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Wednesday, February 02, 2005

IDC vs. Darwinism, and The Man Jesus 

While Christian theology must face questions raised by modern science, modern science has excluded from discussion the primary claim of the gospel that the man Jesus was actually the Creator and Sustainer and Lord of the entire universe. If that claim is true, and modern science has chosen to ignore it, then it is guilty of impervious ignorance.

-From False Intimacy by Dr. Harry Schaumburg

Schaumburg in this passage is talking about homosexuality and whether or not it is genetic or natural in its cause. And the point he is making is that if modern science, or any given proponent of modern science, does not factor into his system of knowledge this one all-important fact, then they will be utterly unable to arrive at truth in any other respect; they will be "guilty of impervious ignorance."

Schaumburg's book is excellent, by the way, in understanding the root and nature of sexual addiction. But it was another subject that sparked my interest in this- the old intelligent design question, that is so frequently discussed in the blogosphere these days. In particular, this post by Joe Carter and the discussion that followed, called to my mind the intractable nature of the disagreement, just as the disagreement about homosexuality and abortion and so many other things these days seems to be just as fundamentally intractable.

If Jesus really was a real person, who was miraculously conceived in the uterus of a virgin, who performed many miracles, who claimed to be the son of God, who predicted that he would be killed but that he would rise from the dead, and that through these events would be declared to the world to be its lord and king; if these propositions are in fact true, then that changes everything. Literally everything.

I believe that the world was created in six days less than ten thousand years ago. I do not believe this because I looked at the facts and decided they point in this direction. I believe this because the first two chapters of Genesis say that it was, and Jesus said that the Old Testament is the authoritative word of God, and I believe everything that Jesus tells me. It's really just as simple as that. I feel no need to nuance my belief in this fact to make it look more agreeable to the science of the day, through day-age schemes or framework hypotheses or anything else. At the end of the day, we all have to decide who we're going to believe, and when given the choice between God and man, I'll choose God.

I admire guys like Joe Carter and Rusty and many others for trying over and over to get in these discussions with folks like DarkSyde and Panda's Thumb and Pharyngula, and they try to have these discussions as if they were discussions about commonly held facts, for if we're going to have a meaningful discussion, as in a court of law, for example, then the first thing we have to do is establish what the facts are, and then move from there to the interpretation of those facts and so on. So we talk about this particular molecule or that protein or the other fossil, and so forth, and the IDC vs. evolution argument tries to pretend that they can come to some common understanding of what those facts are and what they mean.

I say "pretend" on purpose, because there is one fact that they will never agree on, and that is the question of whether Jesus is the Lord of the universe, or not. And as I said, that fact changes everything.

Now of course you might respond by saying that there are adherents to IDC who do not believe in Jesus. And I expect that's true. But I also know that I no more hold to their position on where the universe came from as I do the atheistic evolutionists. I will not defend some ambiguous "designer" argument that could be Jehovah or Allah or Brahma or someone else. I will defend the account of Scripture, and only that account. And in reference to the particular discussions I'm referring to, Rusty and Joe are also both believers in Jesus and my argument therefore applies to them.

The only way that an unbeliever will come to accept the IDC argument is if they can do so in a way that allows them to still ignore the claims of Jesus, as Edward Flew did recently. And this gets us nowhere. What do I care whether someone believes in some nebulous designer of the universe or not? Disconnected from the true God of the Bible, it's just a flutter in the mind, and means nothing. People will not get their sins forgiven by IDC. And I can't work people a step at a time into the kingdom of heaven. Either they accept the claims of Jesus or they do not, and everything hinges on that.

The discussion on EO bears all the hallmarks that I am talking about. A question of fact is brought up by Joe, and immediately the whole discussion devolves into bitter name calling and recrimination. DarkSyde (atheist blogger at UTI and frequent commenter on my blog) says,
"What is the scientific theory of Intelligent Design in regard to eyes or anything else in biodiversity, and what testable predictions does it make? What is the falsification criteria?" and he asks these questions over and over, and says nobody answers him. Now I could bring up the question I keep asking him, which he never answers. But what DS is doing here is setting up a particular criteria for truth, and rejecting whatever doesn't fall into his box. We evangelicals need to, in one sense, recognize the truth of the attack that DS and the other naturalists are leveling. As long as we agree to the naturalist terms of the debate, we will fail to overcome this objection. There is no way to neutrally examine the facts on the table and come to a common conclusion, because there is that one other fact that will not, indeed cannot be agreed on by both sides, and that one fact fundamentally alters the interpretation of every other fact.

The naturalists may believe that acknowledging this fact is a retreat, but it isn't. It's recognizing that if we pretend that facts are neutral, then we've already handed the debate to the naturalist, because this is the cornerstone of his philosophy. The Christian philosophy teaches that all things bear witness to God, and only by the word of God can I ever come to accept that fact. Without the saving power of Jesus Christ, I am a blind man, and I will pretend to see all of the facts before me but I will not understand anything.

When the naturalist frames the debate the way he does, he's asking us to close our eyes and then debate him. He's asking us to subject ourselves to the same "impervious ignorance" that he is trapped in. If he can get us to agree to do that, then he has won the debate. So I am not going to close my eyes. I am not going to pretend that I believe God created the universe for any other reason than that Jesus is my Lord and Savior, and He told me so.

None of this should be interpreted as criticizing the strength of Joe's or Rusty's or anyone else's argument. I think Joe does a great job in this post and in the comments of debating. But I think we need to understand the intractable nature of the problem that's before us in convincing anyone of the Biblical account of creation, and to set goals appropriately.

Comments:
I believe that the world was created in six days less than ten thousand years ago. I do not believe this because I looked at the facts and decided they point in this direction. I believe this because the first two chapters of Genesis say that it was, and Jesus said that the Old Testament is the authoritative word of God, and I believe everything that Jesus tells me.That's fine with most folks Matt. But as you've confessed no scientific evidence can change your belief, it is pointless for you to ever make a scientific argument. Because, this is not an issue science can resolve for you. Any mention of IDC on your part, or of any scientific sounding reasoning, is thus dismissed.

"What is the scientific theory of Intelligent Design in regard to eyes or anything else in biodiversity, and what testable predictions does it make? What is the falsification criteria?" and he asks these questions over and over, and says nobody answers him.No one answers, Matt because no one knows. There is no such theory. Those who claim otherwise, are lying or deluded by fundamentalism like yourself. The closest anyone has come is Joe clipping a chunk from the IDEA site which has been pretty well hammered to pieces, and Rusty with DR Hugh Ross's fine tuning argument, which itself is difficult to imagine a flasification crtiteria for. And most of the fine tuning spiel doesn't address common descent at all.

As long as we agree to the naturalist terms of the debate, we will fail to overcome this objection.

The debate is one of science, the criteria are well known. If you wish to change the terms to include claims of unsubstantiated magic, it won't be science anymore, and you will have gained nothing.

Religion had it's day in the West, Lording over science, and it was a disaster. Only when that stifling repression came to be exposed widely did mankind start to climb out of silly superstitious dogma and produce actual solutions to problems, rather than shaking a gourd and covering themselves in paint-or eating ceremonial God-Man Hybrid flesh and drinking ceremonial hybrid blood. At one time pointing out that that blood was really the blood of the hybrid man-God was enough to get you burned at the stake.
It's fine if you want to believe the universe is ten-thousand years old, even though you're off from Rusty by a factor of about 10 billion years despite praising his arguments [G]! You're free in this nation to believe in a deity that painted fake pictures in starlight for whatever bizarre reason you wish. You don't even have to justify it. You can even teach it, at church, or in a comparative religion class, or in the context of cultural anthropology.

What would be a tragedy is if you and the forces of ignorance you champion were allowed to reimprison science under the lock and key of superstition. Turn back the clock to the Dark Ages, and lay waste to all we have accomplished. One only has to look at the wretchedly repressive Islamic Theocracies, to see how hellish that world might be. Science delivers the goods, and we're all hopelessly dependant on it for our very survival. If religion dissappeared form the face of the earth, peace might break out everywhere. If the electricity goes off and doesn't come back on all over the world, half of humanity will be dead in a month.

HT: Rusty for letting me know about the thread. BTW Matt, I can't drop html tags in here, link wise anyway. I don't know if that's something you intended or not.
 
DS,
First of all, I have used HTML tags in these comments in the past, so I'm not sure what the problem is there.

Now on to the argument:

"That's fine with most folks Matt. But as you've confessed no scientific evidence can change your belief, it is pointless for you to ever make a scientific argument."

First, I've never made a scientific argument, as I'm no scientist. So I'm not sure why this is relevant. But even if I had, there is a big difference between saying you believe something for scientific reasons, and that something can be scientifically proved. I believe in the existence of Neptune, despite never having seen it. But it could be proven scientifically. I believe that God's revelation and what we see in nature agree with each other, so the science will eventually justify the Bible as it always has done in the past. But again, my whole point here is that we believe in creation not ultimately for scientific reasons, so your criticism is unfounded.

"Religion had it's day in the West, blah blah blah"

You speak in moral terms and value laden statements, despite having no basis for any such thing. The quality of life in the middle ages vs. now cannot be demonstrated to be better or worse by scientific criteria. You can say people lived longer, had less pain, etc, but you can't say why it's better or worse to live longer or have less pain. Can science tell me whether a cockroach is superior in value to a man?

"What would be a tragedy is if you and the forces of ignorance blah blah blah"

This statement reveals your presuppositions. You believe that only science can reveal knowledge, that any knowledge not based on science is not knowledge. Yet you believe many things that science has not taught you. Your morals appear to be important to you, and yet you never learned them in a science book. The love of parents or a spouse or SO would be important, yet no lab experiment can demonstrate that. Science cannot tell you why a child ought to be valued, why a sunset is beautiful, why Iraqis voting in elections is a courageous thing for them to do. Yet you believe all these things (not sure about the sunset, but the rest of it is based on your own statements.) Science can't tell me whether or not I should steal from my neighbor or sleep with someone else's wife or beat my kids. At best, it can tell me some (and only some) of the results of doing those things, but it can't tell me how to value one outcome or set of results over another.

DS, you go through your life making hundreds of choices like this every day, and only a small fraction of them could possibly have anything to do with science. Yet you call me ignorant for saying that I think it's possible that knowledge exists that has nothing to do with science. You claim to believe something that's constantly contradicted by your own statements. That's very hypocritical of you.

And the whole thing about the relative value of losing all science or losing all religion assumes the truth of your beliefs. If you're right about atheism, then you're right about the relative value of science and religion. But if I'm right about God, then losing religion would be the worst thing that could possibly happen, far worse than losing electricity, even if it meant half the world's population died. So that statement is just an assertion, assuming the thing to be proved just like the rest of your comment, and has nothing at all to do with "science".
 
Howdy, just a passing atheist here with $0.02 worth of input...

When the naturalist frames the debate the way he does, he's asking us to close our eyes and then debate him. He's asking us to subject ourselves to the same "impervious ignorance" that he is trapped in.The phrase "impervious ignorance" bothers me. All that jazz about "testable predictions" and "falsification criteria" does actually add up to quite a lot in practical terms: It adds up to the physical theory behind the engineering behind the computer you're using to read this right now, and the network that got it from me to you. It adds up to quite a few other nifty gadgets, too.

So, you're right. You and these people are talking right past each other.

I would suggest that while a lot of creationists seem very cavalier about writing off evolutionists as con artists, they're on the wrong track there. Science is not, generally speaking, a haven for con artists. Look around you; science constantly produces results that work. It can't help your immortal soul, but it doesn't promise that. It does perform as advertised to a phenomenal degree. "Testable predictions" and "falsification criteria" are some of the finest tools mankind has yet invented (if you happen to think God inspired us to invent them, that suits me just fine).

What some "science cheerleaders" (mostly ignorant ones) seem to miss is that science doesn't promise everything. It doesn't promise all the answers. It certainly doesn't promise infallibility. It absolutely, positively promises not to take any positions on metaphysical matters -- and anybody who claims otherwise is peddling a pseudo-religion dressed up as a cheap imitation of science. Any claim that there is, positively, no God, is just as exclusively religious as the claim that there positively is a God, and that He gets upset when you put whipped cream on your shrimp.


As for the Horrible Evils of Religion, I seem to recall a few purely secular regimes which tried to put a stop to religion in the past century. Off the top of my head, these included the Third Reich, the People's Republic of China, and the USSR. Oh, boy, what a bunch of garden spots! Way to go, guys. Gee, getting rid of religion sure did wonders!

God knows religion gets on my nerves more often than not, but when you set the Pope (or even Pat Robertson) next to Josef Stalin, it's not hard to pick a favorite. I'd much rather be bored in church than starving in a gulag.
 
But Matt we have 'seen' Neptune. So, if you want tot wach that in a science class, that's Okally-dokally. Your cosmology is at extreeme odds with Rusty's, Joe's(I think Joe is an Old Earther anyway), etc. If you want to believe in a ten thousand year old univserse, that's fine, if you want to believe you have access to an absolute morality, that's fine. But scientifically, you've been shot to shit on both claims, numerous times. Until you can provide some data and a framework which explains that data within the confines of your belief, they will not be science. And the only way you'll get them into class is the same way it's done in thrid-world shit-hole Islamic countries: By force of viloence. Note-Osama bin Laden and the clerics of iran agree with you wholeheartedly ;) Nice company you keep!
 
DarkSyde,
I'm not even talking about science. I'm talking about epistemology. I'm not talking about why we as a society believe there's a Neptune; I'm talking about why I as an individual believe in Neptune. Everyone has thousands of beliefs that they have never scientifically proved. Have you seen all those proteins and all those fossils you always talk about? Not just in books, but actually isolated them from actual organisms or actually dug them up out of the ground? Every one of them? Or are you accepting somebody's authority on the matter?

Force of violence is what is keeping creation _out_ of science classes right now. Federal judges backed by force. The people agree with me a lot more than they agree with you. So that's a non-sequitur.

I don't know when you've ever shot me to anything on the point of absolute morality. You can declare victory and walk away if you like, but you've never been able to substantiate even the most basic moral principles in your own cosmology, and your own logic is utterly contradictory on the point. In order to beat me with scientific arguments on the subject of morality you'd first have to demonstrate that morality is a scientific matter, which you've completely failed to do.

As far as proving me wrong scientifically on the young earth point, I've never even engaged in that debate with you or anyone so I don't know when I've been proven wrong. As I've said in this post, science is not the reason I believe in creation. If you want to prove me wrong, you'd have to attack the argument I actually use, not one you've made up in your head.

If you're going to come to my blog and respond to my articles, DS, it would be helpful if you'd respond to arguments I've actually made, and not to things that other people have said in other places.

And my cosmology really isn't totally different from Joe's or Rusty's. You think it is because you don't understand any of us. We all accept reality of authoritative divine revelation, and believe that the Bible is that revelation, though we disagree on its meaning at some points. We all accept the forgiveness of sins through the death of Jesus Christ. Those are far more important issues than the age of the earth, to all three of us.
 
Matt I'm not trying to upset you. I'm simply pointing out that if you believe a priori that the universe is ten thousand years old, and no amount of evidence will convince you otherwise, then it's pointless to talk about evidence.
 
DarkSyde,
I agree. That's what I said in my post.
 
Another "drive-by" comment here, this one from a self-described pragmatist.

A friend of mine who has been a teacher at a catholic school summed up this issue perfectly for me: "They teach creationism in the religion classes, and they teach evolution in the science classes."

It makes no more sense to teach creationism in a science class than it does to teach evolution in religion classes. As noted, both evolution and creationism are born of equally valid but substantially different epistemologies. There is nothing wrong with either one.

The fault lies in either side trying to supercede the realm of the other. Attempts such as trying to scientifically disprove Biblical truths, or trying to argue for the inclusion of Intelligent Design in science curricula, are doomed to failure from the start.

Yes, science excludes the claim the Jesus was the Creator and Sustainer and Lord of the entire universe. And rightly so. That theorem does not fit into scientific epistemology. This does not make science "guilty of impervious ignorance", any more than the Book of Genesis is deficient because it neglects to mention Australopithecus.

The distress for some comes in the public arena, at least in the U.S.; public schools in the U.S. don't have religion classes where they present Biblical epistemology as valid; public parks show only scientific facts, not religious facts; and so forth.

Biblical-style epistemologies are lawfully discriminated against in the United States by the First Amendment, whereas science is not. (I say 'lawfully' because this discrimination is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, the basis for that nation's system of law. Also, note that lawful discrimination is not wholly correspondent with "force of violence"; that sort of hyperbole detracts from an otherwise valid point of view.)

In my opinion, one side trying to supercede another's epistemology is wasted time and effort. If the root of the distress is the question of legal recognition of a given epistemology, that should be where energy is focused. Otherwise, why bother?
 
good post, Matt. it seems like too many (christians and unregenerate alike) think that if they come up with some killer argument, then the other side will have to acquiesce to the display of brilliant logic. ultimately, though, the determining factor is not how much evidence can be marshalled in favor of one's position, but what one's worldview is. and as long as the unregenerate remain so, they will be blinded to any and all arguments presented by christians. they will continue to suppress the truth in unrighteousness.
 
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