Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Ray Schneider of Spare Oom on ID

Ray Schneider, of the newsgroup Spare Oom that I subscribe to, has some comments about the ID controversy:

This morning's paper in Harrisonburg has the headline: 'Intelligent
Design' Blocked.  U.S. District Judge John E. Jones, a Republican and
churchgoer (the paper goes on to point out) delivered a stinging
attack on the Dover Area School Board decision in October 2004 to
insert intelligent design into the science curriculum saying that it
violated the separation of church-and-state.

I'm not sure which part violated church-and-state, 'intelligent' or
'design' -- maybe it has to be a juxtaposition since apparently
evolution which is unintelligent design (i.e. the same result) -- so
ascribing intelligence to nature must be the offense.  That would at
least be pantheism and of course design rather suggests a designer
which starts to particularize things a bit too much.

Manuel selected two questions for some further comment:

a) Can we prove God's existence by means of science? and

b) How can God interact with the world so as to direct evolution
(or whatever process) in the direction He wants it to follow?

a) Can we prove God's existence by means of science?

Manuel says "I think not."  My answer is the universal answer "It
depends."  It depends on what you mean by science and what
intellectual operations you admit into the mix.  Science commonly
accepts the need for some kind of causality: if this then that.  It
also admits of the principle of sufficient reason -- i.e. an effect
must be fully explained by the cause.  They discovered neutrinos for
example by noting that there was missing energy and so postulated the
existence of the neutrino to explain the missing energy.  That's a
direct application of the principle of sufficient reason.

In the case of a personal God, I tend to agree with Manuel.  But to
prove that God exists it seems to me sufficient to point out that:I.
First Point: 1) if nothing had ever existed then nothing would ever
have come to be (that's a tautological statement since understanding
the terms makes it clear that the statement is true.)-- so 2)Something
has always existed. II. Second Point: 1) All things that come into
existence come into existence through something else already existing.
[Cause and Effect] 2) These causes of those things that come into
existence have sufficient reason in themselves to cause the existence
of the succeeding thing. [Principle of Sufficient Reason.] 3)
Therefore, there has always been a cause with sufficient explanatory
power to explain matter, life, and reason. [Current observables.]
III. This sufficient cause must be eternal, living [in the sense of
being able to cause life] and rational.  IV. 1) Matter is mutable and
apparently not eternal since it can be destroyed by reducing it to
energy. [See matter/anti-matter reactions. -- note while there are
also energy to matter reactions these are a bit more like the billard
balls coming together to form the break -- more improbable.] 2) The
mutability of matter suggests that it is not eternal. In
thermodynamics we see that systems of energy have a bias in the
direction of disorder.  Systems become more disordered in time.  This
is only reversed in systems with external sources of energy (sic the
sun)-- in such cases one can have local increases in order.  But
overall, in closed systems, disorder increases.  This also points to
matter not being eternal. 3) If matter is not eternal then the
principle or aspect or reality that possesses the characteristics that
explain everything must also be immaterial but capable of generating
material. V. If we need a name for this principle, God is as good a
name as any. [Danger of importing other connotations such as
Judeo-Christian religious predicates.  We might say God Of First
Principles as opposed to Personal God.]

Is this scientific?  I think so.  But it also is philosophical in that
it appeals to philosophical principles like causality and the
principle of sufficient reason -- but then so does science.

b) How can God interact with the world so as to direct evolution
(or whatever process) in the direction He wants it to follow?

I suppose that the short answer to this question is that we really
don't know. Manuel and I agree on this. I don't think it can be in the
starting conditions -- that is the deistic view.  If the God answer of
part (a) is true then there is no reason to believe that this
principle ceases ever to be operative.  Thus there are perpetual
interactions, not necessarily visible, between the principle (God),
the cause, and the myriad of effects.  We really don't know, but
perhaps all the forces that seem to have immaterial causes that we
explain with all sorts of mathematical equations are supplied by this
immaterial being -- thus gravity, electromagnetic forces, the strong
and weak force -- perhaps these are all supplied continuously by this
being.  That's a bit too pantheistic for me, but I do believe that
there is some cogency in it.

What about Divine Providence?  We've all, I think, had those "wierd"
experiences that things just fell together in a way that makes you
want to look over your shoulder.  Maybe not all the time, but almost
always some of the time.  "God's middle name is coincidence" my mother
used to say.

There is more to existence than we can know.  Intelligent Design seems
to me to point to these things we do not, and perhaps cannot know.
How is it that such exotic, massively complex, micro-beings that we
know exist came into existence?  Was it blind random chance?  Why
would we think so?

In view of these things, I am inclined to believe that those who
insist on not believing in at least this principle, God Of First
Principles, are simply blind or have an ulterior motive they may not
even be fully aware of.  Perhaps it is that if they do not believe
then they cannot be held to account for any entailments that such
belief may involve.  The Hound of Heaven is not so easily deflected.
Lewis felt hunted -- so are we all!  It is appropriate that Aslan is a
lion.

Cheers, Ray

2 comments:

Jim Lippard said...

"I'm not sure which part violated church-and-state, 'intelligent' or
'design' -- maybe it has to be a juxtaposition since apparently
evolution which is unintelligent design (i.e. the same result) -- so
ascribing intelligence to nature must be the offense. That would at
least be pantheism and of course design rather suggests a designer
which starts to particularize things a bit too much."

Is it too much to ask that people actually read the decision before commenting on it?

The above quote makes it clear that the author didn't even read the order at the end of the decision, and apparently has no understanding of the legal or factual basis of the issues involved in the Dover case.

He should be embarassed.

Anonymous said...

I didn't realize that Victor has posted this, or at least I don't remember knowing it.
I'm most definitely not embarrassed. The commenter obviously thinks one has to actually read a decision to comment about the general principles involved. Sorry -- I don't accept that rule. In fact it is a rule which paralizes people.
Try reading the government procurement regulations sometime. If you think that everyone who does business with the government has read the procurement regulations you are sadly mistaken. Even the government contracting types haven't.
Life is too short to read all the rubbish that is out there. So the long and short of it is that I'm not only not embarrassed, I was quite impressed with myself when I reread the piece. That Ray Schneider bloke knows a thing or two, maybe even three.
Cheers, Ray