EPS Article Library
The Big Bad Wolf, Theism and the Foundations of Intelligent Design - Page 4
Although Dawkins rightly rejects the overly simplistic NOMA principle, it is harder to attack religion using science than Dawkins thinks, because there is no simple move from "null" results to "negative" results, from absence of evidence for design to the absence of a designer. Nevertheless, religious claims can be framed in falsifiable terms, and many religious claims are framed in such terms. For example, the claim that Jesus rose bodily from the grave entails that Christianity could in principle be falsified by digging up the right body. The claim that Mary was a virgin when she gave birth could be falsified by digging up the right sort of historical documentation (a denial of the story written by Mary herself would do quite nicely). Unfortunately for Dawkins, when it comes to the question of origins, absence of evidence for intelligent design (from biochemistry for example) cannot be considered evidence for the absence of an intelligent designer, any more than the null result of one prayer study can be used to falsify theism. However, just as positive results concerning prayer should at least be of concern to a naturalist like Dawkins, so evidence for intelligent design (from biochemistry for example) should be of concern to him. If naturalism is true, some sort of evolutionary explanation must be true. If theism is true then there exists a supernatural creator who may or may not have arranged one or more aspects of creation after a manner that provides detectable evidence of intelligent design. As Alvin Plantinga writes:
a Christian (naturally) believes that there is such a person as God, and believes that God has created and sustains the world. Starting from this position... we recognize that there are many ways in which God could have created the living things he has in fact created: how, in fact, did he do it? ...Did it all happen just by way of the working of the laws of physics, or was there further divine activity..? That's the question... Starting from the belief in God, we must look at the evidence and consider the probabilities as best we can. 41
Contrast the intellectual freedom of scientific investigation to follow the evidence under a theistic worldview with the a priori constraints imposed upon the interpretation of empirical evidence by a naturalistic worldview, as candidly revealed by geneticist Richard Lewontin: "It is not that the methods... of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the... world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our... adherence to material causes to create... a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying..." 42 The a priori constraint of naturalism often results in its adherents engaging in arguments (often under the guise of "science") that beg the question. As Darwinist Michael Ruse admits: "I think that philosophically one should be sensitive to what I think history shows, namely, that evolution... involves making certain a priori or metaphysical assumptions, which at some level cannot be proven empirically." 43 For example, Dawkins asserts that "Creative intelligences, being evolved, necessarily arrive late in the universe, and therefore cannot be responsible for designing it." 44 However, even if every known creative intelligence were demonstrably evolved late comers in the universe, this fact would provide no inferential scientific justification for the conclusion that any and all creative intelligences are "necessarily" evolved late arrivals in the universe that "therefore cannot be responsible for designing it". This conclusion is one that must be deduced from the conclusion that naturalism is true.
In 2005 online magazine "Edge The World Question Centre" posed the following question to a number of scientific intellectuals: "What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?" Dawkins revealingly answered: "I believe that all life, all intelligence, all creativity and all 'design' anywhere in the universe, is the direct or indirect product of Darwinian natural selection. It follows that design comes late in the universe, after a period of Darwinian evolution. Design cannot precede evolution and therefore cannot underlie the universe." 45 Hence, while Dawkins thinks he can prove that evolution accounts for all life, intelligence, creativity and (crucially) all design on earth, he admits he cannot prove that it accounts for all life, intelligence, creativity and design in the universe. Therefore, whatever we make of evolution as an explanation of life on earth, we need to recognize that only from the unproven generalisation that evolution accounts for all life, intelligence, creativity and design in the universe, does it follow that "Creative intelligences... arrive late in the universe, and therefore cannot be responsible for designing it." 46 Indeed, that particular conclusion only follows from the premise that evolution must (rather than does) account for all life, intelligence, creativity and design in the universe. Such an a priori assertion is clearly metaphysical in nature rather than scientific, since it amounts to the assumption that God does not exist. It seems, then, that Dawkins believes that evolution must explain any and all "design" in the universe, and that there is no divine designer, because he believes that God does not exist. As Phillip E. Johnson argues: "Darwinism is the answer to a specific question that grows out of philosophical naturalism... The question is: How must creation have occurred if we assume that God had nothing to do with it?" 47 Answering this question is not at all the same as answering this question: "How did creation occur?" As Thomas Woodward observes:
ID scientists never prejudge in detecting design. They never assume design; design must be positively detected, by analysing evidence and passing rigorous tests. Darwinism is different. It is profoundly theological in its basic operating rules, in that it lays down an assured truth - an axiom that amounts to a religious catechism. It is this catechism then that serves as a starting point. The Darwinian catechism states that when scrutinizing complex living systems, one can rest assured that scientific evidence and logic can never lead one to conclude that there was an intelligent cause behind life... Evolutionary biology, by limiting itself exclusively to material mechanisms, has settled in advance the question of which biological explanations are true, apart from any consideration of the empirical evidence. This is armchair philosophy. 481 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15