Latest Entries »

This article was originally published on Uncommon Descent.

We’ve all heard it before. Time and time again the somewhat tiresome and predictable Darwinian propagandists, in a fit of florid indignation, assert that intelligent design will be the death of science and the dawn of theocracy. The claim that ID is nothing more than warmed-over creationism is one that has been thoroughly addressed by ID proponents, yet, the vacuous claim continues to be thrown around.

Over at Evolution News And Views, John West recently highlighted the upcoming release of Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False (Oxford University Press, 2012), a new book by New York University’s atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel. Those immersed in the debate over ID and Darwinism will be familiar with Nagel’s open scepticism towards neo-Darwinian theory and his sympathetic attitude towards ID theory. Though Nagel does not accept ID, he goes as far as to say that it has much merit and that it is science. Good on him! Nagel’s views on this issue can be found in his 2008 Philosophy & Public Affairs article Public Education and Intelligent Design. It will be good to read more about his views as they are further expressed in his new book Mind and Cosmos. West includes a couple of delicious quotes from chapter 1 of Nagel’s book: View full article »

Debating Darwin and Design

A dialogue between two Christians

1.

Is Intelligent Design science or ‘creationism in a cheap tuxedo’?

Francis Smallwood – Third Response

26th February, 2012

In his first response Joshua wrote that ID ‘isn’t even a form of creationism in any theistic sense.’1 In his previous response he clarified this statement, saying, ‘ID theory does not rely on any theological premises, as Creationism does. ID is an inference from certain features in living systems and the cosmos whereas Creationism is based on a certain interpretation of the book of Genesis.’2 Although creationism need not be based on the book of Genesis—cultures and religions are saturated with a panoply of cosmogonies—Joshua is right to demarcate between ‘creation science’ and ID on account of theology.

In his previous response Joshua said, ‘Although Francis has agreed that ID and Creationism are not the same thing, he still wants to argue that it is a form of creationism. The only way he can argue for this claim is to appeal to the religious beliefs of several key design theorists and to point to the supposed theistic implications of ID theory. Both of these attempts seriously fail.’3 View full article »

Debating Darwin and Design

A Dialogue between Two Christians

After a ridiculously and abnormally large blogging void (three months!), I have awoken from my slumber and written a response to Francis to continue our ongoing debate on intelligent design, creationism, and science. We have now decided to post our responses as they are individually written as opposed to waiting till they are both written and posting them in twos. This will allow the discussion to flow a lot more and we will attempt to keep the dialogue going at a more regular pace. I look forward to Francis’s forthcoming remarks…

1.

Is Intelligent Design science or ‘creationism in a cheap tuxedo’?

Joshua Gidney – Second Response

28th January, 2012

In response to Francis’ comments, I first would like to clarify something I wrote. In my previous response I wrote that intelligent design ‘isn’t even a form of creationism in any theistic sense.’1 By this, I mean that ID theory does not rely on any theological premises, as Creationism does. ID is an inference from certain features in living systems and the cosmos whereas Creationism is based on a certain interpretation of the book of Genesis. William Dembski notes that ‘…the design theorists’ critique of Darwinism begins with Darwinism’s failure as an empirically adequate scientific theory, and not with its supposed incompatibility with some system of religious belief.’2 View full article »

A dialogue between two Christians

‘Is Intelligent Design science or ‘creationism in a cheap tuxedo?’

2nd November, 2011

Francis Smallwood – 2nd Response

Joshua and I are both agreed, then, that the equation of ID with biblical (young-earth) creationism is illegitimate. However, Joshua avers ‘the stronger claim that scientifically it [ID] isn’t even a form of creationism in any theistic sense.’1 I think that this is an interesting point, to which I would offer two responses. The first is that I would disagree. With Joshua’s proposed inclusion of Stephen C. Meyer, the four fathers of the ID movement—Johnson, Dembski, Behe and Meyer—are all Christians. They all, presumably, believe the intelligent designer to be the God of the Judaeo-Christian tradition, despite their insistence that this is not inferred from the detection of design. Behe writes that ‘the identity of the designer will be ignored by science.’2 However, I argued in my previous response that ‘A design is nothing more than a concept, a plan, and [that] we would have no evidence that a design ever existed unless someone had taken it and used it to produce a concrete object that we observe and study.’3 What design theory identifies, therefore, is not a designer but, rather, a creator, as ‘Intelligence… is manifested in creativity.’4 The design theorist purports that natural law, capable of so much, requires some non-natural interposition to achieve a flagellum, blood clotting system, or some such other complex construct.

My second response would be that I agree that ID ‘isn’t even a form of creationism in any theistic sense.’ I believe that the whole of Creation, in its glorious entirety, autopoietic, inherent with potential, testifies to God’s authorship—not just the fiddly bits. I would agree with Father George Coyne that ID belittles God, reducing him to ‘an engineer who designs systems…’5 Similarly, Denis Alexander writes that ID’s conception of the intelligent designer ‘is really nothing like the biblical revelation of God as Creator, the author of everything that exists, who is sovereign over every aspect of the created order. Indeed, the idea of God as “designer” in this engineering sense is not found in the Bible…’6 View full article »

Debating Darwin and Design

A dialogue between two Christians

‘Is Intelligent Design science or ‘creationism in a cheap tuxedo?’

2nd November, 2011

Joshua Gidney-2nd response

In my opening remarks I attempted argue that intelligent design is in no way synonymous with biblical young earth creationism. I also make the stronger claim that scientifically it isn’t even a form of creationism in any theistic sense. In his first response Francis ceded the former point but argues against the latter. He writes that ‘equation of ID with biblical creationism…is illegitimate,…’1 and recognises that within the ID camp there is a wide range of views, pointing out that leading theorist Michael Behe emphatically rejects young earth creationism and is convinced by the evidence for common descent. Although both ID theorists, Francis compares Behe’s view with Paul Nelson’s view to illustrate the different positions within the ID tent. Nelson is quite a prominent ID theorist but is significantly more critical of Darwinian theory however, it is incorrect to say that Nelson’s view is base ‘history denial’ and doesn’t in fact hold explicitly to a young earth view. Responding to this accusation in a recent interview Nelson says ‘…I don’t believe in a six thousand year old or ten thousand year old earth; I actually don’t know how old the earth is. Professionally, in my work with my discovery colleagues, I take their date: 4.6 billion, but in my own thinking I don’t restrict myself to the assumptions being made by historical geology and cosmology.’2 View full article »

Debating Darwin and Design

A Dialogue between Two Christians

1.

Is Intelligent Design science or ‘creationism in a cheap tuxedo’?

20th September, 2011

Francis Smallwood – First Response

‘One of the most common rhetorical moves used by critics is when they illegitimately equate ID with biblical creationism in order to discredit it… ID is not creationism and critics would do well to acknowledge this.’

In my opening statement, I asked if the Intelligent Design movement is, perhaps, just a ‘new strain of creationism’?1 As Joshua says, many of ID’s critics cursorily dismiss ID as ‘creationism’, as if no more need be said. I don’t believe that this is a productive tactic, but despite the rhetoric is there something in the allegation?

Michael Behe writes in his book Darwin’s Black Box,

‘Many people think that questioning Darwinian evolution must be equivalent to espousing creationism. As commonly understood, creationism involves belief in an earth formed only about ten thousand years ago, an interpretation of the Bible that is still very popular [although scientifically indefensible]. For the record, I have no reason to doubt that the universe is the billions of years old that physicists say it is. Further, I find the idea of common descent (that all organisms share a common ancestor) fairly convincing, and have no particular reason to doubt it.’2

Of the three fathers—I was tempted to say ‘stooges’—of the ID movement—Behe, Dembski and Johnson—Behe is the only qualified biological scientist. Dembski is a mathematician, as evinced by his enamour with gargantuan improbabilities; Johnson, not a scientist of any description, is a shrewd lawyer. As Joshua said, ‘It should be pointed out that ID is a broad tent,’ covering a wide spectrum of views. Whilst there are those within the ID community who subscribe to biblical creationism, notably Paul Nelson, it is apparent, solely from the quote above, that Behe’s intelligent design is far removed from Nelson’s base ‘history denial.’3 View full article »

In this post Francis and I are addressing the question whether intelligent design theory is really science or just a form of biblical creationism. I will be posting all our responses to one an other over time and each will be dated so it is easier to follow the order. Our comments will be published in couplets so the the opening remarks are alongside the responses and all further responses will follow this pattern. You may also wish to read my opening statements and Francis’s opening statements on this discussion.

Is Intelligent Design science or ‘creationism in a cheap tuxedo?’

20th September, 2011

Joshua Gidney-Opening

As I have already outlined in my opening statements, intelligent design theory states ‘that there are tell-tale features of living systems and the universe that are best explained by an intelligent cause…’1 ID theorists also claim that the theory is a scientific one, ‘…an inference from scientific evidence, not a deduction from religious authority.’2 The question whether ID theory is scientific or just creationism is one that provokes much, if not most, of the discussion on this issue and it is a lot rarer to hear measured, rigorous debate about whether the theory has the empirical evidence on its side. Because of this it only seems necessary to sweep away some of these caricatures and straw men in order for us to discuss the validity of the methods by which we can detect design and what the empirical evidence itself suggests. In this part of the discussion, I will argue that ID is indeed a legitimate scientific theory and will attempt to defend it against claims to the contrary. I will also attempt to defend it against the common accusation that it is a synonymous with biblical creationism.

View full article »

Debating Darwin and Design

 A Dialogue Between Two Christians

Francis Smallwood-Opening Statement

Explanations must stand on their own evidence, not on the failure of their alternatives.1

Francisco J. Ayala

Evolution is a fact as certain as gravity or heliocentrism. From all corners of scientific investigation, from cosmology to geology to biology, the story of this universe and this small, though marvellously distinguished planet residing within it, is one of constant change; a story of evolution. Things have not always been as they are now and we can assume with great certainty that things will look very different in years to come. The story of life on earth is told very basically as the generation of complexity from simplicity; the creation of ‘endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful,’2 each blaring design, yet replete in the marks of their tangled past, evincing their true origins, constrained by ancestry and principles of engineering and economy and shaped and re-shaped and shaped again according to the specifications of their natural environment.

I, like Joshua, am a Christian and believe this marvellous world to be the creation of a God revealed to us in the words of Scripture. However, as to the nature of that creation we must look to science. I stand with Rev. Dr. John Polkinghorne in his proclamation that ‘Religion, if it is to take seriously its claim that the world is the creation of God, must be humble enough to learn from science what that world is actually like.’3

View full article »

Debating Darwin and Design

A Dialogue Between Two Christians

Joshua Gidney-Opening Statement

Automatically rejecting dissenting views that challenge the conventional wisdom is a dangerous fallacy, for almost every generally accepted view was once deemed eccentric or heretical. Perpetuating the reign of a supposed scientific orthodoxy in this way, whether in a research laboratory or in a court room, is profoundly inimical to the search for truth…’1

Stephen J. Gould

When it comes to the ultimate, vexing questions of origins, life, meaning and purpose, few are as hotly debated as questions about Darwin’s theory of evolution and Intelligent Design theory. For decades there has been much controversy in public and academic circles and although this controversy is most prevalent in America, the heated discussion can be found thriving almost anywhere. Due to the nature of the issues, discussions are often fraught with emotion, ideological baggage, worldview and religious beliefs and so it is often remarkably difficult to get to the truth behind the matters at hand. These questions are so important and attract such passion because they are to do with our own history, nature and origin. As philosopher and mathematician David Berlinski notes ‘There is a wide appreciation of the fact that if biologists are wrong about Darwin, they are wrong about life…’2 They are also important because science is one of the most successful and powerful cultural authorities, and theories firmly held to be true within the scientific community often have a huge influence on how everybody else views the world.

It is true to say that Neo-Darwinism ‘The synthesis of Darwin’s original theory with Mendelian genetics…’3, is zealously affirmed by the majority of those within the scientific community. Biological complexity, they claim, has evolved by natural selection acting upon random/chance genetic mutations, producing descent with modification. Neo-Darwinian theory can be expressed simply in the following way:

View full article »

Since I haven’t been writing properly for almost six months now, I really haven’t been keeping up with things. There are so many things that I feel the need to write about, and as I have said in a previous post, there are plenty of interesting things to come. Before going on to these other things though, I would like to reflect upon a fascinating weekend that I was involved in at my home church, Hesketh Bank Christian Centre, with Christian philosopher and apologist, Peter S. Williams. This happened a couple of months back on the 14th and 15th of May and I meant to review the weekend soon after it happened but unfortunately didn’t get round to it. But, it’s better late then never I suppose. Some may recall that Peter has been the subject of a previous post where I reviewed his superb book A Sceptic’s Guide To Atheism: God Is Not Dead (Paternoster, 2009). I recommend any readers to get hold of this book.

It was not that long ago when I first became acquainted with some of Peter’s work, but I cannot remember exactly how this first happened. I seem to remember stumbling upon A Sceptic’s Guide To Atheism on Amazon, and having read the reviews of it (which were all positive), I felt compelled to order a copy. After reading it, it quickly became one of my favourite books. I could not help but admire his erudition, scholarship and his clear, high-octane View full article »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 513 other followers