December 27, 2003


Path led from science to faith The design is apparent to many (Bob Dewaay, December 27, 2003, Minneapolis Star Tribune)

I read with interest Gregory Korgeski's Dec. 13 counterpoint decrying creationism and fundamentalism. After learning that no "reputable" scientists endorse creationism, I learned that fundamentalists who take their sacred texts literally are dangerous to the well-being of society.

These arguments are self-serving in that they admit no evidence to the contrary. In Korgeski's thought, being a creationist makes you disreputable and being a fundamentalist makes you a likely menace to society.

I was raised in a church that taught that the Bible was mostly mythology, that there were no miracles, and that evolution was true. Seeing no need for religion, I left the church and took up the study of science.

As a chemical engineering student at Iowa State University I was required to study organic chemistry. I studied the complexity of molecules in the body that made life possible. That study convinced me that evolution was impossible and that life had to come from an intelligent designer.

The church led me away from belief in God and science led me to it. I became a Christian and began to study the Bible for myself. Now I am a "fundamentalist" preacher. [...]

Back to Korgeski's article -- I wonder, given the lack of any authoritative text, the lack of a supreme "law giver," and the lack of any rational explanation of how moral guidance "evolved" from random processes, how Korgeski can take it upon himself to give his readers moral guidance. At least we fundamentalists have a source of moral guidance outside of the fickle "self."

That's the curious thing about the scientific religion, is that it was supposed to lead us all away from God, but has brought us full circle.

Does Science Point to God?: The Intelligent Design Revolution (Benjamin D. Wiker, Crisis)

The ID movement directly contradicts the modern secularist intellectual trend that has so thoroughly dominated Western culture for the last two centuries (even though this trend began 500 years ago, in the early Renaissance). Although this secularization has reached nearly every aspect of our culture, its source of authority has always been in a kind of philosophic and scientific alliance.

In philosophy, the secularized intellect denies the existence of any truth beyond what is humanly contrived, and this denial (a kind of intellectual non serviam) manifests itself in the wild, manic-depressive intellectual swings so characteristic of modernity, between self-congratulatory claims of omniscience and self-pitying lamentations of complete skepticism. The secularization of science manifests itself in the belief that nature has no need for an intelligent designer but is self-caused and self-contained. Secularized science has as its aim the reduction of apparent design, whether cosmological or biological, to the unintelligent interplay of chance and brute necessity (either the necessity of law or of the physical constituents). Since nature itself has no intrinsic order, then (by default) the human intellect is the only source of intellectual order. Secularized science thus supports secularized philosophy, and secularized philosophy functions as the articulate mouthpiece of the alliance.

The ID movement seeks to restore sanity to science, philosophy, and hence culture by investigating the possibility that nature, rather than being the result of unintelligent, purposeless forces, can only be understood as the effect of an Intelligent Designer. But again, to say that the ID revolution contradicts the claims of secularized science does not mean that the contradiction arises from some contrariety or conspiracy on the part of ID proponents. It arises from the evidence of nature itself, and the ID movement is merely pointing to the evidence nature has provided (even while, as an active mode of scientific inquiry, it seeks to uncover more). In science, it points to the growing evidence of intelligent fine tuning, both cosmological and biological, and to the various failures of secularized science to make good its claims that the order of nature can be completely reduced to unintelligent causes. As more and more evidence is gathered, secularized philosophy will be forced to confront the scientific evidence that truth is not, after all, a mere human artifact, because a designing intellect has provided the amazingly intricate beings and laws to which the scientific intellect must conform if it is truly to have scientia—a knowledge of nature. Soon enough, secularized culture will be compelled to realign.

That is not, however, the story you will hear from the critics of ID, who seek to declaw it by denying that it is, at heart, a scientific revolution. According to its most acerbic adversaries, ID is merely a religious ruse wearing a scientific facade. For philosopher Barbara Forrest, “The intelligent design movement as a whole…really has nothing to do with science,” but is rather “religious to its core…merely the newest ‘evolution’ of good old-fashioned American creationism Zoologists Matthew Brauer and Daniel Brumbaugh charge that the ID movement “is not motivated by new scientific discoveries” but “entirely by the religion and politics of a small group of academics who seek to defeat secular ‘modernist naturalism’ by updating previously discredited creationist approaches.” The most outspoken critic of ID theory, philosopher Robert Pennock (who has published two anti-ID books), likewise asserts in Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics that ID is merely a “theological movement” with a “game plan…little different than that of the ‘creation scientists’” and suspects that at the heart of the ID urge is a regrettable and benighted “tendency to anthropomorphize the world,” to see design in nature only because we are designers ourselves. [...]

Allow me to point out to Pennock that the “tendency to anthropomorphize the world” is coming from the world itself, or more accurately, from the entire cosmos. In fact, in physics it is called the anthropic principle. In short form, it is the discovery that the universe appears rigged, astoundingly fine-tuned, suspiciously calibrated as part of some kind of a conspiracy of order to produce life—indeed intelligent life. This fine-tuned conspiracy occurs on all levels, from the fundamental constants governing the formation of all the elements in the cosmos, to the extraordinarily precise relationship of planets in our solar system, to the delicate balances on our own planet.

If, for example, the strong nuclear force that holds together the protons and neutrons in the nucleus of atoms were a tad weaker, elements other than hydrogen would either be unlikely or impossible; if a tad stronger, you wouldn’t have hydrogen. Change the ratio of the mass of the electron to the proton just a mite and molecules cannot form. If gravity were made just a bit weaker, stars large enough to produce the heavier elements necessary for biological life would not exist; a bit stronger, and stars would be too massive, producing the necessary elements but burning too rapidly and unevenly to support life. Fiddle a smidgeon with the expansion rate of the universe, and you either cause it to collapse or exceed the ideal rate at which galaxies, and hence solar systems, can form.

Or to focus on our own home in the Milky Way, it has become increasingly clear that the conditions of our solar system are wonderfully intricate. For example, our sun is not a typical star but is one of the 9 percent most massive stars in our galaxy, and it is also very stable. Further, the sun hits the Goldilocks mean for life—neither too hot (like a blue or white star) nor too cold (like a red star)—and its peak emission is right at the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum—the very, very thin band where not only vision is possible but also photosynthesis. Earth just “happens” to have the right combination of atmospheric gases to block out almost all the harmful radiation on the electromagnetic spectrum but, strangely enough, opens like a window for visible light. Jupiter is deftly placed and sized so that it not only helps to balance Earth’s orbit but also acts as a kind of debris magnet keeping Earth from being pummeled. Our moon is just the right size and distance to stabilize Earth’s axial tilt so that we have seasonal variations but not wildly swinging temperature changes.

This article is too short to summarize the already vast but continually growing literature on such cosmic fine- tuning. I have given just a taste so that I could return to an earlier point and make it more explicit: The ID movement, understood in its proper and widest context, is cosmological in scope, looking for evidence of design in all of nature, and biology is just one aspect of nature where it seeks evidence of fine-tuning. Against those who would so jealously guard biology from ID, one must ask: How could the fundamental physical constants be fine-tuned, our solar system be fined-tuned, the atmospheric and geological features of our planet be fine-tuned, but all biological beings and processes be the result of unintelligent, purposeless forces?

In addition, the ID approach is both quite natural and scientifically fruitful. The discovery of such exceedingly precise fine-tuning not only draws one to the conclusion that a designer is behind it all but also leads to further scientific discovery. As a famous instance of the first, astronomer and mathematician Fred Hoyle was so astonished at the remarkable chain of “coincidences” necessary for the production of oxygen and carbon in the universe, he concluded that “a commonsense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature.” That statement was uttered mid–20th century as a result of Hoyle discovering the wildly improbable presence of just the right nuclear resonance levels in carbon and oxygen to allow for the formation of these most necessary elements for life. For Hoyle, such wonderful calibration could not be an accident: “I do not believe that any scientist who examined the evidence would fail to draw the inference that the laws of nuclear physics have been deliberately designed with regard to the consequences they produce inside the stars.”

-Does Science Point to God? Part II: The Christian Critics Benjamin D. Wiker answers criticism of the Intelligent Design movement...this time from Christians themselves. (Benjamin Wiker, July/August 2003, Crisis)

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 27, 2003 7:00 AM

ID is not scientific because there is no science of design. Design is an aesthetic judgement, it is in the eye of the beholder.

Posted by: Robert D at December 27, 2003 1:42 PM

Mr. Judd;

Wiker's article would be more persuasive if it didn't contain a number of completely bogus points, such as Jupiter stabilizing the Earth's orbit or the Moon stabilizing Earth's axial tilt. He also confuses cause and effect, such as with visible light and photosynthesis (given that the atmosphere is transparent to visible light, of course photosynthesis is going to depend on that part of the spectrum). He also fails to understand the anthropic principle, or he wouldn't be amazed by the fact that our sun is one of a minority capable of supporting life. The anthropic principle merely notes that if such stars are possible and also required for life, then of course we will observe our sun to be one of them. One can argue for ID in the fundamental constants that much such stars possible, but not on the basis that we have one.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at December 27, 2003 1:52 PM


Surely that is circular. In order to decide what is scientific, we scientists ordain a priori the definition of knowledge that is scientifically reliable enough to allow us to determine what is scientific.

Is ID knowledge?

Posted by: Peter B at December 27, 2003 1:55 PM

Peter, how do you determine that a design is intelligently determined as opposed to un-intelligently determined? We have many examples of un-intelligent design: snowflakes, landscape patterns, plant forms, etc. We consider much of what appears in nature as design-worthy. The only artifacts of intelligent design that we know of are man-made - machines, tools, architecture. What is the scientific principle that distinguishes the former category from the latter, and that we can use to un-ambiguously determine that the universe is a product of the latter?

Posted by: Robert D at December 27, 2003 2:28 PM

No. Science is a process not a thing. ID arose from induction not deduction and therefore avoided the process and cannot be science.

On a more practical level, it has not resulted in any research program so is not an active science.

That Dewaay went to Iowa State is significant. The dean of engineering there was notoriously and outspokenly opposed to the Second Law of Thermodynamics and the department was (I don't know if it still is) a hotbed of fundie irrationalism.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at December 27, 2003 2:31 PM


But if scientists postulate that this or that development is consistent with natural selection, even if there is no objective evidence, and they are content to rely upon that conclusion, is that not also induction? Also are you using science and knowledge as synonyms?


I don't know. I am more interested in why materialists attack ID so vociferously. We have two theories of how it began billions of years ago. One says the complexity and statistical improbability of life bespeaks design, the other says not necessarily. Both agree there are huge evidentiary gaps. So why do scientists lose their gourds over ID?

Posted by: Peter B at December 27, 2003 3:42 PM


"unambiguously"? Nothing can be known unambiguously.

Posted by: oj at December 27, 2003 10:31 PM


That's the weak anthropic, is it not? That everything has to be the way it is for us to be here asking the question so, inevitably, it is. The strong anthropic holds that this suggests that it is that way in order for there to be someone to ask the question.

Posted by: oj at December 27, 2003 10:35 PM


You and Jeff frequently make the same mistake about both intelligence and design, applying value judgements to the results of the design and disputing that there was intelligence at work because the design may be stupid. The point is that everything we make is the product of intelligent beings who design by making choices. The Universe itself appears to have the same properties.

Posted by: oj at December 27, 2003 10:38 PM

There are two (or more) kinds of knowledge. That founded on science has the great appeal of being contingent, whereas if you adopt the other kind (which is what ID is), you constantly find yourself arguing that black is white, or, alternatively, that evidence does not exist or cna be explained away.

I would agree that a pure postulate (eg, existence of God, or ID) is induction and not science.

Induction is involved in forming scientific (or any other kind of ) hypotheses. Scientific hypotheses are constrained. The others are not.

It's a qualitative difference.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at December 28, 2003 3:30 PM

Personally, I think all we need is a shft of philosophical perspective.

Posted by: oj at December 28, 2003 3:34 PM

"The point is that everything we make is the product of intelligent beings who design by making choices. The Universe itself appears to have the same properties."

Everything we make serves a utilitarian purpose for ourselves. What is the utility function of the universe? To know that, you would have to know the designer.

A naturally formed object could serve a utilitarian purpose for a man. A rock which was broken just the right way could make a useful hand axe. Does that make it a designed thing?

I rather think that the Universe displays no such utility, although I am thinking as a human and not a god. Whthout knowing that god exists, you can not know that the universe is designed. I don't think that you can infer from the universe a purposeful design. Whoever claims such has to answer the question "What does the universe do?"

Posted by: Robert D at December 28, 2003 7:23 PM

The Universe created beings that can observe it, comprehend it, and eventually replicate it. If that's pure coincidence it's a damned convenient one.

Posted by: oj at December 28, 2003 7:28 PM

We certainly don't comprehend it now and there's no very good reason to think we ever will.

Our brains evolved to suit a lifestyle in East Africa. They proved to be adaptable to other, quite different circumstances, but it does not follow that they are adequate to every circumstance.

In particular, we are pattern-finding animals, and we have often found patterns where none really existed. If the Universe is as regular as we suspect, it may be beyond our comprehension, as we do not think all that regularly.

Anyhow, if we are capable of comprehending the Universe, there are two possible methods. One would be to examine the evidence. The other would be to sit on our duffs and invent mysteries.

I know which one I think has the better chance.

(The third, revelation, is out of court, at least on this blog.)

Posted by: Harry Eagar at December 29, 2003 1:31 AM


"The other would be to sit on our duffs and invent mysteries."

No need to invent them. They tend to overwhelm open minds the moment you leave the house.

Posted by: Peter B at December 29, 2003 7:12 AM

Why would revelation be out--everything you know you know because another intelligent being revealed it to you.

Posted by: oj at December 29, 2003 8:45 AM

Besides which, Harry, isn't the burden of your argument that, if we don't learn about the truth through revelation, we won't learn it at all?

Posted by: David Cohen at December 29, 2003 8:57 AM


Regarding your comment about the Dean of Engineering. I am not sure which Dean you are talking about, or what era. You may be interested to know, however, that Ted Okiishi, the current Dean for Research and Outreach is the Patriarch of the Ames Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His research specialty was fluid dynamics, but I don't know where he stands on the second law of thermodynamics.

A wonderful guy and great conversationalist in any case.

Posted by: Jason Johnson at December 29, 2003 12:36 PM

It wasn't Okiishi. I've forgotten the old dean's name. It was a while ago.

My brother is a Mormon bishop, too, and teaches thermo. He is orthodox on the subject.

When I said revelation is out of court here, I meant Christian revelation. Orrin specificially and several other Christian posters here have rejected Scripture, or part of it; and once you've rejected part, you've rejected all.

I don't follow you, David. As a materialist, I'm satisfied, pending further (so far unavailable) evidence, that what's in front of the curtain is everything. The neo-Platonists here are sure there is some realer reality behind the curtain, though they cannot show it.

I don't really believe in Truth with a capital T. I believe in evidence, which is equivocal and incomplete. Nevertheless, it's useful.

Maybe I have a guardian angel, maybe I don't. I still look both ways before crossing the street.

That's truth.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at December 29, 2003 2:39 PM


Why do you have to reject it all? The Bible is a human enterprise and therefore imperfect.

Posted by: oj at December 29, 2003 4:48 PM

OJ, once you determine that some is revelation and some is not, you have shifted the authority from the Bible to yourself, thereby negating the very purpose of revelation, which is to receive Truth directly from the source without the distorting effect of subjective human interpretation.

It's kinda like being a Supreme Court Justice.

Posted by: Robert D at December 29, 2003 5:56 PM


The Gospels differ from one another. Obviously all can not be 100% true. The Bible is not Revealed--it is a work written by men.

Posted by: oj at December 29, 2003 6:26 PM

Then where is revelation?

I was taught it was in the Bible. Later, the Bible proving a weak reed/read, the preachers started saying it was revelation "in the original autographs."

But where were they?

Evidence of our fallible senses may be inadequate, but it's more adequate than an invisible revelation.

Don't tell me it's engraved on my heart. Nothing there.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at December 29, 2003 10:16 PM

It contains Revelations--as the story of the Fall and the Ten Commandments--but the whole thing is obviously not Revealed.

Posted by: oj at December 29, 2003 10:21 PM

It isn't obvious to me. How do you tell the genuine parts?

Posted by: Harry Eagar at December 30, 2003 2:53 AM

It's all genuine, just not all Revealed. Human beings are imperfect, why wouldn't their texts be?

Posted by: oj at December 30, 2003 9:00 AM

How do you tell the revealed parts?

Posted by: Robert D at December 30, 2003 1:51 PM

They're True.

Posted by: oj at December 30, 2003 1:56 PM

And which are they?

You don't accept the miracle of the loaves and fishes or the Virgin Birth. Today you deny that God is either all-powerful or all-good.

No Christian I have ever known would accept that you share his faith or his doctrine.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at December 30, 2003 4:33 PM

Creation, The Fall, The Ten Commandments.

That God Created the Universe and us--that we are sinful by nature--that there are ways we are required to behave.

Posted by: oj at December 30, 2003 5:19 PM


I consider myself a Christian, and I would accept oj as one.

I don't believe in a Virgin Birth either, and accept that God is NOT all-good, by human standards. Also, if humans have free will, then God CANNOT be all-powerful.

Essentially, God can be felt, and communicated with, but humans can't yet KNOW God, anymore than one's dog can know its master.
Except, of course, the gulf between humans and God is better illustrated as: As plankton is to humans, not as dogs are to humans.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at December 30, 2003 8:58 PM

A dog knows if its master is scratching its ears.

How does a man know even that much about God?

Posted by: Harry Eagar at December 30, 2003 9:45 PM

It's harder to be a Man than a dog, but that does seem to be your standard, eh? If God scratched your belly you'd roll over and do tricks? A tad shallow, no?

Posted by: oj at December 30, 2003 10:00 PM

It was good enough for Abraham.

Christian but not Catholic, at any rate, Michael. Haven't heard from Chris lately, but he made much of the magisterium. Well, the magisterium says you gotta accept the Virgin Birth.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at December 31, 2003 12:31 AM