Re: ASA obscurantism?

Murphy (
Thu, 27 Feb 1997 14:29:36 -0500 wrote:
> George Murphy noted recently that, in many religion-
> science circles, ASA is seen as a group of obscurantists.
> George pointed to Phil Johnson and his following as
> a reason for this; he seems sympathetic with the claim.

This perception of ASA predates Johnson's rise to prominence, &
the latter isn't a cause of the perception. But IMO it reinforces this
view that some outside ASA have.


> What ID people want is a full, open, honest discussion of
> the assumptions underlying naturalistic science. IMO,
> this is not obscurantism; rather, it would be obscurantism
> to avoid just such a discussion.

Again, the perception of ASA which I noted predates the current
debate about ID. It has to do largely with the question of evolution
itself. While ASA has no official position on evolution, I think it's
fair to say that a significant fraction members think that evolution has
happened but are somewhat embarassed about it, wish it happened, &/or
minimize its significance. Not many papers in PSCF or at annual
meetings say, "Evolution has happened. How do we deal with it
theologically?" I don't say that that should be an official position.
But the fact that it is at best a muted position in the organization,
combined with extensive attempts to maximize the historical & scientific
character of Gen.1-11, is what gives the appearance of obscurantism.
IMO the debate about ID is certainly legitimate. But IDers have
given little attention to the theological aspect of the question.

> THere is another reason, IMO, why ASAers are often seen
> by more mainstream people as obscurantists. That is, there
> is a reason in addition to the reason that we believe that
> truth and scientific truth claims are not always identical.
> That is, we believe strongly in a God who is not only
> immanent (as liberalism asserts), but also profoundly
> transcendent. I've been reading quite a bit of liberal
> Protestant stuff from earlier periods lately, and I
> must say that a lot of it is hair-raising: unequivocal
> identifications of God with the evolutionary process, along
> with (hardly surprising) a firm belief in the perfectability
> of humankind (their God is obligated to do this, it seems)
> through the evolutionary process, and a certain fondness
> for eugenics (part of the program of moral improvement).
> To be perfectly frank, jettison the last point and I don't
> see much difference with many evolutionary theists today:
> many are pantheists by another name (panentheism), in spite
> of their denials of this very statement.

Yes, there's lots of bad & sometimes heretical theology at the
left end of the spectrum, & also bad, unreflective, & occasionally
heretical theology at the right. (This isn't intended to be a detailed
typology & analysis!) But we don't have to make a choice between those
Yes, some self-described panentheists let the "en" drop out
pretty easily (e.g., Matthew Fox) - but not all do. If we don't have
some responsible concept of panentheism, we're going to have trouble
with Ps.139 & other passages.

> Those of us in ASA whose God isn't quite so easily identified as the
> process of evolution ought to be proud to be obscurantists,
> we ought to be proud of holding that the natural order
> ain't all there is.

This is a false dichotomy. Even straight Whiteheadean process
theology doesn't simply identify God with the world.

George Murphy