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Monday, June 1, 2009

Rhetoric vs. Science

FROM KARL GIBERSON: I have been perusing the new anti-evolutionary Web site from the Discovery Institute, Faith+Evolution. This new site appears to be a frontal assault on the new BioLogos Web site, launched a few weeks ago by Dr. Francis Collins and the BioLogos team, of which I am a member.
The Faith+Evolution site, like most of the products from the Discovery Institute is slick, well-resourced, rhetorically clever, profoundly misleading, and almost completely devoid of any real science.
Take the opening video, with vignettes from Michael Behe, Paul Nelson, Jonathan Wells, and others. The carefully crafted impression that viewers get from the video is that these scholars represent a viable scientific position that is both held by a meaningful group of scientists—what they optimistically refer to as a “growing minority”—and will be explicated on the site, if viewers choose to dig deeper. But this is completely false, and these confident spokesmen know it. Here is how they know it.
A group of scientists committed to a common idea—a “research program,” as it is often called—generally have similar ideas about the broad outlines of that program. At BioLogos, for example, we all believe that the universe began with a big bang, the Earth is billions of years old, and that all life on the planet is related through common ancestry. In sharing these commitments, we are similar to just about every science department across the country. This shared agreement makes it possible to work together, publish in similar journals, and understand each other’s work. Of course, there is great diversity at the level of detail, which is why scientific progress is so dynamic.
The scholars on the Faith+Evolution site have no such shared agreement. Paul Nelson is a young earth creationist who believes that everything appeared suddenly on the earth 10,000 years ago. Michael Behe believes that the earth is billions of years old and that all life is related via common ancestry, which Nelson rejects. And Jonathan Wells accepts neither the young earth of Nelson or the common ancestry of Behe. All they agree on is that evolution is wrong. They have no shared basis on which to conduct joint research.
If you compare the presentations on the two Web sites, you will notice something very interesting. At BioLogos, we present solid evidence in favor of evolution. (We believe that God is the creator and that evolution is the name of the creative process.) We do not simply offer anti-design arguments and assume that we win by default. At Faith+Evolution, they produce no evidence for their position, nor do they even describe the “design model” they supposedly all embrace; all they present are arguments against evolution, with the supposed inference that “design” wins if evolution is defeated. In the final analysis, the site is little more than a exercise in rhetoric—how can we frame what looks like a compelling argument for a position that we can’t even articulate to ourselves.


Arni Zachariassen said...

Very important observations! Thanks for this!

Tokyojim said...

At biologos, you believe that God is the creator and that evolution is the process by which He created. Great! It is not what the Bible teaches, but it sounds real modern and scientific. However, there is one big problem. You have absolutely no evidence to support such a claim! How could anyone ever prove this or disprove this idea? If it happened by evolution, then why even bother with God?
Yes, the Bible talks about God as the Creator, but why disregard everything it has to say about creation except for the concept of a Creator? Might as well just dump it all out. You are arbitrarily deciding what to keep and throw out when it comes to the Bible and so you become the Judge of what is true and not true. That is scary!
You claim to believe that God and act outside the created physical laws. Great! Then it doesn’t really matter if He created by evolution or not. He could have done either, right? Then don’t be so hard on your brothers and sisters who happen to believe that when it comes to creation, God did act outside of the physical laws like the Bible says. Either conclusion fits your worldview, so why are you so threatened by those who do not believe in evolution? There ARE problems with evolution, so what is the problem with talking about this? Why do we all have to come to the same conclusion that you do and take evolution by faith and criticize all others who don’t have the enough faith to do the same? If you allow for the possibility that God can act outside the created physical laws, if you go that far, then you cannot ever know just how much God was involved from a scientific point of view. You can only make educated guesses based on your interpretation of the evidence. It is perfectly justifiable for ID scientists to point out flaws in evolutionary theory. You should have no trouble with this. In fact, it gives you evolutionists more ideas for further research, so you should thank them for the valuable contribution they are making towards the advancement of science. Rather it seems like you are insecure with your position and therefore don’t like anyone criticizing what you believe. It seems you are threatened by what they are saying. Who cares if you are right or not? Get over it. You could be wrong. Perhaps God was more involved than you realize. You cannot prove or disprove it so give your brothers and sisters in the Lord a break!

Dick Mesland said...

Whatever people’s religious belief, whether it is based on holy books, spiritual insights or tradition, beliefs cannot be scientifically proven. Which is nothing more than to say that the scientific methodology and accepted operational rules exclude the possibility to verify religious claims. The sources of the data are mysterious.
At the same time natural sciences will never be able to find scientific explanations for the mystery of our very being in this very world and enormous universe. And that is so because those answers, if they exist, are hidden in metaphysical reality.
The biggest omission in present-day science is their denial (ignorance?) of the unescapable existence of metaphysical reality. From ancient times to present times great philosophers have pointed us to the fact that our observed, matter-made world is a conscious projection produced by our brains. There exists no other means to percieve our world. We live our lifes in this projection, which feels material, which shows us space and gives us time. The metaphysical reality that causes this projection is completely unknown and was called the ‘noumenal world’ by the famous philosopher Kant.
And since metaphysical reality can be literally anything, but will always remain beyond our possibilities for it to be studied, nothing can be said about it. That means nothing in a scientific way. Nevertheless, it is here and now, and it holds the mystery of our very being in this very world.
It is for religion to understand that their claims could well be true, but that it is pointless to try to seek for scientific proof. It is for science to understand that the real truth of our existence is hidden in mystery and that the object of its research is a matter-made “image”, the human body-made projection of a completely unknown reality.

Dick Mesland Ph.D.
The thoughts above have been further developed in my book
“The Biological Misconception”

IDEvo said...

The ID research program is well defined. The aim is to identify signs of intelligence - in the biological realm. The two markers currently used are Irreducible Complexity and Specified Complexity.

In this line of research, it is irrelevant whether the Earth is 10,000 years old or 4.5 billion years old. It is irrelevant whether organisms are related by common descent or whether they were poofed into existence by special creation. (Most scholarly ID proponents agree on an Old Earth and common descent for the lower taxonomic levels - including the ape-man link)

ID is currently not a theory of origins. It is merely a theory of design detection. Hence people with widely diverse views on origins can work together in the ID tent. Just like Richard Dawkins and Francis Collins can do research together on evolution, even when the differ on the Deity of Christ.