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« Kissling and Michelman Refuse to Dismiss Pro-Lifers as Irrelevant | Main | The Good News of the Trinity »

January 28, 2008

Comments

Hitchens may not make the best presentation but that doesn't mean he is wrong about ID. His question about the virgin birth was irrelevant even if it is irrational as the two things have nothing to do with one another.

"Francisco Ayala is a former Dominican
and one of the most distinguished
evolutionary biologists
of his generation, a former president
of the American Association for the
Advancement of Science (AAAS)."

"...What challenged him to
write this book is the widespread uneasiness
with the Darwinian theory of evolution
among evangelical Christians in the United
States and their consequent support for the
intelligent-design hypothesis. Ayala takes
apart the intelligent-design theories one by
one to show that they are groundless and that
the ID hypothesis itself can be undermined
by focusing on the many examples of imperfect
design in organic structures that are directly
traceable to the vagaries of evolutionary
history."

The link to the review can be found at:

http://www.mirrorofjustice.com/mirrorofjustice/2008/01/darwin-evolutio.html

(Copy to here to link)

alan,

A link is not a good substitute for an argument (either). Hitchens chose not to respond to Richard's evidence. Do you have a response (presuming you agree with Hitchens)?

The stupidity of Hitchen's line of reasoning manifest in his question about the virgin birth and resurrection is that he subjects the creator to the same principles of nature that the creation is subjected to. His view of the creator is so limited, indeed so perverse and hate filled, that it clouds his judgement and thinking.

"Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like moral man, and birds, and animals and reptiles." Rom 1:22

Amen, karthik

I literally laughed out loud at the account of Hitchens' response. In light of the scientific evidence presented by Richards, Hitchens decided to insult Richards' religion instead of address the debate at hand.

Textbook non-sequitur. He might as well have said, "Oh yeah? Well, your mother wears combat boots!" Or, how about the very pertinent question, "Are you voting Democrat or Republican?" Very relevant to ID claims.

In fact, the quotes above include no substantive comments by the athiest. "There's so much misery, death, and extinction." Excellent analysis; but how does this obviate the possibility a Creator, rationally speaking?

By avoiding any rational critique of Richards' arguments, and relying exclusively on non-sequitur opinions, Hitchens has conceded defeat in this debate. He has spoken nothing about ID, but has shown himself a rather ineffectual debater by avoiding engagement of the issues.

Um... I agree that Hitchens does dodge Richards argument, but Richard himself seems to have failed to really answer Hitchens original argument. Richards certainly gives good evidence for design, but simply doesn't explain how, if everything is designed, that there should be so much death, disease, and imperfection.

Empty rhetoric might win applause, but it signals defeat to the intellectually honest.

Will,

The short reply would be, if there is a lot of death, extinction, misery, etc, why does this necessitate against ID?

If the ID arguments are in fact correct, then why should death and extinction be any evidence against a designer? It seems to be an irrelevant argument.

Will, that argument doesn't say much about the existence of a designer. It might address characteristics of the designer. That is, it could be used to demonstrate an imperfect designer, or an evil one, or one could argue that the designer had a purpose for all the "imperfections."

But the presence of what we consider to be imperfections doesn't disprove the designer himself. After all, humans design things that turn out to be imperfect all the time, and that doesn't disprove their existence. The fact remains that the evidence that points to a designer (even in imperfect objects, whether made by humans or something else) can be recognized.

For example, if you saw a message in the sand that read, "Help me, I'm standed!" would you conclude that it had come together through random forces of nature, simply because it's missing an "r"?

I see the point in that a poor design does not disprove a designer. However, proponents of the ID movement (such as STR) use the evidence for a designer to argue for the existence of the Christian God. How does this poor design fit in with the perception of God described in the Bible?

Actually, will_a, "arguing for the existence of the Christian God" is something that ID emphatically avoids: ID very specifically limits its statements concerning the designer to merely stating that (he/she/it/they) is, in fact, a designer.
Questions concerning the nature or identity of the Designer(s) are left out - in fact I have spoken with ID proponents who believe the Designers are an alien race from an alternate dimension.
Not exactly "the Christian God"!

Francisco Ayala does not exist. I've read two of his articles and there were misspelled words. I rest my case.

Part 2 in response to will_a:
Although, as stated above, ID does not address "the Christian God" - in the theological realm, I will.
The Bible clearly states that when the animals were created, God "saw that it was good" - then God created humanity, looked at His creation, and now "indeed it was very good".
Note the significant increase in emphasis - creation was not complete until humanity was created.
Then along comes this ugly little thing called Sin - which, simply put, was just humanity breaking relationship with the very source of Life - introducing death! Ever since then, death and corruption have been the rule. This includes corruption of the genetic code, and ever since then "All creation anticipates the day when it will join God's children in glorious freedom from death and decay." Romans 8:22 New Living Translation
So Biblically, not only was humanity corrupted by Sin, but the entire creation was corrupted, and thus was genetic infidelity introduced: just as a 20th generation copy of a VCR tape will have poor fidelity to the original due to imperfect fidelity to the original.
Thus what Hitches refers to as poor design is actually corrupted copies of originally perfect design.

No comment necessary:

http://scienceblogs.com/zooillogix/2008/01/the_5_most_horrifying_bugs_in.php

(copy to here to link)

That bug is freaky Alan lol.

As for debunking Richards, I do not think it does all that much for you.

After reading the Privileged Planet, I am far more willing to accept that God created a universe with a perfect balance of viewability, habitability etc. I was impressed how God even uses things like plate tectonics and the hydrological cycle to allow so many of us to live (even though their effects sometimes create horrible situations where people die).

An insect like that either used to or does fulfill a useful slot in the universe and if it dies, it seems to me from the scientific data, God has left terrific compensating mechanisms in nature to compensate for their loss. The existence of a killer bug does not undermine ID. At least not to me.

Finally, from a Christian perspective, pain and suffering in the now and on this earth are not the worst thing possible. Death is nothing more than an escalator to the One we so dearly want to know. So from a Christian stanpoint, I would say that while there are situations and creations that are pretty hard and horrible, that is not the final reality for believers. The final reality is far, far different than that and thus the objection of pain and suffering as well as the existence of creatures like your bug, are not getting at the root of the argument.

That bug poses somewhat of a problem if you believe God is like Morgan Freeman. But how does it prove much of anything if God is like Samuel L. Jackson? "The fear of the Lord...."

Hi Brad, I couldn't resist : ).

Hi Mark, actually a link is often better. Some folks are going to say thing far better than I am able and some of the information is so technical that I wouldn't attempt to rephrase it.

BTW, Panda's Thumb has a really good run down on ID:

http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2008/01/erv-a-day-in-th.html

To get a good perspective on what is going on go here:

http://pandasthumb.org/archives/flantievolutionr2un4.html

and look at the green and red counties and reflect on what makes Brevard County different from the "Strange Fruit" counties in the north.

Also you might want to read this:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/27/magazine/27world-t.html?ex=1359176400&en=1af8c9c386cc212d&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

so you can understand the stakes. I linked the article at MOJ because some Christians want to turn the United States into a third world nation with a dumbed down educational system and some don't.

First a sneer...

I think Hitchens at this point has tried to debate logically with so many religious whack jobs that he's pretty tired of it, I would be too. I think, like Pat Condell said in one of his videos, you get to the point where you have to stop politely debating and have the balls to just make fun of how crazy religion is in a straightforward way.

And now an argument...

Irreducible complexity has already been proven wrong, the example the discovery institute first used was the flagellum, which they argued could not have fewer than something like 40 parts. It can easily have much fewer. They then revised their argument to "well, it's not quite the same" which turns it into an entirely pointless principle, which could basically read "if something is different it's not the same." Wow, really?

The fine-tuning principle is also a laughable idea that claims to know things it couldn't possibly know. They claim that if the force of gravity were slightly altered all life would cease to exist. How do they know life wouldn't adapt? Or new life would evolve in a different way to survive the new environment?

“We all know that it’s wrong to torture little children just for the fun of it”

The problem with that statement is that there are human beings who think it's fun to torture children, what does he make of those people? God forgot to give them a sense of morality?

And a few links for good measure...

Discovery Institute vs Copyright
youtube.com/watch?v=13mBPRDNUY0

Look up Critical Analysis of Case for a Creator on Google Video.

Steve,

I would submit that those who think it's fun to torture children still 'know' it's wrong. Your statement proves nothing, but rather misses the point.

Are all religious folks 'whack jobs' or just the ones Hitchens has debated?

Speaking of laughable ideas, how about evolution. It claims many things it cannot possible know. It really amounts to "it must be true because we're here and we can't accept the God explanation and it's the next best thing going."

It has NEVER been observed or repeated. Simple requirements of the scientific method by the way. So how is it science?

I don't think you've grasped the idea of irreducible complexity given your comments on the flagellum having fewer parts. I think Greg has written about this and this is the gist of his example: think of a normal car, it has four tires. It needs all four tires to operate correctly. This is the idea of irreducible complexity. It couldn't have evolved one tire at a time. It needs all four to operate. You say, 'wait a minute, I've seen three-wheeled vehicles before. It could have evolved.' But a three-wheeled vehicle is vastly different than a four-wheeled vehicle in it's design. To test the theory of evolution in this example, you need only to 'devolve' the four-wheeled vehicle. Take a tire off and see how far you get. You'll discover that 'this' three-wheeled vehicle is inoperable (thus irreducibly complex) though other three-wheeled vehicles 'designed' to be that way work quite well.

Steve-

"Religious whack jobs" still represent the vast majority of people everywhere. You'll have to be patient when we disagree with your arguments. Name calling does not suggest a strong position.

When it comes to religious whack jobs, the evolution side has its shareee of whack jobs as well.

I have heard this phrase time and time again when it comes to scientific inquiry...a bacteria wants...a gene wants...
How on earth does a scientist know that a bacteria or a germ or a gene actually have anything approaching wants or for that matter, what those wants might be? I challenge any scientist to tell me what my wants are and I guarantee you that he has no reliable method of determining what those wants are. They might as well toss a coin and determine what my wants are on the basis of heads/tails and unless I actually tell them that they are either right or wrong, they have not a single chance of being able to determine the degree of accuracy their methods might achieve. Just how do they ask a bacteria, a gene, a virus...what their wants are and therefore have any degree of certainty that the claims that one of these things actually have them? It seems to me utter nonsense to make such claims and vainly cling to them when there is not a shred of evidence that anything of the kind is actually true. Is it not more likely that they are making the same mistake someone might make when they claim that a marionette wants to move its arm when its arm moves? In a first-person shooter game the characters that are trying to shoot your character are simply programmed to do so and do not actually “want” to shoot your character? Similarly is it not even remotely possible that genes and bacteria are simply programmed to respond in a certain manner rather than having any volition, resulting in wants, of their own? It seems to me that any conclusion that these things actually “want” anything is a result of a combination of over exuberance, favoring scientific materialism, and muddled thinking that seems to be an unavoidable result of this blind leap into the cult of “scientific materialism.”

So, that each side has its share of "whack jobs" proves nothing about who is right and who mistaken.

Melinda - did I get you right in that you said that the Virgin Birth is irrational? I would be surprised if you did. There's nothing irrational about the event, if it is miraculous. What would cause the concept to become "irrational?"

Bill,

I really don't think Melinda meant that, though it kind of sounds like it the way she worded it. I think she meant, "I'm not conceding that belief in the virgin birth is irrational; I think it is [rational]."

Why are evidences for creation always tied to belief in the existence of God? There's a logical jump I don't follow, because God might still exist even if creation were not the way things came about. I don't see how the two are necessarily related. If that's the case, then why do Christians always attempt to prove God's existence by refuting evolution and supporting creation/ID. It could very well be the case that evolution is true, and God exists and still became a man in the person of Jesus, etc.

Given the fact that this is a genuine possiblity, then shouldn't Christians invest their efforts elsewhere, in arguments and reasoning that logically implies the existence of God, as opposed to a Creator God who works in one narrowly defined mode (ie, of the creationist sort)?

I'd like to get a clear response as to why Christians are so obsessed with refuting evolution in favor of creation, when God Himself does not depened on the veracity of creation in order to exist. In other words, it does not follow that if some theory of creation were shown to be false, the Christian God is false. Strategically then, what's up with this creationist obsession?

"Why are evidences for creation always tied to belief in the existence of God? There's a logical jump I don't follow, because God might still exist even if creation were not the way things came about."

What we are looking for is an adequate cause for what we see around us. Scientific materialism provides us with inadequate cause for that.


" I don't see how the two are necessarily related. If that's the case, then why do Christians always attempt to prove God's existence by refuting evolution and supporting creation/ID."

The genes have not been shown to be adequately flexible for macro evolution to take place. We, as Christians, can quite easily accept that evolution takes place within species. It is the huge leaps requiring genetic flexibility beyond that that has been demonstrated that points to a diferent explenation.

" It could very well be the case that evolution is true, and God exists and still became a man in the person of Jesus, etc."

Yes it could have been, but that is not the question we need to ask. We need to ask what has the best and largest amount of evidence for it being the adequate cause for what we observe to be so.


"Given the fact that this is a genuine possiblity, then shouldn't Christians invest their efforts elsewhere, in arguments and reasoning that logically implies the existence of God, as opposed to a Creator God who works in one narrowly defined mode (ie, of the creationist sort)?"

If as a Christian, I am to believe that both the Old and New Testaments are in fact the Word of God, then I also have a biblical basis for making such a claim as it is written in Genesis

Genesis 1

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Genesis 2:22 (New International Version)

22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib [a] he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

"I'd like to get a clear response as to why Christians are so obsessed with refuting evolution in favor of creation,"

Christians are obsessed with the truth.

John 14:6 (New International Version)

6Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

If we believe that Christ is the truth as He clearly stated, then it would be inapropriate for us not to be obsessed with Him who comitted no lies.


"when God Himself does not depened on the veracity of creation in order to exist."

If by veracity you mean truth...he is the truth and without himself he would not exist.

" In other words, it does not follow that if some theory of creation were shown to be false, the Christian God is false."

That would be counter-intellectual.

"Strategically then, what's up with this creationist obsession?"

Has been explained above. All evidence shows it to be the most likely explenation for why we are here or why anything is here rather than nothing is here. It is the best explenation for why objective morals exist. It explains many difficult problems that would otherwise have no explenation. It makes sense.

“I rest my case,” said Hitchens. “This is an honest guy, who has just made it very clear [that] science has nothing to do with his world view.”

No, Richards believes science does not encompass the [i]whole[/i] world -- at least not a science that has chosen a priori and arbitrarily to limit itself to the natural. However, even within that naturalistic scientific view, there are pointers to the outside that those inside refuse to acknowledge. They argue against the implications and possible conclusion rather than the facts.

I appreciate the difficulty some people have with rectifying the fact that there is pain and suffering in the universe with Christian claims of God's perfect goodness, wisdom, power, and love.

It should not be assumed, however, that this difficulty is something Christianity has never acknowledge or attempted to address. The problem is important enough that it has its own branch in theology, a branch called "theodicy". C.S. Lewis is only one of the more recent writers to tackle the problem of pain in a very accessible book titled, appropriately enough, The Problem of Pain.

In the Bible itself, the problem is given its fullest treatment in the book of Job. In Romans 8, Paul teaches that God causes all things to work for good for those who love Him, and Peter's first letter focuses on the idea that suffering for the sake of righteousness can be a blessing.

(We all suffer: it's just a question of whether each of us is a Job or a Jonah, enduring suffering for doing the right thing or facing the consequences for sin.)

In Luke 13, Jesus Himself teaches that tragedy is proof that its victim is a uniquely depraved sinner. And if His claims about Himself are true -- that He is God Incarnate, come to rescue us -- we can spend our lives learning from His anguish in Gethsemane and His suffering on the cross: more important perhaps than an explanation for why we suffer, we see that we do not suffer alone. We see that God is with us in our pain.

"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin."

--

Personally, I'm ambivalent about intelligent design as a scientific theory. In order to draw general conclusions from particular observations, scientists must assume that the laws that govern physical behavior in the here and now remain true in all places at all times.

This is only an assumption, and it is furthermore an assumption that science cannot prove.

Because I believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (and for other reasons that require a lot of ink), it is an assumption that I believe is false. I don't believe that the universe is wholly unpredictable, but science is limited in its assumptions: it will draw only particular kinds of conclusions, some of which may be true, some false, and it's a guessing game about which is which.

I certainly believe that the present is the result of actions from the past, but it's not clear whether science and its assumptions can reconstruct the past from our incomplete picture of the present. It's not something I worry about too greatly, and compared to other duties, it's not our most pressing concern.

--

Earlier in this thread, Steve wrote:

"'We all know that it’s wrong to torture little children just for the fun of it'

"The problem with that statement is that there are human beings who think it's fun to torture children, what does he make of those people? God forgot to give them a sense of morality?"

Shall we argue that, because some men are inarguably blind, there's no such thing as light? Shall we argue that, because some are deaf, sound is illusory?

I agree that, particularly for the very young and those with severe mental retardation, there may be some who truly lack the awareness of the moral law that is common to the vast majority of adults: I have faith that, being both wholly just and wholly merciful, God takes this deficiency into account.

(He also takes into account the fact that so many of us have no such deficiency. We'll have to answer for the wrong decisions that we willfully, deliberately made, knowing that they were wrong.)

But the question isn't whether there are some who lack this perception of the moral law, Steve. The question is, do you agree that there is a moral law and that some actions are forbidden by that law?

If you don't... well, Christians believe in the Virgin Birth and Resurrection of God Incarnate, but we affirm the moral law. Logically, a denial of the moral law would mean that one doesn't think that torturing toddlers for fun is truly wrong. I do not wonder which position is more sane.

If you do believe that morality is real, it must follow that morality is universal and transcendent. The moral law, if it is real, cannot be a mere matter of taste, personal preference, or even cultual bias. An attempt to treat morality as subjective ultimately leads to it being seen as illusory.

The problem is this:

If morality is real, it is transcendent; and if it transcendent, naturalism cannot account for it, and evolution cannot account for our awareness of it.

Those who disagree with this assertion are welcome to disprove it by demonstrating how evolution could produce a TRUSTWORTHY awareness of a truly transcendent moral law that tells us, not what we do, but what we ought to do.

>>>For example, if you saw a message in the sand that read, "Help me, I'm standed!" would you conclude that it had come together through random forces of nature, simply because it's missing an "r"?

Amy -

Just playing the devil's advocate, but doesn't the watch on a deserted beach analogy or a message in the sand assume the designer answer without proving it? The question is whether design elements are apparent or actual; we cannot simply leap to the desired conclusion without evidence and argumentation. Asserting that design is a foregone conclusion because it looks that way seems to assume a desired answer by merely rephrasing the question.

The Darwinian might say, "Elements of design are apparent in complex organisms, but these elements are better explained by natural forces than an intentional Designer." Richards, the ID proponent, stated in the debate, "The fact that nature seems to be organized rationally and mathematically suggests evidence for theism." To which the Darwinian could well reply, "Yes, Mr. Richards, I agree with you. But the suggestion of design is not a concrete argument for design. It is in fact the subject of our debate. Let us not presuppose what we are attempting to prove."

I agree with Hanegraaff that Darwinian evo. is a 'propped-up corpse of a theory, a 19th century myth'. Perhaps the "designed watch" analogies are merely semantic, though, and ought to be reconsidered within the ID arsenal.

>>doesn't the watch on a deserted beach analogy or a message in the sand assume the designer answer without proving it?

Sage, my point here was merely to demonstrate the principle that perceived imperfections (like a missing "r") don't automatically trump the understanding that a thing was designed. The only way to demonstrate the principle was to give an illustration using something we know to be designed (like a message in the sand) and to show how imperfections can exist in designed things. Therefore, in principle, if we're dealing with something where it is unknown whether or not it's designed, we know from experience that the presence of imperfections doesn't automatically rule out design. We'll need to rule it out in other ways, if we can, with arguments that are relevant.

>>The question is whether design elements are apparent or actual

Exactly. ID attempts to isolate the elements that point to design and only design (like meaningful information) and then demonstrate that those elements are present in nature and could not have been produced by random forces.

In order to argue for their case, ID people have to identify the elements of designed things (like watches and messages) that are unique to designed objects and never present in randomly made objects. Scientists have to be able to argue from what they observe in the world in order to make new theories about things they're trying to discover, so they have to appeal to what is observed about designed objects. Because of this, the analogies aren't semantic but necessary if they're going to connect this enterprise to the real world.

>>>ID people have to identify the elements of designed things (like watches and messages) that are unique to designed objects

Amy,
Thank you for clarifying. I wasn't sure whether you were making a broader statement initially.

I completely agree with you. Analogies can very usefully illustrate particular elements unique to designed objects, elements that form the pillars of the ID argument.

My concern is when someone implies that the preponderance of order, complexity, balance, etc. apparent in nature effectively settles the discussion. While it is true there is a God who created the universe, and we can see evidence of this "at a glance," as it were, in the scope and majesty of the created order, the ID movement (as you've said) takes a hard, technical look at the organic chemistry and astrophysics of the universe to see whether it supports a design-model theory of origins.

So my concern was that I did not want to see people in the ID movement using an analogy that illustrates the self-evidentiality of their position rather than some particular design element.

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