I was pleased to discover that Dr. Swamidass hosted Dr. Randal Rauser to discuss the question of charitable dialogue with atheists. Dr. Rauser has written a wonderful book, Is the Atheist my Neighbor?, and I was glad to see that Dr. Swamidass wanted to discuss the book. Randal posted Dr. Swamidass’s blog, so I was able to come here and look around.
To my dismay, the first thing I saw was this:
“He … is a skeptic of Intelligent Design and scientific creationism. Agreeing with the non-theist Eugenie Scott, he argues science is silent on God’s action, and cannot properly consider theological claims, like the existence or action of God.”
Clearly, Dr. Swamidass was equating ID with a form of scientific creationism, which claims that science can detect God’s action and consider theological claims. And that is a very uncharitable characterization of ID. ID only claims that there is evidence of intelligent design in nature, detectable by empirical observation and reason. It does not claim that it can detect that God is doing the designing.
I ask that in the spirit of being charitable that Dr. Swamidass amend his introduction of himself. As a suggestion, perhaps something like this:
“He doesn’t think ID has succeeded in providing good scientific grounds for believing that there has been intelligent design in nature.”
After listing ID and scientific creationism together, you then say that you agree with Eugenie Scott that God’s actions are invisible to science. Eugenie Scott made a point of arguing that ID was just a cloak for creationism, and was therefore religious in nature. By referring to Scott in your introduction, you are identifying yourself with her stance against ID as being religious. Did you want to do that?
I think you are reading a bit too much in to what I mean there, and have missed a key distinction I make. I see a very big difference between divine design and creaturely design. Sometimes we can detect creaturely design in science, but divine design ends up outside science’s ability to engage.
I understand that ID tries to collapse these two types of design (divine and creaturely) into a single category, but I do not know how to make sense of that. In fact, it appears most ID people can’t make sense of it either, because they usually freely acknowledge that it is God who is the Intelligent Designer. Just about everyone is thinking “Intelligent Designer = God” even though the formal possibility of something other than God (what?) is left open ended. That is why, for example, the Crossway TE book made such big hay about detecting God’s action, and pointed to ID as a way of detecting God’s action, apparently with the approval of ID leaders.
That complexity aside, I do not think science speaks of God. Silence, however, is neither disproving nor denying that God exists. This is a key point for those drawn to ID, even if ID itself does not (usually) acknowledge God either.
I think your efforts are misdirected. If you honestly believe that ID is not just a subcategory of creationism, then you should advise ID proponents to make this clear thru their actions. Specifically, they should explicitly reject anti-scientific and nonsensical positions such as belief in a Young Earth and denial of common ancestry, neither of which is an essential component of ID and which are clearly positions based on particular theological preconceptions that are in defiance of the scientific evidence.
Of course, if one is not being “charitable” and, instead, is following the evidence where it leads, that applies to ID as well. But it seems this discussion is an exercise in “charitability”, so I’ll try stick to that.