A Few Suggestions for the Proponents of Intelligent Design

A Few Suggestions for the Proponents of Intelligent Design

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Metanexus: VIEWS 2001.08.31 3088 words

Raymond E. Grizzle, a Research Scientist at the Jackson Estuarine Laboratoryat the University of New Hampshire tells us that when he

“began to explore the relationship between science (particularly biology,which is my major area of study) and theology, I quickly encountered thewritings of “young-earth creationists” who insisted there were only twooptions for interpreting the biotic world: (their brand of) creationism andevolutionism. These creationists and some atheistic scientists furtherinsisted that the two positions were mutually exclusive, thus requiring aconflict approach to science/theology interactions. As a biologist, thismeant I needed to find problems with evolution that were serious enough towarrant its abandonment. Fortunately, this really only meant I would haveto read, analyze, and learn all the objection to evolution being raised byseveral individuals, who had apparently dedicated their lives to attackingit. The job seemed easy. Even if difficult times came along, I couldalways fall back on the notion that creationism would undoubtedly win in theend because it was clearly God’s position. Several things happened alongthe way, however, to upset my plan.”

In today’s column, he reveals to us what a few of those things were thatupset his plan. He also shares some of the conclusions he has come toconcerning creation, evolution, and the Intelligent Design movement. Oneshould also note that this is a somewhat older piece, but as Prof. Grizzleobserved: while much of what it contains seems to be “old hat”, it alsoreflects a perspective that sometimes seems to be “just ignored orforgotten.”

So, let’s get the old hat out, brush it off, and see if it still fitsproperly and well!

For more information about Prof. Grizzle, and his interests in marineecology and environmental ethics, please go to the following webpage<http://marine.unh.edu/jel/grizzle/grizzle.html>


–Stacey E. Ake


From: Raymond E. GrizzleSubject: A Few Suggestions for the Proponents of Intelligent DesignEmail:grizzle@unh.edu>


Several recent publications, including papers in Perspectives on Science andChristian Faith[1] have dealt with the concepts of intelligent design(ID)[2] methodological naturalism (MN)[3] and related topics. Arguments(for God’s existence) from design, especially in the Judeo-Christiantradition, have a long history. Many psalms, remind us that the wonder ofcreation point to their Creator. The apostle Paul argues that “… God’sinvisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been,clearly seen, being understood from what has been made…” (Romans 1:20).Natural theology, which was built on the pretense that nature revealed muchabout its Creator, occupied a prominent position in academic circles forcenturies. Recent work by scientists has also pointed in the direction of aCreator.[4] All of us in the American Scientific Affiliation must beproponents of design, at least in so far as we see the evidence of God inthe world we study. However, compared to traditional arguments from design,there is one crucial difference for me in the current push for ID – theattempt to make design a part of science. In contrast, I view traditionalarguments from design as pointing beyond science to our Creator. Thisdifference is at the core of why I remain unconvinced of the overall meritsof the movement.

Arguments for ID are typically lengthy, philosophically heavy, and deal witha variety of topics. So far, the ID literature contains much with which Iagree. However, I remain skeptical because the vast majority of IDarguments seem to be only, peripherally related to my major objections. Bythis communication, I hope to distill these objections to three major areas,and I will discuss them in the context of some suggestions.

A personal testimony

The primary suggestion I offer to proponents of ID is to disconnectexplicitly and emphatically your argument from arguments for eliminating MNas a restriction on science. Stop arguing for a “theistic science”.[5] Ifthis is done, you will then stand more directly in line with what I believeis a powerful and still influential tradition of using the characteristicsof creation to point beyond science and toward the Creator. I see design innearly everything I study as a scientist, but I see this design as comingfrom a realm beyond science. For me, MN has been a kind of guidepost thathas allowed me to sort through the plethora of writings on creation,evolution, and related topics, and arrive at a position where I have begunto work on a satisfying integration faith and science. Let me explain.

When I began to explore the relationship between science (particularlybiology, which is my major area of study) and theology, I quicklyencountered the writings of “young-earth creationists” who insisted therewere only two options for interpreting the biotic world: (their brand of)creationism and evolutionism. These creationists and some atheisticscientists further insisted that the two positions were mutually exclusive,thus requiring a conflict approach to science/theology interactions. As abiologist, this meant I needed to find problems with evolution that wereserious enough to warrant its abandonment. Fortunately, this really onlymeant I would have to read, analyze, and learn all the objection toevolution being raised by several individuals, who had apparently dedicatedtheir lives to attacking it. The job seemed easy. Even if difficult timescame along, I could always fall back on the notion that creationism wouldundoubtedly win in the end because it was clearly God’s position. Severalthings happened along the way, however, to upset my plan.

The most important thing was that I encountered some alternativeviewpoints on the relationship between science and theology that made a lotof sense, some of which are at least touched upon in Bernard Ramm’s (1954)well-known book, The Christian View of Science and Scripture. Ramm’s bookis a bit dated now, but it is still useful as a survey of much of the earlyliterature on science/theology interactions and as a concise statement ofone very influential view of what science is and how it can be related totheology:

“Both science and theology deal with the same universe. The goal of scienceis to understand what is included in the concept of nature, and the goal oftheology is to understand what is included under the concept of God. Theemphasis in science is on the visible universe, and in theology the emphasisis on the invisible universe, but it is one universe. If it is one universethen the visible and the invisible interpenetrate epistemologically andmetaphysically” (p.28).

Ramm’s view of science and theology suggests some general domains for each,indicating that science mainly deals with the natural world and theologymainly deals with God. Perhaps more importantly, however, it asserts thatthe boundaries between the domains of science and theology will not be neat,suggesting that there may be problems with determining explicit boundaries.Later, Ramm makes the important point that God is the ultimate cause of theUniverse and all other causes discovered by humans is secondary (p. 192).Ramm’s view provides the basis for a dualistic view with nature with respectto explanatory causes. It also supports the development of concepts likecomplementary and levels of explanation. It is just such a view that led meout of what I now consider the quagmire of “creation science.” I saw thatevolutionary theory was a theory of science and it need not be set againstbelief in a Creator. It provided Science against one interpretation of theearly chapters of Genesis but it did not provide any evidence against theexistence of God. I felt as if my science-and my theology – had been freedso that both could be explored in a satisfying and effective way.

My message in all this is that I continue to cling to MN because it hasbeen so useful. So far, the ID literature with which I am familiar hasoffered the same confusion I found in the creation-science literature,except it is packaged in some new terminology.[6] Because arguments toeliminate MD from science are really what concern me the most, I will turnto two related areas in the ID literature where I find the argumentsparticularly unconvincing. I do this to further elaborate on how MN hasbeen helpful to me, and because I doubt anybody in the ID movement will heedmy first suggestion-to disconnect his or her argument from arguments foreliminating MN as a restriction on science. At this point, most IDproponents have far too much invested in what I feel are revisionistarguments for modern science which center on eliminating MN.

Some history of MN

My second suggestion to proponents of ID is to stop stating or implying thatMN is just an “arbitrary” restriction on modern science. It is not an”arbitrary restriction in any sense of ordinary usage of the word.Methodological naturalism is, in fact, a central part of the practice ofscience that has completely emerged against all disciplines in the last 100or so years. It has been a major force within the scientific communitygenerally for centuries.[7] The history of MN is complex and intertwinedwith a variety of philosophical and social issues. It has been developingat least since the 1500s, when Francis Bacon and Galileo Galilei werestruggling with a science that was deeply intertwined with theology. Itpersists as perhaps the distinguishing characteristics of what many considerto be a general definition of science. For example, in his introduction tothe philosophy of science, Del Ratzsch[8] discusses this restriction as oneway science is usually defined today. Paul de Vries has provided aninsightful assessment of MN as a central component of modern science from atheological perspectives.[9] Several recent papers in PSCH have dealt withMN as a core concept of modern science.[10] And in all my training inscience, there was never any mention of even the possibility that anythingother than natural causes should be included in scientific explanations.Therefore, I was more than a little surprised to read the followingstatement by J. P. Moreland:

“Theistic science has been recognized as science by philosophers andscientists throughout much of the historyof science. Thus the burdenof proof is on anyone who would revise this tradition…”.[11]

I agree that theistic science has been recognized as science throughout muchof the history of science, but this recognition for approximately the firstlast 100 years has only come from fringe groups. I suggest to Moreland thathe needs to do more work on the modern history of science, includingresearch on how science is taught today in undergraduate and graduateprograms. If he still thinks theistic science has any standing at all inmodern science, he should simply read a few science textbooks looking forGod as a casual explanation. Moreland is among the revisionists, not theother way around.

MN and Demarcation Arguments

The final suggestion I make to proponents of ID is simply to admit thatscience and religion are different in at least some respects, then decidehow they are different. One disturbing aspect of the ID literature is pageafter page of discussion indicating there is really no difference betweenscience and other disciplines: the articles by Moreland and Meyer in theMarch 1994 issue of PSCF are examples (see note 1). I do not question thecontention by both Meyer and Moreland that many philosophers long agoabandoned attempts ‘ at distinguishing science from non-science. However, Imaintain that it would be difficult indeed to find anyone (other than somephilosophers?) who thinks science and religion are the same thing. I beginwith quotes from Moreland and Meyer to further explain my objections.

Moreland argues in favor of a view he says is prevalent amongphilosophers: there is no adequate line of demarcation between science andnon-science/pseudoscience, no set of necessary and sufficient conditions forsomething to count as scientific”(p.4). He continues later “The plain factis that historians and philosophers are almost universally agreed that thereis no adequate definition of science…no line of demarcation betweenscience and non-science or pseudo-science…”(p.23). Meyer concurs:”Philosophers of science have generally lost patience with attempts todiscredit theories as ”nonscientific” by using philosophical ormethodological litmus tests. Such so-called ‘demarcation criteria’-criteriathat purport to distinguish true science from pseudo-science, metaphysicsand religion-have inevitably fallen prey to death by a thousand counterexamples”(p.14).

If these statements are taken in a straightforward manner, then allmodern dictionaries need to be revised. If, however, they refer mainly toassessment of the relative merits or certainty of some scientific theoriesto another form of knowledge, then could accept them in part. I talked withSteve Meyer, and he assures me that there are differences between scienceand religion in the quote here he was mainly referring to attempts atdetermining where the two overlap (personal communication, 12 May, 1994).In other works, he feels the problem is largely one of determining boundaryconditions, I concur. This is the problem Ramm (1954, p.28) was referringto in the above quote. It will always be difficult to define in detail therelationship between science and religion, particularly their boundaries,but surely, we can agree the two are different. I suggest that proponentsof ID begin with this assumption and turn to determining what makes scienceand religion different rather than continuing to wring their hands over howsimilar they are. I further suggest that if they do this, they will find MNat the core of the disciplines.

Closing Remarks

I have primarily argued here against one major component of the ID movement:the re- introduction of God as a causal explanation into science. Myposition is based on a high respect for both science and theology in theirpresent forms. I just do not see the problems with a naturalistic sciencethat so many proponents of ID bemoan. In contrast, I think a careful lookat the history of science/religion interactions will show that MN is themost important concept to be developed thus far. It has allowed both toflourish without undue control by the other. I believe that if the IDmovement successfully resulted in the theistic science some envision, wewould be well on our way backwards in time to the old confrontational,either/or debates fought by Galileo and others. The overall result would beno different from that of some kinds of creationism (e.g. “young-earthcreationism”) where one is forced to accept either a naturalisticexplanation or God. I much prefer a dualistic approach where the naturalmechanisms described by science are at lease potentially accepted along withthe supernatural descriptions of theology. I see the most productive workahead of us to be determining how the two disciplines in their present formsshould interact. There may be some “ultimate theory” developed someday thatincorporates all disciplines. The road that leads to such a theory is notclear to me but I do not think most proponents of ID are even moving in theright direction. If I am mistaken, I sincerely hope they will (again) takesome tie to try to help me see the errors in my ways.


Chuck Austerberrv, Wilbur Bullock, Paul Rothrock and Andy Whipple reviewedan earlier version of the manuscript. In some areas we differ in our views,but in all cases I am most appreciative of their comments.

End Notes1 Hasker, W., 1992,”Evolution and Alvin Plantinga,” PSCF,44 (3):150-162;Murphy, N., 1993, “Phillip Johnson on Trial: A Critique of His Critique ofDarwin, PSCF,45(1) 26-36; Moreland, J.P.,1994a, “Conceptual Problems andthe Scientific Status of Creation Science,” PSCF, 46(1) 2-13; Moreland,J.P., 1994b “Response to Meyer and Bube,” PSCF.2 ID refers to a movement that is partially defined by the title of a recentbook edited by J. P. Moreland(1994) The Creation Hypothesis. ScientificEvidence for an Intelligent Designer, University Press. According to theback cover, this book aims to “…offer the foundation for a new paradigmof scientific thinking.” ID was first popularized in a volume entitled, OfPanda and People by P. Davis and D. H. Kenyon,, published in 1989 byHaughton Publishing Company, , Dallas, Texas. Most ID proponentsspecifically aim, to construct a theistic Science, whereby God (but see note5) can be invoked as a casual explanation in science.3 I define MN as the restriction of scientific explanations to naturalcauses. I explicitly do not use the term to give legitimacy to Scientismand related views, whereby science is declared to be the only validexplanation of something. Nor do I define it as the restriction of scienceto information provided by nature. In other words, I do not eliminatetheology or the Bible as possible sources of information to be used incarrying out scientific investigations, but any scientific explanations thatresult from such investigations must not include – or imply -supernaturalcauses.4 E.g. Templeton, J. M. and. R. L. Herrmann, 1989, The God Who Would beKnown: Revelations of the Divine in Contemporary Science. Harper & Row; VanTill, H.j… et al. 1990. Portraits of Creation: Biblical and ScientificPerspectives on the World’s Formation, Eerdmans.5 I am aware that some ID proponents emphatically deny they necessarilyrefer to God by their arguments but I think they are only deceivingthemselves if they think those outside the ID movement feel the same way.For example, see The Wall Street Journal, Monday, November 14, 1994 for anarticle on the ID movement and subtitled “Who did the Designing. It Doesn’tSay: Critics See Disguised Creationism, ‘Agent’ Who Hath No Name.”6 E.g Meyer, S.C. 1994. “The Methodological Equivalence of Design &
Descent: Can There Be a Scientific Theory of Creation.” pp. 67-112 in:Moreland, J.P. 1994 (ed.) (note 2), p. 70.7 Barbour, Ian G., 1966, Issues in Science and Religion, Harper & Row;Klaarer,, Eugene M., 1977, Religious Origins of Modern Science, EerdmansHummel, Charles E., 1986, The Galileo Connection, Inter Varsity Press;Barbour, Ian G. 1990. Religion in an Age of Science, Harper & Row.8 Ratzsch, Del, 1986, Philosophy of Science: The Natural Sciences inChristian Perspective, InterVarsity Press, p.149 de Vries, Paul, 1986, “Naturalism in the natural Sciences:: A ChristianPerspective.” Christian Scholar’s Review 15(4):399-396.10 See papers in note 1 by Bube, Hasker, and Murphy.11 Moreland, J.P. 1994. “Theistic Science and Methodoligical Naturalism” inMoreland, J.P.1994 (ed.)(note 2), p.51.

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