Re: economic irreducible complexity

Terry M. Gray (
Fri, 29 Nov 1996 14:11:22 -0500

First off, apologies to those of you on both lists who are getting
duplicate messages. The delete key works wonders (extra apologies for
those of you paying internet customers with per byte charges). But since
not everybody participating in the discussion is on both lists, I don't
know of any easy recourse here.

>> At 9:56 PM 11/28/96, Terry M. Gray wrote:
>> >I'm amazed that we (TE's and EC's) have to keep saying this, but I'll say
>> >it again. There is no such thing as evolution that proceeded with no
>> >divine intervention or oversight.

First off, I did not choose the words "no divine intervention or
oversight"--they came from Chuck's original post. I don't particularly
like the word intervention but since we use it in this discussion I must
say that God continuously intervenes in his interaction with the world
through providence, governance, sustenance, and concurrence.

David Tyler:
>INTERVENTION: normally, intervention is treated as a form of "God-of-
>the-gaps" thinking. What does a TE mean by intervention? According
>to my understanding of TE, there is no break in the chain of natural
>causality - so I can find very little scope for any form of
>intervention within TE. At the quantum mechanical level, a case has
>been made for God intervening without apparently deviating from the
>pattern of natural law - but I have suggested earlier that this is
>not TE but PC. It is not TE because evolutionary theory would not
>recognise it. According to this view, no quantum mechanical
>manipulation is necessary for life to evolve.
>[I have also suggested that "intervention" is not a very helpful term
>anyway in the Christian vocabulary - it has all sorts of semi-Deistic
>overtones. My own view is that there is total continuity of Divine
>government, wherein God has complete sovereignty about the way he
>governs his creation].

I suspect that David and I agree on the infelicity of the word
"intervention". I also think that we've had an exchange in the past where
I thought that he had a much to "narrow" view of TE: following, perhaps,
the leading British advocates of this position. In my view TE is simply
the idea that God governs what appear to us to be natural phenomena in such
a way that the result at the same time looks like it occurred via natural
causes and in fact produced exactly what God wanted to be produced. Since
the natural working of things occurs by God's will, providence, governance,
etc., there is no such thing as intervention in the sense that David
defined above. "No break in the chain of natural causality" is simply
God's way of governance. In my view "natural causality" is always
secondary causaility with God's direct activity always being the primary
cause. (In my opinion "no break" is a bit strong since I do believe in
miracles, the special creation of each human soul, the incarnation and
bodily resurrection of Christ, etc.)

>OVERSIGHT: This is a word which is often used - but it is capable of
>being interpreted in more than one way. Oversight can have
>connutations of "correction" when things do not go according to plan.
>If oversight implies any form of "intervention" - see comments above.
>The non-controversial understanding of this word relates to God's
>upholding and sustaining power, continuously imparted to the
>creation. God has not created a Cosmos that is autonomous.

I think that given what we read in scripture it is impossible that "things
do not go according to plan"--thus God is not in the business of
"correction". This will cause the Arminians and semi-pelagians out there
to stumble, no doubt, but my Calvinism (God from all eternity, did, by the
most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain
whatsoever comes to pass--Westminster Confession of Faith III, 1 *with
proof texts from the Bible*) is an essential plank to my adherence to
evolution even as a possibility. This has been true historically of
Calvinistic theologians (e.g. Warfield). If things happened that God did
not want to happen as is the case in non-Calvinistic theologies, then no
doubt God would have to fine-tune things through intervention and
correction. But this gives an automony to creatures that blurs the
creature/Creator distinction in an unacceptable way, in my opinion.

Perhaps it is the rarity of Calvinism in evangelical Christianity these
days that makes this TE/EC point of view so difficult to swallow to many on
the lists.

Don't get me wrong here: there are Calvinists out there who side with the
ID/PC/YEC folks. But they have other grounds for rejecting evolutionism
than the claim that evolutionary explanations take God out of the picture.
I respect the fact that Russ M., Mike B., Phil J., Jim B., Steve J., etc.
aren't pursuaded by the evidence. I think that they are wrong and
short-sighted, but I'm happy to disagree on the basis of our evaluations of
the evidence. But all too often, even in the case of some of these people
who have serious doubts about the evidence, their arguments come back to
the claim that if God isn't doing anything that we can especially detect,
then God is not an important part of the process. I don't think that Russ
M. or Mike B. would say this, but I have gone round and round with Phil J.,
Jim B. and Steve J. on this one. Oh yes, you can give me citations that
suggest that this isn't a problem (don't bother Steve, I've seen them all),
but despite these citations, they always come back to the same old point
that Chuck Warmen seemed concerned about. "How can you call a process
theistic if God has no empirically observable role?" Phil J. has gone so
far as to call my evolutionary creation position *vacuous*. I think in
part because it has no explicit apologetic value in the battle between a
theistic way of thinking and a naturalistic one.


Terry M. Gray, Ph.D. Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Calvin College 3201 Burton SE Grand Rapids, MI 40546
Office: (616) 957-7187 FAX: (616) 957-6501

*This mission critical message was written on a Macintosh with Eudora Pro*

A special message for Macintosh naysayers: