Rethinking intelligent design

Dr. Thomas Woodward came to my college (Princeton) to give a talk on Intelligent Design. I had already made up my mind a while back that ID was bogus, the arguments had been pummeled into the ground and that it was bad science and even worse theology. I went to the talk expecting to give him a good talking-to. To my surprise, he was very reasonable and the points he made were at the very least thought-provoking. Some of the evidence of design he presented I hadn't heard before. What was most interesting, though, was that he pointed me to the work of Brad Monton, a philosopher of physics who did his PhD at Princeton, who is an atheist but who also thinks at least some of the ID arguments have some merit. Check out his fascinating blog here and read the preview of his forthcoming book, Seeking God in Science, in which he-gasp-defends ID as an atheist, and thinks ID should be discussed in the science classroom as an illustration of some of the difficult questions that arise in philosophy of science.

I'm ashamed that as a self-proclaimed critical thinker I let myself be swayed by the emotional atheist rhetoric against ID. The truth is that I haven't really engaged with the ID writings in any depth, and at the very least I owe people like Dembski, Behe, Meyer, Denton and others the courtesy of careful consideration, more than they get from the hysterical mass media. I've always been about the quality of arguments. I couldn't care less if ID is creationism disguised as science, or whether there is a pernicious political agenda behind it. I want to know how good the arguments are. And I haven't really gone a long way towards doing that.

P.S. See here for another article where an atheist defends a design argument from inept objections

P.P.S. I've assembled a reading list of what I think are the most rigorous, sophisticated design arguments available here


Anonymous said…

All I can say is, that's exactly what you're going to get. You're one of those people to whom God will say, 'THY will be done' and consign you to your freely chosen fate.
Anonymous said…
And you aren't even trying to follow the grand commission? What's the matter? Why aren't you a bible-believing Christian, like, say, Fred Phelps?
Leslie said…
Is there any chance that talk was recorded and might be available to listen to?
Randy T said…
One book I would recommend to anyone serious about Intelligent Design is "The Design Matrix: A Consilience of Clues" by Mike Gene. As one reviewer on put it "very nearly a top-tier ID book".
And you aren't even trying to follow the grand commission? What's the matter? Why aren't you a bible-believing Christian, like, say, Fred Phelps?

"wherever you happen to be going, tell..." that's what it really says.
Peter Bruin said…
It is true that there is a lot of emotional atheist rhetoric against ID, but that doesn't mean that there isn't much to say against it on scientific grounds. Here in the Netherlands ID was popularised in three books edited by Cees Dekker (a well-known biophycisist), and three others. Dekker was regarded as the main spokesman for ID, although he didn't explicitly position himself as an adherent of ID. In the last few years, he has actually come to the conclusion that the scientific value of ID is disappointingly small, and now describes himself as a theistic evolutionist.

I am of the same opinion regarding ID as a scientific theory, but I do believe design arguments to have some philosophical merit.
Anonymous said…
One argument from design which I consider really interesting:
Leslie said…
Hey I found a talk by Dr. Woodward here

I don't know if it's really similar or not, but it's there all the same. Also, I had some audio issues with it, but I'm not sure if that's just my computer or not. :-/
Leslie said…
Follow this link to that talk instead ... it didn't have the audio issues I had with the other.
Anonymous said…
"'wherever you happen to be going, tell...' that's what it really says."

No, that's not what it says. Do you really need me to point to the exact verse that contains the grand commission? I thought you knew something about the bible.
Tenax said…
I am by no means an expert here, but I think ID is supposed to mean that evolution is an insufficient explanation for the universe and life. But I have never understood why that matters.

To me, the utterly complex nature of the universe, from stars forming and burning and providing energy to the DNA strand to, above all, human consciousness...all these evolution cannot explain except that they developed according to some amazing natural laws. It may (may) describe how these things formed, but it cannot address the larger and obvious questions. Why is the universe the way it is? Where did those organizational principles come from? Why does the universe allow life to develop at all? These seem fair questions, if meta-scientific questions, in any science or philosophy course. The question of ID, in the sense that the universe brings about life according to amazing principles we are still uncovering, is a powerful discussion.

Of course, part of what makes the discussion so provocative is suffering and death. The universe is a remarkable and precise place...there may well be an intelligent's also a brutal place....the designer may be highly intelligent but he might not be moral or caring. I can't see why this can't be discussed, even for a day, in science courses. Nor do I see why evolution negates theism or Christian theism, even if the problem of suffering remains problematic.

But to say that evolution, even if every step of the process can be known and observed (and how will this ever takes so long for things to evolve) somehow disproves God or even changes the God discussion at all...that I do not see.

I guess the problem comes, in part, from some very naive readings of the creation myths in Genesis.
Anonymous said…
Bravo for you J.D.

For being willing to look deeper into this issue.

I've known Tom for a while now, and I think he has some excellent points to make.

When you're ready to think about another angle on this issue, please consider taking on the idea of discrimination and persecution of educators and scientists who are Darwin skeptics.

Kind regards,

Kevin Wirth

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