Two kinds of theistic science?

Allan Harvey (
Wed, 05 Mar 1997 12:59:49 -0700

I just read Moreland's article defending "theistic science" in the latest
PSCF. While I'll need another read through (at least) to get past the
philosophical terminology, his initial definition of "theistic science" was
clear enough. Of particular concern/interest to me was the part that read:

"God ... acted directly through immediate, primary agency in the course of
[the world's] development at various times ..."

This is "stronger" than what I have heard from other defenders of "theistic
science." For example, when I heard Paul Nelson speak on Intelligent
Design at the Rocky Mountain local section of the ASA, the message seemed
to be (correct me if I'm wrong, Paul) that *we should not rule out the
possibility* that God acted directly in scientifically discernible ways.
Then there were arguments given that such gaps did, indeed, exist, but that
approach is very different from assuming up front that they must exist.

So it seems that there are two very different philosophical positions
within this movement:

1) Starting with the presupposition that God *must* have directly acted in
a gap-filling way in the development of the physical world. This seems to
be Moreland's position. As has been discussed recently, Phil Johnson's
position seems to be this as well, with the added feature (which he may
back away from if pressed) that if these actions did not happen, theism is

2) Allowing for the *possibility* that God may have acted in this way.
This seems to be Paul Nelson's position.

One could also talk about an option #3, the "functional integrity" position
that presupposes that God *must not* have acted in this way. This is often
attacked as an improper restriction upon God, but it seems that the same
criticism would apply to option #1.

So is the difference between #1 and #2 above something that is discussed
within the "theistic science" movement? Is the majority of the movement on
one side or the other of the must/might division? Is Moreland really as
demanding as it appears with regard to how God *must* have worked, or am I
misreading him?

Before closing, I think it is also worth noting that one can adopt either
#1 or #2 above without necessarily also concluding that it is appropriate
to abandon methodological naturalism in the practice of science.

| Dr. Allan H. Harvey | |
| Physical and Chemical Properties Division | Phone: (303)497-3555 |
| National Institute of Standards & Technology | Fax: (303)497-5224 |
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