[Vision2020] Eugenie Scott's Talk at U of I

Tbertruss at aol.com Tbertruss at aol.com
Sun Oct 16 21:56:14 PDT 2005

Michael et. al.

Michael wrote on 10/14/05

With amazing regularity across cultures and time, man is a deeply religious 
being, a worshiping being, having the experience of the ‘numinous.’ Even in 
the earliest Hindu texts we find a Creator God varuna, faithful to His Covenant, 
giving grace to his worshipers.   All of this is in fact the Classical 
Christian view, and it seems somewhat immune to this particular argument of yours.

This discussion was inspired on Vision2020, I think it is fair to state, by 
the current ongoing cultural/political/religous/scientific/epistemplogical (how 
about that for holism?) debate regarding what theories about Intelligent 
Design and/or Creationism are appropriate, if any, to be taught as "science" in a 
science classroom, is it not?  Eugenie Scott's talk at the U of I was arranged 
no doubt in part because of this current debate in courtrooms and in the 
media, etc.  

My position is that all "coherent" theories that illuminate this discussion, 
whether minority theories or not, or from other cultures or religious 
traditions or not, should be considered.  A statement like this leads to endless 
complexity, it appears.  I should not be surprised.

Perhaps it would be wise to stick to a focused debate about whether 
Intelligent Design and/or Creationism are "scientific theories" and if so, what 
theories among all the possible on this subject should then be included in a science 
classroom?  Once philosophers wade into the deep, deep stormy waters of 
speculative theology, the Mariana Trench looks like the safe sparkling cheery kiddie 
wading pool in summertime backyards, and the discussion becomes like the 
atmosphere of Jupiter, heavier and heavier as you go deeper and deeper, with an 
elusive, hard to pinpoint solid surface:  and avoid the Red Spot, a hurricane of 
sorts that can swallow two Earths that has been viewed staring out angrily 
from Jupiter for hundreds of years.

Now, to answer Metzler, and make a few other points:

It seems in your comment on top above you are asserting I was making an 
argument I was not making in my response to your referencing of Plantinga.  If it 
can be shown that the "Classical Christian view" on Intelligent 
Design/Creationism is a "scientific" view, it deserves consideration in a science classroom, 
along with any other views on this subject that have the appropriate merit as 
"scientific" theories.  Thus if it can be shown that a cyclical view of 
Creation, perhaps the never ending explosion/expansion/collapse/explosion cycle 
advocated by some cosmologists, deserves scientific merit in a science classroom, 
a view that eliminates the view that the universe must have been "created," 
then it should also be included.

Science does have evidence illuminating the origin and fate of our universe: 
Big Bang origin, the debate between gravity leading to an eventual collapse 
vs. endless expansion, and now Super String Theory, which some question as to 
its inclusion in "science" because of (guess what?) problems with empirical 
verification, the same problem many speculative religious theories about the 
creation of the universe and human beings also face.  The problem for Intelligent 
Design/Creationism theory is to find a testable reproducible empirical method 
of data gathering and/or experimentation that can be presented in a science 
classroom as "science" based on a theory that also passes logical/mathematical 
analysis for coherence with itself and other established theories of science.  I 
see no a priori reason that at some point in time such a project might not be 
possible.  But is it possible now?  Of course those who believe in the theory 
of Intelligent Design stating that "aliens from another planet came to Earth 
and genetically engineered human intelligence millions of years ago" could 
have their theory supported if we found a spacecraft buried on Earth.  Now that 
would throw the world into a tizzy!

My point, rephrased, is that if we are going to discuss with an open mind all 
the options that are tenable relating to "science" for Intelligent Design 
and/or Creationism in science classrooms, then all tenable religious/spiritual 
views or other sorts of views (aliens genetically engineering of human 
intelligence: the Raelians) on this subject should be presented and debated for their 
"scientific" merit.

I think the claim that we should limit our options regarding what theories 
may have scientific merit, that renders them suitable for science classrooms, 
for Intelligent Design/Creationism, a "suspicious" suggestion, not appropriate 
for the investigation of the truth without preconceived biases antithetical to 
the scientific method.

To say the alternatives are "atheism or evolution" might make a great sound 
bite, and fire up the faithful, but it is a false dilemma.  The Catholic Church 
accepts evolution, along with a creator God who designed the universe.  
Indeed, though I do not know all the details of the exact "official" Catholic view, 
an all powerful God could have made the Earth five billion or so years ago in 
the creation of the Solar System, knowing the God created processes of 
scientifically understandable material evolution would generate human beings as we 
know them from simpler life forms, beings that God then has endowed and/or will 
endow with an eternal soul from a "spiritual realm," ruled by ethics and laws 
God established, both for the "material" Earth and the "spirit" realm.

You altered the terms of some aspects of this discussion away from your 
original statement that I first responded to.  Your original statement was:

As someone like Alvin Plantinga would point out however, another option would 
be to see belief in God as properly basic: something immediately produced ‘
because’ of the ‘evidence’ presented to the senses of the complexity and beauty 
of the world, but not discursively ‘based upon’ propositional evidence 
derived from such experience

In your statement above, "propositional evidence" is not included as the 
basis for this "belief in God as properly basic."  If someone is using 
"propositional evidence" to arrive at a specific belief in God, they are utilizing a 
process that you excluded in your presentation of Plantinga's views, which is what 
I responded to.

Then, when you responded to my objections to Plantinga's views (as you 
paraphrased his views, it seemed), you wrote:

You are correct; if there was a properly functioning belief producing 
mechanism (undamaged) in each and every human being that triggered the belief in an 
Almighty Creator upon the ‘evidence’ of the beauty and grandeur of ‘creation,’
 then each and every human being would be a monotheist.   But of course, we 
know this is not true.   But the fact that there is therefore no such belief 
forming mechanism is not the only alternative.  We could propose a highly 
damaged belief producing mechanism: one that sometimes hardly works at all, or at 
other times even when it does work, it is so weak and faulty that self-deceptive 
mechanisms take over and the belief in an Almighty Creator is suppressed 
(e.g. “but it would be best if the Almighty didn't exist so that I could sleep 
with Sally tonight”).

What you wrote above is analyzing belief in God including "self deceptive 
mechanisms" and "belief producing mechanisms" that may involve "propositional 
evidence" it seems you were excluding from your original statement that I found 
objectionable.  I responded to that original statement by pointing out the 
empirical fact that belief in a monotheistic creator God is not, as you phrased 
it, "properly basic: something immediately produced ‘because’ of the ‘evidence’
 presented to the senses..." given the millions of people who believe quite 

Of course it could be argued, as it appears you do, that perhaps belief in a 
monotheistic creator God is "basic" in all human beings, and those who believe 
otherwise have a "damaged belief producing mechanism."  But now we enter the 
realm of abnormal/pathological psychology and/or neurology: Are you willing to 
make a scientific claim (rather than declaring it a possibly valid theory, 
without presenting empirical evidence based on an established theory of mental 
pathology that supports this theory, for the self fulfilling purposes of 
supporting a speculative religious theory, however dressed up the theory may be in 
formal philosophical terms, arguments and references that give the appearance 
of logical and/or factual legitimacy) that everyone who believes in a cyclical 
universe with no creator, with the spirit realm ruled by a Goddess, has a 
"damaged belief producing mechanism?"

Regarding any argument I might have made referencing the "statistics of 
belief," I am not quite sure what you mean.  The facts I presented are facts 
regarding what human beings believe: some believe in a monotheistic creator God, 
others believe in a cyclical universe without a God creator of this universe, 
others in a wide variety of other views.  I do not hinge the exploration of truth 
on the number of people who believe a given theory, or what theory is more 
appealing or popular, as you appeared to do in this comment: "Scott mentioned 
the existence of other religious proposals, but there is nothing wrong with a 
broad cultural debate limiting the ‘alternatives’ to those which are far more 
appealing or probable to the majority of people."

Consider that many of the developments in modern science are so complex and 
esoteric almost no one understands them or "believes" in them, indeed, they do 
not know what the theories actually state to decide if they believe in them or 
not!  How many people could explain what binary code is, for example, to writ
e the number 100 in binary code?  I suspect most people who use computers 
(millions of people) could not at this moment do this, and many of them would not 
know what "binary code" is, yet because studying and understanding binary code 
is rare or boring or unappealing, does not render the mathematics of binary 
code as it is applied to computers a scientific consideration that should be 
excluded from investigations on relevant issues.

I made no comment on the ultimate truth value of the various beliefs on 
Intelligent Design/Creationism, nor whether God implants these beliefs or not, nor 
whether they originate from a damaged belief producing mechanism or not, nor 
from imperfect senses or not, nor from the intervention of "spirits" or 
"aliens" from some other realm or planet or not, nor from aggressive cult-like 
brainwashing from the moment speech originates in an impressionable human child 
whose brain is still developing, or not.  I did suggest that these beliefs are 
learned from the social environment as an explanation for their origin, rather 
than from any "innate" faculty that is similar in all human beings, that will 
favor one theory over others, but this is a complex issue I will not explore 

To comment again on the "damaged belief producing mechanisms" argument, the 
internal psychological/brain states of those who assert a theory on Intelligent 
Design/Creationism are not essentially critical to my point.  A theory about 
the world that later turns out to be valid can originate in a confused state 
of despair, when the mind/brain of the theorizer possesses a belief producing 
mechanism that may be damaged.  This confused state of despair does not 
automatically render the theory false.  

It is examination of the theory by numerous other people on the basis of 
logic/mathematics and empirical testing/testing reproducibility, and an ongoing 
process of continuing this examination of the theory, that decides the matter, 
at least as far as "science" is concerned.  I'm certain I could find a large 
number of fervent believers in a monotheistic God creator who could be tested by 
the empirical methods of psychology to reveal they exhibit some form of a 
"damaged belief producing mechanism," but this does not prove their belief in the 
monotheistic creator God to be false.

All scientific theories, however well established, may face "falsification," 
to quote Karl Popper.  Science thus never reveals Absolute Truth, despite the 
numerous verifications in fact that may support a given theory, or the 
logical/mathematical elegance and coherence of any theory.  A new set of facts may 
disprove a theory, and there is no absolute proof available that it is 
impossible the "laws" of the universe will not change under our feet.

And finally, Metzler wrote:

I think you would need to give some further reasons for supposing that man’s 
traditional religious beliefs are political/ideological rather than a sincere 
embrace of what is considered as ‘true.'

You are reading into what I wrote content I did not write.  I do not doubt 
that those who believe in an all powerful monotheistic creator God of the 
universe express a "sincere embrace" of this view.  Nor do I doubt that those who 
believe in a cyclical universe with a "Goddess" reining over the spiritual realm 
also express a similarly "sincere embrace."

This is what I wrote that you objected to:

That such an obvious and simple alternative is not considered, along with 
numerous other religious and spiritual beliefs of human beings regarding how they 
view "Creation," reveals how biased this discussion is toward a specific 
religious ideology seeking to find a rational and/or empirical basis for its 
existence:  in other words, this is a political/ideological power struggle, not a 
search for the truth considering with an open mind all the possible 

What I mean is that there are elements of the social/political forces at play 
in the USA attempting to promote Intelligent Design/Creationism being taught 
in science classrooms in the context of specific interpretations of the 
Christian Religion that block having the discussion broadened to include all 
theories that impact this subject.  

What would we expect?  The USA is mostly a nation of Christians, not Hindu's 
or Buddhists or Wiccan's, who may have very different views than Christian's 
on Intelligent Design/Creationism.  But I trust you are not going to say that 
the science classroom should be a place where we teach one religion's views 
over another's, when evidence and reason suggests that a variety of religious 
views on Intelligent Design/Creationism are possibly true?

Once a group wishes to use the public educational system to promote their 
religious views, no doubt sincerely held, over other religious views, this effort 
to my mind enters the realm of "political/ideological" power struggle.

We could debate in what terms to define this struggle, but to suggest the 
effort by many sincere Christians to include their religious beliefs in the 
public schools in science classrooms is in no sense a "political/ideological power 
struggle" with those who sometimes are defined rather poorly as "secular 
humanists," is a stretch, though I am sure there is a way to argue against my 

Some of those promoting Intelligent Design/Creationism in USA science 
classrooms explicitly state that they are opposing the "agenda" of "secular 
humanism," which they view as a "stealth" form of "religion," undermining their firmly 
held religious beliefs, when science classes promote the idea of natural 
evolution of the human species over time from much more simple life forms, with no 
intervention by a God.

Ted Moffett

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