EVOLUTION WARSThis is a form of the fallacy of false alternative (or false dilemma), in that it implies that the only alternatives that can be taught "in science class" are either evolution or creation by "God" and therefore "intelligent design" (ID) must be the latter. But clearly the question, "is there empirically detectable evidence of intelligent design in nature?" is separate from the question, "who is the designer?" For example, if the evidence shows that the minimal self-replicating cell was too complex to be plausibly explained by unintelligent natural processes, then design can be reliably inferred without needing to uniquely identify who the designer was.
The push to teach "intelligent design" raises a question: Does God have a place in science class?
This is no mere hypothetical example. Recently one of the world's leading atheists, British philosophy professor Antony Flew, author of a book "Darwinian Evolution" (1984), came to that very conclusion, based on the scientific evidence, and citing arguments of intelligent design theorists, that the complexity of the first self-replicating organism was so great, that unintelligent natural processes were inadequate to produce it from non-living chemicals, so it must have been created by God:
"A British philosophy professor who has been a leading champion of atheism for more than a half-century has changed his mind. He now believes in God -- more or less -- based on scientific evidence, and says so on a video released Thursday. At age 81, after decades of insisting belief is a mistake, Antony Flew has concluded that some sort of intelligence or first cause must have created the universe. A super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature, Flew said in a telephone interview from England. Flew said he's best labeled a deist like Thomas Jefferson, whose God was not actively involved in people's lives. "I'm thinking of a God very different from the God of the Christian and far and away from the God of Islam, because both are depicted as omnipotent Oriental despots, cosmic Saddam Husseins," he said. "It could be a person in the sense of a being that has intelligence and a purpose, I suppose." … Over the years, Flew proclaimed the lack of evidence for God while teaching at Oxford, Aberdeen, Keele, and Reading universities in Britain, in visits to numerous U.S. and Canadian campuses and in books, articles, lectures and debates. There was no one moment of change but a gradual conclusion over recent months for Flew, a spry man who still does not believe in an afterlife. Yet biologists' investigation of DNA "has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), that intelligence must have been involved," Flew says in the new video, "Has Science Discovered God?" … The first hint of Flew's turn was a letter to the August-September issue of Britain's Philosophy Now magazine. "It has become inordinately difficult even to begin to think about constructing a naturalistic theory of the evolution of that first reproducing organism," he wrote. … Flew told The Associated Press his current ideas have some similarity with American "intelligent design" theorists, who see evidence for a guiding force in the construction of the universe." (Ostling R.N.,"One of the world's leading atheists now believes in God, more or less,"San Francisco Chronicle/Associated Press, December 9, 2004)But note that while Flew concludes from the scientific evidence of nature that there is design, he assumes that the designer was the deistic God of Thomas Jefferson, whereas a Christian IDist like me assumes (but cannot prove-from the evidence of nature alone) that the designer was the "God of the Christian" and a Muslim would assume that the designer was "the God of Islam." In fact there are IDists who are not even theists, like the agnostic Michael Denton, who regards design as an intrinsic teleological property of the laws of nature, and explicitly rejects the designer being a supernatural creator:
"Because this book presents a teleological interpretation of the cosmos which has obvious theological implications, it is important to emphasize at the outset that the argument presented here is entirely consistent with the basic naturalistic assumption of modern science-that the cosmos is a seamless unity which can be comprehended ultimately in its entirety by human reason and in which all phenomena, including life and evolution and the origin of man, are ultimately explicable in terms of natural processes. is an assumption which is entirely opposed to that of the so- called `special creationist school.' According to special creationism, living organisms are not natural forms, whose origin and design were built into the laws of nature from the beginning, but rather contingent forms analogous in essence to human artifacts, the result of a series of supernatural acts, involving God's direct intervention in the course of nature, each of which involved the suspension of natural law. Contrary to the creationist position, the whole argument presented here is critically dependent on the presumption of the unbroken continuity of the organic world-that is, on the reality of organic evolution and on the presumption that all living organisms on earth are natural forms in the profoundest sense of the word, no less natural than salt crystals, atoms, waterfalls, or galaxies. In large measure, therefore, the teleological argument presented here and the special creationist worldview are mutually exclusive accounts of the world. In the last analysis, evidence for one is evidence against the other. Put simply, the more convincing is the evidence for believing that the world is prefabricated to the end of life, that the design is built into the laws of nature, the less credible becomes the special creationist worldview." (Denton M.J., "Nature's Destiny: How the Laws of Biology Reveal Purpose in the Universe," Free Press: New York NY, 1998, pp.xvii-xviii. Emphasis in original).It is hard to believe that the top-flight journalists and editors of TIME would not be aware of ID's distinction between the evidence of design in nature and the identity of the designer, the former being ID's primary focus with the later being left to philosophy and theology. Especially since (as we shall see) their own articles in this very issue make that point!
[Continued in part #2]
Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol)
Problems of Evolution"