Paul Arveson (
Mon, 14 Apr 1997 10:59:49 -0500

Terry Gray wrote, at the conclusion of his excellent synopsis of the
Behe/Haig discussion on molecular evolution:

[TG: Whether someone is convinced depends in part, I think, on their
plausibility threshhold. Perhaps the question should be asked (on both
sides), is there any reason why you want evolution to be true or why
you don't want evolution to be true. People who don't want evolution
to be true because they think it will wreck their theism ought not be
trusted in their plausibility threshhold. People who believe that
evolution must be true because they are atheists ought not be trusted
in their plausibility threshhold. Hmm... whom does that leave?]

Thank you, Terry, for making this point as well as the others. I think
it's fair to all sides to say that there is an element of uncertainty
in the scientific knowledge of molecular biology. That's why a lot of
very smart scientists are studying it intensely and from different
scientific perspectives, such as the people at the Santa Fe Institute.
The problem should be studied through normal empirical scientific means,
not by debates, or by claiming it's impossible (which shuts off scientific
research). In light of this uncertainty, IMHO it is prudent to suspend
judgement, to be patient and keep an open mind.

As in other controversies, those who WANT to get a particular outcome
can argue their case quite convincingly, but underneath it is their
philosophical desire. The same pattern has occurred in past scientific
controversies, where people took sides based upon their philosophy or
religion, until the evidence became overwhelming on one of the sides.
Molecular evolution and the origin of new genetic information is such
a complex subject that the outcome might not get to the overwhelming
level (one one side or the other) for another 100 years or more.
Meanwhile, I prefer not to make unequivocal statements equating evolution
to either God or the devil.

Such an attitude does not exactly inspire missionary zeal, and does
not tend to attract lots of followers to ASA. But it does permit a certain
interest-with-detachment and peace of mind regarding the whole controversy.
Of course it's an important question. But as I've noted here before, a
belief system that hinges on discoveries about molecular behavior puts one
in a highly stressful state. Theism/atheism does not hinge on this outcome.
Such tight links are unnecessary from a Christian perspective. "Let not
your hearts be troubled."

Paul Arveson, Code 724, Signatures Directorate, NSWC
(301) 227-3831 (W) (301) 816-9459 (H) (301) 227-4511 (FAX)