Comments: Saturday reading


You might have identified the author of ID piece Stephen C Meyer as a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute in Seattle, as the Telegraph did.

This is the same group that greased the way for the Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna's oped piece in the NYTimes last year.

Posted by Chip Chillington at Saturday, 28 January 2006 at 2:39pm GMT

I had been unaware of the NYT piece Chip mentions or indeed of the Discovery Institute in Seattle and know next to nothing about pertinent US court battles so maybe I am missing something but Stephen C Meyer's basic thesis ("Intelligent design is not creationism") makes sense to me, especially as elucidated by Keith Ward.

Posted by Thomas Renz at Saturday, 28 January 2006 at 7:59pm GMT

Thanks for the heads-up, Chip - I've looked up the Discovery Institute and there's terrific stuff there. Along with Behe's essays on irreducible complexity and the discernment of design, I see that William Dembski has produced a lot of work on probability theory and the algorithms relating to chance, while Phillip Johnson has subjected Neo-Darwinism to a large number of questions.
I am struck by the way the last years of the 20th century have treated the three great 'masters of suspicion' of the 19th century and architects of modernist thought: Marx, Freud and Darwin. Marx and Freud are well and truly dumped now; I wonder if we are seeing the same now with Darwin. He won't go quietly (too much is invested in the creed of materialism), but just as relativity theory supplanted Newton in sub-atomic physics, might it be that flagellar motors and the (apparent) impossibility of demonstrating abiogenesis will cause even skeptical minds to think again? Even Crick, hardened atheist that he was, was drawn to the rather dippy idea of 'panspermia' when he did his sums about the age of life on earth.

Posted by Peter Bergman at Sunday, 29 January 2006 at 3:21pm GMT

Depending on your point of view,the Discovery Institute is either the centre of the creationist conspiracy or a beacon of light in a dark scientific environment. What amazes me however in the current debate is the lack of clarity coming from the scientific establishment - in many of the articles on the subject there is little by way of rational argument being put forward against ID and often the discussion turns into an anti-religious diatribe. Where arguments are made against ID, usually on biological issues, I, as a physical scientist, simply don't find them very convincing. That being said, I think the proponents of ID largely ignore what is to me the most telling evidence of design. John Polkinghorne draws attention to the precise fine tuning of the various physical constants that define the universe. He goes on from there to argue that this either implies the existence of an infinite number of universes, or some external design. On the balance of probabilities he goes for the latter. I would think that those who advance the ID argument would do well to focus more on this sort of issue myself - although I may be saying this just because I don't understand biology!

Posted by Chris Baker at Sunday, 29 January 2006 at 8:43pm GMT

Chris, I am not sure you are fair to proponents of ID with your reference to 'fine tuning' and the anthropic argument. Mathematicians like Dembski do in fact invoke this, aware that it is a probabilistic argument in which the likelihood of this world existing by chance is asymptotically zero. Mainly, however, Dembski applies his algorithms to the assumption that purely chance combinations of molecules could, within the time frame available, come together to produce even the simplest cell. The fact remains that life has never been synthesized from non-living materials, and neither has Polkinghorne (a physicist, not a biologist) answered this. But abiogenesis, along with natural selection, is an essential plank of the materialist worldview. Interestingly, the proponents of ID are not all opposed to evolution and many of them are Roman Catholics, not the evangelical bogeymen the NY Times warn us about.

Posted by Peter Bergman at Monday, 30 January 2006 at 6:51am GMT

Peter - point taken - it's just that I find Polkinghorne's approach more accessible than the biological approach, which seems to me which is the focus of most of the discussion. I agree with your comments concerning the ID proponents approach to evolution - many of them would regard it as a proven agent of change. There has been much misrepresentation of them in the ongoing arguments - even down to which church they belong to. Evangelical bogeymen are so much more attractive to the press than Roman Catholic bogeymen!

Posted by Chris Baker at Monday, 30 January 2006 at 11:25am GMT

I'm simply astonished. ID is NOT science, and it is clearly creationism by another name. It proposes no testable hypotheses and is simply a statement of belief. It misrepresents evolutionary science to propose a deity as the only explanation for the world as we know it. It does NOT support evolution.

Yet evolutionary theory is not incompatible with a deity. Many many scientists of all faiths and denominations are perfectly comfortable with evolution (and almost none of them support the lunatics at the DI). ID is not simply about stating a belief in God as a creator. You are misled if you think so.

I can observe evolutionary patterns and be perfectly comfortable that what SJ Gould called the tape of life unwound in this way for reasons of chance. You may see a Hand involved giving a push in this direction. That a Hand need not be involved in no way negates a believer from assuming one.

Which is one reason nearly all biologists are opposed to ID.

I suggest you read the judgement from the case in Pennsylvania for a lesson on the subject-- here, for example.

Posted by IT at Wednesday, 1 February 2006 at 1:37am GMT

I must warn you that this creationist nonsense is practically unknown in Sweden. Some calvinist free churches do it. Most others have never heard of it.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Wednesday, 1 February 2006 at 8:58am GMT

"I must warn you that this creationist nonsense is practically unknown in Sweden. Some calvinist free churches do it. Most others have never heard of it." Göran Koch-Swahne

It's raining Calvinists over at SydneyAnglicans. These people are actually seriously studying Jonathan Edwards

Posted by Kurt at Wednesday, 1 February 2006 at 5:48pm GMT

I wonder if 'IT' has ever read Dembski, Behe and Johnson or knows anything about molecular biochemistry, algorithms of probability with regard to 'design inference' or the concept of 'irreducible complexity'. It was the 'lunatic' Dembski who convinced the atheist Anthony Flew to believe in God.
I haven't read the court ruling 'IT' linked. But courts are about the law, not necessarily the truth. I recall that the US Supreme Court in 'Dredd Scott' ruled that Negroes were not persons but the property of their masters.

Goran Koch-Swahne: perhaps modern Sweden is a monocultural ghetto. Some Swedes need to get out more! :)

Posted by Peter Bergman at Thursday, 2 February 2006 at 7:36am GMT
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