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INTELLIGENT DESIGN: A SCIENTIFIC AND RELIGIOUS CRITIQUE

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Title: INTELLIGENT DESIGN: A SCIENTIFIC AND RELIGIOUS CRITIQUE


1
INTELLIGENT DESIGNA SCIENTIFIC AND
RELIGIOUSCRITIQUE
  • I. The Intelligent Design Movement
  • II. Evolutionary Biology
  • III. Evolutionary Theism

2
I. The Intelligent Design Movement
  • 1925. Scopes trial in Tennessee upheld
    anti-evolution law defended by biblical
    literalists.
  • 1987. U.S. Supreme Court ruled that creation
    science (claims of scientific evidence for a
    recent special creation) is not acceptable
    science but a religious belief, violating
    separation of church and state (First Amendment).
  • 2005. U.S. District Court parents in Dover, PA,
    challenge local school board requirement that
    students hear a statement about intelligent
    design along with the teaching of evolution.

3
Nov. 2005. Dover citizens replace school board
members sympathetic to Intelligent Design with
opponents of ID. Dec. 2005. Federal district
judge in Harrisburg rules that ID is not a
scientific theory but a religious belief.
Several school board members had acknowledged
their religious motivations before the
hearings had started. The Dover case has been
settled but ID remains an issue in Kansas and
many other states, either in local school
boards or state boards that set educational
standards.
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ID Claims
  • Proponents of ID differ from both biblical
    literalism and creation science which were the
    subjects of previous court rulings.
  • They make no reference to the Bible and they
    accept a long history of life on earth.
  • But they insist that some organic structures are
    so complex that they could not have evolved by
    gradual stages.
  • Systematic coordination of many parts (e.g. of
    the eye) must be the product of supernatural
    intervention by an Intelligent Designer.

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  • The overwhelming majority of biologists reject
    these claims.
  • For example, the human eye could have evolved by
    gradual steps from simpler visual systems like
    those in some other species today.
  • ID does not lead to hypotheses that can be tested
    experimentally, a key feature of science.
  • ID does not lead to research papers in
    peer-reviewed scientific journals. This cannot be
    attributed simply to the biases of the dominant
    scientific elite that controls journals.

9
Intelligent Design
  • Since natural selection can only choose
    systems that are already working, then if a
    biological system cannot be produced gradually it
    would have to arise as an integrated unit, in one
    fell swoop, for natural selection to have
    anything to act on. Michael Behe, Darwins
    Black Box, p. 39

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  • A mouse trap would not work if one
    part were missing.
  • Similarly, irreducibly complex systems
    only work as a unit.
  • An intelligent designer must have introduced the
    coordinated information, either latently in very
    early cells, or later in their subsequent
    history.
  • Reply The idea of a preconceived order neglects
    the role of mutations and the organisms
    continuing response to a changing environment.
  • Components serving other functions can be
    combined in new ways to serve new functions ( see
    Kenneth Miller, Finding Darwins God).

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Individual Parts
Biochemical Machine
Function Favored by Natural Selection
No function. Therefore, natural selection cannot
shape components.
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Individual Parts
BiochemicalMachine
Components Originate with different functions.
New Functions Emerge from Combinations of
Components
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ID proponents rightly object that some biologists
such as Richard Dawkins defend atheism,
naturalism or materialism as if they were
scientifically proven claims. These are indeed
philosophical interpretations brought to the data
rather than experimentally testable
hypotheses. We can accept methodological
naturalism,which says that science is limited to
studying natural causes, without accepting
philosophical naturalism, which says that nature
is all there is and science is the only path to
understanding (scientism). Explanatory
pluralism suggests that there are a variety of
types of explanation answering differing types of
question in human life.
16
Richard Dawkins The universe has precisely the
properties we would expect if there is at bottom
no design, no purpose, no evil, and no good,
nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. Riv
er of Eden, p. 133
17
ID proponents rightly say that evolutionary
theory has led to dubious ethical
practices. The survival of the fittest has
been used to justify unrestr- ained capitalism,
colonial domination of inferior races,
and eugenics programs in Nazi Germany (Social
Darwinism). Some sociobiologists claim that
human behaviors can be explained and justified by
their contribution to the survival of our
Paleolithic ancestors. However all these claims
should be seen, not as part of evolu- tionary
theory, but as questionable extrapolations that
ignore the differences between biological and
cultural evolution.
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Gaps in the Evolutionary Account
Creationists once pointed to gaps in the fossil
record, but many of these have been filled in by
transitional forms. To be sure, we do not
understand the origins of life or of
consciousness, much less self-consciousness.
But invoking supernatural intervention would
cut short further scientific inquiry concerning
such questions. In the past, the God of the
gaps has retreated with the advance of science,
so ID is dubious religion as well as dubious
science.
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Evolution is a theory, not a fact
1. Evidence for a long history of descent with
modification from common ancestors is so
overwhelming that it should be considered a fact,
even though the past cannot be observed
directly. 2. The theory that mutations and
natural selection play a central role in
evolution is very strongly supported by a wide
range of disciplines paleontology, physiology,
genetics, embryology, molecular biology, and
immunology (e.g. evolution of antibiotic-resistant
pathogens and new forms of avian flu). The power
of the theory is its relevance to so many
independent fields of inquiry.
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3. There are indeed debates among biologists
about the role of other factors, such as
historical contingencies, social structures, or
developmental constraints on possible embryonic
forms, but these debates yield hypotheses that
can be tested before they are accepted as
theories. 4. No theory can be verified with
certainty, but a theory can be falsified by an
accumulation of data that conflicts with it or
(more rarely) it can be modified in a paradigm
shift based on alternative presuppositions (e.g.
Newtonian mechanics replaced by quantum theory
and relativity in very small or very large
structures).
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Support for the ID Movement
Local support has come primarily from evangelical
Christians whose motivations are clearly
religious rather than scientific. Financial
support has come mainly from the religious right
through the Discovery Institute in Seattle, with
which most of the witnesses supporting ID at
recent trials and hearings are affiliated. ID is
seen as an opening wedge for the inclusion of
Christian beliefs in public education.
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The Social Context of Fundamentalism
Secularism, religious pluralism, and alternative
lifestyles and gender roles are seen as threats
to traditional family values. Search for
security in a changing world. Absolutism of truth
claims and moral values in response to what is
seen as all-encompassing relativism. The power
of emotion in religious life has been lost in the
formality and intellectualism of main-line
churches. Compare the growth of fundamentalism
in Islam,fueled not only by nationalism and the
legacy of colonialism but also by confrontation
with modernization and secularization which
threaten traditional values.
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School Board Issues
Local control of school boards. Parents should
decide what they want taught to their children.
Federal courts are out of touch with local
sentiments. Reply promulgation of particular
religious beliefs violates the constitutional
separation of church and state. Science teachers
must draw from and accept the standards of the
wider community of scientists. National
Academy of Sciences (1998) Science is limited
to explaining the natural world through natural
causes. Science can say nothing about the
supernatural. Whether God exists or not is a
question about which science is neutral.
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Media Coverage
The media has presented the two extremes --
people who believe in God but not evolution, and
people who believe in evolution but not God --
as if conflict were inevitable and one had to
choose between science and religion. They have
tended to leave out those who affirm both God and
evolution,or who hold that evolution is Gods way
of creating. Let us look at evolutionary theory
more carefully and then at alternative ways of
relating science and religion.
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II. EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY
The Argument from Design before Darwin If you
find a watch on a heath, you know it was the
product of intelligent design and not chance.
Similarly, the coordination of complex structures
in fulfilling useful functions in nature must be
the product of intelligence. Example the many
parts of the eye work together to achieve vision.
See William Paley, Natural Theology
(1802). Darwin The adaptation of complex
structures to useful functions is the result of
the gradual natural selection of such useful
structures in the past, not the result of any
past anticipation of future functions.
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The Challenge of Evolution
  • To Biblical Literalism. Reply Many theologians
    since St. Augustine have interpreted scriptural
    passages metaphor-ically rather than literally.
    Since the 19th century, historical scholars have
    said that the Bible expressed enduring
    theological insights in terms of the
    prescientific cosmology of the Middle East.
    Fundamentalism and creation science are more
    recent views, mainly in the U.S.
  • To Human Uniqueness. Reply Humans are
    descendants of nonhuman ancestors and share many
    characteristics with them. But they have
    distinctive capacities such as symbolic thought
    and language and forms of culture.

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  • The Challenge To Design.
  • Alternative views of design
  • Design of laws only (Darwin)
  • 2) Design of initial conditions (Hawking)
  • 3) Control of quantum uncertainties (Russell)
  • 4) Evolutionary convergence (Conway Morris)
  • 5) Emergent levels (Kauffman).

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Charles Darwin I am inclined to look at
everything as resulting from designed laws with
the details, whether good or bad, left to the
working of what we may call chance. . . . I
cannot think that the world as we see it is the
result of chance yet I cannot look at each
separate thing as the result of Design.
Letters to Asa Gray, 22 May and 26 November, 1860
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The Big Bang
What happened at the beginning? A singularity
at t0, a point of zero size and infinite
energy where the laws of physics break
down. Similarities to the biblical account A
beginning of time (rather than a beginning in
time). Creation from nothing (or from a
quantum vacuum)? Initiation of an ordered
irreversible sequence. Fine-tuning of the
physical constants Each of the constants of
the early universe must be within a very very
narrow range for life and consciousness to be
possible (the Anthropic Principle). Is this a new
argument from design?
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some.
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Evolutionary Convergence
  • Simon Conway Morris, Lifes
    Solutions (2003)
  • Very different lineages converge on similar
    solutions
  • Camera-like eyes evolved independently at least 6
    times
  • Many physiological and behavioral parallels
    between marsupial and placental mammals
  • Similarities in brain structure, communication,
    and social structure in dolphins and chimps
  • Chance is less significant in the outcome when
    there are only a limited number of effective
    solutions
  • The constraints of evolution and the ubiquity
    of convergence make the
    emergence of some-
    thing like ourselves a near inevitability.

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An Emergent Hierarchy of Levels
See Ian Barbour, When Science Meets Religion,
Chap. 4. Epistemological Reductionism theories
and laws at higher levels can be derived from
those at lower levels. Ontological Reductionism
lower-level components are more causally
effective than higher-level systems. Causality
acts from the bottom up. Emergence novel forms
of order at higher levels are unpredictable from
theories and laws governing lower-levels.
Top-down Causality systems at higher-levels
influence the boundary conditions of systems at
lower levels without violating lower-level laws.

50
Trends in Evolutionary History
  • No Simple Directionality blind alleys,
    retrogression, extinctions, many directions.
    Opportunism adaptation to the immediate local
    environment, not to future needs.
    More like a sprawling bush
    than a neatly organized tree (Stephen Jay Gould).
  • Overall Trends greater diversity, responsiveness
    and complexity (number of significant connections
    and levels of organization).
    Increase in
    capacity to gather, store, and process
    information (amoeba, invertebrates, vertebrates,
    mammals, apes, humans, cultures).
  • Causality biologists object when formal or final
    causes are substituted for the search for
    efficient causes.

51
Concepts of Chance
  • The intersection of two independent causal chains
    each governed by deterministic laws (e.g., the
    orbit of an asteroid and the history of
    dinosaurs). The future is determined but
    unpredictable in practice.
  • The randomness of some events (e.g., quantum
    events amplified through mutations). The future
    is open and in principle unpredictable.
  • In both cases, scientific evidence can contribute
    to the narrative of evolutionary history but not
    to predicting it from laws.

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Concepts of Design
  • Design as preexistent blueprint, a detailed plan.
    . This view is threatened by any element
    of chance.
  • Reply death, suffering, and human freedom are
    then problematic.Also there are many examples of
    imperfect design, such as the blind spot in the
    retina of the eye.
  • Design as general direction toward life and
    consciousness, but with no predictable final
    state. A biofriendly universe. Both chance and
    law have a role in the outcome.
  • Necessary features of an evolutionary world
    death (successive generations) and suffering
    (from competition).
  • God endowed matter with diverse potentialities
    and propensities, including the possibility of
    human freedom.

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III. EVOLUTIONARY THEISM
  • Natural Theology the attempt to prove the
    existence of God from features of nature, e.g.,
    the argument from design.
  • Theology of Nature the attempt to view features
    of nature from within a religious tradition based
    on the religious experience of a historical
    community.
  • Religion in Human Life ritual, meditation, the
    healing of brokenness in individual and social
    life, ethical norms. For Christians, response to
    the life and death of Christ.
  • Traditional beliefs can be reformulated in the
    context of the religious community in the light
    of science.

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  • The Limitations of Science every science is
    selective, using limited concepts to understand
    particular aspects of experience.
  • Meta-questions why is there a universe at all,
    why does it have the order it has, why is it
    intelligible to the human mind? Questions raised
    but not answered by science.
  • Doctrines as relationships creation, fall,
    redemption, fulfillment are not a sequence of
    events but enduring characteristics of the
    relation between God and the world.

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Science and Religion as Distinctive Domains
  • Science asks about regularities among events in
    nature. Empirical inquiry in the interest
    of prediction and control.
  • Religion asks about ultimate meaning and purpose.
    A way of life expressed in the rituals,
    stories and practices of a community.
  • Analytic Philosophy claims that differing
    language systems have differing and independent
    functions in human life.
  • However, science and religion do sometimes
    influence each other. Our understanding of nature
    affects our view of Gods relation to nature.
  • Five models of Gods action through the
    structures of nature rather than by supernatural
    intervention in violation of the laws of nature

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1. Primary and Secondary Causality
  • God as primary cause works through the secondary
    causes that science investigates (neo-Thomism).
  • Primary causality is a different order of
    explanation, answering questions unlike those
    that scientists ask about relationships between
    natural events.
  • God is radically transcendent, not another cause
    like natural causes.
  • The integrity of the created order and the
    integrity of science are preserved (William
    Stoeger).
  • Nature is a developmental economy without
    deficiencies requiring later intervention
    ( Howard van Til).

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2. God as Communicator of Information
  • Information an ordered pattern in a sequence of
    elements (DNA, computer digits, letters, sounds).
  • Communication of information occurs when another
    system responds selectively (cell, computer,
    human person).
  • Meaning of the message is not contained in the
    sequence itself but is dependent on a wider
    context of interpretation.

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  • Gods action as an input of pure information.
    Selection among possibilities in chaotic
    processes (John Polkinghorne).
  • Divine Word as rational principle (Greek logos)
    and as creative power (Hebrew).
  • The meaning of the message is discernable only
    in a wider context of interpretation.
  • For Christians, the message of creation is seen
    in the person of Christ (the Word made flesh)
    but also in the created order.

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3. God as Top-down Cause
  • An extension of the idea of top-down causality
    between levels in the world (Arthur Peacocke).
  • Upper levels produce constraints or boundary
    conditions on lower levels without violating
    lower-level laws.
  • Chance and law together are creative and
    expressive of open-ended design.
  • Gods purposes are communicated through the
    patterns of events, expressing intentions but not
    a predetermined plan.
  • Christ is a mode of Gods self-expression,
    revealing Gods nature to us.

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4. Gods Self-Limitation (Kenosis)
  • Between the omnipotent God of classical
    Christianity and the inactive God of Deism
    (Nancey Murphy George Ellis).
  • Gods power is not omnipotent control but the
    empowerment of other beings.
  • An incomplete cosmos still coming into being.
  • The cross shows a God who participates in
    suffering and transforms it through redeeming
    love.
  • Compare feminist critiques of male
    images of coercive power (both
    in human
    relations and in Gods action).

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5. Process Theology
  • Reality as a dynamic web of momentary events, not
    a collection of enduring self-contained objects
    (Alfred North Whitehead).
  • Rejects mind-matter dualism and materialism.
    Defends a two-aspect monism in a hierarchy of
    organizational levels.
  • All integrated entities have objective and
    subjective (experiential) features in varying
    degrees, but only higher-level organisms are
    conscious.
  • To every entity God presents new possibilities
    with open alternatives,
    eliciting its response.
  • God is the ultimate source of both order and
    novelty, but the entity
    itself selects among
    alternatives.

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  • An unfinished universe showing order and disorder
    is compatible with the biblical message of
    promise and hope but not with the idea of
    completed design (John Haught).
  • A God of self-limiting love allows creaturely
    creativity in the emergence of new forms of
    order, relationality, and inclusive community.
  • Gods participation in the suffering of the world
    contrasts with Gods detachment in Deism.
  • Promise and hope point toward the future rather
    than the past.

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The Biblical View of the Holy Spirit
  • As God active in both nature and human life.
  • The earth was without form and void, and the
    darkness was upon the face of the deep, and the
    Spirit of God was moving over the face of the
    waters (Genesis 12).
  • Plants and animals When thou sendest forth thy
    Spirit, they are created (Psalm 10430).
  • Inspiration of the prophets (Ezekiel 115).
  • Worship Take not thy Holy Spirit from me
    (Psalm 5111).
  • Christ received the Spirit at his baptism (Mark
    110).
  • His followers were empowered by the Spirit (Acts
    2).

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  • The role of the Spirit in nature, religious
    experience, and the life of Christ offers a
    common framework for creation and redemption,
    which are often contrasted.
  • Come, Holy Spirit, renew thy whole creation.
    Theme of World Council of Churches 1991
    Assembly

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Conclusion
In a Theistic Framework Order includes
lawfulness without excluding novelty,
creativity, and contingency. Purpose can be
expressed in open-ended design, but
intention and agency are needed to avoid
Deism. Human Responses To a Universe of Chance
pessimism or courage in facing
meaninglessness search for security. To a
Universe of Law resignation, alienation from
an impersonal cosmos. To a Universe of
Design gratitude, trust, hope. We can accept
many biblical affirmations today, even though
our cosmology is very different. Images
accompanied by verses from the Psalms
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