Thursday, 11 September 2008

Steve Fuller responds to AC Grayling on Intelligent Design

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Do come on over (and change your bookmarks accordingly):

There's nothing better than sparking an intellectual duel, and that's what we've managed by publishing AC Grayling's hugely critical review of Dissent over Descent, Steve Fuller's defence of Intelligent Design.

Fuller got in touch with a response, with we've now published on our website. Have a read, see what you think and join the debate by commenting on our previous post on this subject.


Wotnogod? said...

A pretty good response from Fuller, I must say.

There's still no such thing as god, though!

Tom Rees said...

Fuller wrote that? Then he doesn't understand science. It's not a debate about whether it's down to design or chance. Natural selection isn't about chance! Basic stuff!

And the problem with ID is not that we're demanding that they ID crowd provide evidence. Rather, we're pointing out that they *can't* provide evidence. It's a non-theory. It provides the pretence of an explanation. The problem is not that it can't explain things, but rather that it can explain everything and nothing! ID is 'god of the gaps' in fancy dress.

ID, liking ascribing things to chance, is a non-theory. Of course, it might be right - but we can never now. That's why it isn't science.

Natural selection, on the other hand, we can test - and it has been tested.

Steve Fuller said...

Grayling embarrasses himself again with his latest response. He clearly hasn’t read my 'Dissent over Descent' and refuses to engage with the issues I raise. In particular, I don’t argue for some generic ‘religion leads to science’ thesis, which of course is false. As my response should have made clear, even to people who haven’t read the book, certain distinctive features of the three great monotheistic religions have been salient in the development of science. They are features that became especially prominent with the rise of Protestantism but ultimately descend from the Augustinian stress on our having been created ‘in the image and likeness of God’.

I have no idea why Grayling keeps dragging in the Catholic Church’s bad handling of Galileo and other early modern intellectuals. I condemn the Church on this score as well, calling the very belated 1992 papal vindication of Galileo one of the greatest public relations disasters for science-religion relations in history (p. 92). I even criticize contemporary Catholicism for fostering as convenient ‘double-truth’ doctrine (i.e. one for religion, one for science) that made life easy for Judge Jones in the Kitzmiller verdict and enables religious scientists to pass unscathed in the ID controversy by calling themselves ‘theistic evolutionists’. Grayling would have seen these areas of agreement and aimed his attack more incisively, had he bothered to read the book.

Most of what Grayling writes in the rest of his response is simply catering to certain secularist prejudices, with little connection to what I say, let alone reality more generally. His omnibus pronouncements about the thoughts and actions of religious people, especially Christians, are on a par with academically respectable anti-Semitism in the early 20th century. Only three points here: (1) Generally speaking, ID-style arguments (though less so Paley’s) in the 17th-19th centuries took very seriously the imperfections of nature and set itself the task of rationalizing them, on the basis of which God came to be portrayed as the ultimate optimizer. (2) Engineers, contrary to Grayling’s suggestion, have been among the biggest boosters of ID precisely because their own job is one of optimizing an outcome in the face of multiple constraints – God faces the same task on the largest possible scale. (3) It is a mistake to think that religion’s more exotic metaphysical claims have been negatively related to scientific inquiry, and even religious worship and biblical literalism provided the backdrop for scientific attitudes and practice. All of these matters are discussed in 'Dissent over Descent' – and would appear to be news to Grayling.

Putative champions of humanism like Grayling would serve their cause better by shifting from outdated and offensive wars against religion to positive defenses of ‘the human’ that can bear serious scrutiny in the scientific culture of the 21st century. Grayling’s humanist finale does no more than preach to the choir. He remains in a pre-DNA state of denial. In our Neo-Darwinian world, ‘human’ is a folk biological category – a more-or-less arbitrary genetic cut-off point in the basic continuity of animal species. In response, conservative theorists in the natural law tradition have tried to re-specify their concerns for sanctity and dignity of human life in the new terms provided by science. However, as the history of revolutionary politics makes clear, the conservatives do not own the natural law tradition. It is now up to the liberal-left to re-specify its definition of the human in scientifically credible terms.

Steve Fuller said...

Sorry I meant p. 89, not 92 in my previous message. For for the divine optimization stuff, read chapter 5 of 'Dissent over Descent'.

Anthony Grayling said...

Poor Steve is annoyed, and his best defence is that what he wrote in his defence of ID has not been read or understood. He does not seem to register that it is not being agreed with: I make the points I do about e. g.
engineering precisely because he does. The creationists of the past wrung their hands over nature's imperfections, as they wrung their hands over the 'problem of evil', because they did not wish - as Fuller does not wish - to accept that both constitute demolition-strength counterevidence to what they are anxious to be able to keep on believing. We can settle the question of willful obtuseness here by noting that Fuller continues to insist on crediting Augustine with the idea that human rationality is competent to make sense of a largely orderly world, when the most elementary knowledge of the history of thought recognises that Thales - almost certainly not the first: but the first unequivocally credited - did precisely that a thousand years beforehand, to be followed by the tradition of Greek thought. But Thales would not suit Fuller's intentions - we need the believers in fairies to be the progenitors of science: an example of the untruth in service of the faith so beloved of the Jesuits. As to offensive remarks about religion - as if systematic and far too often harmful absurdities did not merit aspersion - Fuller is like all those who wail at blunt words, when it was the religious guys who did not stop at blunt words but employed the executioner, when they were in power, to shut up those who disagreed with them. - But frankly: here is a man with some education who is trying to persuade us against the conclusive weight of reason and evidence against all the creation myths of mankind's infancy, that the universe is or might be consciously, purposefully, intelligently designed - AND moreover that this implies nothing else specific (yet) about who or what did this, and what the implications of that, in turn, would be. If he seriously thinks the IDers he defends have no big agenda to tack onto getting their silly view about ID accepted, he is amazingly naive. And if he cannot see that those implications are part of the reason why the ID view is itself incoherent, he is dim. - Fuller ought to be ashamed of himself for this farrago, and would do well now to abandon whatever the next step in the project might have been - defending Native American beliefs that humankind emerged from a tree, say? Who knows: for as noted in my review, when you start from incoherencies, anything follows.
- Anthony Grayling

Michael Russell said...

Mr. Grayling,

I believe that Mr. Fuller's issues are not so much that you have not read his works as much as he is having problems reading your responses to it. Dense, multisyllabic blocks of text appear to be confusing to him so perhaps it is best to simplify it down a bit.

michaelf said...

Science tells us 2 things: 1) evolution -humans are just another branch on the bush of life and 2) ecology - humans are just another consumer in the local/global ecosystem. In both cases, we are different from other life forms, but not necessarily better.
Denial of these two facts is leading to the destruction of our species and every other species on the planet.
The poet Gary Snyder summed it up nicely:
"Man will be the most precious of all things, when he comes to realise the preciousness of all things.
We need to stop thinking we are special because of who we are, but become special by what we do.

Anonymous said...

I followed a link trail to this debate from (I have some postings there on the creation/evolution debate) and would think Fuller may be in teh running for the Obtuseness Cup were it not for David Berlinski's vast accomplishments here. Fuller appears clueless that no Neo-Darwinian orthodoxy is preventing Bill Dembski from applying his razzle-dazzle CSI formulas to any of the voluminous genetic databases currently available, or for the Discovery Institute's conservative sugardaddies from bankrolling a few paleontological digs to clarify how ID "theory" is supposed to reveal anything about the billions of years of life prior to Philip Johnson and Jonathan Wells. But to undertake any of these things would require the very things ID currently (and, I suggest, congenitally) lacks: the natural curiosity to learn what actually is so, and a conceptual framework rigorous enough to lay out what actually would or would not fit into their "theory" of life. James Downard, Spokane WA USA

Anonymous said...

Fuller said:

He clearly hasn't read my 'Dissent over Descent'

You must be projecting regarding the levels of readership between yourself and Grayling, frankly.

It's rather obvious you have very little familiarity with the actual realm of the history of science, or with evolution as a specific part of it, for that matter.

Those of us who recall your "contribution" at the Kitzmiller vs. Dover trial really do thank you for you huge, and unintentional, contributions to the plaintiff's case.

Likewise, the similar level of "scholarship" demonstrated in your latest endeavor is so easily refuted as to be of ready benefit to those who make the opposite (and actually supported) case.

Again, those of us who actually do science thank you for you backhanded, literally unwitting, contribution to the inevitable defeat of the irrational.

Congratulations on contributing to the "debate" in much the same way Michael Behe does.

OTOH, I weep for the institution that employs you, like I weep for Lehigh University in having to continuously apologize for Michael Behe.

I think my only wish at this point is that the myriad of morons that support the work of those like Ann Coulter, Jonathan Wells, and the rest of the hacks within the anti-science movement by buying their books would gradually shrink, and thus writing books of such poor scholarship (yours included) would become of such little interest there simply would be no profit in writing them to begin with.

one can dream.

until then, a common quote comes to mind:

I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: "O Lord make my enemies ridiculous." And God granted it.
- Voltaire.

PvM said...

Funny how ID is always misunderstood, and yet it is ID proponents who foolishly make the claim that ID is an inference to the best explanation, even though it should be self evident to anyone that ID provides no explanations beyond calling that which we do not yet understand 'design'.
Well, Fuller, who was an 'expert' witness for the defense, played quite a significant role for the plaintiffs in the case Kitzmiller v Dover. For that we can thank him.

Since Steve seems to like Augustine he should be familiar with

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.

Steve Fuller said...

My apologies for not responding to this latest set of well-intentioned remarks but they do not connect sufficiently with anything I have said. But if people wish to vent their political frustrations and paranoid fantasies, and the webmaster tolerates it, please continue. However, I do find it a bit ironic that this happens to be the discourse that promotes itself as the vanguard of 'critical rationality'.

William said...

Hilarious. If we were to resolve this on strength of writing alone, AJ Grayling would be the clear winner, and I'll be coming back to his review again for the sheer pleasure of reading it.

My overall impression, though, is of two people talking past one another. Grayling and Fuller both seem to have started from a position of dismissing the other side's views in advance, and writing vigorously from there.

I find this a lot more forgivable in Grayling, as he at least appears to understand both sets of material here. Grayling clearly understands the power of religion, even as he reviles it. Fuller's response, though, doesn't demonstrate any real understanding of the core of science.

But I think it would be a better book review if Grayling had first written about the book sympathetically before going on to condemn it. Even if he's heard it all before, and even if it's all idiocy, I think a reviewer should not just hear it again, but really listen, suspending judgment until the end.

If nothing else, then Fuller would feel heard. Given his repeated assertions that Grayling hasn't even read the book, that's clearly not how he feels now, and no real dialog will take place until he does. That's a shame, as it's dialog I'd like to hear.

Anonymous said...

Fuller said:

But if people wish to vent their political frustrations and paranoid fantasies, and the webmaster tolerates it, please continue

That's the position of the ID crowd in a nutshell.

They don't really want to "teach the controversy", they want to squelch all dissent that might tumble their rickety house of cards.

Then they of course project the very thing they really fear onto those who disagree with their inane rants, and claim "persecution".

You don't need to be debated, Fuller, you need to be put on a couch and taught how to put an end to your cognitive dissonance.

Anonymous said...

Steve Fuller wrote: “As my response should have made clear, even to people who haven’t read the book, certain distinctive features of the three great monotheistic religions have been salient in the development of science.”

Well…so what Prof. Fuller? If religious belief was a necessary precondition to the development of modern science, then your conclusion that we need more design theory now to continue to do science is completely unwarranted. How do you reason from the above statement to that strong conclusion?

In your first response to Grayling you said something much stronger (my emphasis): “…our current level of scientific achievement would never have been reached, and more importantly that we would not be striving to achieve more, had chance-based explanations dominated over the design-based ones in our thinking about reality…”

Here you seem to be claiming that we need design-based explanations now to continue to do science. This is a much stronger claim. Unfortunately it’s also observationally untrue. There are many atheist scientists. They do just fine without using design-based explanations. There are many non-design-based research organizations that also do just fine. Heck, there’s quantum mechanics – an entire field based on a stochastic view of the world, and one which has lead to immense strides in technology development (including development of the very computer you’re reading this on!).

So you’re going to have to explain to me how all these people and organizations continue to do great science without the tool that you claim is absolutely required to continue to do science. Just saying that we need design-based explanations before we will 'strive to achieve more' doesn’t cut it. Show me why that’s so. Because emprically I observe that you are wrong.

Wait, let me check again. Yep...I still don't have a design-based explanation, and yet I'm still striving...


onein6billion said...

"that some combination of chance and necessity of the sort associated with Neo-Darwinism are today presumed to be more plausible than Intelligent Design until shown otherwise"

Yes, the scientific evidence of the genetic relationships in the tree of life is much more plausible than religious wishful thinking.

Sadly, No Investor Services Adjunct Advisor said...

Doop de doop.

Editorial comment.

Anonymous said...

As my sympathies lie with Anthony Grayling in this debate, I feel saddened that he has not taken Fuller head on. In the original review of Prof. Fuller's book, Prof. Grayling rightly asserted that if he refuted the premises on which the work was based, there would be no need to engage directly with the consequences of those (refuted) premises. However, having read the book myself, I am not sure if Prof. Grayling really paints an adequate picture of Prof. Fuller's basic premises.

Further, Prof. Grayling - after having set up the schema 'refuted premises --> no need to engage with their consequences' - subsequently argues that the consequences (and even, the 'penumbra') of those basic premises are so distasteful that we ought to reject the basic premises on the basis of there consequences. Thus the new schema 'repungent consequences --> rejected premises'.

Whilst I fully agree with Prof. Grayling that of course, in reality, all sorts of crackpot theories and religious / political agenda's are associated with ID, I feel there is something conceptually suspect about combing the schema of his original review and of his subsequent criticism's. This is deeply troubling, because it is very necessary to tackle ID arguments 'head on', so far as this is possible.

Tauriq said...

I consider Professor Grayling's reply to be up to his usual standard of brilliance. No doubt Fuller will immediately see me as another scary "new humanist" with an agenda against his unproven "theory".

As of yet, I have seen nothing that has stirred my knowledge, added to the faculty of debate and reason and seen no mention of progress. He mentions progress, yes, but his progress is that of a roundabout - pushing forward to go right round, back where we started.

Fuller has not addressed his constant misuse of "chance" in science (science does not work with chance that kind of defeats the purpose, methinks!) in attributing it to science - we dont measure chance. Even the heretical Dawkins speaks of design in the Blind Watchmaker. Of course we infer design, but by natural processes. Fuller continues to ignore that as a basic premise. He also doesnt appreciate the benefit of infering design in our psychological make-up - does he see no challenge there?

And finally, I would ask Prof. Fuller to eloquently (as he has a very nice writing style which I appreciate) outline his ultimate desire in writing this book. If he could provide a thought-experiment for what he would like to see achieved in science and academia as a whole.


Anonymous said...

I have very much enjoyed both sides of this debate, as the writers are both clearly well educated however, Mr. Grayling made me wince; so thoroughly has he intellectually thrashed (Heavy Metal enthusiast that he is) Mr. Fuller.

There being so many good books in the world to read and knowledge in them to be gained thereby; I would be very interested to hear a succinct reason from Mr. Fuller (and from any writer for that manner) as to why I should read his book and what I will gain from having done so?




Mr. Fuller sez: "As my response should have made clear, even to people who haven’t read the book, certain distinctive features of the three great monotheistic religions have been salient in the development of science. They are features that became especially prominent with the rise of Protestantism but ultimately descend from the Augustinian stress on our having been created ‘in the image and likeness of God’."

By "the three great monotheistic religions" I assume you are referring to Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism, those three being, currently, the most popular: Wouldn't these salient features ultimately descend from the oldest of the three?

jcthomson said...

This is a great ding dong. There's no doubt whose side I'm on. AC Grayling has comprehensively destroyed Fuller, or rather his arguments have shown Fuller's position to be irrational.

But. It troubles me that there is so much recourse to history in this argument. Mathematicians don't bother about the history of theorems and proofs; they just use them. Philosophers might take a lead from them, and thereby not provide a handy thicket for protagonists to dive into when the logical going gets tough.

Gareth said...

do you think all of humanity comes down to rationality? this is what i wonder. From what I understand (basic though this may be) there are limits to the rational human mind, and in itself this suggests that there could be things beyond this that cannot be fully understood (in a rational sense). For example how it feels to a bat when it sees (note the phrase feels, not how it sees, but how it FEELS to see) Therefore there are some things that effect our world that may not be rational (bats are in our world and effect it, part of this must (or could) be their perception of this world). These in turn may be understood by us on some level beyond our own rationality. However just because these things cant be understood rationally doesnt mean they are less important, in a sense. In the sense that you cant rate things on an objective scale anyway, we all come with our own biases (as the two proponents of this forum demonstate). I realise that these thoughts ironically are expressed in a rational manner but I am simply trying to explore my own existence without getting into an emotional argument (ironic too to talk about the no-rational in a "rational" manner). To this extent i realise all the reliance i place on scientific studies and the wondrous information it provides me with. At the same time I feel as I get older there is something more to this, leaning more toward a hindu perspective (or even buddhism in some sense: nirvana and the slow release of everything leading to i dont know what). To some extent I realise this isnt rational but I realise that also rationality has its limits and some what Ive experienced may go beyond this. What I wonder is how people here would respond to this, if I asked you to do so without using just rationality (Im aware that there are world views that rationality can explain all, and can see this and live with this but I can accept this and so would wonder what you thought without relying completely on rationality). Please feel to write replies in a rational manner, as i think this is a great way for us to communicate!!!

(apoligies if this is a bit all over the place but all this debate has inspired me to write my first forum reply) gouranga!

Gareth said...

i meant to say i cant accept this in my piece above toward the end, in reference to the competely rational world view (and i mean personally i cant accept, not that other people could hold it) cheers again

Richard said...

The issue I have with Intelligent Design is that it seems to be intended as a stepping stone. We go from doubt over there not being a god to "Maybe a god did it" to suddenly "Everything in the Bible is right, even all the nasty bits."

It seems aimed at protecting or even promoting a single group's religious agenda rather than anything else. Intelligent Design debate doesn't seem to be able to happen without the assumption that we're talking about the Abrahamic god.

Even if we did accept that maybe an external conscious god did it, we don't get any further. We can't suddenly make the leap from that to all the stuff about Jesus or baptism or salvation. We can't know about Original Sin (Christian) or Original Goodness (Hindu). So maybe a god did it! Now what? What does this actually answer? Which religious group, if any, is right?

If anything, to assume a god did it makes life harder for anyone looking at this scientifically. We can't tell from available evidence what that god intended and what that god's intent for us in the future is. We'd have to look at all the religious books to try to find common ground. We'd have to consider that maybe none of them are right.

Will we be burned in the fires of hell for not worshiping Jesus, or for worshiping Jesus instead of Muhammad? Do we need to bring on the appropriate god's loving kingdom or do we need to find Krishna at the heart of ourselves to effect the transformation? When you factor out the specific god are both those the same anyway?

We can deduce all sorts of nice things about being good to others, non-selfish, finding joy in what you have. These things stand independently of religion. Losing dogma actually enables us to better explore them and really ask why such things should be.

If we think that way we've become effectively agnostic and considered Intelligent Design as unanswerable and irrelevant. The only benefit it has then is that in the current world it makes a lot more people feel comfortable. Is it worth the cost?

George Holland Hill said...

Sadly, there is so little Buddhist input into intellectual debate. But even Buddhism had become so out of date and corrupted that it took Nichiren Daishonin to cut through the crap in 13th Century Japan and get things back on track. Even such an elementary theory as that of "The Ten Worlds" [or "states of mind"] would have a major impact on some aspects of scientific enquiry. It's fun to conjecture which are the dominant "worlds" of Messrs Fuller and Grayling: obviously, with their scientific backgrounds, the worlds of "Learning" and "Absorption" — plus a dash of "Anger", but of the most righteous complexion, naturally. . .

Glyndwr said...

I haven't read all of the above, but. If inteligent design requires that everything in the universe must have been created, then who or what reated the creator and so on ad infinitum

Anonymous said...

Why we don't need to appeal to a designer:

IDists suffer from an overwhelming limit in their capacity for imagination. They seemingly can't represent very large numbers in their minds.

Do they sincerely believe it so unlikely that in the ENTIRE universe (billions and billions of particles of matter), and for over 14 billion years, that the hundred or so enzymes required for replicating life couldn't get together??

1. RNA replication can be performed by a single enzyme & 2. Scientists (yes those hegemonic conspirationalists!) have created self-replicating peptides as small as 32 amino-acids long (Lee 1996).

Hence, we already know of self- replicating molecules so simple that their *natural* assembly seems *almost guaranteed* given the vast size and age of the universe -

See Carrier (2004) in Biology and Philosophy 19: 739–764, 2004.

Dr. Gilleen, KCL. - The universe is a big place, its a very big place Mr. Shanrack.

Tamburlaine said...

I have no sympathy for those who would inject ID's arguments into evolution, but among bien-pensant theists like Grayling there often seems to be an excessive hostility to theologians which translates too easily into the appearance of arrogance and the haste to caricature some of Fuller's more valid points before knocking them down. The idea that modern science owes much to secularisation and the sublimation of religious drives is a profoundly interesting argument (considered in isolation) and is not adequately refuted by appeal to the Greeks as having done 'science' first: our Renaissance theological and intellectual heritage is more recent and (to my mind) more powerful. The 'A-level boilerplate' point for Grayling's original review is well-made: in particular I do not see why banging on about the Church's treatment of Copernican theory is sufficient to prove that Christianity (particularly in more recent centuries) has been incompatible with science - or the implied conclusion, that science now necessarily excludes a religious understanding of the world. When the book of John (and here I anticipate that readers will turn away in disgust at my appeal to such an unscientific source...) talks of man being created in God's 'image', the key word in Greek is 'logos' - (hu)mankind as resembling God in their rational, ordering power: the ability to separate light from darkness - including the power to use one's reason to reject ID.

Duncan said...

As a British person I find it embarrassing that someone who believes in Intelligent Design can become a professor at a British university. I pity Steve Fuller's students.

Anonymous said...

I find it (somewhat) humorous that ID builds its dream castle on a foundation laid by centuries of scientific research.

I look forward to the day when ID proponents add ONE SUBSTANTIAL PIECE of evidence to what's known about the world.

ID is long on theorists. They must kill their experimentalists.

James said...

Gareth - we cannot feel or experience what it is like to be a bat I agree. But I think that Rationality at least provides the possibility of doing so. For example at some very distant point in the future we could scientifically analyse how the senses of a bat function, store them as algorithms and then transfer them into the human brain. Complex and pointless perhaps, but theoretically and practically envisionable with rational thought.

Very enjoyable debate, by the way.

Anonymous said...

I've been following Fuller since Dover and quite frankly I'm convinced the man is mental.

Fuller wrote,

"Grayling embarrasses himself again"

What planet are you on, Fuller? What reality do you call home?

Sorry to not have something more "nice" to say, but we're adults, let's be honest. The man has issues.

ID seems to render its followers with some sort of dulling of the senses where one loses all grasp of rational thought. Seriously. To see an American version of Fuller Google William Dembski.

Andy M said...

The best way to silence ID advocates is not by trying to prove their claims to be false or their position to be irrational (eg by showing that they start with a belief and then merely look around for what supports it, etc). Rather, you have to show that their claims are nonsense. It always amazes me that no one ever thinks to ask the ID believer what the claim "God created/designed the world" actually means. For instance, we know what it means to say that someone created a work of art or a sculpture. But what could it mean to say that God 'created' the world? The world includes everything that is, so anything that could be its creator is logically already part of the world and so part of the thing that it is supposed to have created. Also, in the case of an artist, we know what 'creating' consists of - the use of the artist's limbs and mind to paint the picture or build the sculpture. But what does God use? Does he have limbs? If so, he is a finite being and part of the universe, rather than 'outside' it. And that is not the God of the Bible. But if he is not part of the universe, and is 'outside' it, what does 'outside' mean here? He is said in the Bible to be eternal and infinite. How, then, does he interact with what is temporal and finite? In short, we don't know what "create" actually means in this context, because no criteria have been laid down for the meaning of this term, and therewith for the meaning of the claim that contains it. We haven't specified what kind of being God is, how he can interact with everthing that is, and how he can bring it into being or design it. This means that we cannot even get to the question of whether the claim that 'God created the world' is true. This is the real reason why ID is not a genuine scientific theory, but merely masquerades as one. It hasn't even got to the stage of showing it has any meaning, so although the claim looks fine from a grammatical point of view, it is in fact no more meaningful than 'the circle is square' or 'green is red' which also look fine grammmatically, but which are nonetheless nonsense - unintelligible uses of an intelligible form of words. So from now on, to combat this insidious pseudo theory, it is merely necessary to remind people of the distinction between meaning and truth, and the need to lay down the meaning of the claim being made before we can even broach the question of its truth.

James said...

Andy - well said.

AllforReason said...

All this reminds me of a certain old Newman and Baddiel sketch, somehow..

Anonymous said...

I am reminded of a comment in Eco's Foucault's Pendulum.
'An argument between morons. And God loves every minute'

Two atheists arguing about ID, for goodness sake. Come down out of your dreaming spires and interact with people outside the academy.

Steven said...

I think this quote from an article by Dr Steven Novella sums it up quite nice

"This all get’s back to the Wedge strategy - the anti-materialists cannot win (and in fact have already lost) in the arena of science. Science requires methodological naturalism. All this talk about “materialist ideology” is all a diversion from the truth, which is that creationists, dualists, and proponents of various kinds of woo want to change the fundamental and necessary rules of science to allow their religious beliefs to pass as science. They are doing this for purely ideological reasons, and they don’t care if they have to destroy modern science in the process. Yet, they have the gall to accuse scientists of being “materialist ideologues” when they are just defending a method of inquiry from ideological assault."


Anonymous said...

It concerns me a little that no-one else has picked up on an enormous and fatal inconsistency in Fuller's version of ID "theory" (I am assuming that each believer has his or her own personalised justifications, just as is the case with religion in toto):

"Engineers, contrary to Grayling’s suggestion, have been among the biggest boosters of ID precisely because their own job is one of optimizing an outcome in the face of multiple constraints – God faces the same task on the largest possible scale".

Well, Mr Fuller, I guess we should all be mightily impressed with God the uberEngineer. But please would you be so good as to define these multiple "constraints" that God supposedly faces? Surely, being God, he could just simply "unconstrain" them? I always thought that that was the sweet bit about being God. I'm confused.

underthought said...

This book is terrible. The central claim that all inquiry into nature presupposes the existence of an intelligent designer is totally unsubstantiated and wildly implausible.

Fuller correctly notes in his replies that the ID argument is an Inference to the Best Explanation.

He doesn't note that it's a very bad Inference to the Best Explanation. ID theorists incorrectly claim that evolutionary theory can't account for complex traits like the flagellum. Meanwhile, their own theory can't explain many biological phenomena unless we impute bizarre ad hoc motives to the designer.

What was that panda's thumb about, God? A practical joke?

Here is my "fuller" review.

Anonymous said...

The basic underlying conflict between neo-Darwin evolution on one hand, and ID Intelligent Design on the other is merely a resurfaced ancient feud between atheism and monotheism.

95% of academic biologists are atheists who must subscribe to neo-Darwinism to survive in the halls of academia.

What is atheism? This is a modern term for one of many types of primitive religions, such as paganism, polytheism, the worship of objects in nature, worship of idols (idolatry) etc.

The word atheism is a post War modern construct. If God existed, then that God would never have allowed the horrors, the evil, and scale of human suffering of WWII, therefore there is no God. Hence atheism.

The reality is that there is no such thing as atheism, as the atheist who negates the monotheistic God merely adopts a paganism, idolatry or polytheism in its place.

In modern terms, this translates into the pursuit of one of many replacements for God, such as pleasure, money, social status, power, worship of self, various objects, electronic idols that absorb attention span, drugs etc.

Hence, modern day atheism is merely a modern form of idol worship, which was the cultural norm in ancient times. In site of this opposing culture of idol worship in ancient times, the story goes that one courageous Man saw the truth that idols cannot speak. This story of Abraham heralded the emergence of Abrahamic monotheism in ancient times. This was the idea that there was one God, one creator, one designer of the universe.

After thousands of years of civilization, we know that monotheism has won this ideological battle against idolatry. So why the resurgence and strength of atheism, idolatry and neo-Darwinism in our modern day science culture?

The answer to this is socio-econonomc and political. Neo-Darwinism is a necessary justification for unethical and predatory behavior of corporate entities which now control the mass media, government, science funding, university funding and economies of most Western countries of the world. This is the overwhelming basic fact which overrides all others, and is the basis for the current conflict played out between neoDawinism and Intelligent Design.

At the end of the day, Intelligent Design as a metaphysical argument against neoDarwinism is really a plea for help by the individual human drowning in a totalitarian world of mental and physical enslavement.

This is the world of evil corporate conglomerates that grow larger and stronger with each passing year. This is a world that represents evil, and must be opposed by all free men.

Hence, ID must win the ideological battle over Neo-Darwinism if we are to live as free men.

jhumphre said...

As a professor of geology (now in my 23rd year), I find the ID arguments to be quaint at best, mildly disturbing in the middle, and incomprehensibly daft at the worst. Fuller does not understand science and he clearly doesn't understand natural selection and deep time (not to mention molecular genetics).

Biologists are fond of saying that you can't understand biology without evolution (and I agree). I think that geologists would say you can't understand evolution without understanding the history of the Earth. Indeed, a fundy student in my Historical Geology course this fall questioned why we were learning about DNA, alleles, mutations, intraspecific variability, etc., when this was "supposed to be a course about rocks."

The geologic record is aggravating and difficult to understand (at times) in the time frame we humans are used to dealing with, but it's also astoundingly brilliant, beautifully coherent, and remarkably conformist to the laws of nature and the arrow of time. Only the most obstinate of objectors, the self-prevaricators, the delusional, and those with a religious agenda could argue otherwise against organic evolution. Biology notwithstanding, there is more than enough paleontological evidence to persuade the most ardent creationist, should they be open minded (oxymoron duly noted...).

BTW, I hope everyone has had a chance to see the Nova PBS program, "Judgment Day: ID on Trial". It was shown several times at this year's annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Portland.

lukeg said...

"The reality is that there is no such thing as atheism, as the atheist who negates the monotheistic God merely adopts a paganism, idolatry or polytheism in its place."

I am an atheist, or at least I thought I was until I read that. I thought that one of the alternatives to believing in one god, alongside believing in many gods, was believing in no gods.

However, assuming what you wrote is true, I looked at the options to see what I am: pagan, idol-worshiper, or polytheist?

The wiki for Paganism indicated that it was a blanket term for a seemingly-endless list of quite primitive religions. I checked some out - but I don't believe any of them. So I'm not Pagan. In fact, I started wondering how you could be considered part of a religion wen you had never heard of it or practiced it - but I'm sure you will have an answer for that.

That same wiki page linked to polytheism - which means believing in many gods - but like I said, I don't believe in any gods, so I'm not a polytheist.

I must be an idol worshiper. The only problem is, I don't think I've been doing it right, because so far I haven't used any of the mechanisms of this "worship" thing, such as:

"prayer; sacrifice; rituals; meditation; holidays, festivals; sacraments; pilgrimages; participatory or observed music or singing; dance; dining; fasting; public readings; listening to a public talk or sermon; the construction of temples or shrines; the creation of idols of the deity; private acts of devotion."

What should I do? Start praying to my desk? Fasting for my shoes? Name a holiday after my trousers? Construct a temple to a banana?

Oh, hang on, I did buy a magazine once and have a "private act of devotion" with it. Does that make me religious?

"Neo-Darwinism is a necessary justification for unethical and predatory behavior of corporate entities which now control the mass media, government, science funding, university funding and economies of most Western countries of the world"

I was under the impression that Neo-Darwinism grew out of a series of observations and experiments on life forms, such as plants and animals, who were not primarily in the business of controlling the mass media or conducting Machiavellian corporate manoeuvres.

It appears that you contend this was mere subterfuge. In fact, rather than effectively and accurately explaining much of life on Earth, Neo-Darwinism was manufactured maliciously for the sole purpose of having a single constituent element of its massive and detailed argument used as a farcically stretched and contextually bereft analogy by a vague and nameless network to excuse the behaviour of their "corporate entities" who control our entire society?

I would go so far as to say that it would be prudent to consider whether you are, in fact, paranoid and delusional.

John Muir said...

Just thought I'd chip in, albeit a bit late. This quote caught my eye:

95% of academic biologists are atheists who must subscribe to neo-Darwinism to survive in the halls of academia.

Could there be a wilder statement of unsupported allegations crammed into 18 words? Where did 95% come from- is there a poll of academic biologists? Come to that, what is an academic biologist- are they somehow different from ordinary biologists? Is there any academic institution which compels its educators to be atheists in order to teach science, let alone (by necessary inference) 95% of institutions? Is there a single scientist out there who would teach something he/she doesn't believe (in this case, neo-Darwinism) in order to retain a position at such an institution? How does the author know about these legions of academics who are actually ID proponents, but are teaching neo-Darwinism to save their careers- personal interviews? A clandestine internet forum?

And finally, the biggest question of all: at what point did science, the investigation of natural phenomena, begin to have a viewpoint on supernatural issues? Did I miss that development? I always thought that science took no position on anything that wasn't capable of being observed in the natural world. Yet apparently neo-Darwinism has as part of its rationale a belief that there must be no God- not just that there is an explanation for the natural world which does not involve miracles.

When anyone puts forward a statement like this, apparently seriously, you have to wonder whether they are capable of rational thought at all.

Morgan Lamberth said...

Science does indeed have its beef with religion in that theists posits divine intent when science finds none as Lamberth's teleonomic notes: causalism-mechanism- teleonomy rule,never teleology. To posit the latter contradicts science instead of complementing it!
Theistic evolution is thus an oxy-moronic obfuscation1
God did it adds only obfuscation, having no power not only as explanation but as a power itself: it never helps to adopt such twaddle as the late John Hick's epistemic distance argument that He hides Himself ambiguously so as not to overwhelm our free wills. Why, Schellenberg hiddenness argument defeats that bit of rationalization and why,still to aver divine intent makes for Lamberth's new Omphalos argument that He deceives us with teleonomy,when His intent rules ,just as Phillip Gosse's argues the He deceives us with apparent age to deceive us with evolution. Hardly, science finds no divine intent whatsoever!
Carneades' atelic argument* notes that all teleological ones beg the question of directed outcomes.
Lamberth's argument from pareidolia notes just as people see the man in the Moon and Yeshua on a tortilla, theists see divine intent and design when only teleonomy and patterns exist. Scientists are investigating now the how and why of seeing patterns and pareidolias as patterns.
Lamberth's reduced animism argument argues that theism is just that: just as full animism or polytheism have no intent,thereby being superstitious, so is theism!
Aquinas's superfluity argument boomerangs on his five ways! Percy Bysshe Shelley notes it implicitly:" To suppose that some existence beyond, or above them [ the descriptions -laws - of Nature,I] is to invent a second and superfluous hypothesis to account for what already is accounted for."
Then for theists to claim that's a category mistake would be again to beg the question.
That superfluity and superstition account for millions of murders!

* Carneades faulted Chrysippus for finding a builder for a building. I merely add his name to recognize him.