IS INTELLIGENT DESIGN AN INTELLIGENT ALTERNATIVE?
Objection: Intelligent Design is not science.This section is a bit ironic. In the first paragraph, the authors state "The Darwinists' claim that intelligent design is not science is based on their biased definition of science" (p156). Supposedly, this definition does not allow for intelligent causes. I'll say that's bullocks, but the more interesting thing is that these authors themselves seem to be defining science as merely an attempt to answer questions. That is a very unsophisticated view on science. Yes, science can be defined merely as "the state of knowing," but in this context, a better definition (with the key part highlighted) is "knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific method." The definition of the scientific method, then is as follows:
principles and procedures for the systematic pursuit of knowledge involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypothesesThis goes right back to things I said in regards to earlier parts of this chapter, which essentially was, "Where are the tests???" Getting back to the irony, though, these authors imply — they couldn't even be bothered to provide a definition of science — a very flexible definition of science after accusing "Darwinists" of using a biased definition. Pot, meet kettle.
|Science works. Therefore, don't be surprised if people who|
don't actually have science on their side attempt to broaden
the definition of the word to make an appeal to its authority.
* Though, I will say that there is methodology involved in historical research to determine the age of documents or the legitimacy of documents, etc. It can be somewhat scientific when answering certain questions, so I don't want it to seem like I'm bashing on the study of history. The bigger point was that the authors are appearing to hijack historical study to suit their needs of making intelligent design seem like a science.
Objection: Intelligent Design commits the God-of-the-Gaps fallacy.There are a lot of failures in this section in regards to defending their point. In their first reason, they claim it is not the same as our ancestors believing lightning was supernatural because there was no natural explanation is because DNA is a message. Except, ignoring the sloppy reasoning for that (since this was already covered for Chapter 5), our ancestors — at least in pop culture — found lots of natural events to be messages from the gods, and typically messages that the gods were either angry or pleased. Earthquake? That's a message the gods are angry! Warm, sunny day? Message that the gods are pleased! And so on. (What am I talking about??? Many people today believe some weather events are signs!) So I really don't see the difference they are trying to claim. After all, what is the message that DNA sends again? I asked this when going over Chapter 5. There are all these claims that it is a message, but no method is provided for interpreting this message.
Another flaw is that the god gaps are going to tend to be in more complicated places as time goes on. Or, to put this another way, we humans are most likely to figure out the less complicated questions first. As we solve those less complicated questions, those gaps close. (Recall that DNA is supposedly a message in part because of its complexity.) Claiming that something complex is due to a god actually fits right in with what we should expect from the god of the gaps argument.
For their second reason, they essentially contradict themselves. The claim is that "Intelligent Design scientists are open to both natural and intelligent causes" (p157). But only two paragraphs later, they do a 180 and say, "Should we keep looking for a natural cause for phenomena like Mount Rushmore or messages like "Take out the garbage—Mom"? When is the case closed?" (p157). Well, if they are open to natural causes, as they claimed, then it can never be closed. As soon as it is closed, then it is no longer open. I should not have to say this, but "closed" is the opposite of "open." The point is they claim they are open, but then they heavily suggest — though they do not directly say — that the question is closed. So which is it? Are they open or closed? Pick one; it can't be both.
The next reason given does not seem to be as falsifiable as they claim. First, let's be clear on what it means to be falsifiable. According to Wikipedia, "Falsifiability or refutability is the trait of a statement, hypothesis, or theory whereby it can be shown false by way of some conceivable observation practically possible to achieve." Essentially, a claim is falsifiable if all it takes is one counter-example to prove it false. An example claim on the page is that "All swans are white." This statement can be falsified by finding just one swan that is not white. A picture is provided on the page that is of a black swan. (Note, too, that a way to falsify evolutionary theory is provided.) Another example of my own is the claim that all angles of a 2D triangle add up to 180 degrees. To show that this is false, one has to produce a triangle with angles that do not add up to 180 degrees. The point of this example is that a falsifiable statement doesn't mean that anyone is actually going to be able to produce* a counter-example. Now, getting back to the book, the authors say, "ID could be disproven if natural laws were someday discovered to create specified complexity" (p158). This seems like it could be falsifiable, but what do they mean by "specified complexity?" Who's specifications? What do they mean by "discovered"? This may be the problem because a natural "law"** has been discovered! It's called "natural selection." Yet, the ID people do not accept their claim as having been falsified. As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. They can say that intelligent design is falsifiable, but their actions suggest otherwise. No, I do not think they actually mean "discovered" in a simplistic definition. It would appear that they are expecting not only discovery, but they want that natural law to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, hence the existence of this chapter attempting to find holes in evolutionary theory. (And then what is considered "reasonable"?) This does not fit the definition of falsifiability.
Their fourth and final point, I must say, is just plain bullshit. I cannot think of a polite way to say it. Who cares if Darwin once considered natural selection "an active power or Deity"? How is that relevant?*** Also, no one is at a loss about supposed "irreducible complexity," etc. This book was written before the Dover Trial, but during that trial Michael Behe was made to look like a closed-minded buffoon. I'll discuss more of the Dover Trial in a future addendum for this chapter.
The last thing to go over is this statement that says, "It cannot explain the origin of the basic forms of life" (p158). Yep, I agree. I've said so before myself that the theory of evolution is not meant to explain first life in previous postings on this book. Who has ever said otherwise??? Supposedly, we are told, this is a "problem with [the] mechanism" (p158). Ummm...no, it's not. It's a gap in knowledge. Again, who has claimed that this gap is covered? And what are we supposed to do about that gap seeing that it is not covered? Fill it in with a god? (And reject natural selection?) But, the whole point of this section was to say that ID isn't a god-of-the-gaps argument and yet here they are pointing to this gap and making it known that this gap has not been filled with a natural explanation.
* Of course, I could make some absurd claim such as "All Martians are green." It is falsifiable. You just have to produce a non-green Martian! The obvious problem is that there are no such things as Martians so no one could ever falsify such a claim.
** The fact that they ask for a "law" is also an issue. It suggests that they do not understand what a scientific law is.
*** This probably goes back to the idea of calling anyone who accepts evolutionary theory a "Darwinist," as though we worship Charles Darwin as a god...or something. Therefore, we are supposed to believe anything Darwin said. Newsflash: We don't. We recognize and honor Darwin for his achievements in biology much like we recognize and honor Newton for his achievements in physics.
Objection: Intelligent Design is religiously motivated.I don't have a lot to say on this section. I must start by agreeing with the authors that, yes, "the truth doesn't lie in the motivation of the scientists, but in the quality of the evidence" (p159). This "quality of the evidence," however, is the biggest problem with intelligent design. Where is the evidence? Over these last two chapters, the only evidence these authors have provided is to assert that organisms and DNA are too complex to have come about naturally (and must therefore be a message from a deity). The rest of the time has been spent criticizing science that has looked for — and found — natural explanations. (If I've missed or forgotten something, let me know!) This evidence is quite weak.
On a less important note, their explanation for why intelligent design isn't creationism is likewise quite weak. The idea of a literal six-day creation story, for example, is not a requisite of creationism, not even for a Christian version of creationism. (A creationist can claim that those six days are not to be taken literally.) Oh, also in the Dover Trial (which, again, occurred after this book was written), a "transitional fossil" was found demonstrating a clear link between creationism and intelligent design.
Objection: Intelligent Design is false because the so-called design isn't perfect.I will agree once more that an imperfect design does not prove intelligent design to be false. Once again, the problem is more with both the lack of evidence and the flexibility of the supposed explainable power of this view point. As I had said in Part I, "Their theistic worldview has a problem that it can explain anything." But then things get really entertaining in this section:
You can't know something is imperfect unless you know what perfect is.HOLY SHIT!!! I had no idea that my car wasn't perfect!!! But bigger than that is these authors (or at least one of them) know what a perfect car is! What are they doing spending time writing books?!? Gosh, we need their wisdom bestowed upon the automotive industry so that they can start producing perfect cars and getting them on sales lots ASAP!!!
Your car isn't designed optimally. (p160)
OK, as you should be able to guess by all the exclamation marks, I'm being very sarcastic there. But I'm doing so because the bullshit between those two paragraphs (and the theme continues into a third) is unbelievably deep! The truth is that we don't have to know what perfect is to know that something is imperfect. I feel like I have perhaps made a similar point in an earlier chapter break-down, but I don't remember where. Regardless, I don't, for example, have to know what the answer to 14 * 19 is to know that 42 is not the correct answer. Now, in this example, I do have enough knowledge to where I could produce the correct answer, but this is not the point. In regards to things being sub-optimal, we don't have to have the perfect answer. At most, we really only need a more optimal solution...and maybe not even that!
Seeing as to how ridiculous their argument is in regards to perfection, it should come as no surprise that I also reject the notion that this "proves...ID is science because design is empirically detectable" (p160). The major problem here is that the claim that the design is sub-optimal is probably only being made because design is being granted for the sake of argument. Likely no one was agreeing that it was designed. For example, I could say, "If it is designed, it is sub-optimal." But I'm not actually agreeing that it is designed when I say this. One thing that can certainly be said is the result (whether or not it is designed) is sub-optimal. And how about this for a reason for the sub-optimal result? It's sub-optimal because it isn't designed! (More on this below.)
Their third point also has some additional problematic remarks. This gets us back to what I said earlier about how their idea can explain anything.
How does Gould know the panda's thumb isn't exactly what the designer had in mind? ... But maybe the designer wanted the panda's thumbs to be just like they are. ... Maybe pandas don't need opposable thumbs because they don't need to write books like Gould. (p161)There sure are enough maybe's in that paragraph! If pandas had no thumbs at all, I'm sure we'd get very similar statements. Remember, the authors said earlier, "A good box top...should be able to plausibly explain all the data" (p140). Yet, what we get are a bunch of maybe's when it comes to panda thumbs. Perhaps we have the wrong box top? Additionally, evolution likely can explain the data. I'm not an expert on panda thumbs, so I'm not going to even attempt to explain it, but what I do know is that natural selection is imperfect. It's a process that favors those who work best in their environment. So when the authors say, "The panda's thumb works just fine in allowing him to strip bamboo down to it's edible interior" (p161), this actually fits the evolution box top quite nicely. With evolution, sub-optimal functionality (no, I won't say, nor need to say, "design") is to be expected as long as that functionality is sufficient for survival.
In the authors' forth point, they start being a little more reasonable when they talk about design trade-offs. As an engineer myself, I'm all too familiar with this. Yet again, however, we don't get an answer. We get a "we simply don't know" (p161). Likewise, we get another claim that Gould's criticisms aren't valid without knowing. But that, I think, misses the point of the criticisms. I suspect Gould's criticism is not, nor ever was, about design; it's about the fact that the intelligent design supporters don't have any answers. Their "box top" doesn't "plausibly explain all the data."
Then add on the problem that some "designs" have no apparent trade offs. I won't go so far as to make an argument from ignorance that there cannot be any trade offs, but the laryngeal nerve of the giraffe is a good example of a case where the proponents of intelligent design have some serious explaining to do! (See the video below...not to be viewed by the feint of heart!) The evolution "box top" has a plausible explanation for this. Where is the plausible explanation from intelligent design?
At this point, I am going to go on a bit of a side rant. First, I don't want to give the impression that I am being hypocritical for being hard on these authors for not having answers while I said it is is OK to not have answers for first life. The actual reason I am being hard is because it is they who are being hypocritical. Much of the approach these last two chapters is to try to poke holes in naturalistic explanations. I've said before that's OK. The main problem I have is when they ignore their own holes, yet then go and make these claims that "an intelligent cause best fits the evidence" (p158). What evidence? So far in two chapters all we've really been provided for "evidence" is first this idea that DNA is a "message," yet we are neither provided a way to decode this message nor any indication as to whom the message is for. This is a gaping hole, yet goes ignored. The second piece of "evidence" is this idea of irreducible complexity, an idea that is based more on ignorance than it is actual evidence. What other "evidence" has been provided? (If there's something I've missed, let me know.) Being that this is a Christian apologetics book, there is a fitting bible verse for this situation: "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."
SO WHY ARE THERE STILL DARWINISTS?For starters, I generally agree with Dawkins' statement. There has, after all, been many stupid and ignorant things said in this chapter alone (such as the failure to recognize the existence of flightless birds, such as penguins, or the idea that, in order to know that something is not optimal, you must know what optimal is). What I want to know, though, is who are these supposedly "brilliant Ph.D.s that believe in Intelligent Design" (p162)? Behe? Well, I think he's still fairly popular with the ID crowd, but he made a bit of a fool of himself at the Dover trial. Dembski (whose review is quoted on the back cover of the book)? Apparently — this is something I just recently learned myself — he has even lost favorability in ID circles for suggesting that the effects of "original sin" worked backwards through time! These following remarks on Dembski's suggestion are just to entertaining to not quote in this post. And, yes, Dembski has a Ph.D.
Here’s how Dembski’s plan works. You start with the big bang and evolution working their way through, all leading up to the time when non-human hominids appeared. All this happened just the way we godless heathens say it happened based on silly old evidence and the laws of science. But “these hominids initially lacked the cognitive and moral capacities required to bear the image of God.” Then at some point, these hominids entered the Garden of Eden, “received God’s image and became fully human” (whatever that means). They then experienced the famous fall from grace and the consequent punishment of suffering that is inflicted on us all.Ideas like this serve as a critical reminder that people who have Ph.D.s can think up some pretty crazy stuff. The way I tend to address it is that there's a difference between being smart (by which I mean having a large base of knowledge) and being a good thinker. They are essentially two different skill sets that don't necessarily overlap. To put this another way, it's essentially having memorized answers for a test vs. having the ability to derive answers.
But here’s the kicker: All the suffering that occurred before that time was due to god applying the punishment retroactively because he knew the fall was going to happen later. So, for example, god punished the poor dinosaurs by sending an asteroid to collide with the Earth and cause all of them to go extinct because sixty five million years later a couple of hominids would wander into a garden and eat some fruit. Doesn’t seem quite fair to the dinosaurs but who are we to questions god’s sense of justice?
Otherwise, my comments on the rest of the section are going to be pretty brief (well, briefer than normal, anyway). I'm actually just going to create a list to go through their points.
- Authority — This is quite the allegation! Yes, scientists have gained a lot of reverence. This is not a good thing (primarily it has allowed a number of con artists to claim their products are "scientific" when they're not — I see this as being quite prevalent with health/dietary supplements). But do the authors actually have any evidence to back up this claim?
- Lost control — Yes, science is based on the idea that the world operates on consistent laws and processes. If you have a god that can always be changing or interfering with these, then there's nothing left. As I have suggested before, we could no longer claim that the Grand Canyon was formed by water erosion. It could be that a god just made it look that way. Even Dembski's idea that God punished the dinosaurs backwards through time for original sin is possible. There's a saying from the bible that goes, "With God, all things are possible." With science, there are limits on possibilities. (But we never see the "impossible" happening, so there's no reason to admit a god.)
- Financial security — I do have to say that I have heard it is true that there is pressure on scientists (particularly those who are college professors) to get work published. I know an atheist scientist and college professor who has repeatedly objected to this. But aside from that, it amazes me how creationists overlook the flaw in this argument. If evolution is not true, then why is there so much money involved in its study? Yes, I realize that bad science is capable of receiving grant money. I'm an opponent to federal funding of homeopathy research, for example. (Homeopathic medicine is essentially a placebo, but the proponents advertise it as though it were actual medicine. Remember that product called "Head On"?) But, eventually, if something isn't supported by good science, that money is bound to "dry up" because investors* aren't going to put large quantities of money into something that doesn't work. So why is there still so much money in the field?
- Morality — I don't want to go too deep into this topic because, as the authors point out, this is more so covered in the next chapter. (I may still come back to this section during that coverage.) The first thing I want to say, though maybe I shouldn't, is that I find a lot of their examples of "Darwinists'" confessions to be bullshit. The first example supposedly happened on the Merv Griffin show. Since this is in the talk show genre, could this have been a joke? The second example is that of Lee Strobel, who supposedly was an atheist. However, the evidence for this being true is apparently limited to only his word for it. Let me be blunt — I don't really trust a thing that man says. The third example looks too much like a straw person. As the authors say, "Now that's a moment of complete candor" (p163). As some wise person once said, "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is."
The second thing to say is this argument really does not make a whole lot of sense. The argument appears to imply that belief in a creator and the belief that you can do whatever you want are incompatible. Now, sure, in Chapter 7 they are going to argue for the need of a "Moral Law Giver" (p171), but, one, I don't see any incompatibility** in believing in a god that is not a moral law giver and, two, even if you were to believe that there is a god that is a moral law giver, why would you necessarily believe these laws would have any regard for people's sex lives (which was the topic behind two of the three examples)? The claim that the authors are making is that some people want to believe in evolution so that they then don't have to believe in a god and then they don't have to believe in a god's moral laws. The point that I'm trying to make here is why can't they just skip that second step of not believing in a god entirely and go straight to not believing in a god that has moral laws? I do realize, though, that one "answer" could be that our culture is so bombarded with god beliefs that involve a god with a moral law and then bases a person's eternal fate on such laws that it could be difficult to picture a god that doesn't have such an attribute. (It took me quite some time to realize this myself.) Therefore, people may see ditching god belief entirely as the only "solution" when it's really not. Additionally, these arguments for a designer do not necessarily point to a god. The designer could have been some alien race, with the caveat being that this alien race would not be "irreducibly complex" in structure (otherwise, this alien race would also need a designer based on the authors' arguments). There would be no reason to assume that this alien race would have moral rules for us to follow or, if they did, no apparent reason for us to follow their rules.
The other two remarks I want to make first involves the idea that "Darwinists suggest such absurd 'counterintuitive' explanations" (p164). I've said it before, but I'll raise the point again, that something being counterintuitive does not make something false. I feel like giving the authors at least some credit for putting the word in quotations, but I don't know why they did this as they still end up giving the human brain (and thus human intelligence) more credit and authority than it deserves. (In other words, I don't get the point if they don't mean the word "counterintuitive" literally. Is there something I'm missing?) Second, I could not help but note the irony that, in order to make a point about how maybe some biologists are "assuming that the really strong evidence for Darwinism lies in another field of biology" (p165), they reference a creationist biologist. Maybe Wells is a creationist because "the really strong evidence for Darwinism lies in another field of biology" (p165) and he hasn't seen this evidence because it's not in his field? Just a thought***.
Oh, apparently I have a third final remark about "spontaneous generation" (p165) again. Mainly, I just want to point out that they are implying once again that this is some major flaw in evolutionary theory, although, as I've pointed out many times already, evolution doesn't even attempt to address this. Yes, it's a gap in knowledge. Again, are we supposed to be filling this in with a god?
* There are always going to be a handful of suckers out there in the world. We still have people claiming to be psychic, after all. But this industry is primarily funded by laypersons and TV networks (I'm looking at you, The "Learning" Channel!) looking to cash in on the advertising they can get from their ratings for such shows. But as far as being something that receives grant money for research, like evolutionary studies do? No, I would doubt much money comes from that.
** Actually, Christianity presents a moral structure in which a person can do whatever they want. It has "rules," but all you have to do, in many denominations, to be "forgiven" is merely accept Jesus as your "Lord and Savior." Christians tend to tie themselves into logical knots with this. They essentially use this or similar reasoning to get out of the rules they don't want to follow — such as the cliché examples of eating shellfish or wearing cloths made of two or more materials — yet want certain rules to apply — such as "You shall not murder" — in order to make these claims that one needs to be religious in order to be moral. The point, though, is that if I wanted to do whatever I wanted, the thing to do would be to believe in the Christian god, not deny it! The authors have this completely backwards.
*** It's worse. In Well's own words, this is why he sought his PhD: "Father's [this is apparently the title of someone is his church] words, my studies, and my prayers convinced me that I should devote my life to destroying Darwinism." While this does not take away from the point being made, it certainly seems to be a hypocritical point. (Also, if the authors care about us not believing that intelligent design is religiously motivated, Wells is perhaps the last person they should be referencing.)
HOW IMPORTANT IS THE AGE OF THE UNIVERSEThis may perhaps be the best section in the whole book! This is where the hypocrisy of the authors may reach its deepest level. I even quoted this section in one of my preview posts on logical fallacies. And I had included this picture:
It is unbelievable the lack of self-awareness that they display. Just pages ago, they say (emphasis mine) "This is not just an intellectual issue where Darwinists take a dispassionate look at the evidence and then make a ration conclusion...I thought this was science. There must be something else at stake here" (p161-162). Yet here they are now saying (purple texts are my additions) "the more important point is not when the universe was created (the evidence) but that it was created (the conclusion)" (p165). Get that? The conclusion is what is important, not the evidence. Therefore, this is not science. They've just undermined all the claims they've been making for essentially the last four chapters in just one sentence. They try to cover this up by then talking about how "the universe...had a beginning" and "the universe is designed" (p165), but this really isn't that convincing because these two points are essentially conclusions themselves that were to have been drawn from facts. Recall that Chapter 3 was about all these facts that show that the universe had a beginning. Of particular interest are the "great galaxy seeds," general relativity, and even the expanding universe. Perhaps it is the expanding universe that may even be the most critical. If the universe is only 6000 years old, the universe would have had to expand quite rapidly to get where it is today. How would those "great galaxy seeds" have had time to "grow" galaxies? I would also think general relativity would have to be violated as well. So how could the age of the universe not be all that important? Or, it could be, as some young earth (and universe) creationists claim, that god make the universe pretty much the way it is today, but left behind all this evidence to make it look old to test the faith of the believer. Similarly, in regards to the earth, I have heard claims that radioactive decay (one of the primary methods in which the age of the earth has been determined by scientists) was faster in the past than it is now, giving the earth the appearance of looking older than it actually is. In other words, they throw the principle of uniformity right out the window. Yet, others will claim that it wasn't god, but rather the devil, that did all of this stuff in order to lead people astray. (Grunge band Alice In Chains titled their latest album after the belief that the devil planted dinosaur bones for this reason.)
This is why just moments ago I agreed that scientists would lose control by allowing for such a god. God (or Satan) can do pretty much anything. It's impossible to draw conclusions from evidence because the evidence may have been planted. This is why I've been repeating multiple times that maybe the Grand Canyon just looks like it was carved out by water erosion. (Well, that and because there are Christians out there who essentially believe this to be true.) The authors essentially said as much earlier, too, when they said, "If God exists, [scientists] couldn't explain every event as the result of predictable natural laws" (p162). This would include the formation of the Grand Canyon!
Skipping ahead a bit, the authors also repeat this claim in the later chapter on miracles.
Can a God who created the entire universe out of nothing part the Red Sea? Bring fire down from heaven? Keep a man safe in a great fish for three days? Accurately predict future events? Turn water into wine? Heal diseases instantaneously? Raise the dead? Of course. (p203)What they say next is also true in a theistic universe, but I am going to also highlight the key part (which is actually part of a quote attributed to C. S. Lewis):
Now this doesn't mean that God has performed those biblical miracles...It only means that he could have—that such miracles are possible. In light of the fact that we live in a theistic universe, ruling out miracles beforehand...is clearly illegitimate. As C. S. Lewis put it, "If we admit God, must we admit Miracle? Indeed, indeed, you have no security against it. That is the bargain." (p203)You cannot then say that the universe is a theistic one (particularly one in which the deity intervenes) and yet claim the Grand Canyon is the result of predictable natural laws. You have no security against it. That is the bargain.
This next part has been difficult for me to write as I haven't been able to figure out how best to address this. What I want to discuss is where the authors admit that "there are several views on [the age of the universe], especially within Christian circles" (p165). Why is that? I think this lack of security is indeed one factor — with a god, evidence can have multiple interpretations because you can't be sure if a god or god-like being is being deceitful. But then why did these authors waste so much time with all of their talk about "great galaxy seeds," or the made-up* "Law of Causality," or the "Principal of Uniformity," or claim that the Grand Canyon had a natural cause if they knew all along that this isn't necessarily true — and more importantly cannot be claimed to be true — if a god exists? Since they believe that a god exists, then why would they present evidence as though a god does not exist?
My thought on this is that they realize that they cannot sell the idea of a god to just anyone without appealing to evidence. (Saying something to the effect of "God exists because I have faith" or "because anything is possible with a god" just isn't convincing.) Their desire to sell what must be an unfounded belief (since there is no reliable evidence from which to draw conclusions in their world view) is what, I suspect, has led to so many contradictions and missed contrary evidence. Late in Chapter 5, it was the claim that "Nature disorders, it doesn't organize things" (p124) followed shortly by the contradiction that "Yes, [living things] grow and get more ordered" (p125). (Again, that is a contradiction if, and only if, the authors believe the growth of living things is natural, which they do appear to believe.) Earlier here in Chapter 6, they overlooked the fact that flightless birds, such as the penguin, exist. There were more minor flaws, which I'm not going to spend time to repeat, but the point is that these mistakes are expected when one is defending an idea for which they have inadequate support.
Stepping away from the book for a while, I find it worth mentioning that some Christians will play this game (for lack of a better word) of accusing other Christians of being crazy. Particularly, I see such accusations directed toward the more fundamentalist Christians that believe in an earth that is only 6000 years old and/or claim that humans lived with dinosaurs (or, as it is sometimes mockingly phrased, the ones who believe The Flintstones was a documentary). Or, as noted above, William Dembski has lost favorability due to his conclusion that dinosaurs were punished by his god backwards in time because of humanity's "sins." But such accusations really are not fair**. I will repeat again what these authors say: "If God exists, [scientists] couldn't explain every event as the result of predictable natural laws" (p162). So, again, we can't explain that the age of the earth is older than 6000 years old on the basis of predictable natural laws. We can't even rely on artifacts from ancient human civilizations. How do we really know how long ago they lived? How can we be sure the evidence wasn't staged? Why couldn't a god punish dinosaurs in the past? I think what's really going on here is that some Christians just have less confirmation bias. They don't really see any evidence for an interventionist god and see plenty of evidence that says, yes, the world does operate on predictable natural laws. It gets to be too much to completely dismiss, so they can't accept the claims of the earth only being 6000 years old or that the Grand Canyon was only made to look like it was the product of natural causes. Or the other claim that the Grand Canyon formed quickly from the flood told in the story of Noah's Ark. They may even find such claims laughable, but they don't dismiss the interventionist god completely. From my perspective, this is like a kid in school that gets a "D" laughing at a kid that got an "F". The first kid is perhaps a little smarter than the second, but the difference really isn't anything to celebrate or brag about.
Actually, I may even have this backwards! It's the kid with the "F" laughing at the one with a "D"! I say this because the people who believe in a god that is only a slight interventionalist have essentially no justification for that belief. With an interventionalist god, anything goes. The people making the seemingly outrageous claims may recognize this. (Of course, it could just be coincidence***, too.) The people in the middle, however, are trying to have things both ways — they are trying to have an interventionalist god, but one that apparently is rather limited in what it can do. However, they really need this god to be limitless so that they can, as we saw in Chapter 3, make the claims that it takes an infinite thing to create the universe. So, they are limiting the limitless. They've worked themselves into a bit of a logical problem.
* Recall from Chapter 3 that this is not a scientific law, but seems to be something used in Christian apologetic circles that is likely made to appear scientific.
** I think these Christians may see the fundamentalists as turning people off toward religion due to such beliefs. This may well be an attempt to save face by giving the impression that the differences are greater than they actually are.
*** How I really feel about this is those who believe in the really crazy stuff are the biggest deniers of reality. As a result of this, however, they end up being more in line with what is possible in what the authors call a "theistic universe." I do think that for many this is pure accident as opposed to being a reasoned conclusion. After all, it's hard to gain the ability to reason when one believes in such a world as there aren't many rules from which reason can be derived.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONThis is a good place to recap the last four chapters, since this is what the authors do. I'll try to keep my responses short where I feel I have covered a point enough already. I'll just create a list here of their points followed by my responses. The applicable pages of the book are 165-167.
For the first list, the authors claim, "You have to believe, without intelligent intervention:"
- "Something arose from nothing."
First, define "nothing."
Second, no, you don't. Who's claiming that something hasn't always existed? (Recall the claims that something can't "decide" to create the universe. But who says something had to decide anything?)
At step two, God creates something
from nothing. I agree; the theists
need to be more explicit here.
- Belief that something came from nothing? Highly irrational!
- Belief that a deity caused something to come from nothing? Perfectly acceptable!
Forth, where would the intelligence have come from? How is believing this any less irrational than believing something came from nothing on it's own? (Where is the evidence? The best we got was some logical reasoning to conclude that this intelligence is necessary, but why should I accept the premises of their logic without evidence?)
- Belief that something came from nothing? Highly irrational!
- "Order arose from chaos."
First, define "order." Define "chaos."
Second, I fail to understand why this is so unreasonable. We have natural processes that bring about order out of chaos...depending on how the terms are defined. Based on how I think they are defined, shifting of plate tectonics (chaos) can bring about mountainous structures (order). Likewise, volcanic eruptions (chaos) can also form mountains (order). Are these processes supernatural? Or am I — and why am I — wrong about viewing these as chaos and order?
- "Life arose from non-life (which means that intelligence arose from non-intelligence, and personality arose from non-personality)."
I have similar remarks here as I did with the first point. How does an intelligence just always existing necessarily make more sense? (Also, why should what makes more sense to my fallible human mind be important?) And where is the evidence that this intelligence always existed? How did this intelligence bring about life from non-life?
- "New life forms arose from existing life forms despite evidence to the contrary such as:
- "Genetic limits"
Not having observed "macro"-evolution in a tiny span of time does not mean there are limits. This is drawing a bad conclusion based on a bad understanding of the process. (Also, as I'm sure I've asked before, where are the observations of a designer? The belief that one has observed messages from this supposed designer is not direct observation of the designer. Their demand for observation seems rather inconsistent.)
- "Cyclical change"
The "cyclical change" they claim exists is again based on a misunderstanding of the process. What they were actually discussing was fluctuations in populations. But this is known to happen. I remember learning years ago about population cycles with grass, rabbits, and some predator of rabbits (perhaps foxes) that would have looked something like this:
The confusion they introduce is by thinking the different species of finches are actually the same species. They aren't. The cyclical change was not within a species but between species.
- "Irreducible complexity"
This is essentially based on an idea that, using a mousetrap as an example, as you remove pieces of a mousetrap, it must continue to function as a mousetrap. This is incorrect, and there is actually evidence to show how this idea is incorrect. I will be covering this more in the Dover Trial addendum.
- "Molecular isolation"
There was just a lot of bad reasoning in that section, loaded with a bunch of "perhaps" and "could/may be" type statements. And the Egyptian pyramids perhaps may have been built by aliens. Just because it's a possibility, should I then seriously question the evidence that they were built by humans?
- "Nonviability of transitional forms"
Here we were told that animals with partial wings without the ability to fly would be easy game to predators. Here's my counter to that:
- 1 List of recent flightless birds
- 1.1 Ratites
- 1.2 Anseriformes (Waterfowl)
- 1.3 Galliformes (Wildfowl)
- 1.4 Podicipediformes (Grebes)
- 1.5 Pelecaniformes (Pelicans, Cormorants and allies)
- 1.6 Sphenisciformes (Penguins)
- 1.7 Coraciiformes (Kingfishers, Hornbills and allies)
- 1.8 Ciconiiformes (Herons, Ibis)
- 1.9 Gruiformes (Cranes, Rails)
- 1.10 Charadriiformes (Gulls, Terns, Auks)
- 1.11 Falconiformes (Birds of prey)
- 1.12 Psittaciformes (Parrots)
- 1.13 Columbiformes (Pigeons, Doves)
- 1.14 Caprimulgiformes (Nightjars)
- 1.15 Strigformes (Owls)
- 1.16 Passeriformes (Perching Birds)
- 1 List of recent flightless birds
- "The fossil record"
As stated before, the fossil record alone is not proof of evolution. Rather, it is supporting evidence used to confirm evolution. It can show that, yes, indeed "micro"-evolution can lead to "macro"-evolution. Essentially, certain fossils should be found in certain periods of geological time. And if the wrong fossils are found at the wrong times, such as precambrian rabbits, then fossils can disprove evolution. So far, no contradictory fossils have been found. (I'll cover this further in an addendum.)
- "Genetic limits"
The next list is about the supposed evidence for creation.
- "A universe that has exploded into being out of nothing"
First, we don't know that it did. Second, even if it did, arguing for a god from not knowing how something could happen naturally is not evidence — it is an argument from ignorance. For now the hundred and first time...lightning. Once upon a time, people thought it exploded into being out of nothing...or at least nothing they thought capable of producing lightning. (Which could certainly be the case with the universe.)
- "A universe with over 100 fine-tuned, life enabling constants for this tiny, remote planet called Earth"
This is a horrible, horrible understanding of probabilities. First, they don't have any other universes on which to compare these supposedly "fine-tuned" constants, so any probability they come up with is just a guess (and not even an educated guess).
Second, this is too focused on earth. I gave reasons why this is bad, but I've been coming up with a new example in my head, so I want to take the time to go over it. So this reasoning would be similar to money thinking (if money could think) that it was divine intervention that it ended up with a specific lottery winner (let's call this winner "Brenda"). This money thinks the lottery machine must have been fine tuned for it to end up with Brenda. This thinking completely ignores the millions of other people who played the lottery and lost. This thinking also ignores what should be obvious — this money is with Brenda because she won the lottery and the other people did not. Likewise, we are here on earth because it is a planet that can support life. You want to show me something that could be evidence for creation? Show me life living on a planet that should be incapable of supporting such life. Then we might have something to talk about. (Though I would also wonder if, at one time, the planet was capable of supporting life and then if the reason it does have life is because the life that lives there is using technology to enable this ability. Or maybe the life that is there is alien life that came from a planet that supports life, etc. The point is that this would not immediately point to a creator, but it would be more impressive than pointing to a lottery winner who is rich...er, I mean a planet that supports life having life.)
- "Life that:"
- "has been observed to arise only from existing life (it has never been observed to arise spontaneously)"
Again, this is an argument from ignorance.
- "consists of thousands and even millions of volumes of empirically detectable specified complexity"
Yeah...and there's a theory to explain this: evolution. As the theory goes, life on earth wasn't always this way. Sure, this hasn't been "observed." Neither has the idea that all of the continents used to be part of one land mass. Is this idea invalidated from not having been observed?
- All the other points are repeats from the last list, so you can just see my comments above.
SupplementalAstrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson explains the problems of the God-of-the-Gaps argument. Essentially, it's a roadblock to investigation. (On a side note, I think Europeans figured out why planets retrograde closer to 500 years ago than to 200. So de Grasse Tyson is just a few years off on his example. His point remains the same, however.)
Here's an alternative idea to the Big Bang: our universe is the result of a 4-dimensional black hole. This goes to show that we have a lot to learn yet from our universe, so I find it a bit early to be plugging in the gaps with a god.