Response to DeHaan, Natural Theology, Unguided Process...

Terry M. Gray (
Tue, 9 Sep 1997 11:44:59 -0600

Let me use Bob's question here to clarify a few things. Perhaps this will
answer some of Adrian Teo's questions about my review of Defeating

I wrote:

>> My only reaction is that I'm not so sure that I want ASA so tightly linked
>> to the the Mike Behe/Phil Johnson/Intelligent Design agenda. What you've
>> written is fine as your perspective-- but I have strong disagreements with
>> Behe, Johnson, and even Wiester. As far as I'm aware the only stance that
>> the ASA takes is that we would if we accept evolution, which some but not
>> all do, we believe that it is a God-guided process. But even there, the
>> God-guided process may look to the scientific observer no different from a
>> purposeless, unguided process. This is where my disagreement with Behe and
>> Johnson come in--and where your news release supports them. They seem to
>> deny that God-guided evolution might look just like purposeless, unguided
>> evolution to the scientific observer and that there are serious flaws in
>> evolutionary theory. I and many in the ASA disagree with this.>>
Then Bob DeHaan asked:

>I am confused. I can agree that evolution might be a God-guided process. If
>that's the case, how then can it "look just like purposeless, unguided
>evolution to the scientific observer"? Is not this a contradiction? Will
>not the scientific observer eliminate your God-guided view by use of Ockham's
>razor, which cuts away useless or gratuitous ideas in explanation, and
>accepts the simplest hypothesis which can explain the data? Is not
>"God-guided evolution" a useless and gratuitous explanation in the eyes of
>the scientific observer, best to be cut away?
>I am open for suggestions on resolving my confusion.

The reference to Ockham's razor here is of great interest to me.
Technically, I would probably argue that God is not part of my "scientific"
explanation. But he is part of my "comprehensive" explanation. God is
prior to my scientific explanation. I (and everyone else for that matter)
do science and even "can" do science because of God, his faithfulness in
upholding the creation, his creating human beings in his image with the
desire to know and the ability to investigate. This is part God's common
grace and whether or not the non-Christian admits it or not, this is the
foundation for his or her science. This is what makes natural theology in
that traditional English sense ultimately unBiblical. The Bible everywhere
assumes that we all have a knowledge of God and that the creation reveals
God. When the Psalmist writes "The heavens declare the glory of God", he
wasn't thinking of the latest exotic theories in astrophysics (a la Hugh
Ross) or the so-called "irreducibly complex" structure of the cell (a la
Mike Behe). The reality is that every creational fact contains within it
pointers to God--and I might add, unless that pointer to God is recognized,
the truth of the creational fact is not fully known. Romans 1 tells us
that this knowledge of God is also built within us in addition to being
clearly seen from what has been made. But Romans 1 goes on to tell us that
men in their unrighteousness suppress the truth. They suppress that clear
revelation from God in their ungodliness. In other words, ROMANS 1 TELLS
THEOLOGY) IS A DOOMED PROJECT. Only those who have been made alive in
Christ through the special revelation of the Gospel will grasp the truth of
creational revelation.

This is why intelligent design arguments make no sense to me. All of
creation is intelligently designed. There are no purposeless and unguided
processes. Of course, this assertion is unacceptable to the intelligent
design advocates because they want their arguments to carry some kind of
apologetic weight or at least to make Christianity appear reasonable to the
unconverted observer in the market place of ideas. But you see, the
message of Romans 1 is that the sinfulness of man prevents him from seeing
this truth apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, i.e. his
eyes must be opened. Apart from that supernatural work, he is blind to the

Now to the first part of Bob's question. The operative words in my sentence
"may look ... no different". I agree with Bob (and as clarified in his
post from today) that there are no "purposeless and unguided" processes.
And, I agree that this is a philosophical/theological claim at one level.
But in my scientific explanations, I normally do not appeal to the hand of
God. Here's another example to add to the many that have been give
already. None of us doubt that the chances of a new baby of being a boy or
a girl is 50:50, right? That statement is based on the assumption that
sperm contain X and Y chromosomes have an equal chance of forming (which
they do if meiosis proceeds normally) and that the chance of a given sperm
fertilizing is unrelated to whether or not that sperm is X or Y (most
likely true). No guidance here, just random, chance processes--much like a
fair coin or die or lots, etc. My scientific description cannot go beyond
that in assigning probabilities of sex distribution or in evaluating them
(although if the probabilities were skewed from 50:50, I'd question my
assumptions. Indeed, the so-called assumptions are really conclusions from
the empirical observation of the 50:50 ratio). Nonetheless, I firmly
believe that God is in control of the biological process to the point that
not only does he decide whether the successful sperm was X or Y but also
which sperm and what particular "random" independent assortment and
recomination events led to the existence of that sperm.

Intelligent design--YES! Scientifically detectable--NO! It really doesn't
matter what your philosophical a priori's are on the issue. The one who
denies the existence of God might say "purposeless and unguided". The one
who believes in God of the Bible would say "providentially governed and
ordained from the hand of God."

So what if God did/does something that does not follow his ordinary
(scientifically describable) means? I'm not in principle opposed to such.
I do believe in miracles, especially those recorded in scripture. However,
I'm not sure that the Biblical origin accounts require a miraculous
interpretation (except for, perhaps, the ultimate beginning and the origin
of the human soul). It seems to me that the most science as science could
say is that such phenomena cannot be accounted for by ordinary means, i.e.
there is no scientific description. That God did it may be the true
explanation, but I'm not so sure that God is part of our scientific (qua
scientific) apparatus. I don't look too kindly to a student accounting for
lab results with a "God did a miracle" sort of explanation.

As to Bob's post of today with references to irreducible complexity,
Cambrian explosion, and other so-called phenomena that are unexplainable in
the standard evolutionary picture, I simple must say that I disagree. He
and Johnson and Behe say that non-interventionist evolutionary models
CANNOT explain these phenomena. I'm not nearly as convinced that our
"normal" science has failed or is failing us. No doubt there are many
interesting questions that remain. But to conclude that we've reached the
dead end of our evolutionary explanation is simply to close our eyes to
much recent progress. Recent results in developmental biology, complexity
theory, and even more careful analysis of pre-Cambrian fossils suggest that
all of these so-called insurmountable problems are in fact surmountable.
Time will tell and I'm content to let the scientific investigation proceed
whereever it must go.

Consequently, I believe that our energies must be focused on the
philosophical/religious claims, rather than the scientific ones. And as
I've said many times, I'm willing to join the young-earthers and the
intelligent design advocates on exposing the philosophical/religious claims
of SOME evolutionists. (BTW as an aside, I discovered last night while
visiting Fort Collin High School, a public school, where my son attends,
that the library not only contains the standard evolutionary fare, but it
also had Galileo Connection by Hummel, Darwin on Trial by Johnson, and
Evolution: A Theory in Crisis by much for the intolerance
of other points of view.) The problem seems to be that they are unwilling
to admit me to the critique if I refuse to critique the science. Somehow
they believe that the critique of the science is inseparably linked to the
critique of the philosophical and religious claims. It's not true in's not true in chemistry...and it's not true in evolutionary

Terry G.

Terry M. Gray, Computer Support Scientist
Chemistry Department, Colorado State University
Fort Collins, Colorado 80523
phone: 970-491-7003 fax: 970-491-1801