Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Does Jay Richards prove Stephen Barr's point?

Stephen Barr, last week on First Things On the Square:
None of this is to say that the conclusions the ID movement draws about how life came to be and how it evolves are intrinsically unreasonable or necessarily wrong. Nor is it to deny that the ID movement has been treated atrociously and that it has been lied about by many scientists. The question I am raising is whether this quixotic attempt by a small and lightly armed band to overthrow “Darwinism” and bring about a new scientific revolution has accomplished anything good. It has had no effect on scientific thought. Its main consequence has been to strengthen the general perception that science and religion are at war.

Cui bono? Only those people whose religious doctrines entail either Young Earth creationism or a rejection of common descent. Such people already and necessarily were in a state of war with modern science and have no choice but to fight that war to the bitter end. Many of them see in the ID movement a useful ally in that war (as the Dover trial illustrated), despite the fact that the ID movement does not deny common descent or the age of the earth. Other religious people, however, have nothing to gain and a great deal to lose by the ID movement’s frontal assault on well-defended redoubts of modern science—an assault that has come to resemble the Charge of the Light Brigade. [emphasis added]
Intelligent design (ID) has attracted its fair share of critics. If it’s not the fulminations of New Atheists, it’s extremely uncharitable readings from some Catholic intellectuals who think they smell mechanism or interventionism. While the criticisms vary, they tend to have one thing in common: they’re based, not on actual ID arguments, but on stereotypes and misunderstandings of those arguments. It’s hard to find ID critics who actually describe an ID argument correctly before proceeding to refute it.

Catholic physicist Stephen Barr is a constitutionally uncharitable critic of ID. It’s not clear that he has even read the books that he criticizes. But he criticizes them nonetheless. [emphasis added]
I do not understand why Jay Richards has to resort to such invective when he could make his point just as well absent it.


Fred4Pres said...

I think Intelligent Design more a faith than a scientific discipline. While evolution is an incomplete theory, I believe the evidence for natural selection and the mechanics of evolutionary change is overwhelming.

But both sides are talking past one another. What distinguishes human beings from anmials is not mere biology or evolutionary change. Now while I intuitively believe God had a hand in the rise of mankind (and the tree of knowledge is an excellent anlaogy for that moment of consciousness), ID should not be so much an alternative to Darwin's theories, but instead a way of asking those questions which have not been addressed by evolution.

Claude LeBlanc said...

I believe Fred4Pres' comments miss the mark for two reasons:

First, ID is precisely an alternative to Darwins theories. While Darwinism says that biological changes are the result of natural selection acting on blind chance and random mutation, ID say that at least some of them are more likely the result of an intelligence who designed them.

Second, ID is not a faith position or merely intuitive. It is the calculated conclusion of scientific anaylsis. It just happens to be "open" to the possibility that things can either be created or evolve naturally while Darwinism does not.

So, I ask...which is truly scientific?

Francis J. Beckwith said...


My existence is the result of my father and mother cooperating with the laws of science and human anatomy (not to mention chance, given that if a different sperm had pierced a different egg I wouldn't be here). Since there is no room for God in this account--as you seem to understand how God acts--then according to the ID advocate I am not created by God since I can give a purely naturalistic account of my present existence.