Ahab wrote: Just respond to the question I asked in my original post:Given a choice between saying that a supernatural being causes lung cancer in people that smoke or finding and explaining the physical processes that link smoking to lung cancer, where do you want this scientific funding to go? Which methodology do you honestly think is going to be most effective in understanding how lung cancer is caused and helping to prevent and cure it?
VR: Well, I happen to think it was a physical process, so I would certainly look for a physical process, but does that mean I have to maintain my physicalism even if the evidence points the other way? You have to look really hard for physical causes before concluding that there are none. In one sense I am all in favor of methodological naturalism, as a defeasible heuristic. I don't think we should write it an infinite blank check, and say that nothing could disconfirm my belief that this or that event has a natural cause.But if it turns out to be true that God did bring about the correlation between smoking and cancer, then I would want a science that could, in principle tell me that this is so.
At least ID can come up with a reason why God might want bacteria to have flagella; it plays an important role in the development of future species. There is a teleological account that makes at least some sense; given that God wants complex creatures to develop, the BF is a good idea.
Ahab: Given what has already been learned from evolutionary theory, there is very good evidence to suppose that the bacterial flegellum is a result of those some processes. And, given what we already know about the laws of physics, you'd need some very strong evidence to abandon the assumption that any physical effect does not have a prior physical history.
VR: If this were correct, then neither Big Bang cosmology nor quantum-mechanical indeterminism would have ever gotten off the ground, because in both cases we are taking events in nature and saying that they do not have determining physical causes. If we were really locked into physicalistic determinism, then both Big Bang theory and QM would be thrown out as pseudoscience.
Ahab: When archeologists study artefacts that were intelligently designed they are able to approximate how these artifacts were made because the designers were very much like us. Often they will recreate one possible way to make a particular artefact. They can also figure out for what purpose the designers made these artifacts. Again, because they already have a very good idea of who these designers are. All of this information about the artifact is filtered through MN. ID'er's often insist there is no way to know who this intelligent designer of the bacterial flagellum is. If not, how can we know the purpose behind the design? Was this intelligent designer(s) simply playing a practical joke by making something that could be taken to resemble an outboard motor?
VR: Again, I really do think that the design theorist needs to come up with an account of why this development fits somebody's purposes. I'm not too sure that that wouldn't be too hard to do here, however.
Ahab: A theistic explanation is fine within the realm of theology and people's faith systems. I've never claimed or argued here that theists shouldn't be allowed and even encouraged to use their faith to help them understand this world. But those kind of explanations are not scientific. Science doesn't deal with trying to prove or disprove the existence of God or of any of the particular theological claims any particular faith may have. That is why any scientist (whether the is an atheists, theists or agnostics) can adhere in good conscience to the scientific theory of evolution.
VR: Of course they can be evolutionists. I accept an ancient earth, the gradual appearance of species, and common descent myself. (As does Behe). But I do see design behind the process, and I have always wondered, is there a scientific way to detect that design, or does that always have to be an extrascientific belief that may or may not be reasonable to hold?
Ahab: The last part of your sentence can be understood in a couple of different ways... (The sentence was that many first-rate scientists have been Christians) However, if you mean that they should take one of their cherished theological doctrines and try to get other scientists to accept it, I couldn't disagree more. You keep hand-wringing over how science is going to be ruined by not accepting your AfR. If you inject supernturalistic based explanations that rely on your particular belief of what God wants into science, you will see science ruined so quickly it will make you dizzy.
VR: Which cherished doctrine? If you mean six-day creation or something like that, then ID theorists have said over and over and over again that they are not out to defend that kind of position. Whatever motivations design theorists have in mind, at the end of the day the evidence has to support their position. You don't have to screen them out at the entrance to science; they will leave quietly as the weight of the evidence stacks up against them, if it does stack up against them.
Ahab: And after all, if God is willing to create a world in which there is so much evil, why couldn't He create one in which natural selection directs the random variations that result from things like mutations of DNA? If you are able to swallow evil why do you spit out natural selection? Do you really think natural selection is a worse problem for theodicy than evil?
VR: I would be the last person to deny natural selection. I don't think all ID theorists want to deny evolution in toto. I sure as heck don't. The question for me is whether there is any way to detect design along the way. I spent most of my life calling myself a theistic evolutionist. But I don't think you have to make methodological naturalism an absolute, the way Lewontin does in his review of Sagan. And I don't think it's necessary to conflate ID with creationism, when ID theorists say over and over that they are not creationists. And I don't think it's necessary to attack the intellectual credentials and motives of everyone who has doubts about Darwin. ID theorists are asking serious, important questions, that the culture as a whole is asking. They do not deserve the kind of arrogant dismissal with which they are all too often greeted.
As for public school education, all I would ask is that educators not be dogmatic either way. Last I heard, science education was about letting people make up their own minds based on the evidence. Why teach evolution in a brainwashing way? I don't think we are anywhere near getting to the bottom of the issues posed by intelligent design.