Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Re: according to ID theory is the Designer involved only in the formation of these microscopic structures, or the entire biological world? #1


Thanks for your message. As is my usual practice when I receive a private message on Intelligent Design (ID), I am replying via my blog CED, minus your personal details.

[Above: "Darwin's Black Box" (Tenth Anniversary Edition, 2006), Amazon.com]

----- Original Message -----
From: AN
To: Stephen E. Jones
Sent: Sunday, January 07, 2007 9:32 PM
Subject: request

>Dear Prof. Jones,

Thank you, but I am just plain Mr. Jones, BSc. (Biology).

>I read some of your articles, and am slightly familiar with Behe's book.

I presume this means you have not actually read Prof. Michael Behe's book, "Darwin's Black Box"? If that is the case, and since you claim (see part #2) to be a "Prof. of biology and philosophy," may I suggest that by your own standards of academia, if you are serious about wanting to understand ID, you should read the ID primary sources for yourself, and not rely on secondary sources, including me.

Indeed, "Behe's book" would be as good a place as any to start, especially the latest 2006 "Tenth-Anniversary Edition with an all-new afterword in which Behe explains that the complexity discovered by microbiologists has dramatically increased since the book was first published -- and that the evolutionists have had no success in explaining it."

>I admit of being a "Darwinian Evoulutionist", but regard myself as having an open mind, and ready to change it, in light of convincing evidence.

The problem is what to a "Darwinian Evolutionist" would be "convincing evidence"? In the more than a decade (1994-2005) I debated Darwinian Evolutionists on the Internet, they would say "there is no evidence for design" (or words to that effect), and I would then ask them, "what evidence for design would you accept"? For every one of them, it turned out that either: 1) for some there was no evidence for design that they would accept; or 2) for others they would only accept evidence for design if the Designer appeared to them! The bottom line is that not one "Darwinian Evolutionist" I have ever encountered was prepared to state in advance what evidence for design in nature they would accept. So their claim that "there is no evidence for design" was really, "I would never accept any evidence for design"!

If I was still debating, I would ask you the same question, but I am not, so I will leave it up to you to ask yourself, "what `convincing evidence' for design would you accept for design in nature"? If you truly have "an open mind" your answer would include some items of evidence, which you could then go to the ID literature and see if it provides that evidence, and if it did then you would accept ID. However, if the answer to the question is "none," then you would not have "an open mind" on design and therefore it would be meaningless you asking me, or anyone, for "convincing evidence" for ID.

Note that if you accepted ID, you could still be a "Darwinian Evoulutionist", in some sense. For example, former leading atheist Professor Antony Flew, author of a book, "Darwinian Evolution" (1991) has, "based on scientific evidence" (specifically mentioning "American `intelligent design' theorists, who see evidence for a guiding force in the construction of the universe"), that there is a God who created the Universe and first life, yet "He accepts Darwinian evolution but doubts it can explain the ultimate origins of life":

"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. ...,' 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. ... if his belief upsets people, well `that's too bad,' Flew said. `My whole life has been guided by the principle of Plato's Socrates: Follow the evidence, wherever it leads.' ... 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. He accepts Darwinian evolution but doubts it can explain the ultimate origins of life." (Ostling, R.N., "Atheist Philosopher, 81, Now Believes in God," Livescience/Associated Press, 10 December 2004)

>Now, as far as I know ID is mainly based on the existence of enormous complexity in the microscopic and sub-microscopic realm.

Correct. ID's primary focus is on the origin of life and the "enormous complexity in the microscopic and sub-microscopic realm" (i.e. biochemistry, molecular biology and cell biology), because that is the area where "Darwinian Evoulutionist" explanations have the most problems, bearing in mind that Darwinian `blind watchmaker' evolution claims to be the area of science which decisively defeated the argument from design (it didn't actually - see below).

A good example is Behe himself. As a Roman Catholic (the official position of which has long been Theistic Evolution), Behe was "taught ... in parochial school ... that the evidence for Darwinian evolution by natural selection was ultra strong" but as a scientist who "worked as a postdoctoral researcher investigating aspects of DNA structure", when he and another Roman Catholic scientist in the same lab asked one day, "what would you need to get the first cell?" they both realised, based on the scientific evidence, that "the notion ...that undirected physical laws started life" was "preposterous because of the many complicated preconditions necessary just to get things underway":

"One slow afternoon in the late 1970s I was hanging out in my lab at the National Institutes of Health near Washington, D.C., where I worked as a postdoctoral researcher investigating aspects of DNA structure. A fellow postdoc, Joanne Nickol, and I were chewing the fat about the big questions: God, life, the universe-that sort of thing. She and I were both Roman Catholics (Joanne's brother was a priest) and so had the same general attitude toward many topics. That included an easy acceptance of the idea of evolution, that life unfolded over a long time under the governance of secondary causes, natural laws. Unlike some Protestant friends of mine who seemed obsessed by it, we Catholics were always cool about evolution, because we knew that God could make life any way he wanted to, including indirectly. Who were we to tell him differently? The critical point was that God was the Creator of life, no matter how he went about it. The course of Joanne's and my conversation in the lab hit a little snag. Because we were taught biology well in parochial school, we both knew that the evidence for Darwinian evolution by natural selection was ultra strong. But when the topic turned to the origin of life she asked, `Well, what would you need to get the first cell?' `You'd need a membrane for sure,' said I. `And metabolism.' `Can't do without a genetic code,' said she, `and proteins.' At that point we stopped, looked at each other and, in unison, hollered `Naaaahh!' Then we laughed and went back to work. From a distance of years I notice three things about my conversation with Joanne (who died about a decade ago). The first is that the notion, widely accepted among scientists, that undirected physical laws started life, struck both of us-both well-trained young scientists who would be happy to accept it-as preposterous because of the many complicated preconditions necessary just to get things underway. Second, we apparently hadn't given it much thought before then. And third, we both just shrugged it off and went back to work. I suppose we were thinking that even if we didn't know how life started by natural processes, surely somebody must know. Or that somebody would figure it out before long. Or eventually. Or that it wasn't important. Or something." (Behe, M.J., "From Muttering to Mayhem: How Phillip Johnson Got Me Moving," in Dembski, W.A., ed., "Darwin's Nemesis: Phillip Johnson and the Intelligent Design Movement," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 2000, pp.40-41. Emphasis original).

>However it is not clear to me whether according to ID theory, the Designer is involved only in the formation of these structures , or whether the entire biological world (including of course ourselfes) is the result of his (hers, it, or whatever) activity.

First, ID's focus is not on "the Designer" but the design. As you yourself indicated, the design could be "the result of his (hers, it, or whatever) activity". That is, ID does not seek to identify the Designer, regarding that as the domain of "philosophy and theology":

"The scientific community contains many excellent scientists who think that there is something beyond nature, and many excellent scientists who do not. How then will science `officially' treat the question of the identity of the designer? Will biochemistry textbooks have to be written with explicit statements that `God did it'? No. The question of the identity of the designer will simply be ignored by science. The history of science is replete with examples of basic-but-difficult questions being put on the back burner. For example, Newton declined to explain what caused gravity, Darwin offered no explanation for the origin of vision or life, Maxwell refused to specify a medium for light waves once the ether was debunked, and cosmologists in general have ignored the question of what caused the Big Bang. Although the fact of design is easily seen in the biochemistry of the cell, identifying the designer by scientific methods might be extremely difficult. In the same way, Newton could easily observe gravity, but specifying its cause lay centuries in the future. When a question is too difficult for science to deal with immediately, it is happily forgotten while other, more accessible questions are investigated. If philosophy and theology want to take a crack at the question in the meantime, we scientists should wish them well, but reserve the right to jump back into the conversation when science has something more to add." (Behe, M.J., "Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution," [1996], Free Press: New York NY, Tenth Anniversary Edition, 2006, p.251).

Second, in its most basic, as Behe testified in the Dover Case, "Intelligent design is a scientific theory that proposes that some aspects of life are best explained as the result of design" (my emphasis):

"Q.[Mr Muise] Sir, what is intelligent design? A.[Prof. Behe] Intelligent design is a scientific theory that proposes that some aspects of life are best explained as the result of design, and that the strong appearance of design in life is real and not just apparent. Q. Now Dr. Miller defined intelligent design as follows: Quote, Intelligent design is the proposition that some aspects of living things are too complex to have been evolved and, therefore, must have been produced by an outside creative force acting outside the laws of nature, end quote. Is that an accurate definition? A. No, it's a mischaracterization. Q. Why is that? A. For two reasons. One is, understandable, that Professor Miller is viewing intelligent design from the perspective of his own views and sees it simply as an attack on Darwinian theory. And it is not that. It is a positive explanation. And the second mischaracterization is that, intelligent design is a scientific theory. Creationism is a religious, theological idea. And that intelligent design is -- relies rather on empirical and physical and observable evidence plus logical inferences for its entire argument. Q. Is intelligent design based on any religious beliefs or convictions? A. No, it isn't. Q. What is it based on? A. It is based entirely on observable, empirical, physical evidence from nature plus logical inferences." (Behe, M.J., "Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al.," Transcript, October 17, 2005, morning session).

By "design" is meant the result of "intelligent" as opposed to unintelligent (or "undirected natural") cause:

"What then is Intelligent Design? Intelligent Design begins with the observation that intelligent causes can do things which undirected natural causes cannot. Undirected natural causes can place scrabble pieces on a board, but cannot arrange the pieces as meaningful words or sentences. To obtain a meaningful arrangement requires an intelligent cause. This intuition, that there is a fundamental distinction between undirected natural causes on the one hand and intelligent causes on the other, has underlain the design arguments of past centuries. ... What has emerged is a new program for scientific research known as Intelligent Design. Within biology, Intelligent Design is a theory of biological origins and development. Its fundamental claim is that intelligent causes are necessary to explain the complex, information-rich structures of biology, and that these causes are empirically detectable. To say intelligent causes are empirically detectable is to say there exist well-defined methods that, on the basis of observational features of the world, are capable of reliably distinguishing intelligent causes from undirected natural causes. Many special sciences have already developed such methods for drawing this distinction-notably forensic science, cryptography, archeology, and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (as in the movie Contact)." (Dembski W.A., "The Intelligent Design Movement," Reprinted from Cosmic Pursuit, Spring 1998. Access Research Network, November 15, 1998).

Therefore ID need not (and in fact does not) claim that "the entire biological world" is the result of "intelligent" as opposed to "undirected natural causes". Clearly there are "undirected natural causes" in "the ... biological world", in the sense of unintelligent processes that operate automatically. Not even the strictest Christian creationist would deny that, because in the New Testament Jesus Himself said:

Mark 4:28 "All by itself the soil produces grain--first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head."

where in the Greek original the word rendered "all by itself" is automatos which my Parsons Bible Dictionary program says means "self-moved", automatic", "spontaneous," of own accord, of self."

Which is not to say that the products of "undirected natural causes" are not designed in a different, broader sense than what ID means by "design". ID theorist William Dembski used the analogy of "an oil painting ... painted on a canvas" in which "the canvas is designed" and the "configuration of paint on the canvas is designed" but in different senses or levels of "design." By analogy this then corresponds to, "The universe is a canvas on which is depicted natural history," and "One can ask whether that canvas itself is designed" or "On the other hand, one can ask whether features of natural history depicted on that canvas are designed":

"In its treatment of design, this book focuses not so much on whether the universe as a whole is designed but on whether we are able to detect design within an already given universe. The universe provides a well-defined causal backdrop (physicists these days think of it as a field characterized by field equations). Although one can ask whether that causal backdrop is itself designed, one can as well ask whether events and objects occurring within that backdrop are designed. At issue here are two types of design: (1) the design of the universe as a whole and (2) instances of design within the universe. An analogy illustrates the difference. Consider an oil painting. An oil painting is typically painted on a canvas. One can therefore ask whether the canvas is designed. Alternatively one can ask whether some configuration of paint on the canvas is designed. The design of the canvas corresponds to the design of the universe as a whole. The design of some configuration of paint corresponds to an instance of design within the universe. Though not perfect, this analogy is useful. The universe is a canvas on which is depicted natural history. One can ask whether that canvas itself is designed. On the other hand, one can ask whether features of natural history depicted on that canvas are designed. In biology, for instance, one can ask whether Michael Behe's irreducibly complex biochemical machines are designed. Although design remains an important issue in cosmology, the focus of the intelligent design movement is on biology. That's where the action is. It was Darwin's expulsion of design from biology that made possible the triumph of naturalism in Western culture. So, too, it will be intelligent design's reinstatement of design within biology that will be the undoing of naturalism in Western culture." (Dembski, W.A., "Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 1999, pp.13-14)

Continued in part #2

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).

Genesis 41:53-57. 53The seven years of abundance in Egypt came to an end, 54and the seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had said. There was famine in all the other lands, but in the whole land of Egypt there was food. 55When all Egypt began to feel the famine, the people cried to Pharaoh for food. Then Pharaoh told all the Egyptians, "Go to Joseph and do what he tells you." 56When the famine had spread over the whole country, Joseph opened the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe throughout Egypt. 57And all the countries came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe in all the world.


Anonymous said...

re: bonobos:
mentions your post.
It's interesting what you say and I hope that more funding can be raised to preserve the endangered species because a). they are a an endangered species; and b). there is the possibility that they are more capable of language skills and other cognitive processes than some people have so far been convinced. Would you like to see the endangered bonobo species assisted also? Looking after the garden and caring for the animals is probably a christian thing to do.

Stephen E. Jones said...


Your comment is off-topic under this post. I am responding to it under my post, "`Did anyone look to see who Stephen E Jones was ...", that mentions (in passing) bonobos not communicating in human language[http://tinyurl.com/yv5zbe].

Stephen E. Jones