Natural Theology, Unguided Processes and Apologetics

Peter Vibert (
Thu, 11 Sep 1997 14:33:19 -0400

I agree with Terry that a crucial issue in relation to ID is that, for
apologetic purposes, it has very limited value because faith is required
before design is admitted. Dawkins illustrates the issue perfectly when he
says "Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance
of having been designed for a purpose" (The Blind Watchmaker). For his
_own_ apologetic purposes, Dawkins will cite 'apparent design' in order to
refute it. But he illustrates that no amount of observation will convince
anyone of 'design' unless they are already predisposed to recognize it.
Thus pointing out especially fine or complex features among God's designs,
with the assertion that these prove "God did it", in fact proves nothing to
those who do not already believe that God did it. All of this points up
once again the importance of being clear about presuppositions. We are, I
think, dealing with Fideist vs. Evidentialist apologetic stances in the
case of Terry/Howard/et al. vs. Johnson/Behe et al.

All that said, I want to add two more dimensions to the picture:

1) Terry refers very nicely to "the reality.. 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."
This deserves expansion, for I think it points to a way (that Alvin
Plantinga might approve) of doing truly *Christian* science - namely, that
Christians will *from God's perspective* indeed do better science than
non-believers because they complete their work by offering praise and
thanks to God for what they have learned about Creation and for his hand in
making and preserving it. In this they have indeed discovered a *truth*
about the creational fact that escapes unbelievers.

2) As well as recognizing these pointers to God in everything, believers
can also recognize what I will call "signs" from God. These differ from the
"pointers everywhere" in representing some unusual mode of God's
interaction with his creation (which is, I think, the biblical concept of
What is interesting about "signs" is that they often/usually do not
_compel_ faith, but rather tend to _confirm_ it. Thus, like the parables,
signs conceal as much as they reveal, and for the same reason: that "seeing
they may not see", etc. (see Isaiah 6/John 12; and George Murphy's
important Isaiah 45:15 ("truly you are a God who hides himself", for the
non-Lutherans)). My feeling (and I am still exploring this idea) is that
the act of Creation can be fruitfully thought of as a Sign, and thus its
right interpretation requires faith (which Hebrews 11:3 seems to indicate
very strongly).

At a more detailed level, I think there ought to be a basis here for some
agreement/truce between believers over the pros and cons of ID.
As Alvin Plantinga says in the current issue of PCSF (art. from the NTSE
conf.), believers all agree that "there are some things that God does
directly". Terry hints at this in his "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)". Surely
we who believe should be able to agree that there are special points (what
I am calling "signs") at which _we_ see God's hand to be especially visible
in his created order, even as we affirm that he made and sustains
everything. Even the staunchest proponents of "functional integrity", as
Plantinga says, agree on this.

The differences remain over whether these points have any apologetic value.


Peter J. Vibert
Pastor Guest Senior Scientist
Wading River Congregational Church Biology Department
PO Box 596, 2057 North Country Road Brookhaven National Laboratory
Wading River, New York 11792 Upton, Long Island, NY 11973

tel: (516) 929-8849 Dept. tel: (516) 344-3415
fax: (516) 929-3523 e-mail: