Monday, October 30, 2006


Dawkins and Ann Coulter

It is shameful that atheist Richard Dawkins can quote best-selling American writer Ann Coulter saying: ‘I defy any of my coreligionists to tell me they do not laugh at the idea of Dawkins burning in hell.’(Ann Coulter, Godless, 2006, p. 286, quoted by Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 321.) I for one do not laugh at the idea of Dawkins burning in hell (not that I think hell involves literal burning, and not that I would presume to forecast Dawkins’ eternal destination). Coulter should attend to the following verses of scripture: James 3:9-10, 1 Peter 3:15-16 and Luke 5:27-36. This said, Coulter does have some sensible things to say about the subjects of evolution and intelligent design:

'if evolution were true, it wouldn't disprove God.' (p. 199.)

'Although believers don't need evolution to be false, atheists need evolution to be true.' (p. 199-200.)

'God can do anything, including evolution.' (p. 262.)

There is an asymetry between the theists' take-it-or-leave-it-depending-upon-the-evidence view of evolution and some atheist's take-it-irrespective-of-what-the-evidence-is view of evolution.

'there is a mass panic on the left whenever someone mentions the vast an accumulating evidence against evolution.' (p. 200.)

'one can believe evolution is not true without also believeing that the Earth was created in six days by a man with a long white beard who lives in the clouds and looks eerily like Charlton Heston.' (p. 202.) Quite.

'The less you know about the physical world, the more plausible Darwinian evolution seems... Similarly, the more we know about molecules, cells, and DNA, the less plausible Darwin's theory of natural selection becomes.' (p. 212.)

It has been the growth of knowledge that has led scientists to infer design, not ignorance of the facts. Evolution looked far more plausible in Darwin's day than it does in ours.

'Design in the universe may well be explained by something other than God, but we'll never know as long as everyone is required to pretend it's not there.' (p. 245.)

The design inference is not a God inference. It is the starting point of an argument about the specific nature of the designer.

Of Liberals, Coulter writes:

'The fundamental difference between our religion and their is that theirs always tells them whatever they want to hear. Like the "living Constitution," Darwinism never disapoints liberals. They never say, "Well, I'd like to have cheap, meaningless sex tonight, but that would violate Darwinism." If you have an instinct to do it, it must be an evolved adaptation. Liberals subscribe to Darwinism not because it's "science," which they hate, but out of wishful thinking. Darwinism lets you off the hook morally...'

This may be overstated, but at the very least, two can play the 'you only believe that because of some non-rational, psychological reason' game.

Richard Dawkins is always saying that since there is no move from 'is' to 'ought' being a Darwnist does not mean one is inconsistent unless one endorses social Darwinism. However, Dawkins fails to notice that if there is no move from 'is' to 'ought' then the Darwinist is being inconsistent if they condemn social Darwinism. Dawkins denial of objective moral values does not mean that he has to act badly, but it does mean that he can;t condemn Ann Coulter for being gleeful over the thouhgt of Dawkins burngin in hell. A related problem comes from his discomfort over the question of free will, which is required for moral responsibility but ruled out by a naturalistic worldview. On the other hand, since I believe in objective value and free will, I can coherently give Coulter a ticking off...

On the topic of Dawkins and free will, you might like to listen to a 15 minute debate between Richard Dawkins (about his new book ‘The God Delusion’) and David Quinn – an Irish catholic journalist. It is on Irish radio and can be heard (about half way through the programme) via the following link: There is a transcript of this debate @

Also well worth a read is the transcript of Dawkins answering a qestion about free will in a Q&A session recently @

The question of free will is far from being a 'seperate' question from the question of God - it goes to the worldview commitments that distinguish naturalists from theists. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Gold Award for Debating Intelligent Design on Radio

I just received the following press release from Premiere Christian Radio,
concerning the episode of Justin Brierly's Unbelieveable show in which I debated Intelligent Design Theory vs. Darwinism with Peter Hearty of the National Secular Society (cf. &


Premier Christian Radio has been presented with a gold medal at the New York
Festival Awards
for an episode of its new interfaith debate show, Unbelievable.
The winning programme features a live call in and regularly brings together
leading scholars from Christian and non-Christian backgrounds to tackle
some of the most complex aspects of belief.

Long time Premier staff member, Justin Brierley produced and presented the
award winning show on evolution that features Atheist Pete Hearty of the
National Secular Society defending the theory of Evolution, while Peter
Williams of the Damaris Trust argues for Intelligent Design.

"We chose this particular debate because it is timely." Brierley said.
"There are a number of court cases in the USA discussing what public schools
should be teaching regarding evolution and similar heat is now being
generated in the UK over schools that have included Intelligent Design on
their syllabus."

The evolution episode of Unbelievable has secured the programme it's first
award, within a year of going to broadcast. Brierley is thrilled. "For us to
win an award so early on in the life of the show is wonderful, but for it to
be a gold world medal at the New York Festival Awards is astounding."
Commented Brierley, who left Premier's Breakfast Crew earlier this year to
work on the live Saturday show, Unbelievable.
"Unbelievable is like nothing else on Premier." Premier's Chief Executive,
Peter Kerridge said. "For us, the show is about opening up dialogues with
other faith groups and focusing on those giant issues we all have questions

Monday, October 02, 2006


Paley VII

Continuing my trawl through the first edition of William Paley's Natural Theology (1802) Paley continues to rebutt several objections to the design inference...

3) Nor, thirdly, would it bring any uncertainty into the argument, if there were a few parts of the watch, concerning which we could not discover, or had not yet discovered, in what manner they conducted to the general effect; or even some parts concerning which we could not ascertain, whether they conducted to that effect in any manner whatsoever.

Consider, for example, the now largely defunct arguments from 'junk DNA' and 'vestigial organs' beloved of Darwinists. Even were it to be the case that organisms contain 'junk DNA' and organs which seem to serve no purpose, this would not 'bring any uncertainty into the argument' from structures which did serve functional requirements.

Paley goes on to observe that in such a system: 'if, by the loss, or disorder, or decay of the parts in question, the movement of the watch were found in fact to be stopped, or disturbed, or retarded, no doubt would remain in our minds as to the utility or intention of these parts.' Thus Paley pointed the way forward to an experimental aspect of intelligent design theory, represented today by gene knock-out experiments on such structures as the bacterial flagellum. Using gene knock-out experiments it is possible to determine which protein parts of a molecular machine are parts of its irreducibly complex (IC) core, being essential to its functioning. The existence of parts above and beyond the IC core does not, as Paley observes, give us grounds to doubt the design inference from such a core (indeed, non-core, superfluous parts may be candidates for design detection by the criteria of 'added beauty' examined earlier): 'supposed, namely, that there were parts, which might be spared without prejudice to the movement of the watch, and that we had proved this by experiment, - these superfluous parts, even if we were completely assured that they were such, would not vacate the reasoning which we had insituted concerning other parts.' Hence, not only did Paley pre-figure Behe's concept of irreducible complexity, but also the concept of a system having an irreducible 'core' and the idea that this distinction could be made experimentally.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


Paley VI

Continuing my trawl through the first edition of William Paley's Natural Theology (1802) Paley continues to rebutt several objections to the design inference by considering the 'dysteleology' objection:

2) Neither, secondly, would it invalidate our conclusion, that the watch sometimes went wrong, or that it seldom went exactly right... It is not necessary that the machine be perfect, in order to shew with what design it was made...

The dysteleology objection is frequently made today as an argument for Darwinism by its supporters, and as Cornelius Hunter points out, it is interesting to note Darwinist's using a theological argument in support of thier position!

The argument runs that there are features of purportedly designed things that do not fit with our expectations or intuitions about what a perfectly good and wise designer would design, and that therefore no such designer exists and that therefore there is no design. This objection (a variation of the classic 'problem of evil' and susceptible to many of the same rebuttals) is fallacious on several counts. First, it makes an unjustified leap from saying that the designer of object X (if designer there was) is imperfect, to saying that therefore there is no designer. Of course, there may be design by an imperfect designer. Cars rust, but they are still obviously the product of intelligent design. Secondly, the argument depends upon a risky inference from 'we can't think of a good reason as to why the designer made their design the way they did' to 'the designer had no good reason'. In practice, as engineers will know, design involves seeking the best trade off possible among competing design goals. The more battery life my laptop has, the heavier to carry it becomes. Who would want a laptop with a year's battery life if it meant one couldn't carry it around? But it would be silly to argue that since a laptop didn't have the maximum possible battery life an engineer could give it that it therefore could not have been designed, or designed by a good and wise designer!

We have already seen that questions about the nature of the designer/s is secondary to the question of intelligent design per se. Likewise, dysteleology is a secondary issue for philosophers and theologians to consider. Once again the rule is: first establish if intelligent design can be ruled in, then consider the best explanation of questions related to the nature of the designer.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?