Why The Beef With Intelligent Design? (Naturalism Is At Stake)

May 24, 2012

ID became more popularized in 1985 after the publication of Michael Denton’s book “Evolution: A Theory In Crisis”, and in 1999 after the publication of Michael Behe’s book “Darwin’s Black Box”. You can go to my other thread here and read my responses to commonly raised objections to ID. For the purposes of this thread, however, I want to touch on what I see as being the heart of the matter, or the heart of why ID is so controversial. The heart of the matter is that ID poses a threat to philosophical naturalism (matter is all there is), and where there is a threat to philosophical naturalism, there is also believed to be a threat to methodological naturalism (empiricism is the only way to attain true knowledge).

Around 250 years ago it was primarily the influence of philosopher David Hume whom sparked the modern notion that empiricism (observation via the 5 senses) leads to the truth of the world. This has morphed into many assumptions that atheists currently have, ie. the idea that something shouldn’t be believed unless it can by physically demonstrated. It gives the atheist an excuse and means they supposedly are justified in their rejection of God. They fail to consult God as a prime cause (personal starting point for everything). Nor do they wish to acknowledge God through final causes (purpose and order behind creation), but only wish to limit their inquiry of God to Hume’s 5 senses.

1. I find this behavior inconsistent because, as Greg Bahnsen was famous for pointing out, one cannot empirically prove that you can only know something empirically.

2. As far as the Christian is concerned, the Bible does not teach that we are to accept Jesus’ claims (being the risen Lord and only way of salvation from God’s wrath due to our lawlessness) via empirical acknowledgment. That would mean that one could then boast in their salvation and the gospel of Scripture is utterly against that. Rather, Scripture teaches that we are anti-Christ by nature. We are sinful, evil, and prideful at heart from day one by being born into sin. We are shut off from God and wouldn’t like him even if we had every reason to. That is why God must change the disposition of our hearts.

Don’t get me wrong. Of course empiricism is an integral part of science. But what type of discoverers should we be? Wouldn’t we want to be the kind that want to know the truth of all things? If so, then we need to make this careful distinction, namely, that empiricism helps us know that which is to be empirically known and not assume that it is the only way to know everything all the time. It does serve its purposes to a secular society, but that as well does not mean it is or “should” be the only means to know truth.

There also is no standard of what is “empirical”. Some things are only partially empirical. Some things are scientifically accepted by making assumptions about the past, or by observing the effects of other unseen things.

But so often today we are seeing an ongoing trend where it is assumed that science is equated with “naturalism”, or that the truth of this world can only be attained by “empiricism”. Today, especially in the public and secular realm, any challenge to these baggage-carrying assumptions is seen as an assault.

Many scientific theories can be openly challenged. But at the same time, many theories aren’t as fundamental (directly or indirectly) to the worldview of Naturalism as Darwinian Evolution is (from now on refereed to as Evolution). Teachers wouldn’t be fired over continental drift theory being challenged. Scientists wouldn’t have their jobs in jeopardy for publishing challenges to aspects of quantum theory. Why? Because these theories don’t assume Naturalism. What is the one theory that assumes Naturalism unlike any other theory? It is the theory of Evolution. Thus, if Evolution is challenged, Naturalism is challenged. I see this as being why Naturalists don’t want Evolution to be challenged.

They are mocked as having “given up” on science by inferring intelligent causes. The head fake is that they’ve given up on science, but the real concern of the naturalist is that they’ve questioned naturalism.

Meta-physical phobia is now considered a noble thing because people are told they are being truly scientific by assuming Naturalism. Yet, science has not proven Naturalism, and has not sought a way to falsify Naturalism, but has only assumed it. Naturalists often demand that ID be falsified or claim that it isn’t falsifiable. To be consistent they need to demand that their own assumption of Naturalism be falsified. They wont do this, however, because today it is assumed to be a neutral position in the secular and public realm.

It is an un-warrented leap in logic to say that just because we can now better describe how the world works, that this must somehow imply Naturalism. You can still learn about all the details of how something works regardless of what the ultimate cause is. Knowing more about the details of how something works doesn’t negate an intelligent cause. The intelligent cause could be upholding the “god-particle” (Higgs boson) and just because we now discover it doesn’t somehow preclude God.

Here are some historical examples which should prove that theism (or deism) doesn’t preclude scientific discovery. On the contrary, history shows that these worldviews fueled scientific discovery.

Galileo was a deist.

Copernicus was a deist.

Isaac Newton was a deist. He spent the last years of his life looking for hidden codes in the Bible.

Einstein held to some form of spinoza’s god (= a type of unknowable intelligence within nature). He spent the last 30 years of his life looking for a theory of everything be asking the question, “if I were god, how would I have created the universe”. Hence, his famous quote, “god doesn’t play dice with the universe”.

With Copernicus, he brought back the ancient Greek idea that the sun is the center of our galaxy. Eventually he was able to convince the Church with irrefutable evidence. What does this show in terms of theism and science? It means that geocentrism vs. heliocentrism wasn’t even about theistic science vs. naturalistic science. It was about one theistic view of science vs. another theistic view of science! The thinking at that time wasn’t what our thinking today is. Back then it wasn’t thought that “naturalism is the only way to advance honest science”. Rather, theists doing science believed that honest science will give us better science, and that is what sparked the Scientific Revolution. Naturalism absolutely did not spark the Scientific Revolution.

In the 1700’s, Emilie du Chatelet challenged Newton’s idea of energy by insisting that energy is a function of the square of an objects speed. Newton believed that E = mv. However, based on the findings of another scientist of the same era, Chatelet emphasized that E = mv². Newton predicted that if you double the velocity that you would also double the force. Yet, with the newer formula, if one doubled the velocity, then the impact (or amount of energy) wouldn’t be doubled, but would actually be quadrupled – given the now added square on the end. This finding, which was 150 years before Einstein, would later be fine-tuned into Einstein’s famous formula E = mc². Yet, Chatelet’s more correct formula was highly disputed and wasn’t widely accepted until 100 years later. While she was a genius, she was living in a time where culture came before truth. Surely, the great Sir Isaac Newton would not be corrected by a woman, so it was thought. As Voltaire said of her, “she was a great man who’s only fault was being a woman.” So in this instance, even during the time of the Scientific Revolution, scientific discovery was stifled. Yet, not because of theism, but because of politics within the scientific community, pride, and cultural taboos.

Michael Faraday, the 19th century scientist, was a religious man who believed that science was a way to better understand God’s creation. He was a Sandemanian, which was a Christian religious sect that believed that everything in nature is inter-connected somehow. His discovery of the connection between energy and magnetism sprang from this worldview. He was essentially the discoverer of electromagnetism. He predicted and proved that electricity invisibly emanates around a wire, not that it only travels inside the wire.  He discovered that invisible lines of force traveled around an electric wire, and proved it by making batteries move objects. He made the greatest discovery of the era. Due to jealousy that Faraday, a mere son of a blacksmith, would get all the credit, his teacher accused him of plagiarizing and tried to banish him from the scientific society. It didn’t work and Faraday was later accepted.

Interestingly enough, this finding would also later spark Einstein’s discovery of E =  mc² because Faraday was able to show the connection between energy and movement. When he later proposed that light itself was an electromagnetic ray, people again thought his ideas were laughable. That is until his friend, John Maxwell, proved his idea with mathematics. Maxwell demonstrated that electricity gives off magnetism (and vice-versa) only at the speed of light, thus confirming that light is the visible form of the invisible electromagnetic wave. In the instance with Faraday, we see that 1. it wasn’t theism that stifled scientific discovery. On the contrary it fueled it, and 2. it wasn’t theism that almost banished him from the scientific community. Rather it was laughable predictions (laughable at the time due to ignorance), and jealousy within the scientific community itself.

In conclusion, methodological naturalism doesn’t have to assume philosophical naturalism, and philosophical naturalism doesn’t necessarily further methodological naturalism. In other words, science doesn’t equate Naturalism, and scientific discovery isn’t only furthered by assuming Naturalism. When people today talk in these ways they are either 1. lying, or 2. are ignorant.



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