Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Pennsylvania Judge's Intelligent Design Decision

Yesterday, a judge in Pennsylvania handed down a decision on a court case involving intelligent design. If you'd like to read the decision you can see it here:

I've read most of it, and it is a disturbing argument. He argues that the teaching of Intelligent Design by a public school is equal to government endorsement of religion. His basis for his position involves the point that ID theory makes a case for a "designer," therefore it is a religious teaching. So I guess any scientific theory that points to supernatural or intelligent direction is outlawed. I wonder if he would also banish scientist's vocabulary that personifies the universe or speaks of evolution as an article of faith:
George Wald: “The universe wants to be known.”
George Greenstein: “If this is the best way to make a universe, how did the universe find that out?”
Professor Harold C. Urey, Nobel prize winner in Chemistry once wrote, “All of us who study the origin of life find that the more we look into it, the more we feel it is too complex to have evolved anywhere…. And yet we all believe as an article of faith that life evolved from dead matter on this planet. It is just that its complexity is so great that it is hard for us to imagine that it did.”
Scientist, L.T. Moore writes, “Our faith in the doctrine of evolution depends upon our reluctance to accept the antagonistic doctrine of special creation."

Judge Jones also spends dozens of pages explaining why Intelligent design is not science. This section may just be the most incredible and mind-boggling of the 130+ pages. How can a judge define what is or is not science? That's like a scientist adding a section to his research paper about constitutional law. During the trial he was presented with expert testimony from scientists on both sides of issue. Both sides had scientists that were equally qualified and educated. Yet the judge chose to affirm the arguments of scientists against ID theory, in his definition of what science is. As you'll see in his decision, he affirms a completely naturalistic, materialistic view of science that procludes the possibility of outside influence (designer) in its very definition. Anyway, there is much more to be said about Judge Jones' decision. If his argument were taken as law in the future, no scientific discovery that points to a higher power would be allowed to be taught in a science classroom. I wonder if teaching the history of science should be outlawed in schools also, since most of the early scientists were Christians who went about their studies because of Christian presuppositions of a ordered, consistent universe created by a rational God.

If you'd like to read a more thourough and articulate critique of the judge's opinion go to:

Have a great day!


Keith said...

I finished my papers finally! I also started an e-mail on objectivity, but I have not finished since I am working on two papers for PhD applications (since I am applying both for philosophy and systematic).

Actually my guess would be that the judge would be unhappy with language that personifies the universe being used in classrooms (unless of course it is personification and nothing more). So I don't think the judge would have a double standard here. Scientists have a double standard if they complain about Christians using metaphysical presuppositions when they make statements implying various metaphysical ideas. But I think the judge would probably consistently complain about both intelligent design and personifications of the universe.

Als0, the judge is not entering into science as much as he is entering into philosophy of science if I understand correctly. It is interesting that scientists would be arguing about whether it is science when that issue is more of an issue of the philosophy of science.

One might argue that what should be taught in classrooms are theories apart from metaphysical implications. I am not fully conversant on these issues but it seems to me that often scientific theories don't necessitate how we explain the metaphysics. For example, one can accept the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, but there will still be various ways of interpreting its metaphysical implications. If I remember right Moreland and Craig argue that even if we accept the scientific theories of Einstein that we could still accept a view of absolute space and time. So it seems to me that often scientific theories underdetermine selection of metaphysical theory. In other words, one can interpret the theory with different metaphysical positions.

So it seems to me that maybe we shouldn't be talking about a designer in science but neither should we be talking about naturalism in science. One can express the theory and data relating to evolution and then the problems with it, but say that even if true, how one develops the metaphysical implications can vary widely from evolutionary naturalism, to a personified universe with pantheism or panentheism, or deism or theism etc.

Of course maybe Christians will think me a heretic for even suggesting such things and, as I admit, I don't know enough about these topics.

Keith said...

I was looking over my comment and thought I would clarify a few points.

First, with the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, it could be interpreted in terms of an epistemic issue or ontological issue. This is why there are different ways of interpreting the metaphysics.

Second, I am not suggesting that there are no problems with evolution or that I accept it. I do think the case should be presented for it along with the problems with it.

My main point is that I am not sure that issues of a designer belongs in discussions of science. But nor do I think naturalism belongs as part of the dicussion of science. Both of those belong in philosophy, science, and religion. I am suggesting that the issue of evolution can be discussed by presenting the case for and against it without implying metaphysical implications since one can combine a view accepting or denying evolution with numerous metaphysical positions.

Keith said...

Now I have to correct a typo. This is a never ending process! :) Perhaps I should just proofread my comment!

I said, "Both of those belonging in philosophy, science, and religion."

That should have read, "Both of those belonging in philosophy, THEOLOGY, and religion."

This is great; I almost holding a conversation with myself with all these comments I am writing!

Keith said...

I just read Mohler's comments on the newspapers' takes on the decision.

I find the USA Today comment about intelligent design being a matter of faith and not science very problematic. The implication seems to be that there is only two categories of faith and science. It seems to me there is also philosophy which involves reason and yet is different than science. Issues of a designer is not pure faith in a sense wholly apart from reason. The notion that the only thing reasonable is science seems to be sadly behind the times in accepting evidentialism and classical foundationalism.

I think the judge was right that intelligent design is not science although it may involve parts that are scientific. But teaching naturalism is not science either.

I think the most science can get us is to discuss evolution to see whether natural processes were involved in the origin of life. Or science can get us to the point where we say that we currently have no way to explain the origin of life in terms of natural processes. I think one goes beyond the bounds of science when one talks about further implications of naturalism or of a creator or even of intelligent design. Such further questions don't seem to be in the realm of science to me.

The metaphysical implications do not NECESSARILY follow. Scientifically one might argue that the origin of life can be examined in terms of natural processes but then one can take the metaphysical positions that either the processes is all their is, or that a creator created and sustains the processes or that the universe somehow itself wills the processes or something. These latter issues would no longer be issues for science to answer. On the other hand, scientifically one might argue that the origin of life cannot be examined in terms of natural processes. This means that either science has reached its end in being able to explain things or that we just don't understand the processes now but may be able to explain them later. Yet when we begin to ask about the implications it seems to me that we are in the realm of philosophy and not science.

The issue is similar to the fine-tuning argument. The presentation of the data that if things were slightly different, then there would be no life is a matter of science. This is pure science. But any further discussion puts one mostly in the realm of philosophy. One could take the endless bang-crunch and crunch-bang cycle, but here science can and does rule out this option. Or one could take the idea that there are trillions of trillions of alternate universes, which is an idea in the realm of philosophy and not science. Or one could argue that there must have been a creator who wanted life, which is also in the realm of philosophy. Or one could play the card that it requires no explanation to begin with but such an answer is also philosophy. Science gets us the data and the fact that the constants cannot be altered even in the slightest and still get life. But then what this means is a question of philosophy.

So it seems to me that the discussion in schools should be about whether science supports natural processes that play a part in the origin of life (leaving open the issue of whether there is anything beyond the natural processes) or whether science has no way presently of relating natural processes to the origin of life (leaving open the possibility of a designer, or that we just need to learn more, or that we will never be able to say and have just reached the end of our ability of science to explain things).

sherry said...

After he had half of an ear on a newscast regarding the ID decision, this is my 7 year-old nephew's take on the situation, "Why can't they say that the monkey thing is a theory? God created us. It's like aliens, huh?"

Even after Cameron and I had a long conversation in the car, the connection between aliens and evolution was sketchy. I think he meant that not all people believe in aliens, just like not all people believe in evolution. I was trying not to laugh at his cute logic.

By the way, when I asked him who taught him that God created us, he said, "you" :)

Mark said...

Sherry - that's funny. Sounds like you are a good teacher.

Keith - I spent yesterday at church and getting ready to travel. I spent all day today traveling, so I haven't had much time to respond to your posts. One thing is that I think you are right about the distinction between science and philosophy. The interesting thing is that right after condemning ID theory, he explained that it is not science beceause it doesn't line up with a naturalistic philsophy of science.

You are exactly right when you write, "On the other hand, scientifically one might argue that the origin of life cannot be examined in terms of natural processes." That is a great point. There are no repeatable tests, or observations that can be made to support a theory of the origins of life. Therefore, I really think science should not declare an "endorsed" theory - evolution.

Keith said...

I don't doubt that the judge is inconsistent. I just don't quite see it the way many Christians (including Mohler) are reading the situation.

The judge is saying that the idea of ID or the idea of an intelligent designer or design is not a scientific argument. He would probably think this to be a religious idea, meaning a leap of faith as an antithesis of reason. Then the judge goes on to assert evolutionary naturalism saying that it is scientific.

He is being inconsistent without a doubt. Naturalism is apparently scientific but a designer is not. There are two ways of fixing the inconsistency. Either one could say that neither is science or both is science. Most Christians seem to be opting for the latter while I am arguing for the former.

Mohler opts for the latter wanting to call both science. But I don't agree with his rationale. He seems to be saying that because scientists talk about evolutionary naturalism as scientific that it therefore is. Yet I don't think the way to approach the issue is to say they are being inconsistent in denying the idea of a designer. Instead, I think we ought to challenge them that naturalism is science to begin with.

Why should we want our discussion to be considered scientific? Have we given in to the dichotomy of science as rational and faith as irrational. Why can't there also be the category of philosophy as rational and that faith is rational as well? Reason and faith function together and I just don't see why the totally have to be separated. Faith seeking understanding makes sense to me. Vanhoozer has an excellent quote in a book on postmodernism but I am too lazy to look it up.

You said:
You are exactly right when you write, "On the other hand, scientifically one might argue that the origin of life cannot be examined in terms of natural processes." That is a great point. There are no repeatable tests, or observations that can be made to support a theory of the origins of life. Therefore, I really think science should not declare an "endorsed" theory - evolution.

Actually, I may be wrong here, but I don't think that you quite understood my point. Your comment seems to be that evolution cannot be scientific even in theory. It seems that you are saying that evolution is outside of the discussion of science since there can be no experiments etc. By definition evolution is not a part of science. That was not my point. I actually think that science can discuss the merits of evolution. It is naturalism that I think does not belong in science. Evolution and naturalism are not the same thing.

There is no reason in theory that science cannot discuss evolution or endorse a theory of evolution. I was saying that scientifically one will have to argue the merits of whether the theory of evolution is a good explanation or not. My point was that we can discuss the scientific merits of evolution and argue that it is weak, but the discussion would be in the realm of science.

I think the theory of evolution is testable to a degree. I believe they have done tests trying to create organic molecules and so forth (the point of course is not whether they were successful or not). Moreover, if geology is a science it would seem to me that discussions of origins can be a part of science. Yet I don't think science will ever be sufficient for discussions of origins since even once one has selected a scientific theory there are still numerous compatible metaphysical positions.

My argument is that science can in theory endorse a theory of evolution, but it can never in theory endorse naturalism since it does not belong in science. Why do you think science cannot endorse a theory of evolution even in theory?
By in theory, I am saying that they cannot endorse it by the very nature of science and evolution; it does not belong in science. This is different from saying that science can discuss it but that the scientific evidence for it is not good.

Keith said...

I would also add the idea of forensic science. We use forensic science supposedly to help us reconstruct something that happened in the past. Can they do a test that their entire theory is correct that this is actually what happened in the past in some sort of comprehensive experiment? It does not seem to me that they can. But they do (according to CSI, the wonderful source of learning the truth of forensic science) experiments that can support various elements of their hypothesis.

Similarly, it seems to me that science can in theory endorse a theory of evolution. It cannot even in theory endorse naturalism, but it can evolution.

Mark said...

I guess I am talking about the idea of macroevolution. You are right that with forensic science and geology they can set up test for the age of things, and stuff like that. But the theory of evolution from simple to complex species - cross species evolution - has never been supported by any repeatable tests. They say that over millions of years, a species would eventually become another species. This has never been seen though. Plus the geological evidence they point to has significant holes (gaps) in it. Really, I think that the only reason evolution is seen as reasonable at all is because of the naturalisism so dominant in modern science. There has to be SOME explanation. But I really wonder if there is any other dominant theory in science based on such scanty and unrepeatable or observable evidence.

And, yes... I think I did misunderstand you. You are making some excellent points, and making me think. THanks!

Keith said...

I think we may have a partial misunderstanding here.

In a previous comment you wrote:
There are no repeatable tests, or observations that can be made to support a theory of the origins of life. Therefore, I really think science should not declare an "endorsed" theory - evolution.

This comment made me think that you thought it is theoretically possible for any experiment to support a theory of origins in general. But your recent comment seems to focus on the fact that they have never done any successful experiments.

The distinction is whether it is theoretically impossible to have good scientific evidence for evolution or issues of origins vs. whether they actually have such evidence. With respect to the former I think it is theoretically possible for science to have partial explanations with metaphysical implications being confined to philosophy. But does science in fact have such evidence? I don't think so.

Is that any clearer or am I wrong on a misunderstanding here?

Keith said...

Aaahhh... that should have read "This comment made me think that you thought it is theoretically IMPOSSIBLE for any experiment to support a theory of origins in general."

Mark said...

I was unclear and sloppy in my writing. I do think it is theoretically possible to have repeatable tests that could support evolution, if that was how life originated. I just don't think they have those for evolution right now. Therefore, it should not be such a cardinal doctrine of science.

But really, I guess I still don't think there are repeatable, observable tests that can be used to discover the origins of life. Since life originated as a special creation of God, each species being fully formed, there is no lab that can repeat God's work of creation. Therefore, science will never be able to have an accurate theory of the origins of life. For instance, right now the geological evidence shows a bunch of fully formed species at different levels in the earth. There is a huge lack of any middle forms that would support the idea of gradual evolution.

The most logical theory is that each species showed up on the scene fully formed. The theory of punctuated equilibrium has been put forward to explain this, but it is just a speculative theory - not something that has been discovered through observation and experimentation. The idea that an all-powerful Intelligent Being created it all makes sense, and is supported by the complexity and order of life. But since this is metaphysical, this explanation which is right, cannot be reached by science. Therefore, science is helpless to discover the origins of life.

Again, I know I've been doing some sloppy thinking and writing here. Sorry about that. I'll try to lock in a little better from this point on.

Keith said...

You made an excellent distinction in your latest comment. While the discipline of science could theoretically have scientific evidence for evolution, given the fact that life did not originate through evolution it could not have such proof. I think it is important to be precise as to why science could never have such proof, becuase it affects what we will and will not argue about as having or not having scientific evidence.

Incidently, what I find problematic about evolution theologically is that it involves death and dying before the fall. The time frame and other issues do not necessarily seem problematic for me from a biblical standpoint. Again this is my evaluation theologically, irrespective of any scientific issues.

You said:
But really, I guess I still don't think there are repeatable, observable tests that can be used to discover the origins of life.

I would agree that there are never observable tests that can FULLY discover the origins of life. But I do think that there can be repeatable, observable tests that can partially discover the origins of life. By partial explanation, I mean that science can support whether the origins happened totally gradually through evolutionary processes or whether each species showed up fully formed. Either way it does seem to me to be a partial explanation of origins. Then moving on toward a full explanation would be an issue of metaphysics, which would move into the realm of philosophy.

I will also grant that to some degree I am not sure that science can get us much when the age of the earth comes up. I used to think it ad hoc to say that the earth was just created old, but then I had to read some of the writing of Dorothy Sayers. She compares creation to the writing of a story. In a story the action begins at a certain place and yet it presupposes an entire history that took place before the story. In fact that history has to be presupposed in order for the story to take place. I think she is on to something there, but I don't think I explained it very well.

Thanks for the interesting discussion!

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