Evolutionist Michael Ruse was the star of the show at last week's debate against intelligent design (ID) proponent Paul Nelson. He was witty, funny, gracious, and surprisingly theological. His ideas were wrong, however, but I expected that.
What I didn’t expect was his answer to what it would take for him to change his mind about ID. Rather than demanding a set of scientific facts to be established, he demanded an answer to the problem of evil. His take home message appeared to be this: “Why would God act to create a bacterial flagellum and not act to prevent a serious genetic disease in a child?” With that question, Ruse showed a picture of a child with progeria.
Ruse repeated this point many times before challenging Christians to think more about the theological issues than the scientific ones. He said, “I’m not going to believe in intelligent design because of all the theological consequences of believing in God.” And he made that clear. In fact, he even interrupted Nelson a few times to reiterate his problem with ID was that he would have to accept theology he believes doesn’t make sense of the problem of evil.
See the current issue of Solid Ground for a helpful analysis of the problem of evil.
Nelson, on the other hand, offered primarily scientific criteria that would cause him to change his mind about evolution. One included explaining how functional biomolecules (RNA and DNA) could arise in the early earth. He also wants to see an explanation of how novel body plans could arise from unicellular ancestors via mutation and selection.
For all the talk that ID is not scientific, it was more than a little ironic that Ruse’s remarks were primarily theological while Nelson’s were primarily scientific. Moreover, Nelson demonstrated that his position was falsifiable by offering testable criteria that would change his mind if they were shown to be true.