Re: Mere Creation conference

Paul K. Wason (
Fri, 22 Nov 1996 15:22:03 -0500

In his original post, Russell Maatman made this point, and he has further
explained it in response to Keith Miller's post:

>So, I say it again: Once it is shown not to hold in one case, then after
>that each case must be considered on its merits. Nowhere in this discussion
>have I said evolutionary theory is always wrong. Rather, I have said that
>if the theory is shown to be wrong in one case, then one cannot hold that
>it is true in all cases. From then on, it's case by case.
>I truly cannot see what is wrong with that logic. Of course, I know that
>the conclusion depends upon the first statement--that one nonevolutionary
>case has been found. But let's not confuse the logic with the question of
>whether that first statement is true.

I can't see anything wrong with this either. It stikes me as a
perfectly sound argument, and potentially a very powerful one. I also
agree, in part, with those who have responded, for example, quoting Kuhn.
But it seems to me that Kuhn, and the ASA scholars who responded, are
actually talking about what it will take to convince people that a certain
example is a case of design, not about what it would say about the world if
such a case were really demonstrated.

I think Bob Dehaan's prediction is a very likely one -- that there
will be a prolonged, vitriolic struggle before there is anything like
general agreement that some facts of life can be attributed to intelligent
design. But one reason the struggle is likely to be so passionate is
because of exactly the point Professor Maatman is making concerning the
potential implications of such a conclusion. If someone really does succeed
in demonstrating a case of intelligent design in nature (as distinct from
the assumption many of us make as a matter of faith, that even when we
study secondary causes, as George Murphey observed, we are studying God's
work), I think it really would mean that we can no longer assume that we
will find an explanation through such mechanisms as natural selection for
all of the history of life. As Maatman observes -- I think quite cautiously
and reasonably -- this situation would by no means show that natural
selection hasn't been an important factor in the earth's history, even
while it would do away with some of its procrustian tendencies.

I admit that I am probably one of those who will be hard to
convince that someone has genuine scientific evidence for intelligent
design -- but that is a different question, and I certainly intend to read
Behe and others. (Are there any plans for publication of the conference

Indeed, I wonder -- perhaps naively -- whether it is even possible
to have scientific knowledge of intelligent design. (Irreducible complexity
may well be an argument that something other than, or more than natural
selection was involved, but this is not the same as positive evidence of
design -- or is it?) If we do find such evidence, it would be a good
example of the theistic realism form of science Phillip Johnson advocates
in Reason in the Balance. But I have argued in another context that what
Johnson is calling for is really more akin to what has long been known as
natural theology rather than science. (I should add, in case anyone thinks
I am trying to denegrate this idea, that I think we are long overdue for a
revival in natural theological studies, and that I think one of the great
mistakes of our century is to conflate true knowlege with science.)

I wonder what people think about this idea.


>I wrote not about Christian scientists, but about Christian intellectuals
>not knowledgeable in science. (I think George Murphy picked this up; see
>his note of Nov. 22. And, of course, George is correct when he insists that
>theology as taught by theologians must be considered.) Keith, I sincerely
>regret it if I gave the impression that I do not respect the work of
>others--Christian or non-Christian, scientist or nonscientist.
>But I do think that you have committed the fallacy of proceeding from the
>general (here, "general" means "most" or its equivalent; _not_ like
>"general" in "general theory") to the specific. That is, you assume
>evolutionary theory to be true because it is accepted by the Christian
>scientists you know. Perhaps I can take liberty with your words and say
>that because the theory is usually accepted, it is true in all cases.

>In the Lord,
>Russell Maatman

Paul K. Wason (207) 786-6240
306 Lane Hall, Bates College
Lewiston, Maine 04240