Re: Mere Creation conference

Allan Harvey (
Thu, 21 Nov 1996 17:41:33 -0700

In response to my applying the "God-of-the-gaps" label to the Mere Creation
conference and the work of Michael Behe, Bob DeHaan wrote, in part:

>Intelligent design as described by Mike Behe, however, is not such a
>God-of-the-gaps approach.


>The difference between a _system_ and a _sequential Darwinian process_ is
>not a gap that God-of-the-gaps fills. It is an inherent, intractable
>difference between two phenomena that cannot be bridged. Those reviewers
>who criticized DDB on the grounds that some day, future generations of
>scientists will _understand_ irreducible complexity, miss the point. The
>point is not understanding irreducible complexity. The point is that
>gradualistic sequential Darwinian natural selection cannot construct it.
>If a naturalistic process were ever discovered that would explain the
>formation of irreducible complexity, it will certainly not be a Darwinian

Well, now I'm confused. Are Behe and the "Mere Creation" conference taking
fundamentally different tacks? If I interpret correctly what Bob has
written (of course someday I should read Behe myself), Behe only shows
"gaps" in evolutionary theory. [Or attempts to show them - "irreducable
complexity" treads dangerously close to "I can't think of a mechanism, so it
must not have happened." I think lots of people would have considered the
famous bombardier beetle to be "irreducably complex" but I believe it now
has a satisfactory evolutionary explanation. Is the lack of such
explanations for other systems fundamental, or does it just mean that those
who might come up with such explanations have other, more fundable, work to
do? But I digress.]

Looking for gaps in theories is an essential part of science, and if this is
what Behe is doing that is great. If Behe is as open to scientific
explanation (Darwinian or otherwise) of his gaps as Bob's paragraph above
suggests, then I would withdraw my "God-of-the-gaps" characterization of his

But I gather the "Mere Creation" conference went further. Their agenda
seemed to be to take Behe's gaps and assert that an Intelligent Designer was
required to fill them. There is no getting around the fact that this is a
"God-of-the-gaps" (or at least "Designer-of-the-gaps") approach.

Again, this approach is not necessarily bad. I'm pretty sympathetic to gap
arguments (more to anthropic arguments than these) in small doses, as
auxiliary apologetic tools and interesting topics for study. But they
shouldn't be foundational to our faith or our apologetics. To paraphase a
Christian biochemist on another e-mail list, my faith should be based on
what I know about God, not on what I don't know about biology.

| 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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