Re: Mere Creation conference

Allan Harvey (
Wed, 20 Nov 1996 12:28:45 -0700

At 11:16 AM 11/20/96 -0600, Russell Maatman wrote:

>That is this: _general_ evolutionary theory is wrong if one exception is
>found. More specifically, if _one_ system has been shown to have been
>intelligently designed, the general theory fails.

This statement doesn't make sense unless one adopts an unusual definition of "general evolutionary theory". If God could be shown to have created matter from nothing in one instance, that would not invalidate the whole law of conservation of mass. One case of "intelligent design" (even if one grants that proving such a case is possible) would not necessarily mean that evolution was generally invalid, just that it had been bypassed in that one instance. It might invalidate some hypotheses that sometimes go under the name "evolution", such as the hypothesis that naturalistic mechanisms account for 100% of the development of all life or that the universe is Godless and without purpose. But these extrapolations should not be confused with the scientific theory.

There is also the issue that "intelligent design" can be compatible with naturalistic evolution, if one postulates that God designed the mechanisms and rigged the evolutionary dice. I wonder whether such a TE position would have been welcome at this conference.

><snip> What has happened is that some systems have
>indeed been shown to be intelligently designed. Quite a few of these were
>discussed at the meeting, but one needs only to cite those discussed by
>Mike Behe, also covered in his recent book, _Darwin's Black Box_. Note
>that if only one of all the systems discussed at the meeting is not
>overthrown, the general theory is dead.

Let's not overstate things. Evidence has been offered that *suggests* (particularly to those whose presuppositions incline them that way - many others, often due to other presuppositions, don't find the evidence suggestive) that some systems have been intelligently designed. This is a far cry from "shown". And "not overthrown" does not mean "confirmed". Just because a naturalistic explanation is not now found for something does not prove that no such explanation exists. While there could be some cases where one could reasonably conclude that no naturalistic explanation would be forthcoming (such as the example of the wristwatch found on a beach), my impression (as one with little expertise in the area) is that none of Behe's examples are nearly that compelling.

While I have some sympathy for "intelligent design" arguments, I am bothered by some aspects of this movement. It is, after all, basically a "God-of-the-gaps" approach. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with looking for gaps, we should not be basing our faith or our apologetics on their existence. History is rife with examples of science filling such gaps, with negative consequences for those whose conception of God was limited to gap-filling. Whether or not Behe's gaps will get filled, only time (or its culmination) will tell. But I fear that, by focusing on gaps, we fail to affirm that God works in *all* things. We have tended to make "natural processes" and "things God does" into two disjoint sets, when the teaching of Scripture is that the first (to the extent one can even define it) is a subset of the second.

| Dr. Allan H. Harvey | |
| Physical and Chemical Properties Division | Phone: (303)497-3555 |
| National Institute of Standards & Technology | Fax: (303)497-5224 |
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