Monday, May 29, 2017

Is Perry Marshall the Reza Aslan of Intelligent Design?

There is a sense in which Perry Marshall almost neuters the relevance of Intelligent Design the way that Reza Aslan attempts to neuter the historical context of Christianity.  Reza Aslan appears to concede that the resurrection of Jesus could have been a historical event, and yet proceeds as though there was truly nothing extraordinary about what the historical Jesus did and said (that is, Jesus was an otherwise unremarkable man who was only later made remarkable because men invented a religion about him because he just may or may not have been an unremarkable man who happened to come back to life after suffering a gruesome death).  According to Aslan's book Zealot, since history is about what probably happened, historians can't infer improbable events (such as miracles) even though he sometimes argues that there is some historical plausibility to the resurrection. 

Marshall, on the other hand, appears to concede that a supernatural God may or may not be interjecting design into the natural world along its history; however, scientists just can't really make money doing science if we allow that there might be evidence of the need for an intelligence injecting information into natural processes.  (Huh?) We must only acknowledge such evidence in a hazy metaphysical sense (an ultimate sense) but never in any way that effects what historical conclusions we come to.  Because the scientist who thinks that a natural process is not solely sufficient to explain the prehistoric event has stopped the gravy train for producing papers about speculative (but "100% natural"!) events.

Marshall says that he has witnessed miracles personally.  But has he really investigated whether these "miracles" were merely natural events that aren't currently understood in the present paradigm and body of scientific knowledge?  Aren't such assertions just miracles-of-the-gaps until they eventually get explained away according to a consensus paradigm?  By calling these events "miracles" is he stating that there are good reasons to think that there is no "natural" explanation available in principle and therefore not likely to ever be found in anyone's lifetime ? or just no such explanation present at this time? --or is he vacuously asserting that since they are not repeatable natural events they can't provide scientific data?

I'm not equating these two men in terms of their sincerity or credibility.  I think Marshall is a much more sincere and credible figure than Aslan, but they are in some ways both masters of spin and presentation over content, and some of the similarity of their errors may be due to venturing outside their realm of expertise.  They both excel at marketing, and in either case, I think the effectiveness of marketing comes at the expense of conceptual clarity. 

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