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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Debate: Agnostic thinks the universe shows evidence of design while Christian disagrees, but praises Jesus anyway?

Surprise? Not to me ...

Friends have drawn my attention to this supposedly surprising announcement, that in an upcoming debate, the intelligent design sympathizer is an agnostic and the guy who doesn't think there is evidence for design in the universe is a Christian.
Faraday Institute Newsletter No 32 (September 2008)*

The Faraday Course entitled ‘Science and Religion for Church Leaders’,
also intended for those training for ministry, will take place Nov
4-6^th . As usual full details are up on the Faraday web-site
( . . .

Those in the Birmingham UK area might be interested to know that on Saturday, 27^th September, at 4.0 p.m. in the George Hotel, Lichfield, the Institute Director will be in debate with Prof. Steve Fuller (Prof. of Sociology at Warwick University) at the Lichfield Literary Festival ( on the subject of Intelligent Design. This is a somewhat counterintuitive debate in that Prof. Fuller, an agnostic, is an ID supporter whereas the Director, a theist, is a critic of ID. Hopefully the exchange of views will clarify rather than
further obfuscate a topic perennially surrounded by a thick fog of confusion.

Denis Alexander

Director, Faraday Institute

And here's more (but you must scroll).

I don't personally see anything counterintuitive about this at all.

I have covered contentious issues most of my life. I have learned, people do not always have the positions you expect. Often, the best way to understand what is happening is to ask why this? Why here? Why now? Philosophy comes into it, but so do other things.

Consider American Scientific Affiliation (ASA). It is a group of some thousands of self- identified American Christians in science. It is the best-known of the sort of group that Britain's Denis Alexander - the theist who apparently doesn't think the universe shows detectible evidence of design - represents. ASA got started mid-twentieth century, when materialism was all the rage. The neo-Darwinian synthesis, the Miller-Urey experiment, the Drake equation ... all these high science events pointed to a universe that had sort of randomly coalesced from rubble, and somehow everything just sort of happened after that. The question was (and for ASA still is), "How to be a Christian when it looks like the evidence is against you".

So far as I can determine, from observing and interacting with the ASA figures involved in the intelligent design controversy for a number of years, theirs is the "respect Christians in science" model.

They want respect for scientists who are people of faith so that they can interact with other scientists on an equal basis, despite the handicap of faith. But for all practical purposes, the facts favour materialist atheism, in their view.

So a sort of inner sight, inner light, some light of faith, is required to see otherwise. Varieties of "theistic evolution" have proliferated ever since - all are responses to materialist atheism and all agree that agree that the materialist atheist's interpretation of the evidence is true, but perhaps defective or unsatisfying ...

That is the basic theme of Francis Collins's The Language of God, where he cautions: Never depend on the facts to support you. And Collins is ASA's poster boy.

Surviving materialist atheism is ASA's reason for existing, and the organization is co-dependent with the environment in which it took root. All organizations are, unless they radically transform themselves.

One outcome is that for ASA, intelligent design (ID) - not materialist atheism - is the enemy. ID, not materialist atheism, threatens to destroy ASA's basis for existence.

Why is that? Well, for one thing, the ID guys started to gather at a time when the evidence base for materialist atheism was beginning to collapse. The universe does show unambiguous evidence of design (fine tuning). Only completely wild theories can even attempt to explain that away.

In that case, the many varieties of "theistic evolution" (ASA's brands) are an answer to a problem that doesn't exist. One need not grant any materialist premise in principle. That fact immediately raises the question of why ASA even exists any more.

If this analysis is correct, it explains several puzzling features of the political landscape. Here are a couple:

1. ASA can be in talks with science groups of whom the majority are probably atheists but not with the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. That is because ASA needs militant atheism to prop up its own existence. By contrast, intelligent design theory is a threat to ASA's continued existence, unless it greatly changes - which the older people who are in charge of ASA are not likely to want to even contemplate.

2. ASA's failure as an institution to express much interest in the recent attacks on scientists like Gonzalez and Sternberg (as documented in Expelled). They were clearly doing science and were attacked because their science did not support materialist atheism. I don't buy the claim that "ASA isn't that kind of an organization" because - while it is startlingly evident that ASA is not that kind of organization - the fact requires some explanation.

3. ASA sponsors the publicly archived ASA list, an online water cooler for self-identified Christians who oppose ID. No similar ASA list devotes as much attention to opposing materialist atheism on behalf of fine tuning of the universe.

I could go on, but you get the picture. There is nothing unusual about this kind of situation. It is quite common, actually. In Canada, we are dealing with an unrelated though analogous issue around "human rights" commissions, where early human rights organizations are co-dependent with the most illiberal forces in the nation - complicating the problem of just getting rid of the latter.

Note: Right now, the legacy media - also co-dependent with materialist atheism - are essentially performing a holding action by keeping the public from realizing what has happened in the sciences, so key markers may be hard to discern without study.

But anyway, no, it is not counterintuitive to me.

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