Comments on the ID Panel on Larry King Live

Tuesday night, Larry King's CNN television show Larry King Live hosted a panel to discuss the idea of teaching Intelligent Design in the classroom. The panel included Barbara Forrest, Ph.D., author of Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design, and Dr. Jay Richards, vice president of the Discovery Institute, who were the only two who really addressed ID. The other panel members included people like Deepak Chopra who kept trying to infuse Eastern Mysticism into the debate, John MacArthur who lost all credibility with the majority of the viewership when he accepted Young Earth Creationism, Senator Sam Brownback who simply reiterated over and over that we should have a robust national debate on the subject, and Congressman Chris Shays who could not articulate a consistent position on the issue other than to express his disapproval that we should be discussing this issue at all when there are so many other problems in the world.

Dave Johnson, webmaster of the fine website Contend for the Faith recently alerted me that the transcript of the discussion by the panel is now available on the Internet here. I wanted to give a couple of thoughts on this discussion, and ask for your comments.

First, I found that the person who came across best in the discussion was Dr. Richards. He kept the discussion on focus on the issue of the evidence for intelligent design and refused to be dragged into the claims that ID is merely creationism -- the only claim really made by Dr. Forrest. At one point, Larry King asked Dr. Richards a question that was asked of me earlier: "Who designed the intelligent designer?" Dr. Richards answered the question in precisely the same fashion that I suggested an ID advocate would:

We can tell that Mt. Rushmore is sculpted, right? You can tell that there was an intelligence behind it. The fact that you can ask a follow-up question about the origin of the designer doesn't contradict the initial claim we can detect intelligence. That's all design theory does, it focuses on these clear indicators of intelligent agency, just like a detective does or anyone would do, in which you're detecting the activities of intelligent agents.

If I may reiterate one more time: ID is not some sort of "Christian science" that is in place to prove that God created the universe. ID merely looks at the evidence in nature and sees samples of highly complex systems which are organized only with the aid of the massive amounts of information found in DNA strands, and says that Darwinian evolution cannot account for this (not "has not" but "cannot" account for this). These complex systems show evidence of design, and science should not be bonded to a precommitment to philosophical naturalism in understanding these issues. It really is that straightforward.

Apparently, Dr. Forrest, who I found to be engaging in a smear campaign throughout her answers, was not convinced. Her main and only point was that ID was not science but was creationism. What evidence did she provide for that assertion in this discussion? Not much. Here was her best shot:

Number one, this isn't about science. Dr. Richards' adviser at the Discovery Institute, Philip Johnson stated that this is about religion and philosophy. It's not really about science. There really isn't a scientific controversy to debate. I'd also like to point out that Dr. Richards' associate at the Discovery Institute, Dr. William Demski has said that intelligent design is the logos of John's gospel restated in the idiom information theory. This is just as biblically based as the earlier traditional type of creationism.

And one more thing. Another of Dr. Richards' associates, Paul Nelson pointed out in an interview just one years ago that they don't have a theory of biological design at the Discovery Institute. They simply don't have a theory, and in order to have a theory -- in order to do research, they would have to have a theory. He admitted very candidly that they don't have any, and there is not one iota of scientific data that the Discovery Institute creationists have produced to support what they say. This is not about science. This is about religion, and political power.

That's it? You are given roughly three minutes of fame on Larry King Live and that's the best you can do? Let me respond briefly to each of these points.

The Johnson quote: While I don't know for certain that he said this, I certainly believe he probably said this (or something like this) because it is true. Part of the larger debate between ID and the reigning paradigm of Darwinian evolution is philosophical. Is science limited by philosophical naturalism, or should we allow the evidence to lead us where it may, even if it has religious implications? As Dr. Richards pointed out:

Arguments in evidence from science have theological implications on all sides, the probably world's best known Darwinist Richard Dawkins said Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. So he was arguing a theological point based on a scientific theory.

That doesn't mean Darwinism shouldn't be discussed in public schools, the same way intelligence design obviously has theological implications. A lot of people like to talk about the supposed motivations of design theorists. But whether somebody is a Christian or Theist, or a Hindu or an Atheist, the evidence and the arguments are what matters. And that's what we're hoping people start talking about, and not the supposed religious motivations that Dr. Forrest talked about or this discussion as if the debate over intelligent design is simply a debate between science and religion. It's a debate about the evidence of science and its proper interpretation and that's a legitimately public debate.

Regarding the Dembski quote: Again, I don't know where he said this, but I have no reason to believe he didn't. Dembski, if I read him right, does believe that the designer behind the design we see in the universe is God (the Christian God, that is), but the fact that he believes such a thing does not mean that ID advocates that God is the designer. ID merely says that there is evidence for design and does not specify or identify the creator. It could be God, it could be Brahma, it could be intelligent chemical beings that live in the cells and shepherd the constituent parts to their places. ID doesn't know, and does not make any assertions on that issue.

Regarding the Nelson quote: I don't know that he said this, but if he did, then it is not inconsistent with this being a science. ID is very limited in what it does. It focuses on those things that show evidence of design and tries to identify them. No, it doesn't have a broad theory of biological design. Neither does it have a theory of economics. So what? And there is no evidence? She really needs to read up more on ID because they point to very specific things that we can see (such as the flagellum and the incredible complexity of the nano-techonology apparent in the cell) as evidence for design.

Dr. Richards did a great job on Larry King Live, and the mere fact that this is being discussed on such a forum is further evidence that ID is making an impact and changing the way people are seeing this issue. Dr. Forrest, I call on you and all other Darwinian advocates to stop trying to stop the debate. Let's examine this closely and put aside your efforts to paint this whole things as creationism in disguise. That is a rhetorical war you are losing and are going to lose.

Any comments?

Category: Intelligent Design



What a group -- from John McArthur to Deepak Chopra!

With a group that eclectic, combined with King as a moderator, I would not expect much ground to get covered. The best one could hope for is a sound bite style argument -- which is sounded like Richard's delivered with his Mt. Rushmore rejoinder.

I would like to have heard Richard's response to Forrest's riposte ... "They simply don't have a theory, and in order to have a theory -- in order to do research, they would have to have a theory."

A solid response is needed to this complaint, imho.

I would like to know if McArthur was for or against Jay Richards ... I don't have a good read on what the YEC crowd makes of ID.

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