Random confusion by design?

| 19 Comments

These days it’s hard to visit the few pro-ID sites and not be greeted by a level of scientific ignorance matching and in some cases even exceeding the level of scientific vacuity of ID itself. Point in case is a recent contribution by Logan Gage titled Francis Collins on Square Circles

If the Discovery Institute’s Center for the renewal of Science and Culture were serious about its quest to improve science education, especially evolutionary biology, then it should spend some time educating its spokespeople.

Gage objects to Collins’ position on evolution and Christianity, ‘arguing’ that an unguided and random process could not possibly involve a deity. Let’s count the many confusions:

Gage Wrote:

If, however, you are talking about God using Darwinian evolution, as Collins did, you are ultimately forced to either believe in a God who doesn’t interact with his creation, the God of Deism, or an illogical God who can guide an unguided process.

In other words, just because a process can be unguided, it must be unguided. In other words, even God himself cannot use and manipulate the process? That’s a weird position as this means that God needs to violate natural law according to Gage. Even worse, it denies any possible role in a process which can be explained by appeal to natural processes. Nevertheless, unwittingly Gage has strengthened my claim that the design in intelligent design, has to be supernatural as anything that is reducible to regularity and chance fails the design inference.

If Gage were familiar with Darwin’s work he would also realize that artificial selection by breeders was presented prominently as a foundation for Darwin’s claims about natural selection. According to Gage, since the process of natural selection is unguided, artificial selection is an impossibility, or at least illogical for a deity to use.

I know at this point some readers are saying, “Oh, come on. We don’t have to believe that the Darwinian process is random!” My response: What have you been reading? Of course the evolutionary process need not be random; but a Darwinian process—by definition—does.

Gage then quotes from a letter written by 38 Nobel Laureates which clearly contradicts Gage’s position

According to an open letter sent last year to the Kansas State Board of Education by 38 Nobel laureates, evolution is “the result of an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection” (emphasis added).

First of all the process of variation and natural selection as proposed by science is indeed unguided. Whether or not there is an additional entity or entities that interact, and guide the process or have set the process in motion, is not a scientific concept. Furthermore, calling variation random does not make Darwinism random, in fact, most anyone familiar with the theory would know that Darwinian theory is NOT random. It’s this non-randomness which formed the basis of Darwin’s magnificent idea. And finally, the term ‘random’ basically refers to the concept that beneficial mutations do no arise preferentially, which does not mean that mutations cannot be biased based on past performance. In fact, the idea of evolvability, the capacity to evolve, is based on exactly this idea. Not surprisingly, evolvability can arise under selective processes. A good example is neutrality which is an important concept when it comes to evolvability and although somewhat counterintuitive, neutrality is a selectable feature.

The question is: Are ID activists really this confused about evolutionary theory or is this a confusion by design?

In the former case, one may understand why so much of ID is scientifically vacuous, in the latter case science can provide a useful service by exposing the vacuity of the confusion and guide those interested in good science to see how the process of evolution has nothing to say about the (non)-existence of a deity.

Perhaps it’s time for the Discovery Institute to teach the real controversy, namely the fallacious belief that Darwinian process is random and that an unguided process does not mean that it cannot be guided as well.

I’d hope and expect that ID activists will quickly distance themselves from these flawed arguments. I wonder how much of this confusion is due to the confused and often equivocating writings of the ID movement, promoting a confused view of science as well as theology. In the name of good science as well as theology, I suggest that we teach our children what Darwinian theory is, not what some believe it should be.

Does Gage even realize that by claiming that either Darwinian evolution is wrong, or the process is unguided and thus does not need a God, places the faith of millions in the hands of a well established scientific paradigm. Is faith worth that little these days?

19 Comments

Faith apparently needs a serious IOU from Science. It is a surprising development that one of the ID advocates would take this kind of swerve. I think everyone sees the end of this argument well in advance.

Logan Gage:

Collins ascribed to himself a position he titled “Theistic Evolution.” By this, Collins clarified, he means that “God used the mechanism of evolution” and that God “designed the plan.” But this ultimately begs the question: How can God “guide” an “unguided, unplanned” process?

Funny.

The document of the Catholic Church “Communion and Stewardship” from 2004, written under the supervision of Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Ratzinger, clarifies while discussing evolution:

“But it is important to note that, according to the Catholic understanding of divine causality, true contingency in the created order is not incompatible with a purposeful divine providence. Divine causality and created causality radically differ in kind and not only in degree. Thus, even the outcome of a truly contingent natural process can nonetheless fall within God’s providential plan for creation. According to St. Thomas Aquinas: “The effect of divine providence is not only that things should happen somehow, but that they should happen either by necessity or by contingency. Therefore, whatsoever divine providence ordains to happen infallibly and of necessity happens infallibly and of necessity; and that happens from contingency, which the divine providence conceives to happen from contingency” (Summa theologiae, I, 22,4 ad 1).”

Note that Aquinas wrote in the 13th century. Thus, the argument is not some newfangled response by theologians to the “challenge” of evolution, but established tradition.

Gage objects to Collins’ position on evolution and Christianity, ‘arguing’ that an unguided and random process could not possibly involve a deity.

All together now … “But ID isn’t about religion. No sirree Bob. It’s just them lying atheist darwinists who say it is.”

(snicker) (giggle)

No WONDER nobody takes IDers seriously anymore. (shrug)

If, however, you are talking about God using Darwinian evolution, as Collins did, you are ultimately forced to either believe in a God who doesn’t interact with his creation, the God of Deism, or an illogical God who can guide an unguided process.

In other words, just because a process can be unguided, it must be unguided. In other words, even God himself cannot use and manipulate the process?

An analogy occured to me as I was reading this - the “naturalistic” theory of gravity. Christians believe in this naturalistic theory, and believe that gravity is not teleological (it’s not trying to make you fall). Does this mean that Jesus did not walk on water? At this point, IDists would create a false dichotomy - either believe in naturalistic, unguided gravity (thus, Jesus did not walk on water), or believe in “intelligent falling” (God guides everything to it’s proper place) thus Jesus could’ve walked on water. When put into that context the false dichotomy is obvious, and the whole idea seems ludicrous. You can accept that a naturalistic theory is true and still believe in the occasional divine suspension of those forces.

There were people in Newton’s day who objected to his taking God out of the motion of the planets. Obviously, his just-a-theory of “gravity” and “orbits” was nothing but an attempt to replace God with naturalism! It was atheistic!

or an illogical God who can guide an unguided process.

Hold on. We’re still trying to figure out if god can microwave a burrito so hot He can’t eat it. After that, we’ll get to guiding unguided things.

In comment #144026

Michael Suttkus Wrote:

There were people in Newton’s day who objected to his taking God out of the motion of the planets. Obviously, his just-a-theory of “gravity” and “orbits” was nothing but an attempt to replace God with naturalism! It was atheistic!

There were even more people who criticised Newton because his original version required God to intervene every couple of millennia to fix up the planetary orbits. They claimed Newton was making God out to be an incompetent who couldn’t design an autonomously working system. Laplace later modified Newton’s scheme and the need for God to wind the celestial clock vanished.

They claimed Newton was making God out to be an incompetent who couldn’t design an autonomously working system.

Well, ya know, “intelligent design” doesn’t necessarily mean “optimal design”.

(snicker) (giggle) BWA HA HA HA !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Excellent reference, I wonder how ID apologetics explain the church’s position away?

Re “We’re still trying to figure out if god can microwave a burrito so hot He can’t eat it.”

If it does nothing else, the attempt might solve the gas shortage…

Henry

We are faced with an interesting issue here. Design, according to some ID activists, requires a supernatural act because a designer who acts through natural processes of chance and regularity is illogical

well, the two sides of “random” are 1) are random mutations really random (the ID cop-out is that the great beneficial mutations of design couldn’t possibly have been the result of mere random genetic mutation)? and 2) is “natural selection” natural when it involves such improbable events as volcanic eruptions, sunspot influences over weather patterns, and meteoric impacts.

really, though, it comes down to question number 1. for those IDists who argue that their view is “mostly compatible” with common descent, their argument is that the mutations that seem to be extremely beneficial are in some way detectable as being different from the average or typical mutation (this is, of course, an argument from incredulity). the fact that they always seem to fall back on man being a special creation, a special “design” (no matter what degree they accept we are related to chimps or austrolopethecines) always reinforces this incredulity.

dembski, for example, may refuse to flat-out say it, but reading between the lines he makes it clear he favors the idea of “special creation” for man and any time he hints at accepting “common descent” he’s lying. His blog title certainly gives that away in the most freudian sense, considering he named it AFTER he had already made at least one published concession to acknowledging the idea that his vision of ID could co-exist with the darwinian concept of common descent.

Some good points. However, this line of argument seems debatable:

“Whether or not there is an additional entity or entities that interact, and guide the process or have set the process in motion, is not a scientific concept.”

Perhaps this is an attempt to apply NOMA. If so it seems to fail directly.

This is both a scientific concept and supported by a philosophical view of scientists which purports to explain why science is so successful. If a model can explain all interactions, including noise sources, there is no room for other interacting entities. If you are a scientific realist, which now seems not uncommon among physicists for example, in such cases there is also no non-interacting entities related to that process. In either view WYSIWYG, for that process.

I think this type of argument is usually made about current gaps in our knowledge, not about what we already understand. In the former case it seems to have a temporary use as scaffolds for beliefs.

Collins ascribed to himself a position he titled “Theistic Evolution.” By this, Collins clarified, he means that “God used the mechanism of evolution” and that God “designed the plan.” But this ultimately begs the question: How can God “guide” an “unguided, unplanned” process?

You might as well ask: “How can we have free will if God is omniscient?” The fault lies not in our science, Mr Gage, but in your theology.

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This page quotes Francis Collins’ book, “The Language of God”, as saying that young earth creationism “has reached a point of intellectual bankruptcy… Its persistence is thus one of the great puzzles and great tragedies of our time.”

I’m told the book goes into a good bit of detail on Collins’ opinions concerning young earth creationism, but I’ve not read it myself.

And from our resident PhD science-guy, we get more “blah blah blah God blah blah blah Bible blah blah blah God”.

(yawn)

Thanks, Doc, for once again demonstrating clearly that (1) creationism has nothing scientific to say, and (2) creationists are just lying to us when they claim they do.

I suppose I should post this in this thread too, since “Doc” Martin pee’d all over the place here too:

Just in case there is someone, ANYone, out there who isn’t convinced that “Doc” Martin is an unabashed shameless liar, I offer the positive proof …

When Doc first made his claim that he was a staff member of AIG, I was suspicious since his name doesn’t appear anywhere on AiG’s website. So, I did the logical thing and wrote to AiG (under an alternate email — they know my name and won’t answer questions from me) and ASKED them:

I’m curious — do you have a staff member named Dr Michael Martin, with a PhD in genetics from Yale?

I just got AiG’s response today:

Thank you for contacting Answers in Genesis.

No, we do not have a Michael Martin on staff at Answers in Genesis-USA, nor is he someone with whom we are familiar.

Gary Vaterlaus Director of Curriculum & Correspondence Answers in Genesis PO Box 510 * Hebron, KY 41048 (859) 727-2222

So there you have it … Doc Martin is a liar.

I’m sure everyone is, um, shocked and surprised to hear that …

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on November 13, 2006 9:22 PM.

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