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955Re: The ID movement

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  • Donald Nield
    Jul 29, 2001
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      Dear Steve and Group:

      "Stephen E. Jones" wrote:

      > Group
      > 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
      > permits.
      > 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.
      > SJ: 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.

      Yes, I agree with Steve about the Thaxton et al. book. In fact, I was aware of its
      importance, but I wanted to highlight Denton because I came back to him, in
      connection with his 1998 book, later in my article.

      > 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).
      > SJ: 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.

      Thanks to Steve for the clarification on Ross. I believe that the interest in ID as
      a movement in the USA is directly linked with the constitutional difficulty of
      teaching science and religion together in public schools in that country.

      > 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.

      Thanks again.

      > 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.
      > SJ: 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.


      > SJ: 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).
      > SJ: 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)?

      I understand that. Steve will appreciate that I came on the document second hand,
      and it just helped to highlight the ID wedge agenda in my article.

      > 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.
      > SJ: 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.

      Perhaps. It seems significant to me, but then I am not a citizen of the USA.

      > 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.
      > SJ: 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
      > philosophy.

      If ID was just a *scientific* theory , and the debate about it was just a matter of
      philosophy, then I would agree with Steve on this. However, to my mind IDT cannot
      be separated from the ID political movement, and it seems to me that this is indeed
      a continuation of the "creation science" movement, and both are concerned with what
      is allowed to be taught in public schools in the USA.

      > 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.
      > SJ: 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. ..."

      Thanks to Steve for the update on the Baylor situation.

      > >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)
      > >*****************************************
      > >Don

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