Monday, February 13, 2006


Reflections of Premier Inteligent Design Debate

I enjoyed my recent experience debating ID on Premier Christian Radio's Saturday lunch-time 'Unbelieveable' show. I enjoyed talking with Peter Hearty of the national secular society both on and off air, and our host Justin Brierly did a good job of keeping a level playing field. The format did mean picking the simplest/shortest response to questions from the various possibilities that sprung to mind rather than the most comprehensive, and I did have to let a lot of points slide, but that was in the nature of the beast.

Here are the 'footnotes' I would add to the show if one could do such a thing!

On 'specified complexity' as a reliable test for design with special reference to Richard Dawkins (the example I used on the show) cf: Peter S. Williams, 'Is Life Designed or Designoid? Dawkins, Science and the Purpose of Life'

I wrote one of the first articles tracing Antony Flew's journey from athesim to a minimal form of philosophical theism (cf. 'A Change of Mind for Antony Flew'), although as I noted in this blog not all that long ago, more recent comments from Flew on this issue have muddied the waters somewhat.

By defending the ID position I naturally frustrated both many evolutionists (Christian and secular) and creationists. However, perhaps reporters in the British media who refuse to take ID theorists at their word when they assert that ID is not creationism will take creationists (like the lady caller who called the show to say how frustrated it made her not to hear me defending a young earth) at their word when they make the same point! Nevertheless, here's an ID theorist making clear the differences between ID and creationism:
John G. West, 'Intelligent Design and Creationism are Just not the Same'

As for the conspiracy theory that ID is 'creationism in sheep's clothing', as I said on the show, it contradicts the testimony of ID theorists, ignores the differences between the two views, and fails to account for the support for ID in Britian by non-creationists such as myself (where there is no seperation of state and church - something the national secular society would like changed, although they currently would prefer to do it without help from disestablishmentarians within the church!). For a historical rebuttal of this conspiracy theory, cf. Jonathan Witt, 'The Origin of Intelligent Design'

To tell the truth, I was somewhat taken-a-back by the caller who was so very insistent about Michael Behe being shown to be a liar by the Dover Court! The caller didn't specify what it was Behe is meant to have lied about, and I know of nothing that indicates such a sin on his part - despite having followed the Dover trial quite closely. Behe himself recently posted a devistating response to the Dover decision: Michael Behe, 'Whether Intelligent Design Is Science: A Response to the Opinion of the Court in Kizmiller vs Dover Area School District'

By the way, leading ID think tank The Discovery Institute do not advocate teaching ID in schools. They advocate teaching criticism of evolutionary theory as it appears in the peer reviewed scientific literature. There is a difference between presenting evidence for and against evolution and presenting an alternative theory (of which ID is one among several).

Also on the question of whether ID is science, may I recommend the following:
William A. Dembski, 'In Defence of Intelligent Design'
Stephen C. Meyer, 'The Scientific Status of Intelligent Design'
Bradley Monton, ‘Is Intelligent Design Science? Dissecting the Dover Decision’
Peter S. Williams, 'IF SETI Is Science and UFOlogy Is Not, Which Is Intelligent Design Theory?'

On the related issue of my reference to David Hume and the limitations of design arguments in general cf: Peter S. Williams, 'Design and the Humean Touchstone'

Unfortunately, many critics of Behe accept proposed defeaters to his claims without considering the rebuttals that Behe and other scholars have made in defence of irreducible complexity. Interested readers may like to consider the following links:
Michael Behe, 'In Defence of the Irreducibility of the Blood Clotting Cascade' (an issue raised in passing by one of our phone callers)
Michael Behe, 'A True Acid Test: A Response to Ken Miller'
William Dembski, 'Still Spinning Just Fine: A Response to Ken Miller'
William Dembski, 'Irreducible Complexity Revisited'

For a quick response on the 'flagellum and the pump' debate, cf:
Stephen C. Meyer, 'Verdict on the Bacterial Flagellum Premature'

On the question of the fossil record and whether or not it supports evolutionary explanations of life's diversity, cf: Mark Hartwig, 'Doesn't the fossil evidence support natural selection?' (very brief); Stephen C. Meyer et al, 'The Cambrian Explosion: Biology's Big Bang' & Stephen C. Meyer, 'Intelligent Design: The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories' (two not very brief peer reviewed articles!)

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