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Friday, July 29, 2005



Why attack ID? Isn't he missing the point? ID doesn't argue all finalities. It doesn't even try. One of the primary ID theories argues that some things require the interjection of a designer (for the religious this would be God) because they couldn't have arisen in any other manner. These are usually pretty primitive construts.

How is that unsettling? How does that compete with the idea of the spark of design begining with God and settling through a method such as evolution?

Jeff Grace

Nick, as Fr. Oakes says in the article found here:

...J. Budziszewski worries aloud that by assaulting Intelligent Design I have deprived Christians in academia of a perfectly serviceable argument. But besides the fact that Thomas Aquinas says that bad arguments for God’s existence do more harm than good, since they give unbelievers an occasion to laugh (ST I, q. 46, art. 2, response), I would also claim that apologetics is not that difficult.

The full article is worth a read... it's a response to Fr. Oakes's review of Phillip Johnson's book The Wedge of Truth, found here

Read both of these and I think you'll have a better idea why some of us have problems with the ID argument!


Others have done a far better job but his arguments rest on three principles:
1.) That a naturalist explanation is the only allowable explanation. This, I hold, to be incorrect. We allow history, with all its troubles, as a science after all.

2.) That he would accept a naturalist explanation sans evidence, "Now it well might happen that, for reasons of inherent limitations (such as the fact that the earliest life forms leave no fossil record behind, or the impossibility of replicating in a laboratory the amount of time necessary to see chemicals work their way toward complexity), these laws will remain forever beyond human ken."

3.) He argues against direct divine influence, which I just don't get as "the Trinity in the machine". He refuses to accept it, it seems, as a matter of faith.

That bugs me at a deep level. And, frankly, he seems snooty about it. The attack doesn't address the argument. There are specific points where he is outright dismissive. He backhandedly accuses the ID group as supporting atheism of all things.

The attack on ID's nature of being "unverifiable" is also far from fair. There are things that ID definitely proposes that can be falsified. I have yet to wake up in the morning where a scientist has declared with finality that they have falsified some ID work.

ID may be wrong, who knows? But it is science, it doesn't promote atheism, and it sure as blazes is falsifiable. I tire of these attempts to shoot it down that amount to, “this stuff isn’t as cool as our stuff,” or, “oh look the *Pope* has ruled that evolution must be possible so, despite having not argued on the merits, we’re way cooler than you.” I have to admit I started scanning after the “beyond human ken” line. Leaving aside the use of “ken” he completely ignores the modern and future abilities of computer modeling to approach this problem. Heck, he ignores any sort of speculative statistical work of the old fashioned paper kind that you could use right now.

Joseph Breslin

I also find Fr.Oakes position-or I should say his atttitude-problematic. Let us concede the point that sinice IDers do not specify the time window when the Designer is supposed to act, they can be accused of being vague, but then again, Darwinists are just as vague when it comes to specifying how and when great morphological changes occured. The IDers have an advantage because they recognize something(final causality or telos) in principle and in practice that Darwinists deny in principle but admit in practice. One cannot avoid purpose when one is talking about organs. Indeed, Darwinists even slip into discussion of formal causality when, say, on a children's evolution program they answer the question: "Why do big hairy spiders exist?" by saying, "If there were no spiders, we'd be overrun by insects." Indeed, all four forms of causality are present in nature, and since science studies nature, they cannot be avoided.

The real question is, "Can the empirical method make metaphysical sense of nature," and the answer is obviously "No". But on the other hand, if one arbitrarily draws a line between material and efficient causality on one hand and formal and final on the other, one is being an fanatic and not a man of reason. Furthermore, since Darwinism is teleological (as Gilson shows), it is pure semantics to exclude discussion of true design from science. If I were a good atheistic evolutionist, what I should say is something like this: Yes, there is true design in nature and purpose is everyhwere visible. However, the design which is evident in all living things is not the product of a 'mind' per se, but rather of a mechanistic process analogous to mind. Furthermore, the discovery that a mechanistic process is capable of mimicking intelligence and will, leads us to two inescapable conclusions: 1) That God is a superfluous concept and very likely a mere anthromorphic delusion projected on the cosmos by primitive minds and 2) That Man's belief in his own real 'mind' and 'will' are also illusions, the epiphenomic effect of sophisticated mechanisms.

Yes, that is what I should say if I were a Darwinist that reasoned correctly from my premises and spoke clearly. But instead, Darwinists say something like this: Even though living things appear to be purposive and behave purposefully, such is an illusion since we have a mechanism that can mimic purpose. There is, if you want to press the point, telenomy in nature, but not teleology proper, which is a religious attitude.

But of course, religion has nothing to do with recognizing finality in things, a point Gilson makes repeatedly and clearly in the excellent book whose thesis Fr. Oakes is misconstruing. It may be true that there is a psychological difficulty in seperating telos from the doctrine of Creation, but they are not the same thing. Telos is to God what moral law is to God, that is, one thing may logically entail the other, but both can be discerned independently of knowledge of God and especially independent of Revelation (Aristotle had no revelation).

We do not let atheists off the ethical hook (as they do not let themselves off it either); why then should anybody be let off the teleological hook? The very langauge of the anti-finalists betrays them consitently. Just as a man who denies the existence of moral laws will suddenly cry foul when he dealt with unjustly, so a Darwinist is always slipping into telos-talk, even though he may include a footnote somewhere saying: "Of course, when I say "Beauty", "Order", "Purpose", "Function" and "Design", I am only speaking metaphorically."

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