Posted by Jack Krebs on March 22, 2005 11:01 PM

In an article in the Wichita Eagle about Intelligent Design network leaders John Calvert and Bill Harris here, it says:

But Krebs, who is vice president of pro-evolution Kansas Citizens for Science, said Calvert refuses to answer some questions about the evidence for intelligent design or about Christians who accept evolution.

“There’s some really fatal flaws in his talk, but being a lawyer, he is used to building a case and won’t answer questions,” Krebs said.

Calvert denied dodging questions.

“If you can show me a question I refused to answer, I’d be happy to answer it,” Calvert said.

Well, good.  Thanks for the offer, John.

Here are some questions I’ve asked John that he’s refused to answer.  I’ll alert him (and the Wichita paper) that the questions are here, and we’ll see if he’s happy enough to answer my questions that he will come here and respond.

[Note: cross-posted to the KCFS forums here]

1. Here is the most important question: 

I shared the stage with John at a luncheon speech at UMKC.  I spoke first, and I concluded with this:

I would like to leave you [John] with one question.  There are millions and millions of people who from a religious point of view do not buy his argument that science is antithetical to theism.  I would hope that you would respond to that.

What do you think about these people who don’t believe that just because science seeks natural explanations it’s inherently materialistic and atheistic?  They don’t believe the theory of evolution teaches their children they’re mere occurences.  They believe that religious beliefs incorporate scientific beliefs about the physical world and other beliefs about meaning, purpose and values.  To put it bluntly, do you think they’re wrong?  How do you respond to this large silent majority of religious people who are being wedged out of the conversation?

John didn’t answer the question then, and he never has as far as I can tell.

Here’s an opportunity, John - what’s your answer to this question?

2.  Also, back in 2001 I sent John and others at the Intelligent Design network the following list of questions in response to their proposal at that time to add Intelligent Design -influenced material to the Kansas science standards.  Not only has John not answered these questions, but I think most of them have not even been addressed by the Intelligent Design movement as a whole.  Maybe, since it’s over four years later, John has some answers now.

from:  Jack Krebs

date:  January 6, 2001

to:  the IDNetwork

John, Jody, and others,

I believe it would be accurate to say that your position is as follows.  (Please correct or improve these statements if necessary.)

1)  science, by adhering to the use of naturalistic explanations only, excludes evidence and arguments for design,

2)  the naturalistic mechanisms of law and chance are insufficient to account for all aspects of biological diversity,

because

3)  certain aspects of biological diversity (most notably “irreducible complexity” and “complex specified information”) can only arise as the result of the activity of an intelligent designing agent,

and therefore

4)  the “theory of intelligent design” should be accepted as a legitimate part of science, and included in the public school science curriculum.

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However, as far as I can tell, there *is not* any “theory of intelligent design” that even attempts to describe details as to *how* the theory of ID accounts for those aspects of biological diversity about which it is concerned.  (Nor, for that matter, is there even a consensus opinion as to which particular features of biological diversity the theory of ID applies.)  All that seems to exist in the ID literature is explications of and arguments for the above four points.

And yet you claim that, assuming the definition of science is modified in order to include design as a cause, that ID is a scientifically viable theory.  If ID is to be considered as such a theory, then some details of the theory must be offered for consideration:  what are some hypotheses about what exactly has happened, when it happened, and how it happened?  If design theory is to contribute to science, it surely must aspire to make some concrete statements about how design has interacted with necessity and chance in order to produce life as we know it. 

Therefore, here is a list of questions that arise about “the theory of intelligent design.”  (I first summarize the questions, then provide more detailed explanations later.)

I challenge you and your fellow ID supporters to address these issues.

==================
Summary of questions:

1)  Who is the designer?  (I understand this question is considered unanswerable, but it is the obvious first question.)

2)  *How* is the design implemented?  What are the *mechanisms* by which the designer has caused its design concepts to be become actualized in the world? 

3)  Exactly which phenomena have been designed, and which haven’t.  Has design occurred once, a few times, every time a new species has arisen, or when?  More specifically,

  a)  Is every act of speciation a designed event?

  b)  What happens when a new species (or whatever) is designed.  What aspect of the world is changed, and what would be observed if we could watch the event taking place?

4)  How do you tell which features of the world have been designed, and which haven’t? 

5)  What is the nature of the relationship between design and naturally occurring processes (law and chance)? 

  a)  Can the designer design anything, biological or otherwise, or is the designer constrained in any way?

  b)  Is the designer active all the time, or only periodically?

  c)  Can the designer completely override the effects of law and chance, or does design interact with law and chance in ways that are beyond the designer’s control?

6)  In particular, how are all these questions answered in regards to human beings?  At what time, and in what ways, were humans designed so as to be distinguished from earlier hominids, and in what ways is there an naturalistic, evolutionary connection via common descent with those earlier hominids?

7)  Does ID accept the standard description of the geological history of the earth and the sequence of species of animals (and plants) that have existed?  That is, is the issue only *how* the various species have arisen, not which ones or when? 

==================
The questions themselves:

1)  Who is the designer?  No answer is possible, we are told.

2)  *How* is the design implemented?  What are the *mechanisms* by which the designer has caused its design concepts to be become actualized in the world?  Dembski addressed this at length in his essay “ID Coming Clean” -  we are again told that there is no answer.  ID does not have and does not require a detectable mechanism.  The results of ID are detectable, says Dembski, but the activity of ID is not.  We would never actually see any particular event that would in itself look different from a naturally occurring event. 

3)  Exactly which phenomena have been designed, and which haven’t.  Has design occurred once, a few times, every time a new species has arisen, or when?

More specifically, the following questions are not addressed. 

  a)  Is every act of speciation a designed event?  (Many claim that evolutionary processes can only work within the variational limits of the species, but cannot produce the new information needed to create different species, much less higher taxa.)  If not at speciation, is there a taxon level at which design must occur?

  b)  What happens when a new species (or whatever) is designed?  What aspect of the world is changed, and what would be observed if we could watch the event taking place?

Does a population of new organisms “poof” into existence?  Or, does one organism (or group of organisms) reproductively produce significantly different organisms, so that there is a sudden transition between species in one generation?  Or does the designer cause a series of smaller changes over a number of generations, so that it would look like naturally occurring common descent except for the improbably well-coordinated changes that would be noticeable over that time period?  Or what?

4)  How do you tell which features of the world have been designed, and which haven’t?  Dembski claims to have a mathematical procedure, but in fact no algorithm is offered which can be, or has been, used on any real phenomena.  Similarly, Behe has offered the concept of “irreducible complexity,”  but has offered no useable criteria for applying it other than the statement that, in some instances, all of the parts of a system could not have possibly arisen together via naturalistic means.

Critics of ID consider this a “God of the Gaps” argument, ascribing design only to those things which we can not currently explain.  What is a more positive, empirical definition by which we could, via research, identify those things which are truly designed and those that aren’t?

5)  What is the nature of the relationship between design and naturally occurring processes (law and chance)? 

One possibility is this:  Given that no mechanism for design is given, and no restraints on the powers of the designer are offered, it seems obvious that if the designer can influence “law and chance” so as to produce otherwise improbable events, it can also influence  events for which a set of reasonably probable options exist.  That is, the possibility exists that *everything* is designed to meet the unknown and unknowable intents and purposes of the designer, but we can only recognize those events which appear to be improbable.

Another possibility is this:  the world proceeds according to law and chance almost all of the time, but periodically the designer implements a design (maybe just once at the start of life, maybe often - see question 3.)  The rest of the time, the designer is not active, and has no control over what happens.

A third possibility is this:  The design, when applied (whenever that might be) can only interact with necessity and chance (but not necessarily override them), so that the results of a design event might not be certain, but rather somewhat contingent upon natural processes that are going on at the time. That is, attempts at design might sometimes, or always, not be exactly as intended by the designer.  In this case, if the design at any one moment does not turn out as intended, does the design process continue until the results are “good enough”, or what?

A second, related question is this:  does the designer have the power to influence any and all parts of the world, or is the designer constrained in any way (such as being able to only act on biological organisms, or possibly on genetic and cellular material only?  That is, what powers does the designer have?

And a different question:  if the designer has unconstrained powers, does the designer nevertheless *choose* to influence only parts of the world, letting other parts operate solely by necessity and chance, intervening only when it suits its purposes?

Another way of summarizing this question is this:  How do we know that those things for which we *do* have adequate naturalistic explanations are not also in fact designed to be the way they are?  Or is the designer limited to doing *only* what nature itself cannot do?

6)  In particular, how are all these questions answered in regards to human beings?  At what time, and in what ways, were humans designed so as to be distinguished from earlier hominids, and in what ways is there an naturalistic, evolutionary connection via common descent with those earlier hominids?

7)  And last, although this question should probably be first:  Does ID accept the standard description of the geological history of the earth and the sequence of species of animals (and plants) that have existed?  That is, is the issue only *how* the various species have arisen, not which ones or when?  If not, what other aspects of science are in question according to ID?

Sincerely,

Jack Krebs
Lawrence, Kansas

www.sunflower.com/~jkrebs
home:  785-832-0739
work:  785-863-2281

Kansas Citizens for Science
www.kcfs.org