Re: What is ID?

Gene Dunbar Godbold (
Tue, 10 Dec 1996 18:35:08 -0500 (EST)


Lots of snipping, but he says that ID believers are committed to one of
two (or is it both?) theological ideas. Which are:

> (a) An interventionist concept of divine action in the formational history of
> the physical world: At the beginning God is presumed to have purposely
> withheld from the Creation certain formational capabilities, thereby making
> biological evolution impossible and occasional "supernatural interventions"
> necessary. In the course of these "interventions" God is presumed to have
> acted on created materials in such a way as to impose upon them structures
> and forms that they were not capable of actualizing by the application of
> their own limited formational powers. To say it more strongly, God is
> presumed to have forced some members of the Creation to do something
> different from, or beyond, what the formational powers given to them at the
> outset could have allowed them to do. God is thought to have created the
> universe with gaps (missing capabilities) in its formational economy, and God
> is thought to have bridged those gaps by acts of "extraordinary assembly" in
> the course of time.
> (b) an evidentialist apologetics: the presence of these presumed gaps in the
> Creation's formational economy is thought to be empirically discernible. The
> task of Christian apologetics would then be to demonstrate, by appeal to the
> empirical sciences, the presence of these gaps--gifts that God chose to
> withhold from the Creation at the beginning. The agendas of both Creation
> Science and ID Theory are strongly shaped by the desire to demonstrate the
> existence of these gaps in the Creation's formational economy, thereby making
> evolutionary continuity impossible. And if evolutionary continuity is
> impossible, then the comprehensive worldview of evolutionary Naturalism is
> also untenable.
> Back to the original concern--what is ID? It is a perspective that entails
> two major claims: (1) that the universe bears the marks of having been
> thoughtfully conceptualized, and (2) that within the Creation there are a few
> specific, empirically discernible life forms and biotic subsystems that could
> have been actualized only by acts of "supernatural assembly" in the course of
> time.

First, I find this argument quite compelling and am less enthused about ID
than I once was. ID seems to fall flat in that there is no way to identify
positively what couldn't have evolved. How the heck can something
like that be tested? And even if something could be identified that
defies all attempts at an evolutionary explanation, proponents of
evolution are *always* going to be able to say that the pieces of the
puzzle have been lost in the past. And maybe they're right. Now if you
found lots of stuff that defy explanation: say over half, then maybe
you've got something.

All the same, I have a lingering suspicion that the idea of
functional integrity leaves something out. Since God is creator of the
invisible as well as the visible world, I wonder if it isn't unnecessarily
dogmatic to insist that we know that all things that happen physically can
be explainable by a sequence of events which culminate in the Big Bang,
even if God is (continually) creating everything that is and giving shape
to it all. (This latter point I don't doubt, in any case.)

When I ask "Why must everything in the physical world have functional
integrity?" the reply seems to be something on the order of what Hume
might have argued: Our experience tells us that these things work this
way. Hume used this uniformity of experience to say that miracles don't
happen. Van Till uses it to say that it just shows that God has
everything under control and doesn't need to resort to miracles to
arrange things. I certainly don't buy Hume's inference, and I'm
sympathetic to Van Till's, and I think that things *do* operate according
to natural laws and *most of the time*, but I also wonder why God has to
limit himself to such ways. Van Till seems to look at the universe
pictured by certain Christians (say the YECers, just for example) and
says: "No, that sort of universe is unworthy of God--His universe has no
gaps which must be 'filled in' by later applications of his spiritual
power as if He were an inadequate craftsman." And I like this argument.
I'm just not sure it is true. I think that the metaphors (speaking of
gaps) might be inadequate. I wonder if we know enough to say how God is
doing things outside of our experience. I know plenty of stories by
people I trust that indicate that something miraculous (not accepting of a
natural explanation) happened in their lives. (I wish to distinguish
these from the coincidental miracles that we all know are God answering
specific requests in the context of "normal" events. Other miracles
of the type I'm talking about here include people floating six feet in the
air or certain people of acknowledged holiness who glow on a regular
basis--like St. Anselm) I myself have had strange things happen which
"might" have a natural explanation...some sort of self-hypnosis or
something...but are awfully weird nonetheless.

To conclude, everyone with any sense admits that the universe operates
according to defined principles *most of the time* but Van Till seems to
be close to the point of asserting that (outside of some miracles by
Christ and perhaps some OT stuff) only natural things happen. I'm not
sure God has told us enough about Himself to say that.


PS. On the other side, those who assert that God *regularly* acts in a
miraculous fashion ("see, every 1560 days He created an invertebrate")
don't get my vote for "Most Plausible Idea of the Year" either. I'm much
more inclined toward Van Till's position.

Gene D. Godbold, Ph.D. Lab: 804 924-5167
Research Associate Desk: 804 243-2764
Div. Infectious Disease Home: 804 973-6913
Dept. Internal Medicine Fax: 804 924-7500
MR4 Bldg, Room 2115 email:
Charlottesville, VA 22908