Trust Us, We Were Lying!

Wednesday, December 3, AD 2008

One of the arguments I’m starting to get very tired of is that when Senator Obama addressed Planned Parenthood and promised that the first thing he would do as President would be to sign the Freedom of Choice Act (thus cementing a more drastic pro-abortion regime than has ever existed in the US to day) he was obviously just scoring partisan political points, and that Catholics are not only ill advised to worry about FOCA passing and being signed but that if they do so they are actively behaving in bad faith by accusing Obama of supporting something he never really meant to do.

I don’t think it’s news to anyone that politicians often pander, and to anyone who doubted it in the first place it’s increasingly clear that the only difference between Obama’s “new politics” and the old kind of politics is that the “new politics” involves Obama being president. But even if it’s common knowledge that one of the good ways of knowing that a politician is lying is to see if his mouth is moving, I don’t see how we can even discuss politics if we don’t assume that the promises which a politician expressly makes on the campaign trial represent something which the politician at least thinks would be a good idea.

9 Responses to Trust Us, We Were Lying!

  • It is an odd phenomena. A candidate makes a campaign promise, the promise is cited, and then the people citing the promise are accused of dishonesty for repeating the promise.

    At the same time, I would say there is a hierarchy of plausibility in campaign promises, and the promise to sign FOCA is on the lower end of that spectrum. It was made 1) To a particular interest group once (rather than repeatedly), 2) When Obama still was scrambling for the nomination by running to Hillary’s left. Additionally, Obama, as far as I can tell, is a pragmatist. He wants to be re-elected, and knows that whatever marginal increased appreciation from his base he received from signing FOCA would more than likely be outweighed by a backlash among moderates.

    BTW nice turn of phrase about the ‘new politics’. I’ve thought the same thing but hadn’t seen it phrased that way.

  • I agree that FOCA is probably fairly unlikely to pass. Now that Obama is out of the left-wing bubble, he’s having to find ways to please more than just the sort of activists one runs into in Chicago politics.

    I’d see the most likely situation for it doing so being a situation in which flagship administration priorities are going down and it finds itself in need of shoring up its base. Then we could potentially see a certain amount of cultural left stuff rammed through.

    But it was a massively stupid promise to make in the first place. (I have difficulty thinking of a GOP example extreme enough to give a comparison, but I think the “Pure America Act” suggestion comes close.) I suppose now that we’re stuck with him as president we must hope that he’s gaining wisdom, but color me unimpressed.

  • Start the betting line in Vegas- which bishop is first to close the Catholic health care institutions in his see. Chaput is always a favorite. Brusky of Nebraska, natch. I could even nominate our Cardinal Rigali of Philly- got on phone with City Council in a flash over some meaningless Pro-Choice City Proclamation, removed next session. Been reading that our hospitals constitute one-third of U. S. of A. health care institutions. Would not be a good idea to institute nationalized health care with swamped public and other E.R.’s. Ball’s in your court, Mr. Obama. FOCA or hospitals- choose.

    (Also- can’t wait for first video of bishop dragged off to jail on FOCA protest charges- at hospital, abortuary, etc. Can cut to sound of air flying from balloon, signaling end of Obama Presidency if it occurs.)

  • I’d say the election in Georgia makes passage of FOCA much less likely, and not just because there is one more vote to sustain a filibuster. A President is never stronger than after he is first elected, and the defeat by a wide margin of Martin in the Senate runoff makes the election of Obama seem a bit less like a realigning election and a bit more like a fairly natural party switch after a two term presidency, especially with the economy in the tank. As a President is perceived more as a conventional politician and less like a political tidal wave, his influence diminishes. However, I do think there will be an attempt to pass FOCA, even if it appears unlikely to prevail, and I do anticipate that the Obama administration will always be a staunch foe of the pro-life movement, as they will amply demonstrate by Obama’s judicial picks. The election of Obama was a disaster of the first magnitude for the pro-life movement, and pro-lifers who voted for Obama obviously have, for them, much higher priorities than seeking to stop the legal slaughter of children within the womb.

  • The promises we make speak of who we are.

  • Appointments matter – to the S. Court and lower courts obviously, but also throughout the federal branch. There are a whole host of policies that need advancement and protection…notification, military bases, wait periods, federal funding, forcing clinics/professionals to do or provide x or y……

  • You cite a blog I write for, I would hope you would honest about us.

    I have always admitted that Barack Obama is pro-choice and that I disagree with him and consider it a legitimate reason not to vote for him.

    I am all in favor of opposing pro-abortion legislation and supporting pro-life legislation.

    You make the statement “FOCA is probably fairly unlikely to pass.”

    That is all I have said as well. And certainly there have been others who do not agree with us and make claims that passage is days away.

    Equally there is no right to lie about what FOCA would do. The great bluster was by the bishop of Arlington suggesting civil disobedience. To do so would first require his diocese to actually open a Catholic hospital, a ministry he has heretofore not maintained in his jurisdiction. Second, using the most extreme possible understanding of FOCA, he would have to file false Medicaid claims. Really, not the TV action that is suggested.

  • Kurt,

    So tell me again why you support Obama (and vote for him)?

  • Obama just signed today a reversal of the abortion policy, now forcing our tax money to fund international abortions. So, the Obamanation has sadly begun. And sure, I’ll bet Hillary will make it a pre-condition that countries seeking aid be willing to provide this murder service. God have mercy.

2 Responses to Pension Wipeout

  • It is GM times 100,000. The tick tick tick under most local and state governments. Given the fact that at least a dozen states have publicly displayed their financial distress- CA, NJ, NJ, MI, others- root through the financial records and you will find this potential mess. Now switch to Washington and the administration of the Ponzi scheme that is Social Security. Which many experts will claim goes kablooey on or around 2016. You have a potential crisis that makes the current kerfuffles look trivial. Watch the next four to five years. There is radical change underway in virtually every major American institution. It is what Phila. Mayor Michael Nutter faces during his current round of community meetings to explain the $108 million tax revenue shortfall and why their neighborhood libraries, pools and rec centers will close. How ironic. Just before the Great and Handsome Apostle of Big Gummint assumes the Presidency, the Era of Big Gummint is coming to a screeching halt.

  • Quite right Gerard. I used to jokingly tell people that my retirement plan was to be carried dead from behing my desk at 85. Now I fear that my retirement plan may become a reality for many.

10 Responses to American Civil Religion

  • Thanks for the summary Ryan. I had glanced at the Wikipedia page to get a general idea of the accusation. It’s an interesting concept, but it seems to me that moralistic therapeutic deism is far more widespread, particularly over the last twenty to thirty years as the textbooks have discussed U.S. history in less glowing terms.

  • Pingback: Conspirama
  • I think you should also look at the more “conservative” or even traditional arguments against American Civic Religion. What I am refering to is the condemnation of the heresy of Americanism by Pope Leo XIII. This is especially relevant in light of issues such as individualism, “exporting democracy”, and American particularism.

    You have to understand that “exporting freedom” has been a part of America for a long, long time. This has been the unofficial idea probably since the begining, when the US was seen as the model for a liberal revolution, which caught hold accross Europe. It became the official millitary philosophy of the country since at least the Spanish American War where “American Democracy” conquered Old (and in part Catholic) Europe, and was continued in World War One and up to the Iraq war.

    Furthermore, the Individualism angle cuts in a few different directions. It is not just an economic issue. The Church has always said that the common good is more important than individualist rights, which effects social issues as well.

    The similarity of their criticism against the heresy of Americanism and the modern critique of American civic religion is amazing given their very different views and political committments.

  • The first is the importance of not simply writing someone off as “being that way”, and instead actually trying to argue things out with specifics.

    Not sure why everyone on this blog seems to think that blog comments are the place for extended arguments and complex explanations of phenomena like american civil religion. Surely you don’t expect me to be able to give a lecture on such things every time I make reference to them? I’ve written on american civil religion before. Sometimes I simply refer to things without feeling the need to make a long argument, seeing how we are bloggers, and you are not my dissertation committee.

    …especially if he works under the paradigm that those who support the War in Iraq, capitalism, strict border control, and so on live in either a conscious or unconscious worship of this American Civil Religion

    Not quite.

  • Michael – don’t be ridiculous. You made an accusation. Then you refused to provide any evidence for that accusation or offer any explanation of what led you to make the accusation. We were not waiting breathlessly for you to provide a lecture on anything – just to show the common decency of trying to justify your charge. Even Kingsley did that much.

  • Sometimes I simply refer to things without feeling the need to make a long argument

    Translation: “My habitual pattern on almost every occasion is to throw out insults that I can’t be bothered to explain or defend.”

  • We’re not your dissertation committee — which is probably why you haven’t been kicked out of grad school 😉 — but there’s a point at which if you want to throw around accusations and characterizations you should be prepared to explain what you mean by them.

    I don’t think you’d be impressed by a blog where people were constantly told, “You’re just one of those Liberal Catholics” and the accusor then refused to even explain what he meant by the term. Similarly, if you want to accuse people of worshipping at the altars of the state, or worshipping the military, or participating in American Civil Religion, or what have you, then you need to be prepared to explain what you mean by those terms and why you think they apply. Or at least, you need to be prepared to do that if you want to have any chance of helping people understand what you mean and perhaps even respect your opinion — if your main purpose is to blow off steam online I guess it really doesn’t matter.

    You clearly have a fairly unique political perspective, yet you seem oddly hesitant to ever lay it out very clearly. Trying to see if I was being unfair on this, I just ran down your list of VN posts back to the mid summer, and although I see a lot of quicky “Look at this horrible thing” posts and “This writer says this about Obama” posts, going back to July of this year I don’t see any where you lay out a policy proposal or write more generally about your political philosophy.

    Which made it a bit ironic when I ran across >this post where you express the laudible opinion:I am thankful to be part of a group blog that focuses on original writing and commentary on contemporary issues and current events rather than constantly pointing the finger at other bloggers.

    I’m not saying that I’d agree with you any more if you tended to write more substantively in your posts and comments, but I would at least have the benefit of knowing what it is that you think — other than that you generally react to my economic views with horror.

  • Michael,

    Not sure why everyone on this blog seems to think that blog comments are the place for extended arguments and complex explanations of phenomena like american civil religion.

    This from our comment policy:

    We would like American Catholic be a place where Catholics from various perspectives (and anyone of good will) may constructively discuss the issues that unite and divide us.

    Our intent here is not just to post articles, but have discussions. While we greatly appreciate your taking time to read what we’ve written, we’re also hoping for genuine dialogue. In a sense, we do want our comboxes here at AC to deal with complex arguments made for or against difficult issues. Now, of course, no one says you have to make long, involved comments. You have your blog to manage and probably many other things to do. At the same time, if you have the opportunity, we’d like to hear some well-argued points you have to make.

    I’ve written on american civil religion before. Sometimes I simply refer to things without feeling the need to make a long argument, seeing how we are bloggers, and you are not my dissertation committee.

    Part of the problem with saying this is that just because you’ve written about American Civil Religion before does not mean that we understand how you’re validated in accusing us of worshiping it. Now, I certainly took your advice and looked up the topic myself. I read Bellah’s original argument, and have worked through a good portion of his “The Broken Covenant” to try to get a good understanding. From there I speculated on what your accusations were precisely, and why I felt there weren’t justified.

    The difficulty, of course, is that I’m not a mind reader. I don’t know that these are your arguments, or even if they are, if you’re not seeing important minutiae that I didn’t pick up on. That’s why we ask for clarification.

    The point is that we’re not blogging to be in a void. We’re not spending hours of our time to produce something that has no impact on people. And if you feel that we’re presenting very bad arguments, we’d not only like to know that we are doing so, but how. We’ll take criticism–though we will probably argue quite a while–but we’d prefer “You’re wrong, and here’s why” over just a “You’re wrong.”

    Now, you challenged me to look into something, and I have, and I feel I’ve gleaned a good amount of insight from it. I feel sheepish that you had to rebuke me to look up “American Civil Religion” on my own, but then, that doesn’t solve the problems you see here. It reminds of the joke about a man overhearing a couple of coworkers gossiping about someone who simply doesn’t have a clue, and walks away thinking “I’m glad I’m not like that guy”, when in truth they were talking about him. Having looked into American Civil Religion, I feel comfortable in saying, “no, I don’t worship at its altar”, but maybe you’re seeing something I’m not. That’s why specifics are necessary.

  • Also, a little note on prose composition: If you want to emphasize that you’re using a proper noun (perhaps one that others should make themselves familiar with before responding), it can help to capitalize it — even if it contains the hated word “American”. Thus “American Civil Religion” or if you want to be specific “American Civil Religion as described by [Name]” might be more helpful than “american civil religion”.

    Otherwise people may not realize that you’re referring to a socialogical term rather than just tossing off an ad hoc accusation.

One Response to Fourth Party Hearsay

7 Responses to Basic Health Care and the Common Good, A Conservative Response

  • Good post.

    I’m part of a project in Madison, WI that is addressing this issue right now. It’s called Our Lady of Hope Clinic, and it will offer free basic healthcare to the uninsured.

    How will this be paid for? We are currently recruiting and signing up benefactors. These benefactors will pay a single annual fee to receive all of their primary care from the clinic. What’s in it for them?

    1. Their contribution serves the poor.
    2. They get high-end concierge-style care. In other words, instead of the average six-minute appointment, they are guaranteed 30-minute office visits so the provider gets a complete picture of their health and their needs. There is 24/7 access to a personal physician. This also allows for a focus on preventative medicine so health care doesn’t turn into “sick care.”
    3. Only 300 benefactors per physician–about 10% of the typical practice. This allows for the long appointment times and individualized attention. It also allows the doctors to spend slightly over half of their time treating the poor.
    4. 100% pro-life. Parents don’t have to worry about doctors pushing birth control pills on their teens.
    5. No billing or claims. The annual fee covers everything.
    6. There are tons of tax deduction opportunities, depending on one’s situation.
    7. Depending on their current coverage, many people can actually save money by becoming benefactors and switching to a high-deductable secondary coverage for their advanced care.

    Certainly the solution to American health care is not singular, but I believe this model will make some serious inroads. It’s a win-win for the poor and the benefactors.

    Additionally, it eases the burden on the system. When the uninsured can treat, for example, their diabetes early, it cuts down on ER visits that will never be paid for. This reduces the sunken costs of our hospitals and benefits the consumer.

  • Oh yeah, if you’re interested in learning more: http://ourladyofhopeclinic.com/

  • Sounds like a pretty good idea. It kind of reminds me of the stuff Wal-Mart is doing with its health clinics. My main concern is that if these sorts of things become too popular, the AMA will try to shut them down, ostensibly on grounds of safety but really as a form of protectionism for doctors.

  • How dare you question the motives of the AMA. What’s next, teacher’s unions? The ABA?

  • When I was fairly young our family got most of our care from a local clinic which worked on something like this model — it was I believe open to anyone who was a city, state or federal employee (my dad worked at a city college) and it was the local clinic at which young doctors did their internships.

    And yes, one of the major obstacles to this kind of thing is the AMA, which wants to make sure that the value of doctors (and thus cost of health care) remains high.

  • How dare you question the motives of the AMA. What’s next, teacher’s unions? The ABA?

    Ha!

  • Diagnosing standard diseases and infections, and treating them with anti-biotics. Standard inoculations. Basic screening tests. Treating basic injuries. X-rays. Standard ultrasounds and pre-natal care. Delivery in cases without complications. Well-child care.

    It is an interesting idea, although it may be difficult to distinguish in practice between ‘basic’ and advanced health care. To cite one example, during both of my wife’s pregnancies, either she or the child required more than ‘basic’ care; it is hard to assess pregnancy risks ex ante.

    I have had a couple acquaintances (both in their twenties) in the past five years who went to the doctor with fairly minor complaints (a persistent cold, a sore knee) that turned out to be cancerous, requiring prolonged medical treatment. It is possible that a regular nurse or less skilled personnel would have made the proper referrals for a timely diagnosis; but health care is a field where incremental differences in education can matter a great deal. At least, so it appears from the outside.

    Given the large number of people who cannot (or will not) pay for basic insurance now, the balance of harms may weigh heavily in favor of relaxed licensing requirements. Any change will have trade-offs, and this is an interesting suggestion. How feasible it is politically is another question entirely…..

2 Responses to Catholics Come Home!

Is "Planned" a Dirty Word for Catholics?

Monday, December 1, AD 2008

Taking a quiet Saturday morning to catch up on reading the newspaper, I was perusing a WSJ article on the lost virtue of prudence in our modern American society when I came across this jarring note:

The puzzling thing is that, under normal circumstances, our Americanus prudens should be flourishing. By looking ahead and exercising self-control, these unassuming homebodies tend to do well in school, form solid families and make lots of money — which they compulsively save, tucking it away in banks or mutual funds (once-sturdy institutions recently found by scientists to be hollow). The prudent have only the children they can afford — prudential parenthood is inevitably planned — but these offspring tend to thrive thanks to a stable home environment in which education is emphasized.

This threw me because the most financially prudent people I know at work are those with single incomes and large families

14 Responses to Is "Planned" a Dirty Word for Catholics?

  • Well done. My wife and I got married at 22 right out of college. Due to some medical issues, we didn’t know if we’d be able to conceive and just figured whatever happened, happened. Two weeks later, doctors told my wife she wouldn’t be able to get pregnant. Two weeks later we conceived.

    Our more cosmopolitan friends tripped over themselves asking if our son was planned. It only baffled them more when we said, “We didn’t really think about it.”

    Though it touches on a slightly different issue, I think the Epistle of James makes the same point you are making:

    “Come now, you who say ‘Today or tomorrow we shall go into such and such a town, spend a year there doing business and make a profiit.’ You have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow. You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears. Instead ou should say, ‘If the Lord wills it, we shall live to do this or that.’

    I think this is the same approach to take to raising a family.

  • Not long ago, American Spectator gave Strange New Respect Award to Conservative who curried Dem favor most in year- John McCain would win in heartbeat during ’08. Now a new kind of SNR Award to The American Orthodox Catholic Family. More than three kids, generally one income, no credit cards maxed out, making 10-year-old minivan last another year. Maybe you saw something on Drudge regarding Brit Catholic prelate going spastic on Disney Co. for reinforcing fantasized greed in children. Would ask the good father to chill and worry about more important stuff like terrorists killing children in hotels. But seems to make the point clear. But just when MSM will lionize these families, then scary facts come to forefront. Many homeschool the younguns. If it’s not EWTN, Veggie Tales, the occasional Disney DVD, the horrors of teevee do not imprint their young minds. Worst of all- horrors- Mom and Dad accept newborn sib as sign that God wants them to be fruitful and multiply. So maybe they’ll scrap that feature story in favor of something more gloom and doom.

  • I have to admit that even I’m not completely immune from the larger cultural mentality. My best friend just got married, and he and his wife immediately conceived (and I don’t think it was quite “planned”), and I was a bit surprised at first – and my wife and I were ones who did want to have children right off the bat (we had to wait a little longer, but thankfully not too long).

    That said, and maybe it’s the company I keep, but it does seem that it’s not completely alien anymore to express a desire for many children.

    Homeschooling, on the other hand, is a different story.

  • All of your children will be planned at least in this sense, that you waited until you were married to have them. By that standard the planning of even a couple who says “we will take however many God wants” exceeds the level of planning of a lot of folks.

  • It’s interesting. I have had similarly awkward conversations with law students recently. We are expecting our third child in May, and so the topic seems to come up quite a bit. I haven’t really mastered a short, pithy way to handle it at this point. Explaining the mechanics of NFP is not really a thirty-second conversation, and a vague reference to it yields blank, skeptical looks. With Christians one can reference about 19 centuries of consensus on the immorality of artificial contraception, however most people are not practicing Christians, and so any explanation of contraception/NFP/the nature of marriage has a lot of ground to cover. As regards the title of the post, I do not think ‘planning’ is a dirty word, but it certainly means something very different to practicing Catholics.

  • John Henry,

    Agreed. I was on the point of saying something along the lines of, “Well, Catholics don’t use birth control, but we do often use natural family planning to put off getting pregnant again for a while. So we plan, but it’s different.”

    But to my mental ear that sounded too much like “We don’t divorce, but we have annulments” or some other distinction which outsiders see as hyprocracy without a difference. I’m not sure what the good explanation is.

  • “Coworker (who had just been talking about how her “clock was ticking” but her boyfriend seemed in no hurry to propose): “I can’t believe you’ve got four kids already. Are you guys done?””

    Not to hijack the thread, but I am always amused at how ready people today are to discuss fairly intimate aspects of their life and expect other people to be equally willing to do so. Something big changed in our society circa 1965-70 and we are still working out the ramifications. In my profession I often have to be much more familiar with the personal aspects of my client’s lives than I would wish. When I first became an attorney I often had clients who would be hesitant to disclose personal details of their lives, even when such information was crucial in their case. Now I can be representing a client in some fairly innocuous matter, for example a minor traffic ticket, and it is surprising the number of them who feel compelled to tell me their life story, even when the information is not requested by me, and is not of utility in the case at hand.

  • Your co-worker’s observation that it’s the fear of hell (and so fear in general) that motives Catholics to have big families might best be countered not with detailed explanations of Catholic teaching, but rather with expressions of the happiness that often comes with each addition to the family.

  • Just chiming in from a stay-at-home mom’s point of view. Whenever I bring up NFP to friends, I get one of 2 responses: “what’s that?,” which is somewhat enjoyable to explain, and the…oh yeah that, well we use it and birth control so I know more about my body. It turns out that there are quite a few folks (other non-Catholic moms anyway) out there who know what NFP is, but they call it by a different name (e.g. ‘taking control of my fertility’).

    I don’t tend to run in predominately Catholic circles at the moment, so most of them don’t know anything about what Catholics believe. They are usually shocked that practicing Catholics don’t believe in birth control, and wonder what Catholic families do. I’ll admit I actually enjoy these conversations.

  • This is a tangential quote, but too juicy to resist.
    =====
    [Ivan] Illich told the story of asking his friend, Jacques Maritain, why the concept of “planning” did not appear in his philosophy. Puzzled, Maritain asked if “planning” was the English word for accounting. Illich answered, “No.” “Engineering?” “No.” Finally, Maritain understood. “Planning,” he said, “is a new variety of the sin of pride.”

    -Daniel Grego, Illich’s Table
    ====
    This is in the context of government or economic planning, though it certainly reminds us about pride and the need for humility in whatever we plan.

  • I was going to reply to this in a separate thread, but then I thought better of it and decided to just make my points here. When I talk to non-Catholics and/or Catholics who disagree with the Church on contraception, I usually frame the discussion in a certain way.

    I usually make the distinction that the Catholic Church does not oppose birth control per se—if we’re clear on what “birth control” really means. Any sort of “planning” in regard to family life presupposes a control, even if limited, over such matters. The problem arises, as I see it, out of the fact that what is usually referred to as “birth control” actually is birth prevention. This is what the Church opposes. Artificial contraception, as we all know, disrupts the natural fertility cycle and/or acts as a mean to entirely block the possibility of life being conceived—period. It is objectively against the sexual order. (You’ll have to explain why, of course; no need to go into it here).

    NFP is essentially a couple’s choice to, or not to, engage in marital sexual activity during the natural infertile periods of a woman for subjectively pure intentions of spacing of the birth of children and without closing God out of the marital act. This method (NFP) is in accord with God’s design of sexuality, the moral order, and man’s capacity to understand own physiological and reproductive powers and to choose a moral course of action accordingly. From scientific study, we know that NFP is 99.9% effective (same as birth control pills) without the side effects of artificial methods of birth control, and it fosters more intimacy and communication in marital relationships, not to mention a starkly lower divorce rate (1%).

    Darwin as you pointed out, there is a discomfort to use certain terminology because of the obvious contradiction that it seems to entail, e.g. we don’t have divorces, we have annulments. It’s sometimes hard to make that distinction. I think this is more common than we like to think it and it’s embedded in our culture. No good Catholic can be a feminist, that is, pro-woman. Right? Given that mentality (which I think is predominant), feminists easily present anything opposed to them as “anti-woman” and that’s how they accomplish so much. We’ve really got to steal our terms back!

    Is the term “planning” bad? Not at all. Though, we have to talk about it in terms of morality—intention, action, and object of the act. Why isn’t NFP like any other “birth control” method? What we usually call “birth control” redesigns fertility and locks the door of fertility—it is really protection (as it is called) from God. Man and woman deny their responsibility as co-creators with God explicitly whereas in NFP man and woman acknowledge this reality and take it so seriously that they wish to plan to embrace it fully. The former leads to casual, recreational sex and the contraceptive mentality—a divorce of procreation from unity in the sexual act as if both are not built in to the act inseparably; the other leads to the incarnation of the rich symbolism in man and woman in the human drama of salvation that reflects in the inner life of God Himself. One is sinful, the other is holy. The fundamental question that needs answering before this can be understood is what is the nature and end of human sexuality, particularly marital intercourse.

    I think it’s all about how one frames their argument and even more so, word choice.

    One last thing and it’s not directly related to the topic, but I think it draws a clearer picture and it really is just good food for thought. If married couples are a sacrament of the ultimate Bridegroom and Bride—Christ and the Church—then the sacrament is visible in the self gift of one to the other, which, of course is not possible with contraception. The marital act is, in a sense, the “work” of marriage, in the same way that the Eucharist is the “work” of the Christian liturgy. Every sacrament of the Church has a moment, in which God acts. The moment of conception wherein God creates new life is analogous to the consecration during Mass. In their own respective way, the sacraments are like doors through which God enters the world. The use of contraception then during the marital act is like a priest saying the prayers of the consecration with no bread or wine on the altar; this obviously robs the very action—the end trying to be achieved—of its meaning and defiles it. Ultimately, it closes the door on God in His very sacrament, which is why Catholics deem contraception to be a moral evil.

    I’ve found that this argument even to some non-Catholics have given them great pause, particularly when you bring to their attention that there is tendency to divorce sexuality from spiritual life. Is that not modernity? I’ve heard it said that the Church should give “spiritual” teachings and be less concerned with morality and sexual behavior. Why do people have this striking tendency?

    It seems to me that sexuality is so personal, so intimate a reality that it is the perfect place for the devil to begin his attempt to divide man from God. It is clear from Genesis that this is the case—after all, sexuality is not solely about sex itself.

    I think especially when Catholics disagree with the Church on contraception, which doesn’t help our dialogue with people not in the Church one must ask them a serious question. The Catholic Church is the visible sign of the New Covenant established by Jesus with His promise to be with her until the end of the world. Given this as true, Christ cannot be separated from His Church. Therefore, when one denies the teaching of the Church on marital acts, one denies the will of God. If Christ is not in your bedroom…who is?

  • I hope the inclusion of basic teaching on contraception to draw out my point doesn’t seem patronizing. I’m pretty sure we’re all clear on the teaching, I was just trying to draw connections.

  • What is clear from this post is that we all are presented on a regular basis with the opportunity to evangelize the world on the Church’s basic theology of the body. We need to get the message out there more and be more forth coming in discussing these personal topics, because you had better believe that ‘catholics for choice’ et al are getting their message out front and center. Now is not the time to be timid or mince words. When co-workers or other aquaintances bring up these topics it is our invitation to jump into the thick of it and educate.

    One thing that is often lacking is discussion of the very real ill affects of artificial contraception and sterilization. We have lost the public narrative on issues of sexuality and it will take a lot of courage and water cooler conversations to get it back.

  • You can’t evangelize those who have turned a deaf ear to the Truth. Even God Himself can’t work with someone who refuses to cooperate.

    In my experience, there are very few opportunities to evangelize about something as complex and, ultimately, transcendant as the Theology of the Body.

    Most people I know have experienced no ill side effects of contraception or sterilization. I’m not denying that the effects are objectively real and deleterious. What I am pointing out is that I don’t know anyone who is sterilized or contracepting who is unhappy about this, deems it a source of emptiness/misery/etc. in their life, and is in any way open to ToTB.

    I disagree that we need to discuss more, talk more, compete for attention in the marketplace of ideas.

    We need to preach the Gospel by our lives, using words only when necessary. And we need to accept that our “culture”, that of the post-Christian West, is lost and dying. It suffers the vices of ancient Rome, but does not hunger for the liberation of the Gospel. Our culture is, as C.S. Lewis noted, a divorcee, not a virgin.

    So count me in the camp opposed to the Water Cooler Evangelization, especially on topics such as sex.

7 Responses to What He Said

  • I posted some thoughts on this article indirectly in a separate post. Let me say that it is a very good exploration of some of the problems with President-elect Obama from a pro-life perspective and that people like Kmiec who claim to be ‘pro-lifers,’ but then make pro-choice arguments are not really worthy of engagement. However, I think the denunciations of the Vox Nova crew are unfair; they are in an entirely different category than Kmiec for the most part, and contra the post, they have spoken out rather clearly about their pro-life concerns in an Obama administration. I recognize they can be extremely irritating, obtuse, etc., however I frequently dislike the way they express themselves much more than with the substance of their posts.

  • We shall have to agree to disagree on this point John Henry. I believe that “pro-lifers” who voted for the most radical pro-abort to ever run for President simply cannot be taken seriously as pro-lifers.

  • Fair enough, Donald. I could not justify voting for President-elect Obama personally, and I can certainly sympathize.

  • John Henry, can you please provide me any links to where the Vox Nova bloggers who endorsed Obama also expressed concerned about his abortion policies?

  • Paul – they have devoted a page of their web-site solely to asking Obama to reconsider some of his positions on abortion:

    http://vox-nova.com/2008/11/17/an-open-letter-to-president-elect-barack-obama/

  • John Henry –

    That post was put up by Henry Karlson, and I’m one of the original signatories on that petition.

    Henry was not one of the four at Vox Nova who publicly endorsed Obama for President, that I’m aware of.

    My view is that someone who is pro-life, and yet who spent so much energy persuading pro-lifers to vote Democrat, is now obligated morally to spend a like amount on energy on persuading Democrats to be pro-life.

    Not a single keystroke from any of those I’ve named has been spent in such an effort.

  • Paul,

    You are correct. Henry did not endorse Obama, and he has said he did not vote for him. I agree that it would be nice if the contributors showed as much enthusiasm for debating pro-choice Democrats as they do for attacking pro-life Republicans, but that is more because it is irritating than because I think it would make much of a difference in changing anyone’s mind.

    At the same time, I know MM, Michael and Katerina signed the petition (not sure about M.Z., RCM but I assume they did as well), and they all were happy to support it. That is something.

7 Responses to The Stakes Are Small

  • In other words, play nice in the sandbox, boys and girls.

  • You have a nice way of getting quickly to the point Gerard.

  • As a note, that xkcd comic tickled me pink the first time I read it, and it continues to do so. I haven’t spent as much time frequenting forums or discussion groups as I could have, but I have seen such a plethora of bad arguments that often my fingers twitch in an autonomic urge to respond. Of course, that doesn’t prevent my arguments from being bad themselves, but there is certainly an, “Aaaaahhhh! That person is dead wrong! The universe will come to a halt if I don’t rebut him!”

  • but there is certainly an, “Aaaaahhhh! That person is dead wrong! The universe will come to a halt if I don’t rebut him!”

    Right on! I think I have gotten myself into more trouble hastily interjecting myself into a discussion because I have seen someone making what I deem to be a bad faith argument – not just wrong, but wrong and full of strawmen argument. I have tried more and more to let trollish comments pass, but it’s a battle.

    That said, I do think that we can distinguish between ad hominen argumentation and strongly worded arguments. I think that Paul’s post falls more squarely into the latter category.

  • It does seem awfully easy in the blogsphere for quarrels to take on a family argument like quality, in which all slights are remembered as if they were yesterday and only unconditional surrender is acceptable.

  • Darwin,

    I agree entirely.

  • That said, I do think that we can distinguish between ad hominen argumentation and strongly worded arguments. I think that Paul’s post falls more squarely into the latter category.

    crankycon – I am afraid I disagree. I thought the post did a good job of laying out the pro-life case for being concerned about President-elect Obama. And I agreed with quite a bit of it. However, I had the following problems:

    1) The post: There is no doubt in my mind that this swing is due in no small part to a small number of allegedly “pro-life” self-identified “Catholics” who argued loud and long that Barack Obama was somehow the more “pro-life” candidate than his opponent

    This assigns a disproportionate share of the blame for Obama’s victory on people like Kmiec and the VN crew, which I think is inaccurate (the economy and W. were the real causes). VN only attracts about a thousand visitors a day (most of them repeats) and the comment threads suggest most of these people have already formed strong opinions. Assigning a large share of an electoral defeat (particularly by 8 million votes) to them is misguided.

    2) I do not think it is fair to equate Kmiec (who really was a fraud) with the VN contributors, many of whom I believe are sincere on the whole, even if I strongly disagree with them on many issues.

    3) The post incorrectly stated that none of the VN contributors “have taken the slightest action,” that reflects that they are pro-life, when, in fact, they have spent a great deal of time over the past several weeks putting together an open letter to Obama addressing pro-life concerns.

    4) The attack on RCM seemed unnecessary and out of place in the context of the post.

    5) The end of the post had the air of an ex-communication. As these writers all profess to be pro-life Catholics, I think this type of personal denunciation is unfair. In the larger culture war, the VN contributors are on our side and they are our brothers ans sisters in Christ. As Darwin described above, the language from the end of the post sounds like it is from a particularly nasty family feud:

    And I’m calling bullshit on this band of turncoats, these deserters, these cowards, these Quislings, Douglas Kmiec, Nicholas Cafardi, Morning’s Minion, Michael J. Iafrate, M.Z. Forrest, Radical Catholic Mom, and all the others who claim to be “pro-life” but who argued for the abortion president to get the votes of pro-lifers.They are not pro-life, and they are lying baldfacedly when they claim to be….We have tried to persuade them. The Church has tried to persuade them. They will not listen even to the Church. Let them be to us pro-life Catholics as pro-abortion liberals and tax collectors. May God have mercy on them. I will not forget.

Intelligent Design: Science, Philosophy, Neither?

Saturday, November 29, AD 2008

Intelligent design came up in a classroom discussion the other day, and it occurred to me that I have never gotten around to reading much about it. My uneducated impression is that it is a sort of plug-in-God approach to explaining any current limitations in evolutionary theory. I find this unappealing at first glance, but I should probably remedy my ignorance before passing judgment.

42 Responses to Intelligent Design: Science, Philosophy, Neither?

  • Try “The Design of Life” by William Dembski and Jonathan Wells. It’s the best of a number of ID books I’ve read. It’s a hard slog for someone who has little interest in science or fundamental logic and argumentation. But it does an excellent job of taking on all the arguments for neo-Darwinism and either destroying them or calling them into serious question. It is NOT a plug-in-God approach to explain anything!

  • Intelligent design has a lot of merits and a lot of weaknesses. It isn’t a science because it fails to meet the criteria, particularly we cannot test the hypothesis — an intelligent designer. The intelligent design theory is a philosophy that is comparable to naturalism, i.e. materialism.

    Intelligent design, as I understand it, is a theory based on known scientifically-accepted facts. The universe is rationally patterned with physical constants that are unlikely given random chance and the harmony of the universe isn’t probable given chance, thus, there must be a God or some rational ‘first cause.’ Basically, this is an argument for God’s existence given causality using scientific evidence, e.g. if the rate of gravity were any weaker, stars would burn through their fossil fuels to quickly and life couldn’t form; yet at the same time, if it were any stronger, stars wouldn’t burn too slowly and life couldn’t form. Thus, gravity in the whole grand scheme of things is at the perfect rate to allow the biochemical process of an unfolding universe be hospitable to life forms.

    The weaknesses of this position is that it sometimes leads to very anti-science rhetoric, in that I mean, it calls things into question to such a degree that it almost seems like one is trying to argue against validity; I’ve seen this mostly done with the Big Bang theory — which really isn’t a “big bang” like most people imagine it conjurring images of explosions that would inevitably yield chaos rather than a careful release of energy and matter.

    Furthermore, I can rather easily see why people are dubious of intelligent design. I’ve read articles by some proponents that really scream “God of the gaps” because they basically insert God in the places where science has yet to discover some rational explanation for some sort of natural phenomena; this is especially true of quantum mechanics.

  • Well, a few spots to go read– that I, as a non-materialist, would suggest (after one too many beers, ATM)–
    http://darwincatholic.blogspot.com/
    http://darwinianfundamentalism.blogspot.com/
    http://telicthoughts.com/

    Short version?

    God Did It. Duh.
    Question is, what did he do by stuff we understand, and what did he do otherwise?

  • “Does anyone have any recommendations or non-recommendations for reading material?”

    Just read this: The words “creation science” were replaced with the words “intelligent design” after the Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that “creation science” is religion and not science and can’t be taught in a public school science class.

    In 2005 a federal court ruled that “intelligent design” is religion and not science and can’t be taught in a public school science class.

    I would add that intelligent design is a childish belief in magic. The people who believe in it are uneducated and scientifically illiterate. Many professional liars try to promote the intelligent design magic idea by spreading lies about evolutionary biology. They have no evidence for their idiotic belief in magic, so they lie about science.

  • I forgot to mention the Liars-For-Jebus, including the retards William Dembski and Jonathan Wells, try to pretend their intelligent design magic is scientific. They use scientific sounding language when they talk about it, but everyone knows the designer is the Christian Magic Fairy, and everyone knows there’s nothing scientific about it. The Liars-For-Jebus continue to dishonestly claim intelligent design magic is scientific because they want to stick it into biology classrooms. These retards cost the taxpayers of Dover Pennsylvania one million dollars in court costs when a federal judge ruled the intelligent design proponents are compulsive liars.

  • Dennis wrote about intelligent design magic: “It is NOT a plug-in-God approach to explain anything!”

    Dennis, you’re a liar and you should be ashamed of yourself. The designer is God and you know it. Why do you uneducated Christians lie so much? Do you think lying for Jebus will get you into your mythical heaven? You liars for Jebus disgrace your religion. You make all Christians look like lying idiots.

  • “The Design of Life” by William Dembski and Jonathan Wells should be called “The Magical Creation of Life”.

    Calling magic “design” doesn’t make it any less idiotic. Sorry, but I’m totally disgusted with the never-ending lying and breathtaking stupidity of creationists like Dembski and Wells. Evolution is the strongest fact of science. The creationists fear evolution because it threatens their childish belief in magic. The stupidity burns and I’m sick of it. American Christians have disgraced their country and they should be ashamed of themselves.

  • The ironic thing is that it seems that the vast majority of people who buy into intelligent design creationism do not know the correct meanings of Biological Evolution, Darwinism, Natural Selection, or Descent With Modification.

    But to the question, it is obvious that intelligent design is not science. It is a fairly bad example of philosophy, and not strictly theology either. The best ontological category I can think of for intelligent design is “folk biology” (see the entry for folk biology in “The MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences”.

  • John Henry I heartily recommend Kicking the Sacred Cow by James Hogan.

    http://www.amazon.com/Kicking-Sacred-Cow-Impermissible-Thoughts/dp/1416520732/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1228048043&sr=8-1

    This is a question of science. Importing Odium Theologicum tactics against those with opposing views, as bobcu does above, is entirely unconvincing. His comments about “Jebus” on a Catholic blog also demonstrates a desire to vent rather than a desire to have an intelligent discussion.

  • Bobcu – I have no problem with you expressing your views of ID in strong terms, but I would prefer that you not call anyone a liar. I am aware of the federal court decision, but have read far too many judicial opinions for that to matter either way. Also my recollection from the case is that the facts were exceptionally unfavorable; for instance, I believe they simply did a ctrl+ F and replace with ‘Creation’ and ‘ID’ in the textbook. Say what you want about ID proponents, but there is a difference between ID and saying the world is 6,000 years old. In any case, thanks for the reading suggestions. Keep them coming. I will probably do a post in the future with some thoughts on the suggestions.

  • As someone who has litigated thousands of cases before federal and state court judges please take this as Gospel: the last person you want determining what is or is not science is the average judge! Judge Jones’ decision in the Dover case indicates that much of the expert opinion on both sides flew right over his head and that he failed to grasp, let alone analyze, many of the arguments put forward. In any case a court of law is a poor forum for determing what is science. Judges are black robed attorneys. Most of them have little knowledge of science and their educational background, usually very light on science classes, usually makes them ill-equipped to deal with highly technical arguments. That is why judges, especially in personal injury cases, often allow what is charitably described as “junk science” into evidence. Judges sitting in judgment on science are truly blind guides. Citing an opinion of a judge on a scientific question is as useful as citing the opinion of a scientist on a particular application of the hear-say rule.

  • Bobcu,

    I’ll try to say this as politely as possible without selling the point short: It is rants like yours in which people are called “liars” and “retards” and terms like “Christian Magic Fairy” are thrown around that lead quite reasonable and educated people to think that “evolutionism” is simply a bunch of raving atheists who hate them out to destroy their way of life. Not only is your approach in these comments unhelpful, it actively undercuts science by making it sound irrational and hateful. If you can’t discuss the topic rationally, do science a favor and don’t.

    John,

    I don’t know if you were following DC back when I was writing a lot more on the topic, but I’ve got a certain amount about Intelligent Design on the thread page here.

    On why I think Intelligent Design is problematic from a Catholic perspective (not to mention a scientific one) I’d suggest searching through First Things’ archives for anything on the topic by Fr. Edward Oakes or Stephen Barr.

    One of the difficulties of the controversy is, to my mind, that different people mean very different things by Intelligent Design. Many people, as Eric observes, are simply referring to the argument from anthropic coincidence (modern from) or a only slightly updated version of St. Thomas’s proofs for the existence of God from causation and form. In this regard, I have no quarrel with Intelligent Design, though it doesn’t strike me as “science” in the modern sense, and I don’t think it has a place in a standard science curriculum. (I make no ruling as to whether it belongs in public schools as the whole idea of culturally and religiously neutral public schools strikes me as problematic.)

    However, when people talk about the Intelligent Design controversy they generally mean the brand of “science” being pushed by the Discovery Institute. If you want to get a feel for this stuff, the authors to read are Behe and Dembski. The books of theirs that I’ve read are Dembski’s Intelligent Design and Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box. Both of these are quite old, but to be totally honest I find both authors tiresome enough that I haven’t felt the need to read anything since.

    Behe’s big argument is “irreducible complexity” and Dembski’s is “specified complexity“. Both essentially rely on trying to isolate structures in biological organisms which, so the argument goes, could not have resulted from random variation filtered by selection. This proves, they argue, that these structures must result from some sort of active “intelligent designer” having been involved in the development of life at key intervals.

    So although it’s not exactly that “God of the gaps” argument, it’s honestly pretty darn close to it.

    My problems with this are several:

    1) Their assertions as to the inability of filtered random variation to achieve the structures they point to are tenuous at best, from what I can tell.

    2) I think it begs the question to say that if you can’t account for something from what’s known of selected random variation then it must have been intelligently designed.

    3) Methodologically it’s a dead end. Even if it’s true that something in our biological makeup were intelligently designed, forming that hypothesis (unless one had some idea as to how, why, by whom, and under what circumstances one could expect to see such things happen again) would not allow you to make any useful predictions, which is pretty much what science consists of.

    4) Philosophically and theologically I think the ID advocates make the mistake of dividing the world into “natural” and “designed” (read: miraculous) spheres. This is, from our point of view as Catholics, I think I wrong way to look at things. As the Being who created the universe and all its laws ex nihilo and holds them in existence by the force of His will, it seems to me that it is just as much a sign of God’s will for gravity to work as intended as for a Dodo bird to miraculously materialize in my living room. So I think that the ID folks are wrong to feel that it’s so important for there to be “give-aways” in creation which “prove” God’s creative power. (In Intelligent Design Dembski basically says it would be unfair of God not to provide proofs of His existence of the sort that Dembski is looking for.)

  • I would argue that there’s a fundamental problem in assumptions implicit in the question itself (no reflection on the author of the post), as to whether ID is “Science, Philosophy, [or] Neither?” This would seem to assume that “science” and “philosophy” are ready-made compartments whose contents everyone readily recognizes and similarly identifies. But this is not so.

    As DarwinCatholic correctly notes, this is evident in the first place in that different individuals mean different things by “intelligent design.” In the second place, it is no less true that different individuals mean different things by “science.” People ask whether ID is “science,” and condemn it for not conforming to positivist or logical empiricist understandings of science. Bearing in mind that St. Thomas Aquinas understood theology to be not only a “science” but the “Queen of Sciences,” we understand that we face a task of negotiating what the word “science” means. What ID proponents set forth as scientific evidence (not the inferred Intelligent Designer, but the data from which they make the inference) surely conforms to what may be known through causes, i.e., what is “scientific” in the classical sense. Here I would recommend the work of William Wallace for definitions of science (both The Modeling of Nature, and Elements of Philosophy).

    The fact that individuals (like ‘bobcu’ or, for that matter, Richard Dawkins) become so heated over this sort of controversy itself is a tell-tale sign that there is more than empirical knowledge involved on both sides. If the most conservative Fundamentalist Creationist is guilty of insinuating philosophical (metaphysical) assumptions into his arguments based on scientific data, the same is true in spades for partisans of the Grand Metanarrative Myth of Darwinian Evolution (like Gould and Dawkins). This should not be at all surprising, considering the stakes at issue in the debate.

    A more appropriate question would seem to be, “Does ID involved science and philosophy?” And my answer would be, of course, just like contemporary theories of Evolution that are taught as though they were unexceptional “scientific fact” in public schools and universities.

    The more interesting question, for my money, is who offers the more coherent interpretation of the factual details; and on that issue, I would be the last to toss out every individual in the ID camp as a mindless moron. In fact, compared to the frequent pontifications of Gould and Dawkins, which so far exceed their spheres of competence that they should elicit paroxysms of laughter, many of the ID folk come off sounding at least sober and intelligent.

  • My recommendation would be chapters 2 through 5 of Ken Miller’s Finding Darwin’s God (it’s a critical account, but informative nonetheless).

  • No blog thread about evolutionary theory or intelligent design is a worthwhile authority. Blogs enable people to express their arguments for or against any theory. That’s certainly a virtue of the internet. But blogs go unchecked. The ranting and raving of a few in this blog thread is testimony to my claim here. Some blogs are better than others (perhaps DarwinCatholic’s discussion is among the better ones), but they’re not something we should trust unconditionally.

    As for respectable sources on intelligent design, Dembski’s work on his form of intelligent design is worth reading, despite the ranting of some in this blog thread. Neil Manson has edited an excellent anthology entitled _God and Design_ (Routledge 2003). Some of Richard Swinburne’s work is worthy of consideration.

    Respectable sources on evolutionary theory are harder to find in popular presses.For example, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and philosopher Sahotra Sarkar have advanced a hatred of religion and have ignored the strongest arguments supporting theories of intelligent design (of course they’ll claim that either there are no arguments or there are no strong arguments supporting such theories; I’ll leave that to them “to defend”). Reading Darwin’s _Origin of Species_ might be a good start for some. Following a careful reading of Darwin, one could go on to read some of the neo-Darwinian historical works. Finally, a reading of the scientific literature on evolutionary theory under the guidance of a trained authority would probably be helpful too.

  • All Catholics believe in intelligent design. The problem with the ID movement, is that it tends to want a seat at the scientific table without doing the practice of science. SecularRight is a good blog to follow for the outline of these arguments – and they’re correct. Philosophy and Science can both inform about our world, but we need to be careful about how they are practiced. I’m going to try to muddle through this as best as my feeble brain will allow at Vox Nova sometime shortly.

    Bottom line: I hope ID stays out of the science classroom.

  • Thanks for the suggestions, folks. I thought it was interesting that the person who threw around invective as if he were at a rumble and issued pronouncements with an air of authority also didn’t post a link so the rest of us can go figure out who the heck he is and whether he actually has a shred of credibility.

    I’ve been a theistic evolutionist for years, and it’s such people that make me think twice before speaking up about it.

  • Joe,

    A blog thread is certainly never a serious authority on an academic subject. The only reason I pointed to the category page listing posts on the topic on my own blog was because I have a few years worth of posts there, many of them linking to published pieces in “real” publications. It’s much faster than listing them all here, I’m sure you’d agree.

    I’m not quite sure where you get the idea that there is a dearth of decent popular books dealing with evolution from popular presses. Perhaps in the most general sense, I suppose. It’s a very large and academic area, and so few popular books are going to cover the all of it. (Similarly, I don’t think I could name off one comprehensive yet popular and accessible book explaining relativity and all its implications — though I’m sure that any good crank with an alternate theory has written something for the popular reader.)

    However, there is definitely a lot of good stuff out there for a popular audience by modern biologists dealing with evolutionary theory. My own personal preference is for Stephen Jay Gould, just about all of whose books are seriously worth reading.

  • Ah, a topic close to my heart, and here I am several days late to say much if anything new. But here I’ll try to sum up what’s going on.

    In the beginning, most Christians held to a fairly literal interpretation of the first few chapters of Genesis. Granted, we’ve had many theologians from even the earliest times noting some technical difficulties with that view, but we won’t delve into that. The argument back then was the watch-maker argument: “If you’re wandering a beach and find a watch, and if you pick it up and examine it, you’ll find all kinds of intricate working parts. Your natural assumption, because everything works so perfectly towards a particular purpose, it must have been made that way. The probability of random forces constructing such an object are so astronomically small as to be nonexistant. Looking at each animal, and how well suited it is to its environment, and how well its body functions, and especially looking at man, it is obvious they had a maker.” And it was held that all life came directly from special acts of creation. It was God vs. random forces, and God was the winner, hands down.

    But then along came Darwin (and a few others, but Darwin gets the credit because of his Origins of the Species), and he notices a couple of things. First, he noticed that not all animals are perfectly suited for their environments, and second, that there are animals that live in separate but otherwise identical environments that have completely different physiologies. This second posed a similar problem to the first, but led Darwin to the conclusion that natural forces working on a population could evolve a species in particular ways, and furthermore, that one could trace species backwards to common ancestors using similarities as a rubric. Work by Mendel and the later discovery of DNA have helped support this conclusion.

    So now the argument is that either a) God created flawed creatures in inexplicable variation or b) natural forces, identifiable by study and experiment, acted upon already extant life to shape the species we see today. Whereas before the watchmaker argument definitely left God the winner, now the winner is not clear. Obviously God could make flawed creatures in inexplicable variation, but is that as likely as the natural forces argument? At least the latter can be tested, and the more it was tested, the more people began to believe that it could be the case.

    Now, this dealt a blow to those Bible-believing Christians for whom a literal interpretation of Genesis was vital. (Note that the Catholic Church has no problem with evolution per se, as long as it does not attempt to deny man, or at the very least, man’s soul as a special act of creation. For the most part, evolutionary scientists don’t bother talking about the soul, so that’s usually not a problem.) First, this new theory seemed directly aimed at denying God any role in the creation of life, and second, because of the long time needed for evolutionary processes to work (a time frame corroborated by geological evidence), it denied the 6000 year old Earth that the Bible seems to imply.

    Now, this could have gone on as two ideas in separate realms for a long time, but they came in direct confrontation when teachers began instructing students about evolution in the classroom. Keep in mind that for literally centuries, schoolkids in the U.S. were instructed from the Bible. They actually read the thing (whereas I, who have read thousands of books, still haven’t worked my way past 1 Kings in the Old Testament), and they developed a large portion of their moral thought from it. But also keep in mind that the U.S. was predominantly a Protestant nation, and Protestants don’t have a Magisterium to help them through difficult theological quandaries. So when evolution cropped up, they saw it not just as erroneous, but striking at the very core of their religion–their belief in the inerrancy of the Bible. It either had to be the Bible or evolution, and if you picked evolution, you were siding against Christianity.

    So, like all good Americans, they took the matter to court. (Yes, this glosses over a fair amount of history, but I’m trying to be brief.) And the courts ruled, due to separation of Church and State (a little concept actually found nowhere in constitution, and has helped greatly in the degradation of society), that the story of creation could not be taught in public schools. The theory of evolution was now to be the doctrine du jour.

    This was a terrible blow, for it mean that religion was torn from the classroom, except in cases where it was studied like an animal in a cage, removed from any practical implications. The goal then became to work Christianity back into the classroom. (The modern skeptic will always say: “Yes, but which Christianity?” Each sect in unison: “Mine!” Catholics: “We’ll teach our doctrines in private schools. Have fun with your public ones.”)

    So initially they tried to reintroduce the Bible by teaching “creation science”, trying to simply gift wrap their theology as science. The first attempts were feeble and pitiful, and the courts immediately rejected “creation science” as a thin gloss over the religion the courts declared forbidden from the classroom. So the creation scientists started working diligently to make their “science” as scientific as possible. They tried to couch all the geological strata as having been layered by the flood, for example, and that fossil remains were of animals that were coexistant with man in antediluvian times.

    The problem with their hypotheses, though, was that they continually ran up against centuries of testing that concluded much differently. They could not accept such conclusions though, and continued to find ways to make their theories work. (This mode of thought is by no means limited to creation scientists. Pet hypotheses die very hard, usually after the one who made the hypothesis died, regardless of the field.) The problem, of course, was that the scientific community viewed creation scientists as putting the cart before the horse. So while they were nominally scientists, they were “bad” scientists. But they had some rigor and veneer of sophistication, and so they tried the courts again. And again, they failed.

    The problem, of course, was that the courts saw through their attempts at science as just a means of putting Christianity back into the classroom. So now the creation scientists felt they needed to make their science sound less Christian. Instead of proposing the Christian God as creator of everything, they merely hypothesized some “intelligent designer”, and made no supposition (though it was implicit) as to who that designer was. (Some have run far afield and postulated that aliens have seeded life on earth, Star Trek-like, but then make so suppositions as to where those aliens came from.)

    Still, the crucial problem remained that their hypotheses were discredited by the current paradigm, which embraced the theory of evolution whole. (I shouldn’t say that–the theory has been fine tuned over the past 150 years or so, and is much more sophisticated that what Darwin originally posed.) In order to validate their hypotheses, then, they had to invalidate the paradigm.

    How they go about this varies. DC mentioned Behe’s irreducible complexity, but there are literally thousands of objections–some obviously flawed, others very clever–to such concepts as an old earth, or dating using radioactive elements, or gaps in the fossil records, or the Cambrian Explosion, or so on. There are also almost as many variants of ID as there are objections to the current scientific paradigms. Some use ID as a “God of the gaps” type thing, accepting an old Earth and even a fair amount of evolutionary theory, but clinging to the notion that God directly interfered to tweak creation. Others adopt a young Earth mentality, and try to discredit everything that implies the Earth is more than 6000-10,000 years old.

    The key things to remember when dealing with ID: it is predominantly a Christian (and then, to a large extent, fundamentalist Christian) phenomenon. Its goal is to work Christianity back into the classroom (not necessarily a bad thing, but who wants to quibble over minutiae like doctrine?). It tries to couch theology as science (which made sense 200 years ago, when they were same branch, but doesn’t make sense when now they are two specific fields), but its science is predominantly aimed at discrediting the theory of evolution specifically and does not go out of its way to make any predictions of how the world works. (How can it? With God miraculously tweaking creation, who could say what would happen?)

    Phew. Hope that helps!

  • Thanks to everybody for the comments and reading suggestions. I will probably do a follow-up post at some point, although it may be re-inventing the wheel given the quality of the comments here and the vast storehouse of wisdom known as Darwin’s archives.

  • Hey, just remember: nothing new under the sun. But you writing it might make all the difference. You never know.

  • Vast storehouse? Wisdom?

    Careful there or I shall suspect sarcasm. 🙂

    I’d enjoy reading your take.

  • ….its science is predominantly aimed at discrediting the theory of evolution specifically and does not go out of its way to make any predictions of how the world works. (How can it? With God miraculously tweaking creation, who could say what would happen?)

    Not at all, the notion that the Cosmos is fundamentally intelligible has much to do with science as we know it.

    As Rodney Stark notes:

    Isn’t the rise of science a normal aspect of cultural progress, of the rise of civilizations? Not at all.

    Many quite sophisticated societies did not generate communities of scientists or produce a body of systematic theory and empirical observations that qualify as science. Although China was quite civilized during many centuries when Europeans were still rude savages, the Chinese failed to develop science.

    Similarly, although in full possession of the whole corpus of Greco-Roman scholarship, and having made some impressive advances in mathematics, Islamic scholars did not become scientists. Once they had mastered the classic texts, Muslim scholars were content with the role of exegetes and added little or nothing of their own. Nor did science arise in ancient India or Egypt. And while classical Greece had considerable learning, it did not have science.

    As noted, science consists of an organized (that is, sustained and systematic) and empirically oriented effort to explain natural phenomena-a cumulative process of theory construction and theory testing. This enterprise arose only once. As the historian Edward Grant explained, “it is indisputable that modern science emerged in the seventeenth century in Western Europe and nowhere else.” Other leading historians and sociologists of science may date the rise of science somewhat earlier, but all of them agree that it was a development unique to Europe.

    The crucial question is why?

    My answer to this question is as brief as it is unoriginal: Christianity depicted God as a rational, responsive, dependable, and omnipotent being and the universe as his personal creation, thus having a rational, lawful, stable structure, awaiting human comprehension.
    (For the Glory of God by Rodney Stark :146-147)

    Paul Davies noted the same thing:

    The mystery that now confronts us is this: How did human beings acquire their extraordinary ability to crack the cosmic code, to solve nature’s cryptic crossword, to do science so effectively? I have mentioned that science emerged from a predominately Christian culture. According to the Christian tradition God is a rational being who made the universe as a free act of special creation, and has ordered it in a way that reflects his/her own rationality. Human beings are said to be ‘made in God’s image,’ and might therefore be considered (on one interpretation of ‘image’) to share, albeit in grossly diminished form, some aspect of God’s own rationality. If one subscribes to this point of view it is then no surprise that we can do science, because in so doing we are exercising a formof rationality that finds a common basis in the Architect of the very natural world that we are exploring.
    Early scientists such as Newton believed this. They thought that in doing science they were uncovering part of God’s rational plan for the cosmos. The laws of nature were regarded as ‘thoughts in the mind of God,’ so that by using our God-given rationality in the form of the scientific method, we are able to glimpse the mind of God. Thus they inherited a view of the world—one which actually stretches back at least to Plato—that places mind at the basis of physical reality. Given the (unexplained) existence of rational mind, the existence of a rationally ordered universe containing rational conscious beings is then no surprise.
    (Paul Davies, “The Intelligibility of Nature,” Quantum Cosmology and the Laws of Nature, ed. Robert John Russell, Nancey Murphy, and C.J. Isham
    (Vatican City State: Vatican Observatory Publications, 1996) :155)

    That is why many scientists said things like:

    Nicolaus Copernicus, Heliocentric Theory of the Solar System:

    “How exceedingly vast is the godlike work of the Best and Greatest Artist!”

    “The Universe has been wrought for us by a supremely good and orderly Creator.”

    Johannes Kepler, Kepler’s Laws of Planetary Motion:

    “Praise and glorify with me the wisdom and greatness of the Creator, which I have revealed in a deeper explication of the form of the universe, in an investigation of the causes, and in my detection of the deceptiveness of sight.”

    “God who is the most admirable in his works.. .deign to grant us the grace to bring to light and illuminate the profundity of his wisdom in the visible (and accordingly intelligible) creation of this world.”

    Galileo Galilei, Laws of Dynamics, astronomicalconfirmation of the heliocentric system:

    “The holy Bible and the phenomena of nature proceed alike from the divine Word.”

    Isaac Newton, Optics, Laws of Motion, Gravitation, Newton’s theological writings, running into a million words, far exceeded his scientific output. Below is an excerpt from his classic work,the Principia Mathematica:

    “This most beautiful system of the sun, planets and comets could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being. This Being governs all things not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; and on account of his dominion he is wont to be called ‘Lord God’… or ‘Universal Ruler.’… And from his true dominion it follows that the true God is a living, intelligent and powerful Being… he governs all things, and knows all things that are or can be done. He endures forever, and is everywhere present…”
    cf. (The Wonder of the World: A Journey from
    Modern Science to the Mind of God by Roy Abraham Varghese :103-106)

  • Mynym,

    Well, I think that’s where you’re hitting on where Intelligent Design (as propounded by folks like Dembski and Behe) actually deviates from the traditional Western/Christian tradition in regards to understanding the relationship of God and cosmos.

    As you quote above, God’s design was traditionally seen as being best shown by the order of the universe — by the fact that its physical laws were predictable and thus allowed scientific predictions based upon trying to understand those laws to take place.

    However, in modern ID, “design theorists” attempt to discern God’s hand in events which are _not_ predictable and do _not_ appear to spring from the natural order which God created. It’s this taking of the natural laws and processes to be “natural” while seeing deviations from them as “designed” which I see as deeply problematic.

  • So, like all good Americans, they took the matter to court. (Yes, this glosses over a fair amount of history, but I’m trying to be brief.)

    I’m not sure what you’re glossing over but the entire focus here seems to be far off. Creationists typically do not show the same totalitarian urge that Darwinists have a long history of. Yes, in a local community where they pay to have their children educated they want to have a say in what they are taught. They may not want them taught the Darwinian creation myth and they may even want them taught a Jewish creation myth but I don’t know of any leaders in the creationist or ID movements who have compared local communities and parents teaching their children incorrect things to child abuse or making arguments of a totalitarian bent.

    E.g.

    …in Darwin’s Dangerous Idea Daniel Dennett views religious believers who dissuade their children from believing Darwinian evolution as such a threat to the social order that they need to be caged in zoos or quarantined (both metaphors are his).
    (Uncommon Dissent: Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing
    Edited by William Dembski, Introduction)

    That isn’t without precedent. A similar totalitarian sentiment voiced by others who believed in a grand mythology of Darwinian Progress:

    “When an opponent declares, ‘I will not come over to your side…I calmly say, ‘Your child belongs to us already…What are you? You will pass on. Your descendants, however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time they will know nothing else but this new community.’ And on May 1, 1937, he declared, “This new Reich will give its youth to no one, but will itself take youth and give to youth its own education and its own upbringing.” It was not an idle boast; that was precisely what was happening. (The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany by William L. Shirer. (Simon and Schuster) 1990 :249)

  • It’s this taking of the natural laws and processes to be “natural” while seeing deviations from them as “designed” which I see as deeply problematic.

    Why? Do you have a problem with quantum mechanics or the notion of a singularity? You and others seem to be comparing ID to scientia/knowledge which doesn’t actually exist.

    The simple fact is that Christianity comports with a view in which there are general laws and regularities but there are also some singularities and miracles. Due to distortions (ID = creationism) and politics ID can mean anything from a creationist rube to Dembski or even Aristotle so it’s not really clear what people are saying. The arguments are said to be scientific but theological arguments and assumptions are common to all sides: “God wouldn’t make a panda’s thumb like this, ummm… therefore natural selection did. I can say what God wouldn’t do but you can’t say that God would make something because that’s religious.”

    “God wouldn’t get His hands dirty, He would only set up initial laws and then the universe would run like clockwork.” Etc. etc…there are many but only one side generally seems to be blind to the fact that they’re making theological arguments and instead passes off their theology as “science.” Those who believe in a gardening God who would get His hands dirty or who would incarnate don’t seem to be as blind to their theology as those who prefer a God who doesn’t “tinker” in a way that they apparently don’t like and so on.

    If it is not deeply problematic for the physical sciences to find evidence for a possible singularity then why would it be so in the case of biology?

  • On the original topic, you should probably read Edward Feser because he gets to some of the underlying philosophical claims that even proponents of ID are assuming.

    Here is an excerpt:

    Paley, as a “modern” thinker who rejects Aristotle’s idea of final causes-purposiveness or goal-directedness existing objectively in the natural world-accepts the notion that in some sense the world is a vast machine. On this “mechanical” picture of the universe as a kind of clockwork, everything that exists in the physical world is made upof (or “is reducible to”) purely material parts which by themselves have no goal, purpose, or meaning, and these parts interact with other bits of material stuff according to a stripped-down version of Aristotle’s “efficient cause.” How this is supposed to work became ever more mysterious as a result of Hume’s critique of the principle of causality and other developments in modern philosophy…but the basic idea, to simplify a bit, is this: What exists objectively in the physical world are just mindless, purposeless, meaningless particles of matter bouncing around, knocking into each other in certain regular ways. Sometimes the particles combine to form larger and more complicated arrangements, thus giving rise to rocks, trees, dogs, human bodies, mountains, planets, etc. And there might be certain identifiable regularities in the way this happens. But even these more complex things have no inherent purpose, goal, meaning, or function, and they are not instances of fixed essences or substantial forms either; for there are (so it is claimed) no final causes or formal causes in the world, but just “matter in motion.” Now if it can be shown-and this is what Paley and his successors try to show- that certain of these complex arrangements of bits of matter are statistically highly unlikely to occur apart from intelligent design, then that would make it probable that there is a designer of some sort who is causing these arrangements.
    […]
    Now Aquinas, I think, would be completely disgusted by this whole way of framing the debate over God’s existence-and that includes the Paley/”Intelligent Design” side of it…
    Its main problem is that it is just false, and demonstrably so.
    …while the Darwinians have been unquestionably thuggish and often dishonest in their critiques of the “Intelligent Design” movement, to the extent that ID proponents have followed Paley in trading in Aristotle for a basically mechanistic picture of the physical universe, they have been “asking for it.” (The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism
    by Edward Feser :112-113)

    If you are more interested in the empirical facts which support teleological thinking I’d suggest (Nature’s Destiny: How the Laws of Biology Reveal Purpose in the Universe by Michael Denton) I used some excerpts here.

  • “God wouldn’t get His hands dirty, He would only set up initial laws and then the universe would run like clockwork.” Etc. etc…there are many but only one side generally seems to be blind to the fact that they’re making theological arguments and instead passes off their theology as “science.” Those who believe in a gardening God who would get His hands dirty or who would incarnate don’t seem to be as blind to their theology as those who prefer a God who doesn’t “tinker” in a way that they apparently don’t like and so on.

    See, this is exactly the kind of thinking which I think ID all to often leads people to. It’s a deeply Deistic notion to imagine that God could have set up the initial laws and then left the universe to run like clockwork.

    As a Catholic, I firmly believe that the universe only continues to exist from moment to moment through God’s active will.

    So there is simply not a difference between God setting up laws and God “tinkering” or “gardening”. The laws of the universe are not something outside of God such that He has to “tinker” with them. Rather, the regular laws of the universe which we observe and formulate are our inside-looking-out view of God’s ordered and rational mind. The universe is predictable in ways that science can come to understand because God is rational and ordered in His actions.

    Now certainly, I do not deny that miracles do occur. And to the extent that they do, they are things which modern science is and will always be entirely unable to explain. What we mean when we say “miracle” is an action by God which does not conform to the normal patterns we can predict. It is not as if He has to actively set aside the physical laws, but rather that He is doing something which is beyond our ability to predict by means of past experience of creation.

    Is it possible that there are examples of these “miracles” in the development of life? It’s certainly possible. However even if that is so, that simply renders that event, whatever it is, something which modern physical science is unable to account for. Calling it “designed” gets us nowhere. Nor does it seem clear to me that simply because we cannot account for why something happened do to our current knowledge of the universe that it is “miraculous tinkering” by God. It may simply be the result of one of the regular patterns which we have not yet observed enough to recognize or understand.

    And since saying, “Oh, it must have been designed” is not in any way predictive, it’s not really a useful scientific label. Science can neve prove a miracle. At most, it remains consistently unable to explain a miracle.

  • See, this is exactly the kind of thinking which I think ID all to often leads people to.

    It’s the same thinking behind Darwinism. The theological arguments I mentioned are often made by Darwinists and despite its atheistic reputation Darwinism would never have gotten off the ground without the widespread support of theists, even American “fundamentalists.”

    E.g.

    The most notable evolutionist contributor to The Fundamentals was George Frederick Wright, a renowned glacial geologist and professor of the harmony of science and revelation in Oberlin College. Wright had been a Darwinian for more than forty years when The Fundamentals appeared. In the mid-1870s he joined with Darwin’s most prominent American supporter, Asa Gray, in publishing a collection of Gray’s essays on Darwinism and natural theology.
    …we shall have to look to the decade after the First World War to find a movement militantly opposed to evolution, a Fundamentalism that supplied the imagery to reinforce the metaphor in which the post-Darwinian controversies had been cast.
    (The Post-Darwinian Controversies by James Moore :72-73)

    Other examples:

    Wright proposed that there was a special relationship between Calvinism and Darwinism. He spelled out five basic parallels in an essay entitled “Some Analogies between Calvinism and Darwinism.” Darwinian evolution, he pointed out, in no sense entailed the idea of inevitable progressive development—a point on which it closely paralleled the biblical doctrine of the fall and human depravity. Moreover, both Darwinism and Calvinism affirmed the specific unity of the human race and presumed a direct organic chain linking all humanity together by inheritance. The hereditary transmission of variations and of original sin seemed to Wright a particularly close correspondence. In the Calvinistic interplay of predestination and free agency he saw a mirror image of the Darwinian integration of chance and pattern in the evolutionary system. In addition, advocates of both philosophies were uneasy about a priori methods—Calvinists because of their fear of rampant rationalism, and Darwinians because of their self-imposed restriction to observable rather than ultimate facts. Lastly, the sovereignty of law throughout nature, whether in the history of creation or in the historical transmission of divine revelation, further served to lead Wright to the conclusion that Darwinism was “the Calvinistic interpretation of nature.”
    As Wright’s involvements as a theologian increased, so too did his efforts as a geologist.
    (Darwin’s Forgotten Defenders: The Encounter Between Evangelical Theology and Evolutionary Thought by David N. Livingstone :67)

    Not to mention Darwin himself, who was educated as a theologian and sometimes focused more on philosophical and theological arguments than actual empirical evidence. For example, some of the parasitic organisms he cited in his theological arguments could be advanced as evidence against expanding the theory of natural selection indefinitely to supposedly explain virtually everything about an organism. Theology has always been included in Darwinian reasoning* and it is typically passed off as science, so it’s ironic that the main concern of modern Darwinists is that ID is theological and so on.

    *E.g.

    …though Darwin made repeated references to the Creator, he never needed to define his terms, for the modern view of God was widely accepted.
    In constructing the arguments for his theory of evolution, Darwin repeatedly argued that God would never have created the world that the nineteenth-century naturalists were uncovering. Shortly after going pub lic with his theory, Darwin wrote to a friend: “There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the [wasp] with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars, or that the cat should play with mice.”
    […]
    Nature seemed to lack precision and economy in design and was often “inexplicable on the theory of creation.” In addition to this growing list of imperfections and mistakes, Darwin questioned the way the various species were designed. He observed, on the one hand, that different species use “an almost infinite diversity of means” for the same task and that this should not be the case if each species had been independently created by a single Creator. On the other hand, Darwin observed that different species use similar means for different tasks.” This too, he argued, does not fit with the theory of divine creation.
    What exactly did Darwin expect God’s creation to look like? We may never know, but for our purposes the point is that Darwin was significantly motivated by nonscientific premises. He had a specific notion of God in view, and as it had for Milton, that view defined the framework of his thinking. Though biology was young and little was known about how organisms actually worked, Darwin believed he had sufficient evidence to show that God would not have created this world. God’s world had to fit into certain specific criteria that humans had devised.
    This view was not peculiar to Darwin. Philosophers and scientists had become quite confident in their knowledge of God. This attitude developed over many centuries, and by Darwin’s day it was internalized and needed no justification. Today this view continues to be evident in evolutionary literature, from popular presentations of the theory to college level textbooks.
    (Darwin’s God: Evolution and the Problem of Evil
    by Cornelius G. Hunter :12-13)

    Theological arguments aside, is Darwinism really a valid scientific explanation? Again, the life cycles of many parasites could be advanced as evidence against the theory:

    The work of Chrystal demonstrates that the larva of the wood wasp Sirex is also peculiarly accommodating towards its predator, the parasitic wasp Ibalia. Sirex bores a hole in the trunk of a conifer, in which it deposits its egg. The egg yields a grub which feeds on the wood. As the grub feeds on the wood it gradually bores a tunnel. After some years the grub turns into a pupa which finally yields the adult wasp, which, using its powerful jaws, bites its way out of the tree. The Ibalia using the hole bored by the Sirex lays its egg in the Sirex grub. The Ibalia grub gradually consumes the tissues of the Sirex grub but does not eat the vital organs until last, thus ensuring a fresh supply of meat until its development, which takes three years, is complete. The presence of the Ibalia changes the behaviour of the Sirex. Normally the Sirex larva bores deeply into the wood but when infected by the Ibalia it bores towards the surface. This is a vital behavioural change for Ibalia because it has comparatively weak jaws and would be unable to bore as far through the wood as Sirex to escape from the trunk. Yet another example of interspecific altruism? What conceivable value [for natural selection to operate on] can the Sirex grub gain by changing the direction of its boring? By what curious sequence of small evolutionary steps did the Ibalias’ predatory habit induce this vital behavioural change?
    (Evolution: A Theory in Crisis by Michael Denton :223)

  • Is it possible that there are examples of these “miracles” in the development of life? It’s certainly possible. However even if that is so, that simply renders that event, whatever it is, something which modern physical science is unable to account for. Calling it “designed” gets us nowhere.

    The fact that something is designed isn’t miraculous, otherwise every car and computer would be a miracle and so on. The real issue is technology and language not miracles or magic as Bobcu and yourself apparently believe. His little mind of the synaptic gaps doesn’t seem especially strong, thus his use of stigma words and so on.

    At any rate it’s a matter of knowledge, not ignorance. Is language detectable empirically?

    Why does advanced technology appear as magic to the ignorant?

    Note the irony of the childish use of magic as a stigma word given that the scientists of old, the alchemists, the astrologers and so on before such things were reformed into chemistry and astronomy were typically magicians. Ironically charlatans seeking government grants often still promise magic and miracles to the people in the name of their scientia/knowledge. It’s not as if everyone in the past was wrong and morally corrupt but now everyone is good and saintly, after all.

  • And since saying, “Oh, it must have been designed” is not in any way predictive, it’s not really a useful scientific label.

    I don’t agree but putting that aside what do you think “Oh, that must have come about by natural selection.” predicts? What sort of biological observations would falsify Darwinism? Where has the theory of natural selection been specified in the language of mathematics and verified in trajectories of adaptation in groups of organisms? Imagining things about the past in order to prop up a natural, progressive or atheistic creation myth has little to do with actual specification and verification.

  • mynym,

    I think you missed the whole point of what I was trying to provide to the discussion, which is a brief history of the ID movement.

    ….its science is predominantly aimed at discrediting the theory of evolution specifically and does not go out of its way to make any predictions of how the world works. (How can it? With God miraculously tweaking creation, who could say what would happen?)

    Not at all, the notion that the Cosmos is fundamentally intelligible has much to do with science as we know it.

    See, you took what I said and ran in a different direction. I’m talking about the motives of the ID movement and its bad scientific principals. I’m not talking about whether or not they are right or wrong, but where they fit in the “scientific community”. Now, I know I’m generalizing when I talk about “ID people”, but the general trend is to attack the theory of evolution, not necessarily prove anything themselves. When they do offer theories, they’re either very quickly discredited, or they’re removed from evidence and prediction so that they can’t be falsified. This has nothing do with talking about how the Cosmos is fundamentally intelligible. It is talking about how ID arguments–which are generally bad–are unintelligible. I know you want to back the ID movement, but jumping from my statement about their scientific practices to epistemology and cosmology is changing the subject.


    So, like all good Americans, they took the matter to court. (Yes, this glosses over a fair amount of history, but I’m trying to be brief.)

    I’m not sure what you’re glossing over but the entire focus here seems to be far off. Creationists typically do not show the same totalitarian urge that Darwinists have a long history of. Yes, in a local community where they pay to have their children educated they want to have a say in what they are taught. They may not want them taught the Darwinian creation myth and they may even want them taught a Jewish creation myth but I don’t know of any leaders in the creationist or ID movements who have compared local communities and parents teaching their children incorrect things to child abuse or making arguments of a totalitarian bent.

    What I’m glossing over is the name of court cases, which states they were in, the immediate repercussions, the following court cases, and so on in particular.

    As for your reply, be that as it may, it was the Creationists who took the matter to court, and have been taking the matter to court ever since the courts ruled that the establishment clause of the First Amendment somehow means that religion is taboo whenever the state sponsors something (a concept I find utterly contemptible and beneath the dignity of a Supreme Court Justice).

    You might also want to consider certain specifics in your argument, such as how the theory of evolution is not a “creation myth”. It leaves the creation myth alone and just talks about how things evolve once they were there. The question of how life originated is still completely up in the air. While some pure materialists try to hold to abiogenesis, there’s no concrete theory to explain how life came about. Hypotheses, yes, experiments galore, but as far as I know, nothing concrete.

    Etc. etc…there are many but only one side generally seems to be blind to the fact that they’re making theological arguments and instead passes off their theology as “science.”

    And when scientists try to work their theological views into the data and draw erroneous conclusions, they should rightly be denounced. But then, you seem to be ignoring a whole body of scientists who don’t do that, and who have made the theory of evolution one of the most rigorously tested theories around. You should know better than to make the argument you just put forth. The “some scientists make bad theological statements out of their science, so that field of science is false” argument is as fallacious as it comes. That’s like saying a particular religion must be false because some of its members did not live up to its tenets. By all means, decry the scientists who step beyond their field and make speculations that they can’t at all prove. But don’t denounce the theory expect on its merits.

    You’ll notice that in my post, I was focused entirely on the purpose of the ID movement and their scientific habits. I made no claims as to whether or not their claims are right or wrong (though their science is often bad and easily discredited). When you want to argue, you need to be able to make these distinctions. You don’t specifically go overboard and say that “because a scientist said something about God and a panda’s thumb, evolution is bunk”, but you’re dangerously close.

    I don’t agree but putting that aside what do you think “Oh, that must have come about by natural selection.” predicts? What sort of biological observations would falsify Darwinism? Where has the theory of natural selection been specified in the language of mathematics and verified in trajectories of adaptation in groups of organisms? Imagining things about the past in order to prop up a natural, progressive or atheistic creation myth has little to do with actual specification and verification.

    And here you betray your fundamental misunderstandings. Natural selection–but one piece in the process of speciation–has a number of predictive capabilities. For example, the simplest is that we would expect to see species well-enough adapted to their environments to survive. We’d expect to see species dying out if the environment changes radically enough. We’d expect to see strange mutations persisting that either do not hamper a species or do not hamper a species very much, at least until a change in the environment either makes that mutation beneficial or terminal. Now, when you say: what do you think “Oh, that must have come about by natural selection.” predicts? you’re putting the cart before the horse. You have an observation, and then you ask if a particular process could explain that observation. If it does, then you look at the process and see what other ramifications it has, and then you look to see if the evidence supports those ramifications. In the case of natural selection, the evidence is overwhelmingly affirmative.

    What sort of biological observations would falsify Darwinism?

    First, I suppose we should clarify what you mean by Darwinism, because I have feeling we’re not speaking the same language. My first inclination is to believe you’re talking about the theory of evolution, and argue on those grounds. But then, looking at your attacks on the stupid things some scientists have said, I would guess you’re talking about the quasi-religious mentality that tries to extrapolate an atheistic viewpoint from the theory of evolution. So which is it? If the latter, I won’t bother. That’s like asking what chemical reaction would disprove Fermat’s Last Theorem. It doesn’t even make sense.

    If you mean the former, there is plenty of biological observations that could disprove the theory of evolution. Seeing a fly evolve into a human, or a human into a horse would disprove evolution. Rapid, radical changes in a few short generations would pose problems. Members of a particular species with characteristics that are not possible for that species would be a death knell. Creatures like chimeras, or centaurs, or other mythological mixture of species would show the theory of evolution false. What is really amusing is that often uneducated anti-evolutionists demand particular phenomena in order to believe that evolution is true, where those very phenomena would prove evolution false!

    Where has the theory of natural selection been specified in the language of mathematics and verified in trajectories of adaptation in groups of organisms?

    Um…wow. I’m not even sure this deserves a response. This is the biggest piece of babble you’ve produced yet. Specified in the language of mathematics? What, do you expect a series of PDE’s that would govern natural selection? Or some probability theory that quantifies the expected decrease in species population for a given change in the environment? Trajectories of adaptation? You know, a Google search brings up a couple of things that use those words together, but I wonder if they at all touch what mean. But then, to quote Inigo Montoya, “I do not think it means what you think it means.”

  • See, you took what I said and ran in a different direction. I’m talking about the motives of the ID movement and its bad scientific principals.

    No, your rhetorical question was, “How could anyone who believes that God miraculously tweaks creation make predictions?” And I answered that, because it was based on ignorance. After all, numerous theists throughout history who have believed that God “tweaked” creation have made scientific predictions and so on.

    Most of the time you write as if the concept of intelligent design is nothing more than a modern political movement defined by the intents and motivations of those involved in it.

    I know you want to back the ID movement, but jumping from my statement about their scientific practices to epistemology and cosmology is changing the subject.

    Now you’re focusing on my supposed intents and motivations. I’m not changing the subject because despite your political focus you’ve made assertions which have to do with ID as a concept in general and not just the supposed motivations of the modern/American ID movement. I already cited Feser criticizing the ID movement here and I’ve been censored off of Dembski’s blog for being critical of the movement (not the idea). I’m not sure that you actually know what the intents and motivations of the ID movement are anymore than you knew my own but I don’t really care anyway. I could have dastardly motivations and still make a sound logical argument or cite relevant empirical or historical facts, etc.

    It leaves the creation myth alone and just talks about how things evolve once they were there. The question of how life originated is still completely up in the air.

    It is increasingly common among evolutionists to simply avoid the origin of life. Some even act as if no one has ever included it in the Darwinian creation myth or there is some supposed principle which excludes it. But note that this position only evolved after evolutionists attempted to “explain”* the origin of life based on imaginary events in the past in that special way they have. Imagine that! But when it comes to the origin of life apparently even the human imagination is not up to the task. A failure of imagination…. finally!

    E.g.

    Although the idea was entertained at one time, it is now considered highly unlikely that a chance assemblage of randomly synthesized prebiotic molecules could have been the source of the first bacteriumlike organism. The odds are overwhelmingly against it. Even these simplest of organisms are amazingly complex biological machines that must be immensely more sophisticated than the transitional forms that are thought to have bridged the gap between nonliving and living matter. (Wilson, J.H., 1983, P89)
    How did the first one-celled creatures arise? They are too complex to form by spontaneous generation, and so must also be the products of evolution from even simpler beings. (Shapiro, 1986, p155) cf. (The Biotic Message: Evolution Versus Message Theory by Walter ReMine :74)

    Some act now as if the origin of life is totally distinct from evolution but it isn’t. After all, if life had more than one origin then common descent has nothing to do with evolution but it’s commonly said to be a prediction and so on. The fall back position of: “Well, we can’t say anything about the origin of life and now we’re only talking about how life changes and stuff.” is absurd because the key aspects of evolutionary theory like imaginary phylogenetic trees need to be rooted in the singular origin of life. If the question really is open and up the air as you say then there may be no need to imagine that all trees trace back to a common ancestor and many could be pruned of imagery drawn entirely from the imagination.

    In the case of natural selection, the evidence is overwhelmingly affirmative.

    I don’t disagree that natural culling occurs, only that much else can be said. Going back over what you said of it: For example, the simplest is that we would expect to see species well-enough adapted to their environments to survive. So if we saw species that were not well-enough adapted to their environment (i.e. dead) that would be surprising? So far it seems that given natural selection we can predict that species that are not dead will be alive.

    Next you say: We’d expect to see species dying out if the environment changes radically enough. This doesn’t seem to be much of a prediction. One could just as easily say that natural selection predicts that species will survive in a changing environment. Next: We’d expect to see strange mutations persisting that either do not hamper a species or do not hamper a species very much… If strange mutations were not seen then natural selection would just as easily “predict” that they be filtered out. It seems that natural selection occurs but it’s not apparent what can be derived from this basic fact of life. Darwin argued that we can derive that organisms are constantly being “programmed” to survive long enough reproduce and constantly being progressively “perfected.” So what of abortion, condoms, altruism, the life cycles of parasites, etc.? Given actual empirical evidence it seems that natural selection isn’t as powerful as he imagined it was.

    The philosopher David Stove noted that Darwinists simply cannot see the empirical evidence that natural selection is not the be all, end all that they imagine it to be:

    Huxley should not have needed Darwinism to tell him— since any intelligent child of about eight could have told him— that in a “continual free fight of each other against all” there would soon be no children, no women and hence, no men. In other words, that the human race could not possibly exist now, unless cooperation had always been stronger than competition, both between women and their children, and between men and the children and women whom they protect and provide for.
    And why was it that Huxley himself swallowed, and expected the rest of us to swallow, this ocean of biological absurdity and historical illiteracy? Why, just because he could not imagine Darwinism’s being false, while if it is true then a struggle for life must always be going on in every species. Indeed, the kind of examples for which Huxley searched would have to be as common as air among us, surrounding us everywhere at all times. But anyone who tries to point out such an example will find himself obliged to reenact T. H. Huxley’s ludicrous performance.
    There is (as I said earlier) a contradiction at the very heart of the Cave Man way out of Darwinism’s dilemma: the contradiction between holding that Darwinism is true and admitting that it is not true of our species now.
    (Darwinian Fairytales: Selfish Genes, Errors of Heredity, and Other Fables of Evolution by David Stove :7-9)

    Let’s say that natural selection is the be all, end all that Darwinists typically try to imagine it to be. Does this mean that the biological brain events necessary for you to think and write must be imagined to come about as the result of natural selection? Shall we imagine that the text which you write here has more to do with natural selection operating on an ancient group of worm-like creatures than intelligent design? Are the symbols and signs of design by which a mind of the synaptic “gaps” thinks just an illusion which science will inevitably do away with or can mind and intelligence have an impact in the real world? Is language empirically detectable?

    The Darwinian creation myth crumbles when people begin thinking instead of imagining things about the past in order to support a view of Progress.

    Seeing a fly evolve into a human, or a human into a horse would disprove evolution.

    That would prove Darwinian gradualism false, not evolution.

    Rapid, radical changes in a few short generations would pose problems.

    Debatable….certainly those who have hoped for a Hopeful Monster haven’t seemed to see radical change as a problem for evolution in general, although it might be a problem for Darwinian gradualism.

    Creatures like chimeras, or centaurs, or other mythological mixture of species would show the theory of evolution false.

    The sandlance has the eyes of a chameleon while the “duck billed” platypus may as well be the chimera you ask for although of course it will never be counted as the actual evidence that it is. It was originally thought to be a fake when first discovered. Have you ever heard of “convergent evolution” by which all possible evidence for common design is simply imagined away? Just think if organisms were not unified by a common language in their DNA code and not unified time and again by design, then people like Dawkins would argue, “The God of the Jews obviously doesn’t exist, there’s overwhelming evidence that different types of life has different designers!”

  • Specified in the language of mathematics? What, do you expect a series of PDE’s that would govern natural selection?

    The theory of natural selection has been specified in the language of mathematics, the question is what can be derived from it or predicted by the theory. You don’t seem to know much about the theory or theories of evolution in general.

    Maybe that’s why you seem to think that the “theory of evolution” is pure science devoid of theology and so on while ID is philosophy, theology or religion. Theology has always seeped into Darwinism and “evolution” in general, ironically proponents of ID probably avoid theological claims more than Darwinists do as a result of decisions made by a federal judiciary which is capable of pulling decisions out of its own penumbras.

  • No, your rhetorical question was, “How could anyone who believes that God miraculously tweaks creation make predictions?” And I answered that, because it was based on ignorance. After all, numerous theists throughout history who have believed that God “tweaked” creation have made scientific predictions and so on.

    You’re confusing your points here. Certainly, given your definition of “tweak” all theists arguably believe that God has “tweaked” creation during the history of the universe. However, no one has got anywhere by trying to make predictions as to when God will “tweak” a species.

    Picture, if you will, that Dembski were going to sit down and try to predict when a new piece of specified complexity will be infused into an existing line of descent — or when a new line of descent would appear. Do you think he could possibly have any luck with that? No. Because it’s a non-predictive model.

    The biological model of variation and selection does, by comparison, have at least some modest predictive ability — both in predicting the behavior of populations placed under heavily selective forces, and in predicting probably common ancestors of now disparate forms which have then later been substantiated either by genetic or fossil evidence.

    Debatable….certainly those who have hoped for a Hopeful Monster haven’t seemed to see radical change as a problem for evolution in general, although it might be a problem for Darwinian gradualism.

    Keep in mind that “hopeful monster” was a term coined specifically to poke fun at the theory that sudden changes might occur and then be selected for. As such, it is an exaggeration and suggests change much more rapid and complete than even proponents would suggest.

    In regards to the origins of life:

    Certainly, many evolutionary biologists have aired their theories as to how life may have come about in the first place. However since evolution is a theory regarding descent with modification, it’s necessarily poorly equiped to deal with the point when things went from non-life to life. Without descent, a theory of descent and with modification can’t really get anywhere, can it?

    The sandlance has the eyes of a chameleon while the “duck billed” platypus may as well be the chimera you ask for although of course it will never be counted as the actual evidence that it is. It was originally thought to be a fake when first discovered. Have you ever heard of “convergent evolution” by which all possible evidence for common design is simply imagined away?

    I don’t think you understand convergent evolution very well, if this is your summary of it. For starters, when people describe the sandlance as “having the eyes of” the chameleon, they’re not talking about the features being literally identical but rather being similar in structure and function. It’s nothing like the medieval idea of a chimera — which is too bad, I suppose, as that would be interesting.

    More generally on the topic of disproofs of evolution:
    -If we routinely saw fossils totally “out of order” in the sense that apparent descendants appeared before apparent ancestors, that would certainly be strong evidence against evolution.
    -If the lines of descent which were predicted based on fossil evidence showed now relation to similarity in DNA, that would be strong evidence against evolution.
    -If selection did not directionally change a populations characteristics, that would be strong evidence against natural selection.
    -If genetics worked such that children were always the mean of their parents’ characteristics, that would be strong evidence against variation.
    -If existing creatures did not show strong genetic signs of common ancestry, that would be evidence against evolution.

    Theology has always seeped into Darwinism and “evolution” in general, ironically proponents of ID probably avoid theological claims more than Darwinists do

    I think that you need to be a little more precise in your statement here: Theology and philosophy invariably seep into the worldview of people, including evolutionary biologists. And because these views seep into their thinking, they influence what theories appeal to scientists. However, that does not mean at all that the modern biological understanding of evolution is _nothing but_ the result of these philosophical and theological views.

    I would seriously encourage you to take a look at some of the stuff on ID and evolution by Thomists like Fr. Edward T. Oakes.

    I’ve been censored off of Dembski’s blog for being critical of the movement (not the idea)

    Congrats, join the club. Most reasonable people have been banned by Dembski for one reason or another.

  • Sigh…here we go, and me unable just to let the matter lie.

    No, your rhetorical question was, “How could anyone who believes that God miraculously tweaks creation make predictions?” And I answered that, because it was based on ignorance. After all, numerous theists throughout history who have believed that God “tweaked” creation have made scientific predictions and so on.

    Here’s a question for you: what is the predictive capability of miracles? Now, no one here denies that miracles occur, or that they will continue to occur. There’s simply nothing we can glean (from a scientific standpoint) of the natural order of the universe from miracles, because miracles kinda sorta maybe run against the natural working of the universe. We can’t predict when miracles occur, and when examining the past in terms of geology, biology, and astronomy, identifying miracles is problematic when our knowledge of those fields is at best partial. Now, the ID position is logically sound. I don’t deny that. The only question is if what ID touts is the only explanation, or even the most likely of explanations. Given a rational God who made things to a particular order, who sustains the universe and everything in it moment by moment by His own will, we expect to see a particular order in the universe, and given an infinitely powerful God, though we might expect miracles to have occurred, we might also expect that God could have arranged things so that miracles didn’t have to occur, either. The problem is, from a point of observing the evidence and trying to work within the rational bounds of how we know God has ordered the universe, ID fails as a predictive branch of study.

    Most of the time you write as if the concept of intelligent design is nothing more than a modern political movement defined by the intents and motivations of those involved in it.

    Well, when I’m just talking about the recent phenomenon that has been dubbed ID in terms of a political movement geared towards working Christianity back into the public schools, it makes sense that that’s what you’d see. See, here’s an example of making a hypothesis and trying to make predictions from it. Is Ryan a) talking about the concept of intelligent design, or is he b) talking about the movement that has been labeled ID? Well, if it is the former, then we’d expect to see a large amount of argumentation for the merits of an intelligent designer versus, say, just random forces, along with some evidence to support the argument one way or another. However, if it is the latter, then we’d expect him to be talking primarily about a body of people, with their goals and aims, what beliefs they hold, and what they’ve tried to do. Since my original post wasn’t concerned so much with the content of what IDers believe, I focused instead on the origin of the ID crowd, their beliefs, and their goals. So I guess the evidence fits hypothesis b.

    I’ve been censored off of Dembski’s blog for being critical of the movement (not the idea).

    I’m very sorry to hear that. I hope you’ve found a warmer welcome here at AC (despite the criticism). I know I’ve been arguing your points fairly strongly, but I like a good argument. Nothing happens intellectually if people aren’t willing to listen to what other people have to say. (And just because I argue against your points, doesn’t mean I’m not listening!)

    I could have dastardly motivations and still make a sound logical argument or cite relevant empirical or historical facts, etc.

    That’s why I’m particularly frustrated with all the ad hominem attacks I see around me. By all means, call me any time I make one. I’ll try to keep my realm of discourse to your arguments alone.

    It is increasingly common among evolutionists to simply avoid the origin of life. Some even act as if no one has ever included it in the Darwinian creation myth or there is some supposed principle which excludes it. But note that this position only evolved after evolutionists attempted to “explain”* the origin of life based on imaginary events in the past in that special way they have. Imagine that! But when it comes to the origin of life apparently even the human imagination is not up to the task. A failure of imagination…. finally!

    Some act now as if the origin of life is totally distinct from evolution but it isn’t. After all, if life had more than one origin then common descent has nothing to do with evolution but it’s commonly said to be a prediction and so on. The fall back position of: “Well, we can’t say anything about the origin of life and now we’re only talking about how life changes and stuff.” is absurd because the key aspects of evolutionary theory like imaginary phylogenetic trees need to be rooted in the singular origin of life. If the question really is open and up the air as you say then there may be no need to imagine that all trees trace back to a common ancestor and many could be pruned of imagery drawn entirely from the imagination.

    To clarify, I mean that the theory of evolution doesn’t touch the problem of the origins of life because of the lack of scientific consensus, not because of squeamishness or disinterest. And don’t be too critical of imagination. That’s where we get our hypotheses. The real world likes nothing more than a tasty hypothesis to tear to shreds… The point is, just because scientists come up with kooky or far-fetched hypotheses shouldn’t be a negative. The negative is trying to pass something off as true that is mere speculation, or holding onto a hypotheses when it is obvious the evidence doesn’t support it. There’s a lot of news hype when a scientist makes a new suggestion of how live appeared on earth, and that does us all a disfavor, but that doesn’t discredit the use of imagination.

    As for the connection between the theory of evolution and the appearance of first life, I both agree and disagree with what you stated. To keep it brief, I don’t see why phylogenetic trees rooted in a singular lifeform needs to explain where that organism came from in order to be accurate. It would be a definite boon to know, but I don’t see how not knowing causes the whole house of cards to come cascading down.

    Darwin argued that we can derive that organisms are constantly being “programmed” to survive long enough reproduce and constantly being progressively “perfected.”

    If you want to keep the discussion limited solely to Darwin, then I suppose that’s your prerogative. Evolutionary biology has progressed quite a bit since Darwin. The notion you just cited there is patently false under evolutionary theory.

    Let’s say that natural selection is the be all, end all that Darwinists typically try to imagine it to be.

    Natural selection isn’t the be all, end all. It is but one component of many. I just wonder: are you just lumping it all under natural selection for brevity’s sake, or do you not have quibbles with the other mechanisms (mutation, sexual recombination, genetic drift, etc)?

    Does this mean that the biological brain events necessary for you to think and write must be imagined to come about as the result of natural selection?

    How to answer this…actually, I don’t know how to answer this. Do I believe that the physical brain we have resulted from natural processes of evolution? I do. Do I believe that my brain is the source of thought? No–that’s the soul, and the soul did not evolve, instead being a special creation of God. (As you see, I believe in an intelligent designer, who continually creates ex nihilo. However, the soul is not material, and thus it is difficult (I won’t say impossible) for science to deal with it.) As for the interaction of soul and brain, that’s beyond my realm of expertise.

    Shall we imagine that the text which you write here has more to do with natural selection operating on an ancient group of worm-like creatures than intelligent design? Are the symbols and signs of design by which a mind of the synaptic “gaps” thinks just an illusion which science will inevitably do away with or can mind and intelligence have an impact in the real world? Is language empirically detectable?

    No, we shall not. Because as soon as we start dragging my opinion into it, you’ll find that my answer is “both”. Those natural forces that allowed bodies to evolve and eventually produced a human body are products of an intelligent designer themselves. (Sorry, I know you meant a generic “we”, but sometimes I can’t help myself.)

    Ahem. Anyway, the questions you raise here are well beyond my capacity to answer (at least, beyond thought comes from soul). I’m not a neuroscientist. I’m not even sure they know well enough how the brain functions to be able to answer those questions. And I’m sorry, but your last question there throws me for a loop. What do you even mean by that? I sure you have something more in mind that “Yup, German’s a language. Sign language is a language. C++ is a language.”

    The Darwinian creation myth crumbles when people begin thinking instead of imagining things about the past in order to support a view of Progress.

    And I can only shake my head at this. The theory of evolution makes no stipulation about progress. The idea of progress means that there is an end in mind, and having an end in mind means having an intelligence to have that end in mind. That you see evolution as support a view of progress (or if you’ve encountered scientists that have said so) shows that there’s a gross misunderstanding about the theory going on.

    That would prove Darwinian gradualism false, not evolution.

    Then you once again betray your misunderstanding of evolution. Recall the phylogenetic tree you mentioned before. There’s a reason that we have classifications like kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. That has to do with finding particular genetic patters and particular morphological features among certain species, among certain groups of species, among certain groups of groups of species, and so on. Simply put, though, the theory of evolution predicts that a species on order will never give rise to a species of another order (i.e. evolution will not backtrack up the phylogenetic tree). If that were ever shown to happen, that would be a glaring contradiction that the theory simply could not handle.

    The sandlance has the eyes of a chameleon while the “duck billed” platypus may as well be the chimera you ask for although of course it will never be counted as the actual evidence that it is.

    I’m not qualified to comment on that, but I’d recommend looking into where these species fit among particular classifications. For an article on the platypus, I’d look at http://www.talkorigins.org for information, specifically: Creationism and the Platypus.

    The theory of natural selection has been specified in the language of mathematics, the question is what can be derived from it or predicted by the theory.

    Then I’m afraid you’ll have to explain what you mean by “specified in the language of mathematics”, because at the moment that sounds like a fancy term with little meat.

    You don’t seem to know much about the theory or theories of evolution in general.

    I know somethings, by no means most, much less all. I have some resources I turn to that I trust (specifically Google Scholar and TalkOrigins). You seem well read in the body of anti-evolutionists, though, and I feel that’s coloring your judgment.

    Maybe that’s why you seem to think that the “theory of evolution” is pure science devoid of theology and so on while ID is philosophy, theology or religion.

    Well, when you take just the pure science in the theory of evolution and toss out all the baggage of speculation, then what remains is fairly pure science. If I’m worried about what the theory of evolution says, I look at the theory, not the stupid comments scientists make in realms outside their expertise. There’s reams of books written that have extrapolated (poorly) from evolution to theology, and we could argue all day about them. Now, I won’t claim that you can take a scalpel and neatly separate science from theology, but I can separate what the theory of evolution is about from the bad theology that people want to read into it.

    As for ID… I know I do an injustice by lumping a bunch of disparate groups and philosophies under one banner, but I don’t really care to examine each one individually. And when I talk about ID, I’m predominantly talking about the people, not their science. Without stating anything about what ID proposes scientifically, I mentioned that they’re predominantly a group with an axe to grind, finding origin in the desire to have Christianity taught in the classroom once more. That’s a matter of history. For the little I did mentioned of ID science, I spoke entirely of their methodology, which I find to be bad science. I limited the scope of my discourse, in other words.

    Theology has always seeped into Darwinism and “evolution” in general, ironically proponents of ID probably avoid theological claims more than Darwinists do as a result of decisions made by a federal judiciary which is capable of pulling decisions out of its own penumbras.

    I would qualify that more as “many scientists keep trying to read their theological values into the theory of evolution”. Otherwise, I have nothing to argue with here, and I like your description of the justices.

  • The biological model of variation and selection does, by comparison, have at least some modest predictive ability…

    If Darwinism is the standard then ID has modest predictive ability as well. It predicts that a form of language and technology will be fundamental to biology and that organisms cannot be reduced to physics and chemistry. As Michael Polanyi pointed out long before the modern ID movement:

    Electrons and nucleons are not known to be sentient, while the higher animals are. If a rat laps up a solution of saccharine, the rational ex planation of this lies in the fact that the solution tastes sweet and that the rat likes that. The tasting and liking are facts that physics and chemistry as known today cannot explain.
    And this conclusion gives the whole show away. Because it acknowledges a conscious desire by an individual capable of such desire, it leads on further to the recognition of deliberate actions by individuals and the possibilities of error on their part. Thus a whole series of conceptions emerges that are absent from physics and chemistry as known today. Indeed, nothing is relevant to biology, even at the lowest level of life, unless it bears on the achievements of living beings: achievements such as their perfection of form, their morphogenesis, or the proper functioning of their organs; and the very conception of such achievements implies a distinction between success or failure—a distinction unknown to physics and chemistry.
    But the distinction between success and failure is present in, and is indeed essential to, the science of engineering; and the logic of engineering does substantiate in fact what I am saying here of biology. No physical or chemical investigation of an object can tell us whether it is a machine and, if so, how it works. Only if we have previously discovered that it is a machine, and found out also approximately how it works, can the physical and chemical examination of the machine tell us anything useful about it, as a machine. Similarly, physical and chemical investigations can form part of biology only by bearing on previously established biological achievements, such as shapeliness, morphogenesis, or physiological functions.
    A complete physical and chemical topography of a frog would tell us nothing about it as a frog, unless we knew it previously as a frog. And if the rules of scientific detachment required that we limit ourselves exclusively to physical and chemical observations, we would remain forever unaware of frogs or of any other living beings, just as we would remain ignorant also by such observations of all machines and other human contrivances.
    The achievements which form the subject matter of biology can be identified only by a kind of appraisal which requires a higher degree of participation by the observer in his subject matter than can be mediated by the tests of physics and chemistry. The current ideal of “scientificality” which would refuse such participation would indeed destroy biology but for the wise neglect of consistency on the part of its supporters.
    (Scientific Outlook: Its Sickness and Cure
    by Michael Polanyi
    Science New Series, Vol. 125, No. 3246 (Mar., 1957), pp. 482)

    There’s simply nothing we can glean (from a scientific standpoint) of the natural order of the universe from miracles….

    You wrote a lot about miracles but that’s not the issue. If ID was about the miraculous then every bit of technology we use would be a miracle, every car would have a miraculous origin and so on. ID is about purpose and design which doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the miraculous. For example, arguing that something is irreducibly complex is not arguing that it comes from nothing/”poof” or transcends known causal patterns, it seems to me that it’s just an argument that some form of sentience or knowledge or intelligence is necessary to construct it. It may even still unfold/evolve in regular ways which can be studied while resisting reductionism or materialism the whole time.

    ….since evolution is a theory regarding descent with modification, it’s necessarily poorly equiped to deal with the point when things went from non-life to life. Without descent, a theory of descent and with modification can’t really get anywhere, can it?

    Not at all, it’s just another step or “gap” that spiritual monists need to fill in order to find intellectual fulfillment. The application of Darwinian reasoning to overcome the apparent “gap” in the descent of non-life to life were common and still are to some extent. Note that Dean Kenyon began by proposing biochemical predestination and then concluded that life came about by design and then he was “expelled.” Although many argue that evolution has nothing to do with the origin of life evolutionists are apparently still interested enough in it to engage in censorship. Note that the distinction between life and non-life is only a “gap” from the perspective of naturalism and that Kenyon’s argument was not based on ignorance. “Gaps” are only representative of our ignorance when we assume naturalism. In contrast, Kenyon’s knowledge was rooted in a rational view of the evidence:

    One scientist who began optimistically was Dean Kenyon, who had worked in the laboratory of the Nobelist Melvin Calvin. In 1969, he co-authored a book that was the epitome of the “life is inevitable” school of thinking. Titled Biochemical Predestination, it theorized that chemicals where naturally attracted to each other in the DNA molecules. Their complex folded shapes characterized that mysterious attraction. Three decades later, however, Kenyon had rejected his determinist theory, and was now willing to accept that the origin of life was so beyond law, chance or determinism that an intelligent force, namely a Creator, must have played a role.

    The key flaw in origin-of-life research, Kenyon argued, was that the experiments were intelligent—unlike anything found on the primitive Earth. He cited one project that produced RNA in a test tube. The result prompted an adviser to ask bluntly whether the RNA would have “emerged spontaneously without the gentle coaxing of a graduate student desiring a completed dissertation.” Another pair of research professors joked along similar lines: typical abiogenesis experiments “claim abiotic synthesis for what has in fact been produced and designed by a highly intelligent and very much biotic man.”
    Kenyon elaborated further in his 1995 essay, “Re-creating the RNA World.” He explained, “In vitro RNA selection does not demonstrate that complex ribozymes could have arisen naturally in prebiotic soup, because the in vitro experimental conditions are wholly unrealistic.” Such experiments are contaminated by “intervening intelligence.” What is more, Kenyon wrote, every thing science knew about RNA was summed up in two rules: ‘According to those rules, RNA does not arise from its chemical constituents except (a) in organisms, and (b) in laboratories where intelligent organisms synthesize it.”
    (By Design: Science and the Search for God by Larry Witham :103)

    The issue goes back to the denial of sentience by people who’s main goal seems to be to achieve a form of “pure” scientia/knowledge devoid of sentience and intelligent agency. Apparently they don’t realize that sentient beings like humans will be dead before such purity is achieved.

    Possible falsifications:
    -If we routinely saw fossils totally “out of order” in the sense that apparent descendants appeared before apparent ancestors, that would certainly be strong evidence against evolution.

    Books have been compiled based on this line of evidence but note the attitude of most scientists:

    David L. Bushnell, an ethnologist with the Smithsonian Institution [suggested] the prints were carved by Indians. In ruling out this hypothesis, Dr. Burroughs used a microscope to study the prints and noted: “The sand grains within the tracks are closer together than the sand grains of the rock just outside the tracks due to the pressure of the creatures’ feet. . . . The sandstone adjacent to many of the tracks is uprolled due to the damp, loose sand having been pushed up around the foot as the foot sank into the sand.” These facts led Burroughs to conclude that the humanlike footprints were formed by compression in the soft, wet sand before it consolidated into rock some 300 million years ago. Burrough’s observations were confirmed by other investigators.
    According to Kent Previette, Burroughs also consulted a sculptor. Previette wrote in 1953: “The sculptor said that carving in that kind of sandstone could not have been done without leaving artificial marks. Enlarged photomicrographs and enlarged infrared photographs failed to reveal any ‘indications of carving or cutting of any kind.”
    […]
    Mainstream science reacted predictably to any suggestion that the prints were made by humans. Geologist Albert G. Ingalls, writing in 1940 in Scientific American, said: “If man, or even his ape ancestor, or even that ape ancestor’s early mammalian ancestor, existed as far back as in the Carboniferous Period in any shape, then the whole science of geology is so completely wrong that all the geologists will resign their jobs and take up truck driving. Hence, for the present at least, science rejects the attractive explanation that man made these mysterious prints in the mud of the Carboniferous with his feet.” (The Hidden History of the Human Race by Michael Cremo and Richard Thompson :150-151)

    It seems that the Darwinian creation myth has been fused to people’s professional identities as scientists and this shapes their view of the evidence. One couldn’t invent a better way to get a distorted view of the evidence than to fuse support for a certain view to a person’s professional identity, i.e. their economic survival.

    Have you ever wondered why there are many hominid fossils along the human line of descent which apparently just happened to be preserved and yet there is virtually no evidence left for apes and their line of descent? It seems that apes don’t read newspapers.

    It’s also important to note that fossils tend to be “out of order” as a pattern but this type of evidence is not admitted to. As Gould noted:

    Stasis is data.
    So if stasis could not be explained away as missing information, how could gradualism face this most prominent signal from the fossil record? The most negative of all strategies-a quite unconscious conspiracy of silence-dictated the canonical response of paleontologists to their observations of stasis. Again, a “culprit” may be identified in the ineluctable embedding of observation within theory. Facts have no independent existence in science, or in any human endeavor; theories grant differing weights, values, and descriptions, even to the most empirical and undeniable of observations. Darwin’s expectations defined evolution as gradual change. Generations of paleontologists learned to equate the potential documentation of evolution with the discovery of insensible intermediacy in a sequence of fossils. In this context, stasis can only record sorrow and disappointment.
    Paleontologists therefore came to view stasis as just another failure to document evolution. Stasis existed in overwhelming abundance, as every paleontologist knew. But this primary signal of the fossil record, defined as an absence of data for evolution, only highlighted our frustration-and certainly did not represent anything worth publishing. Paleontology therefore fell into a literally absurd vicious circle. No one ventured to document or quantify-indeed, hardly anyone even bothered to mention or publish at all-the most common pattern in the fossil record: the stasis of most morpho-species throughout all their geological duration.
    (The Structure of Evolutionary Theory (Harvard College) by Stephen Jay Gould :759-760)

    If the lines of descent which were predicted based on fossil evidence showed now relation to similarity in DNA, that would be strong evidence against evolution.

    Showing no relation wouldn’t really falsify Darwinism, it would just show that DNA has little to do with morphology and so on.

    If selection did not directionally change a populations characteristics, that would be strong evidence against natural selection.

    If the theory of natural selection generally cannot be used to trace a trajectory of adaptation of change before it takes place then it actually isn’t a theory, it’s an observation. I don’t say that to minimize its importance but to point out that it’s not the form of knowledge that many seem to think it is. (“It’s just like the theory of gravity.”)

    However, that does not mean at all that the modern biological understanding of evolution is _nothing but_ the result of these philosophical and theological views.

    Nothing but is a tall order but there is plenty of evidence that the modern/mechanical philosophy that did away with Aristotle and Aquinas shapes biologist’s understanding of evolution.

    In disputes among themselves biologists have occasionally pointed out some problems with the (essentially false) philosophy which now shapes their understanding of evolution. E.g.

    The viewpoint of Coyne et al. (1988) is one in which past events are argued to explain, in a causal sense, the world around us. Such explanations cannot be verified or tested, and the only biological observations they require are that variation and differential reproduction occur. This is not a caricature, as a reading of Coyne et al. will verify. In keeping with this general viewpoint, proponents claim that species are explained with reference to history. Important characters are hence “mechanisms” that have established and maintained the separation between diverged lineages of an ancestral population. According to Coyne et al., even the adaptive purpose of the changes that resulted in these mechanisms is irrelevant.
    We would ask where biology enters into this schema. The answer is that it does not. Rather, biology is interpreted in terms of a range of historical processes, including selection of variation over time. This could, with equal relevance, be used to understand any nonbiological phenomenon such as the development of the automobile, agricultural methods, culture, or men’s suits (Lewontin, 1976).
    (Points of View Species and Neo-Darwinism by C. S. White; B. Michaux; D. M. Lambert
    Systematic Zoology, Vol. 39, No. 4. (Dec., 1990), :400-401)

  • I’d look at http://www.talkorigins.org for information….

    That’s the problem… but suit yourself.

  • It’s also important to note that fossils tend to be “out of order” as a pattern but this type of evidence is not admitted to. As Gould noted:

    Um. No. That’s not what Gould is saying at all. He’s describing how the theory of punctuated equilibrium came about.

    The initial assumption was that evolution resulted in a fairly uniform and constant rate of chang. When we had very few fossils and a lot of gaps, this made sense. Paleontologists could see the general lines of descent and assumed (lacking examples) that the changes between the known points must be fairly constant. As more fossils were found people started to notice more than more that there were long periods of stasis, rather than the constant change that they’d expected. But as that evidence built up, it took a while before people finally figured out that what they were seeing was not an anomoly, but rather evidence that much of the time statis is being selected for (the population is well fitted to its current environment) while at other times selection is directional.

    And that’s what generally happens in science when enough additional evidence that fits poorly with existing theory builds up that it starts to become unsatisfactory — it give people new directions in which to perform research and new theories are developed. There’s a very, very strong incentive in science to come up with new theories which overturn received wisdom. Which is why I find all the claims that people are “expelled” when they overturn “orthodoxy” unconvincing. Generally, better theory wins out very quickly in science. That ID has failed so abysmally in this regard is one of the decent indicators that it doesn’t have much going.

    You wrote a lot about miracles but that’s not the issue. If ID was about the miraculous then every bit of technology we use would be a miracle, every car would have a miraculous origin and so on. ID is about purpose and design which doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the miraculous.

    I recognize the “intelligent design” theory works by analogy to real pieces of technology that humans have produced. However, to my knowledge no ID theorist has made any attempt to produce evidence or even a theory of which “intelligently designed” biological structures were designed by whom, when, and how.

    Now given that the vast majority of ID proponents are Christians are offended by modern science’s methodological materialism and want to identify points which show God’s finger prints, I tend to think it’s most honest to refer to the “tinkering” events that they’re trying to identify as miracles. (You yourself talked about a “gardener God” or a “tinkering God” earlier, as I recall.) I suppose if ID folks start writing papers explaining exactly who they think manufactured specific biological traits or lines of descent, and how and when, then I’ll be happy to address that eventuality. But so far as I can tell, at this point, ID “researchers” are trying to identify points at which God miraculously intervened in the course of biological development.

    And I think that that shows a poverty of theological and philosophical understanding of the relationship between God and the universe as I described above.

    And in regards to science, I think that it is non predictive, and also often based on a certain blindess to (or distortion of/selective quoting of) the evidence.

  • Although many argue that evolution has nothing to do with the origin of life evolutionists are apparently still interested enough in it to engage in censorship.

    Which is a flaw in the scientists, not the theory. It seems you’re trying to critique both, but you can’t argue against evolution just by arguing against the scientists. Whether or not scientists are engaged in a campaign of intellectual dishonesty doesn’t directly touch on evolution. The best you can draw from that is that disinformation about the theory is being passed on, but then you have to show why that disinformation passed review boards, when usually such claims are caught and strongly challenged.

    Note that the distinction between life and non-life is only a “gap” from the perspective of naturalism and that Kenyon’s argument was not based on ignorance.

    Is it, now? I don’t think I disagree with stating that it is a gap, but the “only” is where I draw the line. If you sit down and do some chemistry experiments, it isn’t too hard to build some chemicals that have self-replicating features, but it has been extremely difficult to get anything that could actually be considered life. (As a computer scientists, I would point at all the viruses you can contract on the net, and show how while they have replicating abilities, they still aren’t life.) There’s something fundamental that still seems to escape us, so that “only” is quite an understatement.

    The issue goes back to the denial of sentience by people who’s main goal seems to be to achieve a form of “pure” scientia/knowledge devoid of sentience and intelligent agency. Apparently they don’t realize that sentient beings like humans will be dead before such purity is achieved.

    There’s an interesting byplay going on in our exchanges, in that you’re very willing to decry the poor motives of scientists, but find offense in that I talked about the motive of people in the ID movement. Frankly, I don’t understand why there’s a problem in trying to understand as much of the operations of the material world as one can. I understand the need to stress that there are some things the material world cannot explain, but we can largely know the material world through our interactions with it. (Many things spiritual have had to come to us through direct revelation.)

    One couldn’t invent a better way to get a distorted view of the evidence than to fuse support for a certain view to a person’s professional identity, i.e. their economic survival.

    Admittedly, one of the downfalls of academia, as we’ve seen with all the junk science involved in the global warming hysteria.

    Showing no relation wouldn’t really falsify Darwinism, it would just show that DNA has little to do with morphology and so on.

    And that you feel capable of trivializing this point also reveals a huge misunderstanding about the theory of evolution. To refute a connection between DNA and morphology would radically wreck evolutionary theory. Currently DNA is recognized as the vessel that passes on physical traits to offspring. If that connection is disproved, evolution is at a loss as to how to explain why we should see common features in descent. In truth, about the only explanation evolutionary scientist could have at that point is that some other guiding influence–and undoubtedly an intelligent one–is holding morphological traits fairly constant from one generation to the next.

    If the theory of natural selection generally cannot be used to trace a trajectory of adaptation of change before it takes place then it actually isn’t a theory, it’s an observation.

    To which I wish you would answer my question as to whether you see natural selection as the only component of evolution, or if you tend to just use it as the representative of evolutionary theory. Because your statement here really hinges on that distinction. Natural selection is predominantly an observation, in that we observe that natural forces have a way of favoring particular traits in particular environments over other traits. From this a theory of descent is built, and selection is mechanism within the theory. To talk about natural selection as “theory” versus “just an observation” is like talking about wind as “theory” versus observation. We observe wind, and we observe clouds moving. Thus we build a theory of weather patterns and air currents. Do you see the distinction?

    As for a trajectory of adaptation, I’m afraid that is still a piece of terminology you will have to define before we can even make an attempt to speak with you about it. That you haven’t been willing to do so still makes me wonder if that isn’t just a piece of fluff terminology that sounds good. So please, please, please, tell me what this “trajectory of adaptation” thing is, because the way you fling it about seems to give it some importance, but I can’t for the life of me say what that importance is (other than a desire to flippantly respond: “trajectory? not really…it’s more of a zig-zag than anything else…).

    I’d look at http://www.talkorigins.org for information….

    That’s the problem… but suit yourself.

    When I see an argument against something that I think is true, I’ll go the people who are making that argument to see what their actual line of reasoning is. Then I’ll go back to people who support my view and see what their rebuttal is. Then I’ll go back to the first people and see if they have a rebuttal for that. Since you’re we’ll steeped in ID literature, going to TalkOrigins (which is a very good repository of evolutionary explanation) would be a way to see how others counter your arguments (as I was trying to do with the platypus you brought up).

  • Paleontologists could see the general lines of descent and assumed (lacking examples) that the changes between the known points must be fairly constant.

    No they couldn’t see general lines of descent. They read the Darwinian creation myth into the data while avoiding the “most prominent signal from the fossil record.” Before them Darwin had predicted that the fossil record would support his theory and explained away the fact that it did not. Darwin was right to predict that the fossil record should support his theory but it doesn’t. This leaves scientists with the Darwinism fused to their professional identities as “scientists” without the evidence to support it, so every little “missing link” is widely trumpeted as the long lost evidence and so on when in fact they should be common.

    There’s a very, very strong incentive in science to come up with new theories which overturn received wisdom.

    I’m not sure what your view of established science is based on but it doesn’t seem to be historical evidence. There is a common pattern to scientists having to go around the scientific establishment to market their ideas or technology to the public itself. Scientists were publishing peer reviewed articles that heavier than air flying machines were impossible while the Wright brothers were flying their’s. They were arguing against light bulbs as a concept while Edison was giving public demonstrations.

    This pattern caused Richard Milton to comment:

    It seems that when it comes to investigating natural phenomena there is a line that some scientists, for some reason, are unwilling to cross. Equally, it seems that there are some individuals, including very distinguished scientists, who are willing to risk the censure and ridicule of their colleagues by stepping over that mark. This book is about those scientists. But, more importantly, it is about the curious social and intellectual forces that seek to prohibit such research; about those areas of scientific research that are taboo subjects: subjects whose discussion is forbidden under pain of ridicule and ostracism.
    It is also about what I believe to be a worrying but well-documented social trend; a trend towards a normalised world view based on a singular model that is derived entirely from the reductionist western scientific viewpoint, and the marginalisation and suppression of any form of scientific dissent or alternative world view.
    From the examples given earlier you might imagine that I am speaking historically and that, while the ill-informed people of previous centuries fell into the error of rejecting major discoveries from the worlds of electricity and astronomy, no scientist today would react in such an intemperate, unreflecting way about a matter that must be purely a question of fact. Actually, Faraday and Reichenbach would almost certainly have experienced more difficulty not less in making their voices heard in today’s climate of intolerance.
    (Alternative Science: Challenging the Myths of the Scientific Establishment by Richard Milton :5-6)

    Note that on the issue of origins there’s a stronger incentive to protect your professional identity and any viewpoints associated with it like “evolution.” The very fact that people say, “That seems so but we may as well be truck drivers if it is.” or “I think this is so but as a scientist I have to say that the opposite is the case.” should cause you to be skeptical because it shows that science has been turned away from the pursuit of the truth as such. And at a philosophical level that is what many scientists will tell you, they say that they are pursuing natural explanations which will naturally tend to build a philosophy of naturalism. Unfortunately right after stating that they are pursuing something other than the truth they tend to conclude that they have found the truth. You have to wonder about methodological naturalism and the lack of concern for the truth given that this supposed methodology seems to include many Natures or universes. Just how natural are they all? If one is called heaven and another is hell is that supernatural enough to be excluded from science? The truth is that science has been linked to atheism based on the mythology typical to the Enlightenment, not the empirical evidence. The multiverse has more to do with a blind and irrational focus on naturalism than a rational pursuit of the truth, as Antony Flew noted:

    …I did not find the multiverse alternative very helpful. The postulation of multiple universes…is a truly desperate alternative. If the existence of one universe requires an explanation, multiple universes require a much bigger explanation: the problem is increased by the factor of whatever the total number of universes is. It seems a little like the case of a schoolboy whose teacher doesn’t believe his dog ate his homework, so he replaces the first version with the story that a pack of dogs—too many to count—ate his homework.
    (There is a God: How the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind, by Antony Flew and Roy Abraham Varghese :136-137)

    ….ID “researchers” are trying to identify points at which God miraculously intervened in the course of biological development.
    And I think that that shows a poverty of theological and philosophical understanding of the relationship between God and the universe as I described above.

    If this is common Catholic reasoning then it seems to me that Catholics are very odd. Would a researcher trying to identify possible lines of evidence for the biological incarnation of Jesus in the course of history be showing a “poverty of theological and philosophical understanding of the relationship between God and the universe”?

  • …but then you have to show why that disinformation passed review boards, when usually such claims are caught and strongly challenged.

    Your faith in the scientific process is touching. I’ll leave it be.

    There’s something fundamental that still seems to escape us, so that “only” is quite an understatement.

    The space between life and non-life is to be expected as a matter of knowledge if life has been designed in part to resist naturalistic explanations but if naturalism is true then that “gap” is an artifact of ignorance. The problem is that philosophic naturalists argue that gaps or space is ignorance in which a “god of the gaps” can hide when in fact it may be designed to be knowledge by which the existence of God is known.

    There’s an interesting byplay going on in our exchanges, in that you’re very willing to decry the poor motives of scientists, but find offense in that I talked about the motive of people in the ID movement.

    Not at all, it’s just that when that’s all you have to say it is largely irrelevant to the most important issue. Everyone has their intents and motivations which can be dealt with after dealing with facts, logic and evidence.

    And that you feel capable of trivializing this point also reveals a huge misunderstanding about the theory of evolution. To refute a connection between DNA and morphology would radically wreck evolutionary theory.

    If Lamarckism had been verified do you honestly think that a “theory of evolution” would have been wrecked? Not at all, it is probably harder to “synthesize” Mendelism and Darwinism.

    If that connection is disproved, evolution is at a loss as to how to explain why we should see common features in descent. In truth, about the only explanation evolutionary scientist could have at that point is that some other guiding influence–and undoubtedly an intelligent one–is holding morphological traits fairly constant from one generation to the next.

    Not at all. They wouldn’t do that because they’ve been trained to be blind to intelligent agency as well as the possible truth and relevance of theism. They have been trained to methodically build a philosophy of naturalism so most would probably say that the apparent “gap” or inconsistency would inevitably be filled in by Progress in knowledge.

    It’s important to point out that DNA may not be the be all, end all when it comes to defining an organism or its heritable traits and so on. Hypothetically, if it is said that chimps and humans are “98%” similar in their DNA then that only proves how irrelevant DNA is given the differences between chimps and humans in intellect, technology, language and even morophology, etc. (Of course it actually isn’t true but for those who believe everything scientists say it may as well be.)

What Is Middle Class

Saturday, November 29, AD 2008

When one reads 19th century British literature, one of the constant sources of tension is as to who is “a gentleman”. As used in this context, it was a term that applied not merely to manners and honor, but to economic status. A gentleman was not “in trade”. He did not have “a job”. He might own estates which he oversaw, though if he actively worked them his case became much weaker (“gentleman farmer” was more often a term of dismissal as approbation.) He might be a clergyman or a doctor (but not a surgeon — cutting flesh and sawing bone was not manual for a “gentleman.) He might be a military officer. But generally to be a “gentleman” one was expected to live off one’s investments and devote one’s time to either society or unpaid accomplishments. Many accomplishments in fields ranging from literature to philosophy to economics to science during the time period were the work of “gentlemen” who pursued these fields as “hobbies”.

I don’t think this was necessarily a good or healthy attitude towards work, but it’s interesting to me that in the modern US we have nearly diametrically opposed social/economic prejudices. The idle rich could not be more scorned, and it is the object of everyone to claim membership in the “middle class” and ideally to claim “working class roots” as well.

5 Responses to What Is Middle Class

  • Came across this from a catholic web forum.

    Have you seen it?

  • I had always thought of “rich” as someone who did not *need* to work — that the individual could get by indefinitely with income from investments, savings, etc.

    When one looks at a year’s income to judge whether an individual is “rich” or “middle class” or “poor” risks a distortion if the individual has had either a very good or a very bad year. A “rich” person who has had a bad year may still be able to live quite well. A middle-class person who has one terrific year among average ones will still live a middle-class life.

    Sustained high income, or a large amount of accrued assets define “rich” to me.

  • This is an interesting topic.

    There are a few things that come to mind.

    There is no objective standard to measure, say, poverty. But we know it when we see it because we judge it in relation to circumstances, conditions etc. Obviously, poverty in America is not the same as poverty in Cambodia.

    However, I think of ‘rich’ or ‘middle class’ or ‘poor’, I think of how well, given income, a person can survive within the context of their nation’s economy and how reasonable and easy it is for that person to save money, given basic necessities — food, shelter, clothing, basic health care, minimal leisure.

    A person who is rich, in my view, earns enough to be able to joy the luxuries that the world has to offer and can save to protect their socio-economic status should they not yield as much personal profit in the future or given certain setbacks.

    A person who is in the “middle class” makes a reasonable enough salary to live comfortably and save money for a “rainy day.” However, a few things — job less, medical expenses, children in college — can lead to financial struggles.

    Given this, a person who lives in poverty, obviously lacks the financial resources to make it reasonably in their society and stretched thin on money, hardly saves money and lives pay check to pay check.

    This, of course, isn’t factoring any social pressures — instant gratification, credit card mentalities, luxury lifestyles, etc.

    I think these questions are pertinent. We have this political debate about taxes and spreading the wealth around and we’re not even clear — philosophically — on what we mean, what the consensus of what ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ is, how does one become rich or poor, or whatever. We just yell back and forth, probably using the same words to convey totally different meanings.

  • I would say that most everyone in America is rich, both by historical and by world standards.

  • As BA notes, I think there is a sense in which ending poverty in the U.S. is similar to trying to ensure that every child’s test score is above average. Even when circumstances improve dramatically (cf. U.S. and India), some people are still classified as ‘poor’ relative to the rest.

    Health care is a good example. It would be cheap for the government to provide health care at the level of care available in the 1950’s for everyone. However, because the quality of health care has improved dramatically since then, costs have risen also, and so what would have been great health care fifty years ago is considered very poor today.

    This doesn’t mean that poverty in the U.S. doesn’t cause a great deal of suffering; it does. To say it is less miserable than poverty in India is to damn with very faint praise. However, it can be useful to recognize that poverty is a relative term.

    I thought that Darwin’s (astute) observation about the importance of being middle class in the U.S. or ‘a gentleman’ in 19th century Britain is probably attributable most directly to the comparable wealth of our society (in addition to the need for politicians to pander). The middle class in our society can live fairly comfortably, and there are significant safety nets in place. To be middle class in 19th century Britain was to be one mishap away from destitution.

10 Responses to La Marseillaise

  • How many were slaughtered and martyred by people singing this song?

  • No doubt far fewer French Catholics than died in wars fostered by French kings often for dubious reasons. The heroic revolt in the Vende was far in the past by WWII, and de Gaulle, a serious Catholic, and other French Catholics fully embraced La Marseillaise which had been banned by the Vichy regime. De Gaulle sang the song at the liberation of Paris in 1944. The Republican regime of the Terror was an evil regime. The Vichy regime that the Free French forces fought against was likewise an evil regime. The wheel of history turns and old symbols can become attached to new causes.

  • “No doubt far fewer French Catholics than died in wars fostered by French kings often for dubious reasons. ”

    Such as the American War of Independence?

    I don’t mean to be too snarky, but there is a deep paradox in the American Republic’s dependence upon the French Monarchy.

    The sentimental revolutionary spirit unleashed by the French Revolution has also done untold damage to the world, even to this day. Brief but regular acknowledgment of its victims might be warranted.

  • Monarchies can commit evil just as republics can. I do not regard revolution against tyrannical governments to be a sin, no matter what the tyrannical government calls itself. The idea that Catholic monarchy is some sort of ideal form of government is amply refuted by history. Napoleon was a tyrant, but so was the Sun King. Poor Louis XVI, excellent family man, good Catholic, hapless and feckless monarch, was living proof of the limitations of hereditary monarchy. The Altar and Throne combo has no charms for me.

  • It’s one of the ironies of history that the French monarchy and Tsarist Russia fell to revolutions during the reign of basically well intentioned (if ineffective) rulers. And that while many reasonable people could have wished to see those regimes reformed or abolished, it was the very worst people available who took the opportunity to take power.

  • Quite right. There were decent elements in both revolutions: Lafayette in the French Revolution and Kerensky in the Russian Revolution that deposed the Tsar. Unfortunately they proved singularly ineffective in the internecine struggles that ended in Napoleon and in Stalin. America was very fortunate indeed in the Founding Fathers.

  • I know one brave group of soldiers that fought the people who began singing that terrible song…

    http://travelguide.all-about-switzerland.info/lucerne-lion-monument-pictures-history.html

  • I’d have to respectfully disagree with Donald on this one.

    But the Sun King did not systematically kill frenchmen such as the Committee of Public Safety did. I hope you were just making generalizations and not making “moral equivalency” charges between the Sun King and the anti-christ that was Napolean.

    I’m not a monarchist nor am I a proponent of the Bourban line, but I would like to see the French Republic less hostile to the faith and make some reperations to the Church. Granted there was the concordant between Napolean and the Church, but it would be nice to see the Fleur-de-lis replace the tri-color to represent Catholic France (not necessarily the Bourbons).

  • The comparison actually Tito was between the Sun King and Napoleon. In their indifference to liberty and their faith in authoritarian rule I find little to choose between them. Napoleon actually modeled his policy towards the papacy on the Gallicanism of the Sun King. The Declaration of the Clergy of France of 1682 definitely has a Napoleonic ring to it.

    “Kings of France had the right to assemble church councils in their dominions.
    Kings of France had the right to make laws and regulations touching ecclesiastical matters.
    The Pope required the king’s consent to send papal legates into France.
    Those legates required the king’s consent to exercise their power within France.
    Bishops, even when commanded by the Pope, could not go out of the kingdom without the king’s consent.
    Royal officers could not be excommunicated for any act performed in the discharge of their official duties.
    The Pope could not authorize the alienation of landed church estates in France, or the diminishing of any foundations.
    Papal Bulls and Letters required the Pareatis of the king or his officers before they took effect within France.
    The Pope could not issue dispensations “to the prejudice of the laudable customs and statutes” of the French cathedral Churches.
    It was lawful to appeal from the Pope to a future council or to have recourse to the “appeal as from an abuse” (“appel comme d’abus”) against acts of the ecclesiastical power. ”

    The “Eldest Daughter of the Church” has been in rebellion for a very long time indeed.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Declaration_of_the_Clergy_of_France

  • I knew there had to be more than just a disagreement. That makes more sense. Again I like the democratic structure of France over an absolutist rule.

    My only point was the many killed during the French Revolution.

    The French still don’t get it right after so many centuries in my opinion.

    Thanks for the document, I’m a history buff so this is certainly enlightening.

Thanksgiving in Rome

Friday, November 28, AD 2008

From Amy Welborn (presently in Rome) tells us How to get a bunch of Americans to start tearing up, immediately?:

Start playing America the Beautiful as your closing song at a Thanksgiving day Mass at an American-centered parish in a foreign country. Even if it’s Italy, and even if it’s a beautiful Roman day outside. Halfway through the first verse, I looked around, and saw six people wiping their eyes….

It was Thanksgiving Day Mass at Santa Susanna, the American parish in Rome, run by the Paulists. I got there about halfway through, so I didn’t hear Cardinal Foley’s homily. But I did meet him as he juggled coffee and a muffin, and also had the great honor of meeting Ambassador Mary Ann Glendon, who was there in attendance, and read President Bush’s Thanksgiving Day proclamation after Mass.

Zenit News Service relays Thanksgiving Address of Cardinal Foley, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, at the Santa Susanna Church in Rome:

2 Responses to It's Only A Game!

Robert Royal on "Getting Thanksgiving Right"

Thursday, November 27, AD 2008

A temptation lurks here, however, that has recurred historically. If you don’t believe – and strongly at that – in a God Who transcends and needs to save the world, you will be strongly tempted to believe in some lesser god substitute. A nation is a perpetually plausible alternative because it participates in divine attributes. Authority over other men and, at times, power over life and death, are not just another set of practical arrangements within a commercial republic. The mysterious ways that a regime and its laws and lands, peoples and history, grow into a living human society, though by no means divine, reflect something at work in history beyond us. For that very reason, if Christianity does not remain faithful to itself, it can quickly be absorbed into a kind of divinized politics. This is true whether you believe in Americanism as a religion or in some anti-American liberation theology.

Among the things it is good for a Catholic to remember today, because they anchor us in a reality outside the quite proper human fellowship we will be celebrating, is the Eucharist, which means, literally in Greek, giving thanks. St. Paul says “give thanks (eucharisteite) always” (1 Thess 5:13) and reports that Jesus Himself even “on the night he was betrayed” gave thanks. (1 Corinthians 11:23). Catholics can bring to the American mix precisely this sense of a gratitude that extends beyond the good things of life as most people understand good, to something much greater, even in the midst of immediate evils, something that exists on an entirely different plane than the greatest regimes, however much we are grateful for them in our human way.

Getting Thanksgiving Right, by Robert Royal.
The Catholic Thing November 27. 2008.

One Response to Robert Royal on "Getting Thanksgiving Right"