How to Completely Misunderstand Intelligent Design: A Response to Stephen Barr

Intelligent design (ID) has attracted its fair share of critics. If it’s not the fulminations of New Atheists, it’s extremely uncharitable readings from some Catholic intellectuals who think they smell mechanism or interventionism. While the criticisms vary, they tend to have one thing in common: they’re based, not on actual ID arguments, but on stereotypes and misunderstandings of those arguments. It’s hard to find ID critics who actually describe an ID argument correctly before proceeding to refute it. Catholic physicist Stephen Barr is a constitutionally uncharitable critic of ID. It’s not clear that he has even read the books that he criticizes. But he criticizes them nonetheless. In a February 9 diatribe in First Things, he makes several complaints. For Read More ›

Primordial Soup? Would You Believe…

Life arose without design or direction from any intelligent agent. Would you believe it did so in a sun-warmed ocean surface? No? Would you believe an earth-heated vent at the bottom of the same ocean? Would you believe an office microwave that hasn’t been cleaned since the Bush Administration? The past week’s startling news of backpedaling from the “primordial soup” theory rang a bell, though I wasn’t instantly able to say whose comedy routine it put me in mind of. Hm, was it Monty Python? ScienceDaily carries the story: For 80 years it has been accepted that early life began in a “primordial soup” of organic molecules before evolving out of the oceans millions of years later. Today the “soup” Read More ›

Getting ID Right: More Response to the Beliefnet Review of Signature in the Cell

The second, third, and fourth installments of the review of Steve Meyer’s book Signature in the Cell are up over at Beliefnet. (I responded to the first installment here.) Although this series appears on Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed blog, they’re written by anonymous blogger “RJS.” I’m guessing that RJS is a scientist, or is in a sensitive academic position, and doesn’t want to risk banishment for saying reasonable things about an ID argument. If so, that tells us something of the social pressures against writing publicly about this issue.

Just a Coincidence?

I admit to a fond wish to impute significance to coincidences. Cynics such as Matthew Cobb writing at Jerry Coyne’s blog, Why Evolution Is True, explain away such things, like they do absolutely everything, as a function of survival value tucked into our genome from ancient days. In some recent posts, Cobb was full of mockery for people like me:

“Design”? Don’t Panic, It’s Only a Metaphor!

In the Darwinist community there’s a general acceptance, however uneasy, of the necessity of speaking in design-related metaphors to describe features of organisms. Such language may be regrettable since it attracts the attention of the bogeyman, “creationism,” but really it’s kind of unavoidable. In Darwin and Design, Michael Ruse sought to offer solace to fellow Darwinians. He asked, We still talk in terms appropriate to conscious intention….In biology, we still use forward-looking language of a kind that would not be deemed appropriate in physics or chemistry. Why is this? His answer: Organisms, produced by natural selection, have adaptations, and these give the appearance of being designed….If organisms did not seem to be designed, they would not work and hence would Read More ›