International Society for Science and Religion: Intelligent Design is neither sound science nor good theology

| 215 Comments

The UK based “International Society for Science and Religion”, which “was established in 2002 for the purpose of the promotion of education through the support of inter-disciplinary learning and research in the fields of science and religion conducted where possible in an international and multi-faith context”, has released a statement on Intelligent Design:

The International Society for Science and Religion (ISSR) says that “intelligent design” is neither sound science nor good theology. Intelligent Design theorists do not have proper research programmes to make their points. In fact, what they believe is against science, according to the seven scientists who prepared the statement for the ISSR, a scholarly body devoted to dialogue between science and world faiths.

The whole of the society’s membership, many of whom are Christian, were involved in a consultation about the statement. The ISSR says it “greatly values modern science, while deploring efforts to drive a wedge between science and religion.”

HT: Naitonal Secular Society

The ISSR statement said Darwinian natural history did pre-empt some accounts of creation. “However,” say the scientists, “in most instances biology and religion operate at different and non-competing levels.” Intelligent Design is not science and science should not try to elevate itself into a comprehensive worldview.”

215 Comments

I think it is worthwhile noting that the ISSR not only states that ID is not science, it is also bad–I would say really bad–theology. Young earth creationism is even worse theology. Why? In each case the theological implications of the proposed positions are that God must conform to or be comprehensible within the limits of human understanding. This is such a profound failure of theological reasoning that back in the middle ages it would have invited charges of heresy. This is why every scientist, believer or not, should carry the passage from Augustine, that comes up on this site from time to time, with them at all times, and quote it liberally at the beginning of every debate with fundamentalists, creationists or ID advocates. And keep in mind, when confronting the Missouri Synod Lutherans, who have recently gone for young earth creationism, that Luther was an Augustinian before he was a reformer, and would certainly have known about and endorsed Augustine’s point of view. It was, of course, also a Lutheran pastor who finally persuaded Copernicus to publish his theory of the solar system. An event at least as disruptive as anything Darwin did.

Another win for Stephen Jay Gould’s “Nonoverlapping Magisteria” -http://www.stephenjaygould.org/libr[…]ld_noma.html

And I still maintain that by taking God (and Adam and Eve and Noah et al.) out of the Creation myth, the originators of intelligent design creationism technically committed heresy. Bad theology indeed.

Paul Burnett Wrote:

And I still maintain that by taking God (and Adam and Eve and Noah et al.) out of the Creation myth, the originators of intelligent design creationism technically committed heresy. Bad theology indeed.

And aren’t the theologically appropriate punishments for heresy quite severe?

GBH – excellent point. Another way to put it: To make and test predictions of ID (or other kinds of creationism) by using the methods of science, the experimenter would have to be able to control for God. By no commonly understood definition of “God” would such a plan make logical sense.

“Scientific explanations are always incomplete. We grant that a comprehensive account of evolutionary natural history remains open to complementary philosophical, metaphysical, and religious dimensions.”

That’s cool. Nothing wrong with a good “comprehensive account of the gaps” complementary comprehensive account. Cool!

I have been telling this to everyone watching Lee Strobel videos on youtube for years. Now that the ISSR has said it.…everyone on the internet will get along and be correct:)finally:)

And aren’t the theologically appropriate punishments for heresy quite severe?

Well, I think they usually involve a lot of fire, and failing recantation, a somewhat slow and painful death. Even though I’m a strong supporter of Evolution and that by default makes me insidiously evil and unkind, I wouldn’t wish traditional heresy punishment on an IDer.

In any case, at least God (or is that the Intelligent Designer? I get so confused about who is supposed to do what) won’t punish me for professing to know what he thinks and does.

”…and science should not try to elevate itself into a comprehensive worldview.”

It seems to me that it’s the creationists who accuse science of being a comprehensive worldview.

Most scientists are perfectly willing to point out the limitations of the scientific method – for example, its oft-touted inability to prove a negative, such as “God does not exist”, or the difficulties of the historical sciences where experimentation is often impossible (we can’t, for example, rerun the building of the Grand Canyon at full scale).

Science focuses on learning what we can about the natural world, and generally takes a neutral stance on most issues of morality and ethics.

So why do creos demonize science as a competing worldview? Perhaps it’s a useful oversimplification. “Us vs. Them” is a tried-and-true method of uniting the flock.

Donnie B.:

So why do creos demonize science as a competing worldview? Perhaps it’s a useful oversimplification. “Us vs. Them” is a tried-and-true method of uniting the flock.

The same reason the Pharisees condemned Jesus to death - they were afraid of losing their power over the people. It was never a question regarding God.

Hey ID is dead, even the Duhscovery Instuhtoot knows that. The battleground has moved to the ‘Academic and Student Freedom’ issue. Any student is free to put any answer down in an exam and must be marked correct. Any instructor is free to teach anything as science. Any employer is free to hire Chinese students who actually understand science and American kids to wipe down the equipment. Any doctor is free to treat all illnesses as possession by demons and prescribe an exorcism. We are all free to despair and emigrate to Sweden.

Hey PvM, do you agree or disagree with this part?

“Despite this focus on evolution, intelligent design should not be confused with biblical or ‘scientific’ creationism, which relies on a particular interpretation of the Genesis account of creation.”

FL

That is correct, ID is far less ‘scientific’ than those requiring their Biblical interpretations of timelines to match their science. The latter ones are just wrong, ID has no content

We believe that intelligent design is neither sound science nor good theology.

Exactly what I have been saying… Of course FL may misinterpret this to mean that ID could not possibly be religious in nature…

FL:

Hey PvM, do you agree or disagree with this part?

“Despite this focus on evolution, intelligent design should not be confused with biblical or ‘scientific’ creationism, which relies on a particular interpretation of the Genesis account of creation.”

FL

And then there is the following which captures ID’s lack of scientific content

Attributing complexity to the interruption of natural law by a divine designer is, as some critics have claimed, a science stopper. Besides, ID has not yet opened up a new research program. In the opinion of the overwhelming majority of research biologists, it has not provided examples of “irreducible complexity” in biological evolution that could not be explained as well by normal scientifically understood processes. Students of nature once considered the vertebrate eye to be too complex to explain naturally, but subsequent research has led to the conclusion that this remarkable structure can be readily understood as a product of natural selection. This shows that what may appear to be “irreducibly complex” today may be explained naturalistically tomorrow.

Cheers.

Paul Burnett writes,

Another win for Stephen Jay Gould’s “Nonoverlapping Magisteria” -http://www.stephenjaygould.org/library/gould_noma.…

Yes, I noticed that too. “NOMA again” was actually the first thought that came to mind while I was reading this ISSR evangelistic tract.

Of course, a win for NOMA is an automatic loss for Christians.…

The first commandment for all versions of NOMA might be summarized by stating: “Thou shalt not mix the magisteria by claiming that God directly ordains important events in the history of nature by special interference knowable only through revelation and not accessible to science.”

In common parlance, we refer to such special interference as “miracle”—operationally defined as a unique and temporary suspension of natural law to reorder the facts of nature by divine fiat.

–Stephen J. Gould

Theologians, if they want to remain honest, should make a choice. You can claim your own magisterium, separate from science’s but still deserving of respect. But in that case you have to renounce miracles.

–Richard Dawkins

Those evolutionists who see no conflict between evolution and their religious beliefs have been careful not to look as closely as we have been looking, or else hold a religious view that gives God what we might call a merely ceremonial role to play.

–Daniel Dennett

Seems clear enough.

FL :)

FL:

Hey PvM, do you agree or disagree with this part?

“Despite this focus on evolution, intelligent design should not be confused with biblical or ‘scientific’ creationism, which relies on a particular interpretation of the Genesis account of creation.”

FL

Then can you explain to us what makes Intelligent Design a science, and can you demonstrate how to use Intelligent Design as a science?

Of course, a win for NOMA is an automatic loss for Christians….

Wow, you seem to let atheists get quite a hold over you. What lack of faith.

FL, do you take seriously the blasphemous teachings of Young Earth Creationism, that God made the Earth to LOOK billions of years old when it was really only thousands of years old?

Why would you beleive in a Creator that is a pathological liar and trickster?

FL:

Of course, a win for NOMA is an automatic loss for Christians….

According to FL the vast majority of Xians are Fake Xians™ and the religion is all but dead. A tiny remnant survives somewhere by denying all science that conflicts with YECism. FL is one of these last days Real Xians™.

Boring on the 100th repetition. And while they deny modern science and medicine, they don’t seem to have a problem with utilizing the results of the NOMAists.

Some question for FL.

1. What is the name of your cult?

2. The majority of Xians worldwide, Catholic, protestant, etc. have no problem with evolution and are therefore Fake Xians™ and might as well sleep in on Sunday. So of the 2.1 billion Xians, how many are wasting their time and how many are Real Xians™.

3. Do you think god is going to show up any minute, destroy the earth and kill 6.7 billion people?

And BTW, NOMA won centuries ago anyplace that mattered. All that happened is we no longer live in the Dark Ages, burn scientists at the stake, have religious wars between Xian sects that kill tens of millions, and a few religious cultists from the south central USA are mad about it.

FL:

Paul Burnett writes,

Another win for Stephen Jay Gould’s “Nonoverlapping Magisteria” -http://www.stephenjaygould.org/library/gould_noma.…

Yes, I noticed that too. “NOMA again” was actually the first thought that came to mind while I was reading this ISSR evangelistic tract.

Of course, a win for NOMA is an automatic loss for Christians.…

Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.

Bother, perhaps a new link limit. Let me try without them:

science should not try to elevate itself into a comprehensive worldview.

Why not, if it is the only known way to achieve validated knowledge? One could argue about if a comprehensive worldview is achievable, but IMHO we don’t know enough to say either way. Some things we do know, for example that limitations is not a problem unless one wants to replace knowledge with fantasies.

But thanks for showing once again why NOMA was such a failure, as even organizations that would want to adhere to it fails to understand its nebulous requirement of total agnosticism.

Hmm, perhaps s_e_x_u_a_l references are censored (well, held for approval). Bother on a biological blog.

GBH Wrote:

This is why every scientist, believer or not, should carry the passage from Augustine, that comes up on this site from time to time, with them at all times, and quote it liberally

Hmm. It is a theological argument, so you can’t very well suggest that anyone would want to use it. And as it doesn’t apply to other religions than some abrahamic ones, it wouldn’t be very effective against most fundamentalists or creationists anyway.

The gist of it is IIRC that people would look foolish if they opinionated on matters where they aren’t experts. Somehow that doesn’t seem to bother less fundamentalist religions, such as the catholic church on matters of the mind, abortion and c_o_n_t_r_a_c_e_p_t_i_v_e_s. So I wonder if the basic argument is at all effective?

[Test]

“In fact, what they believe is against science, according to the seven scientists who prepared the statement for the ISSR, a scholarly body devoted to dialogue between science and world faiths.”

This seems to be a sentence fragment, and I can’t find the quoted text at ISSR. Looks like the beginning of an interesting thought.

[That was it, regular s_p_a_m filtering. Dunno what it reacts for now. Hope PvM erases the superfluous comments.]

GBH Wrote:

It was, of course, also a Lutheran pastor who finally persuaded Copernicus to publish his theory of the solar system.

You might want to try to change Wikipedia’s articles then as it claims a Roman Catholic archbishop suggested publication, but Copernicus delayed until a mathematician and cartographer with a navigational interest pushed him to publication.

From the ISSR statement: “Despite this focus on evolution, intelligent design should not be confused with biblical or “scientific” creationism, which relies on a particular interpretation of the Genesis account of creation.”

I’m sorry, but how much French am I allowed to use here? 100% wrong. Who gets the complaint?

[Trying the last part of the comment.]

Though the printing was payed for by a catholic bishop science patron, it seems a lutheran philosopher was engaged to include an a_n_o_n_y_m_o_u_s foreword stating that the work was just an hypothesis in spite of Copernicus providing a massive amount of confirming data. Now why does that remind me of when other creationists places stickers to that effect in biology textbooks?

But I’m no historian, so what do I know?

FL’s purpose in life is to goad aggressive atheists into hate speech so he can point to it and say “See, they’re out to get ya, and that’s all this evilution is about.” Good job making him happy guys. Or am I getting paranoid thinking it could just be a sock puppet scam. Nah, he doesn’t have to go through that much effort. You guys are doing his work for him.

Dropping the hate speech and just spending a few civil words countering his hate speech would be so much more effective. Please.

We have here a number of confident assertions about bad theology. But what does this actually mean? What method does one use to determine whether particular theology is good or bad? (At least when one is talking, as here, of theology meaning “study of god(s)” rather than “study of religion”.)

I am particularly intrigued by the assertion that it is really bad theology to imply that God is comprehensible within the limits of human understanding. This is a position that Epimenides would have been proud of. Namely that it is a prerequisite of good theology that all theologians are disqualified from discussing the subject. (True, this only applies to human theologians, but as far as I am aware no orang-utans have yet published on the subject.)

The best way to make sure your product meets the needs of your target audience is to expose your designs to the scrutiny of your users. Doing this during every phase of the design process can help reveal which features of your product work well and which need improvement.

When you give people an opportunity to use your product (or a prototype of it) you may uncover usability problems that you did not anticipate during your initial design phase. Finding and eliminating these problems early can save you time and money later on. Clearly identifying the needs of your users helps you create products that deliver effective solutions and are typically easier for them to learn and use. These improvements can translate into competitive advantages, increased sales, and enhanced customer satisfaction.

Now, I’m as far from a Christian theologian as you could imagine, but FL’s point seems very relevant. The Christian religion rests entirely on a sequence of miracles - that their demigod was able to walk on water, transmute elements, rise from the dead, be in two places at once, and other things at the very least not explainable by science. In most cases, not even defined clearly enough to permit the construction of any tests. Jesus was magical, period.

Strikes me as a rather, shall we say, thin and unsatisfying religion that must teach that there really wasn’t any Jesus as described, that these tales (much like the tales of Aesop) were constructed strictly to convey moral lessons, that there isn’t and never has been any intent to pretend these tales have any historical reality, etc. I think I can understand how a Christian might struggle with the notion that his gods are not “real”, but rather an anthropomorphized summary of the stochastic view of reality our frame of reference provides.

I suggest that folks like FL aren’t content to regard their faith in such abstract terms. He probably needs something more visceral - he wants his gods to be more physical entities, who actually DO things science can detect but not explain (to his satisfaction, anyway). He needs to pray at a personality, not at a general pattern of events onto which he has projected an arbitrary “purpose” which just happens to fit his own psychological needs. If most Christians share his needs, then science per se is a genuine threat.

FL said:

The fact that we humans think at all, is one more item that evolution cannot explain.

“Has not explained” is not the same as “cannot explain”, nor does it carry the same dismissive implications.

“Has not explained” is not the same as “cannot explain”, nor does it carry the same dismissive implications.

Yep. Yet for some reason, antievolutionists keep referring to unanswered questions and trying to imply that the existence of unanswered questions somehow reduces confidence in the basic points of the theory.

What would reduce confidence in the theory would be consistently observed patterns that are logically inconsistent with it. Something like large chunks of DNA copied from one phylum into just a few species of another phylum, with little or no modification along the way. Or later fossils of later species found in strata way older than their distant predecessors. Or even species in different orders of a class but without the amount of neutral DNA differences expected of species at that genetic “distance” from each other.

Henry

Henry, I had to read this a couple of times…

Henry J:

“Has not explained” is not the same as “cannot explain”, nor does it carry the same dismissive implications.

Yep. Yet for some reason, antievolutionists keep referring to unanswered questions and trying to imply that the existence of unanswered questions somehow reduces confidence in the basic points of the theory.

What would reduce confidence in the theory would be consistently observed patterns that are logically inconsistent with it. Something like large chunks of DNA copied from one phylum into just a few species of another phylum, with little or no modification along the way. Or later fossils of later species found in strata way older than their distant predecessors. Or even species in different orders of a class but without the amount of neutral DNA differences expected of species at that genetic “distance” from each other.

Henry

I THINK I understand. Do you mean like finding jellyfish (cnidaria - sp?)DNA in JUST say, elephants and/or domestic cats and no where else?

That WOULD be confusing, wouldn’t it? (forgive me - non scientist :-) )

Stacy S.:

I THINK I understand. Do you mean like finding jellyfish (cnidaria - sp?)DNA in JUST say, elephants and/or domestic cats and no where else?

That WOULD be confusing, wouldn’t it? (forgive me - non scientist :-) )

Yes, or finding elephant DNA in moonjellies, but not box jellies or sea anemones, or finding a radish that has the genome of an elephant (and not a radish), or finding the remains of a rabbit in Cambrian strata, or having a dog give birth to a cat, or watching a fully mature horse emerge from a rock struck by a trident.

Stanton:

or watching a fully mature horse emerge from a rock struck by a trident.

That made me giggle - but it IS pathetic that it takes me so long to understand some of these posts.

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on March 16, 2008 11:37 PM.

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