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Orthodoxy and the 'Intelligent Design Movement'


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#21 Owen Jones

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Posted 21 May 2009 - 01:35 PM

Of all of the scientific theories that are non-falsifiable, certainly Darwinism is at the top of the list. There is no experiment envisioned, so far as I know, that could possibly falsify it, which I assume is the reason for speculation regarding time travel.

Personally, I find it incomprehensible that intelligent people could even begin to take Darwinism seriously, after just a modicum of effort exploring its premises and conclusions. So something else is obviously at work here. It is a classic cosmogonic myth. While I think the ID argument has merit, it is only one of many questions raised that the typical Darwinist dismisses. So what you have is a kind of quasi-religious fundamentalism surrounding the whole Darwinist camp.

In Origin of the Species..., Darwin makes his case primarily on aesthetic grounds. He says his theory is more "ennobling" of man, than the theory that God created every unique creature. This is very revealing and I have never read anyone who made an attempt to address this argument. It is really his concluding summary argument, after he has gone through all of the objections to his theory. So in what sense does he mean that it is "ennobling?" And why is this his summary, or decisive argument in favor of Natural Selection? Presumably because the alternative is not so ennobling? Is it because a creator God who has created each unique creature as it is is somehow deeply flawed? Just look around at how flawed humanity is. If this is the summation of creation, then the nobility of the Creator must be called into question. But if life is an ongoing evolutionary process, there is hope that mankind will eventually evolve out of this morass, and in his present in-between state he is somehow ennobled by his future possibilities. Which is in and of itself an odd sort of argument when you think about it, because why should I care? What good does it do for me, if mankind needs several more milennia to evolve into a state of advanced knowledge and psychological awareness that he can begin to live in a state of pure harmony with his fellow creatures? I will be long dead and gone. So it is not really an argument, but a symbol for an experience of alienation and a solution to the problem of alienation from one's fellow creatures that provides its believers with a vision of future harmony. A heavenly vision that will inevitably be achieved some day, hopefully, in the not too distant future. And even as an immediate goal, it provides mankind with a feeling of unity and solidarity with all other creatures, since we all descend from a common ancestor in the not too distant past, as Darwin states.

So it is the aesthetic arguments that win out over the objections, such as problems with the geological record, and other obvious empirical problems with the theory that Darwin recognizes up front. And this explains why it is so appealing to people who would never bother to crack the book. It is really a mystical vision of the unity and harmony of all living things that provides people with a powerful mechanism to overcome their spiritual alienation. It is pure mysticism, not a scientific theory per se. It is also ennobling because, as Darwin suggests, our new-found scientific knowledge becomes the main factor driving evolution, specifically, our psychological development. So that we now can drive, direct, influence our own evolutionary development. We are all gods. We have become God.

#22 Jonathan Hayward

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Posted 21 May 2009 - 11:43 PM

Once IC is demonstrated,


But science doesn't deal in proof, just as mathematics doesn't deal in experiment.

None of science's theories and laws have been demonstrated: that's not what one asks of science, just as experimental corroboration is not what one asks of mathematics.

The scientific way of evaluating IC would be to compare it with competing explanations on, among other things, its ability or inability to account for the data. And so the question is whether Behe has succeeded in making claims of irreducible complexity that win out against opposed claims that the complexity in question is reducible complexity. I know of people who emphatically deny that he has, but none of them make it Behe's duty to demonstrate irreducible complexity: they only ask his thesis to win out as an explanation against other competing claims.

Christos Jonathan

#23 Jonathan Hayward

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Posted 22 May 2009 - 01:33 PM

One clarification I might add:

Behe is attempting something deliberately limited. I am not here concerned with whether he succeeds or fails, but what he is attempting, and by implication what is and is not required for him to succeed.

Computer programmers are generally concerned about "scope creep" where a project keeps being asked to do more and more, more than is wise to attempt because trying to do the ultimate solution to everything rarely works well if at all. There is a maxim among programmers, "the [software programming project's] design is complete, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to take away."

Something of the same is true of scholarly writing, where in the humanities scholars choose a deliberately narrow / focused / restricted topic and attempt a restricted goal only.

Something of the same spirit affects Behe's work. He's not trying to prove or irrefutably demonstrate irreducible complexity. He's not trying to produce a future-proof explanation that can never be overturned. He's not trying to produce an argument that shows that the Christian God is the intelligence that must be behind irreducible complexity. He shouldn't be trying any of these things if he is attempting science.

Behe is attempting a limited and focused goal. Whether he succeeds within his accepted boundaries is a different question, but it is not a failure on his part that his explanation is:

  • Unproven,
  • Falsifiable,
  • Not future-proof, and
  • Does not uniquely determine that the Christian God alone could be the intelligence behind irreducible complexity.
The first three at minimum are true of all good science and a lot of bad science, and so are signs of at least some success in Behe's attempt to achieve a limited and restricted goal.

Christos Jonathan

#24 Jonathan Hayward

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Posted 22 May 2009 - 03:19 PM

Of all of the scientific theories that are non-falsifiable, certainly Darwinism is at the top of the list.


I might comment on that point...

I don't have a print reference, but I've heard that when Karl Popper suggested that falsifiability be the distinguishing criterion for judging science vs. pseudo-science, his choice of the paradigm example of an unfalsifiable theory inappropriately presented as science was Marxism... and not Darwinian evolution only because he didn't want to be dismissed for Creationism.

Christos Jonathan

#25 Jonathan Hayward

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Posted 22 May 2009 - 11:47 PM

Right now I am hoping, and would welcome your prayers, to write a piece that would talk about religion, science, and related issues and bring together some stuff scattered through things I've written.

The pieces I want to revisit are:

The Commentary, a short story, at least nominally, about a young man who has been searching for a commentary explaining cultural issues needed to understand the Bible, and meets quite a rude shock when he finds it. One part is about Genesis 1 and evolution.

Two Decisive Moments, about what's left out when we argue whether the universe is young at 6000 years old or old at 13,000,000.

Technonomicon, which is about ascesis and being obsessed with technology, and treats some behind-the-scenes issues that are also there in origins debates.

The Horn of Joy - I'm debating including what this says about science overall.

I would welcome people's comments; I think it might help me if anyone comments on these. They are roughly in descending order of explicit treatment of origins questions.

With regards,
Christos Jonathan

#26 Owen Jones

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Posted 23 May 2009 - 12:47 PM

Underlying Darwinism is the idea of an inexorable historical progress. This is the heresy that you should key in on. Progress is a Christian idea. I'm not sure it ever existed anywhere else. But it is the progress of the soul. Darwinism and every other modern ideology immanentizes the Christian doctrine of progress into an historical process. So it would be interesting to examine this doctrine Biblically. One of your quotes suggest this, as the world is seen as winding down to its end, but there is no end for the believer.

#27 Jonathan Hayward

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Posted 23 May 2009 - 06:54 PM

Likewise, take away other parts of the mousetrap, you can have an even less efficient mousetrap. And perhaps the simplest mousetrap is a square or L-shaped piece of metal that falls down upon an unsuspecting mouse that passes by. In other words, even a mousetrap is not necessarily irreducibly complex.


One of Behe's detractors offered the rebuttal of an imagined scenario where someone accepted all five parts Behe described in a mousetrap, handing one of them back, and still having a fully functional mousetrap. The part handed back in the imagined scenario was the wooden base, and the mousetrap was claimed to work because the pins etc. had been pushed into a wooden floor which replaced the wooden base.

And Behe's rebuttal was that you haven't reduced the complexity; you have replaced one part with a larger surrogate. And he acknowledged that some or all of the parts of the mousetrap could be replaced with surrogates and still there could be a fully functional mousetrap. He didn't argue for irreplaceable complexity, but irreducible complexity.

In the link you provide, step 1, the simplest step, for a mousetrap, is a house plus at least one human being.

This is the kind of rebuttal that, from an argument's perspective, constitutes an implicit acknowledgment. The rebuttal and first simple step to a mousetrap as purely reducible complexity is a house plus at least one fully functional and living human body.

A living human body is not, in any sense, simpler than a functional five-part mousetrap of the sort Behe describes. This is like imagining that bacteria reached their complexity by evolving from elephants.

Christos Jonathan

Edited by Jonathan Hayward, 23 May 2009 - 06:56 PM.
Clarified that "example of a simpler mousetrap" (house + 1 or more humans) refers to a link he provided.


#28 Christina M.

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Posted 14 March 2011 - 01:42 AM

Has anybody here read "Signature in the Cell" about DNA evidence for intelligent design?
http://www.amazon.co...00066360&sr=8-1

I'd just like to hear a few opinions from Orthodox Christians who have read the book, and also to hear how they think it compares to other popular I.D. books, like Behe's, etc.

I recently started reading it and I'm finding it extremely fascinating.

P.S. I'm not looking for discussions on I.D., since I know there are other threads about that (and I've already read them). I'm just curious about opinions of this particular book's conclusions, since they are novel.

#29 Bryan J. Maloney

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Posted 13 May 2011 - 10:58 PM

It may be more acceptable to someone who knows nothing of genomics. I found it rather troubling, in that, if its claims are taken as true (in light of actual knowledge of human genomics), then the "designer" of this book's specific flavor of "intelligent design" is an idiot, a sadist, or both.

#30 Christina M.

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Posted 13 May 2011 - 11:44 PM

Woohoo! Two months and I finally get a response! YES! :)

Bryan, thanks for responding! Can you please elaborate on your response, because I don't think I'm understanding you. Can you please explain why you think the author makes the "designer" out to be an "idiot, a sadist, or both"? Thanks!

I'm about 10% through this book, but I had to start reading something else so I had to put it aside temporarily. I'm still finding it very interesting, and I hope to continue it later.

#31 Jonathan Hayward

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Posted 14 May 2011 - 12:01 PM

I have not read the book in question so I will not comment on it. But there is one concern I would like to raise.

God created life as we know it. Exactly how is the subject of this debate; he could have created it young earth, or old-earth via miracles, or set a mechanism of natural selection in place that would unfold into life as we know it.

But whatever of these or maybe other options we consider, God is the creator of life regardless of how much or little mediation he used to create life.

This may be a critique of an IDM book more than a critique of (theistic) evolution, but I am concerned about what is said about cells. They are not the work of an incompetent designer. They may be the work of an intelligent designer whose "ways are not as [our] ways", but that's it.

#32 Christina M.

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Posted 14 May 2011 - 01:10 PM

Jonathan, I agree with your assessment, but we have to remember that the purpose of reading an IDM book (at least for an Orthodox Christian) is not to prove to ourselves that God created the world; Hopefully we already "know" this through faith. The purpose of reading an IDM book would be to be able to refute popular (atheistic) evolutionary theory which claims that everything happened "at random" without the interaction of God.

Of course it's possible that maybe God allowed everything to happen "at random", and maybe that is the way He chose to create the world (although I personally don't agree with such theories), but that's what makes a book like this even more interesting: If everything happened "at random", how can anyone explain the digital code embedded inside every living cell? The answer is: "They can't." Modern science has absolutely no answer to this question, so they just push it to the background, as if it's not important. They do experiments to show how the first cells could have been formed, yet they are absolutely clueless as to how the DNA got there. If you uncoiled a single strand of DNA in one human cell, it would be 6 feet long, and it contains between 50 and 250 million base pairs. Don't you find it interesting that (atheistic) evolutionary theorists have absolutely no way to incorporate this into their theories, yet most people accept those theories as "laws" without questioning them?

If we are unable to find sufficient scientific evidence which shows that modern evolutionary theory is incorrect, then that's fine; we will still have faith that God is the Creator. But if there is substantial scientific evidence of the "marks" of the Creator (such as the genetic code inside cells), then it would be nice to know these things so that we can see that modern (atheistic) evolutionary theory is incorrect.

#33 Bryan J. Maloney

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Posted 15 May 2011 - 04:13 PM

Bryan, thanks for responding! Can you please elaborate on your response, because I don't think I'm understanding you. Can you please explain why you think the author makes the "designer" out to be an "idiot, a sadist, or both"? Thanks!


In essence, it posits a form of "intelligent design" that would have "intelligently" designed alu repeats, was the Designer incompetent or malevolent in not avoiding the eventuality of this degeneration? Likewise, consider our own bodies' amazingly stupid and horrible design flaws. Our jaws are too short for our teeth. Our spines are miserably "designed" for bipedalism. All of these are ultimately determined by genomics. Are we to insist that Adam's jaw was significantly longer, giving him more of a bestial muzzle than a human face? Was Adam a quadruped or had a radically different spine? Eventually, "fallen world" becomes so all-expansive a way to handwave away any flaws in "design" that it is a worthless explanation. The explanation that explains everything explains nothing.

#34 Christina M.

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Posted 15 May 2011 - 05:01 PM

Thanks again for the response, Bryan. But I do not agree with your examples.

I've never had any problems with my jaws or teeth, nor has my spine proven insufficient for bipedalism. In fact, I would consider it extremely uncomfortable and harmful to try to walk "on all fours" for an extended period of time. If anyone has problems with their spine while walking upright, I would highly recommend that they find a good chiropractor. ;)

I really don't see your point, unless you are trying to prove that creation is the result of completely random "collisions" without any interaction from God. Let's not forget that Sts. Ireneaus, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory Palamas all said that even the human body, along with the soul, was created "in the image of God".

#35 Bryan J. Maloney

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Posted 15 May 2011 - 05:13 PM

Let's see, therefore, Christina is the measure of all humanity. I'll remember that.

#36 Christina M.

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Posted 15 May 2011 - 05:15 PM

Let's see, therefore, Christina is the measure of all humanity. I'll remember that.

You better! ;)

#37 Rdr Daniel (R.)

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Posted 15 May 2011 - 05:20 PM

Let's see, therefore, Christina is the measure of all humanity. I'll remember that.

I don't know I short of find it hard to walk on all fours as well but then again maybe that is just Christina and me ;)

In regard to the fallen world as far as I know I thought the Fathers do speak of Adam having a body more like that of the angles before the fall. In regard to animals natural adaption in a fallen world can explain such things.

In Christ.
Daniel,

#38 Bryan J. Maloney

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Posted 20 May 2011 - 05:18 PM

Of all of the scientific theories that are non-falsifiable, certainly Darwinism is at the top of the list.


If so, then it shares it in a tie with "intelligent design". If you are going to argue against Darwinian evolution on the basis of falsifiability, then you must equally argue against "intelligent design" on the same basis. Anything else would be dishonest and immoral.

#39 Bryan J. Maloney

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Posted 20 May 2011 - 05:19 PM

I don't know I short of find it hard to walk on all fours as well but then again maybe that is just Christina and me ;)

In regard to the fallen world as far as I know I thought the Fathers do speak of Adam having a body more like that of the angles before the fall.


Don't the Fathers also teach that angels don't have bodies at all?

#40 Anna Stickles

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Posted 21 May 2011 - 10:39 AM

Don't the Fathers also teach that angels don't have bodies at all?


We talk about "bodiless powers" but when the discussion gets more technical, angles can be said to have an immaterial body. In other words they exist as specific energies that are coherent in their mode of existence, (as opposed to the Platonic idea of pure mind) and also are spatially limited in some sense, rather then being "everywhere present and filling all things." At least this is my general impression.




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