Re: Methodological Naturalism

Allan Harvey (
Wed, 25 Mar 1998 11:39:58 -0700

Phil Johnson attributed several conclusions to "MN". While I'm not sure
I'm comfortable with the way all these are lumped together, let's accept
it for the sake of discussion:

At 04:38 AM 3/25/98 -0800, Phillip E. Johnson wrote:

>By MN we know that natural selection has immense creative power, sufficient
>to make cells and complex organs, even though no one has ever seen this
>power demonstrated. By MN we know that there was a universe of ancestors
>and transitional forms in the preCambrian rocks, although they have
>mysteriously vanished. By MN Biblical scholars have discovered that the
>Pentateuch was stitched together from various sources (J, E, P, etc) and
>that the "historical Jesus" worked no miracles and was deified by his
>followers. Finally, by MN we know that Scriptural passages praising God
>give evidence only of the religious consciousness of whoever wrote them.

Fine, but let's add a couple of similar statements:
"By MN we know that gravity keeps the planets in their orbits."
"By MN we know that the Sun condensed gravitationally billions of years
ago from nebulous material and eventually began to burn by nuclear fusion."

My question to Prof. Johnson is what is *qualitatively* different between
these two statements and his first two statements. I am *not* interested
right now in the strength of the evidence supporting the different
statements, merely the nature of the statements themselves.

The two results of MN I cite are now widely accepted among theists,
presumably including Prof. Johnson. But Prof. Johnson and others act as
though acceptance of his first two statements would be a negation of
theism, or at least of any meaningful theism. What is fundamentally
different about a proposed "natural" explanation for the evolution of
life that makes it equivalent to a negation of theism, when the proposed
"natural" explanations for planetary motion and stellar evolution (both
of which are also God's doing according to Scripture) do not negate theism?

A similar point was raised by Loren a few months ago, sufficiently
eloquently that it deserves repeating:

>If ID theory decides that fine-tuning and providential oversight are
>theologically adequate for understanding Design in the creation of the
>sun, moon, stars, ocean, atmosphere, and dry land, but theologically
>inadequate for understanding design in the creation of plants and
>animals, then ID theory should lay its theological arguments on the
>table, expect them to be critiqued, accept that evolutionary
>creationists will offer theological arguments in favor of their own
>view, and give those arguments due consideration.
>If ID theory decides that fine-tuning and providential oversight are
>theologically acceptable for Design (however weak it may be at winning
>apologetic arguments), if ID theory insists that its disagreements with
>abiogenesis and macroevolution are essentially matters of *scientific*
>judgment, then ID should eschew all attempts by some advocates to wrap
>it in a "more theistic than thou" mantel; ID should embrace evolutionary
>creationists as its fellow theistic scientists; and it should give and
>receive scientific critiques without treating them as apologetic salvos.

| Dr. Allan H. Harvey | |
| Physical and Chemical Properties Division | "Don't blame the |
| National Institute of Standards & Technology | government for what I |
| 325 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80303 | say, or vice versa." |