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Weighing in on ID debate

Posted by Tim :: Ministry News

Well, my arm was twisted. Rather than working hard on campus ministry stuff, I was coerced into writting a letter to the editor of the D.M. Register regarding the Intelligent Design debate.
It went through a major revision after Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez himself advised me multiple times as to what to say and what not to say. This one got his blessing.

Much has been said in the news as of late over whether or not Intelligent Design ought to be considered a scientific theory or a religious belief, and if scientists who hold to ID should be allowed to hold research positions or teach science. As a graduate in geology from Iowa State (1990) and a pastor in Ames, I feel as if I’m in a unique position to understand both sides of the issue.

The discerning reader needs to catch the underlying question here: can a person believe in a god that is, to varying degrees, actively involved in the natural world still practice viable science? Or, does one have to believe in no god or an impotent god to be considered a reputable scientist?

A brief look at history and an honest assessment of today’s scientists answer the question hands down.

Practically every major scientific discipline was founded by men who believed in a god that was and is actively involved in the universe. A few notable examples would be Robert Boyle (father of modern chemistry); Georges Cuvier (founder of paleontology and comparative anatomy); John Dalton (father of modern atomic theory); James Joule (discoverer of the first law of thermodynamics); Gregor Mendel (father of genetics); Isaac Newton (discoverer of the universal laws of gravitation); Louis Pasteur (father of bacteriology), and the list goes on to the present day.

I have personally interacted with 15 professors at Iowa State who seriously doubt Darwinism and have offered their assistance in helping college students work through the role of faith in science. Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez is by no means alone in his understanding that science points toward an Intelligent Designer. Colleagues that share his conclusions range from Dr. Donald DeYoung who received his Ph. D. in physics from Iowa State to Charles Townes who invented the laser to the catalog of 400 scientists listed at

Charles Darwin prefaced the 'Origin of Species' with this quote from Francis Bacon, the father of the scientific method: 'Let no man ... think or maintain, that a man can search too far or be too well studied in the book of God's word, or in the book of God's works.'

What we are seeing in this controversy is the prodigal son of science is returning home. The fathers of science and their like-minded contemporaries are welcoming the return, but the sons of Darwin are lashing out in fear that their exclusive rights to science will be lost.

Fear not, Darwinists, and join the party!


Nice. Interesting take on it.

I changed your links on the side as requested.

Posted by: Matt at August 25, 2005 10:27 AM

So long as they are using sound methodology and practices, it shouldn't matter whether a scientist is an atheist, Christian, Satanist, or Pastafarian. Peer review does the best job of seperating the wheat from the chaff, and determining true science from garbage.
From what I have seen, ID proponents need to do some actual RESEARCH and come up with some genuine testable hypotheses to garner some real acceptance in the scientific community, instead of attempting to use partisan politics to force into the scientific community that which thus far is little more than conjecture.

Posted by: azalin34 at September 1, 2005 11:33 PM

"15 professors at Iowa State who seriously doubt Darwinism"
Just for clarification, how many of these 15 professors are biology professors?

Posted by: Virge at September 2, 2005 01:35 AM

Fear might possibly be said to be found in the proponents of "Darwinism," but it is clearly found in creationism. In fact, I'd argue that it's caused irrational and ungodly behavior in creationists.

In fact, I did argue this.


Posted by: Burt Humburg at September 2, 2005 03:27 AM

No offense intended Mr. Borseth, but I have to disagree with your "underlying question."

Nobody is saying that real scientists can't believe in a powerful God. Many evolutionary biologist (most of us maybe?) believe in God, and that isn't what this issue is about.

The problem is that intelligent design isn't a viable scientific theory. It isn't even really a "theory" in the scientific sense, in that it is merely a criticism of evolutionary biology based on alleged holes. They make no testable claims about how or when the "designer" acted on the living world. How can we call something science when it makes no specific claims about the natural world? (by the way, they privately they refer to God, but for political purposes the "designer" himself is completely undescribed)

Evolutionary biologists make many claims, based on empirical evidence we can all see, about how life evolved. We publish interpretations of these results in journals, and everyone else in the world is free to read these, challenge the interpretation and make new observations that either support or contradict these findings.

The ID crowd claims to do this, but their methods are highly flawed, in ways that are not obvious to laymen but are obvious to experts in the fields of genetics and mathematics. If you would like me to describe this in more detail, feel free to email me.

The most disturbing thing is that the flaws in their "research" are so obvious that they appear to be deliberate and fraudulent. It is this dishonesty that we find most offensive.

Science is about the truth above all else. As you mentioned, Charles Darwin was a believing scientist. He knew his theory would upset the religious paradigm of his time. But it is likely he still published his findings based on the theory that studying Creation is a pious act. And to bear false witness regarding the findings of such an act, even to support the thirst of the religious masses, would in the end not be doing God's work. Thanks for your time.

Posted by: sanjait at September 2, 2005 04:03 AM

Bad science. Worse religion.

Posted by: frank schmidt at September 2, 2005 08:13 AM

Note above, on the right, the top listing of "Tim's Top 5 Sites".

Posted by: JohnK at September 2, 2005 10:36 AM


You may be interested in what they are saying about your above quote in Pandas Thumb.

The perception they are promoting is that you were coached into making a public relations letter to the editor, that you couldn't think or take initiative on your own on behalf of Gonzalez.

If that is not the case, I would plead with you to clarify as that is a central internet hub with contributors who are part of the NCSE staff.

regards in the Lord,
Salvador T. Cordova

Posted by: Salvador T. Cordova at September 2, 2005 10:56 AM

Tim Borseth:

The discerning reader needs to catch the underlying question here: can a person believe in a god that is, to varying degrees, actively involved in the natural world still practice viable science? Or, does one have to believe in no god or an impotent god to be considered a reputable scientist?

I find it objectionable that ID advocates must miscast the debate in such a blatant way. Borseth’s claim effectively denies the sincerety of the religious belief of a host of Christians, Muslims, Hindus etc who also have sufficient scientific integrity to by Darwinists.

What discerning readers should realise is that the underlying question is, is cloaking your theology “in the language of information theory” enough to turn it into science? The obvious answer is no. To be science, a theory must be able to make emperically observable predictions, and test those predictions - neither of which ID shows any inclination towards doing.

(Also posted at the Panda's Thumb)

Posted by: Tom Curtis at September 2, 2005 05:54 PM

"The discerning reader needs to catch the underlying question here: can a person believe in a god that is, to varying degrees, actively involved in the natural world still practice viable science? Or, does one have to believe in no god or an impotent god to be considered a reputable scientist?"

The very foundation of science is based on the repeatabilty of experiments. Scientists who believe in God (and there are many) assume that God certainly could intervene and invalidate an experiment if He wanted to, but that He always chooses not to. This assumption has served us well so far and it is not disrepectful of faith in the existence of God to hold this assumption. Perhaps God not only loves us but also respects our earnest attempts to gain knowledge!

Science seeks to find Truth via a process of elimination. Where there are competing hypotheses, scientists design experiments that will rule out at least one of the competing hypothesis. Falsehood is eliminated, and the result is a better grasp on Truth.

There are many cases in science where a theory that is seemingly established and irrefutable develops an inconsistency in some "edge case". It is rare that scientists consider these inconsistencies to be a failing of science. Rather, scientists find these inconsistencies exciting, for resolving them often results in a deeper understanding.

Fundamentalists who proclaim that the Bible or other holy book is literally true and without flaws are threatened by scientific progress. It is now commonly accepted that the Earth revolves around the Sun and is several billion years old. Fundamentalists must either be willing to accept that not all parts of the Bible are literally true, or they must reject Science.

Evolution is seemingly the biggest problem that fundamentalists have had to face. I personally find it puzzling that so many Christians in the U.S. are so threatened by it, since many of these Christians accept the old age of the Earth and the heliocentric model of the Solar System. All that is necessary to reconcile the Bible and Evolution is to assume that Genesis is more allegorical than literal, and to accept that God in his infinite wisdom might have decided to use Evolution as his means of continual creation.

Posted by: Jim at September 2, 2005 09:39 PM

In the interest of time and efficiency, I will keep my replies shorter than I otherwise would. That will probably appear to blow off some comments or be too vague, but I suspect that my thoughts won't be decisive for anyone in this discussion.

1. azalin34... I agree that a scientist's research should be the determining factor as to the credibility thereof. Some effort has been made to do ID research of which Dr. Gonzalez's book is an example. Yet, I'm sure you are aware that the Darwinist worldview is so firmly entrenched in the scientific community that ID research goes unfunded and unpublished. In fact, Dr. Gonzalez's suggestion that grad students do ID research was ridiculed in the Des Moines Register (Aug. 24).

2. Virge... Your comment implies that unless a person holds a degree in biology they are not a credible source to comment on this issue. I disagree with that.
My effort to find professors who were skeptical of Darwinism was limited unlike Dr. Avalos's petition to the entire ISU faculty. Nevertheless, I got one professor in Veterinary Microbiology who seriously doubts Darwinism. His exact quote to me was "I clearly do not believe in a non-determined, naturalistic explanation to the origins of the universe and humanity."
Others of note are 2 professors in chemistry, 2 in animal science, 1 in meteorology, and 1 in zoology and genetics.

3. Burt Humburg... I'm sure you are correct. We can all agree that this is a volatile issue that causes strong emotions in both camps which often clouds judgment. I've been privy to an e-mail exchange between Dr. Avalos and other professors in response to his petition. One professor of Agronomy, after questioning the appropriateness of Dr. Avalos' approach ("I think that your Statement unduly restricts science"), said this, "I would be remiss if I did not mention some of the email messages I received after I sent my earlier comments on your Statement. One email message expressed hatred of religion with enough bigoted comments to make Archie Bunker blush, another email message suggested a kind of conspiracy theory indicating fear of right wingers, another email message accused me of personally attacking Dr. Avalos via my comments..."
I think we can all agree to not go there.

4. sanjait... I chose to frame the issue the way I did using the question I did, because this debate is ultimately an issue of faith. As L. Harrison Matthews states in the introduction to the 1971 revision of Charles Darwin’s book, The Origin of Species:
“The fact of evolution is the backbone of biology, and biology is thus in the peculiar position of being a science founded on an unproved theory – is it then a science or a faith? Belief in the theory of evolution is thus exactly parallel to belief in special creation – both are concepts which believers know to be true but neither, up to the present, has been capable of proof.”
The debate isn't over who has evidence or who doesn't. Both camps are using the same evidence. It's the interpretation of the evidence that is causing the rift.
I agree that "Science is about the truth above all else.", but the problem is our own biases keep blinding us to the truth. I trust that a pursuit of objectivity and humility will reveal the truth in due time.

5. Tom Curtis... I did not intent to question anyone's sincerity as to their religious beliefs. Now, I may question their level of discernment as to what their religion teaches and what Darwinism teaches, and I was hoping to draw attention to that.
As to your specific objections that ID does not have testable predictions, I encourage you to do further research on that matter because it, in fact, has. Again, spend some time at and read Dr. Gonzalez's book. There is plenty to chew on and investigate in these resources.
And I hope you all realize that Darwinism is an unfalsifiable faith in materialistic naturalism. (Sorry if phrasing it that way stings.) Enjoy a good read at

6. Jim... To say that God "always chooses not to" intervene into creation is to alienate the 3 major religions that believe that God split the Red Sea (Exodus 14), made an axe head float in water (2 Kings 6), and turned water into wine (John 2... well, at least Christians hold to that one). A better way of putting it is that God always has the prerogative to supersede natural law but His normative practice is to abide by it (which is why we call them laws).
I am glad that "scientists find ... inconsistencies exciting" exciting. I would think they would have the same reaction to the inconsistencies of Darwinism (the impossibility abiogenesis, no beneficial mutations (please don't cite sickle cell anemia), absence of transitional fossils (yes, I said it and I graduated in geology at ISU... the Trilobite eye appears suddenly and with such complexity that even Gould and Eldredge had to devise new theories to explain it), and I could go on.
Lastly, you claim that "Evolution is seemingly the biggest problem that fundamentalists have had to face." I doubt it. I think apathy and hypocrisy are far more debilitating to the faith.
But as you state that, you confuse the issue by replacing the word evolution with science. Even fundamentalists have no problem with science as defined as the study and explanation of the natural world. When you go beyond the evidence and claim that all existing natural phenomena came about from the evolution of inorganic matter through non-deterministic forces, then you got yourself a problem... both scientifically and theologically.

Hey, this has been fun and all, but I'm gonna have to close discussion on this matter. I've spent way too much time on this topic already. If I knew you guys personally and we could sit down for some coffee and talk in person, I would continue the discussion, but I will be leaving tomorrow to aid Katrina victims and don't want to come home to an inbox full of counter-points. A guy has to set his priorities and at this time this issue is not one of them. Sorry about that.

Posted by: Tim at September 6, 2005 05:57 PM