Saturday, December 27, 2014

Two Intelligent Design proponents answer Monday's column

Two provocative objections to Monday's column on science and religion.

Two Intelligent Design proponents answer Monday's column

I got a great response from readers to last Monday's column on science and religion. Most agreed with Judge Jones, who decided Intelligent Design was not science. But two disagreed. Both dissenters brought up points I plan to address in future columns, but in the meantime please feel free to offer your own response either through the comments or in an e-mail to fflam@phillynews.com.

Here's one:

The irreducible factor in evolution's grand scheme of things is time.  A hurricane can blow through a junkyard for a million years and produce nothing but junk.  But give it another 50 million years and you might get a Mercedes.  However, I'd love for Faye Flam to explain how humans got their consciences, the innate sense of right and wrong that commends right choices and condemns wrong choices, since animals don't possess them.

     If God does not exist, then we have no moral accountability to any higher being and all morality, and truth itself, is ultimately relative.  Nothing has any purpose and nothing makes any sense because no one is in charge.  But if this were the case, why would we need a conscience, acting as a moral indicator, if nothing or no one is making any demands on us?  That doesn't make sense.  What does make sense is that a personal, intelligent, moral designer created everything and set it all in motion.  He has set in our hearts evidence that there is someone greater than mankind in the universe...someone who has set moral standards that must be obeyed. 

Here’s another interesting response:

I fear that you, like Judge Jones and many others, fail to understand the essence of Intelligent Design.  Please note the following:

* Intelligent Design differs from Creationism largely because of its insistence on "methodological naturalism."  This is why many Creationists find the approach lacking.

* No theistic arguments are ever used by ID proponents.  Arguments such as Irreducible Complexity, championed by Lehigh biochemist Michael Behe (who I believe testified at the Dover trial), are primarily negative, demonstrating through purely scientific means that gradualism simply cannot explain the complex sub-cellular structures and mechanisms that exist in the simplest forms of life.  The point is that the theory of evolution does not hold up to the scientific evidence.  Have you ever read Darwin's Black Box, by the way?

* The Anthropic Principle is based on mathematical probability, and again is non-theistic, arguing that chance could not have produced the combination of factors necessary for the emergence of life (in my opinion, this is the weakest of the central arguments used by ID proponents, but it is still as naturalistic as any modern probability-based reasoning derived from quantum physics).

* The argument based on Information Theory, largely associated with the work of William Dembski, is the least accessible of the common arguments, but is again naturalistic, arguing that conservation laws such as the Law of Conservation of Mass/Energy also apply to information (e.g., DNA).

* In short, ID is attacked, not because it is not scientific in its methodology, but because it opens the door for theistic conclusions, most of its proponents are theists, inaccurate association with Creationism makes for an easy straw-man rejection, and - most of all - because it attacks that most sacred of sacred cows, Darwinism (though not even that perception is accurate, because many ID proponents, including Behe, appear to be theistic evolutionists).

If opponents of Intelligent Design showed that they really understood what its proponents are saying (and not saying), they would be much more credible, though I fear that most of your readers simply will not be aware of the extent to which you are misrepresenting the essence of the debate.

About this blog
Faye Flam - writer
In pursuit of her stories, writer Faye Flam has weathered storms in Greenland, gotten frost nip at the South Pole, and floated weightless aboard NASA’s zero-g plane. She has a degree in geophysics from the California Institute of Technology and started her writing career with the Economist. She later took on the particle physics and cosmology beat at Science Magazine before coming to the Inquirer in 1995. Her previous science column, “Carnal Knowledge,” ran from 2005 to 2008. Her new column and blog, Planet of the Apes, explores the topic of evolution and runs here and in the Inquirer’s health section each Monday. Email Faye at fflam@phillynews.com. Reach Planet of the at fflam@phillynews.com.

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