Archive for October 1st, 2011

October 1st, 2011

Metaphysical Implications of Intelligent Design

by Max Andrews

The truth is that now all theories of origins, theistic or atheistic, involve speculation as to the nature of what it was that created a universe so fine-tuned for life.  The question is only, was it an intelligent or an unintelligent cause that created time, space, matter and energy out of nothing?[1]  With regards to the argument from design, Columbia University astronomer, Robert Jastrow discussed what he calls “the most theistic result to ever come out of science”:

According to the picture of the evolution of the universe developed by the astronomer and his fellow scientists, the smallest change in any of the circumstances of the natural world, such as the relative strengths of the forces of nature, or the properties of the elementary particles, would have led to a universe in which there could be no life and no man…

It is possible to make the same argument about changes in the strengths of the electromagnetic force, the force of gravity, or any other constants of the material universe, and so come to the conclusion that in a slightly changed universe there could be no life, and no man.  Thus according to the physicist and the astronomer, it appears that the universe was constructed within very narrow limits, in such a way that man could dwell in it.  This result is called the anthropic principle.

Some scientists suggest, in an effort to avoid a theistic or teleological implication in their findings, that there must be an infinite number of universes, representing all possible combinations of basic forces and conditions, and that our universe is one of an infinitely small fraction, in this great plenitude of universes, in which life exists.[2]

The design argument is quite modest by simply stating that intelligent causation can be detected in the natural world.  The argument does not and cannot infer the identity of the designer alone.  In order to identify the designer one must seek external evidences, such as other scientific, philosophical, historical, and theological evidences.  A cumulative case argument would fulfill this need.  The extent of what can be known is that the designer is an agent.  Agency is inferred by the ability to create brand new information, to initiate and cease a causal chain of events.  Also, this agent must not be organic since it too would require a cause of its information.  No regress is necessary since there is only one entity that must be identified as the cause.  Whether there is a regress doesn’t really matter at all since only one phenomena, that of the origin of information in living matter, only requires that one entity be instantiated.


            [1] Granville Sewell, In the Beginning (Seattle, WA:  Discovery Institute Press, 2010), 25.

            [2] Robert Jastrow quoted by Roy Varghese, The Intellectuals Speak About God, (Regenery Gateway), 1984.

October 1st, 2011

Theistic Evolution and Purposive Permission

by Max Andrews

This objection to intelligent design is within a theistic philosophy and theology.  The theistic evolutionist would make the arguments for Darwinism just like the atheist would make his arguments for Darwinism; the only difference is that the former is a theist.  Asa Gray (1810-1888) was a proponent of evolution who suggested that God guided evolution.  The problem for the theistic evolutionist at this point is that if God guides evolution, it is design.  Guidance implies purpose and involvement.  The theistic evolutionist, so defined as God guiding evolution, is not really a detractor from design, rather he would be a proponent of common decent, which is entirely compatible with design.

It was not until the early twentieth century when a movement that emphasized Darwinian natural selection did theistic evolution attempt to reconcile unguided evolution with God.  The following theistic evolutionist present an appropriate summation for the current understanding:

“An evolutionary universe is theologically understood as creation allowed to make itself.”[1]

“Mankind’s appearance on this planet was not preordained… we are here… as an afterthought, a minor detail, a happenstance in a history that might just as well have left us out.”[2]

“Evolution could appear to us to be driven by chance, but from God’s perspective the outcome would be entirely specified.  Thus, God could be completely and intimately involved in the creation of all species, while from our perspective, limited as it is by the tyranny of linear time, this would appear a random and undirected process.”[3]

It may be important to distinguish the last quote from Collins from the former quotes.  It is difficult, even impossible, to distinguish Collins’ position as not being intelligent design.  Why would Collins use the human perspective as the objective standard for whether or not there actually is design?  He willingly concedes that God could be intimately involved in creating yet it is illusory to the human perspective.

The argument from cognitive relations may be understood as an argument from omniscience or providence.  If God allows any state of affairs to be actualized, and knows that it will happen, and then there is a teleology in that events actualization.  The underlying principle is what is called “purposive permission.”  This principle makes a minimal commitment to any event X, such that X will come to be either by it being permitted to occur or by being strongly actualized to occur.  Purposive permission assumes that if any event is permitted to happen then it is within the will of the knowing agent that the event be actualized.  If the event were known that it would come to pass and it was not desired to come to pass, then it would not have been permitted to be and would not have happened.  Under the current understanding of unguided evolution, the only way to reconcile that with theism is to adopt process theology, an understanding that God is not ontologically perfect and is literally evolving with the world.[4]


            [1] John Polkinghorne, Faith, Science, and Understanding (New Haven, CT:  Yale University Press, 2000), 23, 111, 197.

            [2] Kenneth Miller, Finding Darwin’s God (New York:  Harper Perennial, 2000), 272-273.

            [3] Francis Collins, The Language of God (New York:  Free Press, 2006), 205.

            [4] Even weak understandings of cognitive relations, or interactions, would still render design (categorically defined from an orthodox perspective).  All that would require from the knowing agent (God) is that, within the mind, there must at least be two moments of knowledge:  natural knowledge (the first logical moment) and free knowledge (the last logical moment).  In the first moment the agent must know all tautologies and every possible circumstance.  The final moment is knowing the actual world, the current, past, and future state of affairs.  The only theistic model that does not hold to these two moments would be the process model.  I want to note, that open theism would not even be compatible with a Darwinist understanding of evolution because God would only be ignorant of future contingencies that involved human freedom.

October 1st, 2011

Ken Miller’s Embarrassing Attempt to Disprove Irreducible Complexity

by Max Andrews

This video has been out for a while but I just saw it reposted on a blog I saw through Twitter.  I’m not going to summarize the video here; rather, just give it a quick watch, it’s only two minutes.

Honestly, it’s a bit embarrassing and I feel bad for him.  His attempt to disprove irreducible complexity demonstrates that 1) he doesn’t actually understand it or 2) displaces the information. When he changed the mousetrap to function as a tie clip that tie clip then becomes a new mechanism.  Whether that tie clip was actually irreducibly complex or not doesn’t matter.  His attempt would be correct if he could remove or change a part of the mouse trap while keeping it’s function as a mouse trap.

As for the scholarship of intelligent design and irreducible complexity, he’s simply incorrect there as well.  Darwinists always do this and it’s just annoying and dishonest (or simply wrong).  For a list of peer-reviewed articles that have been published in regards to intelligent design and irreducible complexity (and yes, the words are used in the articles, sorry Ken) please see the Discovery Institute’s list.

October 1st, 2011

A Thank You Note to James White

by Max Andrews

 

aomin.org

James White is the director of Alpha and Omega ministries focused on apologetics.  I’ve learned a lot about my own theological position as well as others because of his ministry and service.  To be honest, I don’t agree with a few things he believes.  For instance, I’m a Molinist (he’s not the biggest fan), evidentialist, and an old-earth creationist.  Despite our disagreements he has my utmost respect and esteem.  He is passionate about God, the gospel, the Church, and the unsaved. I’m a faithful listener of his podcast, The Dividing Line, and there have been moments when I shake my head at some points he makes and there are other times when I’m cheering him on.

I respect White for his defense of the faith from cults, atheists, Islam, Roman Catholicism, unitarians, and others.  Where White earns my greatest respect is his integrity and honesty in scholarship and ministry.  You won’t find him quote mining or warping his citations.  He does the work, he does the research, and he presents it well.  Now, on another note, I’m a philosophy graduate student at Liberty University.  For those who are familiar with White you’ll know where I’m going with this.  White demanded accountability from Caner, the university, and the church for so many discrepancies [and contradictions] Caner asserted about himself.  All parties remained silent while all White did was demand honesty and integrity.  Thank you, Dr. White.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with White please check out his YouTube channel, his podcasts, and his website.  You don’t have to agree with him all the time but you will learn a lot.