Sunday, December 31, 2006

Re: how can someone who is a proponent of ID believe in common descent?


As I usually do when I receive a private message on a creation, evolution or design topic, I am posting my reply to my blog CED, minus your personal identifying information.

[Above: Michael J. Behe, Professor of Biochemistry, Lehigh University, Pennsylvania.]

----- Original Message -----
From: AN
To: Stephen E. Jones
Sent: Saturday, December 30, 2006 11:28 AM
Subject: Dear Stephen, I need your help. [...]

>I am on the hunt for the truth and I believe it is in ID. I didn't know there was so much information as there is today.

This is the "drowning in oceans of data" problem, i.e. "every year 800MB of information is produced for every person on the planet" with "information flowing through electronic channels such as the telephone, radio, television and internet," a study in 2002 estimating "that 18 exabytes of new information flowed through these channels," where "It would take 500,000 Libraries of Congress to equal five exabytes', i.e. 1.8 million Libraries of Congress - and that was in 2002!

So that is why one's personal philosophy (or worldview) is all important in deciding which information to accept or reject and of that which is accepted, weighing its relative importance.

For example, if one's personal philosophy denies that there is a God, or an Intelligent Designer (e.g. materialism = "matter is all there is" or naturalism = "nature is all there is"), then no amount of evidence for Christianity, creation or design would be sufficient.

>I have a question for you, I am hoping you can answer.

I am usually happy to answer (via my blog) questions in one message that I receive from a complete stranger, but that is all I have time for. The Internet is a big place (as that "drowning in oceans of data" article points out) and I could spend 24/7 just answering such private messages if I encouraged them - I currently have private messages from two other persons I am trying to answer.

>I am having a debate with an athiest evolutionist aquaintance who said to me the following: [...]

>>I've been reading some of Michael Behe's articals, since you have used him as a reference on several occasions.
He disagree's with many of your beliefs.
1) He believes the age of the universe (11 - 20billion years old) and the age of the earth (4.5billion years old).
2) He acknowledges many of darwins theories on evolution. He draws the line at 'irreducible complexity' as he calls it. He agrees with the 'common decent of the species, including the ancestry of the humans and the apes'.
So next time you quote Mr. Behe, keep this in mind. He disagrees with you.

Your atheist evolutionist opponent is half-right (note his move from "He disagree's with many of your beliefs" to "He disagrees with you" - period)!

Behe does indeed accept that "the universe is ... billions of years old" and "common descent (that all organisms share a common ancestor)" (as I do). He left unchanged in the 2006 Tenth Anniversary Edition of his book Darwin's Black Box what he wrote in his 1996 First Edition:

"Evolution is a controversial topic, so it is necessary to address a few basic questions at the beginning of the book. 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. 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. I greatly respect the work of my colleagues who study the development and behavior of organisms within an evolutionary framework, and I think that evolutionary biologists have contributed enormously to our understanding of the world. Although Darwin's mechanism-natural selection working on variation- might explain many things, however, I do not believe it explains molecular life. I also do not think it surprising that the new science of the very small might change the way we view the less small." (Behe, M.J., "Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution," [1996], Free Press: New York NY, 10th Anniversary Edition, 2006, pp.5-6).

So if you are a Young-Earth Creationist who believes the age of the Universe and Earth to be ~10,000 years old and the separate creations of basic kinds without actual physical descent between them, then indeed Michael Behe (and I) disagree with you on those points.

However, as I said, your atheist evolutionist opponent was only half-right that Prof. "Behe ... disagrees with you." If the issue is "the standard scientific theory" of evolution "that `human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process'" (my emphasis):

"Facing such a reality, perhaps we should not be surprised at the results of a 2001 Gallup poll confirming that 45 percent of Americans believe `God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so'; 37 percent prefer a blended belief that `human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process'; and a paltry 12 percent accept the standard scientific theory that `human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process.'" (Shermer, M.B., "The Gradual Illumination of the Mind," Scientific American, February 2002. My emphasis)

then Dr Behe has stated that his position is that "evolution occurred, but was guided by God" (my emphasis):

"[Eugenie] Scott refers to me as an intelligent design `creationist,' even though I clearly write in my book `Darwin's Black Box' (which Scott cites) that I am not a creationist and have no reason to doubt common descent. In fact, my own views fit quite comfortably with the 40% of scientists that Scott acknowledges think `evolution occurred, but was guided by God.' Where I and others run afoul of Scott and the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) is simply in arguing that intelligent design in biology is not invisible, it is empirically detectable. The biological literature is replete with statements like David DeRosier's in the journal `Cell': `More so than other motors, the flagellum resembles a machine designed by a human' [DeRosier D.J., "The Turn of the Screw: The Bacterial Flagellar Motor," Cell, Vol. 93, 1998, p.17]. Exactly why is it a thought-crime to make the case that such observations may be on to something objectively correct?" (Behe M.J., "Intelligent Design Is Not Creationism," Science, dEbate, 7 July 2000).

But this is equivalent to the second Gallup Poll option above, "that `human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process', which is regarded as a form of creationism by the Darwinist science establishment. Note that Behe is lumped by Darwinists into the category "intelligent design creationism," even though they know he accepts that "all organisms share a common ancestor"! This alone shows that common ancestry is not evolution (see further below).

So it all depends on where one personally draws the line, i.e. where one thinks the most important difference is. If you think that "creation" is only the first Gallup poll option, that "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so," and options two and three are "evolution," then you have yourself put your atheistic opponent on Dr Behe's (and my) side. In that case you have (whether you realise it or not) decided that how, and over what timeframe, God created, is more important than that God created.

But on the other hand, if you decide that the most important thing is that God created, than how He did it and how much time He took, then you, Dr Behe (and I) are on one side of the creationist divide and your atheist evolutionist opponent is on the other.

This point was made by Phillip E. Johnson, the leader of the Intelligent Design (ID) Movement, and who is an Old-Earth Creationist who does not himself accept common ancestry, that Behe is on Johnson's side, rather than on the evolutionist side, "because he says there is evidence of the need for intelligence" and "that crosses the faith/reason boundary and brings the intelligent designer into the realm of things that can be seen by evidence (i.e. science) "... instead of the realm of purely subjective belief" (my emphasis):

"Further on that, because it is such a crucial point: my colleague Michael Behe in his well-known book Darwin's Black Box says he has nothing against common ancestry; there may be common ancestry from the first bacterium up to present-day organisms (or there may not be; he accepts that as a possibility). What he says is that you need an information source to produce the irreducible complexity, and the materialist mechanism can't do that. There has to be an intelligent designer guiding the process. Is Behe a theistic evolutionist or a creationist? Is he a friend of science or an enemy of science? In these terms, the answer is that he is an enemy of science. Why? You could very easily call his view theistic evolution. What makes Behe a heretic, rather than a member of the team, is that he says there is evidence of the need for intelligence. You see, that crosses the faith/reason boundary and brings the intelligent designer into the realm of things that can be seen by evidence, that objective observers can evaluate, instead of the realm of purely subjective belief. That is why he is on my side rather than their side, whereas somebody else whose position sounds superficially the same would be clearly on the other side." (Johnson, P.E., "Evolution and the Curriculum: A Conversation with Phillip Johnson and Gregg Easterbrook," Ethics and Public Policy Center, February 2000, No. 4).

The important thing to realise is that universal common descent (i.e. that all organisms share a common ancestor) is not evolution! As I state in the title block of my blog CreationEvolutionDesign:

"I am an Australian Christian old-Earth creationist/IDist biologist who accepts common ancestry (but not evolution)."

and as per the title of one of my web pages:

"Why I (a creationist) accept common ancestry (not evolution)"

That is because, as Charles Darwin himself admitted (and as leading modern Darwinists like Richard Dawkins have confirmed), God could have supernaturally intervened "at any one stage of descent," but then it would be "not evolution at all" (my emphasis):

"Darwin ... wrote in a letter to Sir Charles Lyell, the leading geologist of his day: `If I were convinced that I required such additions to the theory of natural selection, I would reject it as rubbish...I would give nothing for the theory of Natural selection, if it requires miraculous additions at any one stage of descent.' [Darwin, C.R., Letter to C. Lyell, October 11, 1859, in Darwin, F., ed., "The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin," [1898], Basic Books: New York NY, Vol. II., 1959, reprint, pp.6-7]. This is no petty matter. In Darwin's view, the whole point of the theory of evolution by natural selection was that it provided a non-miraculous account of the existence of complex adaptations. For what it is worth, it is also the whole point of this book. For Darwin, any evolution that had to be helped over the jumps by God was not evolution at all." (Dawkins, R., "The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design," W.W Norton & Co: New York NY, 1986, pp.248-249. Emphasis original)

but "divine creation" (my emphasis)!:

"At first sight there is an important distinction to be made between what might be called 'instantaneous creation' and 'guided evolution'. Modern theologians of any sophistication have given up believing in instantaneous creation. ... many theologians ... smuggle God in by the back door: they allow him some sort of supervisory role over the course that evolution has taken, either influencing key moments in evolutionary history (especially, of course, human evolutionary history), or even meddling more comprehensively in the day-to-day events that add up to evolutionary change. ... In short, divine creation, whether instantaneous or in the form of guided evolution, joins the list of other theories we have considered in this chapter." (Dawkins, Ibid., 1986, pp.316-317).

>Now, I am trying to find anything current on what Michael Behe believes with respect to the descent of man and all I find is a news article dating 1996. I have seen a few times you mentioning his name and I wondered if you knew how I could answer to this when I can't find anything current AND how can someone who is a proponent of ID believe in common descent?

See above on Behe's position "with respect to the descent of man" now in 2006 is the same as it was in 1996.

As for "how can someone who is a proponent of ID believe in common descent" you evidently have swallowed the Darwinist propaganda that ID is merely creationism, or as one Darwinist falsely put it, "intelligent design" is "nothing more than creationism in a cheap tuxedo":

"Here in Kansas, where the fight has raged for six years, the evolution forces won a round this year when a 26-member science standards committee refused to open the teaching of evolution to contrary views, which the majority considered unscientific. Steve Abrams, leader of the state board's conservative majority, then said the board intended to change the standards anyway, as the law allows. He scheduled four days of courtroom-style hearings that will be boycotted by Kansas scientists, along with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world's largest general science organization and publisher of the journal Science. The AAAS said the hearings `will most likely serve to confuse the public.' Scientists tested several arguments at an April 21 meeting in Lawrence, playing off the state decision to spend at least $500 million to develop the bioscience industry. They predicted that a change in the curriculum would cripple state firms in the exceedingly competitive bioscience field, holding back the Kansas economy. Paleontologist Leonard Krishtalka called intelligent design `nothing more than creationism in a cheap tuxedo.' He said the adoption of new standards would hurt the University of Kansas's ability to recruit faculty and students. `There's a great deal of hesitancy. They don't see this as a nurturing academic environment for themselves or their kids,' said Krishtalka, director of the university's Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Research Center. `It is ridiculous to backtrack to the 1700s and subvert our education to superstition and religion.'" (Slevin, P., "Teachers, Scientists Vow to Fight Challenge to Evolution," Washington Post, May 5, 2005, p.A03)

But as another leader of the ID movement, William Dembski, stated publicly in 1999, "intelligent design is compatible with everything from utterly discontinuous creation" to "God seamlessly melding all organisms together into one great tree of life" (my emphasis):

"Where does intelligent design fit within the creation-evolution debate? Logically, intelligent design is compatible with everything from utterly discontinuous creation (e.g., God intervening at every conceivable point to create new species) to the most far-ranging evolution (e.g., God seamlessly melding all organisms together into one great tree of life). For intelligent design the primary question is not how organisms came to be (though, as we've just seen, this is a vital question for intelligent design) but whether organisms demonstrate clear, empirically detectable marks of being intelligently caused. In principle an evolutionary process can exhibit such `marks of intelligence' as much as any act of special creation." (Dembski, W.A., "Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 1999, pp.109-110).

because ID is only the position that some "organisms demonstrate clear, empirically detectable marks of being intelligently caused," not how that design was effected or transmitted.

Moreover, ID is based on the evidence of nature, not the Bible, and there is nothing in the `book of nature' that conflicts with "the universe is ... billions of years old" and "that all organisms share a common ancestor" (indeed quite the contrary). That conflict only arises from a particular interpretation of the Bible, which not even all Christians agree on.

And again, the very fact that Behe can be a leader of the ID movement and yet has since 1996 publicly stated that he accepts "that the universe is the billions of years old" and "common descent ... that all organisms share a common ancestor" shows that what the Darwinists mean by "creationism" is any position that denies that "God" (or an Intelligent Designer) "had no part in this process."

I suggest you read these statements listed on my blog's front page on what ID is (and is not): "Top questions on ID: Discovery Institute," "ID FAQ: Access Research Network," and "Introduction to ID: IDEA Club." You might also read these key articles about ID listed there: "Intelligent design is not creationism: Stephen Meyer," "The Intelligent Design Movement: William Dembski," "What's the Big Deal About Intelligent Design?: Dan Peterson," "The Little Engine That Could ... Undo Darwinism: Dan Peterson," and "Meeting Darwin's Wager: Tom Woodward."

>I so hope you can help me. I am not a scientists and I have done quite well with responding to this friend of mine's arguments but I am stumped with this.
>Being that I am the teacher to my children, I feel it is my duty to have answers and I would so appreciate it if you could help me with this.

You don't say how old your children are, but the issue of separate creations versus common descent is difficult even for an adult to understand. As I mentioned in a previous post, when my two children encountered evolution in high school in the late-1980s and were being conflicted with what they were learning about it in school and from their church youth group leaders, to ease their conflict and keep things simple (for me as well because I did not know much about the topic then), I told them that "even if evolution were proved to be true, it would merely be the method that God used to create." This in fact is what James H. Jauncey, an evangelical Christian and scientist (the rear cover of his book says he "holds ten earned academic degrees from some of the world's greatest universities, covering the highest levels of achievement in science, psychology, history and divinity") wrote in one of the first books on Bible/science I ever read:

"There are a great number of biologists who at least tentatively believe in evolution, but who nevertheless are active members of Christian churches and find no problem at all. The general attitude is that even if evolution were proved to be true, instead of making God unnecessary, it would merely show that this was the method God used." (Jauncey, J.H., "Science Returns to God," [1961], Zondervan: Grand Rapids MI, 1962, Second Printing, p.20)

I still think that my advice was sound, and that even YEC parents should tell their kids this ultimate fall-back position, because there is a very real danger that at high school, college or university, they may discover their teachers have more evidence and arguments for evolution than their parents or church prepared them for. Then they might give up on Christianity itself, especially if it is presented as a sharp either Christianity = YEC or evolution dilemma.

>Do you know if Micheal Behe believes in common descent (today) and if he does, how does a person be an ID and believe in common descent?
>Any help would be completely appreciated!!

See above. I hope this has helped, although it may not be the answer you hoped for!

I am sorry but I do not have the time to respond to any further questions of yours, but if you read my blog, including its archives, and other pro-ID blogs listed in my blogroll on its front page, most of your questions either have been answered , or will be answered over time.

>Thank you and hope you have a blessed CHRISTmas!!!

Thanks and (a belated) the same to you!

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).

Genesis 39:1-5. 1Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh's officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there. 2The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. 3When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, 4Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. 5From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the LORD blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the LORD was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field.

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