Chris Hallquist, fundamentalism, and prejudice against Christian apologists

Posted on 06/17/13 77 Comments

Chris Hallquist has replied to my concerns about fundamentalism in his submission to my “Why they don’t believe” series. He does so in the article “Intelligent design, creationism, and fundamentalism: a reply to Randal Rauser.” So far as I can see, he doesn’t take issue with my point that fundamentalism is more about an orientation than a specific set of beliefs. But he does take issue with a few other points.

To begin with, he responds to my claim that he has offered an unjustified and sweeping rejection of ID by clarifying what he means by ID:

“I mean the ideas of the people who actually call themselves Intelligent Design proponents, not what those people would like the term to mean.”

So what are those beliefs held by those individuals? Surprisingly, Chris doesn’t say. He does claim that ID is “largely just rebranded creationism” but then he immediately undercuts this statement by admitting that Michael Behe is not a creationist. Nor, for that matter, is William Dembski or Stephen Meyer or David Berlinski. Indeed the only major proponent of ID who is also a creationist [where creationist = young earth creationist] is Paul Nelson.

Hallquist also doesn’t explain in what sense atheist and philosopher of science Bradley Monton (who, I pointed out, is an advocate for ID) holds “an idiosyncratic definition” of intelligent design. Needless to say, it is quite difficult for the reader of Hallquist to know whether Monton’s definition is idiosyncratic when Hallquist has provided neither a general definition of ID nor Monton’s idiosyncratic deviation from that definition.

The fact is that ID is not “rebranded creationism”, and the person who suggests it is merely shows their ignorance of both. It would be accurate to say that many young earth creationists who were frustrated in their attempt to get creationism taught in the public school then redirected their efforts toward getting ID taught in the schools. Barbara Forrest has done some good work identifying these historic connections. But that is completely irrelevant to the definition of ID. The fact is that creationism is traditionally committed to the following:

(1) the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible

(2) the literal interpretation of Genesis 1-11

(3) the direct fiat creation of all major animal species

(4) creation in six 24-hour days approximately 6-10,000 years ago

(5) a worldwide Noahic flood

While Paul Nelson may hold (1)-(5), none of the other major advocates of ID listed above hold them all. And Monton and Berlinski would reject all five.

So then what is ID? The core idea is stated simply. ID is the view that appeal to intelligent or agent causal explanations is a legitimate part of natural science. Hallquist claims that Francis Crick wasn’t an ID theorist because he wouldn’t have accepted the title. What Hallquist ignores is the fact that the leading proponents of ID understand Crick’s  panspermia thesis that he proposed in his book Life Itself to be an exemplar of reasoning by ID principles. Is Hallquist saying that ID proponents don’t even know how to discern when their own definition of ID is satisfied in the work of another person? What is more, doesn’t he know that Dembski argued that SETI research also conforms to the principles of ID?

Next, Chris writes:

“There’s nothing wrong with imputing “intellectual and/or moral failings” to people who are actually guilty of them. Surely Randal would have no problem imputing such failings to Holocaust deniers. Or would he have a problem saying that young earth creationists are generally either ignorant or dishonest?”

Nice rhetorical move there! Juxtapose the young earth creationists with Holocaust deniers! To answer Chris’ question, I’m not in a place to say that young earth creationists are generally dishonest. Nor am I in a place to say they are generally ignorant. Rather, I think they are generally wrong. But people who are generally wrong can be well aware of the correct views and the evidence for those views. They just fail to draw the right conclusions.

Chris then quotes me as follows:

“When I read Chris’s statement that the arguments for God’s existence which Tom Morris (a top-flight philosopher) summarized are “obviously very bad”, or when Chris writes without qualification of the “ignorance and dishonesty of Christian apologetics”….”

In response Chris insists that:

“I do not claim that all Christian apologists are either ignorant or dishonest without exception… but I do think it’s generally true of the stuff that currently dominates Christian apologetics.”

I’m thankful for the qualification, at least at first blush. But then I look again and think all this provides is an excuse for Chris to continue to broad brush. What does it mean to say “it’s generally true” that “Christian apologists are either ignorant or dishonest”? Does Chris have hard evidence that this is generally true, or is he merely going on his impressions to fuel his prejudices?

Since Chris already invoked Holocaust deniers, perhaps I can take a somewhat less inflammatory analogy of racial prejudice. Imagine that Buzz makes a sweeping statement about Mexicans being ignorant or dishonest. I protest this unjustified statement and then Buzz replies:

“I do not claim that all Mexicans are either ignorant or dishonest without exception… but I do think it’s generally true of the work that currently done by Mexican immigrants.”

Obviously this wouldn’t be a satisfactory response. Whether you’re saying all Mexicans are ignorant or dishonest or whether you’re saying most are, you still need to provide hard evidence to justify your claim. The same goes when you replace “Mexicans” with “Christian apologists”.

So what evidence does Chris supply? He closes off by noting three specific Christian apologists: Josh McDowell (whom Chris calls an “ignoramus”), William Lane Craig, and Alvin Plantinga. I’ll leave aside the broad swipe at McDowell and focus on Craig and Plantinga. I don’t accept that Craig is dishonest in the way Chris has argued (and I’ve interacted a bit with him on that in the past). As for Plantinga, Chris doesn’t even suggest that Plantinga is really ignorant or dishonest. Instead, he simply notes that Plantinga doesn’t hold Chris’ view of evolution. But even if we granted that McDowell, Craig and Plantinga were all demonstrably ignorant or dishonest, that wouldn’t justify Chris’s conclusion that generally Christian apologists are ignorant or dishonest.

To get a sense of how outrageous Chris is being at this point, imagine if Buzz replied to our concerns over his racial prejudice by pointing out three specific examples of Mexicans he believes to be ignorant and/or dishonest. Even if Juan, Julio and Mario are ignorant or dishonest, it doesn’t follow that generally Mexicans are ignorant or dishonest.

In conclusion, I am not persuaded that Chris has adequately addressed my concerns over latent fundamentalist categories in his thinking.

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  • Reginald Selkirk

    Hallquist claims that Francis Crick wasn’t an ID theorist because he
    wouldn’t have accepted the title. What Hallquist ignores is the fact
    that the leading proponents of ID understand Crick’s panspermia thesis that he proposed in his book Life Itself to be an exemplar of reasoning by ID principles.

    Francis Crick clearly spelled out the motivation for his book on panspermia (Life Itself, 1981) in the foreword. With the molecular chemical basis for life on Earth revealed, progress in understanding the possible origin of that chemistry was not moving very fast. Specifically, the RNA World hypothesis, which proposed that life began as replicating RNA molecules, with proteins being added on later, had not gotten far because no one had yet identified any enzymes made of RNA. Again, this is clearly spelled out in Crick’s book.
    It was not long at all before RNA enzymes were identified. With the more recent identification of the ribosome as an RNA enzyme, and an alternate pathway for the abiotic synthesis of RNA, the RNA World Theory is doing very well indeed.
    If you ever again throw around Crick’s name in this context, you need to state that his motivation was clearly stated, and that the impediments to the RNA World Theory which he cited were soon removed. Anything less would be dishonest.

    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

      “If you ever again throw around Crick’s name in this context…”

      In what context is that exactly? My context is the point that ID theorists understand the thesis Crick proposed in “Life Itself” to exemplify ID reasoning. And this establishes that ID is not simply a new version of creationism. Your information is irrelevant to that point, and your assertion that failure to include that information makes me “dishonest” is frankly bizarre.

      • http://bilbos1.blogspot.com/ Bilbo

        Hi Randal,

        A few corrections:

        1. Crick didn’t propose that features of living organisms had been intelligently designed. He hypothesized that life and originated some place else, evolved into intelligent beings, who then sent spores to Earth, where they evolved into life as we know it. So the only part intelligence played was in sending microorganisms here.

        2. Bradley Monton is not an advocate of ID. He does argue that ID could be science. However, though he does think there is more than zero evidence for ID, he doesn’t think it is very large. Or course, this is based on his belief that science has shown that our universe is infinite.

        3. Fred Hoyle is a much better example of an atheist who accepted intelligent design as the best explanation for the origin of life:

        http://telicthoughts.com/sir-fred-hoyle-and-the-origins-of-id/

        • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

          “Bradley Monton is not an advocate of ID.”

          It all depends what you mean. Monton doesn’t believe that any putative instances of ID proffered by the ID community pass muster, but I never said he did. However, he does believe that design is a legitimate form of inference in scientific explanation and that’s the sense in which he is an advocate of ID.

          • http://bilbos1.blogspot.com/ Bilbo

            Agreed.

        • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

          As for Crick, I’m familiar with the nature of his panspermia thesis. The point is that he recognized it is in principle permissible to explain certain natural structures and processes by appeal to intelligent causal agency. That’s the core claim of ID theory.

          • http://bilbos1.blogspot.com/ Bilbo

            I think it’s a stretch to include Directed Panspermia within the ID framework. It might explain how life got to here from there. It doesn’t attempt to explain how life began or evolved. Anyway, I don’t think Crick would have been comfortable with your including it within an ID framework.

            • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

              “It might explain how life got to here from there. It doesn’t attempt to explain how life began or evolved.”

              The precise nature of the hypothesis is irrelevant. All that ID commits one to is the legitimacy in principle of an inference to intelligence.

              • http://bilbos1.blogspot.com/ Bilbo

                Okay, I see your point. Very good. What’s interesting is that Crick came up with Directed Panspermia as a way of trying to avoid the miraculous. Instead, he legitimized the inference to intelligence.

          • RayIngles

            Calling it “ID theory” is a bit premature. In science, a theory is something that explains a wide range of data and has successfully weathered many tests of its predictions. Neither of those apply to ID today – particularly the latter.

            You can call ID a hypothesis. But it’s not a theory in the scientific sense – yet, if ever.

            • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

              As I have noted before ID is a theory in the philosophy of science.

      • Reginald Selkirk

        In what context is that exactly?

        Implying that Crick was an advocate of Intelligent Design.

        My context is the point that ID theorists understand the thesis Crick proposed…

        If ID advocates are misunderstanding Crick’s proposal, then this is no different from their misunderstanding of a great number of other things. This is a circuitous way of dropping Crick’s name for something he would not approve of.

        I once had an exchange with a YEC who said something like, “If Charles Darwin were alive today, and saw the current state of evidence, he would probably be a YEC.” I hope it is needless to point out that this says nothing about Charles Darwin, but rather about my correspondent’s warped perception of the state of evidence.

        And this establishes that ID is not simply a new version of creationism.

        It does no such thing, you cdesign proponentsist.

        • Reginald Selkirk

          Furthermore, if any “ID theorists” are offering that interpretation of Crick’s writings, then name then and cite their interpretations, so that their contribution can be properly examined and evaluated. We both know that dropping the names of “ID theorists” is going to be a lot less impressive than dropping the name of a Nobel laureate though.

      • Reginald Selkirk

        ID theorists…

        Easily the biggest challenge facing the ID community is to develop a full-fledged theory of biological design. We don’t have such a theory right now, and that’s a problem. Without a theory, it’s very hard to know where to direct your research focus. Right now, we’ve got a bag of powerful intuitions, and a
        handful of notions such as “irreducible complexity” and “specified complexity” – but, as yet, no general theory of biological design. – Paul Nelson, Touchstone, 2004.

  • http://scienceandotherdrugs.wordpress.com/ physicsandwhiskey

    ….the direct fiat creation of all major animal species….

    To avoid confusion, I would change this to “the direct fiat creation of all major animal families”. The technical Family classification is closer to the creationist understanding of a baramin, and it’s also a more general term.

  • josephpalazzo

    PZ Myers has a blog today on Creationism.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/06/16/the-key-to-understanding-genesis/

    Coincidence?!?

  • Reginald Selkirk

    The fact is that ID is not “rebranded creationism”, and the person who suggests it is merely shows their ignorance of both.

    It is a legal fact, as borne out in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District decision.

    … is not a creationist. Nor, for that matter, is William Dembski… [where creationist = young earth creationist]

    Why do you think adjectives were invented?

    Bill Dembski on young vs. old Earth creationists, and where he stands

    WD: …I’m an old-earth creationist, so I accept that the earth and universe
    are billions of years old. Young-earth creationism, which is the more
    traditional view, holds that the earth is only thousands of years old.

    It appears that Dembski self-identifies as a Creationist, and you choose to parse adjectives in a very peculiar way to suit your own purposes.

    • Reginald Selkirk

      The Creation/Evolution Continuum by Eugenie Scott

      Explains terms for various relevant viewpoints, including Gap Creationism, Day-Age Creationism and Progressive Creationism, all terms in common usage, but that must be considered self-contradictory if one accepts Rauser’s disclaimer that “where creationist = young earth creationist.”

      • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

        Eugenie Scott is a physical anthropologist. If you want to understand out how these terms have been used you look to historians of religion and science. I recommend Ronald Numbers’ book “The Creationists”.

        • Ray

          Wait, you mean the book that was subtitled “From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design”?

          That subtitle would certainly suggest that Numbers believes Intelligent Design to be an outgrowth of creationism rather than an independent movement.

        • Reginald Selkirk

          If you want to understand out how these terms have been used you look to historians of religion and science.

          Silly me. I would have thought for questions of language use, you would turn to a linguist.

          • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

            You’re not silly. Just uninformed. My colleague is a linguist who works with SIL. That doesn’t mean he is better informed in the meaning of the word “creationist” then a historian of modern evangelical Christianity.

        • Reginald Selkirk

          If you want to understand out how these terms have been used you look
          to historians of religion and science. I recommend Ronald Numbers’ book
          “The Creationists”.

          Okey dokey, you asked for this.

          The Creationists: The Evolution of Scientific Creationism by Ronald L. Numbers (1992)

          Introduction, pp x-x1:

          Besides the unexpected revival in recent years, the most striking development in the history of twentieth-century creationism is the ascendancy since the early 1960s of a distinctive brand of creationism known as “scientific creationism” or “creation science.”

          Advocates of this view – essentially biblical creationism stripped of explicit references to God, Adam, and Noah – read the first chapters of Genesis in a way that allows for no life on earth before Eden and no death before the Fall.

          Until the last few decades most creationists would have regarded such notions as unnecessarily extreme. By the late nineteenth century even the most conservative Christian apologists readily conceded that the Bible allowed for an ancient earth and pre-Edenic life. With few exceptions, they accommodated the findings of historical geology either by interpreting the days of Genesis 1 to represent vast ages in the history of the earth (the so-called day-age theory) or by separating a creation “in the beginning” from a much later Edenic creation in six literal days (the gap theory). Either way, they could defend the accuracy of the Bible while simultaneously embracing the latest geological and paleontological discoveries.

          The creation scientists, by contrast, compress the history of life in earth into less than ten thousand years. To accomplish this, they attribute most of the fossil record to the brief period of the flood and its aftermath. They believe that the majority of plants and animals buried sequentially in the stratified rocks once lived together in the antediluvian world; thus these relics do no represent successive populations of flora and fauna spanning millions of years, as evolutionists ans most other creationists would assert.

          By the 1980s the flood geologists had virtually co-opted the name creationism to describe the once marginal views of Price. This remarkable shift in the prevailing meaning of creationism – from the theologically orthodox day-age and gap theories that allowed the history of life on earth to span millions of years to a doctrine of suspect provenance (because of its Adventist origins) that compressed earth history into no more than ten thousand years – serves as the focus of my study.

          pp xii-xiii: Chart of “Creationist interpretations of Genesis,” including Day-Age, Gap or Restoration & Ruin, and Flood Geology or Creation Science.

          It is clear to me from the above passages that Numbers considers Young Earth Creationism to be just one variety of Creationism, although at the time of publication it was the most prominent variety. If Mr. Rauser wishes to appeal to the Book of Numbers again, he will have to cite chapter and verse. The publication date of that book, 1992, precludes inclusion of Intelligent Design, which did not become prominent until later in the 1990s. To see what Ronald Numbers says about Intelligent Design, I recommend to Mr. Rauser and others the updated version, The Creationists: From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design, Expanded Edition (2006).

          • Reginald Selkirk

            I should note, the bolding in the above-quoted passages was added by me for emphasis.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    The fact is that creationism is traditionally committed to the following:

    (3) the direct fiat creation of all major animal species

    “Major animal species”? What a very strange use of the language. Most creationists talk instead about “kinds,” acknowledging that species as major as wolves and domestic dogs could have descended from a common ancestor since the time of creation. A few overeducated Creationists will talk about “baramins,” which means “kinds,” the study of which is known as baraminology.
    And you throw around this word fact as though you do not know what it means, or can twist it to suit your purposes.

    • cyngus

      The most major animal species created was the man, then the woman.

      This kind of animal, as we see now, evolved until nowadays, when we can talk about domesticated men… by women, or vice-versa

  • http://www.theaunicornist.com Mike D

    “ID is the view that appeal to intelligent or agent causal explanations is a legitimate part of natural science.”

    The obvious problem being that this isn’t actually testable, which is why ID generally consists of attacking evolution as though discrediting evolution would somehow lend credence to ID. But it’s just a thinly veiled argument from ignorance and yes, it’s creationism. Arguing that it’s not betrays an ignorance about how science actually works.

    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

      Mike, you make three claims.

      (1) ID isn’t testable
      (2) ID is an argument from ignorance
      (3) ID is creationism.

      Each of these is demonstrably false. The way you test for ID is by looking for evidence of contingency, complexity and specification (Dembsi’s filter) or irreducible complexity (Behe’s criterion) or the best explanation of a putative phenomenon based on known acting causes (Meyer’s method). Dembski in particular lays out very clearly his method. And ironically, many folks claim that Behe’s claim about the irreducible complexity of the bacterial flagellum has been falsified. If a claim can be falsified then it is testable.

      Second, you claim it is an argument from ignorance. No, read Stephen Meyer’s discussion of that topic in “Signature in the Cell.” The fact is that inferring to an intelligent cause based on known acting causes is new information, not ignorance, and it can specify new avenues of research.

      Finally, to say that ID is creationism is to evacuate the word “creationism” of meaning. Proponents of ID includes atheists, agnostics, Moonies (Jonathan Wells), Christians, and other theists. In the twentieth century the word creationism has been used to specify a position that includes the attributions I outlined in this article.

      • Reginald Selkirk

        The way you test for ID is by looking for … or irreducible complexity
        (Behe’s criterion) …And ironically, many folks claim that Behe’s claim about the irreducible
        complexity of the bacterial flagellum has been falsified. If a claim
        can be falsified then it is testable.

        Except that irreducible complexity really isn’t something you can look for. You have to look for the opposite. And then you have to decide when you have looked hard enough and can give up. I.e. it is an argument from ignorance.

        The bacterial flagellum as an example of irreducible complexity may or may not have been falsified. How many examples have to be shot down, with never a successful example, before we can say that the concept of irreducible complexity has been “falsified”?

        Behe repeatedly changed his definition of “irreducible complexity” as weaknesses were pointed out. And he has acknowledged, under oath, that irreducible complexity has weaknesses which he has not addressed.

        Trial transcript, Kitzmiller v. Dover

        Q. And then you write, However, commentary by
        Robert Pennock and others has made me realize that there is a
        weakness in that view of irreducible complexity. The current
        definition puts the focus on removing a part from an already
        functioning system.

        And then continuing on after footnote 5, you say,
        The difficult task facing Darwinian evolution, however, would not
        be to remove parts from sophisticated pre-existing systems, it
        would be to bring together components to make a new system in the
        first place.

        Thus, there is an asymmetry between my current
        definition of irreducible complexity and the task facing natural
        selection. I hope to repair this defect in future work. That’s
        what you wrote, correct?

        A. Yes.

        Q. You haven’t repaired that defect, have you,
        Professor Behe?

        A. No, I did not judge it serious enough to do so
        yet.

      • http://www.theaunicornist.com Mike D

        I started to write a reply, but I think this deserves its own post. I’ll send you the link when it’s up.

        • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

          Uh oh. This reminds me of my dad saying “You’re going to get it when we get home.”

      • Reginald Selkirk

        Dembski in particular lays out very clearly his method

        Do you think so? His inconsistent switching between Shannon information theory and Kolmogorov information theory is clear? His failure to offer a clear, consistent definition of “complex specified information” is clear? His pulling a “Law of Conservation of Information” out of an orifice is clear? His failure to respond substantially to specific criticism from Jeffrey Shallit and Wesley Elsberry (Information Theory, Evolutionary Computation, and Demski’s “Complex Specified Information,” 2003) (among others) is clear?

        Are you honest enough to admit that you do not have a sufficient grasp of information theory to know whether Dembski’s ID “theorizing” is worth anything?

    • Tom Gilson

      There are solid philosophical reasons for believing that to the extent evolution is discredited, ID may be supported. See http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2010/01/the-evolutionists-complaint-its-wrong-to-argue-for-id-by-arguing-against-evolution-part-1-of-3/.

      This would be an argument from ignorance if it were of the form, “gee, I don’t know much and I can’t figure out how evolution could do that!” Instead it is of the form, “Because of what we know about nature, we see severe difficulties attached to the theory of evolution, difficulties which make it likely that naturalistic evolution (as the explanation for life’s complexity and diversity) is impossible in principle.” That’s an argument from knowledge.

      To call it an argument from ignorance is either to accept the talking points of evolutionists without giving them due reflection, which amounts to intellecual laziness, or else it is to call knowledge ignorance and ignorance knowledge, which is just craziness.

      • http://www.theaunicornist.com Mike D

        Eh no, it’s still an argument from ignorance.

        That’s because even if all the misguided attacks on evolutionary theory were enough to overthrow 150+ years of empirical support, the unifying foundations of every field of biology, and the overwhelming consensus of actual biological scientists, intelligent design still wouldn’t become a valid alternative by default. It’s entirely possible that another natural theory could replace evolution by natural selection.
        Extraordinarily improbable given the overwhelming evidence for evolution and common ancestry, but possible.

        • Tom Gilson

          Sure it’s entirely possible another natural theory could replace evolution by natural selection. But I dealt with that here: http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2010/01/the-evolutionists-complaint-its-wrong-to-argue-for-id-by-arguing-against-evolution-part-3-of-3/.

          It is still the case, logically and probabilistically, that a case that disfavors naturalistic evolution favors ID.

          • http://www.theaunicornist.com Mike D

            Uh no. Your probabilities are based on faulty premises and unfounded assumptions and an understanding of evolution that betrays an immersion in ID literature rather than scientific literature. It’s a classic case of garbage in, garbage out.

            Any scientific theory must be able to generate testable hypotheses and observable, measurable, empirical results. It doesn’t work by inference or appeals to the “best explanation”. And it certainly doesn’t work simply by undermining competing theories. A successful alternative to evolution would have to not only account for everything evolution already has, but then account for more – like the supposed holes in evolution that ID advocates misguidedly try to poke.

            ID is based on a dubious premise: that because we observe intelligence creating complex things with specific functions, specific functions in nature could also be explained by an intelligence. It’s a false analogy – natural things are not man-made things. Most importantly, man-made things do not sexually reproduce.

            This intelligence would have to somehow causally interact with a species genome (at the level of populations, not individuals). It would simultaneously produce a great deal of waste and vestigial remnants at both the anatomical and genetic levels. What is this intelligence? What’s the mechanism of interaction with the genome? Why does it produce wasted information and vestigial remnants – something evolution has already explained?

            Arguing that the undermining of evolution bolsters ID is like a physicist arguing that undermining general relativity bolsters string theory. We know general relativity is incomplete and has some holes (not just the black ones), but string theory still needs to generated testable hypotheses to become a working theory.

  • http://patheos.com/blogs/hallq/ Chris Hallquist

    Randal, Dembski is a creationist, according to the definition of “creationist” that everybody used before the ID rebranding effort. I think you knew this when you wrote the post, or else you wouldn’t have bothered to stipulate that “creationist” means “young earth creationist.” And if you didn’t know it then, the quote Reginald provided should settle the issue. Do you acknowledge the point? Because if you don’t, I’m not sure there’s any point in continuing talking to you.

    Maybe I shouldn’t focus on semantics here. Maybe I should focus on things like Dembski promoting the claim that evolution contradicts the laws of theremodynamics. That’s not an argument an informed, honest person makes. And by “informed,” I don’t mean Ph.D. here, I mean anyone who paid attention in freshmen chem… or did a damn Google search on the subject, if they didn’t take that class.

    But on the other hand, it doesn’t take a bit of chemistry to figure out that Dembski is a creationist. So, can you acknowledge the obvious here?

    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

      There are two issues here Chris. The second one is Dembski’s view on the second law of thermodynamics and your speculation that his view somehow suggests his intellectual dishonesty. I couldn’t care less about that topic. It is a complete red herring.

      The first issue, and the relevant one, is how the word “Creationist’ is used. Frankly, I’m not sure how you’re using it because you never explicitly defined it. But the definition I provided parallels that in Ronald Numbers’ definitive history of the movement in the book “The Creationists”. Numbers is a historian and arguably the world’s leading authority on the modern creationist movement. You really ought to acquaint yourself with the actual history before making the kinds of ridiculous claims you’re making here.

      Here’s a quick overview. In common parlance the word “creationist” has been used as a synonym for “young earth creationist” and “six-day creationist”. That’s why Numbers titled his book on the topic as he did.

      Dembski is an old earth creationist. But he also wears his hat as an ID theorist. Those are two different hats, and if you can’t keep them straight, (let alone the difference between old earth creationism and creationism simpiciter) then that’s your problem.

      Finally, it is interesting that you choose to focus on Dembki’s position on creation rather than the central argument of this post that you defend an indefensible prejudice against Christian apologists.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/hallq/ Chris Hallquist

        This is utterly bizarre. I’m perfectly aware of the difference between old earth creationism and creationism. One is a subcategory of the other. Obviously. And you’re denying that?

        As for Dembski’s “hats,” the point is that however they’d like to define themselves, the Intelligent Design “hat” is worn primarily by people who are creationists (young earth, old earth, or refusing to say, the last of those being Phillip Johnson’s position). Seeing this, people like Francis Collins who may think there’s something to the fine tuning argument but want nothing to do with creationism, vehemently reject the “Intelligent Design” label. To those of us who don’t have patience for mental gymnastics, that sure as hell makes “Intelligent Design” look like mostly a rebranding effort for creationism.

        And it’s not just that–it’s also that the “Intelligent Design” label really gained popularity only after a series of court decisions that came down against the teaching of creationism in public schools. Seriously, did you miss the whole Dover trial, and the saga of the cdesign proponentsists? Being told I’m ignorant for thinking Intelligent Design is rebranded creationism is a little like being told I’m ignorant for thinking Ted Kaczynski was the Unabomber. Maybe you think the court got a particular case wrong, but outside of really extraordinary miscarriages of justice, surely you can believe a court’s verdict without being ignorant, right?

        Finally, I’ll note that it’s strange how quick you are to insist I must be ignorant because I disagree with you on whether Intelligent Design is creationism… given that you treat it as completely out of bounds to think that creationists are generally ignorant.

        • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

          “This is utterly bizarre.”

          Of course you can choose to use the term “creationism” in such a way that it becomes a type of which young earth creationism and old earth creationism are tokens. But I’m pointing out the way the term has in fact been used. Sorry if you find this “utterly bizarre”. Perhaps you should read Numbers’ book. It really is a great read.

          As for Dover, politics, blah blah blah, that’s all distinct from the question of whether or not it is ever legitimate to infer to intelligence as an explanation for natural structures or processes.

          And I still find it surprising that you choose not to engage the critique I present of your prejudices. Why don’t you take the bull by the horns and defend your claim that Christian apologists are generally as you’ve described?

          • Ray

            “the question of whether or not it is ever legitimate to infer to
            intelligence as an explanation for natural structures or processes.”

            What do you mean by “natural” here? I can think of two possible readings.

            1) “Natural” means observable by the methods of science. If so, archaeology infers intelligence from the natural world. This is uncontroversial even among those who oppose ID. So, if you think this is what ID opponents are arguing against, you are arguing against a strawman.

            2)”Natural” means “not artificial” i.e. not attributable to an intelligence. If this is what you mean, then of of course the design inference is illegitimate in the case of natural structures or processes. I doubt that even a hard core ID proponent would argue for this reading.

            In either case though, this definition does not separate what the ID folks think from what the anti-ID folks think — thus, it is a bad definition.

            • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

              By natural I mean a product of nature.

              • Ray

                “By natural I mean a product of nature. ”

                and what do you mean by nature?

                Is human intelligence part of nature? If so, see 1. If not, what intelligences do you consider to be part of nature? If none, see 2. If there is some non-human intelligence you consider to be part of nature, why do you include that in your definition of nature, but not human intelligence?

                • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

                  You should pose those questions to the methodological naturalist. One of the arguments for ID has always been that various fields of science already appeal to intelligence (e.g. forensics, SETI research, etc).

                  • Ray

                    Which methodological naturalist? And why is methodological naturalism relevant to the distinction between Creationism and the ID movement in the first place?

                    In my experience, most people who label themselves as naturalists, do not take naturalism to exclude intelligence, but rather, the “supernatural” (whatever that might be.) FWIW, my diagnosis, is that “supernatural” is just a figleaf that believers and the more polite agnostics use to relabel those phenomena which have been discredited by science as being “outside science.” In any event, this seems closer to a category 1 definition of “natural.”

                    It should be patently obvious, then, that what is objectionable in the ID movement is not the attribution of observable phenomena to intelligence in and of itself, but rather the attribution of phenomena, which are plausibly explained by, known, unintelligent forces of nature, to unknown intelligent agents, whose probable existence has not been justified by direct observation (humans), or by analogy to known intelligences (e.g. possible intelligent aliens on Earth-like planets elsewhere in the universe.)

                    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

                      “In my experience, most people who label themselves as naturalists, do not take naturalism to exclude intelligence, but rather, the “supernatural””

                      I don’t know about the range of your experience, but ID theorists are emphatic that ID theory only warrants the inference to intelligence. It does not allow the theorist to make any inferences about the “divine” or “supernatural” nature of that agent cause. All those extrapolations would be theological in nature and thus outside the purview of ID theory. So if this principle were really consistently applied there would be no objection to ID. Thus, the irony is that your attempt to identify a difficulty in my description of ID in fact reflects problems with the way methodological naturalism is defined and defended.

                    • Ray

                      I am well aware of the ID party line. But the fact remains that
                      absolutely no one is suggesting that any natural intelligence was
                      present at the time when, for example, the bacterial flagellum arose. So
                      unless you want to posit an intelligent race of aliens living on earth
                      in the Precambrian while leaving no paleontological or archaeological
                      evidence, positing any sort of intelligent designer for the bacterial
                      flagellum is the same thing as asserting supernatural intelligent
                      design.

                    • http://bilbos1.blogspot.com/ Bilbo
                    • Ray

                      “Fred Hoyle thought it was.”

                      Fair enough. Do you?

                    • http://bilbos1.blogspot.com/ Bilbo

                      No.

                  • Ray

                    Oh, and in case I didn’t make myself clear in my previous comment. On this board, you, Randal, are the one using natural/nature in an unclear and ambiguous way. You have the responsibility of clarifying what YOU mean by it. It does you no good to say that “the methodological naturalist” also uses the term in an unclear and ambiguous manner.

                    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

                      You’re incorrect, because I place no stock in those terms to begin with. My point is simple: inferences to intelligence are legitimate forms of scientific explanation. It is those who try to exclude such inferences by invoking particular understandings of “nature” and “methodological naturalism” and “supernature” who are obliged to define their terms.

                    • Ray

                      My point is simple: inferences to intelligence are legitimate forms of scientific explanation.

                      Sometimes yes. Sometimes no. Just like magnetic fields are great for explaining how a compass works, but lousy for explaining the gravitational effects of dark matter. I’m not being inconsistent when I accept magnetic fields as an explanation in the first case, while rejecting as a crackpot anyone who tries to use magnetic fields as an explanation in the latter case.

                      It is those who try to exclude such inferences by invoking particular understandings of ‘nature’ and ‘methodological naturalism’ and ‘supernature’ who are obliged to define their terms.

                      Rather that arguing against a strawman “methodological naturalist”, you might want to actually address what your interlocutor is saying. I have made it quite clear why I reject the design inference in the cases that self identified ID proponents argue for, and it doesn’t involve parsing definitions of “nature” and “supernature.” To wit:

                      “what is objectionable in the ID movement is not the attribution of observable phenomena to intelligence in and of itself, but rather the attribution of phenomena, which are plausibly explained by, known, unintelligent forces of nature, to unknown intelligent agents, whose probable existence has not been justified by direct observation (humans), or by analogy to known intelligences (e.g. possible intelligent aliens on Earth-like planets elsewhere in the universe.)”

                  • Reginald Selkirk

                    One of the arguments for ID has always been that various fields of
                    science already appeal to intelligence (e.g. forensics, SETI research,
                    etc)

                    A comparison which is disputed by practitioners of each of those fields.

          • Reginald Selkirk

            But I’m pointing out the way the term has in fact been used.

            Usages and examples have been provided which are contrary to what you claim. Apparently you consider the Numbers book to be the sole authority on this point.

            • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

              The fact that some people a word in a way that diverges from mainstream usage doesn’t change the fact that there is a mainstream usage!

              • Reginald Selkirk

                Some day I would like to see how you have redefined the word “fact.” But for now I will merely state that you have only asserted that two people, yourself and Ronald Numbers, use the word “Creationist” in the way you describe.

                • Reginald Selkirk

                  But for now I will merely state that you have only asserted that two
                  people, yourself and Ronald Numbers, use the word “Creationist” in the
                  way you describe.

                  And you were wrong about Ronald Numbers.

          • eric

            As for Dover, politics, blah blah blah, that’s all distinct from the question of whether or not it is ever legitimate to infer to intelligence as an explanation for natural structures or processes.

            Its not distinct, its in fact very important. Dover and other such cases illustrate that the ID movement promotes a methodology for design detection that is most consistent and best explained as religious proselytization as a justification; a methodology which is not consistent with the hypothesis that the are doing scientific investigation.

            Just two examples of that: (1) the ID movement sets up a false dichotomy exactly like earlier creationists did. This is completely inconsistent with a legitimate investigation of design but completely consistent with the hypothesis that Its creationism rebranded – because that’s exactly how creationists argue. And (2) they specifically exclude hypothesizing traits of their designer that could be tested by looking for independent evidence, which is exactly what archaeologists and the like would do. “If this is an Anasazi artefact and not a rock, we should find other evidence of Anasazi around.” No IDer does anything like that. After 20 years, not one specific designer hypothesis has been proposed, investigated, and either revised or rejected by the ID community!!! As with (1), this methodological behavior is fully consistent with the hypothesis that they are creationists doing religious proselytization and completely inconsistent with the hypothesis that they are scientists doing science.

            And that’s just two. I think it would be pretty easy to come up with other examples of how the behavior of ID proponents is consistent with the hypothesis that they are promoting Christian creationism and inconsistent with the hypothesis that they are investigating a scientific hypothesis.

            • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

              “the ID movement promotes a methodology for design detection that is most consistent and best explained as religious proselytization as a justification”

              Then maybe you should distinguish between “the ID movement” and “advocates of the view that intelligence is a legitimate explanatory inference in scientific investigation of natural phenomena.” I’m defending the latter.

              • eric

                I don’t know any advocate, in or out of the movement, that has proposed a designer hypothesis with empirically testable independent predictions, then gone out and looked for that independent evidence, and published the result. Can you name one such person?

                As far as I can tell no advocate bothers with doing that sort of thing. Which, as I said, is completely consistent with the hypothesis that their motivation is proseltyzation. First, religious proselytizers wouldn’t do it because they don’t there is any independent evidence to find: they believe God did it via miracle. Second, they wouldn’t do it because it does nothing to further their purpose, which is to introduce religion back into schools.

        • http://bilbos1.blogspot.com/ Bilbo

          Hi Chris,

          I agree that people like Francis Collins and Ken Miller want to avoid being called Creationists. The problems is that they can’t avoid it. People like P.Z. Myers and Jerry Coyne insist on calling them Creationists all the time.

          I half agree with you that the ID movement arose out of a desire to circumnavigate court decisions against teaching Creationism. However, I think we should credit the atheist Fred Hoyle as the first major advocate of ID, almost a decade before the ID movement was born.

          • Reginald Selkirk

            John Phin used the terms “Intelligent Design” and “Intelligent Designer” in a published work as early as 1908. (The evolution of the
            atmosphere as a proof of design and purpose in the creation, and of the
            existence of a personal God;: A simple and rigorously scientific reply
            to modern materialistic atheism, The Industrial Publication Company). That was before Hoyle was born.

            • http://bilbos1.blogspot.com/ Bilbo

              Hi Reginald,

              Yes, I think the term “intelligent design” can be traced even further back. What was unique about Hoyle, I think, was that he applied it to some agent besides God. I suspect (but can’t prove) that the founders of the ID movement realized that Hoyle had shown that ID is not strictly religious or about the supernatural.

      • Reginald Selkirk

        But the definition I provided parallels that in Ronald Numbers’
        definitive history of the movement in the book “The Creationists”.

        I don’t think so.

      • Hrafn

        But the definition I provided parallels that in Ronald Numbers’
        definitive history of the movement in the book “The Creationists”. … Here’s a quick overview. In common parlance the word “creationist” has
        been used as a synonym for “young earth creationist” and “six-day
        creationist”. That’s why Numbers titled his book on the topic as he did.

        NO IT DOES NOT! The Creationists also covers a long and wide history of Old Earth Creationism, including Gap Creationism, Day-Age Creationism, Progressive Creationism and Intelligent Design (in fact the most recent edition of The Creationists is subtitled “From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design”). Therefore it is unreasonable to claim that Numbers did not consider these categories to be covered under the book’s title of The Creationists, or that he does not consider them to be forms of Creationism.

        The equation of Creationism=YEC is a late innovation of the YECs themselves (wanting to give the impression that they’re the only, or the only true, creationists) and of ID (wanting to obfuscate their connection to constitutionally-impermissible creationism)

  • http://iamchristianiamanatheist.blogspot.kr/ Christian Kemp

    Anyone who thinks creationism (ID) is correct be they an atheist or not is plain wrong.

    If Bradley Monton is an ID proponent and he claims to be an atheist. I have to wonder if he himself understands the concept of atheism. SO hence the two are incompatible as a designer is required and that would have to be a deity or being that is not testable by science.

    • Tom Gilson

      Is this the “no true atheist” fallacy, Christian?

      I’ve discussed this with Bradley Monton face to face. He is an atheist. He finds the concept of ID interesting, he says that although he doesn’t believe in God, ID’s arguments make him think that God is more probable than he would be without those arguments, he thinks that ID is genuine science, and he thinks that the question, “is it science,” is a lot less interesting than, “is it true?”

      I am not quite sure what you mean by “the concept of atheism,” since so many atheists have told me that atheism is not a belief in anything. Given that assertion (if you hold to it), the better question would be whether Monton understands the non-concept of atheism.

      But that’s from the perspective of those who think atheism entails no positive beliefs. I don’t think Monton would accept that position. He understands there is such a thing as a concept of atheism.

      • http://iamchristianiamanatheist.blogspot.kr/ Christian Kemp

        Ok I said concept of atheism. But lets disregard the word play and get to the point.

        If someone believes ID is science, then they cannot be an atheist. Its a simple thing.

        ID: requires a deity.
        Atheism: denies the existence of a deity.

        Also if ID is a genuine science, could you please give me an example from either Science, Nature or Cell. Surely this genuine science would publish in these journals. (A link to the published article would be a good).

        Also no word games: ID is in place of evolution. So give me something in the relevant field, and not a chemist designing a new molecule.

        • Tom Gilson

          You say, “If someone believes ID is a science, he cannot be an atheist. It’s a simple thing.”

          Ah yes, we live in world of simple things: http://www.breakpoint.org/features-columns/breakpoint-columns/entry/2/22562

          • http://iamchristianiamanatheist.blogspot.kr/ Christian Kemp

            Question: If someone is an atheist can they believe in a deity?
            Question: Does ID require a deity?

      • Reginald Selkirk

        He finds the concept of ID interesting, he says that although he doesn’t
        believe in God, ID’s arguments make him think that God is more probable
        than he would be without those arguments, he thinks that ID is genuine
        science

        In other words, his judgment is not to be trusted.

  • eric

    The fact is that ID is not “rebranded creationism”, and the person who suggests it is merely shows their ignorance of both

    Its pretty clear that Dean Kenyon and the FTE think its rebranded creationism. In OPAP they used the same definition for both design and creation (fish with fins, etc). They also did a simple (and obvious) word substitution of ‘design’ for ‘creation’ between the early 1987 and the late 1987 editions of the book, in response to the Edwards vs. Aguillard case. Infamously leaving the “transitional form” of cdesignproponentists in the book. How do you explain that happening, if the authors did not think the two terms were essentially synonymous? I guess you could say that they did (think the terms were synonymous) and that they are therefore No True IDers. But that defense of what happened has obvious problems too; first is the reference problem I allude to by calling it No True IDer, but second, you’re now attributing a deep, profound misunderstanding of ID to the only people to have written a textbook on it.
    I’m glad you cite Barbara Forrest, but you must certainly acknowledge that she would very likely disagree with your assertion that the historic connections have nothing to do with the definition of ID. IMO, she’d reply that history has everything to do with the definition of ID, because its definition was designed by creationists in response to court rulings preventing creationism from being taught in schools. Its origin is legal, not scientific, and it represents a change in wording intending to allow the teaching of a subject as unchanged as possible by jettisoning the wording that prior courts found unconstitutional.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Barbara Forrest has done some good work identifying these historic connections.

    She is co-author, along with Paul Gross, of Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design, which documents in detail the links between Creationism and Intelligent Design. Her testimony at the Dover trial was also very impressive.

    But that is completely irrelevant to the definition of ID

    Who gets to define it? I can recall many tantrums thrown by the Discovery Institute when news reports did not use the DI’s carefully crafted terminology, designed to disguise the identity of ID with Creationism. So let me ask, who promotes Intelligent Design who is not linked to, or even on the payroll of, the Discovery Institute?

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  • Reginald Selkirk

    Nor, for that matter, is William Dembski or Stephen Meyer or David
    Berlinski. Indeed the only major proponent of ID who is also a
    creationist [where creationist = young earth creationist] is Paul
    Nelson.

    Knight-Ridder article of September 27, 2005:

    But in an e-mail message, Berlinski declared, “I have never endorsed intelligent
    design
    .”

    (original link evaporated, here’s a copy