Thursday, September 29, 2005


Paul Johnson on 'The Ayatollah of Atheism and Darwin’s Altars'

British historian Paul Johnson recently published a very interesting piece on Darwinism in general and Richard Dawkins in particular in The Spectator (August 31, 2005). You can read his essay @

Many of the things Johnson says are reminiscent of the sort of critiques made by ID theorists. For example: 'Few people doubt the principle of evolution. The question at issue is: are all evolutionary advances achieved exclusively by the process of natural selection? That is the position of the Darwinian fundamentalists, and they cling to their absolutist position with all the unyielding certitude with which Southern Baptists assert the literal truth of the Book of Genesis...' Then again:

'The likelihood that Darwin’s eventual debacle will be sensational and brutal is increased by the arrogance of his acolytes, by their insistence on the unchallengeable truth or the theory of natural selection – which to them is not a hypothesis but a demonstrated fact, and its critics mere flat-earthers – and by their success in occupying the commanding heights in the university science departments and the scientific journals, denying a hearing to anyone who disagrees with them. I detect a groundswell of discontent at this intellectual totalitarianism, so unscientific by its very nature. It is wrong that any debate, especially one on so momentous a subject as the origin of species, and the human race above all, should be arbitrarily declared to be closed, and the current orthodoxy set in granite for all time. Such a position is not tenable, and the evidence that it is crumbling is growing.'

Johnson rightly extols the recent critique of Darwinism by Antony Latham, The Naked Emperor (Janus, 2005):

'opponents of the dogma that natural selection is the sole force in evolution, who cannot get a hearing within that establishment, are not remaining silent. It is characteristic of the new debate that heterodoxy is finding other outlets. I recommend, for instance, a book by the learned anatomist Dr. Antony Latham, The Naked Emperor: Darwinism Exposed, just out from Janus Publishing (105-107 Gloucester Place, London W1U 6BY). Much of the book is devoted to a chapter-by-chapter exposure of the errors and illogicalities of Dawkins’s best-known book, The Blind Watchmaker, and its highly emotional presentation of the case against design (and God). The indictment of Dawkins’s scientific scholarship is powerful, masterly and (I would say) unanswerable.'

You can obtain Latham's book from @

Johnson also references a recent critique of evolutionary-psychology by philosopher Jerry Fodor in the Times Literary Supliment @

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Paper on Theistic Evolution & ID published by

After a lot of hard work and a stringent review process (involving readers on both sides of the Atlantic and several revised drafts), the excellent apologetics website of the 'Universites and Colleges Christian Fellowship' (UCCF), have just published my new article: 'Theistic Evolution & Intelligent Design in Dialogue'.

This article is an invited response to a paper critical of ID, also published by The paper in question was written by Dr. Denis Alexander, a Christian biologist at Cambridge University, who is a theistic evolutionist.

I think are to be applauded for showing that Christian accademics hold a number of different views on the issue of origins, and that this debate can be carried out in a manner that doesn't generate more heat than light.

While the character of Adam in my paper clearly stands in for Dr. Alexander, I wanted to make it clear by the use of a different name that I was responding to Christians who hold views similar to Dr. Alexander's, rather than specifically to Dr. Alexander himself. After all, Alexander might well make different points and responses than those made by Adam. Hence, I would only claim that Adam repsesents Alexander where I reference Alexander's published views. I was also careful not to give the characters representing ID an easy victory at the close of the paper, which would have been unrealitic. Even if you find yourself siding with Tim and Cath against Adam in my dialogue, you should follow Adam's example and simply decide to think matters through at greater length and in greater detail. Knee-jerk reactions, whether for or againt ID, should be avoided. I personally spent over a year reading and thinking about ID before deciding that it was a better position than theistic evolution.

I have had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Alexander in person (at a conference in Poland two years ago), and we talked briefly about intelligent design theory. As you might guess, he was not impressed, and he had some well-meaning concerns about how ID might negatively impact Christian evangelism. As you might also guess, Denis did not change my viewpoint on ID. Despite our disagreement, we continue to embrace each other as fellow Christians. As with all such matters, the trick is to disagree withut being disagreeable. I hope my paper for reflects this spirit of cordial disagreement.

You can read Dr. Alexander's paper, 'Created or Evolved? Hot Issues for the 21st Century' @

You can read my paper, 'Theistic Evolution & Intelligent Design in Dialogue' @

Sunday, September 25, 2005


Two Questions to ask of ID: Part One

Boiled down to the essentials, there are really only two questions one needs to ask about intelligent design.
The first is this: 'is ID right when it claims that intelligent causation can be reliably infered from physical evidence in certain circumstances?'
Since several sciences (archaeology, cryptography, forensic science, SETI) already depend upon making such design inferences, it seems hard to argue that there are no circumstances under which it is reasonable to infer design from physical evidence.
ID theorists have suggested a number of different design detection criteria which they think clearly define the type of evidence one needs in order to make a rational design inference.
For example, mathematician and philosopher William A. Dembski proposes 'specified complexity', or 'complex specified information' (CSI) as a reliable marker of intelligent design.
Something exhibits CSI if it matches a non ad hoc, independent specification at sufficiently low probability. A simple illustration: a long string of tiles picked at random from a bag of scrabble letters would be complex (it would take a lot of information to convey how to reproduce that precise sequence of titles) but it would not be specified. A short sequence of tiles such as 'This' or 'That', would be specified (by the independent pattern of the English language), but not very complex. However, a string of scrabble tiles which spelt out a whole sentence in English would be both complex and specified. Whenever we know the cause of things that exhibit CSI (e.g. books, musical scores, computer programmes) we know that they are the product of intelligence. Hence, we have good inductive grounds for holding that any object or event which exhibit CSI, like our third string of scrabble tiles, is the product of intelligent design.
Now, if one rejects the ID claim that intelligent design can be reliably infered from physical evidence under certain circumstances, there is a price to pay. It would seem that one cannot reject ID on this account whilst accepting any science which makes the same assumption. That is, one could not hold with SETI, forensic science, cryptography, etc.
In point of fact, many people reject ID on the basis of an assumption which might be summarised either thus - 'All scientific explanations must be ultimately reducible to non-teleological, naturalistic explanations' (Methodological Naturalism) or - 'All true explanations must be ultimately reducible to non-teleological, naturalistic explanations' (Metaphysical Naturalism). Atheists often conflate these two 'rules', much to the annoyance of theists who accept the first rule but not the second. Either way, the adoption of either of these rules is supposed to draw a line between infering intelligent design from physical evidence in fields like archaeology and in fields like cosmology, because the former inference can be regarded as a scientific placeholder for an explanation ultimately reducible to non-teleological explanations (which the theists who accept Methodological Naturalism re-introduce at a philosophical level and the atheists do not), while the latter inference is harder to regarded in this way.
Note that these rules are philosophical assertions open to philosophical assessment, and that they would come as news to scientists from Aristotle to Newton.
In point of fact, such rules suffer from a number of defects, including being too vague to do the intended job. One could accept either rule and still accept design inferences from the texture of nature by postulating ultimately non-teleological explanations. Such a move might be philosophically cumbersome, but it is possible because ID doesn't have anything to say about the metaphysical nature of the infered intelligence/s. If a naturalist wanted to accept a design inference from nature but posit that the intelligence inquestion must have an ultimately naturalistic explanation, I might think he had his philosophical work cut out for him, but the resulting debate would be essentially philosophical.
Moreover, if it is logically possible that the texture of nature includes anything that is the result of intelligent design, and if it is also logically possible that intelligent design is empirically detectable in the right circumstances, then any rule which sucessfully outlawed infering design from nature in the right circumstances would be a rule that subverted the fundamental goal of science: to seek the truth.


Two Questions to ask of ID: Part Two

If you accept the first claim of ID, that intelligent design can be reliably infered from the right kind of physical evidence, then one faces a second question: 'Does anything in nature provide the right kind of evidence for a design inference?' If you answer this second question positively as well as the first question, then you accept intelligent design theory. It's that simple.
ID theorists have suggested a number of distinct evidences for intelligent design in nature:
The anthropic fine-tuning of the Big Bang
The anthropic fine-tuning of our solar system
The origin of self-replicating life (especially the DNA code)
The existence of irreducibly complex bio-molecular machines
The 'Cambrian explosion' of basic body plans
The origin of the basic human (homo) body-plan
A little surfing among the recommended ID links on this blog should bring you to presentations of the relevent evidence, including presentations in peer-reviewed papers, for your consideration. The best place to start this process on-line would be the Access Research Network site (where I am a featured author).
Before becoming convinced of the merits of ID I thought of myself as a theistic evolutionist and spent over a year reading books and articles by ID proponents, weiging up their arguments. During this time of inquiry I was particularly impressed by the work of Michael J. Behe, William A. Dembski and Stephen C. Meyer. I highly recommend their jointly authored book with Ignatius Press: 'Science and Evidence for Design in the Universe'.
For an introduction to ID I also highly recomment the Illustrated Media DVD: 'Unlocking the Mystery of Life'.

Saturday, September 24, 2005


Welcome to ID.Plus

Welcome to ID.Plus. 'ID' stands for 'intelligent design', which is the science of detecting intelligent causation from its physical effects.
No-one is particularly bothered about ID as long as it is applied to the detection of intelligent causation in such scientific fields as archaeology, cyrptography, forensic science and the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence (SETI).
However, more and more people are getting bothered about ID, because it is poking its nose into scientific fields like cosmology and biology. In this context, ID is the scientific theory that not only is it possible to infer intelligent causation from its physical effects under certain carefully defined conditions, but intelligent causation can be infered from certain aspects of the natural world.
Now, people are bothered about ID for all sorts of different reasons. Some think we should bother about ID because it is true. Others think we should be bothered because it is false. People who think ID is true tend to think it is a good thing, while people who think it is false tend to think it is a bad thing. But everyone who has heard about ID seems to think that we should be bothered about it! In other words, ID is an important theory and therefore one worth bothering about one way or another. Hence, I thought it was worth contributing to the growing number of web blogs about ID.
For the record, I should state that I'm one of those people who think that we should be bothered about ID because it is both true and a good thing.

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