Sunday, December 02, 2012

Rom 1 reply, 22: Considering the case for a designed world of life, design of the cosmos and for a cosmic architect and Creator

In recent years, I have publicly stood up to champion the scientific claim, that it is empirically well grounded to see that functionally specific, complex organisation and/or information, is an empirically reliable sign of design, and also the wider position known as Intelligent Design.* 
(NB: Warning, the Wikipedia article on ID is so biased that it is useless, even in places, sadly outright dishonest. As are ever so many other references. On matters related to origins science, take sources such as Wikipedia as illustrative only of the dominant view driven by a priori commitment to materialism. )
It needs to be emphasised -- as those who object to such an inference and the wider theoretical claim that there are to be found in the natural world, observable (and in some cases quantifiable or measurable) signs that on empirical grounds, credibly point to design often try to argue that this is simply smuggled in, religiously driven Biblical Creationism that does not belong in science -- that such an inference is an empirical exercise, not a worldview level argument. 

Foundational ID thinker, Philip Johnson, in rebutting the common before the facts imposition of evolutionary materialism such as has been summarised by Richard Lewontin in a notorious Jan 1997 NYRB article, Billions and Billions of Demons:
. . . It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated . . . ["Billions and billions of demons," NYRB, Jan 1997. (This is commonly said by objectors, to be a case of quote-mining and distortion or strawmannising. It is not, and why that is so is further discussed here.)]

. . . has therefore spoken correctively in November that same year: 

For scientific materialists the materialism comes first; the science comes thereafter. [[Emphasis original] We might more accurately term them "materialists employing science." And if materialism is true, then some materialistic theory of evolution has to be true simply as a matter of logical deduction, regardless of the evidence. That theory will necessarily be at least roughly like neo-Darwinism, in that it will have to involve some combination of random changes and law-like processes capable of producing complicated organisms that (in Dawkins’ words) "give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose."  

. . . .   The debate about creation and evolution is not deadlocked . . . Biblical literalism is not the issue. The issue is whether materialism and rationality are the same thing. Darwinism is based on an a priori commitment to materialism, not on a philosophically neutral assessment of the evidence. Separate the philosophy from the science, and the proud tower collapses. [[Emphasis added.] [[The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism, First Things, 77 (Nov. 1997), pp. 22 – 25.]
Nor, is this imposition and undue influence of materialism and related ideologies on the science of origins, exactly new. In an October 13th, 1880 letter to Edward Bibbins Aveling, Darwin stated his worldview attitudes and intents quite plainly:

 . . . though I am a strong advocate for free thought [--> NB: free-thought is an old synonym for skepticism, agnosticism or atheism] on all subjects, yet it appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against christianity & theism produce hardly any effect on the public; & freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men’s minds, which follows from the advance of science. It has, therefore, been always my object to avoid writing on religion, & I have confined myself to science.
That is, Darwin -- contrary to common beliefs -- was not simply driven by coldly objective scientific data, he was a committed agnostic (at minimum). But, he calculated that "the gradual illumination of men's minds" in the name of science, would best promote "freedom of thought." Where of course this propaganda term implies a claim that those who object to agnosticism or atheism -- especially, in context, Christians -- are not free to think for themselves and are involved in a delusional system of belief. 

But (as Lewontin inadvertently exposed) the underlying problem is, that what we are actually seeing is the before-facts- can- speak imposition of materialism. Which means that the science is being ideologised; we are dealing with an anti-God philosophy dressed up in a lab coat that has taken over control of key science, education and media as well as public policy institutions. 

If you doubt this, here (and more can be brought forward) is the formal, approved position of the Directors of the National Science Teachers Association of the USA, in an official statement on the nature of science made in 2000:
 [[S]cience, along with its methods, explanations and generalizations, must be the sole focus of instruction in science classes to the exclusion of all non-scientific or pseudoscientific methods, explanations, generalizations and products . . . .
Although no single universal step-by-step scientific method captures the complexity of doing science, a number of shared values and perspectives characterize a scientific approach to understanding nature. Among these are a demand for naturalistic explanations supported by empirical evidence that are, at least in principle, testable against the natural world. Other shared elements include observations, rational argument, inference, skepticism, peer review and replicability of work . . . .

Science, by definition, is limited to naturalistic methods and explanations and, as such, is precluded from using supernatural elements in the production of scientific knowledge. [[NSTA, Board of Directors, July 2000. Emphases added.]

 But, that rather begs the question, in several ways. 

For instance, a primary target of this statement is the insinuation that those who question the sufficiency of blind chance and mechanical necessity to explain the functionally specific complex organisation -- involving coded, programmed information -- of cell based life forms, starting from the suggested origin of life with a solution of salts and organic chemicals in Darwin's warm little pond or a volcano vent are improperly injecting religion into science. 

But, manifestly ever since Plato in The Laws Bk X, it has been public record that natural forces of chance and necessity can be contrasted with those of intelligent and knowledgeable, skilled organisation: nature vs art. Where, as we ourselves show, intelligence is not equivalent to (though it may embrace) the supernatural such as God. Where also, intelligent design is known to leave empirically observable, and even reliable traces. 

Some of which -- as just outlined: functionally specific complex organisation involving coded, programmed information -- just happen to be found all over the world of life.

So, plainly, we now deal with those who want to insist on barring and locking the doors of science and education, lest a very unwelcome "Divine Foot" tread within the door. 

We must therefore first expose such question-begging.

Then, once we put the issue of materialism as a philosophical a priori dressed up in a lab coat, and associated loaded rhetorical side-points to one side, we can then proceed to look at actual evidence.

For instance, the text of this blog post is a string of discrete coded symbols that are functionally specific, complex and organised

The information content of the post can be measured, and it is no surprise to learn that once such text passes a modest threshold, 73 ASCII characters [~ 500 bits], the resources of our whole solar system for its credible lifespan could not reasonably account for that information through blind chance and mechanically necessary processes. It is well warranted to infer just on seeing such text that it is designed by an intelligent designer. 

Which, is of course confirmed by the simple expedient of observing how it is put together.

Now, it turns out that in the heart of the living cell, is DNA, which is a coded, molecular, string based data storage unit. For instance, it codes for the making of proteins in the Ribosome:

Coded information in the mRNA, transcribed from DNA and transferred to the ribosome, is being used to assemble a protein, which will then fold into a three dimensional, functional form that will typically work like a key that fits a lock; i.e. it is functionally quite specific. Also, for the major categories of proteins, there are isolated functional domains in the space of possible strings of amino acids (Source: Wikipedia)

Similarly, for almost 100 years now, scientists have been confident that on observational evidence, our observed universe had a specific beginning at a finitely distant time in the past. But, logically, what had a beginning has a cause. And, it has become highly evident to many scientists over the past sixty years, that the observed cosmos -- right from its underlying physics on up, is very finely tuned in dozens or possibly hundreds of ways to form a habitat for Carbon Chemistry, watery medium, cell based life.

This has led to an inference that the cosmos we inhabit was designed by a skilled and powerful designer to be inhabited by cell based life forms. 

Such as, us.

All of this is of course enormously challenging to the dominant evolutionary materialism that is deeply entrenched in education, scientific institutions, the major media and halls of power across our civilisation. However, the case is strong enough that it played a key role in the conclusion made by the former leading philosophical atheist of our time, Antony Flew that There is a God. Which is exactly what he argued in a book shortly before his recent passing.

This therefore sets up a much bigger discussion, on the case for a Creator. 

Accordingly, I now invite you the reader to view Lee Strobel's video summary of that name:

And, onward, to ponder the following linked resources:
 All of this brings us right back to a key point written by the Apostle Paul, c. 57 AD, in Rom 1:
Rom 1: 18  . . . the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 

20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 

21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. [--> In the old days, in pagan temples, nowadays, maybe in our science textbooks, or museums or on Science documentary shows]

 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! [ESV]
So, now, where do you stand, why? END