Jon Beckwith wrote:
> I really liked H. Allen Orr's (an evolutionist) article on ID a
>couple of years ago in the New Yorker.
If the article below is the one referred to, I hope my comments
(inserted) will clarify IDT, concluding it's largely OK as far as it
goes but amounts to very little. More importantly I wish to
encourage investigation of the limitations of neoDarwinism. IDT
keeps marching on the initial step in showing where neoDarwinism is
limited; but it's not much use to keep marching on the spot injust
one footprint made (by Paley) in 1802.
> ANNALS OF SCIENCE
> by H. ALLEN ORR
> Why intelligent design isn't.
> Issue of 2005-05-30
>I.D. is not Biblical literalism. Unlike earlier generations of
>creationists - the so-called Young Earthers and scientific
>creationists - proponents of intelligent design do not believe
>that the universe was created in six days, that Earth is ten
>thousand years old, or that the fossil record was deposited during
How could Orr know what they believe on these issues?
Main IDTer Phil Johnson (a polemical lawyer and main
strategist of the ill-conceived 'wedge' strategy) refuses to tell me
how old thinks the Earth is. Behe, a Roman Catholic, presumably
believes according to RC doctrines (which are pretty sensible to my
mind). Dembski, so far as I'm aware, never answers q's about the
nature, or even number, of designer(s). There is no reason to
believe that IDTers all or nearly all believe any one answer to each
of these respective q's.
> (Indeed, they shun the label "creationism" altogether.) Nor does
>I.D. flatly reject evolution: adherents freely admit that some
>evolutionary change occurred during the history of life on Earth.
>Although the movement is loosely allied with, and heavily funded by,
>various conservative Christian groups - and although I.D. plainly
>maintains that life was created - it is generally silent about the
>identity of the creator.
This should read 'creator(s)' - i.e the Christians and
Judaists among them are failing to admit to main doctrines of their
religions, starting with the First Commandment. Hard-core IDTers,
notably Dembski, refuse to say anything about the designer(s); they
merely harp on the inference of design, waiting for Dawkins etc to
admit it. They have a long wait in store, with such radically
illogical operatives as Dawkins.
> by 1940 or so most agreed that natural selection was a key force
>driving this evolution.
Natural selection is actually claimed only to narrow the
variance among the mutants, selecting against the less fit. This
fails to explain the emergence of new taxa, let alone their
cooperation in ecology. As a mechanism for evolution neoDarwinism is
drastically incomplete, but has unfortunately become gravely
entangled in metaphysical disputes. NeoDarwinism, when claimed to
explain evolution fully, is the biggest con-trick in intellectual
> Who says those thirty flagellar proteins weren't present in
>bacteria long before bacteria sported flagella? They may have been
>performing other jobs in the cell and only later got drafted into
>flagellum-building. Indeed, there's now strong evidence that
>several flagellar proteins once played roles in a type of molecular
>pump found in the membranes of bacterial cells.
Orr is either ignorant or dishonest on this point. The
'molecular pump' he mentions, more precisely known as the TTSS, is
hundreds of millions of years newer than the flagellum. Its function
is to inject pathogens thru higher-cell membranes which didn't exist
for most of the aeons that bacteria have been squirting flagellin
along their hollow flagella using the basal structure from which the
TTSS presumably evolved.
> because subsequent evolution builds on this addition, a part that
>was at first just advantageous might become essential. As this
>process is repeated through evolutionary time, more and more parts
>that were once merely beneficial become necessary. This idea was
>first set forth by H. J. Muller, the Nobel Prize-winning geneticist,
>in 1939, but it's a familiar process in the development of human
We add new parts like global-positioning systems to cars not because
they're necessary but because they're nice.
Those who claim evolution is blind, unplanned, not designed,
cannot validly use this analogy with technology which is planned.
> It's important to see that this process is thoroughly Darwinian:
>each change might well be small and each represents an improvement.
This is Broom's strong charge against Dawkins - the swindle
of assuming 'improvement' in creation of mutants when pretending that
the process is random & blind.
> The other leading theorist of the new creationism, William A.
>Dembski, holds a Ph.D. in mathematics, another in philosophy, and a
>master of divinity in theology. He has been a research professor in
>the conceptual foundations of science at Baylor University, and was
>recently appointed to the new Center for Science and Theology at
>Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. (He is a longtime senior
>fellow at the Discovery Institute as well.) Dembski publishes at a
>staggering pace. His books - including "The Design Inference,"
>"Intelligent Design," "No Free Lunch," and "The Design Revolution" -
>are generally well written and packed with provocative ideas.
I disagree; I'd call them suspiciously verbose & obscure.
> Dembski's arguments have been met with tremendous enthusiasm in the
>I.D. movement. In part, that's because an innumerate public is
>easily impressed by a bit of mathematics. Also, when Dembski is
>wielding his equations, he gets to play the part of the hard
>scientist busily correcting the errors of those soft-headed
>biologists. (Evolutionary biology actually features an
>extraordinarily sophisticated body of mathematical theory, a fact
>not widely known because neither of evolution's great popularizers -
>Richard Dawkins and the late Stephen Jay Gould - did much math.)
Can it really be claimed that Dembski did much math, either?
> Organisms aren't trying to match any "independently given pattern":
>evolution has no goal, and the history of life isn't trying to get
It is good to have this slogan spelt out; Orr should make
clear that it's a statement of faith, an axiom, rather than a fact.
> Darwinism is one of the best theories in the history of science: it
>has produced countless important experiments (let's re-create a
>natural species in the lab - yes, that's been done)
Again Orr is either drastically ignorant or dishonest.
Nothing remotely approaching the (re)creation of a natural sp in the
lab has been achieved, even by big-time businessman J Celera Venter
who declared a few y ago that he was setting out to do it.
> the idea that Darwinism is yoked to atheism, though popular, is also wrong.
This is a confusing statement. Prominent Christian
biologists e.g J E Morton, less prominent such e.g myself, and the
whole church of Rome, have found Darwinism to be fully consistent
with monotheism. The problem arises when Dawkins, L Wolpert, S
Weinberg, etc claim that (neo)Darwinism fully explains the creation
of spp. and generally obviates religion. This pose is possible only
by studious ignoring of 2 of the 4 causes. One of my reasons for
spotlighting that lacuna in their discourse is my repeated experience
that as soon as the concept 'final cause' (a technical term defined
in previous posts) is mentioned, the most savage personal insults are
forthcoming from militant atheists who had, up to that time, been
behaving in the manner of philosophers. Today's trendy atheists not
only refuse to acknowledge final & formal causes but regularly cut up
ugly as soon as either is mentioned. The extreme rabidity of their
refusals to acknowledge these concepts is highly significant. They
are right in that materialism can suffice only within a philosophy
which acknowledges material cause and efficient cause - the two
categories addressed by science - but imposes a crude scientism by
denying the other two causes. This amounts to a modern version of
denying metaphysics - not novel, but please do note how these
scientism proponents behave when challenged by Big Ari's Four Causes
(updated by Morton).
> Pope John Paul II himself acknowledged, in a 1996 address to the
>Pontifical Academy of Sciences, that new research "leads to the
>recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis."
Right on J P. On the level of fact, evolution is proven.
What is in dispute is whether neoDarwinism provides a full
explanation - a full ascription of causes - for evolution. The
sequence of ecosystems over 4By, and even more importantly the
coherence of ecology at those successive times, requires final
cause(s). That point, well made by Paley (tho' he forgot to
explicate that the watch is running when found), is exactly the point
of IDT today. It's OK, but let's keep moving, can we, IDTers?
>Intelligent design has come this far by faith.
- and so too has the atheistic version of Darwinism so
crudely asserted by Dawkins.
The only question is where you will place your faith. It is
not possible to live without faith. To take up Orr's word in his
title, the main devolution this past half-century has been the
emergence of aggressive crude atheists masquerading as intellectually
In pointing out this dismal state of intellectual stagnation,
I grieve for the once-strong the tradition exemplified by my hero Wm
Temple (Abp of Canty d. 1944) whose 'Nature Man and God' (the Gifford
Lectures 1932-33) conducts natural theology - i.e with no recourse
to special revelation, with a scrupulous fairness hard to find today.
Spare a thought, youse marxists, for a scientist within the
Anglican church who wants his main men e.g Abp of Canty to speak up
on behalf of the intellectual tradition sketched Temple - Sir Alister
Hardy - Darwin - Grosseteste - Aquinas - Big Ari. Each of these
geniuses made serious mistakes, but at least they acknowledged The
Four Causes in careful attempts to think properly. ( Sheldrake is my
pick for the next in that list.) This intellectual tradition has
nothing to say today at any high rank of Temple's church; they're too
preoccupied with fanatical attention-craving campaigns for
When Temple attained the no. 2 position, Abp of York (from
which position he was to toss off, as if an elegant hobby, those
monumental Gifford lectures), that keen atheist Shaw said what a
pleasant surprise that the most intelligent man in England was being
promoted to such high rank.
These are all scholars willing to discuss metaphysics
politely - as marxists turn out not to be.