design via gaps or laws?
Fri, 22 Nov 96 10:19:00 -0500

"Bivalve" expressed the view that design via laws
is a much better argument than design via evidence
of inadequacy of scientific explanations.

In the early 19th century, this was the general trend
among Christian scientists, to emphasize evidence for
God's existence and power by stressing the lawlikeness
of the creation rather than by "miracles" in the
natural order -- miracles in human history were not
part of the discussion, most of the time.

For example, take another look at Darwin's Origin
of Species. The flyleaf quotations -- those facing the
title page in the first edition (reprints of which
are available) -- are quite interesting and revealing
of the attitude Darwin held toward his own work.

One of the flyleaf quotations was taken from the
Bridgewater Treatise (there were 8 such works, commissioned
by the Earl of Bridgewater from prominent scientists
and theologians to show the wisdom and power of God
from the creation) by Cambridge mathematician/philosopher/
historian of science William Whewell. It reads as

"But with regard to the material world, we can at least
go so far as this -- we can perceive that events are brought
about not by insulated interpositions of Divine power,
exerted in each particular case, but by the establishment
of general laws."

That Whewell wrote this, and in doing so reflected the
thinking of leading Christian thinkers of the time, is
interesting in itself; that Darwin quoted it is even
more interesting. I recall sitting next to a well-known
historian of biology at a professional meeting about
Darwin's theological views, and making the point that
Darwin had quoted Whewell's Bridgewater treatise on the
flyleaf. I of course expected her to know this and
comment on my comment. But she INSISTED I was mistaken,
that Darwin COULDN'T have quoted that book. Without
a copy of Darwin at hand, I had to lay it aside, but
her refusal to see this is revealing of her secular
attitude toward the whole history of science...


Ted Davis
Professor of the History of Science
Messiah College
Grantham, PA 17027
717-766-2511, ext 6840