Science, Assumptions and Intelligent Design Part 4: The Distinctions (b)

One final point for my comparison of YEC Views with Evolutionary ones, and then I will start wrapping this series up.

Natural selection

Most young earth creationists as well as evolutionists assume natural selection, though they understand it through different means. Young earth Creationists assume the original kinds had a large degree of adaptability that was lost over time due to Speciation (the development of new species) and the result are a number of animals closely related to other animals on other continents. This explains the relative ease of breeding Camels with Llamas for example, despite the fact that, according to evolutionists they must have branched off thousands of years ago.

But while young earth creationists accept natural selection, we aren’t committed to it, Evolutionists are. And because Natural selection is so central to their system, they need to demonstrate it, they haven’t. Survival of the fittest is an interesting axiom, but for the evolutionist to use this as the criteria for understanding the entire diversity of life on the planet, they must of necessity demonstrate it scientifically (or admit their theory really isn’t science). Currently one will find a lot of evolutionists who will say natural selection is self evident – this is a fancy way of saying “we know it isn’t true even if we can’t prove it.”

As a hypothesis, natural selection has no proven predictive power, that is evolutionists have not been able to successfully make predictions based on its assumptions. It would be easy for science to degenerate into an exercise in a logical fallacy known as proving the consequent – in fact, when people say evolution has been proven, they seem to be falling precisely into this error (since technically the scientific method cannot prove anything, it can only falsify it).


There are further statements I could make, I will leave discussions of Flood Geology to the experts at the ICR (institute of Creation Research) while I find their work on the Rate project to be highly valuable, I will let those who are experts explain their findings, they can field criticisms and questions of their theories more aptly than I. Instead, I will stick with the presuppositions, with my training in theology it fits my own area of strengths. To review my case for Young Earth Creationism I will state it here. I could also discuss the evidence that the evolutionists tend to get their metaphysics confused with their science, which I have done in the past, and will do again, but that is for another day.

Science, Assumptions and Intelligent Design Part 4: The Distinctions (a)

Last time I noted that the Intelligent design movement is a refinement of the teleological argument for God. Behe as I noted, for example, argues not against evolution, but against atheistic evolution. The case I made in my recent pamphlet is that Christians should refute evolution itself on the grounds that it requires one to accept assumptions that the resurrection of Christ disproves. One can accept both intelligent design implications and young earth creationism, one can accept intelligent design implications and theistic evolution, but the two are different.

But that raises the question of how evolutionary theory and young earth creationism differ. All are ultimately not scientific arguments, though all use scientific data, these are ultimately philosophical/theological ones. As even Dennett seems to agree when he refers to Darwin’s theory as the universal acid; Richard Dawkins is famous for noting that Darwinism made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist (though I think he fails to realize that what Darwin has given, Nietsche has taken away), thus while they think of Darwin in biological terms, both seem to accept it as a more universal philosophy (which is rather scary when one considers the destruction caused by “social Darwinism”). IN fact, Dawkins has attempted (unsuccessfully) to develop an epistemology based on genetics and darwinian assumptions (his concept of memes), similar things are true of Hegel and Marx, both of whom were extensively influenced by evolution as an epistemological concept. Even today in cosmology many materialists have an almost darwinistic view of the universe’s origin due to the problems created by the fact that even their theories of the universe indicate it had a beginning, which is a serious problem for naturalism in general. In fact, Evolutionists and Christians are not working from different facts, but they are using different organizing principles of these facts. Bear in mind this is not my area of expertise, I know people that can provide more precise details, and what I am about to note is not comprehensive, it is however a starting point.

Stasis and Change
Many times, at least in popular sources, a university level discussion of evolution is compared to a second grade Sunday School discussion of creationism. Often one hears evolutions say that change occurs – and young earth Creationists do not disagree. Young Earth Creationists believe that species have changed, and that there are more species today than during the time of the flood or creation, I recently noticed at the Creation Museum a note that only about 1000 kinds were present on the Ark, I do not know how they arrived at this number, but this means young earth creationists have a very different view of the problems surrounding the flood that old earthers or evolutionists.

The Direction of change
More to the point, many creationists (myself included) view changes within the animal kingdom as negative or in terms of information being lost through natural selection. Many times when I was younger, I heard evolutionists describe genetic changes in terms of scribal errors – I know something about scribal errors from my studies of New Testament criticism, and happen to know that when changes occur in a manuscript unintentionally, those changes are less likely to change the meaning of a text, the real difficulty when it comes to scribal errors, the ones that change meaning are most typically related intentional changes – a scribe assumes that his exemplar is in error so makes an alteration to that text. Similarly, with genetics, mutations in nature don’t seem to lead to new information, they tend to lead to cancer and death, this is one of the factors that led to the non-Darwinian version of evolution known as “the Hopeful Monster” theory.

Genetics are proving to be vastly more complicated than was thought when I was in school. Embryological studies alone are demonstrating that the structure of an embryo for example are not coded in the genome, and they are now finding new ways that genes encode information, but all of this makes the most sense if there was at some point Someone intelligently “wrote the code” and if the code was written by an intelligent designer, it would make sense that changes would still be degenerative rather than progressive as evolution demands.

We will come back to this point soon. Unfortunately, I’m adjusting to third shift, and I apologize for any delays in my columns.

Science, Assumptions and Intelligent Design Part 3: Signs of Intelligence

My wife and I are five year members of the Creation Museum, and every couple of months we go over there to spend a Sunday afternoon. Usually we start our journey through the museum together, but almost invariably we get separated by my slow, plodding pace – it usually takes me two or three trips to go through the entire place (I invariably meet up with Mandy in the bookstore). Yesterday was a little different, however, because they have added an enhanced audio tour, with Ken Ham pointing out details I had never noticed before, and delightedly I took my first summary tour (viewing the entire museum as a whole) in one trip. One of the center rooms of the Museum, before entering the garden of Eden, is a circular chamber with videos discussing the evidence for design – and then we move through a presentation of young earth Creationism’s view of how we got to our present state.

I ended my last article by noting that Intelligent design was not an argument against, evolution, it was an argument for the existence of God. Actually, what we today call intelligent design was more commonly known as the “teleological argument for God,” and goes back at least to Plato, who argued from the motion of the planets that there must be a designer.

The name most often associated, however, with the teleological argument for God is William Paley, who raised his famous watchmaker argument – if he had never seen a watch, and discovered one while walking in a field, even if it were broken it would be obvious that someone had designed it. Paley’s argument was raised to counter the skepticism of David Hume. The “intelligent design movement” is in many senses a more modern version, Michael Behe (a microbiologist who made the argument that cellular organelles are machines that are “irreducibly complex” and notes both the strengths and weaknesses of Paley’s arguments) brought the arugment to the Public in his book, Darwin’s Black Box. It is in many ways a restatement of the case in philosophical terms and are written to counter atheistic evolution (though Behe himself openly admits he generally accepts theistic evolution). Another line of argument used in discussing intelligent design is the argument from cosmic fine tuning – if the universal constants are altered slightly, any universe with the same natural laws as our universe would not be able to support or sustain life, and others have raised arguments based on the uniqueness of the Earth for supporting life.

The intelligent design movement as a refinement of the teleological argument is therefore invaluable and sound. Dembski has refined a definition of design that means the argument is no longer solely an argument from analogy.

The intelligent design argument (and the teleological argument in general) is not of course universally accepted, though the argument has convinced one of the twentieth centuries most ardent atheists, Anthony Flew, to become a Deist. Evolutionists have issued “rescuing devices”[1] to maintain the theory of atheistic evolution, these are not based on observations and many atheists will note that microbiology is a young science. Intelligent design also cannot answer advocates of Panspermia – the idea that life was directed by extra-terrestrial intelligences.

Conclusions about Intelligent design

I generally find many of the classical deductive and inductive arguments for God (in their modern forms) cogent and sound. [2] The reason I have not raised them in the past is because they are somewhat specialized (I would not raise the cosmological argument from sufficient reason without a dozen reference works at hand) and taken in isolation other explanations than God could be hypothesized (though I believe when taken as a group, it is difficult to argue God does not exist. That is, the cosmological argument points to a cause of the universe, the moral argument points to a cause for morality, and the teleological argument points to a designing intelligence, the three taken together strongly indicate that God exists).

Intelligent Design then is an important argument to God’s existence and creating hand. However the intelligent design movement is not unified, and from a Christian perspective often makes the key concession to naturalism.

Next time then, we will discuss Young Earth Creationism and how intelligent design fits into that context.

            [1] Some have argued that intermediate structures could explain irreducible complexity, though Behe has answered this in an updated version of Darwin’s black box, and these concerns are not based on evidence but on a previous commitment to naturalism,. Various multiverse theories have been used to counter the teleological argument, though these are clearly metaphysically motivated as Vilkillen, one of their advocates himself has conceded.

[2] By this I mean the I accept Geisler’s revision of the Thomistic Cosmological argument, Geisler’s version of the Kalam Cosmological argument, the Cosmological argument from  sufficient reason, the argument from moral objectivity and the teleological argument.

I don’t use any version of the Ontological argument.

Science, Assumptions and Intelligent Design Part 2: Philosophy, Evolution and Religion

A few years ago, a scientist made the argument that the gaps in the fossil record were fatal to Neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory. You might immediately think he must have been a young earth Creationist, after all, that was the hallmark of Christian discussions on evolution for decades before the intelligent design movement began. You would be wrong, it was Stephen Jay Gould, who put forward a new type of evolutionary theory, punctuated equilibrium (or more properly punctuated equilibria).

Gould’s theory of punctuated equilibrium has sometimes been discussed in terms of Marxist revolutionary thought, that is, Gould’s theory is based on a philosophy. This would seem to be an unusual thing for a scientist, but then, similar things are true of evolution as a whole. A few years ago, during some questions on “equal time” for creationism and evolution I noticed that a number of those supporting the current status quo (evolution being taught with no mention of other theories) began their interviews by saying science had disproven miracles, upon which they did not elaborate. (As I’ve noted before, though science can no more disprove miracles than one can deny the existence of verbs on the basis of mathematics). Arguments about miracles are ultimately philosophical, and I believe they were referring to David Hume’s argument against miracles. This ultimately is the major question: can miracles happen?

Scientists might easily rebut that the miraculous is not testable, and this would be a true statement as far as it goes, but this neither argues that miracles do or do not occur. Belief in miracles is not after all contrary to belief in natural law, it is rather an assumption that God is the author of both. Psalm 19 for example brilliantly illustrates nature and natural law as evidence of God’s existence.

The questions of miracles is ultimately a statement of one’s religion, as I’ve noted before, Religion is best defined as one’s beliefs about the nature of reality and man’s proper response to it. The first question, the worldview question includes the question of whether God exists (since religion is by definition a category of questions; any attempt to answer a religious question is a statement of religious belief).

In this sense, Ken Ham was precisely correct when he argued that Creation versus evolution was ultimately a question of two religious systems competing for hearts and minds. The question of evolution cannot be answered by science alone (at least, unless and until time travel is developed allowing for actual observation of events) though I would argue that evolution has a serious evidentiary problem. In this sense, evolutionists are right when they claim creation science is religion not science, my argument however, is that the same thing is true of evolutionary thought.

So if the battlefield is one of religious ideologies opposed to one another where does intelligent design fit in? Intelligent design is a philosophical argument for the existence of God (actually a series of philosophical arguments since Intelligent design writers don’t appear to be unified in some important details), it is not ultimately an answer to the question of evolution, as we will note next time.