Thursday, November 17, 2005

On An Ineradicable Stain

Dick, I'm not sure what "Ineradicable" means but I want to followup anyway.

You mentioned in your article that "Creationism is an attempt to vindicate the Genesis account and to reconcile science with the Bible. It starts with the assumption that Genesis is true, and rejects any hypotheses incompatible with this assumption."

I'd like to take that statement and run with it a bit if I may. I originally intended to post this on the Feedback page but thought better of it and decided it warranted a place front and center.

From E.W.Bullinger's How To Enjoy The Bible pages 351-352. I quote:

The world that then was" (Gen i. 2) - The accurate reading in the English of the A.V. [my note: Authorized Version] Gen.i. 2 will be sufficient to show there is something in the verse which needs explanation; and when we have explained it we shall find that it points to a wonderful exposition of the Creation, and provides a complete answer to all the cavils of Geologists.

This discovery would be impossible if the Revised Version were used, as the Revisers deliberately discarded the use of italics in certain cases, one of which was in the case of the verb "to be", which does not exist in Hebrew.

In Gen.i. 2 (A.V.) we read: "And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep."

Here, it will be seen that, the first "was" is in Roman type, while the second is in Italic type. This accuracy tells us that the latter verb, "was" represents the verb to be; and that the former "was" must represent a different verb, and not the verb "to be." This is the case; and the verb is (hayah), to become, come to pass.

That this is its meaning is clear from the very next verse (v. 3): "Let there be light, and there was light." Here the verb for "be" and "was" is hayah, and means become, while, in verse 4, the verb "was" is the verb to be, and is in italics.

The same use of "was" (Roman type) and "was" (Italic type) may be seen in verses 9 and 10; and in verses 11 and 12.

If we enquire further about the verb hayah we find it in Gen. ii. 7, "and man became a living soul; ch. iv. 14, "it shall come to pass"; ch. ix. 15, "the waters shall no more become a flood"; ch. xix. 26, Lot's wife "became a pillar of salt."

From all this we assuredly learn that Gen. i. 2 should read "and the earth BECAME without form."

Having made this discovery we now pursue it further; and we "search the Scriptures" to find out whether God has said anything else about the way in which He created the earth. And we find it in Isa. xlv. 18, Here the sentences are heaped together, in order to impress us with the fact that, He who created the earth, ought to know, and be able to tell us, how He made it. Note the words:

"Thus saith Jehova that created the heavens' Elohim himself that formed the earth, and made it; He hath established it, He created it not tohu."

But this word (tohu) is the very word which is translated "without form" in Gen. I. 2. So that, whatever tohu means, it is evident that God did not create the earth tohu. Therefore it must have become so, at some time, in some way, and from some cause which we are not told.

It is clear from this that in Gen. i. 1. we have the record concerning what is called in 2 Pet. iii. 6 "the world that then was." This earth, we are there told also, "being overflowed with water perished." This is exactly what is stated in Gen. i. 1,2.

So that at the end of the first verse we must put a very large full stop; or draw a line; or leave a blank space, so as to separate verse 1 from what follows in verse 2, which relates to "the heavens and earth which are now" (2 Pet. iii. 7), and which will continue, until the time comes for "the new heavens and the new earth" of 2 Pet. iii. 13, and of many other Scriptures.

When Geologists have settled how many years they require between the first and second verses of Gen. i. there is ample room for all they want, and a large margin beside.

Meanwhile, we may well conclude that all the fossils and remains which are found belonged to "the world that then was," and thus, at one stroke, remove all friction between Geology and Scripture.

Again, we ask, why assume that all the Geological phenomena pertain to the earth "which is now," when it is this very assumption which creates the difficulty? and compels us to ignore all the phenomena of God's Word mentioned above?

His Word is misinterpreted, and His works are misunderstood, and the difficulty thus created is charged against the Scriptures of Truth!

Given this information and its reconciliation of the geological record with the biblical account of creation, I am quite perplexed that there is so much apparent ignorance on the part of Christians regarding the issue.

If you're not fully persuaded by the message above, I would like to challenge you to pursue it further. Research the ample references Bullinger provides to substantiate his position. The argument of Creationism vs Evolution is a major issue of our day. If you are a Christian that believes in the Bible as the Word of God, shouldn't you have a scriptural basis for your conviction that can weather the storm of the enemy as it breaks across the bow?

An Ineradicable Stain

Our local paper, The York Dispatch, ran this column from the Tufts Daily a couple of weeks ago which several times repeats the claim that Intelligent Design is a religious belief. Today they carried another essay in which George Will repeats the same claim. One despairs of ever purging this misconception from the public mind, but the task is even more hopeless when public intellectuals insist on perpetuating it. It takes on the character of an ineradicable stain on the debate over Intelligent Design.

I submitted the following reply to the Dispatch whose editors have apparently decided to ignore though they have chosen not to share with me their reasons:

The editors made an unfortunate choice of columns in selecting The Creationists' Trojan Horse(11/1). Almost every assertion in the essay is either incorrect or misleading. Consider the claim, which appears regularly in both of our local papers, that Intelligent Design (ID) is religious. This judgment is simply false.

The fundamental assertion of Darwinism is that all of life has arisen solely as a consequence of blind, unguided, purposeless processes. ID is the denial of this claim. It asserts that purposeless processes are inadequate by themselves to account for what we find in the realm of living things and that one of the causal factors which must be invoked to fully account for life is intelligence. If the proposition that life is completely explicable in terms of blind, impersonal processes is a scientific claim then so is it's denial. If the proposition that life bears the impress of intelligent purpose is a religious claim then so is it's contrary.

Nevertheless, the insistent claims of its critics and the hopes of some of its advocates notwithstanding, ID is not a religious belief. It requires no commitment to belief in a god, it prescribes neither worship, rites, rituals, creeds, nor codes of conduct. It has no body of doctrine, no clergy, and no holy books. It simply holds that blind, unguided processes are inadequate by themselves to account for living things and that in some way intelligence must have played a role. This is hardly a religious assertion, and, unlike religious assertions, it may even lend itself to testing. If it could be shown, for instance, that some unintelligent, mechanistic process does indeed produce information, or an increase in information, if it could be plausibly and convincingly demonstrated that DNA or proteins could have arisen by chance through purely natural processes, then intelligent agency will have been shown to be a superfluous add-on, and ID would be effectively refuted.

It needs to be said, too, that contrary to much of what has been written in the papers, ID is not creationism. Creationism is an attempt to vindicate the Genesis account and to reconcile science with the Bible. It starts with the assumption that Genesis is true, and rejects any hypotheses incompatible with this assumption. In this respect, creationism is much more like Darwinism than it is like ID.

Darwinian evolution also begins with an assumption. In this case it's the assumption that only natural forces can be employed to account for living things. Any hypothesis that is incompatible with this assumption is rejected out of hand.

Both creationism and Darwinism, in other words, are inferences from an a priori metaphysical commitment and as such are mirror images of each other.

Indeed, ID is scarcely even related to creationism philosophically except insofar as both theories hold that an intelligence was involved in the emergence of life. To understand the vast difference between them one need only to realize that all of the book of Genesis could be proven wrong but, although creationism would be thoroughly devastated, the theory of ID would be unaffected. ID is not dependent upon Genesis or any other religious or metaphysical book or doctrine for its content.

ID starts with observations of living things and infers from the resulting empirical data that intelligence must have played a role in the development of life. As such, ID is an observation-based hypothesis and is therefore more scientific, in this sense, at least, than either of its competitors. Its inference that purpose and intentional design underlie life on earth is based not on a presupposition that there is a designer (though many ID theorists doubtless hold such a presupposition in their private lives), but rather upon several obvious facts about the world.

One of these facts is the abundance of information in living things. We have no experience of complex information being generated by purposeless processes, and thus its ubiquity (in DNA and proteins, for instance) leads to the inference that purpose plays a role in the design of life.

Another fact upon which the design inference is based is the apparent teleology in the cosmos. That life is telic (i.e. evinces purpose) is in dispute. That the cosmos is telic is much more difficult to gainsay. Cosmologists can invoke no mechanism like natural selection to explain the exquisite fine-tuning of the physics that governs the cosmos. If the universe as a whole bears witness to having been intricately engineered for life, it is plausible to think that certain aspects of the universe, like the structures in living things, which certainly appear to be designed, actually are.

Indeed, we must keep in mind that the current debate is not about whether there actually is design in the biosphere. Everyone agrees that there is. The debate is over the source of that design. Is it nature blindly selecting for survival advantage, or is it an intelligence of some kind - a stoic "World Soul", a Platonic demiurge, an idealist "Absolute", or the God of classical theism? ID offers no opinion other than to rule out blind nature.

It must be stressed, finally, that ID does not conflict with evolution, the theory of descent by modification. It conflicts only with the Darwinian version of evolution which insists that descent is a thoroughly naturalistic, mechanistic process. Evolution is simply the view that organisms share common ancestors. It does not require one to believe that the process of descent from these ancestral forms was purely accidental or unintended.

Some may indeed wish to use ID as a wedge to get religion into schools, but ID should be judged on its merits and not on the motives of some of its proponents. There are some who insist, after all, that Darwinism be taught because they see it as a "Trojan Horse" for atheism. There are others who have used evolution to justify social Darwinism and even genocide. It would be an error to judge evolution on the basis of such misuses by its supporters, and it's equally wrong to judge ID by the misuses to which some of its adherents wish to put it.

For a good example of how the media totally confuses ID with creationism see this piece in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Constitutional Confusion

In commenting on Pat Robertson's anathemas upon the community of Dover, PA, Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page juxtaposes two thoughts which are frequently voiced by critics of Intelligent Design, but which are mutually incompatible. He writes that the voters of Dover, by electing an entirely new school board, were, in effect, seeking to keep religion out of their school and maintain the separation of church and state. Page exclaims:

Ah, Dover. How dare you try to separate church and state!

A little later on in his essay, however, he utters this opinion, one commonly heard expressed by those who seek to banish ID from science classes:

Intelligent Design is ... more a matter of faith than science, more suitable in my view for a history or social studies class than for a course in real science.

Mr. Page seems to suffer from Constitutional confusion. If the separation of church and state is sufficient reason to keep ID out of science classes how can teaching it in a history or social science class be justified? Does he think that the putative great wall of separation surrounds only the science departments of our schools? If ID is suitable for a history class then the only reason that it would be unsuitable for a science class is that it's not good science, not that it violates the separation of church and state.