The Discoveroids are introducing a new contributor to their creationist blog — Howard Ahmanson, a director of the Discovery Institute. Wikipedia says:
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson, Jr. (born February 3, 1950) is an heir of the Home Savings bank fortune built by his father Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson, Sr. Ahmanson Jr. is a multi-millionaire philanthropist and financier of many Christian conservative cultural, religious and political causes.
In the 1970s Ahmanson became a Calvinist and joined R. J. Rushdoony’s Christian Reconstructionist movement. Ahmanson served as a board member of Rushdoony’s Chalcedon Foundation for approximately 15 years before resigning in 1996. In 1996, Ahmanson said he had left the Chalcedon board and “does not embrace all of Rushdoony’s teachings.” He is somewhat reclusive and has Tourette syndrome; his wife usually communicates with the media and others on his behalf.
Ahmanson is reported to have “never supported his mentor’s calls for the death penalty for homosexuals”; instead, as the Orange County Register reported in 2004, he “no longer consider[s] [it] essential” to stone people who are deemed to have committed certain immoral acts. Ahmanson also told the Register, “It would still be a little hard to say that if one stumbled on a country that was doing that, that it is inherently immoral, to stone people for these things. But I don’t think it’s at all a necessity.”
Ahmanson is a major backer of the Discovery Institute, whose Center for Science and Culture opposes the theory of evolution and promotes intelligent design.
With that as an introduction, we’ll give you a few excerpts from what he wrote for the Discoveroids: Am I an Occasionalist? Christian Philosophy and Intelligent Design:
First Things is a magazine I like and find interesting. Just recently they have come out with a criticism of intelligent design by philosopher-scientist Stephen Meredith of the University of Chicago. … He charges that intelligent design assumes the philosophy of “occasionalism,” which has been expressed by al-Ghazali and al-Razi in the Islamic world, and Nicolas Malebranche in the Christian world. This belief holds that “created substances cannot themselves be efficient causes.” Now I’m wondering whether I am an Occasionalist, though I didn’t know what that was till a few hours ago.
We never heard of occasionalism either, but Wikipedia has an article on it. Let’s read on:
I am not a Young Earth Creationist of the Ken Ham type, and the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, does not represent my views. The Earth is billions of years old, it goes around the sun, and God can breed as easily as He can create from the dust, and has done so.
We suspected that the Discoveroids’ major supporter wasn’t a young-Earther. He continues:
First, Meredith charges,
[Ahmanson quotes Meredith:] they [the intelligent design movement] allow that this “intelligence” could be something other than God (an angel or extraterrestrial being, for example). But its being anything other than God would immediately raise the question of how such a being had arisen… Though reluctant to use the word, they are talking about the God of monotheism, and mainly the God of Christianity.
Regarding that, Ahmanson says:
Since most of them are Christians, this is probably so. But the Jewish God could do the same thing, as could the Muslim.
Then he discusses a theological view called Catharism, which is too complicated for us to bother with, so we’ll skip it. Here’s more:
Meredith also charges that intelligent design
[Ahmanson quotes Meredith:] supposes that natural law, which is the basis for science, operates most of the time but is periodically suspended, as in the Cambrian “explosion” and the origin of life itself.
Well, yes. The very concept of a miracle, and I admit to following C.S. Lewis on this, is exactly that. As Lewis argues, Christianity cannot survive without the miraculous, for the Gospel is precisely the story of a “Grand Miracle.” But for miracles to be miraculous, they must be, by nature, not normative. It was because Christians believe in a normative process that took place (though the normative process is just as much in God as the miraculous) all the rest of the time, that modern science was able to develop in a Christian culture. This is what makes nature capable of being investigated.
Tricky, isn’t it? Moving along:
Meredith declares that intelligent design “does not credit natural or physical law with enough causal power to enact evolution on its own and educes supernatural causes to do most of the heavy lifting in worldly events.” No, intelligent design says that evolution does take place, and can give us varying finch beaks in the Galapagos, for example. On this point even the most fundamental of fundamentalists accept evolution. However, the living cell is a piece of information technology, as we are discovering, and unguided evolution would have a very difficult time producing such a thing. The assumption that it “must have” done so is a theological assumption, not a scientific one.
To which we would add: The claim, unsupported by evidence, that nature couldn’t have accomplished such things by entirely natural processes is most definitely a theological assumption. Another excerpt:
Meredith asks, “A first critique starts with the question, posed by Leibniz, of whether a design that continually needs readjustment and intervention is a design at all.” Well, who said anything about “needing” readjustment and intervention, outside the context of human rebellion? I doubt that the simple organisms before the Cambrian explosion thought the planet “needed readjustment” in the form of the explosion, nor that the dinosaurs thought that the planet “needed readjustment” by an asteroid crashing into the Yucatán Peninsula, nor that the pre-human primates of Africa thought that the Earth “needed readjustment” by one species being endowed with the Image of God.
We don’t think Ahmanson has adequately addressed Leibniz. He didn’t even come close to doing so. Then he quotes Meredith again:
If an omnipotent God has created nature, one must ask why one should not then posit nature as capable of causing natural events on its own steam rather than requiring intervention.
Good question. Ahmanson’s response:
Well, nobody said that natural events don’t happen on their own steam, and who says the interventions were “required”? Required by whom or what?
That response wasn’t very responsive. Skipping a bit, he says:
It’s also clear that the Fall itself is a theological issue that intelligent design really can’t say much about and yet is vitally important. There are competing philosophies on this. Christianity teaches that humankind was endowed with the divine nature, and then rebelled. Evolutionary theory holds that humankind didn’t “fall,” because humankind was morally imperfect to begin with. And some forms of humanism would say that humankind is naturally good. I’m not sure that intelligent design or any other form of science can really tackle this issue.
We already knew that the Discoveroids avoid that topic, but we’ve always suspected that they do so in order to maintain the facade that intelligent design “theory” is science. The article’s final paragraph is somewhat revealing about that:
A good friend of mine is one of the major writers for the intelligent-design movement, and he has in his house a treadmill and other exercise equipment. I like to tease him, saying, “If ID is true, why do you have to do this? Couldn’t an intelligent God have designed us so that our daily activity in a technological society — and obviously He knew we would develop one — would be enough to keep us healthy without all these workouts and treadmill runs?” He just smiles and says something about the Fall.
So there you are. We don’t know what to make of it, but we thought an essay by Ahmanson was worth mentioning.
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