Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Beyond Belief

The programme is available here.

This was a rather short programme to examine the subject of intelligent design. The informal format tended to make the discussion rather hit and miss. This would not be a good introduction to Intelligent Design for someone who knew little about it.

All three members of the “panel” were Christians – Prof. Andy Macintosh (Thermodynamics) Dr. Dennis Alexander (Immunology) Dr Roger Trigg(Philosophy)
Prof Macintosh is a YEC (Young Earth Creationist), Dennis Alexander is a Theistic Evolutionist (his position reminds me somewhat of Ken Miller in the US) and Roger Trigg is (I think) sympathetic towards the concept of design in nature.

The presenter wanted to ask the question whether ID is a viable position scientifically and theologically as a middle way between Creationism and Evolution.

Each member of the panel had their own point that they wanted to make…but to be fair the programme was simply not long enough to fit in all the points that the participants wanted to make which was a shame. This sort of programme tends to turn serious discussion into a “sound bite Punch and Judy show.”


Roger Trigg’s point was that generally scientists are not aware of the crucial assumptions that they are all relying upon when the go about their daily labours – They assume that the universe is orderly and follows logical patterns which are comprehensible to the human mind. This was the truth that Einstein found so astonishing. In the early days of science it was described as the experience of thinking God’s thoughts after. Given that Roger is at Warwick I wondered whether he and Steve Fuller ever talk to each other….

Andy Macintosh’s point was that the great problem with evolution is that time and chance are poor resources to explain the origin of information. He made the point that the writers of the New Testament exhibit a straightforward understanding to the early chapters of Genesis so that the integrity of the whole bible is affected by ones understanding of them.

Dennis Alexander’s point was that there are many Christians in Science who accept the Theory of evolution and creation for them is the establishment of nature from nothing.

I think it was a good panel to bring together for a discussion but the time limit and format simply did not allow a satisfying discussion to take place.

4 Comments:

Blogger Lifewish said...

Roger Trigg’s point was that generally scientists are not aware of the crucial assumptions that they are all relying upon when the go about their daily labours – They assume that the universe is orderly and follows logical patterns which are comprehensible to the human mind.

I've seen that comment made before. Thing is, though, the assumptions aren't implicit; they're explicit. And wherever possible they're tested.

The reason that they're generally accepted is that, unless you assume some sort of order to the universe, it's not scientifically tractable. And if a scientist doesn't think a phenomenon is scientifically tractable, he won't study it.

Of course, if a different scientist does think that a phenomenon is scientifically tractable, it's considered polite for the naysayers to stay out of his way and let him get on with it.

The result is that the scientific community as a whole gives the impression of supporting Uniformitarianism, or whatever they're calling it today. Actually all that's happening is that those who don't think we can make those assumptions are shutting up pending their discovery of a set of alternative assumptions that either are more justifiable or give better predictions.

1:48 pm  
Blogger Lifewish said...

Andy Macintosh’s point was that the great problem with evolution is that time and chance are poor resources to explain the origin of information.

Didn't spot this first time round...

I'd counter that time, chance and selection are, demonstrably, extremely effective resources to explain the origin of highly efficient biological structures (and thus the patterns required to encode those structures). Up to 1/3 more effective than human designers in fact (and, if you actually work out the maths for that story, the evolved engine turns out to be almost twice as good).

5:21 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Lifewish,

When was there ever an engine that was produced by chance?

7:44 pm  
Blogger Lifewish said...

Define "produced".

If you mean "every single component produced independently of human intervention" then the answer is: none within our lifetimes. This is really not surprising - what you're talking about is a massive endeavour that is believed to have taken massive amounts of time to arise in bacteria. As such, it isn't reasonable to expect evolutionary biologists to provide examples of it occurring on their watch.

Of course, if you're willing to wait for a few million years, it'll probably be a different story. The whole point of the evolutionary explanations for, for example, the bacterial flagellum is that they explain how these complicated systems could have arisen in single basic steps. It's not unreasonable to expect that we could replicate that, given sufficient time. I'd say it's fairly well demonstrated that such complex structures can arise from simple antecedents.

If, however, "produced" includes the idea of "existing components being used to generate a new version of the system" then obviously the one I linked to counts as an example.

[note: the usual tipsiness warning applies - this post not certified for reading whilst sober]

3:17 am  

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