates, is incompatible with ID.

That’s absurd; there is no such thing as “Christianity as defined by ID advocates”.

While in theory someone might exist who would say “my interpretation of Christianity allows me to lie about science,

It is your assumption that all IDists think it’s a lie, but you’re almost certainly wrong. IDists are not restricted to the staff of DI, much as many folks at PT like to indulge in such fantasies. But none of that is relevant, because the behavior of IDists has absolutely no bearing on whether ID is incompatible with Christianity, any more than the behavior of scientists has any bearing on whether evolution is compatible with the scientific method. Conflating the behavior of IDists with the proposition of ID is quite conceptually confused.

However, the fact that it is incompatible with Christianity is valid as well.

No, it isn’t. Christianity isn’t limited to what you consider to be Christianity. And besides your arguments are full of holes. And even if they weren’t they wouldn’t sway anyone from a position they already hold.

When it is shown that ID is ridiculous both scientifically and theologically, it’s that much easier to convince misguided school boards (who are, after all, the ID proponent’s major target) that ID is bogus.

What misguided school board is going to buy any of the theological arguments presented here? And who is going to present them to these school boards? Theistic evolutionists? Really really really bad idea.

Louis Wrote:

Simply because it is a religious article does automatically make it totally useless or worthy of scorn.

Ahem. Please respond to my second sentence in #43072 instead of worrying about “scorn”. The whole point of ID and the wedge is to displace secular science from its authoritative position and introduce “alternative” forms of argumentation. And here folks are, playing right into that. A science/evolution blog criticizing ID on theological grounds not only opens up the door to theological criticism of science and evolution on “fair play” grounds, it validates the DI position that science shouldn’t be limited to naturalistic explanation.

frank schmidt Wrote:

ts (not Tim S), me boyo, take a deep breath. Have a sip of camomile. Think happy thoughts. Better? I thought so.

Sorry, “me boyo”, but such patronizing comments don’t make me receptive to what you have to say.

Frank and Greg - very nice comments; and a interesting essay! Everyone familar with Ken Miller’s argument? - God got in right the first time;

“[if] a string of constant miracles were needed for each turn of the cell cycle or each flicker of a cilium, the hand of God would be written directly into every living thing - his presence at the edge of the human sandbox would be unmistakable. Such findings might confirm our faith, but they would also undermine our independence. How could we fairly choose between God and man when the presence and the power of the divine so obviously and so literally controlled our every breath? … In biological terms, evolution is the only way a Creator could have made us the creatures we are - free beings in a world of authentic and meaningful moral and spiritual choices.

Ironically, this link is from the Weisberg article - just click on “Darwinists who call themselves Christians”! That would be (2) in Frank’s post, I think …

It’s very odd (or perhaps not) how you get mirror-image arguments here, as a post on Telic Thoughts gleefully points out, from Weisberg’s dependence on the evolution-destroyed-Darwin’s-faith meme, to the claims - echoing Cardinal Schonborn - that evolution insists on *metaphysical* claims about guidedness in any form. A nagging cough on both their houses!

ts (not..):

such patronizing comments don’t make me receptive to what you have to say.

As if I were expecting it. Are you sure you’re not a troll?

Might I suggest that there would be considerably less bilious acrimony in the comment section in threads such as have been posted in the last few days if people would kindly knock it off with the amphiboly already? This is really freshman intro to logic stuff.

“ID is theologically incompatible with Christianity.”

True AND False.

“ID is theologically incompatible with SOME Christianity.”

True.

“ID is theologically incompatible with ALL Christianity.”

False.

“Evolution is incompatible with Christianity.”

True AND false.

“Evolution is incompatible with SOME Christianity.”

True.

“Evolution is incompatible with ALL Christianity.”

False.

Is ID interventionism “bad” theology? I would suggest that this is another meaningless and hopelessly unanswerable question. While I appreciate the rhetorical and political utility of using this as a “reverse wedge”, the plain fact is that ID is only “bad” theology for SOME sects of theism, and I don’t see how any intellectual struggle can be won by calling it “bad” to people according to whose theology it is a logical necessity – unfortunately, such people appear to comprise the bulk of the ID movement.

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Miller gets lost on theology, really lost when making the leap from existence of God to the Christian God he was raised with but this has been enumerated in many forums.

He says: ‘his presence at the edge of the human sandbox would be unmistakable. Such findings might confirm our faith, but they would also undermine our independence. How could we fairly choose between God and man when the presence and the power of the divine so obviously and so literally controlled our every breath? ‘

How would it undermine our independence? You would have hard evidence that God exists. It would provide for an informed choice. And then he sets up a false dicotomy, choosing between God and man? If you had God standing before you it would make the choice at least evidential. As it is all you are really doing is choosing man or man. what this man says about God or that man says about God. You simply don’t have enough evidence to make the other choice real.

then he says: ‘evolution is the only way a Creator could have made us the creatures we are - free beings in a world of authentic and meaningful moral and spiritual choices.’

Why? Why would an all powerful creator HAVE to do it this way. Again it’s a logical fallacy. And needless to say what one religion considers moral another doesn’t so your right back at square one with this baloney.

such patronizing comments don’t make me receptive to what you have to say.

As if I were expecting it. Are you sure you’re not a troll?

Your comment was addressed to me and their surface content was about me relaxing and, it seemed, being receptive to whast followed; thus, it appeared as though you might be expecting receptivity. As for your question, yes, I’m sure I’m not a troll, OTOH, patronization and asking whether I’m a troll certainly seem trollish.

This is an interesting twist to say the least. Generally I have heard skeptics of evolution critisized for having a religious problem with it, yet who is using religion as a weapon here?

L. T. Paladin Wrote:

This is an interesting twist to say the least. Generally I have heard skeptics of evolution critisized for having a religious problem with it, yet who is using religion as a weapon here?

I would suggest that when theological arguments are brought against evolution, it is quite appropriate to examine them as theological arguments. I am not the one who brought theology into the debate. Creationists and advocates of ID did. As a Christian, I’m then frequently “drafted” into a general group who must, as Christians be opposed to the teaching of evolution when people use the argument that “the majority of the community is Christian, so we should teach creationism.”

Because of this I think it is important to point out that not all Christians accept a young earth, or the ID arguments.

L.T. Paladin,

Visited your website. Alot of incoherent thought over there and I’m a Christian. Your reference of the nutty JP Holding and his halfbaked articles will be your undoing. I can’t even believe I wrote that nuts name on this distinguished website.

Particuarlly about the survival of the religion. You could just as easily place any religion into that article.

Pete Dunkelberg Wrote:

Despite some picky quibbles above, we have here a good distinction between what might be called religious miracles, communicating some point to certain people, and behind the scenes engineering because natural processes aren’t quite good enough.

That was the key issue.

I’m not going to repond to each one of the quibbles. It appears I could be writing all day. But let me point out here that my interest in PT is specifically the defense of science teaching in the classroom. That issue will get one involed in political issues. It will also involve theological issues. I know many Christians who accept evolution, but simply don’t know enough to debate the issue, or are afraid to make the claim. I hope to get some of them to come out of the woodwork. I have no desire here (and really not much anywhere else) to convince someone that my theology is correct.

(That wasn’t all really addressed to you, but I’m not going to be able to comment on everything that has been posted very quickly, so I added a couple of points here.

Pete Dunkelberg Wrote:

Other theological problems: That chemist Behe discovering God in his own image. Is it blasphemy?

This brings up an issue someone else mentioned in a comment. Not all Christian theology is identical. There are certainly plenty of people to claim what I say is blasphemous. I think the main difficult with Behe is that he is hanging onto precious evidence for God, and that evidence is almost certain to disappear as more is learned about the contents of the black boxes, as you noted in your next comment–the god of the gaps. The gaps are likely to keep right on disappearing.

If a tree falls in the woods and no one’s around to see it, did God push it over?

If for example Jesus was resurrected, the act itself, however singular and miraculous, would be meaningless to the world if no one knew. The nature of the resurrection was indeed only of relevance because it was said that Jesus appeared to people after he “was risen”, and thus the communication of an appearance or knowledge of his existence post-death was the “miracle”. In this manner, it is the perception, without much criterion for evaluation, that determines the miraculous nature of an event. Application of the miracle was applied afterward, but not from Jesus it seems but his followers: It was said not by Jesus but by Johns the Baptist and the Evangelist that Jesus was the Son of God, of miraculous birth, so that his mere existence and acts were miraculous. This provides that communication, not action, becomes the conveyer of a miracle.

Perhaps someone here can help me find the flaw in the following logical progression.

If God intervened in the course of evolution, as ID advocates claim, does it not follow that in the absence of the interventions nature would have taken a different course? Otherwise, why the interventions? That being the case, does it not follow that said interventions must constitute a break or discontinuity in the laws of nature? As such, should not these interventions be scientifically detectable?

Perhaps our knowledge and understanding of the laws of nature or of the conditions at the time are too incomplete or deficient to achieve this detection. But then the claim of ID folks to have scientifically ascertained Godly intervention leads to a real bind. If there were interventions and they did detect them, they must have detected violations of the laws of nature (as embodied by science). What laws were violated? Can they tell us? If there were interventions and they cannot identify them, that must be based on ignorance of science, so they cannot claim to have discovered them scientifically. And if the laws of nature were not violated, there was no real intervention.

The example of a God- inspired thought not being detectable as Godly intervention because people have imaginative thoughts all the time, is not very impressive. The brain is a complicated electrochemical apparatus subject to the laws of nature. We still have a lot to learn about its operation but in principle, given enough data about the conditions inside a brain, the laws of nature should predict what thoughts will occur. Again, our inability to detect God’s intervention is based only on our ignorance, something that is decreasing with every passing day.

Another example that comes to mind is the problematic evolution of sexual reproduction. How did male and female genders evolve parallel to each other if partially developed sexual organs are of no use until both types are fully functional? (I recall reading about this from an evolutionary point of view, but don’t remember the details. If anyone here can help refresh my memory would be appreciated.) So this area is ripe for Godly intervention. According to some translations of the story of Adam and Eve in the original Hebrew version of the Bible, God provides the necessary intervention. Not by taking a “rib” (that is just another mistranslation of the Hebrew “tzela” which almost always means “side of” or “characteristic of”) but by creating XY and XX pairs of chromosomes for males and females, respectively, so that it appears as if a “side” of one of these chromosomes has been removed from the male. Of course, if this is the real intent of the Bible it MUST be the word of God since none of this was known thousands of years ago. (For further reading on this I recommend Judah Landa’s IN THE BEGINNING OF and, oh, before I forget, I did work as editor on this book). Are there enough gaps in our knowledge to make room for such intervention?

Finally, why not just propose that the universe and the laws of nature were originally designed intelligently so that no further interventions were necessary? Is an ominipotent creator incapble of doing so?

I strongly request that poster ts be banned from further contributions.

Although he has only once crossed the line into frank “dirty language”, as far as I know, his comments are mainly non-contributory. As there is no valid content to balance their obsessively hostile, emotionally immature, and uncivil nature, I suggest that he be banned. Behavior has consequences, even on the internet.

carol clouser Wrote:

(By the time he died he had over 150 papers published, most of them on magnetohydrodynamics).

MHD???!!!!!

Carol, religious differences aside…I am totally into MHD and have designed my own version. I tried to build a crude model, and failed misserably.

(I’m speaking of the plasma generation version.)

It is really hard to find anyone that will talk about it, or even understand it just enough so that I can test my theories against someone more versed with it.

Are you too knowledgeble about MHD?

Anybody you can referr me to will be greatly appreciated.

I apologize to all for this post as it has NO bearing or reference to this thread (Yeah…I know, ts, what else is new..right…haha).

TS:

Thanks for your patience and for continuing to share your comments. I think I now understand your position about the use of theological criticism. I have claimed that theological criticism of ID is valid since ID is a fundamentally theological proposition. Your position seems to be that there is no such thing as a valid theological criticism regardless of the nature of its object. If that is your position, I can see how you would conclude that theological criticism of ID validates theological criticism of science. Basically, you are saying, I think, that since theological criticism is inherently irrational (as you claim), there is no way to reasonably agree on the limits of its purview; any use therefore validates all possible uses. Would you kindly let me know if you think I’ve got the gist of your objection to theological criticism of ID?

Thanks,

Shaggy

Well Shaggy,

If that is indeed his position, then I understand more of his postings and where he comes from.

To argue the validity of criticising theologically ID, then you in turn validate theologicy and its aguments against science?

So me reasoning weather or not the Bible could allow a God, who’s intent was not to be seen or detected, to create the universe and all in it; (authough I have indicated the non-possibilities) would in fact authenticate (to religion) that there is a valid argument in the first place.

To which in your opinion, ts, there isn’t?

If this is so, then I completely understand your reasonings for not wanting to divulge in such topics.

But isn’t it the argument of the original poster in the thread (Henry) to request a hypothetical discussion of such?

Which in your opinion (maybe) is a fruitless endeavour? Because if we validate the need for such arguments, then they can in turn validate their theological arguments against science?

Jim,

I was not arguing theology or my beliefs, but history and scholarship. And let us not personalize this, since you know very little about me or my beliefs and neither do I know of yours. The point I was making was that it is universally accepted among scholars and historians and theologians of ALL faiths that the original Bible is the Hebrew Bible. Taking everything I said and you said in these posting, that still remains the case. I think your point was to “muddy the waters” here a bit by claiming that after the Septuagint was constructed some of its features made their way back into Hebrew manuscripts. That may have happened to a limited and uncertain extent, but doesn’t change the prospects of the present Hebrew version as most reliably the closest version to the original Hebrew Bible. And there clearly was a period of about one thousand years when there was only one Bible around and it was not in Greek nor in English but in Hebrew.

By the way, this is why the Christian creationists, in their books, websites, etc., are always preocupied with the meaning of various Hebrew words. It means a lot to them to get the Hebrew Bible in line with their theology. Why do they care? Because they know the difference between the REAL Bible and a poor translation. If anything is to be a candidate for the word of God it is not the poor translation!

Miah,

First, kindly read the above, for the second paragraph is applicable also to you. Christians in the know know that it is the Hebrew Bible that matters. We don’t decide ideas and principles via a vote. Majority may rule, but is not usually correct. Jews learned long ago that the WHOLE WORLD may be wrong and they right when the blood libels were so widely believed for centuries, yet they intimately KNEW that they could not have a shred of truth to it. But the world just would not listen. By beating (literally) up on the Jews with their blood libels the dumb and evil christian mobs hardly realized that they were proving to the Jews that they could be on to the truth and yet the whole world sits in darkness.

Second, while I took some courses in MHD, my main interest eventually shifted to astrophysics. I am close to Princeton U. which has a rather large Plazma physics group. Why don’t you contact them and see what happens?

carol,

Per your second paragraph that you pointed me to:

Why are they only concerned with a few words? IMO it is those few words that have dual meanings that doesn’t help either way. Our pastor was very animate about the innerrant authinticity of the KJV. Any pastor that I’ve conversed with denies ANY other interpretation…even today. To me it is pointless to validate any tribal book of myths, especially one so young! And quite frankly your the first that I’ve heard that claims a whole original translation (Genesis Account)that would NOT contradict science! Something that I will have to investigate on my own. If there is free documentation available on the web that I can access that validates your claim then I would greatly appreciate it. I cannot take your word for it.

What I am trying to convey is that I replied to this article in the context to which it was questioning. I.E the Holy Bible. I agree that the majority may rule, and that they not be right. But if the majority is fighting based on false pretenses, then you MUST indicate that thier pretenses are false as well as what they are useing is false as well.

If you care to provide a detailed theory as it aligns with the original Hebrew Bible that you are so fond of, then I would be happy to converse with you further on this.

As a side note: Do you have an email addy or web addy of this group so that I may contact them?

As a matter of taste, I vastly prefer the Hebrew Bible to the New Testament; but in the final analysis a scripture is just an old book if, like me, you aren’t a believer. For that matter, lots of people who are believers nevertheless apply the methods of philology to textural criticism.

Perhaps I misunderstood what you trying to get at about the Hebrew Bible. You did misunderstand me. I wasn’t suggesting that the wording from the LXX led to alternations in some Hebrew texts of the Bible. I was suggesting–it’s a scholarly commonplace–that the translators were working from a Hebrew text that differs in a variety of ways from the currently accepted Hebrew version. Surely in the time between Ezra and the establishment of the ne veritur text, there were lots of versions floating around. That is, after all, the normal situation with manuscript traditions. One is at liberty to believe that a perfect copy somehow persisted unchanged for all those years, of course, as, I gather, the Bible code folks maintain; but that would be even harded to buy than the bit about the 70 translators agreeing about everything.

Basically, you are saying, I think, that since theological criticism is inherently irrational (as you claim), there is no way to reasonably agree on the limits of its purview; any use therefore validates all possible uses. Would you kindly let me know if you think I’ve got the gist of your objection to theological criticism of ID?

No, that’s not my argument, and you’ve lifted what I said as an aside when noting that g-o-t-g is not a theological argument and are applying it to what I have said about realtheological arguments, about hubris and blasphemy. Such behavior does indeed strain patience to the breaking point.

As I’ve noted many times now, my objection is to special pleading. By making accusations of hubris and blasphemy, you legitimize such accusations – else you’re a hypocrite. I’ve said this repeatedly, it’s clear as day, you shouldn’t be having any trouble getting the “gist” of it, there should be no need for you to hypothesize about it or attempt to recast my words. Now, if you consider accusations of blasphemy against, say, teaching evolution, and accusations of hubris against, say, genetic recombination, to be ok then fine, make your own charges of blasphemy and hubris and expect similar charges in return, to which you have abandoned the grounds for rebuttal. But if you don’t, then it’s dishonest to make them, and if you try to tell others – and it is others, fence sitters, who are the targets of all our arguments – that we shouldn’t base public policy matters on such religious convictions, but insist that that should only apply to your opponents’ theological claims but not to your own, you won’t be credible. And your weaving and dodging to avoid this basic fact of fairness appears to me to be another example of clinging to a position independent of reasoning or evidence, or perhaps a moral compass so broken that such matters are beyond your comprehension (that sound you hear is patience snapped).

TS:

You wrote: “And your weaving and dodging to avoid this basic fact of fairness appears to me to be another example of clinging to a position independent of reasoning or evidence, or perhaps a moral compass so broken that such matters are beyond your comprehension (that sound you hear is patience snapped).”

It strikes me as a bit odd that you feel you can deduce such an assessment of my character or any of my “positions” from the simple fact that I had some difficulty understanding your argument; maybe I’m just slow. I assure you that any questions I have addressed to you have been so addressed in good faith. I concede to you that you can make a “g.o.t.g” observation without incurring any stain of having said anything theological. My further questions about theological criticisms were precisely about the analysis of ID as hubristic and blasphemous that I had previously suggested. Forgive me if that wasn’t clear.

It does seem clear, special pleading as your objection notwithstanding, that you are dismissing the legitimacy of any “real” theological analysis. Is that or is it not the case?

Cheers,

Shaggy

you feel you can deduce such an assessment

I said “perhaps”.

maybe I’m just slow.

Maybe. Too slow for me. Bye.

(OFF TOPIC):

Australian talkback radio tackles ID:

Monday to Friday at 6pm (4pm in WA), repeated at 3am

Should Intelligent Design Be Taught In Our Schools Tuesday 23 August 2005

The theory of intelligent design has reignited debate about evolution by challenging Darwin’s theory. US President George Bush wants it taught in schools. And here it’s won the qualified backing of education minister Dr Brendan Nelson. Should intelligent design be taught in our schools?

(http://www.abc.net.au/rn/talks/aust[…]s1443378.htm)

For those of you interested in contributing, the contact details are: Fax: 07-3377-5171 Toll-free phone: 1300 22 55 76 - 1300 CALL RN

(They’re Australian numbers, so you may need to add an area code or something.)

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Henry Neufeld published on August 15, 2005 9:32 AM.

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