Review: Seeking God in Science

200173050-001Bradley Monton, Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design, Peterborough, Broadview Press, 2009.

Reviewed by Sean McDowell

One of the most common stereotypes of intelligent design (ID) is that it is an evangelical Christian movement intent upon forcing religion into the classroom. The release of Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design officially puts this claim to rest. Defenders of ID do include evangelical Christians, but also Muslims, Hindus, agnostics, and now even atheists. University of Colorado philosophy professor Bradley Monton is ultimately not persuaded by the arguments of ID (which is why he’s an atheist), but he says that they do have some force, and they make him less certain of his atheism.

For those of you who have followed the ID movement, this should come as quite the surprise. Yes, an atheist actually defends the integrity and merits of ID. Monton argues that criticisms of ID—whether from atheists or theistic evolutionists—are largely unfounded, misplaced, and erroneous. Monton doesn’t so much defend the truth of ID, but he believes it is a reasonable, (somewhat) persuasive, and legitimate scientific project.

The best part of the book (from my perspective) is that Monton sees right through much of the rhetorical tactics commonly used by ID opponents. For example, critics frequently conflate ID with creationism so as to make it an easier target to defeat. Monton rightly observes that some ID arguments are not related to creationism at all and that such comparisons are “sloppy” (31).  Critics also love to claim that ID makes no predictions and is not testable. According to Monton: “I would say that intelligent design proponents are making a prediction: they are claiming that, if one looks, one will find evidence that there is a designer” (72).

Monton also criticizes Judge Jones’ ruling against ID in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District (2005). Darwinists have continued to herald this ruling as an overwhelming defeat of ID. However, says Monton, Judge Jones’ arguments were “fundamentally flawed.” In his attempt to discredit ID, Jones argued that it is not a legitimate science because (among other reasons) it postulates supernatural creation.

Surprisingly, Monton argues that postulating supernatural causation is actually compatible with science. He gives a fictional example of a pulsar that pulses out Morse code. The message claims to be God, and can answer any questions that scientists formulate in their heads. If such a thing happened, shouldn’t the “God” theory be a legitimate option? This is a highly unlikely scenario, but it shows that at least (in principle) science can explore supernatural causes, despite the ruling by Judge Jones.

Ultimately, says Monton, we shouldn’t get caught up debating whether or not ID is science. The most important question is whether or not the claims are true.  Monton recognizes that proclamations against the scientific status of ID are largely meant to suppress debate so the actual truth-claims of ID can be avoided.

Professor Monton challenges both atheistic and theistic opponents of ID. For example, he critiques theistic evolutionist Kenneth Miller (author of Only a Theory) who claims that intelligent design closes down scientific investigation. According to Monton: “While theistic scientists could choose to stop investigating the world, and be satisfied with the answer ‘God did it,’ they need not. What theistic scientists can do is investigate questions like ‘What structure did God choose to give the world?’” (112). Miller’s claim that ID is anti-science “doesn’t hold up.”

Surprisingly, Monton agrees that intelligent design offers the best explanation for certain features of the universe. He admits that there are currently no naturalistic explanations for why the universe exists, for the nature of consciousness, and a detailed scenario for the origin of life. Yet rather than believing in design he says, “The truth of the matter is that there’s no explanation at all” (37). To avoid the conclusion that God exists, Monton is forced to accept that certain features of reality simply don’t have an explanation. Rather than offering an alternative explanation, Monton challenges the notion of explanation itself.

Much more could be said about Seeking God in Science. It is certainly refreshing to read someone who desires to transcend the culture wars and to communicate his ideas in a respectful and generous tone. Supporters of ID can learn much from his style and substance, even if they ultimately disagree with his conclusions. This is a watershed book in the history of ID and hopefully a sign of more to come.

This review originally appeared

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3 Responses to Review: Seeking God in Science

  1. I think that the main point is that science inherently has a bias towards the naturalistic explanation of all phenomenon because it is easier to fit the empirical model. I would like debates to focus on the philosophy of science and then find out the scope of proving things through the scientific method.
    There are difference kinds of ID and fine tuning arguments and the cosmological fine tuning arguments are currently more persuasive. Somehow people do accept that there is no explanation for many things and they can live with it. In one sense, ultimately the why question cannot be answered. Why does God engage in lila or sport? Play or joy has no reason ultimately.

  2. The web of material illusion is so complex, cunning and intricate that mundane science can never prove or disprove “God”. Material illusion is so crafty and deceiving that even the attempts to find Intelligent Design in nature can leave one in doubt.

    The attempts to scientifically establish a theistic origin of the universe must necessarily fail, due to the insurmountable power of material energy.

    Theistic beliefs must stand on faith alone. Due to the transcendental position of the Absolute, there is no possible way to verify or prove scientifically His existence and supreme dominion over all that be.

    Again, I would say that material science, as we know it today, is so much an integral aspect of the vicious exploitation and destruction of the material environment, that I don’t believe that Gaudiya Vaishnavas should partake of the principally Evangelical Christian movement that promotes intelligent design of the world.

    Scientifically, the material illusion contains enough evidence that there is NO God and no intelligent design that it becomes an exercise on futility to try and find God scientifically.

    God can only be found through faith and devotional life.
    Science ultimately becomes the enemy of theism.

    If we look at all the imperfections of this world and all the bad, evil and ignorant aspects of material existence, it really brings us to question how a good, loving God could possibly allow his children to get themselves into so much trouble.

    The conditioned living beings in the material world are so imperfect and so fallible that we really have to question how a good and loving God could allow them to suffer so much in this world which is described as an ocean of sorrows.

    That there is a good and loving God behind the material creation is in fact a very hard case to make when we come to understand all the misery, pain and suffering we see all around us and which we are also a part of.

    So, personally, I have abandoned any and all ideas of proving the existence of God through any sort of scientific observations or results.
    There appears to be intelligent design, but if we face the facts and observe all the suffering and misery in this world, we must honestly admit that the concept of intelligent design, if it exists, also includes a supremely intelligently designed torture chamber with which to imprison disintegrated parts of the supreme spirit.

    It is much easier to see religion and theism as valuable for it’s good works and harmony with nature than to try and prove it’s worth by scientifically proving the existence of God.

    The best science could possibly do is somehow discover a field of non-material light energy that pervades all matter, but then again that does not prove the existence of a transcendental autocratic living being that is the origin and maintainer of the universe.

    In the end, we have to abandon material science in our efforts to find “God”.
    In the end, the only thing that really helps humankind find God is faith and faith alone.

    Modern science is the tool of material illusion that simply takes one deeper and deeper into illusion until all hope and faith is lost.

    Modern science cannot advance the cause of religiosity.
    Modern science is founded on exploration and exploitation of the material energy.
    We can never find God in this material illusion.
    God has intelligently designed it that way.

    Gaudiya Vaishnavas should most certainly distance themselves from the Intelligent Design movement that belongs to pseudo religionists
    who in fact preach a bigoted and prejudiced religious system.

    Srimad Bhagavatam is the scientific exposition on the Absolute Truth.
    Vaishnavas should keep to their ways and avoid getting involved the bogus and sentimental efforts to prove God through scientific research.

    Srila Prabhupada seemed to encourage certain disciples to prove God scientifically, but in fact science has gotten so deep into the labyrinth of illusion since the passing of Srila Prabhupada that there is no hope that science can support religion. At this point it is best just to abandon pseudo-science as a useful tool for religionists.

    Maya is meant for the express purpose of concealing “God”. Science cannot find God within a field of energy that God designed to conceal himself with.
    Trying to find God in the material illusion is like trying to find the Sun deep within a coal mine.
    If you want to find the Sun, you must get out of the coal mine and look up to the sky in the daylight.
    God is found through faith and devotion.
    Science is useless for proving the existence of God.

  3. Science cannot directly tell about God. God has transcendent and imminent aspects and hints towards his imminence can be found in science. That is only for a person with that feeling and humility.That feeling has been generated in some scientists or mathematicians. But it is not necessary. Great scientists have been atheists, theists, pantheist according to their biases. Godel was a theist, Einstein was a pantheist and Dirac was a atheist, so it is clear that “intelligent” people in science also do not agree on everything. In fact, their bias can be function of their conditioning and experiences. In Newton and Gauss’s time, most intelligent people were theists.

    I personally believe that if one genuinely investigates nature and its complexity, it must invoke humility.

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