Is PS Against Using Scientific Arguments as Evidence for God's Existence?

I agree with this, but there are tacit as well as formal forms of endorsement. The way origins is taught in public school science classes could, depending on the phrasing used, depending on what is included or omitted, etc. amount to an informal endorsement of an atheistic as opposed to a theistic view, and could be taken to imply that certain beliefs dear to Bible-based Christians are factually false. It might be hard for Bible-based Christians to accept as politically “neutral” an implication that science has disproved the Biblical narrative. So while I endorse your principle, I think carrying it out in practice is not always a straightforward matter.

People who happen to be scientists are also humans and citizens. What they do as humans and citizens should not be blamed on their being scientists.

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So you are suggesting that, as Christians, they should have considered themselves omniscient and capable of knowing the intentions of God?

To me, that does not seem right.

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It will be interesting to see if @Eddie, @terrellclemmons, or @Paul_Nelson engage with your analysis.

Any attempt to conceive science as a way of determining the reality of design is an implicit presumption that divine work can be a controlled variable.

So how do you test for the absence of God?

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ID allows for an inference to design. That is not the same thing as determining the reality of design.

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A post was merged into an existing topic: Has the Discovery Institutes position on public education changed?

Your reaction misses the point. Falk etc. would have no problem saying they affirm the Trinity. They aren’t omniscient, so how do they know it’s true? They accept it on faith. They would have no problem affirming the doctrines of Fall and Redemption. They aren’t omniscient, so how do they know those doctrines are true? They affirm them on faith. So why wouldn’t they similarly affirm the doctrine of God’s sovereignty on faith? Why would they suddenly start shuffling and being vague and non-committal?

That’s not quite what I’m doing. I grant that scientists sometimes speak outside of their expertise on many matters. But that’s not what is being talked about here. I’m talking about the very obvious cultural trend, which no one who has been alive and conscious for the past 150 years can be unaware of, of pitting the conclusions of science against religious belief, of directly claiming or implying that science has made a number of religious beliefs no longer tenable. Dawkins isn’t saying, “I’m a scientist who happens to be atheist and to think that teaching religion to children is child abuse, but I’m not leaning on what I’ve learned from science in formulating such latter views, so don’t connect them with the way I as a scientist think the universe really is.” Dawkins is clearly suggesting that when science, especially evolutionary science, is clearly understood, it eats away at much of traditional religious belief. And that has been the suggestion going way back, and can be seen in the writings of the Rationalist society tracts of the early 20th century, in the writings of Bertrand Russell, etc., and all the way up to the present,

It doesn’t matter if not a single person posting here makes that argument. The people posting here are negligible in influence in the wider culture compared to figures like Sagan, Dawkins, Coyne, Krauss, etc. When ID got started, its founders weren’t thinking: “We’ve got to counteract the thought of Neil Rickert, T. aquaticus, etc.” They had never even heard of any of you guys. They thought there were much greater dragons to slay.

No, not at all. ID theory has always distinguished between things on the level of science (e.g., showing weaknesses in Darwinian storytelling and presenting evidence for design) and things that are outside of science – the sort of things that philosophy and theology discuss.

Your suggestion, and that of several others here, that ID should imitate BioLogos TE/EC and concentrate on refuting the New Atheists only when they go beyond science into philosophy or theology, is first of all preaching to the converted, because ID people have constantly pointed out where New Atheists have done this; indeed, they have raised those objections far more often and far more forcefully than anyone at BioLogos has done. (BioLogos has been way too busy systematically and obsessively attacking creationists and ID people to spend more than a small fraction of its money and energy responding to New Atheism.) Your suggestion also implies that ID proponents are duty-bound, on the level of science, to accept all the scientific claims of Dawkins, Coyne, etc. about what “evolutionary science” has established as beyond doubt. But they don’t agree that all those claims should be accepted, even on the level of science. For them, the New Atheists are wrong not only because they confuse science and scientism, but also sometimes wrong even in their science. Given that they believe that, it would be inconsistent for them to rubber-stamp the science of the New Atheists, as BioLogos does.

You can’t impose your view – that New Atheist science is perfectly good, and the only error of NA is making extra-scientific statements – on the ID people. They act in accord with their view, which is not the same as yours. You are trying to make out that they are confused, or making category errors, confusing science with scientism or the like. But that isn’t the case. They are very conscious of the differences between theology, philosophy, and science, and they have differences with the New Atheists on all of those levels.

It would be unwise of you to forget how much training on science/theology/philosophy demarcation issues the ID proponents have. Nelson, Ph.D. in philosophy of biology from the University of Chicago, Ph.D. supervisor a competent evolutionary biologist; Meyer, Ph.D. in philosophy of science from Cambridge; Richards, Ph.D. in Philosophy/Theology from Princeton; Wells, two Ph.D.s, one in Biology and one in Religion, with a thesis on theological implications of Darwin’s thought; Dembski, Ph.D.s in both philosophy and mathematics as well as degrees in psychology and theology. These people have thought a lot about relationships between levels of discourse, between science proper and scientism, etc. Indeed, they are vastly better trained to discuss such questions than Falk, Venema, Applegate, Haarsma, Louis, Collins, etc. are. The idea that the scientists at BioLogos, all with no academic training at all in anything but science, have anything to teach the ID leaders in this matter is absurd.


21 posts were split to a new topic: Has the Discovery Institutes position on public education changed?

In this case, they would be answering a faith question, so of course they answer it on the basis of their faith. But when you ask them a science question, you should expect them to give an answer appropriate to their science rather than one appropriate to their faith.

If you were to make it very clear that you were asking this as a faith question, they would probably word their answer very carefully, and you would not be satisfied with that. But they need to answer it carefully, because real life experience shows that what you say will be taken out of context and misconstrued as representing a statement about science.

And here you are taking Dawkins’ personal opinion as representing a statement about science.

Dawkins might want it to be taken that way. But it is, nevertheless, a statement of his personal opinion. Most of the scientists that I talk to will avoid saying the kinds of things that Dawkins says. They consider Dawkins to be fundamentalist atheist. And they mean “fundamentalist” in a pejorative sense.

We live in a world where many religious fundamentalists are shouting nonsense. I think we can tolerate a few atheist fundamentalists giving their opinions.


I did. Scores of times, over about nine years on BioLogos, and in conversation with a good number of the BioLogos leaders, and with many commenters. It didn’t make any difference. They weren’t about to answer it from the point of view of science, from the point of view of faith, or from any other point of view.

To put it bluntly, you weren’t there. So you don’t know how the conversations went. But I assure you I was transparently clear, restating my question over and over again in various words, in order to cope with the remarkable talents of evasion of the BioLogos people. Jon Garvey was there; he will attest how slippery they were when it came to discussing their theological views about God’s omnipotence, sovereignty, providence, etc.

If by “carefully,” you mean “making proper intellectual distinctions, such as are normally made by people who actually know something about Christian theology,” I would be very satisfied with that. But if by “carefully,” you mean “deftly avoiding commitment by the tactics of the politician who wants to avoid alienating any possible voter,” then no, I would not be satisfied with that.

Absolutely nothing in the universe was stopping them from saying, in CAPS or bold if they liked, things like, “As a scientist, I cannot answer that question, but as a Protestant evangelical who holds to the confessions of the Presbyterian Church USA, I believe that God …” They could easily have guarded against any misconstrual of their answers. But instead, they preferred not to answer. Again, you weren’t there.

Yes, exactly. And he is not the only one.

I agree. But you are still not grasping the nettle firmly. I am talking about the public perception. That public perception does not come from “most scientists.” “Most scientists” don’t write blog columns; “most scientists” don’t debate on sites on like this. “Most scientists” aren’t visible to the lay public. To the lay public, most scientists are eggheads off in universities somewhere, studying esoteric things of a technical nature which they don’t understand. So their perception of what “science” teaches about origins, about the nature of man and his place in the universe, about the attitude of “science” to religion, etc., comes almost entirely from a loud minority of scientists who seek the limelight, who court public opinion. Would you not concede this?

If you concede this, then you can see why ID writers, when thinking about the actual way that the authority of “science” is used in our culture (as opposed to how it should be used, if all scientists were as scrupulous as you admit they should be), write with the loud minority of publicly influential scientists in mind. Prudentially and tactically, that is the right thing to do. In modern, mass-media cultures, hearts and minds are won by battles between opinion leaders, not by what sane, sober people of intellectual modesty think.

Dawkins’s book The Blind Watchmaker is a very well-written book, and very persuasive on behalf of classical neo-Darwinian evolution. Behe praises Dawkins as a writer of clarity and force. And he knows that Dawkins’s book sold like hotcakes, and was read by all kinds of people who were not scientists: politicians, lawyers, judges, journalists, schoolteachers, professors, and uncounted numbers of the sort of lay person who watches National Geographic or PBS specials popularizing science. So he took his case to the same audience that Dawkins was courting in that book. He knew that even then, before Dawkins had begun his more scaled-up public attacks on religion, that Dawkins and many others thought that the science presented in the book made the religious belief of many Americans untenable. So he felt it necessary to show that far from proving that there was no design in nature (but only apparent design, which was Dawkins’s point), science reveals things about nature that strongly point to design. In other words, the theological point which Dawkins was hoping lay people would infer from modern science was for Behe unwarranted by what the most recent science of molecular machines etc. seems to imply. So if Dawkins and his admirers were going to try to use science, particularly neo-Darwinian evolution, to try to influence people’s religious views, there is no reason why another scientist should not be allowed to negate that attempt at influence.

Was Behe trying to prove the existence God through science? No. He said explicitly to Stephen Barr, in a debate that is easily available on the internet, that his reason for pursuing ID research was to better understand nature, not to prove the existence of God. But since at least some scientists were using science to try to undermine belief in God, he had every right to state his view that modern science did not do that.

I’m not giving even a hint that atheist fundamentalists should not be “tolerated.” I believe in complete freedom of speech, in the arena of ideas. (Shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater where there is not an actual fire is another matter.) I think the New Atheists have every right to write their books. But if others think that their books offer bad science, or bad metaphysics based on the improper use of science, those others also have the same freedom of speech, and their books should be tolerated as well.

Well, many of us have. I’m against any proposal to mandate the teaching of ID in 9th grade biology class. (So is Discovery.) I’m against any proposal to remove the teaching of evolution from high school science. (So is Discovery.) I’m against any proposal to promote Christianity as the true religion, in science class or any public school class. (So is Discovery.) But there is nothing wrong with a “watchdog” activity on the teaching of evolution in the schools, to make sure that it stays within what Neil Rickert is calling the proper and legitimate bounds of science, and doesn’t try to slip little bits of materialism or atheism here and there, even subtly or between the lines. This watchdog activity would not be necessary if the culture we lived in were different. But given that the culture we live in is heavily influenced by atheist and materialist presentations of evolution, public alertness regarding how evolution is presented in schools that are supposed to be religion-neutral is a good thing.

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I’ve read most of the posts in this thread, but I’m curious how you would answer the question. What would your summary be?

I think I would summarize it as “it’s complicated”. Of course, in an open internet forum that welcomes diverse viewpoints, it’s nearly impossible to say anything definitive about Peaceful Science.

I would generally say that many people on PS are skeptical about the strength of evidence for God’s existence that could come from science. I don’t think that means they are against scientific arguments, per se, but rather that they may want to distinguish between scientific hypotheses and arguments using scientific data. They will also likely want to be careful about “good” vs “bad” scientific arguments.



And yet overly zealous faith has ruined their ability to use these demarcation tools and skills… pity.

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Almost no discussion here can be summarized, Jordan, because almost no discussion stays on topic. The subject here was supposed to be the question asked in the title line: “Is PS Against Using Science Arguments as Evidence for God’s Existence?” But as you can see from the recent replies from Mercer and Brooks, some are eager to change the topic to whether or not Behe has done any research lately, whether or not the Wedge Document represents DI’s policy for the schools, etc. Yet none of that addresses the question at hand. Certain people here keep returning to talking about ID and the DI, no matter what the topic. It’s almost to the point where I could write, “The sky is blue,” and someone would reply, “Oh, yeah? Well, ID is just garbage!”

In my answers to you and to Neil and to Daniel, I tried to address the subject of how knowledge of God and knowledge of science are related, and I dealt with ID only because some people here were suggesting that ID wrongly conflated science and theology, unlike the virtuous people at BioLogos who carefully separate them. I explained why ID folks adopted the strategy they did – but only because of the charges being made against ID. I wouldn’t have mentioned ID otherwise. But it keeps getting dragged into these discussions.

And that might not be bad where there is some relevance of ID to the subject. For example, there is a connection through the notion that ID is or aspires to be scientific. But once we are arguing about the Wedge document, or the DI’s policy on science in the high schools, we are now arguing about other questions. I would request that Mercer and George restrain themselves from off-topic culture-war shots at ID and Discovery, and stick to the theological subject-matter established by the title. If they want to talk about whether Behe still counts as an active scientist, or the Wedge document, or DI’s schools policy, let them start their own discussions on those topics! They know how to use the software to do that. This habit of cluttering every thread with standard complaints about ID and the DI turns every discussion murky and incoherent.

I actually find the question in the title line somewhat ambiguous. Does it mean, does the management of PS oppose using science arguments…?" In that case, it would be more accurately put as “Does Joshua oppose…?” since he is the site owner and the opening statements on the site state his views. Or does it mean, “Do the majority of people posting at PS oppose…?” In that case, we would need to formally survey the posters. And will the count be weighted, i.e., will those who post more often get more votes than those who post only once every three months? The question itself is flawed, because the referent of “PS” is not clarified.

This is false, but it should be discussed elsewhere. Start a thread on demarcation criteria and ID proponents’ academic training, if you like. I will respond there.

Your statement that my statement about Discovery is erroneous, is itself erroneous. However, this belongs somewhere else. Start a thread on DI science education policy, if you like.

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To everything (spin, spin, spin)
There is a season (spin, spin, spin)
And a time to every purpose, under DI.

– with apologies to The Byrds

I made no such implication, Eddie. I appreciate your taking the time to respond but I’ll leave it to others to decide on whether they find it convincing or spin.

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This is a potentially fruitful suggestion, Jordan. If one could articulate the difference between the two things you compare, one might be able to make some progress in understanding the nature of ID argumentation for design.

I have often heard people (e.g., Stephen Barr) say that ID makes argument for design, and that they are reasonable arguments, but not scientific arguments. This implies that there is a difference between “rational argument for design based upon consideration of the facts established by the most recent scientific study of life” and “scientific argument for design.” It would be interesting to hear what a “scientific argument for design” would have to look like (according to those who doubt that the thing could exist), and what a “scientific argument” generally looks like.

Galileo apparently did not consider the suggestion of forces acting at a distance to be a scientific hypothesis, but mystical, pseudoscientific claptrap, but I doubt anyone today would say that arguments concluding the existence of forces acting at a distance are scientifically invalid arguments.

I wonder if the arguments for the multiverse and for string theory (neither of which, if I understand the situation correctly, can currently be empirically tested) would count as “scientific” under any rule that excluded design inferences from being “scientific.”

I’d be interested your further thoughts on this, Jordan.

Stereotypes exist for all groups. I’m not sure what the solution is for this problem, but it certainly isn’t limited to scientists. I would suspect that there are people who paint all Christians with the Westboro Baptist brush.

There are also people who seek out the most strident voices out of a group in order to feel persecuted. This is why some Christians may seek out the Dawkins stereotype instead of other voices like Dr. Collins or @swamidass.

Accident implies intent. I think you need to find a different description.


Not according to any common use of the word in general English. This is a rather startling claim. Would care to justify it? Or do you just expect that everyone will agree with it?

I can’t speak about an indefinite “some Christians,” but before I started voicing opinions on origins on the internet I made a point of reading the books of “other voices” such as the books of Collins and Miller.

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Sure it does. If you have a car accident it implies you intended not to hit someone. If mutations are accidents, it implies that those mutations weren’t supposed to happen, but somehow did anyway.