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10 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A spanner in the works, 11 May 2007
This review is from: Intelligent Design: The Bridge between Science and Theology (Paperback)
William Dembski's book will undoubtedly provide Christians with just the sort of pseudo-scientific arguments they feel they need to combat the Darwinian bogey men. It will go down well in Christian theological colleges and will be welcomed by those who need to be reassured that, because it is the product of a Divine intelligence, all is for the best in this, the best of all possible worlds.

But there is a snag, because embedded in the theory of Intelligent Design is a contradiction that is potentially fatal to belief in the Christian gospel. Dembski either does not know of this snag (which he should do) or he chose to ignore it (which he should not have done).

If you believe in an infinitely powerful and wise creator who stands apart from the universe, you are presented with a choice. Either you believe in a theistic God who intervenes in human affairs, or you believe in a deistic "intelligent design" God who, having formed the universe out of nothing and issued immutable laws for it to follow, withdraws and leaves it to run on without further intervention. You can't consistently believe in a God who intervenes in human affairs and yet does not intervene.

But here's the problem. Theism reduces God to a flawed creator who has to work miracles to keep his creation running in accordance with his will; while deism reduces God to a less than omniscient architect or designer whose design has resulted and continues to result in wars, starvation and general misery which he can't (or chooses not to) correct.

The contradiction implicit in believing either in an intelligent design God who (we feel) should intervene but doesn't, or a creator god who (we feel) shouldn't have to intervene, but does, is, I think, particularly fatal for the Christian religion, as belief in intelligent design rules out the need for the miracles of divine incarnation and bodily resurrection that are essential to the Gospel story; while belief in a creator who builds into creation original sin, eternal punishment and the need for salvation rules out the possibility of belief that the original design was the product of an omnipotent and omniscient intelligence in the first place.

The problem can be stated as a logical inference that might be expressed as "If design infinitely intelligent, then no requirement for Divine intervention; and if Divine intervention required, then design not infinitely intelligent."

The problem with Dembski's book is that it will reinforce the belief among Christians that that "science" can justify their beliefs. Sadly, the naivety of this belief only serves to discredit evangelists in the eyes of serious thinkers. Christians would do better to put Dembski and his like aside and make a leap of faith 'on the strength of the absurd', as Kierkegaard suggests in Fear and Trembling. Alternatively, they might consider studying Spinoza's argument for God and Nature being self-causing, and one and the same, infinite substance.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 19 Jan 2008 12:10:14 GMT
B. Beaton says:
Hi Charles,

You state that Dembski provides readers with "pseudo-scientific" arguments - and you proceed to make some very interesting observations about divine intervention - but you haven't given examples of the ways in which you found the *science* of his arguments to be weak. As a potential purchaser of the book, I would find more detail on this point helpful.

Concerning the 'snag' within the Christian gospel which you explain, I would be very interested to engage in further discussion. For now, let me simply ask a couple of questions:

1) You say that "belief in intelligent design rules out the need for the miracles of divine incarnation and bodily resurrection that are essential to the Gospel story". I can agree that these miracles are essential to the Gospel story but I cannot see why an infinitely intelligently designed world *necessarily* rules out the need for these miracles. Is it not (in strictly logical terms at very least) possible that God's purpose in creating would be best accomplished in a world in which he *would* need to intervene? Taking this slightly further, The Christian gospel portrays God, uniquely, as personal and relational in his character and in what he has created: The three persons of the trinity *relate* with one another and with the world that God has created.

Allow me an attempt at an illustration (flawed though any illustration is bound to be): The best, most enjoyable computer game that a programmer could construct would emphatically *not* be one which, once 'playing' would require no manoeuvring, no strategising and no trigger-pulling from the 'player'. Such a 'game' would reduce the 'player' to a 'viewer' and turn the 'game' into a barely enjoyable computerised simulation. Now we are not mere characters in a make-believe computer game world; the point is rather that the best, most 'intelligently designed' computer game, by definition and by deliberate design, requires ongoing intervention from its designer (or other game players in the case of this illustration). Is it not possible that our world is similar in this regard?

2) You further state that "belief in a creator who builds into creation original sin, eternal punishment and the need for salvation rules out the possibility of belief that the original design was the product of an omnipotent and omniscient intelligence in the first place." Could you please expand on this? What exactly do you mean? If you mean that you do not *understand* how the possibility of sin, punishment and salvation could have deliberately been part of God's design, perhaps I can - although I won't indulge here - attempt some Biblical suggestions as to why. If you mean that you are simply not prepared to accept any explanations for how this might be the case, I'm afraid I'm not about to try to force you to!

If the tone of this email comes across as so strong as to be offensive or so calm as to be patronising, I do apologise. I do not intend to offend you or mock you but to engage in a serious and hopefully mutually stimulating and enlightening discussion.

Kind regards,
Brendan

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Apr 2008 15:13:49 BDT
Of course the other feature that needs to be remembered is that if an Intelligent Creator wants to eventuate beings that are capable of meaningful relationship that will require free will in some measure. Free will opens the door to potential wrong-doing and things going awry in the Creation. Intelligent design allows for intelligence and volition happening in the creation---with the potential that the Creator allows himself to be opposable (at least for a time). In this scenario, intervention may be needed to repair aspects of the created order especially when people call for intervention / help to rememdy things. It's not quite as either / or as the first commentator suggests.

But a further point needs to be added. Why the "pseudo-science" labelling? It's a theory- --if the observable universe and aspects of non-living to living systems display specified complexity then it becomes an inmportant question to ask why. There seems to me to be a lot of anxious concern to attack the Dembski's perhaps because it allows an alternative to methodological naturalism.

Dembski asks questions like "If the SETI project effectively sees complex-specified data as a sign of a intelligent message sender...why is that same line not even considered when nature shows the same encoding / arranging of specified and complex data?"

Best wishes

Rob

Posted on 3 Jan 2012 11:08:02 GMT
Paragraph one is ya-boo sucks, setting up the intellectual steamroller that is to come. It is going to crush, to grind to dust with ease and alacrity the stupid, stupid babbling inane piffle that is the Christian gospel. The reviewer will be able to do this because he is sufficiently intelligent, wise and mature to grasp the nature of ..."the Snag". I'm afraid the reviewer, though wishing to save Christians from believing from tales of fairies, relies too much on logic and big words. Doesn't he know that they are Pooh-brains? This is his message, for Sun-readers: see all the suffering in the world? Well, if there is a god, either he is not good, because he could end the suffering but chooses not to; or, he is not powerful because he would like to end the suffering, but cannot. So if god exists, he is either bad or weak; therefore he cannot exist, because it wouldn't make any sense. And if someone is reported to have come back to life after being executed by an occupying army in cahoots with the local religious authorities don't you believe it because it just wouldn't make any sense. There.
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