God is More Than an Intelligent Designer

(system) #1
The problem with Intelligent Design is that it pictures God as one cause among others. This is not the Christian picture of God.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blogs/brad-kramer-the-evolving-evangelical/god-is-more-than-an-intelligent-designer

(Brad Kramer) #4

Thanks to @Robin_Parry for letting me repost his excellent article. I’m looking forward to a good conversation about Robin’s ideas (of which I fully agree).

(Dcscccc) #5

from the article:

“So-called irreducible complexity, for instance, is seen as evidence of this “designer” because science cannot (in principle, we are told) explain it in terms of natural processes.”-


“But if future science did actually explain any alleged instances of irreducible complexity, then such instances would then such instances would cease to be evidence of the “designer””-

but so far scientific explanation support this argument. so until then scientific experiment support the intelligent design model and therefore is the best scientific explanation.

even if it will not be the case- even if ic will be falsified, its still doesnt mean that we dont need an intelligent designer to create nature.


That is “God of the gaps” thinking, beautifully illustrated. God serves as a placeholder for scientific ignorance, until new knowledge pries him from his shrinking hiding place.


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(Brad Kramer) #8

@Eddie if you want authors to respond to you, may I recommend not posting comments that are three times the length of the article itself? There’s absolutely no way that I can respond to everything you wrote here. But here’s a couple of brief thoughts (and @Robin_Parry can obviously pitch it if he wants:

I’m fully aware of this. But there’s a difference between “answered elsewhere” and “refuted elsewhere”.

Robin explicitly said the opposite:

I am not for one moment suggesting that those who believe in God should not look at complex systems within creation and marvel at how they manifest God’s goodness and power — after all, such complex systems live and move and have their being in God, manifesting the Divine Logos — but that is a very different issue from seeking to find them as evidence of direct divine intervention.

His point is that “design inferences”, for the Christian, should be a much more robust concept than demonstrating the insufficiency of natural mechanisms.

Your example about the coroner is interesting, but suffers two big problems when use it as an analogy for nature:

  1. In the short term (as in, the time of a murder investigation), it’s possible to tell with a reasonable measure of success whether something was “natural” or performed by a conscious agent. But over the long term, natural causes can accumulate into effects that approximate the immediate action of an agent. Evolution itself is the perfect example.
  2. Robin’s point about a designer being interchangeable with any super-powerful agent applies here. I could use the coroner argument to say that therefore, we should assume that any ancient technology for which we don’t understand the building method was imported by aliens from the planet Zorax. Why don’t historians usually posit alien intervention? Because they have a reasonable expectation, based on the trajectory of historical research and such, that these sorts of explanations will be eventually shown to be unnecessary. Should “ancient alien” historians and normal historians be given equal weight?

Also, in murder cases these days, there are plentiful examples of successful design inferences. In other words, the investigators thought that a conscious agent was involved with a piece of evidence, and they were proven right. But where are all the places in scientific research, both today and in the history of science, where something has been proven to have been created through some sort of intervening agent? Examples? The trajectory clearly points in the other direction.

Your arguments from classical theology, particularly Aquinas, are interesting, but I think you’re giving them too much weight. Robin’s argument was not that classical theologians were all evolutionary creationists, nor that divine intervention is outlawed. Rather, he pointed out that the doctrine of creation in classical theology is infinitely deeper and broader than today’s conversation allows.

Your long comments about the history of the “anti-ID” movement and the title of this article (which I chose) make exactly the point that Robin and I reject: that Christians are either “pro-ID” in the sense of the current movement, or “anti-ID” in the sense that God is absent and bad at creating and that creation doesn’t show his design. I can’t speak to others who have written against ID. I disagree with some of them.

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: The number one problem with today’s conversation about faith and science is that nearly everybody (atheist, Christian, and otherwise) starts with the shared premise that if science can “explain” how something happened in natural terms, God is out of a job. And among the overwhelming majority of ID advocates and their audience, this premise remains virtually unchallenged (in fact, ID has contributed more than perhaps any other movement to this flattened picture of divine action). All Robin is saying is that this premise, on its face, doesn’t jive with classical Christian theology. He never said God can’t intervene, or that he’s a bad designer, or anything like that.

Again, @Robin_Parry is welcome to jump in.


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(Benjamin Kirk) #10

Hello Brad,

Thanks for reposting that. Robin Parry’s essay expresses my theological position beautifully.

[quote=“BradKramer, post:8, topic:4701”]
His point is that “design inferences”, for the Christian, should be a much more robust concept than demonstrating the insufficiency of natural mechanisms. [/quote]

Or to be more accurate, claiming to have demonstrated such insufficiency scientifically without doing a single experiment in the lab or a single hour of field work–just rhetoric!

I agree, but Eddie’s analogy is far worse than that. In a murder investigation, the whole point is to identify the person who carried out the murder. The pseudoscientific ID movement, on the other hand, claims to have no interest in identifying the designer and even more incredibly, no interest in determining how the design was carried out.

If murder investigations were truly analogous to ID, I could design a murder and hire you to carry out my design, but Eddie’s investigators would show no interest whatsoever in identifying either of us!

Exactly. Cramming God into gaps that one perceives (primarily from avoiding looking very hard) diminishes God.

But I would say that most scientists who are not involved in the conversation don’t share that premise, only the most vocal minority who are involved.

(Benjamin Kirk) #11

[quote=“Eddie, post:9, topic:4701”]
I’m not arguing that; nor, to my knowledge, is any serious ID proponent.[/quote]
Hello Eddie,

Note that Brad didn’t claim that you were arguing that at all–he pointed out that it was a premise. Clearly, EVERY ID proponent starts with that premise, including you. You keep shoving God into the evolution of whales. Mike Behe claims that there’s an “edge” to evolution without bothering to look at the relevant evidence. I’m very confident that both of you are using the premise to which Brad refers.

ID is a pseudoscientific political movement. Evolution is a phenomenon. Evolutionary theory refers to the mechanisms underlying the phenomenon of evolution. Please make it clear which you accept and reject.

[quote]So is the Creator wise and wonderful, or does he do half-baked hack-work?
[/quote]Eddie, you seem to have forgotten that ID is only about the design, not the work involved in implementing the design. :grin:

[quote=“Eddie, post:9, topic:4701”]
Further, in your remark on this, you stick in the phrase “evidence of direct divine intervention” – which again is not something which ID theory claims.[/quote]
People make claims, not theories. There is nothing in the ID movement that has the epistemological status of “theory.” There isn’t even anything that has the status of a scientific hypothesis that makes unambiguous empirical predictions.

We agree! Because there’s no such thing “ID theory.”

Theories don’t know things. People know things. Why do you repeatedly conflate the two?

[quote]If some churchgoers attach ID to their own notions of “intervention,” that’s their doing, and it’s not warranted by ID theory.
[/quote]Please articulate this alleged ID theory with its current empirical predictions and list its past successful empirical predictions. Usually, real scientists refer to theories in mechanistic terms, as it’s a lot clearer that way. You seem to be striving for maximum ambiguity.


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(Brad Kramer) #13

Does Stephen Meyer count as a serious ID proponent? Here’s a quote from him:

If there is no evidence of design, and materialistic processes can account for everything we see, then the simplest metaphysical explanation of the reality around us, the scientific reality, is the materialistic worldview: Matter and energy are eternal, self-existent, self-creating, and perfectly capable of producing everything we see around us.
If, instead, we see evidence of a designing mind, then I think that evidence has faith-affirming implications because the most logical candidate for the designing mind is obviously God. (emphasis mine) (source)

In this quote, design is clearly put in contrast with natural processes, with the explicit implication that if natural processes explain the world around us, God is irrelevant and unnecessary. How is anybody supposed to understand design in a different sense here? What am I missing?

So basically, ID proponents set up “design” and “natural processes” as in competition, but yet design and intervention don’t necessarily go together? What sort of causes do you have in mind? Can you explain to me exactly how a scientific design inference could be made for something that is explainable by natural processes? Other than Denton, how many ID leaders have openly suggested that natural processes and design could co-exist? Because Meyer’s not one of them.

The very categories set up by the ID movement leave intervention as the only logical way that design could take place. That’s my point.

Your highly nuanced version of ID is interesting, Eddie, and I resonate with some of it. But among the laypeople I interact with every single day, it’s as rare as a unicorn. The plain sense of the Meyer quote above more accurately describes the position of the average ID person, in my experience. And that’s very much on purpose, I think.

P.S. When I try to advocate for design alongside natural processes (in the sense that Robin describes) on social media, I get jumped on by ID advocates all the time. So again, your nuanced version of ID which is supposedly the real version of the position is not getting out to the masses.


Yes, and at one time Gordon Glover did an animated cartoon about that very situation.


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(Benjamin Kirk) #16

Me: “If murder investigations were truly analogous to ID, I could design a murder and hire you to carry out my design, but Eddie’s investigators would show no interest whatsoever in identifying either of us!”[quote=“Eddie, post:12, topic:4701”]
This shows a complete misreading of my words. Benkirk’s comments presuppose that a murder has been committed, and that the job of the coroner is only to figure out who and how and when.[/quote]
My comment involved no such misreading nor presupposition. It still stands as an illustration of the falsehood of your analogy. Your ID coroner has zero interest in the perps.

That’s yet another false analogy!

The coroner does not have to rule out causes in any particular order!

The coroner’s job is to find the truth. But thanks for pointing out yet another way in which your analogy is false: your ID coroner refuses to advance, articulate, or test a single hypothesis regarding the possibility of murder (intelligent design) that could ever be empirically falsified.

[quote]Mike Behe at The Dover trial:
Q. And you also propose tests such as the one we saw in “Reply to My Critics” about how those Darwinians can test your proposition?

A. Yes.

Q. But you don’t do those tests?

A. Well, I think someone who thought an idea was incorrect such as intelligent design would be motivated to try to falsify that, and certainly there have been several people who have tried to do exactly that, and I myself would prefer to spend time in what I would consider to be more fruitful endeavours.[/quote]

Can you imagine a real coroner behaving like Behe? Real coroners, who unlike Behe, are looking for the truth, are perfectly willing to test both types of hypotheses. Your coroner is determined to demonstrate murder or nothing at all, using only words.

I imposed no such order. Even if your coroner determined that a murder had been committed, both Brad and I are perfectly safe and my statement stands completely unrefuted.

ID is not a person, so it can not try to discover anything. The people in the ID movement do nothing of the sort anyway. They merely assert that they have detected design and do NOTHING to test their hypothesis. An analogous coroner would be incredibly corrupt.

Ah, the truth! It’s all about claiming, not detecting.

Not at all, Eddie. Your analogy is false in every sense.

  1. That’s not how coroners work, and
  2. you were just denying this as a premise, but now you’re admitting it yet again:

And I haven’t heard anyone posting on a creation/evolution comment board complaining that what coroners do isn’t scientific – that their procedure of eliminating necessity and chance to arrive at a design conclusion violates the ground rules of science.[/quote]
I haven’t heard anyone else besides you claiming that coroners can only consider hypotheses in a particular order. Moreover, most real coroners are not corrupt, so they are more than willing to try to empirically falsify a hypothesis of murder (intelligent design).

Your analogy isn’t partial, it is false on every level!


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(Brad Kramer) #18

@eddie thanks for the exchange. I’m content to let you have the last word, unless @Robin_Parry wants to jump in.


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(Roger A. Sawtelle) #20

The problem with Intelligent Design (ID) is its tendency to look for God (or simply a “designer”) in the gaps of scientific explanations. So-called irreducible complexity, for instance, is seen as evidence of this “designer” because science cannot (in principle, we are told) explain it in terms of natural processes. But if future science did actually explain any alleged instances of irreducible complexity, then such instances would cease to be evidence of the “designer”. - See more at: http://biologos.org/blogs/brad-kramer-the-evolving-evangelical/god-is-more-than-an-intelligent-designer#sthash.35arEbB6.dpuf


I am appalled that BioLogos is still spending time a resources attacking ID. While I know that these are issues that need to be straightened out, this is not the way to do it.

In a true sense the question concerni9ng design is a dead one, and it seems that ID has won. It is my understanding that BioLogos accepted that the universe is designed. Even Dawkins says that evolution created species which appear to be designed for their unique biological niche.

It is hard to understand the difference between something which is designed and something which appears to be designed. The key to understanding this difference is the philosophy of science adopted by Dawkins and many other scientists, namely the one found in the book, Change and Necessity by Jacques Monod, which rules out the possibility of design and purpose in Nature, because it rejects for ideological reasons the possibility of God Who is the Creator of the universe.

The argument over evolution has not been primarily about science, but about ideas. Darwinians like Dawkins & Co. have insisted that people who accept evolution as true also accept the naturalistic which in their minds does away with God. Creationists, which seems to include ID, insist that God does play a role in this process, and their mistake is suggesting a God of the gaps role.

In a sense I would agree with Dawkins, either the universe is rationally designed by God, or it is not, but unlike him my view is that the evidence is heavily in favor of design and thus God, not the other way around. I have come across a book on Amazon called Illogical Atheism by Bo Jinn.

What he argues is what the title says, that atheism, in particularly the New Atheism of Monod and Dawkins makes no sense when compared the world as we know it. He does not claim to be a Christian or a theist in a religious sense, just a person with philosophical integrity.

He is right on in his negative critique of atheism, but we need to also build a positive case for our faith which we have failed to do.

(Albert Leo) #22

I, for one, greatly appreciate your contributions to this thread, Eddie. With your description of the ‘larger ID tent’, I feel very comfortable sheltering beneath it. Is this not what Paul Davies implied in "The Cosmic Blueprint”: “The very fact that the universe is creative, and that the laws have permitted complex structures to emerge and develop to the point of consciousness–in other words, that the universe has organized its own self-awareness- is for me powerful evidence that there is ‘something going on’ behind it all. The impression of design is overwhelming." [My emphasis.]

No sensible person has accused Paul of being a “closet Creationist”.
Al Leo

(Albert Leo) #23

But it is also important to note that Dawkins also concedes that Darwinian evolution can NOT explain the unique role of modern Homo sapiens. Quoting from his book, “Ancestor’s Tale”:
“Archeology suggests that something very special began to happen to our species around 40,000 years ago. Anatomically, our ancestors who lived before this watershed date were the same as those who came later (i.e no genetic difference)….Something happened then…I like Jared Diamond’s name for it, the Great Leap Forward.” And further: “Perhaps the great Leap forward coincided with the suddendiscovery of what we might call a new software technique.”
Al Leo