Thanks for your comments. Sorry you can't be a regular participant.
I cannot say that I disagree with you here. I too do not want to tie God's
hands with some kind of a priori dismissal of a "detectable" activity of
God. I am also glad to hear you say that "intervention" is not required.
But let's quell the rhetoric on both sides. Theists who find it unnecessary
to appeal to "possible modes of causation" may not do it a priori. And if
we do find it unnecessary, we are no less theists and we believe no less in
God's active role in Creation than those who do appeal to these modes of
causation. In other words, why the rhetoric from the ID group that we are
"theistic naturalists" or just as guilty, practically speaking, as
atheistic materialists of naturalism and materialism. No doubt there are
some who a priori and in principle (based on theological arguments which
are not a priori) exclude these "possible modes of causation" (see the
follow-up post by George Murphy).
But what of us who dispute the anti-evolutionary claims of the ID arguments.
For example, as a biochemist, I think that most of Mike Behe's claims are
wrong. This is not because I am a committed methodological naturalist who
will not consider other "possible modes of causation", but because I think
he is wrong in the way he has handled the biochemical data and the
biochemical literature. While not all of the responses to Behe in the
professional community have been level-headed, many of them have been and
have raised all sorts of problems with the argumentation in Darwin's Black
Box. You guys act like the only reason anyone would be so perverse as to
reject your argument is because they are philosophically committed to be
against it (or have been duped by the powers that be).
I think that I could argue similarly with respect to the origin of
biological information in the first place and against the whole thesis that
"natural" causes cannot produce biological information.
As I have said many times before, this is not to say that I have all the
answers. Nor do I want to say that your line of inquiry is invalid. I am
more than happy to let good science run its course. But as I wrote in a
previous post, the creationist and ID propoganda machines work almost as
well as the naturalist ones. When I read the discussion of how sequence
comparison analysis disproves evolution in "Of Pandas and People" because
of the equidistance argument, I am appalled. This argument is simply
dead-wrong. I have been pleased in general to see it not repeated by Behe
or Johnson, but it did get repeated in the Second Edition of "Pandas". Here
we have a bad scientific argument included in a text book designed for the
purpose of preventing poor secondary students into being duped by their
teachers and textbooks into thinking that there is any legimate basis for
I also believe that evolutionary theory is alive and well--time will tell,
of course. But, the very death throes that the ID peole talk about:
punctuated equilibrium, progress in developmental biology (evo-devo
studies), biochemical studies on other than E. coli, yeast, and
pigs/cows/humans, the so-called desparations of complexity theory, etc. are
the very exciting developments that many of us believe ARE LEADING to
breakthroughs in the some of the most problematical areas in evolutionary
biology. Given that these new ideas are building on the old neo-Darwinian
paradigm and are providing tentative solutions to some of the weak links in
that paradigm, I believe that continued support of the old paradigm is very
much in order. The implication of this is that the burden of proof for
throwing out the old and bringing in something fundamentally new is on ID
theorists. I think that you accept that burden. But I would hope that you
accept it as scientists and not merely as agents of sociological and
political change. You may pursuade the masses by lecturing in churches and
having your work featured in the evangelical press and in textbooks for
Christian and home schools--(I suspect that many young people who are
taught ID in these contexts will switch over when confronted with a fuller
and fairer review of the evidence.) I'm also quite confident in the
ability of the scientific community to accept your thesis if sufficient
evidence if provided. There are always the hardcores like Dawkins, but I
my experience is that scientists as a whole are open to the truth of a
matter. Even Dawkins is as passionate as he is about this stuff in the name
of truth. If we can accept SETI as a scientific enterprise, we can accept
ID! But let's see the arguments, let's carry out the debate--I'm not
pursuaded by what I've seen so far.
Finally, Paul, I must ask whether YOUR (and others in the ID movement)
theological system can accept a God-governed "naturalistic" explanation. I
hear Phil J. say in one breath, "If an omnipotent Creator exists He might
have created things instantaneously in a single week or through gradual
evolution over billions of years", but then in the next breath say "I am
not speaking of a God who is known only by faith and is invisible to
reason, or who acted undetectably behind some naturalistic evolutionary
process that was to all appearances mindless and purposeless. That kind of
talk is about the human imagination, not the reality of God." Is the ID
crowd a priori committed to the failure of the "naturalistic" explanation
or is it's critique also based on the evidence?
>To the ASA list:
>Don Page, Dennis Feucht and others have forwarded to me recent
>discussions on ID and theology. A few comments:
>In his post, Bill Dembski wrote:
>>Because intelligent causes are empirically detectable,
>>science must ever remain open to evidence of their activity.
>If you want a common credo for the ID group, there it is. (By implication:
>methodological naturalism is unsound.) Theologically, this might be
>understood under the dictum, "Adopt no philosophy of science which ties
>God's hands." But I do not think any ID theorist would say that God
>must intervene to leave evidence of His existence.
>God does whatever He pleases. We, in turn, struggle to understand.
>What puzzles ID theorists, I think, is the astonishing willingness of
>scientists who are also theists and Christians to lay aside possible
>modes of causation a priori -- as if they knew, before looking, how God
>acted (i.e., via only so-called natural causes).
>Why? What could one hope to gain by having a *smaller* box of possible
>causes into which to reach, when confronted with the patterns of nature?
>If God did act in more than one mode, methodological naturalism can only
>hinder our getting at the truth.
>Bill Dembski's forthcoming book, _The Design Inference_ (Cambridge
>University Press, 1998), should help focus this discussion, as will the
>joint Dembski/Meyer/Nelson book, _Uncommon Descent: Detecting Design
>in Biological Systems_, where we apply the theory to biology. Jonathan
>Wells at UC-Berkeley has a book in the works, and many others (e.g., Rob
>Koons, Bill Craig, Charles Thaxton, Walt Bradley, Robin Collins, Del
>Ratzsch) continue their work or are newly contributing to the flowering
>of ID theory. And ID provides a broad ground for engaging our
>But please: no more sermons about the necessity of methodological
>P.S. Since the ASA listserve archive appears not to be working, I can
>no longer follow discussion in this forum. I'm not on the ASA list, so
>please send me e-mail if you want to follow up.
Terry M. Gray, Computer Support Scientist
Chemistry Department, Colorado State University
Fort Collins, Colorado 80523
phone: 970-491-7003 fax: 970-491-1801