Some recent news

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Here's some things I found interesting in the last few days:

  • This year's driverless vehicle challenge, run by DARPA, went quite well. Competitors, out for a $2 million purse, had to design a vehicle able to drive an assigned course 132 miles through the desert autonomously within 10 hours. Last year the best vehicle only made it 7 miles and no one won; this year, four vehicles made it within the 10 hours and a fifth vehicle finished later. The first vehicle one the purse. Check out this story for details. The technology obviously has military and other applications, and is, in my opinion, pretty cool. This seems like a great way for the military to spur technological innovation without having to shell out too much money. It rather reminds me of the X-Prize.
  • Bill Dembski has an interesting post on how various groups of creationists have problems with intelligent design -- some because ID tends to lean towards "Old Earth" ideas, and others because it, well, see for yourself.
  • Douglas Kern had an interesting Tech Central Station column recently, "Why Intelligent Design is Going to Win". Via Wittingshire.
  • Jollyblogger has a link, and a good post, on the sin of marital dissatisfaction. If you're married, or thinking of getting married, or might eventually get married, don't miss it. In fact, just read it regardless. Before I got married, I had the naive idea that married life would solve a lot of problems. It doesn't; rather, it brings more problems to light. It's great, but it doesn't provide the solution to all my problems. As a result, it is, of course, easy to be dissatisfied. But complaining and dissatisfaction are wrong (at least, as far as we're being dissatisfied with where God has put us, like marriage. There's nothing wrong with being dissatisfied with some things, like being dissatisfied with overeating or pride or various sins.), and God is able to help us avoid even these sins. I could write a whole post on this; maybe I will sometime. But for now, read Jollyblogger's post, and perhaps the one he references, and remember that there is a reason why God has you where you are, if you're a Christian, so don't grumble or complain.

12 Comments

The RTB position just seems to me to be internally inconsistent, but the young-earthers really have something right. Basically, young-earth creationists are distancing themselves from ID because ... ID is not religion!

For a different slant on Intelligent Design see Talking Past Each Other

The young-earth point is actually one problem I have with the whole RTB approach: Ross and Rana try so hard to make concrete, testable predictions (presumably because so many people argue that ID isn't testable) that they conflate predictions they're drawing from Scripture with predictions based on their own reasoning and on science. In other words, they aren't very clear about saying, "This is something that Scripture definitely says clearly," versus, "this is something we think this passage of Scripture might mean," versus, "This is something that we think makes some sense but Scripture really doesn't address one way or another." Perhaps they make these distinctions in their writing but not in the public lectures I've heard. This makes me rather uncomfortable, because I'm sure there will be people who think that all of their predictions are coming from the Bible -- and when some of their predictions turn out to be wrong, these people will use it as evidence the Bible is wrong, when in fact it's just the RTB folks' interpretation that had problems.

I think this also relates to the whole RTB objection that ID is not science. They try hard to make testable predictions, and because ID to date hasn't made as many testable predictions they are willing to call it "not science". But the reason they're able to make so many testable predictions is that they're willing to try to draw science predictions out of Scripture passages which are perhaps not meant to teach such things.

I guess the other difference is that most of the ID movement tries to argue only for a designer generally, while RTB tries to argue for the God of the Bible. If it's controversial to discuss ID in schools, it would be even harder to think about discussing the RTB model.

PBSWatcher,

I don't intend to respond to your post in detail at this point, as others have written a lot on the topic you're addressing (see Nancy Pearcey's Total Truth, for example). But I do want to respond to this bit:

"Science is concerned with the concrete, observable, repeatable universe and its characterization, measurement and prediction. Religion treats with philosophy, ethics, morals, the proper conduct of individuals, the proper structure of society."

That's your claim, and that of many scientists -- but it is by no means the only way science operates, nor is it by any means the only way religion operates. For example, science tries to deal with things that are not repeatable or predictable all the time (for example, past events, like the Big Bang). And religion goes far beyond philosophy, ethics, morals, etc., to make actual statements of fact. For example, the Bible teaches quite clearly that Jesus lived a perfect life and died on the cross, being raised from the dead, roughly 2000 years ago. Either that teaching is factual, or it isn't. It's not a statement of values or morals. If I say that I believe that Jesus did those things, I'm not making a statement of personal preference or philosophy: I'm saying that I believe the historical evidence and therefore I believe that he in fact DID do those things. For another example, the Bible is quite clear in teaching that God created the universe out of nothing. Either he did or he didn't; it's not merely an ethical or moral statement but a statement of fact. Science disprove this, actually: If it could somehow prove that the universe had always existed, then that would mean that God did not in fact create the universe out of nothing. On the contrary, though, current science suggests that the universe hasn't always existed.

So granted, I don't expect that science will prove or disprove the existence of God himself. But it CAN provide evidence one way or another, especially if we're talking about a particular god (the God of the Bible). The Bible makes a lot of factual claims, and science can speak to those. These are DEFINITELY not two entirely separate spheres as you suggest.

I take great exception to the notion that philosophy, including ethics, isn't about facts. Ethics deals with facts about what's right and wrong, what's good and bad, what's admirable, etc. Metaphysics deals with facts about the fundamental nature of the universe. Epistemology deals with facts about what justifies our beliefs, what constitutes knowledge, whether we can know anything, etc. Anything objectively true, anything that's real, is a fact. Philosophy deals with lots of facts.

Creation ex nihilo doesn't technically imply a beginning to the universe, just that God is the sole origin of the universe. If God is the explanation of the existence of an infinite past universe, then it's still ex nihilo. This account of what it is to be ex nihilo goes back at least to Augustine.

There's also the fact that scientists regularly do work that doesn't count as science by the falsifiability criterion, as I believe Dembski points out in the piece linked above. For example, string theory isn't really falsifiable. His disconfirmability account of what counts as science seems much better to me, but that seems to include some intelligent design arguments.

Jeremy,

Thanks. You got me on that one. I didn't mean to say that philosophy had nothing to do with fact, but I looked back at what I wrote and saw that that's indeed what I said: "And religion goes far beyond philosophy, ethics, morals, etc., to make actual statements of fact," and "I'm not making a statement of personal preference or philosophy." Whoops. I just picked up the words PBSWatcher was using without thinking about them, as he was contrasting values, etc., with "scientific" results which are "observable" and "repeatable".

Anyway, my apologies about my sloppy writing. I really don't think philosophy has nothing to do with fact. I was just trying to argue that there isn't such a clear distinction as he's saying. (And I think you could also argue that there are different means of knowing things. Just because you can measure something experimentally doesn't mean it's fundamentally more of a "fact" than something you can't measure. Philosophy seems to me generally to operate in a realm where you can't measure that much, but that doesn't mean the conclusions you come to can't be factual.)

It's telling that none of Kern's reasons involve the veracity of the science behind intelligent design, but rather tend to emphasize a majority rule view of science -- if the Republicans can just take over every university and research lab, ID will win.

I regard that as quite contrary to Christian views. Being reflected by God's laws in nature is a better, more powerful criterion. If ID cannot meet that one, it's dead.

I observe again that there is not a single laboratory anywhere on Earth using intelligent design to look into God's creation. For all the bluster, ID appears already to be dead.

Kern wasn't arguing for ID. He was giving a sociological forecast.

Also, his sociological forecast is based in part on a particular group of people being attracted to the thesis. He doesn't explain why that group is attracted to it, because he's trying to remain neutral on the issue. One explanation is that they're stupid and are drawn to it because they want it to be true. Another is that they're tuned into a reality that others because of their value systems do not want to turn out to be true, and thus they resist it despite the merits of the arguments. Either explanation is perfectly consistent with everything Kern says, which means he isn't saying that good arguments have nothing to do with it. He's just remaining silent on whether the sociological factors that lead a certain group to accept it include openness to good arguments or closedness to good arguments.

Then Kern's forecast is gloomy. He predicts that public relations will win in a contest over the facts.

Here in the U.S. we have a government based on the idea that, when given accurate information, the electorate will usually make correct choices. Here is Kern predicting the death of democracy in America.

One should rail against his conclusions, and work to change any accurate basis for his arguments.

I doubt that he has a clue what he's talking about. He offers no valid reason to think "intelligent design" will survive the year (assuming a decision in the Dover case by December's end), let alone to think that it can pose a testable, workable hypothesis. There is not a single laboratory on Earth working in intelligent design (Behe has stopped work, it appears from recent news rports). Despite that fact, Kern predicts this non-theory will triumph over a theory which so far has allowed us to treat diseases like diabetes and cure others, like cancer.

He's spitting in the wind.

The denial of an intelligent designer has not led to treatments for diabetes or cures for cancer. Some scientific work perfectly consistent with an intelligent designer may have led to progress in those areas, but you're holding up intelligent design as an antithesis of things intelligent design proponents believe in.

The denial of evolution is a denial of the science that led to the diagnosis and treatments for diabetes -- and cancer, and HIV, and a host of other diseases.

Intelligent design offers no insight into anything biological. The denial of familial relationship of humans with dogs, and pigs, and cows and horses, does not offer any suggestion of any possibility of treatment such as that for diabetes. The fact of the matter is that it was the understanding that we are related that led to the treatments.

How can a denial of the relationship do the same?

If genetic similarity is impossible without common descent, then your argument makes sense.

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