ID and 75 cents Will Buy You a Cup of Hot Chocolate

Over at LDS Science Review I've posted a review of Defeating Darwinism. I make an argument about Intelligent Design that I want to post here. It's not that, in my opinion, there is something wrong with believing that God took an active part in creating the world and life on it. The problem is that we have no idea what exactly that involvement is. Furthermore, even under the best of circumstances ID is of very little help in dealing with science and LDS theology.
The critical problem with ID, in terms of science, is testability. If God has intervened in the development of life on earth, how would we know it? Proponents of ID argue that design can be detected by positive evidence. What is this positive evidence? The answer is IC. But the very notion and implications of IC are disputed--or ignored--by mainstream science. And at root, IC is an argument from ignorance--we don't know how something could have evolved by natural means and therefore it must have been designed. It is a subtle trick to turn an argument from ignorance into "positive evidence"--create a category that is derived from an argument from ignorance, find a biological system that fits the criteria of your category, then call that positive evidence for design.

What I don't think many people realize is that ID really cannot get them what they want. For the sake of argument, let's say that IC is a legitimate concept and really does indicate ID. The reason it can detect design is because it is the only marker that can distinguish natural processes from intelligent ones. In other words, it distinguishes organisms created with ID from those related just by common descent. The IC systems that have been proposed thus far might distinguish some higher taxa, but most species and genera would probably be unaffected. For example, what kind of IC system would distinguish chimpanzees from humans? The only IC systems proposed so far are things like vision, the immune system, blood clotting, and cilia. Both humans and chimpanzees--most vertebrates for that matter--have all of those. Given the very high degree of DNA identity between these two species, I think it is highly unlikely that any IC biochemical systems will be identified to differentiate them. With the main tool of ID being useless in distinguishing between humans and chimpanzees, we are left with naturalism. So we can infer ID throughout the tree of life except where it really counts--us. The concepts of IC and ID are therefore useless to anybody hoping to establish that humans are uniquely created apart from the rest of the animal kingdom and we are essentially left with a concept that Johnson finds unacceptable--naturalism/materialism responsible for the ultimate creation of humans!

My point here is not to argue that mankind are merely animals or that God has nothing to do with our creation. It is to show that ID is utterly useless to show otherwise where the theological stakes are highest. If the tools of ID cannot establish a unique creation for humans, does the rest really matter?

Rather than help push an agenda that has a shallow rooting in science (some would say none) and is of very little help to us theologically, let's focus on making mainstream science the best it can be.


Jeff - very good thinking. Pointing out the ID/IC problem between chimps and humans and how that would affect most IDers and Mormons is brilliant.

First of all, as I said elsewhere, Dembski & co. are aware of theoretical ID design issues, and, supposedly have 40 scientists working on ID theories that would be testable, falsifiable, etc. Lets assume they succeed, but cannot solve the Chimp/Human issue.

I am going to attempt what would be my own personal solution to this problem, not to argue it here, but to show that one might be possible for a "thinking" LDS person:

First of all, I will quote from Pres. Harold B. Lee in the recent Priesthood/Relief Society manual:

"... Besides the Fall having had to do with Adam and Eve, causing a change to come over them, that change affected all human nature, all of the natural creations, all of the creation of animals, plants-all kinds of life were changed. The earth itself became subject ot death. . . How it took place noone can explain . . . (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church, Harold B. Lee, p.20)

Now - I don't want to get into a debate about death before the Fall - only to explain my own "theory." My personal belief is that the Garden of Eden, modeled on the paradigm of Noah and the Ark (which I don't want to get into now, either), was a "restart." I believe that the fossil record and other physical features that show an ancient earth demonstrate a long preparatory phase. When this was completed, and it was time for our time, the earth was changed - and Adam and modern animals were placed in the Garden in an immortal state. In the future history of the earth, it will be changed twice more, once at the beginning and once at the end of the millenium, so, there is a paradigm for physical earth "reboots." (where's Neo when we need him)

I developed this theory while teaching Pearl of Great Price a couple of years ago, trying to compare the different creation accounts, and, trying to accommodate proven science. Later, I ran accros a whole book fleshing out the theory, "Earth - in the Beginning," by Eric Skousen.
(Among other things, I learned the relationship between microorganisms and the creation of mineral deposits.)

Now, if my theory is correct, how does this solve the Chimp/Human IC/ID problem? Well, it just means that the Chimps that are here now are descended from previously immortal "Adam and Eve" chimps. In turn, these original bodies would have been copies of their spirit bodies. The whole discussion of IC/ID then moves back to the "spiritual engineering" level. Assuming - (stretch here if you can) for a moment (only) that both humans and chimps started here immortal, and that their physical systems were altered to become mortal. I would expect both chimps and humans, in fact all of nature, to possess common markers of this "transformation" in their genetic material.

So - all I am proposing here is an example, using "mainstream" Mormon Doctrine and some reasonable (in my opinion), arguments to partially solve the human chimp ID/IC problem that you put forth. Again, my intention is not to prove my theory, only to show that one can be constructed.

(also, I double published on another thread, if you can make me a trash can again, I will delete it)

3/18/2005 08:36:00 AM  


Jared posted that not me. I'm glad you have read skousen's book. Once I have covered many of the points of contention, I plan of submitting Skousen's ideas, those of the wedge, as well as BH Robert's to a point by point analysis to see where their attempts at reconciliation work and/ or fail.


In the book "God After Darwin: a Theology of Evolution" the author says the following on ID:

What strikes the theologian after teading Behe's book is that if Darwinian theory is wanting in the full explanation of life, then so also is the notion of "intelligent design." "Intelligent design" smoothly passes over the disorderly, undirected aspects of evolution that are also part of the life-process. It ignores the darker hues in the Darwinian story that give a tragic cast to evolution and thereby strain the credibility of any theologian...

One sided appeals to the idea of God as an intelligent designer render the issue of theodicy all the more intractable. They lead us to ignore the more theologically challenging aspects of evolution. Rather than attuning theology and human life to the restlessness and ambiguity of an unfinished universe, advocates of intelligent design typically ignore the contigency, randomness, and struggle in evolution. But it is precisely the latter that a theology of evolution needs to take into account."

3/18/2005 09:50:00 AM  

To be fair though ID does claim that its assertions are testable, just perhaps not testable in an unambiguous fashion right now. That sends up warning flags of course. But then think about it, superstring theory is criticized because it doesn't make predictions as well.

That's not to say I agree with ID. But that's primarily because I think we have a situation partially akin to a Kuhnian moment where we have to decide between competing paradigms. (Don't take that as me embracing Kuhn) In terms of competition with regular evolution it seems to be much, much weaker and demand a "design" that frankly doesn't make much sense to me.

3/19/2005 10:34:00 AM  

Clark - Being a non-scientist but an ID believer - and recognizing that no ID theory has emerged - even if one does, it will be hard to compete with Darwinism in one sense because we know how in detail how natural mechanisms function, but the designer has yet to reveal his precise methods.

When they are revealed, I am expecting to learn more about the Light of Christ as a mechanism. In an excellent article in the April Ensign, Pres. Packer speaks about the Light of Christ and brings in a couple of analagies from present physics.

In a broad sense, I expect the Designer to intervene in constructing nature in a similar way to the way He intervenes in other aspects of life. For example, Saul of Tarsus was going along sort of on his own - his life a mixture of actions and reactions that would be fairly predictable by a psychologist. Then, Christ intervenes, and a different result occurs than would have without the intervention.

Another example from my own life - I am certain that the Designer intervened so that I would meet my wife. (I realize not everyone feels this way - but we both have too much evidence to ignore). Both of our lives were full of encounters of various kinds leading up to this, which may have been somewhat "random". But, when it came time (and there could have could have been some leeway here) for us to meet, we did and it was no "accident."

While ID is not fully developed, I like it because challenges Darwinism and leaves room from my perspective for the dozens of times the Scriptures describe a more intimate role in nature than many LDS scientists seem to allow. In these blogs, it surprised me at first that more LDS scientists haven't joined the movement. I can see them being highly critical of
"creation science," but ID as far as I can tell leaves plenty of room for the Mormon God.

The only expansive treatment I have seen wherein LDS scientist began with the premise that the Scriptures are generally scientifically accurate was "Science and Mormonism," published by Deseret Book in the 1960's and '70s. While that book is out of date,was overly sympathetic to "creationism," and has many other flaws - it was written by Scientists and attempted to be loyal to "mainstream authority."

A couple of years ago, I purchased Deseret Book's latest on the subject, "Of Heaven and Earth," because Elder Nelson quoted it in Conference. I doubt he had read much of the book, however, because it directly contradicts several talks he has given, most notably on the Creation of Man. While generally supportive of all of the latest theories of cosmology and biology, the essays in the book attempt to show here and there how a "designer" must have intervened, but make no attempt at a cohesive theory and seem to ignore the need for "reconciliation."

I think that approach is as "naive" and unsophisticated as "Science and Mormonism" was in its day. It is taking this blog to face the some of the real issues, which is why I appreciate and participate even though I probably will disagree with much that is offered. But I am learning a lot and keeping my mind as open as I can.

Prof. Jeffrey (sic) has recently "thrown down the gauntlett" on Noah and the Flood, which hasn't really been confronted either. I notice over and over again that scientists who write on the ID side, either in or out of the Church, continually point out evidence ignored by the naturalists. I have a hard time believing that all of it is as worthless as is claimed by the opposition.

What I guess I don't expect to see again is a vigorous ID defense by a prominent LDS scientist. One thing I am thankful for, I believe it was a fairly prominent LDS evolutionist who mounted a strong defense against those attempting to destroy the Book of Mormon with DNA evidence. One final thought or question, you may be well-enough connected to know if the FARMS staff - who vigorously defend the Scriptures and who Daniel Peterson intimated were "mostly evolutionists" also accept the evolutionary, rather than the special creation, of man.

3/25/2005 11:13:00 AM  



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