Sunday, January 22, 2012

Evidence for God: Arguments 17-26 (Science, part 2)

See the previous two posts on this book before reading this one [1,2].

So I've now read 26 chapters (that's just over half the book) of "Evidence for God: 50 Arguments for Faith from the Bible, History, Philosophy, and Science" edited by William Dembski and Mike Licona, and I'm still fed up by all the ID nonsense. At least this now brings us to the end of the Intelligent Design section, or "Science" as the book calls it.

In this chunk of the book are the following chapters:

17. Evolutionary Computation: A perpetual motion machine for design information by Robert J Marks II
This chapter had a point to make, but I have pretty much forgotten it now. I think it was something to do with how 'evolutionary computing' software actually requires an intelligent user, and without that it wouldn't work. But I may just be making that up. It didn't offer any evidence for God anyway.

18. Science, Eugenics an Bioethics by Richard Weikart
An odd title for this chapter, in that it doesn't really talk about science or bioethics. All this sets out to say is that Eugenics is a direct descendent of Darwinism. And by implication Darwinism is bad. Again, no evidence for God.

19. Designed for discovery by Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay W. Richards
This is an odd piece of 'evidence'. The point it makes is that our planet appears to be particularly well placed for observing the universe around us. If we'd been further inside a galaxy, we'd never see out, if we'd been inside a dust cloud, we'd never see out, etc. The case being made is that the planet we live on is 'fine tuned' for observation of the universe and this implies design.

I'm not so sure. Its a very now-centric view of the state of things. Its as if the writers of the chapter are assuming that the whole reason for creation is not just humans, but humans at this point in history. We've learned more about the universe around us in the past 100 years than in the hundred centuries before that. And it won't be too many decades in the future before we are sending probes and ships to explore distant parts of the galaxy, in other words, in not too long our view of the universe won't be limited by our place in the cosmos. The authors are basically saying that God placed us here (within the universe) so that humans (at our stage in development) can investigate the universe. Sorry guys, its not all about us.

For thousands of years, the visible universe has been a mystery to humans and has actually been the source of many, if not most, of the superstitious and pagan beliefs which have rivaled the worship of the 'true God' for most of human history. By placing us here, God promoted astrology and superstition? Not sure this reasoning works.

While it may be an argument for God, I'm not sure its a very compelling one.

20. Intelligent Design: A brief introduction by William A. Dembski
So finally, after six chapters that were devoted to ID and another five or six which were linked to ID, we finally get an 'introduction' to it. This is totally out of place, but compared to the rest is quite refreshing. It says:
"As a theory of biological origins and development, ID's central claim ins that only intelligent causes can adequately explain the complex, information-rich structures of biology and that these causes are empirically detectable."
Which is fair enough. I agree that ID is a valid hypothesis. It may not be a truly scientific hypothesis (see another post I'll write soon), but it is valid. Of course, it explains nothing about how the world works now, it is purely a matter of deistic origin belief, but at present there is no good scientific explanation for the origin of life, so I don't have a problem with people believing it or defending it.

But ID is not a rival to Darwinian evolution - ID is a hypothesis about how things got started, evolution is a theory (i.e. a tested and validated hypothesis) of how things have progressed since then. Evolution theory has no origin explanation, ID has no development explanation.

The main issue I have with ID is that it is a science stopper. Science asks 'How?' ID answers 'No, the question is Who?' - even if it can be demonstrated that there was an original intelligent designer, I still want to ask "How did the designer do it?", ID doesn't seem to even want to ask that question.

21. Intelligent, optimal and Divine design by Richard Spencer
This chapter addresses the criticism of ID which basically says 'if we are designed, why are we not perfect?' and spends a few pages explaining why imperfect things may be desirable. Not an argument for God, rather a defence from attack.

22. Molecuar Biology's New Paradigm: Nanoengineering inside the cell by Bill Wilberforce
Another pointless ID chapter. Its basically the 'life is too complicated to be a product of chance' argument again. Sigh.

23. Panning God: Darwinism's Defective Argument against Bad Design by Jonathan Witt
This seems a rerun of chapter 21. It is a defence of God creating imperfect things. But this time the argument is that God made things imperfect because he wants to have to intervene and 'meddle' with his creation in order to keep it going. The problem this chapter faces is that there is simply no evidence - at all - that God's intervention is necessary to keep the universe running properly. God's intervention is assumed by certain theistic belief structures, but is not demonstrated. If anything, this chapter is evidence against God rather than for him.

24. The role of agency in science by Angus Menuge
This is another defence of ID. Does science assume that the universe works in an entirely materialistic way, or can the involvement of an 'agent' be considered as a hypothesis. Generally no agents are assumed. This chapter argues that by assuming no agents are active, science restricts itself and is therefore not truly 'scientific'.

25. The scientific status of design inferences by Bruce L. Gordon
This chapter aims to blind the non-science literate reader with science. It uses conditional probability as a smokescreen to cover up the fact that it is treading the same ground as the previous chapter.

26. The Vise Strategy: Squeezing the truth out of Darwinists by William A. Dembski
As I've said several times before on this blog, I do not believe there is any such thing as a perfect argument. That is, all arguments have holes in them, and if you pick at the holes the arguments will eventually unravel.

This chapter is not an argument for ID, but rather an unnecessarily detailed description of how to pick holes in the arguments of Darwinists, if you happen to get a chance to cross-examine a Darwinist in the witness box. In other words, its ammunition for ID proponents.

The chapter tells how to get a Darwinist to admit (a) that they don't know everything, (b) that evolution might not fit into a very tight definition of 'science', and that (c) ID might fit into a broad definition of science. That is all it sets out to do, and by doing so, this chapter thinks it proves its case. Maybe it does, but it is very annoying and makes me very angry while it does this. Aaaaargh!

I'm so annoyed that I now feel the need to address ID in a future blog post. So watch this space for details.

In the meantime, finally, the 'Science' section is over. Whew. We move on to 'Jesus' next.

I have to say that in the first 26 chapters of 'evidence' for God, there have only really been about five half-decent arguments for a deistic God, and none completely compelling. I had hoped for more. Is this really the best that Christianity has to offer in its defence?


Anonymous said...

Christianity offers Christ

Ricky Carvel said...

Indeed. But many other religions also offer salvation. They can't all be true.

Glenton Jelbert said...

I've been writing a more detailed response to this book here: