Skip to comments.Intelligent Design and Evolution
Posted on 10/31/2009 6:48:08 PM PDT by Coleus
Believers in Intelligent Design have often been scorned as being opposed to science, but science itself is showing that it is the evolutionists who are opposed to rational inquiry.
Though The New American has no official position on evolution, we have published a number of articles over the years pointing to flaws in the theory and arguing for academic freedom on the subject. We did this most recently in "Allow Intelligence" (May 12, 2008 issue), our very favorable review of Ben Stein's documentary Expelled. In the following article, Selwyn Duke suggests that it's possible to believe in both an evolution of sorts (though not Darwinism) and Intelligent Design, though he does not stake out a position in favor of evolution. We publish it here as food for thought. Ed.
While the debate over evolution in schools has been developing for many years in a primordial soup of passion, generally speaking, it hasn't reached a very high level of complexity. The opponents of Intelligent Design Theory (ID) tend to dismiss its advocates as serpent-handling dogmatists who make a sport of spitting on Galileo's grave, while some at the opposite end of the spectrum may portray anyone entertaining evolution in any context as the serpent in Eden. But what is often overlooked in this debate so much so that it may surprise some people is that not all those who entertain ID are religious. As an example, consider New York University law and philosophy professor Thomas Nagel, an avowed atheist who wrote an essay entitled "Public Education and Intelligent Design." In it he makes the case for including ID in school curricula, writing:
The political urge to defend science education against the threats of religious orthodoxy, understandable though it is, has resulted in a counterorthodoxy, supported by bad arguments, and a tendency to overstate the legitimate scientific claims of evolutionary theory.... It would be unfortunate if the Establishment Clause made it unconstitutional to allude to these questions [concerning problems with evolution] in a public school biology class, for that would mean that evolutionary theory cannot be taught in an intellectually responsible way.
The professor points out a truth, that religious people don't have a monopoly on dogmatism. Yet he understates the matter. In point of fact, today it is the case that evolutionists are the most stubborn of dogmatists. I say this because while there are many religionists who will consider that evolution may be the vehicle through which God created life, very few evolutionists will consider that God might have created evolution. The reason for this has great bearing on the matter of evolution in schools and will be discussed later. First, however, I would like to delve into the perspective that allows a Christian to entertain evolution. That is, evolution in a certain sense.
As a man of faith, I firmly believe God created life. Yet believing He worked a certain miracle is not synonymous with knowing how He worked it. In fact, if you read the Bible, there is little if any explanation of the "how," only the "what." For instance, the New Testament tells us that Jesus turned water into wine, not how he did it. And for good reason. As evangelist Pat Robertson once said when referring to the origin-of-life debate, "Genesis was never intended as a science textbook." (This, of course, applies to the whole of Scripture.) Now, while Robertson is a contemporary figure, this view is nothing of the sort; it is in fact the traditional Christian position. In his piece "Does the Bible Teach Science?" medieval studies scholar and creator of an award-winning "Science and faith" course Dr. Robert J. Schneider explains:
From the early years of the Christian church until the beginning of the seventeenth century, the most respected theologians who thought about and wrote on the nature of biblical inspiration and authority and also about the doctrine of creation held a common position about the relationship between the Bible and science. In the early seventeenth century, Cardinal Baronius expressed this principle succinctly:
"The intention of the Holy Spirit is to teach us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go." (quoted in Galileo 186)
Baronius had the conflict over the Copernican theory in mind. He was challenging the argument that this theory must be wrong because the Bible teaches that the sun moves, not the earth (e.g., Josh 10:13, Ps. 19:6; 96:10). Baronius' statement is fully in accord with the perspective of those who developed the classic Christian theology of creation (essay II). Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Aquinas, and John Calvin were one in their conviction that Christ is the center of Scripture, and that what the Holy Spirit through Scripture means to teach is the message of salvation through Christ. The Bible's teachings about God and the Christian life may be confidently accepted as completely true and trustworthy.
I would echo Baronius and also say, the Bible is there to teach us how to live life, not how life came to live. Having said this, I would nevertheless like to make a case that a belief in evolution (depending on how "evolution" is defined) does not rule out faith or Intelligent Design. Note that I do not state the following definitively, but merely as food for thought. Genesis 2:7 tells us, "Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature." As for evolutionists, they say that life first arose in the primordial soup, which refers to the hot oceans of billions of years past. There doesn't seem to be much common ground between these two visions, but is that really true?
We have all seen that accelerated video footage of a flower blooming before our eyes or clouds racing across the sky. Ah, how modern technology can make the ordinary appear just a tad miraculous. Or, is it that our modernistic perception has made the miraculous seem ordinary? Regardless, let us assume for argument's sake that life evolved, that beasts ascended from the muck and man from beasts. If you then took all the Earth's history from the time it was a lifeless orb to now (some 4.5 billion years according to expert opinion), and accelerated it so that the "evolution" would have occurred in the blink of an eye, what would you see? Among other things, would you not behold man rising from the muck and instantly coming to flower? For the human eye would not perceive the stages, only the end result. Now, isn't this at least vaguely reminiscent of Genesis' description? Could it not be said that the main difference is that the creation story provides fewer details about the process but the answer as to what or who initiated it?
The obvious objection to this thesis is that, whatever the impetus behind it, the development of life took a very, very long time. Yet this is without foundation, because the best of both theologians and scientists agree on a relevant point: time is an invention of man. The early Christian fathers realized long ago that God is outside of time, and Albert Einstein called time "a handy illusion." (This is why time seems to pass faster as we age; it is relative and all a matter of perception.) Thus, it is irrelevant if something happened "slowly" or "fast," as the ultimate reality is that everything is "now."
It is because of this reality about our handy illusion that the pace of a miracle is inconsequential; it is because of the reality that we are nonetheless trapped in the handy illusion that such a truth eludes us. The great philosopher G.K. Chesterton once addressed this, writing:
An event is not any more intrinsically intelligible or unintelligible because of the pace at which it moves. For a man who does not believe in a miracle, a slow miracle would be just as incredible as a swift one. The Greek witch may have turned sailors to swine with a stroke of the wand. But to see a naval gentleman of our acquaintance looking a little more like a pig every day, till he ended with four trotters and a curly tail, would not be any more soothing.... The medieval wizard may have flown through the air from the top of a tower; but to see an old gentleman walking through the air, in a leisurely and lounging manner, would still seem to call for some explanation. Yet there runs through all the rationalistic treatment of history this curious and confused idea that difficulty is avoided, or even a mystery eliminated, by dwelling on mere delay or on something dilatory in the process of things.... The ultimate question is why [things] go at all; and anybody who really understands that question will know that it always has been and always will be a religious question; or at any a rate a philosophical or metaphysical question. And most certainly he will not think the question answered by some substitution of gradual for abrupt change.
Yes, for one who does not believe in a miracle, a slow miracle would be just as incredible as a swift one. But, likewise, for those of us who do believe in miracles, a slow miracle should be no less amazing than a swift one. Having said this, I must reiterate that my little musing regarding Genesis isn't doctrine, either a church's or my own. It's just an idea (and one that could be baseless) illustrating how evolution and faith could be compatible. As a Christian, I believe that God created man in His own image and likeness. That is doctrine. As to how He did it, I don't profess to know. But this doesn't bother me because I accept that simple fact of which all Christians need be mindful: the Bible is not a scientific treatise. If God had meant to bestow a science textbook upon us, He would have used scientists to write it, not prophets and apostles.
Yet, if there is much the Bible doesn't explain, the same can be said of evolution. (In fact, a belief in evolution requires faith, since the theory is far from proven.) For instance, the process by which life began in the primordial soup would have to be called "abiogenesis," which, as Thomas Henry Huxley said, is the "doctrine that living matter may be produced by not living matter." The idea is that amino acids formed chains and became the first proteins which, after many more evolutionary twists and turns, became the first simple organisms. And from there life continued developing and increasing in complexity. Yet this poses a question: how is it that chemicals can suddenly "decide" to become alive?
Moreover, even if they somehow did, why would they have a will to continue living and become more complex? The answer to this question is always the same and is often delivered dismissively. "It's not that simple," we hear. "There were many, many steps and the process took a very, very long time." But this is not an answer, merely a response. To accept it is to fall victim to the fallacy of which Chesterton spoke, to believe that an event is "more intrinsically intelligible or unintelligible because of the pace at which it moves."
In addition, it is also to believe that an exposition of the "steps" of what went on somehow explains the ultimate question of why things go at all. But harking back to Chesterton's example from Greek mythology, it's as if we were told that a man was transformed into a pig quite by accident, without the workings of a witch. It all supposedly makes sense, though, because, well, it took pretty dang long and we can explain the steps of the process. Would that satisfy your curiosity?
Ironically, though, while an explanation of the process (the steps) is meant to illuminate, the case may be that it actually blinds. Man can often very easily believe in a miracle precisely until the point at which it is explained, but how does this make sense? We are made in God's image and like Him possess intellect albeit a limited one so why should it surprise anyone that to some degree we might be able to explain how He worked His miracles? After all, as a child matures, can he not begin to understand more and more about his father's ways? A scientific explanation isn't sufficient cause to demote a thing from the miraculous to the mundane.
Then there is that very compelling argument in favor of ID, that a design implies a designer. For instance, for a long time no one could provide any firm ideas about who built the monument of Stonehenge in England. Yet did anyone propose that those ancient rocks were assembled accidentally by the forces of nature? Why, such an idea is so preposterous that it was never even considered. In fact, of all the things known to man that have a design, there is only one case where anyone would entertain the notion that there was no designer, the instance of the most amazing design of all: life.
So the question still remains, does ID belong in schools? Well, my answer is that if it does not, evolution certainly doesn't. To understand why, you only need to ponder one of the bases on which the opponents of ID disqualify it from schools. That is, it is a theological message that violates the "separation of church and state" principle. Yet if this is so, evolution is disqualified on the same basis, for it involves an atheological message. Dr. Nagel spoke of this as well, writing:
The campaign of the scientific establishment to rule out intelligent design as beyond discussion because it is not science results in the avoidance of significant questions about the relation between evolutionary theory and religious belief....
From the beginning it has been commonplace to present the theory of evolution by random mutation and natural selection as an alternative to intentional design as an explanation of the functional organization of living organisms. The evidence for the theory is supposed to be evidence for the absence of purpose in the causation of the development of life-forms on this planet. It is not just the theory that life evolved over billions of years, and that all species are descended from a common ancestor. Its defining element is the claim that all this happened as the result of the appearance of random and purposeless mutations in the genetic material followed by natural selection due to the resulting heritable variations in reproductive fitness. It displaces design by proposing an alternative.
And this is the point. Evolution treats not just the "what" of life's genesis and development, but also the "why"; that is to say, its explanation is that there is no why, that life is merely a cosmic accident. This is to go beyond science and to tread in and on the theological realm. Pursuing the "why" is a central part of humanity's eternal religious and philosophic strivings. Thus has the question about the origin of man and his world been pondered since time immemorial, and every civilization had its creation stories. And this explains why evolutionists are those most stubborn dogmatists, people who will never, ever consider that God might have initiated and guided evolution, if indeed that's what happened. By definition, classical evolution excludes the possibility of God.
And, really, I don't sell evolutionists so short that I believe all of them are oblivious to their intrusion upon theological territory. On the contrary, I suspect that a desire to proselytize, to spread this atheological message, is precisely what fuels much of the zeal of the evolutionist movement. For we have to ask whence zeal comes. It isn't the result of cold, detached scientific curiosity but of something more reminiscent of religious fervor. And if it truly isn't quasi-religious devotion, why not just agree that schools should remain neutral on the matter, that both ID and evolution should be stricken from them? This is, after all, what we have done with other controversial issues of the day, such as abortion.
This is where evolutionists will protest that the scope of school curricula should not be limited by dogma, but this is an intellectually dishonest argument. First, students can be taught only a minuscule percentage of man's knowledge, so we must necessarily exclude most of it when devising curricula. And why should evolution be part of this extremely limited program? Have you ever been asked about fossil records during a job interview? We should realize that people who will actually pursue a career in which such study is relevant are about as rare as those who will become nuclear physicists. So if nuclear physics isn't a staple of curricula, why is evolution?
What I'm pointing out is that even insofar as evolution may be valid, people have been snookered, conditioned to accept that it enjoys status as an academic basic. But do you remember those exercises on tests in which we had to choose which element of a group was out of place? Let us try one here: math, history, English, evolution which doesn't belong? Here some may say that it is part of science, but, again, even insofar as it may be valid, it is a specialty. It's about as relevant to the scientific studies of average schoolchildren as the origin of English is to their study of grammar, punctuation, and spelling. So, given that it has no practical application in their lives, why is there this obsession with having it in school? Because it's very practical if your goal is the promotion of a certain world view.
Then there is the sanctimony. Those who protest that a school curriculum's scope must not be limited by religious dogma will simultaneously limit it to the "secular" in the name of secular dogma. They will say that you must not place limits on where science will take you, until it takes you to the possibility that God exists. Off limits is any honest treatment of the question of what sparked life in the first place. Off limits is the interpretation of an anomaly of the natural world that a biology teacher of mine once said, with the requisite schoolhouse subtlety, pointed to the existence of a god. He was speaking of the phenomenon whereby water is the only non-metallic substance in which the solid form floats in the liquid. It impressed him so because, he averred, life could not exist were it not for the peculiarity. And even Plato would have to run afoul of the secular thought police, since he theorized that a rational god created the Universe. All these things and many other fruits of intellectual inquiry are forbidden because the line has quite tendentiously been traced around evolution and its atheological implications.
Some may say that what I've mentioned is a bit too far afield, not at all the stuff of basic school curriculum. But, as I've demonstrated, it's no less basic than evolution itself. And if evolutionists claim that integrity demands we follow intellectual inquiry wherever it takes us, why do we abandon this principle when it takes us away from evolutionary dogma? We should be just as conscientious about philosophical pursuits as scientific ones, especially when the latter tread upon and render messages about philosophical ground.
At the end of the day, though, the real issue is more fundamental than the debate over ID versus evolution. That debate is, in fact, just a front in a war. The real battle concerns truth versus agendas. We are blinded by terminology, such as "religious" and "secular" (which wasn't first recorded till 1846), and ascribe significance to it. Then we say that depending on how we label a thing, it may or may not enter the public sphere. But we don't ask the only relevant question: is it true? Moreover, if ideas in question really do come from God, the Creator of the Universe, if they are absolutely true, don't we have an obligation to instill them in children in school? Of course, this is where secularists will respond, "Well, you may be convinced they were born in Heaven, but not everyone agrees with you; some believe they are just man-made." But then I ask, if they are man-made just like secular ideas, why do you discriminate against them? Why do you say that ideas we happen to call "secular" may be in government schools, but those we happen to call "religious" may not be? If they're all man-made, wherein lies the difference? Besides, whether or not what "religious" or "secular" represents is man-made, the labels themselves which so many attach such importance to most certainly are.
Of course, the above perspective may be lost on "constitutional scholars" who wax Hugo Black about the First Amendment. So, while this piece hasn't directly treated the legal issues, I will make a brief statement about them. If presenting a theory indicating that life had some kind of designer without reference to identity or sect is "the establishment of religion," then presenting one indicating there was no designer is "prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Both claims are equally logical and equally ridiculous. In the final analysis, modern man's thinking hasn't evolved, but devolved. Real academic integrity consists of doggedly searching for truth, without regard for superficial labels or supercilious judges' rulings. One who does otherwise may be abiding by lexical or legal strictures, but he is in no way a thinker. He is simply a dead-end intellectual species, one that can never, ever arise from the muck and mire of its materialistic creed.
“Believers in Intelligent Design have often been scorned as being opposed to science, but science itself is showing that it is the evolutionists who are opposed to rational inquiry.”
Who’s the designer?
Here we go again...
Obviously no one you’d know.
The legion of doom shows up uninvited on way too many occasions.
Its minions have again appeared, but on this Halloween night...
NO ONE IS SAFE!!!
Scripture is far too vague on the subject to form any hard opinion. To me, the greatest act of creation would be for God to have designed the whole of creation at the moment of the big bang. Intelligent design is a lesser design option in that God had to periodically intervene.
The following are a few of my favorite quotes on Intelligent Design, dedicated to the geniuses who cannot find any “evidence” of it in nature.
This most elegant system of the sun, planets, and comets could not have arisen without the design and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being. Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727), The Principia
The scientist is possessed by the sense of universal causation ... His religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection. Albert Einstein
Overwhelmingly strong proofs of intelligent and benevolent design lie around us. ...the atheistic idea is so nonsensical that I cannot put it into words. Lord Kelvin (1824-1907)
The more I study nature, the more I am amazed at the work of the Creator. Louis Pasteur (1822-1895)
One cannot be exposed to the law and order of the universe without concluding that there must be design and purpose behind it all. ... The better we understand the universe and all it harbors, the more reason we have found to marvel at the inherent design upon which it is based. ... I endorse the presentation of alternative theories for the origin of the universe, life, and man in the science classroom. Wernher von Braun, father of the American space program
I have said for years that speculations about the origin of life lead to no useful purpose as even the simplest living system is far too complex to be understood in terms of the extremely primitive chemistry scientists have used in their attempts to explain the unexplainable that happened billions of years ago. God cannot be explained away by such naive thoughts. Ernst Chain, Nobel-laureate biochemist
So if one proceeds directly and straightforwardly in this matter, without being deflected by a fear of incurring the wrath of scientific opinion, one arrives at the conclusion that biomaterials with their amazing measure of order must be the outcome of intelligent design. ... The notion that not only the biopolymer but the operating program of a living cell could be arrived at by chance in a primordial organic soup here on the Earth is evidently nonsense of a high order. Sir Fred Hoyle, British astonomer (and self-professed atheist), from a lecture in 1982
A superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology. Sir Fred Hoyle
The Darwinian theory has become an all-purpose obstacle to thought rather than an enabler of scientific advance. Robert B. Laughlin, Nobel-laureate physicist
Much of present-day biological knowledge is ideological. A key symptom of ideological thinking is the explanation that has no implications and cannot be tested. I call such logical dead ends antitheories because they have exactly the opposite effect of real theories: they stop thinking rather than stimulate it. Evolution by natural selection, for instance, which Charles Darwin originally conceived as a great theory, has lately come to function more as an antitheory, called upon to cover up embarrassing experimental shortcomings and legitimize findings that are at best questionable and at worst not even wrong. Your protein defies the laws of mass action? Evolution did it! Your complicated mess of chemical reactions turns into a chicken? Evolution! The human brain works on logical principles no computer can emulate? Evolution is the cause! Robert B. Laughlin, Nobel-laureate physicist
The question of “who” the designer is is completely separate from the question of whether design can be or has been detected. Do you doubt that a car was designed if you never met and will never meet any of the designers? If SETI ever receives an unambiguously intelligent signal from space, will you deny an intelligent origin until we discover who it originated from? Use your brain. That’s why God gave it to you.
A big problem with Intelligent Design is that it is a dead end street. There is no way to cross examine, debate, argue or refute with the idea of design, because any designer is uncooperative with providing information.
Science works on the Cartesian principle that an experiment can be discreet. That is, an intelligent person can design an experiment to test a hypothesis, involving *only* controllable elements within the experiment. It is just as important to disallow elements outside of the experiment that may invisibly manipulate it, unless they can be accounted for as variables.
Take as example the theory that “table salt dissolves in a significantly larger quantity of fresh water”. The theory is carefully phrased to take into account just one type of salt, and one type of water, in a suitable proportion. Other factors, such as temperature, pressure, and other potential variables are ignored, because they are assumed to be “normal”.
When the table salt is added to the water, it can either dissolve or not dissolve as the two potential outcomes of the experiment. If it does something other than that, in “normal” conditions, unless an unaccounted for variable is found, something is “wrong” with the experiment.
At no time does the idea that some entity intended that salt should dissolve in water matter. It is unimportant to the closed experiment. As such it can be ignored.
The same applies to the existence of life. Substantial observational evidence exists that development happened. Whether or not it was intended to have happened does not matter, in any way, shape or form. Even speculation that it did, or not, does not matter to the final outcome of the observation.
So why is the debate happening at all? Those who argue for Intelligent Design are being disingenuous. Before Intelligent Design, they argued that the world was created in 4004 B.C., because a Protestant Irish Bishop, named Ussher, used some flawed Biblical calculation to guess that is when it happened. Then people who weren’t even part of his religion adopted it out of ignorance.
So even from the point of view of religious scholarship they were wrong. But they were so adamant in this belief that they fought against scientific principles that had nothing to do with their religion, insisting that a “literal interpretation” from another religion must be accurate. And for a time, they were politically powerful enough to enforce this ignorance.
Eventually, it became so untenable to advance this idea that they decided to rename it, and adopt pseudo-scientific reasoning to steal the credibility of scientific reasoning, and here we find ourselves today.
Does this mean that Intelligent Design didn’t happen? No. But it does mean that whether or not it did happen, it still is unscientific, and has no place, by itself or shared, being taught in a science classroom, any more than gospel singing belongs in a science classroom.
This also does not mean that the theory of evolution is correct. But as it follows the rules of science, it *does* fit in the science classroom. If it does not follow the rules of science, it does not, either. And this is not nit-picky. If it mostly follows the rules of science, it still belongs more than if it doesn’t follow the rules of science at all.
And by definition, Intelligent Design does not.
“I say this because while there are many religionists who will consider that evolution may be the vehicle through which God created life, very few evolutionists will consider that God might have created evolution.”
—Wow, from my experience that is completely backwards. Most Creationists that I’ve seen take it as religious dogma that evolution cannot be correct, and are thus less than open to its possibility. Meanwhile, not only do many evolutionists consider that God might have created evolution - that’s by far the majority position of evolutionists! Depending on what poll wants to look at, theistic evolutionists outnumber atheistic evolutionists by a factor of 3-5 to 1.
Time again to “Snap Your Finger”!!
What a load of crap. Science routinely checks for “intelligent design.” When forensic scientists test for evidence of a murder, they are testing for the “intelligent design” of a death — as opposed to an accidental cause.
Granted, the test for ID of life is more complicated, but it is based on the same basic principles.
By the way, the notion that the first living cell came to be by random chance cannot be contradicted by any scientific test. Think about it. How could any test possibly prove that the first living cell could NOT have fallen into place by random chance? It would be like proving that random winds never wrote the entire Gettysburg Address on the sands of the Saraha desert. Do you agree then that abiogenesis is unscientific?
Yeah, that’s what I thought.
Use your brain. all ID does is remove the problem 1 level.
Or admit it’s just good old fashioned Creationism, and drop the pretense.
I suggest you read the quotes I put in post #7. Do you suppose Newton, Einstein, etc. “used their brains”? Maybe you should start using yours.
“Scripture is far too vague on the subject to form any hard opinion.”
16For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Wrong. It is truly amazing how many people spend their time criticizing evolutionary theory despite lacking the most basic knoweldge: what the word evolution means.
Evolution is change in the gene pool of a population over time. It is not about where life came from.
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