The God of the Gaps

By Sean Pitman

The term “God-of-the-gaps argument” is often used to refer to a position that assumes an act of God as the explanation for any unknown phenomenon – which is a variant of an argument from ignorance.

The origin of the term goes back to Henry Drummond, a 19th century evangelist lecturer, from his Lowell Lectures on the Ascent of Man. In his lectures he chastised those Christians who pointed to the things that science can not yet explain as “gaps which they will fill up with God” and urged them to embrace all nature as God’s, as the work of “… an immanent God, which is the God of Evolution, is infinitely grander than the occasional wonder-worker, who is the God of an old theology.” (Link)

In short, a “God of the Gaps” (GoG) argument is thought to be a logical fallacy since anything that cannot be currently explained by naturalistic science can always be explained by the argument that, “God did it.”  After all, God can explain anything and everything.  The problem is, an argument that can actually explain anything isn’t that much more useful than an argument that explains nothing at all.  It is for this reason that critics of creationists and those who promote “intelligent design” as a scientific theory argue that such ideas are not scientific or empirically rational because they are directly dependent upon the GoG logical fallacy.    After all, throughout history people have appealed to God to explain things like the origin of lightening and thunder during a storm, or the storm itself or massive plagues like the great Bubonic Plague of Europe during the Middle Ages.  Only later did science discover perfectly natural reasons for such phenomena which did not require the direct act of a God or God-like being.  Therefore, it only stands to reason that science will continue to provide naturalistic answers for those phenomena that are not currently understood from the perspective of naturalistic science – like the origin of life or the fine tuning of the anthropic universe itself.

The only problem, of course, is that the a priori conclusion of naturalism, that a mindless mechanism of some kind was most likely responsible for all natural phenomena, is itself a form of the GoG logical fallacy.  In both situations there is a gap in knowledge.  The only difference then is what one chooses to fill in the gap.  Should the gap be filled with an all-powerful intelligent God or with an all-powerful non-intelligent force of nature?  – a mindless non-caring God, but a God none-the-less who has the power to explain anything and everything that is currently unknown?

How did life arise?  I don’t know but I’m pretty sure it was as the result of some mindless natural mechanism…

You see, if one replaces an intelligent God with a non-intelligent Force as the ultimate answer to everything, the GoG fallacy hasn’t really been solved.  All that’s been done is a substitution of one type of god with another type of god to stuff in the gap.

So, what’s the solution to this conundrum?  How can the GoG fallacy be solved?

Consider that science itself is based on a very simple method by which one can attempt to bridge gaps in knowledge with something better than random guesswork, blind leaps of faith, or wishful thinking.  Science only comes into play when there is some kind of limitation in knowledge – when what is known cannot completely explain that which is unknown regarding the nature, origin, or character of a particular phenomenon.  If complete knowledge or information were ever available, science would no longer be needed at that point since the answer would already be definitively known.

For example,  I like vanilla ice cream.  I have perfect knowledge of this fact.  I need no further testing or peer review to establish this fact or improve the predictive value of my current knowledge on this point.  Therefore, science is simply not useful here.

However, when we start talking about realities that exist outside and independent of our own minds, external empirical realities,  we enter a realm where we have incomplete knowledge on the nature of everything.   Science comes into play in that it allows us to formulate hypotheses to try to explain the external world in which we live in a manner than can be tested and potentially falsified.  In other words, all of our ideas about external empirical realities are subject to the potential for error and the need for revision or complete discard in favor of entirely new hypotheses given additional information.   This is because science cannot definitively prove the truth of any hypothesis.  It only has the power to disprove hypotheses.  While limited, this feature of science is still quite useful in that it narrows the places where truth is most likely to be found.  In this way, it helps us to make more and more educated or useful leaps of faith into the unknown.

The question is, what hypotheses are valid when one is trying to solve the riddle of the nature of a particular phenomenon? – what hypotheses avoid the GoG logical fallacy?  Well, in order to be scientifically useful, a hypothesis must be testable in a potentially falsifiable manner.  If one proposes that a supernatural God can explain a particular phenomenon, that hypothesis may in fact be true, but can it be tested in a potentially falsifiable manner?  The answer, of course, is no.  A supernatural God can theoretically explain the existence of anything and everything.  He can explain car pile-ups on the freeway, leukemia in children, weather patterns, crop circles, the individual symmetry of snowflakes, etc.  God can explain it all.  Therefore, there is simply no way to test the “God did it” hypothesis in a way that would definitively falsify it in favor of any competing hypothesis.  Therefore, the “God did it” hypothesis is outside of the realm of a truly scientific hypothesis.

Now what? As a creationist and proponent of Intelligent Design as a valid scientific theory, I’ve really dug a big hole for myself!  Haven’t I?

Well, consider that there are numerous modern scientific disciplines that are based on the human ability to detect the need to invoke intelligent design to explain certain empirical phenomena.  For example, consider that forensic science, anthropology, and even the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI science) are all based on the science of detecting the need to invoke intelligent design hypotheses.  Without this ability of science it would be impossible for anyone of us to actually detect the difference between a murder and a natural death, an arrowhead and a natural rock, or an intelligently-coded radio signal and a natural radio signal.

So, how is this done without ending up with the “God did it” fallacy?  Well, the science of detecting design is based on two simple criteria:

  • The phenomenon in question is well beyond the creative potential of any known non-deliberate force of nature.
  • The phenomenon in question is within or close to the creative potential of known intelligent agents (i.e., humans).

That’s it.  If these two criteria are met, the phenomenon in question is most likely the result of intelligent design as far as we know given the limited information that is currently in hand.

But, is the hypothesis that only ID could have produced the phenomenon in question potentially falsifiable?  Absolutely.  All that needs to happen to falsify the ID-only hypothesis for SETI, anthropology, or forensics is to demonstrate the ability of some mindless mechanism to likely produce the phenomenon in question, or something close to it, in a reasonable amount of time on average.  Such a demonstration would effectively falsify the hypothesis that only a mechanism with access to deliberate intelligence on at least the human level is likely to be able to do the job in a reasonable amount of time.

What is most useful about this ID-only hypothesis is that it can be universally applied.  It can be used to investigate any type of natural phenomenon to see if it was or was not most likely the result of ID.   This includes the world of living things – of biology.  There simply is no inherent reason why the argument for ID can be used by SETI scientists for certain features of radio signals or anthropologists when it comes to ID behind certain rock formations, but not for certain features of living things.  It is a philosophical argument, not a scientific one, that biology is out of bounds when it comes to the potential for detecting design.

Consider, for example, that even human level intelligence and design capabilities are able to produce various features that closely resemble those found in living things.  The first fully synthetic genome has been produced by humans.  Daniel Gibson and his colleagues at the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Maryland, synthesized the genome of the bacterium Mycoplasma mycoides, consisting of about 1.1 million base pairs (Link).  The same thing is true for high levels of functional complexity and structural systems that resemble various biosystems found within living things.

The only question that remains is, are these features also within the creative realm of any known mindless force of nature?  If not, then intelligent design, on at least the human level of production, would be a valid scientific conclusion – just as valid as is the case for forensic science, anthropology, or SETI science.  There simply is no fundamental difference between the scientific arguments presented.  On the other hand, if a mindless mechanism is discovered that can actually explain these features in a testable potentially falsifiable manner, then the ID-only hypothesis would be effectively falsified.

But what about God?  The ID-only hypothesis might be scientific if we’re only talking about human-levels of intelligent design, but what about those features of living things or of the fine tuned universe itself that some suggest require a God or God-like being to explain?  Well, this does become more difficult, but it is arguably within the realm of science to detect the need for advanced intelligence and/or technology that is currently beyond our human ability to achieve – to the level indistinguishable by us as requiring a God or God-like Intelligence.

So, while the truly supernatural nature of God can only be fully known by God himself, we can get a very good idea that certain features of nature cannot be explained from our current perspective without an appeal to a level of intelligence and creative power that only a God or God-like being could explain.  And, I’m not the only one who has come to this conclusion.  Many well-known modern scientists have also come to this very same conclusion.

For example, Australian astrophysicist Paul Davies makes the following argument along these lines:

The temptation to believe that the Universe is the product of some sort of design, a manifestation of subtle aesthetic and mathematical judgment, is overwhelming. The belief that there is “something behind it all” is one that I personally share with, I suspect, a majority of physicists…

The force of gravity must be fine-tuned to allow the universe to expand at precisely the right rate. The fact that the force of gravity just happens to be the right number with stunning accuracy is surely one of the great mysteries of cosmology…

The equations of physics have in them incredible simplicity, elegance and beauty. That in itself is sufficient to prove to me that there must be a God who is responsible for these laws and responsible for the universe.

Davies, Paul C.W. [Physicist and Professor of Natural Philosophy, University of Adelaide],“The Christian perspective of a scientist,” Review of “The way the world is,” by John Polkinghorne, New Scientist, Vol. 98, No. 1354, pp.638-639, 2 June 1983, p.638

 

British mathematical physicist, Sir Roger Penrose, was among the first to voice the obvious philosophical conclusion:

The extremely high level of fine-tuning astronomers and physicists discern powerfully suggests a purpose behind the universe.

Roger Penrose, in the movie A Brief History of Time (Burbank, CA: Paramount Pictures Inc., 1992).

 

 

 

Nobel laureate Arno Penzias makes this observation about the enigmatic character of the universe:

Astronomy leads us to an uniqueevent, a universe which was created out of nothing and delicately balanced to provide exactly the conditions required to support life. In the absence of an absurdly-improbable accident, the observations of modern science seem to suggest an underlying, one might say, supernatural plan.

 

 

 

Freeman J. Dyson distinguished mathematical physicist, says,

As we look out into the universe and identify the many accidents ofphysics and astronomy that have worked to our benefit, it almost seems as if theuniverse must in some sense have known that we were coming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sir Fredrick Hoyle, famous British astronomer who early on (1951) argued that the coincidences were just that, coincidences. But, by 1953 he had evidently changed his mind and wrote:

Such properties seem to run through the fabric of the natural world like a thread of happy coincidences. But there are so many odd coincidences essential to life that some explanation seems required to account for them… A superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology.

http://www.leaderu.com/offices/bradley/docs/universe.html

Hoyle, Fred. “The Universe: Past and Present Reflections,” in Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics, 20. (1982), p.16.

 

 

Charles Hard Townes, winner of a Nobel Prize in Physics and a UC Berkeley professor noted:

“This is a very special universe: it’s remarkable that it came out just this way. If the laws of physics weren’t just the way they are, we couldn’t be here at all….

Some scientists argue that, “Well, there’s an enormousnumber of universes and each one is a little different. This one just happened to turn out right.

Well, that’s a postulate, and it’s a pretty fantastic postulate. It assumes that there really are an enormous number of universes and that the laws could be different for each of them. The other possibility is that our was planned, and that is why it has come out so specially.”

http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2005/06/17_townes.shtml

 

Regarding the origin of living things:

From the beginning of this book we have emphasized the enormous information content of even the simplest living systems. The information cannot in our view be generated by what are often called ‘natural’ processes, as for instance through meteorological and chemical processes. . . Information was also needed. We have argued that the requisite information came from an ‘intelligence’.

Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramsinghe, Evolution from Space (1981), p. 148, 150

 

“It is quite a shock. From my earliest training as a scientist I was very strongly brainwashed to believe that science cannot be consistent with any kind of deliberate creation. That notion has had to be very painfully shed. I am quite uncomfortable in the situation, the state of mind I now find myself in. But there is no logical way out of it. I now find myself driven to this position by logic. There is no other way in which we can understand the precise ordering of the chemicals of life except to invoke the creations on a cosmic scale. . . . We were hoping as scientists that there would be a way round our conclusion, but there isn’t.

Sir Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe, as quoted in “There Must Be A God,” Daily Express, Aug. 14, 1981 and Hoyle on Evolution, Nature, Nov. 12, 1981, p. 105

And finally, for those who are interested, here is a lecture I gave on:  Intelligent Design – Science or Religion?

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65 thoughts on “The God of the Gaps

  1. The key point about the “God of the gaps” argument was made early in the article, when Sean pointed out that the “God of the gaps” argument depends upon one’s beginning or default assumptions.

    If we assume that the universe and life on this planet self-created and self-organized, then the fact that we cannot presently explain exactly how is merely a “gap” in our knowledge, a gap that will eventually be filled in by future scientific discoveries. (This is the assumption Darwinists make when they accuse creationists of worshiping a God of the gaps.)

    But if we assume that God created the universe and life on this planet, then the fact that we cannot presently explain how these things came into being by random processes is not a “gap” in our knowledge, but positive evidence that God did, in fact, create these things, and future scientific discoveries will tend to confirm this. (And creationists do assume that God created, which is why we are not impressed by the Darwinists’ “God of the gaps” taunt.)

    It all depends upon one’s starting assumptions.

    By the way, it is clear that as science has progressed, and gained more knowledge of the complexity of life, the assumption of abiogenesis (the idea that life came from non-life by naturalistic, unguided processes) has become less and less tenable. This is an instance where science has tended to confirm creationism.




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    • @David Read:

      It doesn’t really depend upon one’s starting assumptions. The empirical evidence itself has the power to lead the honest and sincere seaker for truth, at the very least, to the eventual conclusion that an extremely powerful and intelligent creator was behind it all – a Creator who cannot be readily distinguished from a God or God-like being.

      After all, this information has convinced many scientists of the validity of this conclusion against their will. Consider again the conclusion of Chandra Wickramasinghe when he said:

      We were hoping as scientists that there would be a way round our conclusion, but there isn’t.

      The point is that intelligent design in nature, in the universe and in living things, is clearly evident for many scientists – to the point of being driven to this position contrary to their original starting assumptions. David was correct when he claimed that both the universe and living things are “fearfully and wonderfully made… showing the glory of God” (Psalms 139:14 and Psalms 19:1).

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  2. Another area where science confirms the I.D. model is in the area of entropy – where even Isaac Asimov admits that evolutionist paradigm requires a massive decrease in entropy as the “net” over billions of years of time and the level of “all of planet earth”.

    A most glaring violation of the 2nd law.

    Another area where “observations” in science confirms the I.D. and also the Creationist model is in the area of static genetic domains instead of seeing simple phyla give rise to complex ones – we see them all – remain static.

    in Christ,

    Bob




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    • Thermodynamic vs. Informational Entropy

      @BobRyan:

      The notion that the Theory of Evolution (ToE) violates the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (2LoT) is mistaken. There simply is no violation of this law since there is plenty of thermodynamic energy around to drive the work necessary to produce living things and their diversity.

      The problem for the ToE is over the concept of informational entropy (IE), not thermodynamic entropy (2LoT). IE and the 2LoT are related but uniquely different concepts which both creationists and mainstream scientists often confuse.

      Is short, while there is plenty of thermodynamic energy to drive evolutionary progress, the energy is disordered and requires the directing forces of precise structures which in turn require meaningful information to produce.

      For example, you can have all the thermodynamic potential you want in a system to do useful work. But, if you don’t have the proper structure (like a working fan) to take advantage of this potential, you won’t get anything useful out of the system. So, the question is, how did the system produce the proper structures needed to extract the non-directed thermodynamic potential to produce “useful work” on higher and higher levels of functional complexity? Where did the original information for these structures come from?

      If you’re really interested in the topic, here’s a lecture I presented on it a little while back:

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  3. Re David’s Quotes

    If we assume that the universe and life on this planet self-created and self-organized, then the fact that we cannot presently explain exactly how is merely a “gap” in our knowledge, a gap that will eventually be filled in by future scientific discoveries. (This is the assumption Darwinists make when they accuse creationists of worshiping a God of the gaps.) It all depends on one’s starting assumptions.

    Hello David

    Interesting comments.

    What if one does not start off with any starting assumptions as to a God or not but just uses empirical knowledge to look for explanations as to why things occur? Isn’t this a more objective approach?

    For example, it seems at a low level of micro evolution, Dr. Pitman does not see deliberate design but rather a random adaptive process at play. ( Sean please correct me if I have misunderstood you on this point as it is not my intent my friend to put words in your mouth). Now for me at that level that means we do not have to invoke or negate God. The same process can be applied to the observable cause and effect nature of our physical universe. Where science provides an explanation we do not have to invoke God as an explanation for why something occurs. This process is what has brought us out of the age of myth into reason.

    But science does not rule out God, it just might better define what God is not. Notwithstanding theories of a metaverse and a quantum fluctuation leading to the big bang, I haven’t yet seen an atheist give an adequate explanation for First Cause. Where did the first matter and energy come from? Why, even if a universe is just a random permutation or infinite quantum fluctuations, are there such fluctuations at all? Why is there anything versus nothing?

    Now, do I use my own God of the Gaps to explain this? No, but I don’t rule out God, an ultimate designer, design, force as well. What I do think is that we limit ourselves to conceive God in our own image, or conceptual language for that matter. Does the human brain yet have the ability to comprehend the full extent of the grandest of designs? Is all matter inextricably woven into God? Might Jesus be one manisfestation of a divine design meant to bring us temporal comfort?

    I don’t know the answers to these questions but am honestly exploring them while not disparaging my friends’ faith. I think if we stay open minded rather than adversarial we can all learn from each other and make progress. Shouldn’t the honest, compassionate seeking of truth be everyone’s goal?

    Your agnostic friend
    Ken




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  4. “@BobRyan:

    The notion that the Theory of Evolution (ToE) violates the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (2LoT) is mistaken. There simply is no violation of this law since there is plenty of thermodynamic energy around to drive the work necessary to produce living things and their diversity.” – Sean Pitman

    Hi Bob

    Is it fair of us to presume that your degree in science, hence expertise, is niether in biology or physics? 🙂

    Your agnostic friend
    Ken




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  5. Ken, I think there are only two logical possibilities.

    1. Everything has always existed and this is beyond our ability to comprehend.

    or….

    2. Follow the bible which tells us God has always existed and created everything that we now see is in existence. Again, beyond our comprehension.

    No. 2 is validiated by the bible and the bible is validated by prophecy.

    No. 1 means life has no meaning and we are all going nowhere beyond human understanding which includes origins. And people kill themselves left and right precisely because of this reality based on No. 1. We have no explainable identity.

    Since the bible teaches we are not simply the product of natural law with no beginning or end, but rather, we have a specific created identity that God alone can give.

    Your personhood is not simply the product of your mother and father. You are not them. Nor some combination of them. You are a person created by God specifically that transcends natural law.

    That specific identity is obscured and even denied by evolution. It means you are not a human being until God makes you one.
    Somewhere in the process of natural law and pro-creation, God places the identity of a soul in the body that is singular and unique.

    When we begin to understand this reality, then we want to preserve that identity as God intended and apprehend eternal life as God purposed for each member of His moral creation.

    Evolution gives us no specific individual identity, but makes us simply a product of mass unidentifiable living matter. And this, only if we assume everything has existed from all eternity, which again, we can not comprehend.

    A creator God appeals to our need to know who we are, where we can from, where we are going and how can we maintain eternal existence. Even your desire to know that is God given.

    Animals never ask these questions. They don’t evaluate their existence nor ask themselves, “Where did I come from and where am I going?”

    Nor do they evaluate their decisions and ask, “Why did I do that and could I have made a better decision?”

    Self evaluation is part of our personhood and we can stand “out side ourselves” as it were, and ask, “Who am I?”

    Evolution is absurd and those who endeavor to support it deny it by even asking questions about it. The fact that man speculates about his origin, denies evolution. Evolution can not bring forth a questioning being. Only God can do that.

    For only God can create a being in His own image that can evaluate and re-evaluate who he is, where he came from, and where is he going.

    Bill Sorensen




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  6. Ken: s it fair of us to presume that your degree in science, hence expertise, is niether in biology or physics? 🙂

    I guess if you don’t mind making wild guesses based on the the void of data you do not have — you could go there.

    I would not do that if I were you – but that may just be me.

    in Christ,

    Bob




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  7. Sean Pitman:
    Thermodynamic vs. Informational Entropy

    @BobRyan:

    The notion that the Theory of Evolution (ToE) violates the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (2LoT) is mistaken.There simply is no violation of this law since there is plenty of thermodynamic energy around to drive the work necessary to produce living things and their diversity. – Sean Pitman

    I never make the claim about the storytelling of evolutionism requiring “a vast decrease in entropy” from an non-evolutionist source. I usually quote atheist agnostic scientists like Isaac Asimov for that claim.

    My point is simply to agree with what they are already claiming since they are willing to make that claim.

    The fact that they would think to go there – knowing that it flies in the face of known science – more than a little satisfying given that it amounts to a “confession” on their part.

    The problem for the ToE is over the concept of informational entropy (IE), not thermodynamic entropy (2LoT).

    Certainly it is true that with the application of Intelligent Design you can get an increase in organization and information all the while maintaining an increase in unusable energy.

    in Christ,

    Bob




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  8. I’m amused that the author spent time writing a very nice article about how absurd GoGs type thinking is but in the end decides to go with it anyway simply because he’s ideologically opposed to evolution for no other reason than it makes a sort of intuitive sense for him. Bill’s even better. He’s going with GoGs because the alternative throws him into an existential crises.




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    • @Mack Ramsey:

      Are you suggesting that the ID-only hypothesis is a GoG argument? If so, I fail to see how? After all, as I explained in some detail in my original article, the ID-only hypothesis is both testable and potentially falsifiable. How then is it a GoG fallacy?

      Consider that there is a fundamental difference between “God can explain everything” and “Only a very intelligent creator of some kind can explain this”. That is why the ID-only hypothesis is testable while the “God did it all” hypothesis is not…

      Consider also that science itself is all about trying to cross gaps in knowledge by filling in the gaps with hypotheses – hypotheses that are testable in a potentially falsifiable manner. This is the basis of detecting how forensic scientists, anthropologists, and SETI scientists hope to detect design behind certain phenomena that may be discovered in nature…

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  9. “What if one does not start off with any starting assumptions as to a God or not but just uses empirical knowledge to look for explanations as to why things occur? Isn’t this a more objective approach?”

    What you’ve just said, Ken, is “why don’t we assume that if God exists, to exist is all that God has ever done, and look for naturalistic explanations for things.”

    The pretense of scientists to objectivity is by far the most annoying thing about scientists. As currently defined by the high priesthood of science, the job of science is to find naturalistic explanations for things, “no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.” If there’s another profession that has such an iron-clad philosophical commitment of any kind, I don’t know what it is.

    I deny that anyone is unbiased and objective, least of all anyone with even the most superficial interest in the origins controversy. Believers are biased because we are believers in God, and the power of God to speak the creation into being. Scientists are biased because naturalism is the sine qua non of mainstream science. Even those scientists who privately believe cannot put that belief into practice in their professional careers, or said careers would come to a very abrupt and nasty conclusion.




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    • @David Read:

      While it is true that everyone is biased to one degree or another, it is not true that the honest seeker for truth is incapable of overcoming his/her original biases. Those who are truly honest in their search for truth will allow themselves to actually follow where the evidence leads their God-given reasoning powers.

      The only things that would prevent this from happening in a very natural way are personal pride, a personal desire for certain views to be true even if one knows they aren’t really true, or continued ignorance of enough information to honestly recognize the truth. God can work with honest ignorance. It is much much harder for him to work with pride or a desire to continue in known falsehoods.

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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      • @Sean Pitman: Sean, you’re disagreeing with Ken about what science is. You say that science can include supernatural explanations; Ken is saying, no, if it does that it is no longer science but theology.

        Ken’s view as to what science is by far the dominant view, which is why ID is a byword in science, marginalized and despised. Given Ken’s majority definition of science, it certainly isn’t unfair of me to point out how biased mainstream science is. It is extremely biased against supernatural or Biblical scenarios, to the point of ruling them out of bounds a priori.

        For myself, I’m certainly not going to allow myself to “follow where the evidence leads,” if it appears to lead to long ages geology and Darwinism. I’m with Kurt Wise in that I’m going to follow the Bible regardless what my senses appear to tell me. I’ve made an a priori decision (comparable to, but opposite of, science’s a priori decision) that the Word of God is more trustworthy than unaided human reason.

        And please, spare me your disquisition on the flying spaghetti monster, I’ve heard it all before.




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        • @David Read:

          Where then is there any hope for those who grew up believing in the truth of Darwinian evolution and/or naturalism in general to recognize God’s Signature in nature and/or in his written Word? If all of them thought like you think, wouldn’t it be impossible to change any of their minds to see the light of truth as you see it? When someone makes up his/her mind independent of any argument or evidence, isn’t that person hopelessly stuck in a single mindset where it is impossible for them to recognize or admit error?

          It seems to me like this is not true for an honest searcher for truth who is actually open to the possibility of being wrong, of discovering new truths and new ideas as the evidence in their favor is realized and understood.

          You might think this too risky, but I do not. I think God intends for us to have a rational basis for the hope that is within us, to be able to give a rational reason for this hope (1 Peter 3:15), and that requires a component of risk – at least the theoretical possibility of being wrong.

          Is this a moral problem? – being honestly wrong? I personally do not believe that God judges anyone for being honestly wrong on any doctrinal issue – aside from the love we owe to our fellowman. It is not a sin to make an honest doctrinal mistake. For example, it is not an inherent sin to honestly believe in the theory of evolution. It isn’t even a sin to honestly question the Divine origin of the Bible. Hopefully you would agree with me on this?

          In any case, fortunately, there have been at least a few naturalists and evolutionists who have been willing to consider additional information, admit the possibility of error, and to change their minds to embrace the evidence for God’s signature in nature and within His written Word as well. There are numerous well-known examples of this within our own church…

          Sean Pitman
          http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  10. Re David’s Quote

    ” Scientists are biased because naturalism is the sine qua non of mainstream science”

    Hello David

    Not biased but limited to the scope of their inquiry. Evolution does not disprove God. Neither does an old earth or universe. Theistic evolution is not science.

    Once you incorporate God into science it is no longer science but theology. Diifferent disciplines.

    Your agnostic friend
    Ken




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    • N@Ken:

      Not limited to the scope of their inquiry – but refusing to follow the data where it leads IF it leads to a conclusion that is opposed to atheism.

      This was already demonstrated in the presentation we saw by Martin Rees and Leonard Susskind – posted here many times (as I am sure you already know full well.)

      in Christ,

      Bob




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    • @Ken:

      Theistic evolution could be a scientific theory if it were actually testable in a potentially falsifiable manner. If it could be shown that some aspect of living things can only be explained by the input of intelligent design, then the ID-only part of the equation would be on good scientific ground.

      Proving that the intelligent agent is actually “God”, on the other hand, is far more difficult since by definition an infinite “God” is not provable from a finite perspective. The best that can be said is that the level of intelligence and creative power that seems to have been required is indistinguishable by us from what we would expect from a real God or God-like being.

      For further information on this topic you might enjoy the following video of a lecture I recently gave on Intelligent Design – Science or Religion?:

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  11. David Read: I deny that anyone is unbiased and objective, least of all anyone with even the most superficial interest in the origins controversy.

    In Romans 1 God says that all of mankind – even pagans with no access at all to the Bible are “without excuse” when they pretend not to see intelligent design in its most extreme and explicit form – in nature. Purely on the basis of what is “Seen in the things that have been MADE”.

    In the pure nonscience of evolutionist mythology – the sun shining on a barren desert produces ever increasingly self-organized complex Rube Goldberg machines that defy the 2nd law. In those fictions the self-organizing machines become increasingly more organized and complex as the sun continues to shine on them.

    And apparently some of those machines include sand and water self-organizing into living cells in true alchemist fashion.

    In the uniquely atheist form of evolutionism – humans are so befuddled and stumped when it comes to observing design – that looking at the machine does not give them any clue at all that the chain reactions observed were designed so as to create the events they see in motion. In this way they are daily confirming the truth of Patterson’s observation that blind-faith evolutionism conveys “antiknowledge”.

    Thus Patterson demonstrates (at least at times) the attribute of unbiased objectivity when he notes the flaws in his own belief system. Those supposedly Christian observers who pretend that they cannot even see the very flaws their atheist icons like Patterson explain to them – show a bias that is almost beyond belief.

    And so my argument is that while David’s statement is true about those turning a blind eye to the design so glaringly apparent in the Rube Goldberg machine – I do not claim that those who admit to the design already present in it – are also showing a lack of objectivity.

    in Christ,

    Bob




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  12. Re Sean’s Quote

    “While it is true that everyone is biased to one degree or another, it is not true that the honest seeker for truth is incapable of overcoming his/her original biases. Those who are truly honest in their search for truth will allow themselves to actually follow where the evidence leads their God-given reasoning powers.”

    Hi Sean

    This is a charitable and honest comment. While I can’t definitively say my reasoning powers are “God” given, I do think it is possible to overcome personal bias in a search for truth. It is one of the reasons I wholeheartedly support what you are attempting to do, including the exploration of Intelligent Design.

    I have no problem with investigations of nature starting with the question of whether there is ID or not. However, before our friend Bob can chortle, I would add that prima facie ID observations without the scrutiny of scientific investigation often turn out to be false. i.e. the
    universe was designed to be earth centric because everthing
    apparently revolves around it.

    We need to test our obvious first hand experiences of nature with empirical methods to see if our initial perceptions are wrong. We can hypothesize about gaps in our collective knowledge, but we should not be conclusive. This way science continues to provide us with present, but not perfect, knowledge (truth). Thus, while I think evolution provides the most rational explanation for the origin of life on earth, I’m not totally sure. I think in time advances in molecular genetics will fill in the gaps as to how the complexity of life evolved from basic building blocks. And if inevitabably it can’t do so without ID I’ll be very excited! That is why I very much want to work with you to get a Chair of Intelligent Design established at an Adventist institution. Even an agnostic has to leave himself open to the idea that he might be an unwitting instrument of God.

    Your agnostic friend
    Ken




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    • @Ken:

      I agree with everything you’ve said, except, perhaps, for the part about there not being enough evidence in hand right now that strongly suggests well-defined limitations to the creative potential of mindless naturalistic mechanisms to produce life or its diversity beyond very very low levels of functional complexity.

      Along these lines, if you haven’t already read it, you might enjoy reading Stephen Meyer’s new book, “Signature in the Cell.” It goes into significant detail as far as the evidence that is currently available on the origin of life in particular…

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  13. Dear Wes

    Those old ontological bleachers are a bit hard on my hind quarters. Every so often I have to get up, stretch and cheer for the good guys/gals. 🙂

    I am much at peace these days with your heartfelt friendship. To me, apostate that I am, that is the malleable essense of Christian fellowship, not entrenched doctrine.

    Your agnostic friend
    Ken




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  14. Re Sean’s Quote

    “I agree with everything you’ve said, except, perhaps, for the part about there not being enough evidence in hand right now that strongly suggests well-defined limitations to the creative potential of mindless naturalistic mechanisms to produce life or its diversity beyond very very low levels of functional complexity.”

    Hi Sean

    This poses an interesting question. Why would an Intelligent Designer allow for any degree of non design by mindless naturalistic processes. What would be the purpose of that? Care to speculate?

    Your agnostic friend
    Ken




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    • @Ken:

      Why wouldn’t it be desirable to strive for a certain degree of flexibility of design? Such flexibility would allow for greater stability and resilience when presented with different obstacles in different environments.

      Regardless of the motive, however, the evidence is quite clear. There are evident limitations to the level of evolution that living things can realize in a reasonable amount of time… and these limits are at very very low levels of functional complexity.

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  15. Re Sean’s Quote

    “@Bob Ryan

    “It doesn’t matter who you are quoting, you should never argue that the ToE violates the 2LoT. That’s clearly not the case and therefore it only makes you look ignorant when you use this argument and it reduces the credibility of anything else you have to say…” – Sean Pitman

    Hello Bob

    I agree with Sean on this point. It is understandable why you continue to avoid and evade the pointed question as to your qualifications in biology and physics. If you want objective unbiased readers to give you credibility you need to not exaggerate your expertise. Moreover if you never concede any points you marginalize yourself as a zealot not interested in any objective inquiry of the truth whatsoever. That is why you are incurring the mostly thumbs down reactions you are getting.

    Hope that helps. 🙂

    Yiue agnostic friend
    Ken




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  16. Ken: Re Sean’s QuoteHi SeanThis poses an interesting question. Why would an Intelligent Designer allow for any degree of non design by mindless naturalistic processes. What would be the purpose of that? Care to speculate?Your agnostic friendKen

    Well, why did God design that we all would be different instead of all look exactly alike? What is the “purpose” of having so many different looking people on the earth?




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  17. Re Sean’s Quote

    “Why wouldn’t it be desirable to strive for a certain degree of flexibility of design? Such flexibility would allow for greater stability and resilience when presented with different obstacles in different environments.”

    Hi Sean

    I concur. Such biological adaptability to changing environments is of benefit to living organisms. But wouldn’t a better design be to adapt even beyond low levels of functional complexity?

    Remember I am not a theistic evolutionist so my inquiry is purely philosophical/theological.

    I do want to make sure I understand you correctly though. Are you saying at low levels of functional complexity evolution is happening randomly without design. or there is an implicit design not yet detected?

    Your agnostic friend
    Ken




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    • @ken:

      Animals are actually programmed to adapt beyond low levels of functional complexity. It’s called “Mendelian variation.” However, this form of adaptability is not based on Darwinian style evolution of novel functional elements within the gene pool. This form of adaptability is based on pre-existing pre-programmed information within the gene pool.

      It might be nice if novel high level information could simply poof into the gene pool without the need for a designer. However, given the nature of sequence space, this simply isn’t a tenable solution beyond very low levels of functional complexity.

      Yes, at low levels of functional complexity Darwinian-style evolution does happen via apparently random mutations and function-based natural selection. There is no apparent need for the direct involvement of intelligent manipulation at such low levels of functional/informational complexity.

      Why not? Because, at such low levels of functional complexity the ratio of potentially beneficial sequences vs. non-beneficial sequences in sequence space is high enough to randomly find the next closest sequence via a random search algorithm. It’s like finding a novel 3-letter word in the English language system via random mutations of any 3-letter sequence. The ratio of meaningful vs. meaningless 3-letter words is about 1:18. Given this ratio, the odds of randomly finding a novel 3-letter word is very good – especially for a large population. However, as the minimum size and/or specificity requirements increase linearly, the ratio declines exponentially. For example, the ratio of meaningful 7-letter sequences is around 1 in 250,000.

      The very same thing is true of potentially beneficial DNA or protein sequences in sequence space.

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  18. By way of context — my references to Isaac Asimov’s bold statements about evolutionism’s “molecule to human mind” story telling – requiring a “vast decrease in entropy” over billions of years of time (solved only by an appeal to the sun 98 million miles from the events being cited) – is an appeal to an atheist evolutionist icon making a clear confession that in his mind the story of evolutionism is at odds with observed science regarding the 2LOT.

    Not everyone will agree with my willingness to quote Asimov.

    BobRyan: I never make the claim about the storytelling of evolutionism requiring “a vast decrease in entropy” from an non-evolutionist source. I usually quote atheist agnostic scientists like Isaac Asimov for that claim.

    My point is simply to agree with what they are already claiming since they are willing to make that claim.

    The fact that they would think to go there – knowing that it flies in the face of known science – more than a little satisfying given that it amounts to a “confession” on their part.

    Sean Pitman: @BobRyan:

    It doesn’t matter who you are quoting, you should never argue that the ToE violates the 2LoT. That’s clearly not the case and therefore it only makes you look ignorant when you use this argument and it reduces the credibility of anything else you have to say…

    1. I suppose you meant to say “IF evolution actually existed, were actually real – then it would be careful not to violate 2LOT in the way that Isaac Asmov claims it does”.

    Your argument appears to be more hypothetical than “observed in nature” – since it is unclear how much physics “bending” would be needed to make something that does not actually exist in nature – “work”.

    2. By way of context – I am the one that on this board has been insisting that every chemical reaction – whether in living systems or non-living systems demonstrates the 2LOT without “an appeal to the sun” if you take into account the reaction and its immediate surroundings. I show that in the case of water melting and water freezing to demonstrate the point.

    Far be it from me to argue that living systems do not demonstrate what I keep claiming – they demonstrate.

    If you claim this reduces my credibility – so be it. I am willing to stick with the science.

    My reason for demonstrating the case with Asimov is to make the point that evolutionists are arguing their case against known science. Which is to say that “they are the ones” claiming that their story telling requires a “vast decrease in entropy” over a span of billions of years of time – at the level of all of planet earth.

    If that point is lost on some here – I will not fault them for it.

    in Christ,

    Bob




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    • @BobRyan:

      1. I suppose you meant to say “IF evolution actually existed, were actually real – then it would be careful not to violate 2LOT in the way that Isaac Asmov claims it does”.

      No. Regardless of if Darwinian evolution is real or not, it wouldn’t violate the 2LoT at all. Period. Again, there is plenty of thermodynamic potential to drive evolutionary progress. That isn’t the problem with the ToE.

      Your argument appears to be more hypothetical than “observed in nature” – since it is unclear how much physics “bending” would be needed to make something that does not actually exist in nature – “work”.

      No physics bending is needed. The reason why evolution doesn’t “work” beyond very low levels of functional complexity has nothing at all to do with the 2LoT. That is why you should never argue that this is the reaon.

      2. By way of context – I am the one that on this board has been insisting that every chemical reaction – whether in living systems or non-living systems demonstrates the 2LOT without “an appeal to the sun” if you take into account the reaction and its immediate surroundings. I show that in the case of water melting and water freezing to demonstrate the point.

      Again, there is plenty of thermodynamic energy available to drive genetic mutations. And yes, this energy is ultimately derived from the Sun. You simply don’t graps the concepts in play here and you are making yourself look needlessly foolish.

      My reason for demonstrating the case with Asimov is to make the point that evolutionists are arguing their case against known science. Which is to say that “they are the ones” claiming that their story telling requires a “vast decrease in entropy” over a span of billions of years of time – at the level of all of planet earth.

      There certainly have been some evolutionists who have claimed this, but they are also mistaken. There is no decrease in thermodynamic entropy between a young man and an old man (given that they are essentially the same weight and composition of proteins and fats, etc). Yet, there has been a significant change in informational entropy. There is also no significant difference in thermodynamic entropy between a single celled organism and a single celled zygote in the human body. However, there is a big difference in meaningful information. See the difference?

      Just because someone else makes a bad argument doesn’t mean that you should repeat it – even if the argument came from the opposing side. It only reflects on you.

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  19. Re Holly’s Quote

    “Well, why did God design that we all would be different instead of all look exactly alike? What is the “purpose” of having so many different looking people on the earth?”

    Hi Holly

    Interesting question. What is the purpose of designing identical twins? 🙂

    Your agnostic friend
    Ken




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  20. ken: Interesting question. What is the purpose of designing identical twins? 🙂

    What is the point of “designing” a car with wheels that make evenly spaced marks on the road if you put a wet paint streak on one of the tires?

    Are those kinds of questions really serious or even applicable to the subject of design?

    The “design” in a car is pretty hard to ignore. The design in an infinitely more complex system like a living cell is even harder to ignore.

    The ill-advised path of claiming that a rock hitting a window and cracking the window — is by “design” of the manufacturer — misses the point. It would be more correct to say that the manufacturer designs the window to be of a certain strength and thickness so that it provides protection “to a point”.

    But why argue the case as if GM designed the acorn to zero in on the window or else “the car was not designed”?

    in Christ,

    Bob




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  21. Sean

    Well this column has got it all and we are barely over 35 comments. Glowing peer review from Holly, Specious arguments about laws of thermodynamics, The strawman argument; ie Scientitist practice methodological naturalism are really practicing God of the Gaps because they are not eclectic in their definition of causal mechanisms, so the use of ID must be quite scientific. Forced analogies about icecream and epistemology. Laments about the unjust claims of science to objectivity, paranoia about the scientific cartel including veiled references to the martyrdom of Richard Sternberg at the hands of those dastardly “high priesthood of science”, continuing misquoting of Paterson that is impervious to reason or correction, “forensic scientists, anthropologists, or even SETI scientists” as elite practioners of ID.

    For good measure follow this with the transmutation of the anthropic principle to imply that Paul Davies, Roger Penrose, Arno Penzias, Freeman Dyson, Charles Hard Townes, Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe are supporters of literal YEC and its most recent incarnation ID.

    If you got out more and actually talked with practicing scientists who accept that the basis of science is the method of hypothesis testing you would find that all except the fundamentalist and evangelical atheists are happy to admit the limitations of science and to simply say we dont know. We use our ignorance as a spur to discovery not as a bullet point to strengthen and support prejudices as Ken has rightly pointed out. We are ashamed of our ignorance more than proud of our scant knowledge as we live with uncertainty and as clinicians live with clinical equipoise.

    I do not know how many forensic scientists, anthropologists, or even SETI scientists you know who would say their practice is all about intelligent design. They are scientist in that they propose hypotheses and test them be searching for evidence or generating data by experiment. ie for SETI the hypothesis is that if there is life and intelligence in space then there will be a signature in some output from that source which is similar to those humans as intelligent material beings produce. Seeing a signature of intelligence in this context is fine but do you then assume that any signal is from a supernatural source as you seem to want to do for origins? According to the cut and post of ID for literal creationism that seems precisely what you are arguing. I would confidently wager that SETI scientists at Berkley and Harvard would not. As scientists they would look for natural cause and would continue to look for natural albeit extraterrestial causes not for supernatural causes. (see Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe quotes below)

    Similarly how often do anthropologists or forensic scientist conclude that an artifact is generated by supernatural means?
    It is a far cry from recognizing artifacts as products of intelligent humans to say that because there is an artifact it must be from God which is what you want us to do for origins.

    You cite several scientists arguing from the anthropic principle but none appear in the discovery institute list (http://www.dissentfromdarwin.org/) of scientist supporting creationism or at least opposing Darwinian evolution;

    Paul Davies:
    “Yes, the universe looks like a fix. But that doesn’t mean that a god fixed it” The Guardian 2007-6-25
    “We may never have all the details but I’m sure that there is a physical pathway leading from a mixture of mindless molecules to something as wonderful as a simple living cell. I don’t know what that pathway is. I don’t believe anyone else does at this stage but that doesn’t mean it was a miracle just because this is a big gap in our understanding”. Catalyst ABC 20/10/2005

    Roger Penrose:
    “.. On the other hand I cannot believe that the anthropic argument is the real reason (or the only reason) for the evolution of consciousness. There is enough evidence from other directions to convince me that consciousness is of powerful selective advantage, and I do not think that the anthropic argument is needed.” The emperors new mind pg 562

    Arno Penzias;
    (As a jew he clearly believes in God as the originator of the cosmos but there is a paucity of information on his beliefs on biological evolution). He does however appear to restrict science to things susceptible to naturalistic explanation. Like Gould he seems to favour NOMA.

    “Most physicists would rather attempt to describe the universe in ways which require no explanation. And since science can’t *explain* anything – it can only *describe* things – that’s perfectly sensible.” quoted in http://www.the-atheist.com/theistic-education-course-day-2-again-with-the-irrelevant-quotes/

    Freeman Dyson:

    “Trouble arises when either science or religion claims universal jurisdiction, when either religious or scientific dogma claims to be infallible. Religious creationists and scientific materialists are equally dogmatic and insensitive. By their arrogance they bring both science and religion into disrepute. The media exaggerate their numbers and importance. The media rarely mention the fact that the great majority of religious people belong to moderate denominations that treat science with respect, or the fact that the great majority of scientists treat religion with respect so long as religion does not claim jurisdiction over scientific questions.” http://www.edge.org/documents/archive/edge68.html

    “The argument from design…was at the heart of the battle between creationists and evolutionists in nineteenth-century biology. The evolutionists won the battle. Random genetic variations plus Darwinian selection were shown to be sufficient causes of biological evolution.”
    Infinite in all directions

    His book Origins of life should not at all give solace to the modern intelligent design community.

    Charles Hard Townes: in an interview says

    Q “Should intelligent design be taught alongside Darwinian evolution in schools as religious legislators have decided in Pennsylvania and Kansas?”

    A “I think it’s very unfortunate that this kind of discussion has come up. People are misusing the term intelligent design to think that everything is frozen by that one act of creation and that there’s no evolution, no changes. It’s totally illogical in my view. Intelligent design, as one sees it from a scientific point of view, seems to be quite real. This is a very special universe: it’s remarkable that it came out just this way. If the laws of physics weren’t just the way they are, we couldn’t be here at all. …. The other possibility is that ours was planned, and that’s why it has come out so specially. Now, that design could include evolution perfectly well. It’s very clear that there is evolution, and it’s important. Evolution is here, and intelligent design is here, and they’re both consistent.”

    Q “They don’t have to negate each other, you’re saying. God could have created the universe, set the parameters for the laws of physics and chemistry and biology, and set the evolutionary process in motion, But that’s not what the Christian fundamentalists are arguing should be taught in Kansas.”

    A “People who want to exclude evolution on the basis of intelligent design, I guess they’re saying, “Everything is made at once and then nothing can change.” But there’s no reason the universe can’t allow for changes and plan for them, too. People who are anti-evolution are working very hard for some excuse to be against it. I think that whole argument is a stupid one. Maybe that’s a bad word to use in public, but it’s just a shame that the argument is coming up that way, because it’s very misleading.”
    http://berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2005/06/17_townes.shtml

    Fred Hoyle: in “Cosmic Life-force” Chapter 10

    “The alternative to assembly of life by random, mindless processes is assembly through the intervention of some type of cosmic intelligence. Such a concept would be rejected out of hand by most scientists, although there is no rational argument for such a rejection. With our present knowledge, chemists and biochemists could now perform what even ten years ago would have been thought impossible feats of genetic engineering. They could, for instance, splice bits of genes from one system to another, and work out, albeit in a limited way, the consequences of such splicings. It would not need too great a measure of extrapolation, or too great a license of imagination, to say that a cosmic intelligence that emerged naturally in the Universe may have designed and worked out all the logical consequences of our own living system. It is human arrogance and human arrogance alone that denies this logical possibility.”

    Chandra Wickramasinghe: in; Darwinism, Design, and Public Education, John Angus Campbell and Stephen C. Meyer, eds http://www.panspermia.org/thirdalt.htm

    “Besides the origin of life, there is equal trouble for Darwinian idea of evolution where the doubts are even older. Although sustained macroevolutionary progress, as evidenced in the geological record, must be accepted as an irrefutable fact, major questions remain in regard to the precise mechanisms by which evolutionary changes are wrought. ….. The fossil record, however was generated in an open system the biosphere. Here just as cells from elsewhere may have seeded life on Earth originally, the genes that bring the sustained macroevolutionary progress we observe may also come from elsewhere.”
    ……
    “Science and religion are two great manifestations of the human spirit. Religious belief is essentially of a revelatory character, while scientific facts are the result of rigorous experiment and intellectual discipline. Scientific procedures are based on the assumption that no violations of physical law occur. When violations seem to occur, scientists may decide that the evidence was anomalous. Or perhaps the laws were not correctly understood and need to be amended. Of course, this process of amendment and reappraisal has not been completed. Today, Darwinian theory extends well beyond the evidence, as creationists rightly notice. In this case, the details of the theory, not the underlying principles of science, should he challenged. But Phillip Johnson’s attempt to overthrow “naturalism” does attack these very principles. As William Dembski complains, “For the sake of inquiry we are required to pretend that God does not exist.” Yes, that’s how science is done. One may object to this principle, but it is the essence of science. Even if it were true that God by a miracle, created life out of ordinary matter, it could not be established scientifically. Miracles are simply not amenable to scientific investigation, and scientists are right to dismiss them as unscientific.”

    As a scientist who is want to look at the provenance of a statement or the basis for fact I really don’t understand why you cite these scientists in arguing the virtue of a God of the gaps? Is it simply that you need to garner support from wherever you can for your contention that the weight of scientific evidence supports your views. In doing so it seems you disregard context and the intention of the authors and expect that none will be interested enough in “truth” to investigate further? It seems clear to me that virtually all the practicing scientists who would accept the anthropic principle and Fred Hoyles original ideas of “intelligent design for the universe do not accept a God of the gaps or YEC.

    I apologize in advance for my prolix contribution and accept with grace the attendant thrumbs down it will engender.




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    • @pauluc:

      You wrote:

      For SETI the hypothesis is that if there is life and intelligence in space then there will be a signature in some output from that source which is similar to those humans as intelligent material beings produce. Seeing a signature of intelligence in this context is fine but do you then assume that any signal is from a supernatural source as you seem to want to do for origins?

      I basically agree with this statement – aside from the fact that I would not “assume that any [artifactual/designed] signal is from a supernatural source.” That projection simply isn’t true.

      I would also like to re-emphasize that the argument for SETI is two-fold. First, for intelligently designed radio signals to be detected they must be well beyond what known mindless processes produce and they must be within the realm of what at least human-level intelligence can produce. Both elements of the argument are necessary for the scientific detection of ID in certain features of radio signals. In any case, at least you’ve admitted that SETI is based on the scientific ability to detect the need for intelligent design – i.e., that SETI is a form of ID science.

      Beyond this, let me say again that the argument here isn’t for a supernatural origin for the intelligence needed to produce the signal. The argument is simply that intelligence from some intelligent source of some kind would obviously be needed to explain certain types of radio signals – especially those containing something like the first 50 terms of the ever popular Fibonacci series (to quote Seth Shostak). Of course, as the level of intelligence required to explain various phenomena increases, eventually it gets to a point where the required intelligence and creative power is so great that we, from our very limited perspective, could not tell the difference between the required intelligence and that of a God or God-like being. The fact may be that the level of intelligence may actually be quite “natural”, even for someone powerful enough and intelligent enough to produce our entire anthropic universe, but there simply would be no way to tell for sure. In fact, the whole concept of “natural” vs. “supernatural” intelligence is a relative concept… relative to the perspective of the observer (you should actually watch the video of my lecture on this topic).

      It seems clear to me that virtually all the practicing scientists who would accept the anthropic principle and Fred Hoyles original ideas of “intelligent design” for the universe do not accept a God of the gaps or YEC.

      I never said that the scientists I quoted supported young-earth creationism (I’m not even a young-earth creationist. I’m a young-life creationist) or even the need for a God to explain the origin of life on this planet. What I said is that they had come to the conclusion that very high levels of intelligent design were in fact required to explain certain features of the empirical universe in which we live. In fact, for certain features of our universe, there are many scientists who have come to the conclusion that a God, or at least an intelligence not readily distinguishable from a God or God-like being, was most likely responsible. They claim that this conclusion was forced on them by scientific methodologies – not religious faith. And, as already explained, the ID-only hypothesis, while being a form of the God of the Gaps argument (as all scientific hypotheses really are), is a valid scientific theory because it is testable in a potentially falsifiable manner. In comparision, this is unlike the a priori assumptions of methodological naturalists who completely exclude the possibility of any kind of deliberate design, on any level (natural or supernatural intelligence), as being responsible for any feature of living things or even the ultimate origin of living things… before even getting started with scientific investigations. Such original conclusions, before science methodologies are even begun, is not science, but philosophy or a form of empirically-blind religious faith.

      It is irrelevant to my main point that these scientists still accept Darwinian evolution for the diversity of life on this planet – of course they do. This fact is well known by anyone at all familiar with this topic. The point is that your basic argument that intelligent design theories are never scientific and cannot be universally applied is mistaken. Your only real beef is over the detection of the “Supernatural”. And, on that point, I agree. The need to invoke the creative powers of a God cannot be proven by science. I agree. The infinite cannot be demonstrated or proven by the finite. However, the need to invoke creative intelligence on various levels, to include very very high levels of intelligence, can be demonstrated by science. This point is really not arguable.

      The only real question that remains, then, is if there is a valid naturalistic explanation for living things and their diversity or not? If there is, then intelligent design theory is effectively falsified for all aspects of living things. If not, then intelligent design theories, on at least the naturalistic level of design, can be presented as perfectly valid scientific conclusions…

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  22. Sean

    You hopefully suggest

    “The only real question that remains, then, is if there is a valid naturalistic explanation for living things and their diversity or not?”

    There are many more questions than that.

    What the writers you cite above realize is that in honestly following the scientific evidence there is 3 things that they must conclude.
    1] There is an anthropic principle; the Goldilocks principle the world is just right for life and that this is a highly unlikely scenario and would require a multitude of universes not evident for this to be by chance.
    2] The evidence for evolution of the complexity of life once established on earth is irrefutable. Darwinian mechanisms may or may not be sufficient but natural mechanisms are most likely
    3] Intelligence and mind are natural consequences of a highly complex brain that arose by these natural mechanisms.

    This is the scientific position. Whether God was working through these processes is a philosophical not a scientific question.
    You enamoured as you are with statistical inference twist these arguments about to invoke some grand theory of intelligent design when none is required.

    In terms of my 3 points of science you I think would agree with the anthropic principle
    On point 2 all I have read from you says you dispute the evidence and argue that most scientists are honestly deceived. You do not agree on dating methods, ice cores, varves, volcanic ocean ridges, continental drift, fossil evidences and geological columns, relatedness of genomic sequences or phylogenies, history of insertions of repetitive elements; all evidences that most scientists including those above would accept in good faith as likely true.
    On point 3 you have this idea of some overarching intelligence that is God like but may or may not be natural that is responsible for anything that is more complex than close to inanimate objects.

    With such a gulf between what you will accept of reality it is not surprising there is little common ground between your views and conventional hypothesis driven science.




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    • @pauluc:

      What the writers you cite above realize is that in honestly following the scientific evidence there is 3 things that they must conclude.

      1] There is an anthropic principle; the Goldilocks principle the world is just right for life and that this is a highly unlikely scenario and would require a multitude of universes not evident for this to be by chance.

      Right… also given that the multiverse theory isn’t scientific since it isn’t testable. It also undermines the basis of science itself since it has the power, like God, to explain anything and everything, however seemingly unlikely (like Arnold Schwarzenegger winner the California Lottery 10 times in a row without cheating – must have been living in the right universe).

      2] The evidence for evolution of the complexity of life once established on earth is irrefutable. Darwinian mechanisms may or may not be sufficient but natural mechanisms are most likely

      That is certainly their belief, but the assumption that mindless natural mechanisms are “most likely” the explanation is also not a scientific conclusion. This conclusion is a philosophical conclusion not supported by testable or potentially falsifiable science. In fact, as with the evidence of ID behind the anthropic universe or the origin of the first living thing, the evidence for the non-evolvability of high levels of functional complexity by any known non-intelligent force of nature, strongly suggests the need to invoke deliberate intelligent design on at least some level of intelligence.

      3] Intelligence and mind are natural consequences of a highly complex brain that arose by these natural mechanisms.

      Again, that is certainly their belief, but this belief in the creative potential of mindless natural mechanisms is, yet again, not based on testable science.

      This is the scientific position. Whether God was working through these processes is a philosophical not a scientific question.
      You enamoured as you are with statistical inference twist these arguments about to invoke some grand theory of intelligent design when none is required.

      The scientific position is that intelligent design is detectable if the phenomenon in question is well beyond the potential of any as yet known non-intelligent force of nature while being within at least realm of human level intelligence and creative potential. That’s the only scientific position that is entertained by these men on the topic of origins (to include the origin of the universe, life, and the diverse complexity of life). The assumption that even if RM/NS isn’t capable of doing the job for certain features of living things that some other mindless force of nature likely did it is not science. It’s as simple as that. This “theory” is not testable in a potentially falsifiable manner. It therefore produces no useful predictive value. And, therefore, isn’t scientific.

      In terms of my 3 points of science you I think would agree with the anthropic principle
      On point 2 all I have read from you says you dispute the evidence and argue that most scientists are honestly deceived. You do not agree on dating methods ice cores varves volcanic ocean ridges, continental drift fossil evidences and geological columns, genomic sequences and phylogenies, history of insertions of repetitive elements; all evidences that most scientists including those above would accept in good faith as likely true.

      Dating assumptions or notions about the age of life on Earth have nothing to do with the notion that the creative mechanism was some mindless mechanism. Nothing. There are many intelligent design advocates who believe in long ages for life existing and evolving on this planet. They just don’t believe that the evolution was completely undirected by mindless forces of nature.

      Also, nested hierarchical patterns in the genetics of living things say absolutely nothing about the likely mechanism involved in producing the high levels of functional complexity with which they are associated.

      Again, your assumption that the mechanism was most likely a mindless mechanism, that intelligence was most likely not required, is not based on any kind of testable scientific theory. It isn’t science. It is just a philosophical assumption on your part and on the part of most mainstream scientists.

      On point 3 your have this idea of some overarching intelligence that is God like but may or may not be natural that is responsible for anything that is more complex than inanimate objects.

      Not quite. Intelligence is not required to explain the evolution of low levels of novel informational complexity within living things – complexity which is beyond that of inanimate objects. However, intelligence is required to explain levels of functional complexity within biosystems that goes beyond low levels of functional biological complexity – i.e., beyond the level that requires a minimum of 1000 specifically arranged amino acid residues.

      No one, not even you, knows of any viable natural mechanism that can explain the evolution of biological complexity beyond this level without invoking intelligent design on at least the human level of intelligence.

      With such a gulf between what you will accept of reality it is no surprising there is little common ground between your views and conventional hypothesis driven science.

      My views are testable in a potentially falsifiable manner. Unfortunately, yours are not…

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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      • @Sean Pitman:

        I am astounded that you can without blushing confidently assert that intelligent design as a surrogate for literal creationism is scientific but the views of scientists based on observable data and routinely subject to hypothesis testing is not.

        “My views are testable in a potentially falsifiable manner. Unfortunately, yours are not… ”

        I am not sure which of my scientific ideas are not testable. Clearly I have religuous views which I accept by faith and which I would never claim to be amenable to hypothesis testing. I do not however accept that the process of science is in any way deceptive and accept that scientists almost without exception have a high regard for honesty and openness as evidence by the process of peer review and open publication and do science in good faith.

        In contrast to my acceptance of complementary roles of science and religion and faith you have a view that denigrates blind faith as a path to understanding of the transcendent and claim you must only accept in religion what is supported by the predominance of scientific evidence.

        One of the main problems we are confronting here is of definitions. I think you are concatenating 2 ideas about probabilities and design and using one legitimate scientific observation of unlikely contingencies in cosmology to lend validity to another; a rebadged literal creationism and a God of the gaps which I think denies legitimate scientific investigations in biology and not surprisingly is deprecated by most biologists.

        There would be much more clarity if you kept these 2 ideas separate and were open about the history of the ideas. The anthropic principle although accepted by many physicist was almost uniquely described by Fred Hoyle in terms of intelligent design. Other physicists have continued to more accurately use the descriptive term “‘the anthropic principle”. Few if any physicists would accept Fred Hoyles idea of panspermia which not surprisingly he has linked back to his designation of the anthropic principle as intelligent design.

        The Kitzmiller vs Dover court case has been over the issue of what is intelligent design and clearly established that the way you are using intelligent design is a cut and paste for “scientific” creationism.

        I must be obtuse. I can see the tenuous logic but I still really cannot see where the intense fervour for intelligent design comes from. As a scientist reading DI writings is a painful process that seems like a desperate and last ditch attempt to cling to a failing world view that is contingent on a fundamentalist assumptions and understandings of revelation. I much prefer to accept the Grace of God as revealed in Jesus and communicated within his Church and let the science resolve itself.

        Like the scientific creationism before it, I cannot see that ID really has any significant explanatory value in terms of generating hypotheses. I am however really pleased that you think that your ideas “are testable in a potentially falsifiable manner” I look forward to seeing them presented in the only forum in which science is conducted; the peer reviewed literature.




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        • @pauluc:

          Remember, the particular topic in play here is over the mechanism that produced the informational complexity of living things. Your assertion that, “You don’t know exactly how it happened [and neither does anyone else for that matter], but you’re sure it was the result of some kind of mindless naturalistic mechanism” is not testable or potentially falsifiable.

          Contrary to your arguments on this particular topic, it doesn’t matter if life has existed on this planet a long time or a short time when it comes to explaining the mechanism that produced the very high levels of informational complexity within all living things. The time life has existed on this planet has nothing to do with explaining the mechanism of life’s origin or its diversity beyond very low levels of biological informational complexity.

          Also, the arguments for genetic similarities or the nested hierarchical patterns of the “tree of life” say nothing about the likely mechanism that could also produce very high levels of functional biological complexity – nothing.

          So, where does this leave us. You are proposing your leap of faith that some as yet unknown mindless natural mechanism will be found that can explain the origin of life and its diversity at higher levels of functional complexity. Such an assertion is not a currently testable hypothesis. It may be true, but it isn’t science at this particular point in time.

          On the other hand, my position is that some form of intelligent design is required to explain both the origin of life and the production of novel biological systems beyond very low levels of functional complexity (specifically beyond the level of novel systems requiring a minimum of at least 1000 specifically arranged amino acid residues).

          My ID-only hypothesis is just as testable and potentially falsifiable as is the SETI hypothesis or the hypotheses used by anthropologists or forensic scientists. All that has to be done to falsify any of these ID hypotheses, to include my own, is to actually demonstrate the existence of some mindless natural mechanism that is predictably able to produce the phenomenon in question in a given span of time…

          So, there you have it. My ID-only hypothesis is testable and potentially falsifiable while your non-ID hypothesis isn’t. That means my hypothesis is scientific while yours isn’t. It’s quite straight forward.

          Oh, but I should believe the hunches of great scientists who have demonstrated their brilliance in so many areas of science…

          I know it might come as a shock to you, but even brilliant scientists can be and often are wrong. Even Einstein, who was long thought to be completely untouchable, as taken some serious hits this year. Fundamental components of his theories of relativity may collapse. That’s just the nature of science my friend. It changes as new discoveries are made.

          If your theories are not open for the potential to change, for being possibly wrong, you aren’t doing science… regardless of how brilliant you might otherwise be in various fields of science.

          Sean Pitman
          http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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        • @Sean Pitman:
          Thanks for responding although I do think you mischaracterization my position. I do believe I have articulated it sufficiently already on this site. To justify it again is unnecessarily tedious.

          I have never pretended my religious views are hypothesis driven. They are my merely my honest attempt to understand the infinite and are clearly amenable to change just as my science is open to growth and revision.

          I do not pretend that I am expert on all areas and disregard established expertise but I accept in good faith. My scientific expertise can be established from my published peer reviewed work.




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        • @pauluc:

          In contrast to my acceptance of complementary roles of science and religion and faith you have a view that denigrates blind faith as a path to understanding of the transcendent and claim you must only accept in religion what is supported by the predominance of scientific evidence.

          I’m glad empirically-blind faith works for you. It just doesn’t work for me. I go where I see the weight of evidence leading. I put very little stock in emotion-driven faith or some deep impression in the soul or a “burning in the bosom” when it comes to the truth of Jesus, being born of a virgin, his miraculous life, death, and resurrection – and other such miraculous claims about the true nature of empirical reality. Where is the empirical evidence to back up such fantastic claims?

          Sorry. I have a weakness for the rational…

          Sean Pitman
          http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  23. Re Bob’s Quote

    “The “design” in a car is pretty hard to ignore. The design in an infinitely more complex system like a living cell is even harder to ignore.”

    Hi Bob

    Hmmmm, I wonder if cars mutate on their own without any intervention? Remember when Sean corrected you about new coding genes arising spontaneously in genomes? Rememember the research I referred you to on this happening in fruit flies? Preltty hard to ignore those type of non design changes that happen randomly.

    Of course you can trot out your oft repeated chestnuts of thirty year old quotes in rebuttal but time’s a passing my friend. Time for a new car! 🙂

    Just having some fun with ya Bob.

    Your agnostic friend
    Ken




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    • @Ken:
      The first ever cell to appear via eveolution, how did it get there? By mutation? Errrrrrrrrrrr I don’t think so. Mutation of what? Remember this is the first living cell to appear, no previous cells to mutate. It was designed. Also I challenge you to research the 1966 Wistar Symposium, held in Philadelphia – Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution.




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  24. Re Pauluc’s Quote from Fred Dyson

    Freeman Dyson:

    “Trouble arises when either science or religion claims universal jurisdiction, when either religious or scientific dogma claims to be infallible. Religious creationists and scientific materialists are equally dogmatic and insensitive. By their arrogance they bring both science and religion into disrepute. The media exaggerate their numbers and importance. The media rarely mention the fact that the great majority of religious people belong to moderate denominations that treat science with respect, or the fact that the great majority of scientists treat religion with respect so long as religion does not claim jurisdiction over scientific questions.” http://www.edge.org/documents/archive/edge68.html

    Hello Pauluc

    Here hear, could not have said it better myself. Respect for each discipline should be sought rather than labelling things junk science or
    ignorant mythology. There are genuine reasons for the universal origin,
    diversity and evolution of religious beliefs. Why disparage them rather than try to understand them? Atheism is the smug conceit of playing non God, while blithely dismissing the First Cause as irrelevant as it can’t be tested.

    While science cannot prove or disprove God, maybe it can provide clues as to the nature of creation hence – even if we are guilty of anthropomorphising- a Creator.

    Keep up the good dialogue Pauluc.

    Your agnostic friend
    Ken




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  25. Re Sean’s Quote

    “The need to invoke the creative powers of a God cannot be proven by science”

    Hello Sean and Pauluc

    Are we three really that empirically far apart?

    If a metaverse does indeed exist – and I do appreciate it is theoretical physics at this point- our universe may have been just one random quantum fluctuation that generated anthropic possibities. However who or what is the force that is or was the infinite quantum dice player?

    Your agnostic friend
    Ken




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    • @Ken:

      We are pretty far apart since I am suggesting that science may be used to strongly support, with very high predictive value, the existence of an intelligence so great that we cannot distinguish it, from our limited perspective, from a God-like intelligence and creative power.

      Pauluc thinks that’s ridiculous – especially when it comes to the origin of living things and their diversity… things which are “most likely the result of mindless natural mechanisms.”

      Of course, he is less adamant when it comes to the conclusion of intelligent design behind the anthropic universe as a whole or the potential to detect intelligent alien radio signals (as long as the alien isn’t God or otherwise “supernatural”). But, that’s just because he strongly believes that there must somehow be some mindless natural mechanism to explain life – but not to explain SETI radio signals or highly symmetrical stone arrowheads?

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  26. Hi Sean

    But are we only far apart by degree rather than conception as to what point that ID is scientifically detectable?

    You at the point of life beyond the threshold of 1000aa, pauluc at the origin of the universe, and me at the first cause to the multiverse. Doesn’t science over time narrow the gaps between hypotheses and empirical knowledge as to cause and effect?

    Even though our conclusions may differ it seems to me we respect science for narrowing the gaps. For example, in time if it can be empirically demonstrated how complexity naturally evolved beyond the 1000aa level I expect that as a scientist you would respect that, right? Similarily if someone proves a hidden design to DNA that directed life
    irrespective of the pressures of natural selection I would respect that.

    As you rightly pointed out not all ID proponents are YEC or YLC. Deism has been around for a long time. And even though I am not a Deist, not yet anyways, I see ID as the empirical arm of Deism.

    Your agnostic friend
    Ken




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    • @Ken:

      Yes, I would agree with that…

      In fact, that was one of the intended points of my article – to show that theories of intelligent design are not inherently outside of the realm of science. Science is able to detect the need for intelligent design to explain various phenomena. The only real disagreement is over which phenomena are clearly designed. This is different for different people depending upon differences in experience, educational background, and personal biases.

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  27. Re David’s Quote

    “I’m with Kurt Wise in that I’m going to follow the Bible regardless what my senses appear to tell me. I’ve made an a priori decision (comparable to, but opposite of, science’s a priori decision) that the Word of God is more trustworthy than unaided human reason.”

    Hello David

    Even though my rational mind cannot fathom this, i respect your faith in this regard. As an agnostic, i acknowledge the possibility of a Super Reason that may trump human rationality. But to understand that would require me to be God like, or adopt faith without personal circumspection. I’m afraid my agnosticism gets in the way of that.

    David, I always enjoy your posts and hope you continue to do so.

    Your agnostic friend
    Ken




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  28. Hi Sean

    Thanks.

    I remain dedicated to the concept of establishing a Chair in Intelligent Design at a willing Adventist institution. It will be hard for an agnostic alone to do so though! Any other supporters out there?

    Your agnostic friend
    Ken




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  29. Re Sean’s Quote

    “In fact, that was one of the intended points of my article – to show that theories of intelligent design are not inherently outside of the realm of science. Science is able to detect the need for intelligent design to explain various phenomena. The only real disagreement is over which phenomena are clearly designed. This is different for different people depending upon differences in experience, educational background, and personal biases.”

    To all my.Adventist friends

    In this quote lies humility, conviction, insight, fairness, intelligence and reason. This man is an incredible ambassodor for your faith. Moreover he has the unlimited capacity to bare criticism in an honourable manner. I hope, and I do include my friend Erv Taylor in this entreaty we can all recognize the goodness of Dr. Pitman.

    Your agnostic friend
    Ken




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  30. @Pauluc, Regarding my “glowing peer review” I may not be a “peer” of Sean’s regarding his knowledge of evolutionary ideas, but I certainly can evaluate a great article.




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  31. Pauluc:

    You wrote:

    Thanks for responding although I do think you mischaracterization my position. I do believe I have articulated it sufficiently already on this site. To justify it again is unnecessarily tedious.

    I may be rather dense here, but as far as I can tell the only thing you’ve been clear on is your notion that whatever mechanism produced life and its diversity on this planet, it wasn’t intelligent. After all, it was you who wrote:

    Darwinian mechanisms may or may not be sufficient but natural mechanisms are most likely.

    If by “natural mechanisms” you mean mindless natural mechanisms, then how is this statement remotely scientific? It’s a sincere question on my part. I fail to see how you’ve presented any testable argument regarding your proposed mechanism for either the origin or diversity of life beyond very low levels of functional complexity? How is the hypothesis of a mindless mechanism, without any input from any intelligent source of any kind, testable? How is it scientific?

    I have never pretended my religious views are hypothesis driven. They are my merely my honest attempt to understand the infinite and are clearly amenable to change just as my science is open to growth and revision.

    Great! Again, I’m happy if a faith that is independent of empirical evidence works for you. It just doesn’t work for me is all. I know you think that’s a horrible thing, but that’s just the way I am. For me, a useful faith is something that is based on testable evidence that can potentially be proved wrong – exactly the same as any valid scientific theory.

    I do not pretend that I am expert on all areas and disregard established expertise but I accept in good faith. My scientific expertise can be established from my published peer reviewed work.

    I’m sure you’re quite good at what you do. That doesn’t mean your being scientific when it comes to your notions as to the mechanism that likely produced life and/or its diversity on this planet. Please, present something testable to support your assertions in this regard. Otherwise, I fail to see how your position for the powers of mindless natural mechanisms can rationally be called “scientific”? How does your hypothetical mindless mechanism produce more predictive power than a natural mechanism that has the backing of an intelligent mind of some kind?

    Sean Pitman
    http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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    • @Sean Pitman:

      At risk of being drawn further into the vortex that is dialogue on this site I would offer a final comment to once again try to counter the woolly thinking and confusion about science and religion that is all too prevalent here.

      As I have said before the bottom line for me is that I am a disciple of Christ and accept the Pauline synthesis offered in 1 Cor 1 as the core of my religious belief.

      20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

      Like Bonhoeffer, Barth and more recently Alister McGrath I would see natural theology as a largely meaningless endeavor in terms of our knowledge of of God which only comes through his revelation in the life and death of the person Jesus.

      We can argue ad infinitum as we have done before about how this knowledge can be imparted but I make no apology that it is not by the rational and logical process sought by Greeks and Sean.

      In response to Peter’squestion I would say that we must accept we are ignorant on many things not least of which is the origin of life. There is no adequate explanation for the origin of the life but does that mean we then must say there is therefore no natural explanatory mechanisms and this is the locus of Gods activity. There is an anthropic universe which gives us some reason to say that the universe may be ordered and meaningful but it argues no more than that. As a Christian I can only say that the locus of Gods activity and revelation is in Christ who reveals the nature of God and the ethic of the kingdom.

      As Sean has well indicated in his original blog at the head of this column, historically implicating God as the cause for the many unknowns is a losing strategy and will lead to an decreasing role for God as explanator.
      I should not have to repeat the simple and obvious examples such as the new testaments attribution of mental illness and epilepsy to demons and the supernatural. I cannot see how rational therapies with anti-epileptic drugs and antidepressants that have cleared out our asylums and allowed people to live relatively normal lives would have developed if we had continued to accept these explanations rather than explored the possibility of natural mechanisms amenable to natural interventions.

      I think it incontrovertible that accepting the meta-narrative of intelligent design as a theoretical basis for the natural world stops scientific research as can be easily verified by searching in the original published research in life sciences based on this premise. Intelligent design has a vested interest in not finding explanation for its strength lies in its explanation of the unknown or improbability based on the current known mechanisms. Sean is a prime example of an intelligent design. Excellent in the meta-analysis of the meta data but not in generation of original hypothesis driven research outputs. I would be happy to be corrected on this with reference to papers indexed on pubmed based explicitly on IDT.

      In contrast biological science practiced as hypothesis testing based on the core premise of science; natural mechanisms and experimentation has produced 259,888 papers on aspects of evolutionary processes and mechanisms. In terms of abiogenesis there has been 721 original research publications including the work of nobel laureate Jack Szostak.

      1. Trevino SG, Zhang N, Elenko MP, Lupták A, Szostak JW. Evolution of functional nucleic acids in the presence of nonheritable backbone heterogeneity. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2011 Aug;108(33):13492–13497.
      2. Schrum JP, Zhu TF, Szostak JW. The origins of cellular life. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol 2010 Sep;2(9):a002212.

      You may dismiss these as simply basic data points only tangentially relevant to the big question but this is the nature of science. An original research paper is an incremental increase in knowledge never the definitive answer to a big question. Surely these nearly 250000 incremental increases in knowledge amount to something. At least to me it seems somewhat arrogant, when I have said I accept naturalism as the basis of scientific research on origins as evident in the peer reviewed literature, to dismiss this body of evidence with a statement like;

      “If by “natural mechanisms” you mean mindless natural mechanisms, then how is this statement remotely scientific? It’s a sincere question on my part. I fail to see how you’ve presented any testable argument regarding your proposed mechanism for either the origin or diversity of life beyond very low levels of functional complexity? How is the hypothesis of a mindless mechanism, without any input from any intelligent source of any kind, testable? How is it scientific?”

      I am not sanguine enough to expect that I will have had any effect on the thoughts of most commenters on this site but if I have been able to help even one observer see that the Grace God revealed in Jesus is not incompatible with full participation in the process of science I would be happy.




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      • @pauluc:

        pauluc: Like Bonhoeffer, Barth and more recently Alister McGrath I would see natural theology as a largely meaningless endeavor in terms of our knowledge of of God which only comes through his revelation in the life and death of the person Jesus.

        We can argue ad infinitum as we have done before about how this knowledge can be imparted but I make no apology that it is not by the rational and logical process …

        Paul makes the exact opposite point in Romans 1 where he tells us that even non-Bible-aware pagans are “without excuse” when they act in ways that they know to be wrong based on the knowledge they get from “observations in nature” regarding not only it’s designer, but the judgment and authority of that designer.

        (going far beyond the I.D. concepts proposed today).

        And Paul hammers this point home again in Romans 10 telling us that observations in nature itself are not only telling the non-christian about God – but also about the Gospel.

        When you take this larger view of Paul on the subject of “observations in nature” it is not too very difficult to see complete harmony with that view in the insights we find in 3SG90-91 regarding the problem with belief in Theistic Evolutionism.

        in Christ,

        Bob




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  32. Very well stated and appreciated pauluc.

    Your agnostic friend
    Ken

    Ken, I doubt you are doing those people a favor who endorse evolution by voicing your approval.

    We are well aware that you don’t believe the bible, and your endorsement hardly makes their case more appealing. In fact, we would expect you to agree and might be shocked if you didn’t.

    Just an observation from my perspective.

    Bill Sorensen




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  33. Paul said…..

    “….. if I have been able to help even one observer see that the Grace God revealed in Jesus is not incompatible with full participation in the process of science I would be happy.”

    Surely, Paul, you realize that any “miracle” can not be in harmony with all that nature can reveal. A miracle is super natural and beyond nature.

    And this comment for Bob. I think you are aware that God said He will “put enmity between Satan and the human family.”

    And Jesus is “the light the lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”

    Nature, without the grace of God super-added, can reveal only confusion and false information. The heathen and heathen cultures are aware of some aspects of truth because it has been handed down from generation to generation even in a secular society.

    If a knowledge of the true God were blotted out for a few generations, no one could or would preceive Him by the study of nature. So we have the statement by EGW…”The only religion that leads to God is the one the comes from God.”

    We are utterly dependent on special revelation and not science nor nature to preceive the true God. And God Himself has preserved the bible for this very purpose.

    With this in mind, we can see why Satan is so determined to undermine the bible and its clear teaching. If he can not destory it, it will serve him equally well to pervert it and distort it and thus accomplish the same ends.

    Nature is helpful if and when it is attached to biblical truth. And, as I said, some biblical truth is present in the traditions of human knowledge passed on from generation to generation.

    We can not know God, nor His will except by way of scripture.

    Bill Sorensen




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  34. While browsing my rather voluminous file of articles to “save” I ran across this jewel—I think it is worth saving and thinking about–especially the last statement by Darwin himself:
    **************************
    Darwin’s Theory of Evolution

    While Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is a relatively young archetype, the evolutionary worldview itself is as old as antiquity. Ancient Greek philosophers such as Anaximander postulated the development of life from non-life and the evolutionary descent of man from animal. Charles Darwin simply brought something new to the old philosophy — a plausible mechanism called “natural selection.” Natural selection acts to preserve and accumulate minor advantageous genetic mutations. Suppose a member of a species developed a functional advantage (it grew wings and learned to fly). Its offspring would inherit that advantage and pass it on to their offspring. The inferior (disadvantaged) members of the same species would gradually die out, leaving only the superior (advantaged) members of the species. Natural selection is the preservation of a functional advantage that enables a species to compete better in the wild. Natural selection is the naturalistic equivalent to domestic breeding. Over the centuries, human breeders have produced dramatic changes in domestic animal populations by selecting individuals to breed. Breeders eliminate undesirable traits gradually over time. Similarly, natural selection eliminates inferior species gradually over time.
    \
    Darwin’s Theory of Evolution – Slowly But Surely…

    Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is a slow gradual process. Darwin wrote, “…Natural selection acts only by taking advantage of slight successive variations; she can never take a great and sudden leap, but must advance by short and sure, though slow steps.” [1] Thus, Darwin conceded that, “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.” [2] Such a complex organ would be known as an “irreducibly complex system”. An irreducibly complex system is one composed of multiple parts, all of which are necessary for the system to function. If even one part is missing, the entire system will fail to function. Every individual part is integral. [3] Thus, such a system could not have evolved slowly, piece by piece. The common mousetrap is an everyday non-biological example of irreducible complexity. It is composed of five basic parts: a catch (to hold the bait), a powerful spring, a thin rod called “the hammer,” a holding bar to secure the hammer in place, and a platform to mount the trap. If any one of these parts is missing, the mechanism will not work. Each individual part is integral. The mousetrap is irreducibly complex. [4]

    Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is a theory in crisis in light of the tremendous advances we’ve made in molecular biology, biochemistry and genetics over the past fifty years. We now know that there are in fact tens of thousands of irreducibly complex systems on the cellular level. Specified complexity pervades the microscopic biological world. Molecular biologist

    Michael Denton wrote, “Although the tiniest bacterial cells are incredibly small, weighing less than 10-12 grams, each is in effect a veritable micro-miniaturized factory containing thousands of exquisitely designed pieces of intricate molecular machinery, made up altogether of one hundred thousand million atoms, far more complicated than any machinery built by man and absolutely without parallel in the non-living world.” [5]

    And we don’t need a microscope to observe irreducible complexity. The eye, the ear and the heart are all examples of irreducible complexity, though they were not recognized as such in Darwin’s day. Nevertheless, Darwin confessed, “To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.” [6]

    Footnotes:
    1. Charles Darwin, “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life,” 1859, p. 162.
    2. Ibid. p. 158.
    3. Michael Behe, “Darwin’s Black Box,” 1996.
    4. “Unlocking the Mystery of Life,” documentary by Illustra Media, 2002.
    5. Michael Denton, “Evolution: A Theory in Crisis,” 1986, p. 250.
    6. Charles Darwin, “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life,” 1859, p. 155.

    ****************
    I don’t think Sean could have said it better himself!




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  35. Peter Cieslar:
    @Ken:
    The first ever cell to appear via eveolution, how did it get there? By mutation? Errrrrrrrrrrr I don’t think so. Mutation of what? Remember this is the first living cell to appear, no previous cells to mutate.It was designed.Also I challenge you to research the 1966 Wistar Symposium, held in Philadelphia – Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution.

    Another source of good information against naturalistic evolution is a book by Fazale Rana and Hugh Ross, “Origins of Life.” Even though they are not supporters of the Biblical account of Creation, they show scientifically and mathematically why life could not have evolved from non-living matter.




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