Saturday, September 21, 2013
He states that ID challenges "New Atheism" (of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens) and "Theistic Evolutionism" (of Francis Collins) ... neither of which are science. Amusingly, he goes so far as to say "the theory of intelligent design, which Collins says he opposes, does not necessarily challenge this part (common descent) of Darwinian theory" (Emphasis added). It's hard to see how you can be "scientific" and not necessarily support common descent but, hey, they're striving for nothing if not a big tent.
But let's get down to the nitty-gritty:
Unlike the theistic evolution of Francis Collins, however, the theory of intelligent design does not seek to confine the activity of such an agency to the beginning of the universe, conveying the impression of a decidedly remote and impersonal deistic entity. Nor does the theory of intelligent design merely assert the existence of a creative intelligence behind life. It identifies and detects activity of the designer of life, and does so at different points in the history of life, including the explosive show of creativity on display in the Cambrian event. The ability to detect design makes belief in an intelligent designer (or a creator, or God) not only a tenet of faith, but something to which the evidence of nature now bears witness. In short, it brings science and faith into real harmony.Because the purpose of the "science" of ID is to bring science and faith into harmony ... opps! Where have I heard that before?
Just as importantly, perhaps, the case for design supports us in our existential confrontation with the void and the seeming meaninglessness of physical existence—the sense of survival for survival's sake that follows inexorably from the materialist worldview. Richard Dawkins and other New Atheists may find it untroubling, even amusing and certainly profitable, to muse over the prospect of a universe without purpose. But for the vast majority of thoughtful people, that idea is tinged with terror. Modern life suspends many of us, so we feel, high over a chasm of despair. It provokes feelings of dizzying anxiety—in a word, vertigo. The evidence of a purposeful design behind life, on the other hand, offers the prospect of significance, wholeness, and hope.Well, so much for the claim, solely for constitutional purposes, that the "Designer" is anything other than God. After all, why would an alien or time traveler or some such offer us a "prospect of significance, wholeness, and hope"? More importantly, if you are willing to lie in order to evade the consequences of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, why should we believe you about anything else, including your criticism of evolutionary theory?
As my son walked out across the mountain high above the Yoho Valley, he was surrounded by many slabs of rock containing some of the very fossils we had come to see. But as he surveyed that barren portion of landscape, he lost perspective on where he was and what he had come to do. Without landmarks or steadying points of reference, he felt as if he were lost in a sea of sensory impressions. Without his sense of balance, he feared even to take a step. He called out for his father.Except that your stated "consummation Devoutly to be wished" gives us reason to doubt your "compelling explanation" for accepting ID, especially since the vast majority of scientists reject it.
It occurred to me only much later how closely his experience parallels our own as human beings trying to make sense of the world around us. To gain a true picture of the world and our place in it we need facts-empirical data. But we also need perspective, sometimes called wisdom, the reference points that a coherent view of the world provides. Historically, that wisdom was provided for many men and women by the traditions of Western monotheism—by our belief in God. The theory of intelligent design generates both excitement and loathing because, in addition to providing a compelling explanation of the scientific facts, it holds out the promise of help in integrating two things of supreme importance—science and faith—that have long been seen as at odds.
The theory of intelligent design is not based upon religious belief, nor does it provide a proof for the existence of God. But it does have faith-affirming implications precisely because it suggests the design we observe in the natural world is real, just as a traditional theistic view of the world would lead us to expect. Of course, that by itself is not a reason to accept the theory. But having accepted it for other reasons, it may be a reason to find it important.
If it quacks like apologetics ...
I hope Stephen isn't implying that the ID says that the designer intervened some 500 million years ago. How does Stephen know that the designer didn't preprogam the cambrian explosion (or laid it all down 666 years ago)? How does Stephen know that the purpose of the fossils of the cambrian is not to ridicule future ID supporters?
Why would anyone take comfort in that?
The Stone Age craftsman who shaped arrowheads out of shards of flint left very different signs of his handiwork from those of the designer of the silicon microchips at the heart of our computers. There is probably very little difference between them in terms of intelligence and physical skills or even separation in time but there is a vast difference in terms of knowledge, science and technology. What, then, can we possibly say about an intelligence that must be vastly older than ours, that is so unimaginably different from ours that it is capable of designing a universe and all the life in it. Why should we assume that it would leave any signs at all that we would recognize, certainly if it chose not to?
In any event, as you rightly point out, Meyer gives the whole game away when he writes:
Just as importantly, perhaps, the case for design supports us in our existential confrontation with the void and the seeming meaninglessness of physical existence—the sense of survival for survival's sake that follows inexorably from the materialist worldview. Richard Dawkins and other New Atheists may find it untroubling, even amusing and certainly profitable, to muse over the prospect of a universe without purpose. But for the vast majority of thoughtful people, that idea is tinged with terror.
In other words, Meyer admits what so many of us, both now and before, have believed, that people cling to their faiths because the alternative is intolerable. Science is attacked, not because it is wrong, although some of it undoubtedly is, but because it is perceived as a threat to the very core of what gives them a sense of worth and of purpose and of hope.
As you say, ultimately this is not about science, this is apologetics and they can never get away from that.
(Yeah, but what's he done for me lately, huh?)
I agree that the lack of a specification of the nature of intelligent designer(s) is a hole, but I would say that the "gaping hole at the center" is the lack of any specification of anything. Not just who, but also no what, when, where, how, why.
What they're saying is that there is such-and-such a puzzle about scientific explanations, and therefore there must be some non-scientific explanation, without telling us anything about non-scientific explanations.
They don't even give us an example of an explanation which doesn't involve scientific (physical, material, whatever) details.
Well, golly, I guess I'll read the book so I can find out exactly how the Designer acted and how this activity is detected. Does the author mean G...er, the Designer didn't merely go "poof!" in the Beginning but rather, "Poof...poof...poof...?"
If evidence of supernatural design were indeed detectable, then belief in the existence of God would no longer be a matter of faith. It would be merely a conclusion reached through inductive reasoning.
This would not bring "science and faith into real harmony." It would instead make faith totally dispensable.
In my opinion, this points to the true motivation behind the ID movement. The leaders of the movement are embarrassed to admit that they struggle with a lack of faith. To relieve their embarrassment, they seek to supplant their uncertainty with "scientific" arguments.
As a Christian, this situation is actually kind of sad. Through their less-than-honest behavior, ID promoters actually practice a kind of evangelism-in-reverse. By constantly emphasizing their notion of a conflict between the acceptance of evolution and faith in God, they actually turn a lot of otherwise receptive people away from Christianity.
I'm sure Ham, et al. do that a lot, particularly among young people.
The IDers are trying to avoid it by pretending that science points to God. Among people who are not very intersted in science, it probably works somewhat ... they get an impression that there is a real issue involved, pick up a talking point or two when dealing with others as uninterested as they are in science and generally feel better about the science/faith question.
Where they still fail (I hope) is among intelligent young people who aspire to more education and more from life than flipping hamburgers or being a wage slave in some (Republican engineered) dead end job.
You can see it in all the panic the religious rigtt has about sending their kids to college, incuding Meyer's own course for the Family Research Council's oxymoronic "TrueU." They want their kids to be educated enough to get good jobs, but not enough to actually think
When those intelligent kids do get educated and taught to think, they are likely to feel betrayed. That feeling of betrayal, I suspect, is a large reason for the large rise in the "Nones."