Underlying assumptions

Russell Maatman (rmaat@mtcnet.net)
Fri, 6 Dec 1996 20:36:30 -0600

To the groups:

The two "sides" in the debate over Behe's examples in which he claims
irreducible complexity see things differently, I think, for a fundamental
reason. Maybe everyone else realized this earlier. Reviewing the comments
made during the last few weeks, I conclude that neither group is as
illogical and unscientific as the other claims. I'm sure, for example, that
those who have disagreed with my remarks _do_ accept the idea that a law is
not absolutely universal if one exception can be found. And, I assume that
I've been guilty of not seeing the other point of view.

So, what is the problem? First, I'll speak for myself and probably quite a
few others. My understanding vis a vis biology and evolution is (1) that
gradualistic evolution has been shown to be reasonable in a few systems;
(2) that for many other systems it has been assumed by most biologists not
because it has been proved, but because making the assumption seems to be
consistent, especially because such an assumption is in agreement with the
systems in (1); and (3) that for a few systems evolution seems to be an
impossible explanation, even if we guess what scientific discoveries will
be made during coming decades or even a longer time.

Second, I'll attempt an explanation for the position of those who do not
agree with Behe's supporters. I think they do not draw a very sharp line
between the first two groups of the previous paragraph. They assume that
gradualistic evolution has been shown for so many systems that with a
little interpolation and extrapolation, we can conclude that all biological
systems have evolved. So, yes, they say, an evolutionary origin has not
been proved in every case. But, just as we allow ourselves interpolation
and extrapolation in applying, for example, Newton's law of gravity (at
least, in systems that could be analyzed by classical physics), we can do
the same for the law of evolution in biology.

This kind of difference in perception exists almost wherever people debate
great issues. I'm sure that in politics the underlying--almost
unexamined--beliefs concerning what is actually going on in the world
accounts for much of the difference between liberals and conservatives.

What I'm asking for, then, is a re-evaluation. Would you who debate with
Mike Behe be so sure of yourselves if you could not make your assumptions
about the second group (three paragraphs back)? Aren't there enough
outstanding questions about that group to warrant the claim that each
system should stand on its own feet, without interpolation or
extrapolation? Don't these outstanding questions give us reason to believe
that the third group is extremely important?

If the position I've just outlined is taken, then we can see that the a
priori assumption of gradualistic evolution is not warranted and, in fact,
is equivalent to assuming the validity of methodological naturalism.

I feel that I could not say these things if I were not writing to brothers
and sisters in the Lord. For, I know that none of us has an underlying
atheistic agenda. We are Christians, and so we of all people want to make
the proper a priori assumptions.

In the Lord,

Russell Maatman
e-mail: rmaat@mtcnet.net