Intelligent Design network, inc.
P.O. Box 14702, Shawnee Mission, Kansas 66285-4702
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www.IntelligentDesignnetwork.org

September 22, 2000

A REBUTTAL TO "INTELLIGENT DESIGN THE NEW STEALTH CREATIONISM"
"A PAPER BASED ON TALK TO BE GIVEN IN LAWRENCE, TOPEKA, AND WICHITA, KANSAS, SEPTEMBER 22, 25, 26 2000," by

Victor J. Stenger

Professor Emeritus, University of Hawaii
at the invitation of the
Kansas Citizens for Science (1)

" Science is not dogmatic about purpose, or anything else. It will go wherever the data lead." [Victor J. Stenger, p. 21 of his "paper"].

***

"With the advent of modern scientific thinking, teleology [design] HAD TO BE DISCARDED, to remain in the realm of religion. [Noam Lahav, Biogenesis - Theories of Lifeís Origins, p. 114 (Oxford University Press 1999)].

***

" He [a computer scientist] is generally insensitive to the UNWRITTEN RULES of scientific conduct, one of which is to scrupulously avoid even the faintest teleological [design] overtones." [Robert Wright, Three Scientists and Their Gods, 70-71 (1988)].

***

"Science is the human activity of seeking [only] NATURAL explanations of what we observe in the world around us." [Kansas Science Education Standards, Fifth Working Draft, June, 1999, p. 5].

A General Observation

Professor Stenger would have the public believe that his remarks are those of an unbiased investigator dedicated to a search for the truth. But his commitment to the "unwritten rule" to censor the evidence of design is evident, not only in the remarks contained in his paper but in his prior writings. These are focused on the promotion of the "unwritten rule" by unreasonably discrediting the evidence of design rather than by giving any objective consideration to it.

Professor Stengerís misinformation begins with the title to his paper: "INTELLIGENT DESIGN THE NEW STEALTH CREATIONISM"

ID is not "new". ID has been around since the beginning of the civilized world. Essentially a design inference is one which is intuitively drawn from the astounding complexity observed in nature. Darwinists claim the "design" we see is merely an illusion. ID theorists develop empirical evidence which tends to show that the apparent design is real and not merely an illusion. Aristotle, Plato and Socrates argued for intelligent design in the fourth and fifth centuries B.C. while the Epicureans argued, as modern science argues today, that life and its diversity result only from chance and necessity (natural law).

The ID Movement has no "stealthy" hidden agenda. However, modern scienceís use of the unwritten rule to "scrupulously avoid even the faintest" of design inferences is stealth censorship. The existence and enforcement of the unwritten rule against design inferences is admitted by the Scientific community. However, it is a rule that generates obvious discomfort and embarrassment among its members. Therefore, the rule is not advertized. Instead modern science tries to lead the press and the public into believing that its naturalistic explanations are based on the evidence rather than on a philosophy which exempts Darwinism from testing by the competing design hypothesis. This behavior is stealthy. The primary purpose of the Intelligent Design movement is to encourage the abandonment of the rule as it applies to origins science because it is a rule that conflicts with logic, the scientific method, our culture and the U.S. Constitution. Although the ID movementís effort to stop the censorship supports theistic beliefs, ID has no "hidden agenda" to take the bible or any other religious text into schools or the government. If a hidden agenda exists, one would look more profitably at why modern science operates surreptitiously to hide the evidence of design.

ID is not "creationism." Creationism is fixed in the minds of most of the public as referring to young earth "Creation Science." Creation science has been declared by various courts as religion focused on proving the Genesis account of origins. The Intelligent Design movement is not focused on proving the Genesis account or any other religious precept or doctrine. It has no sacred texts or doctrines. Its primary focus is to remove the scientific censorship of the evidence of design so that origins research can proceed without religious or philosophic bias. The ID objective is that origins science be a logical and truly scientific search for the best explanation rather than a search only for evidence that will promote a Darwinian explanation.

The Introductory Portions of the Stenger Talk

ID is not focused on incorporating supernatural explanations in science. Professor Stengerís paper misrepresents ID as focused on incorporating supernatural explanations in science. ID, is focused only on stopping the censorship of evidence which indicates that the universe and living systems may have been designed. This is not a religious effort, rather it is an effort aimed at ending the censorship of evidence, scientific inquiry, ideas and thought. Although it is a movement that supports theistic beliefs, intellectually it is no different than the desire of many scientists to be free of any censorship of Darwinism, which is supportive of atheistic beliefs. ID believes that it is not the job of science to deal with religious issues. The job of science is to find and logically analyze evidence or scientific data. It is the job of theologians, philosophers, sociologists and politicians and the personal responsibility of individuals and parents to use the evidence to help shape personal, religious, philosophic, ethical and spiritual beliefs and legal systems. When science philosophically censors the evidence of design it improperly enters a variety of realms, including religion, that it does not belong in. It is the scientific censorship of design inferences which has had the effect of making Darwinism a religion as has been recently acknowledged by Michael Ruse ["How Evolution Became a Religion," (May 13, 2000)]. The pervasive nature of the religion of Darwinism is explained by Ernst Mayrís recent assertion that it provides an adequate foundation for our ethics and morals ["Darwinís Influence on Modern Thought," Scientific American, p. 79 (July 2000)].

ID does not claim that scientific data can only be understood by reference to some divine purpose or God. Although a design inference supports theistic beliefs, it does not require a "supernatural entity." Professor Stenger is incorrect in his statement that ID claims that "scientific data cannot be understood naturally, that is, without gods or spirits, but requires the additional element of divine purpose." Obviously, much data can be explained by reference to natural law. A design inference merely recognizes that certain observed patterns that occur in nature appear to result from a mind - an information processor. Nature is filled with minds - both human and non-human. The SETI project (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) is focused on finding alien minds. Francis Crick postulates that alien minds are responsible for seeding the earth with life. The purpose of any such mind that may be responsible for the design, is one better explored by theologians, philosophers and politicians.

ID is not "an attempt to insinuate the particular sectarian belief of a personal creator into science education," as has been claimed by Professor Stenger. The ID movement is aimed at the removal of "stealth censorship" of design that is practiced by modern science to promote a purely materialistic and naturalistic agenda. It is a movement aimed at stopping modern science from philosophically denigrating theism through a systematic censorship of the evidence of design and embarrassing and disenfranchising legitimate scientists who openly discuss the evidence.

The Burden of Proof

Due to the enormous amount of apparent design that exists in nature, the burden to disprove design should rest with the naturalists. By admission, Professor Stengerís Arguments fail to carry that burden. Professor Stengerís argument seems to assume, and in some places state, that the burden of proof should be with those advocating objective consideration of the evidence of design. However, this ignores the fact that most biologists admit that biological systems appear to be designed. This includes Richard Dawkins, one of the most ardent ID critics:

"Biology is the study of complicated things that GIVE THE APPEARANCE of having been designed for a purpose." (Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, at 1., (WW. Norton & Company, 1996)

Furthermore, the science community has yet to introduce even a coherent hypothesis as to how the very basis for life, the genetic code, and its associated information processing systems came into being without the aid of a mind.

As acknowledged by Professor Stenger, numerous cosmological constants are extremely fine tuned. This is also strong evidence of design. We intuitively infer design on a daily basis. We submit that this enormous collection of evidence of design shifts the burden of disproving it to the naturalists. However, the Stenger paper ignores this abundance of apparent design and trivializes the problems raised by critics. Instead he focuses on pure speculation regarding "possible" multiple universes and religious and philosophic arguments to make his case. Instead of refuting the evidence of design with scientific evidence, the paper merely urges us to place our faith in "possible" theories as to how chance and necessity might alone explain everything. This approach is seriously lacking and does not begin to address the abundant observable evidence of design that exists in nature.

Irreducible Complexity

An evidence of design that particularly undercuts the ability of chance and necessity to arrange and assemble many biological mechanisms, systems and machines is the irreducible complexity of those systems and machines. The concept has been explained by a biochemist, Michael Behe, in his 1996 book: "Darwinís Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution." An irreducibly complex system is one that requires multiple, well-matched parts in order to function, where the removal of any of the parts eliminates the function. An example is a bacterial flagellum. Dr. Behe challenges science to explain and demonstrate how natural selection can account for the gradual assembly of such machines and systems without the aid of intelligence, since their individual parts in isolation have no selective value until fully assembled.

Professor Stenger avoids any response to this serious claim by simply waiving off Dr. Beheís claim with the off-hand comment that it has been "convincingly refuted." Of course he fails to mention that, to date, no scientist has provided any substantive rebuttal to the many responses that Dr. Behe has provided to his critics and which may be found at www.discovery.org/crsc/ ( Click on "Response to CRSC Critics"):

Michael J. Behe, "Self-Organization and Irreducibly Complex Systems: A Reply to Shanks and Joplin," (August 31, 2000).

Michael J. Behe, "Philosophical Objections to Intelligent Design: Response to Critics" (July 31, 2000).

Michael J. Behe, "In Defense of the Irreducibility of the Blood Clotting Cascade: Response to Russell Doollittle, Ken Miller and Keith Robison" (July 31, 2000).

Michael J. Behe, "Irreducible Complexity and the Evolutionary Literature: Response to Critics," (July 31, 2000)

Michael J. Behe, "A Mousetrap Defended: Response to Critics," (July 31, 2000)

Information Theory

Professor Stenger spends three pages arguing against the claim by William Dembski that chance and natural law alone are not sufficient to create biological information. In doing so he fails to provide his own definition of information. He seems to equate it merely to "Shannon information." Shannon information is merely a quantitative measure of the syntactic order (2) in a message. The difficulty with his argument is that he completely ignores and thereby fails to explain the origin of the qualitative or semantic character of biological information - the meaning carried by the symbols. This semantic character (meaning) has been recognized by leading scientists, including Paul Davies:

"To explain life fully, it is not enough simply to identify a source of free energy, or negative entropy, to provide biological information. We also have to understand how semantic information comes into being. It is the quality, not the mere existence, of information that is the real mystery here. All that stuff about conflict with the second law of thermodynamics was merely a red herring." ("The Fifth Miracle: The Search for the Origin and Meaning of Life," p. 60 (Simon & Schuster, 1999).

Thus, it is this semantic character of biological information, which Dembski refers to as Complex Specified Information, that has not been explained by chance and natural law. Although symbols such as the nucleotide bases along the DNA backbone and dots and dashes in the morse code, may carry meaning, only information processing systems or intelligence have been shown to create the meaning that is carried by the symbols. Natural selection acting on postulated random mutations, being a purposeless and unguided mechanism, is, by definition incapable of creating meaning. The recognized existence of "meaning" in biological systems is evidence of design that has not been successfully disproved by the Stenger paper.

Fine Tuning of the Universe

Professor Stengerís arguments against the evidence of design that is reflected in the exquisite fine tuning of the universe appears to rely primarily on a purely speculative hypothesis based on unobserved multiple universes and the unexplained appearance of electrons and positrons in a vacuum. As pointed out by Guillermo Gonzalez of the University of Washington in the attached article (3), "Invoking an infinitude of unobservable universes to explain the one observable universe is a grotesque violation of Occamís razor."

Those interested in further exploring the position of Intelligent Design network, Inc. on these issues should visit our web site at www.intelligentdesignnetwork.org.  The position of IDnet is particularly spelled out in its June 8, 2000 letter to each of the 304 Kansas School Boards, which may be found at the publications page of the web site.

John H. Calvert, J.D., (B.A. Geology), Managing Director
William S. Harris, Ph.D., Managing Director
Jody F. Sjogren, M.S., CMI, Managing Director

______________

(1) A copy of the paper was obtained at www.phys.hawaii.edu/vjs/www/Stealth.pdf

(2) "Syntactic information [Shannon information] is simply raw data, perhaps arranged according to rules of grammar, whereas semantic information has some sort of context or meaning" (Paul Davies, The Fifth Miracle: The Search for the Origin and Meaning of Life," p. 60 (Simon & Schuster, 1999).

(3)  Nancy Pearcey, "Our 'tailor-made' universe: New scientific study begs the philosophical question, "Who's the tailor?", p. 17 (World, September 2, 2000).


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