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913Re: The ID movement

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  • Stephen E. Jones
    Jul 26, 2001

      On Fri, 20 Jul 2001 12:29:29 +1200, Donald Nield wrote:

      DN>Dear Group:
      >Below is the first of a series of extracts from my article "Intelligent
      >Design theory: the way forward?", Stimulus, volume 9, issue 2, May
      >2001, pp.8-13.
      >I invite you to comment on whether or not I have been accurate and fair
      >in this introduction to the ID movement.

      Thanks to Don for posting this series. I will respond to them all as time

      DN>The modern Intelligent Design (ID) movement was to a large extent
      >sparked off by the publication in 1985 of the book Evolution: A Theory in
      >Crisis by the Australian medical geneticist Michael Denton, who now
      >works at the University of Otago.

      This is a reasonable assumption, but I personally would claim that the
      modern ID movement began with the publication of Thaxton, Bradley and
      Olsen's "The Mystery of Life's Origin" in 1984. That book specifically
      mentioned non-supernatural intelligent agency:

      "Implicit in this [uniformitarian] assumption is the requirement that
      no supernatural agency 'entered nature' at the time of the origin,
      was crucial to it, and then withdrew from history." (Kenyon D.H. &
      Steinman G., "Biochemical Predestination," McGraw-Hill: New
      York, 1969, p.30). (Actually all that is required for this assumption
      is that no intelligent- purposive-interruption or manipulation of the
      workings of natural forces ever occurred at the time of life's origin
      or since.)" (Thaxton C.B., Bradley W.L. & Olsen R.L., "The
      Mystery of Life's Origin: Reassessing Current Theories," Lewis &
      Stanley: Dallas TX, 1992, p.8)

      But Denton's book was certainly *very* important in highlighting the
      problems of Darwinian evolution.

      DN>Today the leading lights are Phillip Johnson (lawyer), Michael Behe
      >(biochemist) and William Dembski (mathematician). Robert Pennock2
      >lists a couple of dozen other people who are also associated with the
      >movement, and it is noteworthy that virtually all are U.S. Americans
      >(Hugh Ross, a Canadian, is an exception).

      The predominance of Americans in the leadership of the ID movement is
      interesting. But the movement itself is international. Hugh Ross is not
      strictly speaking a member of the ID movement, and he has been publicly
      critical of ID for not being explicitly Christian.

      DN>Several of those named have contributed to a proceedings of a Mere
      >Christianity conference3. Philosophers are represented in the movement
      >by William Lane Craig, J.P. Moreland, Alvin Plantinga, Paul Nelson and
      >Stephen C. Meyer.

      Plantinga is also not strictly speaking a member of the ID movement,
      although he is sympathetic to it. And Jay Richards (mentioned further
      down) is also a philosopher.

      DN>A person of particular interest is Jonathan Wells, of the Unification
      >Church, who has publicly stated that he has dedicated his life to
      >destroying Darwinism, and to that end has collected two PhD's, one in
      >Theology from Yale and the other in Biology from U.C. Berkeley. In a
      >recent book4 he attacks prominent arguments for evolution as presented
      >in current textbooks.

      Why is Wells singled out "of particular interest" just because he is a
      member "of the Unification Church" and because he "has publicly stated
      that he has dedicated his life to destroying Darwinism"? The ID movement
      is not a specifically Christian movement (it has at least one member,
      philosopher Todd Moody, who is not even a theist), and a number of
      members who are religious Jews. And that Wells has "dedicated his life to
      destroying Darwinism" is nothing strange, since Darwinism is the very
      antithesis of design, as Darwinists from Darwin to Dawkins have made
      *very* plain.

      BTW, I have reconsidered my previous decision not to respond to Don's
      critique of Wells' Icons of Evolution at:
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CreationEvolutionDesign/message/733 It
      was posted just before I went on holidays and on returning I had 500+
      messages to read and hence no time to respond to it. I still have no time to
      respond to it (!), but I now feel I am obligated to do so, since I have read
      Icons from cover to cover and I am familiar with Wells' thinking. As it
      happens I also am familiar with the Biology text (Campbell, Reece &
      Mitchell) hat Don referred to in his review, since it was the main textbook
      in my two Biology units last year. I hope to post my response (or at least
      the first part of it) in the next few days.

      DN>Together with Nelson and Meyer, Wells now works at the
      Seattle>based Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and
      >Culture, which was founded in 1996. According to its web site
      >(www.crsc.org) the CRSC "strives to replace materialism and its
      >destructive cultural legacies with a positive alternative. The Center seeks
      >to develop a robust science for the twenty-first century, illuminated by an
      >empirically fruitful Theory of Intelligent Design [namely] a scientific
      >research program that seeks to detect intelligent causes in natural
      >systems, as well as apply the explanatory power of intelligent design to
      >empirical problems in scientific research".

      Sounds good! :-)

      DN>A CRSC document "The Wedge Strategy" started circulating on the
      >internet in 1998. This describes a 3-phase strategy to implement ID over
      >the next 5 then 20 years. Its goals are to "defeat scientific materialism and
      >its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies" and "replace
      >materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and
      >human beings are created by God." The document focuses on
      >overthrowing evolution, not from within the scientific establishments, but
      >through convincing the public that ID theory is the morally acceptable
      >one. Jay Richards , Director of Program Development for CRSC, has
      >admitted that much of the content of the document can be found in
      >Johnson's book Defeating Darwinism By Opening Minds (1995).

      While there was nothing in the document that was not already in the public
      domain, the document itself was an early draft which apparently some
      Darwinist `fishing' on the CRSC web site, struck it lucky. One can imagine
      the outraged indignation if a creationist or IDer did that to a Darwinist
      website. But apparently the end justifies the means for Darwinists (since no
      Darwinist, AFAIK has ever expressed even mild disapproval of the way
      this document was obtained)?

      DN>Johnson has updated his arguments in a new book, The Wedge of
      >Truth (2000). In May 2000 the Discovery Institute sponsored a policy
      >briefing for Members of Congress on Capitol Hill, Washington. The
      >speakers (Behe, Meyer, Nancy Pearcey, Dembski, Johnson) presented
      >their version of the scientific debate between Darwinian evolutionary
      >theory and intelligent design theory, and also addressed the social, moral
      >and political consequences of Darwinism.

      This policy briefing is often commented on. But there is nothing strange
      about members of Congress being fully informed about both sides of the
      `culture war' that rages in their electorates.

      DN>Thus it is not surprising that the ID movement is seen by many people
      >as the new face of Creationism, and that it has aroused opposition.

      How does that follow? The ID movement itself makes no claims for
      Creationism (in the Biblical sense). ID is strictly a *scientific* theory, i.e.
      that there is empirical evidence of design.

      That ID's opponents react to it as though it is just "the new face of
      Creationism" exposes their naturalist (i.e. anti-supernaturalist) agenda. And
      I include those so-called "Theistic Evolutionists" who are strongly opposed
      to ID, in this. There is no reason why true "Theistic Evolutionists" should
      be opposed to ID, unless they are strongly influenced by naturalistic

      DN>This has been exemplified by the removal in October 2000 of
      >Dembski from his job as Director of the Michael Polanyi Institute at
      >Baylor University (in Waco, Texas) as a result of opposition from
      >members of the Biology faculty. The Institute had been formed the
      >previous year on the initiative of the President of the University, which is
      >a Southern Baptist institution.

      Yes. This showed the inroads that naturalism has made even in ostensibly
      Christian institutions like Baylor. However, it looks like Dembski is going
      to win that one:

      http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?ID=11381 July 24, 2001
      Intelligent design advocate asserts reconciliation with Baylor
      faculty By Tammi Reed Ledbetter WACO, Texas (BP)--A
      prominent intelligent design advocate said July 23 that
      reconciliation with the faculty and administration of Baylor
      University could lead to positive dialogue on the relationship of
      science and religion. Associate research professor William
      Dembski's July 23 statement, released through the university's
      public relations office, praised the support he has received from
      Baylor President Robert Sloan and expressions of goodwill
      following a year of conflict ignited by Dembski's demotion as
      director of the Polanyi Center for Complexity, Information and
      Design. Rejecting allegations that intelligent design had suffered a
      setback at Baylor, Dembski stated that his own research on
      intelligent design "continues unimpeded and with the full support of
      the Baylor administration," and cited a growing interest in such
      study. "Despite the tensions of last fall, I have experienced a
      substantial reconciliation with Baylor faculty and administration,"
      he said, noting that he used the term reconciliation deliberately. "I
      am not referring merely to a cessation of hostilities or truce. I have
      experienced genuine goodwill on the part of the Baylor faculty and
      administration, and in particular from President Robert Sloan. ..."

      >2. Robert T. Pennock, Tower of Babel: The Evidence against the New
      Creationism (MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1999)
      >3. William A. Dembski (ed.), Mere Creation : Science, Faith & Intelligent
      Design (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 1998)
      >4. Jonathan Wells, Icons of Revolution: Science or Myth? (Regnery
      Publishing., 2000)


      "Barring an external intelligence, which evolutionists do not detect, nothing
      in nature can select sets for positive preservation. The process can only be
      one of negative elimination in which, after different sets have formed, some
      are eliminated more or less promptly, while others survive for a while-that
      is, their elimination is deferred." (Darlington P.J., Jr., "Evolution for
      Naturalists: The Simple Principles and Complex Reality," John Wiley &
      Sons: New York NY, 1980, p.55)
      Stephen E. Jones. sejones@.... http://members.iinet.net.au/~sejones
      Moderator: CreationEvolutionDesign@yahoogroups.com
      Group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CreationEvolutionDesign
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