Thursday, July 07, 2005

Good Catholics should be ID friendly?

Posted in: Science

Michael Behe is expressing his joy at ID the Future, and I can't blame him. What is he excited about? It turns out that a Catholic Archbishop is arguing forcefully for the design inference as a part of rational and scientific investigation. In Behe's summation,

He essentially says in so many words that neo-Darwinism is wrong and ID is right. He writes that the conclusion that life is designed is not a matter of faith, but a matter of physical evidence. He says the denial of that evidence is itself ideology; in other words, the denial of the evidence is the faith, the affirmation of the evidence is rational.

Right on. Meanwhile, the Panda's Thumb waxes about how one is supposed to actually interpret the op-ed piece. Now the question is: how are we to interpret the Panda's Thumb?

Contrary to PT, it seems to me that the Archbishop does more than recommit to classical theistic evolution, which usually demands that God's actions in the world be hidden to scientific/rational inquiry. Rather, he extends the sphere of reason to ID-friendly teleology (a la Behe). And this is precisely what needs to be argued. But you can decide for yourself (you may need to sign up for the NYTimes, which is free.)


Blogger M. Hipsley said...

Cool stuff! But there you go making an argument again. Panda's Thumb has already put this to bed. It is a fact that evolution is true so anything ID proponents say must be false. Seems pretty obvious to me. Hopefully you will catch on soon and stop using all this evidence.

3:22 PM  
Blogger davis said...

I read another sophisticated response to the ArchBishop's went something along the lines of "hahahahahhaha, ID is pseudoscience, so there!"

1:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm curious why ya'll have such a strong rejection of evolutionary biology. So much of the natural world does follow predictable and testable laws. Pointing to certain biochemical processes which science has yet to explain seems, I think, to be not only bad science, but bad, and potentially dangerous, theology.

Christianity asserts that God is omniscient and omnipotent. Why could God have not created the Universe and man by setting natural laws into motion? If God is omnipotent, God could do so without special tinkering with a flagellum here or there, and if God is omniscient, God would have known that man would result after a few billion years.

I'm not flaming here, as ya'll seem to be learned and intelligent, but your posts on ID seem to drop in quality. I'm not a Christian anymore, so maybe I'm not qualified to say any of this, but I really don't see the conflict b/t Christianity and evolutionary biology.


1:01 PM  
Blogger davis said...


We're not against evolution, and the Intelligent Design movement is most certainly not against evolution. What ID is advocating is that the explanatory power of natural selection is now more limited than what was once thought. They advocate that for certain systems, (i.e. replicating systems, in which natural selection and other darwinian mechanisms are insufficient to account for) are best explained by inferencing design. William Dembski has a reliable method to infer design (one that is epistemically and ontologically objective according to John Searle's standards), and many features in biochemistry as well as astronomy have those properties that his method deems as the product of intelligent causes.

Any posts we have that ridicule evolution, such as Hipsley's comments, were more so attacking the responses of strongly commited and dogmatic darwinists (who rarely if ever address the actual arguments for ID, and instead retort to elemental fallacies such as appeal to popular vote, ad hominem, etc).

I think natural selection adequately explains many features of nature, but unlike neo-darwinists, I don't attempt to wave my hand and claim that it explains everything, nor do I claim that one day it will.

Thanks again for checking out our blog, I'm sure you could add some insight to this discussion, considering that you seem fairly well versed in the nuances of what we are discussing.

Side note- The reason we don't assert that God created the universe purely by setting natural laws into motion, is because the evidence points to the contrary. Although, there are ID advocates that do hold to some sort of front=loading theory, such as all the code for the initial life forms was loaded at the onset of the big bang. Michael Behe is one such advocate.

5:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Davis. Perhaps I'm missing something, but ID seems quite opposed to evo bio. The evidence for natural selection, I think, has increased dramatically since its inception, and the new fields of biology which did not exist in 1859 have concurred with and furthered the theory. Yes, I'm going to use evo-devo as an example, being halfway into Carrol's Endless Forms Most Beautiful.

I will grant you that some things are not explained by natural selection, but as an aspiring biologist, these are opportunities for further research, not negations of evolution. Further, it seems intellectually dangerous to build a hypothesis around these gaps. The fossil record in Darwin's time had many gaps, but those gaps are slamming shut almost weekly. The examples from biochemistry, I think, will go the same way eventually (unless/ until we are limited by technology).

I'm not familiar with Searle, but I see he's at Berkeley, so I'm willing to give him a shot ;). What are you getting at there?

I am inclined to agree that natural selection won't explain everything, but for very different reasons. I think it's a limitation of human knowledge, not a result of external intervention. This raises a point which, I think, is oft ignored in this discussion. Science is a very specific, and therefore limited, way of knowing. Some things lie outside the bounds of science. ID is one of those things (and, to be fair, so is an extrapolation of evo bio to support atheism, which even as an atheist I find to be a very weak argument). This is a practical issue, not a dogmatic rejection of ID by neo-Darwinists. ID is a philosophical position, and wether right or wrong - and I do think it is wrong - it has no place in the science lab, because it can't answer practical questions of science.

I'm a little familiar with the arguments in biochemistry for design, and while I think Ken Miller has answered them well, I haven't heard much from the astronomy field, which you also mention.


6:57 PM  
Blogger Ariel said...


Thanks for your comments.

"Perhaps I'm missing something, but ID seems quite opposed to evo bio."

Like Davis noted, ID is not really against evolution as such. But it could fairly be said that the ID project opposes a theory of "blind" evolution, which limits inferrable causal explanations to chance and necessity--in this case NS/RM/etc.

Why would they oppose such a limitation? Because it is arbitrary. That it is also, as regards certain key issues, a failure may lead one to say, "keep trying and have a little faith in chance and necessity's causal power to eventually explain the empirical data." That is understandable. What is not understandable is the arbitrary a priori rejection of intelligent causation, when it is the best explanation of the data.

You correctly note that atheism is, strictly speaking, beyond the realm of the empirical and forensic basis for evo bio. You also consider the extrapolation to atheism to be a "weak argument." I will not dispute that. But ought not the same distinction be drawn between a design inference (which is a demonstrably empirical issue), and a design argument for the existence of God (which also involves its own deductive sort of 'extrapolation')?

ID starts with a question: is it possible to infer by the features of an object that it was intelligently designed, without recourse to knowledge of the object's history? The focus of the science is to determine the empirical grounds of how this design inference takes place. Using empirical data to form an historical hypothesis is forensic science.

Thanks again for adding to the discussion. Hope to see you and Davis continue discussing this. Now I have to check out John Searle as well.


8:24 AM  
Blogger Sal Monella said...

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7:45 AM  

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