Craig Rusbult (
Sat, 27 Sep 1997 19:19:52 -0400 (EDT)

Terry Gray says,
>I'm happy to separate the discussion about abiogenesis
>from the discussion of common ancestry...

This type of separation is essential for accurately evaluating the
utility of ID as a contributor to CRITICAL THINKING during the evaluation
of theories in science (and/or in philosophy, metaphysics, religion,...).

1-3. The mainstream of ID seems to focus on 3 areas: physical laws,
prebiotic evolution, and organic evolution.
4. And if "design" is interpreted broadly, could the Big Bang "origin
event" be defined as ID? (in any case, we can ask whether the BB provides
evidence for theistic action)

Here are some brief (and admittedly simplified/simplistic) comments
about each area.

Some (especially Hugh Ross) seem more convinced than others (as in the
recent "Big Bang as evidence of God" thread) about the significance of the
BB. In my opinion, a universe with a beginning is "favorable support" for
theistic action, compared with other possibilities (infinitely old,
re-cycling, steady state,...), but is certainly not convincing proof.

The suitability of physical laws for "a universe with intelligent life"
can be interpreted in two main ways: Anthropic Principle and Divine Design.
The Anthropic Principle is a "so what" response that says "because we
are here, the universe *must* have physical laws that are suitable for
life." As a corollary, to explain the statistical implausibility that
these laws could occur by chance if there is "only one opportunity," there
is the postulation of an immense number of universes, either simultaneously
(with many-worlds QM) or sequentially (with bang-crunch-bang...). I don't
think there is any way to test a "many worlds" interpretation of QM, but
arguments have been made (by Hugh Ross, William Lane Craig,...) to
challenge (but not logically refute) the "so what" response to being amazed
at the fine-tuning of physical laws. { And I don't know the scientific
status of "sequential cycling" -- is there enough mass to force an eventual
reversal of the bang? and what does the principle that "a strictly cyclic
universe is impossible if there are dissipative processes (by Tolman, via
George Murphy)" mean for the possibility of Bangs that preceded (or will
follow) the one Bang that we know about? }
Divine Design is based on the possibility that maybe someone who was
*really smart* designed the universe in a way that would support
intelligent life. To me, this seems like a very plausible explanation,
whether or not it is "scientific." { a "many worlds" QM-based explanation
doesn't seem to be scientifically testable, either }

2. PREBIOTIC EVOLUTION (origin of life)
There is strong "positive evidence" against a naturalistic origin of
life. The typical plea of materialistic science is "please be patient and
we'll find the answer" but there is another possibility -- maybe life
cannot (or at least did not) originate by "matter in random motion"
Much has been written about this -- too much to summarize here -- but I
think this area provides strong scientific support against an atheistic or
deistic (or "functional integrity") universe.
But even in this area there is disagreement among theists. For example,
Terry Gray says,
>I'm happy to separate the discussion about abiogenesis
>from the discussion of common ancestry and to admit that the evidence is
>much less compelling; however, I'm actually optimistic to the point of
>saying that all claims of the impossibility or implausibility of
>abiogenesis are extremely premature.

This area is more controversial. Here, it is useful to make the
distinctions (emphasized by Phil Johnson, John Wiester, and others) between
different definitions for "evolution" -- micro, macro, paleontological,
metaphysical,... There is ample evidence for the "facts" of evolutionary
changes through time (as seen in geology and paleontology) and for
micro-evolution (for example, for "evolution" as "changes in the gene pool
of a population"). But there are reasons to challenge (as do Phil Johnson
and Michael Behe) the "creative abilities" of neo-Darwinian mechanisms, or
(in Behe) the specific details of these mechanisms.
I'm not an expert in organic evolution, and am looking forward to
learning more about it in the near future. But it seems that there is
*plenty* of "wiggle room" in neo-Darwinian theory (and in its "protective
belt" of auxiliary theories), and a creative scientist can use these
theories to retroductively "explain" almost anything. (In addition, I am
suspicious of any scientific community that continues to hold theories of
prebiotic evolution in such high esteem, despite the evidence against them,
simply because they are the only non-theistic theories available. If there
is such a lack of humility about the obviously inadequate theories of
prebiotic evolution, I tend to dis-trust their faith in organic evolution.}
And, re: the logical linking between two types of evolution, a linking
that requires an extrapolation from Darwinian Theory to Metaphysical
Materialism, Terry Gray says,
>Of course, Darwin here is stepping outside of a biological theory and into
>a religious claim.
>How does he know that Asa Gray is not correct in his claim that the
>variations which appear
>to be random are not in reality directed and guided. Asa Gray's assertion
>is also a religious
>claim. But his assertion does not flow from alleged scientific facts but
>from his religious
>belief that "things and events in nature were designed to be so."


Directly above, Terry describes two types of philosophical
extrapolations (by Charles Darwin and Asa Gray) based on inconclusive data
and theories. Similarly, Don Page says that
>an atheistic
>scientist would presumably view as most plausible hypotheses in which the
>universe itself is described most simply and yet consistently with the data,
>whereas a theistic scientist would presumably view as most plausible
>in which the universe plus God as Creator is described most simply and yet
>consistently with the data.

In each of four potential "theistic science" areas (Big Bang, Physical
Laws, Prebiotic Evolution, Organic Evolution) there is not enough evidence
to prove any metaphysical position (theism, deism, atheism, pantheism,...)
so -- because a logical conclusion is "underdetermined by the empirical
data" -- there is plenty of room for philosophical influence.

Eduardo Moros says,
>So I don't understand why anybody can point to certain unexplained
>or unexplainable mechanism in nature and say, "see? there is proof of
>the great designer".

I agree that there is no "proof" -- but there is plenty of "great
designer" evidence to think about, to wonder about. Modern scientists have
given up a quest for epistemological certainty; instead of looking for
"proof" they are willing to settle for "a good way to bet" -- and "theistic
action" theories should be seriously considered when evaluating the
betting-odds for "matter in motion" theories. { Here, I think the
distinction between INTRINSIC STATUS and RELATIVE STATUS is useful; even if
a theory is the best available "scientific" theory, it can still have a low
intrinsic status, especially if an ID-theory (even if it is considered
non-scientific) seems to be more plausible. }

Craig R