Anyone who has seen me in person knows that I am not very concerned about health. I am overweight because I eat a large amount of what I like, regardless of whether or not it is good for me. It’s not a smart way to live; I know. However, it is a fun way to live, so that’s why I do it. I was therefore rather surprised to learn that this slime mold:
Now that I have caught up on the scientific journals that I read, I am reading some of the books that have been on my shelves for a while. There is, after all, a lot of opportunity to read when you are on a beach or under a shady tree! More than a year ago, I purchased The Design of Life by William A. Dembski and Jonathan Wells. Dembski has a Ph.D. in mathematics (University of Chicago) and a Ph.D in philosophy (University of Illinois at Chicago) and is known for developing the mathematical underpinnings of Intelligent Design. Wells has a Ph.D. in molecular and cell biology (University of California Berkeley) as well as a Ph.D. in religious studies (Yale University). Their mix of expertise makes for a wide-ranging discussion that is very enlightening.
While I don’t think the book lives up to the dust jacket’s claim that it makes “…the most powerful and comprehensive case to date for the intelligent design of life,” I do think it adds a great deal to the ongoing discussion in origins science. Specifically, there are three things it brings to the debate. First, it brings up certain facts that you generally don’t read in the evolutionary literature. Such facts are quite relevant to the overall question of origins, but most evolutionists ignore them (or sweep them under the rug) because they call into question many of the underlying assumptions of macroevolution. Second, it uses a very good blend of mathematics and biology to come up with a general means by which one can estimate the probability with which a certain macroevolutionary transition could occur. Finally, it gives a solid review of the current ideas regarding the origin of life and then demonstrates that they are utterly devoid of evidence.
First, Dr. Monton’s sharp intellect makes it hard for me to forget that there are intellectual atheists out there. Most of the “new atheists” are such buffoons that it lulls one into the false idea that atheists are mostly irrational. While this may be true about many atheists, it is certainly not the case for Dr. Monton.
The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.
He then makes the obvious point that everyone must agree with that statement. An athlete’s strong muscles (a feature of a living thing) are not the result of an undirected process such as natural selection – they are the result of the athlete’s intelligently-designed workout regime. Similarly, a building like the Empire State Building (a feature that is in the universe) is not the result of an undirected process such as natural selection. It is the result of design. Thus, he rightly points out that this description of intelligent design doesn’t really state what the proponents of intelligent design want their own theory to mean. He spends several pages coming up with a much more intellectually rigorous statement of intelligent design:
The blog starts out like most blogs that are uninterested in finding out what science really says about origins. Dr. O’Brien claims that in this blog, I repeat “the same worn out creationist canards throughout his site but obscures them within a cloak of scientific-sounding vocabulary.” This, of course, is nonsense. It is an attempt to sidestep the science and hope that no one notices. It is a common rhetorical technique, typically employed by those who do not have the courage to face opinions that contradict their own.
In any event, I want to mention Dr. O’Brien’s post because it is a classic example of how incorrect assumptions lead to incorrect conclusions. After once again trying to smear creationists rather than honestly address their arguments, the author of the post says:
Wile apparently believes this is sufficient for an instructor like me to start teaching ID in the classroom as a reasonable alternative to evolutionary theory.
This, of course, is also nonsense, and it shows that the author should stop making assumptions and actually start reading what he claims to have read.
I usually love to read the works of atheists, because they tend to remind me how irrational the atheist faith is. For example, I love reading PZ Meyers, because not only is he an excellent writer, but his writing is so emotional that it displays the fact that his atheism comes not from rational thought, but from some deep-seated anger or resentment that he harbors. In the same way, while Richard Dawkins knows a lot about biology, he is very sloppy with data, and he seems to be virtually unaware of how logic works. His writing makes it very clear that his atheism is not the result of rational thought. I even love it when “Norwegian Shooter” comments on this blog, because his refusal to look at even the simplest data makes it clear how desperately he clings to his atheistic faith.
However, there are some atheists who make me uncomfortable, and Dr. Bradley Monton is one of them. In his newest book, Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design, he demonstrates quite clearly that not all atheists are irrational. This, of course, makes me uncomfortable, because it is easier to dismiss the atheistic view when it is represented by buffoons like Myers, Dawkins, Hitchens, and the like. When it is represented by people like Dr. Bradley Monton, you have to at least sit up and take notice.
In my previous post about this book, I discussed how the author, Cornelius Hunter, makes the strong case that reliance on naturalism alone in science causes a blind spot. If you restrict your science to only naturalistic processes, you will never be able to know whether or not what you are studying can possibly be the result of a naturalistic process. Instead, you will keep trying to force a naturalistic explanation onto systems and processes that might not be naturalistic in origin.
After establishing this fact, he discusses how it plays out in the biological concept of evolution. Since science is committed to only naturalistic processes, questions such as the origin of life and the origin of the various species must be the result of some natural process, regardless of whether or not the data indicate this. As a result, scientists are continually trying to force the data to indicate evolution, whether or not evolution is a good explanation of the data
Cornelius G. Hunter has a Ph.D. in Biophysics and Computational Biology and is an Adjunct Professor at Biola University. He spends most of his time doing research, specifically in the area of molecular biophysics. His first two books (Darwin’s God and Darwin’s Proof) did not impress me. Don’t get me wrong – I essentially agree with the views presented in them. Darwin’s God said that evolution is not the same as atheism and, in fact, Darwin was actually trying to “glorify” God by removing Him from the sordid details of nature. As pointed out in that book, Darwin clearly didn’t believe in the God of the Bible, but he clearly did believe in God and sought to make this God more powerful by essentially saying that He created the natural laws that ended up allowing organisms to create themselves.
In his second book, Darwin’s Proof, he shows that common features in organisms don’t imply common ancestry, and he gives plenty of scientific evidence to show that the general principles of macroevolution (one kind of organism evolving into another kind) are clearly wrong. While both books present many truisms, neither added much to what is already known about Darwin or the misuse to which scientists have put his views.
Science’s Blind Spot is Hunter’s latest book, and it is superior to both of his previous ones. In this book, Hunter attempts to explore the benefits of naturalism in science as well as its limitations. Clearly Hunter has spent a lot of time thinking about this, and his insights are both interesting and refreshing.
As The Irrational Atheist shows, it doesn’t take much to destroy the arguments of the New Atheists. The arguments of Dawkins, Hitchens, etc. are simply no match for a computer game designer armed with a few facts. Indeed, Dawkins couldn’t even hold his own against a former political speechwriter.
Well, it turns out that it doesn’t even take a computer game designer or former political speechwriter to make Dawkins look like an idiot. Even a radio talk show host can do it. Hugh Hewitt is an attorney who has a radio talk show that I have never heard. However, someone sent me the transcript of his discussion with Dawkins, and after reading it, I had to admit feeling sorry for poor old Richard. Of course, it’s not his fault. His position is so weak that such embarrassments are inevitable.
I realize that this is “old news,” but a conversation with my lovely and patient wife last night reminded me that I had written a review of Ben Stein’s “documentary” Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. I wrote it shortly after seeing the movie, because many people with whom I am acquainted were asking about my opinion of it. I thought that even though the movie is more than a year old, you might want to know what I thought of it. If you haven’t seen the movie, perhaps my review will get you to rent it and watch it. Continue reading “A Review of Ben Stein’s Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”